The past few weeks have been a relatively “slow” period relative to Fukushima Daiichi news. To be blunt, there have been no new problems for Japan’s Press to exploit since a typhoon skirted the Tohoku coast and overflowed a drainage ditch and sent an innocuous amount of radioactivity into the ocean a month ago. Since then, some widely-reported problems of the past have been resolved. Unfortunately, these problem solutions have been conspicuously ignored by the Japanese News media.
For example, the recent completion of the impervious sea-wall along the shoreline at F. Daiichi that should end speculations of hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater flowing into the sea every day. This was reported to the Press more than a week ago by Tepco, but not a single news outlet has made mention of it. It seems that Japan’s Press wants to keep the appearance of continual pollution into the Pacific Ocean alive.
Another example is the successful completion of the “ice wall” technology surrounding three sides of the four damaged units at F. Daiichi. Tepco shared this information with the Press more than two weeks ago, and an ensuing press handout announced start of the freezing process by filling the bore-holes with brine for insulation. For the last year, every minor glitch in the system’s construction made headlines. Speculations by critics, both inside and outside Japan, were regularly posted. But, when ice wall construction has a major success, there is not even a whimper about it.
Here’s one more case-in-point – when Japanese antinuclear activists make public statements about radiation risks specific to women and children, headlines always ensue. But when a panel of women makes a public presentation to the contrary, an informational black hole develops. Just such a panel held a meeting in Tokyo last week, and said accurate nuclear information is not circulated in Japan, but what gets spread is “improper information intentionally disseminated by anti-nuclear groups.” (emphasis added)
Then there’s the ploy of making a notional connection between nuclear energy and other publically-unpopular issues. Japan’s Press has been unmercifully bashing PM Abe’s new security law and last year’s secrecy law. The secrecy law of December, 2014, was vehemently attacked by antinuclear zealots and Japan’s most-antinuclear news outlets (Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Japan Times, etc.) due to the fear of incarceration from anti-nuclear energy activity. That furor has died down, but the Mainichi Shimbun has tried to make the national secrecy-nuclear energy connection once again (10/3/15). The Mainichi alleges a “leaked” Nuclear Regulation Authority training program for new employees. The “confidential” materials include BWR and PWR diagrams and explanations on how they both work, the steps between activating a reactor and getting it up to the status of normal operation, as well as water temperature and pressure data related to starting one of these reactors. None of this material is actually secret or has anything to do with national policy, but that makes no difference. Much, if not most of the Japanese public believes everything with nuclear energy is hush-hush stuff because the government wants the Plutonium to make bombs. There is a sufficient audience that believes in this secrecy myth, so it sees the light of day under juicy headlines.
Publishing news concerning nuclear energy problems, whether real or merely speculative, is always the case in Japan. But, when something happens of a positive nature, little or no mention is to be found anywhere. This has been the modus operandi of international prophets of nuclear energy doom for more than three decades. Antinuclear voices want to promote fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD), but don’t have the human decency to admit when something goes right.
Japan’s news media has seemed to take the global agenda to heart. Japanese news outlets unmercifully blast Tepco, Tokyo, and the Japanese nuclear community at-large, for every actual or perceived problem that emerges. In addition, when nothing worthy of a negative nuclear headline occurs over a period of time, they keep the adverse article flow alive with fallback topics such as re-hashing old stories with a “new” spin, expanded coverage of the largely ineffectual wave of Fukushima-based lawsuits, human interest stories concerning the “plight” of Fukushima evacuees, and editorials calling for the end of nuclear power plants in Japan. We are currently in the midst of just such a lull, and what we find coming out of Japan is mostly fallback material.
Japan’s public deserves to hear the positive, and not just the negative. But, Japan’s Press has become so decidedly antinuclear that it seems its one-sided reporting will continue unabated.