Media Mix, May 22, 2021

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about how the national newspapers are talking about the scheduled discharge of irradiated ground water from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 reactor into the surrounding sea. One of the purposes of editorials is to put the news into some kind perspective that will have meaning to readers, and in the case of the discharge many people don’t know if it’s a good idea or a bad idea. For the most part, the media has taken the government line, which is that the discharge will not harm the environment, but it’s not really certain that the public is convinced, which is why the general tenor of the editorial content of all five national newspapers is that the government has to explain more, though, realistically speaking, it’s difficult to imagine what exactly the government could do to bring everyone over to their way of thinking. Obviously, someone like Hiroaki Koide, the physicist mentioned at the end of the column, is going to be against the discharge because he is fundamentally opposed to commercial nuclear energy, but his main beef is with Tepco rather than the government, since he believes the utility approaches the whole matter from an economic standpoint, which means safety and other concerns are secondary. 

With climate change an ever-increasing threat to everyone on the planet, nuclear energy has become a focus of attention because it doesn’t produce CO2, so Japan, which has spent decades building up its nuclear capacity, has an obligation to see how viable nuclear power is as a means of mitigating its contributions to global warming, but it can’t ignore the public’s anxieties about nuclear power, not after what happened in Fukushima ten years ago. Tepco and the government have had a decade to put into place credible safety guidelines that take into account the proximity of power stations to residential areas and Japan’s geological situation, and they haven’t done enough. Various courts have blocked power station restarts because evacuation plans have been found to be insufficient, and in the past several months violations of security arrangements at two of Tepco’s power plants were discovered. It’s as if Tepco and the government don’t really care, so they can’t complain about “damaging rumors” if they themselves are party to creating them. 

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