The Japanese authorities have a critical situation to deal with while search-and-rescue operations are just getting underway and international assistance starts trickling in. A major consideration is how to balance full or partial disclosure without causing panic in an already shocked and dazed population. It's not an easy choice. But if the initial coverup and confused disclosures by the Russians of the Chernobyl disaster are any indication — and only after arm-twisting from the international community — then the Japanese government would be wise to follow a policy of full and rapid disclosure. That they are considering the distribution of iodine tablets to the population to prevent the absorption by the body of radiation is a necessary but hardly reassuring step.
CNN's moronic anchors — trouble knocks when Wolf Blitzer is the best they've got — interviewed one nuclear engineer from Georgia Tech (I'm beginning to warm to the secessionists) who was little more than a shill for the nuclear power industry. In an earlier segment, Bill Nye the "Science Guy" expressed more balanced skepticism of the information Japanese authorities were divulging, or not. One expert described their flooding of the stricken reactor with sea water to cool it down to "subcritical" levels as a "Hail Mary" attempt, while the Georgia Tech prof would have us believe everything was just fine and dandy and under control. Yeah, right.
When a potential nuclear catastrophe such as this one looms, the international community led by the United States must be on top of the situation, monitoring the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere and prioritizing the resources necessary to contain a catastrophic meltdown. Bill Nye suggested/requested that we train some of our weather satellites on the region to monitor the possible release of radioactivity. It seems clear the Japanese government is not being totally forthcoming about what's going on with their nuclear reactors as another two may be experiencing critical cooling problems. If the worst-case scenario occurs — a meltdown that cannot be contained, in one or more of those reactors — then the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster becomes a global catastrophe.
Here's hoping they can contain it. Otherwise, we're in deep Doo-Doo.
Intensive radiation leakage from a nuclear plant meltdown respects no borders or geographic limits on earth. Once it gets into the atmosphere and is picked up by the Jet Stream, as one expert noted, it can travel all the way to the west coast of the United States and beyond. It will also blanket the Asia-Pacific regions in its path, including Australia and Hawaii. Remember the BP oil spill and the fair perception of the administration's initial passive reaction? President Obama can ill afford the repetition of a hesitant reaction to another environmental disaster. Message drives "optics" but leadership drives perception.
Here's how you can help the victims of Japan's earthquake/tsunami.