There have been several useful comments on the recent post The real catastrophe of Fukushima. E.g., James Greenidge addressed the imbalance between the constant media/activist fear-mongering and education by the nuclear professionals. Here’s James [lightly edited]:
The real catastrophe of Fukushima is that the media dropped its energy-neutral pretensions and finally strummed nightmares and wild speculations to try to drive nine-inch nails into nuclear energy, to hell with fact and perspective, much less giving equally critical regard of antis and greens. Another side catastrophe is the chronic laid-back push back by the nuclear community — individual electric utilities, nuclear professional organizations — to correct media FUD and dark-colored lenses at all things nuclear by implementing long overdue public nuclear education via Ads and PSAs instead of local tupperware party teach-ins. I mean, imagine just how effective the antis have been if they can convince a mom with three kids to be fearful of clean nil-mortality nukes and welcoming of coal and oil plants and their regular pollution and far more frequent — and deadly accidents. It’s like nuclear’s community is snatching defeat from the jaws of PR victory! The tally of operational nuclear plants is dropping by decommissions and bankruptcies and cancellations despite much lauded few new projects. That ought be a PR wake-up call.
And my response:
Thanks – an excellent summary of the information imbalance. I agree that nuclear-informed sources are far too laid back. But, suppose every industry source was fully engaged – how much would that shift the media focus?
Personally, it looks to me that the scary-nuclear story is just so sweet that media will always exploit every opportunity. “If it bleeds it leads” is even more succulent when it costs nearly nothing to publish. No reporting need be done. All they have to do is email UCS, Greenpeace etc. for their FUD-bomb.
Nuclear/radiation shares this bed-of-nails metaphor with other technical areas that require a bit of effort to understand – while being easily exploited for emotional impact. E.g., GMO food, or vaccine-autism.
The media will almost always go for the maximum emotional impact (as do successful politicians).
A personal favorite parody of media FUD was featured in The Onion: Actual Expert Too Boring For TV. Excerpts:
Dr. Gary Canton, a professor of applied nuclear physics and energy-development technologies at MIT and a leading expert in American nuclear-power applications, was rejected by MSNBC producers for being “too boring for TV” Monday.
(…) “At MIT’s Laboratory for Energy and the Environment, we see nuclear-power technology as the best option for the United States and the world to meet future energy needs without emitting carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants,” Canton said in the taped pre-interview, which has already been erased.
(…) MSNBC chose Self-proclaimed nuclear expert Skip Hammond – best known for his “atomic domino” theory of chained power-plant explosions and his signature lavender silk tie.
(…) “Absolute Armageddon,” Hammond said when asked about the dangers increased reliance on nuclear power might pose. “Atoms are not only too tiny to be seen, they’re too powerful to be predicted.