Breaking News: Actual Experts Discuss Nuclear Power On Local News

Here's a news report that ran on the local ABC news, featuring the Free Will Brother In Law, who is a post-doc at UC Berkeley's Department of Nuclear Engineering. Turns out there's been a lot of misinformation out there RE: possible radiation leaks from the stricken Japanese nuclear reactors. Who knew!

UC Berkeley's Department of Nuclear Engineering continues to collect air samples for any sign of radiation. On Friday, they also collected rain to see if any radioactive particles fell from the sky.

Air samples collected on Thursday night on the roof of UC Berkeley's Department of Nuclear Engineering failed to show any significant levels of radioactivity, and then came the rain.

"The rain is a very efficient way to wash out activity in the atmosphere and get the potential activity down to us. So this is actually a much more sensitive and efficient way for sampling," Professor Professor Kai Vetter from the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering said.

The levels may be slightly higher. According Vetter, there again he sees nothing to worry about. UC Berkeley nuclear engineers also demonstrated why it's impossible for the fuel rods in Japan to catch on fire. They exposed a piece of cladding, just like the ones found in the Japanese reactor cores to 2,000 degrees Celsius. If the cladding burnt, the nuclear fuel inside would send huge amounts of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.

"It's worse, much worse to have it on fire. The fire and the smoke become a way to spread the material that's inside," Professor Charles Yeamans from the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering said.

The test proved the rods, while they would suffer some damage, would not catch on fire. The Japanese reactors have another layer of protection, pools of water that act as moderators unlike Chernobyl which had graphite.

American journalists have had a week to put something like that on the air, but instead we've been treated to a steady drumbeat of scare headlines about "sharply rising" radiation levels, plus nuclear experts whose jobs seem more PT Barnum than Robert Oppenheimer. But, since we've never heard any apologies for the "cannibalism at the Superdome" stories, it's probably too much to expect sober commentary on nukes, at least not while people are paying attention.

I've seen a lot of critical commentary out there about how Japanese officials have not been forthcoming enough about the extent of the danger from a possible meltdown. Yeah, it's so much better to have a lot of hysteria and bad information out there whether from Ed Markey trying to score cheap Green points, the surgeon general suggesting people stockpile iodine, CNN trying to scare the Depends off of its aging audience, or good old fashioned nonsense about irradiated spinich. Could it be that the Japanese put a premium on putting out correct information while Americans apparently prefer to just have a huge out-pouring of "facts," the majority of which are wrong or exaggerated? Perish the thought.

This is the point when I will wax philosophical about how this shows how fundamentally different Japanese and American society is. While Japanese media and politics is buttoned up ("inscrutable" is the formulation), America's lets it all hang out. And that works for all concerned. But, I'll bet Japan will still have a robust nuclear industry after all this, while America's is going to be set back for another 20 years, mostly based on opportunistic fear mongering. While Luddite American Greens can always find screen-time on national broadcasts, the sober engineers and scientists who know what they are talking about sit around their labs talking to themselves.

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