Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Overreactions and Fukushima

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Yesterday, I read a very interesting take on the Fukushima accident. Apart from repeating some of my own observations, e.g. that the death-toll from nuclear accidents is dwarfed by that of e.g. fossil fuels, it brings up claims of politically motivated overreaction and distortion around Fukushima, including a very expensive and mostly useless clean-up and an original evacuation that did more harm than good.

This is an interesting parallel to my recent texts on COVID-19 (e.g. [1]), where (at least until now*) most of the damage in e.g. Germany has been caused by overreactions, counter-measures, fear, whatnot. It is also a further strong sign of the danger of trusting populist politicians and sensationalist journalists.

*The hitch, obviously, is that we do not know how great the eventual scope of the disease will be, and cannot know what the scope would have been with a more moderate set of counter-measures.

Moreover, if* the claims of the above article hold, then much of the (already extremely short-sighted, ignorant, and/or intellectually dishonest**) abolish-nuclear-power propaganda falls flat on its feet. For instance, a recurring news item over the years since the Fukushima accident has been some version of “The clean-up goes on and on and costs more and more money–yikes!”. But what if (even just most of) the clean-up has been unnecessary? What if someone agitates with “Do we want to risk evacuating tens of thousands of people?” when the evacuation was not really necessary? Etc.

*I have mostly not attempted to verify those claims that were new to me. An exception is the evacuation death-toll, which is broadly corroborated by an article from 2013. (Larger numbers in the above 2019 article would be unremarkable due to ongoing side-effects.)

**Including failing to account for the extreme causes behind the Fukushima accident, failing to compare (or grossly misstating) deaths by nuclear power with e.g. fossil fuels, ditto the Fukushima disaster vs. the natural disaster that caused it, and (at least before the recent climate panic) not having an eye on the immense damage caused by fossil fuels.

Similarly, it might well be that COVID-19 is the most costly and damaging epidemic in a long time—but why is this the case? It is not the disease, it self, but the reactions to the disease. If COVID-19 was magically exterminated from today till tomorrow, if every single currently infected person was brought back to pre-COVID-19 health, even if every single death was somehow reversed, it would still remain the most costly and damaging epidemic in a long time. The damage caused by the reactions and counter-measures is that large.

Written by michaeleriksson

March 24, 2020 at 6:21 pm

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