On Japanese nuke story, the boy who cried wolf might get eaten

I stopped watching cable news on Tuesday because the Japanese nuclear accident story was being milked for all the fear and hysteria that could be gotten out of it by everyone - including Fox News.

But in the 48 hours since, we have learned that the Japanese government has been less than forthcoming about how serious some of the problems are at the 5 reactors that are causing the most concern, and Tokyo Electric Power might not be telling the whole truth either. At the very least, both those entities cannot get together and make a joint statement about what is going on at the 5 reactors.

Add to this the almost diametrically opposed information coming from the US government and you have a real quandary about who to believe.Obviously, the Japanese government wishes to avoid a panic. But their assessments have been relatively vanilla compared to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission as to make one believe that two different accidents are being discussed.

Throwing oil on to the fire is this report from ABC News:

"It would be hard to describe how alarming this is right now," one U.S. official told ABC News.

President Obama has been briefed by nuclear experts.

The Japanese have evacuated most of the reactor personnel from the Fukushima nuclear complex and are rotating teams of 50 workers through the facility in an attempt to cool it down.

"We are all-out urging the Japanese to get more people back in there to do emergency operation there, that the next 24 to 48 hours are critical," the official said. "Urgent efforts are needed on the part of the Japanese to restore emergency operations to cool" down the reactors' rods before they trigger a meltdown.

"They need to stop pulling out people-and step up with getting them back in the reactor to cool it. There is a recognition this is a suicide mission," the official said.


The U.S. official says experts believe there is a rupture in two, maybe three of the six reactors at the Fukushima power plant, but as worrisome is the fact that spent fuel rods are now exposed to the air, which means that substances like cesium, which have a long half-life, could become airborne.

"That could be deadly for decades," the official said.

There is a growing concern around the world that a nuclear catastrophic disaster is in the works.

"There is talk of an apocalypse and I think the word is particularly well chosen," European Union's energy commissioner Günther Oettinger said today, according to various reports. "Practically everything is out of control. I cannot exclude the worst in the hours and days to come."

We are so used to anything relating to nuclear energy being overhyped as dangerous and catastrophic that the confidence level in believing anybody - the Japanese, the power company, or the American government - is critically low. The Japanese are saying they can't get close enough to a couple of the stricken reactors to make a judgment about the shape they are in. Meanwhile, the US is urging the evacuation from Japan of non-essential dependents and personnel. Surely they are not basing that decision on anything the Japanese government has said but rather what our own nuclear experts are reporting about the situation.

A suicide mission for employees and others trying to lock down the reactors? If true, it would appear that we are on the brink of a worst case scenario. But the quote comes from an unnamed "US official" who may or may not know what he's talking about. It sounds scary but how real is it?

Unfortunately, if the official is correct, it would seem that the boy who cried wolf so often about nuclear power is about to be devoured.