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Japan Reluctant To Disclose Drone Footage of Fukushima Plant 335

Posted by timothy
from the gudjilla-in-high-res-at-least dept.
garymortimer writes with word that "footage taken from an RQ-4 Global Hawk drone was passed on to the Japanese government with permission for public release from the US Air Force. US military sources said that the decision to release the footage — or not — was up to the Japanese government." The Japanese government, though, has thus far chosen not to release the high-resolution footage of the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.
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Japan Reluctant To Disclose Drone Footage of Fukushima Plant

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  • Re:Not Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:03PM (#35545668) Homepage

    Considering the reporting done so far? I can't blame them for not wanting to disclose it. We've had radiation fear mongering, nuclear meltdown fear mongering, we've had just about everything you can think of. Including media induced panics on food, to salt, to potassium iodine in places like...Norway.

    As of today? In downtown tokyo, the radiation level is 3usv above normal background. OH NOES NUCLAR MELTDOWN!!!111! We're all gonna die from radiation poisoning!!!1!

    If this even has shown me anything, it's that people suck on the tit of fear, and fear mongering and disregard even anything approaching common sense, or fact.

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:06PM (#35545698) Homepage

    According to TFA, the footage is being analyzed by nuclear power experts. What would be the point of disclosing it to the public -- lurid fascination?

    Maybe the Japanese government just thinks the Japanese public's attention would be better directed toward rebuilding the nation in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, which cause much more destruction and loss of life than this nuclear incident is ever likely to.

  • Re:Not Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:11PM (#35545744)
    Honestly - do you think the US government would release anything if it had happened in the US? It would take months and Freedom of Information Act requests to get hold of it. And since it's a nuclear plant with strategic and national interest value, anyone wanting to see such video would probably be called a "terrorist". Remember when they were arresting people for taking pictures of federal buildings? Now imagine a nuclear plant...
  • Re:Not Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blue trane (110704) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:25PM (#35545876) Homepage Journal

    This is why we need the govt to keep funding PBS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:31PM (#35545942)
    Really? Were you also trained in incident command for nation or regional emergencies?

    People on the lower rungs of the hierarchy are told to not release information or talk to the press. On the other hand, the decision on how, when and to whom to release information is one of the specific tasks of the incident/emergency command and/or coordination team.
  • Leaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:33PM (#35545962) Journal
    Where's Jullian Assange when you need him?
  • by slyborg (524607) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:39PM (#35546012)

    The point would be for the exact level of damage to the spent fuel pools to be revealed, which would confirm the level of concern that should be given contamination fears. If the pools are all full of water or show undamaged assemblies, then the public would be reassured. That they have chosen not to release this footage, by Occam's Razor, indicates that things are worse than has been definitively confirmed, although likely not worse than has been widely speculated.

    I really don't understand the strident desire by some to downplay the severity of this incident. In pure economic terms, this has crippled the Tokyo electric grid, probably for years, which is affecting the lives of tens of millions in the Tokyo area. It will also cost billions of dollars to clean up, by "clean-up" meaning entombing these particular facilities forever.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:48PM (#35546116)

    This is a disaster and a tragedy to the nation of Japan.

    This footage does not constitute news - it's voyeurism plain and simple. If it helps the Japanese in some way, that's great.

    Maybe we should have high-resolution footage of the aftermath of every fatal car accident. It's news, right - we are entitled to have our interest piqued by the suffering and despair of others.

  • Accuracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KH (28388) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @08:51PM (#35546158)

    I might have to call this one bullshit. I briefly checked Asahi, Mainichi and Yomiuri, the three major newspapers in Japan. Only Mainichi has this news. And the reporter, as far as I can gather, seems stationed in the vicinity of the Edwards AFB and seems quite a bit fascinated by the Global Hawk. So, what she reported may not be completely untrue, but can be that some facts are twisted. The report at least does not seem to be based on a press release. So, the US Air Force may, in principle, have agreed to provide the data from the drone, but it could go anywhere.

    The operation at the Fukushima 1 plant involves various organization: TEPCO, JSDF, various Fire Departments, some sort of atomic watchdog most likely reporting to some kind of ministry, and probably some organization reporting to the cabinet. I still have not figured out who is ultimately in charge. My vague impression is that the TEPCO plans, _asks_ any of the above organization that they think fit to do that job, and the said organization does the job. Not very efficient. This may be partially the reason why they seem to take so long to perform a next step.

    So, the data from the US Air Force may be given to someone in Japan, someone in the government. But I can imagine the person who was (being) given the data might not even know to whom to forward it. It may be being forwarded to the people on the ground and used for planning, assessment, etc., but they may not even think to use the footage in the next press conference; they may want to have a written warrant saying it is OK to release it, and so on. Every morning (Japan time), two organizations (TEPCO and something akin to IAEA but Japan domestic) and the cabinet spokesman are having press conferences to report on the power plant and I have yet to understand who is ultimately responsible for the operation.

    What I'm trying to say is that the reason we have not seen the footage from the Global Hawk has more to do with the complexity of the operation than some intention to hide something from the public.

    As a postscript, in the past ten days or so, I have learned to read information coming from Japan very carefully. Often even major newspapers make blatant faulty statements, often having the effect of instilling fear in the public. I find it distasteful. Yet I find hope in the Japanese netizens: when they encounter a bald statement, it has become their custom to ask for the source, a la Wikipedia, and when the source cannot be shown, the statement is determined a hoax and not further propagated. They seem to have learned the danger of hoaxes and misinformation...for most part.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @09:01PM (#35546246)

    The point would be for the exact level of damage to the spent fuel pools to be revealed, which would confirm the level of concern that should be given contamination fears.

    But the way to do that is to have the footage review by recognized experts in the field (preferably from a number of different countries).

    If they release the footage to the public then every news network will have their own nuclear "expert" pointing at a discarded firehose and claiming it's an exposed fuel rod.

  • by westlake (615356) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @09:08PM (#35546320)

    Having just attended training in emergency preparedness, we trained not to release details, so the Japanese are just following the standard script. They also said never lie, or you will never be believed in the future. They seem to be following the script.

    Silence is not a substitute for candor.

    Silence can fuel rumors far more dangerous than the truth. Silence does not inspire trust.

    The script is not the performance:

    [Tepco] has already been severely criticised by Japan's prime minister, Naoto Kan, for failing to inform him immediately that a serious explosion had taken place following the earthquakes. "What the hell is going on?" asked Kan last week when he finally caught up with Tepco officials, in remarks picked up by a stray microphone. "Retreat is unthinkable," he told the firm, fearing that the decision to evacuate 740 staff from the stricken reactor site was the start of a complete abandonment.

    Embattled Tepco faces its BP moment over Japan nuclear disaster [guardian.co.uk]

    Now I can't give any more details of the training. Sorry.

    Why not?

    Radiation Protection - Protective Action Guides [epa.gov]

  • Re:Not Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tibit (1762298) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @09:42PM (#35546622)

    There is no such thing as "being contaminated by radiation", unless you're talking about neutron activation and that really only happens within a reactor. Stuff gets contaminated by other stuff that happens to fission and radiate. Neither alpha, beta nor gamma radiation can contaminate anything by itself.

    So in all this talk of "radiation contamination", we need to know all of the following several things for it to have any fucking meaning in the first place:
    1. What are the contaminating radionuclide(s), what are their proportions, and what are their half lives.
    2. What kinds of radiation are released, and which ones are dangerous (if there's plenty of alpha but nothing else, you're fine as long as you don't eat it, for example, even if the level of alpha radiation is "whoa red zone").
    3. How easy are the contaminants to remove (some shit just washes with water, you know).
    4. What was the mode of contamination, and thus what's contaminated (is it floating dust in the air, is it dust on the ground, is it food, water, what?).

    The "readings" by themselves are useless unless you know all of the above.

  • by stumblingblock (409645) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @09:56PM (#35546728)
    What is the point of disclosing ANYTHING to the public. Ignorant peasants would only get the wrong ideas. Better reserve secrets to maintain power.
  • mod parent up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ridgecritter (934252) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @10:23PM (#35546902)

    Regardless of your political persuation, you can make better decisions with more accurate information than with propoganda. From NPR/PBS, you will get information with a certain degree of accuracy. From sources like Fox, you will get nothing that will help you make a better decision - there is no journalism at Fox, just right wing, "money=merit", fear-based propoganda. From NPR/PBS, I get information that is at least in the realm of an honest effort at journalism, and that gives me value as I try to figure out the complex issues under discussion. I'm totally happy with the tiny fraction of my tax $ that go to Public Broadcasting. I get value for that tax every single day. Wish I could say the same about the rest of my taxes.

  • by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @11:16PM (#35547216)
    I think it's funny. I'm like an onion. I have layers. I can simultaneously laugh at a Godzilla joke, feel horrible about the tragedy, send a donation, and buy a product made in Japan. Gilbert Gottfried's jokes on the other hand were tasteless and not funny.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2011 @11:33PM (#35547306)

    Agreed. Godzilla is serious business.

    Honestly, though, it's hard to take the "oh no, everyone panic" attitude seriously when you're a mere 93 miles away and posting on Slashdot.

  • Re:Not Good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Saturday March 19, 2011 @11:51PM (#35547394)

    It looks to me like things are more or less under control. The cores should now be in cold shutdown putting out nominal heat. Barring another accident (explosion, earthquake, tsunami, pump propeller breaking up and tearing a hole through a pipe, etc.) they should have things sorted out in a week or two. Not to say it's not a mess. Food from fukushima might need to be thrown out for a week or two while cesium decays and there will be rolling blackouts until this stabilizes enough for workers to take a look at the other 3 nuclear plants and restart them. but still it won't be anywhere near the disaster the media makes it out to be.

    That's pretty much my interpretation of the reports we're getting too. However, it's iodine-131 (half life 8 days) which will disappear in a few weeks. Cesium-137 is more problematic. It's got a dangerous 30 year half life (not long enough to be safe, not short enough to disappear quickly). An although it's only a beta emitter, one of its decay products is a gamma emitter with a half life of 2.5 minutes. So for all practical purposes it's the same as a gamma emitter. If a substantial amount of Cs-137 got out, things are going to be a lot messier to clean up. Fortunately, if the contamination incident in Brazil [wikipedia.org] is any guide, it does not seem prone to spread by air, and there didn't appear to be any substantial fires which could have dispersed it far and wide for a extended period of time. So hopefully it won't be that bad.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @05:47AM (#35548712) Homepage

    The general Slashdot consensus is that openness is good, information wants to be free.

    But for some reason, or another, when it comes to the nuclear issue, a switch gets flipped in the minds of pronuclear geeks, and information deserves only to be released to a select priesthood.

    The fact is that if nuclear can't stand the heat (stand up on its own merits), it should get out of the energy production kitchen.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday March 20, 2011 @05:56AM (#35548758)
    They are releasing data that is of very little import while the crux of the matter is being withheld. They are withholding the crucial data such as condition of fuel pool 4 fuel, and in which areas of the plant the high rad readings were taken which would tell volumes about the containment vessel condition such as #2. And it is nonsense to give such a situation a number and to say "see, it's the same as three mile island", this situation is much more dire as it involves spent fuel pools which have no containment whatsoever.

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