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Japan Censorship Communications Government The Media

Japanese Government Will Censor Fukushima "Illegal Information" 411

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-your-own-good dept.
dgilzz writes "The Japanese government says that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and the government must take action for the sake of the public good. The project team has begun to send letters of request to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information. The measures include erasing any information from internet sites that the authorities deem harmful to public order and morality."
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Japanese Government Will Censor Fukushima "Illegal Information"

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  • by folderol (1965326) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:44PM (#35922250) Homepage
    They just found their copy of 'Censorship 101'
    • Re:Seems like... (Score:4, Informative)

      by camperslo (704715) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @05:55PM (#35924512)

      Their not involving people as much as they could goes beyond the foreign media and bloggers not being let into press conferences.

      "Japan nuclear commission fails to send experts to Fukushima

      TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan has failed to send designated experts to Fukushima Prefecture to look into the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant even though a national disaster-preparedness plan requires it to do so, many of the experts said Saturday.

      A commission spokesperson said problems following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami such as blackouts had discouraged it from sending any experts to Fukushima Prefecture, but many of the specialists and government officials questioned the claim.

      The commission designates 40 nuclear accident experts including university professors and senior officials of relevant institutions as well as five others as members of its panel on emergency technical advice.

      The disaster plan requires the commission to dispatch members of the panel to a location near an accident site.
      (follow link for the whole story)

      http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110417p2g00m0dm009000c.html [mainichi.jp]

      They're looking into "the flow of retiring ministry officials to senior positions at the country's electric companies"

      It seems like Japan isn't the only country that needs to prevent regulators from later taking jobs with the companies they were supposed to be tough with. They shouldn't be allowed to be paid lobbyists either.

      http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20110419p2a00m0na012000c.html [mainichi.jp]

      To a great extent democracies depend on the media to put corporations and government in the spotlight for the public good. Reporters shouldn't be going to work for those they are reporting on.

      But KSBY the NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo county in California, home of the Diablo Canyon 2-unit power plant, has over the years had several of the newscasters hired by the utility P.G.& E. as PR people (including the one currently seen). KSBY is the only full power English speaking station in the county. Their reporting is very brief and lacks technical depth. They don't seem to do things like research NRC reports, mostly going . Although run by the same utility company, when the NTSB was starting hearings about the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, all it got was a 20 second mention (Charlie Sheen got over 3 minutes the same day).
      No details of the streamed hearings or mention anything from the related documents documents (on the NTSB site) was broadcast. They say the plants says it can handle a tsunami, but didn't mention that three of the plants radiation monitors were taken out by "heavy rain". There is talk about more earthquake studies, but no mention of a local tsunami in 1812. Nice people at the station, but should they be allowed to work for things like the power plant? Are they doing all that's needed in "Americas' Happiest City"? (in fairness, smaller market t.v. has a lot of other competition for a slice of a fairly small pie. No doubt resources are limited. They let a well liked newscaster go to cut costs.)

      "On December 21, 1812, one of the largest earthquakes in California history completely destroyed the first Mission along with most of Santa Barbara. With an estimated magnitude of 7.2, and a hypothesized epicenter near Santa Cruz Island, the quake also produced a tsunami which carried water all the way to modern-day Anapamu Street, and carried a ship a half-mile up Refugio Canyon."
      https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/History_of_Santa_Barbara,_California [wikimedia.org]
      LA Times article on tsunami (pdf)
      http://www.usc.edu/ [usc.edu]

      • Can we trust every utility to be on top of that

        I used to work for an electricity generator outside of the USA in the 1990s doing component failure analysis. We had a big set of books published by EPRI which had examples of just about every type of failure in a component in a power plant that you can think of, most had proceeded to the sort of extent you can only get if you ignore any signs of problems for a long time. They were all examples from the USA - things like failures costing in the hundreds of mi

  • by trifish (826353) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:46PM (#35922266)

    Next time someone makes fun by shouting authentically "Fire! Fire! Run!" in a theater or some other 'suitable' place, and your relatives die there having been crushed by the panicking crowd trying to get out, maybe then you'll remember that there are certain situations where Freedom of Speech is limited, and rightfully so, precisely to prevent panic and to save lives.

    BTW, the above behavior is illegal in the EU (spreading false alarms) -- don't know about the US. This seems to be the case in Japan too.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:52PM (#35922312)

      The fear for me is not that they will be censoring people who say stupid things like nuclear clouds will kill us all, or that there will be a massive melt down that will destroy Tokyo. It is more so in that they might start deeming criticism of the handling of the situation as inspiring fear and want that censored. I don't think that Japan will do this, but only time will tell.

      • by GIL_Dude (850471) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:31PM (#35922636) Homepage
        Agreed 100%. I'd add that there is one of those slippery slopes between honest difference of opinion and people spreading intentionally false or misguided (uninformed) information. Obviously even experts in the field differ between themselves on some of the details. It would be chilling to see only the "government version" of the 'truth' be available. Honestly, I don't know how someone entrusted as the 'censor' is supposed to tell the difference unless they themselves are also an expert on all things nuclear.
        • by SharpFang (651121) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:44PM (#35922742) Homepage Journal

          There's also information that while true, is formulated in a falsely alarmist way.

          Like, true fact coming from authoritative measurements: the Iodine-131 levels in Poland have risen some 1000-2000 times above their usual level.
          Conveniently omitted fact: that's still about 500-1000 times less than levels causing any measurable increase of risk of thyroid cancer.

          • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @06:03PM (#35924552) Homepage

            There's also information that while true, is formulated in a falsely alarmist way.

            Like, true fact coming from authoritative measurements: the Iodine-131 levels in Poland have risen some 1000-2000 times above their usual level. Conveniently omitted fact: that's still about 500-1000 times less than levels causing any measurable increase of risk of thyroid cancer.

            Well then they should be educating the public instead of censoring the information. It's a safer route to take than censorship which is a very slippery slope. When you have censorship it breeds rumor as fact a lot more readily than some idiot blogger spreading his FUD. Censorship means they're hiding something from you in an effort to control your thought process, which is a different all be it just as significant form of fear.

          • by camperslo (704715) on Monday April 25, 2011 @12:23AM (#35926802)

            There's also information that while true, is formulated in a falsely alarmist way.

            Like, true fact coming from authoritative measurements: the Iodine-131 levels in Poland have risen some 1000-2000 times above their usual level.
            Conveniently omitted fact: that's still about 500-1000 times less than levels causing any measurable increase of risk of thyroid cancer.

            You should provide a link to the source so that we can tell how much of the issue is what the source said, and how much might be in how you read it. There are a number of issues with what you said.

            First off, in a normal location there isn't any "usual level" of Iodine-131 because it is something that has a short half life. And since the noise that's at the threshold of such measurements isn't a stable constant, saying 1000 or whatever times that isn't specific. Provide levels with units, and know the difference between a dose and a dose rate.

            And what you say about levels causing a measurable increase in thyroid cancer needs to be qualified too.
            The risk is not the same for all individuals. It's far far higher for a fetus or a child. Since cancer may not show up for 10 or 20 years, and there are other risk factors, it being difficult to measure the harm doesn't mean there isn't any.

            The NRC generally recognizes a zero-threshold proportional model for long-term risk from exposure.
            The more the exposure, the more the risk. The risk level for a particular condition plots to a line offset at zero exposure because is usually risk from other causes as well (chemical etc.). So radiation at any dose carries risk, it just may be very small. Doubling a small dose of radiation still doubles the risk. A dose in a single glass of milk would be a fixed amount. The doses are additive. How much does it matter? Well if the milk in an area is only affected for a short time, a given dose per glass is far less significant than if you get that dose every day.
            Some of the abnormal levels seen in some places are continuing for a longer time period than emergency plans called for. So in some areas outside the previous evacuation zone (and shelter inside zone) in Japan, people have been told they'll have about a month to evacuate. It's not that the radiation being released from the plant is increasing. Levels have been going down. The problem is that the dose people are getting is adding up, and in certain areas will be more than they wish to allow if they continue to stay. That's because the length of time that levels are up is longer than was expected.

            Levels spiking in Poland are likely said to be insignificant risk not only because of the level, but because it probably a transient event from a passing air mass carrying material from one of the fires or small explosions. It tends to be worse when there is rain. It can bring more of the material down fairly abruptly. The rain falls on the grass, the cows eat the grass, then it is in the milk. Studies have shown that most of the cancer in Sweden years after Chernobyl was from fallout that occurred on a single day. It was a matter where the air currents were going and when and where the rain fell.

            Low levels of long term increased cancer can be small enough to be indistinguishable from that caused by food additives, chemicals in water, and other pollution including smoke exposure. If there was reason to panic, we should have been doing it already. Some, in certain cases most, of the so-called background radiation isn't some normal thing from the earth or space, it's what's still around mostly from earlier in the atomic era when there was atmospheric testing going on, some messy processing facilities, WWII and various accidents.

            So make no mistake about it, less is better but there is no reason to panic. The Russians have lifted advisories on going to Japan after finding that levels in Moscow were twice that of Tokyo. Japanese products are being well screened. They could use our business.

            Don't rely on sound bites

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          Honestly, I don't know how someone entrusted as the 'censor' is supposed to tell the difference unless they themselves are also an expert on all things nuclear.

          As long as there is an independent judiciary, and as long as the person gets a fair trial, this is pretty much the fairest way to balance free speech and the public interest.

        • I wonder if that will mean that the latest high resolution UAV photos will be removed. Sometimes the photos tell more than they are saying. It does not take any kind of internet crackpot to view the side view photo of the drywell lid in #4 and draw a proper conclusion that the containment may have been breeched.

          http://www.japannewstoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/FukushimaUnit4-4.jpg [japannewstoday.com]

          Care to explain what that lid is sitting on?

          http://www.japannewstoday.com/?tag=fukushima-nuclear-plant-photos [japannewstoday.com]

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:53PM (#35922328) Homepage

      Next time someone makes fun by shouting authentically "Fire! Fire! Run!" in a theater or some other 'suitable' place, and your relatives die there having been crushed by the panicking crowd trying to get out, maybe then you'll remember that there are certain situations where Freedom of Speech is limited, and rightfully so, precisely to prevent panic and to save lives.

      BTW, the above behavior is illegal in the EU (spreading false alarms) -- don't know about the US. This seems to be the case in Japan too.

      True enough, but even the most idiotic, hyperbolic rant on the Internet doesn't equate to yelling "fire" in a theater. Otherwise most of the garbage that passes for "news" in the US would end up yielding criminal charges. The Japanese government (or whatever subset is responsible for this) just doesn't get the Internet. They should go back to being to not being responsible for Gundam.

      • Personally, I wouldn't be waiting for the government to tell me to move far, far away from a nuclear disaster site. Use whatever level of precaution you see fit.

      • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:53PM (#35922804)

        When sites claim Face-melting radiation levels and contamination of food to attack competitors in Fukushima, or to intentionally undermine Japan and its economy, it's equally as bad as shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. It may not have as immediate of effect, but in the long run the impact would be even higher.

        The fact is, unless you're within 6 or so blocks(not counting the ocean) of the Fukushima plant, there is no dangerous level of radiation. Not in the plants, not in the animals, not at all.

        Shouting "Radiation!" is no less bad than shouting "Fire!".

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You talking bout the cesium levels that exceed dose-rates that even the soviets, known for their care for the fellow citizen, decided to be high enough to evacuate, 30km from the plant? Hey, go on, take a vacation there and rid us of your stupidity please. The mods getting this to +3 may follow accordingly.
          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Which Soviets? The "lets keep this whole thing quiet so the West doesn't find out" Soviets that threw workers at the fire without telling them about the radiation, or the "well, now the West knows about the disaster so lets be super-safe to show how much we care" Soviets?

        • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:34PM (#35923098)

          The difference is that when I read something on the Internet about face-melting radiation levels in Fukushima, I can take another 5 minutes to verify that bit of information. If I'm in Fukushima, chances are that I'm not reading the Internet, but busy cleaning up the reactor mess.

          There are three related reasons why it is illegal to shout "Fire" in a crowded theater: it is false information, it is information that indicates an immediate threat to your life, and the reasonable individual response to the threat causes death when emulated by many people.

          The only related item in this list is that the Fukushima radiation information is false. The only reason for the government to make false information illegal is because it is tired of getting blamed for the mess.

          I really, really wish people would understand the importance of free speech and its limitations. Free speech is the foundation of nearly everything that is good about western civilization, and misunderstanding its reach and impact is the first step back to the Dark Ages.

        • by edxwelch (600979) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:52PM (#35923236)

          > The fact is, unless you're within 6 or so blocks(not counting the ocean) of the Fukushima plant, there is no dangerous level

          readings taken by the Japanese government shows that is plainly not true (which is why the evacuation zone is in place):

          "An analysis of MEXT's data by New Scientist shows just how elevated the levels are. After the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the most highly contaminated areas were defined as those with over 1490 kilobecquerels (kBq) of caesium per square metre. Produce from soil with 550 kBq/m2 was destroyed.

          People living within 30 kilometres of the plant have evacuated or been advised to stay indoors. Since 18 March, MEXT has repeatedly found caesium levels above 550 kBq/m2 in an area some 45 kilometres wide lying 30 to 50 kilometres north-west of the plant. The highest was 6400 kBq/m2, about 35 kilometres away, while caesium reached 1816 kBq/m2 in Nihonmatsu City and 1752 kBq/m2 in the town of Kawamata, where iodine-131 levels of up to 12,560 kBq/m2 have also been measured. "Some of the numbers are really high," says Gerhard Proehl, head of assessment and management of environmental releases of radiation at the International Atomic Energy Agency."

          http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20305-caesium-fallout-from-fukushima-rivals-chernobyl.html [newscientist.com]

          • by zalas (682627)

            I don't know where New Scientist got their 1490 number, but the IAEA report on Chernobyl (http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1239_web.pdf) cited by Wikipedia gives an upper tier of 1480+ kBq/m^2 of cesium-137, except that 3100 km^2 of land in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus had at least that level of contamination. If you look at the total area at 555+ kBq/m^2 of cesium-137, you get 10300 km^2 of land which had at least that level of contamination. You'd need a circle with a radius of ~57 km to

      • by snowgirl (978879)

        True enough, but even the most idiotic, hyperbolic rant on the Internet doesn't equate to yelling "fire" in a theater. Otherwise most of the garbage that passes for "news" in the US would end up yielding criminal charges. The Japanese government (or whatever subset is responsible for this) just doesn't get the Internet. They should go back to being to not being responsible for Gundam.

        Speech that presents a "clear and present danger" (like falsely yelling "fire" in a theater) hasn't been criminally illegal in the US since Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1989...

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:56PM (#35922346) Journal

      The problem here, to my mind, is that you have a government that has been heavily criticized both inside Japan and by outside experts and international agencies for withholding information and disseminating inaccurate information, who will now proclaim itself the arbiter of the reliability of information being transmitted by others. This likely means that such censorship will not be used to make sure only accurate information is disseminated, but rather to make sure that only information favorable to the government is being disseminated. In other words, the results will be the exact opposite of the stated aims.

      I can see the point of laws against spreading false rumors, and I assume in most cases a judge will be making that determination. In this case it distinctly sounds like the government itself will be deciding, and this was a government under fire prior to the natural disaster. It has everything to gain by making sure accurate information about its ineptitude cannot be spread.

      Beyond that, it cannot hope to accomplish what its stated goal is. Japan is one of the most wired nations on the planet, and its citizens know perfectly well how to surf and find foreign sites that will disseminate this fearful information. It's a knee jerk reaction by a faltering government.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:56PM (#35922348)

      You're an idiot. Yelling fire in a theater when you know that not to be the case is a completely different situation than what the Japanese authorities are trying to clamp down on. In this case the authorities have been caught spreading their own incorrect information and this move is just a way of them curtailing legitimate discussion.

      I take it that you haven't noticed that the information that's been provided has been wildly inaccurate and getting worse over time.

    • by siddesu (698447) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:57PM (#35922362)

      Comparing the right of the public to information with crying "Fire" in a theater plainly shows you have no idea what you're talking about. That is especially true for Japan -- a country whose government has a history of covering up industrial disasters (look up Minamata, for example), and whose nuclear industry is practically unanswerable to anyone.

      Just last week TEPCO was outed to have ordered subcontractors at the Fukushima-1 site not to record exposures over the legal minimum. Helping these people to cover up information further instead of sending them to jail is a disgrace.

    • by Senes (928228)
      This isn't about people who create a false panic; it's about people who expose deadly wrongdoings. They're not going to stop that 4chan image saying dangerous fallout is raining on California. They ARE going to stop rational discourse over negligence and mismanagement. The government is looking bad in this situation; they want to 'solve' this 'problem' the only way they know how - with force.
    • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:21PM (#35922546) Journal

      It's getting tiresome to hear this example. The right to falsely "shout fire in a crowded theat[er]" principle is upheld in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the only legitimate restriction to free speech considered that which might incite a riot before the police could arrive.

      Have you even thought about the implications of making myself responsible for the outcome of shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre? It means that any alert I make results in my becoming responsible both for the actions and the environment of people who respond to my alert. Consider my saying, "The government is sending troops to an illegitimate war!"

      Now imagine someone reads into that, "The government must be stopped!" (You must get out of the theatre.)

      And then, "The government must be stopped by force!" (You must get out of the theatre by force.)

      And then, "The representatives of government must be stopped by force!" (You must get out of the theatre by force against other people.)

      And then, "The representatives of government must be killed!" (You must get out of the theatre by hurting people.)

      For saying something bad is happening in government, even if I am wrong, I'm suddenly responsible for potentially influencing someone to kill some member of the government.

      Free speech must include the right to shout "fire!" in a crowded theatre.

      • Well reasoned.
      • This is just false. The only time this example is mentioned in that ruling is in Douglas' concurring opinion where he writes:

        "The line between what is permissible and not subject to control and what may be made impermissible and subject to regulation is the line between ideas and overt acts.

        The example usually given by those who would punish speech is the case of one who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theatre.

        This is, however, a classic case where speech is brigaded with action. See Speise
        • (1) Prosecution can be launched for the overt acts actually caused - Douglas is providing an exception to immunity for actual consequences of the speech, while Japan is trying to make the speech itself illegal;

          (2) Concurring opinions are not majority opinions, so are not binding precedent.

          Try again.

      • The difference is that you could have no reasonable expectation that saying "the government is doing bad things" would directly, in itself, be responsible for pushing someone to commit a murder. Any 10 year old could understand that yelling fire or pulling a fire alarm in a crowded theatre has a moderate risk of causing a dangerous stampede.

        By your logic, you could never be prosecuted for leaving valuables in plain sight near a window and rigging up a lethal trap on any would be robbers. I mean, you didnt

        • The difference is that you could have no reasonable expectation that saying "the government is doing bad things" would directly, in itself, be responsible for pushing someone to commit a murder.

          In itself? Saying anything doesn't "directly, in itself" cause anything. As for whether loudly announcing the evils of the government may cause someone to be influenced into targetting government official - of course that's a reasonable expectation. What's all the government security for if not to stop those who have been convinced that the government is evil from taking down its representatives directly?

          Any 10 year old could understand that yelling fire or pulling a fire alarm in a crowded theatre has a moderate risk of causing a dangerous stampede.

          I don't perceive that at all. Maybe it was a credible risk before fire regulations limited crowding in a

      • The right to falsely "shout fire in a crowded theat[er]" principle is upheld in Brandenburg v. Ohio

        You are completely misrepresenting the case. In fact you've got it backward, as well as making the most tortured parallel imagininable. Brandenburg v. Ohio was about what constitutes incitement to violence, in this particular case, white supremacy. On appeal to the US Supreme Court, the finding was to overturn the guilty verdict because the government cannot constitutionally punish abstract advocacy of violence as it does not rise to the level of imminent danger. In fact, far from your assertion, Justic

    • But is there no moral or ethical consequences of NOT shouting fire in a theatre, when you know there is one? Which is more insidious?
      • Some of the stuff being reported on the news is true. Most of it is bogus scaremongering.

        I dont think that the US could get away with this kind of censorship, because there is very little risk of someone being injured directly from this irresponsible reporting. It may do long term harm in various ways, but our media does have that freedom.

        However, just because the Japanese govt may be wrong in the actions it takes, its concern is very valid-- all of this frothing-mouthed reporting does very little good, a

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gweihir (88907)

      Next time someone makes fun by shouting authentically "Fire! Fire! Run!" in a theater or some other 'suitable' place, and your relatives die there having been crushed by the panicking crowd trying to get out, maybe then you'll remember that there are certain situations where Freedom of Speech is limited, and rightfully so, precisely to prevent panic and to save lives.

      BTW, the above behavior is illegal in the EU (spreading false alarms) -- don't know about the US. This seems to be the case in Japan too.

      The problem here is that there actually _is_ a fire in the theater and the fire warning system has been turned off by unscrupulous profiteers (Tepco) and the sprinkler system (working and sufficiently redundant emergency cooling) has never been implemented to save money. Under those circumstances it becomes criminal (or at least severely malicious) to not yell "fire". The few crushed people are still better than a large number of burnt to death people.

      In reality, Japanese officials already have caused a few

      • by DamonHD (794830) <d@hd.org> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:36PM (#35922668) Homepage

        It is still exceedingly unlikely that even *one* extra cancer death will be attributable to Fukushima.

        To the best of my understanding there are habitable towns throughout the world whose background radiation levels are higher than anything yet encountered outside the Fukushima plant boundaries.

        Rgds

        Damon

        • Sure, but background radiation, and especially radon exposure, is generally accepted as causing numerous cancer deaths. Increasing the radiation received thus causes more cancer cases than would otherwise occur. That something exists in nature does not make it all nice and dandy. The only reason we're not doing more to limit background radiation is that it is completely impractical trying to do so. When it comes to nuclear plants it is quite practical to prevent events like Fukushima, but Japan's industry a

        • by gweihir (88907)

          Sure, statistical death projections do not give you direct cause-death relationships. But that is just putting your head in the sand. Or a way to lie with statistics. Incidentally this fact is used by the nuclear industry to deny compensation to the people it kills, since each one could have been killed by other radiation or other cancer causing effects. If you look at larger numbers though, the relation is striking and undeniable.

          • by DamonHD (794830)

            I am not putting my head in the sand or telling lies. I have no skin in this game. I'm not massively pro- or anti- nukes.

            The nuclear industry does indeed kill people as all energy industries do, but rather fewer per TWh than coal and probably most other large-scale energy production. People fall off roofs installing solar PV for example.

            Indeed, deaths in the civilian nuclear industry, at least in the UK when I last saw numbers, are generally *lower* from all causes (including for example car accidents) t

            • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @05:13PM (#35924292)

              Sorry, should have clarified that I was not talking about nuclear workers in nuclear power-plants working as expected. For them, I completely believe you. Bit here is a British example: The beach at Sellafield/Windscale is radioactive enough that when Greenpeace tried to import a sample into Germany for measurements, it was confiscated because it lacked a permit for the transportation of highly radioactive material. Deaths from this will be single digits per year or lower. But they will continue for a very long time.

              I do think that nuclear power can be done safely and that even safe long-term storage of the waste products is possible. But not nearly as cheap as is done today. As is done today, a significant part of this stuff will end up in the biosphere at tremendous long-term cost. Have you read what just the now "containment" at Chernobyl will cost? And that is just good for 100 years at the most. Don't even get me started about some crazy terrorists flying airplanes into that, it basically has no protection against that at all. (To be fair, it did not before either.)

        • Background radiation does not equal contamination by volatile nucleids that are readily ingested.
        • by westlake (615356)

          To the best of my understanding there are habitable towns throughout the world whose background radiation levels are higher than anything yet encountered outside the Fukushima plant boundaries.

          What you haven't told us is the death rate from cancer in these "habitable" towns.

          • by DamonHD (794830)

            Such as Glasgow (Scotland) or Truro (Cornwall)? I don't know, it'll be in an NHS publication somewhere. It doesn't seem to be a dominant risk though according to here:

            http://ukradon.org/article.php?key=risksradon [ukradon.org]

            "Radon causes over 1,100 cases of lung cancer each year in the UK" so that will be including those hotspots (where incidentally a new nuke could not be built because it would fail the radiation limits without doing anything at all).

            Rgds

            Damon

      • In reality, Japanese officials already have caused a few 10'000 cancer deaths beyond what was unavoidable

        Citation?

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        In reality, Japanese officials already have caused a few 10'000 cancer deaths beyond what was unavoidable.

        Reasonable estimates don't put the total extra cancer death toll due to Chernobyl at more than 1000, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that your figure of 10,000 is either totally fabricated or based on faulty assumptions.

        I'm not saying Tepco have necessarily behaved reasonably, and I'd hate to see them unnecessarily muddying the reputation of nuclear power further, but that doesn't justify totally spurious accusations against them.

        By the way, if you do happen to have a reputably sourced paper (

        • by gweihir (88907)

          1000 for Chernobyl is totally bogus, even the WHO is currently at 9000. In addition, of the liquidators (not contained in the 9k number), 66'000 are now dead and 160'000 are permanently disabled.

        • by siddesu (698447)

          Reasonable estimates don't put the total extra cancer death toll due to Chernobyl at more than 1000, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that your figure of 10,000 is either totally fabricated or based on faulty assumptions.

          Conservative estimates put the total death toll due to Chernobyl at a lot more than 1000. See, for example, this paper [wiley.com], which estimates the death toll in Europe, excluding some of the damaged zones, at more than 10 times your number, and mentions a number of difficulties in es

      • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:42PM (#35923158)

        In reality, Japanese officials already have caused a few 10'000 cancer deaths beyond what was unavoidable. The increased allowable dosage for Children (who are hugely vulnerable to radiation) is just the last batch of randomized death sentences they are implementing.

        Lets start here, because this is the biggest flaw in your post. There are several websites where you can view the actual radiation reported in various areas. Except within a few kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi, the radiation levels fall to biologically insignificant levels.

        At this point, the nature of the disaster is that it is hugely expensive, is leaking radioactive, hard-to-clean-up water, and is rather difficult to bring to a "probably wont catch fire or explode anymore" state. But there are no deadly radioactive clouds floating around, there is no substantial increase in the radiation in milk in the US, there is no plutonium floating around in the atmosphere, and as of now the most severely irradiated individuals (some of the workers) have received a dose that is roughly equivalent to what they would normally receive in a year, anyways-- of concern, but unlikely to cause them to keel over and die.

        Further, just because we have an actual, real, substantial crisis on our hands, doesnt mean we need to lose all perspective and start comparing it to Chernobyl [newscientist.com] or (heaven forbid) Hiroshima [nytimes.com]. Its a problem, yes, and there is a lot of blame to apportion; but losing our heads and falling for all the hyperbole running around is unlikely to make matters any better.

        Im not entirely sure what the dosage received by those in the immediate vicinity of the plants was; but as the area of "concern" around the plants was evacuated pretty rapidly (within about 36 hours), I have trouble believing such emphatic statements as "Japanese officials have already caused a few 10,000 cancer deaths beyond what was avoidable"; especially when the MIT Nuclear Science [mitnse.com] blog seems to indicate that in total, if you were at the plants perimeter, you basically recieved 2-3 whole body CT scans [wordpress.com]-- this less than 3km away from the plant, when the evacuation zone is 30km. That blog seems to be one of the BEST sources of information, as it plainly presents the facts without any breathless panic or fearmongering; they state that there is some danger, where it comes from, how to protect yourself, and how to get more information-- but it doesnt state "Tens of thousands of you are likely to die of cancer" or "beware floating radioactive clouds".

        This is precisely why this information IS harmful, and if it shouldnt be censored because of the tyrannical tendencies of anyone given such a power, that does not mean that anyone should go spreading FUD and misinformation about a crisis while people are trying to deal with it.

      • Please stop smoking that. Is bad for your health. TEPCO was irresponsible to not upgrade their tsunami defenses in Fukushima Daiichi since they became aware of the risk toward the NPS, but is also irresponsible to repeat the stupid bullshit that many people have been spouting in the web about this disaster. The mayor radiation contamination goes in a plume 45 degrees northwest around 8-10 km wide up to 35-40 km long from Fukushima Daiichi. But, even at MP-1 in the boundaries of the power plant, you will nee

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      Y'know all those people in China who disappear for pissing off the state? That tends to be justified under censorship legislation using nebulous terms such as "harmful to public order and morality". The government are there to keep order, after all, and if you're speaking against the government, then you must be disrupting public order. Or so the horrifically oppressive reasoning goes.

    • by snowgirl (978879)

      Next time someone makes fun by shouting authentically "Fire! Fire! Run!" in a theater or some other 'suitable' place, and your relatives die there having been crushed by the panicking crowd trying to get out, maybe then you'll remember that there are certain situations where Freedom of Speech is limited, and rightfully so, precisely to prevent panic and to save lives.

      Except that Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) overturned Schenck v. United States (1917), and holds that falsely shouting "Fire" in a theater cannot be restricted alone for presenting a "clear and present danger", and setting the now current and much higher bar that the speech has to provoke "imminent lawless action".

      So, basically, in the US, you can falsely shout fire in a theater without committing an illegal act... (I do not however recommend it, as civil liability for wrongful death can be harsh... unless you'

      • by snowgirl (978879)

        .... correction, "without committing an illegal act" should read "without committing a CRIMINAL act."

    • What about if there really IS a fire? Am I going to be silenced as well then?

      History is rife with examples where the powers that be wanted to silence the person pointing out the fire in the theater. Imagine for instance 10 years ago, how would the same government of Japan have reacted to someone claiming the protection at Fukushima were in-adequate? A false alarm OR the truth? We know now. The state claimed the defences were adequate. They claimed doubters were wrong. They lied.

      It is all to easy to claim sp

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:48PM (#35922282) Homepage Journal

    "Illegal Information"? Orwell would be proud.

    • by polar red (215081)

      nuclear lying continues

    • In Canada they fire the nuclear watchdog if they say anything.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk_River_Laboratories
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Lunn
    • He wrote 1984 as a cautionary tale not a wishful fantasy you know.
    • In the US it is against the law to spread false information about people and events...how is Japan saying the same any different?

      Libel and Perjury are nothing but stops on 'Illegal Information'.

  • Jurisdiction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:52PM (#35922308)
    Putting aside the issue of censorship in general, what do they intend to do when their requests are ignored? Are they only going after Japanese media companies? If so, then there's nothing to stop people in Japan from getting information from other sources. For media hosted in Britain they could probably sue for libel, but they'd have a hard time doing anything to media hosted in the US.

    I'm also having a hard time telling from the article if they're actually concerned about real scaremongering news, of which we've certainly seen a lot of in the west, or if they're just using that as an excuse to express "scary" but accurate news.
  • Health threat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ilguido (1704434) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:53PM (#35922314) Homepage
    According to the WHO, the biggest impact on public health of the disaster of Chernobyl was to the mental health, thanks to a lack of accurate information. I'm with the Japanese Government. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index.html [who.int]
    • Re:Health threat (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:12PM (#35922458)
      except the Japanese government has been going along with TEPCO's lies until later truth is revealed. No melted fuel, no need for exclusion zone just stay inside you'll be fine, no breach of containment, not a Chernobyl (already the same order of magnitude of contamination released and it's still rising), etc. As an engineering physicist, I could tell weeks ahead of time that B.S. an lies were being spewed by certain tell-tales (e.g. chlorine detected reveals ongoing fission) I'm not with the Japanese government, since when has a bunch of bureaucrats been qualified to advise on safety or correct steps of action to any accident involving scientific or engineering principals? Never ever, they are just power and money grubbing parasites, in every age and every civilization.
      • by Microlith (54737)

        not a Chernobyl (already the same order of magnitude of contamination released and it's still rising)

        It's still not a Chernobyl, and likely never will be. Unless you're suggesting that we missed one of the cores exploding and vaporizing enriched uranium over several hundred thousand kilometers, and people dying due directly to radiation exposure on site within hours.

        The total amount of radiation released is roughly equivalent, but the contamination is nowhere near the degree of Chernobyl. It's a bunch of go

  • Old Sayings (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ae1294 (1547521) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:53PM (#35922316) Journal

    When information is made illegal only outlaws will have information.

    • When information is made illegal only outlaws will have information.

      That makes many high-profile government employees, ministers and presidents outlaws... Hmm.

    • by jd (1658)

      When marriage is illegal, only outlaws will have inlaws.

  • by Jyunga (2040832) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:02PM (#35922402)
    Newly announced Japanese Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf: "No radiation in Fukushima. I can assure you that those villains will recognize, will discover in appropriate time in the future, how stupid they are and how they are pretending things which have never taken place".
  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:09PM (#35922440) Homepage
    This may have been done with the best of intentions, but it is crassly stupid. People will now start to doubt official reports as to what is happening if they think that ''inconvenient truths'' might be erased.
  • Slippery Slope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:10PM (#35922448)
    Now, if we judge this purely on the current situation and setting, it is logical and justifiable. There's a reason "freedom of speech" was listed in the Bill of Rights before "right to bear arms" - speech, if used improperly, can be more damaging than bullets. IF this is strictly limited to "blatantly and dangerously false information" AND strictly limited to the current crisis, it is an appropriate action for the government to take.

    However, I'm hesitant to flat-out support this due to several things. First is the ever-present "Slippery Slope" factor - if we permit this, then what is to stop them from deploying such measures inappropriately later? Second is the fact that, until it is used in action, we do not know the scope of "illegal information". It could be as restrictive as banning only "there is no meltdown IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY" and "it's 4,000,000 times worse then Hiroshima", but it could also be as restrictive as banning anything that isn't essentially parroting the Official Government Report.
    • by Surt (22457)

      The tradition of 'the pen (speech) is mighter than the sword (killing)' is very misleading. Speech itself in this context is mainly a motivator for killing. It's a shorthand that says that one good speaker can get you access to a lot of swordsmen, while one swordsman gets you precisely one swordsman.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:17PM (#35922492)

    ... except in totalitarian states. Or states that have so massively screwed up as Japan has in its oversight (or better lack of it) of Tepco that now have to face a panic as the truth begins to dawn on those ripped off. Quite possibly this could be the end of Japan as a 1st world country. They have been spiraling down for some time now.

    The real tragedy is that Tepco could not even make ends meet with reactors built and running and paid for. If you take into account the cost they have to face now and the cost for permanent storage of the regularly spent fuel, you can see how hugely expensive (in addition to the risk of incrementally poisoning the biosphere) nuclear power really is. Seems to be the most costly way to generate electricity by a very large margin. Why people still stick to it is possibly that the largest part of the cost will be to future generations. Despicable.

    • oil and wars in the mid-east. THAT's why people consider nuclear.

    • by Svartalf (2997)

      Be sure you're talking about the Nuclear Power that TEPCO is using. Liquid Salt Thorium and Pebble Bed Reactors don't pose the risks you mention, for example.

      • by gweihir (88907)

        And they are not commercially viable. For example, the pebble-bed reactor has a problem with cracked fuel spheres and the feeder system that they could never work out. I read the technical reports. They still have the long-term waste storage problem.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:59PM (#35922856) Homepage

        Be sure you're talking about the Nuclear Power that TEPCO is using. Liquid Salt Thorium and Pebble Bed Reactors don't pose the risks you mention, for example.

        Liquid Salt Thorium and Pebble Bed reactors don't exist as commercial products. That's a subtle, but important distinction. While it's potentially possible that some nuclear technology might be relatively safe and non polluting there is very little push to have any industrial level research. Supposedly, the Indians are working on a Thorium based reactor. The Chinese are trying to improve current PWR designs. But MOST of the plants running in the world are older style BWRs or PWRs. And up until Fukushima most of the utilities were hell bent on keeping them going past their original design lives. Now that this behavior has suddenly become politically unpopular, you either have to decommission the things or ???? (who knows what).

        We've boxed ourselves in quite nicely as far as nuclear power goes. Long term prevarication by governments and industry has left us with few useful choices in the short term. And the long term is quite a bit away. Might as well work on improving solar and wind.

        • by arf_barf (639612)

          So you have a "safe" liquid salt / single fluid reactor. What happens when there is a disaster and that fluid comes in contact water (like from a Tsunami)?

        • Pebble bed existed as a research facility in Germany, at the Juelich site. And it was an utter failure. Possibly the most contaminated site in the country by now, depends on how the storage facility at Asse works out. As for liquid salt - cooling stuff with molten beryllium fluoride? How nuts can you get?
      • by arcade (16638)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVR_reactor [wikipedia.org]

        Also, do read the german wikipedia article about it through Google Translate.

        It's rather interesting that Pebble Bed is continously pushed as 'the future of nuclear power' on the internets, at the same time that AVR turned out to be rather .. interesting.

    • Seems to be the most costly way to generate electricity by a very large margin.

      A typical nuclear power plant the size of the Fukushima complex will cost $20 billion or so to build (including money to get past the lawsuits from the treehuggers).

      A typical coal-fired plant the same size will cost much less to build, but spend more than $60 billion over the thirty year lifespan of the nuke plant to buy coal.

      Note that this isn't counting the cost for disposal of coal ash and such. Just the cost to get the coa

      • by gweihir (88907)

        And it will cost something like 10..100x time that to deconstruct it as the end of its lifetime. Then there is the cost for the long-term storage of the nuclear waste. True, at this time nuclear fuel is about a factor of 1000 cheaper per energy contents than coal. But you need to ignore all other costs and the costs of accidents to run with that figure. You also need to ignore that the world supply or uranium is dwindling, less is produced than used and that nuclear reactors need to run a very, very long ti

    • by johanw (1001493)
      [quote]... except in totalitarian states.[/quote] Like the USA. Just ask Julian Assange or Bradley Manning. Or that Whitehouse dude that told the press someone was working for the CIA.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:33PM (#35922642) Homepage Journal
    i wonder why such a move is necessary, since everything is alright and under control. despite it being already officially declared to be a level 7 (chernobyl) disaster by japanese government itself.
  • Isn't this just an admission of what they are already doing? It's been evident since day one that the news released by the Japanese government was heavily censored.
  • What I think is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:45PM (#35922746)

    I remember seeing an article about how little they were taking care of the really poor workers which did all the 'dangerous' jobs. Something about not letting them leave when they saw the tsunami or something like that.

    I think it makes the government look like a bunch of savages and I'm pretty sure that sort of stuff will disappear very quickly. Not just the "Don't eat bananas, they're radioactive" rubbish.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:50PM (#35922784) Homepage

    As I have said before, it is a cultural standard not to be forthcoming with information and I still hold this is true. But the other side of the issue is that people WANT to know, regardless of their cultural ways and Japanese people TALK. They talk a lot. In fact, I hold the most significant reason Japan has such a low obesity rate is the fact that people talk about each other and they are actively seeking not to have people talk about them. So how is this relevant? Obviously, there are results to the government and big business withholding information that the public wants and even needs to know.

    The government obviously doesn't care about issues of public trust. That's really too bad.

  • by Trerro (711448) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:53PM (#35922800)

    I can understand them wanting to stop all the "ZOMGOURCOUNTRYISDOOMED!" reports, but this is very much not the way to do that. If anything, it makes the public MORE scared, as they assume if you're stopping reports, you're covering up the truth rather than trying to release it.

    If you want the reality known, publish the exact numbers, and make sure that creditable scientists unaffiliated with the government or TEPCO are allowed to go in there and verify your data. How much radiation is leaking, how fast is it spreading, what's the half-life, and based on these numbers, what is a reasonable safe estimate of the contamination area? How long will it take to fully shut down the reaction, and once that's done, how long before no significant additional radiation will be leaked, and therefore, how long will the existing radiation take to decay to negligable levels? Include a handy chart like the XKCD one (http://xkcd.com/radiation/), as most people have no clue what a sievert is.

    Remember the swine flu panic? Remember how badly the MSM blew the details out of proportion? Remember how fast the panic died once it was clearly explained that "epidemic" doesn't mean to the CDC what is does to the general populace... and that it was just a new strain of flu, and thus nothing to worry about if you weren't worried about normal flus? People pretty quickly realized it amounted to "if you have a weak immune system or are otherwise abnormally vulnerable, get a flu shot. If not, ignore it. You might get it, but you'll get it over it like every other flu. The CDC is monitoring it on the very low chance it mutates into something more dangerous, and is increasing flu shot reserves as a precautionary measure." Sure, it took a few weeks, but the panic died once the average person had the exact numbers.

    Airborne diseases and radiation are similar in that both are scary because you can't see them, and it's quite possible to die from them. The only way to fight that fear of the unknown is by making it known - full data, full facts, realistic risk assessment that neither over- nor understates the problem.

    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:16PM (#35923410)

      Remember the swine flu panic? Remember how badly the MSM blew the details out of proportion? Remember how fast the panic died once it was clearly explained that "epidemic" doesn't mean to the CDC what is does to the general populace... and that it was just a new strain of flu, and thus nothing to worry about if you weren't worried about normal flus? People pretty quickly realized it amounted to "if you have a weak immune system or are otherwise abnormally vulnerable, get a flu shot. If not, ignore it

      This is a nit for me, because a lot of the above isn't true at all. First, the swine flu was significantly more deadly for the non-AARP generations, due to lack of immunity for people under about 60. It was hitting teenagers and others who weren't immune-compromised far harder than normal. Second, the CDC got hit for 'blowing the details out of proportion' because it enacted a vaccine program that prevented a wide-scale loss of life. In other words, they did a great job. Talk about a no-win situation - either they screwed up and failed to save lives, or they do save lives and blow it out of proportion.

      In this case, I do support the notion of getting as much accurate info out as possible. The best way to fight the scare sites is to tell the full truth. If the government gets caught minimizing or hiding anything, they won't be believed again and the ZOMG sites will become the authorities.

  • reminds me of a documentary film I saw about political journalism, where one of the commenters pointed out that in the old days the journalists sat in the back listening and taking notes, but nowdays they stand in the front, both in person and in words - that is they say and write the interpretation they think they can get away with...

    this is a downside of "the free market" - those who live on talking are dependent of your mony, so they say what sells...

  • Bzzzzt! Too late (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scarletdown (886459) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:40PM (#35923134) Journal

    Sorry, Japan. Once the information is out there outside your jurisdiction, it's game over. No way to rein it in now.

  • physicsforums.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by Christian Marks (1932350) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:09PM (#35923352)

    The Japan Earthquake thread in the nuclear engineering forum [physicsforums.com] at physicsforums.com [physicsforums.com] has become a more reliable and timely source of information on the stricken reactors at Fukushima than mainstream news sources, according to commenters posting from Japan [physicsforums.com]. The latest news [jaif.or.jp]:Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says air may be leaking from theNo 2 and No 3 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.Another example, as of March 30, 11 AM JST [physicsforums.com]: Radioactive iodine 3,355 times legal limit found in seawater near plant. Another from March 30: IAEA Confirms Very High Levels of Radiation Far From Reactors [physicsforums.com].

    April 11, 2011. The Japanese government's nuclear safety agency has decided to raise the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident from 5 to 7 [nhk.or.jp], the worst on the international scale. Also, see this post from the physics forum [physicsforums.com]. In each case, the news was available on physicsforums.com before publication in the mainstream press.

    Let's hope that the Japanese government does not suppress this essential source of information.

  • by ashitaka (27544) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @08:48PM (#35925680) Homepage

    Look at the byline:

    "Makiko Segawa is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency. She prepared this report from Fukushima and Tokyo. She can be reached at shingetsunewsagency@gmail.com"

    Look up who the "Shingetsu News Agency" is. Note that they have no real press credentials and their articles, especially those by Miss Segawa fall well into the fear-mongering "OMG!! BIG GOVERNMENT COVERUP!!" end of the scale.

    The situation in Fukushima is being watched by nuclear experts all over the world and the basic facts of the aituation are posted on the IAEA's site. Anything beyond the stating of pressure, temperature and radiation readings as well as remediation steps being taken should be taken as pure guesswork. There has been way too much "This could mean that the reactors are undergoing fission and could go critical" kind of speculation.

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