Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Critical Mass" Is Rather Optimistic

This editorial "Critical Mass" in Nature makes an implicit argument that US academics, nuclear regulatory system, and public environmental regulatory system are LESS captured than the Japanese system:

[Excerpted] "Japan could start by following the example of countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and take on a science adviser… Efforts to give the Science Council of Japan a more influential role, akin to the US National Academy of Sciences, have also come up short (see Nature 428, 357; 2004).

Scientists can help to understand what is known and, critically, what cannot be known about a situation. In the absence of certainty, they can help to understand the risks involved. They can help to explain this cogently and clearly to people at large. They can do this from an unbiased and apolitical perspective, so that even if circumstances change they can change their assessment with less risk of being criticized for political motives. And they give the politicians both cover for unpopular decisions and, in the case of a political appointee such as an adviser, a trusted personal relationship" [end quote]

Majia here: I have to wonder at the intended audience for this editorial.
I'm not sure that its true the US system is better, or much better.

How many US nuclear engineers and scientists have we heard discuss Fukushima transparently and publicly (as described in the editorial) in the US, besides Gunderson and other American anti-nuclear activists? (Dr. Busby is from the UK and Dr. Caldicott is from Australia).

American academics have been amazingly silent outside of a few, but significant, publications about fallout that occurred during the early stage of the disaster. 

[A notable exception is the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: E.G. see this: ]

UC Berkeley is rumored to have delegated most of their communication about the radiation aspects of the event to graduate students. I hope that is not true.

If we had a truly independent system I would think US experts in the nuclear industry, American physicists, and public health authorities would be sharing their expertise on news shows, Internet discussion boards, science journals, etc...

They would talk openly about the levels of radiation being experienced in Japan and the absolute need to screen food and water there. 

They would be discussing the likely state of the reactors and their implications for the true state of the Fukushima meltdowns.

They would discuss the significance of these findings about the plant for Americans and American reactors. 

Where is it 'cause I don't see it anywhere.

So, the US system may not be any better than the Japanese system. I just don't know.

All I can say is I sure hope it is better and I will continue looking for evidence that it is, or can at least rise to the occasion.

I believe in the possibility for a more perfect world...

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