Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Seven Out Of Seven

I have avoided saying anything here about the INES rating scale for nuclear accidents, because I don't think it's worth discussing. I've mentioned before the penchant of reporters for simple ways to report complex stories, condensing them down into a single number if possible. For those people, the INES rating scale is a godsend, as well as for the people who have been salivating for "another Chernobyl," something that seems to have started well before the Japanese earthquake.

But I'm encouraged by the news coverage of the one-number approach. Actually, I think that the media overall have done a pretty good job of covering Fukushima. They're having a hard time conveying risks, but let me tell you how long it's taken me to write my last couple of risk posts...

BBC News compares Fukushima to Chernobyl. The Christian Science Monitor discusses some of the objections to the INES scale, most of which I share. And the Russians are wondering whether the Japanese are exaggerating for financial reasons.

It's not clear to me what the purpose of the INES scale is, other than aiding lazy journalists. If it indeed winds up having to do with insurance, government aid, and other financial help, then there is a motivation to exaggerate, as the Russians point out.

So this is part of the story I'm not paying much attention to. What is actually happening at Fukushima is what's important.

Added later: Photos of tsunami damage at Fukushima.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Why the INES scale in the first place? Here's the conspiracy theory version which in fact is shared by many in the nuclear industry. Namely: it was designed as a PR gag by media minders to show the world that 99% of the things that happen called by them "transients" are not "accidents" but unimportant "events." Subtext: "Journalists, get off our case!" When there's real trouble, however, that strategy backfires big time. CEO at one US nuclear plant owner: "If you have an event that is higher than level-2, top management will be fired."