A reading from the Gospel according to Saint Kan

The Japan Times printed a two-part review of a book by Naoto Kan explaining his role in the Fukushima disaster. See part 1 and part 2.

What I disliked most about the articles was this assumption:

Yet the record is unequivocal: Tepco found itself unable to control events as they took one turn after another for the worse; and had the prime minister not intervened to consolidate decision-making and expedite emergency measures, a pall of radiation may very well have descended over the entire Kanto region, where the capital is located.

How is the record unequivocal? Assuming there is a true record, "may very well have" is hardly unequivocal, and we know that within TEPCO the central management and the plant manager were at odds, so there is not a singular TEPCO. The various inquiries into the disaster have not found a single narrative, not least because TEPCO "lost" a soundtrack and Kan’s cabinet ordered minutes not to kept of their meetings.

Even now, nearly two years after the fatal calamity

One person at the power station died from the earthquake, but no-one from the various meltdowns and explosions.

Though opinion polls conducted since the accident have shown a distinct majority of Japanese in favor of the methodical abandonment of nuclear power, a similarly distinct majority opted to vote in a government last December that is openly dedicated to the resurrection of nuclear power generation.

Such conflicted majorities attest to a lack of resolve in the populace, a condition that is easily exploited by powerful interests and a media who meekly follow their lead.

I thought the preferred story was that if you also count those who did not vote the LDP only got a tiny percentage, and of course a majority did not vote for the LDP anyway; New Komeito had a platform of phasing out nuclear power, so we cannot add their votes in. Furthermore, it was a lack of resolve in the political parties and activists, not the populace – Mirai no To got the kicking they deserved – and I would argue that a lot of media is anti-nuclear.

the contaminated soils of the northeastern Tohoku region of Honshu

:roll: (And I know it’s for the benefit of an international audience (who know where Honshu is…), but I’ve always thought the north-east really is the most appropriate area to locate Tohoku)

  1. Yes, about 17% of all eligible voters actually voted for the LDP, and 27% of the votes cast went to the LDP. Which, by the way, is almost exactly the same numbers as in the previous election. LDP did not win any new voters; instead the DPJ lost many of theirs. This kind of thing is why I dislike and distrust first-past-the-post and single-district voting systems.

  2. @Janne: If there is a problem with Japan’s electoral system it is that it is not sufficiently first-past-the-post. The proportional representation system has allowed too many fringe parties to cling to survival even though they never win even a single seat in the actual election.

    Since they don’t win enough to take power on their own, or in most cases even take enough seats to be worth wooing as a coalition partner*, parties like the Communists, Social Democrats, Mirai, Minna etc. have long served no function except as “spoilers” to maintain the status quo by splintering the opposition vote so badly that a party like the LDP can “win” with 30% of the vote.

    *assuming, that is, that the “party” in question is even interested in giving up on their “principles” and playing nice with others.

  3. Those two articles are ridiculous. Truly, the gospel according to St. Kan.

    I have a theory about the Fookooshimar view of the world. They do not distinguish between the fear of something happening, and the material possibility of it happening. Of course, this would be entirely understandable when the fear is your own, but they extend the same principle to fear in others. Fear bends reality.

    We’ve all been in or seen those online conversations: “The radiation levels in Tokyo are not a threat to human health at all” is met with “Tell that to young parents! They’re really scared.” as if the latter is evidence against the former.

    So if Kan says that he saved Tokyo, it’s not simply that they naively believe everything that Kan says. It’s that the fact that Kan believed Tokyo was under serious threat in and of itself makes it true that Tokyo was under serious threat. How else can you explain so many journalists, used to critically examining politicians for self-serving behaviour, buying the self-serving line that Kan pushes?

  4. By coincidence, I happened across an interesting blog article by Randall Munroe, who writes the science-based webcomic, xkcd.

    What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool?

    The answer was not what I would have expected, and like all of his ‘what if?’ posts, very educational.

  5. @Sublight: Thanks, very educational!

  6. Interesting, but the problem with radioisotope-contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai’ichi NPP is the water cooling the reactor cores themselves, not the spent fuel pools (though one SFP in particular is worrisome: http://www.simplyinfo.org/?page_id=9353 ). These are boiling water reactors, and the boiler water is not kept separate from the reactor. That water is radioactive in a normally operating reactor, and there are also damaged fuel elements adding to the contamination in this case. Then we have leaking containment of the reactors, water being pumped in to maintain cooling, and that leaking out and so on.

  7. Here’s an interesting series of articles from the Asahi on the immediate US response to the disaster. It makes pretty grim reading, but the US also failed to appreciate the infallibility of Saint Kan. :roll:

  8. @Mike Oxlong:

    It should be pointed out that the author of that article isn’t a scientist, despite the veneer of sciencey speak in his writings. I’m not sure what sort of “research” he and his group perform but from what I have read on that site previously it doesn’t seem to be at all related to what one would normally call rigorous scientific research.

    Interesting XKCD link, by the way.


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