The Risk-Monger

The images of the tsunami and the loss of life in Japan are horrifying. But before the sun set on the second day of this tragedy, Greenpeace International released an obscene, tasteless “I told you so” press release as part of their anti-nuclear campaign. If they had been anything but deceitful in their ambulance-chasing motives, I would not have been so sickened by this organisation’s behaviour.

The March 12 Greenpeace press release compares the Japanese nuclear industry to Chernobyl, and, assuming that the worst is going to happen, they conclude that:

How many more warnings do we (sic) before we finally grasp that nuclear reactors are inherently hazardous? The nuclear industry always tells us that a situation like this cannot happen with modern reactors, yet Japan is currently in the middle of a potentially devastating nuclear crisis.

They had had no factual basis to jump to such conclusions on Saturday, so why didn’t they just wait a few days before using the earthquake and tsunami tragedy as an opportunity to rant? Even now, 24 hours after, while the situation at Fukushima is still unclear, it is far from the Chernobylesque image Greenpeace would be pleased to have you believe is happening. If Greenpeace had waited, and the nuclear risk was contained, then they would not have been able to score any effective points in their campaign – that would have been a lost opportunity. This is deceitful – responsible organisations would wait until the facts are in before jumping to conclusions. As I have said elsewhere in my blogs, Greenpeace doesn’t care much for facts (they sometimes get in the way of winning).

Why is Greenpeace so wrong?

In crisis preparedness and risk management, worst case scenarios are always the baseline for planning. An 8.9 magnitude earthquake followed by a direct hit from a tsunami with 10m high waves goes beyond the worst case scenario that could have been foreseen (they had expected the Big One to hit further south where three plates meet). Given the age of the reactors, it is a wonder that they survived at all, let alone released so little radiation. Rather than trying to drum up images of Chernobyl, the nuclear industry will learn very much from the Japanese situation in their safety by design approach. Greenpeace can’t find it in their bones to trust man to do the right thing, but to see the Japanese bouncing back so resiliently so soon after the sixth worst ever recorded earthquake is a tribute to their scientists and engineers. Greenpeace should commend the authorities instead of mocking them as untrustworthy.

Secondly, this is a natural disaster of Biblical proportions. This is not a man-made disaster no matter how hard Greenpeace tries to obfuscate. Even if all of the nuclear reactors melted down, it would pale to the loss of life from the forces of nature in just a few short hours. Greenpeace gets more donations if people believe that nature is a victim of the forces of man so they need to twist reality to make it look as if man is responsible here. When Japan gets back on its feet, authorities will begin to work at improving the means to protect man from the threats nature pose. More research and more preparations – something the rest of the world will learn greatly from.

Greenpeace ended their press release by declaring that Japan must abandon nuclear and go renewable:

Greenpeace is calling for the phase out of existing reactors, and no construction of new commercial nuclear reactors. Governments should invest in renewable energy resources that are not only environmentally sound but also affordable and reliable.

Facts really don’t matter here at all. A footnote to their press release acknowledges that the Japanese nuclear industry produces 47,000 MW of capacity (29% of their energy mix). The average wind turbine can produce 1.8 MW when the wind blows. Do you really think that Greenpeace bothered to do the math?

Greenpeace should apologise for their disgusting opportunism. But to apologise assumes a sense of humanity. As their arrogance is legendary, I don’t expect Greenpeace to think a little more about humanity and a little less about the planet. But at a time when humanity has taken such a blow, I wish they would just shut up.

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Comments

  1. Sorry Mister,

    I do not agree with your analysis you at all.

    The reaction if Greenpeace is more than justified. The consequences are already serious enough to call the situation a nuclear disaster.

    Greenpeace been working for decades on the topic and its position is not new at all. So what should they wait for before taking position?

    You should also take into consideration that officials and nuclear pressure groups are working steadily since the incidents to divulgate information aimed at reassuring the public. Why don’t you ask those actors to stop doing so as long as the real consequences can be predicted with certainty? I cannot see the difference.

    Best regards,

    J. Schorpp

  2. You have every right to disagree with me – the counter-intuitive approach of the Risk-Monger is meant to provoke disagreement, but you should consider using facts in justifying why you disagree. Saying that Greenpeace has been running this campaign for a long time is not a fact to justify them jumping to conclusions before the situation is clear. They should not be allowed to create unnecessary panic in a time of tragedy. That is fear mongering and their intention is to have the debate to move away from nuclear last longer than the crisis (not disaster) in Japan which is getting under control as I write.
    Again, Greenpeace does not need facts in their campaigns. In 2005, the World Health Organisation concluded in a report, 20 years on, that the total number of deaths (past and future shortened lives) from the Chernobyl disaster was around 4000: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/index1.html. Indeed that is 4000 lives too many in that tragedy, but it is not apocalyptic. Greenpeace insists that the number is closer to 200,000 deaths and millions affected – a more frightening number, and the only fact this is based on is that Greenpeace can produce a much glossier report: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/chernobylhealthreport.pdf.
    Just because Greenpeace has been deceitful for decades does not mean we should tolerate their groundless politically biased claims.

  3. I must say your analyse is disgusting as well, especially when you dare to write that “Given the age of the reactors, it is a wonder that they survived at all, let alone released so little radiation. Rather than trying to drum up images of Chernobyl, the nuclear industry will learn very much from the Japanese situation in their safety by design approach”…It’s good to be provocative but this is simply stupid and a horror because what you say is “it is actually good this happened because first it showed that the plant was well done and, even better, we will learn a lot to further improve the other plants…what a welcome disaster actually!” really disgusting… following your thinking we shouldn’t actually wait for disasters to happen but provoke them ourselves, just to learn from it….
    On Chernobyl, you obviously forgot to say the the ‘4000 death’ report was not only from the WHO but also lead by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)…who can seriously believe that the IAEA would be totally honest about and critical of what it should control (to promote it…). Some more and better information on the possible ‘death toll’ of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster can be found here:
    http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/chernobyl_3477.jsp
    Interestingly there’s criticism on this report from the inside of the WHO itself: “Zhanat Carr, a radiation scientist with the WHO in Geneva, admitted to New Scientist that the September news release, and the report that backed it up, had been a “political communication tool”. She stated: “Scientifically, it may not be the best approach.”
    So you should yourselves as well consider using facts, i.e. suggesting a link to several studies on Chernobyl and not only the one which goes into your direction…
    about your “natural disaster of biblical dimension”: this actually shows that your only aim is about nuclear and not humanity or people: you name it ‘biblical’ to downplay the role and risk of nuclear in this disaster but I didn’t here you and the alike speak of ‘biblical disaster’ following the Haiti earthquake or the 2004 tsunami which in both cases claimed more than 200,000 lives (in Japan it will end up at about 20 to 30,000 which is already enormous)…in those cases it was certainly ‘biblical’ but no one used such words because who really cares about the poor people in Haiti or in south Asia? and they had no nuclear plant, or something else valuable for the West, worth to be defended to use ‘biblical’…but nothing to be surprised about, you’re just one of many those pathetic servants of the existing world order who think that if a Japanese or a European or an American with a nuclear plant in the backyard is threatened then it’s ‘biblical’…

  4. It is indeed amazing Jean that those nuclear plants survived something far worse than their worst case scenarios and should instill more confidence in nuclear safety. Some of the safety learnings (better back up generator location and energy sources, better emergency cooling procedures) will make nuclear even safer and a better alternative in future. To say it is amazing or a wonder does not mean the accident is a good thing (which you concluded that I was saying). One good thing is that more people learned that radiation exposure from such incidents is lower than exposure people may have on airplanes or living in radon-rich areas of Cornwall or the Ardennes. But then again, there are those still banging the war drum against nuclear and they are presently the media darlings.
    Some of your comments are unclear – I don’t get the Haiti neglect issue – my main point of this blog was that Greenpeace was ambulance chasing in Japan – I’ll check if Greenpeace were also taking advantage of the Haiti earthquake as well. If you want to talk numbers, then hunger and malaria will win hands down, but I am afraid the environmental NGOs are on shakey grounds there. I am also not sure of your point of discrediting international bodies dedicated to the safety of things you evidently don’t like – it smells of irrational bias. Accusing me of bias is your opinion, but I did give the Greenpeace link about the number of casualties from Chernobyl.

  5. Hi this is not a natural disaster as you call it but a man-made one. Nuclear stations are man-made and so we are responsible for their consequences. Would the tsunami in Fukushima – minus the nuclear plant have had such terrible results ? Clearly no. We humans have become expert at twisting fact and reality to suit our ends, namely pure greed. We show no regard for the natural world, believing ourselves to be the masters of all we survey. When we are proven wrong we need to pin the blame on forces out of our control i.e., nature. But nature did not build the power stations, we did, and continue to do so.

  6. We need to clarify vocabulary here. Except for my teenage daughter’s room, a disaster would entail significant loss of life. The nuclear incident was a concern, and one scientists and engineers are still working on, for the benefit of future reactor designs, but there was no indication of any significant loss of life (this is in no way to show disrespect to the family members of the two brave engineers who did lose their lives battling this emergency). That the Greenpeace lobbying machine wasted no time to kick in with their anti-nuclear rhetoric, to focus the shallow media attention on their issue and turn the focus away from the misery and suffering of the millions of survivors (and the mourning for the tens of thousands of victims) disgusts me as much today as it did when those opportunists took their first insensitive swings. My only consolation is that the only place where Greenpeace’s fear-mongering fell flat was in Japan. I hardly agree with you that I am the one twisting facts – if you treat a concern or risk like a disaster, don’t be surprised if most people, when confronted with facts, disagree with you.

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