Retrospective: What we talked about in April, 2011

In April, we continued to look at the disaster in Japan, focusing entirely on the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Miller and I were criticized for not focusing on something other than Fukushima. It became apparent that TEPCO had ignored warnings that Fukushima was poorly cited with respect to tsunamis, and despite the assertion that the nuclear material at the site was 'contained' the amount of radioactive material in the nearby ocean was rising. Much of the debate of whether or not Fukushima was a problem (this debate would sputter out by the end of the month or early May) shifted to whether or not nuclear accidents were normal and expected, and attempts by nuclear power advocates to paint nuclear power as a victim of unreasonable demands started to become more common.

Here are a few of the key Fukushima related posts with the most comments:

I mentioned in my previous retrospective that I interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson in March. It was actually early April! Sorry. Details here.

I reviewed, controversially, the controversial film about the controversial Timothy Treadwell, produced and directed by the controversial Werner Herzog. We're still trying to work out what happened: Why Was the Grizzly Man Eaten by a Bear? (Film review and commentary)

In April, I wrote an extensive set of posts on how to make good use of your time at the gym. But it wasn't just exercise advice; There were stories too (Africa. Some time in the early 1990s.; Lenora; Funny haha, funny strange).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Aardvarchaeology blogger and renowned skeptic Martin Rundkvist and Swedish journalist Yusie Chou. Click through to the podcast.

I might have complained about Wikipedia.

Tornado season started. It was to prove to be a bad one.

I started complaining about Unity and Gnome 3.0. A lot of people told me to shut up. So I did. But I would like to note that Linus Torvalds and I have the same exact opinion, arrived at separately. So there.

In April, I started a new project which continues to this day. I write a blog post once a month for the esteemed birding blog, 10,000 Birds. My first one was: Bird Song and Parallel Evolution: learning from our feathered friends.

In this month, Michele Bachmann made her first mistake as a politician seeking the presidency: She admitted that Obama's Birth Certificate is real and legal. But we still have hopes that she will be the republican Nominee!

Lew died.

We had some discussion about Gun Control and Firearms Owership, and Gun Safety, and I threw some data up on the blog. Here are the most relevant posts:

We discussed getting your toddler to sleep.

April is the month that we started moving forward with the National Geographic Society - ScienceBlogs partnership.

More like this

March was a particularly important month for this blog, and for everybody in the world, really, because it is when the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and Fukushima meltdown started. Although I blogged early on about the quake and tsunami, my colleague and friend Analiese Miller and I eventually…
Worker exposure to high levels of nuclera radiation and the distribution of radioactive materials about the landscape and in possibly unexpected places are the stories of the week at Fukushima. Also, officials are wondering, how have the potential effects of a tsunami at Fukushima (and, apparently…
Claims are being made that the situation at Fukushima is starting to improve, but there is no actual evidence of this. We probably (but not certainly) passed the point where nuclear fuel is likely to accumulate in such a way as to cause a major fission event or explosion, but there is still…
Welcome to the "I'm starting to get cynical" edition. The situation at Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Plant reached an impasse over the least few days. Two or three of the reactors are in a situation where cooling is being kludged, the reactor fuel rods are damaged and have melted but the details are…

FYI: It appears the used fuel stored in the fuel pools at Fukushima was not in as much jeopardy as previously thought, at least according to the US Institute of Nuclear Operations (INPO) report and timeline of the incident. (A small consolation, but defintely a change from what was being reported at the time.)

James Aach, author of "Rad Decision: A Novel of Nuclear Power"

I wouldn't count on that, necessarily, depending on the initial level of concern.

"The explosion at Reactor 3 may have been a prompt moderated nuclear critically within the reactor 3 fuel pool. Also, the containment at Reactor 3 was probably badly damaged and cracked independently. (see video below from Fairewinds)"

With respect to widespred terrestrial contamination (as opposed to the ocean and groundwater near the plant) the fuel pools may have been as big a problem as the reactors.

For the moment, developing an understanding of the event kind of depends on your sources, I guess. Perhaps at some point it will all become clear, but I rather doubt it. There is a lot of confusion and obfuscation and ulterior motives on all sides of the equation, made worse by a lack of understanding of the technology by most of the intended audience and some of those providing the commentary. No doubt though it was (is) a collosal mess.

Oh, Greg, please don't stop complaining about Unity and Gnome 3.0! They're filthy, pus-encrusted abominations unto the Linux way, and the more people we have loudly denouncing them for what they are, the better!

By The Swordfish,… (not verified) on 10 Jan 2012 #permalink