Tuesday Morning Miscellany – of D retreats, lost jobs and nuclear chicken

Who nuked Chicken Little?

Does “journalism” get any more ridiculous than the ongoing coverage of the infinitesimally small amounts of “Japanese” radiation detected this week in the Commonwealth’s rain water?  A casual reader, glancing only at the headlines, could be forgiven for stocking up on bottled water, gathering the kids and heading for the nearest fallout shelter.  With headlines like yesterday’s – Radioactive Rain in Mass!! – and the indisputable fact that a certain percentage of the population is paranoid and more than a little crazy, Poland Spring is probably a good investment just now.

One must read to the penultimate paragraph of the Herald article linked above  for a full measure of perspective on the “threat” posed by our nuclear rain:

Radiation from natural sources including rocks, bricks and the sun is about 100,000 times higher than the radioactive trace material determined to have come from Japan, health officials said.

Ah. So if that is the case – if our rain is currently one-one hundred thousandth so threatening as our, um, rocks and bricks, one might legitimately ask why public health officials felt compelled to make any announcement at all.  Governor Patrick explains (from the SHNS):

Patrick on Monday also reassured the public that the drinking water is “safe” after a report from his administration over the weekend that low levels of radiation likely emanating from Japanese nuclear reactors had been detected in rainwater.

He said his administration released the information because the public is “interested in and entitled to as much information as we have,” and pledged to continue to monitor the issue closely.

The public is entitled to “as much information as we have.” Commendable in theory.  Pretty ironic coming from the Patrick/Murray Administration, particularly this month.

But wait!  The Administration is not stopping there.  Not satisfied with its generation of an utterly unnecessary and wholly predictable media scare, the Governor is also planning to talk with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week – and the Legislature is going to hold a hearing – all purportedly to find out if what is currently happening in Japan could happen at the Pilgrim or Vermont Yankee nuclear facilities here in New England.

All of this is an example of a common affliction in politics and government, known in medical circles as “Igottagetinonthis-itis.”  Pols see a particular item appearing repeatedly in the news, such as the Japanese reactor crisis or, in past years, any number of animal-based influenza scares, and they immediately start thinking up ways to get in the story.  It does not matter how attenuated the nexus may be between the crisis du jour and their own official duties.  It does not matter how many real, pressing issues are piled up and awaiting their attention (like, I don’t know, the budget?).  What matters is getting in the story.  And hearings are an excellent vehicle for self insertion into the news cycle.

In this case, no fewer than three joint House and Senate committees will participate in the hearing slated for April 6, to extend the story insertion opportunity to as many legislators as possible.  Coordinating the effort will be Senate President Murray, in whose district the Pilgrim plant hums safely away.  SHNS again:

Murray, who has raised concerns about the safety of disposing spent fuel rods in pools of water on-site at the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee plants, said the safety measures in place here are slightly different than those in Japan where engineers are struggling to contain radiation leaks after an earthquake and tsunami knocked out power to reactors’ cooling mechanisms.

“It’s not quite the same,” Murray said. “We have a redundancy within the system here that they did not have in Japan.”

She may also have added, “And we don’t have cataclysmic earthquakes and biblical tsunamis.”  But then what would be the point of the hearing?

Let’s remember our manners.  

Headline (State House News): “High Tech Group Urges Look at Causes of “Job Exodus.'”

That’s all well and good, High Tech Group.  But remember – nobody likes to be stared at… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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