Let’s watch the oceans die while we worry about other things!

Summary: While we worry about other things, including the possible fate of the world in 2100, the oceans are dying. Dying right now. The world’s oceans were suffering from pollution and overfishing, destroying the major fisheries. Now we administer another blow, with radiation from the Fukushima reactors flowing into the Pacific. Here we look at some of the sad details. Our indifference to the ocean’s death is more evidence of our dysfunctionality

“The planet’s future has never looked better. Here’s why.”
— “Earth Day, Then and Now“, Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine, May 2000

World Oil
Oil might not be the worst pollutant


  1. Radiation flows on the oceanic highways
  2. “Mishaps Underscore Weaknesses of Japanese Nuclear Plant”
  3. “Japanese Nuclear Plant May Have Been Leaking for Two Years”
  4. “State withholds more than 60% of Fukushima cleanup budget”
  5. “TEPCO’s plan to halt spread of radioactive water based on shaky theory”
  6. Updates
  7. Destruction of the world’s fisheries
  8. For More Information
  9. Another view of the oceanic highways

(1)  The worlds oceans are highways for radiation

NOAA developed a model (see map below) to show where radioactive debris from Fukushima will circulate in the Pacific Ocean. (NPR, 9 March 2012):

Click to enlarge.  From NOAA
From NOAA via NPR, 9 March 2012


(2)  “Mishaps Underscore Weaknesses of Japanese Nuclear Plant“, New York Times, 10 April 2013 — Excerpt:

More than two years after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a series of recent mishaps — including a blackout set off by a dead rat and the discovery of leaks of thousands of gallons of radioactive water — have underscored just how vulnerable the plant remains. Increasingly, experts are arguing that the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, cannot be trusted to lead what is expected to be decades of cleanup and the decommissioning of the plant’s reactors without putting the public, and the environment, at risk.

At the same time, the country’s new nuclear regulator remains woefully understaffed. It announced Wednesday that it would send a ninth official to the site — to monitor the work of about 3,000 laborers. “The Fukushima Daiichi plant remains in an unstable condition, and there is concern that we cannot prevent another accident,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said at a news conference. “We have instructed Tepco to work on reducing some of the biggest risks, and we as regulators will step up monitoring.”

The biggest scare at the plant in recent days has been the discovery that at least three of seven underground storage pools are seeping thousands of gallons of radioactive water into the soil. On Wednesday, Tepco acknowledged that the lack of adequate storage space for contaminated water had become a “crisis,” and said it would begin emptying the pools. But the company said that the leaks will continue over the several weeks that it will likely take to transfer the water to other containers.

… Tepco stores more than a quarter-million tons of radioactive water at the site and says the amount could double within 3 years. But as outside experts have discovered with horror, the company had lined the pits for the underground pools with only two layers of plastic each 1.5 millimeters thick, and a third, clay-based layer just 6.5 millimeters thick. And because the pools require many sheets hemmed together, leaks could be springing at the seams, Tepco has said. “No wonder the water is leaking,” said Hideo Komine, a professor in civil engineering at Ibaraki University, just south of Fukushima. He said that the outer protective lining should have been hundreds of times thicker.

(3)  “Japanese Nuclear Plant May Have Been Leaking for Two Years“, New York Times, 10 July 2013 — Excerpt:

Japan radiation


The stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years, ever since an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant, Japan’s chief nuclear regulator said … In unusually candid comments, Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, also said that neither his staff nor the plant’s operator knew exactly where the leaks were coming from, or how to stop them.

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power, has reported spikes in the amounts of radioactive cesium, tritium and strontium detected in groundwater at the plant, adding urgency to the task of sealing any leaks. Radioactive cesium and strontium, especially, are known to raise risks of cancer in humans.

Mr. Tanaka’s comments bring into sharp relief the precariousness of the cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, where core meltdowns occurred at three of the six reactors. A critical problem has been the groundwater that has been pouring into the basements of the damaged reactor buildings and becoming contaminated. Workers have been pumping the water out to be stored in dozens of tanks at the plant, but have not stopped the inflow.

Until recently, Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, flatly denied that any of that water was leaking into the ocean, even though various independent studies of radiation levels in the nearby ocean have suggested otherwise. In recent days, Tepco has retreated to saying that it was not sure whether there was a leak into the ocean.

Mr. Tanaka said that the evidence was overwhelming.

(4)  “State withholds more than 60% of Fukushima cleanup budget“, The Asahi Shimbun, 12 July 2013 — Opening:

The central government held back more than 60% of the 255 billion yen ($2.57 billion) recovery budget earmarked in fiscal 2012 for radioactive cleanup efforts overseen by municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture. … It pays for the work initially, but later sends corresponding bills to Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator.

The thriftiness is apparently partly due to consideration for TEPCO, which eventually has to cover the expenses of the cleanup. Rigorous restrictions apply. The finding by The Asahi Shimbun raises questions over the consistency of the practice, given the Abe administration’s official pledge to speed up the decontamination work.

(5)  “TEPCO’s plan to halt spread of radioactive water based on shaky theory“, The Asahi Shimbun, 12 July 2013 — Excerpt:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has started taking measures to contain highly radioactive groundwater at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but its strategy is based on a theory that is disputed by industry experts. … The utility’s measures, intended to prevent the underground radioactive water from spilling into the sea, could end up exacerbating the problem, some experts have warned.

… On July 12, TEPCO said the No. 3 observation well at the plant produced a total reading of 1,400 becquerels of radioactive substances that emit beta rays, including strontium, per liter of water sampled on the previous day. No radioactivity had been detected in the No. 3 well a week earlier. The No. 3 well is about 200 meters south of the No. 1 well, where high radioactive levels have been detected for some time.

Water sampled on July 8 from another well, 21 meters seaward of the No. 1 well, produced a record 630,000 becquerels of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. That level is about 10 times higher than the legal safety limit.

The latest developments date back to late May, when water from the No. 1 well, on the seaside of the No. 2 reactor turbine building, produced high levels of radioactive substances. The readings were 500,000 becquerels of tritium per liter, or eight times the legal limit, and 1,000 becquerels of strontium per liter, or 30 times the legal limit. TEPCO had earlier dug a number of observation wells to check for any new influx of radioactive water into the sea because seaborne levels of radioactive cesium had been slow to decline.

After the spread of radioactive substances was confirmed, TEPCO rushed to dig four additional observation wells near the No. 1 well. It also began analyzing seawater north of the water intakes for the reactors. High radioactivity levels continue to be detected in the observation wells. TEPCO officials said they need more data to determine how the radioactive materials have been spreading.

(6) Updates

NRA chairman says release of radioactive water into sea is inevitable“, Asahi Shimbum, 25 July 2013 — Excerpt:

“The Fukushima No. 1 plant is filling up with water,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, told a news conference on July 24. “Inevitably the contaminated water will have to be discharged into the sea after TEPCO processes it properly and lowers (its radioactivity levels) below the standards.”

… At the Fukushima plant, an estimated 400 tons of groundwater is flowing into its reactor buildings daily. The groundwater is mixed with water used to cool the melted fuel, and is accumulating with high radioactive levels at the plant. Purification systems can remove some radioactive substances, including cesium, from water, but cannot isolate tritium.

Fukushima trench water crisis returns“, The Japan Times, 27 July 2013 — “Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that the trench problem at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has cropped up again and is sending highly radioactive water into the sea.”

(7)  Destruction of the world’s fisheries

(a)  “Pollution and overfishing are destroying this vital resource“, Philipp Neubauer et al, Science, 19 April 2013 — Abstract:

Recovery of overexploited marine populations has been slow, and most remain below target biomass levels. A key question is whether this is due to insufficient reductions in harvest rates or the erosion of population resilience. Using a global meta-analysis of overfished stocks, we find that resilience of those stocks subjected to moderate levels of overfishing is enhanced, not compromised, offering the possibility of swift recovery.

However, prolonged intense overexploitation, especially for collapsed stocks, not only delays rebuilding but also substantially increases the uncertainty in recovery times, despite predictable influences of fishing and life history. Timely and decisive reductions in harvest rates could mitigate this uncertainty. Instead, current harvest and low biomass levels render recovery improbable for the majority of the world’s depleted stocks.

(b)  Other articles about this serious problem:

(8)  For More Information

Articles about Fukushima:

Pollution Pipe

Posts about pollution:


(8)  Another view of the oceanic highways

This map shows the maximum wave amplitude of the Fukushima tsunami. Radiation released from the Fukushima reactors now travels along the same pathways.

Maximum wave height of the Fukushima tsunami
Maximum wave height of the Fukushima tsunami



22 thoughts on “Let’s watch the oceans die while we worry about other things!

  1. You seem to have accepted uncritically all the alarmism over Fukushima. I wonder if you have spent any time at all on the Fukushima Medical University website? They are the people measuring the medical effects of the reactor leaks. The hyperthyroidism claims in particular appear to be highly and perhaps even deliberately misleading. A link to Dr. Richard A. Muller’s WSJ article “The Panic Over Fukushima” is almost obligatory in a blog on this topic.

    Fabius Maximus has some sort of a reputation for objectivity to maintain. Try harder next time.

    1. Mellor,

      I often wonder if people read the post before criticizing. Your comment is a poster child for this. This post was about the on-going release of radiation into the oceans — two years now, accellerating, with no end in sight. With the possibility of much larger releases from the holding ponds or reactor complex. You cite two sources, neither of which mention this issues or even appear relevant to it.

      (1) “The Panic Over Fukushima“, Richard Muller (professor of physics at the UC Berkeley), op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 18 August 2012 — “Japan’s nuclear accident was a great human tragedy, but its long-term health effects have been exaggerated—and the virtues of nuclear power remain.”

      He does not mention this issue, let alone give a rebuttal to it. First, he discusses direct effect on humans — not the subject of this post. Second, this was written long before the data about radiation releases become known to the public — because TEPCO lied.

      (2) The “Fukushima Medical University

      Again, I see nothing there about effect of radiation released on the ocean ecosystems. A google search returns no hits for “ocean”, “sea”, or “fish” at this site (the directory is not helpful, hence the use of Google).

      Conclusion: Please try harder next time when writing a rebuttal.

  2. How right you are regarding this environmental catastrophe — which is calmly ignored by media and public opinion. And it has been going on for decades — Fukushima is a recent contribution.

    This post also fits in nicely with the discussion on climate change. You state that “Public policy is about regulation and spending on the basis of well-established science. […] Public policy actions require far higher standards of evidence than normal peer-review for publication.” In the case of fisheries, what can we expect when politicians more often than not just disregard what science tells them?

    Fisheries mismanagement“, Marine Pollution Bulletin, December 2011 — Abstract:

    We analysed the extent to which European politicians have adhered to scientific recommendations on annual total allowable catches (TACs) from 1987 to 2011, covering most of the period of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). For the 11 stocks examined, TACs were set higher than scientific recommendations in 68% of decisions. Politically-adjusted TACs averaged 33% above scientifically recommended levels. There was no evidence that the 2002 reform of the CFP improved decision-making, as was claimed at the time. We modelled the effects of such politically-driven decision-making on stock sustainability. Our results suggest that political adjustment of scientific recommendations dramatically increases the probability of a stock collapsing within 40 years.

    In 2012 European fisheries policy will undergo a once-a-decade reform. Ten years ago radical reforms were promised but the changes failed to improve sustainability. It is likely that the 2012 reform will be similarly ineffective unless decision-making is changed so that catch allocations are based on science rather than politics.

    1. Guest,

      As so often the case, I tend to look at citizen involvement as the responsible driver of public policy. Without that, elected officials allow those with economic interests to set policy. That’s sad but it’s the great circle of life in action.

      The massive reforms of environmental regulation (many done by the Nixon Administration) were pushed through by citizen concern. Now we worry almost exclusively, so far as I can tell, about theoretical dangers of late this century. Call me a cynic, but the focus on climate change to the exclusion of more current needs might result from the potential power gains from the former — while the latter are just the politics-as-usual fights. Some on the Left have admitted that they see climate change as a wedge issue to gain more political control over the economy.

      But then that’s the great circle of life in action. People seek power and money.

  3. Heck nobody cares about this! People have no idea where their food comes from.

    Fisheries depleted? Nah…..dyed farmed Salmon is all the rage at Walmart for $6.99 a pound. It is catch and release for most Pacific Salmon in Alaska this season because Chinnok and Sockeye runs are collapsing again. Patagonia tooth fish better known as Sea Bass have been overfished for many many yrs…..Blue Fin tuna, Cod. On and on.

    We are right now fishing for the “last” fishes of many stocks. Been obvious for maybe a long time but cooperation to allow recovery is hard to find. Oh well, carry on.
    Monsanto will fix it.


  4. Well done for bringing this up, the ‘silent catastrophe’. Here in Australia we are being warned that the Great Barrier Reef is dying, not the least of which by agricultural runoffs.

    Also here is Australia was the sad, sad story of the Orange Roughy, a deep water fish. I am old enough to remember the whole process, from discovery, to fishing, to high demand (it is very tasty), to over fishing, then collapse. What no one in the fishing industry did (and the under funded fishery scientists took too long to be able to study). was that it is very long lived with a slow reproductive cycle and our catch rate was orders of magnitude too high to be sustainable.

    And it is the perfect example of the whole worldwide fishing industry a mining system with no regard for sustainability. As one fish type runs out then they go for another .. and another .. until there is nothing left at all. Basically they mine the seas.

    It is also incredibly wasteful, more often than not, anything but the type they are fishing for is just thrown back (dead of course) when caught.

    And the massive industrialisation, where a single ship nowadays can be as big as a whole fishing fleet of the past. Then there is the the whole ‘long line’ thing, nets tens of kilometers long, that catch and kill everything.

    Plus dumping of just about everything into the sea. You just have to wonder at the mentality of it all. This is behaviour that I term ‘beyond stupidity’.

    On the whole Fukushima thing, what most people don’t realise is that people can survive, with limited (but not none) health effects from elevated radiation doses (though the sources and types of radiation are critical to that), but not contineous higher levels (what had been happening in Fallujah, the most nuked place on Earth post WW2, should cure people of that idea).

    What the Japanese Govt has not been able to do that the old USSR did, is stop the radiation leaking. The USSR shut down the Chernobyl leaks incredibly quickly. Yes there was a spike in radiation from the release but it stopped very quickly (a friend of mine, a nuclear engineer, marveled at how quickly they managed it and said that the west couldn’t have done it that well).

    Fukushima will gone on releasing high radiation for decades, the way they are frigging around and because of that we will definitely see very adverse effects from it, probably in the reasonably near future.

    True story listened to on the radio, a Japanese business man in construction had all the concrete pouring equipment ready to go and seal off Fukushima, massive equipment. Went to the Govt to go and do it and could have been there in the first week… and was fobbed off, they ended up shipping in (much later) foreign equipment .. wonder how many greased palms that took. And it is still not sealed off!!!! That old, useless, hopeless,incompetent USSR still managed to do it in about a month!!!

    Here is my rule: When you see repeated, long term criminal Govt incompetence corruption is always at the heart of it and there have been few Governmental systems more corrupt than Japan (well done MacArthur, a person not adverse to some, well a lot of, even a heck of a lot of, personal corruption himself, $500,000 from the Phillipines pre invasion as a start, heck knows how much in Japan as its Caesar).

    1. There is an excellent documentary on Chernobyl, how the USSR dealt with it, and the consequences of the catastrophe at


      It took several days for the USSR leaders to appreciate the severity of the situation, but then they mobilized everything they needed — hundreds of thousands of people (from helicopter pilots filling the crater with lead to miners digging tunnels towards the reactor core) were thrown into what the documentary calls the battle of Chernobyl.

    2. I didn’t mention it because they are very different kinds of effects, but Chernobyl is perhaps the big story. The predictions of *ongoing* horrific disaster have been proven wrong. 27 years later the Chernobyl wildlife sanctuary shows few signs of the disaster.

      The US news media approach this narrative gently, phrasing it as a “debate” about the unambiguous results. Or not mentioning it at all.


    3. “mple of the whole worldwide fishing industry a mining system with no regard for sustainability.”

      I wonder about that. Looking at their record, I wonder if they actively despise sustainability. Wear black hats, and rejoice at the ruin they leave behind for those living near their mines.

      Is just greed enough to explain this?

    4. “The predictions of *ongoing* horrific disaster have been proven wrong. ”

      What about a comprehensive report based on a wealth of scientific studies and statistics:


      Conclusion: regarding the health of the affected populations, there _is_ an ongoing horrific disaster — which “the US news media approach” by “not mentioning it at all”.

      As for the consequence on wildlife, the referred article in Slate is interesting, but I would not be as sanguine about a positive outlook.

      1) The studies, all extremely limited in scope — either spatially (Mousseau and Moller), or statistically (raw census of animals by Ukraine and Bielorussia) — lead to inconclusive results. We just do not know what is the real health of the wildlife there.

      2) Despite the apparent abundance and diversity of wildlife lurk ominous signs that not everything is right — mentions are made e.g. of reduced lifespan and deformities of smaller animals.

      3) It is not surprising that large regions abandoned by human beings end up attracting a lot of diverse wildlife. The heavily mined no-man’s land between North and South Korea is another such a place.

      I am a bit surprised that given the paucity of scientific investigations you jump to the conclusion that an ongoing disaster is _proven_ wrong (proven is really a strong word) instead of calling for sustained scientific investigations to settle the matter.

    5. Apologies: my statement was unclear. I was referring to the wildlife, and the effect on them from living in a high radiation zone (ie, on animals born or migrated there after the accident). I did not mean to imply anything about the effects from the immediate burst of radiation on the people from the meltdown. That had a range of effects from death to less severe.

      About the wildlife: while the studies continue, it’s already clear that the most extreme statements made after the accident were not accurate (referring to the area as a long term dead or barren one). While there is probably some level of effect, it’s so low so that the studies released to date don’t show it (except in some hot spots). That is, the data to date put a relatively low maximum on the effects.

      I used the Slate article since it was clearly written for a general audience. I have read (skimmed) several studies on the subject making the same points.

      From vague memory, I think the studies from the WW2 nukes show similarly low long-term effects on residents from post-blast exposure (that could be wrong, however — too long ago to rely on my memory).

    6. “I have read (skimmed) several studies on the subject making the same points.”

      Any reference?

      Regarding the wildlife: the issue that nags me is that (1) there is a lot of it now, and (2) it came from outside the zone, since “few wild animals lived in the region in 1986; their habitats had been destroyed for Soviet dairy farms and pine plantations.”

      In other words, I see two fundamental hypotheses:

      a) Wildlife moved in and resulted in a self-sustained population, as radioactivity has a low biological effect.
      b) Wildlife moved in but the detrimental effect of radioactivity contamination requires a constant influx of healthy genetic stock from outside the zone to sustain it.

      None of which can be settled by counting animals alone. One would have also to count the number of litters (to determine whether life-span of adult animals is affected), their size (to see whether fertility is affected), their survival rate, as well as DNA studies to determine genetic flows in populations. Then we can talk about “proofs”.

      Do you know whether any such studies have been carried out?

    7. There have been published and are on-going detailed studies of the Chernobyl Exclusion zone. You can easily find them using Google or Google Scholar.

      For a summary see this, from the Chernobyl Center:

      What is the impact of low ionizing radiation doses on living organisms?

      Due to a complexity of the problem, there is no a well-defined answer to this question.

      One can anticipate from its definition that ionizing radiation can damage biological molecules. However, this radiation was universally present; it exists now and will exist at all times. The evolution of life takes place under conditions of permanent radiation influence. Moreover, radioactive sources exist both outside and inside of biological objects.

      The problem is in the fact how much the latter are able to compensate for damages caused by radiation. Here again we observe the widest spectrum of compensation and regeneration mechanisms as well as of radiation sensitivity. Of fundamental importance is the level of biological organization (molecule, cell, tissue, organism, population, etc.), species of animals, radiation influence types, doses, etc.

      At present, the form and levels of radiation influence within the Chornobyl zone mostly do not cause visible ‘abnormal’ or pathological effects (such effects disappear well before catching investigator’s eyes). Most of consequences are never revealed until complicated modern biological studies are done (higher mutagenesis level, change of populations’ genetic structures, citogenetic effects, etc.). As a rule, they do not constitute a ‘threat’ to organisms’ population as a whole, but they may cause degradation or even death of single individuals.

      Therefore, even under conditions of the most contaminated areas within the Chornobyl zone there are quite viable populations demonstrating their ‘well-being’.

    8. Thank you. A search produced this article, which summarizes what is actually known on the effects of Chernobyl on wildlife:

      Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Wildlife: What Knowledge Have We Gained Between the Chernobyl and Fukushima
      “, Nicholas A Beresford and David Copplestone, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 2011.

      The issues (long-term genetic effects, relevance of population influx from non-contaminated parts, extreme variability of effects e.g. on vertebrates and invertebrates) — some of which I already pinpointed — highlight the fact that we have only very partial knowledge on the impact of an atomic catastrophe like Chernobyl and that in-depth, long-term research is needed. None of the studies presented seems conclusive (whether they highlight detrimental or benign effects). Thus, there is no proof of the long-term innocuity of artificial radiation on wildlife. For all we know, there might be a hidden disaster ongoing.

      As a matter of interest, there are initial studies on Fukushima — and their preliminary conclusions are similar: the effects on wildlife may be extremely variable (from nothing remarkable to catastrophic), but, as you surmise in your post (and this closes the loop in the discussion), the impact will probably be greatest on maritime wildlife, not on terrestrial lifeforms. See “Fukushima Wildlife Dose Reconstruction Signals Ecological Consequences“, Jacqueline Garnier-Laplace et al, viewpoint article in Environmental Science and Technology, 15 June 2011.

    9. Be careful! This is the perfect example of alarmism:

      “For all we know, there might be a hidden disaster ongoing.”

      And there might not be a hidden disaster ongoing. The prescription for all such things is IMO to monitor and remain vigilant for new data — but not let preconceptions unsupported by the data affect your forecasts.

      Comparing results from Fukushima and Chernobyl seems a bit premature, IMO. Somewhat different kinds of events, 2 and 27 years ago. Especially in that Fukushima *still* releases radiation into the oceans, might be doing so at an accelerating rate — and with a hopefully small possibility of a massive release in the future.

      There are several possible scenarios for failure of radioactive water containment in the holding ponds or reactor vessels: mechanical, earthquake, or accident when working on them. Plus another explosion (there have been odd reports of uncertain validity about continued fission in one or more of the reactors).

  5. Ugly Updates

    NRA chairman says release of radioactive water into sea is inevitable“, Asahi Shimbum, 25 July 2013 — Excerpt:

    “The Fukushima No. 1 plant is filling up with water,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, told a news conference on July 24. “Inevitably the contaminated water will have to be discharged into the sea after TEPCO processes it properly and lowers (its radioactivity levels) below the standards.”

    … At the Fukushima plant, an estimated 400 tons of groundwater is flowing into its reactor buildings daily. The groundwater is mixed with water used to cool the melted fuel, and is accumulating with high radioactive levels at the plant. Purification systems can remove some radioactive substances, including cesium, from water, but cannot isolate tritium.

    Fukushima trench water crisis returns“, The Japan Times, 27 July 2013 — “Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that the trench problem at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has cropped up again and is sending highly radioactive water into the sea.”

  6. Pick it up in one piece and cool it without water and all the water contaminated still after processing solidify and build houses out of for the nuclear activists.

    Who you will find among others the south Koreans, yanks, Australian uranium miners (s.Korean owners) and some British, french, Chinese, Pakistan and Indian lovers of radiation.

    Be it from spent fired coal dust to depleted uranium found on battlefields.

    1. Peter,

      That’s a harsh judgement. But if Fukushima turns out badly for the world, following the too many warnings we ignored (Chernobyl being just the most recent), history might agree with you.

      Sadly, include me on your list. While I worried (too little) about the depleted U shells, I was confident that engineers could build safe nuke power plants and waste disposal systems. And I still have that confidence.

      But I have far too slowly realized — only after Fukushima — that our current social systems cannot manage nuclear power. The people running these thing will save a dime and risk the world (including themselves, their children, and future generations).

      More broadly, I have been far too slow to realize the weakness — deep-seated, pervasive — in Western societies’ decision-making system. Polyannish. But Polyanna was a little girl; I’m not sure what’s my excuse.

      And that is, IMO, the big question: we cannot change the past, but must fix our deep problems. Which I still struggle to see. Failure to learn. Lack of social cohesion and ability to take collective action. Perhaps there is some underlying factor at work.

      You see me attempting to work these things out on the FM website. Pitch in, in the comments, if you have any suggestions.

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