[ RadSafe ] Karl Grossman - Anti-Nuke in Magazine of Media Watch Group FAIR

Roger Helbig rhelbig at sfo.com
Fri Apr 29 22:52:22 CDT 2011

Karl does not seem in the least bit "fair" despite the magazine's title.
Has anyone got any more direct experience with this professor?  I find it
hard to believe that he teaches journalism and not fiction writing because
he seems to not really be a journalist.  I don't think that there is a
single member of this list who is a PR person.   The anti-nukes also seem to
sup at the taxpayer's trough by creating a myriad of so-called non-profit


Roger Helbig


Grossman does have one thing right - media coverage of Fukushima has been
dreadful, but anyone who quotes Rosalie Bertell is not playing with a full

Extra! The Magazine of FAIR - The Media Watch Group 
May 2011
                                         Cover Story
Downplaying deadly dangers in Japan and at home
After Fukushima, Media Still Buying Nuclear Spin

by Karl Grossman

Ever since the start of nuclear technology, those behind it have made heavy
use of deception, obfuscation and denial--with the complicity of most of the
media. New York Times reporter William Laurence, working at the same time
with the Manhattan Project, wrote a widely-published press release covering
up the first nuclear test in New Mexico in 1945, claiming it was nothing
more than an ammunition dump explosion. The Times and Laurence went on to
boost nuclear power for years to come (Beverly Deepe Keever, News Zero: The
New York Times and The Bomb). 

A central concern of nuclear promoters, as Rosalie Bertell writes in her
book No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth, has been:
"Should the public discover the true health cost of nuclear pollution, a cry
would rise from all parts of the world and people would refuse to cooperate
passively with their own death." In the U.S., nuclear industry and
government nuclear agencies lied after the accident at Three Mile Island. In
the Soviet Union, government lies flowed after the catastrophe at Chernobyl.
There have been cover-up after cover-up of the smaller accidents in between
(Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon, Killing Our Own, The Disaster of
America's Experience with Atomic Radiation; Jay M. Gould and Benjamin A.
Goldman, Deadly Deceit; Low-level Radiation, High-level Cover-up).

The nuclear enterprise, with its army of PR people, has had little trouble
through the years manipulating a largely compliant media, a major component
of which it has owned: Westinghouse owning CBS for many years, and General
Electric, NBC. And this continues in the still-unfolding nuclear disaster in

Media coverage of the Fukushima nuclear power facility disaster has ranged
from dreadful to barely passable. Much of the reporting about the threats of
nuclear power and the impacts of radioactivity has been outrageously poor,
as journalists and their talking-head experts have parroted the assurances
of Japanese and other officials that the amounts of radioactivity being
released were low and thus posed "no health threat" to people (e.g., AP,

Decades ago, there was the notion of a "threshold dose" of radiation, below
which there was no harm. That's because when nuclear technology began and
people were exposed to radioactivity, they didn't promptly fall down dead.
But as the years went by, it was realized that lower levels of radioactivity
take time to result in cancer and other illnesses--that there is a
five-to-40-year "incubation" period.

Now most scientists acknowledge that any amount of radioactivity can lead to
illness and death, especially in fetuses and children whose cells are
dividing more rapidly than in adults. As the National Council on Radiation
Protection (No. 136, 2001) has said: "Every increment of radiation exposure
produces an incremental increase in the risk of cancer." Or the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission ("Fact Sheet: Biological Effects of Radiation"): "Any
amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer."

Much coverage reassured the public that, even if there was some risk,
potassium iodide pills being distributed in Japan "block radioactivity"
(CNN, 3/18/11). In fact, potassium iodide pills work only on the thyroid,
filling it with "good" iodine so radioactive iodine-131, which causes
thyroid cancer, cannot be absorbed. But there are hundreds of other fission
products--including cesium-137 and strontium-90, both of which were
discharged when the Fukushima nuclear plants erupted--and there are no magic
pills for any of them.

Fox News took its coverage to another level, with Geraldo Rivera declaring
(3/18/11): "I love nuclear power." And right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter on
the O'Reilly Factor (Fox News, 3/17/11) asserted that "radiation [amounts]
in excess of what the government says are the minimum amounts we should be
exposed to are actually good for you and reduce cases of cancer." Even
fellow right-wing firebrand Bill O'Reilly was taken aback. "You have to be
responsible," he told her. 

Coulter's comment stems from a wild theory of some nuclear scientists called
"hormesis," which holds that radioactivity is good because it exercises the
immune system. Coulter challenged media for not pursuing the
radiation-is-good hypothesis. They should--they'll find that it's been
dismissed by national and international agencies involved with radiation
protection, including the U.S. National Research Council, the National
Council on Radiation Protection and the U.N. Scientific Committee on the
Effects of Atomic Radiation.

There have been huge scientific errors, even by people who acknowledged the
seriousness of the disaster-such as the explanation for cesium-137 by
"expert" Bill Nye, aka "The Science Guy," on CNN (3/12/11). "We hear about
this substance called cesium, which is being released," anchor John Vause
said to Nye. "What's the significance of that?" The "Science Guy" responded:
"Cesium is used to slow and control the nuclear reaction, the fission of
these very large atoms of uranium. And so when cesium can't get in there to
slow things down, it gets hotter and hotter." 

In fact, cesium-137 has absolutely nothing to do with slowing or controlling
fission (that's boron); it is one of the deadliest radioactive products
created by fission, and one of the main reasons there's still a
1,660-square-mile Exclusion Zone around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear
disaster. "The Science Guy" flubs a high-school physics exam question, and
one that is crucial to understanding the health effects of nuclear

Media have betrayed a lack of understanding about the hydrogen explosions
that blew the roofs off the Fukushima plants as well. It was reported that
this had to do with fuel rods, and sometimes zirconium was mentioned. (e.g.
LA Times, 3/16/11).  But missed was a huge issue: Zirconium, which is used
to make nuclear fuel rods because it allows neutrons to pass freely, is
extremely volatile. It explodes at 2,000[o]  F with the explosive power,
pound for pound, of nitroglycerin. (A tiny speck of zirconium produces the
flash in a flashbulb; a typical nuclear plant contains 20 tons.) With lesser
heat, it emits hydrogen, which itself can explode, and this is what occurred
at Fukushima. Using zirconium in a nuclear plant is like building a bridge
out of firecrackers. It's not hard to explain, but that didn't happen.

Then there were the reports about three GE nuclear engineers who resigned
because of defects in the GE Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactor used at Fukushima
(ABC News, 3/16/11). This was in line with the spin that the problem is not
nuclear power in general, but merely one flawed plant design. 

While the Mark 1 design was, indeed, a factor in why the three GE nuclear
engineering supervisors, Dale Bridenbaugh, Richard Hubbard and Gregory
Minor, left the nuclear industry, their broader point went missing in media
coverage: As they declared in a statement to the Joint Committee on Atomic
Energy in Congress in 1976, 
                                   We did so because we could no longer
justify devoting our life energies to the 
                                   continued development and expansion of
nuclear fission power--a system we 
                                   believe to be so dangerous that it now
threatens the very existence of life on
                                   this planet.

Meanwhile, disinformation about the impacts of previous nuclear plant
disasters has served to downplay the potential impacts of the Fukushima

U.S. media regularly reported that only a few thousand people died as a
result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe--commonly used
as a baseline of comparison (e.g. New York Times, 3/27/11). These numbers
ignore the most comprehensive study done on the effects of Chernobyl, a book
published in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences titled Consequences of
the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. A team of scientists from
Russia and Belarus studied health data, radiological surveys and scientific
reports--some 5,000 in all--from 1986 to 2004, and estimated that the
accident caused the deaths of 985,000 people worldwide. More deaths, they
wrote, will follow. That's the real baseline for a major disaster at one
nuclear power plant. 

Indeed, the senior scientist in that study, Dr. Alexey Yablokov, at a March
25 press conference in Washington, D.C., pointed out that because of the
multiple nuclear power plants and spent fuel pools involved in the Fukushima
disaster, and "because the area is far more densely populated than around
Chernobyl, the human toll could eventually be far worse." The New York Times
did not cover or run a story on that press conference at the National Press
Club--or the New York Academy of Science's book.

There were also declarations that "no one died" as a result of the Three
Mile Island accident in 1979 (e.g., O'Reilly Factor, 3/16/11). NPR (3/28/11)
went so far as to claim that "relatively small amounts of radiation had
escaped from the plant. No one was even injured." 

That myth was long ago long exploded by the book Killing Our Own, which
includes a chapter called "People Died at Three Mile Island," detailing
infant and adult deaths. I wrote and narrated a TV documentary on the
impacts of the TMI partial meltdown, Three Mile Island Revisited, that
focused on the cancers and death in the area around the plant, and how its
owner has quietly given pay-outs, many for $1 million apiece, to settle with
people who suffered health impacts or lost family members because of the

Meanwhile, media didn't mention that Japan in recent years has become a
global giant in the sale of nuclear power plants. GE and Westinghouse have
long been the Coke and Pepsi of nuclear power plants worldwide, historically
manufacturing or designing 80 percent of all nuclear plants. In 2006,
Toshiba bought Westinghouse's nuclear division and Hitachi entered into a
partnership with GE to run its nuclear division. How might this huge
Japanese stake in selling nuclear plants worldwide affect what Japanese
officials were saying about Fukushima? This area was ignored by U.S.
media--many of which have links to the nuclear industry themselves. (See
FAIR Blog, 4/12/11).

A pioneer journalist on nuclear technology, Anna Mayo, had one word to
describe U.S. media coverage of the Japanese disaster: "grotesque." From
1969 to 1989, Mayo worked for the Village Voice, writing a column titled
"Geiger Counter." She once said (Karl Grossman, Cover Up), "I built a
full-time career on covering nuclear horror stories that the New York Times
neglected." Mayo was forced out after changes of ownership at the Village
Voice, with "nuclear industry pressure" having much to do with her ouster:
"The nuclear industry went after me. It was very obvious." 

The nuclear industry on the disaster in Japan, said Mayo, "is trying
desperately to conceal the extent of radiation exposure, and they've wheeled
out the same old lies." And media, as usual, have bought the deadly nuclear

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New
York/College at Old Westbury, is the author of books on nuclear technology,
including Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power,
and is the writer and host of many TV programs on the issue

Attachment(s) from Karl Grossman

1 of 1 File(s) 

%20After%20Fukushima%2Edoc> Extra! Article -- After Fukushima.doc


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