Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Speaking From Ignorance

Juan Cole, at Informed Comment, seems to be losing his rationality along with his impartiality. His cheerleading for the Libyan rebels now includes a seeming agreement with their rejection of a cease fire based on the fact that Qaddafi is still firing on them, saying that “If Qaddafi wanted to implement a cease-fire he could do it at any time; he hasn’t ceased fire.”

That isn’t how cease fire agreements work, and Professor Cole should surely know that. Neither side stops fighting until an agreement is reached, at which both sides stop fighting at the same time. It would be folly for one side to stop fighting before the terms of the truce have been agreed upon. The rejection of the cease fire is not a reflection of the intelligence of the rebels, since accepting it would give them time that they need to regroup, and it rather provides us with a reason to stop supporting them if our mission actually is limited to preventing loss of civilian lives.

He also says, “It’s official. The Fukushima nuclear core failure is now more like what happened in Chernobyl than what happened at Three Mile Island.” He should stick to reporting Middle East affairs, as he clearly has no understanding of the meaning of the nuclear accident rating scale. His statement is nonsense.

The Chernobyl failure was a major explosion within the reactor vessel which blew the reactor contents miles into the air and caused the immediate and widespread dispersal of tons of radioactive material. The Fukushima reactors are all still physically intact, or at least essentially so, and are still releasing radioactivity at a tiny fraction of the magnitude of that released by Chernobyl. The incident is being increased in scale only due to the length of time that it has been and is continuing to be releasing radiation.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor failure is certainly very serious, and increasingly so as it continues to remain uncontrolled, but it is nothing even remotely like Chernobyl in that there has been no reactor explosion, and is very much like what Three Mile Island would have been had it not been promptly controlled.


Bartender Cabbie said...

Interesting post. I agree that the Fukushima plant is probably in no danger of becoming another Chernobyl and it will be interesting to see when (and if) the Libyan factions "cease fire" if NATO will also.

bruce said...

I agree with the Chernobyl /Fukushima assessment. Fukushima is no Chernobyl, even as serious as it is. Chernobyl was a poor design, coupled with gross human errors.

Fukushima was a decent design (an old one, to be sure), coupled with an extreme double natural disaster. It shut down as planned in the earthquake, but the tsunami overwhelmed the secondary safety systems. If ther was no tsunami (or maybe even a smaller one) the situation would not be nearly as bad.

Of course, that in no way explains the placement of spent fuel, worst-case-scenario planning, etc. The levees in New Orleans were built to withstand a level 3 hurricane (maybe level 4), but what happens? Katrina was a level 5.

For the Libyan issue, a cease fire, even if implemented honorably, would preserve the satus quo, which I don't think either side wants.

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