Got this from my friend Mike Barrett, who proabably picked it up from another source, but I think it is worth sharing. Good url-link, although I am not vouching for that source either.
The frustrating part about writing on this stuff is that people don’t seem to have any middle setting between “everything is fine” and “run in circles scream and shout”. So saying “no, it’s not Chernobyl” is interpreted as “it’s nothing.”
So let’s go ahead and make this clear: no, it’s still not Chernobyl. But no, it’s not nothing.
No one can tell you that there will absolutely not be a catastrophic failure — really catastrophic, like Chernobyl or worse — at one or more of the Fukushima reactors. At the absolutely worst case, some combination of accidents and failures could break through all three major containments and release a large amount of radiation through the “China Syndrome” or something like it.
It’s very likely that there has been at least a partial meltdown in one or more of the reactors — but “meltdown” doesn’t mean “catastrophic release.” The reactor would not just have to melt down, but also penetrate both the still containment vessel and the concrete outer layer, and both were designed explicitly to keep that from happening.
What we can say is that it’s not very likely to be a catastrophic accident, and gets less likely with every minute. The Japanese are cooling the reactors down, and adding boron, which “poisons” the nuclear reaction by absorbing neutrons, the “sparks” that make the reaction go.
The amount of radiation that has been released is, so far, actually very minor. Instead of being “another Chernobyl,” which the IAEA put at INES level 7, this is INES level 4 — and Three Mile Island was level 5. So far, Fukushima is not just not another Chernobyl, it’s not even another Three Mile Island.
And finally, when you hear someone in the media giving one of these catastrophic predictions, check who it is. So far, the catastrophic predictions are consistently coming from people who have been professionally and personally committed to shutting down nuclear weapons and nuclear power for decades.
I am not sure we can or will recover… (only a couple paragraphs below).
” . . . The administration is teaching dictators, and the populations they oppress, that you can get away with large-scale mayhem if you avoid YouTube. Instead, let the hard men do their work with assault rifles in alleys and soldering irons in lonely cellars. The thuggish leaders will be emboldened, the populations either despairing or desperate. If one hopes to aid the Arab awakening in the direction of more open and just societies, rather than to empower Islamist terror, this policy is perverse. And, finally, the U. S. has provided cover and reassurance for other unsavory actors—a deafening silence, for example, as Iran arrests leaders of the opposition.
This is a disaster for the people of Libya. It is a moral and political calamity for a generation of Western leaders whose reactions to Rwanda and Srebrenica consisted of ineffectual squeaks of dismay. It may deflect the Arab awakening into directions that will horrify us. And it says dangerous things about American foreign policy. Unless it is reversed, the administration’s Libya policy will convince the world that the U.S. is a feeble friend and an ineffectual foe, paralyzed by its own ambivalence.
The perspective could not be more clear. Americans, is this what you want to be known for? “Ah, bow before the Peace Prize Savior!”
‘This is the Obama conception of the U.S. role in the world—to work through multilateral organizations and bilateral relationships to make sure that the steps we are taking are amplified.”
—White House National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes, March 10, 2011, as quoted in the Washington Post
“They bombed us with tanks, airplanes, missiles coming from every direction. . . . We need international support, at least a no-fly zone. Why is the world not supporting us?”
—Libyan rebel Mahmoud Abdel Hamid, March 10, 2011, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal
Whatever else one might say about President Obama’s Libya policy, it has succeeded brilliantly in achieving its oft-stated goal of not leading the world. No one can any longer doubt the U.S. determination not to act before the Italians do, or until the Saudis approve, or without a U.N. resolution. This White House is forthright for followership.
That message also couldn’t be clearer to Moammar Gadhafi and his sons, who are busy bombing and killing their way to victory against the Libyan opposition. As the U.S. defers to the world, the world can’t decide what to do, and the vacuum is filled by a dictator and his hard men who have concluded that no one will stop them. “Hear it now. I have only two words for our brothers and sisters in the east: We’re coming,” said Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, on Thursday.
Three weeks into the Libyan uprising, here are some of the live action highlights from what Mr. Obama likes to call “the international community”:
• The United Nations Security Council has imposed an arms embargo, but with enough ambiguity that no one knows whether it applies only to Gadhafi or also to the opposition. (I’m not making this up…) Even the U.S. State Department and White House don’t agree.
• The U.N. has referred events to the International Criminal Court for a war crimes investigation. Mr. Obama said yesterday this sent a message to Gadhafi that “the world is watching,” as if Gadhafi didn’t know. But it also sends a message that leaving Libya without bloodshed is not an option, because he and his sons will still be pursued for war crimes. Had Reagan pursued this strategy in the Philippines, Marcos might never have gone into exile.
• France has recognized the opposition National Council in Benghazi, though the U.S. is only now sending envoys to meet with the opposition for the first time. Dozens of Western reporters can get rebel leaders on the phone, an opposition delegation has visited French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, but the U.S. is still trying to figure out who these people are. The American envoys better hurry because the rebels may soon be dead
• The French want a no-fly zone, but the Italians and Germans object. NATO is having “a series of conversations about a wide range of options,” as President Obama put it yesterday, but NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen emerged from a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday saying that “We considered . . . initial options regarding a possible no-fly zone in case NATO were to receive a clear U.N. mandate” (our emphasis). The latter isn’t likely because both China and Russia object, but no doubt NATO will keep conversing about the “range of options” next week.
• Even as opposition leaders were asking for help, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the world on Thursday that Gadhafi is likely to win in the long-term. The Administration scrambled to say this was merely a factual judgment about the balance of military power, but the message couldn’t be clearer to any of Gadhafi’s generals who might consider defecting: Do so at your peril because you will join the losing side.
We could go on, but you get the idea. When the U.S. fails to lead, the world reverts to its default mode as a diplomatic Tower of Babel. Everyone discusses “options” and “contingencies” but no one has the will to act, while the predators march.
This was true in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s until the U.S. shamed Europe and NATO into using force with or without a U.N. resolution. And it has been true in every case in which the world finally resisted tyrants or terrorists, from the Gulf War to Afghanistan to Iraq. When the U.S. chooses to act like everyone else, the result is Rwanda, Darfur and now Libya.
One difference in Libya is that the damage from a Gadhafi victory would not merely be humanitarian, though that would be awful enough. The only way Gadhafi can subdue Benghazi and the east now is with a door-to-door purge and systematic murder. The flow of refugees heading for Southern Europe would also not be small.
If Gadhafi survives after Mr. Obama has told him to go, the blow to U.S. prestige and world order would be enormous. Dictators will learn that the way to keep America from acting is to keep its diplomats and citizens around, while mowing down your opponents as the world debates contingencies. By the time the Babelers make a decision, it will be too late. This is a dangerous message to send at any time, but especially with a Middle East in the throes of revolution.
There is still time for Mr. Obama to salvage his Libya policy, though the costs of doing so are rising every day. Libya today is what a world without U.S. leadership looks like.