Critics Punch Holes in NYT Leaking Reactor Story
I saw a complaint about errors in a New York Times story (“Powerful Aftershock Complicates Japan’s Nuclear Efforts” April 11, 2011) on a website called JPquake. I have copied and pasted the claim appearing on the JPquake site’s Journalist Wall of Shame (at http://www.jpquake.info/home/new-york-times-the) below:
“Description: Series of shameful fabrication of “anonymous" quotes by New York Times "journalists" since no heavy machinery haven't even been deployed to work in any of the units yet. Plus, Unit 2 reactor building remains intact and no one (including robots as of April 17th) knows the condition of fuel rods inside the reactor containment vessel which are surrounded by thick concrete. Wish Tabuchi and Pollack had the commonsense to check the actual unit number at Dai-ichi that experienced hydrogen blasts. Certainly not Unit 2! “
I find the argument hard to believe since I can remember reading numerous reports (one from the Kyodo news agency that appeared in the Japan Times on March 15, 2011 - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20110315x3.html) quoting Japanese government officials and others referring to a hydrogen blast occurring in the Reactor 2 containment vessel. Then again I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. Some of the statements made by the media critics at the JPquake site would seem to imply that they are well versed on the ins and outs of nuclear power and proficient in the Japanese language. Since I'm no expert in either subject, I'm at a loss here. After being featured by NHK World as well as in the Columbia Journalism Review the site has gained considerable credibility. I would appreciate it if the New York Times would take the time to review the story in light of the claims made by the JPquake website and clear up any misunderstanding about the article.
I got a very prompt reply from Andrea Kannapell at the NYT who said they stand by their reporting. She noted, “The Reactor No. 2 unit was heavily damaged; we said the source said bulldozers were being used outside the reactor, not inside the building. The source we quoted on the likely condition of the fuel rods was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” The Times’ article does in fact state, “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission speculated Wednesday that some of the core of the No. 2 reactor had flowed from its steel pressure vessel into the bottom of the containment structure. The theory implies more damage at the unit than previously believed.
While a spokeswoman for Tokyo Electric dismissed the analysis, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of Japan agreed that it was possible that the core had leaked into the larger containment vessel.”
In her email message, Kannapell noted the Times had “a particular source who remained anonymous” and that “the information that source provided proved extremely reliable.”
In light of the Times’ response as well as previous (see: reference to Japan Times article above) and subsequent revelations related to this story I would have to say this is not a bug after all but rather a misunderstanding on the part of the reader.