Waiting, watching, worrying

March 16, 2011 1:57:44 PM PDT
Is the end near? Or are repairs near? Will there be a nuclear meltdown, creating what will become known as the Japan Syndrome? Or will the 50 workers who remain at Japan's crippled nuclear plant and who are already exposed to unsafe levels of radiation be able to save the day and fix the problems?

The answer is, at best, elusive. It's like watching a life-and-death tennis match, as the bulletins go back-and-forth: Another problem, another stand-down, another problem, another stand-down.

There's no question that Japan - with all its technological know-how and sophistication - is woefully behind the curve on this crisis. The tick-tock coming out today of events leading up to the nuclear disasters show that the Fukushima Daiichi plant has a history of problems, as does the GE containment vessel.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has ordered its troops to stay at least 50 miles away from the power plant. The order applies especially to specialists who might arrive to decontaminate civilians in case of a meltdown or huge radiation leak. The Pentagon, we're also told, is planning a worse-case scenario for this nuclear crisis.

The frightening events in Japan - and there's no other way to describe it, it's simply frightening - has re-sparked the intense debate over nuclear power in this country.

It's just too dang bad that politics and pre-conceived self-interests are defining the discussion. We need intellectual honesty in this important debate, not politics. The truth is that any discussion about nuclear power and safety can get as heated as a discussion over, say, abortion. Over the years, there are many who have had second thoughts about nuclear, including Pres. Obama, who last year proposed guaranteeing tens of billions for the construction.

Those who blindly support nuclear power today are on the campaign trail, saying this crisis in Japan should not stop the nuclear power rebirth in the U.S. But critics say that seems woefully short-sighted.

Taking the other side is Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Energy Committee, who today said, when asked if U.S. nuclear plants are safe, "I can't reach that conclusion, nor can anybody at this point. We've got to learn why it happened in Japan the way it did. We've got to learn from that whether we're equipped to handle whatever catastrophe may occur. We're talking about gigantic consequences to the public health and safety if there's a nuclear catastrophe."

We need intellectual honesty in this debate. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, one U.S. official today told ABC News that, talking about people working at Japan's plant, "there is a recognition this is a suicide mission, this is where we are."

We'll have the latest developments in the crisis in Japan, tonight at 11. Jim Dolan leads our coverage.

Oh and by the way, New York Gov. Cuomo today ordered a safety review of the Indian Point Nuclear Plant - you know, the one about 40 miles north of New York City that Mayor Bloomberg insists is no where near the City. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that Indian Point - located along the Ramapo Fault, where big earthquakes, fortunately, rarely happen - has the highest risk rating of any plant in the country. Oy.

We're also following a remarkable development involving Hillary Clinton. She told an interviewer today that she would not be a member of President Obama's cabinet if he's re-elected in 2012.

Also at 11, our Jen Maxfield is in Paterson, New Jersey, with the story of a pastor who returned to his church after the floods receded only to find that it had been robbed. Infuriating.

And we're also taking a closer look at how smart phones are permeating our lives - interrupting them might be more accurate. (I say this as I relish the fact that I can now video "chat" with my kids over my phone. I mean, c'mon, what's better than that?)

Jamie Roth takes a look at how our obsession with these high-tech devices is interfering with etiquette and our lives.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.


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