Lyle ThurstonAs we said last week with the news of the fire at the construction site of the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor in Finland, when following the news about the nuclear industry, it is a mistake to take initial reports at face value. Always look for the follow-up stories – that’s where the bad news is buried.

In the case of Olkiluoto 3, the initial report spoke of a ‘small’ fire which, in subsequent reports, was revealed to be serious enough to cause ‘extensive damage’ with ‘major concreting operations’ required to repair the damage.

It was the same with the spill of 18,000 litres of uranium solution at Tricastin in France in July. Reports to the initial news of the leak showed that it had been lax safety standards had allowed the leak and uranium from a previous leak was also found in the contaminated rivers.

And so we come to the US military’s nuclear submarine, the USS Houston. Early last week first reports stated that ‘a gallon of water that contained a small amount of radioactivity spilled out from a pipe onto a crew member of the Houston’. Five days later it was revealed that the Houston’s reactor had been leaking for two years.

On this occasion, it seems that the US military were fortunate and no major contamination took place. (Don’t think we’re taking the second reports at face value either – further worse news may yet dribble out, like water from the Houston’s reactor). But once again, this all serves to fuel the mistrust of the nuclear industry. We can’t trust the technology. We can’t trust the safety procedures. We can’t trust the news in the event of an accident.

(Photo of Lyle Thurston © Greenpeace/Robert Keziere)