We’ve said before that when it comes to reading news about the nuclear industry, initial reports should never be taken at face value or in isolation. Often the first stories about a nuclear incident consist of industry statements saying, in effect, ‘everything’s fine’. It only by remembering to follow these stories up (if they get followed up at all) does a fuller story emerge.

Take the reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear facility in Japan – the latest to be closed by an earthquake (see also the accident-prone Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant). Initial reports said that reactors 4 and 5 at Hamaoka were closed down safely during the earthquake. So far so good. A steady drip of worsening news then followed.

Reactor 5 was the worst hit of the two by the earthquake. There’s no date for it coming back into service. Hamaoka’s operator, Chubu Electric Power Company, is having to increase coal and gas electricity generation to make up for the shortfall due to the reactor’s closure. The closure is said to be costing the company up to 400 million yen (US$4.2 million) a day.

Now we hear that ‘a small amount of the radioactive iodine-131 has been detected in the exhaust’ of reactor 5. ‘Chubu Electric said it will try to determine if the radioactivity is related to the effects of the quake’. Which is more worrying, do you think, if the leak was caused by the earthquake or if it wasn’t? Keep reading and watching to find out. If this story runs as expected more bad news won’t be far way.