On the 11th March, a devastating earthquake hit north-east Japan, causing a tsunami and resulting in a huge loss of life. It also affected nuclear power plants in the region, including the one in Fukushima. As sketchy details about possible nuclear hazards found their way into the international media, the media spotlight turned away from the humanitarian crisis and focused on the events at the Fukushima plant. Scientific information was vital both in the reporting of this story and advising British Nationals in the area.
Anna Perman and Lizzie Crouch interviewed Imperial College researchers who spoke to the media, journalists who reported the story, and the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor to investigate the unique challenges of communicating this risk to the public. Full transcripts of the interviews will be posted at their blogs, but here they reflect on the outcomes of their investigation.
- Professor Gerry Thomas is chair in Molecular Pathology in the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College. Her research is on the medical effects of the Chernobyl disaster, and has appeared on radio and television broadcasts to talk about the potential dangers of radiation.
- Professor Robin Grimes is the Director of the Imperial College Rolls Royce University Technology Centre in Nuclear Engineering. He was a member of the SAGE committee which provided scientific advice for UK citizens in Japan, and was featured in TV and radio coverage of the disaster.
- Mark Henderson is science editor for The Times
- Robin McKie is science and technology editor for The Observer
- Sir John Beddington is the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor. Sir John was responsible for convening the ‘Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies’ (SAGE), which drew on expert knowledge to provide advice to UK citizens caught up in the crisis.