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The Fukushima Effect: Nuclear Energy After Japan - A Media Analysis

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  • 1. Nuclear Energy after the Fukushima impact A Media Snapshot*1 March – 15 April 2011 *English Media only 1
  • 2. The future of Nuclear on the top of the agendaWith the Fukushima accident, the nuclear energydebate is back in the mainstream media. Before March11, the “nuclear renaissance” and nuclear power as asource of clean energy have only been a peripheraltopic. Wind, solar and hydropower were clearly toppingthe agenda in the main news outlets.The coverage on the accident peaked on 15/16 March,then declined rapidly. Since the beginning of April, thefuture of nuclear energy is being discussed alongsideother options, like renewable energy. The question ifnuclear power could have a future is now broadlydebated by politicians and in the media worldwide.“Fukushima has made me start to doubt,” declared EU Energy Commissioner GüntherOettinger on 4 April in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel.“Time to get back to basics on energy use,” commented Business Times Singapore on 7April, expressing a common opinion. “Time for renewable energy,” claimed Spain’s ElPaís (29 March).Disaster, crisis, catastrophe, fear – a negativity-stuffed vocabulary is haunting thenuclear power industry since March 11. Bloomberg Businessweek exposed “Japan’sshameful record on nuclear safety” (15 March). “Japan’s farmers battle nuclear scare,”reported the Korea Herald on 30 March. At least in the near future, PR professionalswill have a hard job to get the positive messages out. 2
  • 3. The Chernobyl angst is back“Invisible death. Sterile children. Cancer with noappeal.” (The Independent) The atomic disaster isspreading fear worldwide. Chernobyl has been asynonym for this and was the most with ‘nuclear energy’associated discovery topic after the Fukushima accident.It has now become a benchmark.“No signs yet of a Chernobyl-type catastrophe,” wroteThe Japan Times on 14 March. “Almost as bad asChernobyl,” read the headline exactly one month later.After upgrading the severity of the crisis to the highestlevel on April 12, Chernobyl dominated the headlines. Itwas the only atomic catastrophe that has been classifiedas high before.California is the third most related concept and the connection is most often made inthe media of the region. “Earthquake study urged for reactors,” wrote the Los AngelesTimes (22 March). San Jose Mercury News pointed out that Californias two plants,Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo and San Onofre in Southern California, sit in activeearthquake zones (15 March).The most affected companies are the manufacturers of nuclear reactors, where thenumber of negative stories has passed the two third mark. General Electric, whoformed a joint venture with Hitachi, was building the three now destroyed reactors atFukushima Daiichi. “Billions of dollars in reactor sales are now potentially at risk, andbillions more in vendor contracts to service them,” informed the Wall Street Journal onApril 7. 3
  • 4. Newswires are the main source of information Newswires have been the most reliable original source during Japan’s nuclear crisis and the leading media outlets were benefiting from it. (Please note that wires have been excluded for this analysis, but not re-published wire news in newspapers or web sites). The Wall Street Journal Online is the most cited source, mainly thanks to the intensive coverage of Dow Jones Newswires. Bloomberg Businessweek is also relying greatly on its own wire, while Malaysian newspaper The Star has been a top distributor of Reuters News. The Fresno Bee in fouth place covers Japan’s nuclear crisis with AP stories. There is still a certain positive bias in the list of media with the most favorable coverage, especially in countries where nuclear energy is still on the political agenda. At the top, two UAE publications stick out – WAM, the news portal of the Emirates News Agency and Khaleej Times. “The proposed nuclear power plants in the country will have the highest standards of safety using proven technology,” wrote the paper on 17 March. China, with the People’s Daily and China Daily, as well as India - The Hindu and NetIndia 123.com - are further populating the list. China has currently 25 nuclear reactors under construction, many of them in the Eastern coastal areas. The government has suspended new approvals for the use of marine space in nuclear projects, informed China Daily on 7 April. 4
  • 5. The Tepco case – Jeopardizing Japan’s food industry As far as Tokyo Electric Power is concerned, mainstream media are paying most attention, although there are also many discussions taking place in blogs and message boards. H5N1, EX-SKF and Zerohedge are the most prolific bloggers. Top blogger Zerohedge criticized Tepco’s corporate communications saying “While a few weeks back TEPCO scrambled to lie to the public that a reading 10 million times higher than normal was really just 100,000 times above threshold, today TEPCO, whose stock hit an all time low in overnight trading, finally admitted the truth that radioactive Iodine 131 readings taken from seawater near the water intake of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plants No. 2 reactor reached 7.5 million times the legal limit.” “This means Godzilla is most likely very close to hatching,” zerohedge continued, adding that “Tepco announced Monday it would start releasing radioactive water into the sea, and experts fear the contamination may spread well beyond Japans shores to affect seafood overseas.” (5 April) The disaster-ridden news coverage about Tepco has been categorized as almost entirely negative by the Dow Jones Insight sentiment tools (graph on the right). Bloomberg Businessweek, The West Australian and Nikkei Report have been Tepco’s top sources during the crisis. 5
  • 6. Food industry issues on the rise Food safety issues are on the rise in the coverage of the Fukushima accident. While the containment of the nuclear meltdown has been dominant immediately after the earthquake and tsunami, food safety concerns are slowly appearing on the agenda. 6
  • 7. MethodologyThe findings in this report summarize the results of a Dow Jones Insight text mining platform and manualInternet-based research across a range of social media sources. Our system gathers relevant contentfrom more than 14,000 global mainstream media sources, 22,000 handpicked websites plus social mediasources including blogs and message boards.Media Set – Dow Jones InsightPress releases were excluded from this analysis by the exclusion of all “paid-for” wire services, exceptwhere stated otherwise. Premium Research Reports, as well as Routine General News and RepublishedNews were also excluded to ensure a high relevancy of the underlying data set. English only.Search ConstructionTerm search strings used for investigating products, terms, market issues and individuals wereconstructed using Dow Jones Factiva’s predetermined codes unless otherwise noted.Dow Jones ContactsThe Dow Jones Insight Media Lab is on hand to provide further analysis on issues that are contained inthis report or ad hoc questions. The contact details of the Dow Jones Insight account team are as follows:Media Lab Team Leader: Georg Ackermann georg.ackermann@dowjones.comManaging Media Consultant, Asia Pacific: Lars Voedisch lars.voedisch@dowjones.com 7