The Fukushima Effect: Nuclear Energy After Japan - A Media Analysis
Nuclear Energy after the
A Media Snapshot*
1 March – 15 April 2011 *English Media only
The future of Nuclear on the top of the agenda
With the Fukushima accident, the nuclear energy
debate is back in the mainstream media. Before March
11, the “nuclear renaissance” and nuclear power as a
source of clean energy have only been a peripheral
topic. Wind, solar and hydropower were clearly topping
the agenda in the main news outlets.
The coverage on the accident peaked on 15/16 March,
then declined rapidly. Since the beginning of April, the
future of nuclear energy is being discussed alongside
other options, like renewable energy. The question if
nuclear power could have a future is now broadly
debated by politicians and in the media worldwide.
“Fukushima has made me start to doubt,” declared EU Energy Commissioner Günther
Oettinger 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 7
April, expressing a common opinion. “Time for renewable energy,” claimed Spain’s El
País (29 March).
Disaster, crisis, catastrophe, fear – a negativity-stuffed vocabulary is haunting the
nuclear power industry since March 11. Bloomberg Businessweek exposed “Japan’s
shameful 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 professionals
will have a hard job to get the positive messages out.
The Chernobyl angst is back
“Invisible death. Sterile children. Cancer with no
appeal.” (The Independent) The atomic disaster is
spreading fear worldwide. Chernobyl has been a
synonym 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,” wrote
The Japan Times on 14 March. “Almost as bad as
Chernobyl,” read the headline exactly one month later.
After upgrading the severity of the crisis to the highest
level on April 12, Chernobyl dominated the headlines. It
was the only atomic catastrophe that has been classified
as high before.
California is the third most related concept and the connection is most often made in
the media of the region. “Earthquake study urged for reactors,” wrote the Los Angeles
Times (22 March). San Jose Mercury News pointed out that California's two plants,
Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo and San Onofre in Southern California, sit in active
earthquake zones (15 March).
The most affected companies are the manufacturers of nuclear reactors, where the
number of negative stories has passed the two third mark. General Electric, who
formed a joint venture with Hitachi, was building the three now destroyed reactors at
Fukushima Daiichi. “Billions of dollars in reactor sales are now potentially at risk, and
billions more in vendor contracts to service them,” informed the Wall Street Journal on
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.
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 plant's 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 Japan's 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.
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.
The findings in this report summarize the results of a Dow Jones Insight text mining platform and manual
Internet-based research across a range of social media sources. Our system gathers relevant content
from more than 14,000 global mainstream media sources, 22,000 handpicked websites plus social media
sources including blogs and message boards.
Media Set – Dow Jones Insight
Press releases were excluded from this analysis by the exclusion of all “paid-for” wire services, except
where stated otherwise. Premium Research Reports, as well as Routine General News and Republished
News were also excluded to ensure a high relevancy of the underlying data set. English only.
Term search strings used for investigating products, terms, market issues and individuals were
constructed using Dow Jones Factiva’s predetermined codes unless otherwise noted.
Dow Jones Contacts
The Dow Jones Insight Media Lab is on hand to provide further analysis on issues that are contained in
this report or ad hoc questions. The contact details of the Dow Jones Insight account team are as follows:
Media Lab Team Leader: Georg Ackermann firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Media Consultant, Asia Pacific: Lars Voedisch email@example.com