In one of our initial posts about the Japan massive earthquake and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima nuclear plant we showed to which extent media from different countries used Chernobyl nuclear disaster as reference included in news about the initial stages of Fukushima nuclear crisis. It was posted by March 16, just three days after the explosion in the nuclear facility. The severity of the accident was established as Level 4 by NISA and IAEA. But French nuclear watchdog considered it already as a Level 6 accident. Chernobyl was catalogued as a major accident, Level 7. In that moment, Chernobyl appeared in some 15-20% of all news in Europe (with a maximum of 29% in France). US media converage reached 25% of all news about Fukushima. In Asian countries, average relationship with Chernobyl was higher, between 20 and 34% of all news about Fukushima.
Today, April 12, almost a month later, NISA has raised its evaluation of Fukushima nuclear problems from Level 5 to Level 7. This is the maximum level, the same as Chernobyl. This upgrade of the assessment of the severity of the accident will probably have an incidence of Fukushima storyline media coverage from now on, that we will continue to monitor and analyze. This new evaluation will also have an impact on the ongoing nuclear debate in many countries in the world.
We show in this post the time evolution of the references to Chernobyl disaster when covering the Fukushima nuclear crisis. We compare it to the the references given to Three Mile Island. In this nuclear plant, a nuclear accident in February 28, 1979 provoked a reactor partial meltdown. This accident was catalogued as a Level 5 in INES scale, which was till today the equivalent to Fukushima accident.
Our results show that from the very beginning Chernobyl accident was the main reference used by the media. It took an initial media impact value of some 8 points, againts a value of 3.5 points for Three Mile Island references. Media impact value refers to the relative weight of mentions to Chernobyl and Three Mile Island inside the general news storyline about Fukushima. So, a decreasing path reveals that media tend to use in a relative lower extent Chernobyl as element of news about Fukushima. We observe a sustained decreasing path till the end of March, when Chernobyl presence reaches a minimum of some 5.5 points. We observe a new upward trend since one week. Before today announcement, Chernobyl media impact value was 6.5 points. Right now it in the neraby of 8 points of media impact., becoming a new maximum in the series. Expect logically further increases in at least in the next few days.
Concerning Three Mile Island time evolution, we observe an upward trend since March 18. In that day the Japanese agency upgraded the severity of the accident from level 4 to level 5, makint it equivalent to Three Mile Island. media impact value soared in two days from 3.0 to 4.2. After this peak, a decreasing trend emerges, dropping to a minimum of 2.3 points. Right now it moves in the 3.0 area.
In the following figure we show how media has evolved in using these two past nuclear accidents as references. An upward trend indicates that media use more Chernobyl references than Three Mile Island. In the afthermath of the explosions, and specially when the third blast was suffered by the nuclear facility, fears and references to Chernobyl increased. Paradoxically, when the increase of the nuclear problems was aknowledged, Chernobyl power decreased, as Three Mile Island was the past nuclear accident similar to actual. A sharp increase of the relative presence of Chernobyl news appear at the beginning of May. Evidently, we expect to observe in the coming days a sharp increase of this ratio.
In the following graph we show how we monitor a similar information. In this case we show the evolution of the direct references of the INES values concerning the evaluation of Fukushima nuclear accident. We show here the weight of references of top INES levels since the beginning of the problems. Initial media references were marginal. They multiplied when NISA decided to raise the nuclear problem from Level 4 to Level 5. Media refer logically to both switching measures. By comparison, there is almost no references to an upgrade of the severity of the nuclear problem to Level 6 or 7. References to INES scale tend to lose weight till 22-23 March. We observe a dramatic drop at the beginning of April. This is due to the fact that we show three weeks moving-average values. The collapse shows thta reference to INES scale were concentrated around the day when the upgrade was made (March 18), and thereafter references are just marginal.
Of course, today we experience a new era concerning these series, as references to Level 7 explode, counting just with news few hours after the announcement. This initial reaction suggest that media presence of Level 7 news will be much higher than previous references to Level 5 references in the news.