The 60 Minutes Fukushima nuclear infomercial

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Channel 9' 60 Minutes nuclear program presented by Tom Steinfort, 21 October 2018 (Screenshot via YouTube)

A recent 60 Minutes program on nuclear power was nothing other than an infomercial for the pro-nuclear lobby, advocating for an open slather nuclear industry as "essential" to combat climate change, writes Noel Wauchope.

A FEW YEARS AGO, Channel 9's 60 Minutes did an excellent investigation of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

This Fukushima investigation was compered by Liz Hayes. I recall that, at the time, the program was a much more thorough, serious and well-resourced presentation than anything put forward by even the ABC or SBS.

The original 60 Minutes Fukushima investigation in 2012

However, I was pretty appalled at the latest 60 Minutes coverage of the Fukushima issue, which screened on Sunday (21 October) titled, Is nuclear power the solution to our energy crisis?  

The main message of this program is a call to scrap Australia's legislation against establishing the nuclear industry. The argument given is that we need nuclear power because it is supposedly cheap and dependable. We also need it because it is supposedly essential to combat climate change. 

This time, the reporter is not Liz Hayes. It's Tom Steinfort, who is described as a "seasoned Channel 9 star". Does a seasoned Channel 9 star just accept without question the claims made in this episode?

Among claims made:

The latest Fukushima report which screened on 21 October 2018

If Mr Steinfort really is a star reporter, I would expect him to have done his homework before swallowing these claims hook, line and sinker.

On the anti-nuclear side, the program included brief minutes with CEO of Greenpeace Australia David Ritter. He was equally unconvincing, with his bald statements opposing nuclear but no facts or references given. Perhaps they gave him only very limited time on purpose?

On the pro-nuclear side, surprise surprise! We heard from Australia's foremost nuclear propagandist Ben Heard and the UK's top nuclear propagandist Geraldine Thomas

Ben Heard runs a pseudo-environmental website and consults for "new nuclear" company, Terrestrial Energy. He also works for the Australian branch of Frazer Nash, UK nuclear consulting company. Friends of the Earth have detailed and comprehensively debunked Heard's Australian propaganda

Geraldine Thomas is well known for her videos and articles promoting the nuclear industry. She's the UK's "go-to" person for propaganda. Her focus on the general "harmlessness" of ionising radiation has been rebutted by high profile scientists

So, what do we make of this latest offering about Fukushima, from 60 Minutes? It must have taken a lot of money and a lot of negotiation to get a 60 Minutes camera team inside the Fukushima nuclear station. I assume that the negotiations were largely arranged by Ben Heard, who has influential nuclear contacts overseas — particularly in Russia and South Africa, where he has been a prominent nuclear spokesperson. In Russia, Heard launched Rosatom National Geographic — a nuclear soft sell environmental program.   

I think that we can be sure of one thing. As Japan plans for the 2020 Olympics – some sections of which are to take place in Fukushima Prefecture – the Japanese Government is not likely to permit a team with any anti-nuclear perspective access to the crippled nuclear power plant. 

The 60 Minutes media team would have had to have the Japanese authorities on side. I would bet, some companies keen to set up the nuclear industry in Australia would also be on side and keen to assist.

There have been rumblings, too, of yet another resurgence for nuclear energy in Australia, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring that he is 'open to the idea of nuclear power' and that 'the source of Australia’s energy doesn’t bother him and he isn’t interested in an ideological debate'.

Is it too much to hope that Channel 9 might do something to correct this nuclear infomercial and give us a different, more comprehensive view, rather than one blessed by Japanese authorities and the nuclear power lobby?

Read more by Noel Wauchope at and and follow her on Twitter @ChristinaMac1.

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