Some Japanese nuclear reactors have problems. This is not news.

Nobody knows how bad the problems are, and the reports range from TEOTWAWKI to reassuringly bland, with a marked tilt in the direction of “OMG how horrible we’re all gonna DIEEEEE!”. Now we’re starting to see an uptick in complaints that they’re not telling us everything, the bastards.

F* that.

Reporting on accidents and catastrophes, nuclear or otherwise, is always and invariably hysterical and wrong. It’s hysterical because Teh Newz long ago concluded that sensation sells eyeballs, and eyeballs sell Depends™ ads. It’s wrong because nobody who knows what’s really happening is talking to reporters.

There are a lot of people around the world who have knowledge of nuclear reactors, some of it quite detailed. The General Electric employees who helped build those plants are mostly still alive and could be tapped as a resource, and many other people have general knowledge about the design, how it works, and what might go wrong. They all have one major deficiency, though: they aren’t there.

In any kind of emergency situation, the only people who really know what’s happening are the ones working feverishly to solve the problem. They don’t have time to talk to ignoramuses with good haircuts, and at any rate few if any have or can have a “big picture”, having the entire capacity of their personal CPUs devoted to the specific subset of the crisis they’re responsible for. Outside experts may have plausible arguments and ideas, but they don’t know — if they did, they’d be inside helping to solve the problem, not outside pontificating.

It’s sometimes suggested that a spokesperson should be appointed to keep people advised. That doesn’t work, because the talking head is just another nosy busybody distracting them from figuring out what the next step is, from the point of view of the people trying to solve the problem. The spokesperson winds up just as ignorant as everybody else, and often suffers from “I’m important!” syndrome because he or she is closer to the action than anybody else not working on it. They thus pontificate from a position of plausibility — but since they don’t know, which is obvious because they aren’t inside the plant scrambling from crisis to disaster, the data they provide is actually more suspect, not less.

So relax, dammit. The people who know what’s going on aren’t talking, not because they’re keeping secrets but because they’re too busy to yak and in any case have only fragmentary knowledge. The people who’re sententiously explaining things on teevee by definition don’t know what’s happening, because if they did they’d have been drafted to help solve the problem and wouldn’t have time to yak. That’s just how it works. Someday those who give a d*n (not many; the crisis will have long passed, and something new to hyperventilate about will have appeared) will find out what happened, and procedures around the world will change to anticipate the possibility that it will happen again. It’s a problem with no solution — assuming that you think it’s a real problem in the first place.