With a little bit more time between the bad news from Fukushima, the German language science sections have several interesting, more in-depth stories. Or at least with unique perspectives.
Hartmut Wewetzer (Tagesspiegel) had the right story on the topic for a Berlin newspaper: He reports, that the dye "Berlin blue" (aka "Prussian blue"), which formerly tinted the uniforms of Prussian soldiers, can be used as a medicine to transport cesium and thallium out of the body. Of course, a Berlin company is getting a surge in orders from Japan and other Asian countries for the former dye, now called "Radiogardase", a "mixture of iron, carbon and nitrogen" (well, actually, its: "ferric hexacyanoferrate(II)", which contains atoms of carbon, iron and nitrogen ;-) ). Wewetzer writes quite early, that there is no need to swallow such pills in Germany in precaution. The pills require a doctor's prescription, anyway. He also explains the mode of action of the drug. But I wish he wouldn't have written that the drug has only "marginal side effects". The company writes that "serum electrolyte levels should be monitored during treatment, particularly in patients with pre-existing cardiac arrhythmias or electrolyte imbalances, as should possible clinical responses to critical orally administered drugs." And, even more important in a situation like Japan where pregnant woman are particularly eager to keep their baby safe there is this: "Prussian blue’s potential effects on pregnancies have not been studied." Another point: The article looks a bit like promotion for the Berlin company, to my knowledge the only company providing this medicine. And they were farsighted, or lucky, enough to establish a Japanese branch office in the autumn of 2010...
Like the Tagesspiegel, other media warned their worried readers about preventively swallow other pills, too. The Swiss Tages-Anzeiger (here), Zeit.de (here), agencies like AFP (here), Stern.de (here), the Austrian Standard (here), even Bild (here) and locals like Ludwigsburger Kreiszeitung (here) and Badische Zeitung (here). But still, some just don't get it: the news website of the ZDF headlined "Iodine - the only protection". Only in the last third of the article does the author give Germans any clue to the current needlessness and risks swallowing iodine. (And the headline is not true, anyway, as anyone who reads the Tagesspiegel's Berlin-Blue-story should know).
The science section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung not only warned about the "moronism" of iodine uptake, but decided to react to the radiation hysteria ("fear of radiation") in Germany with a very sober-toned piece about the dosage effect of radiation.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung (Christopher Schrader) compared, in "Pools for Pins" (how I would paraphrase the headline), the storage of the fuel rods in special pits in Fukushima with the practice in German power plants - and found, that in six nuclear power plants the pits are at the same apparently dangerous position (outside the containment), just like in Fukushima. Schrader explains in detail the risk of such a construction and raises a lot of questions, who should definitely be discussed during the "German moratorium".
UPDATE (3/25): The weekly Die Zeit (Hans Schuh and Gero von Randow) wrote about the same topic - the underestimated risk of the storage pools for the fuel rods.
The Swiss Neue Zürcher Zeitung had two articles, worth mentioning: "The number-GAU", first, which sub-headline shouts, that either 56 (IAEA) or 93000 people (Greenpeace) died due to the blow-up of Tchernobyl - depending on the "political agenda" of study authors. But right in the beginning, the article of Simone Schmid makes clear, that this is also a scientific problem. An example: are the heart failures of the kids of a Ukrainian worker, who helped to control the Tchernobyl catastrophe, a coincidence or result of radiation damage in the father's sperm DNA? The article goes on to explain how hard it is to get reliable data. "Nuclear power still an option", is worth to mention, because this would be a headline one cannnot (I didn't) find in Germany these days. In a rather opinionated, sometimes even polemic style, NZZ editor Andreas Hirstein gazed over the Rhine and wrote, that only hours after the first explosion in Fukushima, "the public's fuses burned out" and the German news magazine Der Spiegel proclaimed the "end of the atomic age". By now, the "meltdown" has reached Swiss and Middle-European politics, too, he wrote. And the German chancellor Angela Merkel acts like she aims to found "a new kind of anti nuclear power movement". Then, Hirstein follows the argument that Germany (and other European nations) just can't switch off nuclear power plants, because it would fall back behind the plan to substantially cut CO2-emissions. He is right to hint, that the discussion in Germany still lacks explanations, how alternative energies could help to reach the European goal to cut back CO2 emission by 20 % (compared to 1990). He is also right to hint, that the US and China and others keep planing new nuclear plants. But I would like to shout back over the Rhine, that the discussion just began. Two weeks ago, the end of the atomic age (in Germany) was 30 years away, now it is a sudden political reality. Of course Germany (and whole Europe, too) needs a discussion about how to reduce CO2 and exclude the risk of a Fukushima-like event. The article starts the discussion, gives numbers and calculations (as far as they are available) and asks several experts. Though, I wouldn't have gone so far to already provide the conclusion of the discussion, saying, that the idea of a fast pullout from nuclear power is an "all-or-nothing-gamble".
Other newspapers are thinking about the future without nuclear power, too. The Kölner Stadtanzeiger explains "Öko-Energie"("alternative energy"). Die Welt writes, that "Not everything green is really alternative energy" (Nicht alles, was grün ist, ist wirklich Ökostrom)" (Same headline from the Sächsische Zeitung). And Focus sees a "run on alternative energies".