2011 Sachsenring MotoGP Saturday Roundup - On The GP11.1's Shortcomings, And The Rider Boycott Of Motegi

On a normal Saturday, we'd be talking about qualifying, who was on the front row, and who will do what in the race. But this was not a normal Saturday. It started going pear-shaped from MotoGP QP, and went downhill from there.

But let's start with qualifying. Your front row is Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, who put in a fast late lap to bump Marco Simoncelli back to the second row. The race looks like it could actually be pretty close, with Pedrosa and Lorenzo both having excellent race pace, though maybe a tenth or so slower than Stoner. Don't discount Andrea Dovizioso either; though the Italian only qualified in 6th, the third Repsol Honda rider's pace on hard tires is very strong, and he should be capable of running with Pedrosa and Lorenzo. The only obstacle to Pedrosa scoring yet another podium in Germany is his shoulder, though the Sachenring's long sequence of left handers is kind to his right shoulder, so he could well last the distance.

The big news from qualifying is at the back of the grid, rather than at the front. In 16th and penultimate spot is Valentino Rossi on the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, with only replacement rider Sylvain Guintoli behind him. The Italian even joked that it was a good job Loris Capirossi was injured, or else he would have been dead last in Germany. The session was an unmitigated disaster for the nine-time World Champion. Perhaps the worst thing for Rossi was the sympathy he was treated with by the riders on the front row, all of whom were asked what they thought of his problems. "He is not where his talent says he should be," Stoner summed up the feelings of the trio. When your rivals start to pity you, then you are in a very bad place.

The problem is the GP11.1, and the switch made at Assen. Rossi said the decision had been made together with the team to ditch the GP11 that he had also not got on with in favor of the destroked version of the 1000cc GP12 which he tested at Jerez and Mugello. The decision had been made for good reasons: "We made this mistake because we did not want to disappoint the fans," he told the press, though the key word in that sentence is "mistake."

The basic problem with the GP11.1 is still a lack of front end feel, the same problem the previous version had. They had made the switch because the GP12 felt much better, but the improvement appears to have been due to the different nature of the larger capacity engine. With more torque and more acceleration available, precise corner entry is less important, as Rossi said he could use the power of the bike to load the front end, and get heat into the tire. Destroked to 800cc, the engine lacked the power to do that, and without heat in the tires, the front end does not provide the feedback Rossi needs to go fast. They gambled and lost, though the gamble was a brave one.

And so the GP11.1 is likely to be consigned to the dustbin in the next few races. Rossi wants to run a back-to-back test with the GP11.1 and the original GP11 at the Brno test on the Monday after the race, though as that has now been designated a 1000cc test, there may be some complications there. It is not clear that such a test would be legal, though doubtless Race Direction will clear that up in the next few days.

If Rossi did revert to the GP11, he would soon be in trouble with his engine allocation, but that is not currently a cause for concern. Rossi had earlier joked that he had "plenty of engines," conceding that they have basically given up on completing the year without taking an engine penalty.

Rossi's problems have also made Nicky Hayden wary of switching to the new bike at the next round at Laguna Seca. The American's story has changed, from looking to get his hands on the new bike as soon as possible, to hoping for the option of a GP11 and a GP11.1 at Laguna, in order to evaluate the bikes back-to-back. A decision is to be made on this on Sunday night after the race, and if he did decide to do so, this would open the door for Rossi to take one of Hayden's GP11 bikes to also run a back-to-back test. Hayden has two GP11.1's crated and ready to go to Laguna, but he may not want to take both of them.

The big news after qualifying is the news that the riders have decided to boycott the Motegi round of MotoGP. Instead of waiting for the independent report to be produced by an Italian agency with a lot of expertise in this area, all of the MotoGP riders - bar Hiroshi Aoyama - have decided they simply will not go. The report is to be finalized next weekend, with an official decision to be taken by the Motegi promoters - which, as owners of the circuit, eventually boils down to Honda - together with Dorna, the FIM and IRTA. If, as is expected, given previous reports by such fringe groups of wild-eyed lunatics such as the International Atomic Energy Authority, the UN's official body monitoring nuclear power, the report states that it is perfectly safe, then the riders will be in a state of open warfare with the series.

The problem is that this is a battle that the riders can only lose. Although the courage of Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo - the ringleaders of the rebellion, though suspicions remain that older, craftier hands in the paddock have exacerbated the situation by pressing the right buttons for the youngsters - is to be applauded, their cause is certainly not. Stoner was perfectly clear in the press conference: "I will not go to Japan," he said, with Lorenzo adding that his decision had also been made not to go. But although the riders who already have a contract for 2012 are relatively safe, the riders who are not such big names may quickly crumble under the pressure from their current and potential future employers.

Ambushed at a press conference to present ENI as the official oil and fuel supplier for both the Moto2 and Moto3 categories until 2014, Carmelo Ezpeleta made the situation perfectly clear. Dorna has a contract with the Motegi race promoter. Dorna has a contract with IRTA. IRTA has a contract with the teams. The teams have contracts with their riders. If riders don't want to go, they must be replaced by their teams. But teams may try and claim damages from their riders if they refuse to go to Japan, deducting money from their wages, or in the worst case, suing the riders for breach of contract. Riders who are not in such a strong position - after all, who in their right mind would not sign Casey Stoner or Jorge Lorenzo to a contract? - may find themselves struggling to find a ride next year. Anyone on a satellite machine refusing to race in Japan is unlikely to be offered a ride by the same manufacturer for next year, or even by another Japanese manufacturer. Once the riders who hope to stay in the paddock realize their predicament, the resistance is likely to crumble. A 16-rider boycott would be very serious. A 2-rider boycott would look like impetuousness.

The most moving moment of the day came when a Japanese journalist asked the MotoGP riders about their "With you Japan" stickers on the bikes. The show of support after the initial earthquake had touched the hearts of his people, the journalist said, but now the riders are refusing to visit the country, and not allowing his nation the honor of staging a MotoGP race. How did they explain that contradiction? As spokesman for the rebels, Stoner tried to explain that he was fully supportive of the Japanese people, but that he did not feel that his support would be any greater if he visited the country. Some paddock wags suggested that the wording on the stickers be changed, the word "with" replaced by another four-letter word.

Herve Poncharal expressed his anger at the riders' decision, saying that their refusal to go to Japan showed a fundamental lack of respect for the country. "Japan has done a lot for motorcycle racing," the IRTA president pointed out, "So we should do something back."

Will the boycott hold? We shall know after Laguna Seca. The teams have planned a series of meetings with their riders in which they can expect to have set out to them in no uncertain terms just how foolish it would be not to go. Their decision is based solely on fear, and on ignorance of the fundamental nature of radiation. Given their chosen profession, that is hardly surprising, but as both the World Endurance Championship and Indy Car are due to race in Japan, their position seems untenable. As one Moto2 rider who did not sign the petition put it: "These guys have had so many MRIs and X-rays, they already glow in the dark." But that, the MotoGP riders believe, is somehow different. Such ignorance must be bliss.

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Congratulations to the front row for their excellent qualifying.

Up yours to the front row, and any other riders that contributed to the decision to boycott Japan.

My offer to ride in any one of their places is still on.

PS: I don't really care how you vote on this post.

The track is not that far from the Fukushima reactors. While there is little mainstream news anymore, the situation there is catastrophic -- there have been meltdowns in several reactors. It is absolutely unsalvageable. Sooner or later this will be admitted, and the farce of 'recovery' and 'clean-up' will end. They will then begin to install a Chernobly-like sarcophagus over the reactors. A deadzone will be declared, and will be permanently uninhabitable; the only question is how large this will be.

The Japanese government is being incredibly irresponsible about this.

To appreciate the danger of being in the vicinity, look up how many people involved with the film 'The Conqueror' later died of cancer.

In lieu of all that, I find your diatribe bizarre.

Personally, IMO the decision to race there is incomprehensible and reckless. So I do not blame the riders at all for not wanting to go. Questions about their support for Japan, hinting about hypocrisy, are way out of line, even absurd.

Feel free to visit the area yourself if you like.

I definitely wouldn't go either.

I would be grateful if you could provide sources for all of this information. In my (so far, rather limited) research, I have found two kinds of information:

1. that the reactor is in bad shape, but more or less under control, with some minor leakage of contaminated water. Not a good situation, but not likely to be killing anyone any time soon.

2. that the end of the world is nigh, and we should shut down every nuclear reactor right now, just in case. There are very good arguments to be made against nuclear fission reactors, but the sources of information I've seen writing about Fukushima have not been making them.

So any actual research and information, I would be deeply grateful for.

I work at a US National Lab that does lots of nuclear instrumentation and experiments. I work with a guy that is a part time pilot for a major airline and he flew in to an airport that is about 100km from the accident site. He took a detector with him and found the background to be no higher than normal. Do these riders realize how much radiation they are getting when they make these long flights or get an x-ray? I just don't understand why they refuse to go even before the results come back from the independent study? It would be funny if Stoner and Lorenzo refuse to go but Dovi (worried about a job next year) goes to the race and ends up winning the championship.

You asked for information from "the other side" of the "everything is happy shiny in Japan" story, so here you go:

There was caesium-134 found in urine of children living 60km away from Fukushima, clearly outside the evacuation zone:


As can be read by this article


radiation levels exceeding the limit set for food by Japanese government has been found. Further radiation levels in sewage had spiked in Tokoy, some 300Km away from Fukushima, twice the distance of Motegi.

More reports on contaminated food:


Further TEPCO had to admit that their power plant was already damaged after the earthquake and not by the tsunami. Before that, they claimed they couldn't have foreseen a tsunami and only because of the tsunami the disaster unfolded:


Months after the accident TEPCO was again forced to also admit that a meltdown had occurred 16h after the quake:


As Greenpeace proved here


TEPCO was able to monitor the meltdown in real time, yet it took them months to admit it.

The Japanese senior nuclear adviser Toshiso Kosako quitted his job because he stated "I cannot allow this as a scholar". "He said, adding that he also opposed the government raising the limit for radiation exposure for workers at the plant."


Further, referring to the IAEA as the world authority for atomic safety might not be a good idea as this articles shows because of "conflicts of interests" or in a not so euphemistic way - it appears they're part of the worlds atomic industry swamp:


If you doubt that the IAEA is part of that swamp, just read their "everything's great in Fukushima" report:


This is another article demonstrating that both, the Japanese government *AND* TEPCO, are not transparent on what is really going on in Fukushima and Japan in general:


In this article, months after the accident, the government had to admit that the total amount of released radiation is twice as high as originally stated:


If you search the web long enough you constantly find reports of detected radiation spikes where there shouldn't be or the government "can't explain". Or that the Japanese government has to revise another contamination report upwards.

But if all of these information can't convince you this maybe will: A growing number of Japanese are installing their own radiation measurement devices because they stopped believing their government:


I completely understand your position David that a cancelled race weekend is not helping your business with your excellent website. But if you summarize the content of above articles it is clear that it's rather unknown in which areas and in which magnitude radiation is accumulating. Can anyone of Dorna, IRTA or the teams guarantee that there isn't a radiation spike

  • on the way to the circuit
  • in the food or drinking water
  • at some isolated place on the circuit?

I don't see how anyone can. Right now it's not even clear whether TEPCO can de construct the 4 reactors or if another major leak cracks open and another huge volume of fresh radiation is released to the environment. Who can guarantee that this won't happen when the MotoGP circus is in Motegi?

Actually, it makes better business sense for me if they don't go. After all, it will fill pages and pages and pages of content, much more than just a lost weekend. I would like to think that this is not that sort of site. I honestly believe it is a mistake not to go, despite the risks.

And thanks a lot for the links, the more data we have, the better.

Even if the actual risks are low it's something that will always be in the back of the riders minds, not something you want when you're wrestling a 240 bhp missile around a thin ribbon of asphalt.

Check this:

In brief, the radiation dose you would have received had you been at Fukushima town hall for all of the two weeks following the melt-down would be about 100µS, about 1/4 the dose a woman receives every times she has a mammogram.

It's also roughly the amount of radiation the riders would absorb simply by sitting on the plane flying to Japan (or anywhere else equally distant), due to the higher level of cosmic ray exposure at altitude.

The danger is not really in the average likely amount of radiation that is received, but rather the chances of absorbing spikes of the highly reactive particles that may or may not be floating around.

These riders are intelligent (or paranoid) enough to question everything they read from government and 'independent' authorities. The IAEA is supposed to be an independent body, but it largely works in conjunction with, and answers to, the United Nations. The UN is hardly a gold standard when it smart decisions and of absence of corruption (Oil for food worked pretty well!). To top it off the head of IAEA, the organization that is publishing many reports, is a Japanese national.

As a journalist, one would know not to believe everything they read, and not trust information for the sole reason government and NGO's are publishing the information.

So the Indy Car drivers and Trials guys are going there. Good for them. I think this follows the old 'follow someone off a cliff' adage to some degree.

The danger is not really in the average likely amount of radiation that is received, but rather the chances of absorbing spikes of the highly reactive particles that may or may not be floating around.

Reactive? Do you mean radioactive?

Actually, in my day job I'm a biostatistician working in cancer epidemiology... including radiation risks. I haven't looked at any Fukushima data, but there simply isn't any evidence for the scenario you exist from Chernobyl, for example. The cancers that are clearly linked to low levels of ionizing radiation (leukemia and thyroid cancer) seem to result from accumulated exposure to radioactive material absorbed through the food chain: radioactive dust blows onto a field, is eaten by cows, children drink the milk and absorb radioactive calcium and strontium.

There is probably a lung cancer risk from inhaling radioactive dust. This used to show up in high cancer rates in old East German uranium mines... but they also used to reward productive workers with bonuses paid in cigarettes. Once they improved the ventilation systems in the mines the excess cancers stopped.

I wonder how many µS Casey absorbed having his arm x-rayed on Friday?

IMO, comparing the Fukushima situation to that in Southern Utah is a bit of a reach. St. George is just a few miles from Snow Canyon, where much of 'The Conqueror' was filmed. If you read the wrenching book, American Ground Zero, ( http://www.amazon.com/American-Ground-Zero-Secret-Nuclear/dp/0262071460 ) you'll near stories of people living in St. George and nearby communities who, as children, went out to play in the 'snow.' Snow that was actually fallout drifting across the border from the Nevata Test Site! They developed beta burns on their scalp and lost chunks of hair, indicating high levels of skin exposure. (Nothing remotely close has been reported in Japan.) Overall, a relatively large fraction of the local population developed health problems that are almost certainly the result of the fallout. Even today leukemia and cancer rates are elevated. The excess cancers are more apparent when you considering that most of the population are clean living mormons, who tend to be healthier than average. Anyway, the actors filming the movie were riding around on horses making a 'Mongol Hordes' movie. They breathed gobs of kicked-up dust that was laced with fresh fallout particles provided by the 'Upshot Knothole' test series that was conducted in early '53. ( See maps at http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/library/media-gallery/image/testing/ups... )

Fukushima has burped some nasties into the air, and might do so again, but the amount cannot compare with that generated by an open-air atomic bomb. The huge volume of nuclear material at Fukushima represents much more total radioactivity, but it (hopefully!) lacks a mechanism to escape in large amounts. A Hydrogen explosion inside the core, or a spent-fuel fire, could produce a plume of death at least as bad as fresh bomb fallout. IMO, this sort of event is unlikely at this time, but is not completely outside the realm of possibility.

A simple solution:
Ezpeleta, Herve and all those in favour should fly off tomorrow and stand almost naked (scary thought), at the northernmost reaches of Motegi, and demonstrate that their attitudes are not just rhetoric.
Or better still, take their kids with them, and show that they truly have no fear for themselves or their progeny.
Me, if I was Casey and Jorge, if I have to race I would be wrapping my goolies in lead and making sure my loved ones stay at home. By the time you find out the damage is done, it is too late. Ask the Servicemen and the Aborogines about the Maralinga experience. Deemed safe by the authorities of the time.

If the GP11 and GP12 are both having the same issue with front end feel is there a chance of seeing a GP13 for 2012. What are the chances of them dropping the CF chassis and going back to the steel trellis that won them the world championship.

You may want to read the story again, the Gp12, with it's larger engine and different power caracteristics is putting more heat into the front tyre and increasing nf feel to the rider according to Rossi, however this isn't replicated with the destroked 800 engine in the GP12 frame a la GP11.1

Actually it said that "precise corner entry is less important, as Rossi said he could use the power of the bike to load the front end" which means they are working around an issue with front end and feel by using the rear to compensate. But that means the issue still exists or at least that is how I read it. Rossi has already said that the GP12 was slower than the current crop of 800s at mugello which leaves me wondering if perhaps they might scrap the gp12 altogether.

The Carbon fiber chassis has been plagued with issues since they introduced it with the GP9 it just perplexes me that they would stray from steel Trellis when they have so much information on using the frame with all their years in WSBK. And the Steel Trellis bikes have always been known as great handling motorcycles which is what Rossi loves. Win/Win?

Definition of HUBRIS

: exaggerated pride or self-confidence
— hu·bris·tic adjective
See hubris defined for English-language learners »
Examples of HUBRIS

His (read: Preziosi's) failure was brought on by his hubris.

In more scholarly circles, Hubris is more prettily defined as a type all-absorbing pride that becomes the motive for actions that bring about "The Proverbial Fall".

"Carbon fiber can be manipulated infinitely and precisely, so torsional and lateral rigidity can be tuned to a greater degree of perfection and precision than mere traditional alloys."

Sounds like when someone once said, "God Himself could not sink this ship."

Sounds like "I want my clothes made with INVISIBLE thread, because it's the nicest, fanciest, most advanced type!"

The emperor's/Preziosi's new clothes are carbon fiber. How long before SOMEONE stops lifting and carrying the train of his new coat (his latest CF abortion/"frame") ever higher, as he walks down the street in next to nothing? No. Wait. As a matter of fact, HE doesn't even have to be naked in the street, "dressed" in his invisible clothes...he leaves it to the damned riders have to try and fit into clothes made BY HIM, FOR HIM. Preziosi builds these damn things, but that's the easy part. After all, he doesn't have to actually RIDE them. He just sticks to his guns, churns out tripe, and leaves the "walking around naked in public" part to the poor bastards who are paid to be the guinea pigs in his science fair project.

He does the same thing over and over...yet he expects a different result each time. The very definition of insanity.

i've been saying this all year. the CF chassis is cool but awful in a racing environment. ducati seems to be suffering from sunk cost fallacy (also known as the concorde fallacy) refusing to admit defeat.

at some point, the greatest inventors still go "back to the drawing board"...

just watching rossi coming over the top of T5 at the sachsenring had me feeling his pain. leaned all the way over and the friggin front end is still in the air... bike turning only when the front lightly touches down again.


They can no longer build the requisite strength in the headstock AND provide a clear run to the airbox. Over and above which small manufacturing inconsistencies would see two 'identical' bikes respond differently. Simply not acceptable.

Looking at the excellent photo Chris provided on Friday of the naked GP11.9 I just wonder if the CF headstock to rear cylinder 'frame' could not be lengthened to mount at the rear of the cylinder rather than the front giving the whole piece a more delayed / softer flex reaction time. Then again it is looking more and more likely that the L engine is the culprit. Will they stick with it and rotate it in the chassis or are there pressure calls from VR & JB to narrow that vee?

"small manufacturing inconsistencies would see two 'identical' bikes respond differently. Simply not acceptable." What should be less acceptable is Rossi qualifying 16th! So what if there are inconsistencies. That wouldn't matter if it allowed him to put in lap times in the 1'21 range.

I predict that when the report comes in and the race is declared a go, the riders will go because as stated above, they will be contractually obligated. This will include Stoner and Lorenzo. My guess is that Jorge will be the first of the two to give in and this will force Stoner to cave, as he is not in the position to give a possible 25 point away. Even at this point this situation is a black eye to the sport and it is a shame it has come to this. I hope that as soon as this new report is made available to them, assuming that it is positive, that Stoner and Lorenzo together lead the way by declaring their intention to race immediatly, without having first being confronted by their teams or race management. That way their involvement will look sincere and would go a long way towards removing the black cloud that currently lingers over their collective heads. It cannot be overstated how much Japan has done for the sport, and it's time to really step up to the plate. Putting a sticker on your bike only places you in the batters box.

Here is part or probably the whole problem with the race at Montegi, it lies with the people who are operating this nuclear plant. Their track record is absolutely SHOCKING. What if another incident happens at this facility, it could be an operational problem (keep in mind this plant has been severely damaged and will take a very long time to fully repair - years), it could be another quake or quake/tsunami?
Who is the party that will be able to do the assessment of this plant and how will they do it? It can only be based on assurances given by the plant owners. To perform an independent verification is impossible given the state of the facility and if they were allowed onsite such an assessment will take a long time and will be very costly.
In short we should understand where the riders are coming from as well.

It's really a shame how bad Rossi's team have lost their way. I'm sure it's not easy on JB with his personal situation at home and then watching today's results. Vale may want to consider changing his style, but I doubt that will happen now.
As far as the boycott, it's almost laughable! Maybe it would be a good weekend for some wildcard rides? See: Hopkins ( this guy needs to just take the LCR offer- I still remember that look he had at Laguna when Nicky won there the first time. He finally gets an offer to the ride one of the best bikes and he wants to keep his faith in Suzuki?)
Anyway, I hope the weather stays dry and we have a good race!

Wow. I'm surprised how strongly you attack the riders and even go as far as insulting their intelligence. You make your living off the back of these ignorant, foolish riders? I have always enjoyed your writing style but I think your prejudice on this matter is bordering on ignorant as well.

What is most surprising to me is that the riders are, especially at the MotoGP level, deeply intelligent young men. Their intelligence is what marks them out for greatness, more than bravery and talent. What confuses me is that these otherwise intelligent young men are incapable of making an unbiased judgment on the basis of information that is freely available. I do not attack the riders for their ignorance, just their fear.

My fellow journalists, on the other hand, are a completely different kettle of fish. How a group of people whose job it is to collect and analyze information can be so completely incapable of researching the situation for themselves is something I find completely shocking.

David, yes these guys are largely a bright bunch, but I'd be surprised if even half have a high-school physics class behind them. The radiation danger from nuclear power has been relentlessly hyped by the media and is seen as an invisible boogie-man by a surprisingly large percentage of otherwise sensible folks. Combine this with the blatantly incompetent/dishonest statements by TEPCO and the Japanese Government, and you've got reasonable cause for caution. FWIW, I followed the TEPCO press conferences closely in the weeks following the quake. IMO, the level of double-speak and non-speak was off the chart. They have been whistling 'Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' since Day 1 and have pretty much wrecked their credibility. I'll be interested to see what the Italian report says.

AFAIK, everyone now accepts that the cores of all the reactors have been significantly damaged, and that at least some of the fuel has melted. The high levels of fission products accumulating in the water are eveidence that the fuel cladding has overheated and ruptured, and the hydrogen explosions that occured are the direct result of the overheated fuel breaking down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XaIukpfsL4 explains the mechanism. Further, pulses of neutron radiation and the presence of short lived daughter products in the cooling water strongly suggest that portions of the damaged core or a 'blob' of melted fuel at the bottom of the reactor managed to sporadically regain criticality in the weeks and months following the accident. Personally, I don't think the situation is nearly as stable as they would have us believe. The Fukushima cores are probably in similar or worse condition as their TMI counterpart. (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Graphic_TMI-2_Core_En... ) They will be a mishmash of unstable bent, broken, and half melted fuel rods, and blobs of melted fuel. A random colapse of core pieces could initiate further critcality events that might, in turn, releae modest blasts of fresh fission products into the air. Even without further reactions, the recent push by Tepco to 'inject nitrogen to stop hydrogen explosion' suggests that areas of the core are still hot enought to be producing hydrogen gas. Depending on how successful this 'nitrogen injection' is/was, the possiblity of a catastrophic core breach caused by an internal H explosion may still remain. (The H explosions that demolished the top half of the buildings did not occur in the core.) Overall, I'd be pretty nervous about being immediately downwind of the plant. Full disclosure by TEPCO and the Gov't would go a long ways, but I don't think these people know the meaning of the word, 'honesty.'

OTOH, given the distance and prevailing winds, Motegi is likely a safe place.
FWIW, I'd go, but I can sympathise with those who'd choose not to.

I know that most of this post is opinion - I'll try to find a few more informational links...

Opinion it may be, but the subjective nature of this argument is why I find the harsh criticism of the riders unwarranted.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion both fan and rider alike. I can accept that some people are prepared to run the risk and head on over, but for whatever reason those on the other side of the coin tend to soapbox as if the world is coming to an end because (almost all) of the riders finally agree on something, and they will miss their weekly viewing of motorcycle racing.

When some people both here and elsewhere realise that the riders' intent isn't to hurt the sport, the fans or the sponsors, the sooner a more rational argument can be had.

At the end of the day, the riders are entitled to an opinion aswell - and whether you agree with it or not, it is to be respected.

thank you for your research. I note Motegi is 139km from Fukushima as the Japanese wood pigeon flies. I agree entirely that it is the degree of obfuscation that has emanated from TEPCO & the Japanese Govt that has lead us to this current quandary. To blame the riders is to point the finger in the wrong direction.

So we have virtual unanimity with the riders. I wonder what the percentage opinions are for the rest of the paddock / circus, or is their well being of no concern?

On the other hand of course these guys make a living from a very tangible 'life and death' game. So a weekend in Motegi seems pretty small beer in comparison. If they're worried about future progeny then spunk in a cup and whack it in the back of the freezer now.

Will we see scenes such as Misano 1989 with Stoner & Lorenzo clapping Dovi from their Monaco balcony as we saw Lawson do to Chili? Unlikely, as at round 15 Motegi is at the sharp end. Ultimately points and a title on the line could / will force their hands to compete.

For me. I'd go no doubt.

@Damo If the riders opinions must be respected then at the same time they should also respect the contracts they signed. If the race is declared safe by a independent study and they don't wan to go they can keep their opinions and not go but expect to lose the pay for that wekend and possibly sponsorships as the sponsors have opinions also.

The big difference being one is related to safety, and the other is related to money.

The safety of the riders, paddock staff and spectators is far more important, that's why their opinion should be respected.

Occupational Health & Safety is a huge issue, and it's no different for these guys either.

It's easy to sit back from your lounge chair at home and snipe the riders for their decision. One of the big aspects is that all of the riders are unanimous (except of course the Japanese riders which is completely understandable). This isn't just a case of Lorenzo and Stoner on their high horse. Everyone else stood up to be counted aswell.

Safety from guys riding motorbikes at over 200mph? I understand the safety part of it but where is the evidence that there is any risk either short term or long term for them being at the Motegi racetrack for less than a weeks time? O there is none? I'm likely exposed to more serious health risks at work than they would be going to Motegi and I do my job for a lot less money. They aren't scientists obviously they're MotoGP riders. They need to shut up and ride. Also just because they're all unanimous in their decisions now doesn't mean that it's the right one. It could mean that they're all wrong.

It would appear the riders don't believe the assurances they are getting from TEPCO & frankly i wouldn't blame them.

The Spanish and Italian press are largely against going to Motegi, the English-speaking press are largely for going to Motegi. There are more people with science backgrounds in the English-speaking press than in the Spanish and Italian press.

Coming from the scientifically-superior English-speaking press, I'm sure you've got data to support that ad-hominem.

A key feature of the scientific method is the reliance on accurate, objective data. So, while the conclusion of a safety zone of 10km radius might be sound based on the reported levels of radiation (and what we currently know about the effects of those levels of radiation), it's completely unsound if the those radiation levels have been falsified or are unknown (which they were).

Another key feature of the scientific method is its humility in conclusion. Theories are never "proven" (though they can be supported) and are always falsifiable. While we seem much more wise to the effects of radiation than when we started out (remember those poor folks involved in nuclear testing), I don't think we know everything there is to know about the health effects of radiation (and science will never conclude that we do).

Shortly after the earthquake/tsunami, there was a viral article from an MIT engineering researcher telling us essentially why a nuclear disaster wasn't going to happen. That's not some backyard university. I used that article to reassure my Japanese wife of its conclusions. Turns out that I was wrong.


So we've got science that is most-likely incomplete, and (more pressingly) data from sources known to be untrustworthy. I'm not going to go into the possibility that a corporation would put profit above peoples' health, but it wouldn't be setting a precedent.

I love a race weekend as much as the next guy, but I can empathise with these guys. They may be wrong or may be right, but given that it's their health on the line, how about a bit of support for their right to make the call (and the courage to stand up to their paymasters)?

In any case, I look forward to the data to support the theory of the scientifically-superior English-speaking press (for whatever that's worth).

(P.S. I can't believe that was my first post :-( I love this site for its objectivity and that's why I felt I should respond)

"Coming from the scientifically-superior English-speaking press, I'm sure you've got data to support that ad-hominem."

Actually, it's a function of the relative popularity of the sport. The Italian and Spanish journalists are to a large extent professionally trained journalists, as the sport is so huge in those countries that it is a viable option for someone coming out of a journalism degree. Of the English-speaking journalists, I can think of one or maybe two who are professionally trained journalists, the others have drifted in sideways from other areas. They are working as journalists in MotoGP because their passion for the sport brought them there (which is not to say that the Italians and Spaniards are not just as passionate about the sport), but they got their through other routes. As motorcycle racing is a fairly technical sport, there are a lot of people from technical backgrounds: a chemical engineer, a maths wiz who worked in finance, a computer science geek. Not all, though, as there are also people with backgrounds in marketing and at least one former racer.

As they say in scientific circles, the plural of anecdote is not data.

Also, in the greatest of scientific traditions, I'll question the assertion that professionally-trained journalists are either more or less objective/scientific/passionate/knowledgable about the sport than folks such as yourself.

Surely, if a chemical engineer or maths wiz can be passionate about MotoGP, a MotoGP journalist from a MotoGP-mad country can be just as knowledgeable, no?

As a side-note, my daughter's psychology degree involved much more scientific research than any of my undergraduate years of electrical engineering and computing (which were more applied science than research). It wasn't until postgraduate years that I feel that I made any meaningful scientific contribution.

As I mentioned before, I really love this site absolutely because your reporting is of a high standard. However, your theory of the scientific superiority of English-speaking press is, rather ironically, very weak from a scientific point of view (from the data provided).

You are proof that you don't need a journalism degree to be a good journalist. You don't need a bullshit theory to compensate, either.

Keep it up David. I come here for the insight not the scientific research.

Tetsuo, as a side-note I was forced to share my first year statistics classes with psychology undergraduates. From what I saw most psychology students just don't get statistics and maths in general. I don't call people who don't understand statistics running studies and clumsily making assumptions a scientific contribution.

Ross, you're confusing science (the class at school) with science (the process). My rather insignificant point was that my daughter's psychology course did more science (the process) than my degrees which were based on science (the class). It was a side-point, not my main point.

"I come here for the insight not the scientific research."

Insight is the by-product of scientific thinking (if the conclusion is not based on facts, it's probably not insightful).

Tetsuo I understand the difference between basic and applied science.

I am more than happy for David to let us know what he thinks on any given subject. I wouldn't bother coming here if he didn't. If he wants to make a generalization here or there. I'm happy with that. If you want to over react that's up to you.

"Tetsuo I understand the difference between basic and applied science."

Fair enough. Then I'm not sure what your point about the psychology students' maths ability was about.

"If he wants to make a generalization here or there. I'm happy with that. If you want to over react that's up to you."

Having a look back at my original post, I think I could have approached my point better. Probably not the best way to introduce myself here. I stand by my point, though.

Having said that, you probably won't hear from me too much from me (I come hear to learn).

If your comments are anything to go by on this thread then you should be posting more not less. I come here for the considered intelligent perspective, David's and quite a few others. You more than fit that bill.

As much as I don't enjoy being criticized, when I am being criticized with actual facts and reason, there's not a lot I can do, except to try to do a better job. The commenters here are one of the main motivations for me, as I learn a lot as well. So stay. Keep me in line.

Thanks for those kind words David, Nostrodamus.

I'll certainly continue to visit here and try to contribute when I think I can get away without looking like a complete tit.

According to some scientists, things aren't good in Japan

"Hot spots are being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor (further away than they were found from Chernobyl), and the amount of radiation in many of them is the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl.[358]" 



The latest updates from the IAEA are here http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

Thanks for those links, they make interesting reading. But they also show that the situation is much more complex than it appears. There are hotspots, but they are infrequent and highly localized. A lot of the radiation is Iodine 131, which has a very short half-life, and most of the really bad reports were from March. The situation has moved on a lot since then, if you read those links.

I agree that the overall fallout levels are probably fairly low. But...

Without knowing a dang thing about the chemical and physical mobility of the various nasties that are found in melting fuel, it seems likely that I-131 is not all that escaped. Where Iodine found, other daughter products may lurk. Since I is one of the more dangerous isotopes, it may well be the only one the government has bothered to look for, or report on. (I cannot overstate my personal skepticism toward the J government and TEPCO talking heads.)

The recent discovery of longer lived cesium in locally grown beef suggests that there is more to the story than "A few puffs of short lived 131 got loose, no cause for alarm." The Cesium levels were something like 10x the official limit and are not that high, but the finding does make you wonder....


There are reports on plant status and radiation monitoring.

The iaea are supposed to be the last word on this, but they are reliant on the member nation for much of their data, who in-turn often over-rely on the operator of the facility.

The WHO reports that it's now acknowledged that the initial release was at least double the original report, which raises serious questions as to just what can be believed.

I am definitely with David on this Montegi issue. Think the riders should listen to real experts on radiation like the IAEA, and not listen to some of these scare stories. What i understand is the UK government advise British citizens not to go within 60km of the power station, Montegi is over 100km from Fukushima.

I believe that ALL decisions made on the topic should be respected. If that means Dorna, the teams, and the riders bumping heads over it then so be it, but I do not believe that the riders should be cruelled for a decision largely based on safety concerns - irrespective of the (often conflicting) news coming out of the place.

I'm sorry, but there are much larger issues at play than riding a motorcycle around a track. The situation within Japan is questionable at best, and there are plenty of opinions/thoughts/emotions on both sides of the fence.

Dorna should have just taken their medicine and let this whole ordeal blow over (which it hasn't) before sending the road trip into the zone. If that means not racing in Japan this year, then so be it. It is unfortunate for sure, and not for a moment do I intend to throw any disrespect towards them as a country, or as an event on the calendar.. instead it would just be an unfortunate neccesary evil, and as dissapointing as it might have been I am sure Dorna would have generally been praised for making a decision and standing by it - even in the face of losing big money.

When dealing with the potential consequences of an expert being wrong, thats too close for me.

The riders are like me, uneducated on the subject. I have dug and dug and dug for weeks. I cannot find anything that appears unbiased enough to make me comfortable.

The kids have the luxury of looking at history and seeing how governments and big business have not alway been forthcoming about civil safety. They have chosen to err on the side of caution. Cant say as I blame them.

David, is there any further insider information about how well Rossi and Ducati are dealing with the current situation?

Are they as-one in dealing with it or are cracks starting to appear within the walls?

They should adopt a "guilty until proven innocent" stance with Motegi. This independent report being prepared by an Italian agency has not yet being published - Why would the riders agree to go in the meantime? Or even be un-decided?

They have stated they don't wish to take anymore risks than they usually do every time they race, its up to this Italian agency to convince them otherwise. The riders are being consistent so far. If they are ignorant of the nuclear situation (and possible dangers or complete lack thereof) they have a right to be skeptical and not want to go. It is their lives after all.

As for what Japan has done for motorsport, obviously to state modern motorsport wouldn't be where it is today without Japanese companies would be as big an understatement as you'll ever read. But Stoner & Lorenzo & the others are employees of these corporations. They're sole purpose is to gain prestige and marketing exposure for the corporations by winning races so they can sell more bikes and make more money. They pay Lorenzo and Stoner wages to do this job - Nobody is "obliged" to work in conditions that may or may not be safe.

They of course shouldn't agree to go until they are satisfied with the findings of the investigating agency, to do so would show a level of naivety & acceptance of "ones lot in life" that would not set much of an example to us mere mortals who look up to these guys for their bravery and strength of character as much as their talent and showmanship

It is indicative of sanity, a rational mind and a self-preservation instinct [in a motorcycle racer?] to have a reasonable [will not qualify this further] fear of the unknown. I fancy myself quite far from a conspiracy theorist, but I am wary of an 'official report' drawn up to assuage fears of undertaking any sort of activity or, in this case, to persuade my attendance of a place that it is reasonable to think that there might be danger. Now, I am fully aware of the alarmist fanfare in the media that has likely tremendously exaggerated the danger associated with the visitation of Japan, but in the position of the rider that does indeed know little more about radiation than its potential risks [admit it, those who do know are an extreme minority] I might be fearful as well. Also, keep in mind Stoner's wife's cracking bits and his fear [founded or not] of her losing her hotness by losing her hair, or some other hollywood depiction of the effects of nuclear radiation.

I am livid... as an American living in Japan for the past 20+ years, I always look forward to seeing MotoGP race, either at Suzuka or at Motegi. This year was going to be something extra special for my family and I. We live in northern Japan (didn't get hit by the tsunamis). The earthquake and tsunamis have created more stress than I've ever seen. We has planned on driving down and enjoying three full days of fun and noise... Guess that wont be happening now.

I've lost any respect I had for so many of the riders.

Sorry for the rant, I just woke up...started reading my daily dose of MotoGP news and read this... I seriously need to calm down a bit before I do something stupid like cancelling my MotoGP.com membership.

Perhaps you should lose respect for mother nature, and not the riders.

The easy thing to do is blame the riders. For what? Questioning the safety of going to Japan in the wake of the carnage and fallout that were the quake & tsunami disaster?

Most people are supportive of the riders putting pressure on Bridgestone to create 'safer options' in their tyres because of safety concerns.

It's ok for Dorna to threaten to remove Phillip Island entirely if they don't budge on moving the event (away from the tail of spring, and instead smack bang in the middle of autumn going winter) because of some rain on Saturday and blue skies on race day.

But the moment a rider has genuine concerns for their own safety, and wants proper, objective and professional reports produced on the situation in Japan - members of the 'hard done by' fanbase get out their pitchforks.

I'm sorry mate but as terrible as you and your family missing three days of entertainment will be, perhaps you should think of the situation other people are being put in (the riders) to provide that entertainment for you.

MotoGP riders don't owe you anything, contrary to what you may think.

If this same situation was for PI this year I would be gutted. So I am trying to be as objective as possible.

Does anyone genuinely think the riders would just jump on this bandwagon for the fun of it? Of course they wouldn't, they are there to race. They love to race. This is what they do. I'd bet my lefty that no rider in the paddock is taking this decision lightly.

No doubt they are all supportive of Japan and the predicament the fans find themselves in. Perhaps those same fans could lend THEIR support to the riders in this instance and give them the benefit of the doubt that their concerns are genuine.

>>But the moment a rider has genuine concerns for their own safety, and wants
>>proper, objective and professional reports produced on the situation in Japan

Stoner and Lorenzo didn't wait for that professional report to be released and don't care what it says, they won't go because all these experts can't be trusted. That's a pretty sad excuse.

There are tens of thousands of people in the area around Motegi that have not evacuated and are still living there there. Major airlines are flying into the area. Other major sporting organizations have had events there. Relief agencies from around the world have sent personnel to help. I'm not saying to blindly follow other people's actions but these other organizations have consulted experts who have all said it is as safe as it usually is to have an event at Motegi. It's not as if the experts Dorna have consulted have differed. The two riders leading the rest are driven by fear, ignorance, and inflammatory 'media' reports.

>>The US, Britain, and Canada have recommended that its nationals keep a full
>>80 kilometers away from Fukushima. They calculated that distance based on the
>>possibility that the situation at the stricken nuclear power plant could suddenly
>>worsen and more radiation might be released.

We're not talking about strolling around the reactor grounds or swimming in the containment pools, I'm sure those areas are dangerous, but the track is 160km away, double what gov'ts deem to be safe even if the situation suddenly worsened.

If Jorge or anyone else on the grid wants to call me out and offer me a plane ticket and paddock passes to Motegi you can find my contact info on the website link below. I prefer a window seat. If he still doesn't want to go I'll even be happy to take his seat and turn a few laps.


I don't want to nitpick the article, but IAEA stands for International Atomic Energy 'Agency' not Authority.

Good article nonetheless.

I thought MotoGP riders were smart, brave and supportive of the Japanese recovery cause. It turns out most of them are neither of those three. It's perfectly clear they are not sincere when they say they care for Japan or Japanese people, it doesn't matter how many reasons they put on the table. Ignorance is not a valid excuse this time, they all are highly paid professional sportsmen and their responsibility lies well beyond their own interest. They should listen to experts in the area and so far I haven't seen anyone with knowledge of that kind to express similar concerns. Perhaps Japanese teams should boycott dumb, hypocrites and coward riders next year. I'm sure decision makers in these companies are not amused, and they won't forget this contempt. I also think that whoever wins the Championship, it will be tarnished if he decided to skip Japan. Perhaps Valentino is right, riders these days are pussies, and that includes everyone but Aoyama.

Its not just self preservation the riders would be concerend about either, but the entourage of family and loved ones they bring with them. I wouldn't bring my loved ones to stay within 1000 clicks of 4 recently melted down reactors no matter what the 'authorities' said. Especially given those same authorities were glacially slow to admit the full scale of the disaster. Say there was a miscalculation by some scientist and it turned out the food and water were much more toxic than expected? Doesn't bear thinking about, especially for the sake of staging a motorcycle race. I can fully understand where the riders are coming from, bit surprised you are being so condescending David.

I do not understand the fear or ignorance of the Motogp riders at all. The government may tell a lie, but geigercounters do not. People living near the evacuation area have access to technologies and information, and they are closely monitoring the situation and share them online. It is major difference from Chernobyl. They stay there because their own geigercounters tell the radiation level is low enough. Motegi is further away from Fukushima and surrounded by mountains blocking the wind blowing from there, so their level of radiation is the same as pre nuclear accident.

I saw the qualifying in Japanese TV yesterday, and they clearly said the Motegi will go ahead, and the ticket is on sale. They said they are looking forward to watching the moto gp racers.. bluh bluh…. There are no major sports or cultural events cancelled recently due to the nuclear accident. Indy will race at Motegi in September. Their jaw will drop and never close if they find out the motogp riders are boycotting. I hope they do not do something stupid for the sake of sports.

Your last sentence is the telling one.

I hope Dorna don't do something stupid for the sake of sports either.. and especially not just for money (in the guise of actually caring about the Japanese fans), which at the end of the day is what it's all about. Dollars and cents, but moreso the former.

If I had the $$, I can think of no place I would rather be than at the Japanese GP this year, with my wife and 2 small children in tow.

What the riders are planning is shameful, and reduces them, in some part, to the level of the average NASCAR fan. Are they planning to take up dippin' tobacco, too?

Hollow rhetoric, when you consider you DON'T have the $$ to go to Japan. And let's consider if you did go with your wife and 2 small children. What if? What if all the `so called' experts had got it wrong.. and heaven forbid your chidlren did suffer the consequence of YOUR decision to take them to a potentially dangerous region. And let's not kid ourselves, that's just what this region is. Could you live with your decision! I have no issues with the riders not wanting to go to Japan.. after all... it's a race, nothing more, nothing less. We have and can continue to support Japan in other real and fiscal ways. I think Vespadaddy you could probably name the top 10 Nascar drivers without pausing! I want to hear Vale opinion on this.

I'll just say that, as per usual, I tend to side with facts, science and reality. I suppose it could be said that my basement is also 'potentially dangerous', given that there could be ghosts and goblins down there. That said, when I'm in the mood for a really good beer, I'll be venturing down there to grab one from my cellar's collection.

I am hopeful that when the riders are given an opportunity to examine the available data, they'll come to a reasonable conclusion. As it stands now, the look like fools.

It seems the riders are acting out of self preservation, but consider the potential danger to 100,000 race fans. IF, against the odds, one of the Fukushima reactors does something rude over the race weekend, and IF the winds are right, a large number of people standing around out in the open will be directly exposed to fresh fallout from the plant. The levels will likely be fairly low; no one will lose their hair or start to glow, but you'll be exposing a _lot_ of people. Depending on whether you believe in a 'safe dose' threshold, you may or may not want to be among the crowd...

There are strong (in my uneducated opinion) arguments that there is no safe dose.

Look at the 5-point summary at http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/RIC/chp18F.html

If this POV is true, exposing thousands of fans to a relatively low dose will possibly kill a few of them, depending on the level of exposure and the actual total-dose-per-cancer-death level.

If we had reason to believe anything TEPCO says, this wouldn't be an issue. IMO,the current levels of radiation near Motegi are too low to worry about. It's the ongoing, and largely unknown (by the public at least), potential for 'something bad' happening that worries me.

Look at the 5-point summary at http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/RIC/chp18F.html

That's not a proof of no safe dose, it's a proof that the author is hopelessly incompetent in the field.

Of course it's possible that one single stray beta particle may cause a genetic modification which may complement a pre-existing mutation in the complementary chromosome and that cell might evade the cell's repair mechanisms and the cell's self-destruct mechanisms and the resulting mutant cell might evade the body's immune system and the modification might be of the type that causes the cell to replicate more efficiently rather than simply die.

It's also possible a piece of space junk will fall on your head.

The reality is that whatever the condition of the basements of the reactors 100+ kms from Motegi, the radiation level at the circuit is lower than in the cabin of a commercial airliner. So if you are convinced by those 5 points, you should give up flying. Certainly avoid any medical or dental x-rays, and CT-scans are right out.

Seriously, btw, the amount of radiation people absorb in unnecessary CT scans is a much bigger issue than Fukushima... particularly if those people are children. To be frightened of Motegi while regularly exposing oneself to trauma that leads to x-rays is not at any level rational.

fear or ignorance their job is to do the race, if they are worried about Japan issue. then they must listen to an expert authority about the radiation levels at fukushima surroundings like the IAEA. at this moment the riders looks like a bunch of hypocrites than only have in their bikes messages about support to the japanese in general but in reality dont cares about Motegi, but only irrational fear is what they are showing now.

since the riders have announced their intentions to boycott the race at motegi, it's sure than a possible retaliation will happen soon by the FIM, MSMA and IRTA.

+1 for herve poncharal and sofuoglu, for poncharal for make clear than the riders than dont want to go show a lack of respect, for superglue he is the only one than has quoted than he want to race at motegi.

in the paddock (which) have exacerbated the situation by pressing the right buttons for the youngsters'. What's their agenda? Who would stand to benefit most if the race didn't take place? Is this one thing we can't lay at the door of Rupert Murdoch?

If it were me, I would take a plane to Montegi no worries whatsoever.

Having worked for a Japanese company (Kawasaki) for a great number of years I can only guess that this will have repercussions for the riders under contract with the Japanese manufacturers. Purely a matter of pride, the people in engineering, manufacturing logistics will feel let down by the riders. There will be zero compassion from Japanese management, a matter of honor.

If the riders cause the manufacturers to lose face, God help you with the next contract. Ofcourse as far as Japanese "confrontation" will go, they will ask the riders to reconsider, strongly, and it would seem a request, a pleasant dialogue but in essence it will mean much much more.

Purely my 5 cents after working with the Japanese for many years.

I am qualified in my own field but would hesitate to remove my own teeth, the riders, no matter their level of intelligence, are not qualified and I suspect not well enough informed to make those decisions. The governing bodies should be making all parties aware of the situation and the reasons for any decisions made with the help of whatever consultants are deemed necessary.
Not riders/fans(myself included) who have watched too many b-movies..
Japan has given a lot to the sport of motogp, I'm not sure it would exist without them..

I'm planning a visit to Japan in the fall with my wife, she is from Osaka (not too close to Tokyo). It just comes down to ignorance and fear. I would love to get out in time to catch the Motegi round.

The riders are still getting new parts from Japan correct? They haven't been saying they won't use anything coming from Japan have they? It's a pretty poor decision for the riders to make bold statements about not showing up to work for their employers.

Here they are saying they won't go to Japan for a weekend and yet there are still Japanese citizens living in the area surrounding the location of the race track... They seem to be doing just fine.

Frankly, I'm not surprised by the lack of improvement of the GP11.1.
The complaint of the Ducati GP bike, since the beginning has always been lack of front end feel and grip, no matter how many chassis, material, swingarm changes they make.
The only thing all Ducati's GP bikes have in common, and has not been changed, is the L4 engine.
I'm convinced that no matter what they do, they will never get this bike to handle properly keeping the L4 layout.
The L4 configuration is simple too long, necessitating the engine to be placed further rearward than any other current configuration. This shift weight to the rear, and explains why they can never get the front tire to work.
Ducati needs to bite the bullet, scrap the GP12, GP11.1 and start with a fresh design, based around a narrower engine V angle, to finally correct what has been a major shortcoming since the beginning.

To race at Motegi could be a life changing experience; and an experience that could never be reversed. Having worked with asbestos during my college years, to this day I don't know if I'll ever develop mesothelioma (don't think I will, but also don't know), so it is easy for me to side with the riders on this issue, and I respect Casey and Jorge more than ever.

>I would be grateful if you could provide sources for all of this information.

A reasonable request, David. And many thanks to magic_carpet for providing all the good links.

Let me ask a rhetorical question: If neither the Japanese government nor TEPCO is publicly revealing the entire truth, and the mainstream media has, more or less, lost interest in the story, do you think it might be difficult to provide definitive links?

Here is a Scientific American article that, for those with enough scientific background, pretty much tells you everything you need to know:

Fukushima Meltdown Mitigation Aims to Prevent Radioactive Flood

Read the entire article carefully. Note e.g. this part:

As a result, entire towns, such as Date, Iitate and Iwaki City, may have to be permanently abandoned and roughly 80,000 people have lost their homes to radioactive contamination.

Quite honestly, the "may" in this passage is ridiculous.

Also from the Washington Post:

Japanese scientist: Fukushima meltdown occurred within hours of quake

Nuclear fuel at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant began melting just five hours after Japan’s March 11 earthquake, a Japanese nuclear engineer told a panel of U.S. scientists Thursday.

About 11 hours later, all of the uranium fuel in the facility’s unit 1 reactor had slumped to the bottom of its inner containment vessel, boring a hole through a thick steel lining, the University of Tokyo’s Naoto Sekimura told a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sekimura’s assessment further damages the credibility of the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco). This week, the company admitted for the first time that nuclear fuel in three of the plant’s reactors had melted — a conclusion that independent scientists had reached long ago.

And in a rare insight into internal deliberations at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees U.S. power plants, Commissioner George Apostolakis said that NRC staff members “thought the cores were melting” early in the Daiichi crisis. This conclusion — and the lack of information from Japanese authorities — drove the commission’s controversial recommendation to evacuate Americans within 50-mile radius of the facility, an area far larger than the 12.5-mile evacuation zone then enforced by the Japanese government.

So this comment is not too long, I will conclude it just below...

I guess you have to understand the severity of a meltdown.

When a meltdown occurs, the situation is absolutely unsalvageable. What used to be fuel rods, which could be removed and kept cool, is now just an extraordinarily hot and extraordinarily radioactive mass of molten metal sitting, at best, at the bottom of the containment vessel, and at worst on the floor of the containment building (due to the very high radiation levels measured in water, it appears containment vessels have been breached in Japan). And it is very clear that every single operating reactor at Fukushima has melted down. Also some of the spent fuel -- even fuel which is no longer being used generates lots of latent heat and must be cooled -- has melted.

This material just cannot be recovered. It is far too dangerous to approach.

One last note, albeit anecdotal: While I do not work in the industry, I know people who work for companies in the energy generation industry. These companies operate their own reactors. Via industry contacts, as well as contacts these industry people have with governmental agencies, I have heard info that, for one reason or another, just does not make it into the press. Or the press has lost interest, or the matters are too technical -- take your pick. Anyway, for quite a while it has been clear: the situation at Fukushima is a catastrophe. In many, many ways, it is comparable with Chernobly, including for the solution that will eventually be acknowledged and implemented: somehow building containment 'sarcophagi' around these reactors, and removing people from the vicinity. Permanently.

Like I said: I would not go anywhere near the area.

@David: Thanks for your great site.

I personally think everything the IAEA says should be taken with a grain of salt.
They are an interest-group after all.

That being said, I agree that there is probably no reason to worry and the riders should take the chance to give the people in the area a little bit of normality and hope.

I hope they will reconsider.
In my opinion it was especially bad style to announce their refusal to go before the report was published.

In general, you'll find that organisations tend to want things to be worse than they are, so that they seem more important... especially when funds are tight. See WHO and SARS, Mexican Flu.

It also looks quite bad for them if they say everything is fine and it turns out not to be.
So if they are biased, it's unlikely to be in the direction of under-stating the danger.

But yes, if there is a report being done, the rational thing is to wait for it to be released. The riders might find reason to disagree with it, but efectively they are saying
"We don't care about the facts".

Is there definitive evidence that the riders have formed their opinion without consulting any experts in the field, i.e. that they came to this conclusion from their own uninformed viewpoints?