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Hazards

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An investigative commission called the meltdown at Fukushima an entirely preventable “manmade” disaster, and the media blew up. Any editor or reporter worth his salt in sensationalist muckraking, after all, knows nuclear disaster stories get eyeballs. The story goes: this was good ol’ fashioned regulatory capture, the fox watching the hen house. A failure of government, a case of brazen recklessness from the nuclear industry—this was no freak fluke of nature. This was a disaster that could have been avoided altogether. This catastrophe was man-made.

Which, obviously …

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Nine days ago, a Liberian-flagged container ship called the Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef, 14 miles offshore from Tauranga Harbor on New Zealand's North Island. In addition to the 2,100 containers aboard, the Rena was carrying 1,700 tons of fuel oil and another 200 tons of diesel fuel. A cracked hull and rough seas have dislodged more than 80 containers and spilled some 300 tons of oil already, fouling Tauranga beaches and reportedly killing some 1,000 birds so far. Salvage teams are racing to offload as much remaining oil as possible while cleanup crews are hard at work, coping with New Zealand's worst environmental disaster in decades. [32 photos]

The Liberian-flagged container ship Rena, stuck aground on a reef off the coast of Tauranga, New Zealand, on October 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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