There is a great loss of human life in Japan due to the earth quake and the Tsunami. One employee of TEPCO (Tokio Electric Power COmpany?) was killed during the earthquake, and several have been injured (perhaps badly) in the oxyhydrogen explosions.
So we discuss perhaps 15000 deaths and a nuclear disaster causing very few casualties (as of now). No question the situation at the nuclear power plants is terrible, but there needs to be some perspective. There is also a risk that those 400000 thousand tsunami refugees are forgotten with all focus on nuclear disaster. Yesterday it was reported that a dozen elderly tsunami refugees have frozen to death due to inadequate housing. The situation is terrible because of the excessive damage to infrastructure.
For those evacuated the situation is terrible, but those 400000 who survived the tsunami have no home any more and may be lost family, relatives or friends. Those who were evacuated due to radiation risks are in a much better situation.
There are manifold dimensions that give a story weight or importance, in all the conceivable ways that can be measured -- screen time, talk time, word count, column inches, number of stories, number of hits. I cannot disagree with the various ways in which you projected morbidity and mortality in situations relating to displaced persons. I think I can only try to analyze the reasons why the nuclear scenario commands so much attention.
The earthquake and tsunami are natural events with catastrophic consequences. But they are by and large unavoidable, and there is little we can do to plan for them in practical terms right now. Except for a few things. Very high up on that list is to install further safeguards on nuclear reactors. Because the disaster at Fukushima could have been prevented and should not have happened. And we see the vulnerability of coastal reactors in the west and grasp implications for us. And we see that we are not just how vulnerable we are to natural disaster, but just how vulnerable we are to terrorist attack as well. [Oyster Creek is 75 miles from New York City.]
By contrast, those of us outside Japan find it difficult to understand the aftermath of the quake/tsunami in individual terms. The scale of the disaster is difficult to grasp. And we feel more or less powerless and ignorant about what needs to be done there, how, and by whom.
The contingencies at Fukushima are more difficult for the average person to grasp. But the degree of difficulty in controlling the situation is not inspiring confidence. And we see disagreements over what really is the worst-case scenario, and without confidence in the ability of those in charge to control the situation, or even to report faithfully about it, we have some reason to imagine the worst. Among the worst things to imagine would be a full meltdown with the nuclear contamination of a part of Honshu, with wind-borne dispersion of radioactive contaminants, attendant contamination of the ground water, and perhaps corruption of the gene pool, along with long-term morbidity and mortality. The half life of nuclear fuel is often measured in hundreds of thousands of years.
Here in the northeast US, hydro-fracking has been sold as a "safe" way to recover natural gas from shale. One cornerstone of selling that proposition had to do with the claim that radioactive contaminants recovered from deep underground and flushed out with the fracking fluid could be treated in such a way that nuclear contaminants would be removed, using standard wastewater treatments. This claim turned out to be false. Existing treatment plants employed were not successful at removing radioactive contaminants, and contaminated water was being put back into the watershed. An EPA report citing contamination was suppressed, and so the practice continued unabated. One of the places where such water was dumped leads into Lake Cayuga, a mile from my house, which feeds in and out of the groundwater used for drinking. Others will recognize the Delaware River. So this constitutes a complete failure of another, but related kind. Confidence is justifiably very low when it comes to energy and public health.