The questions Is Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster "on par" with Chernobyl? and Can a "second Chernobyl" happen at the nuclear reactors damaged by the tsunami in Japan? were closed as too localized.

While accepting that closing questions is vital for this site, I don't understand the rationale.

Nuclear power attracts irrational opposition, so the topic in general is within-scope. The incident has global political impact (it's raised opposition to the export of uranium in Australia, for example), and we'll probably be hearing about Fukushima for years to come, so I don't see how it's "relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation".

  • 1
    Sklivvz's answer is right on, but still - good question.
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 18:31
  • 1
    I've reopened the questions and added disclaimers to some answers, please check those questions and correct any out-of-date information. If we want those kinds of questions to be useful, we have to update them if the answers become obsolete.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 6:44
  • I agree that it isn't localized, but irrational isn't only the opposition to atomic power (sometimes); the hopes in it are often irrational as well (endless power for free). Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


I disagree that these particular questions are "too localized." The Stack Exchange UI is not very good at explaining what this reason means.

"Too localized" should be used for very tiny geographic regions or vanishingly small periods of time. It is used when a question cannot possibly be answered because nobody participating in the site is likely to know the answer, and even if it were answered, nobody else would care.

For me, the canonical "too localized" question would be:

Why is there a green Honda Civic parked out in front of my house?

This is too localized because:

  1. Who cares?
  2. Is it even still there? Go check.
  3. What are the chances that this question could ever be answered in a way that would benefit anyone else?
  4. Now is it there?

I have been dismayed to see knee-jerk closing of questions as "too localized" throughout Stack Exchange simply because they mention a time span or because they mention a geography. I think some people have misunderstood this close reason to mean ... "anything time-bound or location-bound must be closed."

In this particular case the Sklivvz reasonably thought that the questions are too localized in time because they reflect constantly changing knowledge or rapidly changing events.

This would be a valid concern, however, Stack Exchange was specifically designed to adapt well to rapidly-changing events. That's why it has Wiki features. Like Wikipedia, we are not content to wait for the first historians to write the book. We're happy to answer questions in the context of what is true today, knowing that as facts change, the answers can easily be edited or replaced.

  • 2
    It would be great to have a disclaimer banner so such questions can be marked appropriately. The old Fukushima question has two out three answers, including the accepted one, which are wrong. Fabian has been manually adding a disclaimer but we have no way of monitoring such questions and answers.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 7:05
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    @Sklivvz FWIW I believe the current disclaimer banner that you have put in place is great. We should establish this practice. Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 9:24
  • Joel - you bring up a good point. The wiki features are very helpful here. But what about upvotes on answers that may be revealed as totally wrong? I.E. the Earth is flat. Should those answers be completely changed just because they have upvotes? Or should we wait for more correct answers to rise up the ranks?
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 15, 2011 at 16:43
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    @Sklivvz: Is it the job of the moderator to know which answer is wrong for all questions, and close them? Vote faslse answers down, and explain why. Give a better answer. Don't expect every answer here to be correct. Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 23:57
  • @Joel: in the interest of clarity, can you provide a better example of a too time localized question (in the sense that the only problem in the example you give should be the "vanishingly small period of time" and not notability)? The Honda example is too localized for all the reasons at the same time.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 16:11
  • That would be more appropriate to Stack Overflow -- a question about, say, a buggy version of a product that shipped Jan 5th with a bug fix shipping Jan 7th. Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 17:57
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    "What has it got in its pocketses?" :)
    – user1802
    Commented Apr 19, 2011 at 21:53

The problem with the questions is that they are only applicable to today. They are about a changing event, and such questions and answers quickly become outdated:

Will Fukushima become as bad as Chernobyl?
This question is already outdated - today it is irrelevant, if not misguiding: Fukushima's consequences are clearly in the ball-park with Chernobyl.

Has Fukushima become as bad as Chernobyl?
This question is only relevant today and explicitly refers to today's knowledge of the accident. The data presented in the answers is only valid today and it will be wrong/outdated in a week or a month. This is not a matter of performing better experiments. It's a matter of how much radiation has leaked as of 13-04-2011 versus how much radiation will have leaked by 13-05-2011. In a month or a year, the question will read like "Was the claim that Fukushima is level 7 on 13-04-2011 founded?"

In other words: they are both too localized in time because the data is continually evolving. Once the data is stable the questions may be feasible.

See as well analogously too-localized-in-time questions on other SE sites:

Why is asking about future releases considered too localized?

How do we deal with questions about rumors and release dates?

Which console has sold the most units? [closed]

Why close time limited “best book” questions?

  • @Sklivvz: Thanks for the follow-up on Meta. I think my Fukushima question seems to have a lot of qualities analogous to the "Did man walk on the moon" question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1128 -- the latter being a clearly valid question. I think it would help me (and perhaps others) understand the "too localized" restriction if you could illustrate it by highlighting the relevant differences between the moon question and the Fukushima question, for example. Thanks! Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 12:46
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    I don't see the similarity: the Fukushima question is equivalent to asking the moon question during the landing. Your question will be fine once it does not refer to a currently evolving situation.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 13:09
  • +1 Not understanding the downvotes here. This answer makes great sense.
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 18:30
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    Sklivvz's post is a great explanation, and I'm grateful for it. I see his point, but I disagree with the conclusion for the following reasons. A better analogy than "asking the moon question during the landing" might be "asking the question on the return trip from the moon": Not all the facts are in, but the key event is over. I think the Fukushima questions differ from the links in this post, namely: Barring new facts, an answer will be timeless (which is the same for the moon landing). Sklivvz's perspective isn't unfair or wrong, it's just not mine, but I could be convinced! :o) ... Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 20:20
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    ... the real question is whether the chilling effect on closing popular topics is outweighed by the value of closing topical "localized" questions about issues where the issues and facts available are still evolving. This is a difficult question, and we should be grateful for moderators who stick to their gumption for the benefit of the site. Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 20:23
  • @Brian - I will absolutely give you the chilling effect consideration. I hadn't thought of that.
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 21:25
  • @Brian - the general issue of closing time localized questions has been debated fairly extensively on the SE platform (see my examples in the answer for a start). I don't think there's anything new in the "chilling effect" argument. The overall conclusion is that producing content of lasting value vastly outweighs any chilling effect of waiting until the news are not constantly changing.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 21:41
  • The questions you link to are speculation about the future. At least one of the Fukushima questions is about something that's happened - the increasing of the INES scale rating.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 22:19
  • No. The question is "Is the Japan nuclear disaster as dangerous to human health as Chernobyl (both locally and around the world)?", point being that the dangerousness has changed multiple times in the past weeks, and is very likely to change again. So answers here will be quite outdated soon enough. The plants are still leaking, the situation is still developing and it's likely to go on for months.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Apr 13, 2011 at 22:54

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