Fukushima Nuclear Accident – Why I stay in Tokyo

Guest Post by Axel Lieber. Axel is a German national and has been a resident of Tokyo since 1998. He runs a small executive search firm and is married to a Japanese.

[BNC editor's note: This is a personal perspective, not a professional scientific one, but I can verify Axel's facts]

Why I stay in Tokyo

僕が東京にとどまる理由

[This commentary contains footnotes and links that allow you to verify what I am saying.]

Thousands have left Tokyo recently in a panic about the perceived radiation threat. If you ask any one of them to precisely articulate what the threat consists of, they will be unable to do so. This is because they actually don’t know, and because in fact there is no threat justifying departure, at least not from radioactivity (*).They flee because they have somehow heard that there is a threat – from the media, their embassies, their relatives overseas, friends, etc. These sources of information, too, have never supplied a credible explanation for their advisories.

But they have managed to create a mass panic, leading to thousands of people wasting their money on expensive air fares, disrupting their professional lives, their children’s education, and the many other productive activities they were going about. In some cases, foreign executives have abandoned their post in Tokyo, guaranteeing a total loss of respect among those who have stayed behind. Some service providers catering to the foreign community have lost almost their entire income over night. Other providers reversely will lose long-term clientele because they have fled, leaving their remaining customers and clients forced to find new providers. Domestic helpers (especially from the Philippines) have suddenly lost their livelihoods because their “employers” think it’s alright to run away without paying their helpers another penny. Another result of all the hysteria is that attention has been diverted away from the real disaster: the damage done in north-eastern Japan where thousands have died, and many tens of thousands live in dreadful conditions right now, waiting for help.

Contrast this with the fact that radioactivity levels in Tokyo are entirely safe and have been since the beginning of the Fukushima incident (*1a, and *1b for continuous updates). Modern instruments to measure radioactivity are extremely sensitive and precise, and report even the smallest deviations with impressive reliability. Nowhere in the Tokyo area have there been any measurements that would imply any sort ofhealth risk. There certainly have been increases in radioactivity but they are tiny and simply irrelevant to anyone’s health. There is also no fear that there could be some kind of cover-up.

Instruments to measure radioactivity are available at many different research institutions that are not controlled by the Japanese government. The J-gov does also not control the media. They simply have no laws and no means to do so.

[Editor's Note: For a contrast, the background level in London is 0.035 to 0.05 µSv per hour, see the pie chart for an average breakdown by source. Also, see this great chart.]



But what about a worst-case scenario, one that is yet to come? For four days now, I have tried to find a serious source of information – a nuclear safety engineer or a public health expert – who would be able to articulate just what exactly the threat to residents of Tokyo is. It has been difficult because there aren’t many who bother to. I could quote several Japanese experts here but won’t do so to avoid a debate over their credibility (which I personally do not have any particular reason to doubt). The most to-the-point assessment I have found from outside of Japan comes from the UK government’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir John Beddington. In a phone call to the British embassy in Tokyo, he says about the worst-case scenario:

In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500m up into the air. Now, that’s really serious, but it’s serious again for the local area….The problems are within 30 km of the reactor. And to give you a flavour for that, when Chernobyl had a massive fire at the graphite core, material was going up not just 500m but to 30,000 feet (9,144m) . It was lasting not for the odd hour or so but lasted months, and that was putting nuclear radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere for a very long period of time. But even in the case of Chernobyl, the exclusion zone that they had was about 30km. And in that exclusion zone, outside that, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate people had problems from the radiation. The problems with Chernobyl were people were continuing to drink the water, continuing to eat vegetables and so on and that was where the problems came from. That’s not going to be the case here. So what I would really re-emphasise is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20-30km, it’s really not an issue for health.(*2)

It is important to note that Beddington, too, uses language such as “really serious”. Most nuclear safety engineers at this moment would describe the Fukushima incident as “very serious” and as having potentially “catastrophic consequences”. But the important point to note here is that these descriptions of the situation do not translate into public health concerns for Tokyo residents! They apply to the local situation at and around the Fukushima plant alone.

As of the time of writing this note (March 19, 2011, 13:00 JST), the status at Fukushima is still precarious but there are now signs that the situation is stabilizing and may be brought under control in the next few days. (*3)

Tokyo, even at this time of crisis, remains one of the best, safest and coolest large cities in the world to live in. All public services operate normally or almost normally. Many areas of central Tokyo have not had any power outages, and when such occur they are limited to a few hours and certain areas, and are announced well in advance. I have personally not experienced any power outages. Food is available in almost normal quantity and quality. The only food type I have personally seen to be lacking is milk and dairy products, and rice because of panic purchases. Gas (petrol) supply is indeed limited but just yesterday I was able to get a full tank of gas after “only” a fifteen minute wait. Public order and safety in Tokyo remains higher than in any other large city in the world, as it has always been over the past few decades.

To really rub this in: if you live in New York, Shanghai, Berlin, London or Sydney or any other metropolis, you are more exposed to public safety threats such as crime or road accidents than I am at this moment, and in most cases considerably so.

Active and passive smoking, driving a car or motorcycle, getting a chest x-ray, jay-walking, or snowboarding down a snowy mountain are all much more risky activities than simply sitting on a sunny roof terrace in Tokyo.

And sunny it is today, in the capital of the country whose name is literally “Origin of the Sun”.

To obtain level-headed information about the status at Fukushima, avoid CNN and read www.mitnse.com or www.bravenewclimate.com

Footnotes

(*) There is, however, a possibility that there will be further strong earthquakes in the next few weeks, especially in the north-east of Japan, but also in other areas, including Tokyo. This was demonstrated in the recent earthquakes in New Zealand and Chile, where powerful quakes followed the original ones, not necessarily in the same spot either. It would be more rational to stay away from Japan for a few weeks because of this. But again, the risk of being harmed by another earthquake, especially in Tokyo with its superb infrastructure, is not very high. And if you consider this reason enough to stay away, then indeed, you should never live in Japan because we will always face this risk here.

(1a) http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110316D15JFA16.htm

(1b) http://metropolis.co.jp/quake/quake-2011-03/tokyo-atmospheric-radiation-levels/

(2) http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/ferguswalsh/2011/03/japan_nuclear_leak_-_health_risks_2.html

(3) http://mitnse.com/2011/03/18/news-update-318/

The original post can be read here (or here for 日本).

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176 Comments

  1. Great Post Axel, I hope you and yours are not impacted by this event, and its aftermath, any more than you have been.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this for the rest of us.

  2. London’s background figures should be .5 microSv/hr, surely, not milli?

    [Ed: yes, quite, my mistake in forgetting to fix the transcribed character (WordPress automatically turns a micro symbol into a "m" - fixed now, thanks]

  3. And thanks to Barry and all the commentators for this incredible site. It has been a relief for a lay-person to read rational easy to understand advice and opinion. Plus, I am learning a lot.

    I live in Rokkasho, home to a Nuclear Reprocessing Facility and the Japanese office of the ITER BA program. I hope the project continues and I will be able to live here (I am not a scientist, but the lead teacher at the international school that caters to the researchers children). Japan is my home, and I will not abandon it in time of need.

  4. Thank you Axel. This was really needed. A sane perspective from someone living in Japan. I hope it helps to quell the anxieties of those who live in or who have relatives living in Japan.
    I have printed out the two charts you supplied to better illustrate to people what the likely risk may be.

  5. As another lay person, I find that this site has helped me a lot. Basically, I have had to counter people who have been spreading disinformation about the situation at Daichi and yes I get attacked when I use minimal words such as the situation is stable and then the next day there is an explosion – oops.

    This morning it was the news regarding the radioactive levels in food samples. Personally, I would only panic if those levels were held to be very high, but from what I understand that was not necessarily the case.

    Thus to read a report from someone in Tokyo who is not in a panic gives me a lot of assurance about the present situation.

    We can only hope that the technicians will be able to continue their endeavours and that the situation remains relatively stable… which will be a poke in the eye to the anti-nuclear power lobby.

  6. Aussie
    Your query on the miniscule levels showing in milk and spinach has been commented on(with links) in the last thread when the news first appeared.
    To precis:The government spokesperson on NHK said that to get the equivalent dosage of radiation from the milk as you would from a CT scan you would need to drink a normal daily average of milk for 1 year. He said there was no harmful effect on human health. Hope this puts it in perspective for you and those asking you the questions.
    For live news direct from Japan you can go here
    http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/

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  9. Hello Axel,

    Thnx for finally clearing things up here. This story is what I tell my family and friends the whole time but they keep on pushing me to leave Japan. They’re ”affected” if I may say so by the media. But that’s how it goes and always will go. It’s a powerful tool and can have a huge influence on the peoples behavior. Fleeing the country, hamstering food etc.
    Reactor 4 is stabilized and I bet the others will follow soon. Japanese are at their best when things get really tuff!!! Like Craig already have said….I’ll NOT abandon Japan in time of need.

    Greetings from Fukushima-City

  10. NHK-TV is saying that they’re evacuating the electrical workers and the firefighters to do something to relieve pressure in the containment vessel of Reactor 3. I believe the release is directly to the enviroment. Would appreciate confirmation from a second (and third) source.

    –bks

  11. Mr. Perps, in your linked story it says:

    “It adds that more radioactive substances will be released, but that the agency and Tokyo Electric Power Company agreed that this has to be done.”

    Perhaps they changed it between your access and mine?

    –bks

  12. bks
    This from the above article link
    “The release of radioactive steam could also affect work being carried out in other parts of the plant, the agency said.

    However, it said it doesn’t expect the government will have to extend the current evacuation zone around the plant as a result of the development. “

  13. Plus some good news from the same article.

    “Earlier, there were signs that the battle may have turned a corner, with cooling functions at two reactors apparently working again, a development that could ease a nuclear emergency that has gripped the nation for more than a week after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck March 11.
    Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it managed to get temperatures at the waste fuel storage pools at reactors No. 5 and No. 6 close to regular temperatures.

    The beleaguered Japanese utility said the cooling systems for spent-fuel storage pools are up and running again at its No. 6 reactor, enabling the company to operate pumps that will supply seawater to the pools. ”
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704021504576211733745754772.html

  14. Thank you Axel, great post and wonderful attitude.

    I wrote yesterday that the French media are hysterical about the Fukushima events. I am sorry to read that the Japanese are in the same state of mind :-(

    I can understand that fear generates audience which is good for media business, but I can’t believe that the media editors are so cynical. I would rather say that the journalists are like the average citizen: they fear what they don’t understand, and they write what the audience expects from them.

    In any case, this blog is a haven of rational thinking. Thanks again Axel, and hang on: you made the right decision!

  15.  圧力は同日午前1時10分には約2・8気圧だったが、同4時30分には約3・4気圧になった。現在、所内で行われている電源の復旧作業や放水作業などは中断する。
     3号機は13日午前8時41分から蒸気を放出する弁を開けたままで、圧力が再び上昇した理由は不明。この弁が閉じてしまっている可能性があるため、復旧作業員などが退避した後、弁を開ける操作を試みる。
     それでも圧力が下がらなければ、別の弁を開けるが、冷却水を通さずに排気するため、強い放射能を帯びた物質が外部に放出される可能性がある。
    (2011年3月20日13時44分  読売新聞)

    TEPCO released that they will start the operation to release the vapor from the vessel of the unit 4 reactor again because the pressure is rising. The pressure, which was around 2.8 atmospheres at 1:10 am 20th, rose to 3.4 at 4:30am 20th. Therefore all the operations in the site including restoration of electricity supply and water spray will be interrupted.

    Since the bulb of the unit 3 reactor has kept open since 8:41 am 13th, the reason of rising pressure is not clear. However, there being a possibility that the bulb is closed, they will challenge to open it again after evacuation of the workers.

    If this operation will not able to lower the pressure, they will open the other bulb. In the case, there the vapor will be excreted without going through the cooling water, dense radioactive substance will possibly leak into atmosphere .

    13:44 20/3/2011 Yomiuri Shinbun (from Yomiuri Online Japanese edition)
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/feature/20110316-866921/news/20110320-OYT1T00334.htm

  16. Thanks for this article. Panic is disabling and is one of the really bad features of humans.

    EVACUATE DENVER!!!!
    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:
    http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/

    Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.
    http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/factsheets/factsheets-htm/fs10bkvsman.htm

    http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/radiation/around-us/doses-daily-lives.html

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.
    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/bio-effects-radiation.html

    Calculations based on data from NCRP reports show that the average level of natural background radiation (NBR) in Rocky Mountain states is 3.2 times that in Gulf Coast states. However, data from the American Cancer Society show that age-adjusted overall cancer death in Gulf Coast states is actually 1.26 times higher than in Rocky Mountain states. The difference from proportionality is a factor of 4.0. This is a clear negative correlation of NBR with overall cancer death. It is also shown that, comparing 3 Rocky Mountain states and 3 Gulf Coast states, there is a strong negative correlation of estimated lung cancer mortality with natural radon levels (factors of 5.7 to 7.5).
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9753369

  17. Dear Axel,
    Thank you for elaborating the article. Your comment fit to the ones of my colleagues in Japan. I’ve been in between the panic/calm attitudes outside Japan/Japan.
    I’m hoping your decision leads to further success.

  18. Thank you Akira Nakamura. It sounds like they had a valve open continuosly in the suppression torus but for some reasonit is no longer relieving the pressure. I saw the TEPCO press conference but it was very confusing. Perhaps the translator was not good.

    –bks

  19.  東京電力は20日午後、福島第一原子力発電所3号機の原子炉格納容器の圧力が安定したため、格納容器内の蒸気を外部に放出して圧力を下げる操作を当面見合わせることを明らかにした。

     東電は圧力が再び上昇を始めたとして、蒸気を外部に放出することを検討していた。
    (2011年3月20日15時53分  読売新聞)

    TEPCO released that they put off the operation to release the vapor inside the vessel of the unit 3 for a while, because the pressure is stable for the moment.
    As the pressure began to rise, they were considering to release the vapor.

    15:53 20/3/2011 from Yomiuri Online Japanese edition.

  20. You know, as one who was a big pro-nuke power person before all this happened I have to say that the reaction of other pro-nuke folks to all of what has happened of late has not been reassuring.

    I look at this piece, for instance, and while it is perfectly fine in terms of just noting what has in fact happened in Tokyo, I also can’t help but see a subtext to the effect of saying that no, there was never really any danger there. And certainly there’s a helluva open statement that no, there’s not gonna be any real danger in the future given the author’s express title “Why I Stay….”

    And yet of course the author doesn’t say that Tokyo was *never* in any danger in the past, [unsubstantiated personal opinion. Please re-submit with authoratative references]
    And in terms of the future the author might also be seen as being way over-confident by so categorically and unconditionally saying that he’s staying in Tokyo: “Oh really?”, one wants to ask, “no matter what further happens at the plant, and no matter what the wind and rain?”

    Moreover this kind of artificially constrained thinking also seems to me to infect the judgment of lots of the pro-nuke sentiment on this site airily (if not snarkily) dismissing other peoples’ fears about nuke power.

    That is, while I’m still pro-nuke power, there’s not only a [ad hom deleted]but also I think an invalidity to the way much of the argument has been presented here. (Not however by the host of this site or the author of this piece, I should say.)

    That invalidity, it seems to me, stems from a kind of over-emphasis always on just what *has* happened—be it so far at Fukushima, or at TMI, or wherever—as if it’s just absolutely silly and stupid for anyone to have ever pondered just what might have happened, and what might happen yet at another time or place.

    Look over the posts in the other threads and I think you’ll see what I mean: There’s just a constant, studied focus on what “only” has happened so far, and then [ad hom deleted] at what’s *alleged* to be the public’s over-reaction so same.

    Well, I’d say, maybe the public’s reaction isn’t to just what happened, but a not-so-easily dismissible and indeed even reasonable appreciation of what might further happen. After all, who ever told us that what has happened so far at Fukushima was even possible? *Multiple* reactor failures, at the same time and place, serial explosions, and apparently boiled-dry holding tanks? [unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted. Please re-post with autoratative references]Like I say, I’m still pro-nuke power, but there’s an over-confidence I see in lots of the comments here in that direction that miss the mark I think, if not descend into [ad hom deleted]. Much if not all stemming from the conceit that what *has* happened is of course the *only* thing that *could* have happened, and to me it is this that’s foolish.

    There is, for example, a plethora of seemingly sophisticated tech talk on this site on any number of major and minor issues, and that’s fine. But it can give the illusion that everything is quantifiable and thus controllable and bound to have happened as it did, and this I think even the most unsophisticated person tech-wise recognizes as wrong. The precise effects of explosions in those environments, for instance, seem to me to be way way beyond our ability to know. And there was (and still is) plutonium even in one of those reactors. [unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted. Please re-post with autthoratative references]Just because it can’t be quantified doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, and as a pro-nuke person I am not very comfortable if indeed the sophisticated people “on my side” do indeed take the approach that only those things they can measure beforehand with precision are the things within the realm of possibilities.

  21. >bks
    >TEPCO press conference but it was very confusing

    I have the same impression as yours although I’m Japanese living in Tokyo. All people here are calm and working hard to solve the problems, but still confusing, because the all disasters we experienced in the past 1 week was unimaginable.
    As for the valve of the unit 3, the article of Yomiuri says “keeping open since 13th”.

  22. I’m curious to know if the radiation levels reported at these monitoring stations take into account the inhalation of Cesium 137?

    A statement of mine in a earlier post was deleted because it was unsubstantiated. Here is my source:

    “The risk of lung cancer increases once the total dose equivalent of inhaled radiation exceeds 400 mSv.[89] The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk for inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 microns wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average.[90]” [Wikipedia]

    89. Brown, SC; Schonbeck MF, McClure D et al. (July 2004). “Lung cancer and internal lung doses among plutonium workers at the Rocky Flats Plant: a case-control study”. American Journal of Epidemiology (Oxford Journals) 160 (2): 163–172. doi:10.1093/aje/kwh192. PMID 15234938. Retrieved February 15, 2009.

    90. ANL staff (2001). “ANL human health fact sheet—plutonium”. Argonne National Laboratory. Retrieved June 16, 2007.

  23. American
    Surely the idea behind this blog is to give people facts about what is happening and not what “might” happen. Personally I prefer to read about the current situation not what went before or what may come ahead. Opinion on doom and gloom scenarios is surely not productive in a situation where people are seeking re-assurance, which must be based on reality as I believe is the case on BNC. Many folk’s perceptions are coloured by the endless hyped, hysterical stories from the media.BNC provides a sane analysis from authoratative referenced resources.
    Your opinion below:
    “And days and days going slowly by apparently requiring scores and scores of heros if not suicide mission-people volunteering their health if not lives to limit the damage?”
    is hearless and careless. The site moderators must be on a break.

  24. Good article, though I would argue the proven risks of skin cancer compared with the largely spurious evidence for risks from passive smoking mean that sitting on a sunny roof terrace is a more dangerous pastime than a bit of passive smoking.

  25. Mixed messages on the TV tonight. On WIN 60 Minutes reporter Peter Harvey said Australians were hypocrites for exporting uranium while remaining so dependent on coal. Amen to that . Then on SBS Dateline the Japanese reporter visited tsunami victims including a widow who[unsubstantiated personal opinion deleted]

  26. murry: “Nuclear energy is the only form of energy we can get cheap and the costs are spread out to generations of people that have not even yet born.”
    I think you must have confused nuclear with coal/oil.

  27. @Dejan Tesic: Surely you must be kidding. The cost on out future generations are immense if you factor in coal or oil!

    Nuclear is their best alternative -if you can let go of the fear and manage risks-.

  28. This is what we will probably get because of nuclear hysteria in the press. Nuclear power or fossil-fueled climate change – take your pick.

    “NEW YORK — U.S. coal companies are poised to benefit from a move away from nuclear energy because of concerns raised by the severe crisis at reactors in Japan.

    More coal from the Appalachian mountains in the eastern U.S. will be routed to European power plants to replace an electricity shortfall in Germany, which this week issued a three-month ban on operations at seven old nuclear reactors. Germany’s move is part of a broad backlash against nuclear power after last week’s earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, where spent fuel is emitting radiation.”
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704021504576211652537417160.html

  29. @ Ms. Perps

    Surprise, surprise! What is happening now is absolutely ridiculous.

    The Murdoch-media groups are holding hands with the anti-nuclear groups right now, taking us one step closer to a fossil-fuel ensured future.

    When will logical prevail?

  30. That is very encouraging news, also some other encouraging news in scanning Google News headlines, many titles suggesting not to overreact or scare-monger.

    It seems more than a few people are not impressed with how many news organizations have presented the news. An interesting conversation at Slashdot (http://yro.slashdot.org/story/11/03/19/2348234/Japan-Reluctant-To-Disclose-Drone-Footage-of-Fukushima-Plant ) had a link to this blog where someone is documenting some over-the-top scare stories on this nuclear accident:

    http://jpquake.wikispaces.com/Journalist+Wall+of+Shame

    Other less encouraging news is that many articles on Google News seem to proclaim that coal is going to be the big winner in this. If that happens, climate change and the environment and public appear likely then to be the big losers.

  31. @ Ms. Perps, on 20 March 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Very interesting Ms. Perps, I didn’t see your post about coal before posting my smiliar observations on much of the news pushing coal now. It was a case of hive mind or great minds thinking a like perhaps :).

    I hope someone, perhaps Barry or someone who is technically inclined, can post the extra amount of radiation / coal ash, polution, health effects / mortaility, mercury release that will occur due to Germany’s shifting to coal from nuclear for the time being after their nuclear plants shutdown. If people want to coordinate in peicing together that information I’d help.

  32. In response to my post Ms. Perps wrote:

    “Surely the idea behind this blog is to give people facts about what is happening and not what “might” happen.”

    Oh, c’mon, Ms. Perps. If that were the case then we’d never see this article talking about why a guy is *going* to stay in Tokyo. And we’d never see the innumerable comments here telling us how safe nuke power is for the future.

    Nor indeed would we see many if not most of the innumerable comments here talking about how past accidents were overblown since of course they have nothing to do with what “is happening” at Fukushima, and are only being cited so as to argue about the *future* safeness of nuke power.

    You’re simply trying to define the permissible subject matter here so as to allow positive nuke-power comments while banning the negative. And as I said, even as a pro-nuke power guy I find that troubling.

    As to your viewing my comment about the brave men and perhaps women working at the plant, I don’t know how but you simply must have read that comment wrong to find it either heartless or careless. Indeed, because the entire thrust of my comment was directed at what dire things *might* have been avoided, I believe we should be even more appreciative of what those workers may well have accomplished, not to mention what they are still doing.

  33. Now, one week after the accident, we have a fair amount of measurements not only radiation levels, but also concentrations.

    It proves -this is not a suprise- that some radioactive iodine and cesium have been released, but also gives quantitative info about how much has been released. As a layman, I can do nothing with these infos (not completely nothing – they show there is nothing to be scared of as today), but I suppose experts can roughly deduce what mass of cesium or iodine was released.

    Now there is an obvious question : these isotopes can have been released :

    * by the controlled vapour releases which were necessary to lower pressures ;
    * following chemical reactions in the spent fuel ponds ;
    * through leaks in one or several core confinements.

    Is it possible for an amrchair expert to get an idea of which of these hypotheses is relevant ? As we are on an “optimistic” blog, I suppose the answer I shall get will be the first (“everything is under control” )- but let’s try, can somebody assert this with some argumentation, or am I asking this question too early ?

  34. I really enjoy reading this blog, probably the best source of reliable info on what is going in Fukushima NPS. However the way that some comments on this forum are censored (by removing fragments of sentences or even single “offending” words) brings to me bad memories of time I spent as a child in a communist country. I remember reading articles in some more courageous (not self-censoring) newspapers, which looked similar to what I see in some comments here. This is ridiculous. What are you so afraid of? Of someones opinion? There are so many people here to find and correct any inaccuracy that is shouldn’t be necessary at all. Come on.
    MODERATOR
    Please read Commenting Rules before posting to avoid editing of your comment.

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  36. I have also enjoyed reading this blog (thank you) but the censorship is really not good – I think there is a danger of alienating people and making them suspicious (this also applies to some of the condescending comments) .

    You have an opportunity here to educate and inform people on a very important subject. I think diplomacy is important, especially when it come to discussing controversial subjects such as nuclear energy, if you want people to listen without prejudice.

  37. Re: in the “just what exactly the threat to residents of Tokyo is” department.

    The threat to Tokyo is credible, if the situation were to turn for the worse, if the consequences of the worst possible event were only somewhat greater than what computer simulation has calculated.

    It should be emphasized that the situation does not appear to be headed for the worse outcome as of now. However we should not deny that there was a credible threat. There is nothing in the literature that can rule it out, and the most definitive study rules it in.

    I first decided to run this down after hearing that the NYTimes had published this article .http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18spent.html?pagewanted=1&ref=asia which cites NRC chair Jaczko expressing “grave concern about the radiation that would be released as a result”, of a loss of pool coolant event.

    The question is, what does “grave concern” mean? Jaczko is a political appointee, the NRC had blown it during the TMI incident when it came to knowing what was actually going on, the Japanese denied the NRC fully understood the situation on the ground, there is a question as to what the NRC was concerned about, etc.

    The definitive study which describes what happens in a loss of pool coolant event is NRC “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report” dated 2006. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11263#toc It reviewed all available data. Read the chapter entitled “Spent Fuel Pool Storage”. http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11263&page=38

    The chapter describes in detail what could happen in a loss of coolant event. That is, if they are unable to keep water in the pools.

    The NRC at the time of the Jaczko statement and the NYTimes article were saying one pool didn’t have any water in it. They appear to have been completely wrong.

    If water cannot be maintained in a pool or pools, it:

    ” would lead to the rapid heat-up of spent fuel in a dense-packed pool to temperatures at which the zirconium alloy cladding would catch fire and release many of the fuel’s fission products, particularly cesium-137″.

    The consequences were described by the NRC as possibly being “worse than Chernobyl”

    That is, a threat of this size was described:

    “tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths, loss of tens of thousands of square kilometers of land, and economic losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars”

    No one has ever filled a pool with spent rods then drained the water and left it as the definitive experiment. Computer simulation was done by the US national labs. Because what is involved is interactions calculated by using the known properties of the materials involved it sounds far more precise than a climate model. The result of the computer simulations is what led to the description above. The report stated

    “large scale offsite releases of radioactive constituents would not occur, unless” there was a “propagating zirconium cladding fire”. “Such fires would create thermal plumes that could potentially transport radioactive aerosols hundreds of miles downwind under appropriate atmospheric conditions”

    Tokyo is just over 500 miles from Fukushima.

    Its a bit close for comfort, and a bit close to be saying there is no credible threat. If a loss of pool coolant event had been tested at full scale and left to run to full consequence we could all point to that. All we have is computer simulation.

    Some of the report was classified because the NRC did not want to tip what it knew to terrorists who might want to create such a problem.

    Discussion of how certain anyone should take the computer simulations from the national labs resulted in this statement in the unclassified version of the report: “the committee provides a discussion of the… analysis in its classified report. The committee judges that some of their release estimates should not be dismissed”

    I wrote something with a bit more detail posted here: http://theenergycollective.com/david-lewis/53872/nrc-description-loss-pool-coolant-event

    I accept that it is not very credible to believe the cores can find their way out of the containments surrounding the reactors. But these spent fuel pools are not in containments.

    The NRC thought the greatest threat to a pool was a seismic incident. This report does not mention tsunami. “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission considered such an accident to be so unlikely that no specific action was warranted, despite changes in reactor operations that have resulted in increased fuel burn-ups and fuel storage operations that have resulted in more densely packed spent fuel pools”.

    Well, there is a threat of such an incident now, and it should not be said to be panic mongering to discuss it calmly.

    Its like when a big fire threatened a town in the province of Canada where I once lived. We can describe the fire as having been stopped outside the town, but it is still there, and there are credible scenarios where it still could threaten the town. The firefighters in that situation stood firm and risked their lives and saved the town. The order was not given to abandon the town because it never became necessary. The fire chief never told the town that they had absolutely nothing to fear at any time.

    People should put their faith in the authorities, and the authorities should direct this event to be headed off at all costs. People should be told about what facts are known.

  38. To echo what most of the comments have said: This site is a blessing. Compared to the feverish panic and fear-mongering I’ve seen on TV and even on the web, here is honest, factual updates and discussions about this crisis.

    Axel, thank you for this update, and I’m glad that you’re safe (after the quake). It is good to hear a clear, calm voice such as yours.

  39. David Lewis

    I agree with you that the potential threat was unclear especially Tuesday and Wednesday, when the status of the spent fuel ponds was completely unknown. I was even concerned what would happen when they started pouring water onto what may have been very hot fuel rods. I actually made sure a friend’s daughter had left the area, as she was only 60 km away. I have read various reports with widely different assessments of that problem. Now that they have started to add water, I can say as an empirical fact, not that big a problem, since there hasn’t been no huge release of radioactivity. The mere fact that people are still alive at the site and have had no acute radiation sickness is the most direct evidence with no knowledge of actual radiation levels. They are the best “radiation detectors”, which no one can hide of fake. I have become much more optimistic, about the immediate danger over the last few days. The long term consequences will have to be carefully evaluated, with much evidence and debate.

  40. The report and analysis on NHK said that if they have to vent from unit #3 to relieve pressure, they may not be able to route it through the pressure suppression pool (the big torus under the containment vessel). It’s preferable to vent into the pressure suppression pool because that filters out a lot of the radionuclides. But if the pool is full of water, they might have to vent directly. Hopefully they can stabilize the pressure and the venting won’t be necessary.

    As far as we know, there is possible damage to the containment of unit #2. Hopefully this is confined to the pressure suppression pool. As far as we know, the containment is intact around the other reactors.

    Coal is already benefitting, that’s just wonderful. (note: sarcasm)

    It’s my impression that anti-nuke activists are, for the most part, concerned with the threat of nuclear weapons (aren’t we all?), and sadly they attack nuclear energy as well. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The knowledge that we can get energy from atoms is out of the bottle.

    Generation IV reactors

  41. David Lewis, on 21 March 2011 at 1:59 AM said:

    >>tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths, >>loss of tens of thousands of square kilometers >>of land, and economic losses in the hundreds of >>billions of dollars”

    And the very next sentence in the same study

    The excess cancer estimates were revised downward to between 2000 and 6000 cancer deaths in a subsequent paper (Beyea et at., 2004)that more accurately accounted for average population densities around U.S. power plants.

    The whole study assumes the existence of a local population that doesn’t evacuate, in Chernobyl the evacuation order for a 10km radius didn’t occur for 36 hours. The 30km evacuation didn’t occur for 5 days.

  42. Seamus, hope is a good companion but aa poor guide. I like to see hard data. The USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has been in the area for a week. I have seen no reassuring data from the Pentagon,in fact I’ve seen no data from them. But I did see this:

    “Navy Region Northwest spokesman Sean Hughes says 233 family members, including 190 children, arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Saturday after a 10-hour flight from Yokota Air Base. They’re the first of what is expected to be thousands of military personnel and their families arriving at Sea-Tac over the next week or so. Hughes says USO workers are helping process the arrivals and assisting the family members in getting food, housing, transportation and loans if necessary”

    http://masoncountydailynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2924:regional-news-for-32011&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=106

    –bks

  43. bks, I hear you, but no one has any hard facts about the damage at #2 right now. Yokota Air Base is 240km from Fukushima Daiichi. Hope (and rationality) is far better than hysteria.

  44. Sorry, my mistake, it looks like the distance from Tokyo to Fukushima as the crow flies is 140 miles or so.

    The threat to Tokyo is credible given what is predicted by computer simulation, not just if the computer simulations underestimate things. It looks very unlikely right now, but if you dismiss it as overblown or nonexistent you appear to be not in touch with reality.

    @harrywr2

    The fact that the cancer death number was revised downwards says nothing about the “loss of tens of thousands of square kilometers of land”, which was not stated to have been revised downwards.

    All we have on that point is that after discussion which remains classified, the NRC published that “some” of the release estimates cannot be dismissed.

    [deleted personal opinion presented as fact.Re-submit with references]

    What I’m saying is that when the media reports the chair of the NRC saying he has “grave concerns” that the Japanese are not explicitly explaining to their people, what facts that are known should be laid out on the table.

    I think it is wrong to say instead that there is no credible threat. People want to know what the authorities are thinking.

  45. Obviously, the Chernobyl experience is a reference point. when trying to interpret this NRC report on a loos of pool coolant event. They’ve stated that there is potential for “worse” than that event, so we have to take that into consideration as well.

    That said, it appears that Chernobyl was blown out of proportion in a major way. People who have been blowing that event out of proportion should consider if they have any responsibility for fomenting any panic that has happened here so far or will happen.

    The problem is if enough radioactive heavy metal with a medium half life, like cesium contaminates large areas.

    The authorities are reporting what looks like a situation that will prevent that.

  46. > a clear negative correlation of NBR with
    > overall cancer death.

    That’s a classic example of misusing statistics. You need to adjust for all the other known factors affecting cancer rates, and that’s why there’s no simple one-sentence answer to the question.

  47. bks

    I don’t think whether people are leaving Japan provides any indication of how serious the situation is. I remember when Toronto had the SARS scare. People avoided the city like the plague. This is when they were tracking ever single case and could track who gave it to them. Some nurses and doctors died. A few cases occurred outside the hospitals, but were tracked back to the hospitals. Everyone they contacted were quarintined for ten days. The health officials made some mistakes that maybe led to 10 more deaths. I think there were about 30-40 all told. I remember travelling through the city by bus during this time and having to wait around at the bus station. It was only after I got home that I remembered that SARS was still going. Could not tell by how people in the city were reacting. Nevertheless, dozens of conferences and other events were cancelled because people would not come to Toronto.

  48. William, no argument, but I don’t think you can spin it as a good sign. It’s like TEPCO’s attempt to turn on the lights in unit 2. That is, literally turn on the lights, not fix the reactor. They’ve missed Fri, Sat & Sun deadlines. You can’t read too much into that, but it’s not a good sign. Shouldn’t there be periodic measurements from fixed locations at the 20 km perimeter by now? I’m sure they exist, yet no one seems to have the data.

    –bks

  49. bks

    I’m not saying it is a good or bad sign, I just think you have to evaluate it given the information and the uncertainties in that information. If you look back at my posts, you will find me critcal of overly optimistic or pessimistic statements, as I see them. Right now things are getting better and certainly no worse. Information is less uncertain and the facts on the ground should allay the worse fears. No massive release of radioactivity and the measures they are taking seem to be working. Can’t say it won’t deteriorate, but seems less and less likely.

  50. The CTBTO Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization detailed data on the spectrum of radionuclides and their levels in air in and around Japan and the Asia Pacific region is being transmitted to its member states each day, according to Nature.

    This data suggests that a large meltdown has yet to occur as of the March 17 date of the Nature story.

    The key is no meaningful zirconium.

    The research director of Swedish Defence Research Institute has complete access to CTBTO data and he says this:

    ” the data sit well, he says, with a scenario wherein the main release of radioactivity has come from the release of excess pressure in the containment vessels of affected reactors, and the subsequent explosion of the evacuated hydrogen-laden steam within the reactor buildings. The radioactive plume will spread around the hemisphere within weeks, he predicts, but the levels of radioactivity outside Japan will not be dangerous. The levels in Japan itself, outside the immediate vicinity of the Fukushima power plant, “wouldn’t scare me”, he adds.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110317/full/news.2011.168.html

  51. @David Lewis,
    “loss of tens of thousands of square kilometers of land”

    Assuming the following

    1)100 percent of the fuel cladding burns and becomes airborne
    2) The plant operator chooses to utilize high density pool racks in the cooling pools and store recently removed fuel in the same pool as older fuel rather then moving used fuel assemblies to dry cask storage or a secondary pool after 5 years.

    2/3rds of the Fuel at Fukushima is either in a secondary cooling pool or dry cask storage.

  52. harrywr2,

    Last week when information and the uncertainties in what the effects of a worse case would be, I was very concerned. I couldn’t discount even the long term storage pool boiling dry, since there was no information about it. The information about the effects of this happening varied widely. Even a few tenths of a per cent of the radioactive material in these rods getting out would have been catastrophic locally and depending on wind patterns and downwind precipitation large amounts could have been deposited in other areas. That is when I made sure a friend’s daughter who lived within 60 km of the site had left. Her parents had already persuaded her. Now we can say that is and probably was always unlikely. At the time with the information available and my knowledge I couldn’t discount it. I have even read since how hard it is to disperse radioactive material. In the early 60′s they actually blew up test reactors to see what would happen. In the 70′s they put half a million Curies of radioactive Iodide into vessels and blew them up to see where it would go. Most stayed in solution or reacted locally with paint and everything else around and didn’t go far. Besides being astounded that they did these experiments, they showed how hard it was to disperse radioactive material, much harder than any of their models showed. I’ve posted the link before in another thread, but here it is again.

    http://radscihealth.org/rsh/realism/RealismApp1a-attch.pdf

  53. American:

    Much if not all stemming from the conceit that what *has* happened is of course the *only* thing that *could* have happened, and to me it is this that’s foolish.

    Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you think this is a problem to point out what you think could have happened instead of just complaining about other people not doing so? To me the disaster is a very good demonstration of a broad range mistakes that have been made and will never be made again. I think an example is that they didn’t seem to have a pre-determined plan for what to do if the cooling systems were knocked out and generally the prime importance of reliability of cooling wasn’t recognized. I’m also astounded that grid power was not available when it came back on-line. Maybe they never planned to be able to use it. It wouldn’t have cost very much at all to make a far more reliable system.

    As for Tokyo, even if there was a Chernobyl explosion at Fukushima (which seems pretty unlikely since the Chernobyl reactor was driven to an enormous power level which caused a steam explosion), the radioactive material reaching Tokyo would not reach a dangerous level, as Axel pointed out. But if you want to point out how it could have turned out like or worse than Chernobyl then go ahead.

  54. Thanks David for the link to the 2006 NRC “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage” report.

    In that report I found this:
    “Current U.S. regulations require that spent fuel be stored in the power plant’s fuel pool for at least one year after its discharge from the reactor before being moved to dry storage.”

    From the graph on page 19, it appears fuel rods in the pool for just 10 days will cool to nearly the same power level as rods kept there for a full year. Fuel in the pool after 10 days produce about 100,000 W/MTU (watts per metric ton of uranium). After one year that’s down to about 70,000 W/MTU, which is considered safe for dry storage.

    It appears (and I’m making assumptions) that only risk of cladding burnup is fuel that had been removed from the reactor core and placed in the pool within about 10 days of the earthquake. Any older than that and it looks pretty safe in a dry storage situation. And now nine days have passed since the earthquake so cladding burnup appears to be out of the question.

    I’m making assumptions here so please correct me if this is wrong.

  55. Pingback: Massive quake/tsunami in Japan - Page 15 - MBWorld.org Forums

  56. @harrywr2 nothing is certain.

    The NRC report states that authors of a report they took as authoritative:

    “estimated that between 10 and 100 percent of the cesium-137 could be mobilized in the plume from the burning spent fuel pool”

    the details are classified. The classified discussion was reported in the public report as saying that after much debate “some” of what these authors say could not be dismissed, and then the public section clearly stated the possible consequences as stated in my above comment, i.e. the tens of thousands of square kilometers of land lost, the hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, depending. The cancers would depend how many people were affected for how long, as they are mobile and can avoid the area. The area can’t avoid the area, its either a place you can continue to use or it isn’t.

    The threat of catastrophe here has many wondering about something civilization has been doing.

    No matter what happens here, if its about the same as TIMI or worse than Chernobyl, it is a trivial incident compared to climate change.

    The President of the NAS is on record stating Dr. Hansen is the best living climatologist. Note how people want information from the best specialists in radiation at this time. The right wing think tanks are strangely silent when it comes to telling us all that all nuclear science is junk science, all of what scientists studying radiation have discovered is junk. That’s because science is not junk.

    The best climatologist says there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere already, and given the inertia of the system putting that gas there, and the potential positive feedbacks in the system that are clearly shown by examining historic paleoclimate records as opposed to computer projection, the risk is as of now that we have already committed the planet to the loss of its ice. This eliminates much of Florida incidentally, talking about loss of land. The planet will not resemble the one we evolved on. The effort to avert dangerous climate change has apparently failed, and we now only have a chance to avert extremely dangerous climate change. Wholesale global climate change will increase international tension. etc. etc. etc.

    I speak frankly about this risk, just as I speak frankly about the risk presented by Fukushima.

    We never have to face another Fukushima, all that would have to be done is to protect installations subject to tsunami better. It seems trivial. Try to do something about climate change. All the talk has led to zero significant action so far. The hour is getting late.

  57. I have been looking at fallout of this incident on MEXT website (www.mext.go.jp/english/radioactivity_level/detail/1303962.htm)
    What is striking, is the numbers are so low. Some comparison with Chernobil accident:
    - about 40 % of Europe received 4000 Bq/m2 CS-137
    - The city of Munich (germany) received 19000 Bq/m2
    - Parts of Germany, Sweden, Austria receive 40000 Bq/m2
    - Japan (Akita) received 414 Bq/m2 CS-137
    (http://www.davistownmuseum.org/cbm/Rad7b2.html#Japan)

  58. @Jeff Bullard I think you might be misreading the chart. Its hard to interpolate on the log scale, but I estimate that is says that at 10 days the total decay heat is about 2 million watts per metric ton U, and at 1 year the decay heat is down to 20-30,000 W/MTU.

  59. One other point on the guest post is that the average radiation exposure for human beings has changed since the pie chart shown in the post was created. In the US, Congress created the NCRP, the National Council for Radiation Protection, with the mandate to collect, assess, and provide information about radiation and its effects. see their website http://www.ncrponline.org/

    What has changed in the average exposure of Americans is the dramatic increase in medical imaging. Our exposure, on average has increased some 60% since the 1980s. The relatively tiny slice of the pie shown in the guest post chart is now equal to all other slices combined, i.e. medical imaging is now more than 50% of all radiation, on average, Americans are exposed to.

    Because about 1/3 of medical imaging, according to certain studies featured on the NCRP site, is bogus from a medical standpoint, i.e. it is “defensive” in that doctors order tests to defend themselves against their patient’s lawyers.

    Almost 100 millirem/yr average exposure comes from doctors defending themselves from our lawyers. When the dust settles compare to what people get exposed to at the plant boundary. Then listen to the radiation zealots tell us why we have to abandon nuclear power and note they will not say one word about lawyers or medical imaging.

  60. Apropos of my previous post Chris O’Neill wrote:

    “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you think this is a problem to point out what you think could have happened instead of just complaining about other people not doing so?

    Hi Chris:

    Boy, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a damn good question, and, at first blush, perhaps even a total deflation of what I wrote before.

    However, I *tried* to talk about the “might have beens” despite my lay ignorance when I noted what seems to me the unpredictability of the effects of those explosions—esp. around that reactor with the plutonium in it. And even despite my lay ignorance I’ll note that nobody here that I have seen has said that the potential for this having been bad was non-existent, not to mention no-one here having cited any reasons why it was an utterly non-existent or vanishing possibility.

    So….

    Nevertheless, I’ll admit that I’m not anywhere qualified to speak on all of what could have happened and so I’ll acknowledge that.

    But even accepting this, Chris, I still don’t think it is any deflation because the mere fact that *I* can’t speak with any authority on what might have happened doesn’t mean others who can also should not, right?

    Moreover as we have seen the indisputable experts in the field who designed and ran and oversaw this plant clearly accepted the idea that a whole range of worse things could have happened: That’s why, for instance, the government has evacuation plans extending for even further out than they have presently put into place. Indeed that’s presumably why they are fighting this problem like hell: Because they know that if they don’t fight things can get worse.

    While I appreciate your question then, and acknowledge my own shortcomings in answering it, it does seem to me that when we see knowledgeable people talking about something such as this it’s not very reassuring to see them studiously ignoring the idea that worse, really really bad unexpected things can occur. And even less reassuring to see them look down upon laypeople’s fears that something much worse than what is being seen is possible, on the mere and fragile ground that, so far at least, that something much worse has not ever happened.

    Again, who ever contemplated that all of the cascade of what *has* happened would? And yet, once again, too much of what I see here seems to be believing that no, whatever else it simply could not have been worse.

    Well, I guess I’d say, that general proposition doesn’t accord with my experience with things, nor I don’t believe the general public’s either. Things, people seem to believe, can damn near *always* get worse, just as things at this plant seemed for a long time (and until only recently it seems) just appeared to go from bad, to worse, and then worse yet.

    In short, if this event has taught *anything,* it’s that oh hell yeah things can damn near always get worse. And yet this can seem to be the precise opposite lesson from what many of the commentators here are effectively saying in what I at least perceive to be a pretty perfect example of Panglossianism.

  61. @nkinnear

    The chart is difficult to read, but I assumed the horizontal origin is at t = 0 days and the first hash mark is at t =10 days. You are probably right, based on other reports I’ve read about decay heat.

  62. American, thinking about what might have happened in the past (but did not happen) is like: “Gee, there was a major car accident on the road I use to go to work every day. I might have been there at that time. I was lucky.” This is just playing with your fears. It is a way of managing your emotions. Pointless from all practical aspects.

    Please let us focus on real life: what did really happen, and what might happen in the near future.

  63. @Jeff B – I looked again, and its hard to tell whether 10 days is the firstt or 2nd data point. Thinking about it more, its more likely the second, putting it at about 100K W/MTU,as you said.

    From the same report, a few pages earlier:

    “At discharge from the reactor, a spent fuel assembly generates on the order of tens of kilowatts of heat. Decay-heat production diminishes as very short-lived radionuclides decay away, dropping heat generation by a factor of 100 during the first year; dropping by another factor of 5 between year one and year five; and dropping about 40 percent between year five and year ten ”

    Most studies that I have seen indicate that dry storage of fuel begins at about 5 years decay.

  64. @David Lewis:

    I’m surprised it has taken everyone so long to trundle out that 2006 NRC report, which continues to be a kind of white elephant for both sides of the nuclear power debate.

    The blind spot in your argument, however, as I read it, resides in your reluctance to provide much of a baseline beyond simply uttering the word “Chernobyl” and then relying on its iconicity for the anti-nuke crowd.

    Your bolding of the text “worse than Chernobyl” is kind of a “nuff said” moment for me, with respect to characterizing what appears to be your worldview. The fact that you then offer us a somewhat facile “that is” and go on to mention tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths and the like — this demonstrates that worldview even further.

    But please, give us a break. The Japanese grasp, better than anyone, the most iconic demonstrandum of the destructive potential of atomic energy, for we Americans unleashed it on them. I doubt that anyone in here attempting to defend the use of civilian nuclear power has tried to deny the potential for catastrophe latent in every fission.

    All that has been argued, in my view, is that the mythical Chernobyl scenario you seem to be “promoting,” in some odd way, was not in this case the likely outcome, as indeed it is usually not the case in the vast majority of scenarios involving “western”-style reactors (i.e., water-moderated with containment structure — which is why the “fuel pool” disaster scenario has always had an appeal in anti-nuke arguments, precisely because it produces Chernobyl-esque results; go and read how this scenario has been used by anti-nuke organizations lo these many years).

    Meanwhile, those of us who have a positive view of nuclear power might humbly note (while acknowledging its risks) that even Chernobyl was not as bad as other industrial disasters that have failed to occasion commensurate panic. (Bhopal is an obvious point of comparison.) The heavily vetted Chernobyl Forum report predicts that 4,000 excess cancer deaths will result among the 600,000 people most heavily exposed. Though tragic, that is a statistically insignificant number in the context of the “natural” cancer deaths that can be expected among this population (probably 100,000).

    Similarly, rather than becoming a dead zone, studies have shown that Chernobyl and its environs are in fact thriving, with almost no discernible impact on flora and fauna EXCEPT their apparent improvement in the absence of a human population.

    That is the scientifically supported view, while your view comes from the Goffmans and Caldicotts of the world, who have claimed that the excess cancer deaths from Chernobyl would someday reach half a million.

    Again, I am suggesting that the pro-nuke argument that has been raging in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy is not one of boosterism or denial. Almost every credible pro-nuke comment I have read has acknowledged the seriousness of the Japan nuke crisis. However, that assessment has consistently been couched in a call for proportion and appreciation of relative risk, given the obvious and more pressing concerns confronting the vast majority of Japanese living outside the Fukushima evacuation radius.

  65. Another good report about decay heat in a dry spent fuel pool:
    http://www.princeton.edu/sgs/publications/sgs/pdf/11_1Alvarez.pdf

    In the case of loss of water in the pool, the important factors appear to be the layout of the lauyout of fuel assemblies within the pool (open rack vs closed rack) the density of the fuel rods, and the age of the spent fuel.

    “With open frame storage and a spacing between fuel assemblies of 53 cm, convective air cooling in a well ventilated spent fuel storage building could maintain spent fuel placed into the spent-fuel pool safely below its cladding failure temperature as soon as 5 days after reactor shutdown.”

    I’d love to know what type of racks are used at the Fukushima plants and the age of the newest assemblies in the pools, if anyone has that information.

  66. re post by: David Lewis, on 21 March 2011 at 3:16 AM said:

    The threat to Tokyo is credible given what is predicted by computer simulation, not just if the computer simulations underestimate things. It looks very unlikely right now, but if you dismiss it as overblown or nonexistent you appear to be not in touch with reality.

    Actually, David, you might look out of touch only to those who have skimmed some of the information available out there, but without understanding just what is involved in those calculations and what some of the wording means – particularly in real world terms.

    I haven’t tracked down and read all of the research referenced in the paper you linked to, but I can tell you, knowing how these calculations are typically done, that they will have assumed a number of things for “worst case results” that just don’t translate into reality.

    Things such as no one is evacuated. Everyone stands outside 24/7, 365 days a year, for the rest of their lives. They eat ONLY the heaviest contaminated foods and drink only the heaviest contaminated water and/or milk, for the rest of their lives. They even skew the likely diet to contain far far more of the foods that accumulate radioactive elements at the highest levels/rates than anyone actually would consume of those foods – e.g., diets are almost always far more varied and include a lot of foods that don’t concentrate environmental radiation like that. Same for infant exposures. That’s how the ‘worst case credible exposures’ to the population are calculated.

    Then you also use the worst possible (e.g., the most) hypothetical number of cancer cases that could result – e.g., using the very lowest exposure that might cause cancer as if it were KNOWN to cause cancer for sure. Realistically it almost certainly takes higher doses to get the numbers of cancer cases estimated in any calculated projections of this nature.

    Then you also have to keep in mind that they’ll assume the population will have the maximum possible uptake of radioactive iodine – no potassium iodide taken, and low levels of iodine in the person to begin with so their bodies seek out iodine more than average. Thyroid cancers will be a significant proportion of the hypothetical ‘resulting cancer’ cases. I wouldn’t wish thyroid cancer on anyone, BUT, it is highly treatable and survivable, far more so than typical cancers and without the body wide side effects of treatment that you get with most other cancers. Remember we actually TREAT common thyroid problems (e.g., hyperthyroidism) by dosing the person with high levels of radioactive iodine! Meanwhile, it is likely that the paper’s estimated total cancer deaths assumed NO treatment for any induced cancers – that any cancer caused is a death.

    When they revised the hypothetical number of cancers down, all of these factors almost certainly were still used – they just adjusted the average population density from what’s said.

    So – how real world or realistic are those calculations? They are almost certainly a gross gross overestimate of any real world risk. Real world, people are evacuated – even with Chernobyl, the evac was far too delayed but still occurred after only a few days, when the calculations almost certainly used NO evac, and the people then lived the rest of their lives right there. So – how credible are those calculations to a situation where there are already evacuations of those nearest the plant, those evacuations were actually very early in the problem, and Tokyo is 150 miles away?

    Next you say:

    …says nothing about the “loss of tens of thousands of square kilometers of land”, which was not stated to have been revised downwards.

    That’s not correct actually. The report says: “…the commentators challenged…. the assumptions used to calculate the offsite consequences of such an event, and ….The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff provided… a further critique of the Alvarez et al. (2003a) analysis… that asserted that NUREG-1738 did not provide a realistic analysis of consequences.”

    Then you say:

    the NRC published that “some” of the release estimates cannot be dismissed. So it could be that, according to computer simulation, a few tens of thousands of square kilometers of land more or less could be rendered into an exclusion zone where no one could live, again, according to this most definitive report.

    Actually that isn’t a reasonable reading of what was said in the report, taken in context. There has clearly been extensive rebuttal to the “worst case” estimates from that paper, from the NRC and other top experts all stating that the consequences were overblown. The statement that “some release estimates can’t be excluded” means that they excluded the WORST ones. And that’s just the release estimates – so they not only are saying that the worst release estimates were overblown in that paper, but also that the assumptions used to calculate the effect on people and environment were overblown. In other words, while this particular report doesn’t provide a numerical estimate of credible long term exclusion zone size, it pretty clearly indicates that the tens of thousand of km is too large (and likely far too large from the context and comments).

    Finally you say:

    What I’m saying is that when the media reports the chair of the NRC saying he has “grave concerns” that the Japanese are not explicitly explaining to their people, what facts that are known should be laid out on the table.

    I think it is wrong to say instead that there is no credible threat. People want to know what the authorities are thinking.

    Of COURSE what facts are known ought to be laid out on the table. At this point, however, there is zero evidence that anything substantiative has been withheld or that the NRC Chair had a sound basis for his wording. For that matter, it is increasingly appearing that he was incorrect regarding the condition of the Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool, etc.

    Regardless, implying that his ‘grave concern’ statement had anything to do with possible health effects as far away as Tokyo is making an assumption that may be quite unwarranted. It’s impossible to know exactly what he meant, but it seems far more likely from the context that he was primarily referring to the possible effect wrt ability of current onsite workers to deal with the possible rad levels, and local effects rather than long term long distance situations.

    In other words, you appear to be reading a LOT into that one highly contested report that almost certainly isn’t justified.

  67. @nkinnear & JeffB
    A very confusing graph…. “Note that the horizontal axis is a data series, not a scale.” ……Not sure what all of the intermediate points are if x axis is a data series. But I agree it seems to be saying ~100k after 10 days down by a factor of ~20 from day 0

    FIGURE 1.2 Decay-heat power for spent fuel (measured in watts per metric ion of uranium) plotted on a logarithmic scale as a function of time after reactor discharge. Note that the horizontal axis is a data series, not a scale. SOURCE: Based on data from USNRC (1984).

    Ernie

  68. François Manchon wrote:

    “Please let us focus on real life: what did really happen, and what might happen in the near future.”

    Well, other than wondering why you are concerned with the “near” future only, François, I don’t disagree with you at all. … So long as there’s no pretending that what has happened in the past is the limit of what might happen in the future, that is.

  69. Ms. Perps, on 20 March 2011 at 9:51 PM quoting WSJ

    “NEW YORK — U.S. coal companies are poised to benefit from a move away from nuclear energy because of concerns raised by the severe crisis at reactors in Japan.

    More coal from the Appalachian mountains in the eastern U.S. will be routed to European power plants to replace an electricity shortfall in Germany, which this week issued a three-month ban on operations at seven old nuclear reactors. Germany’s move is part of a broad backlash against nuclear power after last week’s earthquake and tsunami crippled Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility, where spent fuel is emitting radiation.”

    I’d think Germany is much more likely to build new Russian gas fired power plants than coal fired.

    But what ever fossil fuel generators they do build, it’s quite likely they won’t be built in Germany, but in Poland, Czechoslovakia etc, from which they can import the electricity. Thus allowing them to claim lower carbon emissions.

    It could also increase it’s imports of electricity from France:

  70. Jeff Bullard,

    Here is information from an earlier post.

    Red_Blue, on 18 March 2011 at 10:34 AM said:
    There is now some interesting additional information available:

    Reactor 1 has last refueled 357 days ago (I believe that’s the day of last criticality of the hottest fuel in the SFP)
    Reactor 2 has last refueled 182 days ago
    Reactor 3 has last refueled 268 days ago (34 MOX assemblies then added)
    Reactor 4 was last refueled 107 days ago (entire core in the pool)

  71. Chernobyl is not some great haven for wildlife. In fact, biodiversity has declined in the exclusion zone:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10819027

    [deliberate distortion of facts deleted]

    That being said, I don’t know what the ‘solution’ to the world’s energy needs are. I like the convenience of my high-energy consumption lifestyle, but I sure wouldn’t want to live near Chernobyl or Fukushima. I certainly understand why many are vehemently anti-nuclear power.

  72. Marco,

    Just what link do you have that these birth defects, the ones that are real, are a result of the radiation release at Chernobyl? I would ask that the MODERATOR take a look at that link since unless you can document those images are related to the issue at hand they are explotative, near pornographic and hyperbole of the worst kind.

    It is actually incredible the kinds of birth defects that pop up in a population quite naturally. Take a look at a development biology text for a start.
    MODERATOR
    Link deleted for deliberate distortion of facts. Just got back on duty.

  73. @Marco – The birth defect issue has been debunked several times over. Many of the photos that claim to be of Chernobyl victims have been source to old medical textbooks, and overwhelming number of the birth defects in that area present as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as alcohol abuse is endemic there, and the mothers of these babies are found to be chronic alcoholics.

    As for ecological problems in the exclusion zone, it is best to remember that the area around the plant was already an industrial wasteland before the accident.

    Also the researchers credited in the article you linked to, Mousseau and Moller are, (speaking generously) controversial, and their results are not widely accepted in the broader scientific community.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/6118036/The-mystery-of-Chernobyl.html

  74. Marco,

    Mousseau and Moller have done a series of papers, each more far-fetched than the last, in which they attempt to show the the flourishing of wildlife near Chernobyl is an illusion. It isn’t of course, but they are determined to find anything they can claim is bad news. Unfortunately they seem to have established a contact line inside the BBC and get their latest deception reported on its website every year or so.

    People who exploit pictures of children with birth defects – which there is a natural rate of in every country – are so far beneath contempt, I would struggle to use them for a doormat. They are simply ultra-sick individuals with no shame and no sense of reality. I’d advise you to disasocciate from them, lest you be mistaken for one of their rank.

  75. Joshua, Marco, there’s never a way to prove that any single event has a particular cause — we see this all the time in climate change discussions. And pictures are used way more to sway feelings that have discussions. I do think (and I know this is not the unanimous feeling of the moderators, or wasn’t a year or so back) that attention to health effects — and their magnitude, and relative risk compared to other things — is worth talking about instead of just saying “can’t prove it happens.”
    Stuff like this:
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/w822527526045772/
    but the whole discussion probably belongs somewhere else, maybe on another blog or another topic.

    Certainly the epidemiologists will be happy with the Japanese recordkeeping system, and with being able to draw a nice line showing what’s correlated with the tsunami damage (and whatever chemicals are released, lots!) versus the tiny radiation drift, versus the overlap, versus neither one — all in a consistent population well documented. That will take years though.

  76. @Hank Roberts – and you decide what topics can be discussed here because….?

    In fact these are very relevant topics to a thread discussing why someone decided to stay put, rather than run.

  77. Thanks Axel for this interesting post although I don’t agree about safety in Fukushima surroundings, even as far as Tokyo.

    [deleted personal opinion presented as fact. Please supply supporting references]
    4 reactors melting and 2 spent fuel rods pools boiling can’t be a “safe event” with light emissions of radioactivity, as we know now that food chain is being tainted at the zone.
    Finally, thanks to American for being the critic voice.

  78. @ supposedly Rational Debate

    Its a bit much to denigrate the report “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report” as “highly contested”. I might say ludicrous.

    Congress requested the report from the most credible source available to it, i.e. the organization it set up at the request of President Lincoln, i.e. the National Academy of Sciences. The National Research Council is a part of the National Academy of Sciences. What the report itself says:

    “This report is based on a classified report that was developed at the request of the U.S. Congress with sponsorship from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Homeland Security”.

    “The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.”

    Anyone is welcome to contest it. Can they point to a better, more authoritative one? Where is it? Should we pay attention to what someone who can’t even tell us who they are, in preference to an NAS panel?

    Further regarding your claims about commentators, here’s what the report itself says about their disagreements:

    “None of the commentators challenged the main conclusion of the Alvarez et al. (2003a) paper that a severe loss-of-pool-coolant accident might lead to a spent fuel fire in a dense-packed pool. Rather, the commentators challenged the likelihood that such an event could occur through accident or sabotage, the assumptions used to calculate the offsite consequences of such an event, and the cost-effectiveness of the authors’ proposal to move spent fuel into dry cask storage. One commentator summarized these differences in a single sentence (Benjamin, 2003, p. 53): “In a nutshell, [Alvarez et al.] correctly identify a problem that needs to be addressed, but they do not adequately demonstrate that the proposed solution is cost-effective or that it is optimal.”

    Note they did not say “in a nutshell, although the problem is correctly identified, we agreed the statement of possible consequences was overblown, and the proposed solution is not cost effective or optimal”.

    Why is that? Why did they say the problem was correctly identified, but they wonder, given how rare an event they think it would prove to be, how to solve it cost effectively and optimally? Why not assert that things won’t get that bad as the list they say they took seriously?

    Were they trying to put material out into the public domain that people could use to foment panic at a time like this when a pool fire seems a bit more realistic of a scenario? Or could it be that the consequences were taken by them to be in the same order of magnitude as the list that they actually specifically published, given uncertainties that they noted?

    They’ll probably never say this again: “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission considered such an accident to be so unlikely that no specific action was warranted, despite changes in reactor operations that have resulted in increased fuel burn-ups and fuel storage operations that have resulted in more densely packed spent fuel pools”

  79. I am not saying that It Does Not Happen, I am saying that doing a web search for pictures of children with birth defects and saying that they because of WHATEVER the poster is discussing is contemptable, disgusting [ad hom deleted] If there are pictures of birth defects as part of an epidemilogical study that is fine, put it in and discuss it but simply going for cheap shock value does not contribute to the debate. [ad hom deleted]

  80. @Phil Daniels

    Please note:
    The seven NPP’s to be shut in Germany are the older ones.Only two of them are currently expected to remain down.

    The order comes from Angela Merkels government, which is NOT known as anti-nuke.

    The law used to enforce this is meant to be used in crisis situations, meaning the operators of the plants can claim large damage coverage from the government, which they probably wont, but for this they will most likely claim government level IOU’s.

    There’s an election coming up and the ruling CDU is expected to loose some public support to left wing and ‘Green’ party, the latter being designated anti-nuke.

    Germany has recently seen fierce protest against the TRANSPORTATION of nuclear waste. 

    This is Germany you’re talking about. The birthplace of computer technology, cars, combustible fuel engines, many petrochemical milestones and yes,… the birthplace of nuclear science. 

    Feel free to correct me if anything i just stated is wrong. Most of it is hear say, as is every thing i didn’t invent myself. 

    There is people here who believe in nuclear science. As i stated before in another post: Harnessing nuclear energy is a piece of cake, any molecule can do it. 

    This is not meant as a joke. It is my firm believe that the production of nuclear energy can and will eventualy be conducted under a 100% problem anticipating condition. This is the one reason i’m not an anti-nuke myself. If i compare the current state of affairs in nuclear practice (not the top nudge, the kind that the Germans are shutting down)  with that of the automobile in the same stage of developement, i’m looking at a wooden carriage with an open, one cylinder engine and a leather belt on the rear axis.
    f
    We’re not even half way on this and this event is an expensive lesson, but all things considered, the japanese are doing just fine,… all things considered.

    What i see here and have seen on many other places that really scares me is the ruling conviction that the above mentioned objective is unrealistic, that it can’t be done. 

    We are living in a world that is facing major environmental problems in the relatively near future unless we do something about it. In facing this challenge, nuclear energy is a trump card, but only if its for real. The anti-nukes dont have anything against nuclear energy, they have something against the way it’s used. 

    This post is great, but it shouldn’t be needed. I believe that nuclear practice will first be adult when it can say: “We got this… may it rain aliens,… we got this” Then i’ll go to Tokyo. 

     

  81. @YMP Refuge You can’t possibly be reading what I’m writing. Read again and see if you still want to write as you do. I am advocating a rapid switch from fossil to nuclear power. I am quoting from an NRC report. I am not extrapolating or reading into it. I quoted sentences, and referred people directly to the whole report.

    When you dismiss things like this as “that old” report, as if spent fuel pools have changed, or there is some “new” report I should have been consulting, or that some other more authoritative report exists, which you do not refer anyone to, you reinforce the belief of many people that pro nuclear advocates deny reality.

    If as you seem to say, no one should be that concerned about what it says in this report, how is it possible the nuclear industry has allowed spent fuel pools to exist without seriously examining in a credible way what the consequences would be if one were ever to drain?

  82. re post by Marco, on 21 March 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Marco, there aren’t ANY credible reports of an increase in birth defects as a result of Chernobyl, and a number of very in depth long term studies that have found NO increase in birth defects. For one example, see: http://www.unscear.org/docs/chernobylherd.pdf

    For that matter, as best I recall, there aren’t any credible studies showing an increase in birth defects or even cellular mutations even in HIGHLY exposed Japanese atomic bomb survivors who got far higher doses than pretty much anyone from Chernobyl.

    To go even further, not only is there no credible evidence of birth defects from Chernobyl, but there’s no evidence of any increase in still births, problems like Down’s Syndrome or any genetic or somatic diseases (e.g., changes you can pass down to your children, or changes within a person themselves), or in still births or spontaneous abortions (e.g., the embryo/fetus/child dies in the mother’s womb, and the body expels it), or of ANYTHING along these lines.

    What unfortunately did unquestionably occur is many pregnant women who were afraid that they might have been exposed and that there might be consequences for the child, went and got abortions. It was utterly unnecessary,a nd I have no doubt that media sensationalism, fears of uninformed friends, etc., all contributed to that horrible outcome. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we don’t see the same thing in Japan too, and it would also be every bit as unnecessary.

    As to the biodiversity study you link to – it must be taken with a huge grain of salt. There are multiple other studies, by different groups (rather than this single group claiming problems) that have found wildlife in the area to be flourishing.

    Furthermore, the study appears to make some very incorrect assumptions. Take for example the claim that birds with tumors somehow proves a negative effect from the radiation. That is scientifically untenable.

    History is rife with similar claims that were proven to be utterly bogus, or similar example that have no radiation source to blame. For example, Tasmanian Devils are being severely threatened with extinction in a very few years from cancer, primarily on their faces. There is NO radiation source to account for what turns out to be a transmittable infection causing the cancers (I think it turned out to be viral, but may be bacterial).

    It was thought for some time, and trumpted loudly all thru the media, that human chemicals were causing frogs to be deformed, developing without hind legs or with only one, etc. Turns out, it’s a natural occurrence where an insect (dragonflies I think) actually preferentially eat the limb buds off tadpoles.

    Many species reductions or serious health problems, including some amphibian, were blamed on human causes but were later found to be actually caused by entirely natural causes.

    Many years ago at a major university, a genetics professor noted an unusually high rate of mutation in some of his plants and was convinced it was from radiation from the research reactor that was something like a half mile away. The folks operating the reactor were utterly convinced that it could’t be the reactor, so they promptly as the scientist to place some of his plants right beside the reactor, inside the building. Sure enough, it turned out that the plants set literally next to the reactor’s open pool had exceptionally LOW mutation rates (some research reactor’s cores are at the bottom of a pool, rather like a spent fuel pool), lower than the typical rate for that species. So After intensive study, with plants being placed at various distances between the racctor and the genetics building, and at a few other sites around the campus, it turned out those next to the reactor had the lowest rate of them all, while those set just outside the genetics research building had the highest rates. They finally traced it to chemicals being poured down the drains in the nearby chem building.

    There’ve been instances of claims that nuclear power plants in the US were responsible for wildlife problems of one sort or another – and inevitably it turned out the nuke plants were NOT the cause, and the cause was found conclusively to be from something else.

    Now, don’t get me wrong – I am NOT saying that IF those birds around Chernobyl actually have a high tumor incidence it couldn’t possibly be because of radiation. I AM saying that there could very very easily be other causes totally unrelated to radiation. Heck, Pripiat was abandoned, do we KNOW that there weren’t any chemicals there or in the area that got left behind and after all these years have seeped out of their containers? Frankly, if there were going to be bird problems, it would be in the NON-migrating birds who were exposed to it 24/7/365, NOT in the migrating birds who are away from the area large parts of the year.

    Just the fact that those researchers would even bring bird tumors up like this makes any good scientists’ bs meter go off, and significantly reduces the credibility of any claims that group makes.

    The fact that they have only checked 4 years also makes their claims highly suspect. IF the radiation had such a detrimental effect over a 4 year period, then the situation there ought to be radically worse than it is because the wildlife would have been exposed to far higher levels over a few decades now.

    Instead there are multiple studies by independent groups showing the opposite – that wildlife is thriving. That also should make anyone’s red flag go up about a study or studies from a single small group of researchers claiming something quite different from that found by multiple other research groups, unless they are able to clearly show why their findings are more scientifically meaningful and probable than the other studies out there. This group hasn’t even begun to do that.

  83. @Rational Debate, on 21 March 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Nuclear energy is not the kind of thing you can afford to go ‘tobacco industry’ on. You don’t stop the wining by saying its nonsense or by asking for proof. You stop the wining by making sure there’s nothing to wine about and you can’t do that, can you?

    (This is NOT to be understood as if i’m saying anyone here is wining)

  84. re post by: Joshua, on 21 March 2011 at 9:41 AM said:

    Marco,

    Just what link do you have that these birth defects, the ones that are real, are a result of the radiation release at Chernobyl? I would ask that the MODERATOR take a look at that link since unless you can document those images are related to the issue at hand they are explotative, near pornographic and hyperbole of the worst kind.

    It is actually incredible the kinds of birth defects that pop up in a population quite naturally. Take a look at a development biology text for a start.

    Joshua is absolutely correct and I couldn’t agree more. The moderators should have snipped that trash out in a heart beat. It is both disgusting and a crying shame that anyone would try to pull linking a bunch of unsubstantiated google search photos this way, especially considering the current situation.
    MODERATOR
    Link was removed earlier and poster put on moderation for gross violation of commenting rules. Please remember that we mods live in Australia and cannot moderate post from USA, Europe etc over-night.Back on deck now.

  85. Thanks Joshua for that information.

    That illustrates a problem with the spent fuel pools. The “hottest” spent fuel rods at Fukushima have been in the pool for 107 to 360 days. At that age, all of it could have survived the loss of spent-fuel-pool water indefinitely if the rods had been properly racked and spaced.

    This is a problem that needs to be addressed at nuclear plants around the world, where spent fuel is piling up. The solution is not to re-rack them more densely in a small pool of water.

  86. UNSCEAR 2008 states

    “Apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age, and some indication of an increased leukaemia and cataract incidence among the workers, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of solid cancers or leukaemia due to radiation in the exposed populations. Neither is there any proof of other non-malignant disorders that are related to ionizing radiation. However, there were widespread psychological reactions to the accident, which were due to fear of the radiation, not to the actual radiation doses.”

    [deleted personal opinion presented as fact]
    “The Chernobyl accident also resulted in widespread radioactive contamination in areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine inhabited by several million people. In addition to causing radiation exposure, the accident caused long-term changes in the lives of the people living in the contaminated districts, since the measures intended to limit radiation doses included resettlement, changes in food supplies and restrictions on the activities of individuals and families.”

    So when discussing how low the radiation consequences were in terms of cancers, one has to keep in mind that people were removed from areas which were deemed, had they continued to live there, to lead to higher rates of damage.
    [deleted personal opinion presented as fact]

  87. Tokyo is so far away that ‘staying in Tokyo’ is not representative of the impact of Fukushima.

    Closer to the reactor, iodine 131 levels in milk are now 15 times the level suitable for infants.

    And at the town of Iitate 19 miles from the nukes (but north west), iodine is now 3 times normal.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-japan-food-contamination-20110321,0,3791894.story?track=rss

    This is with the winds generally streaming east !!!!!.

    Canola and spinich are also showing increasing levels of nuclear contamination.

    So far I have not been able to find radiation readings for locations within the 20km exclusion zone.

  88. MODERATOR
    Please note that overnight comments have now been moderated.
    The offensive post, by Marco,designed to deliberately distort the facts and promote fear has been dealt with and he has been put on permanent moderation.

  89. @David Lewis – There is some valid concern that the apparent increase in thyroid cancer seen is a screening effect, rather than a true increase in childhood cancers, Also the use of loaded terms like dramatic increase suggests an incident rate greater than what was actually found.
    In fact the incidence of thyroid cancer has more than doubled in the past 30 years, in Western nations, the rise being attributed to improved diagnostic techniques of previously undetected disease, rather than a true increase in the occurrence of thyroid cancer. This from an article in the May, 2006 issue of JAMA.

    Furthermore, given the fate of the wildlife in the effected area, it is pure conjecture to assert that there would have been an increase in cancers among the human population if they had not been evacuated.

  90. Ms. Perps, on 21 March 2011 at 11:10 AM said:

    @ Chris Warren
    You neglect to ment ion that the report also said this:
    “The Health Ministry said that radioactive iodine three times the normal level was detected in Iitate, a town of about 6,000 people 19 miles northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the Associated Press reported. That is one-twenty-sixth of the level of a chest X-ray and poses no danger to humans, a ministry official told the AP.”
    Are you deliberately trying to make people more fearful than they need to be? If so what is your agenda here?
    SORRY FOR REPEAT. ORIGINALLY POSTED IN THE WRONG THREAD.

  91. If pro nuclear advocates think they can dispute what is said in ALL reports including the assessment that finds the least damage as a result of Chernobyl how is they expect what they say to be taken as credible? Are you saying no panel or high level committee anywhere understands what happened?.

    You have to accept that there is some way for an ordinary member of the public to get information that they can take as an independent look at the situation. If not UNSCEAR, what?

  92. I suppose the cases of thyroid cancer that appeared after Chernobyl, not being due to the radiation emanating from that event, can therefore not be assigned to the fact that the Russians did not promptly hand out or advise people to take iodine pills. I suppose, given this, that the advice to take iodine is bogus. Is that correct? Is thyroid cancer increase just happening everywhere and Chernobyl didn’t cause any?

  93. re post by: David Lewis, on 21 March 2011 at 10:15 AM said:

    @ supposedly Rational Debate

    Its a bit much to denigrate the report “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report” as “highly contested”. I might say ludicrous.

    David, it appears you need to go read your own source material, then re-read what I wrote. I in no way denigrated or claimed that the “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report” was highly contested, quite the contrary – I posted MORE of their conclusions, which give a very different view of the situation than the Alvarez paper bits you posted.

    The badly out of context quotes you provided from the Safety & Security report were all from a section where they were discussion OUTSIDE research by other people that they had considered. The gloom and doom bits you took were regarding research primarily by Alvarez et al., 2003a and NOT from the S&S report. The S&S report furthermore proceeded to provide other research or evaluations that took heavy issue with the Alvarez conclusions that you posted here. The Alvarez conclusions, and even your out of context post of pieces of that report, are what I was saying were clearly controversial – for heaven’s sake man, that’s what the S&S report was saying about the bits you posted.

    Please, go re-read your own link.

  94. Ms. Perps, on 21 March 2011 at 11:13 AM said:

    @ Chris Warren

    Are you deliberately trying to make people more fearful than they need to be? If so what is your agenda here?

    This is unbalanced. It is up to the people who have to live in this new environment that have to make this decision, not nuclear supporters.

    Why are you trying to impute an “agenda”?

    Why are you trying to impute some “deliberate … fearful” motive?

    Where’s the evidence ?????

    The facts we have are clear. It is a safe assumption that radiation impacts are greater inside the 20km exclusion zone.

    This is my concern. It is an appropriate concern.

    So please share with me this concern, and see if you can be more helpful by finding data on radiation readings for towns inside the 20Km exclusion zone – or reasons why they have not been released.

  95. This is in response to “American’s” original post. You are right in your perception that given all I have learnt about the specifics at Fukushima so far, I cannot anticipate a reason to leave. Some vague, speculative and phantasmagoric worst-case scenario is not enough for me to consider packing my bags. By the way, I am not blind to the dangers of nuclear power. I certainly think that the entire Fukushima plant must be shut down and kept that way. Should have been a long time ago, in fact, and when the dust has settled, this is an issue that the J-gov will have to answer for. But that doesn’t mean that I am opposed to nuclear power in principle.

  96. I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you are writing. YOu write “you appear to be reading a LOT into that one highly contested report “, then you write “I in no way denigrated or claimed that the “Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report” was highly contested, quite the contrary

    Its Alice in Wonderland around here. I’m packing it in for the night.

  97. @ Chris Warren

    “The facts we have are clear. It is a safe assumption that radiation impacts are greater inside the 20km exclusion zone.”

    The exclusion/stay indoors zone is 30 klms. Very prudent I’d say. So why are you talking about what the levels might be closer to the plant? I thought the information was for the general public who may have fears regarding radiation. I agree that, for those people working to get this situation under control, exposure to radiation, and therefore risks, are greater. Surely this is why there is constant and careful limitation to exposure by regular rotation of workers, and protective gear, as stated by TEPCO and the Japanese government.

  98. Ms. Perps, on 21 March 2011 at 11:37 AM said:

    You are over -reacting and being hyperactive.

    Please restrict your views to what I originally posted.

    I do not want to have to explain why I am seeking information about radiation levels within the 20km exclusion zone.

    This is a necessary item of information and I am very sure that Japanese authorities have this data. They have released data from other centres.

    My issue is not people working to get this situation under control. This comment is not appropriate for this thread and you should take this up elsewhere.

    The issue here is the impact of the nuclear leaks and the liveability of urban centres such as Tokyo and therefore centres surrounding Tokyo – not emergency workers with necessary protective gear.

    Alex Leiber has made his decision. Others, including governments have taken a different view. As the situation changes, Leiber may change his view and governments may change theirs, – depending on the data.

    Everyone has the right to be concerned about living downwind of this event.

    There is no alternative.

  99. re post by David Lewis, on 21 March 2011 at 10:15 AM

    Further regarding your claims about commentators, here’s what the report itself says about their disagreements:

    “None of the commentators challenged the main conclusion of the Alvarez et al. (2003a) paper that a severe loss-of-pool-coolant accident might lead to a spent fuel fire in a dense-packed pool. Rather, the commentators challenged the likelihood that such an event could occur through accident or sabotage, the assumptions used to calculate the offsite consequences of such an event, and the cost-effectiveness of the authors’ proposal to move spent fuel into dry cask storage. One commentator summarized these differences in a single sentence (Benjamin, 2003, p. 53): “In a nutshell, [Alvarez et al.] correctly identify a problem that needs to be addressed, but they do not adequately demonstrate that the proposed solution is cost-effective or that it is optimal.”

    Note they did not say “in a nutshell, although the problem is correctly identified, we agreed the statement of possible consequences was overblown, and the proposed solution is not cost effective or optimal”.

    Yes, David, actually they pretty much did say EXACTLY that it was overblown. You seem to have keyed in on ONE person’s single sentence summary, where the words effective and optimal are rather vague as to exactly what is being referred to, while ignoring many other key aspects of the S&S report’s summary.

    Sure, they agree in a densely packed pool it might be possible for a fire to start. The S&S report doesn’t even get into issues of whether they did or didn’t agree on the probability of that occurring, because they’ll always incorporate worst case scenarios, even if quite improbable.

    What you are skipping over is that the S&S report is all about risks to the population and environment. I mean, who would care if you get a fuel fire, if there isn’t any release and no population or enviro effects to worry about? So, the key aspect in that paragraph that you should have zero’d in on and highlighted was:

    “Rather, the commentators challenged the … assumptions used to calculate the offsite consequences of such an event, and the cost-effectiveness of the authors’ proposal to move spent fuel into dry cask storage.”

    That’s why immediately after that the report goes on to say:

    “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff provided a briefing to the committee that provides a further critique of the Alvarez et al. (2003a) analysis that goes beyond the USNRC (2003a) paper. Commission staff told the committee that the NUREG-1738 analyses attempted to provide a bounding analysis of current and conceivable future spent fuel pools at plants undergoing decommissioning and therefore relied on conservative assumptions [this means conservatively safe, e.g., effects/impacts/doses on population and environment will be if anything HIGHER than one would expect, not lower - overestimated, not underestimated]…. The staff also asserted that NUREG-1738 did not provide a realistic analysis of consequences. Commission staff concluded that “the risks and potential societal cost of [a] terrorist attack on spent fuel pools do not justify the complex and costly measures proposed in Alvarez et al. (2003)… [emphasis added]

    So while there is some agreement about the mechanisms that would occur leading to a release if there were a total loss of coolant accident to the hypothetical worst case spent fuel pool, the S&S report is saying that multiple top class reviews disagree about the magnitude of a worst case expected release, that it would be less than Alverez postulates. That the population and environmental exposures, harm, damage, etc. would be expected to be significantly less than that from the Alverez paper.

  100. People, there’s something i’d like to share with you from another dicipline. I believe it puts thing here in perspective. This is my own experience, no hear say.

    I am an educated ecologist, for what its worth a specialist in the everythingness of things. During my studies i worked for a while on a farm in Danmark on organic nurishment. One of our neighbours was a conventional farmer who had about 200 saus, producing some twenty-odd pigletts a year. Harmony law obliges him to work corresponding acres of farmland and he fid so by growing wheat. Feeding wheat for his animals and bread wheat for bread. All according to the tules of the craft as dictated by the supplier of both seed and plant protection media.

    One year it happened to be very dimm in Danmark all summer and his bread wheat fidn’t make the ptotein count the bread factories required, so he fed it to his pigs. He will not make that mistake sgsin and he has been eating organic only ever since. In coincedence with his dicision his saus lost over 10% vertility. That is ehile rating wheat that was meant to be used for making bread for humans, women. For your information, every fourth pregnancy in Danmark is assisted.

    The point i’m trying to make is, there’s only so much you can measure. What nuclear practice introduces to this world is the artificialy accelerated decay of nuclei, a process that does NOT occur in open nature. We have no way of KNOWING what the long term effects will be. We are walking the razors edge here. Just like we did when we started taming fire. We did tame fire, but out of that came oil industry and we didn’t tame that. We are in deep trouble over that. Take it from an expert, we can not afford another oil industry! Puff.. there goes another puff of smoke, dilutes, vanishes, for the eye. Try flying from Johannesburg to Frankfurt on a ‘clear’ summer day. You’ll wet your pants! We do not need another oil industry!!

    Thats why every single fuel particle out in the open is one too many. I see on this site people throwing Sieverts around as if it’s something you can hold in your hand.

    People, a Sievert is an ATTEMPT to come to an APPROXIMATLY realistic ASSESMENT of consequences. It doesn’t define JACK! Please Barry, moderate me to oblivion if i’m wrong! It is an instrument for by policy makers to be used as a basis for recommandations to populations, not because they want to, but because they have to recommand something.

    I see on this very site people trying to make a laugh out of wind energy. What are they doing!? Whats the thinking? This is not a fight against the anti-nuke, it’s science,… you gotta be right.

    The author of this post is staying in Tokyo and i think he’s right to do so. I would do the same thing. The reason i would is the same as the reason he does. I believe. Believing is the flipside of science and it always will be. Other people don’t believe. I think opposing their disbelieve with the believe part of science is wrong. Right now, that’s most of what we have to answer it with. In facing disbelieve that has started to live a life of its own in someones head, you have to decline, like Barry did. Anything else you face with as much understanding as you can.

    Remember, nuclear energy may be a blessing in the future, but right now in Japan it’s a menace. This planet of ours may be a big jail, but is a jail.

    Our environment proofs how fragile that is. We do not need another oil industry! Do not talk this down, this is bad, bad, bad. Yes the risk is limited, and yes it’s a whole lot less than what some claim it is. But if you walk up to any one Japanese and tell him this is guaranteed not going to kill him, you are lying!!

    You do not get 5% cancer, .. nobody has 2,3 children. Nuclear science has the obligation to keep a definite lid on nuclear energy. This does not belong in open environment in any form, for any extend of time, in any magnitude. Regardless of how much of it already is there. We do not need another oil industry.
    Shoot me Barry.

  101. Rational Debate, on 21 March 2011 at 12:02 PM said

    the S&S report is saying that …(radiation release) would be less than Alverez postulates. That the population and environmental exposures, harm, damage, etc. would be expected to be significantly less than that from the Alverez paper.

    Of course this will have to be reviewed now.

    Risk analysis always proceeds based on assumptions and necessarily based on hypotheticals. In general it evaluates risk by evaluating consequences with probability.

    Whether the costs of risk prevention are worth the expenditure is a subjective varying decision.

    If improved technology reduces risks for single nuclear facilities, but the number of facilities increases – the level of risk to society may remain constant or even – increase.

    Surely everyone can see that the risks to people in Tokyo have increased, but whether the extent is significant is a subjective judgement. But as the situation is not clear and changing, people should be very concerned about different adverse and benign possibilities for the next few weeks or so.

  102. re post by: bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 10:27 AM said:

    The order comes from Angela Merkels government, which is NOT known as anti-nuke.

    …..Germany has recently seen fierce protest against the TRANSPORTATION of nuclear waste.

    This is Germany you’re talking about. The birthplace of computer technology, cars, combustible fuel engines, many petrochemical milestones and yes,… the birthplace of nuclear science.

    Feel free to correct me if anything i just stated is wrong. Most of it is hear say, as is every thing i didn’t invent myself.

    There is people here who believe in nuclear science.

    Actually Germany is and has been for some time pretty notably anti-nuclear. Here’s just one article that will give you a feeling for the situation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/791597.stm You can find tons of others explaining the sentiment there with a little searching.

    It’s only the very recently that they’ve reversed course a little because of the huge spike in oil prices in the last couple of years and their no-so-good current economic situation. Sure there are and have always been some pro-nuclear power folks in Germany, but for quite some time now they’ve been outnumbered. As a nation, Germany has been remarkably anti-nuclear power in recent decades.

    On the history aspect – I think a lot of people would argue with you about whether Germany was the birthplace of nuclear science. There were a number of very notable scientists all making key discoveries within literally a year or two of each other or even simultaneously. While Rontgen was German and his noble work also i Germany, he studied in Holland. Becquerel’s work was in Paris. J.J. Thomson at Cambridge. The Curies’, Marie & Pierre, were French of course. Ernest Rutherford is widely considered to be the father of nuclear physics. He was a New Zealand born British Chemist – but he and Soddy were at McGill Univ. in Canada, then later Manchester U.

    and so on…. Frankly, it seems that the birthplace of nuclear science was a pretty amazingly world wide phenomena!

    http://www.aboutnuclear.org/view.cgi?fC=History,Time_Line

  103. I’m very much enjoyed all the commentary here. It’s been about 5 years since I retired from my employment as a nuclear tour guide. TMI and Chernobyl happened during my years of employment and I must say that I am glad not to have to explain all this all over again to skeptic visitors.
    One fo my favourite sayings was – remember background radiation is extremely low – almost zero, so 2 times zero, 10 times, or a hundred times zero is still zero! Not very scientific but it brings home the point.
    After all these years I have sadly come to the conclusion that the public will never endorse nuclear power and as a consequqense the politicians will not have the will. Sadly as well I found the least educated regarding nuclear energy among the visitors were the lawyers and unfortunately they seem to make up most of our politicians.
    As well take a look (at least in Canada) at what our high school text books have to say about nuclear energy – even some environmental university texts – many very anti nuclear. In addition many high school teachers are very reluctant to teach the section on nuclear as they do not understand it and so often leave it for the end of the term and then run out of time.
    Education is the only way – but nuclear takes a little bit more to understand and these days that is too much effort for most.
    [deleted unsupported information. Please supply references and re-submit]

  104. re post by: bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 10:44 AM said:

    @Rational Debate, on 21 March 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Nuclear energy is not the kind of thing you can afford to go ‘tobacco industry’ on. You don’t stop the wining by saying its nonsense or by asking for proof. You stop the wining by making sure there’s nothing to wine about and you can’t do that, can you?

    (This is NOT to be understood as if i’m saying anyone here is wining)

    bchtd1parrot, let me ask you a question with the same implications as your statement to me. When did you stop beating your wife/husband/children? I’m not in the least ‘going tobacco’ here with anything I’ve posted. I’m posting research, facts, etc. If you don’t like factual scientific information because it doesn’t happen to meet your preconceived notions, don’t blame the messenger.

    As to whether one could make sure there’s nothing to whine about – the implication being that the nuclear industry ought to be able to magically prove that nothing could possibly ever occur with negative consequences – that statement displays a very common but appalling lack of understanding of science. Not to mention a gross double standard.

    First, as a scientist you are trained that it is impossible to prove a negative. Someone who doesn’t understand science might say ‘prove that a swan exists that isn’t white.’ A scientist would reply that to date, all swans that have been seen are white – but wouldn’t say it would be impossible to one day discover one that wasn’t white. It’s the old adage that if you put 5 monkeys in a room with a typewriter, at some point in time, maybe a million years, simply by chance one of them will type out Shakespeare. You can’t prove a negative.

    As to the double standard aspect. Do you require your car company to prove that you can’t get seriously injured each time you step in your car? Same re airplanes. How about chemical companies? Research on deadly pathogens like Ebola, Smallpox, etc?

    The Earth almost certainly will be hit again by a planet killer sized asteroid, and supervolcano’s will certainly erupt again – do nuclear plants have to be designed such that a TMI or Fukushima is less likely than those occurrences? Even if they were, that would still NOT meet your criteria of proving that there was nothing to whine about, because both of those things, along with a multitude of others far less deadly but still catastrophic on a large scale, are not only possible, but virtually certain to occur. So there’d still be something to whine about, because it’d still be possible.

    Presenting the best research or the best facts known about various aspects of nuclear power doesn’t mean someone is ‘going tobacco.’ FAR from it. Putting those facts into context both in terms of probability and relative risk doesn’t mean someone isn’t being total above board and accurate. These things don’t even necessarily mean that they are pro-nuclear, but it surely does mean that they are pro-science and pro-facts. Are you?

  105. Time for some scientific stuff.

    The results and effects of nuclear radiation are not measured in casualties, but in percentages disability. Yep.. 100% disability is a corpse, but it could also be ten thousand people with one little funny mole. You will never, ever, ever find that when you’re looking for statistics on cancer deaths. You can not do the tobacco industry thing on this. We do not know Jack!

  106. With something that can get lethal as obviously as radiation, you do not pretend its harmless until someone proofs it isn’t! At any scale! We do not need another oil industry! There is only one way out of this predicament and that is by making nuclear energy 100% leakproof. You believe that can’t be done, you’re in the wrong dicipline. Pick a fight you can afford to loose. This is work. [deleted personal opinion presented as fact] A small group of very cpurageous men are doing EVERYTHING to keep that shade as thin as possible, but it will cast a shade. If we keep on talking and acting like i see now, somewhere down the line all these thin shades together are going to hang over us like the carpet of pulution that hangs over our continents. Does anyone here know for sure this is not going to cause a 0,07% increase in the percentage of assisted pregnancies? Or any other effect you cant measure? If you go tobacco industry on this you’re playing a tiny little role in what might proof to be genocide. You wanna take that risk? Its a job people. Let’s get it done. I believe we can do it, don’t you?

  107. re MY post, and Moderator reply (Rational Debate, on 21 March 2011 at 10:49 AM) — my bad, and I apologize to both the Moderator and Barry. Having run a fairly high volume bulletin board list myself with about 8 hard worked moderators, and been a modertor myself on another high volume list, I know full well that it can take some time to catch posts that need to be removed or snipped. I shouldn’t have implied otherwise!!

    It’s impossible to tell when time zones or what have you cause a list to go unmoderated for a while, but generally since lists rarely are able to have full time folks moderating, I’ll take that any day over a fully moderated list (where NO post goes up until after it’s approved, and can be held up for hours until someone is available to check them).

    So my sincere apologies – I KNOW how much time it can take to moderate a list, and what a generally unappreciated service of freely volunteered time it is at that. THANK YOU for helping out here, and please forgive my clearly too quickly tossed off statement in that regard.
    MODERATOR
    Thank you for your understanding.
    It has been rather full-on this past week. When a blog goes from 1 million hits over several years to add another 1.2 million in a week it becomes a full-time (unpaid) job.
    I am hoping to get back to my normal life soon:-)

  108. re post by: Jeff Bullard, on 21 March 2011 at 10:50 AM said:

    That illustrates a problem with the spent fuel pools. The “hottest” spent fuel rods at Fukushima have been in the pool for 107 to 360 days. At that age, all of it could have survived the loss of spent-fuel-pool water indefinitely if the rods had been properly racked and spaced.

    Actually, Jeff, that all dpeends on what you mean by ‘survived.’ Any time you get uncovered spent fuel, there’s almost certain to be some release of airborn radioactivity. That’s because a small percentage of the fuel will almost certainly have damage (a pinhole, or tiny crack for example), and so some fission products get circulated around the core that way and on all of the rods. You also get ‘crud’ which is pretty much what it sounds like – stuff in there that you don’t want. :0) It comes from corrosion of the various parts of the reactor, and some of it gets activated. Most of it isn’t on the assemblies, but some will be. Plus, even years later the assemblies will still be giving off some heat, which helps waft any particulates of this nature up into the air if the fuel is uncovered.

    So the difference is a matter of degree (a very large degree, of course, between fuel hot out of the core and fuel that’s had years to cool!) – and more importantly of whether there is enough heat to cause more damage to the cladding, which also means more heat to loft whatever is released up higher and so on.

    One other thing I think is awfully important to keep in mind here – we don’t know if the spent fuel at Fukushima was even uncovered! Sure, we SUSPECT it was, but we don’t even begin to know. At this point, it’s all speculation. What we do know is that there wasn’t any zirconium fire ripping thru the entire fuel pool, let alone from top to bottom of all the assemblies. THAT would have been clearly seen, even if it were only the tops of the assemblies that caught on fire. So, at this point, it really is far too early to start saying how it’s clear that this or that has been proven to have failed, or proven to be a design flaw, or proven to not have gotten sufficient engineering attention, or that we’ve learned xyz from this accident wrt to the fuel pools anyhow (and, unfortunately a lot of other aspects too.)

    From a purely technical/mechanical/design standpoint it is going to be incredibly fascinating to find out over the next several years just what actually did or didn’t happen, did or didn’t fail, and so on.

  109. @bchtd1parrot & the rest of the antinuclear squad posting here (and on other sites): I have just finished rereading Barbara Tuchman’s collection of essays, The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 and in it she goes into some detail about two movements that were very active at that time; the Socialists, and the Anarchists. I am struck with the similarities between those old ideologies in comparison to the Greens and the Degrowth Movement (Club of Rome) of today. Both had some valid logical underpinnings; the Socialists were correct that the working class was being exploited and where being kept down by laws written to advantage the wealthy, and the Anarchists had a point that governments run by aristocrats was never going to change without violence. But both movements, (as they were at the time) driven by demagogy, rigid ideology and an obsessed leadership, failed to see what was and wasn’t possible and in the end made little difference.

    This is echoed in the calls suggesting that we must all do with less, and those pushing wind and solar in the face of mounting evidence that these do not work as well as it was hoped, and will never be more than spit in a bucket. It is this refusal to see that as much as it would be nice if these things were possible, they are never going to happen. People will not reduce consumption down to levels that will make any difference, emerging economies are not going to stop growing, nor will political parties that would try and force this to happen by legislation get voted in. It is just not going to happen, and demanding it only marks those that do as fools.

    Furthermore, nuclear power, like capital, is here to stay. It does not matter what you do, or what you moral arguments are, in the end, what ever problems we have with those two things, they still are the only way to raise the standard of living, and deep down the majority knows this.

    The Anarchists never learned the lesson that you can’t dictate to the masses what they want or don’t want, and as a result theyvanished. But the Socialists did after WWII, and have had a real influence on policy and world history. Ideologies aside they have been ether directly, or indirectly responsible for governments passing laws and instituting programs that have benefited the lower classes and raised their lot. The question now is do the eco-radicals of today tone down the nonsense and become part of the conversation, or do they wish to see themselves marginalized, left with only the obsessed demanding the impossible.

  110. re post by: DV82XL, on 21 March 2011 at 11:06 AM

    It was less than 1/2 of 1 percent of those children thought to be fairly heavily exposed. In addition to our being able to better detect thyroid cancer over time as DV82XL notes, one has to also recognize that there was very poor medical care in the area prior to Chernobyl, and as a result of the top notch free care offered immediately after wards (docs came in from around the world) people from other areas of the country that were not affected flooded in claiming that they were local residents, especially those who were already having medical problems. Plus, and I’d have to check this, but IIRC that is also an area of very low iodine levels too – which in and of itself increases thyroid cancer incidence. So, lots of different factors that all really complicated the whole issue.

  111. DV82XL, on 21 March 2011 at 1:48 PM said:

    Furthermore, nuclear power, like capital, is here to stay. It does not matter what you do, or what you moral arguments are, in the end, what ever problems we have with those two things, they still are the only way to raise the standard of living, and deep down the majority knows this.

    This is 1000% contestable, and I cannot see how this unsubstantiated personal opinion fits into the topic of this thread.

    I refrain, for the moment for going further because I am a deliberate lurker until all the facts are known.

  112. Pingback: Foreign media take flak for fanning fears

  113. Axel Lieber wrote:

    “Some vague, speculative and phantasmagoric worst-case scenario is not enough for me to consider packing my bags.”

    Well much of what I was saying, Mr. Lieber, was only that I thought it was wrong to totally dismiss—much less look down upon—those who might have disagreed with you as regards this judgment of yours.

    I don’t know that you were intending to do either, however, although your use of the word “phantasmagoric” certainly imputes some utter foolishness if not stupidity to such people.

    That said, I find it interesting and in keeping with my perception of a terrible bias on the part of the moderators here that despite this clear negative imputation it was not deleted for being ad hominem on your part.

    (Very much unlike what has been done to much much milder comments made by other individuals here who wrote less reassuring things about nuke power.)
    MODERATOR
    We are here to moderate comments not articles posted on the blog.

  114. re post by: David Lewis, on 21 March 2011 at 11:37 AM said:

    I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you are writing. YOu write “you appear to be reading a LOT into that one highly contested report “,

    I’m sorry, I thought I was being pretty clear, especially with my second post about it. Your quotes in your original post on this issue ORIGINATED in the Alverez paper, NOT in the National Research Council ‘s Committee on the Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage paper.

    Therefore when I wrote: “you appear to be reading a LOT into that one highly contested report, ” and your quotes originated in the Alverez paper, I think it’s pretty clear I’m saying the paper your quotes came from is the highly contested paper. Especially as it’s the Committee’s paper that’s presenting a lot of the contesting arguments & references that argue against your Alverez paper quotes.

    Which is why I said it looks like you need to go back and re-read your own sources, because it very much seemed that you either believed, or were trying to pass off Alverez paper statements as if the Nat’l Research Council Committee made the statements, when clearly they did not and they do not deserve anywhere near the weight/credibility that they would have if they had been findings by the Committee.

  115. American, on 21 March 2011 at 2:04 PM said:

    (Very much unlike what has been done to much much milder comments made by other individuals here who wrote less reassuring things about nuke power.)

    This has been noticed on other websites – eg JohnQuiggin.com

    But what is a link to the criteria for this website? One should respect known guidelines – I think.

    MODERATOR
    Commenting Rules are supplied on the main page of the blog.
    This is a SCIENCE BASED blog so deletions occur for any comment that has violated the rules. Examples are: Personal opinion presented as fact; Deliberate misleading distortion of facts; Unsupported hearsay as well as ad hom attacks and vulgar, insulting words.
    Commenters are invited to re-submit their posts with references.

    Just to remind all commenters :

    BNC Commenting Rules
    Comments Policy — I welcome comments, posts, suggestions and informed debate, from a wide range of perspectives. However, personal attacks, insulting/vulgar posts, or repetitious/false tirades will not be tolerated and can result in moderation or banning. Trolls will be warned, and then disemvowelled.
    Civility – Clear-minded criticism is welcomed, but play the ball and not the person. Rudeness will not be tolerated. This includes speculation about motives or what ‘sort of person’ someone is. Civility, gentle humour and staying on topic are superior debating tools.
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  116. bchtd1parrot – I understand what you are saying when you describe yourself as “a specialist in the everythingness of things”. It’s called system engineering. It is why some of us look at wind/solar power and the claims that it will reduce GHGs and say, wait, what about the GHG emissions from the power sources that have to back-up the wind/solar energy production as it fluctuates, especially with respect to wind. That’s been covered plenty on this website, so I won’t rehash it here.

    The part I dopn’t understand is your insistence that all radiation releases, no matter how small, are dangerous. As “a specialist in the everythingness of things”, you say, “Thats why every single fuel particle out in the open is one too many”. How can you make that statement when on average, every person worldwide receives 2.4 mSv, varying up to several hundred percent by geographic location, from natural sources. (IAEA 15 Mar 2011, 11:25 UTC update http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html ). It is physically impossible to shield people from ALL radiation/radioisotopes. Naturally occuring radiation is also why the LNT theory falls apart: it can’t explain why people all over the world aren’t dying of radiation-induced cancer caused by naturally occuring substances or cosmic radiation. In 1986-7, I had 12 chest xrays (one/month) to ensure that I did not have TB (along with INH therapy), and I am hardly a dead man walking.

  117. re post by: Chris Warren, on 21 March 2011 at 10:53 AM said:

    ….Closer to the reactor, iodine 131 levels in milk are now 15 times the level suitable for infants.

    And at the town of Iitate 19 miles from the nukes (but north west), iodine is now 3 times normal.

    Hi Chris,

    There are a few things that you have to understand about these various ‘safe’ limits that have been set and are being talked about before you can really begin to understand what is or isn’t significant or even relevant to specific situations. Caveat here being that I don’t know exactly how Japan sets their levels, but so far everything I’ve run across strongly implies that they’ve used international standards and essentially the same mechanisms that we do here in the USA. Assuming that it’s the same as here in the USA, well, that I can shed some light on.

    More on this in awhile, have to admit I’m running out of energy for this.

    More immediately important perhaps, depending on your situation – Chris, are you looking for ANY rad readings within the 20km boundary, or specifically I and/or Cs? In the last couple of days I’ve seen a good bit of data, some has been released this way, but not sure if it was just dose rates or if it included Cs & I…. Also, I think that a good bit of it was in the 20 km zone, but hope I’m not confusing it with plant boundary data, and not certain how easily I can find it for you again…. maybe easy, maybe not.

    If you have a personal stake in this (e.g., know someone who was or is close to the plant, even if they’re a little beyond the 30 km shelter zone) and it would be any use to you to correspond privately, I’d be willing. I’ve got a good bit of solid education and experience in this area of expertise. You can email me at: RationalDebate “at” gmail “dot” com

    Please tho, If it’s just curiosity and NOT a personal situation in Japan that you’re wanting to keep private then I’d prefer to keep it here where others can benefit from out discussions also.

  118. American:

    if this event has taught *anything,* it’s that oh hell yeah things can damn near always get worse.

    I take your point that there hasn’t been much consideration of how much worse it could have got but this takes much more informed opinion than is commonly available. However, I’ll make some speculations myself by way of comparison with Chernobyl.

    Like Chernobyl, Fukushima could hypothetically generate a steam explosion because it has water in it. However, unlike Chernobyl the thermal power available for such an explosion is vastly less because Fukushima’s reactors were only generating decay heat. So that just leaves the risk of re-criticality as a potential source of explosion-generating heat. I don’t know much about this but from what I’ve read, there doesn’t appear to have been any risk of re-criticality in the reactors themselves, just the spent fuel pool of reactor 4. The handling of that spent fuel for reactor 4 appears to have been very, very foolish. But barring that, there appears to have been zero risk that it could have been anywhere near as bad as Chernobyl.

  119. bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 1:26 PM said:

    “Does anyone here know for sure this is not going to cause a 0,07% increase in the percentage of assisted pregnancies?”

    No. Can’t prove an negative. At that low percentage could not prove that anything would be associated with such a small change in I don’t know what. Do you mean women who go to hospital or have a midwife vs. doing it alone? Also can’t disprove that just by you typing that sentence, you have caused whatever it is you are concerned about and neither can you. Without being able to measure anything you can’t come to any conclusions and worrying about it seems very strange.

  120. Oh, lordy. re post by: bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 12:20 PM

    So much to address in that post, and so little time!! So many errors, so little time. Sigh.

    Let’s just start with your statement:

    What nuclear practice introduces to this world is the artificialy accelerated decay of nuclei, a process that does NOT occur in open nature. We have no way of KNOWING what the long term effects will be. We are walking the razors edge here. Just like we did when we started taming fire. We did tame fire, but out of that came oil industry and we didn’t tame that. We are in deep trouble over that. Take it from an expert, we can not afford another oil industry!

    Yes, nuclear reactors amazingly enough DO occur naturally, or perhaps better put, have in the past. Look up Oklo Natural Nuclear Reactor. Here’s one link: http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/Files/Okloreactor.pdf

    This natural reactor operated, probably cycling in and out of criticality, for literally thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years.

    You all know the saying “Truth is stranger than fiction.” You wouldn’t think it possible, would you? But it happened, and almost certainly has in other places and times also. We just happened to discover this one. It is even possible that something like this is occurring elsewhere right now, but we haven’t discovered it because it is buried somewhere we’ve never looked or too deeply for us to find.

    We absolutely DO have ways of determining what the long term effects will be, unless those effects are so tiny that it is insignificant for all intents and purposes.

    As to ‘the razor edge.’ For heaven’s sake!! Fire, and then ESPECIALLY fossil fuels, have done more to raise us as a species up out of the dirt and into vastly longer healthier lives that it beggars the mind that anyone would condemn these advances. At the turn of last century (1900′s) the average lifespan in the USA, Britian, etc., was about 45 to 55 years! Today because of what cheap plentiful energy has allowed us, including leisure time, we live on average more like 78 years.

    Without fire, we couldn’t cook food – how do you like food poisoning? The inability to store any meats, and the waste that goes with that? Without oil, there goes transportation along with everything we gain from easy, rapid transportation, and so many other things. We could swap from producing electricity to coal, but the pollution from that, while minimal now compared to before the switch to scrubbers and low sulfur coal’s, is still far more than from oil. No oil, and no plastics (think about THAT for a minute), no quick easy and fast individual transportation, especially over any distance. No airplanes. Personally, I have ZERO interest in a return to the dark ages – and seriously doubt that anyone who really understands what conditions were like and isn’t just romanticizing it would want that either.

    Please, if ANY industry comes along with as many benefits and as few drawbacks as fire and oil, let it come as quickly as possible and the sooner the better!!

  121. bchtd1parrot

    Also your friend who feed his sows the wheat he grew and they had a decrease in fertility? If the wheat made up too much of their diet, they would have had nutritient problems. Wheat does not have all the essential amino acids. None of the grains do. Rice is the best and corn is the worst if I remember correctly. Need another source of more complete protein.

  122. bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 1:07 PM said:
    “Time for some scientific stuff.

    The results and effects of nuclear radiation are not measured in casualties, but in percentages disability. Yep.. 100% disability is a corpse, but it could also be ten thousand people with one little funny mole. You will never, ever, ever find that when you’re looking for statistics on cancer deaths. You can not do the tobacco industry thing on this. We do not know Jack”

    Are you saying that for instance a whole lot of people got a single freckle from this event, and even though this didn’t effect their life in any other way and they didn’t even know it was there, they have been harmed in some way, because maybe they don’t like freckles? Or regardless of whether they like or dislike freckles, they have been harmed?

    I can tell your first language is not English and you may be having difficulties expressing your ideas, but I don’t think I could understand your logic in any language.

  123. re post by: Chris Warren, on 21 March 2011 at 12:29 PM said:

    Rational Debate, on 21 March 2011 at 12:02 PM said….. the S&S report is saying that …(radiation release) would be less than Alverez postulates. That the population and environmental exposures, harm, damage, etc. would be expected to be significantly less than that from the Alverez paper.

    Of course this will have to be reviewed now.

    Well, there’s no question that whatever happened/happens at Fukushima will be reviewed out the ying yang. At this point, however, it’s pretty unlikely that the statements regarding spent fuel pool coolant loss harm being significantly less than in the Alverez paper would need to be reviewed.

    The Alverez 2003 paper said worst case would be harm far worse than Chernobyl. At this point in time, we’re not seeing anything even approaching Chernobyl from Fukushima, let alone something far worse – and so far nothing to suggest that things will take a drastic turn for the worse. Not to mention that we don’t even know right now just how much the fuel pools are or aren’t involved.

  124. re post by: bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 12:45 PM said:

    Thanks for the correction. I love it when people proof me wrong, really.

    Me too! I’d rather learn whatever the facts are than go around thinking I’m right about something when I’m actually off base.

  125. There was a comment above that was critical about monitoring of comments. It came from a former resident of the East Bloc.

    I want to address that comment.

    First of all, the repressive East Bloc regimes are gone, at least as of approximately 20 years ago they were….

    Now directly to the commenter:

    Dear sir – while I indeed understand your desire for openness after having lived in a closed regime, I want to relate my own experience with blogging.

    A couple of years ago, I was forced to shut down a pro-nuclear blog that I was doing did because of a smear attack in the comments section from a certain individual who attacked me for not towing the US right-wing line on other subjects. This religious zealot accused me of being pro-abortion and a number of other non-nuclear-energy-related positions solely because I supported workers’ rights to a living wage and similar issues.

    As a blogger, I worked for FREE. I wasn’t willing to have my work trashed by a religious zealot in the comments section.

    Therefore, I shut ‘er down!!!!!

    So as far as I’m concerned the nuclear-and-climate debate will go on, and I am content to mostly be a bystander.

    Nevertheless, I support what BraveNewClimate is doing.

    I DETEST religious zealotry!!!!! This goes for ALL religions, too!!!! Ever since I learned about how Galileo and John Scopes were treated, I’ve detested religious zealotry!!!!

  126. re post by: bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 1:01 PM said:

    Tour guide, i cant help seeing a flaw in your math. True… a million times zero is zero, but a million times almost zero isn’t.

    bchtd, please tell me what a million times 0.00000001 is. Or add a few more zero’s behind the decimal even.

  127. re post by: bchtd1parrot, on 21 March 2011 at 1:07 PM said:

    Time for some scientific stuff.

    The results and effects of nuclear radiation are not measured in casualties, but in percentages disability. Yep.. 100% disability is a corpse, but it could also be ten thousand people with one little funny mole. You will never, ever, ever find that when you’re looking for statistics on cancer deaths. You can not do the tobacco industry thing on this. We do not know Jack!

    What???? What in the world are you talking about?

  128. Thanks Barry. I may know what i’m talking about, but this is too much stick in the henhouse. I feel that. Your initiative is invaluable and i thank you very much. I hoped i could contribute, but obviously i only cause agrivasion. That is not my intend. Be good, thanks again.
    MODERATOR
    Your post has been moved to pending. Prof Brook is not here right now and I prefer that he makes the decision.

  129. bchtd1parrot: et al.

    I have been concentrating on demolishing the claim that the earthquake events were in some way astonishing. 500 years, 2000years etc. In fact the last comparable quake in the same location was in 1933. All the details are spread over the “one-on’one’ blog.

    Now I turn to another subject which I suspect (sorry moderator, can I have just one suspicion) may be also being misrepresented – the effects on public health of “fallout” – by this I mean radionucleotides, not direct gamma radiation from the source. The latter occurs (hopefully) in a bomb scenario, not a reactor scenario. I am NOT claiming (at least yet) that such “fallout” has occurred at Fukushima, the queries arose from events in Chernobyl sphere of influence.

    Just to get started try this link. I fortuitously saw one of these TV programs in the UK last year. There are links here to many more.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/tees/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8855000/8855225.stm

    Perhaps this is what you were getting at in your post. The gist of the BBC reports is that an organisation is operating to take kids from Belarus to the UK to provide short breaks from the toxic radioactivity load at home. The claim is that those suffering from bone and thyroid cancers survive longer through this program.
    I haven’t started researching this yet but it looks interesting.

  130. Axel, ich hab dein Post verstopft, es tut mir sehr Leid. Durch den Boden sinken moechte ich, so schaem ich mich. Meine Absichten sind gut, aber das macht nichts bei diese Folgen. Ich wuensche dir nichts als Gutes und bin ueberzeugt das du in Tokyo voll sicher bist. Desnichtzutrotz ist deine beitrag fuer die jenigen die Stuetz suchen m.A. unersaetzlich. Es tut mir leid.

  131. re post by:

    For whatever it’s worth, the USGS shows the 1933 quake as an 8,4, whereas this one is a 9.0. Since it’s a logrithmic scale, that’s a HUGE difference in size/intensity. It means that if the USGS values are accurate, those two quakes really aren’t comparable. I’d be curious in a link to your information showing that they are.

    On fallout – by definition fallout is particulates that wind up falling out or being pulled out (precipitation) of the atmosphere onto the ground or other surfaces. So fallout is the same as contamination once it’s on things… fallout just refers to how it gets there. It can be fairly easy to clean it off of some surfaces, but far more difficult if it gets entrained in soil. or, of course, if it’s ingested or taken up into growing plants. It can be washed off the surface of plants, its when more time passes so it can get actually incorporated into the structure of the plant that its more of a problem. If you get some radiation exposure from fallout on the ground, etc., then that’s called ground shine.

    Then the other way you get exposed can be from the plume itself. If you are standing in it as it’s passing by, then you get exposed to radiation being given off from within the plume – or if it passes fairly close overhead, then you get some cloud shine exposure.

    Finally if you are close to the actual nuclear reactor or spent fuel, and it isn’t sufficiently shielded, you get exposure that way. For that, however, you have to be pretty close to the reactor or to insufficiently shielded fuel. In an operating plant, however, you are blocked from going into any areas with really high dose rates. If you need to work in an area that does have a fairly high dose rate (but lower than the blocked areas), then at least here in the states you are issued a device that measures, in real time, both the dose rate as you go along thru different areas, and also your total accumulated dose. It will give a very loud audible alarm if preset levels for either one are exceeded, and if it alarms on dose rate, you can try moving to a lower dose rate area – sometimes that can literally moving just a step or two one direction or the other… so you move around a little bit until you find the lowest dose rate area to wait if you are waiting on something, or even if you’re working, you find quickly if shifting one way or the other slightly still allows you to accomplish your work but gives you a lower dose. If you can’t quickly find a low enuf dose rate area that’s satisfactory, or the alarm is for your total dose, then you leave right away.

    The vast majority of areas in the plant, however, aren’t contaminated, and have very little or no dose rate, no exposure. For those areas, you just wear your dosemitry that you trade in periodically and they use it to determine how much you were exposed to, and that gets added to your totals. Above a certain level that is still VERY low, and they’ll keep you out of any areas where you can get more dose for the appropriate time period. Most people who wear dosimetry don’t get ANY dose/exposure – but as with almost anything associated with nuclear, almost everyone wears dosimetry even if really unlikely to get any exposure.

    Awhile back they finally allowed some areas outside the plant fence, primarily administrative offices and support facilities that have no rad sources i them, to have area monitors/dosimetry rather than having to have it on every individual.

  132. Axel,

    With the benefit of hind-sight, it looks like you probably made the correct decision.

    However, your whole premise seems to miss one glaringly obvious point; as at Wednesday last week, there was a reasonable chance that the reactor 4 spent fuel pool would go up.[deleted personal opinion presented as fact].

    All that you have presented above is with the benefit of hind sight.

    At the time, your decision could only have been rational if you had some information that indicated that the chance of the spent fuel pool burning was very,very small. You seem to have completely overlooked the very risk that scared the French – not the reactor and the risk of a core melt – but the spent fuel polls. On this it appears to be you who has completely missed the point because the topic of the SF pools is not mentioned – but its the elephant in the room.

    Clearly, whatever information the French government had, they appeared to asses a higher risk than you did and the French are not part of the anti-nuclear lobby and also, they took the decision to make the recommendation that it did in the full knowledge that it may cause massive political issues with their own massive indigenous nuclear program.

    What you’ve said here is really no more than, “luckily I was right”.

    Personally, I agree that renewables don’t cut it and at this point, I’m not opposed to the idea of Gen III and Gen IV nuclear – but I am opposed to bias and irrationality. And the lack of critical analysis.

    If you frame this only in terms of the the information that was available on Wednesday March 16 – then the decision to leave remains quite rational. The decision buy the Japanese government not to order mass evacuations was also quite rational; what were they going to do with 100 million people in 36 hours?

  133. Re MODERATOR in nonukepower COMENTING RULES

    My apologies to you and all for loosing my temper re Moody. Will not happen again. This is a very interesting blog with a great comunity if knowledgable posters from both sides. Thank you for providing the forum.

  134. Rational Debate:

    I won’t reargue the case on the past history here – there is plenty of detail on the one-plus-one thread, but I will note that the 1933 quake was listed as 8.9 by Richter himself. With what accuracy could UGS rerate the event many years later ? There would be a substantial margin of error. There have been modifications to the scales used since then, and in any case the Richter scale is not of much use when considering resulting stress loads – 6.3 (in Christchurch) can produce similar PGA to a 9.0 (in Japan) but over a smaller area. The situation is much more complex than that.

    On “fallout” – I was using the term generically (note quotes) but your definition is fine.
    The topic I am looking at is the health effects on people (specifically in Belarus) born well after the Chernobyl event, living a considerable distance from the source, and the hypothesis that residual radioactivity may be even now causing damage to immune systems with resulting effects on general health, The BBC report (referenced above) indicates that health authorities in Belarus believe this to be the case. This is quite a different take on the effects of residual radioactivity than what most people on this site seem to believe, so it may be of interest to follow it up.

  135. American:

    I’d like to hear someone talk about those hydrogen explosions though, which I think is what really scared people. I have heard, for instance, that that outer cladding was *made* to be blown off.

    I think that’s pretty unlikely considering that they actually put vent holes in the 5 and 6 buildings after the explosions. Obviously, the possibility of hydrogen accumulation to explosive level was never anticipated.

    So does this mean that it was pretty much guaranteed that those explosions could never have reached the level to seriously harm those reactors inside?

    They were ignition explosions rather than explosions from a slow rise in pressure blowing apart a pressure vessel so there wouldn’t be a guarantee from other parts of the structure being weaker than the containment. But the pressure from the hydrogen explosions would not have exceeded 10 atmospheres so I imagine the containment wouldn’t have any problem withstanding that sort of pressure on its outside.

  136. @ Balanced:

    Spot on, old sport.

    Chris O’Neill:

    Ah, thanks Chris. As I suspected but didn’t know. But the moderator(s) here have cut the entirety of my comment that you responded to, thus causing me to lose the train of thought I was going to pursue if indeed you or someone else responded as you did.

    Maybe when they’re done spraying down the plant with all those fire-hoses a little dousing of the moderator(s) here wouldn’t hurt. Their temperature readings seem prone to run high.

  137. American, on 21 March 2011 at 11:16 PM said:

    blockquote>Maybe when they’re done spraying down the plant with all those fire-hoses a little dousing of the moderator(s) here wouldn’t hurt. Their temperature readings seem prone to run high.

    Well that was worth a chuckle, regardless of what you think of the moderators and their policies and/or the evenness of their applying that policy. But they have provided a forum for high temperature discussion, which they promise to not to douse, unless it breaks out into flames. So I think that’s fair.

  138. re post by: Balanced, on 21 March 2011 at 7:55 PM

    I have to disagree with you. I believe that Axel’s decision to stay was far more logical and reasoned than you imply – and his post here certainly not “lucky I was right.”

    Why? Well, let’s take your worst case scenario, as I’m certain he did also.

    You say he was missing a glaringly obvious point – that a fuel pool had a good chance of ‘going up.’ Well, I’m not certain just what you mean by ‘going up’ but by the 19th when he wrote this, everyone was talking about the risks associated with fuel pools. Axel quotes Sir John Beddington – now I don’t know exactly what day he spoke to him, but Beddington gave a worst case as a major explosion, the implication of course is that he either meant within a core or possibly core or fuel pool. Either would be about the same. Axel also spoke to as many other experts as he could – none of which apparently felt that there was any significant risk to staying in Tokyo.

    Let’s step aside from what ‘the experts think about this case,’ however (always useful to get good info from credible, rational experts!), and go back to your worst case, of a fuel pool ‘going up.’ It seems that after many many analyses by top experts on worst case risk from fuel pools, including those attacked by terrorists, or from natural ‘bombs’ (e.g., cars and other obstacles thrown/blown with great force by tornadoes, etc.). The worst estimate seems to be from a single paper, looking at a spent fuel pool with multiple full cores in it, and thought that would be worse than Chernobyl. That paper was attacked, with the majority thinking that it far overestimated what the results would be. Keep in mind that for anyone other than plant workers and ‘liquidators’ (those tasked to do the onsite cleanup), here two decades later the biggest harm overall seems to be from the panic and the psychological effects. The worst health effects by far throughout the time since is a total of about 1/2 of 1 percent of the children who were estimated to be likely to have gotten fairly high internal levels of I-131 have gotten thyroid cancer. About 4,000 cases above what would have occurred naturally, total. Thyroid cancer is very treatable by surgery and very survivable. The actual number caused by radiation could easily be far lower (see earlier posts on this issue). The exclusion boundary, e.g., land ‘lost’ by government order is 30km surrounding the plant. Plants and animals appear to be thriving in that area. Of the plant workers at the time of the incident – 1 lost to the explosion, 2 to steam burns, and about 28 firemen from a combination of radiation exposure and thermal burns that in most cases were severe enough they likely would have died from those alone. I’m not sure of the numbers on the ‘liquidators,’ although I think that there were something like 600,000 total.

    Notice something about the worst Chernobyl effects offsite? They’re all from longer term exposures, not some instantaneous thing.

    Notice something else? Worst to members of the public is the 4,000 children who, in the next decade or two, developed thyroid cancer.

    So, let’s take your scenario of a fuel pool ‘going up.’ It’s clear that Axel knows some of these things. That even if a fuel pool or reactor ‘went up’ this second, nothing can get to Tokyo any faster than the wind can get there, and then only if the wind is blowing straight from the plant in the direction of Tokyo. There are other ways it could get there, such as being blown off in a different direction entirely but then the winds changing and blowing what’s left of it over Tokyo, etc., but that takes even longer. Then we also know that the total dose you get is dependent on the amount and type of radiation you are exposed to over time. In other words, even once our hypothetical plume gets to Tokyo, it’s not like “oh, it touched me for a second, horrors will result!” The dose rate would already be significantly lower than it was when it left the plant just because of decay of the short lived isotopes, and because of the huge dispersion factor of the atmosphere itself.

    Then we have the fact that TEPCO and the Japanese government hasn’t been shy about ordering evacuations so far. If a fuel pool ‘went up’ there is good reason, based on their actions so far, to believe that they would announce this and provide rapid warnings to areas that might be affected. Even if you don’t trust them, the press would be trumpeting to the high heavens that plant workers had pulled back. In other words, there wouldn’t be any secret about it possible, those in Tokyo would get warning, almost certainly in advance of any plume from a pool ‘going up’ arriving.

    I’m not sure why you are going back and making an issue of Wed 16th… but all of this still holds for that date also. Wouldn’t matter if the issue of possible fuel pool problems was being generally discussed that day or not – any major change to rad levels on site would have been virtually imediately noticed and actions taken, including changing recommendations to those offsite – offsite recommendations aren’t made based just on known plant conditions, but on radiation levels and projections made on what worst case levels might become.

    So, take your worst case of a fuel pool ‘going up’ and Axel’s decision to stay in Tokyo knowing some basic facts about radiation, atmospheric dispersion, time factors, etc., and his decision STILL looks quite reasonable, rational, logical and well thought out.

  139. Gentlemen, as i posted my arguments on your respons, with some reluctance knowing i’m in tricky water, it got ‘mulched’. Not deleted or rerouted, just mulched, lost. I do not believe in coincedence, so since its you i was going to respond to , my question is: Do you still want me to? The respons is somewhat solid, so if you do i’ll go topic by topic. And yes… i’m quite aware of the fact i must have a screw loose. Problem is that doesnt judge the arguments.
    MODERATOR
    We value your comments but please make sure you post on the correct thread for general comments – the Fukushima Open Thread.
    We do not have the ability to re-route the comments to the appropriate thread so we delete them and ask you to re-post on the correct one.
    This thread is for updates on the Fukushima situation.

  140. re post by: whalelawyer, on 21 March 2011 at 9:56 PM said:

    but I will note that the 1933 quake was listed as 8.9 by Richter himself. With what accuracy could UGS rerate the event many years later ? There would be a substantial margin of error.

    Actually, Whalelawyer, I think you answered your own postulate right there. As best I understand it, the Richter scale is designed to measure moderate sized earthquakes, and falls apart above about a 7.0. It also is only accurate if the seismograph(s) measuring the quake are within about 370 mi of the epicenter. The further back you go in time, the less likely that was to be the case.

    The “Moment Magnitude,” on the other hand, was designed to be able to measure not only medium sized but also large earthquakes and does so far more accurately than Richter for large quakes. It falls apart for quakes smaller than something like 3.5 tho. So the Moment Magnitude is what we hear all the time today for medium to large quakes, and they’ll use other scales for small ones.

    As to converting older large quakes from Richter to MM, in most cases they ought to be able to do that quite accurately. The USGS (or whoever is converting one) just needs the measurement data from the original quake and that shouldn’t be at all hard to come by for any largish quake I wouldn’t think. In that way, they can almost certainly wind up with far more accurate representations of the size of quakes that were originally reported on the Richter scale but were bigger than a 7 (where Richter is no longer accurate).

    You are absolutely right that MM or Richter scale levels may not begin to tell the story at specific ground locations! Problem is that unless each site has the ability to measure the horizontal & vertical ground displacement, we’ve got no way to compare other than to use the general size of the quake and distance from epicenter as a rough estimate. We can’t even use damage to tell us which quake was worse, because building codes, materials, age of buildings, etc., all make a massive difference too. Which leaves us to have to fall back on the MM for comparisons. We’ll probably get g for Fukushima and the other Japanese nuclear plants, but was anyone measuring g in Christchurch?

    I’ve GOT to say that seeing video of the Toyko skyscrapers, and from high up within one during the earthquake were mindblowing. I’ve been in tall skyscrapers swaying a little with the wind and that’s disconcerting enough, I can’t imagine being in the Toyko skyscrapers during a large quake that way. Also seeing them made me worry/wonder if a destructive harmonic isn’t possible. I think they must have considered that, but I wonder… talk about mindblowing engineering gone wrong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-zczJXSxnw (Tacoma Narrows Bridge – e.g., Gallopin’ Gertie)

    The topic I am looking at is the health effects on people (specifically in Belarus) born well after the Chernobyl event, living a considerable distance from the source, and the hypothesis that residual radioactivity may be even now causing damage to immune systems with resulting effects on general health

    Whalelawyer, this is one of those situations where a scientist almost never says never. The chances of anything like this are so infinitesimal, however, as to be extremely unlikely. Just by moving from one place to another you can drastically change the amount of background radiation you are exposed to, and yet there is no sign of any harm to those who live their entire lives in higher background levels.

    Research shows us that if anything, some increase in radiation exposures over background levels is probably beneficial, not harmful – and that’s many many peer reviewed papers over several decades.

    Look up Ramsar in Iran, where, iirc, the average annual background dose is 1 Rem (10 mSv). Residents in that area have long been reported to live longer, healthier lives than from nearby areas with lower dose rates. Or Kerala in India, Flinders Ranges in Australia, and a few other locations around with world with very high natural background radiation levels.

    Right now, with decades of studies, research, and epidemiology, there’s just nothing to support the idea of low levels of radiation such as you’re talking about having a negative effect – and there is a lot that suggests just the opposite, that it is actually beneficial to human health and well being. I’m sure those kids are enjoying the change and the vacation tho, who wouldn’t, especially at that age!?

  141. @Roger Brown – You’re right, I find your ideas impossibly idealistic, and given the lessons of history, I’m not the one not connecting with reality.

    I wrote elsewhere in these pages that I see a parallel to this limits-to-growth ideology, and that of the Anarchist movement of the early 1900s who believed that humanity could get along fine without government of any kind. A nice idea, but monumentally impractical. That is why that movement has been relegated to the dustbin of history.

  142. Pingback: Sensibler Umgang mit Technik – ein marxistisches Gebot der Stunde « bluthilde

  143. to MODERATOR, it seems that this thread is cut off at 22 Mar 3:21 pm. I believe that there were quite a few posts after this. Would you please check and see why they aren’t displaying? Thank you!
    MODERATOR
    I have passed this on to Barry to check out.

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