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


[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 or


(*) 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.





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


By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

177 replies on “Fukushima Nuclear Accident – Why I stay in Tokyo”

@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?


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:

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.


@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)


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


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.
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.


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.


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]


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.,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.


Rational Debate

Thank you for that post. It said what I wanted to but could not see beyond the red to say. It is a touchy subject. I was very close to TMI.


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.


@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.


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?


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?


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


@ 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 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!,Time_Line


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]


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?


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!


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?


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.
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:-)


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.


@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.


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.


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.


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.)
We are here to moderate comments not articles posted on the blog.


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.


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

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

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.
Relevance – Please maintain focus on the topic at hand. Do not attempt to solve big problems in a single comment, or to offer as fact what are simply opinions about complex matters.
Disclaimer — The views expressed on this website are my own or my contributors’ and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Adelaide or the Government of South Australia.


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 ). 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.


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.


I should add that the 12 xrays was in addition to the recorded 550 mRem of radiation I received during my career as a US Navy officer, operating and inspecting surface ship nuclear power plants.



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.


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.


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:

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!!



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!!!!


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.


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?


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.
Your post has been moved to pending. Prof Brook is not here right now and I prefer that he makes the decision.


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.

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.


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.


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.



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?



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.


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.



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.


@ 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.


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.


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.


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.
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.


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: (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!?


@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.


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!
I have passed this on to Barry to check out.


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