Fukushima Open Thread 2

The last Open Thread dedicated to the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is getting overloaded, so here is a new one. Same rules apply:

The Open Threads on BraveNewClimate.com are a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing really ‘off topic’ here — within reason. Please use this particularly comment thread to post anything on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident that is NOT directly related to the content/intent of the other threads (which are usually about status updates, engineering details, specific perspectives, etc.).

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the general topic of nuclear energy, climate change mitigation, energy security, and the Fukushima crisis.

Please follow the commenting rules, although the ‘stay on topic’ rule obviously does not apply as strictly here.

Finally, a suggestion. There are often multiple trains of discussion going on, and a comment stream is not really the best way to manage this (a PHP forum would be preferable for this purpose — but we make do with what we have — this blog/website is not primarily intended as an undirected/unmoderated usenet-style listing). In lieu of this, I recommend that you preface your comment with a bold category word, so people can quickly ascertain what you are talking about, e.g. <b>radiation health physics</b> or <b>nuclear insurance</b> or whatever.


  1. radiation and LNT

    We have been deceived into believing that all radiation is bad because of policy reliance on the “linear no-threshold” theory, or LNT, which states that if large amounts of something cause death or sickness, fractional amounts of the same thing cause proportional amounts of death or sickness. If the LNT were applied to falling as it is to radiation, we might note that 100 percent of those falling onto concrete from 100 feet are killed, but only 50 percent of those falling from 50 feet die. With these data we would linearly extrapolate to say that 10 percent falling from 10 feet and one percent of those falling from one foot would die. Armed with this “linear no-threshold falling theory,” we could confidently assert that jumping rope should be banned on all school playgrounds since statistically anyone making 100 one-foot jumps would die.


  2. I posted a comment/question relarted to seawater and salt deposition/corrosion about 5 days ago, and then again yesterday. It said the comment was awaiting approval by the moderator, and then it did not show up. Am I doing something wrong? My comments were not frivolous.
    Sorry – I don’t remember seeing the comment.I checked the Search box with your name and this is the only comment showing up on the history. Usually it would be posted with a moderator comment if something was deemed amiss. Please re-post.


  3. radiation and LNT

    the problem is, that we are breaking safety limits in Japan at many places these days. and those limits are NOT the result of a “linear no-threshold” theory.


  4. DV82XL,

    Great comment, spot on.

    Even under the rules of LNT, there should statistically be very few deaths attributable to Fukushima. I’ve yet to see evidence that any member of the public has been exposed to more than a few milliSieverts in the space of a day or so.


  5. “Gov’t asks treatment plants not to take in rainwater due to radiation

    TOKYO, March 27, Kyodo

    The health ministry has instructed the operator of water purification plants nationwide to temporarily stop taking in rainwater to prevent contamination in tap water following radiation leaks from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, ministry officials said Sunday.”




  6. I’ve been pondering the impact of radiation on DNA and it seems to me that there is arguably some analogy to the effect that noise has on a digital radio signal. DNA, like a digital radio signal, includes protocols to correct bit errors.

    Assuming a very rudimentary correction algorithm relying on a single parity bit we can ponder the impact of noise on a digital signal. At low levels of noise a digital radio signal can entirely filter out the interference. A single bit error in any given packet sequence can be repaired perfectly using parity checking. This can continue up to the point where every packet has a bit error. However the moment you get multiple bit errors in a signal packet then assuming noise starts to be manifested in the transmission result.

    Obviously this is just a metaphor and I freely admit that I might have misunderstood the underlying mechanisms by which the process of DNA replication works to filter out noise. However if the analogy is appropriate it is not hard to see that there could be a quite abrupt threshold effect.


  7. Nuclear/renewables

    @ Mike:

    I agree, if you need R&D to make something viable, then obviously it is not viable now.

    But then, given the progress being made, this is not wishful thinking.

    All development and discovery starts like this, and follows an incremental path.

    The trouble with the idea that significant progress is likely in renewables R&D is that we are now way past the intial phase of the development curve with renewable power sources. They are mostly mature technologies and not much more can really be expected to be squeezed out of them.


  8. It’s possible (perhaps likely) the radiation spike at reactor 2 yesterday was in error. The technician took a reading that was a million times higher than expected, and rather than taking a second reading, bugged out. Honestly, who among you would have waited to take a second reading?


  9. To those “experts” who insist the future is “doomed” to one outcome or another (especially those who claim its nuclear power or certain doom, but also economic growth or doom,) I offer this interesting new book. Turns out predicting the future is harder than you think, and the so called “experts” of one field or another are in fact less accurate at predicting the future than those who possess a little knowledge about a lot of things and adjust their opinions and predictions as more information is learned. Also known as “common sense” thinkers.


    This is the problem Dan Gardner tackles in “Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Are Next to Worthless, and You Can Do Better.” Gardner, a Canadian journalist and author of “The Science of Fear,” takes as his starting point the work of Philip Tetlock, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Beginning in the 1980s, Tetlock examined 27,451 forecasts by 284 academics, pundits and other prognosticators. The study was complex, but the conclusion can be summarized simply: the experts bombed. Not only were they worse than statistical models, they could barely eke out a tie with the proverbial dart-throwing chimps.

    The most generous conclusion Tetlock could draw was that some experts were less awful than others. Isaiah Berlin once quoted the Greek poet Archilochus to distinguish between two types of thinkers: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin admired both ways of thinking, but Tetlock borrowed the metaphor to account for why some experts fared better. The least accurate forecasters, he found, were hedgehogs: “thinkers who ‘know one big thing,’ aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains” and “display bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it,’ ” he wrote. Better experts “look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things,” “are skeptical of grand schemes” and are “diffident about their own forecasting prowess.”



  10. I am not sure what sources folks are using to make references to renewable energy being at the end of some learning curve. Photovoltaics prices continue to follow a 10 % cost reduction learning curve with worldwide production about 50% greater each year. I was just at a physics lecture this week where a 27.9% efficient solar technology was described in great detail by one of the world’s leading PV physicists, including production costs. Pumped storage and thermal storage are both methods for extending solar technology availability to non solar hours. Let’s get all the costs, environmental and waste issues on the table and then compare the desireability and economics of various possible future energy paths.



  11. LNT

    To LNT or not to LNT, that is the question.

    perhaps @DV82XL This is an ancient debate in nuclear circles, so he’s no doubt heard it all before….

    The latest high level US scientific panel assessment of the hazard presented by ionizing radiation is BEIR VII The Executive Summary is a quick 18 page online read available here –> http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=11

    When describing what literature the committee assessed for this report, from various disciplines, the word “all” appears repeatedly.

    The problem is not that the high level scientific panels made some sort of mistake with LNT, and it is not that society’s “policy reliance” on LNT is wrong. Our problem with LNT is society’s selective application of the insight it gives us.

    Eg. I live in Seattle where I’m told the background radiation exposure is close to the US average. If I was to move to Spokane Washington 450 miles away my exposure would increase by a factor of 5. The additional exposure would dwarf the additional exposure someone would receive 10,000 years from now if they were to wander around the surface at Yucca, had it been certified and used as a nuke waste dump. No one argues that we truck away Spokane Washington to a nuclear waste dump, yet regulations have forced nuclear sites being decommissioned that were less radioactive to be treated as hazardous waste.

    People dispute this line of reasoning by pretending there is a difference between exposure caused by adding radioactive material to a particular site and moving to a site that is more radioactive, although they tend to ignore insanity such as trucking off what’s left of a nuclear facility to a nuke waste dump while allowing the much more radioactive offices (due to building materials) of the former management of the facility a free pass to be disposed of anywhere.

    Getting back to BEIR VII, i.e. from the “a few choice quotes” department:

    “The committee judged that the linear no-threshold model (LNT) provided the most reasonable description of the relation between low-dose exposure to ionizing radiation and the incidence of solid cancers that are induced by ionizing radiation” page 6

    “One challenge to understanding the health effects of radiation is that there is no general property that makes the effects of man-made radiation different from those of naturally occurring radiation.”

    “At doses less than 40 times the average yearly background exposure (100 mSv), statistical limitations make it difficult to evaluate cancer risk in humans”

    “A comprehensive review of the biology data led the committee to conclude that the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to human”

    “Some of the materials the committee reviewed included arguments that low doses of radiation are more harmful than a LNT model of effects would suggest. The BEIR VII committee has concluded that radiation health effects research, taken as a whole, does not support this view. In essence, the committee concludes that the higher the dose, the greater is the risk; the lower the dose, the lower is the likelihood of harm to human health”

    “some materials provided to the committee suggest that the LNT model exaggerates the health effects of low levels of ionizing radiation. They say that the risks are lower than predicted by the LNT, that they are nonexistent, or that low doses of radiation may even be beneficial. The committee also does not accept this hypothesis. …..Before coming to this conclusion, the committee reviewed articles arguing that a threshold or decrease in effect does exist at low doses. Those reports claimed that at very low doses, ionizing radiation does not harm human health or may even be beneficial. The reports were found either to be based on ecologic studies or to cite findings not representative of the overall body of data. ….in some cases, such studies have suggested that the incidence of cancer is much higher or lower than the numbers observed with more precise epidemiologic studies. When the complete body of research on this question is considered, a consensus view emerges. This view says that the health risks of ionizing radiation, although small at low doses, are a function of dose.”

    Caution: when writing or speaking as if this report contains valid information this author (i.e. me) has been subjected to open contempt and ridicule in comments on pro nuclear blogsites. Don’t let this happen to you. Apparently the pro nuclear types like to examine part of the literature, or they are early adopters of scientific concepts the more august levels of the scientific establishment want to take their time with.

    I think it is counterproductive in the extreme to be questioning the competence of a scientific panel such as BEIR VII or the National Academies. We must preserve our great scientific institutions as a place where people can get authoritative assessments of science. This is vital, because as the NAS has repeatedly stated there are far greater issues at stake than nuclear power. The current President of the NAS says Hansen, above all his peers, is the best living climatologist. Hansen asserts that the viability of Earth to support life will be jeopardized if the wastes of the fossil fuels still left in the ground are allowed to enter the atmosphere. This can not be allowed to occur.

    No one ever asked the Academy for its opinion about should we continue to demand that the nuclear industry be forced to pour all these billions of dollars down rat holes in pursuit of a few millirem that make no difference. Rather than dispute the Academy assessment of LNT, we should ask it, now that the Academy has become so concerned about climate, what will they say now, about the selective application of their LNT insight into radiation.

    Let them speak clearly. The hour is getting late.

    Rather than dispute LNT, because of the way the anti nukes have exploited it given irrational public fear, we should direct the Academy to tell us how best to deal with radiation in all aspects of our lives.


  12. solar power costs
    steve lapp, your information on the 10% reduction trend would be interesting to review, if you have a link. However I have to advise you that the panels are no longer the largest part of solar PV installation costs, so changes in panel prices will not give you the same improvement in electricity costs.

    I am always interested in real advances in PV physics, which is undoubtedly still making progress.

    Storage costs are not trivial. If reckoned as part of the solar power installation, they will add hugely to the cost of electricity. Improvements in storage technology favours nuclear power faster than it favours intermittants, because less storage is required to make nuclear fully responsive from its (already useful) baseload position than to make wind/solar responsive from their energy-scavenging position.


  13. The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety has some pretty interesting simulations on anticipated nuclide concentrations and impacts for Fukushima and surrounding area (for first seven days of accident). Full and updated document record here.

    Atmospheric dispersion analysis and animation.

    Whole body doses (in milliseiverts).

    Iodine-131 dose levels.

    Global dispersion analysis and animation.

    Their update for March 22 includes estimates for rare gases, iodine, cesium, and tellurium, and suggests 10% “the releases estimated during the Chernobyl accident” (with caveats). Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics places their estimates in 20-50% range of Chernobyl for I-131 and Cs-137 (here and here). Recent statements from IAEA Director General and lack thereof from Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicate we are “still far from the end of the accident.” Smoke emissions are still being reported for Reactors 1, 3, and 4 (and occasionally steam emissions from Spent Fuel Pool in 2, which as of March 27 still has “damage suspected” to containment vessel). 5 day extended forecast for Fukushima Prefecture calls for chance of rain Tuesday and Thursday, and rain (with 4 mph NW winds) on Wednesday.

    @DV82XL. It seems to me hormetic effects at the low range of LNT values (which indicate physiological stress or an immune system response in the presence of higher than background levels of radiation) are little comfort for anybody reading daily values of “radioactive fallout” near their homes, heightened concerns over weather forecasts and wind direction, indication that crisis might last additional weeks and/or months, and reports of higher than recommended levels of fission products in municipal tap water and food safety guidelines for adults and infants.


  14. solar power costs

    10 % reduction

    If I believe news about First Solars production costs Solar costs 76 cents per watt.

    If I pay attention to various Federal Loan Guarantee News the picture is different.

    At 76 cents/watt a 290MW solar farm in Arizona should cost about $220 million.

    The loan guarantee for the project is $967 million.

    In addition to the loan guarantee it would appear that NRG Energy is putting in an additional $800 million in equity.

    So $800 million in equity + $967 million in loads = $1.7 billion.

    It would appear to my simple mind that the 76 cent solar/watt solar panels end up costing more then $6/watt by the time they are installed.

    How much the public is going to have to pay for this ‘inexpensive’ solar power is apparently a secret.


  15. Many people claim that the solar panels they have installed on their roofs will pay back in about 10 years. Doing the calculations, I find this to be true but with a huge government subsidy. I am paying extra taxed so that my brother and law will benefit in 10 years – if there are a lot of sunny days.

    One person posted on the internet how may solar panels needed to power the United States during the day. His calculation used 80 watts per 1000 sq. in panel. It turned out that one would have to cover the entire earth surface three times.


  16. Suspect that “76 cent solar/watt” is the cost per solar watt in direct sun in space. (label wattage)

    Like wind power the actual output is far less then the label wattage. For wind power the actual output seems to run 1/3 the label wattage. So that a 100MW wind farm typically output 33MW.

    Solar has even more problems based on location. In New England, actual output is likely going to be about 1/10 the label wattage.

    Once this is computed in, it looks like we’re at $7.60 / watt for just the chips.


  17. @David Lewis – Consider this review on Energy Probe’s website, of all places, at:


    This review says much about what many epidemiologists have been doing. After reading it, you might have a better understanding of what “willful blindness” means. One very interesting sentence is quoted from the Cardis study on leukemia mortality (Cardis et al. 1995), which accepted only risk increments: “As there was no reason to suspect that exposure to radiation would be associated with a decrease in risk of any specific type of cancer, one sided tests are presented throughout.”


  18. to keep your solar cost calculations fair, please factor the cost of the Fukushima disaster into the cost of nuclear.

    in a decade, every roof and every window facing the right direction will produce solar energy.


  19. LNT
    Scraches on the neck would be found carry a significant risk of death, if a linear model was assumed and cases of decapitation were included.

    David Lewis

    The models “allowed” and the extent of out-of scope data included to influence the studies is a repeated theme in BEIR group’s work. They claim to be studying low-level radiation in that document but most studies quoted are fitting with data way outside low-level as they define it.

    Your quote from page 6 is interesting in that it shows how little time the BEIR report has for the idea of a threshold. The description of it is limited to a line among three others on the figure PS-3 on p7. Even there the apparent simplicity of the LNT is shown to be a fraud; the use of a low-dose adjustment factor renders the concept meaningless. Their discussion of a threshold model pp 9-10 is limited to a paragraph placed after a discussion on why low-level radiation is not more dangerous than extrapolation from high-level would suggest, and admixed thoroughly with the alternative hypothesis of hormesis, concealing its null-hypothesis status.

    Or maybe that’s just my selective reading. Each should judge for themselves.


  20. Re Shadowrun specious offer


    I agree with DV82XY on LNT. I am a volunteer emergency radio operator. The only reason I am not on the list to go over with volunteers is that I am recovering from a spinal infection and am just not physically capable.

    If you have the contact information and are not already there then why are you not on a plane? I can think of few better ways to spend a couple weeks of vacation days.


  21. The public hearing on Darlington expansion

    Yesterday went to Darlington expansion hearings in Courtice. Quite an ordeal getting there, alleviated by hitching one ~5-km ride when I realized I would be very late if I got there under only my own power.I said a very brief, I guess 40-second, version of my piece, something like

    I am a layman who is trying to promote nuclear production of motor fuel. For electricity production, I am in favour of the expansion of the Darlington station because it will use inexhaustible fuel that is currently very inexpensive, with no pollution, no waste worries, and, in particular, none of today’s real waste worry: global warming.

    I then found myself indecisive about what to say next, panicked, and declared myself done, forgetting to use my microphone time to ask about resident inspectors, and to ask if anyone there would take me back to Cobourg.

    So I had to try to bicycle back, but soon realized my hill-climbing ability was gone. Going down the long hill that includes highway 2’s intersection with 115, assisted by an unrelenting northwest wind, I was amazed that earlier in the day I could have got up it, against that vicious wind.

    Three motorists assisted me this time, and while I was walking from Port Hope to Cobourg, a fourth stopped to see if he might, but his car had no room for the bike, and I was too chilled to think of the obvious possibility of abandoning it.

    Shortly after this, the last of the three successful thumbings got me all the way home, even though that wasn’t on the man’s way.

    On the way in, stopped at the Clarington public library. It is very nice. They made me a guest card so that I could use a terminal, and I emailed Julie Bouchard of the CNSC — not connected to the net right now, so no access to most of this year’s email, but I did think to take a local copy of that one, hence I know her name — that I would be an hour late. This estimate was about three minutes optimistic: when I sat down in the back row, my camera said 14:34, so I got from Cobourg to Courtice in 5.0 hours. My presentation was the day’s last.

    The library terminal could have been mine for 120 minutes!

    <emHow fire can be domesticated


  22. LNT etc

    Shadowrun – I assume that your throwaway remark on DV8 2XL joining the response team is an implicit accusation of hypocrisy – that he is dismissing risks to other that he would take seriously if faced with himself.

    Such accusations are a hallmark of people who would rather not discuss the subject at hand and prefer to play the man instead of the ball. They are not impressive and rarely witty.

    I assure you that the people including myself who see large holes in the justification of LNT are not dismissive of the real hazards on-site at Fukushima. Most the real threats are from things that are far less controllable than exposure to radiation – damaged buildings and electrical systems, for example. The workers there are trained and focussed – they do not need additional bodies.


  23. The reason I think solar power is not practical:

    Stick your hand into a burning coal furnace. You’ll burn it in less than a second.

    Stick your hand out into the bright sunlight at high noon on a summer day. Maybe takes 2 hours to burn?

    The raw energy sources for fossil fuels and nuclear are so much more concentrated, it seems to me that “renewables” will never be practical for large-scale replacement of “dirty” energy technologies.


  24. Reactor Core Cooling

    The cores of reactors 1, 2, amd 3 are now somewhat stable in temperature (>100 C) and pressure (>1 atm). The fuel rods are still producing substantial heat from decay of fission products, on the order of a few megawatts, I believe.

    Two questions — a brief reply or pointer to a resource for further reading would be much appreciated.

    (1) How are the operators removing heat from the cores, at present? Is the main strategy still “bleed and feed,” whereby water (salt or fresh) is injected, and a similar weight of steam is vented to the atmosphere?

    (2) What is the next step for the engineers on-site? Is it to re-start some ECCS pumps on AC power, so that core water can be routed through some heat exchangers?


  25. Is there any way to get rid of the new IPad wanna be interface here? It is pretty but having to load a page, open comments and then hit reload to be able to get to the old style thread that was quick to scroll through is a real pain.

    It is pretty though.
    It’s a WordPress thing – totally out of our hands.


  26. sod said:
    >to keep your solar cost calculations fair, please factor the cost of the Fukushima disaster into the cost of nuclear.

    The cost of Fukushima will be ignored when calculating the cost of nuclear power in the same way the cost of Chernobyl has been ignored (extremely conservative estimates put it at $150 billion). Consider for a moment the sheer magnitude of resources the US put into designing and building bomb fuel factories in the 1950’s (electricity was arguably a side effect, these plants were built for nuclear bomb fuel, and the investment saw no return for the taxpayers). Consider how much educating a single nuclear engineer costs (on the cheap, $40k, maybe). The true costs of electricity from nuclear power are grossly underestimated and we can expect this long trend to continue.

    FWIW, I think we should still have and buil nuclear plants, and lots of well-educated nuclear engineers. I just don’t agree with any plan of further large scale proliferation. Its time to find something better. Its fantastic that we have plenty of smart people working on it. But we cannot forget the mess nuclear energy has left for us (there really is quite a lot of nuclear waste now, unfortunately… we can’t just ignore it anymore hoping for a future solution… well, we can, but we should not.


  27. solar power costs – who cares?

    The costs will come down and make solar competitive. Solar? Yes please. Wind? Yes please. But the numbers don’t add up for wind and solar alone. No way, no how. Let’s be very generous and give them each 20% of the energy pie. Then generously give other renewables and conservation/efficiency another 20%. That leaves a shortfall of at least 40%. Carbon capture? Unfeasible, expensive, and way too easy to cheat. Coal must be left in the ground. So– nuclear? Yes please.

    Bickering about the cost per kWh of solar? Meaningless.

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at 392 ppm and rising. Global energy demand is growing. The best way to slow population growth is economic development in the developing world, and that means lots more energy production. It can’t be coal.

    A look at the numbers: http://www.withouthotair.com/

    A look at the solutions:


  28. skeptic, good point: what to do with the waste has always been an issue with nuclear energy. It’s arguably the biggest issue.

    Fourth generation “fast” reactors eat nuclear waste for fuel.


  29. Mike wrote:

    Renewables, [NB] with future R&D, can provide constant power for a population (whatever it is at the time). This is a more balanced view.

    The fuel cell entry in Wikipedia will give some data indicative of our future. If Phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFC) emerge as a key option, generation costs per Watt will be around $4-4.5, and with roll-out this will fall.

    Submarines, cars, boats and buses can all run on fuel cells, even now.

    A fuel cell is not an energy source. You still need to produce the fuel somehow, usually hydrogen. It can be done by some renewable energy source, of course, but there are a lot of unsolved problems in transporting and storage of hydrogen. As seen in Fukushima, hydrogen is VERY explosive. It may also be harmful for the ozone layer if widely used and entering the atmosphere from leaks.

    The main difference between fossil fuel / nuclear and renewable energy is entropy. The entropy of renewable energy sources is always bigger making it more expensive than fossil/nuclear. This is a physical fact and it will not chance by R&D. Nuclear will always be cheaper than renewable.

    Fossil fuels will not run out. However, the entropy of fossil fuel will increase in the future because they will be harder to find and harvest than in the past. The tar sand is a good example about this. There is a huge amount of oil there but it is expensive to harvest because the entropy is so big. The entropy of nuclear will not increase in the near future. On the contrary, because breeder reactors will decrease the entropy by factor 100.

    So you say that expensive renewable energy is ok, that it’s worth the extra money? Perhaps so, but it means, that more time is needed to phase out fossil fuel without nuclear than with nuclear.


  30. Solar/Wind/Coal/Nuclear Costs

    For coal, natural gas, hydro and nuclear power the cost per kWh is well established. For solar the numbers depend on the source. Do these numbers look about right?

    Coal: 6.2 cents per kWh
    Gas: 6.5 cents per kWh
    Nuclear: 8.4 cents per kWh
    Hydro: 4 cents per kWh
    Wind: 9 cents per kWh
    Solar: 38 cents per kWh

    Please correct me if I am wrong about the cost of solar power, and point me to sources of your information.


  31. TerjeP: cellular cancer mechanisms aren’t like bit or multibit errors. Its more like a multistage lottery. For a cell to become cancerous it must pass through multiple stages … A->B->C … about 10 in all. Between each pair of states the causal factors which will enhance or inhibit the risk of moving to the next state may be different. The famous case is beta carotene which inhibits cancer in most cells except those already advanced along the chain and then it increases risk. A lot of the work on this is in vitro but seems applicable to in-vivo. I don’t know the specifics of how radiation fits into this picture, my reading has been confined to nutritional/lifestyle factors, many of which can turn genes on or off. Some genes will, when active, enhance movement between states in the chain, and others inhibit.


  32. [blockquote]Joffan wrote:

    Such accusations are a hallmark of people who would rather not discuss the subject at hand and prefer to play the man instead of the ball. They are not impressive and rarely witty.[/blockquote]

    @Joffan and DV82XL. I assume you know it is the goal of nuclear plant design to keep fission products and radiation contained within the power plant, and not spread it out finely over land, sea, farm, fishing grounds, and rural and urban environments (where natural decay rates, and environmental diffusion from wind, water, and time can mitigate whatever long term and short term health impacts are likely to arise from this). Debunking LNT isn’t going to help restore people’s confidence in nuclear power plants, but engineering better facilities that aren’t obsolete, exceed siting requirements, have robust containment structures, and don’t fail when the lights go out … this definitely will!! I think it’s time we get back to the ball, and stop playing the man on this particular subject!


  33. @Kaj Luuko
    That last sentence just about says it. Thats why i’m not against nuclear energy. It has also been argued before that total abandoning of nuclear power is not a realistic future expectation. That’s why getting it done safely is the thing to do. The problem there is not in the technology itself, but in the way it is handled. In that respect immidiate financial interest plays a mayor role, as does misunderstanding of radioactive hazard. Those who understand nuclear processes know its a fairly small step from unwanted nuclear waste to useable nuclear fuel. The hazard remains the way it is practiced. This knife cuts at both sides. Nuclear energy alone is no solution either.


  34. The new type of fuel cell is yet another claimed ‘breakthrough’ technology in a long line. We were told that dry rock geothermal would provide baseload back in 2009 if I recall. Then it was wavepower via tethered underwater balloons then it was algae then it was kites. What next?

    I note that for electrical energy storage in medium-tech form they haven’t bettered the lead acid battery at about $200 per kwh. I think the basic idea came from the Babylonians about 2000 years ago. So much for R&D.


  35. There has been a recent breakthrough for a new catalyst for fuel cells. It is based on duped carbon nanotubes rather than platinum. From the article
    “Unlike platinum, the carbon-based catalyst: doesn’t lose catalytic activity and, therefore, efficiency, over time; isn’t fouled by carbon monooxide poising; and is free from the crossover effect with methanol.”
    This means you do not have to store or transport hydorgen. You can power up all your mobile and remote sites using methanol.


  36. Well some of us have to work on Mondays.

    So good-bye to all you retirees, and students etc.

    Remember – Nuclear is quick, dirty, short-term, [deleted personal opinion on motives] but hugely profitable.

    Renewables are coming, clean, long-term, democratic, economic, and preferable.

    If Australia does not invest in renewables we will be left behind other nations that are fast tracking these develoments.

    Australia will be the looser.

    I do not enjoy those [ad hom deleted] who try to suggest that if we do not go down the nuclear path the climate change will destroy civilisation.

    I can put up with some technical and commercial enthusiasm for nuclear, [deleted personal opinion about a person’s motives]

    By the way – in the near future we may all travel to work in a fuel cell powered bus.

    How do you run a car on nuclear????


  37. MODERATOR – please forgive me if I’m stating the obvious here… in regard to the post by globetrotter, on 27 March 2011 at 10:42 PM said:

    I posted a comment/question relarted to seawater and salt deposition/corrosion about 5 days ago, and then again yesterday. It said the comment was awaiting approval by the moderator, and then it did not show up. Am I doing something wrong? My comments were not frivolous.
    Sorry – I don’t remember seeing the comment.I checked the Search box with your name and this is the only comment showing up on the history. Usually it would be posted with a moderator comment if something was deemed amiss. Please re-post.

    WordPress has a spam filter and posts can get caught up in that. Maybe the search the Moderator did would have shown those – but thought I’d mention it in case not…. I only mention it because I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that it had to be checked separately.
    Spam is checked regularly too but you may be right that the category does not show up in the search.


  38. @Jeff Bullard/Solar costs

    Solar is being installed in Germany at a multi-GW/yr run rate for costs (i.e. amount paid to solar power producers) ranging from 21 eurocents/kWh (for MW+ system) to 28 eurocent/kWh(for kW+ system). Considering USA gets more sun than Germany (most countries do), solar will cost less than the eurorate converted to $ here.

    For a reasonable estimate of cost check out:


  39. Pingback: Radiation: “death by jumping rope” « SeekerBlog

  40. John Newlands wrote:

    I note that for electrical energy storage in medium-tech form they haven’t bettered the lead acid battery at about $200 per kwh. I think the basic idea came from the Babylonians about 2000 years ago. So much for R&D.

    You should take another look at the battery sector, a lot of money sloshing around looking for the next big break through. There are some pretty impressive battery technologies that are very close to large scale development (some with specific energy densities close to fossil fuels, if you can believe it … and 80% charge times in 15-30 minute range). Chu finds every opportunity he can to tout new developments in metal-air batteries. Been around a long time (120+ years), and used in everything from hearing aids to buoys and railroad signaling, but they only recently figured out how to improve charge cycle performance (and use nano technology to limit dendrite formation on capacitors). ARPA-E project looks at same in grid-scale deployment in MW/hour range for low cost energy storage (with Satcon and Chevron as funding partners). It’s a bit higher up on the food chain than your typical fly by night venture capital “let’s get the ball rolling” guessing game.

    Needless to say, a breakthrough in batteries for electricity storage (particularly in area of EVs, and dare I say back-up generators at power plants) would likely be a huge benefit to nuclear industry. Nobody has any interest in replacing a fossil fuel powered combustion engine with an electric powertrain that runs on coal power … unless you just happen to live in a place like West Virginia, Kentucky, or Wyoming. And shale gas (with conventional gas tapering off) can only hold it’s own, and has little room to grow.


  41. @Jeff Bullard

    Your solar estimate is about right for a small, home sized installation. All your other estimates are presumably for large scale power plants (re: I don’t know anyone with a coal burning plant for their home). When you scale solar power to large power generating installations, the cost is between 6¢ and 15¢ per kWh. Just FYI, I achieved this estimate by googling: /solar per kWh/ and combining a treehugger article estimate with a wikileaks answer. I saw it on the Internet, so… must be true (heh).


  42. re post by: sod, on 27 March 2011 at 10:48 PM said:

    the problem is, that we are breaking safety limits in Japan at many places these days. and those limits are NOT the result of a “linear no-threshold” theory.

    That’s the thing exactly sod – we’re not. We’re very much in the LNT end of the scale, and with few exceptions (if any) we’ve not come anywhere close to getting out of it in the known effects range (hopefully we never do either).


  43. Saying R&D will help make Renewables a substitute for fossil fuels is ignoring the know limits of the amount of energy these technologies can provide. A solar array just takes up too much space to provide enough energy to provide a dent in our energy demands. Comparing the costs of Chernobyl and Fukushima is unfair. Chernobyl should have never been built and the US did warn Russia of the dangers of that reactor.
    Fukushima was a tragedy caused by human error from locating it at sea level or by not having backup cooling systems above the plant. Tepco or who ever build that plant will surely be criticized for such terrible over-site.

    The augment that these two plant disasters make Nuclear energy too expensive is ignoring the fact that there are (I believe) 442 nuclear power plants world wide providing energy.

    It also ignores the fact that R&D in Nuclear energy has taken quantum leaps unlike R&D in renewables.

    Perhaps one day the Laser Inertial Fusion Engine will solve all our energy problems but with the rapidly growing population, natural gas, Nuclear and fossil fuels seem to be the only solution.

    Annual power consumption in the US is approximately 1.2*10^15 watt-hours. Wind and solar are great but how much of a dent can they really make?


  44. re post by mike
    mike said
    By the way – in the near future we may all travel to work in a fuel cell powered bus.

    How do you run a car on nuclear????

    Ans easily, Electric cars obvious, Compressed air cars again obvious, Syn Fuel derived from nuclear electricity and heat, fuel cell powered by hydrogen again sourced via nuclear energy.

    To anyone that thinks firing nuclear waste at the sun for ultimate disposal I actually prefer IV gen nuclear.

    In fact if the greenies got their way and got governments to abandon nuclear we really would be left with a 10,000+ year nuclear waste problem.


  45. Can anyone direct me to someone from the scientific community who has done a thorough commentary on the position of Helen Caldicott? Here is the latest set of statements http://www.countercurrents.org/smith260311.htm I am asked by someone who is very impressed by her to find someone qualified to respond to her claims, because my opinion or statements againt her are not sufficient. Fair enough. I am a layperson. By the way, in this radio interview, she slights Barry Brook, not surprisingly.


  46. I take LNT with big skepticism while I worry far more about allergens all around us. Some people live in areas with high natural background radiation with no apparent adverse health effect, however, people subjected to seasonal allergens are dying daily.
    According to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America about 4000 people die each year from asthma. Since 50% of asthma cases is “allergic asthma”, hence about 2,000 die from it annually.


    I myself suffer from seasonal allergy that last from February to July. I can tell you it is no fun to live with such a problem. I actually decided to move away from the area to avoid the misery I go through every year ever since I developed the allergy, mostly from tree pollen. I would rather prefer 100 times greater background radiation than the allergen stuff in the air that is trying to kill me once in a while.
    Statistically, it would be far less dangerous for me to live in Chernobyl exclusion zone or next to Fukushima than where I live now.

    When it comes to radiation related health, I believe the Radon gas is most troublesome. It can accumulate in basements from granite and from soil and it is also delivered to our homes via natural gas pipeline along with gas. Nevertheless., no one panic living in airtight houses or panic when using natural gas in their kitchen stoves.


  47. @ Caroline Webb:

    From the linked article:

    There are about two hundred new elements made when you fission uranium in a reactor, all of which are radioactive and man-made.

    Now I realise she has just misstated the terminology here, but surely someone who has built an advocacy career around a certain issue can at least get the terminolgy right after four decades.


  48. Mike: You ask “How can you run a car on Nuclear?”

    At the risk of sounding simplistic, I’d say With the Greatest of Ease. Electric cars are already current technology.

    The weak point in the technology is battery efficiency – currently a lot of the energy savings that you’d make running cars on electricity would be gobbled up in the battery. We’re working on that, though.

    Large scale use of electric cars could actually provide us with a way to store energy for later, which augments the effectiveness of ANY electrical generating system; in off-peak times, power would simply be used to charge electric vehicles. I am an informed layman here, so there may be challenges I haven’t considered; but I can’t see in principle any reason why this system couldn’t be used to provide emergency power for the grid at times of extreme surges.

    The problem with solar generation of electricity is efficency. The best figures I have suggest about 20% efficiency; and as far as I can tell, that’s pushing the theoretical boundaries as it is – Can anyone tell me if any major advances are on the horizon?

    If you have 20% efficiency, this places a limit on the amount of area you’d have to cover with solar panels to generate the electric you need – and it’s massive.


  49. LNT

    BEIR VII does say this, as quoted before: “At doses less than 40 times the average yearly background exposure (100 mSv), statistical limitations make it difficult to evaluate cancer risk in humans”

    Because society decided to pick on the nuclear industry over radiation, the nuclear industry, rather than trying to educate society, tends to criticize the scientific establishment for its assessment of what is known about radiation. The public misunderstands what is known and continues to pick on the nuclear industry over radiation. Is there a point to the nuclear industry criticizing the scientific establishment? Let the scientists duke it out.

    Leaving town…..


  50. Caldicott
    @ Caroline Webb, Luke Weston comments on here and has done an excellent job of debunking Caldicott’s ramblings in the past.

    Her errors in that article range from implicit to explicit, none of which can be regarded as mere mistakes in someone who is a full-time antinuclear activist.

    I’ll go a few paragraphs…
    “six rather faulty General Electric reactors” – no, they weren’t. Being broken by a tsunami is not the same as faulty.
    “Chernobyl, which had only been operating for three months” – no, three years
    “…devastated forty percent of [Europe]” – not even close.
    “[NYAS]’s document” – deception, the NYAS republished it, they didn’t write it.
    “million deaths” – according to the ever more doom-mongering Yablokov
    “six… and another two cooling pools” – no, there are six and one= seven spent fuel pools.
    “far more radiation in each cooling pool than each reactor” – this is just nonsense, really. Operating reactors are intense radiation environments.

    …etc Basically you can find errors and deception every time she speaks about nuclear power.


  51. @ Caroline Webb 9.36
    This interview has already been brought up and dismissed. You are right about the slight to Barry – this is what she says interupting the interviewer:

    “AS: At the first announcement of problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, a chorus of soothing denial arose from nuclear boosters, like Dr. Barry Brook in Australia I might add……

    HC: Oh, don’t even talk about him. He’s a statistician. He doesn’t know any biology, genetics, or medicine. He has no right to talk the way he talks.”

    I wrote a comment pointing out that Prof Brook was in fact a conservation biologist/environmental/climate scientist linking to his Uni page, but the comment, not surprisingly, did not appear. She should at least have the courtesy to check her opponents academic credentials.
    As to her position on nuclear power- it has been discussed and analysed on BNC several times. check back on the threads.


  52. I frequently hear that RBMK reactor (Chernobyl style) is dangerous reactor along with comments that first generation BWR is old and crappy. I do not agree with these statements.
    Both reactor types can be run safely until their retirement. The weak point for both reactor types was and is the total reliance on electric power for emergency reactor cooling.
    Chernobyl accident occurred due to human stupidity amplified by political ego. Overriding the safety devices and forcing the reactor to runaway condition by withdrawing nearly all control rods from the core is the same as sticking lit match into gasoline, which absolutely guarantee it will blow up or catch on fire.
    There was nothing wrong with Fukushima BWR itself. The problem was with insufficient design to cool the reactor in emergency. I a way, the reactors in Fukushima were the victims of politics dating back several decades when electric back up system was adopted as standard design despite serious engineering disagreement.
    If the reactors in Fukushima had steam driven emergency cooling back up with minor steam driven electric generation for lighting and instrumentation, utilizing the steam from the reactor itself, most of us would never know the Fukushima existed.
    The incident in Fukushima is a classical case where electricity is unable to do the job because it can be easily disabled by numerous factors.


  53. Frank,

    You make a point about Fukushima where a design flaw compounded with political decisions led to Fukushima. If neither engineering nor politics can ensure safety, what mechanism does the job?

    You also mention “strong engineering disagreement” over the use of electric backup system back in the days. I’m not so sure that there was zero engineer involved in designing the Fukushima plant as it was built.

    Having said all of that, I’m sure responsible engineers do exist, just as responsible politicians exist.


  54. This is an interesting peer-reviewed paper on radiation, from background and fallout sources:

    J Radiol Prot. 2003 Mar;23(1):29-42.
    Background radiation: natural and man-made.
    Thorne MC.

    A brief overview and comparison is given of dose rates arising from natural background radiation and the fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Although there are considerable spatial variations in exposure to natural background radiation, it is useful to give estimates of worldwide average overall exposures from the various components of that background. Cosmic-ray secondaries of low linear energy transfer (LET), mainly muons and photons, deliver about 280 microSv a(-1). Cosmic-ray neutrons deliver about another 100 microSv a(-1). These low- and high-LET exposures are relatively uniform to the whole body. The effective dose rate from cosmogenic radionuclides is dominated by the contribution of 12 microSv a(-1) from 14C. This is due to relatively uniform irradiation of all organs and tissues from low-energy beta particles. Primordial radionuclides and their progeny (principally the 238U and 232Th series, and 40K) contribute about 480 microSv a(-1) of effective dose by external irradiation. This is relatively uniform photon irradiation of the whole body. Internally incorporated 40K contributes a further 165 microSv a(-1) of effective dose in adults, mainly from beta particles, but with a significant gamma component. Equivalent doses from 40K are somewhat higher in muscle than other soft tissues, but the distinction is less than a factor of three. Uranium and thorium series radionuclides give rise to an average effective dose rate of around 120 microSv a(-1). This includes a major alpha particle component, and exposures of radiosensitive tissues in lung, liver, kidney and the skeleton are recognised as important contributors to effective dose. Overall, these various sources give a worldwide average effective dose rate of about 1160 microSv a(-1). Exposure to 222Rn, 220Rn and their short-lived progeny has to be considered separately. This is very variable both within and between countries. For 222Rn and its progeny, a worldwide average effective dose rate is about 1105 microSv a(-1). For 220Rn and its progeny, the corresponding value is 91 microSv a(-1). In both cases, the effective dose is mainly due to a particle irradiation of the bronchial tissues of the lungs. Overall, the worldwide average effective dose rate from natural background is about 2400 microSv a(-1) or 2.4 mSv a(-1). For comparison, worldwide average effective dose rates from weapons fallout peaked at 113 microSv a(-1) (about 5% of natural background) in 1963 and have since fallen to about 5.5 microSv a(-1) (about 0.2% of natural background). These values perhaps serve to emphasise that even gross insults to the natural environment from anthropogenic releases of radioactive materials are likely to be of limited significance when set in the context of the ambient radioactive environment within which all organisms, including humans, have developed.


  55. @moderator

    Whatever it is Barry Brook added to his 12.23 reply does not appear on ipad.
    Just an empty space the size of roughly a video.
    Probably another WordPress problem beyond our control – but I will pass it on to Barry.


  56. @Frank Kandrnal
    Not wanting to ridicule your situation in any way (i have allergies myself) i feel urged to ask you if you have any level of certainty it wasn’t radiation that envoked your allergy? And if so, what is the argument? I’m not asking this because i either disagree or agree. The reason i ask is because nuclear energy is taking a lot of head wind from arguments that, thow in theselves serious enough, are not relevant. We spend a lot of time arguing against these arguments. Using similar retorics in the other direction, as understandable as it may seem, may also prove inproductive.


  57. GE BWR Mk. I Plant

    As some of you have probably seen, the team at Browns Ferry NPP in Alabama recently took a group of journalists inside for a discussion, tour, questions and photos. (Browns Ferry is an older GE BWR, not too dissimilar to Fukushima Daiichi 1).


    This picture is taken on the refuel floor, showing the used fuel pool, the transfer crane, and the top of the massive concrete containment structure around the reactor, with a removable plug in the top for refueling.

    This area is where the walls were blown out by the hydrogen explosion at Fukushima-Daiichi 1.

    One will note those big yellow signs on the blue steel wall panels (on the far wall) – they say “Caution – release panel – do not apply pressure”. (I did previously have the high-resolution version of this photo, but now I can’t find it again.)

    So, is my understanding correct that these wall panels in this part of the building are deliberately designed to blow out in the event of even a slight overpressure?

    This would be consistent with exactly what we saw at Fukushima, where all those panels were completely blown out. That would explain a lot – it means that the terrible explosion wasn’t really that serious at all.


  58. @Hank & Barry
    Holy smoke. I was born and raised over 30 ft under sea level, this spooks the living bejezus out of me. Fukushima got hit by this? Its a miracle anything worked. The only way to prep for this is by going offshore,.. far. Try imagine, a few feet less than this and it would have simply held. This paints the picture painfully clear, no matter where you’re from. This is scary no matter who your daddy is.


  59. @ Luke Weston, on 28 March 2011 at 3:52 PM:

    GE BWR Mk. I Plant

    Luke, Even the most cursory viewing of the actual damage at Fukushima Daiichi 1 due to hydrogen explosion is way, way more than just popping of a few pressure relief panels.

    However, your photo is extremely interesting for one such as me, who has never seen, pre-explosion, what the top of the Fukishima reactors might have looked like.


  60. Yes bchtd1parrot, the power of that water is mind-blowing. I wonder what the guy standing on that building was thinking as the surge almost got to his level. As you say, it’s a wonder anything survived.

    The reason some YouTube links don’t work in the iPad/iPhone is that people forget to enable them for mobile devices when they post it up. I’ve made that mistake before. It can only be rectified by the YouTube poster, not me or via WordPress.


  61. Hank,
    I raised questions about Frank’s post because I don’t claim to understand Frank’s claims or logic yet. Naturally, I neither “believe” nor “not believe” what he is saying at this point in time. Reading back through my post I made a gross error in writing “You make a point”, when I meant “You raise a point”.


  62. Phuuh.. you said it Barry. If Tepco wants to be ready for this in the future with all their plants, whatever they come up with better be passively safe and very very sturdy. Designing a power plant requires an entirely different line of thinking, just for this. That’s no emergency routines, that is dooms day planning. As far as that’s concerned turning an SFP into a chimney as a last resort measure might not be such a bad idea after all. If it cools enough to keep the cladding from melting it might leave less emission than there is now. That should be easy to verify and then the question remains if mark1 can be adapted to that. That would lift the bar all the way up to the top of the pond.


  63. Hi folks, transfering this subject from the 26 Mar update thread per Moderator request:

    Rational Debate, on 28 March 2011 at 4:12 PM said:

    re post by: b, on 28 March 2011 at 4:27 AM said:

    … added boric acid to the freshwater feed of unit 2. Such was NOT added to unit 1 and 3 freshwater feed….Why is there, 16 days after shut down, still need to suppress fission in unit 2?

    How does that relate to short half life nucleotides in the water in the unit 2 turbine hall? Could the partial meltdown in no 2 have restarted some fission?

    Hi b,

    Primarily it’s being added as an overabundance of caution. Engineers and scientists are trained to always consider that almost anything, no matter how improbably, might be possible. They want to be absolutely certain (or as close to it as possible) that no matter how improbable, criticality can’t re-start.

    As you probably know, once reactors are shut down, because it is uranium (and a small percentage of plutonium) there will always be a small percentage of fission occurring. So even tho it is very unlikely for criticality to occur, in a situation like this, if the coolant isn’t already carrying a large amount of boron, when you can, you add more.

    I think if you go back thru the various reports you will find that they have added boron to each reactor at various times as the situation permitted.


  64. Tsunami magnitude risk

    The Fukushima Daiichi reactor tsunami design criteria was 5.7 meters. This brief from U of Colorado prof. Roger Bilham on the a priori risk of tsunamis makes that spec look to be inappropriate. I understand we don’t design to 1000 year risks, but look at this post by Roger Pielke:

    (…) In hindsight it appears impossible to believe that nuclear power stations were located on a shoreline without recognizing the engineering difficulties attending prolonged immersion by a large tsunami. In 1896 a 33 m high tsunami drowned the Sanriku coastline 200 km to the north of Fukushima. A 23 m wave surged on the same coast in 1933, and in 1993 a 30 m wave swept over Okushira Island. The Fukushima plant was protected by a 5.7 m tsunami barrier but the wave height here apparently exceeded 10 m, flooding the generators and electrical wiring in the basement and lower levels of the power plant. Nuclear power plants are simply not designed to be immersed in sea water.

    The tsunami height at Fukushima was evidently 14M.


  65. The methanol automotive fuel cell could combine the advantages of dense energy storage and efficient electric drive trains. However the price and reliability of FCVs has to vastly improve from $0.5m and 100 hours before maintenance of early models. The ‘meth’ fuels methane, methanol and dimethyl ether could be made from organic carbon (eg weeds, garbage) and hydrogen from a nonfossil source. That includes intermittent renewables. The combustion products will recycle within the biosphere for later re-harvest. The cells need to be robust and not require precious metal catalysts. If all these criteria can be met it would be great but we don’t always get what we want.


  66. Caldicott
    My comment has appeared on the Caldicott article-wonder if it stays up:)

    “Helen – at least you should have the courtesy to get Professor Barry Brook’s qualifications right. He is Director of Climate Science at the Environment Institute, Adelaide University and is in facT a conservation biologist/environmental/climate change scientists NOT A STATISTICIAN as you state. He has evolved to realise that only nuclear power and hydro power can replace fossil fuel baseload power and thereby prevent catastophic climate change and devastating species extinction.Tell me Helen – where in the World have non-hydro renewables been able to replace a single fossil fuel power station.
    Rebuttals and correction of mistakes of some of the points made by Caldicott in this interview are appearing on the Fukushima Open Thread 2 at Prof Brook’s blog http://www.bravenewclimate.com


  67. @Barry Brook
    All links that were not visible before can now be opened freely again, both video, youtube and embedded in txt. All functions as before. open-in-other-page, refresh, zoom, rotate, multiple follow, everything. And yes, this looks a whole lot better.

    Sorry for being so euforic, i estimate i swiped some 25,000+ times in the past few days. Delete this please, i just wanted to say thank you and confirm ipad operation is completely back to normal.


  68. @Ms. Perps
    You invited her more or less. Nice move. If i read her right, she is image aware enough to get curious. I doubt she’ll post, but she does read the comments, being highly net active. Communication is good in any case. There is nowhere to go but here for all of us. Maybe possible to get the soccer fan attitude out of the discussion a bit.


  69. ref Steve Darden’s post

    This aspect of nuclear safety is exactly what I have been considering and find is extremely odd that people go on about how safe nuclear reactors are when all you have to do is look at records (and pre-recorded historical documents) to see that building nuclear power stations around any coast is very risky.

    I would love to understand why the pro-nuclear camp disregards these dangers almost to the point that they deny that these events are possible. Certainly in hindsight a 5.3 meter tsunami (considering historical information available) is woeful.

    I would also like to know how risk assessments are carried out. From an outsider they sometimes seem more skewed to economic factors. ie they need the risk assessment to allow the building of the plant at a reasonable cost. Sorry for the cynicism.

    My feeling is if an event could happen every 1000 years it must be factored in because it could happen tomorrow.


  70. bchtd1parrot

    I think you will find she has already been on BNC – under an alias WesandWeavers I seem to remember. However, she has been long gone. All her assertions were demolished by regulat commenters.


  71. @Eric Moore
    If I’m not mistaken the tsunami hit about 5 nuclear power plants, only one got in big trouble. This power plant could deal with a 5.3m tsunami, but was hit bij 14m waves, therefore the emergency diesel generators were distroyed leading to the problems we see nowadays.

    The Fukushima plant (about 40 years old..) also withstood an earthquake 7 times heavier than the one it was designed for! I guess that if the tsunami didn’t hit the plant there would be no problem.

    Building nuclear power plants around the coast should not be a big safety risk, but building them near an earthquake sensitive area defenitely increases this risk.


  72. Hank Roberts

    The link you provided does not say anything about steam driven cooling. Of course in this emergency due to loss of electric power the rectors were cooled by water evaporation because the main and back up reactor cooling pumps are electric with no electricity available to run them. Nevertheless, the steam generated by decay heat has no place to go because the condenser has electric circulation pumps with no electricity to run them, therefore, steam from the reactor cannot condense in a condenser without circulating cooling sea water. For this reason the steam had to be vented out of the reactor. This is bad business because without functioning condenser that can recycle fresh extremely clean treated water in the system loop you will quickly run out of fresh water, therefore, soon the core was exposed leading to overheating and radioactive release carried out by steam. Since fresh water was soon exhausted, sea water had to be injected into reactors to keep them from melting.
    There were only three simple inexpensive things needed to prevent the whole fiasco.
    1- Steam driven turbo pump to feed fresh condensed water to reactor for evaporation as needed to keep up removing the decay heat. The BWR it is designed to boil water so one of the best ways to continue the shut down, especially in emergency, is to keep boiling water. The evaporation is very effective means of core cooling and the steam generated can be used to drive turbo pumps. Excess steam can be passed directly into condenser so no treated soft water is lost by any venting.
    2- Once you generate steam you must condense it somewhere otherwise you have to went it. Therefore, the second turbo pump can circulate sea water through condenser. The sea water flow through condenser can be only 5% of normal operation so relatively small turbo pump is needed.
    3-The third turbo pump was needed to provide water circulation to keep Spent Fuel Pool at proper temperature.

    Since all pumps in existing system are electric they were useless when mother mature vastly disabled all back up electric power systems.
    I am retired electrical and steam power engineer hence I have good insight into workings of the electrical and steam systems in power plants. I was not directly working on nuclear systems, however I was studying the nuclear power in fair detail since all nuclear plants use steam as a conversion media to electric power. In those days 40 years ago there was no reactor passive cooling in existence, hence all reactor cooling was relied exclusively on pumps. I remember the days when we discussed in our engineering circle to incorporate full capacity( to handle the decay heat) emergency steam driven pumps in addition to electric back up. The similar back up turbine pump was used on navy ships for boiler feed. In those days nearly all ships were steam powered.
    It is obvious from the incident in Fukushima that such ideas, advocated by many, were never implemented into reactor emergency cooling. Relying exclusively on electric power led the Fukushima operators into very unpleasant situation and it produced extremely serious embarrassment to nuclear industry. I am sure the whole reliance on electric back up will be now seriously examined with some changes made.


  73. Pingback: Daily update from Japan | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

  74. Hi JD

    This is fair enough and I would imagine that after this event Japan will tighten up, however is there going to be world wide efforts to review what is going on. Looking at the UK, we have a few facilities along the coast. I would like to know from someone what is the Tsunami protection there. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake produced a Tsunami said to be 2/3 metres in the UK. In the 1920s there was an underwater slump that produced a 20 ft Tsunami.

    So could someone enlighten me on the measures taken on the East coast of USA and the UK plants regarding Tsunamis.


  75. bchtd1parrot

    My allergy can be possibly caused by radiation or not enough radiation. We simply do not know.
    My point was that more people will die from allergy over the years than from radiation from Chernobyl and Fukushima combined. Also, there is no indication that increased background radiation after Chernobyl is responsible for dramatic increase in allergic reactions causing deaths. If that was the case I would believe you that my allergy may be caused by radiation.

    This is open thread, hence we are invited to comment on anything we want to get off of our chest, so don’t ridicule anything or dispute anything as counter productive.
    Barry Brook is doing an excellent job on this blog with giving us the chance to voice our opinions and by providing the information as correct as possible. One can clearly see he is genuine person trying to prevent the climate change by promoting the energy sources that make sense to do the job. His open tread once a while is intended to bring in comments and ideas that would not be otherwise discussed. Who knows, someone may someday bring the solution to complex problem in energy generation.
    I am also trying to comment with accurate information as possible, plenty of it is derived from personal experience. The internet if loaded with misinformation, however, I have enough knowledge and experience to distinguish the crap from reality.


  76. re Tsunami Height

    As I understand it, you cannot judge the risk of a certain height tsunami along a coast based on the height a historical tsunami was at another adjacent beach or area of the shoreline.

    The height a tsunami winds up being, or how far it comes ashore, is highly dependent on the conformation of the ocean floor leading up to the shoreline. So it apparently can easily be the case that one area of the shoreline historically gets 20 ft. tsunami’s every X number of years – while a short distance down the coast it may be literally impossible to get a wave of even half that size.

    In other words, it is apparently like most things in this world – not as simple as one might wish, and not as easy to pin blame on folks if a monster hits, unless you know for certain that the particular area of coastline really is prone to those.

    So if, for example, the US coastline has periodically seen 20 ft tsunamis, well, it may be that siting a nuclear plant at the specific locations that have actually gotten waves that big in periodically really would be bad… but it could also be that plenty of locations are situated such that they NEVER get even 10 ft tsunamis… So should plants sited there be required to be prepared for 25 or 30 ft tsunami’s, as you’d have to for the locations that get 20 footers?

    I would say no – it would be a huge waste of money and resources that could be better spent elsewhere, rather than using rate payer (tax dollars, out of your pocket), beefing up for something that as best we can tell isn’t possible at that location.


  77. re Tsunami Height
    @Rational Debate
    I had the same question regarding local tsunami behaviour. Given 33 m was experienced at Sanriku, what were the characteristics of the energy initiating the tusanmi (location, volume displacement, …) and what was the height at Daiichi? I will put that question to prof. Bilham via Roger Pielke.


  78. re Tsunami Height

    Risk assessment according to French engineers is based on historical records. Take the worst known event in the past 1000 years and add some margin.

    Dreaming about very unlikely natural events such as “A meteor impact into the ocean could create a tsunami anywhere.” is interesting if you are a Hollywood movie writer. Pointless for design guidance.

    Of course, human-generated events are a different matter (negligence, deliberate attacks, terrorism…)


  79. LNT query

    Is there any scientific body that has rejected the LNT theory? I don’t have the knowledge to asses this on my own, so I’d like to know if there’s any scientific review (peer reviewed or from a scientific body) suggesting that the LNT is wrong. Thanks.

    I take the chance to thank everybody here, from Barry Brook for this blog and the detailed and rigourous coverage of the Fukushima event to all commenters for your instructive feedack and updates (I hadn’t even heard of the LNT before!). Thanks.


  80. radiation and LNT
    @DV82XL: Thanks for a great analogy. If I had the opportunity to exploit your counter-LNT approach tomorrow I would omit the last bit “we could confidently assert that jumping rope should be banned on all school playgrounds since statistically anyone making 100 one-foot jumps would die.”
    I think your example is a bionomial distribution, where for the case of surviving 100 trials of rope skipping with 99% probability of survival on each trial I get a mean of the distribution = 36.7% survive, 63.4% die.


  81. Question for Barry if I may. If I understand you correctly, you do see a broad scientific consensus on climate change. But what is the current status of scientific research into the effects of man-made radiation? From what I can glean, studies of the same event, e.g. Chernobyl, come up with health effects that are orders of magnitude apart. Is scientific consensus in this area still lacking and, if so, why?


  82. Atlantic and Tsunami disaster preparedness

    @Eric Moore, on 28 March 2011 at 9:04 PM said:

    So could someone enlighten me on the measures taken on the East coast of USA and the UK plants regarding Tsunamis.

    In the US, the USGS identifies Tsunami risk zones.
    On the Pacific coast, Tsunami risk zones have Tsunami evacuation route signs.

    On the Atlantic coast the Hurricane Storm surge from Katrina was as high as 28 feet. Since the storm surges from relatively frequent hurricanes are higher then the the highest recorded Tsunami on the US Atlantic coast one plans for the more common and more devastating Hurricane Storm surges,


  83. Cup, in short, the problem is chronic lack of good data at low radiation doses — and the difficultly of measuring tiny effects which require enormous sample sizes. There have been some excellent reviews in the primary literature on this problem, however, and I’ll see if I can dig one up. In general they tend to support a threshold — or indeed hormesis — much more than a no-threshold model, but in the absence of really strong information, the ‘null’ model (the LNT) has, historically, been ‘preferred’.

    More details on this BNC post: Radiation – facts, fallacies and phobias

    …and this excellent review paper by Prof David Wigg: http://www.world-nuclear.org/reference/pdf/wigg-radiation.pdf


  84. There are many anti-radiation who claim that since it is possible for a single gamma ray to damage a single cell which in turns mutates into a cancer cell, any radiation is bad.

    Is this LNT or something else? The people who use the argument i stated rarely ever cite % or odds. They just say that since it is possible any increase increases are harmful.

    Technically their argument seems plausible, but without the numbers it is out of context and only useful for FUD not real preventative action.


  85. radiation and LNT

    “for the case of surviving 100 trials of rope skipping with 99% probability of survival on each trial I get a mean of the distribution = 36.7% survive, 63.4% die.”

    Exactly right, Steve. DV82XL fell into a common probability trap ;-) Try to explain that to the average public…

    Now let’s forget about theory. People are scared about radiation, and we all have to live with this fact. Take cellphones for example: people are scared of radiation from base stations, but they are willing to carry a cellphone which is using exactly the same transmission power.

    Fears (and inconsistency) are a fact of human psychology. Maybe educating the masses will help in the long term, but that is a long and difficult path.


  86. Anybody following this story with any interest may recall the explosion of the supression pool to unit No. 3 (the one that used MOX fuel). I think most of us realized that this was a reactor breach, although I don’t think I have heard anybody actually confirm that. I don’t believe there can now be any doubt: Plutonium detected in soil at Fukushima nuke plant (Kyoto reports): http://bit.ly/f0W5go

    From a TIME magazine blog back when MOX was being explained:
    there are four kinds of carcinogenic isotopes released when a nuke plant blows: iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium-239. Plutonium is not only the most lethal of the four (“extraordinarily toxic” is how Dr. Ira Helfand, a board member for Physicians for Social Responsibility, describes it), it also hangs around the longest. It’s half life is a whopping 24,000 years, and since radioactive contamination is dangerous for 10 to 20 times the length of the isotope’s half.life, that means plutonium emitted in Fukushima today will still be around in close to half a million years.

    Source: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/03/17/mox-the-fukushima-word-of-the-day-and-why-its-bad-news/#ixzz1Hul6g58x


  87. Ms Perps, no one with any scientific training would countenance 99% of Caldicott’s stated opinion, yet I fail to see why you focus on dismissing statisticians and the role of statistical analysis in scientific inquiry.
    In Professor Brooks own words:

    “Topics: My research methods focus primarily on the statistical analysis, interpretation and computational modelling of complex systems, long-term data, and meta-analysis of large-scale databases. Scenarios for future impacts are
    modelled at global, regional and local scales, to provide a robust scientific underpinning for scientific management and government policy.

    The link is:



  88. Thank you for the response and link:

    “I’ll have to do a post about Pu at some point soon. It’s a metal guys, not a demon.”

    That quote certainly helps to clarify how to evaluate information provided on this site. A bullet is just metal also. Whether it is on the shelf or just left the barrel of a gun pointed at someone’s body changes the seriousness with which the material should be rationally viewed.

    I look forward to your post on Pu, at some point.


  89. @ Darren Addy:

    But what is the actual concentration of plutonium detected? We’re not told. It’s possible to detect these things at remarkably dilute concentrations.

    It could be from nuclear weapons fallout, or even naturally occurring extremely rare plutonium-244. But we’re just not told any real information here, which is typical of the no-details scientifically illiterate media reporting we usually see.

    Even if plutonium was released from a reactor’s fuel, it could be from any one of the reactors, even without MOX fuel. All uranium-fueled reactors form some plutonium nuclides within their fuel.

    All domestic tap water typically contains measurable Pu at a concentration of something like 0.1 fCi/L – yes, that’s f as in femto as in 0.1 * 10^-15 Ci/L. And that concentration is quantitatively measurable. The maximum acceptable threshold for municipal drinking water is something like 5000 fCi/L.

    By the way, plutonium is not as dangerous as some people imply that it is.


  90. Luke Weston, on 29 March 2011 at 5:21 AM said:

    @ Darren Addy:

    But what is the actual concentration of plutonium detected? We’re not told. It’s possible to detect these things at remarkably dilute concentrations.

    It could be from nuclear weapons fallout, or even naturally occurring extremely rare plutonium-244. But we’re just not told any real information here, which is typical of the no-details scientifically illiterate media reporting we usually see.

    Even if plutonium was released from a reactor’s fuel, it could be from any one of the reactors, even without MOX fuel. All uranium-fueled reactors form some plutonium nuclides within their fuel.

    All domestic tap water typically contains measurable Pu at a concentration of something like 0.1 fCi/L – yes, that’s f as in femto as in 0.1 * 10^-15 Ci/L. And that concentration is quantitatively measurable. The maximum acceptable threshold for municipal drinking water is something like 5000 fCi/L.

    By the way, plutonium is not as dangerous as some people imply that it is.


    The media is not to blame – Tepco and the authorities are the ones who are not giving detailed data to the press to report. In fact, I think the press has shown remarkable restraint. If this crisis was a political issue they would have an endless parade of “experts” giving their take on the situation.


  91. In the wake of Japan’s nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Generating Station (FDI), the credit-rating company Moody’s announced today that it was reviewing long-term ratings for eight Japanese electrical utilities for possible downgrades.

    “Moody’s believes that this nuclear crisis could impact the electric utility sector significantly and result in a fundamental reassessment of the use of nuclear power in Japan, perhaps resulting in earlier than anticipated decommissioning of some nuclear plants and the potential cancellation or indefinite postponement of some new nuclear generation. These developments are likely to result in accelerated decommissioning costs, increased capital expenditures for higher cost replacement generation, lower reserve margins, and higher operating costs at existing nuclear plants as a result of increased scrutiny, more stringent safety procedures, and longer required maintenance outages.”



  92. @Frank Kandrnal
    You must be a very fast reader. I’m impressed. I’ll be warned to not waste any carefull formulations on your comment in the future. Just short clear text like:

    “You must have missed it. Retorical tricks do not support an argument. They merely undermine the dialog.”


  93. … plutonium is not as dangerous as some people imply that it is

    Would that they would merely imply … for their sakes.

    As I said in a Guardian comment thread March 25,

    The Japanese government is certainly monitoring plutonium, and so are independent entities doing nuclear weapon test ban enforcement.

    Every life the Japanese nuclear sector has saved has cost the Japanese government hundreds of millions of dollars in lost natural gas revenue, so if any plutonium from Fukushima had been detected, you would certainly have heard.

    Plutonium is a good deal less “toxic” than radium. To make a watch dial light up, radium emits alpha rays; this is the source of its so-called toxicity. Plutonium emits a lot less of them, and here, too, the harm it can do, if inhaled or ingested, is entirely due to alpha rays.

    If going to the beach without sunblock, beware of sun poisoning.

    … without the above version’s emphasis.

    Since then we have heard of plutonium at Fukushima, but not in amounts out of line for deposition from nuclear testing. Plutonium-243 has a half-life of 4.956 hours, so after … how long has it been? 17 days, 408 hours? So if any of that came from the reactors, it will be down exp-57-fold from the equilibrium that existed the moment before they shut down. No possibility of detection there.

    There would also have been an (even smaller) equilibrium level of plutonium-245, and its longer half-life, 10.5 hours, means it’s down only 500 billion-fold. Still not useful.

    If you are the Canadian province — that is the correct spelling, by the way, not “provence” — of Ontario, the Darlington public hearings are continuing this week and the next. I went, as above said, and accentuated the positive, but very briefly.

    You may well be able to do better; you may be one of those extroverted technical people who looks at his listener’s shoes rather than his own. Go.


  94. > we’re just not told any real information here

    True problem.

    Try over here instead:
    Press Release (Mar 28,2011)
    Detection of radioactive material in the soil in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

    On March 28th 2011 … analysis of plutonium contained in the soil collected on March 21st and 22nd at the 5 spots in Fukushima Daiichi
    Nuclear Power Station. As a result, plutonium 238, 239 and 240 were detected as shown in the attachment….

    ‹Results of the analysis›
    -Plutonium was detected in the soil …
    -The detected plutonium from two samples out of five may be the direct result of the recent incident, considering their activity ratio of the plutonium isotopes.


  95. The first 2 attachment PDFs at that press release are site maps with locations identifying soil samples taken.
    The third one is results. Sounds like they’re comparing what they found to what was found after some particular nuclear test — I’d GUESS the Chinese atmospheric tests?

    Brief excerpt — click the links to the TEPCO press release above to get the full texts. Again, this is from their press release of March 28th

    “Result of Pu measurement in the soil in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
    1.Result of the measurement
    … Activity ratio of Pu-238 detected in site field and solid waste storage against Pu-239 and Pu-240 are 2.0 and 0.94 respectively. They exceed activity ratio of 0.026 which resulted from the atmospheric nuclear test in the past, thus those Pus are considered to come from the recent incident.”


  96. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1569-4860(01)80018-8
    Long-term trends of plutonium fallout observed in Japan — 4 June 2007.


    A comprehensive data set of plutonium deposition samples collected monthly (partly quarterly), from 1957 to 1997, by the Meteorological Research Institute (Tokyo until March 1980 and Tsukuba since April 1980), Japan is reported, together with information on the geochemical and meteorological factors controlling the plutonium fallout. The maximum fallout rate of 239,240Pu during the sampling period was observed in June 1963, after the 1961–1962 period of US/former USSR atmospheric nuclear weapons testing. Annual 239,240Pu deposition decreased in the period from 1963 to 1967 according to the stratospheric residence time of nuclear debris. From 1968 to 1984, the level of 239,240Pu deposition was mainly controlled by stratospheric fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in China. After 1985, the 239,240Pu fallout showed no decrease, which may be attributed to resuspension of deposited plutonium. In May 1986, the Chemobyl radioactivity was observed in rain and air samples in Japan. The Chemobyl-defived Pu isotopes, which are characterized by higher 238Pu/239,240Pu and 241Pu/238Pu activity ratios than those of the nuclear-test-derived 239,240Pu , were detected in deposition samples in Japan. However, the level of Chemobyl 239,240Pu in Japan was very low compared to that in Europe.”


  97. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/28/japan-fukushima-nuclear-reactors-electricity

    Quotes “Richard Lahey, who was General Electric’s head of safety research for boiling water reactors when the company installed them at Fukushima.”

    the article continues:

    “The latest setback engineers face is the discovery of highly radioactive water in and around the turbine building at reactor two. Radiation detectors measured the level at 1,000 millisieverts per hour and as workers are allowed an exposure of 250 millisieverts a year, raised from 100 millisieverts before the crisis, they could only be in the contaminated area for 15 minutes before reaching the maximum dose.

    Engineers cannot resume work on connecting the power to reactor two until they have drained the water pools and scrubbed the area clean, an effort now underway.

    Officials at Tepco, who run the plant, say it is not clear where the radioactive water came from, but it escaped from the reactor core, either directly through a breach in the containment vessel or through a crack or hole in pipework.

    Lahey believes that molten fuel inside reactor two has begun to leak out of its containment vessel, meaning it may be too late to save that reactor.

    … “They are doing all the right things now, but this is a tight horse race,” Lahey said.”


  98. Why has TEPCO waited until now to figure out what they will do with the radioactive water at the plant? Could they not have been constructing lined holding reservoirs or bringing in large casks or lead-lined tanks? IMHO they are inept in developing contingency plans AHEAD OF TIME.


  99. Kudos to DV8 for challenging the LNT theory. This is clearly an issue that could use some unbiased research but most of the researchers start with their blinkers on, allowing them to see only the harmful effects of radiation.

    Here is a presentation by Y.C. Luan showing there are positive as well as negative effects following exposure to ionizing radiation:


    Luan invites other researchers to examine his findings with an open mind but it is hard to get research dollars for research that might support such an unfashionable idea.


  100. Plutonium origins

    Plutonium-238 irradiated with fission neutrons has a 3.669-millibarn cross section for absorbing one and then losing two.

    This of course yields the isotope plutonium-237, which has the sort of half-life we’re looking for: 45.2 days. Source of plutonium other than Fukushima cores are many times longer ago than that, but those cores’ shutdown is much less time ago, so it could only come from them.

    And their run times were several times 45 days, so when the earthquake hit, it would have been very near equilibrium, i.e. decaying at almost exactly the rate the (n, 2n) reaction was producing it.

    (How fire can be domesticated)


  101. Steve Darden wrote:

    radiation and LNT
@DV82XL: Thanks for a great analogy. If I had the opportunity to exploit your counter-LNT approach tomorrow I would omit the last bit “we could confidently assert that jumping rope should be banned on all school playgrounds since statistically anyone making 100 one-foot jumps would die.”
I think your example is a bionomial distribution, where for the case of surviving 100 trials of rope skipping with 99% probability of survival on each trial I get a mean of the distribution = 36.7% survive, 63.4% die.

    The health risk from radiation is not about probabilities, it’s about the response of our immune system. We live on a radioactive rock. We have biological defenses against normal background radiation. Elevated levels causes damage to our cells (and regulatory functions) and can lead to stress conditions that give rise to hormetic effects (boosted immune system response). Above these levels, the body’s immune system can’t keep up, and you get what is the nuclear energy equivalent of a runaway chain reaction (or criticality event within your core) … aka cancer. Damage from different radiogenic isotopes seek out different biological structures in the body: lymph system, bone, muscle, etc. So different structures of the body are impacted by radiation in different ways (age and a compromised immune system also plays a role).

    I think the jumping rope analogy (and LNT hypothesis) captures this fact pretty well. Jump rope for 20 minutes, you’ll get a good workout. Stress to your body makes your bones stronger, muscles grow, circulates blood to vital areas providing an overall “healthful function.” Jump rope for 40 minutes, you are experiencing higher levels of stress, and your bones, body, respiration (and ability to recover quickly from the exercise) may be compromised. Jump rope for an hour with a risk factor of some sort or another, and you may develop a pain in your chest, get a headache, or pass out from exhaustion. Jump rope for a longer period and you may die. 5% of people in 50-65 year age rage may die after 90 minutes of skipping rope, 15% of people in same age range after two hours, and so on.

    We can try and simplify the LNT risk assessment model so it makes almost no sense whatsoever. This is called a “straw man argument.” Most knowledgeable people don’t do this, and make some room for a precautionary outlook based on a detailed knowledge of human physiology, risk factors, dose rates and time of exposure, isotopic type, medium, and concentration, and a great deal more …

    I find much of this discussion misleading … since radiation (of any kind and level) is not supposed to leave the power plant in the first place. If someone spits in your food at a restaurant, nobody asks “does that person have a cold” before they decide to react. The are repulsed by it regardless of the condition or amount of the spittle contained in your food.


  102. The crisis at Fukushima should not be minimized. But on the subject of radiation here is an article published by the BBC a couple of days ago by Wade Allison.

    Viewpoint: We should stop running away from radiation
    By Wade Allison
    University of Oxford
    (Wade Allison is a nuclear and medical physicist at the University of Oxford, the author of Radiation and Reason (2009) and Fundamental Physics for Probing and Imaging (2006).)



  103. The relevance of LNT to the events in Japan, and the broader question of nuclear energy has nothing to do with containment. It is a given that every effort should be made to keep radiation and radioactive material out of the environment. Where it does have an impact is on how the aftermath of an incident like this one is handled by the press and the authorities.

    There as been too much of a radiophobic reaction by both to very small increases in the background. Hysteria about detecting particles from this event in Europe and North America and the reaction in Japan to minor increases in radioisotopes in foodstuffs plays to public perceptions of danger that official acceptance of LNT have generated. That is the problem: panic without cause.


  104. > A radiological incident in Taiwan revealed
    > chronic radiation is always beneficial to humans-2

    Maybe. Citing the actual paper will get you a rather different summary than citing that PowerPoint show, which makes claims beyond what’s been published in the journal. Stay with the journal, is better.

    Try here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2477708/citedby/

    But that’s about gamma — and look at the citing papers, the effect claimed is explicitly _not_ about alpha radiation, and we know beta’s not good either.

    And those are published in a journal that is a dedicated single-subject journal for the idea.

    If there’s an effect, it’s relatively smaller than the forcings so much disputed in the climate change area and any health effect is going to be very hard to pull out statistically. It’s interesting, not convincing. I don’t see anyone publishing a convincing study showing any health effect either good or bad at the low levels of natural variation.

    Heck, when I was in grade school in the 1950s, I took bundles of household beans up to the local nuclear lab (an electron-beam facility, a beta source) and got the staff there to irradiate them for me, and sho’ nuff, the low-dose beans sprouted better and grew faster than the controls, while the middle and high-dose beans looked poorly and devastated respectively.

    But I hadn’t discovered hormesis. I”d discovered what was quite familiar, that irradiation reduces the levels of bacteria and fungi on the outside of the seeds. Using radiation to preserve food from decay is pretty well understood by now.

    Question: what do people who believe a little more radiation will improve their health do to get that additional exposure?

    Would you expect to be able to show an effect?

    “Norway’s permissible radiation level in meat is five times that of the European Union.
    Since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 publication of radiation levels in livestock has been an annual ritual in Norway….”

    Eat more reindeer? It’s available. Or more whale meat, probably, though I don’t know that that’s been tested.

    The issues are mostly concern about bioaccumulation of types of radiation sources not found in nature.


  105. Water flows to the lowest point accessible. We’ve seen day after day of helicopter drops and water spraying from trucks onto the reactor buildings and SFP. Why is it a surprise that a besement of a nearby building would be filled with radioactive water.

    The presence of radioactive water does not necessarily mean it came from a RPV or primary containment.

    IMHO, ther has been way too much jumping to conclusions based on fragments of facts.


  106. MODERATOR: Sorry, the above post came out a bit garbled. Please delete if you want.

    Cl-38 in leaked reactor water.

    William Fairholm, on 27 March 2011 at 1:51 AM said:

    In thread 10+ days of crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – 22 March 2010

    The more I think about it the crazier it seems. The neutron
    cross-section of Cl-37 is 430 millibarns, which isn’t small, but isn’t large

    You’re right, the cross-section is not especially large, and if the Cl-38 were
    produced by neutron activation of the salt in the seawater by some ongoing
    fission in the reactor, I don’t see how it can be there without also seeing
    Na-24, with half-life of 11 hrs, and many other activities from other
    impurities in the seawater, too.

    I tried to think of some route, to get Cl-38 alone, or possible excited Ar-38.
    But I can’t come up with anything plausible with single neutrons at thermal
    fission energies: eg the (n,3n) reaction on Ar-40, which is about 1% in air
    and seawater at sea level, has a cross-section in the microbarn range. You’ld
    need 3 GeV protons on U or Pb to get even a few millibarn cross-section for
    producing Cl-38 directly. And those kinds of energies are out of the question,
    they could only be from cosmic rays, and the flux is essentially zero.

    I did have a thought, though. I imagine that it’s possible to get some buildup
    of Cl-38 in a BWR during normal operation if there’s any influx of Cl-37 from
    salt somehow dissolving into the coolant water, coming from anywhere in the
    system, since there’s a high thermal neutron flux when the reactor is at full
    power? And if that’s the case then it must be necessary to clean the Cl-38
    out continuously, or else the coolant will become very radioactive, which
    would be very undesirable.

    So if that’s true, then there must be a system to clean out the Cl and Na, and
    I’ld suppose that that cleanup system is not operating right now, or at least
    that it wasn’t working for many days.

    Now there’s clearly been a huge decrease of thermal neutron flux since the
    reactors were scrammed at t=0. And borated seawater was injected a day or so
    later. But there are still some faster neutrons around, from spontaneous
    fissions, for example, fissions of any Pu-240 that had built up in the fuel.

    There’s also been a huge increase of the Cl-37 concentration in the coolant

    The faster neutrons, those which are absorbed by the 10-B thermal absorption
    definitely have smaller effective activation cross-sections on Cl-37 than
    thermal neutrons. But not a zero activation cross-section.

    So maybe it’s possible that the Cl-38 concentration in the coolant water has
    actually built up to higher levels than normal due to the lack of cleaning the
    huge inflow of salt with the seawater?

    I’ld need to look at rate equations and cross-sections to make some kind of a
    real estimate of the concentration of Cl-38 to be expected, given it’s
    half-life. But if the equation has a positive overall coefficient then I
    suppose that it may be possible … then it wouldn’t mean any re-criticality
    of the fuel has occurred, and possibly the Cl-38 might not be so strange.

    But if that’s the case, then they must see other activities in the water,
    especially Na-24.


  107. I’m not certain if this info has already been posted to this thread, if so my apologies. I’m moving a post over per Moderator request from the 26 update thread.


    Barry & others re Plutonium.

    Let’s not forget that Pu is also present from fallout. It seems pretty overblown for all the excitement, Kyodo report, etc., when the fact of detection isn’t even passed along with the concentrations – which was equivalent to that already present in the soil from weapons testing apparently.

    I haven’t double checked the attachment’s but do note that they are there if you would like to check the actual reported amounts yourselves.


    Press Release (Mar 28,2011)
    Detection of radioactive material in the soil in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

    On March 28th 2011, as part of monitoring activity of the surrounding
    environment, we conducted analysis of plutonium contained in the soil
    collected on March 21st and 22nd at the 5 spots in Fukushima Daiichi
    Nuclear Power Station. As a result, plutonium 238, 239 and 240 were
    detected as shown in the attachment.

    We will continue the radionuclide analysis contained in the soil.

    ‹Results of the analysis›
    -Plutonium was detected in the soil of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power
    -The density of detected plutonium is equivalent to the fallout observed
    in Japan when the atmospheric nuclear test was conducted in the past.
    -The detected plutonium from two samples out of five may be the direct
    result of the recent incident, considering their activity ratio of the
    plutonium isotopes.
    -The density of detected plutonium is equivalent to the density in the
    soil under normal environmental conditions and therefore poses no major
    impact on human health. TEPCO strengthens environment monitoring inside
    the station and surrounding areas.
    -We will conduct analysis of the three additional soil samples.

    attachment1:Result of Pu measurement in the soil in Fukushima Daiichi
    Nuclear Power Plant(PDF 80.9KB)
    attachment2:Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Sampling Spots of Soil
    (PDF 112KB)
    attachment3:Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Regular Sampling Spots
    of Soil(PDF 135KB)


  108. Some folks on other threads have been talking about some of the various isotopes detected, such as Ag-108, wondering where they’re coming from.

    I would caution also that depending on the sampling methodolgoy, and the detection method used, and the relative abundance of various isotopes, it can sometimes be all too easy to accidentally identify an isotope incorrectly.

    I suspect that the horrific EQ & Tsunami damage to the region (27,000+ dead or missing – god knows how many injured) with the nuclear plant crisis on top of it has got to make those sorts of errors more likely rather than less, unfortunately.

    Anyhow, keep in mind that spent fuel rods in intact fuel bundles aren’t the only thing stored in the spent fuel pools. There typically might also be control rods, damaged fuel rods, used incore detectors, highly irradiated RPV QC coupons, irradiated reactor internals, and so on. All of these could be sources of various radionuclides.

    Then from within the reactor core, there is not only the fuel, but of course zircalloy cladding, stainless steel, control rods, various instrumentation, iconel, any impurities in your water, and so on.

    For some more detailed information at least on species, and just as an example see: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9263&page=113

    Note the Cl-38 that some of you were really wondering about:

    There are numerous water activation products and activated water impurities in the coolant (Table 2–4). Among those nuclides, only a few nuclides are radiologically significant in reactor operation. The following activities have been studied in detail: H-3, N-13, N-16, F-18, Na-24 and Cl-38. The chemistry of nitrogen activities and their transport behavior in the steam/condensate systems in a BWR has become an interesting and important subject of investigation under hydrogen water chemistry conditions(1).

    There are many other pages there that I suspect you’ll find of interest too.


  109. It could be just me, but the claims that chronic radiation can be beneficial to humans, on the surface at least, sound awfully similar to the claims made by PG&E about hexavalent chromium in water being beneficial.


  110. <b)hormesis?

    To answer a q. above:

    A few go to “health mines” in Montana that have elevated radon. There are 3 or 4 of these. There are some in Germany and the Czech Republic also.

    A few put natural (equilibrium) U-ore under the bed or in the office in small quantities i.e. few tens of grams..

    Natural sources, basically…


  111. @Rational Debate:

    There are many other pages there that I suspect you’ll find of interest too.

    Excellent link, thanks! So it seems Na-24 and Cl-38 do have to be dealt with by the reactor water cleanup system, and the rate equation I need is equation (2-3) there.


  112. Since there is so much panic and forceful calls going on for closing down nuclear energy, I am wondering if there are distinctive differences between the Iodine and Cesium that has drifted around the world and the Plutonium now detected in terms of ease of travel. What can we predict? Is it too heavy to lift up in a light breeze, a strong breeze, a strong wind? Is it too heavy to get into winds that travel across the Pacific to land in the US? If it did travel, is it any more dangerous as a carcinogenic than Iodine and Cesium 137 or about the same? It is spoken of – by Helen Caldicott, for instance and thousands of others like her, as the ultimate threat, capable of condemning everyone to Leukemia in 5 years’ time if they so much as inhale one particle.


  113. Andy:

    I’ve never heard of PG&E claiming that hexavalent chromium is beneficial before. That sounds pretty laughable. Got any references or pointers to read up more about that?

    Radiation hormesis and the failure of LNT to agree with the empirical evidence isn’t a matter of “claims” – look at the empirical evidence.

    The Nuclear Shipyard Worker Study…

    The Taiwan Co-60 contamination in the buildings…

    Extremely high natural geological background in places like Ramsar,..

    The 2008 study which was published in Health Physics regarding radon exposure in Worcester county, Massachusetts…

    There is a heap of empirical data out there that seems to indicate that LNT isn’t reality.


  114. Hank Roberts, on 29 March 2011 at 12:14 PM:

    With regard to the major radiation accident in Taiwan,
    I cited Luan’s paper (as a .pdf) in an earlier post, so rather than keep posting the same old thing, this time I used his Powerpoint presentation that is aimed more at the general public than scientists.

    In North Carolina, regulations permit 5 Rem/year for deep dose radiation and 50 Rem/year for weakly penetrating radiation (e.g Alpha and Beta).

    The main problem with Alpha and Beta radiation is ingested material. In this situation Alphas are particularly dangerous which is why they are accorded a Q factor of 20.

    Some years ago my employer had 20 Curies of Tritium. No, that is not typo. We were very concerned about treating individuals who ingested dangerous doses. The recommended treatment was to ingest beer until the Tritium levels fell to safe levels. This could take some time!

    As a radiation worker my exposure to radiation was recorded for many years and I was well aware that there could be beneficial as well as harmful effects. Nevertheless, I always worked to keep my dosage to a minimum as the effect of ionizing radiation at low levels is not well understood.


  115. Re: PG&E and hexavalent chromium

    As I said, “on the surface” they seemed similar. So the devil is definitely in the details and language.

    A couple references:


    But in the interests of keeping the discussion on topic, I’ll let you have the last word if you want and won’t defend the analogy.


  116. Caroline Webb,
    You sound like my sister who lives in London. Recently she has been approaching a state of hysteria owing to the alarmist stories concerning radiation from Fukushima published in the British newspapers.

    I have been wondering how to reassure her and the best I have been able to come up with is the following:

    Q1. How many people in Japan died because of the March 11 tsunami?
    Answer: More than 10,000.

    Q2. How many people in England died?
    Answer: None

    Q3. How many people died as a consequence of nuclear fall out following the tsunami hitting 11 nuclear reactors in Fukushima?
    Answer: None

    Q4: How many people in England will die from radiation attributable to Fukishima?


  117. It feels like Basil Fawlty has issued a new directive ‘don’t mention coal’. For example the word ‘coal’ doesn’t appear once in this news item on a takeover battle by mining company Rio, but it’s really 100% about coal. Obviously not a polite subject to be brought up at the dinner table.

    I suspect the psychology of don’t-mention-coal applies differently in Australia compared to Germany for example. Aussies simply haven’t thought that hard about the cost and limitations of renewables. Perhaps carbon tax will be viewed as an indulgence payment as George Monbiot once suggested. As in we depend on coal but we’re paying the fine we’re cool. In Germany however I suspect most people know their energy mix is financially and physically unsustainable. However for now and a few years more they will tell themselves it will get better.


  118. Scale of disaster in terms of just how high and how much water, how far inland. From stories at:


    Tsunami flooded 100 square kilometers of city land

    A survey has found that a quarter of the land ravaged by the March 11th tsunami was in cities and towns. The damage to urban areas is likely to greatly hamper reconstruction of these communities.

    The semi-public Geospatial Information Authority says the tsunami flooded a total 443 square kilometers of land in the 4 prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

    Roughly a quarter of these areas, spanning 101 square kilometers, were commercial and residential parts of cities and towns.

    Higashi-Matsushima City in Miyagi Prefecture had 63 percent of its land flooded by the tsunami.

    The waves also swept through about half the town of Otsuchi in Iwate, and about 46 percent of Ishinomaki City and Yamamoto Town in Miyagi.

    It will be a great challenge for these municipalities to clear space for temporary housing and rebuild vital infrastructure.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 09:58 +0900 (JST)


    GPS wave recorders off coasts recorded tsunami

    A government study has found that dramatic changes in tide levels in the sea off northern Japan continued for about 6 hours after a massive tsunami struck on March 11th.

    The land ministry survey relied on 7 floating GPS wave recorders installed off the Pacific coast from Aomori to Fukushima Prefectures. The Port and Airport research Institute analyzed data from the recorders.

    One recorder about 20 kilometers off Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture detected tsunami waves right after the massive quake began.

    A tsunami as high as 6.7 meters was observed by the recorder about 25 minutes after the quake. The tide level then fell by about 10 meters in about 30 minutes.

    Researchers say the data may correspond to powerful drawback waves that swept buildings and vehicles into the sea.

    Drastic changes in tide levels continued for about 6 hours, with 1- to 2-meter waves repeatedly observed.

    The researchers say the data is vital, because most coastal tide observatories were destroyed by the tsunami and failed to yield any data. The data will be used to devise future counter-disaster measures.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:49 +0900 (JST)

    and finally:

    Tsunami raised water levels over 40km inland

    Japan’s Land Ministry has found that the tsunami on March 11th ran more than 40 kilometers upstream from river mouths.

    The ministry collected data of water levels from major rivers in the affected areas and calculated how far the waves traveled upstream.

    The records show that the water of the Kitakami river in Miyagi Prefecture rose by 11 centimeters about 49 kilometers inland nearly 3 hours after the earthquake.

    The Tone river rose by 30 centimeters at a point more than 44 kilometers from the estuary.

    The ministry believes the waves would have reached further upstream if all the floodgates had been open. 6 of the 9 gates located 18 kilometers from the shore were closed when the tsunami hit one of Japan’s longest rivers.

    The tsunami caused severe destruction along a river several kilometers inland from the coastline.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 02:22 +0900 (JST)


  119. re post by Frank Kandrnal, on 28 March 2011 at 8:56 PM

    Frank, for your hypothetical system, please tell me how you switch over all the necessary valves in order to transition from the normal operating configuration into the decay heat turbo driven system. (by he way, you might look up the BWR Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System).


  120. I would like to ask the experts a question that I raised before , but which was not answered. It was a hypothetical question:

    What would have been expected to happen had no attempts been made to cool the reactor cores with extraneous water? (I am not asking about the spent fuel transfer pools which were not in containment.)

    I had understood (before this incident) that all the water in the reactor vessel would have turned to steam which should have escaped through automatic pressure release valves, leaving a dry reactor vessel. The loss of (unfiltered) steam would have allowed some volatile radioactive substances to escape (as happened anyway). Lack of fluid in the reactor vessel would have led to oxidation of zircalloy (assuming an adequate oxygen supply) which might or might not have “caught fire” and a total melt of fuel rods which would have dropped to the bottom of the vessel. What then? Would the hot fuel have been contained or not? Would pressure from hot gasses continue to allow the release of radioactive materials through pressure release valves for a time or would the pressure be insufficient to activate such valves?

    In the design of this type of reactor, was a total core meltdown supposed to be containable? If so, is it reasonable to suggest, with the benefit of hindsight, that attempted sea water cooling made the radiation release to the environment worse rather than mitigating it? If the design wasn’t meant to cope with the consequences of total meltdowns, are more modern LWR designs? (I’m not talking of passive cooling etc, but of a total failure of cooling).

    Finally, we have been led to believe that fourth generation designs, operating at pressures not much greater than atmospheric, will be safer and will require less expensive containment. Does this conclusion require re-evaluation?


  121. I’ve been trying to think of a way to convert nuclear energy directly into electricity without heat/steam/gas/electric generators.

    There was some talk recently (months ago) of using photomultiplier/photo-electric cells to convert decay energy into electricity. That would be much more efficient than current nuclear plants or even 4th generation nuclear though total power output would probably not be up to city demand requirements.


  122. Douglas Wise: The way I understand it is that a complete core melt (a la Three Mile Island) would have been bad from the point of view of radiation release (note – if correctly contained, not so much release of radioactive material!), and also from the fact that the reactor itself would be completely unsalvageable.

    The crews at Fukushima are trying to prevent a major release of radiation, of course, but that’s a comparatively remote possibility. However, they want to salvage as much of the reactor as possible. For example, the less damage the fuel rods receive, the more likely that some of the fuel pellets may be able to be reprocessed into usable fuel rods.

    That said, I’d say that there’s not much that’s less than a complete write-off at the moment . . . .


  123. konst: There was some talk recently (months ago) of using photomultiplier/photo-electric cells to convert decay energy into electricity.

    You mean like photovoltaic cells – aka solar cells?

    Hmmmmm. Seems to me we already have the engine for that in the form of this big yellow thing that comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening.

    Maybe we could use that and bypass a lot of the capital cost (and risk)?


  124. Douglas Wise’s query of 29 March 2011 at 6:51 PM strikes me as a very important “baseline” issue. It is so crucial that it must have been extensively discussed by designers at GE (etc.) and by regulators at the NRC (etc.). It would be useful to understand the expert consensus, if any, on the fate of an uncooled BWR core in its containment vessel.

    Johno — your response to Douglas Wise (29 March 2011 at 7:43 PM) seems to be speculative. It would be helpful if you would cite the authorities that back up your view.


  125. Nuclear Photoelectric Powerplant
    @ JM, on 29 March 2011 at 10:45 PM,

    Well the sun don’t shine 24/7 and the sun’s energy is too diffuse to use in a practical way as an energy source for a city.

    No I don’t mean solar cells. Solar cells operate on specific frequencies of sunlight.

    Photoelectric cells operate at various energies/frequencies to match what the radioactive elements emit.
    Those radioactive elements emit 24/7/365. No need for huge back up storage systems.


  126. @ Douglas Wise
    An NRC study on Reactor Safety
    (Severe Accident Risks: An Assessment for Five U.S. Nuclear Power Plants — Final Summary Report (NUREG-1150, Volume 1) included Peach Bottom 2, a GE BWR with a Mark 1 Containment Structure, the same containment as the affected units as Fukushima. The relevant scenario here is Loss of Offsite Power (LOSP). Figure 4.6 on page 4-14 of the report indicates that the conditional probability of early containment failure for this scenario has a mean value of somewhere between 0.6-0.7.

    While I agree that the highly contaminated water is a difficult issue to resolve, it appears likely that a decision not to continue to cool the reactor would have had much more severe consequences.



  127. i have been following this blog since the original post that was trying to reassure me and didn’t, the one that was then, by barry’s own words, proven wrong.

    last night i posted my responses on my own blog. the gist: i am concerned when i don’t see a deeper willingness to consider assumptions and predictions when the prediction proves wrong, and things keep getting worse at fukushima.

    i don’t see a way to distinguish between error in a local prediction and errors in the overall thinking and prediction about the role of nuclear. i am desperately wishing for some humility.

    anyone who wants to read more, please go to http://baynvc.blogspot.com/2011/03/hubris-fukushima-and-our-future.html


  128. I think others have mentioned the document containing Pu soil measurements – http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu11_e/images/110328e14.pdf

    It seems to me that the concentrations of Pu in the soil around the site are unremarkably low – note that the MEXT standard levels for “ordinary domestic soil” are:

    Pu-238: 0 – 0.15 Bq/kg
    Pu-239/240: 0 – 4.5 Bq/kg

    The highest amounts detected of each nuclide were (5.4 +- 0.62) x 10^-1 Bq/kg for Pu-238 and 1.2 +- 0.12 Bq/kg for Pu-239 and Pu-240.

    Is it just me, or are those levels unsurprising/underwhelming? We’re talking almost 2 seconds/kg between Pu-238 decays.


  129. NPP, the baseload argument doesn’t work. Have a look at the demand curves. Nighttime demand is about 1/2 that of daytime so there is no need to run generators full whack 24 hours a day.

    The only reason why we do is that coal (and nuclear) fired plants can’t be cycled over that timescale. This is also the reason for “off peak” electricity, the surplus power would otherwise be lost.

    Further you suggest that sunlight is too “diffuse”. Rubbish. How diffuse do you think decay heat is? Very. Essentially you have no more energy out of it than you do out of natural uranium.

    (This also has an impact on your very silly suggestion of using photomultipliers – photomultipliers are amplifiers, a small signal comes in and is amplified by power supplied to the device so that its output is large enough to drive a detector of some sort.

    In other words, most of the output from a photomultiplier comes from external sources, it just happens to track the input signal.)

    As for photoelectric cells I think you’re equally confused. I suggest you start with Einstein’s original paper on the subject – which is an absolute masterpiece BTW – it might help you a bit.

    The facts are that sunlight is not diffuse or you wouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face at noon, and that decay heat is.

    No. If you’re going to use radioactive sources for energy generation you’ve basically got to use fission. Maybe fusion in the future, but they’ve been saying that for 50 years now and we’re no closer


  130. And, gad, history surfaces.
    has a link to
    Sep/Oct 2002 No.9 Nuke Info Tokyo p2

    “… Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced at a press conference that TEPCO had falsified voluntary inspection reports and concealed it for many years. TEPCO admitted the stated facts at the press conference later in the same day. According to the agency, TEPCO has falsified the inspection records and attempted to hide cracks in reactor vessel shrouds in 13 units of the 17 nuclear power plants owned by TEPCO, including Fukushima I (6 reactors), Fukushima II (4 reactors), and Kashiwazaki- Kariwa (7 reactors). However, the agency maintained that there should be no problem regarding the safety of the nuclear power plants. Ironically, the safety assessment by the agency was based on TEPCO’s calculation.
    The TEPCO’s wrongdoings were exposed as a result of a whistle-blowing by a former engineer at General Electric International Inc. (GEII) in information given to the then Min- istry of International Economy and Industry (MITI) (the former body of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, METI) on July 2000. The tip-offs revealed the falsification of inspection records regarding cracks in a steam dryer, as well as the attempt to hide the repair work for the cracks by the editing of video tapes. This insider’s information was never taken seriously by the then MITI (after Janu- ary 2001, the NISA took over administrative authority from the METI) and the case was left virtually untouched for two years. “We needed a time to protect the status of the whistle-blow- er and we didn’t know whether we had the right to investigate the case,” said the agency after the press conference on August 29. On the con- trary, it was found later that the METI leaked the whistle-blower’s name to TEPCO, which clearly suggests the Ministry failed to support the person who blew the whistle on corporate corruption. While TEPCO had not taken any appropriate measures against the insider’s tip- offs, it set up a special joint inspection group in conjunction with GEII on May 2002 to inves- tigate the case, suspecting that there might be more falsification cases in the company.
    It has been confirmed that there are 29 cases of falsification, which were related to dam- age in many parts of the reactor pressure vessel such as core shroud, jet pump, access hole cover, feed water spurger, on-core monitor housing and others. The NISA and the TEPCO published interim reports on September 13 and 17 respectively, which addressed the 29 suspected cases in more detail. Regarding the cracks detected in the core shroud, according to the report, they had been already found at Fukushima I Unit-1 and Unit-4 in 1993, where the cracks in the middle part of the shroud at Fukushima I Unit-2 in 1994 were reported officially as the first case. The magnitude of the cracks in Fukushima I Unit-2 turned out to be far greater and more serious than the ones announced by the official report. It has also become clear that reactors in Fukushima I Unit 1, 3, and 5 have cracks in each shroud, so the claim that no cracks were found in the core shrouds and that they were replaced as a “preventive measure” is completely false.
    It is reported that cracks were found in the core shrouds of Fukushima II Unit 2, 3, and 4 and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, 1 and 3, which is composed of the anti-stress collision crack material (SUS316L) after 10 years of their operation.
    It is now clear that there were more than 29 falsification scandals.
    On September 20, other damage cover-ups in the re-circulation pipe system were revealed in TEPCO’s eight nuclear reactors, as well as Onagawa Unit-1 of Tohoku Electric Power Company and Hamaoka Unit-1 of Chubu Electric Power Company. In addition, other cracks in the core shroud were found at Ona- gawa Unit-1, Hamaoka Unit-4, Tsuruga Unit-1 (Japan Atomic Power Co., Ltd), and Shimane Unit-1. As has been pointed out, this series of cover-ups showed the scandal was not merely TEPCO’s particular problem but involved most of the nation’s electric companies.
    Electric companies have made most data falsifications during voluntary inspection. There have been a growing number of damage cover-ups and data falsifications around 1994 when electric companies had started shortening the time for a periodical inspection having learned from the “success” experience in the U.S….”


  131. PrompCritical

    I am extremely grateful for your link. I find it fascinating that Fukushima events, consequences and probabilities had been studied well in advance by a theoretical analysis of what could have happened to Peach Bottom 2.

    This is, in some ways, very reassuring. It also tends to explain why the plant operators are acting as they are. Simultaneously, it demonstrates that there were lessons that could have been learned (hindsight) that were not learned.

    The link deserves a great deal more attention and I have, as yet, been unable to assimilate all the information contained. It may still defeat me, given my lack of technical expertise. However, it is the single most valuable cite that I have looked at. Thank you, once again, and I will attempt to study it in more detail in the near future.


  132. Pingback: Comment on Fukushima Open Thread 2 by Rational Debate « SeekerBlog

  133. there are reports about the conditions of workers in the plant in the news today.


    i was really shocked when i read this first. and i must say, if only a single word of this is true, then we are either facing a problem that is much more serious than any of us thought (because conditions are so problematic, that they can t handle it in a different way) or we experience incompetence of epic proportions.

    i come from a military background, and my first thoughts when i heard about the “heroic 50” workers left on the plant, was about shifts, objects and how to accommodate them.

    with 6 reactors and 3 shifts, we would get a rather tiny group of 3 people. (this could explain how stuff could go out of control, while focus was elsewhere).

    i was expecting the army moving in, with containers and decontamination vehicles. i would expect a shuttle service to off-site accommodation for the workers, where they can decontaminate, refresh and get supplied.

    obviously nothing of that sort is happening. this is quite unbelievable!


  134. If seawater injection to primary circuit had not been possible then they would have attempted to flood only the drywell and retain and cool the near full core melt in-vessel. If that had also failed the core would have melted through the vessel into the bulb space below which is designed to arrest core meltdown but I am not sure if it would contain a full core meltdown. It possibly could but you would get loads more volatile fission products in the environment and it goes against the defense in depth strategy to retrench to the next layer of safety – the full core melt retaining in the drywell is your absolute last layer of defense! Beyond that there is possibly lead or tin metal entombment (experience from Chernobyl would be used, eg no initial clay entombment but go direct to metal entombment).

    I will try to find some references on in vessel corium arrest and retention for BWRs, its a long time ago that I read those…


  135. How about this?

    No fears about a zunami or emissions to the atmosphere. Cooling water always “behind the wall”, just open the hatch.

    And what is most interesting – could they be built outside the sea frontier of some country? Put a dozen of those in the bottom of North Sea and wire them to Denmark. Just as an example.


  136. Reading that 2001 report, all the info we have been reading about how the containment should behave is based on theory, not on the actual condition of these reactors — is that right?

    When I read

    “The magnitude of the cracks in Fukushima I Unit-2 turned out to be far greater and more serious than the ones announced by the official report. It has also become clear that reactors in Fukushima I Unit 1, 3, and 5 have cracks in each shroud,…”

    and look at how at the time they put bolts on the outside to hold the pieces tight — I wonder what the heat did to those patches? Or was anything else done since?


  137. “Sod, don’t you read your own links? Your link says 400 workers with reinforcements that have come in. Daiichi 5 and 6 require only skeleton crew. So 400 for 4 reactors.”

    of course i read my links. the first claim was about 50 workers. now they are more.

    there are 6 reactors and we really need to keep the 2 that are less problematic from going out of control. if you want, count them half, but please don t ignore them.

    with 400 people (about battalion size) i would expect about 20-25% to be pure logistics, there to support the rest without being involved in the actual work at all.

    that still leaves you with only around 20 workers per reactor.


    but the more important points are other ones. do you understand the meaning of “no running water” in such a contaminated environment?!?


  138. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/29/japan-nuclear-plant-us-robots?intcmp=239

    Has some interesting information about robots being sent over from the US. Apparently these were developed in the wake of TMI.

    The article paints a picture of chaos and confusion on the ground with the head of Tepco being MIA for days. One of the more concerning parts, if true, is this:

    “Lyons said US flights were only going within 2.5 miles of the plant, because of the elevated radiation levels.”


  139. @ Tom Keen I think Garnaut has a valid point. The big rush by power companies to get general price increases started about 2007 when carbon pricing was on the agenda. Coincidence or what? I heard one power co. exec list a string of minor reasons for hefty increases as if one reason wasn’t enough. State governments who often own or milk these companies then gave the nod to their pricing tribunals. Perhaps the ACCC should investigate them for collusion.

    In my opinion the electricity price rises were largely a pre-emptive grab for a pound of flesh before Federally imposed carbon pricing arrived. The States ganged up against the Commonwealth. This view was reinforced yesterday when a power co. exec denied repeatedly that aluminium smelters get a special deal. Of course they do … on direct orders of State governments.


  140. U.K Guardian article today seems to have a reliable source commenting on meltdown fears.


    Japan may have lost race to save nuclear reactor

    Fukushima meltdown fears rise after radioactive core melts through vessel – but ‘no danger of Chernobyl-style catastrophe

    “Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have “lost the race” to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe.”

    “The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” Lahey said. “I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards.”

    Excerpts copied, please read the whole article.



  141. Apologies, I posted the call for help on the wrong thread, best put here.

    help … the ExternE report … a million pages or so keeps referring to mECU/kWh as an externality cost. Even google doesn’t know what an mECU is … I get plenty of hits but no definitions. Anybody know? Looks like life cycle analysis jargon.


  142. @ David Kahana or others, re Cl-38 in samples

    I’m not sure just what protocol or equipment (or even the time delay getting samples to the equip) would be over in Japan, but ran across this comment on another site and figured I’d toss it up for whatever it might be worth. It sounds plausible on the face of it to me (& we’ve all seen/used peak summing software), but I haven’t been directly involved in measuring super hot & relatively complicated effluents like this. (for folks reading who may not be familiar with some of the verbal shorthand, I’m meaning hot in terms of radioactivity here, not temp)

    Anyone know enough to knock it (or support), please share!

    Frankly errors of this nature sound far more likely to me than any chance of re-criticality – not to mention as others already have that then we’d be seeing other isotopes also that weren’t in the sample results, and the relative abundances don’t seem plausible, etc.

    So the comment from someone else on another site was:

    I am quite convinced that the chlorine-38 number was due to the same error as the spurious I-134 activity.

    It takes time for them to get the samples to the gamma spectrometer. That gamma spectrometer uses smart software to identify peaks in the spectrum, using a database with the kind of stuff that may be present in a nuclear power plant.

    But there are lots of peaks. Because of the high count rates, there will also be accidental summing peaks of two strong gamma energies. The program then identifies some small spurious peak as Cl-38.

    What is more, the program will calculate numbers for the time the sample was taken. It corrects for decay. In the case of these rather short-lived isotopes, those corrections may be as large as a factor 1000.

    Such extrapolations backward are nonsense of course, but the lab guy just takes the computer output for granted.

    I do not think there ever was any Cl-38 in the spectrum.


  143. @Geoff Russel
    I guess it might be an externality correction unit, a means to calculate with otherwise incompareble externality costs. But i have no idea how big it would be. mECU would be one on thousand. It would then be the costs payed by others than producer or consumer after some standard. Some steady currency or precious metal or so.

    We do the same thing with milk. Not all cows give the same quality milk, so the farmer gets payed price per kilo ECM. Thats where the guess is from.


  144. Double breaches at Fukushima Daiichi No. 2?
    Former US Navy Reactor Operator Will Davis blogs at Atomic Power Review. Yesterday he offered analysis of the evidence for reactor leaks at Daiichi No. 2. What can we infer when we observe a volume of contaminated water exiting the “controlled area” – which volume is almost as large as the volume of water being injected for core cooling?
    If the inference is correct, then I have to agree with Will’s point that it is time for “a good solution applied vigorously”.


  145. Double breaches at Fukushima Daiichi No. 2?
    Barry Brook tweeted the link to this article, which was originated by anonymous poster KBMAN on daily Kos. I’ve not posted anything at BNC on the KBMAN diaries as thought Barry would post something if he found the source credible. But we know Barry is just wee bit busy, so check it out, see what you think.
    I’ve done a quick survey of KBMAN’s credentials and other writing on nuclear topics. My judgement is the writer is not a crank, he looks to know his subject, and intellectual integrity looks solid. I’ve assembled some KBMAN resources here, and here. Yes I know he is posting in an odd place to find informed commentary, but don’t let that stop you:-)


  146. Double breaches at Fukushima Daiichi No. 2?

    Nuclear chemist Cheryl Rofer retired from Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she worked from 1965 through 2001 on the nuclear fuel cycle, management of environmental cleanups, and other topics. [more bio details at the end of this post]. She posts at the British Medical Journal group blog and at her own group blog Phronesisaical.

    Is There a Leak at Fukushima #3? is especially relevant to my concerns re: reactor leaks. At the time of writing Cheryl thought that any leak must be small as RPV pressure is holding.


  147. Double breaches at Fukushima Daiichi No. 2?

    The latest IAEA presentation shows Unit 2 “Core and Fuel Integrity” has jumped to “Severe damage” today March 29. Yesterday was same as units 1,2 = “Damaged”.

    The RPV pressure reports are unit 1 = “Slightly increasing” (due to restricting core cooling water); units 2,3 = “Stable”. Looking for confirmation of Will Davis’ thesis, I’ve examined the reactor status reports for evidence of RPV pressure drop on unit 2. I don’t see it – TEPCO continues to operate unit 2 below one atmosphere – about 0.074 MPa, or 3/4 atmosphere absolute. I read unit 3 as stable around 1.3 atmospheres = 0.135 MPa. But if unit 2 is being operated below one atmosphere, why can’t the most of flow leak out of the RPV + primary into the secondary circuit?

    Is stable 3/4 atmosphere RPV pressure consistent with most of the core coolant injection volume leaking into the trench? As I reported earlier regarding unit 3 leak concerns, nuclear chemist Cheryl Rofer observes that the pressure history indicates…

    (…) If there is a leak, it is not a big one.

    It’s not a big one, because reactor #3 has been pressurized. If you try to blow up a balloon with a big leak, nothing happens. You can blow up a balloon with a pinhole leak, though. The steel reactor containment vessel is equipped with pressure gauges to measure the pressure. With a big enough leak, the pressure wouldn’t rise, but it has been rising as water is pumped in and turns to steam.

    So where is the radioactive water coming from?


    But unit 2 is a different case if RPV is at relative negative pressure, right?


  148. Douglas Wise, on 29 March 2011 at 6:51 PM said:
    “Finally, we have been led to believe that fourth generation designs, operating at pressures not much greater than atmospheric, will be safer and will require less expensive containment. Does this conclusion require re-evaluation?”

    This question can’t be answered for fourth generation designs in general because some contain highly flammable materials while others do not.

    Personally, I prefer designs that have no need for flammable materials (e.g. MSRs, LFTRs and Sub-critical Reactors).

    Reactors that contain large quantities of sodium (e.g. Super Phenix etc) have the potential for major problems if the sodium comes into contact with air or water.


  149. re post by: EL, on 30 March 2011 at 9:32 AM said:

    @ David Kahana or others, re Cl-38 in samples

    You can find a full discussion (and lots of math) regarding transient criticality and Cl-38 in the sample water of reactor #1 here:

    Click to access Cause_of_the_high_Cl38_Radioactivity.pdf

    Comes from Arms Control Wonk blog. And you’ll notice Red_Blue has already had his/her say in the comments.

    El, the author launches into all sorts of calculations without first looking at the big picture. If there were Cl activation, there would also be significant Na activation. No activated sodium was found apparently. Other short lived fission products that would be expected to be found in significant quantities weren’t either. That puts a rather large hole into the scenarios proposed in that paper, or in the idea of Cl-38 arising from a re-criticality.

    I’ll cross post this over on the technical open thread where it would make more sense for us to continue discussions on this issue if desired.


  150. EL, on 30 March 2011 at 9:32 AM said:

    @ David Kahana or others, re Cl-38 in samples

    You can find a full discussion (and lots of math) regarding transient criticality and Cl-38 in the sample water of reactor #1 here:


    Interesting, it’s the kind of rough calculation I was attempting to do, but that I didn’t finish yet.

    I found that it’s not that easy to make an estimate of the maximum possible Cl-38 equilibrum level, without knowing the actual geometry of the fuel, and the time history of the Cl-37 concentration since seawater injection was started.

    He’s used thermal neutron cross-sections, which is fine, that’s a conservative assumption, it should overestimate any Cl-38 production from spontaneous fission. If there’s actually B-10 in the water though, he should use a fission energy averaged cross-section which would be smaller than thermal, and would lead to a smaller equilibrium concentration.

    In one scenario he’s assumed that all the fuel has escaped the RPV, presumably by melting right through it despite the injection of all of the seawater, and that it is now sitting on the base of the primary containment, irradiating seawater which sits uniformly above it!!

    I certainly doubt that this is an accurate picture, for many reasons: the simplest being that I think we should see many more strange isotopes than Cl-38 in the water if the RPV has been completely breached and corium has melted uniformly onto the bottom of the containment!!!

    In any case this is not a conservative assumption. It certainly underestimates the Cl-38 production, and probably by a very large factor.

    If instead, the core is somewhat damaged or even pretty severely damaged, say 20-50%, but has much closer to normal geometry, and is still inside the RPV, then the neutron irradiation of the coolant water will be far more effective (due to a far larger surface (fuel) to volume (coolant) ratio.

    After all that’s how the reactor was designed to operate: it uses water (in the lower part of the core) and steam (in the upper part of the core) to slow the fission neutrons to the point where the induced fission cross-section becomes large enough to make the reactor critical, so just as many neutrons are lost from the core as are produced inside it. The interaction of the moderatpr with neutrons is far larger if the core geometry hasn’t changed very much. So too, is the interaction of the spontaneous fission neutrons with any impurities in the coolant much larger, if the reactor has close to normal geometry.

    He does include a second scenario, in which the core has partially melted, and there are a few crevices through which fuel leaks, but I must confess I can’t really follow his reasoning in that case. He gives some discussion of what the U02 density would be at 3120 K. So then it’s all melted, I suppose. But surely 3120 K is not consistent with the temperature readings we’ve seen from the feedwater …

    In any case, this scenario is also far from conservative, as concerns Cl-38 production
    from spontaneous fission. I presume that Cl-38 production will be maximal when the reactor is completely undamaged. So it seems to me that that is the most conservative assumption to make.

    This geometry question is actually the hardest part of doing a real calculation if the core is damaged. What does the flow around the core look like? What if there is salt precipitated out and sitting right on top of some of the fuel pellets which have fallen to the bottom of the RPV? What if some of the core melted, then was cooled and resolidified but some is still relatively undamaged?

    Finally, the Cl-37 concentration could by now easily be 5-10 times higher than the concentration he’s assumed (that in seawater), due to constant evaporation of water into steam to cool the core, without evaporation of the salt it contains. It’s a boiling water reactor after all, so it has presumably still been boiling the water.

    I also think he’s underestimated the fuel load: he quotes 69 tons of fuel, but I’ve seen numbers closer to 150 tons for a complete core. So his total spontaneous fission neutron flux is maybe a factor of 2 low.

    Together, those alone would lead to a factor of 10-20 low for the Cl-38.

    @Rational Debate:

    Frankly errors of this nature sound far more likely to me than any chance of re-criticality – not to mention as others already have that then we’d be seeing other isotopes also that weren’t in the sample results, and the relative abundances don’t seem plausible, etc.

    Yes, I still think this is a valid point, and I agree with the person you quote: there can be spurious peaks depending on the method. I do wonder how seriously we should take the Cl-38, since other isotopes were observed and then the observations went away on re-analysis. I don’t know exactly how they are doing the isotope analysis. Personally, I’ld like to vaporize a very small sample of the water pass it slowly through a mass spectrograph, and get a gamma spectrum for each mass fraction, but that’s surely not practical. It would be pretty definitive, though. Other methods may well have problems.


  151. Given that historical Japanese tsunamis within the last 115 years have been as high as 23 to 33 meters, yet the Fukushima reactors were designed to only withstand a 5.7 m one is all that is really necessary to know about the state of nuclear reactor designs and nuclear power industry: [deleted personal opinion presented as fact. Please re-submit with refs backing your claim and deleted personal appraisals of the motives of others] Anyone claiming otherwise is not looking at the facts and dangers involved.

    And as for the plant withstanding an earthquake significantly larger than it was designed for, the epicenter was some distance away. Who knows what the same sized earthquake with an epicenter much closer to the plant might have done. Given that the plant already had structural defects [deleted unsubstantiated claim. Re-submit with references], I wouldn’t count on it holding up.
    Please check the BNC Commenting Rules before posting again.


  152. re post by: David Kahana, on 30 March 2011 at 6:35 PM

    David, recall that the salt also supposedly plates out/cooks out (sorry for the loose description) onto the fuel rods, adhering to the cladding. Think of a water heater element in a hard water area… and he deposition wouldn’t be even either, it’d be different for the water covered area v. the transition zone v the steam cooled area… all making your geometry problem even more difficult! :0)


  153. @David Kahana —

    If instead, the core is somewhat damaged or even pretty severely damaged, say 20-50%, but has much closer to normal geometry, and is still inside the RPV, then the neutron irradiation of the coolant water will be far more effective (due to a far larger surface (fuel) to volume (coolant) ratio.

    Actually, not in his model (which greatly overestimates both Cl-38 production rates). His physical argument can be reduced to this: if there is only 1 drop of seawater in the entire core, and it is in the position of highest neutron flux, what is its equilibrium Cl-38 concentration? Because this concentration is an upper bound on the concentration in any resulting water, period. (It’s a very loose bound: particularly in the slab geometry, where most of the water sees a neutron flux far lower than the maximum. Also he leaves out shielding.)


  154. USA Sending in Marine Team !!!

    The US military is sending Marines specialized in responding to nuclear emergencies to Japan to help deal with the trouble at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

    Japan’s Self-Defense Force Joint Chief of Staff Ryoichi Oriki announced the measure on Thursday.

    Oriki said US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has approved the sending of the 140-member Chemical Biological Incident Response Force.

    The unit is trained in search-and-rescue operations and clearing highly radioactive nuclear materials.

    Oriki said the unit will not necessarily take immediate action, and that the Self-Defense Forces hope to share information with them and study how it can be put into use when needed.

    The US military has provided a barge capable of carrying large volumes of fresh water to keep reactors at the plant cool. It has also sent nuclear experts to Japan as part of efforts to resolve the crisis.
    Thursday, March 31, 2011 19:36 +0900 (JST)


  155. @uvdiv:

    His physical argument can be reduced to this: if there is only 1 drop of seawater in the entire core, and it is in the position of highest neutron flux, what is its equilibrium Cl-38 concentration?

    Thanks for that: on re-reading his calculation, I see you’re right: that is his reasoning.

    It’s actually not a bad way to proceed, if one just wants to get some kind of upper bound.

    I just didn’t imagine that anyone would try to make a calculation without including effects of dilution, due to coolant flow and shielding of the neutron flux, both of which will certainly reduce the equilibrium Cl-38 concentration.

    So if he’s correct about the neutron flux from spontaneous fission, we can dismiss outright the possibility that that was the source of the Cl-38.

    By now, though, we’ve already heard from TEPCO that there were errors in their analysis programs for some of the radioisotopes, so I’m inclined to think the CL-38 measurement is also spurious.


    “Groundwater at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is highly likely to be contaminated with radioactive materials, even though its operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. is reviewing its analysis released late Thursday due to erroneous calculations, the government’s nuclear safety agency said Friday.”

    “The agency said the density readings of radioactive substances in groundwater samples taken on Tuesday and Wednesday from around the No. 1 reactor’s turbine building may be revised downward, as TEPCO’s evaluation programs for materials such as tellurium, molybdenum and zirconium were found to have errors.”


  156. > Marines



    —excerpt follows—-

    “… military official characterized the deployment as “prudent planning,” a precautionary move to have the Marines on hand if needed, not an emergency.

    The team is “an initial response force,” the official added, because it is only one part of the larger CBIRF unit based at the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center in Maryland.

    “They would provide radiological expertise to the on-scene commander and, if needed, to the JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces) in the areas of medical, logistical, chemical, biological, nuclear and hazardous materials,” the official said.

    The unit is specially trained to counter the fallout from a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident, usually assisting local, state or federal agencies in their response.

    On March 17, Admiral Robert Willard, who is overseeing American military assistance after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, said 450 radiological and disaster specialists were awaiting orders to deploy as Japanese teams tried to cool fuel rods in reactors at the damaged Fukushima plant.

    Rear Admiral Scott Swift, director of operations at US Pacific Command, said that around 15,000 US personnel were taking part in the round-the-clock relief operations since the disaster began as part of a mission dubbed Operation Tomodachi, or “friend.”


  157. “Four more concrete pumping trucks are on their way to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to help the effort to maintain fuel ponds.

    Having overheated and suffered serious drops in water level, the used fuel ponds in the upper parts of damaged units 1, 3 and 4 were refilled by a number of ad-hoc means.

    First came ineffective drops by helicopter, next was spraying from fire trucks. The situation was brought closer to control with the arrival of Hyper Rescue and Super Pump Truck from the Tokyo Fire Department, but it was an extra-large concrete pumping machine that has been most effective, particularly at unit 4 where steelwork obstructs spraying from the ground.”

    These are Very common in the Midwest. They are used all the time to pour long bridge decks – so I am surprised they are not readily available in Japan – with all the construction they have had with their infrastructure in the past 10 years.


  158. As many have posted previously, this site has been an oasis of reasoned discussion and relatively digestible information during the ongoing Fukushima crisis. I started out reading Huff Post (so saturated with doomsayers and [ad hom deleted]that my hair was standing on end!), so this site became my calm center in the midst of all the inflammatory hype and/or dismissive happy talk.

    I have had a question for a while now and was wondering if any of the regulars could answer it. Are there high-exposure suits for nuclear workers to wear when they have to go into really “hot” contaminated areas? I keep thinking, we had suits for space travel and for men to walk on the moon–surely someone has invented a similarly protective suit for nuclear emergencies. Yet all I see are the workers in those flimsy Tyvec coveralls, with skin exposed on their faces. So are there “extreme” suits and if so, why aren’t they being utilized? (And if not, why hasn’t someone invented them??)

    In a related vein, I read an article where a company in Florida that makes radiation-blocking suits (not, I gather, the extreme type I mentioned above) was sending them to Japan. They are black, like scuba suits . . . but I have yet to see any photos of workers wearing them. I hope they are not sitting on a dock somewhere . . .



  159. Nancy, in brief – the suits do an excellent job at blocking particulates, which can be ingested and cause internal damage via alpha or beta emissions. But, they can’t stop the highly-penetrating gamma rays. The only thing really effective for this is lead or similar robust blocking material. That’s one of the reasons why nuclear-powered aircraft turned out to be such a hassle — the shielding is so heavy.


  160. Barry, thanks so much for responding. I just checked out the website for the company that makes these black suits . . . and according to them, the fabric does offer some protection from gamma rays.

    “The Demron fabric has been proved to provide multi-hazard protection against gamma rays, chemical and biological threats and X-rays by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), GEOMET, and Kansas State University.”

    It’s kind of ironic, but before March 11 I was strictly anti-nuclear and now, after doing a lot of research and discovering how very grounded many of those in the industry are, I am starting to be more open minded. Overall, I believe the industry needs to start “airing their dirty laundry” (well, maybe Japan did that for them) instead of always insisting that everything is hunky dory. As a long-time environmentalist (and co-author of “The Earth Friendly Home,”) I can see the merits of nuclear power right now. But as a realist, I can also see the huge obstacles that other renewables don’t present. My best hope is that nuclear becomes an energy bridge until other technologies, ones with far less toxic waste products, are feasible and practicable.


  161. Apparently, Helen Caldicott’s “Nuclear Power is Not the Answer” is published by New Press in the US. I am sure it was originally published by Melbourne University Press, though. Is it common to have two different publishers?

    Maybe MUP dumped her after they realised they were putting their good name on her anti-scientific crap?


  162. > highly-penetrating gamma rays.
    > The only thing really effective for this is lead

    A nurse who taught new doctors how to handle patients treated with radioiodine did a demonstration — she’d hold a Geiger counter over the patient and show the residents the counts from the gammas.

    Then she’d say ‘how many of you would prefer to wear the radiation shielding?’ — and they’d all say yes.

    Then she’d hold the radiation shielding suit between the patient and the counter, and the counts would go way, way up — secondary particles coming out of the back side of the lead shielding.

    Then she’d teach them how fast high energy gammas mostly just go right through you without interacting with tissue, which is why the dose to the thyroid to kill off thyroid cancer is so very high — and how when you interpose a lead shield, the massive lead atoms make much bigger targets and the gammas interact far more — throwing out lots of secondary radiation after the collisions.

    Then she’d ask them again.


  163. Fukushima update: Data, data, everywhere…

    Academic researchers worldwide, including veterans of research on the Chernobyl accident, are poring over releases of data on population exposure rates to radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But they are finding that making any sense of the data is proving very difficult.

    One problem is that data are strewn across many individual web pages on several websites, for example, those of Japan’s science ministry, here and here, the health ministry, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency,and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, the data are often in different units, with few descriptive details of, for example, sampling techniques used.

    The Japanese government does appear to be making efforts to be open about data, though. Summary maps (provided by the US Department of Energy) of aerial radiation monitoring have also been extremely useful, researchers say, though no geographical information system data of the maps is available from the website.

    “The problem is that it is very difficult to get a real picture of the exposure of the population,” says Elisabeth Cardis, a radiation epidemiologist at the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain, “I’ve been poring through many reports from many different bodies, and the information is very confusing.” Measures for the same zone sometimes differ greatly between reports, and it’s not made clear how measurements were made, she says. There’s a need for a critical review of all the available data, she says.



  164. Tepco, like most power companies that operate nuclear reactors, is a public corporation with a sworn charter to protect investor capital. Can the company financially survive a nuclear accident? This will be a case study in corporate financial risk management for power companies around the world.

    Tokyo Electric Power Company turns toxic

    As engineers continue to fight to prevent catastrophe at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, executives at its controversial operating company are also struggling to prevent a financial meltdown.

    Shares in the Tokyo Electric Power Company plunged again on the Nikkei stock index yesterday. They fell 18% to a 60-year low of ¥362 and the company said it was delaying publication of its annual earnings report due to the crisis.

    In Tokyo, the air is thick with talk that Tepco might have to be nationalised as losses mount and investors brace themselves for compensation claims running into billions.

    Government intervention could leave investors out of pocket, sparking outrage in a country where capital has been king since the end of the second world war.

    The omens aren’t looking good as the human and environmental tragedy grows worse by the day and the Japanese lose faith in their nuclear industry.


  165. Even as it struggled to contain the the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter-century, Tokyo Electric Power Co. late last month quietly set out big plans for the future: It proposed building two new nuclear reactors at its radiation-spewing Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

    Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, informed Fukushima prefecture on March 26 of its desire to start building the reactors as early as next spring, local officials said. That was just two weeks after an explosion at the utility’s tsunami-crippled complex set off a cascade of catastrophes.

    The proposal was then included in a formal report submitted to authorities in Tokyo on March 31 as part of an annual process designed to assess Japan’s future electricity supply.

    “It was just unbelievable,” said Yoichi Nozaki, director general of Fukushima’s Planning and Coordination Department, which oversees energy matters here in the capital of the region most blighted by the the biggest nuclear debacle since Chernobyl.

    With its reputation and its finances already shredded by the events at Fukushima Daiichi, Tepco now has another fiasco to contain. Its proposal for new reactors, first reported Sunday in a local Fukushima newspaper, has caused horrified dismay — and significant backpedaling by Tepco.

    “It was a mistake,” Hiroshi Aizawa, a Tepco official in Fukushima, said Monday. He said the company had been too busy trying to get Fukushima Daiichi under control and avoiding power cuts to revise a plan that took shape before the March 11 earthquake.

    The disarray — on full view just as BP seeks to re-start drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the scene of a spectacular blowout last year on a rig leased by the oil giant — has sharpened a question dogging Tepco since a tsunami slammed into its Fukushima Daiichi plant: Has the scale of the disaster triggered a managerial meltdown or is the world’s largest private electricity utility simply sticking to the aloof, heedless habits of a corporate behemoth accustomed to getting its way?

    “I don’t know what they’re doing,” Nozaki, the Fukushima planning chief, said of Tepco’s executives. “Ask them!”



  166. If you’ve got a bloody great tank of thousands of tonnes of molten potassium nitrate at 500 degrees C and you hit it with an extremely strong magnitude 9.0 earthquake, what happens?

    I’d really like to know if those who claim that solar thermal can and should replace all fossil fuels in the exclusion of all nuclear energy can give me any kind of answer to that.

    In the absence of any better analysis, I would estimate the answer is that it will set everything for miles around on fire and burning extremely aggressively, releasing an enormous plume of very toxic nitrogen dioxide.


  167. Came across a table of core shroud repairs that’s perhaps of interest, here:

    (found that after noticing that Fukushima Unit 4 shutdown was preparation for replacing its core shroud, and that Unit 3 had the very first core shroud replacement ever done); those are cited over in the thread https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/09/fukushima-daiichi-2-to-9-april/#comment-123994


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