Nuclear Open Thread

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 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.

By Barry Brook

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

236 replies on “Fukushima Open Thread 2”

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.


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.


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.



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.


“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.”



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.



@ 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.


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?


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.”


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.




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 –>

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


@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.”


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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:

A look at the solutions:


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.


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.


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.


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.


[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!


@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.


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.


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.


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????


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.


@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:


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.


@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).


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).


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?


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.


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 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.


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.


@ 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.


Helen Caldicott said in the above referenced link:

“There are about two hundred new elements made when you fission uranium in a reactor”

I guess Mendeleev is rolling over in his grave!


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.


Edit: Just found that the theoretical limit is between 29% and 34%. Slightly less of a problem, but still unfavourable when compared with Nuclear.



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…..


@ 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.


Johno, on 28 March 2011 at 10:21 AM — The issue for solar is how much the sun shines. For the Mohave Desert the capacity factor is 25% and for other decent locations more around 21%.


@ 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.


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.


[deleted personal opinion presented as fact. Deliberate distortion of facts. Please re-submit with English refs/links]



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.


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.



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.


@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.


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.


@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.


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.


@ 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.


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”.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


@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.



However – despite other comments, after mine, being approved, there is no sign of it at http://www.dandelion
And they complain about BNC’s moderation – at least their comments see the light of day on this blog.


@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.


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.



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.


@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.


Webs and Weavers did eventually say she was not Helen Caldicott. I don’t know the truth but incline to take such statements at face value until proven otherwise.

I do know she was hard work.


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.



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.



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.


Leave a Reply (Markdown is enabled)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s