Future Hot News Nuclear

Fukushima Daiichi crisis – April 1 perspective

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has moved off the front page of most newspapers, but a lot continues to happen, and the situation remains unresolved. Below I offer some personal perspectives on some of the things that have been widely reported over the last few days, and then I conclude with some official updates.

Disclaimer: What follows is my interpretation of the sparse and often confusing information being made available by TEPCO, NHK etc. Take or leave at your discretion.

Will the GE Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (a Gen III unit) be built at Fukushima Daiichi to replace units 1-4?

1. Plutonium detected in the soil around the plant. A few isotopes of plutonium (Pu) have been found in soil at various test sites at the FD plant. This has sent some folks on Twitter apoplectic. So where does it come from?

One theory, and quite a reasonable one, is that it is the global residual left over from the extensive atmospheric atomic weapons testing of the 1950s — 1970s. That would help explain the presence of Pu-238, for instance — an isotope not readily created in a power reactor.

Another thought is that there was a local source, either from volatilisation of sloughed material in the drying spent fuel ponds, or perhaps from the reactor cores (that was then carried away in minute traces via the vented steam). Being a heavy metal, however, the Pu would not mobilse readily and would deposit very locally. Remember, Pu is present in all spent fuel, via the U-238 –> Pu-239 transmutation pathway. All reactor fuel elements that have been fissioning will contain plutonium. It is not something peculiar to mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel (which was being used in FD unit 3), as some have implied — there has been a lot of nonsense written about this during the past few weeks.

In short, Pu is a metal, not a demon. Indeed, from my perspective on the Integral Fast Reactor technology, I see Pu as THE fuel of the future, and boldly predict that it will be looked back on, by some far distant civilisation, as among the most important elements humankind ever encountered. However, that’s for another post for another day. But if you want the full review now, please read Cohen.

2. Containment integrity and core damage. The story that hit the headlines was this

Richard T. Lahey, former chair of nuclear engineering at Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., was quoted as saying that the evidence he had seen indicated that fuel melted through the pressure vessel of reactor No. 2 at some point after the crisis began. He told The Guardian:

“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.”

While I respect his personal opinion as an engineer with professional experience with GE BWRs, I really don’t think he’s correct– to me, as a logical analyst, it’s just not consistent with the recent data. The reactor pressure vessel (RPV) outlet temperature, RPV internal pressure, and drywell pressure readings, have all remained relatively stable over the last few days (see latest FEPC and JAIF reports at the foot of this blog entry). I can’t see that this could possibly have been the case if chunks of molten metal had burned a gaping hole through the 8″ thick steel vessel and then fizzed through the concrete floor to boot. It certainly didn’t happen at TMI-2 in 1979, and I don’t think that it happened at Fukushima unit 2 either. Lahey seems to think his theory is supported by the high radiation readings in the water trench adjacent to unit 2… however, I disagree, as I explain in point 3.

3. Trench water. I think World Nuclear News had done an excellent recap on this: Tsunami likely filled trenches. In short:

Analysis of the trenches at Fukushima Daiichi indicates they were probably flooded by the tsunami. Low radioactivity in one trench may result from capture of radionuclides from the air but high levels in another are unexplained…

…But while an answer appears close on the presence of the water, the levels of radioactivity remain unexplained. The trench at unit 2 is a serious concern due to radiation levels from surface measurement in excess of 1000 millisieverts per hour. Further sampling has not yet taken place due to this extraordinary level, and it is not clear if the dose rate is representative of the whole 6000 cubic metre body of water, although it does match the level in the basement of the turbine building. Unit 2 suffered suspected damage to its torus suppression chamber on the morning of 15 March.

The key to this riddle, I think, is the wetwell torus breech (which is likely to be a pinhole or crack) — there has clearly been damage to containment at unit 2, but NOT, I think, to the RPV. The radioactive water in the trench could also plausibly have come from cracked/burst piping or seals elsewhere in the containment/primary system (remembering that in a BWR, the cooling water/moderator also runs through the turbine directly, unlike in a PWR). But there is no reason to think that this water comes directly from the RPV or drywell (which is where the fuel would be if it had melted through the RPV). Indeed, I think the chances of a large steam explosion at this stage of events — more than two weeks out from the core damage event — is remote in the extreme, and even if this highly unlikely chain of events did occur, it would still not spread reactor fuel over a wide area, because most of the heavier material is very difficult to mobilise  and disperse (remembering that there is no burning graphite in this situation, unlike Chernobyl, and even in that accident most of the actinides stayed put).

The weird theories of Caldicott and her ilk, in which she fantasises about some ‘magical’ mechanism that is able to spread fine particulates of Pu across the landscape and into the lungs of millions of humans, and so (she outrageously claims) render the Japanese islands uninhabitable as a result, is simply beyond a joke (from many angles). Actually, it’s nothing short of appalling, grossly unscientific, hyper-alarmism.

4. Spent fuel ponds. These continue to get serious attention, with regular injections of water. They have likely been the primary source of the Cs-137 releases. The current TEPCO plan is to switch to fresh water injection ASAP. The pools in units 5 and 6 are now stable and both below 40C (see reports given at the end of this post), but there is still some concern of the pools in units 2, 3 and 4 especially. There was even a report that authorities are still considering entombing them in concrete. It’s possible, but I really don’t think that will happen because it may solve a few short-term problems, and create other longer-term site-management headaches (personal judgement).

5. Radation levels in the ocean. These continue to be elevated close to the plant, due presumably to site run-off and the flushing/settling of airborne particles, but drop away rapidly with distance as the isotopes are spread in the ocean waters, as expected. The I-131 has a short half life, and the longer-lived Cs-137 does not bioaccumulate like mercury (for instance). I thought John Bennetts, writing in response to another BNC commenter who had earlier objected vociferously to my rather bland statement about the ‘disperse and dilute’ principle, summed it up rather well:

Firstly, to demand that a reference be provided to support the notion that 500ml of water, when mixed with the waters of an ocean, actually dilutes! I am shocked! Indeed, once the dilution factor achieves 128, then all reported isotope concentrations will be below the reporting limit, i.e. of no interest to the regulatory authorities. So what’s there to worry about? At that point, your own concerns will become baseless. As per the table at the head of this thread, three limits have been exceeded and publicly reported.

With a half-life of 8 days, the offending isotope will naturally decay by a further factor of 128 in 7*8 = 56 days, after which time you can be doubly assured that no nasty exceedances remain. I have no doubt that assessment of the real world impacts will be reviewed and assessed and talked about for some time to come, but the fact remains, that once the waters have been diluted in the Pacific, there will be no cause for further alarm. There will be no ongoing public health threat and there will be no threat to the food chain.

The only threats after dilution will be those which arise due to incomplete dilution, e.g. possible uptake in molluscs of certain species, or in aquatic vegetation, and even these will dissipate rapidly with time. I am sure that there are many suitably qualified people who will be involved in ensuring that hypothetical secondary effects are assessed and monitored and that, where doubt exists, actions such as bans on fishing are put in place. You have added precisely nought to the process of rational assessment, review and response which will ensure that the community’s health will not be damaged through these releases.

6. Future of Fukushima Daiichi site. TEPCO have announced that units #1 to #4 will be decommissioned once the crisis is finally closed off. Hardly surprising. I said about 2 weeks ago that 1-3 were write-offs, and although unit 4 didn’t have a fuel loading during the accident, the secondary containment has been so badly damaged by the hydrogen fires and problems with the drying spent fuel ponds that it was inevitable that it’d also be curtains. World Nuclear News has more on that story here. The decomm period is likely to take 5-10 years, based on TMI-2 experience (TMI-1 is still running, incidentally), and perhaps longer given the serious problems they’ve had with multiple reactor units. The fate of the undamaged units 5 and 6, which are some 200 m distance from 1-4, remains unresolved. I suspect they’ll eventually be put back into operation, as Japan really needs their electricity, but probably not for 12+ months. From that WNN story, there is also now speculation about whether the slated Gen III units (GE advanced boiling water reactors, similar to those built at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in the 1990s) will be built on the Fukushima Daiichi site the future:

Tepco had planned to construct two 1380 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and the start of work on these was slated for 2012. This was a delayed date as a result of additional earthquake engineering flowing from what the company learnt during a July 2007 earthquake that hit similar reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa. Tepco contracted for 1600 MWe of new coal generation and 4500 MWe of gas to bridge the supply gap.

So, at least that’s clear. Once again, it’s nuclear, or it’s coal and gas.

7. Other useful unofficial posts. Charles Barton from Nuclear Green looks at the good, the bad and the ugly side of reporting on the Fukushima crisis. George Monbiot comments on The double standards of green anti-nuclear opponents (We must apply the same standards to all energy-generating technology as we do to nuclear power). Will Davis, a former U.S. navy reactor operator, has an interesting blog going here: Atomic Power Review, with some informed theories and speculation on what the FD data mean. Worth checking out.

8. Donations to BraveNewClimate. Many people have asked about this, in the comments and privately, and I thank them for their generosity. However, I’ve always maintained that I’d rather pay for the running of the site myself ,on principle. That is, I don’t want to be seen to profit from this venture in any way, because I do it for non-monetary reasons. Indeed, it’s fair to say that I get more than enough reward out of the work by having people read my posts and for them providing a wonderful stream of comments that really makes this blog alive (even if I don’t always agree with them!). That community input makes me feel rich indeed.

(Oh, and I don’t get any $$ from the Google Ads that run — this is how WordPress extracts their pound of flesh for their otherwise largely free [and excellent] hosting service — I just pay them for domain redirection etc.).


Okay, on to some (semi-) official stuff. The latest IAEA report is here (last updated on 30 March). NEI update status here. Some snips:

At the Fukushima Daiichi site, workers continued to inject fresh water into reactors 1, 2 and 3 to keep them cool, while at the same time dealing with water that has pooled in the basements of turbine buildings and in concrete trenches near the units. As available storage space in the reactors’ condensers is filled, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is looking to store the radioactive water in tanks that will be brought to the facility. TEPCO has switched to fresh water for spraying the spent fuel pools for reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4.

All the units at Daiichi are operating on off-site electric power and work continues to connect equipment. High radiation levels and wet equipment still hampers restoration of the plants’ original machinery.

Here is the latest JAIF status update, as of 2100 on 31 March 2011:

Here are links to the latest reports from the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA):

Conditions of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 1-6(As of 14:00 30th, 2011)

Fukushima Di-ichi Nuclear Power Station Major Parameters of the Plant (As of 14:00, March 30th)

March 30th, 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Monitoring points

Finally, the most recent FEPC report:

  • Radiation Levels
    • At 8:51AM (JST) on March 31, it was announced that radioactive nuclide I-131 was detected from the seawater sampled near the seawater discharge point (south side) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station at 1:55PM on March 30. The level of concentration was approximately 4,385 times higher than the maximum permissible water concentration set by the government.
    • At 2:00PM on March 31, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3,281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 157 micro Sv/hour.
    • At 2:00PM on March 31, radiation level at west gate (approximately 3,609 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 99.9 micro Sv/hour.
    • Measurement results of environmental radioactivity level around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 7:00PM on March 31 are shown in the attached PDF file. English version is available at:
    • For comparison, a human receives 2,400 micro Sv per year from natural radiation in the form of sunlight, radon, and other sources. One chest CT scan generates 6,900 micro Sv per scan.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.329MPa.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, water level inside the reactor core: 1.65 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.21MPaabs.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, the temperature of the reactor vessel measured at the water supply nozzle: 480.9 degrees Fahrenheit
    • At 9:20AM on March 31, transferring of the accumulated water at the trench (concrete tunnel which houses pipes and cables) outside the turbine building commenced, until 11:25AM. As a result, the water level at the trench was reduced from 0.14 meters to 1.14 meters below the top of the trench.
    • At 1:03PM on March 31, TEPCO began to shoot freshwater aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor
    • As of 3:00PM on March 29, the water level at the trench was 1.04 meters below the top of the trench.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 131 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.016MPa.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, water level inside the reactor core: 1.5 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 8:00AM on March 31, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.11MPaabs.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, approximately 96 tons of water in total has been injected into the spent fuel storage pool.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor
    • As of 3:00PM on March 29, the water level at the trench was 1.55 meters below the top of the trench.
    • At 9:40AM on March 31, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.016MPa.
    • At 9:40AM on March 31, water level inside the reactor core: 1.85 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 9:40AM on March 31, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.1066MPaabs.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, approximately 4,697 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, approximately 1,098 tons of water in total has been shot to the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor
    • At 11:00AM on March 31, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor
    • At 11:00AM on March 31, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool
    • At 8:20AM on March 30, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • As of 3:00PM on March 31, approximately 130 tons of water in total has been injected to the spent fuel storage pool.

Our official sources are:

  • Office of The Prime Minister of Japan
  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)
  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Press Releases
  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)


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.

222 replies on “Fukushima Daiichi crisis – April 1 perspective”

… global residual left over from the extensive atmospheric atomic weapons testing of the 1950s — 1970s. That would help explain the presence of Pu-238, for instance …

It is created by the (n, 2n) process on plutonium-239, so it accumulates and is one of the isotopes that prevents nuclear weapon seekers from being interested in power reactor plutonium.

The (n, 2n) process can happen twice, and then you get plutonium-237, and this, if found, would be the isotope that would really nail down a local, recent origin for the plutonium they’re finding.


Most of the problems seem to stem from:

1. Public fear of the words “radiation” and “nuclear” rather than the reactors


2. From the fact that in a “face” culture like Japan’s no-one seems to want to accept any responsibility, in case they’re left holding the parcel when the music stops.


“In short, Pu is a metal, not a demon”

lol, I suppose you could look at anything like that. Mercury is only a metal, Arsenic is a Metalloid. Still would not like to have too much of that sort of thing sprinkled on my cornflakes. (Before you all start, I am not suggesting Plutonium will get on anyones cornflakes as I have no evidence)

On the whole thanks. I do like your site as it is producing stimulating discussions.


Good summary indeed

Regarding point #2 :

the pressure vessel of BWR (Fukushima) differs from the pressure vessel of PWR (TMI) in that the control rods raise from below instead of dropping from above. It means that there are a lot of holes at the bottom of the 8″ thick steel vessel, with seals potentially more fragile that the steel they cross. So some of the corium could get through this without necessarily destroying the temperature sensor at the bottom of the vessel. See Will Davis’s take on this .

Regarding #6 :

From a cold and rational standpoint, Fukushima may actually be the best site to build new NPP in Japan , not only using the 5 and 6 plants :
– The “big one” has already happened, after a few years of aftershock, the area should be quite quiet.
– It is likely that a zone of a few kilometers diameter is going to stay evacuated and TEPCO will have to indemnify anyway. At least they would get something for this money !


Can someone explain the following? If they are pumping 130 lts/hr into reactor vessels, were is the output water going? Are they sending it to the sea and that can explain the radioactive isotopes found there? Because is like a great amount of water and should be difficult to find a place to store and clean it. What is the reactor vessel capacity (I mean, volume)?
Thanks very much.


We need to start taking the lead in developing tsunami defense. Clearly the quake was, not to be glib, not the issue in terms of safety. In fact, if you look at all the total deaths, 90% of them seem to have come from the tsunami, not the quake, which despite the national reputation of Japan being dragged through the mud, was and IS the best prepared nation in the world for these sorts of quakes: Again, the quakes did relatively little damage.

Now…we need to get the “industry” that has sea side plants around the Pacific to develop relatively ‘cheap’ tsunami defense against 10+ meter waves. This means massive, or higher than exists, break waters (jetties, walls, etc) set out in multiple layers around the entrances of these plants, especially around the intake structures.

Secondly, the really expensive program, is to relocate those emergency generators and their fuel supplies to something akin to what Diablo Canyon has done in California: locate the full *up* over the plant to protect them, then, as the did at DCNPP, double reinforce the foundations and walls to prevent castrophic tank failure.



… radioactive nuclide I-131 was detected from the seawater … approximately 3,355 times higher than the maximum permissible water concentration set by the government

Would that be a limit for potable water?

What does this 3355-fold over the limit concentration amount to in terms of beta and gamma power per litre of this water?


@Eric Moore: I guess I hed no difficulty understanding the “Pu is a metal, not a demon” phrase but I can also understand your puzzlement, because Barry doesn’t quote all the wild claims that are made about plutonium. They would require it to have supernatural properties to achieve even a fraction of the damage that anti-nuclear speakers attribute to it as a matter of course. In that world, plutonium can escape from any confinement, dissolve and precipitate at will, reverse entropy, kill people with a single atom, turn future generations into monsters and generally spell the end of lfe on the planet, if not the universe. In short, it would have to be a demon, not subject to physical laws.

Caldicott is especially eloquent (in an obsessive [ad hom deleted] sorta way) on the subject.


Eric Moore, of course plutonium and mercury are just metals. The important thing is to make sure they do not go into the environment at large scale. Coal plants have no problem emitting TONS of mercury, cadmium and arsenic per year per large plant. Plutonium oxides are not volatile which is why we see trivial amounts in the surroundings… these levels just aren’t anywhere near being dangerous, whereas the heavy metal emission of coal plants in NORMAL OPERATION is very damaging to health.

I think Barry is right. Damage to fuel means fission products in the coolant water, then torus and/or some pipe damage leaks water into contaiment carriying said fission products… easy to get Sievert levels this way.

There is water in the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels, the seawater and now freshwater that is injected. This means you cannot have a melt that goes through; any corium contacting water would be rapidly cooled and the water also cools the reactor pressure vessel bottom. It is a pan with water in it. You cannot burn a whole at the bottom of a pan when there is still water in it. IF there was damage to the control rod housing you would also see considerable water in the drywell, which isn’t detected. Like Barry says the pressure levels do not indicate any corium in the drywell bulb pit.

Finally I would add that the drywell can be flooded which is just as easy as seawater injection the the reactor pressure vessel. If pressures and/or temps go too high the engineers will do this, if not necessary they won’t. Apparently they found it necessary to flood the drywell of unit 1, but not unit 2 and 3 according to the data so far (they use confusing words such as ‘to be confirmed’ which is annoying). Does anyone have a better

As for perspective, so far zero radiation deaths and no lethal doses to workers yet. Clearly public safety is not at risk and worker safety is the only real concern. The worst are two workers that burned their legs in beta/alpha radiation water, however they are relieved from the hospital already. They do not face immediate risk but might have increased chances of skin cancer with local exposure up to 3 Sieverts (whole body dose under 0.2 Sievert). This is of course a serious situation for the two workers and I don’t mean to trivialise the risk of these poor workers but fossil fuels cause more than 100000 lung cancers a year and possibly over 1 million cancers total by linear no threshold model (but that model is silly). 6000 Chinese coal miners died in accidents last year (official figures are too low). This is not trivialising the situation, it is providing perspective. More perspective: so far no large dose rates in nearby land (all under 20 mrem/hour and dropping fast) and only small spikes of activity found in local areas (may require some soil remediation). So no evidence of ‘thousands not able to go back to their homes for decades’ as some anti-nukes have put it.

Like David Mackay has said: “I’m not trying to be pro-nuclear – I’m just pro arithmetic”. Numbers are what is important in this situation. It is a shame the media is mostly innumerate, saying things like ‘plutonium found in soil’ but not mentioning the dose rate from standing on this soil or eating it. But perhaps its hardly surprising; if we look at dose rates per person for the public and dose rates from standing on nearby land, suddenly this crisis doesn’t look like apocolypse anymore. No sensation to be found there.


Lahey’s qualifications

Just a note to say who it is that Barry is disagreeing with.

Lahey has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, which is a part of the National Academy of Sciences in the US.

He was Editor, Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Design (83-94). He was a member of the USNRC Containment Code Review Group (1977-1984). Lately, he was a member of the National Research Council panel that studied “The Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Fuel Storage” (2006), the ones who published on if a zirconium cladding fire could break out in a dry spent fuel pool and what the consequences might be.

A tiny fraction of his published papers includes:

“Modeling and Calculation of Corium/Concrete Interaction in a MARK-I Containment,” ANS Transactions, Vol. 61, 1990 (with H. Jia, S.J. Lee and M.Z. Podowski).

“An Analysis of Chugging Loads in Containment Systems,” ANS Transactions , Vol. 62, 1990 (with P.M. Lahey and D.A. Drew).

“The Analysis of S/RV Loads in Pressure Suppression Containment Systems,” ANS Transactions, Vol. 63, pp. 304-306, 1991 (with P.M. Lahey and D.A. Drew).

“A Model of BWR Containment Thermal-Hydraulics under Severe Accident Conditions,” Proceedings of the 27th NHTC, Minneapolis, MN, July 28-31, 1991 (with S-W. Kim and M.Z. Podowski).

“Multidimensional Effects During Corium Spreading in a MARK-I Containment,” Proceedings of the 28th NHTC, San Diego, CA, Aug. 9-12, 1992 (with S. Kasprzak, H. Jia, M.Z. Podowski and R. Lilquist).

An Analysis of BWR/4 and BWR/5 Pressure Boundary Failure Modes During Core Meltdown and Its Impact on Mark-II Containment
$304,667 2/1/84-1/31/86.

There is a very long page listing all his experience qualifications, honors, and publications



I watched the Youtube video of the Caldicott vrs Monbiot debate hosted by Democracy Now.

Barry up there actually understates what Caldicott is claiming.

She is in high dudgeon now that there is the biggest spotlight on the nuclear issue since TMI and Chernobyl.

After asserting that “1 million people” have already died as a result of Chernobyl, she stated that “people will continue to die for the rest of time”. Referring to Fukushima, she said there is “enough Plutonium in these reactors to kill EVERYONE ON EARTH”.

It isn’t just the entire population of Japan she is worried about. This is “AN ABSOLUTE CATASTROPHE THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN”.

According to her, it seems, there was no radiation anywhere in Europe until Chernobyl blew up. “40% of the European landmass is still radioactive”. Monbiot suggested that there were authorities who disagreed with her assessments. Caldicott: “There is NO DEBATE about this… in the medical community”.

Caldicott: “You must listen to me…. I DON”T SAY THINGS THAT ARE INACCURATE…. Otherwise I would be deregistered. DOCTORS CAN’T LIE”.

Its too bad. We’re all going to die. I guess there’s no point in finishing up that painting the kitchen project I’ve got going.


Following Barry’s link to the IEEE Spectrum article, I wonder if that has been updated or if Barry is only quoting from the newspaper story about this.

Barry dismisses (correctly) the notion that “chunks of molten metal had burned a gaping hole” — where does that come from? I’d like to see the first use of that claim tracked down. It’s nonsense. Someone’s exaggerating for effect. Who??

And from reading the IEEE article, nobody claims that. The bottom of these reactor vessels is _full_of_holes_ — that’s how the control rods move in and out, through the bottom. It’s a plate full of openings with plugs and seals around each rod.

The quotes at the IEEE article, at least as of right now, are far more nuanced than the paraphrase — and everyone seems to agree that some core material has leaked out, not a large-scale breach.

From the IEEE article now:

“Lahey thinks there’s a chance that the corium escaped through narrow channels formed by the control rods, which in this type of reactor go all the way to the bottom of the vessel. In that case, the corium could have been extruded through the channels, forming something with more surface area.
…. If the corium has escaped through the control rod channels it’s more like trying to cool french fries.

… We’ll check in with Lahey later as the situation develops.

… Hidehiko Nishiyama, the deputy director general of the Nuclear Industry and Safety Agency (NISA), did not see evidence of a big breach of the pressure vessel, but acknowledged that its not completely contained. “When we look at the release of radioactive material up to now, while we do not believe there is any major breach either to the pressure vessel or the containment vessel, we are pretty sure there is some leakage” he told Boyd.

So — “huge gaping hole” is bogus for the present situation. Hasn’t happened.

On the other hand, “Cyril R” claims a safety level far beyond what the experts do. Read this:

“This event is considered to be a common problem to BWRs which were constructed according to the same manufacturing process….”

These specific reactor designs have had problems that — if they had not been fixed as of this quake and tsunami — could have caused the worst case melt-through (a boil-dry scenario); that’s a calculation from the heat produced vs. the quantity of water available in a worst case failure.

That did NOT happen here.

The company _did_ fix these problems with cracks in the bottle. See the pictures in that page. Work back up on the site to the list of problems and fixes:

Here’s Dai-ichi:

Lots of things found and fixed.
Good thing, eh?


Hank, on the problem discussed in your first link there: the shoud is a structure internal to the reactor pressure vessel. It is not a pressure vessel itself. Cracks in the shroud compromise its own structural integrity, and large-scale failure might well disrupt the working of the reactor, but would not constitute a path for radioisotope escape.


The thing with plutonium toxicity; it’s not particularly dangerous unless respired or injected. Respirable particles are 5 micron or less; larger particles can’t get into alveoli and have short residency time in the lungs.

For plutonium nitrate(very soluble in water) the gastrointestinal tract absorbs only ~10^-4. For fine particles of plutonium oxides it is ~10^-5.

Plants show a similar level of discrimination against plutonium.

Thus, inhalation is THE concern with plutonium(even after the plutonium-bearing dust has settled you should be more worried about it getting re-suspended than about drinking water), with drinking water being a very distant second and food completely irrelevant.


Oops… Didn’t read all the way through here. Looks like that article was already discussed. Ok to delete these two posts


The shroud cannot fail in a way which would compromise cooling during emergencies. It has to take its own weight which is trivial, it is a cilinder which is just sitting upright, it is not a pressure boundary (only slightly in normal operation with fast flow downwards, not in accidents decay heat cooling flows). There is no plausible way to deform the cilinder such that cooling the 0.2 percent decay heat can be inhibited.


Regarding experts opinion, everyone can and does make mistakes. The Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee said previously that the spent fuel pools were completely dry, which was proven very much false by sattelite imaging/sensing.

Trust the evidence, trust the numbers.


For someone without a science background, and many things at stake during this crisis, it is very easy to get lost amongst the many debates going on. For me, right now, its about making a choice, so my question is from a selfish perspective. Before the crisis, I had it all planned out to live in Tokyo for two years from April. Now I am concerned about the penetration of radioactive material in the food chain. Im considering cancelling my plans, since there has been evidence of contamination in some areas. Like I said, I get lost with all the different kinds of isotopes. All the doctor friends I have consulted back home (not radiology or oncology specialists) keep telling me to avoid going to Japan, but I’m not sure about their level of experteese in the subject, and wonder if they are not being carried away by the hysteria. It has probably been discussed before, so please re-direct me to the relevant discussion, but here is the question: given the information available at the moment, is it a health risk to spend two years in Japan from now?


the evidence and numbers are not looking good.

ground water has been strongly contaminated:

“HIGH levels of radioactive iodine-131 that are 10,000 times the government safety standard have been found in groundwater below Japan’s stricken nuclear plant, its operator TEPCO says.

The water sample, taken on Wednesday from 15 metres beneath reactor 1 at the Fukushima plant, tested at about 430 becquerels per cubic centimetre, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company said today.”


Hank, I for one wouldn’t agree that it is certain that anything has leaked out of the reactor vessel, in the sense of solids and high-temperature melts. The gas/vapour/smoke route of escape still seems more likely to me on the quality of releases to-date, which I think is achievable in principle through the venting mechanisms from the RPV, along with a breach of the wetwell torus.

I would concede that there is a chance that Lahey is right, and some melt has extruded from the control rod channels. If so it would probably be rather reduced in fuel oxide compared to what remains in the RPV.


sod, thanks for the good news. More iodine-131 staying safely under the plant is less getting airborne to cause problems.

Incidentally, like the seawater measurements, the groundwater measurements are compared to drinking water standards. This is somewhat misleading; they would both fail on numerous other points to be safe for drinking.


views of Bernard Cohen, LNT, and what scientific sources people should take to be the most credible

Now that we are seeing the media blow radiation out of proportion, turning the spotlight on to types such as Caldicott etc., in reference to Fukushima, it is worth reading Cohen’s chapter How Dangerous is Radiation.

Cohen compares the credibility of, for example, the BEIR panels with the credibility of those such as Sternglas et. al, Caldicott, etc.

People who dispute LNT as assessed by BEIR might want to consider what Cohen has to say about the National Academy of Sciences, the possibility that any panel created by the NAS could possibly be involved in a conspiracy to suppress the truth, or for that matter, be wrong, how solid the support is in the wider scientific community for NAS panels as opposed to the fringe views of a few scientists on any topic, etc.

The next time you cite a study that appears, in your mind, to contradict what an NAS panel such as BEIR VII says, think about what Cohen has to say.


When I examine the pressure readings, I see distinct differences between the way that reactors 1 – 3 are behaving.

By design, the RPV is a pressure vessel within a secondary pressure vessel (the PCV and torus being the secondary pressure vessel). The RPV normally operates at ~70 atm but can withstand a lot higher pressure (up to 200 – 250 atm). The PCV/torus is designed for 4 atm. These numbers have been published numerous times in these threads.

They are injecting water into the RPV to cool the core. As the injected water heats up, the pressure and temperature inside the RPV increase. They vent steam from the RPV to the PCV to reduce the pressure and allow them to inject more water. The stem vented to the PCV normally quenches and condenses and drains into the torus. The water in the torus is then cooled by heat exchangers.

If you look at the published conditions you can see that #1 RPV is at ~5 atm gauge pressure and 150 deg C which is what one would expect for steam/water at 5 atm. The PCV is at ~2 atm absolute pressure. To me it appears that both the RPV and CPV are intact as they both hold pressure.

With reactors #2 and #3 the RPVs and CPVs are both at atmospheric pressure which indicates to me that the RPV pressure boundry has been breached. As many have stated this does not mean that there is a gaping hole in the bottom of the RPV. But if the RPVs can’t hold pressure they are certainly leaking. Most likely through damaged packing glands for the control rods at the bottom of the RPV.

Similarly for the CPVs: since they are not holding pressure they are breached.


> it would probably be rather reduced in fuel oxide
> compared to what remains in the RPV

Why? Are you assuming fractionation and layering so a leak would be some oxide (heavier than anything else) at the bottom?

References I see are to “corium” — a mixture of everything melted — as what’s expected to leak.

I’m not able to tell who here is speaking from expert knowledge, who from amateur optimism, and who from some expert source — so some cite would be appreciated for the opinion.

This page quotes “… two nuclear engineering experts, Andrew Kadak, from MIT, and Mitchell Farmer, a researcher at Argonne National Labs …” on the question:


Joffan, you’re right, that specific link is to internal (shroud) cracks. For more mentions of problems around connections to and penetrations of the pressure vessel, from the past history:
Just saying, we have to remember the theory describes how the structure behaves when build; the actual condition after years of use and repairs will differ, and it’s hard to say how. Likely a repair will not be stronger than the original, though.


@Hank Roberts On the contrary, repairs are often stronger than the original. This is fact in so many domains, that I’m surprised you would come to that conclusion.


Hank, I am strictly an amateur. The information I was speculating on to reduce fuel content for extruded material was my recollection of the as-found condition of TMI damaged fuel. Having revisited the subject, I find that my recollection was wrong, and there is no special reason to expect lowered ratios of fuel in a melt compared to other core debris.

And thanks for the link.


sod, on 1 April 2011 at 5:04 AM said:

The water sample, taken on Wednesday from 15 metres beneath reactor 1 at the Fukushima plant, tested at about 430 becquerels per cubic centimetre, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company said today.

Actual tests here – they tested the water under 5 of 6 reactors, all had substantially different readings.

Click to access 110331e18.pdf


> repairs … stronger than the original

I was thinking specifically of repairs to nuclear reactors, from what I’ve read (and I’m an amateur, I’m just reading what I can find by looking).

Here for example: a new laser welding technique

Click to access 65.pdf

As it says there, the laser method is tried because the standard welding method increases the susceptibility of the metal to corrosion (which in a reactor vessel would lower the strength).

I’d be glad to see anything on this kind of repair that supports your belief.


Thanks for the common sense articles, I am not at all involved in the nuclear industry and not pro nucleer except for Fussion reaction. What I do support is honest communication and feel the press and various pressure groups have taken advantage of the situation and mislead the public, causing needless tress, and whilst a very serious matter honest reporting is needed. Thanks again from somebody who appreciates common sense.


@Hank Roberts – I am not an amateur when it comes to repairs on metals and composites. An improper repair is not what I was referring to. The wrong technique, or the wrong process is obviously not going to be serviceable; you wouldn’t try to patch a crack in a pressure vessel with chewing-gum.

What I was contesting is your assertion that quote:“Likely a repair will not be stronger than the original” which is an unsupportable and invalid generalization.

I cannot get your link to resolve, so I don’t know exactly what was written on the matter, but there are a host of processes, and craft techniques that can be used to prevent stress failure of weldments.

Welds can be made with the addition of filler metal of the same composition as the base or can be made autogenously (without filler metal); controlled atmosphere, and heat control can be optimized to avoid improper recrystallization, microsegregation, and precipitation of secondary phases, all which cause susceptibility to corrosive attack. As well there are also many instances in which the weld exhibits corrosion resistance superior to that of the unwelded base metal.

Thus any broad statements to the effect that a repair is necessarily weaker that the original is categorically wrong.

BTW laser welding is hardly new – its been around for almost forty years


> link
Google found it, see if this finds it for you:

JD Kima – 2001 – Repair welding of etched tubular components of nuclear power plant by Nd:YAG laser. Jae-Do Kima,*, Cheol-Jung Kimb, Chin-Man Chungb …


I didn’t say a repair is “necessarily weaker” — I’m looking at the repair reports from the Japanese record and what I find about doing repair in that environment. Short answer: repairs aren’t necessarily as strong nor stronger; details and specifics matter; that’s my point, that making claims about how these plants ought to perform in theory shouldn’t preclude also looking at the actual reports of how they’ve done in practice. Knowing the sorts of failures of the penetrations through the bottom of the shield makes it possible to consider whether it’s possible such failures contribute to leaks. It’s a question of what’s possible, not what’s ideal.

Try this too; again Google should find it for you.

Corrosion in Nuclear Power Plants
by VP Layer, Jan 16, 2002 … Two types of corrosion that can lead to premature failure in … it can be included in the planned repair work for the following year. … In these reactors the coolant water at the reactor core is strongly oxidising. …


Haha, sod, and he did what? drove around and left.

Exactly what you think he could have done after breaking in to the site is left unsaid. However, this is probably because there is nothing he could have done to endanger anyone except himself.

“This could have been an armed assault by a terrorist group”. And then they would be dead, because the armed guards would shoot them. But talking of terrorists, I see anti-nuclear fanatics are right onto it. – sending a letter bomb to a trade organisation in Switzerland. See upthread.


confused by the fussion, on 1 April 2011 at 4:55 AM — By all means go to Japan. If you are going to live in the Tepco service area (Tokyo & envirnons) then the worst aspect will becoming accostomed to the rolling 3 hour power outages (but which are posted well in advance).

The radiation hazard more than 30 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi is non-existenent; you would obtain a much higher dosage by living in Denver for those 2 years, not to speak of Leadville up the hill.


As the reports of various radiation ventings/leaks/escapes mount up it is worth noting that radiation biophysicists are still unable to agree on risk (as at 2002).

See for example;

(2002) Kellerer, A. [Rad. and Env. Biophysics, 41(4) 307-316] indictes that “there is now conspicuous disagreement with current risk estimates”

A central issue are newly published reduced estimates of the external dose to the Techa riverside population which imply substantially increased risk coefficients for solid cancer. Unless the new dosimetry system, TRDS-2000, has missed a major dose contribution, there is now conspicuous disagreement with current risk estimates. Unaccounted doses from atmospheric releases of fission products and from radiological screening of the Techa riverside population need to be explored, but underestimation of the short lived fission products released into the river appears to be a more critical factor. It is furthermore argued that even if TRDS-2000 were confirmed it would remain questionable whether risk estimates can be based on organ-specific doses when they are obtained in a population with a much higher bone-marrow exposure that may possibly have caused an ‘abscopal’ radiation effect.


@Hank Roberts You wrote specifically that a repair was likely to be weaker, which means more often than not. This is just plain wrong. Most welded repairs are as strong, or stronger than the surrounding material, in almost all engineering cases. While an improper weld can cause trouble, this is not inherent to the process.

Critical weldments can be tested nondestructively with eddy-current, ultrasound or x-rays and those that are licensed to weld in critical areas must continually supply test coupons at monthly or weekly intervals throughout their careers, or loose their endorsements.

It is your generalization I am challenging, I am not asserting that a weld cannot fail, only that it is not likely to. The fact is that most welder repairs preform as designed, and are not likely to be a source of future failure, as your original statement implied


I am here, 120 km (75 miles) from the nuclear mess.
I have been watching all of the daily, and hourly where possible, monitoring of radiation levels.
35-40 km NW, out of the evacuation zone, has had levels over 100µSv/h and has constantly been around 40-50µSv/h.

How would you feel if you were getting a years dose of radiation in 1 hour? Or how about just 1 Xray an hour?

This blog has repeatedly downplayed radiation levels and the contamination in general.


Susanne posted a link at 4:34, with a disdainful sounding comment about American Media. Now I am not a fan of American Media at all, but I did click on the link and read the story. Here is the lead paragraph:

Washington (CNN) — There is no health risk from consuming milk with extremely low levels of radiation, like those found in Washington state and California, experts said Thursday, echoing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

I can’t in truth call this particular article alarmist, perhaps quite the opposite.

The link was:


@Ernie Hamilton
I was raising the issue some days ago already as an question.
If there is no pressure in the PRV and in the containment, there must be some breach.
And therefore we are really in trouble as radioactive material/steam will continue to escape (until the cracks are sealed).
Especially the lost pressure of the PRV is a huge problem, as it questions the possibility to properly cool the core once the high pressure pumps can be ractivated. You need some pressure to be able to fully cover the core with water and to stop any steam escaping.
Those firepumps currently used can’t be the permanent solution for the next years.

Also the radioactive water found in the ground water underneath the basement raises the concern that there are cracks and structual damages to the concrete base of the building. This will not help to limit the emission of radioactivity…


Latest TEPCO Washington update:

Here are updates on March 31 at Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini NPS

(1) Status of Fukushima Daiichi NPS as of March 31.
(2) Detection of radioactive materials in the ground water at Fukushima Daiichi NPS
(3) A campaign truck unlawfully entered the Fukushima-Daini NPS.
(4) Photos at Fukushima Daiichi NPS: We have photos at Fukushima Daiichi NPS on the web. You may use these photos, but please put a note to indicate source as “Tokyo Electric Power Company”.

TEPCO Washington Office :202-457-0790
Kenji Matsuo, Director and General Manager
Yuichi Nagano, Deputy General Manager,
Masayuki Yamamoto, Manager, Nuclear Power Programs

(1) Status of Fukushima-Daiichi NPS as of March 31
・ Units 1,2,3: Plan to transfer to the condenser (hotwell).
・ Unit 4: Under consideration.

Underground floor of turbine building

Condenser (hotwell)

Condensate Water Tank

【Unit 1】

3/29 Suspend transfer to the condenser


3/31 12:00~ Started water transfer to SP surge tank

【Unit 2】

Waiting for transfer to the condenser


3/29~ Transfer to SP surge tank in progress

【Unit 3】

Waiting for transfer to the condenser


3/31 8:37 Completed transfer to SP surge tank

SP: Suppression Pool

【Unit 1】 (Surface dose:0.4mSv/h)
・3/31 9:20~11:25 Water transfer to waste reserve tank at Rad Waste Treatment Facility, led water surface down 1m.
【Unit 2】(Surface dose: over 1000mSv/h) : Water treatment measure under consideration
【Unit 3】(Surface dose: N/A due to rubbles) : Water treatment measure under consideration
【Unit 4】(Surface dose:0.5mSv/h) : Water treatment measure under consideration

– Seawater
【1-4u Water discharge Canal South 330m】
・Sample obtained at 13:55, 3/29 –> I-131: 130 Bq/cm3
・Sample obtained at 8:20, 3/30 –> I-131: 32 Bq/cm3
・Sample obtained at 13:55, 3/30 –> I-131: 180 Bq/cm3
【5~6uWater discharge Canal North 30m】
・Sample obtained at 14:10, 3/29 –> I-131: 51 Bq/cm3
・Sample obtained at 8:40,3/30 –> I-131: 57 Bq/cm3
・Sample obtained at 14:15,3/30 –> I-131: 47 Bq/cm3

– Other development
3/30~ Started monitoring within a radius of 20km
3/30 Conduct sampling survey of underground water

– 3/31 Result
【Unit 1】13:03~ Started fresh water injection by a concrete pump vehicle, then suspended injection.
14:29~16:04 Resumed fresh water injection.
– 3/31 Plan
【Unit 3】Fresh water injection by a concrete pump vehicle.

【Unit 1】Fresh water injection on going
RPV Temperature 3/31 12:00〈Feed water nozzle〉246.1C 〈RPV Bottom〉126.1C
【Unit 2】Fresh water injection on going
RPV Temperature 3/31 12:00〈Feed water nozzle〉172.4C
【Unit 3】Fresh water injection on going. No change.
【Unit 4】N/A
【Units 5/6】Cold Shutdown. No change.
【Common Fuel Pool】 No change.

【Units 1/2】3/31 Units 1/2 Common DC 125V Power Panel Access to Electricity
【Units 3/4】3/30 Unit 3 DC 125V Power Panel(B) Access to Electricity. Battery charging
【Units 1~6】Equipment integrity confirmation on going

Postponed test dispersal of antiscattering agents due to bad condition by rain fall the day before.

(2) Detection of radioactive materials in the ground water at Fukushima Daiichi NPS

On March 28th, TEPCO received advice from Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan to conduct sampling survey of the water on the first basement of turbine building (= ground water) at Fukushima Daiichi NPS as well as to reinforce the sampling survey of seawater in order to secure safety and to monitor the leakage of the water on the basement into underground and/ or sea.
On March 30th, TEPCO conducted nuclide analysis of radioactive materials, the sample of which was collected from the water on 1st basement (sub drain) of turbine building at Fukushima Daiichi NPS. Radioactive materials were detected as shown in the table bellow. TEPCO reported the result to Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency as well as to the government of Fukushima Prefecture on March 31.

・ Sub-drain is designed to drain groundwater in order to prevent the buildings from floating by the buoyancy of groundwater.
・ TEPCO is planning to constantly take samples, about once a week.
・ We have not found out any significant change (decrease) of the level of the water trapped in the turbine buildings (water puddle) but we will continuously monitor it. So far, no significant changes of the puddle level in the turbine buildings are confirmed.
・ We have not monitored the water level of the sub-drain because it is affected by the conditions of the groundwater. However, we have been monitoring the change of the water level of the turbine buildings and plumbing trench shafts.
・ We assume that the water containing radioactive materials has leaked into the underground by the precipitating water. It might have been caused by the sprayed water, besides the precipitation.

(3) A campaign truck unlawfully entered the Fukushima-Daini NPS.

A campaigner’s sound truck unlawfully entered the site through the west locked car gate around 1:08 pm on March 31. After driving around in the site, the car left through the same gate about 1:20 pm. TEPCO reported this event to the Fukushima Prefecture Police Department. We have shut the gate with TEPCO’s vehicles after the campaigner‘s vehicle left. The intruder was detained by the police and taken away to a decontamination facility.


On items 1 – 7, this would be more credible if nearly every point wasn’t intended to deflate concerns raised in the media, and even contradict the tone of the coverage from IAEA: “Overall at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the situation remains very serious.”

IAEA also questions the validity of instrument readings, which are “still under investigation.” Given the multiple failures, dearth of information from TEPCO and other Japanese officials (3 weeks into this thing), and conflicting basis of several accounts … I’m likely to throw out the irrational extremes of any account (the rosy this will never leave the site boundaries assessments, and the sky is falling end of the world scenarios). IAEA reports sampling at 40 km distance from the power plants exceed their operational criteria for evacuation (a pretty startling discovery). Heck, in Pennsylvania today they even monitored I-131 readings at above EPA guidelines for rainwater.

Regarding containment vessel integrity. We can rely on a single source, JAIF (or NISA), and say Reactor #2 has “damage and leakage suspected.” We can also look at others that report the same, and also raise concerns about Reactor #1 and #3 containment. We can look at the worst of cases, a breach of the pressure vessel in #2 suggested by Lahey, and repeat his caveats: “I hope I am wrong,” or that “it’s really hard to read the tea leaves” (which indicates a great deal of uncertainty). But it seems what we can’t do is rule out these statements (without a sufficient basis), look at faulty instrument readings, and say it’s all fine (and there is “no reason” to assume highly radioactive water has come from the RPV or drywell). There is a reason to suggest these things, we just don’t have very firm verification for it (and this is one of the larger issues that I see raised by this accident … the lack of transparency we have received so far from Japanese officials). And, I would add, the insufficiency of design criteria to meet the specific demands for this site, and inherent flaws of the Mark I containment design (which may or may not have been addressed at these particular plants with recommended retrofits).


@Stephen, on 1 April 2011 at 10:34 AM said:

Especially the lost pressure of the PRV is a huge problem, as it questions the possibility to properly cool the core once the high pressure pumps can be ractivated.

I’m just a simple minded guy but maybe someone could explain why my thought process is wrong.

The average refueling outage on an NPP is 37 days..that includes shutting down, cooling the core, opening the reactor, taking out the old fuel and replacing it with new.

In order to take out the out fuel at some point the pressure has to be brought to 1 atmosphere.

Why is the pressure in the core an issue?

It seems to me that these reactors are going to be spent fuel pools for the next few years. Flooded with some sort of recirculating cooling pump.


EL, on 1 April 2011 at 11:09 AM — Every natural disaster comes with some FUBAR with attendant lack of reliable information; Fukushima Dai-ichi has been remarkable in the rapid flow of fairly good information.


harrywr2, on 1 April 2011 at 11:47 AM — Because the temperature is not yet below the boiling point of water at one atm pressure. AFAIK, continued water injection is still required.



Which, no surprise, is giving a “site may be down” error message. I’m sure it’s being overwhelmed by people trying to go read the article.

Wondering if anyone here has seen details, has a link, and if this is credible, and intended for concrete, not water? (after all, it is a concrete pumper that’s been doing the great job of spraying units so far).


Ok, the site came up, here are the key bits:

SRS concrete pump heading to Japan nuclear site
By Rob Pavey Staff Writer
Thursday, March 31, 2011 1:05 PM

The world’s largest concrete pump, deployed at the construction site of the U.S. government’s $4.86 billion mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site, is being moved to Japan in a series of emergency measures to help stabilize the Fukushima reactors.

The 190,000-pound pump, made by Germany-based Putzmeister has a 70-meter boom and can be controlled remotely, making it suitable for use in the unpredictable and highly radioactive environment of the doomed nuclear reactors in Japan, he said.

“There are only three of these pumps in the world,…

The pump was moved Wednesday from the construction site in Aiken County to a facility in Hanahan, S.C., for minor modifications, and will be trucked to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, where it will be picked up by the world’s largest cargo plane, the Russian-made Antonov 225, which will fly it to Tokyo…. If all goes well, the pump will be en route to Japan sometime next week.

…four smaller pumps made by the company are already at work at Fukushima pumping water onto the overheated reactors.

Initially, the pump from Savannah River Site, and another 70-meter Putzmeister now at a construction site in California, will be used to pump water—and later will be used to move concrete.

“Our understanding is, they are preparing to go to next phase and it will require a lot of concrete,” Ashmore said, noting that the 70-meter pump can move 210 cubic yards of concrete per hour.

Putzmeister equipment was also used … to entomb the melted core of the reactor at Chernobyl.

In addition …. a contractor in Vietnam has given up a 58-meter pump so it can be diverted to Japan, and two 62-meter pumps in Germany were loaded on Wednesday for transport to Tokyo….


The Japan Times Online has published the following article which is just going to feed the hysteria. I notice that throughout this crisis Kyodo News appears to be one of the outlets that does this.
Please supply link for full story. Quotes from a newspaper article are fine but you must supply the link.



ANL has a fact sheet on plutonium which includes the statement:

The common myth that plutonium is the “deadliest substance known to man” is not supported by the scientific literature. It poses a hazard but is not as immediately harmful to health as many chemicals. For example, for inhalation – the exposure of highest risk – breathing in 5,000 respirable plutonium particles, about 3 microns each, is estimated to increase an individual’s risk of incurring a fatal cancer about 1% above the U.S. average “background” rate for all causes combined.”

Click to access preview.php


Listening to NHK live TV, they’ve got video of the tsunami up against a cliff in one area (I didn’t catch where, I’m sorry!) such that it could be analysed. They’re saying it’s confirmed to have been over 20 meters high (65.6 ft). The area was a funnel shaped bay area, that interacted with the tsunami to amplify the height. So far it’s the highest confirmed location.

They’re now saying that the seabed rose by as much as 5 meters in the focal zone of the earthquake (large area running along the area of the plate subduction I think – not just a line, but a long and wide area – on the TV screen it made a big rectangle with very rounded ‘corners,’ heck, something between a rectangle and oval). There was a video clip that was very short, but taken by a ship over the area when the quake occurred – it looked like there was a spurt of water high up into the air. Either that or it was disturbance on the water that made it seem that way when just catching a very brief clip.

Barry, moderators, I’m sorry, I couldn’t decide if this belonged best here, or in the philo or tech open threads. Decided perhaps here because it is tech in nature and related to the size of the tsunami. I’m sorry if it’s the wrong place.
Not easy to categorise I agree. Will leave it on today’s post. Please supply a link to the NHK live TV.


Can I please get references for the following statement:
“…the longer-lived Cs-137 does not bioaccumulate like mercury (for instance).”
Lake Michigan study that I found was unconclusive from what I can tell. Just trying to decide whether I should invest in sushi futures or not. Thanks.


mpatmahoney, you are right, that sentence was rather loose — the Fukushima releases of cesium may well bioaccumulate in muscle and fat in some taxa (but not others — results in the literature have been mixed), but not in specific glands like the thyroid, and my point here was that it would not happen in the same way, or anywhere near the same concentrations, that mercury — a significant byproduct of coal-fired electricty — does.


Please supply link for full story. Quotes from a newspaper article are fine but you must supply the link.”

Sorry about that, Hit the post button too fast.
Here is the link:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hundreds of corpses believed irradiated, inaccessible
Kyodo News
Radiation is preventing the retrieval of hundreds of bodies from inside the 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, police sources said Thursday.

Based on initial reports after the March 11 catastrophe, the number of bodies is estimated at between a few hundred and 1,000, one of the sources said, adding that high radiation is now hampering full-scale searches.

That view was supported by the Sunday find of high radiation levels on a body found in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, 5 km from the plant.

The rescuers are now in a bind. Even if they retrieve the bodies, anyone who comes into contact with them risks being irradiated, too, whether they’re in the evacuation zone or not.

And if the bodies are cremated, the smoke could spread radioactive materials as well, the sources said. Even burial poses a problem. When the bodies decompose, they might contaminate the soil with radioactive materials.

Authorities are considering decontaminating and inspecting the bodies where they are found, but the sources said cleansing the decomposing bodies could damage them further.


‘”Japan’s damaged nuclear plant may be in danger of emitting sudden bursts of heat and radiation, undermining efforts to cool the reactors and contain fallout. Limited, uncontrolled chain reactions are among the phenomena that might occur at the plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo yesterday.”



@ bks
Edano also said this in the same article:

“Edano was responding to statements by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has “emphasized that the nuclear reactors won’t explode,” he said. Japan’s nuclear agency said there’s no possibility of uncontrolled chain reactions.”

Let us not emphasisea worrying scenario without off-setting it with the better outcome.

Read more:



Where is a moderator when you need one?

The weird theories of Caldicott and her ilk, in which she fantasises about some ‘magical’ mechanism that is able to spread fine particulates of Pu across the landscape and into the lungs of millions of humans, and so (she outrageously claims) render the Japanese islands uninhabitable as a result, is simply beyond a joke (from many angles). Actually, it’s nothing short of appalling, grossly unscientific, hyper-alarmism.

Remember – Caldicott in 2006, predicted exactly the tsunami/earthquake/nuclear power station we see unravelling in front of your very eyes.

When did BraveNewClimate consider the tsunami threat to shoreline nukes, real?

You disagree with her – that does not give any cause for the ad-hom attack above.
It is not a moderators job to edit posts by the host of the blog.
If it had been I would have let the comment through.
From the Latin -ad hominem literally means “to the man(person)”. In Aussie parlance “play the ball not the man”.
I read this part of Barry’s post as a comment on Caldicott’s mis-understanding of the science (the ball) not on Caldicott herself (the man/person).


Definitely nothing ad hominem about that paragraph.

Saying “Helen Caldicott is an appalling, grossly unscientific, hyper-alarmist, and therefore she is wrong about the spread of Pu” would be an ad hominem.

Saying “Helen Caldicott is wrong about the spread of Pu because it lacks any plausible mechanism, and therefore is spreading appalling, grossly unscientific, hyper-alarmism” is not an ad hominem at all.


Furthermore, not only is the paragraph not an ad hominem, it is also true. This is regardless of whether her spreading of misinformation is intentional or not.


It is this abuse of expertise (or scientific opinions) in Oehmen’s text (for example) of which Karl Popper always warned about. In his lifetime he was pointing out the danger of a political dictatorship of the technocrats.

Oehmen’s text is one of those attempts (if conscious or not) with the help of arguments, which have their origin in the engineering field, to disparage the fears of people in an ideological way

in this case it does not even matter, if the technical argument is right or wrong. Important is the matter of fact that technical data and statements are used for the justification of an ideological point of view.
This comment is in the wrong thread. It is not an up-date on the situation but a philosophical point. Please transfer your argument to the Fukushima Philosophical Open Thread. BNC policy is to delete off-topic comments after the initial wrong posting.Please check BNC Commenting Rules before posting.


Link for NHK live TV:

Ms.Perps already kindly supplied the link to their homepage, which has good print articles. The link above will go straight to the active TV for short news bits. They’ve got quite a few other channels too and it looks like in many different languages.


New Tsunami video, from THERMAL power plant on the coast ~25 km north of Fukushima Dai-ichi:

Tsunami footage of Fukushima thermal plant posted

Video footage of the March 11th tsunami, apparently taken by someone at a thermal power plant in Fukushima prefecture, has been posted on YouTube.

The video was apparently taken from inside the Tohoku Electric Power Company’s Haramachi thermal plant in Minamisoma City.

The video shows the crest of tsunami waves approaching from offshore, while emergency alarms ring in the building. The tsunami then reaches the grounds of the plant.

The one-and-a-half minute video ends with a scene of workers running away.

The plant caught fire on the day of the massive quake. Three days later, another fire broke out after leaked heavy oil ignited.

The power plant is located about 25 kilometers north of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Friday, April 01, 2011 05:09 +0900 (JST)


mpatmahoney wrote:

Can I please get references for the following statement:
“…the longer-lived Cs-137 does not bioaccumulate like mercury (for instance).”
Lake Michigan study that I found was unconclusive from what I can tell. Just trying to decide whether I should invest in sushi futures or not. Thanks.

Can’t help you with that one. But I can provide a source that does detail bioaccumulation of Cesium isotopes in environment:

Click to access pub_j27.pdf


Barry Brook wrote:

mpatmahoney, you are right, that sentence was rather loose — the Fukushima releases of cesium may well bioaccumulate in muscle and fat in some taxa (but not others — results in the literature have been mixed), but not in specific glands like the thyroid, and my point here was that it would not happen in the same way, or anywhere near the same concentrations, that mercury — a significant byproduct of coal-fired electricty — does.

I don’t understand the fine point of this correction. Do we expect the pathways for cesium uptake and bioaccumulation to be the same as mercury? Are we measuring health impacts by raw concentration factors, regardless of the compound or it’s impact on human health?


@Shelby, on 1 April 2011 at 11:35 PM said:

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. are considering injecting nitrogen into containment vessels of the Fukushima Daiichi

Injecting nitrogen is standard safety practice in many BWR’s.

Click to access npp2.pdf

following a loss of coolant accident, the temperature of fuel cladding could rise
and hydrogen could be generated by a water-metal reaction, which could impair the
containment integrity due to hydrogen gas combustion. In order to prevent such a case, BWR
containments are kept inert with nitrogen gas


Preliminary Assessment of Accident Sequences and Potential Atmospheric Radiation Releases

Click to access Accident_Sequence_Fukushima_31March2011.pdf


The authors match radiation readings with location of reading site and wind direction at the time of the reading. The data implies that many readings taken on site are not accurate because of the site location and wind direction, thus advertised on site radiation readings for the event not entirely accurate without including the location and wind direction.

In addition, I now realize that the 13 neutron beams observed by Tepco, occur at roughly the same time as the 4 hydrogen explosions on March 13-16. This could support limited fuel/pond criticality during and immediately after the explosions. This also lines up on the time line with big radiation spikes.


It may be normal to use nitrogen, but we’re almost three weeks into the discussion and if it came up before, I missed it.



If I am not mistaken, in BWRs, nitrogen is used as ‘cover gas’ and as pressurizer gas upon startup and for the high pressure coolant injection systems.

However, it may be that the drywell – the lightbulb containment around the reactor vessel – is not inerted during normal operation. The torus – the donut structure around the reactor – may also not be inerted and that might have caused the hydrogen explosion there? Anyone know exactly what parts are normally inerted and which parts are not, in older BWRs?


@Ernie Hamilton: isn'[t your statement about the process only valid if the water pumps are functioning? that has not yet been the case, has it?


> releases of cesium may well bioaccumulate in
> muscle and fat in some taxa

Barry, beware sounding evasive by using language appropriate to a science paper.

Yes, all science can tell us is probability not certainty that anything happens, there is no certainty.

Climate scientists — to ordinary readers — seem to be waffling with words like “may well” when they mean “damned sure” something happens.

There’s nothing in the literature that suggests doubt that bioaccumulation of cesium happens, is there?


Also note, though there’s new work aplenty, most of the science on cesium-137 bioaccumulation is decades old and from the eastern US where the process has had time to work through generations of animals and up from plants to fish to birds and animals, e.g.

A search for “K cogeners” may help, e.g. here’s a very old contamination problem with quite large current bioaccumulation values found, again in the US South:

Plants as bio-monitors for Cs-137, Pu-238, Pu-239,240 and K-40 at the Savannah River Site
Journal Article
Eric Frank Caldwell, Martine C. Duff, Caitlin E. Ferguson and Daniel P. Coughlin
J. Environ. Monit., 2011, Advance Article
DOI: 10.1039/C0EM00610F, Paper

“The Savannah River Site was constructed in South Carolina to produce plutonium (Pu) in the 1950s. Discharges associated with these now-ceased operations have contaminated large areas within the site, particularly streams associated with reactor cooling basins. Evaluating the exposure risk of contamination to an ecosystem requires methodologies that can assess the bioavailability of contaminants. Plants, as primary producers, represent an important mode of transfer of contaminants from soils and sediments into the food chain. The objective of this study was to identify local area plants for their ability to act as bio-monitors of radionuclides. The concentrations of cesium-137 (137Cs), potassium-40 (40K), 238Pu and 239,240Pu in plants and their associated soils were determined using γ and α spectrometry….

… Comparing 40K and 137C concentrations in each plant revealed an inverse relationship for these radioisotopes. Correlating 40K and 137Cs was most effective in identifying plants that have a high affinity for 137Cs uptake. The P. palustris and S. americanum proved to be particularly strong accumulators of all K congeners from the soil. Some species that were measured, warrant further investigation, are the carnivorous plant Utricularia inflata (bladderwort) and the emergent macrophyte Juncus effusus. For U. inflata, the levels of 137Cs, 238Pu, and 239,240Pu (which were 3922, 8399, and 803 Bq kg−1, respectively) in the leaves were extremely high. The highest 137Cs concentration from the study was measured in the J. effusus root (5721 Bq kg−1).”


workers at the plant are sharing their dosimeter.

The Kyodo news agency quoted the agency’s spokesman, Hidehiko Nishiyama, as saying that some workers have been found sharing dosimeters while doing the same job because many of the devices were destroyed in the March 11 disaster, adding that this trend is unsafe for the workers.

[deleted personal opinion on actions/motives of others.Bordering on libel.]
This almost got completely deleted on the grounds of deliberately distorting the facts.
Cherry picking quotes in the hope that most won’t read the whole article is not good practice.


Gack, I didn’t realize this apparently started with Barry’s first post.

Barry, can you explain more clearly what you mean by writing “Cs-137 does not bioaccumulate like mercury” above?

It sounds like you mean “does not bioaccumulate” — but that would be wrong.

I am guessing what you mean is:

“Cesium bioaccumulates like potassium, not like mercury or iodine or strontium — cesium is chemically similar to potassium.”

Is that a clearer statement of what you meant?


sod: there are defenders of nuclear power who don’t think labor exploitation exists and then there are defenders of nuclear power who are marxists. and many positions in between.

Don’t lump together a technology with the social relations of production.

The treatment of the workers, at least a couple of articles I have read (L.A. Times) seems pretty unconscionable.

If they replace the lost nuclear power with coal and natural gas, I’m sure the labor relations will improve.


Has anyone seen Lyman’s (UCS) comment about cesium 137 concentrations? He cites the March 30 IAEA update, referring to a very high upper limit of 3.7 megabq, but leaves out the range of 0.2-3.7 mbq and leaves out the point that the high number was found in a small area.

The March 31 numbers are different, significantly so, but the regions being compared do not appear to be the same.

Lyman’s point about evacuation seems right. But this use of numbers, citing the high number, seems highly unethical.


> Gregory Myerson
> has anyone seen Lyman’s … comment …?

Why yes. You can find it with Google and read it for yourself. Paste your text into the Search field thus:’s+(UCS)+comment+about+cesium+137+concentrations

Gregory Myerson writes
> Lyman’s … use … seems highly unethical

Uh, how would you believe this without reading what the man wrote?

If you did read it, how could you possibly misread it so badly? You can look it up for yourself.

He wrote:

“Today, the daily update appears to show a significant upward trend in reported contamination levels. However, because it is not clear exactly where the measurements are being taken, one cannot do an apples-to-apples comparison.

For instance, in its March 27 update the IAEA reports that the highest level of daily deposition of iodine-131 was measured on March 26 at 7,500 becquerels per square meter (Bq/sq. m) in Yamagata prefecture; for cesium-137, it was reported as 1,200 Bq/sq. m. (Actually, the statement does not make clear if these are daily rates or total cumulative deposition levels, although from the context it appears to be the former.)

Compare these to the peak daily deposition rates reported in the March 26 update for measurements made on March 25. These were 480 Bq/sq. m for I-131 in Ibaraki and 110 Bq/sq. m for Cs-137 in Yamagata. But can these be compared? It would appear that the peak rate of Cs-137 daily deposition in Yamagata has increased by a factor of ten. But without knowing how comprehensive these surveys are, we don’t know if these represent actual increases or sampling discrepancies. …”

How could you so badly misinterpret what he said? What source were you relying on for what you believed? Why did you consider it reliable?

Why didn’t you look it up for yourself??


I’m not sure what you guys are talking about, but dose levels everywhere around Fukushima have been on a declining trend for over a week now:

Click to access ENGNEWS01_1301652988P.pdf

Obviously the nuclides came with the steam relief as the cores were already damaged then, and then it stopped because decay heat dropped further and seawater cooling continued. The data explains this perfectly.


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