Some other perspectives on Fukushima

Apart from getting on with my life (e.g., building a new computer, catching up with my backlog at work, spending time with the family, etc.), I’ve been spending the last few days reading widely on what other people have had to say, in reflection, on the Fukushima crisis. Here are some highlights:

1. Bill Tucker, author of the book “Terrestrial Energy” (which I discussed in detail in this post back in 2009, and reviewed here), wrote a piece for The Americal Spectator called “Pass the Plutonium“.  The leading paragraph:

People think that Fukushima will mean the end of nuclear power, but I’m convinced it’s the opposite. We’re going to lose our nuclear virginity over this accident and start seeing the world as adults. In fact it’s already happening.

2. The video linked to in the image below was mentioned in the BNC comments — an ABC (US) news feature called “Japan Nuke Crisis: American in Dead Zone“. It’s a perspective on local area an sea water radiation levels, from an American doctor Robert Gale (a radiation expert) sent by the US to advise the Japanese government on Fukushima, and has years of experience working around Chernobyl. He is definitely worth listening to…

3. Mark Lynas (author of the wonderful albeit troubling book Six Degrees) and Chris Goodall (author of Ten Technologies to Fix Energy and Climate) — two very serious and critical thinking environmentalists trying to tackle climate change — offer this excellent essay: The dangers of nuclear power in light of Fukushima. You really must read it all, but here, as a taster, is their final paragraph:

No technology is completely safe, and we don’t wish to argue that nuclear power is any different. But its dangers must be weighed against the costs of continuing to operate fossil fuel plants. Just down the road from us is Didcot A power station, a large coal-burning plant with poor pollution control and therefore with substantial effects on local air quality, as well as more substantial emissions of radiation than from any UK nuclear power station and a Co2 output of about 8 million tonnes a year. We offer a view that Didcot has caused far more deaths from respiratory diseases than all the deaths ever associated with nuclear energy in the UK, and that coal power is a far more legitimate target of environmental protest than nuclear.

4. Are our fears about nuclear power irrational? Today the Sydney Morning Herald published four different and interesting perspectives. I agree with three of them! One was written by Ben Heard, who recently wrote Think climate when judging nuclear power for BNC. Below is his piece — click on this link for the other perspectives.

Until recently I was a vocal opponent of nuclear power. Understanding the scale of the climate crisis led me – reluctantly, I’ll admit – to investigate nuclear power as a solution. To my surprise, I found my fears of nuclear power were overwhelmingly irrational.

I had three main concerns. First, that nuclear power is not safe. The Energy Related Severe Accident Database set that straight. In the past 40 years, the energy chain for coal killed more than 32,000 people worldwide in severe accidents, more than 2000 of them in OECD nations. The comparative figures for nuclear? Zero in the OECD, and 43 worldwide. This includes cancer deaths from Chernobyl, a reactor with no containment building, a horrible and unique design flaw.

Meanwhile, 440 reactors provide 15 per cent of global electricity, including to the world’s 16 largest economies (leaving out Australia at number 13). A tsunami hitting 40-year-old reactors has caused injuries and major issues, but not one fatality.

Nuclear power is more than safe enough, and getting safer all the time.

Second, I feared high-level nuclear waste was impossible to manage safely. Cutting a long story short, it isn’t. It’s predictable to the point of being boring: cool, encase, contain, contain again, and monitor. And the coming generation of nuclear technology will consume it as fuel. Cross that from my list.

Third, I feared proliferation. While nuclear power and weapons programs were once joined at the hip, this is no longer true. Twenty-one nations deploy nuclear power with no weapons capability. If it’s a weapon you want, there is no slower, more expensive way of creating substandard material than by using a nuclear power plant. Nuclear power is not a threat to peace.

So my concerns were not rational. But they were understandable, given we are fed a diet of fear by opponents of nuclear power, mainly comprising selective facts that have been stripped of meaningful context. This finds fertile ground among well-meaning people who trust the sources.

Rationally, we should all fear climate change. It threatens our occupation of this planet within a century. This, rather than nuclear power, is what keeps me awake at night.

The biggest contributor to climate change is coal. Renewables alone cannot displace coal quickly enough. But nuclear power plus renewables can, with minuscule risk. The only rational response is to be open to the further deployment of nuclear power, in partnership with growth in renewables.

5. Finally, something interesting from a purely climate change perspective — Friends become enemies as a scientist expected to cast doubt on global warming trends does the exact opposite! I always like to see good science in action…


Trend of Radiation in the Environment around Fukushima Daiichi NPS (from JAIF):

Below is the latest FEPC update:

  • Radiation Levels
    • On March 31, TEPCO announced that radioactive nuclides were detected from the groundwater sampled around the turbine buildings of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Station on March 30. The results of the analysis are as follows:


Concentration (Unit : Bq/cm3)
Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 5 Unit 6

(8 days)

4.3 x 102 8.0 x 101 2.2 x 101 1.6 x 100 2.0 x 101

(2 hours)

8.3 x 100 UDL 1.3 x 101 UDL 5.8 x 10-1

(2 years)

5.2 x 100 7.0 x 10-1 1.0 x 101 2.5 x 10-1 4.7 x 100

(13 days)

3.9 x 10-1 6.5 x 10-2 9.4 x 10-1 2.7 x 10-2 3.9 x 10-1

(30 years)

5.9 x 100 6.3 x 10-1 1.0 x 101 2.7 x 10-1 4.9 x 100

UDL: under the detection limit

  • At 7:00PM (JST) on April 1, radiation level at main gate (approximately 3,281 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 141 micro Sv/hour.
  • At 7:00PM on April 1, radiation level at west gate (approximately 3,609 feet from Unit 2 reactor building) of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: 90.0 micro Sv/hour.
  • Measurement results of environmental radioactivity level around Fukushima Nuclear Power Station announced at 7:00PM on April 1 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 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.295MPa.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, water level inside the reactor core: 1.65 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.165MPaabs.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, the temperature of the reactor vessel measured at the water supply nozzle: 479.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • As of 3:30PM on April 1, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, approximately 90 tons of water in total has been injected into the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 reactor
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the reactor core: -0.007MPa.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, water level inside the reactor core: 1.5 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 10:00AM on April 1, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.11MPaabs.
    • As of 3:30PM on April 1, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor
    • At 4:30PM on March 31, TEPCO began to shoot freshwater aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete, until 7:33PM (approximately 105 tons in total).
    • At 11:45AM on April 1, pressure inside the reactor core: 0.016MPa.
    • At 11:45AM on April 1, water level inside the reactor core: 1.9 meters below the top of the fuel rods.
    • At 11:45AM on April 1, pressure inside the primary containment vessel: 0.1068MPaabs.
    • As of 3:30PM on April 1, the injection of freshwater into the reactor core continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, preparation to recover and transfer the accumulated water at the turbine building continues.
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, approximately 4,802 tons of water in total has been shot into the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor
    • At 8:28AM on April 1, TEPCO began to shoot freshwater aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete, until 2:14PM (approximately 180 tons in total).
    • As of 7:00PM on April 1, approximately 1,278 tons of water in total has been shot into the spent fuel storage pool.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 5 reactor
    • At 2:00PM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Unit 6 reactor
    • At 2:00PM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool
    • At 7:30AM on April 1, the temperature of the spent fuel pool: 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Others
    • At 3:42PM on March 31, a US Military barge carrying freshwater docked at the dedicated port at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, towed by a vessel of Marine Self Defense Forces.
    • At 3:00PM on April 1, anti-scattering agent was dispersed on a trial basis around the Fukushima Daiichi Common Spent Fuel Pool.
    • At 3:58PM on April 1, transferring the freshwater from the US Military barge to a filtrate tank commenced.

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)


  1. An excellent posting Barry. Thanks. I think the Japanese should rebuild the Fukushima plant site with a new nuclear plant built on top of the encased tomb of the old failed plant. How else to better utilize the land, learn from past failures, and set an example for the rest of the world so see how to do it right. The Japanese can do it. Lets hope they do.


  2. Well I am squarely in the camp that thinks that this event will likely cause many to realize that nuclear is not as dangerous as has been imagined.

    On the other hand there are lessons to be learned by the industry in a number of areas, and these should not be ignored.


  3. Thanks for providing part of my weekend reading list.

    I’ve been a climate activist for more than twenty years and took no public position on nuclear power until I heard that Hansen, after having decided to publicly proclaim there was too much GHG in the atmosphere already, was touting nuclear as the only possible solution.

    Privately, I had had my doubts about nuclear but I hadn’t looked into it very deeply. Obviously, a bit of research had me quite enthusiastic. I still wonder about how the proliferation issue can be solved, whether the world turns to nuclear power as its power source or not.

    All this is just to say I am familiar with the views of climate activists.

    What I’m also studying this weekend is “Cultural Cognition of Scientific Consensus” by Kagan (available online A few quotes:

    “Myriad theories have been advanced for the limited influence of science in formulating the factual basis for public policy debates but none seems complete….”

    “Yet public debates rarely feature open resistance to science; the parties to such disputes are much more likely to advance diametrically opposed claims about what the scientific evidence really shows”. The problem, it seems, is not that …the public are unexposed or indifferent to what scientists say, but rather that they disagree about what scientists are telling them”.

    The authors then offer their insight. They feature data on how the public is split on several issues, including climate science and what to do about nuclear waste.

    What has me thinking this study will prove useful in debate is that Kagan find that roughly the same group who agree with the scientific consensus about climate change tend to cherry pick “science” to dispute what the relevant scientists think about safe disposal of nuclear waste, and the same tendency is displayed by the group who tend to accept that scientists believe that nuclear waste can be disposed of safely tend to disregard any evidence that the climate scientists are almost totally unified that climate change needs to be dealt with.


  4. PS in the evidence that the position of anti nukes will be strengthened department:

    The German Green Party has just been elected to run one of the German states. This is a first for the Greens in Germany, and it may be the first time a Green Party has been elected as the leading coalition partner in any government at the state or national level anywhere in the world. (The German electoral system gave them this role even though they only got 25% of the vote – no other party got more). Fukushima is said to have played a primary role.

    Deutsche Welle “Living Planet” features an interview with a Herman Ott, a Green Party member of the federal Bundestag, partially about Green nuclear policy, starting around 6:14 into a podcast to be found here:,,14914710,00.html


  5. For those still worried about radiation: from JAIF we see total dose rates in the highest affected area of Iitate, of under 300 microsieverts since the accident begun. This is 10% of typical background levels.

    Background levels vary wildly depending on where you are; from a low of about 1000 microsieverts up to around 260000 microsieverts in Ramsar, Iran. Yes thats two hundred sixty thousand microsieverts or 0.26 sievert per year. And mostly from dangerous terrerstrial isotopes that can bioaccumulate. Oddly enough no matter where you look around the world, there is no evidence of this being a factor in cancer deaths at all!

    For safety of energy sources I recommend the following from Brian Wang:


  6. nuclear waste

    The science indicates that it would be undesirable to arrange for permanent disposal of spent fuel from current reactors. Fast reactors use nuclear “waste” (and nuclear weapons material) for fuel.

    “Fast-neutron reactors could extract much more energy from recycled nuclear fuel, minimize the risks of weapons proliferation and markedly reduce the time nuclear waste must be isolated.” Scientific American, Dec. 2005

    Click to access NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf

    It’s a short article, about 8 pages. I’m sure you’ll find it illuminating.


  7. I’m hoping that when the dust settles on this incident, I can agree with DV82XL. The clincher will be how soon people from the exclusion zone will be able to return to their homes.

    Looking at those graphs of radiation readings inside the exclusion zone, and nearby, it seems that in most places the levels have returned to normal background levels now, and people should be able to return once the Dai-Ichi situation becomes fully stable.

    Cesium Contamination of land is my primary fear, and may explain the now leveling elevated radiation readings in some places (Litate etc). How likely is it that there will be permanent land contamination/abandonment?


  8. Hi, folks!
    Here in Portugal is the same! An incredible amount of noise, lies, propaganda, in almost all media. But not all: I’m going to appear in a TV channel explaining facts (unfortunately a low-audience TV) and we have blogs. They can’t stop the flow of truth completely, nowadays.
    And at leats for me this is a first time I can see the Internet providing a worlwide Times Sqaure where we can go to know news, meet people and talk.
    Thank you, Barry Brook! It has been a pleasure to have met you!
    And by the way: here, and also all over Europe, it’s not just a question of ideology: it’s also about money, big money being made by the fed-in power producers! Have a nice sunday, friends!


  9. The Greens where going to win in Germany on the nuclear issue even if this hadn’t happened. Anyone following the story, and knew of the demonstrations that were going on since the government stopped the plant closures can see this was a given long before events in Japan.

    Propter hoc ergo post hoc doesn’t cut it here.


  10. You’re perfectly right, DV82XL. The victory of the german Greens has nothing to do with the nuclear issue. It is the other way: the anti-nuke propaganda is invoking the Greens victory to scare the other polititians with the nuclear issue.
    The german Greens won because any party in power will loose now if elections happen. Everybody blaims the present governments, whichever they are, for the unpopular measures to fight the finantial crisis.


  11. @ Cyril R

    The monitoring data at the top of this post do not appear to agree with your estimate of cumulative dose. Iitate registered an average rate exceeding 20microSv/hr for at least four days, and then averaged at least 10microSv/hr in the ten days subsequent. That is a cumulative dose of more than 4,0000 microSv. Also the background doses you are using for comparison are annual doses. A rate of 10microSv/hr is around 30 times the average annual background worldwide.


  12. > Ramsar, Iran … 0.26 sievert per year. … mostly
    > from dangerous terrerstrial isotopes that can
    > bioaccumulate

    Citation needed on that last claim of “dangerous terrerstrial isotopes that can bioaccumulate” in Ramsar Iran.

    What’s your source for believing this?


  13. nuclear waste etc
    David Lewis – an interesting paper, although I may be swayed by my decades-long adherence to the two correct positions – seriousness of climate change and safety of geological waste storage – that they use as tests of mindset-over-science attitudes.

    seamus – the science indicates deep waste storage would be utterly safe; it’s only undesirable because there are (as you say) better ways to use it. I’m not disagreeing over all, just pointing out that it’s important to pick and choose our moments to demur from the geological repository concept.


  14. David Lewis says:
    3 April 2011 at 3:08 AM

    ” (The German electoral system gave them this role even though they only got 25% of the vote – no other party got more).”

    This is not completely accurate. The Christian Democratic Party actually got 39 % of he votes bus since their liberal coalition partner only received 5 % thats why the Green Party can rule starting may in Baden Wuerttemberg state since they have 3% more votes together with their social coalition partner.


  15. It should be pointed out that things at fukushima daini are very quiet. It’s located only 7 miles south of Fukushima Daiichi and from google earth the layouts are remarkably similar.

    Don’t know what the tsunami height was at daini (anyone know?), but the containment structures are mark II and mark II+.

    The fact that daini did not suffer any major problems, despite a 9.0 earthqauke and subsequent tsunami reveals just how safe the newer generation generation plants are. This proves we can build reactors in even the worse locations and they will survive the worse.

    The daini plants are still mid 80’s technology, imagine how much better the gen III plants will be.

    Case made for nuclear power.


  16. Another great quote from the Mark Lynas/Chris Goodall posting: “There is substantial evidence, as the UN reports on Chernobyl attest, that the psychological impacts of fear of radiation far outweigh the actual biological impacts of radiation. Thus, misinformation about exaggerated dangers of radiation is actually likely to be harmful to large numbers of people – a point which should be borne in mind by anti-nuclear campaigners.”


  17. New Perspective on Fukushima

    I think you will find the Washington Post report by y David Nakamura and Michael Alison Chandler, [Saturday, April 2, 5:07 AM] has an interesting ‘new perspective’

    TEPCO officials revealed Thursday:

    … that most of their dosimeters had been destroyed by the tsunami. Sometimes only group leaders were given a badge. Tepco officials on Friday said they had obtained more badges and that all workers would wear one.

    So these nuclear engineers could not get a proper distribution of dosimeters to all workers until when? If emergency workers do not have dosimeters then how can anyone monitor their radiation exposure?

    But this is not all ….

    The same report indicates there are several areas continuing to radiate at over 1 sievert. Obviously TEPCO knows which areas, but somehow the information is not in the Washington Post.

    Is there any official reports on these areas with ongoing over 1 sievert radiation?

    If it is 1 sievert now; is this a recent increase or the results of a decrease?

    See: Washington Post


  18. When most of the uranium is “burnt” in the future fast neutron reactors many of which I hope may eventually be in Australia, there will, I believe, be a small amount of waste to deal with. Pangea Resources identified the best place on the planet for deep burial several years ago. My older geologist brother was consultant for Pangea, having mapped and written the geoplgy of the OFFICER BASIN [the SA part] some thirty five years ago. The site could handle easily, the entire future waste generated around the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years. An international waste repository for the world’s little bit of waste that will ultimately be generated would be a sensible first step for Australia to take as it begins the development of the full nuclear fuel cycle.


  19. More non-evidence for increasing anti nuclear sentiment coming as a result of Fukushima, that confirms how stupid I am. (Sorry about mentioning an analysis aired on Deutsche Welle, a German English language radio station purporting to inform the world about Germany, that the Fukushima was a primary component of the Green political success there – what could I have been thinking? Obviously, Deutsche Welle wouldn’t know the first thing about Germany.)

    Here’s what the Director of the Sierra Club, the largest environmental organization in the world, or it used to be, had to say on the NPR: 04-01-2011 “Environment” podcast, aired as item 4 under the title: “Are Nuclear Plants Safe? Environmentalists are Split”


    Host: “But the Sierra Club supported the climate change bill that passed the House two years ago. It included subsidies for a next generation of nuclear power plants. Sierra Club Director Michael Brune says that will not happen again.…”

    Michael Brune: “It will be hard to stomach any further support for additional nuclear power plants in the country…. …making the problem worse by throwing taxpayer dollars at new nuclear plants would be something that the Sierra Club would definitely not support. We would oppose it vigorously.”

    Host: “In recent years public opinion polls had shown growing support for building more nuclear power plants in the U.S. As many as 60% of Americans said they were in favor of them. But since the crisis in Japan polls show support has shrunk to 40%….

    Obviously, NPR hasn’t the slightest clue about what is happening in the US. They probably cited a poll they made up themselves. As for Brune, they must have cut and pasted the tape to fabricate him saying that the Sierra Club would not support climate legislation in the future if it contained any support for nuclear power, given what happened at Fukushima.


  20. I’m interested to see the number of people I meet in everyday life who I haven’t previously suspected of pro-nuclear sympathies and are nonetheless quite open to the suggestion that the Fukushima accident is not a death knell for nuclear power. My personal experience suggests that we have indeed turned the public perception corner forecast by DV82XL.


  21. Finrod – I meet more people that are pro-nuclear or neutral that people who are anti. And yes this surprises me also.

    I remain anti nuclear on one issue which is cost. Cost reduction needs to be a major focus for this industry if it is to fully win over people such as me. I certainly think the prohibition of nuclear should end but I don’t favour implicit or explicit subsidies other than perhaps some modest government guarantees relating to sovereign risk.


  22. p.s. The way the carbon tax fiasco is unfolding I think the government may need to also provide sovereign risk guarantees to new fossil fuel plants and maybe I even think it should. The alternative may be very high energy prices or else power shortages and possibly both.


  23. “People think that Fukushima will mean the end of nuclear power, but I’m convinced it’s the opposite. We’re going to lose our nuclear virginity over this accident and start seeing the world as adults. In fact it’s already happening.”

    There are many ways to lose your virginity, one of them is rape and it leaves emotional scars…

    Germany will phase out nuclear power sooner rather than later, Japan may follow after so MANY nuclear tragedies, people forget the workers that died in INES scale accidents in the 90’s. Accidents are not just TMI, Chernobyl and now this, they are brutal and final, there is nothing more final than a criticality exposure, or a few grams of a potent isotope.

    There are two pro-nuclear crowds: the ones that try to privatize their profits and socialize their costs, and the idealists that do everything in their power to help the former. Had you guys pushed for your pie in the sky uneconomical fast breeders that never seem to come on-line, you might have more credibility with environmentalist movement, as it stands you are just useful…


  24. I don’t think we can make accurate predictions about future attitudes towards nuclear power at this point. The US attitudes towards offshore drilling have shifted since the immediate aftermath of the Deep Water Horizon accident and today.


  25. I live in Germany and follow politics here quite closely. In the end, the situation in Fukushima is the main reason why the Green Party was a major winner in the last elections. The economic crisis hasn’t hit Germany hard, unemployment is falling here and Germany is considered to be a winner of the crisis.

    Currently, the eight oldest nuclear power plants have been put off the grid and there is growing consensus among all parties to shut them down forever. Also there are renewed efforts to invest even more strongly in renewables.

    Germany’s lesson from Fukushima will be to quit nuclear power asap (probably by about 2020). At the same time huge sums will be invested in renewables and the grid to still meet Kyoto CO2 output demands.

    This could end up in two possible ways:
    1. Germany fails miserably, rising energy costs will ruin its economy and people will regret having shut down their nuclear power plants or
    2. Germany sets a modell on how to produce sufficient low-cost energy with renewables only and no nuclear power. 100% renewables may be achieved by 2050 to 2060.

    The outcome of this experiment will be highly interesting for the rest of the world. Since coal and gas are bad for the climate the only question is whether nuclear will be in the worlds future energy mix.

    At present there can be no serious doubt that nuclear power which was unpopular ever since Tshernobyl is absolutely dead in Germany. Even proponents of nuclear power only propose to let the current plants run longer. No political party has plans for building new plants.


  26. @ Bill:

    At present there can be no serious doubt that nuclear power which was unpopular ever since Tshernobyl is absolutely dead in Germany. Even proponents of nuclear power only propose to let the current plants run longer. No political party has plans for building new plants.

    That might have the effect of reviving some of the planned expansion of nuclear generation in Eastern Europe which had been put on hold following Germany’s previous decision to drop the nuclear phaseout.


  27. I agree with some of what Bill says. Let’s see how Germany does with no nuclear?

    I actually think they’ ll hem and haw and avoid shutting down these plants.

    I would note that on winter days, they were often getting under 1 percent of installed capacity.

    They’ll probably buy electricity from France.


  28. @Finrod:
    Correct. If Germany’s ambitous plans fail, neighbouring countries like France and soon Poland will be most willing to sell their comparatively cheap nuclear energy to Germany.

    The question debated here, whether Fukushima will mean a revival or an end of nuclear power, will (imho) also be decided by the question whether Germany fails or succeeds in its ambitious plan to quit nuclear energy, reduce CO2 emissions at the same time and keep energy payable. If Germany fails this will be a major breakthrough for nuclear power worldwide since no industrialized country would commit the same mistake.

    I hope Germany succeeds and shows that nuclear power is unnecessary and that Prof. Brooks equation that no nuclear means more coal and gas is untrue.


  29. I actually agree Bill. If all renewables is doable, it would be preferable (no way, I”m thinking, however).

    after all, even if ESBWR and LFTR/IFR have only an infinitesimal possibility of melting down, solar and wind have no chance of that. of course, decommissioning all those scaled up solar chemicals, and all that noxious mining will be no picnic. in fact, will kill many more people than the traumatic meltdown, but without the trauma.

    okay: maybe I don’t agree with you Bill, the more I think about it. But since the world is not currently rational enough to do global energy lab experiments, germany might be providing one.


  30. Ah yes I slipped a 0 there, it would be 3000 not 300 microsieverts or around typical background levels of radiation. So Iitate region gets 2-3x background.
    [deleted unsubstantiated personal opinion. Please provide links and re-submit.]


  31. @ David B. Benson
    There is a very strong connection, quite the contrary :
    From an economic standpoint, most of the renewables investment are supported by feed-in tariffs, I.e. the guaranteed offtake of intermittent electricity at a price 1.5 to 5 times higher than average production price (and much more expensive than nuclear). Therefore all renewable projects are a monetization of this guarantee.
    Who provides the guarantee ? It is either the electricity user, through State approved monopoly power, as in Germany or Denmark, or the taxpayer, through the state, as in, say, Portugal and Spain.
    If the state fails to enforce the guarantee, or reneges it, it is a default, and many people loose a lot of money. One of the most exposed are the German/Danish Credit Export Agencies, because they are guaranteeing the payment of wind turbines, which themselves rely on the feed-in tariffs.
    see for instance

    I would add that Nuclear Power is also linked to sovereign risk : Practically, only the Sovereign can be trusted with the reserves for decommissioning and waste treatment. We are talking 30-100 years liabilities here ! In my opinion, such reserves should not only be exclusively invested in inflation adjusted Domestic Government Bonds but also these bonds should constitutionally rank higher than any other debt of the Sovereign. Of course, the interest on these bonds should be lower because of this feature, therefore increasing the provisioning burden, but the Nuclear Industry can afford that.


  32. Germany succeeds, what with solar power that is not there 89 percent of the time? They’ll just burn more fossil fuels as they have been doing all the time. Germany is a fossil fuel hellhole. If it weren’t for the nuclear stations coal/gas/oil would have grown far more.


  33. @ Bill:

    Correct. If Germany’s ambitous plans fail, neighbouring countries like France and soon Poland will be most willing to sell their comparatively cheap nuclear energy to Germany.

    Not just France and Poland:

    Temelin delayed by another five years

    Last October, the Czech government said in an official announcement that detailed bid documents with technical specifications for up to five new reactors at two sites would not be released as planned in December 2010. On February 21, 2011, the government said that the release of technical bid documents would be postponed to the end of this year.

    Lower electricity demand in the Czech Republic–and Germany’s decision to keep its 17 nuclear reactors operating instead of closing them down–are the key reasons for a delay to as late as 2025 for completion at Temelin and one other site.

    Perhaps the Czechs will revisit that decision if Germany turns back to an extensive phaseout.


  34. @Bill,

    You forget solution #3 :

    Germany builds gas turbines to replace nukes and delay the closure of coal power plants, even the dirtiest ones. With its export gains(as long as they last), it buys off european carbon credit to southern countries mired in deep recession : it is cheaper than installing costly CCS devices.

    That will kick the can for a decade. Of course, somewhere between now and 2020, Germans realize that NG prices go up and up and they are in a dead-end to decarbonize their economy while staying competitive. Then the obvious solution will be to send even more any energy intensive activity to countries that kept Nuclear Power and/or are less regarding of environmental norms. Maybe France and Scandinavia if they manage to stick to nukes despite German inspired regulations, most likely Russia and Belarus. In the latter case, Russia asserts more and more its energy leverage and manages to “finlandize” all eastern europe including Germany. Mr Medvedev and Putin high-five each other : everything is going back to the plan that Mrs Merkel derailed for a while. Mr Schröder retires very rich.

    Even if it succeeds, this is not a model for the world because it will be just an elaborate NIMBY scheme.


  35. Gregory Meyerson,

    If all renewables is doable, it would be preferable ..

    I can’t agree with this at all.

    I think I might have agreed at one point, briefly, as my views changed from hope for renewable energy to a hope for a nuclear future. But when I look squarely at what I have learnt and verified to my satisfaction of the last few years, I very much hope we have an alternative to the renewable technologies being discussed today.

    If it turns out that renewable energy is doable, and we do it, we face an ecological disaster due to the scale of the intrusion of industrial energy collection systems, storage systems, and transmission infrastructure in the environment. The fabrication of these systems will be fed by the mining and quarrying of vast quantities of iron and steel and rare earths and other exotics.

    The scale of these insults is estimated in a first order pass by Barry in the TCASE posts, in particular

    TCASE 4: Energy system build rates and material inputs
    TCASE 7: Scaling up Andasol 1 to baseload

    The numbers in those analyses are scary enough. But they very generously underestimate the resource requirements and impacts of renewables because they assume no redundancy and minimal storage and don’t consider expanded transmission requirements.

    In practice the impacts of a capable all renewables system would be much greater due to the need for a high degree of redundancy with redundant generators distributed over continent scale regions, with attendant transmission systems with more river systems dammed for hydro for power conditioning and pumped hydro for storage. I wrote about some of these overbuild and redundancy issues here:

    TCASE 12: A checklist for renewable energy plans

    In every way, the environmental footprint of nuclear power is a fraction of that of a putative renewable power system. Its not zero, and we could always wish that nuclear was not our best option and that there was something else, better. But thats a meaningless truism. We can only look at the options we know we have. And from an environmentalist’s perspective, nuclear power is far superior to anything else that’s been proposed, and we can know this by analysis.

    So I cannot join with you in hoping that we can somehow make renewables work so as to avoid nuclear power. If we could, and if we did, it would be an ecological disaster. But (like you), I do not see this happening.


  36. Offshoring of European NP to the former Soviet bloc is perhaps akin to US offshoring coal powered manufacturing to China. The result is that the less energy squeamish country grows as it client declines. Perhaps it will all level out in some kind of generalised entropy principle.

    Some who advocate ‘sustainability’ don’t seem to question whether renewables subsidies and quotas are themselves financially sustainable. For example they claim that the reduction in PV costs is largely due to German subsidies. If I recall Tom Blees said that would be 79 billion euros to 2013. Ironically cheaper PV may be more due to cheap labour and cheap coal energy in China in order to meet Western PV demand.


  37. KeenOn350, on 3 April 2011 at 6:03 AM said:
    “Does anyone have real information about this “blue light” noise that’s going around the MSM?”

    The “Blue Light” story that was broadcast by Fox News yesterday makes no sense from a scientific perspective so I challenged them to provide corroboration or publish a retraction.

    No response yet and I am not holding my breath.


  38. @ Enviromentalist

    there is nothing more final than a criticality exposure, or a few grams of a potent isotope.”

    Oh no? Not the mercury in compact fluorescent (“energy efficient”) light bulbs? Not the cadmium used in solar PV?

    And we know what is going on in Germany. They appear to be making the switch from nuclear to coal. We know this has disastrous effects for many reasons, climate change being one of them. It also increases radioactive particle emissions by around 100 times.

    Congratulations “Enviromentalist” for being a part of them problem.


  39. “Oh no? Not the mercury in compact fluorescent (“energy efficient”) light bulbs? Not the cadmium used in solar PV?”

    It is not as deadly as seeing the blue light, or ingesting a few grams of polonium 210 (and yes I know it is not a product of commercial reactors but its half life is 120 days or so).

    Those things mean certain death, a finality that cannot be cured with modern medicine even under immediate treatment. A bus falling on top of you has a similar finality but criticality accidents is about as quanta as a screwdriver moving just one millimeter.

    The nuclear lobby want traditional uranium reactors (MOX is but a finite resource) because it is much more profitable, had they argued for breeders and willing to take the worlds nuclear waste they might have some credibility, but they don’t. So if the 100% nuclear world happens we end up with 100% nuclear waste. How is that environmentalist?

    I am 100% for medical nuclear reactors because there is no other alternative, not so for energy.

    “Ironically cheaper PV may be more due to cheap labour and cheap coal energy in China in order to meet Western PV demand.”

    All of the PV I have tracked online are made outside China for warranty reasons (20 years 90%,25 years 80%).Their prices per watt are falling drastically below 1 $/Watt. First solar in particular has the lowest priced (CdTe is less efficient than crystalline silicone though in terms of Watt/Area).

    As for the environmental footprint of Andasol, despite the land consumption calculation being off, land is reusable, steel is recyclable etc. Its much much lower once you factor nuclear waste.
    This is off-topic on this new blog post. Please direct futue comments like this tio the Fukushima Technical Open Thread.


  40. DV8,
    My wife agrees with you (I am over educated). I was also expected to sing in Latin at my high school. While I can’t remember what happened yesterday I still remember every word of those old Latin songs:

    “O, sodales gaudeamus voce hilare fremamus, dum canentes iteramus. Cras! Cras! Redibimus domum.”
    Amusing – but off-topic;-)


  41. Environmentalist, how is the land usage calculation for Andasol “off”? What data or assumptions are in error? How would you correct the calculation?

    Land given over to industrial usage may well be reusable for other industrial uses or application in the built environment. But any original ecological value can be lost. And we’re not considering acquiring the land for renewable energy temporarily, and then decommissioning and regenerating the original ecological communities (which is not often possible). This is land that is lost to the natural estate.

    When you need one or two more order of magnitude more steel for renewables than for nuclear, its recyclability doesn’t really help. And for infrastructure that might have about a 20 year life, what kind of a hit does the EROEI take if you have to use renewable generated renewable energy to recycle itself?

    And you can’t recycle the concrete.

    There are serious environmental problems associated with the production and installation of renewable energy systems at scale. It should not be the choice of anyone who calls themselves an environmentalist.


    Comments seem to be drifting off-topic -although I admit some overlapping can occur. Please keep your technical or philosophical comments (unless specifically mentioned in “Some other perspectives on Fukushima” )in the appropriate Fukushima Open Thread i.e. Technical OT or Philosophical OT.


  43. Long ago (50-60s) I did a science degree, but, I soon realised there was at that time no future for women in physics (which I loved) – I ended up in archaeology, which gives a useful long-term perspective on the life-span of civilizations relative to storage times of radioactive materials. I only discovered this website following the events in Japan, and have been reading it with interest. Some comments:
    1. to the ‘Now I have been converted …’ cohort – the Fukushima event has barely started; perhaps you should wait at least the half life of Cs 134, or even Cs 137 before getting too excited?
    2. to the ‘Look how dangerous coal is – we should go nuclear’ – my reaction is ‘wow, we can’t even manage the risks / dangers of coal ! (cf shuttle O rings, BP oil platform etc etc). The safety controls on nuclear may be a bit better, but my guess is the sample sizes are not equivalent to allow real comparison. Show me that we can really manage risks and slash accidents/deaths in coal based energy and I’ll then have confidence in your confidence about nuclear.
    3. There has been a lot of information about radioactivity levels in fruit and veg, the ocean, fish, etc. around Fukushima. I haven’t noticed anything about pre-earthquake baseline data – how extensively was land/sea/air/water/food monitored before (and is there any old data from before the reactors were built) ?
    4. There will always be human error – which is why structures are over-engineered; Fukushima perhaps shows that nuclear reactors at least in earthquake / tsunami areas need to be super-over-engineered, not for the worst that has ever happened in recorded history (ca 100 odd years of earthquake measurements?!) , but for beyond the worst imaginable. Most of what I read from nuclear energy proponents seems far too over-confident – look, we’re hardly had any accidents – it’s safe! Guys, it’s only been 50 odd years – a mere blip in the geological/human evolutionary/ radioactive decay timescale! Feels too much like confirmation bias. Watch out for the black swan.


  44. @ Enviromentalist, on 3 April 2011 at 3:24 PM:

    <I don't believe your solar PV costings.

    Dear Enviro, can you substantiate your costings?

    A typical 1.66 kW installation (sold as 1.5 kW) is available from the supplier linked below.

    I have no idea whether the price, of over $5.23 per watt, is for the same type of installation as your $1 price, but I have difficulty believing that the price you provided is fair dinkum.

    Further, note that there are no batteries with this system – it will still need mains backup for those 18+ hours per day (average) when the sun isn’t delivering and that power will, in Australia, come almost entirely from fossil fuels. So, you actually rely on fossil fuel for all but 6 hours per day, even after spending more than $5/Watt for that six hours, by my estimate.

    The capital cost of that fossil backup plant will be at least another dollar or two, so the capital for (PV + Fossil), which is what you are really advocating, is really $6 or $7/W.

    How about a reference for your $1/watt price, or is it just for the bare, unmounted panels? Does it include some kind of subsidy as an offset? If it doesn’t include a cost for mains connection or battery backup, why not?

    Where can the rest of us buy some of those cheap panels?

    You state that First Solar is an American manufacturer (correct), and hint that Chinese suppliers are unable to offer warranties (which I doubt, because China is reported to be the world’s largest manufacturer). Are you aware that FirstSolar and Guangdong Nuclear have a commercial arrangement for a 30MW PV station to be constructed in China? And that this underpins FS’s Chinese manufacturing plant? Or, that the 30MW installation is only viable because of a generous feed-in tariff, as happens in Australia? Or that FS has a recycling program in place in USA for their existing panels… Have they been in business long enough already to have to trash their own product?

    If not, check out First Solar’s own press release:

    Like many others, I really do hope that PV has a strong future, but also like many others, I have come to the conclusion that any technology which cannot stand by itself after all the money which has been thrown its way is worthy of a critical re-evaluation, as has happened in Spain and Portugal and is reported to be close in Germany. You would be aware that in NSW the Feed in Tariff has been slashed by more than half, with more to come, so the adjustment has commenced.

    I won’t provide on-line references for these developments because published recent articles are easy to find and I don’t want to run foul of the WordPress’s spam filter. If you need, just ask and I will dig a few out.

    So, Enviro, was that price “drastically below $1/Watt” or >$5?

    The credibility of your contributions on this site ride on your answer, as far as I am concerned. Prove that you are credible.


  45. John Bennetts, on 3 April 2011 at 5:23 PM said:

    I would be very careful about gratuitous challenging of others’ posts.

    PV’s are following Moore’s Law, and are drastically below $1/watt;

    see: PV under $1

    Anyway that will do as a reply to this point in this thread – plenty of other stuff will go in the Technical Open Thread.


  46. Helen, we have had nuclear power for a long time, different designs different countries much abuse and many accidents.

    Despite this it is by far the safest form of electricity generation, safer even than solar and wind. Sadly all energy forms are dangerous, generating electricity involves huge flows of energy which are inherently dangerous.

    Not building nuclear means killing people for certain. Coal cannot be made clean. You can put particulate filters on it but then you have a heavy metal contaminated ash disposal problem. As an archaelogist you might be interested to know that burying the stuff somewhere means it needs to be guarded for the lifetime of our earth. Whereas fission products, actinides are almost all valuable and 20000x less massive in waste streams. What is more, particulate filters are not very good at removing PM2.5 which is the most carginogenic so the coal filter solution is a fairly poor solution.


  47. @ Helen,

    I tend to agree with you, but I think that unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of time to wait for a complete set of data to support our decision. Global Warming and resource depletion are going too fast.

    Regarding over-engineering, some countries already base their worst case scenarii on paleo-seisms, thus going much further that 100 years. It is clear that such an approach would condemn some designs in lots of countries, including Japan.

    Before throwing the stone to Japanese, please consider that this country is really between a rock and a hard place : “blessed” aussies or north-americans tend to neglect how little this country is endowed with natural resources. The 1941 war was fought because of an embargo on Indonesian oil where Japan lost several million people. It certainly shifted the needle of the Japanese leadership when it was assessing relative risks with nuclear 40 years ago.
    France’s historic battle with Germany was fought for access to the coal rich regions of Alsace and Lorraine. The same applies : the French are really sensitive to energy security.


  48. Welcome aboard, Helen.

    Safety of Coal
    One of your points was “Show me that we can really manage risks and slash accidents/deaths in coal based energy and I’ll then have confidence in your confidence about nuclear.”

    I offer two small windows on the safety of coal fired power plants, from my personal experience.

    First, there are two power stations with which I have been familiar for over 30 years. One has been operating since 1984, the other since 1971. The combined safety experience of these two power stations, with capacity >4600MW, can be summarised as:

    Only one post-construction death, which was due to an underage subcontractor’s visitor who had joined a work team and who attempted to drive a vehicle for which he was not qualified.

    No lost time injuries AT ALL for the past three years at the older station and (I think) 3 for the larger, newer station.

    These statistics, I believe to be well above the industry’s norm, especially the international experience.

    Helen, much has changed and is changing to improve the safety of coal fired power stations. I am sure that there are equally impressive figures coming from the mining sector. Certainly, I back Australian coal power’s safety record against all comers.

    This could contain the seeds of what you are seeking, when you ask for caol based safety to be documented as a prerequesite for considering nuclear power plants.

    Perhaps the time has come to compare like with like – Australian coal fired experience and that of comparable nations, as well as those other nations’ nuclear PP experience over time.

    Maybe Helen will soon be confident that safety is managed much better in Australia than elsewhere, and that this can be achieved in the nuclear power industry.

    Is there a safety expert out there who can compile the stats of Australian safety experience Vs the world; and Australian safety outcomes Vs time over the past 2 to 5 decades (hopefully, improving)?


  49. what kind of a hit does the EROEI take if you have to use renewable generated renewable energy to recycle itself?

    John Morgan: this strikes me as a great point.

    So please apologize for missing my irony and accept with grace my compliment.

    seriously though: has anyone modeled this idea in a TCASE way? It would make the case for renewables even worse.


  50. Why is the human health risk for nuclear energy presented as a certainty/fact when that is neither nescessary nor true?

    One of the major arguments of NP opponents is the alledged downtalking of risk. Why feed that argument?Why downtalk when there is nothing there worth downtalking? Even if the risk for human health is presented as it is, an assumption, it is still much more convincing than any alternativ.

    If the objective is to create acceptance for the fact that nuclear practice can be done safely, than it might pay off to be truthfull. Somebody once had the same problem with justifying the use of tamed fire and that only got accepted on the basis of truth.

    To my understanding, an argumentation is as strong as the weakest argument, like with a chain. In the assesment of the impact of nuclear energy on human health/health risk, the weakest argument is assumption.


  51. EROEI, good point, how about a billion year responsibility of cadmium in First Solar’s panels? How much energy do they have to expend in order to safeguard the deadly cadmium until Judgement Day? A billion year monitoring electronic device?


  52. How about this?

    If we follow Helen’s argument, we should never have tried anything new until we knew all the risk.

    That means we would still be cavemen now. No, not even cavemen, after all how do we know they are safe? Fire, seems risky, lets not even try that. Electricity, are you crazy, one might be killed by electrocution.

    I am glad that humans long ago decided to try new things despite possible risk. Being a caveman is much more risky than the alternatives.


  53. Gregory Meyerson, I apologize for my cloth ears. We are of one mind :)

    Your comment actually hit a nerve that had recently been exposed by George Monbiot, and others. I’ve watched and read some of George’s recent contributions. His endorsement of nuclear power has been accompanied by a great deal of overwrought handwringing. It strikes me as overdone – and perhaps a bit self conscious. Its a better outcome for the environment than the alternative he prefers.

    “Baseload and footprint” – beautifully succinct, thank you.


  54. Dear Bill,
    As a citizen of the European Union as you, I would add a few points regarding your assessment of the German options regarding Power:
    1) – Germany already has the most expensive electricity of Europe, only behind Denmark, and both are the world champions of renewables:
    2) – the option for renewables only and no nuclear can be economically viable for Germany if all other european countries are forced to follow the same politics. This is just the goal of the “20-20-20” Brussels politics (nobody knows who decided it), specially the first “20” – 20% renewables. A proof of this point is this very important german paper, claimed by the american NREL as a proof that the renewables option can create net employment:
    I underline the followinf paragraphs in the conclusions: “International markets play a very important role for the development of the domestic industry. Currently, 16% of the world markets are installed in Germany. Future world markets will grow faster than the German market, as current installation plans and targets in several countries
    show. By 2020 domestic installation will only contribute 4% to the international market.
    Therefore, the employment in the industry crucially depends on the development of exports”.
    As a matter of fact, this study shows that if the exports do not grow up, there will be a fall in the employment in Germany due to the risings costs of power. So, as 1+1=2, we can add all this to understand the reason for the “20-20-20” european politics…
    However, I think this reasoning has not in due accounting the asian competition in producing wind and PV equipments, and because of that the persistence of this german vision will only be possible if the european market is closed to the non-european competition.
    I do not believe this will happen, but if it will, what are we going to have? An european closed market, forced by an obscure central political goverment to buy very expensive renewables equipement to support german employment, all this because of a utopic vision of a new future! And we have already seen that before in the troubled european history…
    This is just my personnal opinion, Bill. Don’t extrapolate for the remaining europeans, or even portuguese, but pay attention to the rise of nationalist feelings in France and all over Europe…
    I wish you a good sunday!


  55. Cyril, those numbers, thow highly usefull in themselves, do not substantiate the claim of conclusive definition of the hazard to human health i.e. they would not stand in court as such. What i am suggesting is to reduce their sinificance in claim to what they do define, in order to get more convincing. The margin allowes that.


  56. I appreciate the various comments on my post. I should make it clear that I am not in principle against nuclear energy, and definitely not against trying new things (though I do have a bit of a niggle about the original trying out of the new thing, nuclear energy, by incinerating a lot of humans – I have never bought the argument that it was necessary to end the war). I am mainly concerned about the glowing PR for nuclear energy as the saviour of the world against the evils of climate change and coal and slightly unnerved by the confident certainty with which nuclear proponents speak. In my work I’ve heard engineers (non-energy) speak with similar confidence …just before things totally stuffed up. And then ignore the lesson of the first stuff-up and repeat it (we’re not interested in post-mortems). I’m sure nuclear power operators are much more careful, but humans have a tendency to excessive over-confidence and cutting corners (not to mention being silly – like standing in a radioactive puddle and ignoring your monitor!) ..Let’s just see what happens at Fukushima first in the slightly longer term … a couple of weeks seems to be a bit too soon to be jumping to conclusions.


  57. Hellen,
    I agree with your general concerns, but allow me to support the ideia that even waiting for Fukushima final outcome we still need to fight an information battle.
    Do you remember the one-million deaths expected from Chernobyl? 25 years have past, and the real numbers, something between 60 and 4000, are now almost impossible to make public. People only remember the fear they had, not the rationale reasons for that fear.
    Even regarding the 170-220 thousand incinerated japoneses in 1945, do you know how many more died from chronic sickness afterwards? About 520, 180 of which from leukemia. Not millions…
    On the other hand and on a completely different subject, I also doubt the true reasons for the 1945 blasts were Japan surrender. It may be Japan already wanted to surrender, provided the Imperor was allowed to continue, as Mac Arthur did afterwards. So, the true reason could well be to send a message to the rising communist power all over the world. But in the end, was’nt that right? May be this is a bit cinic, but consider the options: would you like to live in a Goulag World?
    Kind regards,


  58. Parrot, I believe you are wrong, because the real battle of nuclear acceptance will not fought in the court of lawyers and judges, but in the court op public opinion, as Tucker has put it eloquently. Nuclear litigation is a symptom of lack of public acceptance; improve on the latter and you reduce the former.

    Helen, yes corners may have been cut, the plants were the oldest in the fleet, not designed for large tsunamis, poorly managed leading to lack of spent fuel cooling etc.

    That by itself is more proof, though, that the technology of LWRs is robust. Do everything wrong and still there is no indication of even 1 person dying of radiation.

    This discussion is not one of principle, it is one of alternatives. The alternative to nuclear is not solar or wind that are not there 60-90 percent of the time; the alternative is mostly fossil fuels which kill large numbers of people every year. I am not trying to downplay Fukushima as clearly it is very serious; but also it is more evidence that nuclear isn’t infinitely dangerous. Its just dangerous like all power plants are dangerous, but its much less dangerous even during an accident than fossil fuels are during normal operation!!!


  59. Cyril,i wasn’t suggesting to take it to court, just trying to point out it’s relative value. Let me ask you something:

    Considering those numbers, would you still support nuclear energy if we didn’t need it? If it was just for fun?

    I mean, let’s face it. According to the numbers it is less dangerous than f.i. mountain biking or skiing, which IS for fun.


  60. I thought the ABC news story was very important, especially the interview with Robert Gale: but right now, the story circulating is that the workers fear they are going to die in weeks.

    what do people think of this? Certainly not very good communication between workers and experts. The clash between these views will lead to cover up charges.

    what do people think?


  61. Cyril R, on 3 April 2011 at 9:27 PM said:

    Nuclear litigation is a symptom of lack of public acceptance; improve on the latter and you reduce the former.

    In the US we have on going litigation against coal, solar thermal, hydro, windmills, natural gas pipelines, natural gas drilling, oil drilling, oil refineries and nuclear.

    If you happen to live in a neighborhood with a home owners association slapping some solar PV on your roof is almost guaranteed to get you a nasty letter from the home owners association.

    Litigation and broad public acceptance don’t necessarily have a relationship. There is always going to be someone that is unhappy about everything.


  62. @ Gregory Meyerson, on 3 April 2011 at 10:09 PM

    I discussed that story about worker conditions on the April 1 thread here:

    Where I commented on this Fox News story:

    and I suggested that appeared to be an uncorroborated story based on a purported telephone call with an anonymous worker’s mother.

    In my linked thread I also discussed Fox’s claim of “blue lights” which never gained any legs in the interim – and would have if true.

    This morning Fox has an article with this headline:

    “Japan Nuclear Plant Owner Confirms First Deaths as Workers Fail to Contain Leak”

    Seems to me that they are trying very hard to tie those two (Tsunami deaths prior to any plant problems) to the current problems of the plant, even though they more or less correct themselves in the first paragraph. But that’s been Fox’s style throughout their coverage.

    Unless there is confirming indications of poor worker treatment coming from independent sources, it may be likely that these stories all originated with the Fox article and if so then you can make your own assessment as to the credibility :-). I’ve come to my own conclusions about Fox’s credibility, as outlined above :-)


  63. Parrot, what if we had no electricity? Well we wouldn’t be having this digital discussion in the first place.

    Seriously. What-if we didn’t have deadly fossil fuel energy systems, gee. That’s a useful way to think ourselves out of this mess, eh?

    I am trying to point out that there are alternatives. Doing nothing is also an alternative and it has consequences. Consider the consequences, is all I’m saying.

    I do believe we need to focus more on the advantages of nuclear power because indeed that strongly determines acceptance. Reliable affordable clean air revival of industry leading role low ecological footprint, sounds pretty good to me.


  64. “Helen, on 3 April 2011 at 8:59 PM said:
    … I am mainly concerned about the glowing PR for nuclear energy as the saviour of the world against the evils of climate change and coal and slightly unnerved by the confident certainty with which nuclear proponents speak. ”

    Helen, I personally think nuclear vs coal vs…. is a game of lesser evils. I don’t agree with your assessment as stated above. I think most of the more level headed nuclear advocates recognize this game of lesser evils and recognize they are choosing a lesser evil, not a perfect solution.

    It is a fact, based on 50 years experience, that nuclear power is statistically safer than other forms of energy, all of which are evil if you scrutinize them to the same degree. It is unfortunate that nuclear has a statistically small chance of widespread negative impacts, probably mostly related to loss of use of land surrounding an accident.

    I think it is also fair to say that the probabilities of such an accident occurring in the future (or now at Fukushima) and the actual impact are vastly exaggerated by the anti-nuclear crowd, and that is the norm of their arguments. Maybe we have to cut a little slack for the pro-nuclear advocates that have to counteract that, and as a result, some (but not all) may overly minimize that risk.

    It would be better if there were a simpler solution that can be scaled up to the point where it would actually positively effect the world carbon production now but we have to play the hand we are dealt. We have to choose the lesser evil.


  65. Jose, what really strikes me is that you correctly point to the fact, that energy prices in Germany are quite high (second highest after Denmark). Yet if you look at the economic performance of Denmark and Germany the rise in energy prices in the last decade hasn’t hampered economic development here. On the contrary, Germany and Denmark outperform most of the other EU countries.

    Also there is absolutely no reason to close the European market because of cheap renewables from China. Legally thats virtually impossible and since Germany is relying a lot on exports (of a lot of industrial products) it doesn’t have any interest to initiate a global tarrif competition. After all we are talking about raughly 250.000 jobs that will or will not be created in the renewable energy sector in the next decades. With a workforce of roughly 30 mio. that’s a neglectable figure.

    Your scenario sounds like unbased fearmongering to me…

    It’s clear that Germany will go for renewables and there’s no chance of new nuclear plants being built here. What I’m saying is that we will see how that works out and if that can be a model for other countries to follow or not.

    In the past decade Germany has invested huge sums into renewables (only China invested more) and it faired well economically. Future will tell whether this trend can continue or not.

    Germany’s perspective on Fukushima is to further develop renewables. Others will try to push the nuclear option. Yet I don’t think that there is any chance to tackle the problem of low acceptance of nuclear power. People here present these papers that state that opponents of nuclear power are often misinformed and have irrational fears of radiation. Yet I don’t see how this is going to change in the next couple of decades.

    And to believe that an INES 6 event like Fukushima will convince people that nuclear energy is safe, seems to be very optimistic. Let’s face it, TMI and Tshernobyl have not helped the cause of nuclear power and neither will Fukushima. Independent of what the real scale of the disaster is.


  66. No Germany’s perspective is to close old nucler plants and burn more fossil fuels. The brunt of renewables cost is yet to come because it is a small portion of electric supply now and intermittency cost rises sharply in the higher penetrations.

    I don’t think people care about INES because they don’t know about it. They will understand that no one died due to radiation and there is no large scale contamination of land. This is a good starting point because it puts things in perspective. Next is the point that new builds have passive cooling features that can deal with a huge tsunami or terrorist attack. So we can go and build new plants to replace aging plants.

    People care about facts, is my experience. The media has turned Fukushima into a circus but most people I’ve talked to in real person say they don’t believe the apocolypse stories, even without me telling them about the benefits of nuclear power. People appreciate it when radioactive dose is compared to a CT scan because they can understand 1 CT scan isn’t harmful. Most people don’t take Greenpeace very seriously, they have been overreacting and have assaulted guards at nuclear power stations, people I have talked to much disprove of this. Greenpeace has overplayed its hand. These are good developments which I did not see 5 or 10 years ago.


  67. Bill Yes, yes electricity prices in Germany are extremely high. Jose’s information put the price in Germany at 27 euro per 100 kWh in the 1st half of 2010.

    In the US at that time, the average was 9 euro per 100 kWh, Calif was 11 euro and Hawaii (where all electricity is generated by imported oil) was 21 euro per kWh!

    If electricity is generated by all renewable energy, one can only imagine what the cost would be, but it seems that Germany will find out. Run your cars on it too.


  68. Bill, on 3 April 2011 at 11:12 PM said:

    It’s clear that Germany will go for renewables

    For a number of years it looked as if there were no new coal-to-power plants possible, but the fact is that some 8,300 MW are under construction to replace old units………French bank Societe Generale …. forecast that German thermal coal consumption, which counts both coal types and coal usage in and outside of power generation, would increase to 138 million tonnes by 2015 from 129 million in 2009.

    That was before the Germans decided to temporarily idle 7 nuclear plants.

    As far as German electricity prices, the large industrial users’ price for electricity isn’t that much different then other EU countries. The residential price is quite high.


  69. It is my opinion (and I think the opinion of most people you really need to convince) that the true debate over nuclear power is not the green or safe generation of nuclear power. And it’s not nuclear power verses renewable. Nuclear and renewable energy sources will exists together in the energy solutions of tomorrow. It is the fact that after 50 years we still haven’t devised a working and fully funded method of dealing with the nuclear waste. I know there are many worthy ideas and technologies floated in various stages of development, but to date nothing has actually been done to process the waste we currently have. And we have a lot of it already stockpiled. Yes there are various ideas in various states of development, but no plan to deal with the waste. Until we come up with a fully funded and deployed way to safely deal with all of the waste, in other words, processing and storage facilities built and waiting for nuclear waste, it is immoral to build more nuclear power plants. We can’t keep making nuclear waste with no plan in place to deal with the waste. We’re not just endangering ourselves, we’re pushing off a legacy of radioactive waste onto future generations to deal with. We have to come up with a fully funded and deployed waste processing plan, a permanent government institution, before we can build anymore reactors and call them “green”. But even that is not 100% safe, because no nation in history has ever lasted longer than the radioactive half life of our nuclear waste. That is a profound. It cannot be glossed over, it must be dealt with. The fact is, nuclear power generation maybe green, but dealing with the waste is anything but green. For 50 years the nuclear industry has put their cart before the horse. We’ve gone off half cocked. The grace period is over. It would be immoral if we built even one more nuclear plant, before we fully fund and deploy a comprehensive plan to process all nuclear waste, now, and for the rest of all time. That must be the next big investment. Only after comprehensive cradle to the grave waste processing has been fully funded and deployed, can we begin to discuss the building of more nuclear reactors. I honestly feel you are beating a dead horse (nuclear energy production verses renewable), and not addressing the problem of waste processing.


  70. Cyril, its seems the point i am trying to make is not clear. To my understanding the methode is less important then getting there. I can clearly see your effort to support the use of nuclear power. Its just that you might get more results if you directed your effort after the ones you are trying to convince.


  71. The increase in coal consumption is vastly lower than the increase in renewable energy installed. Also, the share of coal in Germany’s total energy consumption has fallen quite dramatically from 1990. Cf.:
    Hard coal has dropped about 75%, lignite has dropped 50%, while renewable energy has risen 500%… I really don’t see how these figures indicate a trend for more coal. Even if Societe Generale’s estimate is right, more renewables will be installed than coal plants, 2015 figues will still be dramatically lower than 1990 and any rise is only expected to be temporarily. Most plans for new coal plants have been abandoned. The increase in total consumption of coal is due to the thriving industry (steel etc.).

    Leo Hansen: Yes that’s the price I’m paying, why not? And why not run our cars on it? You would be surprised to find out what car fuel costs here. Current price is about 10 American $ per Gallon. Makes fuel efficient cars quite attractive.


  72. Bill, relative figures are half-truths. Germany produces almost as much CO2 today as it did 40 years ago. It uses more fossil fuels in electricity generation and the only transition it has made to help reduce CO2 is a combination of waste burning (hardly renewable burning of plastic etc.) nuclear power and natural gas.

    Click to access DETPES.pdf

    Click to access DEELEC.pdf

    A little bit extra renewables almost as an afterthought, but an expensive afterthought. 500% more than tiny levels is still tiny. The Germans are comitting themselves to over 50 million tons CO2 per year with that 8300 MWe of coal, for at least 30 years. Not to mention over a million tons of heavy metal contaminated ash which has to be safeguarded from getting into the environment for all time. In matters of environment, absolute numbers and emissions matter. China is also greatly reducing CO2 per $ GDP but that doesn’t mean China is emitting less CO2!

    Click to access CNTPES.pdf

    Click to access CNELEC.pdf


  73. Germany’s expensive policy has only succeeded in keeping CO2 emissions constant in its own country:

    Of course they are importing more energy intensive stuff from other countries that have cheaper electric rates so this is misleading just like California. Chasing away energy intensive industries is a great way to make your statistics look better.


  74. Now If you compare the German graphs with those of Australia or the US you can clearly see what I mean:

    Click to access AUELEC.pdf

    Click to access AUTPES.pdf


    Click to access USELEC.pdf

    Click to access USTPES.pdf

    Germany produces almost as much CO2 as it did 40 years ago. Australia and the US produce way more CO2 than they did 40 years ago….

    Also I would disagree with your claims about renewables being tiny in Germany. Check out the latest official statistics reproduced in this blog:

    “Source 2009 2010*
    Nuclear 22.9% 23%
    Lignite 24.0% 23%
    Hard Coal 17.7% 18%
    Natural Gas 13.7% 14%
    Renewables 16.5% 17%
    Heating Oil, Pumped Hydro, Others 5.2% 5%

    * rounded estimate

    On the renewable side, wind power provided 6.2%, biomass 4.7%, hydro power 3.2%, photovoltaics 2% and waste power plants 0.8%.”

    17% of the total electricity production of a major industrialized country are by no means tiny…


  75. It’s a damn shame the nuclear industry screwed up with the maintenance of these old-type plants so badly in Germany, and got caught out earlier and for a while more obviously than they did in Japan where the government helped keep the lid on. The issues of trust between industry and government play out differently in different parts of the world, but basically the same technical issues of maintenance always come back with sharp teeth, it appears.

    In Germany, the old plants got the same deferred or incomplete maintenance and the consequent failures but those caused the government to distrust the industry earlier and more skeptically, rather than to support the industry more comprehensively.

    A film that came out in February takes a look at the German industry; the interview here is thoughtful and it sounds like the film-maker did quite a level-headed job:,1518,746099,00.html

    —-excerpt follows—-


    Inside the Atomic Industry
    In Germany, Nuclear Power ‘Has Been Demonized’

    Volker Sattel spent years researching his documentary on nuclear power, ‘Under Control…
    … film is beautifully shot — a montage of wide-angle pictures of the power stations’ intimidatingly large control rooms, all flashing lights, buttons and measuring devices, which look more like spaceflight control centers, contrasts with vistas of pretty, green European countryside studded with giant cooling towers. But there is no real narration. Instead, the engineers and plant workers responsible for safety at the power plants simply talk about their jobs and the various shutdown procedures they would go through, should any problems arise. …”

    Germany may have had, like Japan, a government that helped the industry persist too long in cutting corners and assuring profitability.

    Countries where the skeptics have been listened to and allowed more success pushing for faster improvements and quicker development of later-generation safer plants are in a better position to leave the older technology behind without abandoning the idea completely.

    The filmmaker in the interview quoted above says:

    “… what do the opponents of nuclear power have to do with the daily running of the plants? Nothing. But they are important for the technology. They are also in control. Without them, improvements in nuclear power plants, which have been significantly upgraded, particularly in comparison to the 1970s, would never have happened. Those improvements did not happen because of the nuclear power plant operators. It was because of outside pressure.”

    Acknowledging this is very hard for those who were true believers that this kind of problem could not happen — and so repeatedly for years skimped on maintenance, from the record at TEPCO

    Acknowledging that it can be done better is very hard for those who were true believers that this kind of problem was inevitable — because [here is where Barry or someone in the industry needs to fill in the story with verifiable examples of avoiding the human failures by managing excellently]

    Both were wrong.

    We’re all tugging at this problem. The goal, from the point of view of the future, is to have all our different angles pull with a vector sum that gets the future to work out well.


  76. Cyril: Do you have any basis for your latest claim about German imports and exports?

    Sounds very unlikely to me. Germany has a huge trade surplus. i.e. it exports much more than it imports. Main export goods are: cars, machinery, chemicals, metals and manufactures…. That is energy intensive stuff…

    Also most of Germany’s imports are from France, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy and other European countries.


  77. @Bill,

    The BP compile figures for German Coal consumption don’t seem to agree with the figures you found-

    Click to access coal_section_2010.pdf

    Germany consumed 80 mtoe of coal in 1999 and 80 mtoe of coal in 2008. 2009 saw a substantial drop of 10 mtoe but that could be the recession

    What has dropped is German Coal production, From 59 mtoe of coal in 1999 to 47 mtoe of coal in 2008.

    The EU was consuming 306 mtoe coal in 1999 and that dropped to 293 mtoe by 2008.

    Their may be massive increases in renewable energy investment but it isn’t showing up in the coal consumption numbers.


  78. @harrywr2:

    You are using a different database. Also, my figures reffered to 1990 – 2009 while yours refer to 1999 to 2008 or 2009 respectively.

    If you read the chart that I provided, you could clearly see that the most significant reductions of total coal consumption happened in the early 90’s. It is the significant drop you can see also in the graph provided by Cyril:

    Click to access DETPES.pdf

    But I found my error: Hard coal has dropped _to_ about 75% of the 1990 total. I.e. a decrease by 25%. Lignite by 50%. Sorry, English is not my native language.


  79. Bill Yes, gasoline in Germany is 10$/gal but only ~3$/gal is the cost of crude, transportation and refining/marketing. The rest is taxes to pay for govt, renewables and to force people to live how the politicians want them to live.


  80. Leo: Exactly. The purpose is to make people buy fuel efficient cars and drive less. If we want to avoid climate change we will not get there for free. Why do you think most cars in Europe are smaller, lighter and more fuel efficient than cars in America?

    High fuel prices, just like high energy prices are also an incentive to reduce energy consumption. With gasoline at 3$ a gallon we will never meet Kyoto demands. Why do you think the US has not ratified the Kyoto treaty? Because it would mean that they have to raise fuel prices to provide an incentive to reduce energy consumption.

    And yes, since we are a democracy we have voted for those politicians who force us to reduce our energy consumption….

    I’m quite astonished that a lot of people here seem to think that CO2 reduction is either not a problem or will come for free.

    It won’t even come for free with 100% nuclear power. Wake up people, the times of cheap fossil fuels must be over, for the sake of humanity.


  81. NR99,
    Thanks for those other links to recent Fox News features mentioning “Blue Lights” and the fears of imminent deaths among the TEPCO workers.

    Like you I was a fan of Fox News as they used to display less bias than ABC, CBS, CNN et al. However the examples you cite with misleading head lines and innuendo are cases of shoddy journalism.

    Fox solicits “feedback” from their audience so I have asked for confirmation or retraction. As yet I have received no comment from them but as you point out these stories would have legs if there was a grain of truth in them.


  82. What I want to see is a realistic plan, based on real wind and solar output, combined with real demand data, on how to eliminate coal in Germany without greatly increasing natural gas and without making unreliable grids. I have seen nothing realistic so far, just wishful thinking on solar that is not there 89% of the time (0.11 capacity factor average in Germany) and wind that is not there 75% of the time (0.25 capacity factor average in Germany). This does not work, people. Germany has very constant electric demand with quite small differences between nighttime low and daytime high demand. It is an industrial nation.

    The policy of pricing into efficiency by itself is naive. It only works very well when there is a decent alternative. If people pay 10 dollars a gallon for gasoline and decent performance and decent looking electric vehicles are available it will work ok.


  83. Bill – I’d like to know if you personally have taken the trouble to analyze the global mean temperature vs the sum of greenhouse gas radiative forcings, taking into consideration ocean heat uptake. There is after all 130 years of information on global mean temperature and greenhouse gas concentrations and 55 years of ocean heat uptake data.

    With this data, you can estimate the ECS equilibrium climate sensitivity, ” the equilibrium annual global mean temperature response to a (sustained) doubling of equivalent atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial levels”

    I have done this and get an ECS of 1.3C, compared to the IPCC mid-range value of 3C.

    BTW, this method relies on nature to get all the feedbacks etc correct, in that the observed temperature response fully accounts for all these.

    Maybe what you think you know by relying on other people’s thinking and efforts is not correct.


  84. Bill,
    I agree that electricity – as gasoline – is expensive in Germany and yet it did’nt reduce German economy throughput – or may be it did, but even so german economy could overcome that. That is a german merit, of course.
    What is difficult to accept for me is the obligation to have 20% renewables in 2020. That, I can not understand unless to create a irrational market for renewable equipment, because 20% of renewable power can not be produced in a power system without very expensive means to deal with intermittency, I mean storage and gas-fired backup. Of course german politics are not to blame for the very stupid position of the portuguese government who offered to have 30% of renewable power in 2020 – which means more than 60% of electric power from renewables, leaving no space for nuclear, which is much more affordable – as French electricity prices prove.


  85. It’s not hard to fathom the spectacular uptake of renewables in Germany in the light of subsidies on offer. They are ‘too good to refuse’. An analogous example in Australia is the ill fated home insulation scheme
    Before things started to go wrong (ceiling fires, electrocutions) everyone thought the new jobs were marvellous. Never mind that the cost of CO2 avoided was probably over $200 per tonne.

    Like all good things it didn’t last. Thus I fear the Germans are wrongly extrapolating the short term uptick from renewables subsidies but not the long term problems. They say they can get from 17% renewables now to 47% by 2020 with zero NP. That’s at least 3% a year arithmetic growth so if it’s not 20% or better a year from now that claim will look suspect.


  86. [DELETED. Violates “citing literature” commenting rule – see below.]

    CITING LITERATURE AND OTHER SOURCES — appropriate and interesting citations and links within comments are welcomed, but please DO NOT cite material that you have not yourself read, digested and understood. As a general rule, please introduce any and every link or reference with a short description of the material, your judgement on its quality, and the specific reason you are including it (i.e. how it is relevant to the discussion).


  87. @Harvey
    That’s hardly silly.
    Little girls are silly, it’s part of their charme.

    This permanently scraps FOX off the list of even halfway reliable news providers.
    And it gives any of us reason to double check any ‘facts’ American news, or other sources, provide.
    I’m surpised the American press didn’t fight this, having a reputation to uphold.
    [ad hom.deleted. Personal speculation of other’s motives deleted.]


  88. @gallopingcamel, on 4 April 2011 at 3:34 AM said:

    We are men without a news channel :-)

    If you now google “Fukushima blue lights” you will find pages, with many making fun of the story. It would be tough now to walk back.

    Shortly after I saw the blue light report I did the same google, looking for a primary source, and turned up only one relevant reference:

    That references this image:

    You may need to give it a minute to load. As near as I can tell, that is the basis of the Fox story.

    I may have previously linked to that reference and image but can’t recall now. Just wanted to make sure that tidbit was on the plate here.


  89. Pictures of the control rooms do not seem to indicate any working instrumentation. Can somebody tell me how has TEPCO provided the reactor pressure and temperature and well radiation data?


  90. @ a bored cynic:

    Your post belongs on either the philosophy thread, or possibly even in the non-Fukushima open thread. Please do repost it on one of those so your nonsense can be subjected to the treatment it deserves.
    I advised he re-post on Sceptics thread.


  91. Has anyone got time to *very politely* wander across to TOD ANZ and *very calmly* and rationally read through this collection of papers and explain that the Japanese Nukes were old nukes and that the world has no other choice?

    (These are blog-friends of mine from way back, please be kind no matter how provoked. I’m just too busy over the next week to do this.)


  92. @All regular posters
    People, i hope this is just me, but there doesn’t seem to be any real developement in this discussion, or most of the others for that matter. The arguments mostly remain the same. It seems to be more ‘holding the fort’ than going anywhere.

    I was more or less hoping that would be different. There is quite some understanding here and all respect for that, but what was there in ignorence a week ago is still there. The approaches don’t really change. It makes me wonder what you aim to archieve with commenting on this post.

    Serious, i would like to know.
    Parrot – this comment and the next few have wandered off into the realms of philosophy. Please transfer to the Philosophical Open Thread and re-post your latest comments there. Thank you.


  93. Barry Brook, on 3 April 2011 at 6:16 PM said:

    Chris Warren, before you draw any strong conclusions about PV, you should read these two articles from Gene Preston:

    Nice poetic concepts but no risk analysis. I am not a advocate for pure-PV solutions.

    Maybe in the technical OT you could estimate the LERF damage from a community nuke facility if hit by flood water such as cascaded down the Lockyer and Bremer Valleys. Then this should be compared to the same flood hitting a baseload renewable – picking one at random eg:


  94. @Shelby :
    ” It is the fact that after 50 years we still haven’t devised a working and fully funded method of dealing with the nuclear waste. ”

    I suggest you have a closer look to the facts :
    a) PUREX is a proven and reliable industrial process with predictable costs.
    b) enclosure of high level waste into borosilicate glass is also a proven and reliable industrial process with predictable costs.
    c) resistance of borosilicate glass to leaching in the environment for the required duration (100,000 years) has been quantified with extremely substantial safety margins. If there is still a problem with it (and I strongly doubt it), the lead time to solve the problem is several centuries. I am comfortable with that : CO2 and fossil resource depletion are much more urgent and sensitive matters.

    I would add that IFR and pyroprocessing of fuel, who seems better from a waste standpoint, are not yet proven and reliable industrial processes, but it is because we didn’t even try ! In the unlikely outcome that it doesn’t work , sodium-cooled fast reactor based on plutonium oxides is a proven technology.

    There are technical problems with nuclear energy, but they are not with the waste. The only problem with the waste is political.


  95. I agree with Charles Monneron, the problem with the waste is political, not technical. Google ‘Oklo’ if this is in doubt. In Scandinavia, local people were involved in the planning for a repository in the early stages, and enjoyed great success.


  96. There are many concepts and technologies for waste processing.

    But until the plan is agreed on, funded, and built, it does not yet exist.

    I don’t believe new reactors can go forward until then.


  97. Pingback: BraveNewClimate

  98. @Bill
    you say “Sounds very unlikely to me. Germany has a huge trade surplus. i.e. it exports much more than it imports. Main export goods are: cars, machinery, chemicals, metals and manufactures…. That is energy intensive stuff…”

    There are two phenomenons at work here :
    First, industrial rates for electricity have not followed consumer rate ; right now, it is mostly the consumer that pays for the renewables (see ). The BASF complex in Ludwigshafen consumes as much electricity than Denmark. I wonder what would be its profitability with a doubled electricity price.

    Second, there is the magic of global supply chain and favorable terms of trade : buy the energy/pollution intensive components abroad for cheap and sell the value-added finished product for an expensive price. Mine the rare earth in China, the aluminum in Hungary ( ) the Natural Gas in Russia and make the wind turbine in Germany…

    It works only as long as the rest of the world wants to buy the German expensive stuff (At some point, people may catch up with the fact that the superiority of German cars over, say, Korean cars is mostly branding).
    Even if the competitive advantage is durable, by definition, it cannot be a model to the rest of the world.


  99. Charles Monneron, on 4 April 2011 at 10:37 AM said:


    PUREX and borosilicate glass enclosing are not concepts, but something that has been performed on an industrial scale for more than a decade in La Hague.


    You’re taking part of what I said out of context to make a rhetorical argument.

    It must be agreed on, funded, and built, before it exists. (here)
    Off-topic – please move to Fukushima OT. Off-topic comments may be deleted.


  100. @ Shelby

    There are many concepts and technologies for waste processing.

    But until the plan is agreed on, funded, and built, it does not yet exist.

    I don’t believe new reactors can go forward until then.

    This is simply a case of stalling viable technologies in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

    By your logic we should also stall on renewable technologies because there is no existing example of renewables replacing a fossil fuel plant (hydro aside). This would leave us with no alternative energy technologies.

    Furthermore (and anyone please feel free to correct me on this), I believe every part and process of the Integral Fast Reactor has been demonstrated, just not as a single functioning unit. It’s not just some pie in the sky idea, the fuel recycling/waste elimination can be done.
    Off-topic. Please move over to Technical Open Thread.


    Several people here are straying off-topic. Please note that as per BNC Commenting Policy off-topic comments may be deleted. We do not have the facility to move comments so you will be asked to re-post in the correct thread.
    Please ensure you comment is in the correct thread and not automatically in the current thread, which may render the thread unreadable. A reminder of where to post comments:
    Please restrict all discussion here to technical information, analysis, criticisms and questions on FD — no philosophising or excursions into whether nuclear power is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or the implications of FD for the future of nuclear power (except for new technical developments, e.g. safety standards), etc. You may impart your deep wisdom on how the world should work on the Philosophical Open Thread.

    Please keep all dialogue here to general and philosophical discussions on nuclear power, its benefits and limitations, its alternatives, history, media treatment of the FD accident, your views on how the world should work and why people should listen to you, etc., etc. Nothing technical please — leave that for the Technical Open Thread.


  102. As the thread is about other perspectives on the Fukushima nuclear crisis, I feel this belong here.

    WE’LL call him the Unnamed Farmer: last week he became the first person to die as a result of damage to the nuclear plant at Fukushima.
    The 64-year-old from Sukagama, 65km from the reactor, hanged himself because his crops could no longer be sold.
    I strongly concur with the sentiments expressed in this article. The psychological damage wrought on the local folk, by sensational reporting, is likely to be immense and lasting, just as with other nuclear incidents in the past.


  103. The Japanese Government must learn one vital lesson from Chernobyl:

    Don’t let scare stories about radiation take hold

    The UN report on Chernobyl was very clear that radiation problems were trivial compared to the attitudes of fatalism and hopelessness that took root in the population. It is vital that the radiation effects are kept in perspective, that moderate responses are not allowed to escalate in a game of “think of the children”, and that people are well-informed that the chances of health problems really are negligible. Again, and again, and again, if need be.


  104. harvey,
    I did not accuse Fox News of lying. Fox is publishing hearsay as if it was well corroborated information. They are destroying the public’s trust in them without breaking any laws.

    All news media (and particularly the “Grey Lady”) publish untruths frequently. In the rush to “scoop” the competition it is inevitable that some early reports will be proved wrong. The media lose public trust when they are unable or unwilling to correct their mistakes.

    I suspect we are criticising Fox “more in sorrow than in anger”. While few people trust the “Main Stream Media” today it seems we can’t trust the alternative media either. Maybe that is why I am spending more and more time on Brave New Climate.


  105. This is a good way to explain to the average person what a dangerous dose of radiation might be:

    The Guardian’s science correspondent puts the point this way: “You can think of it like exposure to the sun’s rays. I could move somewhere and get twice as much sunshine in a year, but if I received all that sun in one hour, I would be toast. Because one hour in very intense sunlight will do me more harm than the same amount of sunlight evened out over the year.”

    from this article in the Guardian newspaper:

    The article goes on to explain the scientific complexity
    around radiation and attempts to de-bunk some of the myths.
    It also links to this easily understandable Science Media of Canada briefing for journalists. If only they would read it ;-)


  106. @Charles Moneron:

    Germany does not get it’s aluminium from Hungary… Check the statistics about aluminium production worldwide:

    Click to access mcs-2010-alumi.pdf

    And how could we not import rare earths from China and natural gas from Russia? Germany has neiter gas nor petrol reserves and rare earths are also extremely rare here…

    And the question of whether BASF remains compatible does not depend on energy prices alone. It also depends on technological advantages in energy saving and productivity advantages.

    And what is the problem in making the consumer pay for installation of renewables? Why should other countries not follow this path?


  107. > Cyril R

    Where in the world did you get those numbers for the total dose rates in the highest affected areas?

    I am here now living 75 miles from this nuclear mess and have been watching closely the levels from various monitoring locations daily.

    [deleted unsubstantiated figures. Please re-post with references to support your figures]Would you feel comfortable living in area that receives an Xray every hour? For how long?

    This is expected to go on for months.

    [deleted attacks on what ‘this blog’ does]


  108. >Huw Jones

    And just when will these radiation levels decline back to background level?

    [deleted unsustantiated figures. Please re-post with references to support your comment.]Are you aware that the situation is no closer to any change for the better than 1 week ago?
    Are you aware that it is very possible to get worse?


  109. Please provide us with some evidence that that the dose rate is 50-100 microSieverts per hour outside the exclusion zone.

    The jaif report on monitoring shows the highest is around 8 microSieverts per hour. A high dose, but there are parts of the world with higher background levels than that.


  110. OH, & that link that Cyril R just posted about the radiation trends?
    That is terrible information that is not true!

    Although many surrounding areas far outside of the nuclear mess have been falling daily since the original explosion,(except they are rising in areas of Western Japan) the peak numbers and averages are not at all right!
    I have been watching them several times daily for 3 weeks now.

    [deleted unsubstantiated figure. BNC is a science based blog therefore official references supporting your comments are requie. Unsupported hearsay is deleted]


  111. OK.
    Have a look:

    check the Fukushima PDF for today.
    You will not be able to see the past record data for some areas, some do. Also some areas have been blacked out since the beginning.
    Your link does not appear to support your assertions re the radiation levels in Japan.
    Please point to readings in the charts that do support your figures.


  112. Regarding bRIVERb’s question, from what I’ve read I would not be worried about living in 27 millisievert/year field. Ramsar, Iran is up to 260 millisievert/year background level, doesn’t seem to have any effect, from literature 100 millisievert/year is minimum for observed increase in cancer. From what I have read, there is one thing I might do and that is to take iodine pills for a month just to be sure.


  113. @ bRIVERb,

    The link you provided shows radiation levels often far lower than my link except for a few locations right in the middle of the fallout plume that are on the border of the 20 km exclusion zone, peak 57 microsievert per hour. Definately a higher level but not dangerous to your health. In order to get one 6900 microsievert CT scan you’d have to stay there, outside, for over 120 hours in that peak radiation. In order to get to the worker limit of 250000 microsievert, which is still lowe than background in Ramsar, Iran by the way, you’d need to spend half a year outside right in that peak flux, assuming it stays that high!

    Click to access 110315houshasen_mext_en.pdf

    Latest JAIF document:

    Click to access ENGNEWS01_1301880310P.pdf


  114. There are places in Ramsar that might give a dose of 260 millisieverts/year, but the *population* of Ramsar do not spend there time in these places. The average dose for the population is about 10 millisieverts/year and the modal dose is 1-5 millisieverts/year.
    See figure 5, page 22


    That book, on p23/24 says dose rates for the ELNRA are up to 135 mSv/yr, and ~25% of the population are >5 mSv.


  115. By the way, 57 microsievert/hour is the outside dose, and you don’t spend 24/7 outside even if you’re a farmer (more like 10-50% of the time outside depending on profession)

    Combined with decaying isotopes I’d estimate you wouldn’t get more than 10 millisievert/year dose. Though there may be local spikes of plant accumulation of cesium and possibly strontium that would have to be considered for cleanup (remove plants and store as low level waste) This requires a much higher resolution imaging or onsite investigation.


  116. Oh sorry, miscalculation, good that you mentioned that! Realistically you’re probably not looking at over 100 millisievert year actual dose (considering decay and low inside dose). But local accumulation of some fission products is of concern. Anyone has higher resolution data for the area under the fallout (northwest of Fukushima)?


  117. According to that data set, there are indeed one or two areas with about 57 milliSieverts per hour. It’s unclear however, if that’s a transient reading or at constant level. Most areas are pretty close to background levels though. If necessary, the areas with the highest levels could be evacuated for a few weeks while they are cleaned up.


  118. [edited unsubstantiated figures.]
    Once again, this is not going to be cleaned up in a couple weeks!!! Several months! But yes, they need to be evacuated and the downplaying of the situation needs to stop. Young children need to leave from the greater area.

    Also, there really is still the potential for a greater dispersion of radiation.

    [deleted – “possibly” and “most likely” are your unsubstantiated opinions and are not good enough – where are your refs?]
    #2 is leaking water at 1000 mSv/h into the Ocean. #4 has the spent fuel rods mostly exposed to air, if not totally.All of these are technically still out of control!
    I repeat – BNC is a science blog and you need to substantiate your opinions with links/refs supporting your contentions. Further comments without these links will be completely deleted.


  119. > From what I have read, there is one thing I might
    > do and that is to take iodine pills for a month
    > just to be sure.

    Do NOT listen to this advice. Talk to a doctor.
    Taking iodine pills without need is a serious health risk.

    Insist on cites to sources from people telling you what they believe. Check their sources.


  120. bRIVERb, what is your source for believing plutonium can become volatile and disperse into a wide area?

    I am not downplaying the incident. I just don’t like exaggeration. At this point it is not likely even 1 person will die of radiation. Much more important is that all alternatives kill more in normal operation. A modern coal plant with modern particulate filter and sulphur scrubbers typically kills 10 to 20 people a year, older ones kill many more:


  121. Hank Roberts, just to be clear, I was referring to the situation if I was in a 57 microsievert/hour field , I would consider the pills. Definately do NOT take any pills if you’re outside Japan! Not necessary in the slightest.


  122. > if I was in a 57 microsievert/hour field

    Only if the source is radioactive _iodine_ .
    Not cesium for example, which is more likely to hang around on surfaces and be detected longer.

    There’s a timing issue — an iodine supplement can’t be repeated frequently; you have to rely on the government to advise you _when_

    Just for perspective, here’s the dose calculator for the US counties for iodine fallout from the surface nuclear tests in the 1950s: — it depended greatly on local rain or snow bringing the material to the ground.


    Please note that off-topic comments will be deleted and, as we are unable to transfer comments, you will be asked to re-post in the correct thread. In particular comments regarding your personal opinions, beliefs etc should be posted in the Fukushima Philosophical Open Thread.



    I can’t believe you deleted that post.

    That was a link posted that was asked for and had no personal opinion unlike the hundred posted above.
    The link you supplied was generic in nature listing multiple videos (which violates BNC’s Citation policy)which people could not be expected to wade through to verify your statements. As suggested you should re-post on the correct thread which is the Philosophical Open Thread, if you are merely giving your opinion. Personal opinion, is welcome in the Open Threads, where moderation more is relaxed (except for ad homs, incivility etc.)However, although you are entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts – these must be supported by references.


  125. Here is the link of numbers from the Japanese government compiled of sources that include the Ministry of Defense, JAEA, Tepco, & the police

    As I wrote before, open the Fukushima PDF file. You will find the readings of the levels I posted in some of the monitoring points. This PDF is put out daily, therefore you will get a different one each day. I live here. I have watched them daily! The areas of concern have constantly reported numbers around 50 µSv/h daily and have at times been above 100µSv/h
    [please identify the specific areas/locations of concern you mention]

    This was for direct reference to the substantial opinion that plutonium could turn volatile in #4 and the link was asked for by Cyril R. Look up Arnie Gundersen, in the Fairewinds Associates and open the video about #4 called, New Images Reveal Nuclear Fuel Rack Exposed to Air.
    [now you have identified the particular video in which the information is relayed, please re-submit the link]


  126. Newly released TEPCO data provides evidence of periodic chain reaction at Fukushima Unit 1

    Also, I had written that it is possible that plutonium could become volatile in #4
    Here is the specific link asked for by Cyril R:
    Please note that your comments WILL be posted WHEN they comply with the BNC Commenting Rules. Which I supply below for you, and all on the blog, to consider before posting. Discussions on moderating decisions will not be entered into. Please desist from attacking the moderators, who are voluntarily giving a considerable amount of their time to assessing comments to ensure compliance with the BNC comments policy. This process is of course, to a certain extent, subjective.We suggest you channel your efforts into ensuring your comments meet the regulations of this blog.

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  127. >[please identify the specific areas/locations of concern you mention]
    20km NW & 30km NW Reading points.

    Since I live within this nuclear mess, I have monitored it all daily. I have more links but they are in Japanese.

    Here is one for Tochigi Prefecture, which I live in. If you scroll down to the middle and see the weekly dated PDF files of radiation level data in various areas of Tochigi, open them up, you will also see the levels and that this graph in the topic thread is not accurate.
    Please supply any further refs/links in English, as is the BNC policy, or they will be deleted.


  128. bRIVERb, your source is from a know anti-nuclear campaigner, Arnie Gundersen, that does not cite sources for claiming ‘plutonium can become volatile’. He just speculates and gives no numbers.

    Plutonium is in the form of oxides in the fuel rods, you can see this isn’t volatile:

    Melting point 2600 degrees C. Boiling point 2800 degrees C. This isn’t going anywhere in significant quantities. You can dissolve it in water so the coolant water leaking into places is a problem for the workers but not the public.

    While the chemistry of plutonium is complex,the species that form in water or otherwise complex are not volatile at all, and would require tremendous force such as extreme hot graphite fire and runaway strong positive void coefficient reactors to disperse widely. During steam relief you can get trace amounts out, but that’s it and it won’t get far (being a heavy metal).


  129. Why would he need sources? He is a source. “I used to be an executive in the nuclear industry and one of the divisions I ran built nuclear fuel racks for boiling water reactors.”
    We are talking about these fuel racks. I he not a source?
    How can you only say he is a known anti-nuclear campaigner when he has been a nuclear power engineering adviser for 39 years, a former nuclear industry senior vice president…, a licensed reactor operator…?

    Your wiki-leaks link proves nothing(except that your melting point you quoted is wrong).
    Where are your links proving that this scenario has no possibility of happening?
    Your opinion is just speculative.

    [deleted, personal opinion presented as fact. Supply references]
    I never claimed that the plutonium would reach far away surrounding areas.
    [deleted unsubstantiated personal opinion presented as fact]
    Can anyone give any information as to how this broken pool and exposed, highly radioactive nuclear fuel rack can be handled? Any good solid sources that are not speculation?
    [deleted personal opinion presented as fact]These links have already been supplied and their sources are mentioned within them.
    Where did you previously supply the links supporting these latest opinions on facts? Please re-submit to support your case.


  130. bRIVERb,
    Of course you should be concerned about hazards that may detectable where you live.

    However the numbers matter so you should remain calm unless the ionizing radiation reaches dangerous levels. On an earlier thread, “unclepete” gave an excellent link that should help you decide what is dangerous and what is not.

    With regard to the toxicity of plutonium I know very little about this but still may be able to allay your fears. During World War II Botulinus toxin was weaponised in the UK. At one point the British had stocks of more than 100 gallons of this toxin, enough to provide a lethal dose for every human being then living.

    However, to kill a significant number of people using toxins it is necessary to deliver the appropriate dose to each of them. This “Dispersion Problem” has proved to be a very difficult one.

    I would contend that Botulinus toxin is many orders of magnitude more toxic than Plutonium and a great deal more volatile, so if you want to scare yourself, think Botulinus rather than Plutonium.


  131. Thank you gallopingcamel.
    I am aware of the table and the relative dose levels in our ordinary lives. I recently was in the hospital and received 16 x-rays and 1 CT scan in 10 days. I have accumulated only enough radiation to get 1 Xray as of yet!
    Although it may appear that I am mostly concerned with plutonium from re-posting links, I am mostly concerned of the long term continuance of cesium-137 and iodine-131 contaminating our surroundings in the air, foods & water. This nuclear mess has not improved any at all in the last week+. In fact, it is more dismal that the situation is obviously not in control yet and that it has now been estimated to continue for several months emitting radiation, possibly longer.

    Here are some more links, including the original of mine, to help some simple statements, that I will re-post from my last post , concerning the problems of continued radiation along with the potential for more.

    The fuel racks are not in water, the tank does not hold water and a heavy steel bridge has collapsed onto the fuel racks, perhaps damaging the protective covering/wrapping on the fuel racks.

    Here is the link for the video of #4, in which you can see that the fuel racks are exposed with no visible water in the pool.
    The heavy steel bridge also can be seen collapsed onto the fuel racks after the explosion that blew the building apart. There is a chance that the protective covering on some of these fuel racks could have been damaged.
    “According to the latest JAIF status report, Unit 4 has sustained severe damage to reactor building integrity.”
    “World Nuclear News reports the damage appears to have been the result of a build-up of hydrogen in the spent fuel pond, which suggests the area around the pool itself would be most badly affected.”
    “Damage to Unit 4 could potentially cause debris to fall into the spent fuel pond, distorting rack structures, which would block air flows and potentially lead to temperature increases and ignition.”
    “If the temperature of the spent fuel pond increases to around 1,000˚C as a result of exposure to air, the zirconium cladding around the spent fuel might catch fire. This scenario would mean large radiation releases would severely hit workers. The fire would be extremely hard to extinguish and would risk spreading to adjoining units, causing hydrogen explosions. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimates that such a fire would lead to large releases of the dangerous cesium 137 isotope, which is very radioactive. Such releases, combined with an unfortunate change in wind direction, could blow the material towards densely populated areas. To protect against this risk, the Japanese government should immediately extend the evacuation area around Fukushima Daiichi.”

    [deleted scientic personal opinion not supported by link provided.].

    “Japan’s own nuclear safety agency was concerned at the plutonium samples, whose levels of radioactive decay ranged from 0.18 to 0.54 becquerels per kg.
”While it’s not the level harmful to human health, I am not optimistic. This means the containment mechanism is being breached so I think the situation is worrisome,” agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama was quoted as saying by Jiji news agency.”

    Here is the link proposing that the plutonium found is from #4:


  132. Some more info on mister Gundersen:

    Different ‘experts’ say different things:

    Remember, even the chairman of the NRC was 100% wrong about the spent fuel ponds being completely dry. Experts can be wrong. Facts matter, facts such as plutonium dioxide melting point of 2400 degrees celcius (correction from 2600 degrees celcius). Spent fuel rods produce 1000x less heat than rods in the reactor. You cannot get high enough temperatures to vaporize considerable amounts of plutonium. The heat per cubic centimeter fuel rod is lower than a fluorescent tube light. Not quite 2400 degrees celcius. I am using a heat transfer model with high resolution cells which doesn’t get even get anywhere near half that in the extreme scenario of zero water and very poor ventilation due to debris.


  133. bRIVERb, on 5 April 2011 at 12:26 AM said:
    “…#4 has the spent fuel rods mostly exposed to air, if not totally.All of these are technically still out of control!”

    Let’s examine Gundersen’s evidence and compare it to the other evidence we have. This is an important issue because, as I understand things, if SFP#4 goes dry, it may be the worst of all reasonably foreseeable possible outcomes.

    As evidence, Gundersen presents a couple of seconds of low res video images at a very poor angle of an obstructed view of the SFP.

    Those few seconds of his evidence contrasts with 5 minutes of his face on the video. I think a reasonable person might conclude that Gundersen was more interested in getting his face out to the world than clearly presnting his “evidence”.

    I am not a nuclear engineer but I’ve shot over 130,000 still images with high res DSLR cameras over the past 7 years. I shoot some technically very difficult subjects, both in good light and bad light. I can’t evaluate the “still image” that I saw by stopping the video during those brief few seconds. The lighting is terrible, with the interior of the SFP floor mostly dark and the resolution is terrible. I might be more convinced if I saw a high res high quality well lit 12MB still image in full resolution.

    It is also unclear to me exactly what a pool of water would look like after the ceiling collapsed on it. It is likely, though, that it would not be the “clear blue water” Gundersen claims we should see and displays as an example of what he thinks we should see. It would likely have all the bouyant debris from the ceiling and other disturbed parts of the building floating on top, similar to heavy scum and algae on a pond.

    Honestly, looking at that brief snip of video is no different than looking at a video of many purported Bigfoot or UFO sightings, where we see a rather blurry something in usually poor light and are left thinking… “what is it that the narrrator claims he sees so clearly?”.

    Only a few days into the incident the USA’s NRC commissioner made worldwide headlines proclaiming that SFP #4 was bone dry. Interestingly, that story died a fast death. I am unaware of a single peep out of the NRC since then related to that claim. If that pool was dry near the start of the event and it is dry now, as Gundersen suggests, then I would think that news story would have long legs and the media would be playing it up. Strangely, they are not, nor has the NRC made any statements that I am aware of vindicating or confirming that initial assessment. It appears the NRC wants to let that dead dog lie.

    Earlier today in this thread, Barry Brook posted the latest FEPC update:

    That update says the following (edited by me to include only SFP data:

    “• Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor
    o At 5:14PM on April 3, TEPCO began to shoot freshwater aimed at the spent fuel pool, with a specialized vehicle normally used for pumping concrete, until 10:16PM (approximately 180 tons in total).
    o At 7:20AM on April 4, the temperature of the spent fuel pool by thermography measurement: 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
    o As of 7:00PM on April 4, approximately 1,473.2 tons of water in total has been shot into the spent fuel storage pool.”

    TEPCO is reporting that the temperature of SFP#4 is 86F. I think I take showers in water warmer than that! I’ve scuba dived in tropical water at that temperature. That temp is a long, long way from the way greater than 1000F temps required to melt or burn the rods and cladding.

    TEPCO reports 1473 tons of water have been shot at or into the pool (they say “into” but I think we all know much of the earlier attempts were only partially successful and no one can know how much actually hit the pool- I assume some language translation issues here, or general ambiguity to keep the report succinct).

    Contrast that with SFP#3, which is reported at 134F and has had 4908 tons of water shot at or into it (see Barry’s same report in my link).

    Now consider JAIF’s latest report:

    Click to access ENGNEWS01_1302003224P.pdf

    That report says that SFP#3 has 1331 fuel rods verses 514 rods in SFP #4. Even though the SFP#4 rods are “fresh” and hotter, there are only 38.6% as many fuel rods in #4.

    Now the final piece to the puzzle… the 3rd page of the linked JAIF report – the sequence of events – suggests that water injection into SFP#4 started March 20, but SFP#3 was started on March 17th. I’m not going to go back in time now to verify that but I distinctly recall that when the first attempts were made to cool the SFP’s most observers here were surprised that SFP#4 was not attacked first- all in the context of the almost hysterical pronouncements of the NRC chairman.

    Now, I am not claiming I know the facts. I won’t claim that there is no global conspiracy to fudge the publicly released data- I can’t because I did not prepare the data.

    I will suggest that Gundersen’s claims do NOT square with any of the data ever presented on the SFP’s (where the temps were always reported below 100C/212F, but uncomfortably close in the early days). If you believe Gundersen over the reported data you are placing all your faith in two seconds of very mediocre video squeezed in beside his face during a 5 minute argument that SFP is (and presumably always has been) totally out of control.

    If there is a serious problem with the SFP’s it is probably #3, simply due to the 4900 tons of water that has been shot at or into it. That is over a million gallons of water! However, given the low temperatures reported, it might be fair to assume that the fuel rods are under control but this is very possibly the source of much of the contaminated water(presumably a leak in the pool if you want to speculate along these lines). There may be multiple major leaks across the entire plant though, so I would not read much into that.

    Whatever the status of SFP#3, Gundersen is not talking about it. He is only talkinga bout an SPF that appears to have maybe relatively minor leaking (compared to #3) based on all the FACTS as we know them.


  134. Cyril R
    Your ‘different experts’ link was old.

    Are you telling me that you can not see the steam coming out from below the level of the tops of the fuel rack in the ustream video?

    NR99 writes:
    “That report says that SFP#3 has 1331 fuel rods verses 514 rods in SFP #4. Even though the SFP#4 rods are “fresh” and hotter, there are only 38.6% as many fuel rods in #4.”

    You have your numbers backwards!
    Look again at your own link.
    #4 has 1331. Also it lists them as the only ones ‘possibly damaged’ and rated as ‘Severe'(Need immediate action)
    Hydrogen from the #4 pool exploded on Mar. 15th. (You must take HOT showers…)
    Unit 4 has sustained severe damage to reactor building integrity.

    You did not address the other link I posted in which it at least says that The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimates the danger is there in #4 is for potential large releases of cesium 137.


  135. ————————-
    “Now consider JAIF’s latest report:

    Click to access ENGNEWS01_1302003224P.pdf

    That report says that SFP#3 has 1331 fuel rods verses 514 rods in SFP #4. Even though the SFP#4 rods are “fresh” and hotter, there are only 38.6% as many fuel rods in #4.”

    Other way around. #4 has more rods, according to the link posted. Other than that i agree with you assesment.


  136. To the MODERATOR
    is there some reason why my post is still awaiting moderation while others post freely?

    You, along with several others, are on permanent moderation, due to past violations of the BNC commenting rules.Overnight/ early morning comments are being looked at now.


  137. bRIVERb, on 5 April 2011 at 11:30 PM said:

    The fuel racks are not in water, the tank does not hold water and a heavy steel bridge has collapsed onto the fuel racks

    If you read the text that accompanies Arnie Gunderson’s video, it states clearly that the pictures are undated.

    Dates and time of adding water to spent fuel pool #4.
    April 5th – 5 :35 to 6:22.
    April 3rd – 5:14 to 10:16
    *Fresh Water barge arrives April 2nd.
    April 1st – 8:28 to 2:14
    March 30th – 2:04 to 6:33
    March 27th – 4:34 to 7:35
    March 25th – 7:05 – 10:07
    March 23rd -10:00 – 1:00
    March 22nd – 5:20 – 8:30

    IIRC The spent fuel pools at Fukushima hold about 1500 m3 of water.
    The concrete pump trunk has a maximum pumping rate of 160m3/hour.


  138. @abRIVERb, on 6 April 2011 at 1:00 AM

    It is likely the SFP4 fuel was at least partially exposed early on, but that is old news. Gundersen’s claims, presumably are based on the here
    and now, when Tepco is recording an 86F temperature on that pool.

    Yes, I did make a stupid mistake and reversed the fuel rod counts. However, the actual total of 1331 assemblies in SFP4 vs 541 in SFP3 further supports my claim! If SFP4 has 2.46 times the number of rods as SFP3, how can the temperature be only 86F verses 134F in SFP3? Any why only 37% as much water sprayed into SFP3? And why was SFP #4 not the very first SFP filled with water way back when the first fire engine pumps arrived? Which pool does the data suggest has more problems?

    Now, realistically, SFP4 probably contains about 541 hot fresh current fuel assemblies. The next 500-odd assemblies are likely several years old, or whenever the reactor was last refueled. The last 300-odd assemblies are likely on the order of 5 years in the tank and are likely effectively stone cold and long past ready for dry casking. Given that all the reactors have roughly a full fueling worth of spent assemblies (presumably their respective last spent fuel loads) it is unlikely that currently hot rods from other reactors were consolidated into SFP4.

    In other words, the fuel rod count is somewhat of a red herring, and the important data is not that fuel rod count but the TEMPERATURE.

    I have wonderful images of a local river with a similar “head of steam”. The temperature of the water was near freezing. The air temp was probably slightly below and it was near sunrise. I have seen significant “heads of steam” coming out of a spa/jacuzzi during the daytime when the water was about 100F and the air temp near freezing, as it is or was in Japan now. I’m not excited about a little steam, especially in light of the TEMPERATURE READINGS.

    Now, show me dense clouds of dark smoke emanating from the pool (a la Chernobyl) and I might get excited because that would imply a fire but that is not the case.

    Here is the only thing that matters: Gundersen’s thesis is totally irreconcilable with Tepco’s data. I tried to connect these dots for you but I need to complete the job.

    There are only two ways to reconcile these irreconcilable views. There is little or no middle ground.

    1. Tepco’s data is right and Gundersen’s thesis is wrong. He is seeing a Bigfoot in his blurry images. And remember, he has supplied no other data to back up his claim. He can’t because he is implicitly relying on….

    2. A grand conspiracy between Tepco, the Japanese Gov’t and at a minimum the US Gov’t to hide the data. Tepco says the temp is 86F. Gundersen claims it is thousands of degrees.

    Let’s explore what it would take to pull off this conspiracy, which is the only way that Gundersen can be correct.

    Tepco’s report says the temps in SFP 3 and 4 were recorded via thermography. That means the installed temp gauges are broken and they are relying on IR imaging, presumably via aircraft overflying the reactors.

    IR is very, very sensitive. There is a huge difference in IR between 86F (tepid bath water) and thousands of degrees (near or literally red hot levels). The pool is fully exposed courtesy of the missing roof. Measuring that pool temperature is not rocket science. A lot of amateur photographers could do a crude job of it with readily available modified digital cameras and IR filters. The gov’t has much better gear.

    The numbers might be off by 10-20F at the low end of 86F but not much more than that. In other words, this is not a matter of bad readings or mis-calibrated gear. It takes a conspiracy of at least the 3 parties to make Gundersen’s claims work.

    Conspiracy theories are popular among anti-nuclear advocates because they are required when the official facts don’t support their case. But if you are going to engage in a conspiratorial cover-up you need to have a lot of confidence you can pull it off because if you get caught with your shorts down your head will roll. Especially when it’s an egregious cover-up. And in this case we are not talking about hiding some inconvenient numbers. We are talking about materially misrepresenting those pool temperatures, which are trivial measurements if you have a helicopter and a calibrated IR camera.

    And who knows who else is measuring those pools with IR? There are probably a half dozen countries with spy satellites doing those measurements. It’s all out in the open. So you need a world-wide conspiracy and not everyone with those satellites are our friends.

    Do you really think they could get away with that? Some day all the facts will come out- the good, bad and the ugly.

    Further, if Tepco et al is really engaged in a massive cover-up of SFP4 why did they publicize, in great detail, tens of thousands of gallons of water at 1000mSv and the fact that that water is rapidly draining into the ocean? That is arguably a greater problem at this point.

    Personally I don’t believe there is any significant cover-up or hiding of material data. Mainly because so much ugly data has been released. And also because the entire world’s attention is on this event. Even the Soviets were fairly forthcoming with Chernobyl once they got caught by the Swedes and the situation was obvious to the world. You can’t hide radiation readings. Geiger counters are cheap and plentiful. Tepco is financially trashed. The motivations of the executives at this point are more along the lines of staying out of jail. They have enough on their plate without having to deal with some massive (and eventually exposed) cover-up with the world’s eyes on them. This is not a Hollywood movie.

    So, bRIVERb, please don’t quibble over numbers or steam or what you think you see in that video. If you want to argue Gundersen’s thesis you have to explain the temperature data and you have to justify your belief in a world-wide conspiracy.


  139. It does make sense that the video of Unit #4 is old and that the situation is now better with all of the water pumped in. Thank you. Anyhow, the steam did visibly move horizontal from below the level of the tops of the fuel rack. I know this is not a good source, but that video that was posted to ustream, by a Japanese journalist, is said to have been filmed on March 24th.
    I suppose the only way to know when it was filmed for sure would be to ask the journalist who recorded it and whether or not it was from Japanese TV.

    The JAIF began charting the stored spent fuel assemblies as ‘Possibly damaged’ -Severe(Need immediate action) on March 23rd.
    2011-03-23 Status of nuclear power plants in Fukushima as of 16:00 March 23
    [deleted unsupported hearsay/ conspiracy theories]

    As I have mentioned, I live here. I joined this blog to learn from you all. Naturally I am concerned with any possibilities that could go for the worse. The actions of Tepco have not been reassuring.

    The cesium 137 is terribly worrisome for the future of our surroundings, land & sea. All business is effected as well as the culture.
    “cesium-137 was 1.3 million times the amount allowable.”
    “it will probably concentrate in the upper food chain.
    Yamamoto said such radioactive materials are likely to be detected in fish and other marine products in Japan and other nations in the short and long run, posing a serious threat to the seafood industry in other nations as well.
    “All of Japan’s sea products will probably be labeled unsafe and other nations will blame Japan if radiation is detected in their marine products,” Yamamoto said.”


  140. that’s pretty funny. not sure what was even deleted.
    MODERATORIf you are not sure what was deleted then you didn’t put much thought into it as required by the citation rule. It was just a one line phrase and a link. Not good enough. Read the Citation rule below before commenting again:
    BARRY BROOK The commenting rules are not meant to be confusing, they’re meant to be logical. This is not a forum for cut-and-pasting slabs of text, with no other comment other than a link. Tell people why you think they should be interesting in reading this, and what it means for this discussion. Otherwise, you’re not thinking and not contributing. Simple as that.
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  141. Wasn’t so sure where to put this, but this looks like the most suitable place:

    “How dangerous is radiation, anyway? Do we overreact to reactors?

    To tackle that question, we turned to two different guests. One is one of the world’s foremost experts on radiation exposure and its health consequences; the other is a journalist who’s done a new book about why we often misperceive risk, to our own detriment.”

    Interesting discussion.


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