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Big Fukushima Debate: Bureaucratic incompetence or criminal negligence

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We can discuss pro and contra indefinitely but the real process of compromising security at nuclear stations is very similar in both Chernobyl and Fukushima and not that different from the processes that led to financial crisis. Regulatory capture is one. The pressure to provide the lowest cost of energy possible is another. So some basic (and not actually very expensive things) were not implemented. Also neoliberalism induced view in the ability of private entities to deal with this situation paralyzed the government.

But right now, at the huge cost of Fukushima disaster, they will become new standards. Fukushima also signifies death to the particular type of reactors used. Much like Chernobyl was.  Several questions about competence of US and Japanese engineers were need to be raised.

GE engineers prove to be grossly incompetent (or criminally negligent) in choosing the location of backup generators and batteries:

The reactor's emergency diesel generators and DC batteries, crucial components in powering cooling systems after a power loss, were located in the basements of the reactor turbine buildings, in accordance with GE's specifications. Mid-level engineers expressed concerns that this left them vulnerable to flooding

Japanese engineers were grossly incompetent is construction of the wall protecting the station from flooding (why 10 meters not 20 ?)  and creating reserve power sources in case of natural disaster. After all it's their country.

Fukushima I was not designed for such a large tsunami,[61][62] nor had the reactors been modified when concerns were raised in Japan and by the IAEA.[63]

Fukushima II was also struck by the tsunami. However, it had incorporated design changes that improved its resistance to flooding, reducing flood damage. Generators and related electrical distribution equipment were located in the watertight reactor building, so that power from the electricity grid was being used by midnight.[64] Seawater pumps for cooling were protected from flooding, and although 3 of 4 initially failed, they were restored to operation.[65]

TEPCO leadership demonstrated gross incompetence and criminal negligence:

15:46 (approximate): A 14-metre (46 ft) tsunami, unleashed by the earthquake, overtops the seawall designed to protect the plant from a tsunami of 5.7 metres (19 ft), inundating the Fukushima facility and disabling the backup diesel generators – all but one of which were housed underground – and washing away their fuel tanks.[10] With the loss of all electrical power supply, the low-pressure core spray, the residual heat removal and low-pressure coolant injection system main pumps, and the automatic depressurization systems all failed (most of the emergency core cooling system).

Only the steam-powered pump systems (isolation condenser in reactor 1, high-pressure coolant injection and reactor core isolation cooling system in reactors 2 and 3) remained available. A subsequent investigation by NHK would later reveal that the isolation condenser units had not been tested or operated in over 40 years.[11] Later, as the temperature rose, a system started that used steam-powered pumps[not in citation given] and battery-powered valves.[12][13]

The first and the most important was questions: if supply of electricity to the reactors for cooling of  core was so important why no additional generators were installed in safe places nearby.  Why all reserve generators were on site in the zone susceptible to flooding ? Why not to have some natural gas powered small station nearby for the emergency need.  Or a ship with a powerful electrical generator

The largest wave in the tsunami arrived 50 minutes after the initial earthquake. The 13 meter tall wave overwhelmed the plant's seawall, which was 10 m high.[6] The moment of impact was recorded by a camera.[11] Water quickly flooded the low-lying rooms in which the emergency generators were housed.[12] The flooded diesel generators failed soon afterwards, resulting in a loss of power to the critical coolant water pumps. These pumps must continuously circulate coolant water through a Generation II reactor for several days to keep the fuel rods from melting, as the fuel rods continued to generate decay heat after the SCRAM event.

The fuel rods will become hot enough to melt during the fuel decay time period if an adequate heat sink is not available. After the secondary emergency pumps (run by back-up electrical batteries) ran out, one day after the tsunami, 12 March,[13] the water pumps stopped and the reactors began to overheat. The insufficient cooling eventually led to meltdowns in reactors 1, 2, and 3, where the fuel rods melted through the bottoms of their Reactor Pressure Vessels.

... ... ....

Backup generators

Two emergency diesel generators were available for each of units 1–5 and three for unit 6.[58]

In the late 1990s, three additional backup generators for Units 2 and 4 were placed in new buildings located higher on the hillside, to comply with new regulatory requirements. All six units were given access to these generators, but the switching stations that sent power from these backup generators to the reactors' cooling systems for Units 1 through 5 were still in the poorly protected turbine buildings. All three of the generators added in the late 1990s were operational after the tsunami. If the switching stations had been moved to inside the reactor buildings or to other flood-proof locations, power would have been provided by these generators to the reactors' cooling systems.[59]

The reactor's emergency diesel generators and DC batteries, crucial components in powering cooling systems after a power loss, were located in the basements of the reactor turbine buildings, in accordance with GE's specifications. Mid-level engineers expressed concerns that this left them vulnerable to flooding.[60]

Fukushima I was not designed for such a large tsunami,[61][62] nor had the reactors been modified when concerns were raised in Japan and by the IAEA.[63]

Fukushima II was also struck by the tsunami. However, it had incorporated design changes that improved its resistance to flooding, reducing flood damage. Generators and related electrical distribution equipment were located in the watertight reactor building, so that power from the electricity grid was being used by midnight.[64] Seawater pumps for cooling were protected from flooding, and although 3 of 4 initially failed, they were restored to operation.[65]


So each catastrophe is huge learning experience and at the same time huge testing site for testing containment methods that no modeling can provide.

I was surprised that Japan government proved to be so unprepared (no role for military, no emergency status for affected area, no robots, no ready machinery to deal with cooling problem, no mobilization of university robotic resources, no boric acid on the ground, etc).

There are also question about inept reaction of Japanese government. The government failed to nationalize TEPCO and bring the army in. That's not mistakes, that's blunders. For example modern tanks can operate in areas with very high radioactivity and have adequate life support systems. A tank with the manipulator instead of gun can be a great asset in such circumstances that might help to revive the generators. 

Criminal Negligence

Typical neglect to critical issues (aka criminal negligence) was demonstrated in full glory by TEPCO leadership:

1991: Back-up generator of reactor 1 flooded

On 30 October 1991, one of two backup generators of Reactor 1 failed, after flooding in the reactor's basement. Seawater used for cooling leaked into the turbine building from a corroded pipe at 20 cubic meters per hour, as reported by former employees in December 2011. An engineer was quoted as saying that he informed his superiors and of the possibility that a tsunami could damage the generators. TEPCO installed doors to prevent water from leaking into the generator rooms.

The Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission commented that it would revise its safety guidelines and would require the installation of additional power sources. On 29 December 2011, TEPCO admitted all these facts: its report mentioned that the room was flooded through a door and some holes for cables, but the power supply was not cut off by the flooding, and the reactor was stopped for one day. One of the two power sources was completely submerged, but its drive mechanism had remained unaffected.[71]

2008: Tsunami study ignored

In 2007, TEPCO set up a department to supervise its nuclear facilities. Until June 2011 its chairman was Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima Daiichi chief. A 2008 in-house study identified an immediate need to better protect the facility from flooding by seawater. This study mentioned the possibility of tsunami-waves up to 10.2 metres (33 ft). Headquarters officials insisted that such a risk was unrealistic and did not take the prediction seriously.[72][verification needed]

A Mr. Okamura of the Active Fault and Earthquake Research Center urged TEPCO and NISA to review their assumption of possible tsunami heights based on a tenth century earthquake, but it was not seriously considered at that time.[73] The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned of a risk of losing emergency power in 1991 (NUREG-1150) and NISA referred to the report in 2004. No action to mitigate the risk was taken.[74]

And why this all happened ?

TEPCO admits for the first time that it had failed to take stronger measures to prevent disasters for fear of inviting lawsuits or protests against its nuclear plants.[284][285] TEPCO's internal reform task force, led by company President Naomi Hirose, said in a report TEPCO had feared efforts to better protect nuclear facilities from severe accidents such as tsunamis would trigger anti-nuclear sentiment, interfere with operations or increase litigation risks. TEPCO could have mitigated the impact of the accident if it had diversified power and cooling systems by paying closer attention to international standards and recommendations, the report said. TEPCO also should have trained employees with practical crisis management skills rather than conduct obligatory drills as a formality, it said.[286] In the internal report TEPCO said that before the accident it had been afraid to consider the risk of such a large tsunami as the one in March 2011 which hit Fukushima, fearing admissions of risk could result in public pressure to shut plants down. "There were concerns that if new countermeasures against severe accidents were installed, concern would spread in host communities that the current plants had safety problems," the report said.[284]

TEPCO said in the report that "severe accident measures" were taken in 2002, which included "containment venting and power supply cross-ties between units," but additional measures were never put in place.[287] TEPCO added that taking such measures could also add to "public anxiety and add momentum to anti-nuclear movements."[287]


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[Dec 25, 2019] Japan Proposes Dumping Radioactive Waste Into Pacific As Storage Space Dwindles

Dec 25, 2019 |

Japan Proposes Dumping Radioactive Waste Into Pacific As Storage Space Dwindles by Tyler Durden Tue, 12/24/2019 - 23:30 0 SHARES

As the decade comes to an end, the future of nuclear power in the west remains in doubt. Almost nine years ago, a powerful underwater earthquake triggered a 15-meter tsunami that disabled the power supply and cooling at three of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The accident caused the nuclear cores of all three damaged reactors to melt down, prompting the government to issue evacuation orders for all people living within a 30 kilometer radius of the damaged reactors, a group that included roughly 100,000 people.

And the evacuation zone:

Now, the Epoch Times reports that Japan's Economy and Industry Ministry has proposed that TEPCO gradually release, or allow to evaporate, massive amounts of treated but still radioactive water being stored at the power plant. TEPCO, or the Tokyo Electric Power Co, is the owner of the Fukushima plant, and is also responsible for leading the clean-up of the damaged reactors.

But as regulators have stepped in to try and guide TEPCO as it struggles to dispose of all the contaminated water, one ministry has offered a proposal that is almost guaranteed to anger the fishermen who have resisted all of TEPCO's other plans for dumping the contaminated water.

In its Dec. 23 proposal, the ministry suggested a "controlled release" of the contaminated water into the Pacific. Offering another option, the ministry also suggested allowing the water to evaporate, or a combination of the two methods.

The government is stepping up the pressure on TEPCO to do something as Fukushima's 'radioactive water crisis' worsens. The problem is that TEPCO is running out of room to store the contaminated water.

But the ministry insisted that the controlled release of the contaminated water into the sea would be the best option because it would "stably dilute and disperse" the water from the plant, while also allowing the government and TEPCO to more easily monitor the operation.

And as we have reported , the Japanese fishing industry isn't the only party that objects to the government's plan. South Korea has also complained to the IAEA about TEPCO's plans to dump the radioactive water.

The project is expected to take years to fully dispose of the water.

Still, the fishermen are bound to be skeptical because of one radioactive element that TEPCO has been unable to remove from the contaminated water: It's called tritium.

Fukushima fishermen and the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations have strongly opposed past suggestions by government officials that the water be released to the sea, warning of an "immeasurable impact on the future of the Japanese fishing industry," with local fishermen still unable to resume full operations after the nuclear plant accident.

The water has been treated, and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., states that all 62 radioactive elements it contains can be removed to levels not harmful to humans except for tritium. There is no established method to fully separate tritium from water, but scientists say it isn't a problem in small amounts . Most of the water stored at the plant still contains other radioactive elements including cancer-causing cesium and strontium and needs further treatment.

Tritium is routinely found in nuclear explosions and other nuclear accidents, including the meltdown at Three-Mile Island back in 1979. But experts at the IAEA recommend that the controlled release of the tritium-laced water at Fukushima into the sea is probably the best option for handling the situation - even if the Japanese decide to wait until after the Summer Olympics in 2022.

The ministry noted that tritium has been routinely released from nuclear plants around the world, including Fukushima before the accident. Evaporation has been a tested and proven method following the 1979 core meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States, where it took two years to get rid of 8,700 tons of tritium-contaminated water.

TEPCO says it is currently storing more than 1 million tons of radioactive water and only has space to hold up to 1.37 million tons, or until the summer of 2022, raising speculation that the water may be released after next summer's Tokyo Olympics. TEPCO and experts say the tanks get in the way of ongoing decommissioning work and that space needs to be freed up to store removed debris and other radioactive materials. The tanks also could spill in a major earthquake, tsunami, or flood.

Experts, including those at the International Atomic Energy Agency who have inspected the Fukushima plant, have repeatedly supported the controlled release of the water into the sea as the only realistic option.

On Dec. 22, some experts on the panel called for more attention to be given to the impact on the local community, which already has seen its image harmed by accidental leaks and the potential release of water.

"A release to the sea is technologically a realistic option, but its social impact would be huge," said Naoya Sekiya, a University of Tokyo sociologist and an expert on disasters and social impact.

Other possible strategies for disposing of the contaminated water have included injecting the water deep into the Earth's crust. Another strategy, which called for storing the nuclear waste in large industrial tanks outside the plant, was ruled out because of fears that leaks in the tanks could contaminate some of Japan's most important fishing waters.

[Mar 18, 2018] 7 Years on, Sailors Exposed to Fukushima Radiation Seek Their Day in Court by Gregg Levine

Special investigation: US military personnel are sick and dying, and want the nuclear plant's designers and owners to take responsibility .

...There are currently 99 operating civilian nuclear reactors in the United States, and 22 of those are General Electric Mark 1 boiling-water reactors--the make and model identical to the three that melted down and exploded at Fukushima Daiichi. Based on a 1955 design, all but four of the US reactors have now been online for more than 40 years.

All of them have the same too-small primary containment vessel, the same questionable alloys, the same bolted-on lid, the same safety systems, and ( with one exception ) the same vent "upgrade" that failed to prevent the tragic failures at the Japanese nuclear plant.

Large US cities, such as Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, are all closer to BWRs than Tokyo is to Fukushima Daiichi.

[Dec 26, 2016] Radiation From Fukushima Disaster Reaches Oregon Coast

Dec 26, 2016 |
( 139 Posted by BeauHD on Friday December 09, 2016 @09:45PM from the hazmat-suit dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from New York Post: Radiation from Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has apparently traveled across the Pacific . Researchers reported that radioactive matter -- in the form of an isotope known as cesium-134 -- was collected in seawater samples from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon. The levels were extremely low , however, and don't pose a threat to humans or the environment. In 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a wave of tsunamis that caused colossal damage to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The disaster released several radioactive isotopes -- including the dangerous fission products of cesium-137 and iodine-131 -- that contaminated the air and water. The ocean was later contaminated by the radiation. But cesium-134 is the fingerprint of Fukushima due to its short half-life of two years, meaning the level is cut in half every two years. Cesium-137 has a 30-year half-life. Particles from Chernobyl, nuclear weapons tests, and discharge from other nuclear power plants are still detectable -- in small, harmless amounts. While this is the first time cesium-134 has been detected on US shores, Higley said "really tiny quantities" have previously been found in albacore tuna. The Oregon samples were collected by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in January and February. Each sample measured 0.3 becquerels, a unit of radioactivity, per cubic meter of cesium-134 -- significantly lower than the 50 million becquerels per cubic meter measured in Japan after the disaster.

[Dec 26, 2016] Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion

Dec 26, 2016 |
( 302 Posted by BeauHD on Monday November 28, 2016 @09:05PM from the unintended-consequences dept. An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japan's government estimates the cost of cleaning up radioactive contamination and compensating victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has more than doubled , reports say. The latest estimate from the trade ministry put the expected cost at some 20 trillion yen ($180 billion). The original estimate was for $50 billion, which was increased to $100 billion three years later. The majority of the money will go towards compensation, with decontamination taking the next biggest slice. Storing the contaminated soil and decommissioning are the two next greatest costs. The compensation pot has been increased by about 50% and decontamination estimates have been almost doubled. The BBC's Japan correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says it is still unclear who is going to pay for the clean up. Japan's government has long promised that Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the plant, will eventually pay the money back. But on Monday it admitted that electricity consumers would be forced to pay a portion of the clean up costs through higher electricity bills. Critics say this is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of a private electricity utility.

[Mar 05, 2016] Fukushima Tokyo was on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, admits former prime minister

The 9.0 magnitude quake, the largest ever recorded in Japan, triggered a gigantic tsunami which broke through the plant's flood defences, cutting off power to its control room and the coolant systems of its nuclear reactors.

Deprived of cooling, radioactive fuel, in three of the plant's six reactors melted down. Explosive hydrogen gas built up, blowing holes in the reactor containment building and allowing radioactivity to escape.

"When we got the report that power had been cut and the coolant had stopped working, that sent a shiver down my spine," Mr Kan said. "From March 11, when the incident happened, until the 15th, the effects [of radioactive contamination] were expanding geographically.

"From the 16th to the 20th we were able to halt the spread of radiation but the margin left for us was paper-thin. If the [fuel rods] had burnt through [in] all six reactors, that would definitely have affected Tokyo.

"From a very early stage I had a very high concern for Tokyo. I was forming ideas for a Tokyo evacuation plan in my head. In the 1923 earthquake the government ordered martial law – I did think of the possibility of having to set up such emergency law if it really came down to it.

"We were only able to avert a 250-kilometre (160-mile) evacuation zone [around the plant] by a wafer-thin margin, thanks to the efforts of people who risked their lives. Next time, we might not be so lucky."

Dramatic CCTV footage from the plant, released in 2012, showed a skeleton staff – the so-called "Fukushima 50" - struggling to read emergency manuals by torchlight and battling with contradictory, confusing instructions from their superiors at Tepco. At one stage, an appeal went out for workers to bring batteries from their cars so they could be hooked up to provide power for the crippled cooling systems.

Total disaster was averted when seawater was pumped into the reactors, but the plant manager, Masao Yoshida, later said he considered committing hara-kiri, ritual suicide, in despair at the situation.

Mr Kan said he had to retreat to an inner room after the atmosphere in the government's crisis management centre became "very noisy".

He said: "There was so little precise information coming in. It was very difficult to make clear judgments. I don't consider myself a nuclear expert, but I did study physics at university.

"I knew that even based on what little we were hearing, there was a real possibility this could be bigger than Chernobyl. That was a terrible disaster, but there was only one reactor there. There were six here."

Although the Fukushima disaster caused no immediate deaths from radiation, it did force the evacuation of almost 400,000 people, most of whom have still been unable to return to their homes. Hundreds of thousands more fled in panic and much of Fukushima province ceased functioning.

An area within 20km (12.5 miles) of the plant remains an exclusion zone, with no-one allowed to live there. Some studies have identified a higher incidence of child cancer in the wider region.

Mr Kan said that the nuclear accident is "still going on" today. He said: "In reactors 2 and 3, the radioactive fuel rods are still there and small amounts of [radioactive] water are leaking out of the reactor every day, despite what Tepco says."

He said the experience had turned him from a supporter of nuclear power into a convinced opponent. "I have changed my views 180 degrees. You have to look at the balance between the risks and the benefits," he said. "One reactor meltdown could destroy the whole plant and, however unlikely, that is too great a risk."

Mr Kan lost the prime ministership later in 2011 amid strong criticism of his handling of the crisis. A parliamentary investigation accused him of distracting emergency workers by making a personal visit to the plant, withholding information, and misunderstanding a request by Tepco to pull out some staff as a demand to withdraw them all.

However, another independent inquiry said his action in ordering the "Fukushima 50" to stay at their posts was vital. "I went to the Tepco offices and demanded they not evacuate. To this day I am criticised for that, but I believed then and I still believe now that I did the right thing and that that was a decisive moment in the crisis," he told The Telegraph.

He admitted "regret" at his decision not to publish results from a computer system called Speedi, System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, which accurately forecast the spread of radioactivity around the plant and could have saved thousands of local residents from exposure.

"As a result, some areas were exposed to high levels of radiation," he said.

He criticised his successor as prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for restarting some of the country's nuclear power stations, all of which were shut down after the crisis, saying that Japan had "not learned the lessons enough" and was "closing its eyes" to the risk of a second disaster. He has joined protest demonstrations against the plant reopenings.

"There is a clear conflict between government policy and the wishes of the public," he said. "Additional protective measures against tsunamis have been taken, such as raising the protective walls, but I don't think they go far enough. We shouldn't be building nuclear power plants in areas where there is a population to be affected. After the tsunami, Japan went without nuclear power for years, so it can be done."

The former leader said that "a lot of the accident was caused before March 11" by the complacency and misjudgment of Tepco, a verdict echoed by the official inquiry, which dubbed the nuclear accident a "man-made disaster".

The criminal investigation which led to last week's charges against Mr Katsumata and two other Tepco managers found that they had known since June 2009 that the plant was vulnerable to a tsunami but had "failed to take pre-emptive measures [despite] knowing the risk".

Mr Kan expressed satisfaction at the charges brought last week against a senior Tepco manager and said he would testify against Mr Katsumata if asked.

[Mar 05, 2016] Former-PM Admits Future Existence Of Japan Was At Stake As Mutations Appear In Fukushima Forest

Zero Hedge
Tyler Durden on 03/05/2016 19:50 -0500

"The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake," admits Japan's prime minister at the time of the 2011 quake and tsunami, revealing that the country came within a "paper-thin margin" of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people. Naoto Kan expressed satisfaction at the three TEPCO executives facing charges over negligence, but this shocking admission comes as AFP reports, conservation group Greenpeace warned that "signs of mutations in trees and DNA-damaged worms beginning to appear," while "vast stocks of radiation" mean that forests cannot be decontaminated.

In an interview with The Telegraph to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, Naoto Kan described the panic and disarray at the highest levels of the Japanese government as it fought to control multiple meltdowns at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

He said he considered evacuating the capital, Tokyo, along with all other areas within 160 miles of the plant, and declaring martial law. "The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake," he said. "Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war."

Mr Kan admitted he was frightened and said he got "no clear information" out of Tepco, the plant's operator. He was "very shocked" by the performance of Nobuaki Terasaka, his own government's key nuclear safety adviser. "We questioned him and he was unable to give clear responses," he said.

"We asked him – do you know anything about nuclear issues? And he said no, I majored in economics."

"When we got the report that power had been cut and the coolant had stopped working, that sent a shiver down my spine," Mr Kan said. "From March 11, when the incident happened, until the 15th, the effects [of radioactive contamination] were expanding geographically.

"From the 16th to the 20th we were able to halt the spread of radiation but the margin left for us was paper-thin. If the [fuel rods] had burnt through [in] all six reactors, that would definitely have affected Tokyo.

"From a very early stage I had a very high concern for Tokyo. I was forming ideas for a Tokyo evacuation plan in my head. In the 1923 earthquake the government ordered martial law – I did think of the possibility of having to set up such emergency law if it really came down to it.

"We were only able to avert a 250-kilometre (160-mile) evacuation zone [around the plant] by a wafer-thin margin, thanks to the efforts of people who risked their lives."

Mr Kan said he had to retreat to an inner room after the atmosphere in the government's crisis management centre became "very noisy".

He said: "There was so little precise information coming in. It was very difficult to make clear judgments. I don't consider myself a nuclear expert, but I did study physics at university.

"I knew that even based on what little we were hearing, there was a real possibility this could be bigger than Chernobyl. That was a terrible disaster, but there was only one reactor there. There were six here."

All of these admissions of the monstrous reality are hitting just as onservation group Greenpeace warned on Friday that the environmental impact of the Fukushima nuclear crisis five years ago on nearby forests is just beginning to be seen and will remain a source of contamination for years to come.

As the fifth anniversary of the disaster approaches, Greenpeace said signs of mutations in trees and DNA-damaged worms were beginning to appear, while "vast stocks of radiation" mean that forests cannot be decontaminated. As AFP reports,

In a report, Greenpeace cited "apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees... inheritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations" as well as "DNA-damaged worms in highly contaminated areas", it said.

The report came as the government intends to lift many evacuation orders in villages around the Fukushima plant by March 2017, if its massive decontamination effort progresses as it hopes.

For now, only residential areas are being cleaned in the short-term, and the worst-hit parts of the countryside are being omitted, a recommendation made by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Finally, we leave it to Kan to conclude:

"Next time, we might not be so lucky."


This is an absolute catastrophe, unbelievable how well this has been covered up by the MSM


We almost blew it, but everything's under control now.

Jim in MN

Japanese society depends on a small number of arable and buildable plains. Fukushima could (will???) have cost them two--one, the Sendai Plain (in the northeast where the disaster occurred) that provides nearly a fifth of their food, and the big one, the Kanto Plain, occupied by the Tokyo conurbation. In addition, Japan would essentially be severed into two, with the north-south highway running through Fukushima City.

Their whole way of life and continued existence as a world power would be highly questionable.


Fukushima is far from over. The Times of London reported that Fukushima will not be fixed for the next 200 years

The Times of London, Mar. 27, 2015 Japan faces 200-year wait for Fukushima clean-up - The chief of the Fukushima nuclear power station has admitted that the technology needed to decommission three melted-down reactors does not exist, and he has no idea how it will be developed

Japan Faces 200-Year Wait for Fukushima Clean-Up - Technology to Decommission Melted-Down Reactors Does Not Exist

Lack of Data Heightens Japan's Nuclear Crisis

The paucity of data and the conflicting estimates of what the available information really means have prompted a series of confusing analyses and a rift between officials in Japan and those overseas - and even between one member of Congress and the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The commission speculated this week that the nuclear fuel in the core of one of the stricken reactors had probably leaked from its thick steel pressure vessel, its most important protective barrier. If that proved to be accurate, it would raise the prospect of continuing fuel leaks and high levels of radioactive releases that would vastly complicate containment and the cleanup.

But Japanese officials said there was no evidence of a compromised pressure vessel, and they wondered why they were reading about it in the newspapers.

"If they have a concern, they should inform us," said Kentaro Morita of Japan's nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, after its American counterpart sounded the alarm over a possible nuclear fuel leak at the plant's Reactor No. 2, clearly contradicting Japanese accounts. "They didn't say such concerns to us directly," Mr. Morita said.

A senior Foreign Ministry official, meanwhile, accused the foreign media of exaggerating the threat posed by the power plant and the radiation spreading from it. Radiation fears are hurting sales of Japanese products abroad.

... ... ...

An assessment in late March by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that hydrogen explosions at the plant might have blown particles of nuclear fuel from the reactors' spent-fuel pools up to a mile away. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, says that while the pools remain exposed at the most-damaged reactors, the fuel remains safely inside.

American officials are also concerned that mounting stresses on the reactors' containment structures as they fill up with radioactive water used in emergency cooling make them vulnerable to rupture in an aftershock from the March 11 earthquake. Japanese officials have played down that concern, and on Friday they said a sizable aftershock that struck overnight had caused no further damage at the plant.

The rift also highlights the difficulty of a debate in which both sides are forced to extrapolate possible situations with little access to crucial readings from inside the reactors.

Much of the automated measurement equipment in the reactors has been damaged, either by explosions in the early days of the crisis or by intense radiation since then. Damage to the reactors, as well as high radiation, has prevented technicians from making detailed assessments.

The Pentagon has provided airborne surveillance drones that can help monitor ground-level radiation at the plant. It is possible that American officials are basing their analysis on data they have collected independently, though Obama administration officials say they have shared their information with the Japanese.

... ... ...

The Americans also appear to rely more heavily on complex computer programs like Melcor that use available data to extrapolate conditions in reactors after accidents. But the regulatory commission appears to have partly relied on data provided by Tokyo Electric, something that engineers skeptical of the power company say compromises the validity of the findings.

"When the input numbers are no good, the output numbers are no good," said Satoshi Sato, a former engineer at General Electric, which designed the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. He argues that the conditions in the reactors are probably worse than the Japanese have reported.

The Japanese also seem to prefer presenting raw data without explaining what they think it means, said Takashi Inoue, a professor of public relations at Waseda University. Every day, Tokyo Electric, the nuclear agency, the chief cabinet secretary and others hold news conferences at which they present a blizzard of facts and numbers but rarely make broader declarations about the conditions at Fukushima Daiichi.

Industry experts are split.

Yoichi Kikuchi, a Japanese nuclear engineer who helped design the containment vessel at one of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, agreed with the Americans that a fuel leak was possible. He said that the pressure vessel at Reactor No. 2 was especially vulnerable because of openings at the bottom where control rods are inserted. If the fuel were melting, the metal welding around those openings would easily give way, allowing the fuel to travel into the drywell, he said. The fuel could then react with the water in the suppression chamber, setting off a vapor explosion and a huge release of radiation into the air, he said.

Shuichi Iwata, a nuclear fuel expert at Tokyo University, said that he thought a leak of fuel was probably occurring, but that the consequences might not be great. "The worst case is not happening, I think," he said.

But Toshihiro Yamamoto, an associate professor in nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said the nuclear agency's explanation was more likely. He said that it was water, not fuel, escaping from the same openings, or perhaps from a damaged circulation pump higher in the vessel.

Masashi Goto, a former Toshiba nuclear power plant designer, said that Japanese officials appeared to have decided that they gained nothing but panic from predicting outcomes. "They will never speak about the worst-case scenario," he said. "They will never predict."

[Mar 02, 2016] But, nuclear power is a solid power generator, and will take over if fossil fuels start to wane.

canabuck , 12/22/2014 at 7:38 pm

re: Measuring de-growth in the world.
During the 1997 "asian flu" economic crisis, it was said that 2/3rds of the world's economies were in recession at the same time. I wonder what the number is now.
Greece is a good example of what can happen to a society after 6 years of recession.
As "peak oil" takes a hold, one can imagine that a large number of countries will slip into recession.
But, nuclear power is a solid power generator, and will take over if fossil fuels start to wane.
oldfarmermac , 12/23/2014 at 10:12 am
I for one expect nuclear power- the usual fission power kind- to make a huge comeback as various countries discover that fixed payments on a few nukes are more easily managed than importing coal and natural gas at unpredictable prices that are eventually going thru the roof – not to mention the possibility that politics or outright war can result in nothing available to import at any price at all for extended periods of time.

There is enough uranium to run a long time and enough spent fuel that can if necessary be fed thru to extend the supply. If breeders prove to be feasible with more research and development the world is home free on electricity except for two awesomely tough nuts- weapons and long term pollution.

I believe it is possible to extract uranium at sea water at a cost that is acceptable to use it as nuclear fuel given that so little provides so much energy.

Rita , 12/23/2014 at 12:08 pm
There is a german NGO, Energy Watch I think, which says peak uranium will come within 2020.
canabuck , 12/24/2014 at 1:41 am
re: U in seawater.
Right you are. The cost would only be about twice the current price, and add 5% to the cost of electricity.

[Apr 10, 2011] Joseph Stiglitz Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Economist's View

Jason Dick :

Interesting stuff. However, the point on nuclear power was annoying and misleading. While the disaster in the Fukushima plant is pretty nasty, it is exceedingly likely that this will prove to be very small compared to the overall disaster of the earthquake and tsunami.

It is also worth mentioning that the real reason to go nuclear is most definitely not the economics of it, but instead the fact that in most of the world, nuclear is the only alternative to coal, and coal is much much worse in terms of safety, pollution, and its affect on the climate.


{It is also worth mentioning that the real reason to go nuclear is most definitely not the economics of it}

But that is just the point - for as long as there is no Carbon Tax to compensate for the consequences of using such fuels, then, yes, Nuclear Energy seems comparatively uneconomic.

France chose nuclear over petroleum back in the early 1970s. The cost of nuclear has been paid many times over if one counts the cost of energy that would otherwise have been generated by either oil- or gas-fired plants.

NB: There are self-contained nuclear plants (that generate energy without replacing the radioactive elements) that produce electricity efficiently cost-wise for their life-span of 25/30 years, after which they are decommissioned.


The problem with nuclear is it is only superior as long as everything works as intended, which requires operating parameters to stay in a pretty tight region. Once you have an accident or more serious slipup in protocol, the consequences are severe. With fossil and other technologies the damage is released more incrementally if you will. With Chernobyl and Fukushima, the surrounding regions will be poisoned and radiated for generations to come.



{and what bothers me increasingly is the smug assertion that the only choice is between coal and nuclear and that nuclear is safer and greener than coal.}

"Safer" depends upon how one defines it. If one counts the myriad illnesses due to CO2 and other emissions ... how much does the health-cure cost?

As regards comparative costs, there are three kinds. The cost breakdown is:
* Cost of construction (elevated vis-a-vis oil- or gas-powered plants
* Cost of operation not including fuels (advantage nuclear)
* Cost of fuels (advantage nuclear, even including disposal over a 30-year life-cycle.

What is truly exaggerated is the option of renewable energy to displace the heavy-hefting necessary for the energy needs of large population centers.

However, for suburban and rural housing, then solar, aero-thermal and geo-thermal heating (and air-conditioning) are viable alternatives to electricity from carbon-fuel fired plants.

That I do know, since I have installed geo-thermal heating four years ago and it cut my electricity bill in half here in France, which hd+DeLong%27s+Semi-Daily+Journal%29">

March 13, 2011

Fukushima Meltdown

Josef Oehmen: *

"Why I am not worried about Japan's nuclear reactors...."


-- Brad DeLong

[The nuclear folks response to the calamity at Fukushima has been dismissive to resentful of criticism from the beginning, rather than carefully trying to explain just what could be understood to be happening and the possible severity. The critics were obviously right to worry from the beginning, but are being repeatedly mocked. I suggest the mockery will not be effective and suspicion of nuclear power generation in wealthier countries will be far more widespread from here and rightfully so.]

Mark A. Sadowski
I agree. I've not been opposed to nuclear power hitherto but the smug condecension displayed to those of us who have been sceptical of the official (government and corporate) reports concerning the Fukushima nuclear crisis have been completely uncalled for. Personally, it only stiffens my spine.


The dismissive condescension bothers me too. Regardless of ones position on the merits of nuclear, it is absolutely clear that nuclear reactors are extremely dangerous animals and anyone that pretends otherwise is either ignorant or attempting to deceive.

Reality Bites:

Come on Anne, let's get real. Look at all the nuclear plants in operation today, look at the accidents--what--two since Three Mile Island in the 1970's? Japan and Chernobyl. And how much energy has been produced every day, every month, every year, out of the thousands and thousands of plants out there? Give me a break.

You have no other solutions, yet you complain, which is pretty typical of the left, but it's getting to be annoying, especially with the energy and budget crisis we are in. No solar will not work, there isn't any solar power at night when we all turn on our lights. There is no perfect solution, only the best, which is nuclear if you are for green, and gas if you are for efficiency/cost.


"Look at all the nuclear plants in operation today, look at the accidents--what--two since Three Mile Island in the 1970's? "

This is Stiglitz's and others' point. These types of very costly events don't need to happen frequently. They only need to happen once to have a devastating impact.

The nuclear supporters point to Chernobyl and claim that in the grand scheme of things the human impact was small. What if the Chernobyl facility was located near a large metropolis directly downwind? We won't know the full human impact of Fukushima for decades.

Supporters can always claim this technology is safer, cleaner, etc. That's the theory, if everything goes according to plan, assuming no regulatory capture, freak accidents, terrorist attacks, etc. And the risks will only increase as more of these things are built, in countries the world over many of which lack the proper regulatory framework (e.g., increasingly the US.)

cm :

"look at the accidents--what--two since Three Mile Island in the 1970's? Japan and Chernobyl"

Sounds pretty NIMBY to me. Find out where your nearest nuclear facility is from which you are downwind or downstream. Your number can come up too. Then we can say "what, three, Japan, Chernobyl, and where RB used to live".


The thing with nuclear energy is that is is always 100% safe, clean, and inexpensive as long as the accidents happen somewhere else, preferrably a large number of miles away.

The situation at Fukushima power station is at least in part a story of failed backup systems. For the emergency cooling systems, there need to be electric power cycles independent of the nuclear power plant it is designed to protect. Such secondary and tertiary lines of defenses are expensive to implement an maintain, and will only ever be useful in the case of an accident. Might be tempting for station management to "optimize costs" in this area, hmm?

My guess is that if you systematically examine those backup systems across nuclear power stations in North America or other industrialized nations, you would find a large number of under dimensioned, under-performing or non-performing systems. But the industry always tells the happy line of "don't worry, it cannot possibly happen here". Because the Japanese are really stupid, right, and we aren't?

Mark A. Sadowski:

The first thought that crossed my mind on the morning following March 11 was why was it, in a country on a fault line, was it that a reactor that was built near a coast didn't have a backup power supply that was waterproof? Duh.

But after investigating the situation it occured to me this was a situation of regulatory capture. TEPCO is one third of all the electric power in Japan and provides all of the electical power in the world's largest and most productive metropolitan area. They write the regulations. (Good luck with that.)


diesel supply fuel tanks were improperly locate but battery backup power apparently
performed properly.

"Fukushima reportedly had seven days of diesel fuel, but the tanks were washed away by the tsunami; most American plants bury their tanks for safety, according to industry officials."

Reality Bites:

Duh idiot, we have to deal with reality which means that we can't deal with every unlikely event that MAY happen, otherwise you should build a bunker and never come out. A 9.0 quake? Hello? Can you come up with another quake as big in the last century? A corresponding tsunami which did the bulk of the damage? Come on, why don't you prepare for aliens with their photon blast guns, can anything protect you against an anti-matter torpedo? This is so ridiculous, let's deal with reality here. We had an once in a century or more quake at a location known for quakes and very little nuclear fallout has occurred. I'd take that because I'm dealing with reality.

Reality Bites:

You must excuse me for my anger, I'm just so tired of the ridiculousness. We cannot prepare for every aspect of nature; not tornadoes, not huge earthquakes or tsunamis. We can only deal with cost/benefit. Nuclear plants are well worth the cost because of the great benefits they give us--clean energy. Unless you can come up with better, that's what we have.

And Anne, does your church operate at night? Then it must have a lot of batteries, which need chemicals and a whole lot of other materials. Thank you for destroying the Earth.


What we spend in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in other places is drowning our own nation's economy. Nuclear power is also a drain and a liability. We do not have a creative energy policy. Currently, neighborhood renewable energy stations are being built and servicing large areas. This is the a solution. localized Green energy stations using what works in those small regions: solar, wind, geothermal, mixed with natural gas is a solution.

Dr. Stiglitz knows what he is talking about. Taxing those who have been getting rich as a result of the economic collapse. Like he says, these wealth creators have not created jobs, nor improved the economy. In spite of their wealth accumulations, they pay less tax than working people. It is all disgusting.


What we spend in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in other places is drowning our own nation's economy.

April 7, 2011

AMY GOODMAN: Joe Stiglitz...let's end on the issue of war. You wrote with Linda Bilmes the book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict. That's not talking about Afghanistan, what, $2 billion a week, the longest ongoing conflict in U.S. history. What about the cost of this?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: It's enormous. And since we wrote that book, we did-new numbers came in, and things are worse than we said. The disability rates are higher. The cost of caring for the disabled are higher. Almost one out of two people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are disabled. This is an unfunded liability of-we calculate now to be almost a trillion dollars, over $900 billion. So, one of the big ways of reducing our deficit is a-is cut back some expenditures....

[Apr 10, 2011] Nearest Nukes (Jumping on the Fear Bandwagon)

Mar 19, 2011] saltwater-may-further-damage-nuclear-reactors


Stuck on Zero

Sea water for a week or two will not be a big deal. Salt encrustations will break off and flow away. Foaming is a bigger problem but presumably they know to dump in anti-foaming agents. All the plant components are stainless steel and won't be harmed. More important is keeping the cladding from overheating thereby causing a Zircalloy fire. The plants are all toast (politically) anyway. Entombing the place is not good. Better to clean it all up like Three Mile Island. Rains will wash all the radioactive particles into the ocean.

All BWR and PWR reactors need to be deep-sixed. We have pebble bed HTGR, Thorium fueled, modular, and recirculating reactors now. No reactor should ever be built that requires active safety measures.


Saltwater at 70F is a small problem, but extremely concentrated NaCl (due to evaporation) at 300C+ is big problem. Molten (or dissociated) NaCl at 700C+ is a HUGE problem. What will that do to zircaloy cladding and steel?

Disclaimer... I'm not a chemist so I have no clue what I'm talking about. However, as soon as pumping raw seawater was mentioned, I had a bad gut feeling that forensic analysis will show this was a catastrophic decision. In TEPCO's defence, they really had no other option at the time.


The corrosive effects double for every 6C increase in temperature. Ship hulls don't float in 250C pressurized water.

[Mar 19, 2011] Lower temperatures reported at nuclear reactors › Japan Today Japan News and Discussion

This is proof of how good a technology it is - that a 40 year old plant can withstand a magnitude 9 quake and massive tsunami and still not cause an issue that has killed anyone.
Officials on Saturday reported some stability and lower-than-anticipated temperatures at crisis-hit reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as anticrisis efforts continued.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that conditions at the plant's most dangerous No. 3 reactor unit have likely become relatively stable after firefighters threw some 60 tons of water at a boiling spent fuel pool there shortly after midnight from outside the damaged building housing it.


We seem to have dodged a massive bullet here

Yup, we sure did.

so lets take heed of the warning and start shutting the nuclear power stations dow.

Nope. This is proof of how good a technology it is - that a 40 year old plant can withstand a magnitude 9 quake and massive tsunami and still not cause an issue that has killed anyone. That's a tribute to the engineers. Let's take the lessons learned from an engineering standpoint and build even more robust safety systems and containment structures. Then surely the nuclear plants will be very, very safe and reliable.

[Mar 19, 2011] Water shots effective in cooling fuel pool, but radiation level unchanged

March 17, 2011 | Japan Today

Tokyo Electric Power Co said Thursday night that high-pressure streams of water shot earlier in the evening by the Self-Defense Forces' fire trucks were effective in cooling an apparently overheating spent fuel pool as steam rose from the partially destroyed building housing it.

The five trucks shot 30 tons of water at the No. 3 reactor building of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, in an attempt to cool the pool storing spent nuclear fuel rods outside the reactor containment.

The operatiotion building rose to 4,000 microsievert per hour from 3,700 after two SDF helicopters dropped tons of water earlier in the day. The level compares to 1,000 microsievert, or 1 millisievert, to which people can be safely exposed in one year.

While authorities continued to grapple with the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, efforts to bring electricity to the plant also accelerated in a bid to restore the lost cooling functions in many of its reactors following last Friday's earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant.

''The highest priority now is to pour enough water onto the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, especially in their spent fuel pools,'' said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman of the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Two Ground Self-Defense Force choppers dropped seawater in a 7,500-liter bag four times each in the morning on the No. 3 reactor, an operation on which Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said in Tokyo, ''We decided to do this because we thought that today is the time limit.''

The 12-minute operation was followed in the evening by the shooting of high-pressure streams of water by six SDF fire trucks. A water cannon truck dispatched by the Metropolitan Police Department also began spraying water, but suspended the work later, the National Police Agency said.

Kitazawa said that he believes the water from the copters reached the reactor, but plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said that the radiation level remained unchanged at the nuclear plant afterward.

''The next important thing is to recover the electric supply, and part of the work may start in the afternoon,'' Nishiyama also said.

Electricity will likely be supplied to the plant's No. 1 and No. 2 reactors by using electric power cables outside, a move that may help recover the reactors' cooling system, he said. TEPCO also plans to install a temporary power source in an area at the plant where the radiation level is low.

Concerns are growing that the level of the water filling the spent fuel pool of the No. 4 unit is also becoming low, but TEPCO officials said that the GSDF decided to first spray water on the No. 3 unit, which has vented smoke from Wednesday. The smoke is likely to be steam coming from water boiling in the pool.

But a GSDF chopper found earlier in the day that water is left in the pond at the No. 4 unit, according Tokyo Electric.

The pools of both the No. 3 and No. 4 units are situated near the roof of the buildings housing the reactors, but are no longer covered with roofs that would reduce any possible radiation leaks since they were blown off by apparent hydrogen blasts earlier this week.

After the quake, the spent fuel pools at the power station lost their cooling function. It is also no longer possible to monitor the water level and temperature of the pools of the No. 1 to 4 units.

A rise in the water temperature, usually at 40 C, causes water to reduce and expose the spent nuclear fuel rods, which could heat up further and melt, and discharge highly intense radioactive materials in the worst case scenario, experts say.

Among the six reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the buildings housing the reactors have been destroyed by apparent hydrogen blasts at the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, and the No. 2 reactor's containment vessel suffered damage in its pressure-suppression chamber at the bottom.

Although the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors that were operating at the time of the quake halted automatically with the jolts, their cores are believed to have partially melted as they lost cooling functions after the quake.

The remaining reactors were under maintenance when the quake occurred. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that his understanding is that there would be ''some time'' until the No. 5 and No. 6 units reach a dangerous situation.

A core team of 180 emergency workers have been at the forefront of the struggle at the plant, rotating in and out of the complex to try to reduce their radiation exposure.

But experts said that anyone working close to the reactors was almost certainly being exposed to radiation levels that could, at least, give them much higher cancer risks.

"I don't know any other way to say it, but this is like suicide fighters in a war," said Keiichi Nakagawa, associate professor of the Department of Radiology at University of Tokyo Hospital.

Experts note, though, that radiation levels drop quickly with distance from the complex. While elevated radiation has been detected well outside the 30-kilometer evacuation zone, experts say those levels are not dangerous.

Nearly a week after the disaster, police said more than 452,000 people were staying in schools and other shelters, as supplies of fuel, medicine and other necessities ran short. Both victims and aid workers appealed for more help.

The threat of nuclear disaster only added to Japanese misery.

"The anxiety and anger being felt by people in Fukushima have reached a boiling point," the governor of Fukushima prefecture, Yuhei Sato, fumed in an interview with NHK. He said evacuation preparations were inadequate, saying centers lacked enough hot meals and basic necessities.

The chief of the U.N. nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, said he would go to Japan to assess what he called a "very serious" situation and urged Tokyo to provide better information to his organization.

Other countries have complained that Japan has been too slow and vague in releasing details about its rapidly evolving crisis at the complex of six reactors along Japan's northeastern coast.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano admitted Thursday there had been a delay in passing information to the United States regarding the troubled reactors.

''There was a slight delay conveying to the U.S. side the information about whether or not there is water'' in the pool holding spent fuel rods, Edano told a news conference.

[Mar 19, 2011] Is Nuclear Power Worth the Risk

March 19, 2011 | naked capitalism


Absolutely it is worth the risks. We now have the 2nd worst nuclear accident ever and once the dust settles we will be looking at consequences that are not apocalyptic. We have in the worst case few hundred rescue workers exposed to fairly large doses of radiation and some might even get radiation sickness (we will know more soon), but unless the dose is more than about 5000 mSv this is unlikely to be fatal. (In Chernobyl there were few who got this much.) At 1000mSv level they have about 5% risk of getting fatal cancer due to radiation which implies at maximum a body count of around 10 due to radiation. This is too much, but hardly the end of the world. Deepwater horizon explosion alone killed 11 and caused a massive spill of toxic subtances. Ichibara oil refinery exploded and who knows how many people died there. A dam for hydropower in Fukushima also broke, washing away 1800 homes, gas pipes fractured causing fires. etc. etc.

For the people outside the plant area the extra doses will, even in the worst case scenario, be so small that they do not cause any observable effect what so ever.
(Panic causing extra road accidents and blocking roads so that help cannot reach those who actually need it, are far more serious threats…as is replacement of nuclear with fossil fuels. Extra stress due to fear is also a health risk.)

As for renewable alternatives, please do the math. In Europe biofuels kill about 11-12 people for each TWh produced (not that there is enough living things to burn in any case). This implies hundreds of extra dead people EVERY YEAR in my small home country of Finland alone (5 million people), if one assumes the sort of forest burning promoted by our greens. For wind the death rate is about 0.15/TWh and that translates to about 50 dead people globally every year at current capacities…so about 1000 dead people during the 20 year lifetime of the turbines. Rooftop solar is more dangerous than wind.

Nuclear security must be taken seriously and obsolete reactors replaced with new ones ASAP. But now that the worst has happened, we do not have to argue about apocalypse anymore. We can see that this was not the end of the world and japanese enjoy pretty much the same life as before except for those unfortunate ones to have lost the loved ones and livelyhoods in the earthquake+tsunami.

John L:

No, we should reprocess them into fuel for more nuclear reactors. Spent fuel rods aren't devoid of nuclear fuel; if reprocessed the unused portion is a much smaller percentage of the rod's volume. The rest can be reused in another power reactor.

The Fukushima crisis shows where mistakes were made in both design and response to the crisis. Neither are unsolvable. Placing spent fuel rods on top of the reactor for convenience sake was obviously a bad design; not having backup generators and high rise, high capacity firefighting equipment stored offsite nearby was another one.

But, the design of the plant was sound, and survived this one-two punch of the earthquake and tsunami. No containment or safety system failed from either one; had backup power been restored immediately after the tsunami hit, this crisis would have been averted completely. All the reactors are stable and contained; water appears to be in the storage pools and more is being brought to them via pumping equipment.

In the other thread I was questioned as to what my sources were; some said they "contradicted everything they had read". Well, my response is stop watching Fox News and CNN, and do some of your own research. Start with these:

Mark P.:

"We can see that this was not the end of the world."

Not so fast.

It's far from clear yet that we've avoided a catastrophe. That spent fuel closely stacked in the Fukushima storage pools is many, many times more radioactive material than Chernobyl ever spewed into the atmosphere. If those rods in pool #4 overheat, it could all still go up.

This could still be a terrible catastrophe.

John L:

While the storage ponds being placed on top of the reactors in hindsight was obviously a bad idea, as was not adequately providing backup pumping and shielding for these ponds, your comment that the spent fuel is "much more radioactive than Chernobyl" is misleading.

At Chernobyl the combination of an interior core explosion, no containment shielding around the reactor, and a graphite moderator fire all caused the ejection of highly radioactive core material high into the atmosphere. The core material was also spread around the plant, making the region very radioactive. At Fukushima none of those elements are present, so how could this material "all go up"?

Visual inspection of the spent fuel pond on Reactor #4 indicates there is water still there. In cold weather, warmer water 'steams' above the water's surface. Video clearly shows this happening at Reactor #4, indicating there is water in that pool. Evaporation calculations estimate that the pool (holding over 200,000 gallons) will take well over a week before the level of the water starts to approach the top of the rods. Clearly they need to act to get power restored to this pond, but it's not in danger yet.

If the worst case does happen and one of these ponds empties of water (Reactor #3's is more at risk actually), what happens? First, the radiation levels near the pool go way up, making it hard to work around there without getting a high dose of radiation. Second, the cladding around the fuel rods could heat to the point where they crack open, releasing long-lived radioactive materials. I've seen some tests where zirconium alloy shavings could catch fire if heated enough; it's not clear if the solid tubes will do so though.

Let's say a fire does start; the lighter isotopes would be carried into the air to land further downwind. The heavier isotopes (the long lived ones) won't get carried far at all. An area downwind of the plant certainly would be contaminated, as would the plant grounds itself, but even at Chernobyl (where a MUCH higher amount of radiation was released due to the violence and severity of the fire) the contaminated area was limited to 10 miles.

So, a very bad situation, absolutely. A "catastrophe", though? Very doubtful.


@Jani says: March 19, 2011 at 3:58 am "but unless the dose is more than about 5000 mSv this is unlikely to be fatal. (In Chernobyl there were few who got this much.) At 1000mSv level they have about 5% risk of getting fatal cancer due to radiation which implies at maximum a body count of around 10 due to radiation"

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I fear you've been 'mushroomed' (kept in the dark and fed --) by the pro nuclear lobby, or I hope your not one of them trying it out on us.

Because your figures are totally wrong, and underestimate the levels of danger out by at least an order of magnitude.

"At 1000mSv level they have about 5% risk of getting fatal cancer"

NO, at 90mSv there is a 5% risk of getting cancer. 1000mSv is acute radiation poisoning, nausea, diarrhoea, with a 10% chance of instant death.

" dose is more than about 5000 mSv this is unlikely to be fatal."

NO, 5000mSv is the certainty of *immediate* death (within a few days or weeks), a much lower dose is sufficient to set off cancers or organ damage that can kill you several months or years later The last time I checked 400mSv was the highest release from Fukushima enough to cause a 25% likelihood of developing cancer (on a time scale of years), but this was an one off, very brief incident at Fukushima and only of harm to those within the building.

"which implies at maximum a body count of around 10 due to radiation"

Sorry but this seems to suggest that you are saying 10 people died at Chernobyl? In which case you are seriously deluded, but it's very hard to understand what you're suggesting as none of your maths adds up; you give two numbers 5000 and 1000 and then suggest a 5% cancer rate, and say this caused 10 deaths? Ten is five percent of neither 1000 nor 5000. 5% of 1000 is 50 and 5% of 5000 is 250

It's all too familiar; like a report I heard the other day, a PR guy for the Nuke industry said that radiation dose in Toyko was "300 times background but that was 'safe' and would require 3 years of constant exposure at that level to present any danger to the public" and I thought to my self "ho hum, another day another wave of bull with Nuke PR people pulling numbers out of their orifices!"

300 times background (4mSv is background) is 1200mSv which would in fact be an extremely dangerous *if true* there would have been bodies piling up in the streets, fortunately is a totally improbable number and manifestly just made up to sound impressive and fool the general public.

The safest thing for joe-public to do is when anyone from the Nuclear industry says something automatically assume it's a bare-faced lie (99% of the time it will be), and don't listen to a word they say unless overwhelming evidence convinces you.

Nuclear power is potentially extremely dangerous for those that live within eyeline of a station, however more importantly it's an insanely expensive white elephant, and a total waste of time and resources! Oh and the waste makes lovely bombs.


I am sorry, but you clearly do not know what you are talking about. People receiving radiation therapy often get doses much higher than 5000mSv and are CURED of cancer as a result. 5000mSv dose does lead to ARS for sure, but not necessarily death. 1-2Sv dose is rarely lethal.

As for the source of my information. It is the research consensus based on decades of research on radiation safety bu thousands of scientists. I think it is immoral to cherry pick loony researchers ("sceptics") in case of climate change and just as immoral in other fields. Your claim that 90mSv leads to 5% cancer death rate is clearly nonsense. Here our yearly dose is 3.7mSv on average so during our lifetimes we get about 270mSv. Based on your reasoning MOST of the cancers would be due to radiation as opposed to chemicals and tobacco for example. Just crazy…

..also 4mSv is NOT the background rate, it is about right for a yearly dose (except there are places where natural rate can be more than 100mSv/year. Ramsar, Iran for example). The natural rate is 4mSv/(365*24)=0.46 micro Sieverts/hour.


As a physicist, I'm positively predisposed to the interesting new reactor designs and the possibility of getting a lot of energy out of not a lot of fuel, not to mention not releasing tons of CO2 in the process.

Nevertheless, recent events in Japan lead me to think that we require several orders of magnitude improvement in design if it's going to be possible at all to have nuclear power with acceptable risks and at an affordable cost (which I'm not convinced of). The trouble is not that nuclear plants can't be designed to operate safely, but rather that it is apparently difficult to operate them safely, given the inevitable errors/fraud in operation itself.

The situation in the spent fuel pool demonstrates this dramatically. "No one could have predicted" (which I seem to be hearing a lot lately) that there would be trouble storing so many spent fuel rods in a way that the cooling system could be rendered inoperational. WTF? Why take the risk? Instead, store the spent fuel in a way which doesn't require active supervision. It's pretty much unconscionable to both generate so much dangerous waste and have no real plan for its storage which will require thousands of years.

Or, for instance, take the next-generation design for a sodium-cooled reactor. Sounds great - don't need a containment vessel capable of withstanding very high pressures, so that's one less thing to worry about. But then you learn that sodium explodes when it comes into contact with water or air. WTF? That's never going to happen? Oh, and the sodium coolant becomes radioactive, (though with a 15 hour half-life), so there's that to worry about, too.

At this point I'm unconvinced. Do I see a good alternative? No. =/


So far there was no death caused by radiation in Japan so all those talks about whether nuclear power is worth the risks should start with calculating the real risks.

The baseline here is the number of victims of road crashes (37K per year for the USA). Society tolerates this level so it is clear that this amount of radiation deaths per year represents acceptable risk. The fact that it will be radiation induced deaths is immaterial to the discussion.

If we adopt this framework I think it is clear that even with current Japanese nuclear disaster risks are low.

And the key question here is not about nuclear energy but about energy in general. Can mankind continue on sustainable path if energy inputs are dropping? What parts of lifestyle need to be sacrificed? What price we are ready to pay?

If we assume the this is the peak of fossil fuel extraction and the next phase is the decline, what are no real alternatives to nuclear power even if those incidents prove that cost of nuclear energy if much higher that it was initially assumed? And it will rise anyway because uranium reserves, especially the high-grade ores, are depleting rapidly. But with recycling of fuel it probably can last for several hundred years.

Another question is how black is the Japanese nuclear swan? There were several gross errors in design and placement of the reactors that now became textbook like happened with gross errors committed in building Chernobyl (actually all new projects of reactors of this type were killed after the incident). This "survival of the fittest" process can bring some positive results.

Also reactors were very old and there probably should be obligatory process of modernizing or decommissioning of this types of reactors in the USA. That might improve safety as well.

The idea is reactors should have scheme for passive defense (including the "killing switch" that injects boron or something similar) and that the redundant systems should be duplicated in military style to minimizes the chances of complete loss of reserve generators energy common.

Like with Chernobil, this loss of power that was the reason of the catastrophe was completly avoidable. Reporcessing of used nuclear fuel also is an important problms that needs to be solved. And as there are no alternatives it will be solved.

It's really sad that the possibility for cascading failures were simply ignored. Issues of reserve generators location and protection were botched really badly and here criminal investigation probably is warranted. May be some small gas powered energy plant should be built in visinity to provide reserve energy feeds into all critical systems. Why those reserve feeds need to be built now with heroic efforts?


Kievite said:

There were several gross errors in design and placement of the reactors that now became textbook like happened with gross errors committed in building Chernobyl (actually all new projects of reactors of this type were killed after the incident). This "survival of the fittest" process can bring some positive results.

Can this "survival of the fittest" process indeed bring positive results?

We have a culture that teaches people that economic priorities--profits--trump human priorities. In a capitalistic system, profit is God, and competition is the Holy Grail.

This is "mad rationality," as Amitai Etzioni explains in The Moral Dimension, and the antidote to it is morality:

[N]ormative values, as factors that influence the choice of means, help ensure the primacy of ends. The preoccupation with means, with enhancing their strength, scope, quantity and quality, is the essence of industrialization, market economics and economics, technology and applied science, in short, of the modern age. However, this preoccupation, through a process known as goal displacement, tends to lead to the primacy of means over ends. Studies of organizations are replete with reports of organizations designed to serve a specific goal: however, when the design proved to be inappropriate, rather than adjust it, the organizational goal was replaced to suit the existing design. Multi-millionaires work themselves to a frazzle to increase their income. Executives work "for their families," destroying their family life in the process. Societies undermine their fabric in order to accelerate economic growth. This phenomenon has been referred to as irrational rationality, or mad rationality.

Alfie Kohn describes how capitalism has become so completely disconnected from the goal of elevated human flourishing in the documentary film I linked above (beginning at minute 55:10):

Competition builds character. In fact, what we find is that by any reasonable notion of character, in terms of psychological health or self esteem, that competition undermines that and creates a kind of neurosis because we come to think of ourselves as good and competent only to the extent that we have defeated other people. And so we're always playing this desperate king-of-the-mountain game where we're all worried about triumphing over other people and stepping on their faces and looking at them as if they're going to step on our faces. That has two effects. One is it's horrible for us in terms of psychological development because there's a perpetual sense of dis-ease and anxiety. Second, it very logically has a destructive effect on our relationships.

We compete because we're raised that was, not because we're born that way. Take, for instance, the belief in "survival of the fittest," which is seen as a Darwinian notion. In fact, Charles Darwin never even used the phrase "survival of the fittest." That was coined by a right-wing social thinker in the 19th century named Herbert Spencer who tried to corrupt Darwin's thinking into his own reactionary political purposes. What Darwin talked about was natural selection, which means that the individual organism that's best able to adapt to a changing environment is more likely to be around to survive and reproduce. Well that doesn't specify competition as a mechanism. In fact, often the active avoidance of competition, if not the deliberate pursuit of cooperative strategies, turns out to make it more likely that organisms or entire species will survive.

The research consistently shows that competition not only isn't necessary for excellence, but tends to impede excellence on most tasks, and the more challenging the task, the more ingenuity and problem-solving skills it requires, competition tends to disrupt that achievement. Excellence pulls in one direction and competition pulls in another.

And in fact another kind of research study corroborates that. If you take a whole bunch of people and give them a task to do, some kind of problem to work out, and half of them are told "see if you can figure out how to do this task," and the other half are told "this is a contest with a prize to whoever wins, whoever does the best job," study after study after study, across cultures, across gender, across ages, find that the people who compete, who have to compete, end up doing an inferior job on that task.

At the moment, it appears that much of what happens in schools in North America is really for the convenience of people who have most of the power. There is if anything an act of discouragement of critical questioning. Corporations claim they want kids who are able to think outside the box, but only so far as they're caught within a larger box. That works to the advantage of the free market, which means that the market economy, based on competition, based on economic rather than human considerations, ends up controlling the system.

Squeeky Fromm:

The scariest thing to me about nuclear power, is that we have a lot of people in government who do not believe in either firm and effective government regulation of anything, or in corporate responsibility.

Assuming there was an American Fukishima, or two, or three, what would we discover in its wake??? Probably the same thing we have with the financial meltdown. Is it out of the question that we would have Republicans trying to find a way to blame poor people and minorities when the Dagny Taggart Atomic Power Plant blew a gasket and lit up a few million citizens??? You know, the "Well, if we weren't trying to make electrical power available to people on welfare, this never would have happened???"

Is it out of the question that the Democratic Barney Franks and Dodds Clone of the day would gut effective reform efforts or that the Nuclear Energy Equivalent (NEE) of Larry Summers would be a Goldman Alumni, who just coincidentally worked overtime to insure that new regulations would not the pocketbooks of the Wall Street crowd???

Frankly, I would not trust this country to try to handle an increased nuclear energy load, even though it is called for. We would be treated to Boehner or that Kentucky Goober, whats-iz-name, in the Senate to blame the "loose rads" on taxes being too high.

Squeeky Fromm Girl Reporter


the incorrect assumption is that nuclear power has to be chracterized as a tight complex system, a "fail unsafe design" subject to unanticipated nested catastrophic fialure modes -victimized by unanticipated scenerios in the failure tree analysis.

This is a fair prejudice percieved by the public in so far as there has been a longstanding complete and utter failure of the media and our "stewards" in government to inform the public of safer nuclear fuelcycle alternatives- notably Thorium.

Rewinding the tape, the objective of commercializing public nuke utility plants was not merely to supply electricity but to breed plutonium for nuclear weapons. Had there been fidelity to the pure objective of SAFE production of electricity the political/engineering effort would have delivered Thorium fueled power plants. It was shunted becasue it doesnt breed weaponizable plutoniun, nor the bulk of the long live transuranic waste that future generations are burdened with as a result of our current nuke power establishment. Long term storage of this waste IMO is the ULTIMATE unfunded mandate

It is yet another very sad story of the lost opportunity of US intellectual equity that is still playing out as the commercialization effort has been taken up elsewhere (china India) where it is recognized as a rational alternative approach to power generation.

An interesting irony that touches on previous threads on this blog is that cheap and abundant Thoruim is a coexisitng element and a byproduct of rare earth mining.


Too many people on this planet, 6 billion now heading to 9 billion absent some correction–benign would be family planning, malignant war, disease, famine, nuclear meltdown.

Why we need to talk about large centralized electric generation facilities goes back to supplying so many of us with reliable power to sustain a standard of living the planet probably can't handle, especially as more and more scale up that ladder. I realize I'm speaking from a first-world perspective, but so long as we're taking the big picture view, thought I'd toss this into the discussion.

[Mar 19, 2011] Bid to 'Protect Assets' Slowed Reactor Fight -

...The plant's operator-Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco-considered using seawater from the nearby coast to cool one of its six reactors at least as early as last Saturday morning, the day after the quake struck. But it didn't do so until that evening, after the prime minister ordered it following an explosion at the facility. Tepco didn't begin using seawater at other reactors until Sunday.

Tepco was reluctant to use seawater because it worried about hurting its long-term investment in the complex, say people involved with the efforts. Seawater, which can render a nuclear reactor permanently inoperable, now is at the center of efforts to keep the plant under control.

Tepco "hesitated because it tried to protect its assets," said Akira Omoto, a former Tepco executive and a member of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, an official advisory body involved in the effort to tame the plant. Both Tepco and government officials had good reason not to use saltwater, Mr. Omoto added. Early on, nuclear fuel rods were still under cooling water and undamaged, he said, adding, "it's understandable because injecting seawater into the fuel vessel renders it unusable."

Tepco spokesman Hiro Hasegawa said the company, "taking the safety of the whole plant into consideration, was trying to judge the appropriate timing to use seawater."

"This disaster is 60% man-made," said one government official. "They failed in their initial response. It's like Tepco dropped and lost a 100 yen coin while trying to pick up a 10 yen coin."

Government efforts also were plagued with delays. Japan's military, the Self-Defense Forces, didn't participate in cool-down efforts in a big way until Wednesday, after four of the six reactors had suffered damage and the remaining two showed signs of heating as well. A military spokesman said forces didn't move in because they weren't requested by Tepco. A Tepco spokesman declined to comment on the issue specifically, saying in general the company is in contact with the government.

Even a swifter response would have faced grave challenges. The quake and the tsunami cut off the plant from nearly all communications in the crucial early hours, an eyewitness told the Journal.

Kazuma Yokota, a safety inspector with Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, was at the plant at the time. He ducked under a desk as the temblor struck with a force that cracked the walls, he recalled. He then moved to his monitoring office, a 15-minute drive away. "There was no power, no phone, no fax, no Internet," he said. He wasn't able to get a backup generator working until that night.

On Friday, NISA raised the severity ranking of the crisis to five on an international severity scale, from four, putting it at the same level as 1979's Three Mile Island incident in the U.S.

Government and Tepco officials reported only modest gains Friday in controlling the plant. They said they believed that fire trucks deployed on one troubled reactor managed to hit one pool of radioactive waste. It was unclear how effective the spraying was. National broadcaster NHK reported Saturday afternoon that the fire-truck spraying had resumed.

The officials said they believed they could restore power to some troubled units over the weekend, which could help cool them. Radiation levels at the site were stable, but still elevated.

International observers say delays and chaos are inevitable because the situation is unprecedented. Yukiya Amano, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who arrived in Japan on Friday, said Three Mile Island also took time to understand. Still, Mr. Amano cited a lack of information from Tepco.

The March 11 earthquake disconnected the plant from the power grid, and the tsunami wiped out its backup generators.

Mr. Yokota, who heads the NISA office that monitors the plant, was conducting a quarterly safety inspection when the ground began rumbling, then shaking. File cabinets and computers toppled around him.

After the tsunami passed, he grabbed a taxi to the NISA office in neighboring Okuma, which doubled as an emergency-response center. The center was cut off from both NISA headquarters in Tokyo and the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

Word of trouble at the No. 1 reactor, the oldest of the plant's six, wasn't widely known until early Saturday morning, when its fuel rods began to heat-even though it had automatically shut down. At a 6 a.m. media briefing, a Tepco spokesman said seawater was one cooling option.

The temperature kept rising, producing hydrogen gas that caused an explosion at 3:36 p.m. Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered seawater to be injected, which happened at 8:20 p.m.

By early Sunday, cooling functions at the No. 3 reactor were lost. Tepco tried to cool the reactor with fresh water, but it was forced to switch to seawater in the afternoon. It exploded Monday morning, likely damaging the containment structure and allowing radiation to leak.

Authorities apparently were unaware that water had stopped going into the cooling system of the No. 2 reactor. They began using seawater Monday evening, but the loss of its cooling system led to an explosion early Tuesday.

Mr. Yokota and other NISA staffers took doses of potassium iodide, which protects the thyroid gland from radiation. The emergency-response center had an alarm that sounded when radiation levels hit 100 microsieverts, prompting staffers to don face masks. By Wednesday, when the staff moved to a safer location farther away, the alarm was going off constantly, recalled Mr. Yokota.

Japan's Self-Defense forces showed up that day, though a spokesman said some of their personnel and equipment waited 15 miles away. "We have to wait for Tepco to come to us and request help," said Tetsuya Kono, a ministry of defense spokesman.

-Nathan Hodge contributed to this article.

Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at [email protected], Phred Dvorak at [email protected], Yuka Hayashi at [email protected] and Andrew Morse at [email protected]

Japan tsunami Fukushima Fifty 'on suicide mission' to battle nuclear meltdown Mail Online

The radiation levels at the plant entrance are at a level which will either kill the workers soon or cause them appalling illnesses in the years to come. Experts have said that the airtight suits they are wearing would do little to stop the contamination.

The group remained behind after 700 of their colleagues fled when radiation levels became too dangerous.

Their identities have not been revealed, but experts said they are likely to be working class front-line technicians and firemen who know the plant the best.

It is thought that mostly older men have volunteered because they have already had children – younger workers might be rendered infertile by the high radiation doses.

Whilst the men are called the Fukushima Fifty, the group is thought to actually be 200-strong. They are doing four shifts in rotation, working on restarting the cooling systems.

Their heart-rending messages home were made public yesterday by Japanese national television, which has interviewed their relatives.

One relative said: 'My father is still working at the plant. He says he's accepted his fate, much like a death sentence.'

A woman said her husband who was at the plant had continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation.

Another said that her 59-year-old father had volunteered for Fukushima duty, adding: 'I heard that he volunteered even though he will be retiring in just half a year and my eyes are filling up with tears.

She wrote on Twitter: 'People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you.

'Please, Dad, come back alive.'

Of those who have stayed behind, five are known to have died already and two are missing. At least 21 others have been injured. A female worker who claimed to have been on duty in the Fukushima No 2 reactor when the tsunami struck posted her account of what happened on the internet. Michiko Otsuki, who has since sought safety, wrote on a Japanese social networking website translated by The Straits Times: 'In the midst of the tsunami alarm at 3am in the night when we couldn't even see where we were going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death.

'The machine that cools the reactor is just by the ocean, and it was wrecked by the tsunami. Everyone worked desperately to try to restore it. 'Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work.

'There are many who haven't got in touch with their family members, but are facing the present situation and working hard.'

Dr Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, told the U.S. TV network ABC that the situation had worsened in the last day.

'We're talking about workers coming into the reactor perhaps as a suicide mission and we may have to abandon ship,' he said.

Michael Friedlander, who has worked in crisis management at similar American nuclear plants, added the workers were probably eating military-style rations and drinking cold water to survive.

'It's cold, it's dark, and you're doing that while trying to make sure you're not contaminating yourself while you're eating,' he said.

'I can tell you with 100 per cent certainty they are absolutely committed to doing whatever is humanly necessary to make these plants in safe condition, even at the risk of their own lives.'

Read more:

[Mar 18, 2011] Japan Raises Nuclear Crisis Warning Level Retroactively - Readers' Comments -

This so called Grey Lady is no longer a lady was stopped being anything like that for a long time ;-). And those clueless retards who should probably be kicked out of high school who are writing about this nuclear catastrophe is just add embarrassment and antipathy to main stream press. Why could not this f873n idiots read or something similar. Are journalists worse the used car salesman? (actually in Fox they are). First of all in such disaster the initial confusion is a norm and suppression of information was observed in all previous incidents. No nothing new here. What is regrettable is failure to declare this incident a national emergency and nationalize the company. Military should be involved as this is really matter of national importance.

Thoughtful Woman

I don't want to downplay the seriousness of the nuclear plant troubles in Japan, but it's disturbing that in so much media treatment of the disaster, the hyped question is whether we on the Pacific coast are in danger from the migrating nuclear plume. Now Americans have bought up all the anti-nuclear medication on the market and some will even down unrequired doses of it and make themselves sick, I suppose.

What is unfolding at the nuclear power plant is like an over the top disaster film, so of course it's more entertaining to cover and dote on than the actual plight of old folks from fishing villages. Please don't forget the horror that hundreds of thousands of Japanese experienced on the day of the earthquake as they ran for their lives while others not to swift or forward thinking could not escape the deluge of the tsunami upon them. Their misery is compounded by the infrastructure meltdown in Japan, the bitter cold, and their sheer number. Imagine your loved ones are buried in mud or have been swept out to sea and you are sitting in a crowded shelter eating K-rations, having lost everything, and the road to the future looks as bleak as the road leading from last week. Then consider the vanity of Americans, who somehow think the news of the world always revolves around them, who have bought out and stockpiled an unnecessary medication your people might actually need. We have to be thankful, I guess, that these stoic victims of tragedy are out of the communication loop and cannot read the screaming headlines in our west coast media about the "disaster" that ruined some docks in Brookings to the tune of a couple of million dollars. It's always about us, or so it seems.

We have lost our sense of proportion and empathy, I'm afraid, and our politics so often boil over that our heads are filled with conspiracies and misplaced mistrust of authority. Now, today, some of us chose to believe our government is lying to us and that we are in mortal danger of irradiation from faraway, tragedy-battered Japan. When the Cascadia subduction zone pops again, as it did in 1700, and will again probably within my lifetime, heaven help us in the U.S. with our lack of preparation and don't tread on me ways. We don't want to be forewarned or advised or take precautions, no sirree, but we will want to be rescued--for free--when the time comes.


I think that it is clear that the problems at Fukushima are a full 7 and it would be best if the response was consistent with the magnitude of the problem. Fifty (or 150) ordinary employees spraying water on the problem is clearly insufficient. Fukushima is certainly at least a regional problem and the response should be the subject of regional decisions made by the governments of Japan, Korea, China, Russia and the US, not the Tokyo electric power company.

As someone who remembers strontium 90 in the milk, I would find it helpful if we were told how the radiation released at Fukushima compares with the release of radiation that resulted from the unrestrained nuclear bomb testing between 1950 and 1963.


I would suggest to the editors that the writers refrain from using the word "frantic" as it inaccurately describes the heroic efforts of these first responders and instead conveys an image of confusion. A look at the picture attached to the article dispels this statement.

Maybe these writers need to be transferred to Fox News to better display their talents.

Colin Wright

I'll note that to date, actual deaths from this total zero (0).

This compares to an admitted 6000 deaths from coal mining in China in 2004, for example. Of course, that's admitted deaths, for one country, and ignores deaths from related respiratory ailments, elevated death rates from the air pollution consequent on burning the coal, the other environmental effects of coal mining, and the contribution to global warming.

Fewer nuclear power plants mean more coal gets mined, and more coal gets burned. That is what will happen, and it needs to be borne in mind.


Let's drill down to the root cause of the current problem. It is the failure of the back up power sources (diesel engines driving generators - just like the kind on the premises of any hospital). Why did these back up sources fail? They don't work when wet or without fuel. The tsunami drowned the equipment and destroyed the fuel supply. If the back up power source was located on higher ground, cooling of the plants would not be a problem. It is the poor location of low tech equipment that is the root cause of the current very severe problems. Because the root problem is low tech - it can be easily addressed at all nuclear plants. In essence, the root problem is OUTSIDE the plant, not inside.


Flooding it with water and letting the water boil off into (slightly) radio active steam was the right strategy *before* the fuel rods got damaged. They should've started doing that as soon as the generators were lost.

The time for that strategy has passed. As long as there is water there, even a slight "recriticality" will lead to a major steam explosion that will disperse all the really bad stuff into the environment.

Bury the thing in boron ore, followed by a mountain of dry sand. It will get hot, maybe hot enough to melt the sand, but as long as it doesn't get hot enough to *boil* the sand, it will stay contained.

Only raising this to the level of TMI now is a cruel joke... It indicated they are still deep in denial about how large a mess they have made.

denial = wasted time.

wasted time = damaged fuel rods.


I think the NYT should do a detailed article on the implication of French Areva and its "mox" (uranium + PLUTONIUM) compound sold to Tepco.
reactor 3 is full it. the "old" Fukushima reactors should have NEVER get MOX coumpound... This is a time bomb release: this cheap mix is the most lethal.
Plutonium lifespan is 24,000 years and its presence makes the fusion create an atomic explosion (this is why the Russians forced the miners to quickly reinforce, seal the concrete under the melted core!! or about 3-5MT explosion would have happened, making life in Europe impossible), it would WIPE out Tokyo. it can also contaminate the phreatic ground water un the plant (imagine the consequence).
and we have 3 reactors here already melting , + the used rods pools!
no wonder Tepco CEO is crying now... he knows.

This thing may yet end up worse than Chernobyl.


Is it possible for the NY Times to "crisisfy" their language any further? Several days ago we were told that using seawater was a "last ditch" effort. Clearly it was not. For days and days we've been told everything is getting "worse." It seems the situation is actually improving. It appears the real shortage is one of adjectives. I guess if you can't dramatize it, people won't buy or click it. Oh well... on to the next crisis... the Libya situation finally seems like it's ripe enough to sell some ad space.

Suhail Inquilab

I find it odd that simply getting power supply to the cooling pumps would take so much time in a national emergency in one of the most advanced countries on this planet. Even though the power requirements may be huge, in such a potentially catastrophic situation they should be mobilizing every big corporation to get the necessary equipment and get this situation under control.
Secondly, I did not find any explanation as to why simply leaving a hose (possibly pushed in from a safe distance) in the reactor was not attempted, whereas a much difficult operation of dropping water from a helicopter was tried.
Lastly, I just hope that Japanese government hasn't fallen into the usual trap of letting incompetent people control this operation in this critical and high pressure juncture, as happened in US during Katrina and Oil spill. It is not uncommon to see most people lose their bearings in such a mission critical operation.


Two thoughts.
The media are spending way too much time on the nuclear problem, compared to the human catastrophe of massive proportions going on.

Second thought: The problem at the nuclear plants appears, from all the information we're given, to be due to the destruction of emergency generators. These should have been in 'hardened' installations, where a tsunami or other calamity couldn't destroy them. As one retiring Japanese engineer said, they really F'd up when they installed them.


So let's make sure the generators at other power plants are made disaster-resistant.

People are being panicked by so much news over-information. I grew up next to a level 5 nuclear incident back in 1957 that was worse than 3 Mile Island in that radioactive particle was spewed across the nearby countryside. There was no panic, probably because few people were aware of the severity of the situation. There were no iodine tablets that I ever heard about - maybe because of the high salt intake in our diet our thyroid was already saturated with iodine. There certainly were leukemia cases highlighted after the event that may or may not have been linked to the disaster but life went on virtually as normal. We played outside, the cows and sheep didn't drop dead in the fields and after a short time (comparatively) has been forgotten.

Lloyd Cole

I want to raise another issue that I have not seen discussed in the mainstream media, and I hope that the Times will see fit to examine it. Over the last two days the "alternative" web media (and the Huffington Post) have posted links to a PowerPoint presentation purportedly delivered by a Tokyo Electric Power a meeting in 2010. Here is a link to that presentation, which apparently first was posted by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service:

My questions are:

1. Is the presentation genuine?
2. Is the situation still as described in the presentation–namely, that there is a large, SEVENTH pool storing spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi plant? According to the presentation, this "Common Spent Fuel Storage Pool" contained OVER 6200 of the 10,150 rods that were stored at the plant at that time.
3. If there still is a seventh pool, what is its condition? Was it damaged in the earthquake and tsunami? Did its generators fail? What have the water levels in this pool been since the tsunami? What is the current water level?
4. If the Common Spent Fuel Storage Pool still is intact, would there be any possibility of pumping some of the water in it over to reactor 4? Would that help the situation?
5. If there still IS a Common Spent Fuel Storage Pool, why hasn't its existence EVER been reported in the mainstream media (including the Times), at least to my knowledge?

I look forward to any information that the Times can share on this issue. Thanks.

dc lambert

The bigger problem is that all means of acquiring energy are risky. Statistically, nuclear energy is still among the safest forms of energy. (I am not connected to the nuclear industry at all.) Coal mining causes thousands of deaths each year, and that's not counting pollution and other health risks. We know the risks of oil--we've just seen BP's catastropic accident that cost people and animals their lives and is still wreaking havoc on the economy. Chemical energy is also extremely dangerous.

When an accident happens in any traditional energy source, our reaction is not to attack the energy source. Very few people called for a stop in using oil altogether after BP.

Yet when an accident with a nuclear facility occurs and there is even a risk of fatalities - not actual ones yet - we see massive panic. This newspaper repeatedly uses inflammatory language to increase the panic, such as 'catastrophe.' We can't say the issue is whether to trust corporations to regulate themselves, because that very real issue certainly applies equally to ALL forms of energy acquisition.

Why the exceptional response to nuclear energy? I'm sure it has to do with irrational fear of nuclear bombs --the two, nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants, are linked in many people's minds -- as well as irrational fear of radiation and its risks. The media, and I include the Times, does a very poor job of educating the public on actual risks versus actual benefits and instead focuses on fear mongering, irrational, headline grabbing statements, often outright lies (such as the use of 'catastrophe," applied not to the tsunami itself, but to the nuclear facilities *possible* melt down).

If we lurch irrationally away from nuclear power plants, we still do not address the larger problem of how to supply energy to our fast rising world population. Every kilowatt away from a nuclear power plant is a kilowatt toward coal and oil. Given the real death toll from these sources of energy, and the horrible ecological damage they wreak, how is that an improvement?

We desperately need clean sources of reliable energy such as solar and wind and, with further safety regulations, nuclear; but with this fear mongering, all we get is an irrational lurching back to global corporate dominance of very dirty, very unsafe, oil & coal.


Because of the diverging reports from Washington and Tokyo, one has to wonder if they are both working with the same information? In any case, given the history of prevarication about the severity and consequences of radiation releases during nuclear accidents, it is hard to be complacent or to take what information official reports provide as the unvarnished truth.

It is particularly disturbing to read about the amount of boron that is being imported. Obviously there are fears about, or perhaps already knowledge of, spontaneous fission establishing itself inside these compromised reactor vessels. That would suggest a significant meltdown of fuel, and fears of a major steam explosion if the molten fuel melts its way through the containment vessel, containment chamber, and eventually reaches groundwater.

One would certainly think that a reactor designed with safety in mind would have a last resort system for spraying boron-laced water into a reactor core to stop a runaway fission reaction. Such an action would, of course, be a last resort since once a reactor is contaminated with boron it will never function again. But we already know that these reactors are finished so it won't matter. The point is such a system should exist, but no doubt doesn't, and now an improvised method of introducing the boron-laced water will have to be created.

Unfortunately, the general public is so poorly informed about nuclear power and the hazards of radiation that it is easily manipulated by spin-meisters working for the nuclear industry and its government shills. Reassurances that American reactors are now going to subjected to new safety checks by the NRC are laughable. The answer is already in the can. American reactors are perfectly safe, will be the conclusion of the exhaustive investigation. The Vice-President, Mr. Biden, has said he has no confidence in the NRC, and he has good reason. Whether he will continue to say that now that his boss has gone ga-ga pro-nuke remains to be seen.

It is truly revolting to see and/or read comments like, "Yes, that's a bad incident in Japan, but we must forge on and built new nuclear plants as fast as we possible can." Are we really that stupid?


I echo the sentiment in previous comments re: the calibre of reporting. With my parents living in Tokyo I look to the NYT to relay reliable facts about the nuclear disaster, contextualized with solid scientific information, yet even as the headlines grew progressively more dire ("frantic effort", "out of control"), I can glean little more from the actual articles beyond the latest speculations from observers with no first hand access.

I understand the lack of information as a by-product of the enormity of the situation and a traditionally secretive culture. Yet my parents, like all the people around them, are carrying on with life calmly if not entirely without concern, because radiation levels outside the immediate disaster zone, far from being "extremely high", are published daily and do not (yet) pose any meaningful health risks; because they chose to trust scientists and public health officials, and are acting with due caution but without panic; and also because in this emergency, the people on the ground might just be the most qualified to deal with the crisis.

I hope, but seriously doubt, that the internet commentariat has a better solution than the ones being used, and for us to pontificate on the crisis on the sidelines is seriously un-classy. In the meantime, I implore the NYT to shed more light on the brewing humanitarian crisis, where half a million people, many of them elderly and infirm, are trapped in shelters with dwindling supplies of food, water, fuel and medication. Are they being helped? When can we reach them? And where is the kind of humanistic reporting that I expect from the NYT?

Miriam Hamsa

Where does one start? Spent fuel rods more dangerous than the reactor? What can I say? Any high school student or terrorist could have figured this out a long time ago. I did. Way before 9/11, I (unlike Condaleeza, GWB "if I had known that terrorists... would use commercial airplanes) realized all it would take was one determined person in an airplane to hit oh, say, the cooling ponds at Indian Point Reactor.... Have I missed something here? Or are they still exposed to the air and unprotected.

Fool me once

Once again, the all knowing American media and public somehow know more than experts in any country or the people who are actually at the scene. Nearly everything written by the US press about the Japanese reactors is based on speculation, and it is sad that rather than rallying support for the thousands of homeless and displaced victims of the earthquake and tsunami, many observers and the media in the US are worried only about their exposure and their risk, or bent on criticizing the Japanese. The overall level of self-interest, greed and lack of compassion for the victims in the media and in the US is shameful and embarrassing. No wonder we have bullying in our schools.


TEPCO wanted to withdraw all workers 3 days after the earthquake according to a Japanese English language newspaper, The Mainichi Daily News (read this paper to get a perspectiv­e on how Japan is covering the disaster). The government said no - The prime minister told TEPCO:

"This is not a matter of TEPCO going under; it's about what will become of Japan."

and this:

"It is believed that TEPCO was prepared to let Japan's Self-Defen­se Forces and the U.S. military handle the situation."

Got that - U.S. military


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) told the government on March 14 that it wanted to withdraw all of its workers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has been learned.

TEPCO's suggestion came two days after a cooling system failure caused by the March 11 quake and tsunami triggered a hydrogen blast at the plant's No. 1 reactor. Though Prime Minister Naoto Kan rejected the proposal, the finding suggests that the power company was aware from an early stage that damage at the plant could develop into a nuclear disaster exposing workers to high levels of radiation. It is believed that TEPCO was prepared to let Japan's Self-Defen­se Forces and the U.S. military handle the situation.

Several government sources said that TEPCO officials told Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda over the phone that the company wanted to withdraw all of its workers. Both government officials turned down the requests and reported them to Kan.



I too have wondered why there has been no mention of portable generators. I searched -fukushima nuclear portable generators

Both articles say that even if there are portable generators on site the problem is sea water in the flooded basement where the switching equipment is. They can't hook up power until the water is remove. The water is from the tsunami. They thought the sea wall would protect them.
PS- There has been a lot of Salty sea water pumped in since the tsunami. Salt water corrodes electric equipment.
-Fukushima was designed by General Electric, so is Oyster Creek, near Toms River New Jersey, built around the same time, and the two plants are similar.

To Siqi (#86) and others concerned about the tone of the reporting:

I recommend the blog run by the Nuclear Science and Engineering department at MIT. They are posting both news updates and background information to help one understand what is going on. They're providing detailed, factual information, without the hyperbolic tone of the popular media.


Where are the robots? We just sent a humanoid robot to the ISS, but should have one behind the controls of a bobcat loaded with sensors to send into the damaged reactors in Japan. Honda has paraded walking humanoid robots at industrial shows. Suit 'em up and get them in there to give the engineers real information on what's going on inside those buildings so they can take effective measures to minimize further radiation leaks. Even mounting cameras and sensors on the robots used in Afghanistan and Iraq by IED disposal squads would be a quantum leap over the data they're trying to make do with now.


Based on the reports, meltdowns have occurred at all reactors to some degree. The question will be how to close them down. With a meltdown they are unusable. As for the media coverage shame on you! Your sensationalizing causes unwarranted panic and shame on the doctors who provided prescriptions for potassium iodide! Look for an increase in heart attacks due to the negligence to be shared by all of you. As for the comments, how can you comment on something you know nothing about? The hold up for develop of the nuclear industry in this country is not US safety concerns, but with nuclear proliferation. Doesn't anyone realize how we are in 5th place already? Korea and Russia hold all the cards right now. Why aren't we in the game?


Seems like lots of people - driven by the all-too-human desire to understand and control, emboldened by Wikipedia and WebMD - think themselves experts in nuclear physics, medicine and engineering. I wish the experts - of the went-to-school-for-it kind, not the read-stuff-online-like-Ann-Coulter kind - would weigh in here, with their credentials, since there seems to be a whole lot more speculation than science going on in these comments (and in the articles themselves).

[Mar 17, 2011] Japan Nuclear Power Plant Crisis Government Was Warned of Safety Issues in 2008, WikiLeaks Cables Reveal


The Japanese government was warned in 2008 that a strong earthquake would be a "serious problem" for the country's nuclear power stations, WikiLeaks cables reveal. An International Atomic Energy Agency official declared twin concerns at a meeting of the G8's Nuclear Safety and Security Group: that safety rules relating to earthquakes had only been updated three times in 35 years, and that an earthquake could exceed "the design basis for some nuclear plants." The government did respond, by building an emergency response center at the Fukushima plant, but that center was built to withstand quakes up to 7.0-not Friday's 9.0 temblor, the Telegraph reports.

And there's more: Another cable reveals that the government opposed a court order to shut down a plant over concerns that it would not withstand an earthquake above a magnitude of 6.5, and could expose local residents to radiation. Japan's nuclear safety agency disagreed, and the ruling was overturned in 2009. Two more cables go further, documenting concerns that a new generation of stations were "jeopardizing safety" and allegations that the government was "covering up nuclear accidents." Meanwhile, the New York Times points out that concerns over Mark 1 nuclear reactors, the type used at the Fukushima plant, have been raised as long ago as 1972. Mark 1 reactors are not as strong as other types, and are thought to be at higher risk of failing in an emergency.

[Mar 17, 2011] Restoring Japan's confidence and its people's big dreams – Global Public Square - Blogs

Editor's Note: Ayako Doi is an independent journalist and associate fellow of the Asia Society, an organization devoted to improving U.S.-Asia relations.

By Ayako Doi – Special to CNN

In the wake of the massive earthquake, devastating tsunami and nuclear catastrophe in Japan, it's hard to find a silver lining. Most certainly, the people struggling to survive don't see it – nor do those who are frantically trying to help them.

But watching the unfathomable human tragedy unfold from afar, I can already see some real and potential positives.

One theme that has emerged in the international news coverage of the disaster is how calm, orderly and polite the Japanese people have been, even in the face of unimaginable hardship and deprivation. A radio report said tsunami victims in crowded shelters were sharing scarce supplies of water and instant noodles without fights or complaints. One Japanese observer said it brought tears to his eyes to see an elderly evacuee bow deeply in appreciation as he received a single rice ball upon his arrival at a shelter.

In a week since the disaster, not a single case of looting has been reported, and I haven't seen any scene of people shouting in anger or banging on the table. CNN's Anderson Cooper recently observed a lengthy line of cars queued at a gas station, and he expressed amazement at how no one was grumbling or trying to cut in line. (Here's another post on this from CNN.)

A television viewer in China commented about how impressed he was to see a crowd of stranded train commuters carefully leaving a path so emergency workers could pass freely without stepping on others. "China may have surpassed Japan in terms of GDP, but we cannot emulate the Japanese's level of politeness," he wrote on his Twitter feed, which was seen more than 700,000 times, according to the Mainichi Daily News.

Another widely circulated commentary was a blog post from a Chinese student in Tokyo, who reported that after the jolt of tremor, his Japanese instructor calmly guided his students on an evacuation path, made sure no one was left in the classrooms and then turned off the lights before leaving the building. Even the fact that many of the shelters in Japan are elementary schools was astounding to the Chinese, who remember that school buildings, because of shoddy construction, were the first to collapse in the 2008 earthquake that struck Sichuan province, the newspaper said.

In the last couple of decades, self-confidence has increasingly been in short supply in Japan. Since its postwar economic bubble burst in 1991, hope for renewed economic growth and political reform have been repeatedly shut off by factional infighting and a lack of political leadership. The country's senior-heavy demography and a long string of shortsighted, populist policy decisions piled up Japan's public debt to around 200% of GDP, which in turn brought on stagnation and high unemployment, especially among the young.

Homelessness has become commonplace in Japanese cities, and the annual number of suicides has been stuck above 30,000 for 13 years now. Many college graduates have no hope of buying a car or getting married any time soon, and they can't imagine owning a house or having kids one day.

As the younger generation stopped dreaming big dreams and began to concentrate on self-preservation, Japan – once an object of admiration and fear for its economic might and technological prowess – dropped off the radar screen of world affairs.

While China, with its fast-growing economy and expanding military capability, attracted everyone's attention, Japan's clout in international relations diminished markedly, as did the interest of young Japanese in the outside world. And as many Western countries faced similar national-debt crises and population-aging problems in the last few years, Japan has presented a depressing picture of what they might become if they can't get their act together to manage their economies.

However, if the current generation of Japanese successfully overcomes the enormous challenges of reconstruction, they will acquire the kind of self-confidence that characterized their parents and grandparents, who dug out of World War II's rubble and built the second-largest economy in the world.

But just as Japan's postwar development would not have been possible without the assistance of the U.S. and other countries, Japan today needs the help of the international community, both in the immediate aftermath and for long-term reconstruction.

Many countries already have rescue teams on the ground in affected areas. Hopefully, in the course of a long, hard road of rebuilding their communities, young Japanese people will not only regain confidence in themselves, but also realize that we are in this fragile world together.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Ayako Doi.

[Mar 17, 2011] Wikileaks Japan Was Warned About Fukushima FOK News Channel

March 17, 2011


Unfortunately the only thing that pops in my head about all of this is "…. as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know." Rumsfeld finally got something right, just not at the right time or about the right things; but it fits perfectly here.

We don't know diddly about what is really happening in Japan; no one knows, those that are working to stop this at all levels don't know (it is like someone's faith in God, they think they know, but they don't really know-know), none of us "know" anything. Speculation and scientific guessing doesn't get us closer to "knowing" than praying or hoping will.

All we can do is wait for everything to play out, stay tuned, stay alert, help any way we can, make at least mental plans on what we can do personally to protect ourselves and our families, to understand that whatever this turns out to be – we are all in this together, and if you are in Japan, please leave now! Peace.


Here's an excellent 15″ vid with Greg Palast, former nuclear safety investigator. He talks about cover-ups, now and in the past, and how current plans would have Japanese scientists building and operating new plants in Texas. Warning: interview is by Alex Jones, in case you're not a fan.


The Japan disaster is an epic example of the horrors that can result when politicians and government put the interests of corporations ahead of the interests and safety of citizens. This is one of worst examples of the path to hell that corporate cronyism can lead people, and even an entire country down. This is an example of just how bad it can get. That AOL article about WikiLeaks & the safety of Japan's nuclear plants, stated this:

"The overall picture that emerges from the cables is of a government afraid of interfering with the powerful nuclear industry, which supplies about one-third of Japan's electricity. In his discussion with U.S. diplomats, Kono suggested that Japan's culture of deference to authority and corporate power prevented officials from changing the country's soft-touch regulation. He argued that industry ministers were "trapped" as they "inherited policies from people more senior to them, which they could then not cpin"


Church Rock uranium mill spill
"The Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill occurred in New Mexico, USA, in 1979 when United Nuclear Corporation's Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam. Over 1,000 tons of radioactive mill waste and millions of gallons of mine effluent flowed into the Puerco River. Local residents used river water for irrigation and livestock and were not immediately aware of the toxic danger. In terms of the amount of radiation released the accident was comparable in magnitude to the Three Mile Island accident of the same year and has been reported as the largest radioactive accident in U.S. History."

[Mar 17, 2011] How Much Spent Nuclear Fuel Does the Fukushima Daiichi Facility Hold Scientific American

The spent fuel pools are of significant concern, Marvin Resnikoff, a radioactive waste management consultant, said in a Wednesday press briefing organized by the nonprofit organization Physicians for Social Responsibility. Resnikoff noted that the pools at each reactor are thought to have contained the following amounts of spent fuel, according to The Mainichi Daily News:

• Reactor No. 1 fuel pool: 50 tons of nuclear fuel
• Reactor No. 2 fuel pool: 81 tons
• Reactor No. 3 fuel pool: 88 tons
• Reactor No. 4 fuel pool: 135 tons
• Reactor No. 5 fuel pool: 142 tons
• Reactor No. 6 fuel pool: 151 tons
• Also, a separate ground-level fuel pool contains 1,097 tons of fuel; and some 70 tons of nuclear materials are kept on the grounds in dry storage.

The reactor cores themselves contain less than 100 tons of fuel, Resnikoff noted.

The fuel had been moved from reactor No. 4's core to its spent-fuel pool recently, so "that fuel is relatively fresh and hotter, thermally," Resnikoff explained. "So it's not surprising that when the water [was] no longer circulating that the water was actually boiled off in a zirconium exothermic reaction, that the zirconium burned" (occurring at about 1,800 degrees Celsius).

Scientists are not confident that they will be able to assess just how much radioactive material will have been released as this event unfolds, David Richardson, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Public Health, said in the press briefing. It might not be until people can safely take stock of all of the fuel that is left, and then only "by that we can make a reckoning of what was lost," he said.

As of midday Thursday, the country's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesperson Yoshitaka Nagayama, noted that "because we have been unable to go to the scene, we cannot confirm whether there is water left or not in the spent fuel pool at reactor No. 4," The New York Times reported. As of March 16, there had been at least two fires suspected at that reactor.

If the burning-hot fuel is not covered by adequate water, the heat from the ongoing nuclear reactions can cause the water to boil off. "Water in the pool serves as shielding and cooling, and when that water is gone, that direct gamma radiation is very high," Resnikoff said.

Resnikoff was skeptical at the briefing that helicopters would be an effective way to stave off overheating in the spent-fuel pools. "Part of the roof still remains, and they cannot just dump water into the fuel pools" from the air, he said.

In a congressional testimony yesterday, Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said of the conditions at the plant: "We believe that radiation levels are extremely high."


So, the folks in Washington who don't know what is what in Japan are issuing press releases recommending panic.

I liked the quote from the man who oversaw the Three Mile Island cleanup. That five days into it, they didn't know what they had yet. That is probably true here in spades.

It will take a couple of years to clean up, and probably several months just to find out what the conditions are. Right now, they are just trying to get rough control of the site.

[Mar 17, 2011] SDF choppers drop water on troubled Fukushima reactor › Japan Today Japan News and Discussion

Japanese officials raised hopes of easing the crisis, saying early Thursday that they were close to completing a new power line that could restore the reactors' cooling systems.

... ... ...

Masahisa Otsuki, an official with TEPCO, said officials are most concerned about the spent fuel pools, which are not encased in protective shells.

"We haven't been able to get any of the latest data at any spent fuel pools. We don't have the latest water levels, temperatures, none of the latest information for any of the four reactors," he said.

Elevated levels of radiation were detected well outside the 30-kilometer emergency area around the plants. In Ibaraki Prefecture, just south of Fukushima, officials said radiation levels were about 300 times normal levels by late morning. It would take three years of constant exposure to these higher levels to raise a person's risk of cancer.

A little radiation was also detected in Tokyo, triggering panic buying of food and water.


i just hate how the foreign media is hyping this up,,,oh a chernobyl.....oh a catastrophe,,,it will be a catastrophe,,,if say 4000 people died,,,oh right they did ,,,,from a tsunami,, poor Mum in Australia is having a heartattack everytime she watches the news,,,,i tell her Saitama is over 200km away from this thing, and chernobyl at best affected an area of we are ok,,,,we are eating wakame everyday to dispel any probable affects of radiation,,,,,, seriously we all need to calm down (unless we are in the 30km radius ,,,or our husband is one of the 50 great men) and focus on how we can help the people up north they need coats, shoes, food, water, etc if you havent already, go to a donation center and do this focus on the good peoples!!!!!



You make a valid point, at the same time it is hard for people to leave that have kids in the schools here, or are working in a job that is needed right now for Japan.

As I said greater Tokyo houses about a 1/4 of the Japanese population and it is the economic and financial centre.

So not easy to just up and leave and let others uphold the economy, etc. Nor will their bosses look kindly at people taking a leave of absence with and undetermined length.

Japan and its economy right now needs those people to keep everything running as best as can be done.

Right now staying might be the best help that those people can offer rather than moving to other regions and putting a further burden on people, resources, etc.

Just my view.

rajakumar :

Tokyo Geiger counter reading is 13.81,now.

[Mar 16, 2011] Q. and A. on the Nuclear Crisis in Japan -

Q: Why is the media giving such hysteric coverage to an issue which at its absolute worst might cause some people to relocate away from the immediate vicinity of the power station and leave an expensive cleanup mess… all while there are tens of thousands dead and dying from the effects of the tsunami and a vast swath of devastation to infrastructure which poses a far more immediate and ongoing hazard to both individuals and the greater economy?

- ddblack1, Austin, Tex.

[Mar 16, 2011] Flaws in Japan's Leadership Deepen Sense of Crisis -

I think that any nations would have the same or worse problems then Japan in such a situation... I do not understand why they did not put one of the reactors back online after the earthquake as the loss of energy necessary for cooling probably was the most grave element of the current situation.
March 16, 2011 |

Evasive news conferences followed uninformative briefings as the crisis intensified over the past five days. Never has postwar Japan needed strong, assertive leadership more - and never has its weak, rudderless system of governing been so clearly exposed. With earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis striking in rapid, bewildering succession, Japan's leaders need skills they are not trained to have: rallying the public, improvising solutions and cooperating with powerful bureaucracies.

"It's a Catch-22," said Kuni Yogo, a former nuclear power planner at Japan's Science and Technology Agency. He said that the government and Tepco "try to disclose only what they think is necessary, while the media, which has an antinuclear tendency, acts hysterically, which leads the government and Tepco to not offer more information."

The Japanese government has also decided to limit the flow of information to the public about the reactors, having concluded that too many briefings will distract Tepco from its task of bringing the reactors under control, said a senior nuclear industry executive.

... ... ...

The close links between politicians and business executives have further complicated the management of the nuclear crisis.

Powerful bureaucrats retire to better-paid jobs in the very industries they once oversaw, in a practice known as "amakudari." Perhaps no sector had closer relations with regulators than the country's utilities; regulators and the regulated worked hand in hand to promote nuclear energy, since both were keen to reduce Japan's heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

Postwar Japan flourished under a system in which political leaders left much of the nation's foreign policy to the United States and domestic affairs to powerful bureaucrats. Prominent companies operated with an extensive reach into personal lives; their executives were admired for their roles as corporate citizens.

But over the past decade or so, the bureaucrats' authority has been greatly reduced, and corporations have lost both power and swagger as the economy has floundered.

Yet no strong political class has emerged to take their place. Four prime ministers have come and gone in less than four years; most political analysts had already written off the fifth, Mr. Kan, even before the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

... ... ...

Neither Mr. Kan nor the bureaucracy has had a hand in planning the rolling residential blackouts in the Tokyo region; the responsibility has been left to Tepco. Unlike the orderly blackouts in the 1970s, the current ones have been carried out with little warning, heightening the public anxiety and highlighting the lack of a trusted leader capable of sharing information about the scope of the disaster and the potential threats to people's well-being.

But the absence of a galvanizing voice is also the result of the longstanding rivalries between bureaucrats and politicians, and between various ministries that tend to operate as fiefdoms.

"There's a clear lack of command authority in the current government in Tokyo," said Ronald Morse, who has worked in the Defense, Energy and State Departments in the United States and in two government ministries in Japan. "The magnitude of it becomes obvious at a time like this."

[Mar 16, 2011] Remaining Staff at Fukushima Plant Told to Leave (Temporarily); Intrade Predicts IAEA Will Upgrade Accident Level (Updated) " naked capitalism

March 16, 2011

Chris Rogers:

Yves and Co,

I find it a little ironic that an event occurring more than 6,000 miles away from Washington and New York is causing such a stir.

What really tickles me is the gross hypocrisy and rank stupidity of many of those making comments or issuing advice.

Here's a few teasers – France informs its citizen's in Japan to either leave the country or move down South of the nuclear accident. This from a country that tests its nuclear weapons on a coral reef island in the Pacific and assures everyone that said tests are 'safe' contrary to most scientific understanding as to the make up of coral and fissures that can occur within coral placed under such conditions as a nuclear explosion.

Germany: Germany shutdowns all nuclear powers stations built prior to 1980 fearful thats its population may get over excited by the media circus in Japan – at the same time German engineering businesses are busy selling their nuclear engineering capability the world over – evidently Ms. Merkel has a low opinion of German engineering – time to dump that Merc, BMW, Posrche and VW.

The USA: such is the concern in the States we now have reports that iodine supplements to protect against radiation exposure may be in short supply – evidently leading politicians have been reading too much into this weeks episode of 'The Event' and the nuclear power stations currently in Japan will somehow be teleported to the USA.

All this crud from a nation with a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out the globe, environmental damage from its own nuclear research facilities that remains classified, a nation that thought nothing of detonating atomic weapons in its own back yard and exposing military and civilians to the effects/fallout.

This from a nation that used Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as tests for its new toy – of course, a military blockade was not sufficient for our Japanese friends to surrender given many were on the verge of starvation.

A few facts make a salient reminder – lets remember Chernobyl and put things into perspective.
Yes, Japan has a nuclear crisis, yes its bad, yes people have been evacuated – ie the survivors of both a huge earthquake and mega tsunami. Do remember all nuclear plants in question remained intact after the earthquake and shutdown according to protocol – however, systems have failed and we have an emergency – one that I'm confident engineers can cope with. Again, its no Chernobyl.

Now get this folks, when Chernobyl blew up I was living in the path of fallout from the reactor – this in Wales many, many miles away.

At the time, sheep had to be moved from the hills as they were contaminated and many of said sheep were deemed unfit for human consumption. nearly 30 years later, certain areas are still contaminated – to date I've seen no 'two headed' cows, sheep, pigs or birds – birth defects are normal per head of population.

I also reside close to a nuclear power station on the River Severn, this close to a population area in excess of 1 million – that's 1 million persons within a 20 mile radius of the plant – evidently, I spend my days wearing a useless face mask and white overalls to protect myself from this hazard.

Time to get real, lets quit the bullshit and look at the facts – if Japan survived two atomic detonations within three days of each other – the death toll of which was similar to the blanket bombing raids Mr. LaMay made on other large cities – these being fire bombed, I'm confident with all the technology at its disposal, some of it even from the USA, it will overcome this disaster.

I'm in Tokyo in three weeks time and can assure you I'm more afraid of flying than earthquakes and potential radioactive fallout in Japan – tis a shame others are not so stoic.


You must be a foreigner. When Americans hear pundits for the nuclear industry telling them there's no threat to America from clouds of plutonium entering the jetstream and being deposited on the West Coast in the next rainstorm, they know to read between the lines.

Chris Rogers:

The last time I read geography, Wales was a constituent unit of the United Kingdom – so, evidently one is not from the USA. Actually, I currently reside in Hong Kong – this being less than 2,000 miles away from Japan – I can assure you, the diesel exhaust fumes are more dangerous than any supposed radioactive cloud from Japan's stricken reactors.


How many people have died so far from the radiation? How many died at Chernobyl?

UNSCEAR has conducted 20 years of detailed scientific and epidemiological research on the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR originally predicted up to 4,000 additional cancer cases due to the accident. However, the latest UNSCEAR reports suggest that these estimates were overstated. In addition, the IAEA states that there has been no increase in the rate of birth defects or abnormalities, or solid cancers (such as lung cancer) corroborating UNSCEAR's assessments.

The number of toaster related deaths in the world this past year was 45. This is up 12 from last year, and up 15 from two years ago. The number of toaster related deaths in the US alone was 17, nearly a 7% increase over the past year. This year toasters have killed nearly ten times more people worldwide than the deadly polio virus.

So far more people have died from toasters. When the count goes above this. I will start to worry.

[Mar 15, 2011] US Dollar, FOMC, and the Japan Crisis: The Dog That Didn't Bark

Detective Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Sherlock Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Detective Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

A. Conan Doyle, Silver Blaze

The US dollar is rolling over and going lower today, no doubt easily explained away by the meme of Japanese selling their dollar Treasuries to raise cash to pay for their much needed repairs.

Except, that it does not bark sufficiently for me, but in context, the dollar just continues to roll over during what would ordinarily be a classic flight to safety rally scenario, even two years ago.

It is some consolation that the dollar is rolling over, perhaps, because it at least spares us another claim of inevitable victory over all things real from the Deflation's Witnesses. The decline in silver and to a lesser extent gold would have been more impressive except that they have been subject to vicious bear raids almost every day since they went into their delivery period on the Comex.

I can explain the selling and the general declines in almost everything easily enough through hedge fund liquidation. No one wants to meet margin calls under duress should the worst happen. As hedge fund advisor Dennis Gartman said, "Better to panic and remain liquid." I suspect this morning I might have been buying on the cheap from among of the things that Dennis' acolytes were throwing away. I think the metals are going higher if this support level holds. But as always, I make haste slowly.

There is a bit of a flow into Treasuries right after the aptly named Mr. Gross allegedly dumped them, but no net gains for the dollar. Where is all this cash going, and more interestingly perhaps, where is it going next?

And of course it is an options expiration week, and the markets are amazingly subdued given their declines and the dire news this morning on the airwaves. What is skulking in the corners and shadows of the financial sector, waiting for yet another attempt to baffle the world, if but for its sheer banality and obtuseness?

The Fed just had their FOMC announcement, with no change in policy, and absolutely no mention of Japan and any potential actions, reassurances, or impacts. They do see a continuing gradual improvement in the US economy, and a 'firmer footing.'

Of course these are the same Fed folks, the banking regulator as Consumer Advisory Council, that just examined the US mortgage market and said they found NOT ONE instance of a wrongful foreclosure. No surprise there really, since these jokers apparently could not find their own bubble-emitting posteriors with both hands, at least publicly and despite their newly released private meeting conversations. Robert Shiller said today that the housing bubble was the largest asset bubble in US economic history, since at least 1895 which is as far back as his records could go.

"We have now sunk to a depth at which re-statement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." George Orwell
Do these people expect anyone to take them seriously? Little wonder that the Fed and their viceroys are caught in a credibility trap, which seems to be de rigueur in the commonwealth of global oligarchs and autocrats these days.

Many dictators are foul, corrupt sociopaths, violent people who use violence and murder as a matter of course in the self-serving and often obsessive acquistion of wealth and power.

But in the so called civilized western world we have something almost worse: well educated men, leading comfortable, professional lives, committing gut wrenching economic atrocities for the mere sake of appearances, and a clubby kind of quid pro quo.

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves." T.S. Eliot, 1950

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Timeline of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Groupthink : Two Party System as Polyarchy : Corruption of Regulators : Bureaucracies : Understanding Micromanagers and Control Freaks : Toxic Managers :   Harvard Mafia : Diplomatic Communication : Surviving a Bad Performance Review : Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime : PseudoScience : Who Rules America : Neoliberalism  : The Iron Law of Oligarchy : Libertarian Philosophy


War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes


Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law


Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D

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Last modified: March 03, 2020