Fukushima Thread: March 14, 2011

High radiation levels risk to human health: Japanese government

Japan faced the growing possibility of serious radiation leaks – maybe even a catastrophic meltdown –after two more explosions rocked a nuclear power plant and workers were forced to abandon the most dangerous reactor, which suffered damage to its containment structure.

A spokesman said radiation was high enough in nearby areas to damage people's health.

...“It’s like a horror movie,” said 49-year-old Kyoko Nambu told the Associated Press as she stood on a hillside overlooking her ruined hometown of Soma, 40 kilometres from the plant. “Our house is gone and now they are telling us to stay indoors."

Third explosion rocks Japanese nuclear power plant

Japan's nuclear crisis reached new heights as a third explosion rocked the crippled Fukushima power plant and officials acknowledged that the radioactive fuel inside one of the damaged reactors was in jeopardy of melting down.

KEY POINTS-Japanese govt's comments on nuclear crisis


Emergency Cooling Effort at Reactor Is Failing, Deepening Japanese Crisis

Industry executvies in touch with their counterparts in Japan Monday night grew increasingly alarmed about the risks posed by the No. 2 reactor.

“They’re basically in a full-scale panic” among Japanese power industry managers, said a senior nuclear industry executive. The executive is not involved in managing the response to the reactors’ difficulties but has many contacts in Japan. “They’re in total disarray, they don’t know what to do.”

Crisis continues at Fukushima nuclear plant as fuel rods exposed again

A crisis continued Tuesday at the troubled No. 2 reactor at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, as fuel rods became fully exposed again after workers recovered water levels to cover half of them in a bid to prevent overheating.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said a steam vent of the pressure container of the reactor that houses the rods was closed for some reason, raising fears that its core will melt at a faster pace. It said it will try to open the vent to resume the operation to inject seawater to cool down the reactor.

U.S. nuclear experts arrive in Japan

MINAMISANRIKU, Japan (UPI) -- The United States dispatched two technical experts to help Japan address the crisis at its quake-damaged nuclear plants, White House officials said Monday.

Risk of meltdown increases at Japan nuclear reactor

The fuel rods at a third nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have been fully exposed to air, allowing them to heat up and raising the risk of a meltdown, according to officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the plant.

Engineers had begun pumping seawater into the reactor at the facility, the third reactor to receive the last-ditch treatment, after the plant's emergency cooling system had failed and the fuel rods had been partially exposed to the air. But apparently something went wrong and the injection of water failed.

Workers were scrambling to re-immerse the fuel assembly before more damage is done to the reactor core.

Tokyo Electric sees rise in radiation at Fukushima Daini plant

(Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc said on Monday it had detected a rise in radiation levels at its Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

Radiation health risk in Japan called low

Multiple worries grip Japanese survivors of Friday's earthquake and tsunami, one of the most frightening of which is the possibility of health risks from the nation's damaged nuclear reactors.

Japan distributes iodine to evacuation centres--IAEA

(Reuters) - Japan has provided 230,000 units of stable iodine to evacuation centres as a precautionary measure in the country's nuclear emergency, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Monday.

Japan's nuclear crisis turns spotlight on U.S. plants

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The safety of America's nuclear reactors is being questioned as Japanese engineers scramble to avert a total meltdown at two of that country's quake-stricken power plants.

Like in Japan, some of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States are situated along the ocean -- some in earthquake-prone areas.

Kibosh on nuclear renaissance? Not so fast

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan have made the world rapt, punctuated by a new explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station this morning, and fear of nuclear contamination should the Japanese fail to contain the radioactivity. The probable outcome, given how the world reacted to the 1979 Three Mile Island and 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accidents, is that the much-ballyhooed global "nuclear renaissance" will be much-slowed or perhaps even still-born. That's the thrust of a piece at Bloomberg. The Financial Times's Sylvia Pfeifer reports that the accidents have "cast a shadow over proposals for new nuclear reactors around the world." U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman has suggested good hard new scrutiny of the industry's plans.

Yet the tenor of conversations I've had with industry experts and investment bankers -- the latter who raise money to pay for the reactors - isn't panic. They suggest that -- while the public and regulators will demand far stricter inspection of the safety plans for new nuclear reactors, and financiers will demand higher fees in line with the greater perceived risk -- the renaissance will go ahead.

No laws needed for German nuclear deal suspension

(Reuters) - Germany's decision to suspend an agreement prolonging the life of its nuclear power stations will require talks with service providers but no changes to laws, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday.

Japan Nuclear Meltdown Forces China Review as India Sees Safety Backlash

Japan’s worst nuclear accident in at least 33 years has compelled China and India to review plans for atomic energy that were set to provide a boon for suppliers including Areva SA and General Electric Co.

Local govt in Japan calls for caution over new nuclear plant

(Reuters) - The governor of Japan's Yamaguchi prefecture has asked a power company planning to build a nuclear plant there to ensure its safety, voicing caution in the wake of the nuclear accident caused by Friday's massive earthquake.

Water level near empty at Japan nuclear reactor - owner

(Reuters) - Water levels inside a quake-stricken Japanese nuclear reactor were almost empty on Monday night, said the power plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co .

Earlier, news agency Jiji said a meltdown of fuel rods inside the Fukushima Daiichi complex's No.2 reactor could not be ruled out.

Blast destroys nuclear power station roof in Japan

TOKYO — An explosion Monday afternoon ripped through Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station in northeastern Japan and destroyed the roof of a reactor building. The Japanese government quickly imposed a 12 mile quarantine and required residents to immediately evacuate, but said those beyond were not at risk.

3 injured, 7 missing in blast at Japan nuke plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. says three workers have been injured and seven are missing after an explosion at the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Tepco Battles Cooling Failures in 3 Reactors Hit by Quake

(Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. engineers tried to stabilize three nuclear reactors damaged by the biggest earthquake in Japan’s history, as a second explosion disrupted efforts to cool fuel rods and prevent a meltdown.

Nuclear Emergency Is Worst in Decades

The earthquake and tsunami that battered northern Japan on Friday set in motion one of the worst nuclear accidents in over two decades.

The International Atomic Energy Agency rates the severity of radiological events, with a scale starting at one, an “anomaly,” and rising to seven, a “major” accident. Six and seven designate full meltdown, where the nuclear fuel or core of a reactor overheats and melts. The scale of the ensuing uncontrolled release of radiation that follows differentiates the two. Partial meltdowns, in which the fuel is damaged, are rated a four or a five.

Danger Posed by Radioactivity in Japan Hard to Assess

The different radioactive materials being reported at the nuclear accidents in Japan range from relatively benign to extremely worrisome.

The central problem in assessing the degree of danger is that the amounts of various radioactive releases into the environment are now unknown, as are the winds and other atmospheric factors that determine how radioactivity will disperse around the stricken plants.

U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty

WASHINGTON — The fragile bipartisan consensus that nuclear power offers a big piece of the answer to America’s energy and global warming challenges may have evaporated as quickly as confidence in Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors.

Japan Disaster Ends Hopes on U.S. Energy Deal

Every path to political compromise on a U.S. energy policy runs through nuclear power. And no matter how serious the problems at the quake-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors in Japan turn out to be, the situation there has likely snuffed any hopes of a deal on energy until at least 2013.

Crisis Underscores Fears About Safety of Nuclear Energy

The official announcement that two reactors at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant could be suffering meltdowns underscores the Japanese nuclear industry’s troubled history, and years of grass-roots objections from a people uniquely sensitive to the ravages of nuclear destruction.

Tests detect radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy crew members in Japan

(CNN) -- Tests detected low levels of radioactivity on 17 U.S. Navy helicopter crew members when they returned to the USS Ronald Reagan after conducting disaster relief missions in Japan, the military said Monday.

No further contamination was detected after the crew members washed with soap and water, the Navy said.

In addition, the Navy said the U.S. 7th Fleet has temporarily repositioned its ships and planes away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after detecting low-level contamination in the air and on its planes in the area, the Navy said.

Nuclear power remains key to China's carbon targets

Beijing - Rapid expansion of nuclear power remains a key element in China's five-year plan to reduce carbon emissions and promote more sustainable development, experts said on Monday, despite fears generated by Japan's struggle to control nuclear plants damaged by last week's devastating earthquake.

Swiss suspend nuclear plant replacements approvals

(Reuters) - Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard has suspended the approvals process for three nuclear power stations so safety standards can be revisted after the crisis in Japan.

Older nuclear reactors: cooling is core of the problem

The risk of a meltdown at a damaged Japanese nuclear plant has raised questions about how quickly older nuclear reactors should be phased out.

The End of Nuclear and its Timing

Three days before the Fukushima nuclear power explosion, I made this comment on a peace activist's Facebook page: "I believe a successful, final anti-nuke campaign will only take place in one of two ways: (1) collapse puts the entire infrastructure of industry and consumption out of business, forcing the survivors to minimally babysit the nukes forever, or, there's an accident or deliberate blast or meltdown that motivates people all over the world to shut down the mechanical beast once and for all."

I didn't think it would come so soon. But that has been the pattern for our planet in peril in recent years: acceleration of disasters, climate destabilization, peak oil, strife such as wars and revolutions, extremes of elitist wealth and overwhelming poverty, fresh water depletion -- all prelude to complete collapse. However, to use the equivalent of jiu-jitsu or aikido to rapidly channel the onslaught of negative energy toward something positive is our duty and opportunity. It takes not only a mass awakening to the insane futility of nuclear power, but a realization that the present system; a.k.a. Western Civilization, is hitting bottom. As glorifying as our civilization is in some respects, the extinction of species and the sprawling, cancerous waste known as development (for profit of the few) are impossible to ignore and excuse.

Japan Atomic Power expects quake-hit plant cooled by Tues

(Reuters) - The quake-hit Tokai Daini nuclear plant, located on the northeast coast of Japan and north of Tokyo, is expected to be safely cooled down by Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the operator, Japan Atomic Power Co, said on Monday.

EDF Leads Nuclear Utility Slump After Japan Earthquake; Solar, Gas Advance

Electricite de France SA and E.ON AG (EOAN) led declines among nuclear utilities on concern that explosions at two Japanese reactors may spur governments to backtrack on plans to expand atomic energy. Renewable power and natural-gas stocks rose on prospects for increased demand.

Quake Moves Japan Closer to U.S. and Alters Earth’s Spin

The magnitude-8.9 earthquake that struck northern Japan on Friday not only violently shook the ground and generated a devastating tsunami, it also moved the coastline and changed the balance of the planet.

Global positioning stations closest to the epicenter jumped eastward by up to 13 feet.

Japan is “wider than it was before,” said Ross Stein, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey.

Japan ’Big One’ May Raise Quake Risk for Years, Scientists Say

“The model predicts that while a few large earthquakes will occur soon after the last one, most will occur at much longer times, typically years, after the last one,” she said.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, lies on the so- called Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines surrounding the Pacific Basin including Sumatra, site of the Indonesian quake.

“Before 2004, most geophysicists taught that only limited parts of the Ring of Fire could be capable of generating really giant earthquakes,” Antonio Piersanti, head researcher of the Rome-based Italian Institute of Geology and Vulcanology, said in an e-mailed statement. “After the Sumatra event and especially after this last event maybe we should seriously consider the possibility that any part of the Ring of Fire could generate a 9-plus earthquake,” Piersanti said.

Continuing the discussion about the engineering of the Fukushima plant from the previous thread, the BBC is now reporting a whistleblower statement by Masashi Goto, nuclear engineer, that Toshiba (plant builder) knew that the engineering specs were not adequate for a disaster of this magnitude. Looks like this is a classic cost-benefit scenario, where engineers tell management what is necessary, and management makes the decision about the risks they can live with - in order to get the project margin up.

Therefore, it is safe to assume that most "free market" nuclear plants have been built to "seemingly safe" standards, with reasonable assurance that they will not fail for the duration of the rest of the current top management's life, ie. 20-30 years.

Reminds me of the old army joke: "we have the best equipment that the cheapest bid can buy"

Yeah but we went up against folks that went the corruption route instead. Cheap is bad, corrupt is worse.

And isn't that just the point. Corruption and cutting corners happen everywhere. Quakes can happen everywhere. Other natural disasters can happen everywhere. Societal collapse is pretty darn certain to happen everywhere, eventually. Terrorism and gov takeover by lunatics can happen everywhere.

In a world full of so much fundamental uncertainty and instability, why create and entire industry that depends on everything going essentially perfectly essentially forever or else mass death and massive essentially eternal lethal zones result?

Just sayin'.

On the more technical side, the pictures of these explosions make it look like the tops of the containment structure just vaporizes. Is that the case? Wouldn't smoke from vaporized nuclear structures be pretty darn hazardous? And why no (visible) flames at these explosions?

Still, if we do a risk managment look at the situation, all seven could go critical and not even begin to touch the lives lost in the name of the pursuit of hydrocarbons. Did WWII and Japan's lust for oil 'cause' the deaths at Hiroshima and Nagasaki or was it the splitting of the atom? Would Lemay just have firebombed some more? Did the bombs save lives in not having to invade? Be careful trying to get history to fit your ideals of today. It rarely works.

Faulty logic.

Because one thing is bad, even very bad, does not mean that something else is good, or even acceptable.

And you follow this non-sequitur with a red herring. What does Hiroshima have to do with this?

Did the Japanese not start WWII because in large part of the US embargo on oil? No war, no nuke? I ask, I do not say. It is a speculative, hypothetical question, yet even you cannot deny that the war must start before the bombs are dropped, unless that is the start of the war.

I guess I must be way to dense to get your connection (or your connection is way to subtle for my simple mind).

All I was saying was that we live in a very, very uncertain world, and in that world, it would seem unwise to construct an industry that goes catastrophically lethal if certainties don't persist.

We could get into a conversation about the motivations for WWII or the motivations for dropping the bomb, but I'm afraid that for the life of me I just can't see what these have to do with whether the world is an uncertain place.

You seem to be a generally bright fellow, so I will assume that it is my own inability to understand the vast subtly of your doubtlessly completely cogent argument. But I see no way to suddenly make myself brainy enough to grok your point, so I'd better bow out of the conversation.

[Edit: I see now that you switched to discussing risk management at some point. Perhaps this is what I missed. But we didn't have to create this risk to manage. The first lesson in risk management should surely be, "Don't create new, unnecessary, un-controllable, and and ultimately massively lethal risks."]

Every course of action has risks, and just because you do not care for the risks inherent to one course of action does not mean that taking that path is wrong. The alternative paths may be even worse.

This applies to every action, not just nuclear physics.

Thank you for stating the obvious.

But a risk that you may irradiate an entire, densely populated island, and leave a large region around the site uninhabitable essentially forever is a quantitatively and qualitatively different risk than many others I can think of.

I have natural gas in my house. There could be a leak, and it could explode, possibly with me in it.

But the fire is not likely to affect more than perhaps my neighbors, and the area where my house is (much less the entire neighborhood...) will not be uninhabitable for ever because of it.

So pretending nuclear power is just another risk like any other seems a bit disingenuous, at least.

Perhaps you will grok this explaination of relative risks: a molecule of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere for every molecule of methane you burm in your house.

So implying that natural gas is a lot safer than nucklear power is not an ENTIRELY reasonable argument. ;)

The point being made is that all industrial activities involve risks which endanger us all, if you look at the big picture.

I have a coffee table picture book that is filled with pictures of spectacular train wrecks from the early days of railroading.

We haven't given up on trains;we learned to build better and safer railroads.

Let up pray that only a few people die as a direct result of the failure of these nucklear plants;it is probably unfortunately true that a few plant workers are either already dead or will die as a result of performing emergency work.

Perhaps then we can apply the lessons learned and get on with a new generation of safer nukes.

The choice, in real terms, is not between nukes and no nukes;it is between nukes and functionally equivalent amounts of coal being burned, with all the environmental costs associated with burning that much more coal necessarily being wieghed in the Big Picture" balance against the big picture costs of the nukes.

Conservation on a scale to make up the difference is not an option, in political terms. It just won't happen.

I think dohboi's point is being missed.

You're right that burning gas is bad for us. So perhaps we shouldn't be powering our societies on fossil fuels. Nuclear power relies on everything going right in a world where that is fantasy so expect things to go wrong. So perhaps we shouldn't be building more nuclear reactors (and should start decommissioning the existing ones).

Humans appear to be prone to doing stupid things even when they can see the likely/certain impacts. Unfortunately, the oil adherents and the nuclear adherents appear to think that life will go on as "normal" for ever or that their particular pet technology will allow life to go on as "normal" for ever. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I understood his point perfectly when he said it.

I just think that he's wrong.

Conservation on a scale to make up the difference is not an option, in political terms. It just won't happen.

An attempt to impose that sort of conservation would almost certainly lead to the worst sort of anti-environmentalists taking over the US. That would lead to far far greater harm, than the minimal danger of screwing up a couple of nukes. We are already seeing the mess a handful of tea-party types can do in the house.

How to store said high level waste (+100K years)and how to speculate (i.e. rationalize) risk involved? Maybe not a good bet for future generations that we may/may not be responsible for the care of?

Do some research on Gen IV reactors, particularly the Integral Fast Reactor and Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, for which prototypes have already operated, and see that the waste decays to background levels in 300 years.

I think it is moraaly wrong to leave toxic wastes for future generations to live with as we won't leave enough affordable resources for them to cope. BAU is no longer an option.

By consuming fossil fuels and finite resources like uranium, phosphorus etc. at exponentially increasing rates and consuming the resources our children would have consumed by using vast amounts of debt, the whole world is waaaaaaay into ecological overshoot.

I think it is moraaly wrong to leave toxic wastes for future generations to live with as we won't leave enough affordable resources for them to cope.

You seem to mix 2 thoughts into one here. But either way, the same can be said of coal waste, both before and after burning.


Wikipedia is a good enough place to start.

Any comments as to why, if these are such well proven technologies, they have not yet been implemented on a large scale?

There are experimental reactors no prototypes of these technologies. They plan on working prototypes in the next 10 to 15 years. This technology has many challenges, including salt cooling, but the biggest problem is the spent fuel which has contaminants much worse than current fuel. The Thorium fuel cycle produces very hard to handle waste.

Conservation on a scale to make up the difference is not an option, in political terms. It just won't happen.

Well, it has happened before, in WW2. Adn the reason the the entire continent started daylight saving two days ago instead of in early April as it used to be, or even that it happens at all, is because the government said so, in order to save some energy.

Conservation can be implemented on a grand scale, if the people are satisfied that it is both necessary and achieves something. Unfortunately, no one perceives that it is "necessary" at present, and resent being asked to "cut back" when the government seems unwilling to do the same.

But, political considerations aside, there is lots of energy that could be saved, if the need arose.

...my own inability to understand the vast subtly of your doubtlessly completely cogent argument.

Now that's some darn good writing.

The biggest problem with us Americans is our carelessness.People who only want to be entertained and not informed with facts are perhaps the most easily manipulated individuals on earth.

The fact of the matter is that the agenda to build nuclear weapons was etablished BEFORE hostilities commenced.The war was completely planned out long before the first shot was fired.The acquisition of fission weapons was a guarantee of economic preponderance once attained - despite what so called conventional history teaches us.The media spreads fear and fear leads to amoral activities that would not be carried out under peaceful conditions.

That is why every war has been waged i.e. greed - not religion.

What these events in Japan teach us is that this technology was a spurious plan to begin with.Fission fragments can end the life of all forms of biological life - in areas affected by this type of event cockroaches do not stand a chance let alone human beings.

The U.S. placed an embargo on oil to Japan as a result of Japan's invasion of China. No reason to provide fuel for an invading army, seems reasonable to me.

Uh no. The Japanese were already hip deep into WWII when the US embargo took place. The Japanese chose to escalate the problem by attacking Pearl Harbor.

Faulty logic also in comparing a long past with a current catastrophe. Your scenario does not end its run of ruin tomorrow; give it a few millenia, then do the count.

Written by dohboi:
...the pictures of these explosions make it look like the tops of the containment structure just vaporizes. Is that the case?

No. If you look closely at the explosion of Fukushima 1, reactors 1 & 3, you can see large chunks of debris flying through the air.

Written by dohboi:
Wouldn't smoke from vaporized nuclear structures be pretty darn hazardous?

Probably and dust from the pulverized concrete would be bad to breathe.

Written by dohboi:
And why no (visible) flames at these explosions?

When hydrogen burns, there is little visible light emitted. There is a faint blue flame, but it is essentially invisible. When hydrogen burns, it produces white steam. The explosion at Fukushima 1, reactor 1 looks like a hydrogen explosion to me. The explosion at Fukushima 1, reactor 3 appears to have had multiple explosions, an orange flame jutting sideways and darker smoke/dust billowing from the reactor building. The orange flame and black smoke suggest something other than hydrogen was exploding and burning.

Latest from BBC feed. I thought that MOX was not used:
1431: More from Japanese nuclear engineer Masashi Goto: He say that as the reactor uses mox (mixed oxide) fuel, the melting point is lower than that of conventional fuel. Should a meltdown and an explosion occur, he says, plutonium could be spread over an area up to twice as far as estimated for a conventional nuclear fuel explosion. The next 24 hours are critical, he says.
1426: Mr Goto says his greatest fear is that blasts at number 3 and number 1 reactors may have damaged the steel casing of the containment vessel designed to stop radioactive material escaping into the atmosphere. More to follow.
1422: Japanese engineer Masashi Goto, who helped design the containment vessel for Fukushima's reactor core, says the design was not enough to withstand earthquakes or tsunamis and the plant's builders, Toshiba, knew this. More on Mr Goto's remarks to follow.


Reactor unit 3

Unlike the other five reactor units, reactor 3 runs on mixed uranium and plutonium oxide, or MOX fuel, making it potentially more dangerous in an incident due to the neutronic effects of plutonium on the reactor and the carcinogenic effects in the event of release to the environment

Apparently the water levels at reactor 2 were believed to have been stabilized at 2 meters, now TEPCO is saying that they have begun to fail again, suggesting further trouble with the pumps that failed already once when reactor 3 blew up.

Japan is also distributing 230,000 iodine tablets to the evacuation centers as a precaution.

Also reported by TEPCO: Fukushima area has seen increased radiation just now.

15:26 GMT

According to a spokesman:

Levels of cooling sea water around the reactor core had been reported as falling earlier in the day. Jiji said the pump had run out of fuel.

OMG - WTF? Even if roads are closed, they have these things called helicopters that can deliver diesel fuel just about anywhere anytime. I guess it just goes to show how badly things can be managed in a crisis.

Would YOU want to go in there where you would be getting above the maximum safe exposure level of radioactivity for a year in an hour?

"Would YOU want to go in there where you would be getting above the maximum safe exposure level of radioactivity for a year in an hour?"

Maximum annual safe exposure for general population, 500 mrem.

Two hour trip , 1 rem.

Minimum dose detectable by biological changes, 25 rem.

Dose for mild radiation sickness, 100 rem.

Safety margin; adequate. No need to invoke kamakaze spirit, or even cowabunga spirit.

Isn't 500rem the 50% chance of nearterm death?
I think airline crews are pretty close to the max exposure levels -you don't see pilots and stewardesses clamouring for safer jobs.

Think of the surroundings in general, too. and the emotional state of those working on it.

Some machines REALLY like to be clean and dry and cool. If there's a lot of airborne debris, air intakes on gennies could foul, rushed fuel supplies might have clogged fuel filters.. etc, etc, etc..

In a system that demands 'cool and rational'.. what happens amidst multiple layers of chaos and heat?

guess it just goes to show how badly things can be managed in a crisis.

I'm sure the fact that some of the staff working to contain the situation are now dead, following the 2nd explosion, doesn't help matters.

All really good points. I was just a little surprised that "running out of fuel" would be the cause. I figured checking on the amount of fuel for your emergency pumps would be high on the list of priorities. But that can be the nature of crises - there is so much bad stuff going on sometimes things get missed.

And no, I would not want to enter the area, but if that was my job and I had full anti-contamination gear on, I would enter it to deliver fuel for the emergency situation, then get out ASAP. Workers are wearing dosimeters and in emergencies they take short term doses to get the job done, and then are kept out of exposure areas for the rest of the year. Not a desirable thing, but what do you do?

The risk is actually lower than what a lot of others do to be declared heroes. I'd take that level of risk if I thought it would avert a disaster. Knowing that by being a hero if it went bad my family would be well cared for...

You mean like our 9/11 heroes? Yeah, that only took a decade, many of them are still alive.

CNN has been reporting that the pumps ran out of fuel due to "operator error."

Its always" opperators error"

yes but the workers may not be able to get to the fuel tank because of radiation levels.

If I read that latest news story right, because of the reactor two crisis, it appears they are abandoning control efforts! We can just hope containment holds...

More to worry about:

Although Tokyo Electric said it also continued to deal with cooling system failures and high pressures at half a dozen of its 10 reactors in the two Fukushima complexes, fears mounted about the threat posed by the pools of water where years of spent fuel rods are stored.

At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.

Concerns about a radiation release from the Fukushima Daiichi power facility have focused on its stricken nuclear reactors, but the plants of that design also store highly radioactive spent fuel in pools outside the protective containment structure that surrounds the reactor itself.

The culture change article reminds me very much of the Christian fundamentalist triumphalism that coincided with the original push of the Intelligent Design movement.

Unfortunately for religious movements, I don't think it's as easy these days to hijack the culture by taking a few of the citadels of mass media. The media might be screaming, but those of us with net connections and the ability to use them can find out what's really going on.

Edit: What I really mean is that this doesn't fit into any nice little box.

The rabidly pro-nuclear people want a box that says "nothing happened, everything is fine" into which everything can be comfortably spun and folded. The rabidly anti-nuclear people want to spin everything into "this is a disaster that indicates that nuclear power is fundamentally unsafe."

Reality never fits into neat boxes like that. Spin is the art of trying to make it fit. Having access to multiple sources of information, including knowledgeable sources, defeats spin.

Amazing this can happen so fast; in the swedish paper DN.se, there is a short note that the German
government just now made a statement that their reactor permissions will NOT be PROLONGED.

EDIT: ok, it is only a three month delay for decisions, by judging from this german paper

I repeat Germany government just this afternoon decided not to prolong permissions (at end of lifetime) for its nuclear reactors (only to wait three months on decision).

That decision can ofcourse be changed again, but still. Amazing how politicians function.

You do realize that there are politicians on the both sides of any issue with new laws just waiting for a good event/excuse to drop into the hopper? How else can you make sure a perfectly good crisis doesn't go to waste?

The revert in late 2010 of the exit strategy from nuclear (original from 2002) was extremely controversial and unpopular in Germany with regular demonstrations in the multiple 10s of thousands of demonstrators against it.

Also nearly every transport of nuclear waste costs the state many millions of Euros in order to secure the transport routes which partly requires more than 10 thousand police officers and other helpers to secure because of the large scale demonstrations against it.

Furthermore, there is an ongoing discussion at the supreme court if the revert in late 2010 was constitutional or not.

And last but not least, there are key elections in two key federal states in two weeks time, where the pro-nuclear government party faces the potential of loss.

So all together, the fast decision to "postpone" the nuclear prolonging to after the elections is not really surprising, if you see it in light of the very nuclear sceptic public in Germany.

Also Germany is a large exporter of electricity and has no shortage to fear from disbanding its oldest nuclear planets.

I'd probably class as 'rabidly pro-nuclear'.

The problem as I see it is that any energy technology is going to kill people.

Coal is the obvious one; we have heavy metal pollution, radioactive pollution, particulates, acid rain and global warming. Assuming no deaths from GW, we are still well into 6 figures per year minimum.

Oil and Natural Gas are less dangerous, but still reap a toll of mining accidents, urban pollution from cars and end use accidents.

Renewables also have deaths associated (as with any industry); wind turbine towers are dangerous places and if you are going to install solar on millions of rooftops there will be accidental deaths. There is also the economic impact which cannot be dismissed; if the cost of subsidising these technologies means that the elderly switch off heating or air conditioning (or intermittancy gives them no choice) then there will a significant excess death toll.

And with nuclear with have accidents such as this one. With few if any actual deaths, it has to be said. ~1000/year since 1950 would almost certainly be a massive overestimate.

What I don't understand is how we allow death to happen on a large scale from things like coal but not on a much smaller scale from things like nuclear.

The mind-blower to me is this:

Offshore oil drillers can almost literally blow up the entire Gulf of Mexico, and they're back at it in two years.

Nuclear power can have an accident in which only a few people are affected and we're talking 20 year moratorium.

Somehow this seems consistent with the news media fascination with an airliner crash that kills 100 people once every 5 years but completely ignores automotive deaths of tens of thousands of people every year world wide.

but completely ignores automotive deaths of tens of thousands of people every year world wide.

Actually its something like 900,000 per year!

Worldwide motor vehicle deaths were estimated at 1.2 million in 2004.India had 105,000 motor vehicle deaths in year.

Somehow this seems consistent with the news media fascination with an airliner crash that kills 100 people once every 5 years

2 things.

  1. News is basically the change from the normal. A car crash every day is normal, and planes don't crash every day.
  2. The boom factor. Evidence of a single event which kills more than one person.

Take the Hindenburg as an example. The disaster was caught on film and 75 years later, the first thing people think of when you mention a Zeppelin is still boom. Never mind that modern airships (including Zeppelins) use helium for buoyancy and have an entirely different envelope material.

Concorde is another example. The crash was caught on video. No more Concorde.

I think that the nuclear industry (apart from decommissioning) is essentially going to be wiped out by this particular disaster. It will be politically unacceptable to build new plant with the word nuclear in it's description. Which is going to be a problem with for example a 7% annual decline in oil production.

I think that when an event kills more than two people, it's clear that people were dying through no fault of their own.

I think people can expect the odd Lightning death, or being swept out to sea, as even that has a component of personal responsibility and choice and just 'bad luck' in it..

But when a manmade system kills you and many others through no fault of your own, eg, Airline Crash, Nuclear Accident, Food-borne diseases.. then we look at these as somewhat more 'unfair and preventable' deaths.

I think that has more to do with the difference in perception of danger.

Offshore oil drillers can almost literally blow up the entire Gulf of Mexico,

I think you exaggerate a tad...

LOL. The GOM is still there, but it is not like it used to be. Still needs a little time to purge the oil and dispersants out.

Radioactivity does last longer however if the nasties get out.

That is why we have the issue and the stringency is much higher. imho

Hey, fluff, thanks for your candor as being 'rabidly pro-nuke.'

I may be closer to being rabidly anti-nuke, but that doesn't mean that I think these other technologies are great. Just because one is critical of crack cocaine use doesn't mean that one thinks that smoking cigarettes is fine.

It does not make one thing good to say that something else is bad. In fact, if one has to resort to such poor logic, it suggests that they are out of any arguments that actually have a chance of holding water.

Why shouldn't people be concerned about radiation? People have an intuitive (and often beyond intuitive) sense that it is a more fundamental attack than a chemical threat--it is an attack on ones very atomic structure.

The poison is in two things: the nature of the poison, and the dose.

There are chemicals that I would find far more scary than moderate amounts of radiation. There are carcinogenic compounds that can get into your body, stick to DNA, cause mutations, and then unstick and migrate elsewhere and do the same thing again multiple times... like catalysts.

But yes, radiation is invisible and scary. If I lived next to an old nuke plant, especially if it were in a fault zone or otherwise were vulnerable to this kind of thing, I'd be tempted to pick up a Geiger counter on eBay.

As it happens, I have an old ancient geiger counter, but only for display, really. The one I have is old enough that it takes some really funny batteries (45V, 22.5V, and 2 D-cells, IIRC). I have no clue as to whether mine would work if I put batteries in it.

The tricky thing about geiger counters is that they really do need to be calibrated from time to time, and that costs money. If you happen to have one that you want just as a conversation piece, then you don't need to take this step of course, but if you intended to use it to protect yourself, it would probably be something that you would want to do.

Secondly, you need to understand enough about radiation, acceptable doses and all that other good stuff in order to make effective use of the thing. Mine has several sensitivity levels. So, if you heard the thing ticking, would you be able to tell what levels are just normal background, what would be slightly elevated, and how high the levels would need to be for you to conclude that getting the hell out of there is the right move to make? And are you sure enough that you would trust your life on it?

I had a surplus Geiger counter once, gave it away, and plan to get another one. Outside of the issue of finding batteries for yours, if it works, I wouldn't worry too much about the calibration. It's all relative. You can test it against some known low level radioactive source such as an old radium luminous dial pocket watch or alarm clock. Note what level that registers above background, and that gives you a reference point. Also note what the normal background level is and that's another point. Now if the background goes up noticeably there is some cause for concern. Also you can have fun checking around your house to see if you have anything else radioactive, such as items made from contaminated scrap metal as described somewhere else in this thread.

It would cost about 50$ to get the batteries to just test the thing. The good news I guess is that the batteries are still available. I wonder if it would be easier to get something a lot newer though - this has never been a high priority for me (my wife asked me just the other day why is there a geiger counter sitting on the shelf in our office at home, and I didn't have a really good answer). I suppose all of the folks who work in the oil industry have similar objects sitting on the shelf related to work they have done in the past..

Household smoke detectors would be good candidates for test subjects - they all seem to use a very small amount of Am241, but I don't know how many CPM to expect.

The tricky thing is that the geiger counters are good at measuring counts per minute, but that doesn't tell you much about what type of radiation is present, and how harmful it is to human health. When I was in school, they always talked about "rems", but these days they all use micro-sieverts (which effectively measures the same thing). But no matter which unit you use, there isn't a trivial conversion from counts-per-minute unless you knew what the radiation sources were that were present...

you would think that some US government agency has an ongoing radiation monitoring program that could or should be online. The USGS, for example, has a web page that gives close to real time information on earthquakes. So far, I haven't been able to google anything like this. Anyone know where to look? It would sure benefit my wife, a public health nurse, if she could tell worried callers to check on "radiation data.com." I wonder whether the Scandinavian fallout after Chernobyl was picked up by some form of systematic monitoring or just a few private citizens with geiger counters.

Link seems to have stopped working. (404 Not Found)

You could find someone with a dual output bench power supply to test your old counter.

The Pocket Geiger Counters listed in angustotse's link range $400-$700.

I glanced at the website, and they said they are all sold out, but taking future orders. But the number of orders is so heavy that they can't even begin to predict delivery dates. If you had wanted one of these things, the best time was when there is nothing much going on.

I guess my thoughts here are that the folks in Japan need them a lot more than we do right now.


No, I think that comparing the risks of various power sources (and power down) is the only way we can rationally decide what the best course of action is. And I would argue that on any meaningful timescale nuclear power will lead to fewest deaths (assuming a chernobyl level incident every decade or so). As I said, there is no 'zero deaths' option.

Oh, and radiation does damage at the chemical level, typically by breaking strands of DNA. Interestingly, it seems that you actually need a certain level of radiation damage to keep cellular DNA repair mechanisms primed (although the evidence for this is not conclusive, I'll happily admit).

Well, this ground has been traversed (or should I say trampled into the dust) repeatedly here, but just to re-re-re-...iterate:

BAU levels of energy use are not in the cards in any remotely realistic scenario going forward.

Time to adjust to a vastly different new idea of "business" and "usual" that involves radically less energy use.

One of the things we all use energy for here (obviously) is computing. It strikes me that with everything getting much smaller, we should be able to use small enough amount of energy for this function that solar panels on the back of computers and perhaps small hand cranks should be enough to supply this use. And computers, especially as they get smaller and smaller, can be used for most of our other electronic devices--phone, tv, stereo...

For domestic use, refrigeration is the other big draw, and those can still be made much smaller and much more efficient (why don't they open from the top like big freezers so all the cool doesn't flow out ever time you crack the door open?).

Anyway, the Europeans use half the power we do in the US, and they live quite well. And even relatively affluent Latin American countries use about half what Europeans do. So we should be able to drop our energy use to a quarter of current use and still live comfortably. Pushing that a bit more gets us down to 20% of current energy use. That allows us to get off coal and phase out/retire old nuclear as we ramp up wind and solar, work on storage, and continually look for ways of conserving and doing with less.

Assumptions involving continuing anything like BAU are just not worth discussing anymore, imvho.

Meanwhile, of course, politics seems to be going the opposite direction (ie toward total lunacy), and the real real world is meanwhile coming apart at the climatic and tectonic seams.

Best to all in an uncertain (but always very interesting) future.


I agree that much can and will be done to cut personal domestic energy consumption per capita. The number's lower than the US in many industrialised countries (all of them, I think?) - for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per... says the US consumes almost twice as much per capita my own country, the UK. Of course there are structural differences (population density for instance) but, clearly, there's a lot of scope for improvement.

The inexorable rise in energy prices, and of goods and services which require a lot of energy to produce, will help this process a lot more than well-intentioned voters, politicians, and small groups like the Transition Economy people, green groups, etc., but it'll be a savage way to change behaviour.

However, you're not taking into account that personal energy consumption's only one part of the pie.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_resources_and_consumption#By_s... quotes:

Industry and agriculture: 37%
Personal and commercial transport: 20%
Residential heat, light, appliances: 11%
Heating/cooling/water (commercial): 5%
Transmission losses: 27%

Incidentally whilst poking around for those numbers, I came up with this interesting piece on the UK's National Statistics Office site: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=151
Consumption of energy / economic activity (in the UK) has fallen by almost 40% in fifteen years from the early 90s to late 2000s.

(why don't they open from the top like big freezers so all the cool doesn't flow out ever time you crack the door open?).

People use upright freidges and freezers because they are more floorspace efficient. A 200L upright might only occupy a square metre of space, while a similar-sized chest might occupy two or three.

Uprights cost more to run, but when energy is so cheap people make the trade-off. I've actually had an argument with the old boy when he claimed uprights were more efficient than chests. Go figure.

(why don't they open from the top like big freezers so all the cool doesn't flow out ever time you crack the door open?).

I have wondered about that myself. To me a perfect refrigerator/freezer design would be spherical, heavily insulated with a porthole on top, sort of like a land bound bathysphere. It would have rotating compartments that could be spun inside the refrigerator to different positions. The compressor would be off to the side with large radiator fins to pull as much heat as possible away from the unit. It would be solar powered with battery backup.

Why is it that most refrigerators have their compressors underneath the unit? Don't refrigerator designers know that heat rises?!

Well, modern friges are down to something like a hundred watts, so relative efficiency isn't nearly as important as it was a few years back. The main thing is to retu=ire the ten and twenty year old units. Unfortately when people buy a new one, the old one usually ends up in the garage, so rathe than reducing consumption, it ratchets up. They never do a cost benefit analysis (saving from stocking up on sale items, versus the cost of the power), so a lot of poor tradefoffs are made.

Well, now you know where to put that scrap piece of foam you had lying around ;) Fans and ductwork would be a big help. Chest fridges/freezers are actually hazardous to some people. I've know some young ladies who have had a real fear and risk of falling in as they need to stand on something to reach in. I wonder about children too.

Re EoS's retiring idea we have a scheme to replace 10 + yo fridges and, as mine has had its 10th birthday and is Kerry Packered, I will be looking into this as soon as I have some free money. I'll give some feedback when that happens.


I am European..

The problem is, having reached the point of fully insulating the house, getting all A rated appliances (no dishwasher), energy efficient lighting, etc, I've reached the point where reducing energy consumption further would involve significant sacrifices and/or expense. For instance:

- Getting high efficiency windows.
- Adding more wall insulation (false internal walls? not sure how)
- Swapping one car for an electric model.
- Adding solar panels (solar hot water not an option due to condensing combi boiler)

Could all reduce energy usage but are financially out of reach for the moment. Energy efficiency is a game of diminishing returns; I also suspect that many Americans in the same relative income band as myself would find the difference in lifestyle that already exists hard enough to adjust to.

As far as Latin America goes.. you are adding in an awful lot of poor people who would probably not consider themselves comfortable.

For me, the most revealing thing is to look at Carbon emissions per capita. Countries such as Denmark and Germany which have tried to go down the conservation/renewables route have much higher emissions than similar countries that have gone down the Nuclear route. Should give you pause for thought.

Partly this is a matter of dueling nightmares. The anti-Nuke activist thinks a meltdown is the ultimate catastrophy, and that society can reasonably adjest to lower power usage. I'm not very worried about the direct effects of N-accidents, but greatly fear that the loonies will exploit the next energy crisis to start an anti-liberal, anti-environmental pogram. In some ways this is already beginning (look at the tea-party congress). An energy crunch, which can be blamed on liberals and environmentalists could be just what the loonies need for the takeover. I see no evidence that in my country people will seamlessly adapt to less.

The loonies don't need anything in reality or any particular stance of their opponents to justify their lunacy. They just make sht up at the drop of a hat, anyway.

I am opposed to censoring or modifying one's views on anything for fear of what loonies might do in response. Loonies are loonies, and nothing that I or anyone else does will alter that fact.

Loonies are loonies, and nothing that I or anyone else does will alter that fact.

Yes. But do they succeed in pulling fence sitters over to their side? I think we are losing the battle. If we lose it, then there is no way to have a gentle transition to the post fossil fueled future.

If we lose it, then there is no way to have a gentle transition to the post fossil fueled future.

I presume you are referring to the US of A? From where I sit, that train has already left the station.

Much like ACC, the transition to a PFFF will be as varied as the different cultures that live on this earth.

What scares me is that the loonies would encourage burning more coal not on grounds of availability, or grounds of cost, but purely because they perceive their political enemies to be against it.

Hell, they'll get people in insecure employment to vote against healthcare reform in the US.

Chernobyl didn't even have a containment vessel so I think it is premature to even assume that worst case scenario. Now, if what is happening in Japan results in something as severe as Chernobyl then I will reorient my thinking.

Yes, almost everyone has gotten a radiation burn at some time, and not necessarily in the summer.

(Yes, sunburn is a radiation burn. That's a nearly-unshielded fusion reactor out there. And it has 'incidents' fairly often.)

Sunburn is caused by ultra violet light, electromagnetic radiation of a few electron-volts energy, which can only penetrate a depth of a few skin cells.
One can get sunburn from artificial UV light sources, like curing lamps, or from welding arcs.

x-rays and gamma rays from the radioactive stuff from a fission reactor have energies in the 10's to 100's+ kilo-electron-volts, and will penetrate all the way through a person.

The Sun is very well shielded, fusion only takes place in the innermost 10% or so.
The solar wind of electrons and protons is nasty at 10 - 100 keV, but these are either shunted aside by the Earth's magnetic field or absorbed in the earth's atmosphere.

While the center of the sun is extremely hot, the surface is "only" 5778 Kelvin,
so the black body radiation is mostly visible light.


Sunburn is caused by ultra violet light, electromagnetic radiation of a few electron-volts energy, which can only penetrate a depth of a few skin cells.

True, but it is still ionizing radiation. And sunburns are a proven factor in skin cancer risk.

Some locals in my area are suing to stop a wood chip generating plant. Native Americans in the Mojave are suing to stop a CSP solar plant. Will this crisis cause anyone to decide, on further reflection, not to oppose non-nuclear, non-coal energy developments? I doubt it.

There is nothing that annoys me more than people that oppose various renewable energy projects citing environmental concerns. The people that whine about 'ugly' wind turbines or the effects of some molten-salt concentrating solar power plant in a massive desert are just really missing the bigger picture.

I just feel that those people deserve a nuclear or coal plant in their backyard.

Heck . . . people should beg for solar, wind, and other such renewable power plants . . . that way when a new nuke or coal plant is needed, they can say "We are already hosting a power plant.".

It depends entirely on the reason.

The mojave proposals could probably be re-sited to true waste land, brownfields, old airstrips, abandoned towns or factories, pit-mines in need of reclamation etc.. while desert ecosystems that are not already buried under invasive industrial infrastructure likely SHOULD be preserved, and the concerns over fragile ecosystem balances be supported and valued.

Nimby isn't always wrong or petty. It also isn't always right, either. These things need to be evaluated on their merits, and not on easy catch-all appearances. Shrugging off environmental needs is key to how we created this mess.

The bigger picture is that most people just want others to bear the costs of the things they benefit from.

Usually the ones complaining are the ones who have to bear those costs; live near the plant. They pay in local blight. Whereas those enthusiastically in favour, simply have the benefit of an electrical switch which works.

Some locals in my area are suing to stop a wood chip generating plant. Native Americans in the Mojave are suing to stop a CSP solar plant.

Some (many?) of these may be astroturf efforts by fossil fuel interests. Make it look like Joe ordinary doesn't want something (usually by giving him money, or convincing him that X is gonna be way bad for him).

I used to be mildly pro-nuclear, given that coal is so dirty and nuclear displaces coal.

Since the current crisis at the Japanese reactors, I've been reading up on the risk levels of radiation, and watching things go from bad to worse at the reactors. I've read the media reports and the comments on blogs.

And more and more, I'm realizing that nuclear power is STILL BETTER than fossil fuel! I'm now more than mildly pro-nuclear. The more I learn, the more I realize just how much fear we have been fed about the dangers of radiation.

My moment of truth was when I looked up the deaths and injuries from Chernobyl vs. Bhopal. Bhopal was at least ten times worse than Chernobyl. And the land is still contaminated there, including with chemicals that cause mutation.

How many people will get sick from that oil refinery that burned in Japan? How much environmental damage will it do? But has there been even one news story about it?

Bananas contain naturally radioactive potassium. And radiation levels that are - literally, seriously - comparable to eating bananas, are given full-page news stories.


Not to Worry - Heartland Institute Science Director is 100% confidentJay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute in Chicago, said he was "100 percent confident" that Japan would be able to solve the nuclear plant problems. "Nobody builds better power plants than Japan, because they are the most seismically active country on earth. They are built to withstand this very earthquake," he said.


In the 1990s, the group (Heartland Institute) worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks, and to lobby against government public health reforms.[5][6][7] More recently, the Institute has focused on questioning the scientific consensus on climate change, and has sponsored meetings of climate change skeptics.

Not to Worry - Heartland Institute Science Director is 100% confidentJay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute in Chicago, said he was "100 percent confident" that Japan would be able to solve the nuclear plant problems. "Nobody builds better power plants than Japan, because they are the most seismically active country on earth.

Correct me if I am wrong . . . but isn't the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant a Westinghouse (USA) designed plant?

And sadly, so is the Heartland Institute.

Niiiice !! +10

10+ on the pun -- the article was a "plant" as well. LOL

There you go again trying to inject reality into a debate with the Heartland Institute. Further, these plants were built under the assumption of a quake intensity much lower than 9.0. And, clearly, they either underestimated the effects of a tsunami or thought the max tsunami would be much less harmful to the plant.

Yes, this may turn out ok, but there is no point in making stuff up like the Heartland Institute is doing.

I was particularly struck by a "scientist" being 100% confident of a future event (it's not like he was 100% confident that the sun will still shine).

No, they are General Electric models.

Thus still USA-designed and his point is still not supported.

but isn't the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant a Westinghouse (USA) designed plant?

I thought it was GE. But in any case yes, and no. These were not built to as stringent a standard as US plants of the same age. (Maybe because Japan was still fairly poor when they were planned). They don't have the big containment structures. Single layer of emergency power only? Not siting key single points of failure (like control rooms and emergency generators out of reach of the water)? Some of the decisions that went into this plant are hard to understand!

"What I don't understand is how we allow death to happen on a large scale from things like coal but not on a much smaller scale from things like nuclear." - fluffy

Perhaps because the risks of nuclear generation are pushed onto the public sector by the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act?

The public has ended up paying most of the costs of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

I'm curious if you have basis for that statement.

Everything I have seen shows that BP has been paying for all of the clean up effort, including a large amount to the US Government. I know for a fact they have been paying for of the work done offshoe to cap the well, drill relief wells, etc.

All that is in addition to the $20 billion dollar fund for damages.

And where does BP get the money for all that? That's right, selling very high priced oil to the public. So ultimately, the public does pay for it all.

And the more they mess up, the higher the price of oil goes.

But I guess the point is that we are not *forced* to buy oil. But there is no other energy source that is as good for cars, trucks, and planes.

And I guess you could say BP could have made *more* money if they didn't screw up. But ultimately, the public pays for it. In most industries, if screw up that bad, you are probably toast. In the oil biz . . . well, that is just a less profitable quarter.

spec - I assume the BP spill still hits you pretty hard. But the reality doesn't change: the BP shareholders paid the money in addition to the 10's of $billions in lost equity (as it should be IMHO). Of course that doesn't change the emotional price the folks along the Gulf Coast paid. As far as what price BP sells its oil or products: it's the same today as it would have been if the blow out had not occured. The market sets the price...not BP. Of course the field development is delayed for years or maybe won't ever happen. But that impact won't be felt by the consumers for many years as will the delay in all OCS drilling. OTOH I think you and I agree that "drill, baby, drill" won't materially change PO.

You know I've been one of BP's harshest critics. But the counter point to your position could be to let BP keep the money they're paying out so they could sell their oil cheaper. Obviously that isn't your position.

The stock took a hit . . . but it has largely regained the losses.

And with the oil markets being as tight as they are these days, even when oil companies screw up it ends up helping them to some degree since it pushes up the price of oil.

Look at Chavez . . . that guy is essentially running Venezuela's oil company into the ground. But the less he produces, the more the price of oil goes up. So is he really losing money running that company so poorly? I guess he could be making a little more money than he is . . . but then again, in the long run he may end up making more money for Venezuela since by the time those under-exploited Venezuela fields come on line, oil may be at $200/barrel.

I'm not saying BP tried to leak oil . . . far from it. But the way things currently in the market, oil companies just do not suffer as much as other companies right now when things go very wrong since those things that go very wrong tend to just push up the amount of money they get per barrel even more. Just imagine if McDonalds got 10,000 people sick with E.Coli . . . would they bounce back as fast? I doubt it.

I don't think much of the BP fines/damages comes from the public in the form of higher oil prices. They can't just arbitraily raise the price, the markey sets it. Mainly it comes from the owners of BP (including mostly pension plans and individuals investment savings). So in general, a lot of people have lost money because of it. I'm sure I have (I have some money in index funds, and so I obviously own at least some BP, Halibuton, and Transocean).

I agree with this reasoning. I'm just tired of people who keep saying the clean up was paid directly by tax dollars.

Everything I have seen shows that BP has been paying for all of the clean up effort,

Really? Maybe you should look a little deeper... How about all the oil they sank to the bottom with dispersants which is still down there killing stuff? Are they paying for cleaning that up as well?

NOAA claims that 75% of the oil from the blowout is “gone”. I would argue that a lot of that oil has “landed on” the bottom…it’s not “gone” and it’s still having an impact, a very negative one!, on the system. Why is this important? Because we need to know how much oil is down there, where it is and what impacts it’s having. This is critical because understanding/documenting the impacts and the system’s recovery from those impacts is essential for truly understanding the repercussions of this blowout.

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Dr. Joye explains why we owe it to the ecosystem to learn from the oil spill - New Orleans Environmental News | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/environmental-news-in-new-orleans/dr-samantha-joye-explains-her-most-recent-alvin-adventure#ixzz1GdHEeLzp

The statement was "The public has ended up paying most of the costs of the Deepwater Horizon blowout."

At this point no one is paying to clean up the oil that is on the bottom. If the government at any time decided that oil needs to be cleaned up then BP will have to foot the bill.

... and the costs of the Wall Street 'Blowout'. One wonders when the public will come out of their stupor.

We love to pay for meltdowns financially or otherwise. We are just that dumb.

Homo simpletonus.

One wonders when the public will come out of their stupor.

Not, until they've lost everything. At the rate things are going that may not be much longer.

I don't understand how your comment even relates to mine.

The estimates for coal related deaths in the US run at ~30,000 per year (give or take an order of magnitude according to political beliefs)

That's more than the total number of people killed by nuclear accidents for the world since 1950.

So why do people panic about nuclear?

"The problem as I see it is that any energy technology is going to kill people." - fluffy

Sticks and stones kill people. You make a very fluffy argument.

"wind turbine towers are dangerous places" - fluffy

If a turbine falls in a wind farm, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

"if you are going to install solar on millions of rooftops there will be accidental deaths." - fluffy

Not many. Furthermore, an electrocution does not make hundreds of square miles uninhabitable.

LOL. Wind farms are getting deadlier by the hour once Fukushima blew the lids off of two Nukes.

Westinghouse and GE are having trouble now -- so they are going for the jugular.

Dangerous Loose Wind mill blades.

Now do not laugh. Building codes in CA are worried about loose wind mill props. But they are not worried at all about high pressure NG lines that torched 50 homes a few months ago.


We are so freaking twisted by industry.

Perhaps they got worried after seeing this, at least when these got down it is nothing more than a very large brush and pan job and little chance of glowing in the dark.


How does petroleum get charged with the huge costs of automobiles? Those are two separate things.

The other thing is that car crashes and even air pollution don't make Tokyo literally unlivable.

But it's a stupid contrast anyway. The lesser of two evils can still be pretty damned evil.

If this accident makes Tokyo unlivable, you may have a point. Again, I think events need to play out a bit before we draw any conclusions.

My wife is a afraid to fly because hundreds of people got killed at some time in the past. The fact that 900,000 people get killed from autos worldwide each year is of no consequence. An important factoid to glean from this is what is going are going to be the consequences on human beings and the ecosystem. The gulf spill is continuing to destroy much of the ecosystem and causing economic hardship but is now ignored and discounted as a consideration in further drilling. Maybe if we put the nuclear plants out to sea, it would be considered safe.

Coal is an ongoing disaster not a possible disaster and yet more coal plants will be built if we shut down nuclear. Guaranteed.

And yet, it's quite possible to drive defensively, and it's not possible to be a 'Defensive Airline Passenger'. That makes an enormous difference as to which subsets of those statistics you have exposed yourself.

Beyond that, I think there's a lot more to 'fear of flying' than ignoring statistics. Putting a human mind up to the proposal of sitting in a massive Aluminum Can that will be moving at a few hundred miles an hour, six or seven miles off the ground, where you have no personal control of the situation, you can't pull off at the next exit, you can't move along nice and slow on a 'local road' if you prefer, and avoid that bad intersection at 'O'hare and Newark' .. you just have a seat-belt buckle and a light-switch to make choices about.

Damned statistics, bah.

(I actually like flying, but I start out often by saying 'It's a good day to die..')

Part of this owes to the usual media-driven fearmongering that generates worldwide headlines for days if 250 people die in an air crash, but fails to notice that 250 people routinely die one at a time of (semi-)preventable causes in a trice. So the societal 'we' squanders somewhere north of $1 Billion per statistical life saved in aviation, but pretty much refuses to spend a bit to clear even the most obvious drunks off the roads, or to redo even the most incompetently designed intersections (where I live, we used to have a city traffic engineer who wrongly thought he was smarter than his CAD software, and some of his products were real doozies.)

However, it also illustrates nicely that both flying and driving are on the whole plenty Safe Enough when it comes down to actual choices - as opposed to when self-righteous pundits or bureaucrats prescribe or dictate from on high what someone else is to do. Naturally when you're spending someone else's time and money, it's always worthwhile to spend without limit for even the most absolutely trivial or even hypothetical increment of Safety.

Given the thoroughly awful experience of flying these days, it may also illustrate that the tacit assessments people make in real life include multiple factors. Tiny increments of mere length of life enter into the picture, but so does quality - unless, again, you're one of those pundits or bureaucrats moralizing about how somebody else ought to live life, inasmuch as the quality of anyone else's life doesn't matter a whit while one is moralizing.

As awful as the absolute numbers might be, populations are so enormous that they are of little import, with the chance of being killed that way in the USA being less than 2%. And most people in the USA, the rest of the 'developed' world, and even some places elsewhere, will well outlive both their minds and their bodies anyhow. So at the end of the day the risk is only a few pixels of modest importance to the Big Picture.

It very well could be that nuclear power represents a sort of end point in our physical and cultural evolution. We might not be intelligent enough for it.

I happen to believe the same thing about fiat money.

So it's back to coal and gold!

I think the point is that some risks are ongoing and the risk of a worst case event is not significantly greater than the ongoing risk. Even if we grant that the routine risks of nuclear power are less than say coal the problem is that the damage of a worst case nuclear event is much greater. Proponents want to argue that the product of the risk and the maximal damage is still small but this presupposes we have evaluated the risk correctly. We get a kind of Hobsons choice. With say coal we know we are taking damage but the worst case is about equal to the current damage. With nuclear the routine damage is less but the worst case is much much worse.

Rather than being pro or anti nuclear, we need to be pro fact. That is easier said than done, of course, Regardless, I think we will be in a better position to engage in lessons learned several weeks from now. I get the nuclear could lead to disaster argument but I feel we are headed towards a disaster with or without nuclear. So far, I think the latter disaster has a higher probability than the nuclear disaster. Events may prove me wrong, however.

..and you don't see any connections between the conditions on the ground of PO and CC that would actually Complicate the operations and potential failures of a Fission plant? It's hardly either/or, is it? These disasters could quite easily coordinate their efforts in some spectacular ways.

We're seeing the cooling at these reactors directly compromised with extreme weather events, water availability (and surpluses), and a generator-fuel & grid power supply issue. This is like the screenplay for what a crisis under PO and CC would look like.

Why have just a two-headed perfect storm, when you can have three or more!

Thanks for another excellent set of articles. Is there one that best gives the big picture of where we are at right now? Exactly how many plants are melting down at this moment? How big and how radioactive is the cloud that the RReagan and various helicopters passed through? How far is it likely to travel and how strong will it remain? Are the volcanoes erupting in the south going to affect any nuclear sites? Which are the most reliable sources of info right now, and which are spinning things one way or the other?

Sorry, nothing but questions today, it seems.

I don't think there are any "best sources."

CNN has an army of correspondents on the ground in Japan, and one of them said this morning that information is scarcer than food and water.

Good point. And nice (if depressing and deeply troubling) quote.

Perhaps it's just my depressive personality, but when info on such potentially catastrophic events is not readily forthcoming, I assume someone is trying to hide something to avoid the panic that any remotely accurate info might inspire.

You can watch NHK's live feed: Ustream - You're ON - Live Streaming Video. Or you can search Google News and sort results by date; when you refresh you get the latest incoming news. Twitter would be that much more faster, I suppose. I've heard about scientists doing Q&A there, also live-on-the-ground types.

Peak radiation levels recorded just outside plant were about 1,600 microsieverts per hour about the time of first explosion. Levels said earlier today to be over 500 microsieverts per hour at plant gates. There was briefly a detailed monitoring page on TEPCO site (Japanese only) but it appears to have been removed.

Also the radioactive release at Fukushima was large enough to set off alarms at a facility 70 miles to the north-east.

Total of Seven Japanese Reactors Now Face Coolant Problems, Core Damage Possible at Two (UPDATE 11)

Thanks, tfhg...I guess *-(

My parents met and were married in Japan. My first long-time girlfriend was second-generation Japanese. My aunt is Japanese. I have studied Japanese and Japanese Buddhism intensely as a youth. I have visited a number of times, including teaching there for a semester.

Like ours, it is a deeply flawed country and culture, but one that, at it's best, has for me an almost irresistible appeal.

I mourn deeply all the horrors that the children, grandparents, students...have and will be going through there.

Words fail.

My mother was born unto slavery under the Empire of Japan. I am half Korean. I cried for the Japanese on this one. I will send money. The heart does change over time.

Edit: But I will never forget what happens when you feed them after midnight.

Thanks for that.

Many years ago I had a co-worker who was Iranian. It was during the whole Bush "we want war with Iran" thing, and the Iranians are not exactly angels either. He said something that's stuck with me:

"This does not concern us. We are the good people."

Just because our leaders are a bunch of psychopaths doesn't mean we have to be. (But we should of course ask the question: why do we keep finding ourselves being led by psychopaths?)

Because folks want to belong. No man is an island. Japan was closed for hundreds of years until the US went in with gunboats. Who made who? http://youtu.be/ztruDvW2Rj8

I didn't know what to expect from this youtube video.......,

but I didn't expect the rock band AC/DC

Who made who? The Japanese were total xenophobes until we went there. Who really started WWII? Did we give them nukes as a package deal?

On March 31, 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry and the "Black Ships" of the United States Navy forced the opening of Japan to the outside world with the Convention of Kanagawa. Subsequent similar treaties with Western countries in the Bakumatsu period brought economic and political crises. The resignation of the shogun led to the Boshin War and the establishment of a centralized state nominally unified under the Emperor (the Meiji Restoration)

Brian Johnson's best live performance too. He does not have many.

Why psychopaths..

Cause Greed can get you rich, which people confuse for 'smart and capable'. It would seem that this tilts the field of wealth and power towards (ie, it's not absolute.. wealth does not always involve sociopathy) antisocial or asocial personalities..

Was the Nazi or Japanese Empire soldier seeking wealth or serving country?

There are no doubt many types of antisocial and 'psychotic' people, and not just in the 'Bad Guy' armies.. the question is about how we choose this sort of leadership for ourselves.

Thanks for this, tfhg. My mother was born in Korea (missionaries), so I get both sides of that issue.

Ran across a single page compilation of all sources for quake, tsunami & meltdown.


Very comprehensive.

Thanks for this great source. Even the official sources are important to follow to see how much they are willing to say and what they are avoiding talking about.

I do wonder if, as in the Gulf spill, we will see estimates of damage increase by orders of magnitude as things progress.

I do wonder if, as in the Gulf spill, we will see estimates of damage increase by orders of magnitude as things progress.

For the earthquake/tsunami no. I already saw two from financial types at rought $180B. For the meltdowns, I doubt it, simply because it is clear at least three reactors at multi billion a pop are complete toast -not to mention cleanup costs, and most territory that might get contamination has been wrecked by the tsunami (assuming the wind doesn blow inland).

the following have live blogs:

Experts warn of seriousness of latest explosion at Fukushima nuke plant

Experts have issued warnings that the explosion at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 14 could be far more serious than initially predicted.

"We've seen a series of events that should never have happened. There is no doubt that the explosion will affect a wider area," said an expert, while another pointed out that the latest explosion at the No. 3 reactor is larger in scale than the blast at the plant's No. 1 reactor on March 12.

It will be interesting to see if the markets start to meltdown in tandem with this catastrophe. I didn't mean this as a pun or to make light of the situation. I suppose construction materials will rise in cost? It will affect us all beyond the immediate and obvious which is unfolding.


Hard to say. WIth Japan being so depressed for so long you wonder how vital it is in the international trade game compared to say 30 years ago. I predict much more loss of market value, maybe 10-20% for Japan and 10% globally.

Flash prices surge as electronics firms bank on post quake drought

Memory prices surged in Far East trading today amid unease over how Japan's fab industry will be affected by Friday's earthquake and tsunami and resulting power problems.
According to iSupply, Japanese firms accounted for a fifth of worldwide semiconductor production last year, though not all of this actually took place in Japan.

The research house said the "major impact" on Japan's semiconductor production would not be from damage to production lines, but from disruption to supply chains, both to raw material supplies and distribution of finished product. This statement came before the extent of disruption to Japan's power supplies became known.

As other Asian countries have moved into the production part of high-tech manufacture, Japan has moved up the value chain towards more production of high-tech capital goods and supplies. There may be some critical supplies produced in a only one or a couple of plants. It is too early to tell whether this is bad enough to have a major effect on supply lines.

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: 1:00 PM GMT on March 14, 2011
Radiation from Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been detected 100 miles to the northeast, over the Pacific Ocean, by the U.S. military. Westerly to southwesterly winds have predominated over Japan the past few days, carrying most of the radiation eastwards out to sea. The latest forecast for Sendai, Japan, located about 40 miles north of the Fukushima nuclear plant, calls for winds with a westerly component to dominate for the remainder of the week, with the exception of a 6-hour period on Tuesday. Thus, any radiation released by the nuclear plant will primarily affect Japan or blow out to sea. A good tool to predict the radiation cloud's path is NOAA's HYSPLIT trajectory model. The model uses the GFS model's winds to track the movement of a hypothetical release of a substance into the atmosphere. One can specify the altitude of the release as well as the location, and follow the trajectory for up to two weeks. However, given the highly chaotic nature of the atmosphere's winds, trajectories beyond about 3 days have huge uncertainties.One can get only a general idea of where a plume is headed beyond 3 days. I've been performing a number of runs of HYSPLIT over past few days, and so far great majority of these runs have taken plumes of radioactivity emitted from Japan's east coast eastwards over the Pacific, with the plumes staying over water for at least 5 days. Some of the plumes move over eastern Siberia, Alaska, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 5 - 7 days. Such a long time spent over water will mean that the vast majority of the radioactive particles will settle out of the atmosphere or get caught up in precipitation and rained out. It is highly unlikely that any radiation capable of causing harm to people will be left in atmosphere after seven days and 2000+ miles of travel distance. Even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which had a far more serious release of radioactivity, was unable to spread significant contamination more than about 1000 miles.


So, then we'll have a radioactive garbage patch? Should be interesting to see what happens, this being over a large body of water.

According to this German source, basing its story on info from NISA, the cooling water is returned unfiltered in to the sea. So a glowing garbage patch is a possibility.


Your glowing garbage patch, my very large petri dish.

DON'T PANIC. It's "Mostly Harmless". At least until the next edition of HHGTTG is printed.

Um. I think it's boiling. Hence the venting.

What is procedure for the workers at the plant itself ? How do they avoid being exposed to high dose of radiation for a long time ? If they they make turns do they have enough people to save what’s left working for days or even weeks ?

I guess they will be exposed to a lot of radiation. There are rumors, that the workers tried to flee. I can imagine a reason why the military is on site. They might not only be helping the workers.
http://de.indymedia.org/2011/03/302372.shtml (A German translation of an Italian journalist talking about new item that was not supposed to be published in Japanese TV. The news item was about Fukushima workers trying to run away.)

I have read about the Chalk River accident here in Canada; they brought in everybody with any usable experience at all and sent them into the contaminated areas for very short periods of time. Over 600 people were used during the cleanup (Jimmy Carter, then a Naval Lieutenant, was one of those employed(you are required by law to mention this when you talk about Chalk River.))

Chalk River pales into insignificance when compared to the current Japanese situation. I suspect there will be an international effort to co-ordinate the manpower.


At least we have yet to hear of firefighter stories as from Chernobyl, who knew the party line (limited radiation) wasn't true because they could feel prickling inside their bones as they approached the reactor. Yet they still did the job.

I saw the interviews. I remember metallic taste in the mouth. I also remember John Cusak in that nuke movie lining everybody's footprints in chalk. Then he measured and calculated. Finally he exclaimed, "everyone in the room should live except me." He made it less than 24 hours before he died an agonizing death.

The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute has a comprehensive link source for Medical/Operational Guidance for Managing Radiation Casualties here.

Other source include:

Radiation Emergency Medical Management

600 files covering Emergency Management, Business Continuity, and Homeland Security/Terrorism

It's worth noting that in the US, rescue personnel are limited to total cummulative exposure of 50 rad, whereas the military use 75 to 125 rad as an upper bound. (No upper bound during terrorism/war) pg 55 (60) http://www.remm.nlm.gov/PlanningGuidanceNuclearDetonation.pdf

We used to give each other bags of microwave popcorn in the field and joke that if it popped you were toast. There were no microwaves so the stuff was useless. If you tired to pop if off the engine heat, the bag would burn. Jiffy POP was what you wanted but you better not get butter on the sarge's equipment.

S - The higher military exposure limits fits what I learned about the Army's NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) Warfare units. I missed out on joining such a unit in the reserves back in the mid 80's. But I did learn about their unofficial unit patch: a small yellow canary. The primary duty of these units is to ID threats in an operational theater. Typical grunts: took pride in being the canaries in the coal mine. Fortunate for the country IMHO.

BTW: NBC units were one of the first reserves activiated and deployed in the first Gulf war.

Yes. There were at least 50 who knew it was a suicide mission, but did it anyway, because someone had to.

I suspect this may be happening in Japan right now. Not necessarily a suicide mission, but a mission that will knowingly expose you to high levels of radiation that may cause sickness, cancer, or other significant harm.

They had to hospitalize several already. They are toast I bet -- they never will make it to 50 years old.

Several members of the Japanese military were injured in the blast at reactor 3 I noted.

Also I see that radiation levels are now rising in Ibaraki Prefecture south-west of the plant. Levels well above background. Around 5000 nanogray/hr (5 microsieverts per hour) at one station. Japanese background readings seem to be about 40 nanogray/hr. Further in that direction lies Tokyo.

All monitoring in Fukushima Prefecture itself is off-line - well apart from the carefully selected readings at certain times announced from time to time in press releases.

spec - from the little I know about Japanese society I suspect many are willing to give all at the plant sites...and may be doing so as we speak. And for political reasons may never be acknowleged. As I suspect you understand the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington represents more than those who Graves Registration cannot ID. At least at Quantico each gets a star even if it's anonymous.

"Yeah but we went up against folks that went the corruption route instead. Cheap is bad, corrupt is worse."
Add incompetence/stupidity then you have real problems. The Diablo canyon CA reactors were built within a few miles of three fault lines and:

"A newly hired 25 year old engineer discovered after construction that the seismic blue prints for the Diablo Canyon plant had been reversed, and PG&E formally notified the NRC that it has built the seismic supports in a "mirror image" of their proper positions[6].
[edit] "


I've read some stuff about issues with getting the pumps running at these Japanese plants that revolve around power cords not fitting. "Uhh... can somebody make a trip to Radio Shack?"

This highlights a real issue with nuclear: engineers cannot assume competence and perfect execution on the part of operators. They have to think of their designs as a consumer good, and consumer goods must be at least somewhat moron-tolerant and oops-tolerant. For nuclear power plants one might assume above-average levels of competence and peer support among the operators, but perfection cannot be assumed.

The design itself must have a certain tolerance for being implemented wrong, and it must not be possible for operator mistakes to trigger catastrophic events that affect anything beyond the plant itself. A good design criterion for the latter is to ask the question "what could an actively malicious operator do?" (An actively malicious operator is not by any means an impossibility...)

I am moderately pro-nuclear with reservations. I am a big fan of newer-generation designs that operate at lower temperatures, are mass-producible, modular, etc. These hot atomic cauldron type things are not the right direction IMHO.

One of the big problems with the nuclear industry is that it had its genesis as a spin-off of the nuclear weapons program. As such, reactor designs were always influenced by the needs of that program-- the need to produce weapons grade material. It sent the whole tech-tree off growing in the wrong direction. For a pure power program, you don't need that, and in fact you don't want that since you don't want weapons proliferation. Had the technology been pioneered entirely for peaceful use, it likely would have developed in a radically different way: heavy water reactors like CANDU, thorium, lower temperatures, unenriched or only slightly enriched fuels, etc.

A concrete example: the whole MOX fuel thing. Why is there so much MOX fuel in use? Because they're recycling plutonium from weapons, and waste from reactors designed to produce a lot of plutonium... for weapons.

Anyone who is interested in nuclear power as an energy option needs to be a rabid peace activist. War-mongering and atomic energy are incompatible at very fundamental levels.

MOX seems like a really bad idea in older reactors like these. It just further compromises the safety factors.

Reactors have to be designed to accept MOX fuel. About 10% of reactors have been designed for MOX like Palos Verde in Arizona. The burn up rate is somewhat faster than regular LWRs.
All reactors contain lots radioactivity that lasts a very long time and big power plant reactors contain more radioactivity than little research reactors.

The existing reactors are already built and function adequately.
They are already approaching the ends of their service lives.

The issue is whether fission nuclear power can replace fossil fuels to any extent.

The issue is whether fission nuclear power can replace fossil fuels to any extent.

I see the issue as we need to funnel more calories of heat where we need them. Fossil fuel and nuclear materials are just the dominant part of big menu right. So grow the problem to full size, and address the bigger picture. Evolution not revolution right. There will be new revolutions later, there always is. Maybe a new biofuel plant or windmill might replace three reactors. Maybe not today but maybe soon. I always try to think on a big scale before I try to solve on little scale.

I imagine that a real effort would have been made to improvise a connection to the substitute generator if it appeared to be at all possible.

That said, one of the things I have noticed in my own work experience is that technical personnel, including engineers and scientists, have tended to become more and more specialized with the result that, faced with an unexpected problem, they have trouble improvising or otherwise finding a reasonable solution. One of the things that may be contributing to this is that a lot of the hobbies that used to provide valuable experience have become relatively uncommon. I'm thinking of things such as building amateur radio equipment and audio equipment. Even on a small scale, it can be really useful to learn the importance of thinking things through in a design and construction project. There is a vast difference between doing something like this and the cookbook projects that pass as lab work in many university programs. Without some good practical experience, it is really easy to fall into the trap of compartmentalizing individual design or decision making processes and approaching them from very narrow perspectives or failing to ask the question "given what we now knw, does this still make sense". The typical result is that one ends up with individual sub-systems that might be OK individually, but put together don't work properly or have failure modes that could have easily been avoided. When I think about some of the designs that I've seen from engineers working for well known defence systems companies, I sometimes wonder how we got as far as we have.


This reminds me of the best Internet rant in history:


With the possible exception of the use of the possibly-sexist term "effete" and some of the political non-sequiturs, I agree completely with the core of his thinking here. I sometimes wonder if we're living through a mild TV-induced dark age.

In reading about this accident, I read that one of the issues was that power cables did not fit between some of the supplied generators and the pump system. I thought "what? nobody had any jumper cables?"

"But that's not in the manual..."

Nice rant. I especially liked the part about people pushing paper because that's all they know how to do, versus an earlier generation that grew up taking their cars apart and putting them back together and otherwise 'tinkering.'

It reminds parts of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (though Robert Persig was a bit less cranky).

On the other hand, though, I would ask you to make two mental graphs. With one (mental) color, chart the increase in human ability to manipulate the world over the last hundred years or two, using whatever metric you please on the y axis. With another color, chart the increase in over all human wisdom or maturity over the same period (again using whatever metric suits you).

Do the lines coincide? Or does the first go up exponentially while the second lags or even drops.

Does the gap that's left cause concern. I would opine that it should.

Like six-year-olds wielding a live chainsaw, we have come upon vast abilities to alter the world but have not matured enough to wield this power wisely or prudently, imho. I think many in the '60s and '70s sensed this consciously or un- (including a number of brilliant friends of mine) and many who could have, consciously made a choice NOT to make major contributions in technology and sciences.

Just a thought.

I absolutely agree.

While peak oil and other sustainability/ecological concerns are serious problems, they are ultimately technical problems that have technical solutions. Conserve, recycle, switch energy sources, change the way we build, change our lifestyle, etc.

To me the real question is this:

Is the human mind and the human spirit up to the task of the enterprise that we are now engaged in?

If it all goes to hell, then IMHO it will be proof that it was not, and that our species needs to evolve for another few hundred thousand years before we will be capable of doing what we are now doing successfully.

I grew up a bit earlier and have always been a tinker and liked to play with machines. My toys included an Erector Set and a simple electronic construction set, with which I could tune in on short wave broadcasts from Europe. My first radio was a crystal set, which had a real germanium crystal that one used as a diode by moving a pointed wire on the surface. That's why I went into Mechanical Engineering. Anyway, the rant was likely correct in blaming TV, but perhaps not for the reason given. TV produced a culture in which the visual became more important than the actual reality. Thus, our media gives us pictures of the latest star people and their movies are taken as some sort of description of reality, instead of being only a cartoon with real people acting out some fictional story. Engineering and science tend to focus on the underlying nature of what the individual senses can perceive, but the culture is so obsessed with the visual that people have come to ignore the reality.

I think things have become much worse, which is captured in the comment that most people see technology as little different from magic. As each new technological toy becomes an instant fad hit, the people who use these have no clue what goes on inside. I think we are now finding that the profusion of video games, followed by more complex interactive computer simulation games will leave the young with even less connection with the real world outside their door and under their wheels as they drive from one man made development to another. Worse yet, the energy problems of the 1970's and early 1980's are ancient history to folks younger than 40, as they arrived on the scene after those storms had passed. After Peak Oil, will these younger generations be able to cope with the collapse of their illusions? Only time will tell...

E. Swanson


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of The Future", 1961 (Clarke's third law)

Your post really struck a chord with me. I believe the problem is multi-level.

While there are, as you say, people immersed in various forms of fantasy or delusion, even technically capable people perform jobs that are mostly abstractions. This has not happened by accident. Hardware and software has been designed to remove any technical concerns except the task at hand. While this may improve productivity by reducing the learning curve, it also eliminates essential base knowledge. This makes most techies techopeasants outside their narrow field. Just one more cell in the matrix, without the fundamentals.

Back in the day, when I started in computers, you understood the hardware, the operating system, support applications and then you started on your own programming. Call me old fashioned, but I think a so-called computer expert is of little value if he doesn't have a solid grounding in electronics.

There was a time when ordinary people regularly worked on their own cars and maintained their own homes. I have helped more than a few neighbors re-roof their houses.

This has been supplanted by people that don't know how to pop the hood on a car they drive every day and any thing more serious than a burnt out light bulb requires an electrician.

Will they be able to cope with collapse? Very unlikely, because even if they grasp reality, they will have no mental or physical skills to confront it.

Hardware and software has been designed to remove any technical concerns except the task at hand. While this may improve productivity by reducing the learning curve, it also eliminates essential base knowledge. This makes most techies techopeasants outside their narrow field. Just one more cell in the matrix, without the fundamentals

It certainly doesn't take much actual understanding to use a computer, a microwave oven, or most of the other trappings of civilization. And such things as "twitter" remind me of ants touching feelers as they pass one another, exchanging basic "status' information but not a lot else.

Back in the '90's I found that dolphins would spontaneously use computers to control aspects of their environment, or entertainment, and pretty quickly got past notions of functional fixity. These are creatures who evolved advanced cognition separately from the great apes, and had utterly no notion of how the things worked. Like my neices and nephews.

(and BTW, that particular exercise was largely funded by Clarke. Small world.)

Very true. Once the supply chains are seriously in peril. We are left with creative persons only. The rest are dead weight.

The rest are dead weight

Not necessarily. The ff use per capita is inversely proportional to the percentage of the population involved in agriculture.

The no-mind iPod wearers, texters and tweeters will be perfect for picking rocks, pulling weeds and carrying heavy things.

There is no reality like being hungry after a long, hard day of manual labor and you can't decide whether to eat or just go to bed. If you do eat, knowing you grew it makes it taste that much better.

Those that feel that manual labor is beneath them? Well, they'll make for good fertilizer. ;-)

Back in the day, when I started in computers, you understood the hardware, the operating system, support applications and then you started on your own programming. Call me old fashioned, but I think a so-called computer expert is of little value if he doesn't have a solid grounding in electronics.

I got an amazing letter from my CS major kid today. "I'm so glad you taught me assmebly language ...". Seems he is trying to write a game, and program the graphics unit for max performance. He's learning a bunch of stuff his classmates probably won't be exposed to. Hope I can eventually turn him to use his considerable skills for something other than cyberdiversions.

Hope I can eventually turn him to use his considerable skills for something other than cyberdiversions.

By all means, nurture this kid, although CS may have limited value in the future. An understanding of fundamentals will be essential as we move forward, moving backwards.;-)

What do most of us really know, on a practical level? As many have said before, learning how to grow food should be done well before your belly is growling.

I can't say how far and how fast we will fall but there is much to learn, regardless, because we have become so disconnected. Frankly, I am much more pessimistic than I was only a few years ago.

Most people can't cook, much less grow food, for a start.

Call me silly, but do you know how soap is made? Could you cure a ham? Have you ever canned something or made a preserve? How about pickling or what colour a piece of steel needs to be for tempering? Could you bake a loaf of bread without a cookbook, just with what is already in your house? The list is endless.

To use an overworked word, we will need renaissance people, generalists and hardcore, practical thinking.

I am a generalist, but I no longer have the back or the knees to put that knowledge to work, except as a pastime. It will be the generation you are teaching that will be doing the heavy lifting, metaphorically and literally.

And if I am wrong? Then you will have committed the unpardonable sin of producing well rounded and versatile adults.

I found this rant to be techno-optimistic and nostalgic (as if the two were compatible!) tripe.

I agree we are living at the start of a new dark ages, though.

Those steely eyed, missile men did it for Apollo 13 on the fly. The CO2 scrubber cartridges were square and the case was round. Had to use the LEM ones because the Command Module was damaged. It worked fine, saving the astronauts from CO2 poisoning. In the next Apollo, the engineers made sure the systems matched.

It is amazing what motivation the potential death of your comrades and Richard Nixon can provide.

"One of the things that may be contributing to this [trouble improvising] is that a lot of the hobbies that used to provide valuable experience have become relatively uncommon."

Wow! So true. At least here in America.

The last electronics store in Los Angeles, Dow Electronics, is now gone. It is now a cake decorating supplies shop. I had an EE student from one of the local universities ask if the counterman at the store I was sending him to would know what a D-Cell was, a D-Cell battery, as he did not. (Pedantically: where are F-cells commonly found?)

There used to be the Gilbert "Atomic Energy Lab". It had radiation sources and experiments for children, U.S. children, our children, to gain experience from.



But the corporations and the drive of capitalism, to make capital, gave us Ken and Barbie and Hotwheels instead... and now Videogames.

Hope? Check out Little Big Planet!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiRgYBHoAoU builds a computer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkzvK7nNfL4 builds a cannon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBuOm11bgPI builds a music box
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2JqHPzdO8I builds a music box

Beautiful Bach-Vivaldi:

I'm not disagreeing with your point, as so many of our people have been allowed to spend their lives as 'audience members', but I wouldn't be entirely discouraged, either.

While Radio Shack is somewhat a sad shadow of its former self, and the great E-shops are not on our streets these days, I still know of kids and adults who spend their time ordering components from Digikey and Jameco, hacking Microprocessors and Audio circuits, where they are customizing their own circuit-boards, doing the physical builds, smushing elegant little sets of boards and connectors into PEZ toys or Atari Gloves, and then writing the code and getting their PC's to communicate with them.

.. remember JF Sebastian in Blade Runner

"They're my friends, I made them."

While we have Radio Shack using these on line electronic suppliers is out of the question from here in Mexico. Not all will supply, others have massive shipping charges (including one that has a base in Gadalajara, haven't they heard of consolidation?) or require credit card that I do not use. I have to use the local suppliers who have poor, car audio centred stock and cannot even read a resistor colour code or order from China via eBay and wait months for shipping (but the prices are very good).


I don't have the detail, but learned during this episode that northern Japan mostly used 50 cycle current, while the southern part runs on 60 cycle.
That could be the issue here, you cannot run a 50 cycle pump on 60 cycle current.

you cannot run a 50 cycle pump on 60 cycle current.
We had them but they were not the size and scale of those guys. They just pumped less in the 50 cycle mode.

I would have just stripped the wires back and plugged her in.

May have blown a fuse but better than nothing.

The vast majority of gensets between 50 kw and 5000 kw, that run at 1800 rpm, are designed and built to run either 50 or 60 Hrtz. All one needs to do is crank the pot down to slow the engine speed. A simple meter and a screwdriver does it. The old Barber-Coleman governors had to be recalced, but the new solid state stuff just picks it up and runs with it. It derates the kw load factor a bit though.

I've done it hundreds of times. A very large market for used genset equipment lives outside the US. Most are coming from China for worldwide use. Crank down the speed and you have 50 Hrtz. Not magic.....

And as far as hot wire a genset into a powerline, as an old movie Gaffer, I've done that as well with up to 500 kw. Can be done in 20 minutes or less, once the cable is run. The tools and equipment are quite simple.

I guess it just was not in their playbook.

The Martian.

..or something like 'the only screwdriver that fit had gotten lost in the mud, melted in the fire..'

You've seen shoots held up for want of one silly adapter, no?

It's the big playbook that has some critical pages missing, and we're not resilient enough for that game just yet.

Reminds me of the cartoon in Mad Magazine, where the Architect and Engineer for a building have the plans out, and somebody swats a fly that has landed on the paper.. and the final frame is a building with a Giant Housefly Outline Embossed on the Facade of the Skyscraper.

.. or maybe the FAR SIDE cartoon with the sharks off the beach..
'LENNY! Your dorsal fin, it's sticking right out of the water! They can SEE you! Sheesh, I wonder how many times that's screwed things up!'

Sorry.. I just have to look to humor now.. since I'm trying to cut down on Politics and Religion.

Every promise I hear about Nuclear Power now, I'm going to be thinking of these guys reading their siteplans on nice See-thru Vellum, looking at the backside of the sheet!

To be fair, I'm sure there are some Windturbines somewhere that are spinning backwards. I just sure hope it doesn't get out..

It is surprisingly common for engineers, even reputedly good ones, to be incapable of reading plans. I had to sort the problems out and 'make it work' after one installed a computer room backwards.


How do they detect specific radionuclides in the air?

Knowing the presence/abundance of nuclides that can only come from the core seems invaluable information on the state of the reactor and level of release.

Years ago people did high volume air filtration and subsequent gamma counting to look for Cs-137 and Cs-134. Is that still the state of the art, one wonders. It takes time to get a large enough sample and then count it - days.

How do they detect specific radionuclides in the air?
Years ago people did high volume air filtration and subsequent gamma counting

That sounds like a pretty good approach. Concentrate it by filtering and then examine the spectrum of the radiation. I imagine todays detectors are a lot more sensitive, so it probably goes a lot faster.

Mass Spectrometry is most likely. Due to sensitivity MS is very favorable for this type of detection.

Lifted from the Telegraph (UK timestamp):

15.19 Japanese officials say the nuclear fuel rods appear to be melting inside all three of the most troubled nuclear reactors. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said:

Quote Although we cannot directly check it, it's highly likely happening.

15.12 Fuel rods are fully exposed again at the nuclear power plant, according to Kyodo news.

Why can they not simply flood the inside of the containment dome with seawater?

The seawater would cool the pressure dome to 100C, and with higher pressure inside it would "rain" inside, recycling the water rather than emitting it as steam.

If the reactors were in safe mode, the power now should be low megawatts, which is fire-hose levels of cooling.

I assume much of the issue is that the domes were designed to keep pressure in, and so they also keep water out. Perhaps they need stronger pumps to blow open clogged passages internally?

Where's Roto-Rooter when you need them?

Have Geordi eject the warp core into the sea? Blast the whole thing to 3 miles offshore? Maybe not now, but as part of the design? Maybe build it offshore and make it sink in the big one. Before you say nuts, aren't nuke subs reliable now? I mean if the sea is the enemy but also the redemption, then design it with such in mind.

The Sea is certainly NOT the enemy, and we'll be fools to keep treating it as if it were.

Like the Chinese Dragons or Shiva, it is a great and forceful god, and it has the power to create and to destroy.

You want to keep poking that dragon in the eye? Mad Dragon. No more fish, no more ports, no more boats.

There's no Tachyon beam to save us from this. We have to change the fundamentals. This industry runs on a fantasy of control far more unrealistic than 'Star Trek' or 'Jurassic Park'.

Looking at the diagrams of those early plants as shown previously, there's no "containment dome" as one now sees in the US. Besides, even were there one available, flooding the come would not cool the core, which is inside the pressure vessel. The cooling water must be pumped into the closed system under pressure. If there is a buildup of gas or steam, the pressure can be quite large. That's the problem...

E. Swanson

I wasn't clear. I am curious as to why you cannot externally cool/flood the pressure vessel -- steel is pretty thermally conductive, and there must be a LOT of surface area. Cooling the outside would cool the inside, right?

The thermal conductivity between the vessel itself and the fuel rods is the problem. You could have the outside surface at room temperature and the rate of energy production in the fuel pellets could still reach thousands of degrees if there was no water between the pellets and the inside surface. Those things are designed to put a lot of heat into the water and they don't actually want that heat to reach the outside surface.

Given water in the reactor, that should not be a problem IF the shell is cool -- the rods will steam, the steam will rise and condense against the shell, and rain or trickled back to the rods.

Of course, you'd have to have water to start with, and if that has already boiled away, they things really suck, because you have to reintroduce water at a rate greater than the power production and live with the steam generated, probably releasing most of it. At least now the steam rate is getting low, at maybe a kg per second or so.

You probably need contact of liquid water and the fuel cyllinders. If the water level is half way, then half the fuel is only in a steam atmosphere. Apparently, over a certain temperature, the zirco-alloy burns (strips the O2 from the steam, creating hydrogen, and zirconium oxide, plus lots of heat). At some point the heat produced from the reaction exceeds loses, and that is not a good thing. Have you ever throw burning magnesium in water? It keeps burning, taking the O2 from the water, and releasing hydrogen. Sodium is similar, but the ignition is at room temperature, and sodium melts and spreads out increasing the contact area -bang!

Steel is actually a rather poor conductor...

Somewhere above was mention of a closed cycle condensor (steam raining back from inside the building). That can only work if that steam can unload the energy through the roof or whatever. At 20kg/second (a number someone tossed out yesterday) of water vaporizing, you're talking about 1000+ cubic feet per second of steam. I really don't know if that is a big number, but this is a train wreck that looks to get a lot worse before it gets better.

On the bright side...my students paid attention today!

Well, that was I, and 20kg per second was on the high side. Today, I think it should be closer to 1 or 2kg per second. With a vessel diameter of over 10M, there is a lot of surface area available. A few hundred square meters of surface area would yield about 10KW per sq meter of steel. That is still a lot of power, but much less steam, especially if much conduction could be through hot water to the bottom and sides.

Looking at the the conductivity of steel, it appears that a delta-T of a couple hundred degrees C would be required to reach equilibrium at current levels, assuming ready conduction at the outside. It should be possible to boil water in this rather inside-out paper cup!

Another big issue is access to the hull of the reactor vessel. If it's not sitting nicely in the middle of big concrete swimming pool, this option would not work very well.

Somewhere around 375C will radiate 10KW per square meter of infrared radiation. So even without conduction or advection you can get cosiderable heat transfer.

Shelburn's comment says that they have a containment spray system for this purpose, but I doubt it is working, or that it is the first thing they are fixing. Still, it is a avenue that would help.

Assuming standard pressure increases for depth, how far would the pessure vessel have to sink before water pressure could overcome the vessel pressure. Also would the pressure not counteract the stress on the outside of the vessel? Could you not then bring the vessel back toward the surface reducing pressure as it rises?

So they have a bottle of hell... that makes sense.

Still, immerse the bottle and convection will cool it. Maybe that's what they're doing, and the rate of convection is not high enough.

But didn't they flood these things with neutron poisons? I guess the leftover decaying short-lived isotopes are still producing heat.

No, flood with seawater under nature's pressure. The enemy during Macondo. We could never get away from the pressure. How deep must we go?

Edit: Also I assume the vessel can be made nearly nuetral in bouyancy. Big assumption, so that should be estimated too.

1 or 2km should do it but you'd never be able to put the machinery together to move it in time. Even if you could, you would probably cause the vessel to rupture while trying to move it, which would be a whole lot nastier than it rupturing in-situ.

Much, much easier to bring in the equipment to pump seawater to it. (and even that may have proved too difficult).

Oh well, I thought maybe if you just let one sink it would not be the worst thing. Isn't that what they used to do in the Navy. Not by accident all the time either. Godzilla has not appeared. Speaking of, If Godzilla was 100 meters high and weighed 60,000 tons with radioactive worst case, nearby reactor, blast breath, would this have been a tougher engineering standard? Apparently the one used was not sufficient and I have seen Godzilla at least be potrayed to destroy much, what kind of forces happened in Japan compared to a rampaging Godzilla? How much stronger is nature than the human imagination? I wish the Japanese folks well but I see a physics problem here. How big of a tsunami wave is rampaging Godzilla equal to?

If the initial SCRAM worked, then power now should be single-digit megawatts, probably less than 5, from the half-life curves I've seen.

The reported fact that they used the boric acid makes me wonder if they were indeed SCRAM'd, or they just were being as sure as possible that residual melt would not commence fission in a pile at the bottom.

In relative terms, power should by now be down from aircraft carrier past 747 to maybe tractor-pull levels, and from 3ft cooling pipes to firehose size. Not trivial in any sense, but certainly manageable with common technologies.

That's a good point. We're a few days on now, the heat should really be a low number of MW now. What are the chances of earthquake damage resulting in only a partial SCRAM?

TEPCO said all reactors confirmed the rods were fully inserted after the quake. What the state of the fuel and control rods is now is another question though.

Is it possible that the partial meltdown has made (at least a section) of the pile critical again by either destroying or even just moving the control rods / neutron absorbers?


If it had, it would have been obvious well before now. If there is any renewed criticality it will be because of overheating damage since then.

Yes. I think pooling of melted fuel assemblies plus melted control rods on the bottom is a worry. Considered unlikely (but not impossible) to go critical. So the Boron is added to reduce that possibility.

I think you are right about the decay heat. I think I was wrong yesterday, the source I copies I think took the electrical power of the reactor 460ish megawatts as the thermal power. So the initial heating rate was probably more ike 50MW (I think you had that sort of number). But as I said above oxidation of the zirconium can spike the heat production. And the hydrogen is proof of that reaction.

I'm just SWAGging, so your number is as good as mine, but it's the time constant that really matters. I've neglected chemical energy other than as a short-term input, which obviously could spike the numbers significant if it all burns down at once.

The main coolant power line is probably a few feet in diameter. How could that clog -- does it fan out into thousands of little fissures, or does it wash into a swimming pool filled with rods?

I am wondering whether containing the pressure is actually a good thing, versus venting openly but readily dumping in cooling water?

Given all the different turbines and valves, surely there is a way to control the pressure, and to inject more water, given a few days of exceedingly dangerous work? It seems obvious that the designs MUST focus on keeping water in the reactor. Reading the links from this thread, there should have been multiple systems to do this, including steam driven options.

flooding the [outer containment vessel] would not cool the core, which is inside the pressure vessel.

I'm not so sure. Isn't the inner containment vessel stell (10-20cm thick), that should conduct heat pretty well. So if you can keep the steel container temperature down, how hot can the fuel assemblies get?

The fuel assemblies are the source of the heat. Even if you pack the steel containment vessel down with ice, without water flowing over the rods they would melt down in minutes. They continue to generate heat.

Ron P.

Assuming they melt onto the floor of the vessel, then what?

Then they would go right through it and continue into the earth below. If they melt then that would be like removing all the control rods. The entire fuel supply would be one big glob with nothing to mediate the chain reaction and nothing to cool it. That would be what is called a meltdown, no different than Chernobyl. That would mean everyone for many miles around would need to get out... and stay out... for many years.

Ron P.

Will the boric acid along with (presumably) remaining control rod material prevent a chain reaction?

Seems like cutting into a pressure tube and adding seawater before it ran empty would be better than letting it run dry. This is the "Apollo 13" requirement, it would seem.

"Gilligan, the tiki torches must be kept lit!"

Well they would not prevent the fuel rods from melting because of their own internal heat. Only flowing cooling water can do that. And if they did melt then it would be one big liquid glob with the heaviest material sinking to the bottom. That would be the fuel from the rods. So no, the boron, or boric acid and the control rods, whether they melted or not, would do nothing to prevent the meltdown.

It is important to remember that the containment vessel can contain a partial meltdown but if they ever have a full meltdown they would be of no use whatsoever. The meltdown would drop right through the containment vessel.

Ron P.

The meltdown would drop right through the containment vessel.

Which would be the reason for 'Core Catchers', right?

Except I think it's been mentioned that these particular reactors lack a core catcher.. in fact a very quick google reveals only 2 active reactors worldwide have core catchers - the two at Tianwan, China.

Ready to stand corrected...

I've noticed the announcements coming from Japan have gone from "can't be another Chernobyl" to "unlikely to be another Chernobyl."

What do we need for another Chernobyl? A meltdown followed by an escape of radiation?

We seem to have a possible meltdown, so a potential escape route is all that's needed if this is the case. Via the cooling system pipework or some other design feature? Nature has a habit of confounding our best efforts to control and confine it.

Just seen this from the Telegraph:

21.37 The containment vessel in the reactor may have a leak, Tepco said, as water levels inside the containment vessel were not immediately rising to the desired level. Nevertheless, an official told a news conference: "We do not feel that a critical event is imminent."

I think there needs to be some kind of mechanism to transport the radioactive material over a large distance for another Chernobyl to occur.

In the case of Chernobyl it was a raging fire, fuelled by the graphite moderator rods, that caused a plume of particles to rise high into the atmosphere where they could then be carried by winds.

In the boiling water reactors, the control rods are driven in from the bottom upwards.

The http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant
unit #1 is a BWR-3

Fast neutrons will indeed cause fission, but they will be rare and usually not fast enough in a dried out (unmoderated) reactor,
it takes a moderator to slow them down to get a chain reaction in fissile fuels.

One of the the safety advantages of a BWR is that steam bubbles automatically dampen the reaction rate as the moderator (liquid water) "disappears".
So with no coolant at all, plus control rods melted into the mess, there ain't gonna be no runaway fission.

But, a 460 MWe reactor is something like 3x that thermal, or 1.38 GWt,
so 3% residual heat (low?) will be 41.4 MWt. An electric oven is typically 10kW. Imagine 4,140 electric ovens crammed into a space no bigger than 6 feet high x 6 feet in diameter (2 m x 2m).
That's JUST the RESIDUAL HEAT. Gives you an idea of how concentrated an energy source nuclear fission is. (a comparable coal fired boiler would be something like 60 feet x 60 feet x 150 feet high (20m x 20 m x 50 m) - huge!, plus coal and flue gas handling systems).

For you welders, 200 amps at 50 volts is 10kw, 4,140 such arcs in a 6 m^3 volume is 690 arcs/m^3, a continuous arc almost every liter of volume, with no place for the heat to go but melting the fuel rods, control rods, supports, etc.

TSWHTF if they don't get cooling on these - the only question is how bad the meltdown will be?
Deformed rods and a few pieces of junk in the bottom of the vessel <--> melting/spalling through the concrete containment structure resulting in glow in the dark sushi (the sushi part is a joke, but being so close to the ocean the contamination won't be).
But I don't see how a runaway nuclear fission reaction is in the cards.

more on safety systems:

Hopefully there would be enough other stuff in your molten slag. Melted control rods, melted pressure vessel. It ought to dilute pretty quickly into a noncritical state. I thought the real concern is if it melts and spreads out, large contact area with water (and if oxidation chemical energy as well), then an explosion splatters it all over and lots of bad stuff gets loose. Maybe sort of like throwing sodium metal onto water.....

Then the material self re-configures in random dynamic ways, probably going critical again and generating a lot more heat (melting through the bottom of the thick stainless steel pressure vessel would be one possibility). Also possibly generating enough spontaneous energy to cause an explosion which, while not nearly as powerful as a precisely configured nuclear weapon, could be powerful enough to breach the vessel and cause further escape of radioactive material.

They continue to generate heat.

But it takes a lot of heat. At 1000C (which I think might be tolerable, the heat radiation is 150KW per square meter, or 15watts per square centimeter. Then you got steam advection. Once the decay curve has gone on for a while it ought to be cool enough to avoid the really bad stuff -even if it is uncovered.

So if you can keep the steel container temperature down, how hot can the fuel assemblies get?

According to AP:

A pressure release valve for Unit 2's reactor containment vessel failed to open, hindering efforts to keep water flowing into the chamber, nuclear agency official Naoki Kumagai said. Officials are now considering spraying water directly over the steel-reinforced chamber, he said.

(Emphasis added.) Article went up about 15 minutes ago.

Any way they can just lift these reactors and drop them in the ocean?

Any way they can just lift these reactors and drop them in the ocean?

My neighbor used to captain a 500 ton oceangoing crane. I said, too bad you aren't in Japan, you could pick up that bugger and drop it in the ocean. "No way would I go near that thing..."

I think the pressure is pretty high. One source implied it was done cyclically, blead off the pressure (hoping you don't get blown up in a hydrogen/air explosion doing so). Then add water, pressure builds: rinse and repeat.

They are using seawater so the salt buildup in the vessel as well as the valves could be significant...


Seems like a flare tower on the purge vent would have been a nice design feature.

Seems like a flare tower on the purge vent would have been a nice design feature.

There are so many things, (like redundant controls and cooling systems, core catchers etc. that turn this thing into a very unfunny commedy of errors. I think TEPCO is in massive doo-doo.

Japan asks U.S. for help cooling nuclear reactors

(Reuters) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday said the Japanese government has formally asked the United States for assistance with cooling nuclear reactors damaged by a major earthquake last week


Pee on them from here? I am kidding of course but am I stupid in thinking we cannot help. Certainly no more than the international nuke folks?

edit: Hate to say it, call the French?

(Places finger on nose)

Not this American.

Well sure but the IAEA has been running conferences the whole time since Saturday, no? I also hear those Scandanavian and German guys are top hand. The US has just been in slow burn for so long as far as nuke energy goes. Can't trust the Russians or the Chinese, so who you got? I would call the Japanese next right?

What's the old Microsoft adage for project sourcing?

"For really big projects, go to India.. For Last-minute emergencies, Use Americans... and for the Impossible, you need Russians." (From memory.. it might be a bit scrambled..)

"Not this American?"

Why not? Are you still upset with the French for being right about Iraq? Or is it because the French have mastered the re-processing of nuclear waste to reclaim nuclear fuel, while greatly minimizing the need for long-term storage of radioactive waste? This is a skill which few other nations (not even America) have dared to attempt.

On a science related note, here's a video of cracks in the ground moving on their own, right after the earthquake. Extremely odd to watch.

Isn't that creepy? And the dude is just standing there calmly taping it. The water suddenly spouting out of the ground is pretty ominous too.

That was pretty amazing. I guess the grey stuff was sidewalk? Probably soil liquifaction. Was it really after the quake, or was the ground still shaking? Water being pushed out does happen with intense shaking. In severe cases, liquified ground may flow downhill. Also structures no set on bedrock can sink into it. Pretty scary stuff.

Yeah, soil liquefaction, and as I understand it the gushing water is the surficial effect of a small subsurface mud volcano - perhaps visible geysers of mud were observed elsewhere? Incidentally the Sendai is officially a 9.0 mm quake now. Not sure about precisely when the vid was taken.

Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 1

Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 3

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalglobe-imagery

Number 3 does not look good, concrete building destroyed and steam and/or smoke coming out. If it is not located in a pool or similar I guess nothing could stop it from melting down.

Someone gave me grief when I simply said Number 3 looks much worse than Number 1.

Well Look at that. That is not the same kind of blast. The inside cannot be all perfect and sealed.

Thanks for the photos.

So..how is water being pumped into that thing? Surely any systems of piping are destroyed?

Watching the video of the explosion of Unit #3, I noticed that there was a considerable difference in the height of the blast of debris compared with that of Unit #1 as the latest explosion appeared to have a larger vertical component. These satellite pictures appear to show a different pattern of damage as well. When Unit #1 blew, the entire roof went, thus there are no roof trusses left behind, but the steel structure of the walls were mostly intact. For Unit #3, there appears to be some structure in place over the top of the reactor, perhaps a collapsed wall or roof trusses. The picture in the posting is too grainy to say with certainty. Also, there is steam rising from the middle of the reactor building, which suggests that the source might be the top of the reactor.

Here's the photo with a bit of enhancement:
Satellite Photo of Japan nuke plant F 1 #3

E. Swanson

Looking at your enhancement and understanding that basically I'm looking at the spent fuel pool which is above the reactor, with to be precise 3450 spent fuel assemblies in it.

The two fuel cranes are gone. I have to wonder, how can the pool itself possibly be intact. The left lower side seems to be missing. There are chunks out of the right side. Since the fuel assemblies were just sitting in the pool and not fastened down, could the explosion not have thrown some of them around, ... or out? I also note that a section of the roof of the turbine building is missing. This to me would indicate that piping between the two buildings must be badly damaged. Possibly including the high pressure steam lines. This would give an open circuit from the core to the atmosphere.

Lastly, from the photo, I cannot image that pool still being water tight, so what is to keep the spent fuel assemblies from having a zirconium fire from lack of cooling.



Yeah, my WAG is that things could be really bad as you described. It does appear to me that there is some damage to the side of the reactor building below that seen in the earlier explosion of Reactor #1. the building(s) to the lower left of the reactor building appear to have lost their upper floors and/or roof. As for the roof of the turbine building, there was some large sections of what appeared to be roof that were visible falling out of the blast plume. One or more of those sections might have landed on the turbine building...

E. Swanson

Remember all this "fun with hydrogen" the next time someone starts singing the praises of the hydrogen economy.

so what is to keep the spent fuel assemblies from having a zirconium fire from lack of cooling.

How long after scram do fuel rods have to be kept in water? Since this baby was a couple of weeks from shutdowm I'm assuming (hoping) and spent fuel rods are old enough.

Typically only a quarter to a third of all the fuel bundles are swapped out during a refueling operation, although all of them are removed at that time so they can be re-arranged optimally when the new fuel bundles are put in.

Unit 1 at Fukushima had been scheduled to be shut down permanently this spring, but this Forbes article says it was approved for a 10-year extension last month, so any shutdown would have been temporary.


I find this TEPCO document from November of 2010 very interesting:


It indicates that there were 1,760 Ton-U (whatever that means) in storage at the Fukushima I power plant as of March 2010. Page 9 says Fukushima has 10,149 spent fuel assemblies on-site, and they are generated at the rate of 700 per year. That works out to about 14 years' worth of spent fuel assemblies on-site, 96% of which is stored underwater in pools.

Obviously the newer "spent" fuel is more potent than the older stuff, but I think they store it for years right in the reactor pool before they even consider moving it somewhere else (they do have a common spent-fuel pool there in its own building, too).

The fate of that spent fuel could very well be a bigger story than the possible meltdowns of the reactor cores. Time will tell.

Surely that article is scaremongering of the highest degree? If the rods are spent then they should be depleted uranium, right? And therefore incapable of a fission chain reaction?

Actually no. They might call them "spent fuel", but in reality only a few percent of the original fuel has been consumed. But the by products of the fission essentially poison the reaction, which is why they have to remove them when they do. But you end up discarding a lot of potentially usable uranium if you just pack the things up and store them.

The by-products are still highly radioactive, and even in spent fuel rods they give off a lot of heat. Thus they need to be stored in pools of water which help conduct the heat away. If the water level drops for long enough, a fire can result. As the years go by, the radiation levels drop as does the amount of generated heat.

In some parts of the world (France?), they reprocess spent fuel rods to "re-refine" the things and eliminate the by-products, and that gets you new fuel rods that you can use for power generation again. It isn't cheap to process something that is radioactive however.

Given they could start a fire, but they surely couldn't reach the criticality required for a fission-bomb type explosion as hinted in the article?

Edit: From Wiki:

96% of the mass is the remaining uranium: most of the original 238U and a little 235U. Usually 235U would be less than 0.83% of the mass along with 0.4% 236U.


So only 0.83% is U235. How much mass is there in the storage pool? Seeing that 52kg of U235 is required for criticality, that would mean they need at least 6265kg of spent rods to start with and even then they'd need all the U235 to come together at the same point...

Edit2: Hmm, ok, well looking at the figures it seems there would be more than enough U235 in the pool to reach critical mass. The question is - is there a mechanism whereby the U235 could all coalesce into one pure mass?

A fission bomb type of explosion was never really in the cards. Even in brand new fuel rods, the U235 levels aren't high enough for that type of bomb.

A conventional fire or explosion of any sort can still spread a lot of nastiness. I suppose the best analogy to a weapon would be a "dirty bomb".

Right. Well, then the article probably shouldn't say:

The problem is if the spent fuel gets too close, they will produce a fission reaction and explode with a force much larger than any fission bomb given the total amount of fuel on the site.


P.s. As a side note, until I saw it mentioned quite a few times in this drumbeat alone I didn't realise that over your side of the pond the phrase is 'in the cards' not 'on the cards'. You learn something every day!

It wouldn't be the first time the media got something wrong.

Weapons grade material is about 80-80% U235. Commercial light-water reactors use fuel that is only about 3-5% U235.


so given this, I cannot see any way that one can draw the conclusion that you quoted above.

I agree. I'm ready to stand corrected but for now I'll take it with a pinch of salt.

Also, the Uranium has to be brought together rapidly for an explosion. If it is brought together slowly it will be burnt up or dispersed before that can become an issue.


As I understand it, though, the spent fuel quickly makes up in quantity what it lacks in purity, and so the contamination possible from the multiple pools of fuel and the reactors at this site have some debits, but also significant credits in these formulae..

As I understand it, though, the spent fuel quickly makes up in quantity what it lacks in purity, and so the contamination possible from the multiple pools of fuel and the reactors at this site have some debits, but also significant credits in these formulae..

CNN's tech guy says it will take three months to cool these reactors down.

Wow. I didn't realize it would take that long. I thought with the shutdown, heat would drop off relatively quickly.

Didn't they have to cool Hoover Dam when they built it or it would take 2,000 years or some nonsense to cool. That is a chemical reaction. We are talking about a nuclear reaction. Mass dang near directly to energy. It is a new game.

If it was all laid as one solid concrete block, then it'd take over a century to cool, IIRC.

Depends on your definition of cool down.

Once you start a fission reactor, the reaction produces short-lived isotopes whose decay produces energy even after the main reaction is shut off. That's why nuclear waste has to be cooled while stored.

Looking at the photos - how can anyone work in there? These appear to be very damaged buildings. Where do the utilities, power and people come from, and what kind of radiation exposure are they getting if they can physically enter? Unless I'm missing something here.

Yeah . . . the psychology of what has been going on here is amazing. How do you keep people working at plant with external radiation? Especially when there have been 2 explosions already. And now that #2 plant is the one in worst shape yet it hasn't had an explosion . . . yet. Wouldn't you expect another explosion from #2 if you manage to get the seawater into it? How do you convince the workers to stay there and get exposed to radiation while possibly getting hit by an explosion?

There has got to be some serious things going down and we are only getting the smallest little view into what is happening . . . . and only the view of what they allow to be released.

Haven't they got hazmat suits?

Hazmat suits protect you against contamination with radioactive materials, but not from Gamma or Neutron radiation which are the major problems close to the reactors.

Ah, ok cheers.

You could put on like a foot of Lead on and that would still not help much with hard gammas at high enough dose.

A foot of lead would reduce the radiation dose you were exposed to significantly, but even a half-inch would be too heavy to wear.

I work with 86Rb and that hard gamma can make it through lead bricks.
I wonder what nasty concentrated stuff can do?

A percentage always makes it through. With a foot of lead you are looking at a tiny fraction of the original gamma radiation flux, however. Other stuff shields neutrons better, so shielding design is a complicated business.

How do you convince the workers to stay there and get exposed to radiation while possibly getting hit by an explosion?

Wouldn't protect against an explosion, obviously, but aren't there such things as radiation-proof suits?

aren't there such things as radiation-proof suits?

No. There are suits that prevent you from BREATHING radioactive particles or getting them on your skin, but there is no suit that will stop neutrons or gamma radiation from going right through you.

If true, this is scary:

"The threat of a fission explosion at the Fukushima power facility emerged today when the roof of the number three reactor exploded and fears that a spent fuel pool, located over the reactor, has been compromised. The pool, designed to allow reactor fuel to cool off for several years, was constructed on top of the Fukushima reactors instead of underground. As of 2010, there were 3450 fuel assemblies in the pool at the number three reactor. The destruction of the number three reactor building has experts concerned about whether the spent fuel storage pool, which sits just below the roof, could have survived intact the hydrogen explosion."


An IR flyover should answer that question quickly, and getting water into/onto that would seem to be much easier.

Paleo - Just my WAG but if there were a time for the Pentagon to retask their satelites this would be it, don't you think? Did you catch the little bit of news about the carrier U.S.S. Reagan? Over 100 miles offshore, was ordered off station the other day. The ship's filter system did alert to a "minor" radiation hit.

Maybe a lucky guess. Or maybe a friendly eye in the sky? Maybe time to dust off my tinfoil hat.

But surely the spent fuel will be depleted uranium - i.e. U238?

So a critical mass reaction couldn't occur?

It's not true. It is difficult to create a fission explosion.

The worst of the worst cases is the fuel melts and separates from the moderators (control rods and pumped in boron), restarting the power fission reaction and generating a massive steam explosion.

That is quite bad enough, thankyouverymuch.

Japan Quake: Fukushima Reactor Must Be Shut Down, Core Cooled

Even with rods inserted, the reactor continues to produce heat equivalent to about 3% of its full power level. This is not the same as taking a pot off the stove and letting it cool. There are still some atoms splitting and fission products decaying that produce heat. This drops off slowly and is why there needs to be layers of redundant cooling with backup power. During such an earthquake, power from outside the plant would not be expected to be available.

Three percent doesn't sound like a lot but when you consider the amount of heat that it produces when in full operation and 476,500 gallons of water per minute pass over the rods, it becomes significant... with no water passing over the rods.

Got Water? For example, the typical 1,000 Mwe nuclear power reactor with a 30ºF ΔT needs approximately 476,500 gallons of water per minute. If the temperature rise is limited to 20ºF, the cooling water need rises to 714,750 gallons per minute. Some of the new nuclear reactors being considered are rated at 1,600 Mwe. Such a reactor, if built and operated, would need nearly 1,144,000 gallons per minute of once-through cooling for a 20ºF temperature rise.

Ron P.

Do the plutonium mix reactors cool down more slowly? 3% should have been a first-few-hours-post-SCRAM sort of power level, from the diagrams on the net.

For first-order cooldown control, even boiling off the water with a large delta-T and with a much larger heat of vaporization, would be sufficient. At 1%, the 476K gpm turns into 4800gpm, and then with a 100C rise it's more like 1500gpm, and then with vaporization it's maybe 1/10th of that, or 150gpm. At that point, it's just a few gallons per second.

Not too terribly much water IF you keep the pumps running. Really you don't want it all to vaporize, though, as you would want to wash the salt and junk away. It could be that the tubes have cooked full of gunk from seawater?

3 percent is heat that continues to be generated by reaction and decay that goes on in the core for weeks to months, it is not just residual heat. That is why the expert on CNN says it will take three months to cool down. The problem is they need to keep lots of water flowing over the rods because they continue to generate heat.

Heat actually continues to be generated for years. That is why they require large cooling pools to hold the spent rods. They must remain in the cooling pool for several years before the decay has died down enough that the rods can be processed for long term storage without cooling water.

Ron P.

Again, all I know about this is what I see on the web explanations, but the 3% number should be immediately after shutdown, with a quick decay to much less than that, from what I've seen. In this thread there is a graph like the ones I'd found.

3% would certainly be a much worse problem. I've presumed it was at .5% sometime yesterday, and will be to .1% in a week or less.

I've presumed it was at .5% sometime yesterday, and will be to .1% in a week or less.

And of course this is just your guess. My guess, if I had to guess, would be .1% in about a year or so. But in such matters I would never guess, I would try to find some authority who knows a lot more about it than I do.

How to Cool a Nuclear Reactor
How long does it take to cool down a reactor?
There are design specific variables there. The easiest way to answer that question is that NRC regulatory requirements for emergency power supplies is that they be available on the order of a month. You can render a plant in an acceptable condition within a few hours. However, heat is still being generated. If you had to stop, at any point, carrying away that heat, it would start building up again. Emergency cooling systems have to be available for weeks.

Ron P.

No, it was not a guess. It was a SWAG, which leads to a presumption with more rigor than a WAG. :)

Obviously, I too Googled, and what I found was graphs and time-constants, and from that I did a little math, with simple assumptions. None of them say more than 1% by this time, assuming a subcritical reaction. My SWAG is a first order solution approximation given the info I have - I would say it should be accurate +/- a factor of 2. If the real number is a full base-10 order magnitude off, then I'd like to understand why.

Your article does not support 3% today, either -- it just says it'll take months before it's "cool", which I completely agree with. Even then, it'll be cool only because of some equilibrium with the environment at some slightly elevated temperature. My key point is that it should not take a huge flow of water too cool the core today, and I am exceedingly curious why this much water is hard to deliver today when apparently at least some successful cooling was accomplished using backup mechanisms two days ago.

I'm no expert, but I'm not an complete idiot either.

If the atomic core is damaged (deformed) from too much heat, nuclear fission can restart in the damaged sections creating more heat. Given that the water levels in the atomic cores have been uncovered in reactors 1, 2 and 3, released cesium and iodine have been detected and hydrogen has leaked from the reactor vessels into the containment building, there is a high probability that partial core meltdowns are in progress generating more heat from fission.

If the reports about spent fuel rods being stored in the reactor buildings above the reactor vessel are true (another psycho design), what happened to those radioactive elements when the buildings exploded?

I am beginning to wonder if the original design of the emergency cooling system was up to snuff.Is this the first time that the system has had to be used on one of these type of reactors? It would be a really bad time to discover that the design cannot deliver enough water to the right place.


the decay heat is 8 megawatts. that enough to vaporize 3kg of water per second. a little less then 60 gal per min.

I wonder how many went home to their families.

That's a little higher than I had estimated, but within the ballpark. What's your source? Do you have a decay curve over time?

Well, it all depends on how cool is cool enough. 90+% goes away when the SCRAM completes. 90% of what is left goes away in the next day. After that, it flattens a lot, as the long isotopes dominate. .1% is a decent goal at 1MW for a manageable heat-load from my perspective, and that's probably still a few days away.


This plot is very informative, but it actually misrepresents the severity of the situation, which is this: if you don't remove the heat, it just continues to build up. Things get worse over time instead of better. And if things melt, it will be harder to cool it off by pumping water through it.

Yes, one must be precise about whether we're discussing the RATE of power production versus the AMOUNT of energy captured as temperature.

The heat will of course continue to build up if the power out is less than the power being generated. Even at the .5% or less, that's a few megawatts, which will rapidly cook the rods IF there is insufficient coolant flow.

I assume there is great angst about having all the water boil away, as then you would have a much more dangerous problem of putting water on terribly hot pebbles, flakes, and slag instead of on modestly hot rods. I don't understand why there would be any danger of an explosion if the steam continues to vent, though. Eventually the worry would be melting the steel, but I still don't understand why the outside of the vessel couldn't be cooled in that case.

A decent diagram of what we're talking about here: Schematic section through a GE Mark I BWR reactor plant.

That's from a paper discussing the dangers posed by terrorist attacks on spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants. Notice how the steel shell of the primary containment vessel appears to be fully encased in a concrete pedestal. Directly cooling the outside of that shell doesn't sound practical if that's the case.

Other interesting info in that same paper a few pages later.

Alvarez and his co-authors concluded that such an event would lead to the rapid heat-up of spent fuel in a dense-packed pool to temperatures at which the zirconium alloy cladding would catch fire and release many of the fuel’s fission products, particularly cesium-137. They suggested that the fire could spread to the older spent fuel, resulting in long-term contamination consequences that were worse than those from the Chemobyl accident.

We have yet to hear how much fuel was being stored in the spent fuel pools at the Fukushima reactors.

Also in that paper on page 40 is this bit:

According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff, the total decay heat in the spent fuel pool is 3.9 megawatts (MW) ten days after a one-third-core offload. The vast majority of this heat is from decay in the newly discharged spent fuel. Heat loads would be substantially higher in spent fuel pools that contained a full-core offload.

Granted, the actual number has to be different for the Fukushima reactors since the NRC is referring to a "typical" BWR and doesn't state the size or power rating of the reactor. It does say, however, that a full fuel offload would produce more residual heat than that generated by offloading a third.

Watching Japanese TV news....sounds like the #3 reactor is in deep trouble. The impression that I get from the "official" statements is that the pressure release valve has closed and can't be reopened. Pressure is building inside the reactor vessel and because of high pressure, cooling water can't be injected. Sounds like a pathway for possible "Alpha-mode failure".

"One speculative scenario may be alpha-mode failure. This would involve an explosion sufficient to blow the head off the reactor pressure vessel, launching it at the outer containment system, which could then be breached as a result. The odds of this are considered low, but many supposedly very low probability events have in fact occurred at nuclear installations."


launching it at the outer containment system,
I honestly thought you were going to say lunching it into outer SPACE.

Just to add to this thought - had to go back and find the link. This was from an Italian reporter with text translated to German. I ran the German thru Google Translate. Link to German text is here. http://de.indymedia.org/2011/03/302372.shtml Repeating the question - how can anyone work in there given the building damage shown in the photos of 1 and 3? And what level of rad exposure would they be getting, assuming they are able to move around at all?

German to English translation via Google of original Italian article:
Who is working specifically in Fukushima? In the hours immediately following the explosion at the nuclear center, to the activities of technicians and workers took to flight, and thus the provision of other services have denied. This is clear from the report of an Italian journalist for the broadcaster Sky Italia TG24, who testified yesterday shortly after 11 clock at a remote GMT drastic censoring of live immediately before the Japanese public television NHK broadcast message about the incident.
Text of the correspondence from Japan in German translation:

Correspondent: Yes, well, first it is on state television to a message ... point toward something that I have just with our own eyes we saw on the screen available to the Japanese public television NHK. It has a rather unpleasant incident occurred, which probably reveals something about the degree of tension. A spokesman for the Japanese national state television has given, moreover, already circulating in the network news that the Fukushima plant was abandoned in the wake of a general self-in-the-run-hitting at the hour of the workforce. He has given this message and was then - probably by a senior, that is from an older colleague who then told about the open microphone: "This message is one that was not read" - live on air with opposition occupied and blocked. This is a bit of a feeling of how tense the situation prevailing in the hour. The Prime Minister has had to cancel the press conference he announced after the meeting with the opposition, which - just a little hint - continues still so, to demand vehemently censure motion against the government, which seems appropriate for us at this moment as much. The second thing is this mystery that surrounds this power plant. We are not able to provide you with this news because we have been trying this morning, the 200 - to reach 220 km from Tokyo centrally located and, unfortunately, still about 30 to 40 km away, it fails us closer to get close, we really only moves at a pace and take our navigation system, that risk at the checkpoints, which are about all of the cars to reject, to be blocked - we hope they can at least by the journalists.

Studio Speaker: You worked with us from the possibly unjustified reluctance of government to what is spoken, especially in nuclear power plays. The request for information comes not only from the Japanese and international press, but also by the international Atomic Energy Agency, which just about what has happened in the explosion, has sent an urgent request for information to Japan.

Correspondent: Sure, sure. That's how we in the last few days unfortunately gave to the attention, but this morning at our flash, not only in Japan but also in many other countries, recurrent condition ... if the international authority intervenes, then it is because they want to have more clarity, because - unfortunately - is likely to have internal sources in the picture - we all know well that to know the scientists and board members to each other all and that actual information is exchanged be. Probably ... I repeat, however: in comparison with 1996 when there was the incident in Takimura, it took more than a week before the government admitted the escape of radioactivity. This time they have at least acknowledged and they are probably going to evaluate themselves before the actual damages and the actual risk, and then, one hopes, to instruct the people. What once more to mention - I hope that I will later be able to send you the pictures taken by us - is the absolute silence of the Japanese, the absolute absence of panic. Even here, a few miles from the foreseeable nuclear disaster, which we hope that he will remain limited, there is not the slightest panic scene. People keep in their cars, they are Schlage, calm down, they sit, if necessary, they listen to music or watch TV. No one enters the street, no one interrupts something, no one occupied the opposite lane. From an anthropological and sociological perspective, it is a truly impressive sight.

Studio Speaker: The attitude of the Japanese population is truly admirable, while us the attitude of the journalist who was about to read out a message that was found to end up being censored message appears very serious ...

Correspondent: Exactly.

Studio Speaker: ... because it confirms the tendency of the government nearly ....

Correspondent: ... that it is censorship.

Studio Speaker: ... messages to retain ...

Correspondent: Yes, indeed. It is one thing that impressed us. I have at the beginning of this report noted, because it happened just before five to ten minutes and we were frankly very impressed.

As at 12:20 GMT News reports that radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have risen too high for staff from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to remain in control rooms at the site.

Here's a broadcast of a geiger counter located in Tokyo. If it's true. I don't know how to read it.


I got a commercial before being able to see it. Very postmodern and cyberpunk.

"We now return you to your regularly scheduled geiger counter..."

The meltdown will not be televised..

Well I know from experience you can amp up the sensitivity to whatever you want.

A trained person would need to determine the actual level of radioactivity to be able to report a worthwhile figure.

I think I know how to read it, it is of the form 0000,000.00 CPM.
CPM is counts per minute, you should be concerned if it goes over 130CPM.
That is a normal 'alert level'. Typical levels are 5-60CPM.
As I see it it is reading 13.38 CPM which is a nice typical low level
and no cause for concern whatsoever.

It seems to have just gone off-line.

Tokyo geiger counter back online. Last night it was at about 12. Today is is at 40.

"Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant" - doesn't dai-ichi mean number 1? Are there three units at Fukushima number one? Is Fukushima Dai-ni unit two or a completely different plant? Is Mount Fujiyama two mountains? Does anyone here speak Japanese and can clarify this point for me?

Two plants, each with multiple reactors (6 at plant one, 4 at plant two, I think).

Yes, correct units 1 to 3 at Fukushima #1 were working, units 4 to 6 were in outage before the earthquake.

Units 1 to 3 at Fukushima #2 were in outage before the earthquake.

I don't speak Japanese but I do speak Google :>).

Fukushima Dai-ichi(1) has 6 reactors operational and two more coming on-line in 2016 and 2017...reactors 1,2,3 seem to be the ones currently with cooling/core meltdown problems.

Fukushima Dai-Ni(2), about 7 miles away, has 4 operational reactors.


So the nomeclature is

Fukushima I unit 1,2,3, or 4

Fukushima II unit 1 through 6

I think 4 was shut down already at Fuku I

All the reactors at those plants were shut down when the earthquake happened, as it was strong enough to require an emergency SCRAM for safety reasons.

Right now it's a matter of getting enough cooling in to make them thermally stable so they don't pop any more containment buildings.

Someone who speaks Japanese clarified it here.

Posting this link with no futher comment, except to note that The Register is widely read by "something in computers" types.

"Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now!"

This is so over the top that it makes you wonder if it is satire:

All reactors' temperature is now under control and the residual heat reactions inside them continue to die away; soon, no further cooling will be required. The three worst affected will cost more to put right than the other ones, having been cooled with the backup-backup seawater system and lost their roofs, but the process of sorting them out will not be a lot more onerous than a normal periodic refuelling. All the other affected reactors have achieved quite normal shutdowns, though nuclear safety being nuclear safety it will be some time before they can be fired up again.

Just like a normal refueling.

It's a Lewis Page article.

Lewis Page is widely considered to be 'a bit of a tit', with less technical knowledge than he thinks he has - particularly on his pronouncements on defence. He can grasp the wrong end of the stick faster than anyone.

The worrying thing is he's usually 180deg from the truth, which makes him saying everything is OK extremely troubling.

Here's hoping the broken clock is right this time one time.

I've read the register for years and still do, but I can tell you one thing for absolute certain, their core editorial policy is full on techno-utopian coupled with constant and fairly aggressive climate heating denialism.

However, anything within the sphere they can comprehend I find them both amusing and often quite accurate, not to mention useful in terms of understanding the latest tech toys and trends. For instance, they labeled the iPad as a 'fondle slab', one of the more accurate descriptions I've come across.

This type of extreme techno-utopianism is sadly not too unusual for hardcore tech types.

I'm a little irritated by all forms of utopianism, since utopia is a silly idea. If I sometimes sound anti-green-ideology on this thread, rest assured that the "singularity" crowd bothers me as much or more.

I have read few finer summaries of how to deal with reality than this, from: George Soros, The Alchemy of Finance

If we want to understand the real world, we must divert our gaze from a hypothetical final outcome and concentrate our attention on the process of change that we can observe all around us. (page 31, 1994 revised edition)

This covers fusion power, all non existent inventions that will save us, and anything else.

So, what do I see around me? I see local food movements. I see young kids finding it hip to become farmers in Oregon. I see an expansion of farmers markets. I see myself stopping all funding and support of as much corporate food distribution and production as I humanly can. I see Norway producing 98% of electrical power from hydro. I see Portland, Oregon, rapidly building up light rail and rezoning to allow new urbanism to spread as fast as possible, now, to deal with peak oil, now. I see my city failing to do all these things.

I also see a bunch of fat Americans who can barely walk, who watch corporate generated tv inputs to get their information about the world, who drive everywhere, who think community means shopping at Wal-Mart to get better prices on their processed foods, etc.

So looking around, I see some pretty good positive signs buried in the mess. None of those require utopian thinking. Last time I was in Portland I was astounded and thrilled to see car street parking spaces being removed to make way for lines of bike racks, full of bikes. Many new bike paths. Etc. I see the hellish (then) new bike paths in Barcelona I was terrified to ride in for fear of getting plastered by the cab drivers who considered them as alternate car / parking lanes in 1998, being celebrated in a local weekend travel section of a newspaper in 2010, as great options, user friendly, and popular. In 1998 I was considered somewhat insane for trying to ride a bike in Barcelona, rightfully so I might add, it was terrifying, and I'm a very good rider.

I've read the register for years and still do, but I can tell you one thing for absolute certain, their core editorial policy is full on techno-utopian coupled with constant and fairly aggressive climate heating denialism.

Did you know The Register's original founder Mike Magee is a Tantric Mystic (amongst other things)?

Not to mention The Golden Dawn. Ooops - just did :-)


Undertow, if that's true, then Magee has forgotten one of the core teachings of the very first GD initiation:

"Unbalanced power is the ebbing away of life."

Which in the case of a serious release of fuel rod residues, is likely to be all too literally true for a lot of people downwind.

Mike Magee founded the Register but has long since left. He later founded The Inquirer and now is semi-retired but blogs at http://volesoft.com/ and writes occasionally for The IT Examiner http://www.itexaminer.com/ and http://www.techeye.net/

Both The Register and The Inquirer went downhill after his departure.

Give it 10-14 days, independent sources will be measuring enhanced radiation on the USA West Coast. Wait for it.

You can monitor the live levels yourself here.


Great map. Is there anything similar for Japan, Hawaii, Pacific...?

There is one for Japan. Won't post the link because it is overloaded and Japanese need access to it. You should be able to find it if you really want though. Readings have shown elevated radiation spreading from plant in direction of Tokyo. Not at really disturbing levels though but a clear sign something is heading that way.

Thx for your thoughtful reply.

Scroll to the bottom of the Radiation Network's page for the USA to find a link to the map of Japan. They only have one member in Japan who is currently not sending data.

Interesting. Thanks!

I've been a long time reader of this site, but have never commented before. This is because I come here to learn, and don't usually know enough to have anything to add.

But on the subject of LWR safety, I do know something, so thought I'd break the cherry.

The safety standard for external events [extreme weather, seismic, flooding] is the 10,000 year event. Typically tsunamis leave some geological effect on the landscape, such as carrying a sand layer inshore. Geologists construct a tsunami history for a site from this, and also consider the local faults and the estimates of the maximum magnitude event from movement on this fault. You take the biggest number and work with the statisticians to calculate a wave height for the 10,000yr event. You add a margin on, and build your defences. Apparently TEPCO estimated a 6m wave, and the margin they added wasn't the extra 4m.

So either they're truly unlucky, or their methodology for assessing maximum wave height is flawed.

So they're left in the situation where they have significant decay heat to disipate, the earthquake has caused them to loose grid power, they've no generators for emergency power, and judging by the rise in containment pressures, there is some degree of leakage from the primary circuit into the containment. They were able to maintain some degree of cooling using the pressure-sustaining safety injection system [which forces water under pressure into the circuit - this can be achieved using gas pressure and so needs no power], but this forces up the pressure in the containment.

Hydrogen gas comes out of cooling water, in some cases it's introduced as part of normal coolant chemistry [to reduce corrosion rates by taking out oxygen radicals], also from radiolysis and maybe in this case from high temperature steam/zircalloy reactions. The containment is designed as safe for hydrogen gas, but when they vented the gas it went off with quite a crack. The containment building is intact after both explosions, as they still have large positive pressures inside them.

The excess radiation is from venting the gas in the containment. I'd point out that although it seems likely that fuel damage has occured, there is always Cs in coolant water; it comes from fission with the U/Th impurities common in Zr, and thus easily finds its way into cooling water.

The decay power should be about 1/5 what it was an hour after shutdown by now, so the system is more forgiving now. With sea water cooling [delivered by fire pumps through flexible hoses to connection you never want to use] they've got a good chance of getting this thing cooled down.

When you get to the point that the decay power is so low that natural heat loss balances decay heat at below 100C, this is over. That could take months, and until then supplying cooling water remains of fundamental nuclear safety importance.

Worst case though, with intact containment complete core melt should have only minor offsite consequences. The Japanese government evacuation decisions have gone a long way to keep the public safe. Some of my colleagues in Japan have reported in and [although none of them were at Fukushima] all of them praise the operators of nuclear facilities in Japan as being almost supernaturally calm.

Memories of Chernobyl are, rightly, extremely powerful. But this really isn't the same thing.

Obviously you'll have worked out that I earn a living in the nuclear industry [I've even done work at Fukushima], but I'm in no way saying "this is not a disaster, move along", it really is and most definitely suggests some serious thought and major changes are required.


Thank you for the info.

While we all hope that the containment for the reactors is still intact, looking at the video of the explosion of Unit #3 leads one to a different conclusion. When it blew, most of the force went straight upwards and the column of material included large pieces of material which appear to be roof panels. It's almost like a large cannon (or mortar) lit off pointed straight upwards. To my mind, that "cannon" might be the containment vessel and the explosion blew the plug out of the top, which then took the roof with it. That might explain the inward fall of the wall section (or what ever it was) seen in the satellite photo shown above. I suppose that it's possible that the reactor pressure vessel is still intact, which one might know from pressure data, and what I just wrote is speculation. It would be logical to expect that the military of both the US and Japan have already made recon flights over the plants with high resolution cameras, so they probably know whether the plug is still in place or not. They would also have high resolution infrared cameras available as well...

E. Swanson


That was a huge explosion, and some substantial pieces of something went flying, but the containment structure had over 3 bar of internal pressure 40 minutes after the blast, and in that 40 minutes the pressure had only reduced 0.2bar, so it must be intact. As to if it was leaking slightly, I don't think we can tell from these figures, as the explosion occured during a venting operation.


[link might be erratic, I'm guessing WNN are getting more traffic than on an average day!]

As to what was sent flying, I don't know, but a colleague of mine recalls that the structure around the containment on some of these reactors is concrete panels rather than steelwork.


We hope you are correct. I notice that the video of the blast is no longer available on the BBC link I gave. Here it is again. (For all you spooks out there who might be reading this, hey guys, this isn't a war time security problem)...

E. Swanson

I found here a superb description of the reactor design:

From quickly browsing this I believe:
1) There is no way to get enough access to the pressure vessel from the outside to cool it, as it appears to be largely set in concrete. The idea I'd voiced up-thread is likely unworkable for that reason if nothing else.
2) There are several emergency water injection points, and multiple release points. It is hard to believe that water cannot be introduced in volume when needed, given some time to hook up to the portals.

This is probably from an aircraft and not a satellite, but it's a 1975 overhead view that shows (on the right side about half way down) the construction of Unit 6 (or maybe it's 5). You can see some pretty interesting detail including what I think is the primary containment vessel (the upside-down lightbulb).

Edit: Units 5 and 6 are different designs compared to Unit 1's "Mark I" inverted lightbulb characteristic. You can still see some detail in the picture, but it's possibly not exactly what I thought it was.

Pete - Don't have a link but saw a report on evidence of a wave exceeding 100'. Perhaps the evidence is questionable. But there is accepted evidence of a such monster wave hitting the west coast of the US. I also wonder how definitive such a search might be. At the upper level of such a monster wave the effect would be mostly erosional. As such they don't tend to be preserved. It might leave some big depositional features but I don't know how that could be related to height.

Lots of factors - size of disturbance, distance from disturbance and especially bottom topography.

Highest documented tsunami I know of was at Lituya Bay in Alaska July 9, 1958 from a landslide set off by an earthquake. At one point the resulting wave cleared off all the trees upto 1,720 foot elevation. Nope - not a typo - 1/3 of a mile - over 1/2 kilometer.

Rockman - the evidence in the Pacific NW coastal bogs is alternating layers of sand from tsunamis and peat and mud from normal bog biology which can be dated. Cascadia tsunamis are supposedly even bigger than the one in Japan, but then again, bogs are depressions where sediments would be more likely to be deposited. Conversely, I would suspect that gently sloped terrain might be more subject to scouring, esp. during back-flow, so there may be merit in your suggestion.


Here's an abstact from a paper published in Sedimentary Geology, Volume 200, Issues 3-4, 15 August 2007, Pages 372-386 titled "Sedimentary Features of Tsunami Deposits - Their Origin, Recognition and Discrimination: An Introduction"

Tsunami deposits have been found at more than 60 sites along the Cascadia margin of Western North America, and here we review and synthesize their distribution and sedimentary characteristics based on the published record. Cascadia tsunami deposits are best preserved, and most easily identified, in low-energy coastal environments such as tidal marshes, back-barrier marshes and coastal lakes where they occur as anomalous layers of sand within peat and mud. They extend up to a kilometer inland in open coastal settings and several kilometers up river valleys. They are distinguished from other sediments by a combination of sedimentary character and stratigraphic context. Recurrence intervals range from 300–1000 years with an average of 500–600 years. The tsunami deposits have been used to help evaluate and mitigate tsunami hazards in Cascadia. They show that the Cascadia subduction zone is prone to great earthquakes that generate large tsunamis. The inclusion of tsunami deposits on inundation maps, used in conjunction with results from inundation models, allows a more accurate assessment of areas subject to tsunami inundation. The application of sediment transport models can help estimate tsunami flow velocity and wave height, parameters which are necessary to help establish evacuation routes and plan development in tsunami prone areas.

As I was explaining to someone in another thread, tsunamis are definitely an issue for those living on the coast, not so much for the rest of us. 78% of Oregon lives in these metro areas:
Portland/Vancouver/Beaverton, Eugene/Springfield, Medford, Salem, Corvallis, and Bend. Tsunamis won't affect anyone in the coastal inland valleys, either, also highland areas directly on the coast aren't in tsumani hazard zones.

The Seattle area is at risk, though, not from tsunamis generated by subduction zone quakes (those are dispersed by the time they get through the Strait of Juan de Fuca) but by major quakes from the Seattle Fault: Major quake could launch deadly tsunami. And all inland areas in Western PNW will be badly damaged by a large subduction quake.

A more "intrinsically safe" reactor design:

The neutronic components of a fission power plant can be carried in pipes as a fluid. If the pipes are of smaller diameter, the neutrons do not have the chance of interacting with the reactive material. A the point where a reaction is desired, where heat is to be made, the pipes swell into larger diameters and are surrounded by a neutron reflecting means. The pipes then reduce back to their smaller size and continue around in the loop through which the neutronic components are pumped past heat exchangers producing steam. At the larger diameter, the longer path length and the reflectors produce "criticality": enough neutrons hit enough reactants to make even more neutrons and so keep the reaction going to make heat. If control is lost, the pipes can be arranged in earth's gravity field such that the system contents drains away into a system of smaller diameter pipes. The neutron reflecting means can be embodied as a liquid mirror which itself can be drained away from surrounding the reactants in the larger swellings of the fuel slurry plumbing system. These steps will bring the reaction to a halt.

In restating this, I wonder if making the floor of the containment vessel of a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) into a multiplicity of wells of refractory material of sufficiently small diameter pipe would squelch a melt-down?

What do you think of this?

Aqueous homogeneous reactors (as described):


Molten salt reactors (Sort of similar):



"Wheel of Dawn" "Akatsuki no Kuruma" "Dawn's Carriage"

A song

With English subtitles:

Previous words:

The "homogeneous reactor" concept:
Very clever... The reactor vessel is big enough in diameter to allow the neutrons to intercept another atom in their flight through the reactant-plus-moderator slurry. The reactor vessel is also surrounded by the reflector component of a nuclear reactor. This returns escaping neutrons back on a path through the reactants. If control is lost, the contents of the vessel are dumped into a six-inch diameter pipe. The small pipe does not have enough cross-section to allow the nuclear reaction to continue. A one meter sphere produced one hundred and fifty kiloWatts (150 K.W.) with gusts to five megaWatts (5 M.W.).

This is interesting:

"Japan earthquake: The explainer"


I thought this paragraph was interesting:

"This is consistent with motion on the subduction interface, or 'megathrust'. Further modelling of the seismometer data has also produced an estimate of both the length of the rupture (at least 300-400 km) and the amount that it moved (10-20 metres or more). GPS stations in Japan - installed to measure the slow build-up of elastic strain in the crust between big earthquakes - show most of Eastern Honshu moving several metres to the east as a few centuries worth of that elastic strain - which pushes the crust in Japan westwards and upwards - was released over the space of a few minutes..."

The Eastern portion of Honshu Island moved >6 feet!!!


SHV – Sorry no link but some years ago the USGS recognized the probable existence of a thrust fault in the L.A. area. Due to the geometry of such faults (being nearly horizontal) they are much more difficult (if not impossible) to see on seismic data as are vertical faults. Surface faults, like the San Andreas, are obviously easily ID. I think they detected the hint of the L.A. thrust fault by mapping very small quakes that yielded a horizontal planar projection.

Hi All,

Does anyone have the answer to these three questions?

1) The diagrams I'm constantly seeing for the plants in trouble have the steam from the reactor running through the turbines, rather than going through a heat exchanger. I thought most reactors had the turbines attached to secondary loops to prevent radioactive contamination, scale buildup, etc.

2) Are they pumping sea water into the cores or into the containment buildings? If it’s into the building (not into the reactor vessel its self) then a melt-down seems assured, as the water inside will eventually boil away, leaving the cores high and dry. If the water is just going into the containment building, then the picture for reactor 3 (MOX) is not good.

3) I keep hearing that the radiation just outside the one of the plant's gate is not that high. Is it possible that these are selected reading when the plume (hypothetical mind you) is blowing or drifting in a different direction? Something must be coming out for the U.S. to move its carrier.


These are boiling water reactors, and do indeed boil the water in the reactor and put this direcly into the turbines. This does indeed contaminate the turbines, but reduces the capital cost and improves efficiency for a given temp/pressure combination. They're the second most common power reactor after the pressurised water reactor with secondary loops.

They're putting seawater into the reactor vessels.

The radiation levels reported are indeed peaks, although generally elevated levels do exist.


3) Regardless of the level, why stay in the plume if you don't have too? I don't sit in smoke from a campfire for long myself.

1) If they use pure water, there shouldn't be much scale to build-up? I think the difference you're speaking of is BWR like these versus other designs?

These are Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) .. they eliminate the secondary loop in a cost/benefit trade off. In practice they use demineralized water to minimize things that can capture neutrons, and as such, the primary radioactive product is Nitrogen-16 (which has a half-life of several seconds) .. the turbine and related components ARE radioactive in operation, but it's safe to service them ~2 minutes after they stop.

Lifted from the BBC:

18.52 Mikan in Tokyo emails the BBC:

E-mail There is a growing sense that the Japanese government is not telling us the true story. On one end, there is the Japanese media that plays down the nuclear drama and focuses on human drama, and at the other, the foreign media is up-playing the nuclear disaster. In my company I heard at least half the essential staff is being sent to Hong Kong, Singapore or even Sydney. I am preparing to leave Tokyo and/or Japan. So are many of my friends. There is a sense of deserting Tokyo as soon as possible.

That was my impression as well - that there's growing distrust of the Japanese government.

Probably doesn't help that after the quake, they announced all nuclear power plants had been safely shut down and there was no problem.

Causing the populous to panic is not a good strategy either is it ?

so which is better ... more panic or lie for a while and hope it gets better ?

I would say they're right to distrust the Japanese government. The more something is denied the more likely it seems to happen (don't panic until it is officially denied, then run for the hills).

From the Telegraph (UK timestamp):

20.37 Water levels in the Fukushima reactor 2 are almost empty. Tokyo Electric has said they cannot rule out the possibility of the fuel rods melting...

20.21 A senior nuclear industry executive has told the New York Times that Japanese nuclear power industry managers are "basically in a full-scale panic". The executive is not involved in managing the response to the reactors' difficulties but has many contacts in Japan. "They're in total disarray, they don't know what to do," the executive added.

From Zerohedge:

some tell-tale data about cities in Ibaraki prefecture, which is just a hundred or so miles north of Tokyo, and is just south of the ill-fated Fukushima prefecture. And the data is stunning: based on a N, NE and NNE wind direction (where it originates), meaning all coming from Fukushima, with a normal reading in the 80 nGy/h range, the city of Kounosu Naka is at 3,024, Kadobe Naka is at 2,416, Isobe Hitachioota is at 1,213 and many others are in the mid to upper triple digit range! Again, this is based on wind coming out of Fukushima and ultimately headed toward the capital. Indicatively, normal terrestrial plus cosmic gamma radiation is about 80 nGy/h.

Radiation shoots up after nuke plant blast | News.com.au

THE radiation level at Japan's troubled nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture shot up to 8217 micro sievert per hour temporarily this morning after an explosion was heard at its No.2 reactor, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
Kyodo news agency reported the level as of 8.31pm local time was more than eight times the 1000 micro sievert level to which people are usually exposed in one year.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/radiation-shoots-up-after-nuke-plant-blast/story-e6frfku0-1226021707383#ixzz1Gcswx6IW

On the subject of government disinformation:

The explosion, which occurred at 6:10 a.m., came shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were shut down.

"There is no longer [a] chain reaction of nuclear material," said IAEA director general Yukiya Amano, according to The Associated Press. "Reactor vessels and primary containment vessels ... stay intact. The release of radioactivity is limited."

Can't find any mention of the detection system (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information) mentioned in the ZH article being picked up by other sources. The worst afflicted city in their chart is now one of the lower level ones, too. Perhaps this is a transient effect?

There are two Fukushima plants, Daiichi and Daini. Daiichi is where reactors 1 2 and 3 are all undergoing meltdown. Daini seems to have been successfully shut down as your second quote says.

Why mention the quote at all, then? I assume the journalist was quoting an official who was speaking about Daiichi, Daini might as well be in the Phillipines for all we care.

Would any government anywhere in the world say straight truth. No.

Would people in any country claim that the government does not say truth. Yes.

Hi Y'all -

I've been reading this thread and the previous Fukushima thread and have wanted to comment, but I've been busy elsewhere.

A lot of what is being said here is much too panicky. Some good questions have been raised that I'd like to respond to, but I just haven't had time. Penguin Pete seems to have some of the answers.

I've been spending my time writing some stuff for my own blog, some of which you may find useful. I hope to have a post full of links up later. I'm also retweeting what looks good to me from other sources.

Too much happening in the world just now. I might have a little more time to comment here tomorrow, or even later tonight.

It's interesting that with all they have at stake, perhaps the French government is panicking:

"FEARING the possible risk of contamination as Japan confronts a post-quake nuclear emergency, foreigners have begun a slow exodus from Tokyo, although some are maintaining a stiff upper lip.

Several European nations have advised their citizens to consider leaving the Japanese capital following two blasts at a quake-damaged atomic power plant 250km to the north, sparking fears of a possible meltdown.

France went further, telling citizens to leave the Tokyo area "for a few days" if they had no specific reason to stay and warning that if a reactor were to explode, radioactive steam could reach the city in a "matter of hours"."


So, do you still stand by your comment now 12 hours later? Hole in reactor 2, spent fuel burning...

Panicky... you call me. Well, I feel sad for the people over there. I think if the people around these plants DO NOT panic,
they should be held in big esteem.

Tell me Cheryl, do you think the general view of nuclear power, and the "renaissance" will take a blow and slow-down from this event?

So if this was a liquid sodium cooled reactor design (say a Super Pheonix breeder reactor) what would have happened?


Liquid sodium is used as the coolant and heat-transfer medium in the LMFBR reactor. That immediately raised the question of safety since sodium metal is an extremely reactive chemical and burns on contact with air or water (sometimes explosively on contact with water). It is true that the liquid sodium must be protected from contact with air or water at all times, kept in a sealed system. However, it has been found that the safety issues are not significantly greater than those with high-pressure water and steam in the light-water reactors

Until you flood the reactor with sea water in a last ditch effort to cool it.

Some things are very hard to build safe.

Lead and lead-bismuth are superior solutions. The Fukushima problems would have never occurred in a lead-bismuth fast neutron reactor. Lead boils at 1740 Celsius and once the control rods are fully inserted it would never reach such a temperature. The whole reactor core is immersed in one big tub of lead and an earthquake would not do enough damage to the tub to make it leak out all the lead. In contrast, the GE reactor at Fukushima has apparently experienced structural damage from the quake since they were having issues with coolant levels from the beginning. It is much easier to leak out water than lead from a thick steel tub.

Lead Bismuth is a great idea if they make it work and discover where to find enough Bismuth. I've read the proposed Russian design would use the world's total production of Bismuth for Russian domestic use alone.

They already have small reactors designed for submarines (the Alpha series ones). The BN-800 in under construction. Bismuth is not essential and can be left out altogether. The concept is proven technology and not hypothetical. All this first generation water moderated junk should be decommissioned.

Here's my 2 cents.

Maybe they could pour in liquid lead which melts at 621 degF into the reactor. Since fuel rods melt at 1000 deg F, this would amount to cooling off the pile (after draining it). Lead would also block radiation leaks effectively.

Nobody liked my plan for dumping rubble on top of Macondo but
what the heck.

Having read almost all the comments one thing is very clear about a sizable portion of the comments - a recognition that some nuclear material takes 200,000 years to decay (plutonium half life x 10) and the right kind of explosion at a nuclear plant can spread nuclear material far and wide.

Also, consider that nuclear energy is inherently uneconomic. That is why the nuclear power industry used its political clout to get legislation passed that the government (according to Reagan, the problem - my how eager the private sector is to use government to take over its costs) would store the waste. Consider - have you ever seen any economic enterprise that would be profitable when it generates money for 40-100 years and cost money for 200,000. Fortunately a Democratic congressman with great foresight included the provision that the government could only do this if it could find a "safe" place to store it. There is no place on the crust of the earth that anyone can honestly predict will be safe for 200,000 years.

Space 1999?

Subduction zone...the ultimate in recycling


Send Pu to the sun. LOL.

Funny Pu is spelled like it is.

Should be cost effective.

Now lets get back to banning solar panels and wind mills due to suburban beautification codes. LOL

j12345 asks: "Consider - have you ever seen any economic enterprise that would be profitable when it generates money for 40-100 years and cost money for 200,000."

I say: at this point, nearly any economic enterprise that releases CO2 into the atmosphere, which is to say nearly any economic enterprise, would arguably fit your parameters. OTOH, it depends what you mean by "profitable." "Profitable" for whom?

I think that some of us have unconsciously conflated the highly dramatic mass devastation from the tsunami itself with the serious problems at the Fukushima reactor complex. While the tsunami caused the problem at the reactor complex, most of the horrible images we've been bombarded with would have largely been the same if the reactors never existed.

Just to put it into perspective, let us visualize a scenario in which the reactor problems did not take place against the backdrop of the tsunami and rather was caused perhaps by a combination of bad design and human error. In such a case, I don't think there would be nearly the widespread visceral condemnation of nuclear power in general. So I think what we have here is a blurring of catastrophes: the tsunami and the impending reactor meltdown(s).

Humans are quite accustomed to mundane deaths but not to unusual, highly dramatic ones, particularly if the cause appears to be something exotic and abnormal. In other words, year in and year out we accept tens of thousands of highway deaths as the way things normally are and don't give it a second thought. And to a lesser extent we grudgingly accept the fact that thousands of people will be murdered each year, many quite senselessly. But when there is a catastrophe, either natural or manmade, in which thousands of people die in a short period of time, it is perceived as an evil of biblical proportions. So, it's not really the number of people killed that matters so much, but rather the time frame and manner in which they are killed that colors our general perception of 'awfulness'.

If let's say that when this whole thing is over, something like 5,000 people die of radiation exposure. That would rightly be viewed as absolutely horrendous. Yet, over the last several decades several times that many have died mining coal and drilling for oil, not to mention many times more who have been killed in the various armed conflicts directly or indirectly related to access to oil. But that is pretty dull stuff and not very jarring. So, what we have here is one sudden mass death versus death by a thousand cuts. Take your pick. Most people, after a point, can absorb only so much grief and then become sort of 'grief saturated'. This happens in war all the time. As that great humanitarian, Josef Stalin, once said, "One death is a tragedy; a millions deaths are a statistic."

So, I suppose what I'm driving at in a rather long-winded manner is that it's not the absolute number of deaths associated with nuclear power that has people bent our of shape, but rather the drama and suddenness of it all. But then again, it may be preferable to accept more deaths gradually than less deaths suddenly. If that is the case, then nuclear power is at a big disadvantage, because while its quite safe most of the time, when it becomes unsafe, it becomes unsafe in a very BIG way. A binary system if there ever was one.

In the US, at least, I think this Fukushima disaster will essentially kill the nascent revival of nuclear power, which was on shaky ground (tasteless pun) to begin with. It's dead on arrival. What congressperson is going to back a new build-out of nuclear power after this is all over?

So, we will continue to accept X number of coal miners dying each year, ripping off mountain tops, and an increasing number of troops dying in a variety of overseas military adventures whose purpose is to make sure the US continues to get the juice it wants. But that is becoming increasingly viewed as the way things normally are. War OK; nuclear accidents not OK.

So, we will continue to accept X number of coal miners dying each year, ripping off mountain tops, and an increasing number of troops dying in a variety of overseas military adventures whose purpose is to make sure the US continues to get the juice it wants. But that is becoming increasingly viewed as the way things normally are. War OK; nuclear accidents not OK.

It's important to not put forward false notions that nuclear energy is replacing even one pound of coal or oil burned electrical energy. The world is currently consuming ALL coal, oil, and uranium it can get its hands on. China is expanding its nuke plants because they know coal isn't going to last them forever, plus they do see that global heating is reality, but that is irrelevant since their growth rates of energy consumption are forcing expanded coal electric power generation plus expanded nuke generation, there is no either/or here, it's both.

All comparisons of coal deaths vs nuclear deaths have no meaning since I can see no world where coal or oil production has been lowered on an absolute level because of nuclear production.

All sources are being used, Europe has largely used up most of its coal and is quickly using up its recently discovered oil.

Competition for coal is growing fierce on the world markets, and prices are skyrocketing. India is having difficulty getting enough coal to meet its internal demand on the global market. China is locking in long term coal contracts from Australia, and anywhere else it can.

So could we please stop pretending that nuclear is somehow an alternative to coal and oil? Only when you can conclusively demonstrate shut-in oil or coal production, real world, can you make this statement, and nobody can because as all TOD readers know, or should know, there is no surplus at all, or we are now at the point where all surplus is being used up, this year, last year.

The only argument now is if we try to maintain business as usual at all costs, or if we try to start winding down extractions of finite fuel sources and move to renewable ones. It's a simple game, those who move correctly and do long term rational thinking will probably do pretty well, those that don't will have increasingly toxic messes to deal with.

I believe the reason we view as you note, war ok, nuclear not, is that oil is so fundamental to our way of life that we are now unable to even allow ourselves to think, as a society, of not using it, and thus are willing to allow any and all actions to maintain the flow into our insane consumption fueled pit excavation.

One main reason that we view coal as OK is that simply put, the US coal extraction/burning lobby has managed to block all public discussion and political solutions through intensive, and extremely successful lobbying and corruption and bribery, wrapped in a nice ribbon so we can pretend it's just a 'campaign contribution' or whatever you want to call it. See the book Big Coal for a good outline of these facts. PR does work when you have a population who voluntarily absorbs their news and understanding from corporate funded and run media outlets.

Japan has for decades wanted to preserve the illusion of the old Japan, they have done this by fueling and funding massive third world logging campaigns, monstrous and criminal fishing / trawling ecocyde, and I assume they wanted to have a nice clean local island so they went for nuclear instead of dirty coal, while maintaining a consumption/car based economy, based largely on exports of totally non-sustainable technologies, like the rest of the west tries to do. I see this in a larger frame, of about 70 to 80 years, where we are occupying the maximum historical level of raw material extraction and consumption, that maximum really hit its steepest point starting around 1940 or so, it's roughly centered now, after slowing in the 80s, and should now be on the decline phase quite soon, within a few years.

Japan is massively overpopulated, totally non sustainable, and using nukes was just a way to try to continue this level for a few more decades. There is no future in that idea at all from what I can see, defending it or pretending it's somehow an alternative I think is something that simply cannot be supported empirically.

Thanks H2, I could not agree more!

h2 -

Well, nuclear power IS displacing an amount of coal roughly equivalent to the amount of power it produces.

For if there were no nuclear power plants, then the same amount of power would have to come largely from coal. So, though the coal supply situation is tight right now, it would be even worse if there were no nuclear power. Nuclear power has in effect dampened coal demand, which, even though as you correctly point out, is skyrocketing, would be even worse if there were no nuclear power. I really don't see any contradiction here.

Now, I am not saying that nuclear power is going to save us, as I doubt it will, but vis-a-vis coal, it DOES indeed displace an amount of coal equal to the amount of power it produces. No getting around that fact. At the very worst, it could be viewed as a 'coal extender'.

A meaningless observation, we continue to grow our global electrical demand, and we use whatever means at our disposal to do this.

There is no alternate universe where nuclear was not used and coal was, I think it's important to stop thinking like that, ie, pretending we made some rational decision about this when all we are doing is expanding consumption and production using all means at our disposal. We will burn all the oil we can extract, and we will burn all the coal we can extract. I say this because we ARE burning all the oil we can extract, and we ARE burning all the coal we can extract.

That's why we ran out of high quality coal and have now moved to the garbage coals, lignite etc.

Again, I highly recommend to all TOD regulars and readers this book, it explains the reality of electrical consumption growth, and the ensuing issues, like blackouts, as those systems expanded and became our new norm. The time frames involved are stunning, and really testify to the unique inability of modern humans to picture reality even 2 generations ago as a possible real world.

When the Lights Went Out - A History of Blackouts in America, David E. Nye.

Besides being a cool read, and really helping to understand the background of electrical production and consumption, it provides an extremely relevant model that helps explain why in large complex systems, failures of the type we are seeing with BP and the Nuke meltdowns now are not only inevitable, they are totally comprehensible. And unavoidable. The basic notion is simple to understand: each failure escalates the complexity of the corrections, which creates a scenario where a new unforeseen set of circumstances combines around the new set of technology and creates the next catastrophic failure. You saw this in BP, you see it now in Japan with earthquake + tsunami + (now obvious) problems with nuke plant design and emergency systems.

I really recommend this book to all here who follow such matters, it's very helpful in a larger sense to understand where we are and why this complexity cannot be fixed.

And he doesn't really even get into coal/uranium/oil depletion, that's outside his scope.

One interesting thing he did note that even in the so-called energy shortages of the 70s, US electrical consumption rates continued to rise at I think about 2 or 3% a year, I don't remember the exact number.

Interesting points h2.

You put it into words better but I've suspected that this is indeed the real problem with peak oil. Namely, we are already consuming all alternatives at breakneck speed. Mitigation, thereby, cannot prolong BAU.

Any response to peak oil would involve dramatically altering our current energy production and consumption across all sectors.

So, in the end, peak oil really does mean global depression, one way or another.

Nuclear power may be displacing coal power so that coal can be exported to developing countries, but the coal will be burned. Remember the developing world when calculating that nuclear power offsets coal use. They will be grateful for any technologies that free up coal on the global market place. And the big coal companies will deliver until they run out of coal, or economic growth ends. I am not sure that nuclear power extends coal, I think it only affects who burns the coal.

Exactly right. I have noted a tendency even here on TOD for some posters to believe that what happens in the so-called first, industrialized world, is all that exists, and what happens in the second and third worlds simply isn't relevant. This was most obvious when some asked why oil prices were rising when (US) consumption had declined by some 2 million or so barrels a day. Incredibly blind, but there you have it, if you see such things here, just imagine what people are like in the even less educated parts of life.

For example, Japan is very proud of its own forestry conservation efforts, while they are aggressively funding and fueling massive third world logging campaigns, devastating huge swathes of land for a few mere yen of profit. Clearly they made the same choice with nuclear, go for clean local and let the others deal with the dirty coal fired plants.

This type of outsourcing of problems and waste is just a way of lying to yourself and others about the real results of your actions.

I saw the same thing with dumping of toxics in the ocean of Somalia, toxic waste the last big tsunami washed up on shore, including nuclear waste. That came from EU nations, who talk all green but in a free market system (sic), in the end, if you can dump it for 2.50 a ton, isn't that better than 250 a ton?


For if there were no nuclear power plants, then the same amount of power would have to come largely from coal.

No, if there were no nuclear power plants, we'd be using less energy. It astonishes me to note how many people seem to think that the amount of power the world uses is somehow set by divine fiat. Not so; like most things, it's a product of supply and demand; we're using coal pretty much flat out, and so if there weren't nuclear power plants around -- propped up by the vast government subsidies that are needed to make the technology economically viable -- demand would have adjusted to the lesser supply.

But then, you know that's not going to happen. ;-)

The show must go on.


I live not too far (but hopefully not too close!!!) to the Fukushima plant threatened with meltdown.

So I appreciate the problems with nuclear power and I am willing to change my lifestyle significantly to not have nuclear power in my life.
I will wash laundry by hand, eat simple food, and use the Internet only 20 minutes a day or less...actually I already do limit I-net use.

I hope others will form the same conclusion!

Now the grocery stores are bare. The gas stations are empty here.

We await news of radiation spewing forth and we are all packed in case we have to leave suddenly.

Trains are now operating but I am sure they will be crowded if worst comes to worst!

The chickens have come home to roost.

Please stay safe.

pi, the situation is very serious and life-threatening to a wide area now. Things are essentially out of control. I would leave now. You can always come back if/when it settles down.

Yes, probably we will leave tomorrow. Thank you.

Thank you John Michael Greer for writing this. I agree completely and was thinking that I should write something similar, but you beat me to it.

I've been doing energy management work at least part time for over ten years, and I'm still surprised by the number of people who treat their monthly electric bills as an "act of god".

Another odd thing that I've noticed is that most people seem to think that their electric bills are typical, and that all their neighbors are paying about the same, but that just isn't true. I know of people who are paying ten times as much as their neighbors across the street, but they don't want to know. Many people seem to think of their electric bills as some kind of dirty secret that must be hidden from even their friends and relatives.

P.S. I also liked your recent article about thermal underwear.

Your posts highlights how irrational we humans are. The same type of analysis can be put to 9/11. In total, some ~3000 were directly killed on 9/11. But it was a big dramatic even with the two towers coming down and a stab at our financial heart. (Which apparently was quite good at destroying itself but that is another matter.) Since it was such a big one-time event, we over-reacted and invaded two countries. The bigger invasion had NOTHING to do with 9/11.

Again . . . tens of thousands of auto accident deaths are acceptable . . . but 3000 deaths justified a massive over-reaction including two wars, massive expansion of government with all its new security & defense agencies, losses of civil liberties, etc.

We need to try to act more rational. Then again, we are humans and that is against our nature. Especially when we have democratic systems wherein the politicians are constantly demagoguing issues for votes instead of trying to figure out the most rational & economically prudent response.

Re non-rational human nature.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, could improve the comment quality of TOD than getting people to understand that human cultures and individuals do NOT act rationally, they do not make decisions rationally, nor will they ever do so. For example, Norway recently voted against drilling the Lofotens I believe primarily as an emotional reaction to seeing the BP blowout footage. In this case, the emotions guided the decision makers into making a fairly rational decision, ie, to save the cod fisheries from potential total destruction for the sake of a few more years of potential oil profits.

This applies to the false and misleading fair price market theories, which are the essence of the equally false and misleading 'free market' mythology, it applies to any notions of sustainable policies, etc.

I'm reading George Soros, The Alchemy of Finance, and I was happy to see from the beginning that a core component of his long term success is that he has understood this fact from the very beginning of his career. Taleb makes the same point in his weak and fairly derivative 'Fooled by Randomness', derivative of the Soros book, obviously, but Taleb, being a bit less bright, makes the point in a way that's I think easier for people to understand.

All real philosophy has understood this fact, Heraclitus knew this when he stated that: humans are not rational, there is reason only in what surrounds them. Lao Tzu also clearly understood this when he outlines why humans cannot handle knowledge without making matters worse. Knowledge as in scientific type control oriented knowledge, that is.

One interesting point Taleb raised was that in experiments, they discovered that if emotion is short circuited in humans, all decision making is terminated. Interesting.

The Soros book is very cool, if you haven't read it, check it out, the preface/introduction largely explain the ideas, of the revised 1994 edition. His argument, re reflexivity is extremely interesting, and seems to be working quite well now as I watch how the markets are reacting to the oil production limits now being imposed by nature, in other words, peak oil / market volatility seems to be directly confirming his core premises re price, value, markets, and the rest of it all. Interesting, as I noted.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, could improve the comment quality of TOD than getting people to understand that human cultures and individuals do NOT act rationally

Fine. I'll just ignore your non-rational analysis then.

The belief that the only course is the rational one is a somewhat unique attribute of modern industrial culture. My own people fall victim to this idea, while of course showing by their actions that they are like all the rest of us to a certain degree.

Reason can be used, it just has to be used carefully, and with awareness of the limits.

However, I'll take your comment as a compliment, so thanks.

However, I'll take your comment as a compliment, so thanks.

Thus proving your own irrationality?

Ok, if you want to enter into meaningless slashdot type babble, feel free, but it's my view of your general postings that you aren't really that type.

Slashdot,for those who don't know, is somewhat legendary for geeky comment threads where silly points are repeated ad nauseum, with almost no content or added value.

Reason can be a tool when used carefully. When used sloppily it's just a disguise for non reasoned actions. It may always be a disguise for non reasoned actions, it's hard to say.

Locating a nuclear power plant on the coast of a massive earthquake zone is obviously totally irrational, now they have to use reason to try to fix the problem, which is how reason is usually used, that's how they get nuclear power in the first place, a weird idea made possible by reason and science. For example. Most of our decisions just use reason to do the dirty work once the original premise has been laid out, non-rationally. Look at what passes for discourse among the current US right for example, or the left, to a lesser degree. Understanding this is useful, since it puts us closer to understanding how we actually function. This doesn't mean you can't talk about the process, or think about it, or try to become aware of it. Or not, each to their own.

Anyway, while you are being slightly amusing here, I'll leave it at that.

Oh, /. isn't a total intellectual vacuum, there are worthwhile contributers there. But you do have various legions of libertarians, ID proponents, flamers. But I still find worthwhile info on scientific topics there; some good yucks are to be had as well. The hair pulling over the deficiencies of their mod system is pretty funny too. You'd think people that brainy would resign themselves to these inherent flaws after a while.

Thanks for the tip. I didn't realize that the Soros book leads into Taleb's.

wht, neither did I. I'll give you a single quote which I am sure you will be able to see forms the entire conceptual foundation of the so-called 'black swan' thesis given far too much credit in the media, including here. I guess middlebrow outsells highbrow every time. There's no way I'm reading the Black Swan now though, one of his books is more than enough, life is to short to read material that derivative and non-critical.

What makes the change historical is that it affects both the course of events and the participant's perceptions so that the next event cannot be a mere repetition of the one that preceded it (page 44, 1994 edition)

He covered the entire core of the 'Fooled by Randomness' book in the introduction over a few pages. Taleb does not have the intellectual integrity to admit this debt, either to the public or himself, I suspect, while pretending to be a critic of Soroses attempts to generate a powerful and highly functional theory.

For example, it appears increasingly that this current nuclear event is in the process of creating a new historical path where the mere repetition of the one that preceded it is not longer a viable option.

Caveat: I've only read through chapter two of AF so far, it's dense and complicated material, so if it breaks down in the end, as these types of books often do, c'est la vie, it's hard writing an actual full work of serious thinking, even getting a few chapters down is better than almost everyone can manage, but so far looks promising, all mental tests I am running on his methods as I read it are matching perfectly our recent events in the markets, unlike the Taleb book.

Thanks for the recommendation.

I have a feeling you might appreciate the works of Ernest Becker, if you haven't discovered them already.

However I would caution to take them in in small doses. His pessimism regarding humanity is of a hardcore version that puts doomers to shame.

We need to try to act more rational. Then again, we are humans and that is against our nature. Especially when we have democratic systems wherein the politicians are constantly demagoguing issues for votes instead of trying to figure out the most rational & economically prudent response.

Toward what end must humans act more rationally? One powerful argument for non-rationality is that it enables larger groups of people to coordinate resources toward a common goal, especially when such coordination is against the interest of individuals in the group.

Again . . . tens of thousands of auto accident deaths are acceptable . . . but 3000 deaths justified a massive over-reaction including two wars, massive expansion of government with all its new security & defense agencies, losses of civil liberties, etc.

The WTC building demolitions, Pentagon missile attack, and Flight 93 shootdown were used as false justification for war on the TV news, but if you also watched comedy performances given in the years after 9/11 like I did, you also heard jokes about how the wars are bogus because gas prices haven't even gone down. You think people would gasp in offense? These jokes always got a nervous laugh.

The people have always kinda known what's really going on and are complicit, and kinda like it that way. If they go along with an obvious cover story, all the easier for them to complain they were lied to when things go wrong later.

I think what is completely rational about objecting to Nuclear power is its clear potential for spreading highly toxic materials over great portions of the planet. Toxics that could make great pieces of our planet uninhabitable, or far more insidiously, can be slowly throttling the cell structure of all living things as a gradual and compounded killing.

The fact that Nuclear Defenders can point to a low death-rate so far does nothing to minimize the fact that with hundreds of these plants around the planet, and a 'bad day' every decade or so, we are the frogs who are turning up the dial on our own boiling water.

Look at how it plays out in Japan, with a very disciplined and prepared workforce, with backups in place, with friendlies coming in bringing Helicopters, Naval Vessels, Trucks and Planes with supplies from far and wide to help. And THIS is touch and go.. we're chewing our fingernails. Look at the global map of reactors again.. it should be pretty clear what we've set up for ourselves.

And like the Lead Paint that Americans still have to look at their innocent-seeming windowsills and their kids and just wonder "Will it be ok?", the offending compounds don't show themselves, so we can't protect ourselves from them, unless we send samples from everything in our lives into a lab for 'certification'..

This, like so many of the toxins we've poured liberally into our environment ("Dump it in the ocean, the quantity is simply Miniscule!") .. it's all cumulative, and we're already seeing a huge death-toll and rates of Mutation and Birth Defects with the mysterious and unaccountable effects of vast numbers of combined toxins in human and other life-forms.

Hello Joule,

You raise an interesting point.

I have a different take on it.

While it is cold-blooded, in one sense, to put aside the question of deaths (which I'll return to in a moment), there is something else that should be considered in a rational manner, WRT your comment:

"If that is the case, then nuclear power is at a big disadvantage, because while its quite safe most of the time, when it becomes unsafe, it becomes unsafe in a very BIG way. A binary system if there ever was one."

Yes, it is binary - failure is/can be BIG. As you say.

So, a relevant question is:

1) How much energy loss, in oil-equivalent terms (or whatever energy metric one wishes to use), is the result of the occurrence of the "unsafe event"? (i.e., energy cost/financial/material cost to deal with disaster) AND...

2) What is the probability analysis - (or, I should say, what kind of analysis makes sense, and how does one go about it?) - WRT the occurrence of an "unsafe" event? AND...

3)How do we determine and/or illustrate the point at which the unsafe event will *completely wipe out* the gain in energy?

In other words, is there a net positive EROEI for nuclear power? How to analyze this?

ie.., One event of X probability, and wham - there goes the ER.

That's the first question.

Second point:

It maybe be that the death type is related to a sense of individual control. Or, illusion of same.

Take auto deaths as a case in point - some degree of control, maybe ( drive defensively, etc.) - some degree no control whatsoever. (Unless you stay off the roads, which is my personal preference.)

Third: War not OK. Just thought I'd add that.


2207: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, has said a partial defect has been found inside the containment vessel of reactor 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Kyodo news agency reports. He has also said the reactor is "not necessarily in a stable condition". Early on Tuesday morning, officials said pressure inside the container had dropped and sea water was being pumped in to cool the fuel rods.

Right, I'm lost.. What number are we up to now?

Even more confusing almost exactly the same quote is carried by some other news agencies but they say reactor 2. Don't know if the BBC got it wrong.


From Reuters just now:

FLASH: Explosion heard at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi No.2 reactor: Jiji News Agency

Yes, just up on NHK now - no pictures yet.

....and the news gets worse :-/

Wind near quake-hit Japan plant forecast to blow inland

TOKYO (Reuters) - The wind over a quake-damaged nuclear complex in northeast Japan where low levels of radiation have been released will blow south until Tuesday when it will turn inland, a weather official said.

The wind direction is expected to change at around 6 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Tuesday, blowing slowly from the northeast then later from east, the official said.

An east wind could blow any radioactivity inland, though the direction is rarely constant at such a speed.

Close regions have the highest rice production in Japan. What are Japanese to eat if most of the rice (and sea fish!) become suspect of radioactivity?!


BREAKING NEWS: Suppression pool may have been damaged at No. 2 reactor: gov't agency

Pictures don't seem to show any obvious damage. "A big noise was heard about 2 hours ago and some staff have evacuated" they seem to be reporting. Pressure containment breached I think they are saying.

"This could be worst case scenario" just said on NHK

The english translator for NHK sounds worried.

The Japanese anchors are, of course, unflappable.

They are also reporting that 2.7m of the fuel rods were exposed.

The are saying that pressure has gone way down in "pressure vessel"

Yeah, her translations are not that great. Too bad my Japanese vocabulary doesn't cover nuclear reactor design.

Edit: or my english vocab for that matter.

Which could only mean a leak in the pressure vessel now.

Radiation dosage went up to around 900 µSi.

At least it doesn't mean...invasion!

Finally have an image of the aftermath of this explosion.


Smoke billows from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after an explosion today at 6:10am in this still image taken at 7am
(2200 GMT) from a webcam. REUTERS/TEPCO

A roundup of that Kyodo news on the no.4 reactor:

Radiation levels at the reactor have become too high for normal work in the control room. Workers cannot stay in the room long and so are going in and out alongside monitoring from a different room.
by Reuters_MarkKolmar at 12:18 PM

TEPCO says it is likely to pour water into the no.4 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi within two to three days. It may pour water in through the holes in the outer building.
by Reuters_MarkKolmar edited by Reuters_MarkKolmar at 12:17 PM

CNN now covering this story.

"Containment leaking, but not severely. Another explosion might change that."

Besides overheating and explosions, I imagine there is thermal shock going on, adding cold water to hot reactors. That folks can't see damage in photos posted online doesn't mean much; even a small breach in the reactor vessel can be catastrophic, limiting the ability to maintain pressure and water levels; critical tasks at this point.

CNN reporting that the containment vessel may be breached.

They are going to send a robotic camera to take pictures to see.

They've started pulling workers out of the area, which they haven't done before.

At this point, that's going to be the only way to get a good look at what actually happened. But if there is a lot of rubble, it might be tough for the thing to navigate.

Has anyone heard of any sort of UAV being used to go in and get good closeup pictures? A helicopter type of thing might work better than a regular plane, but those little blimp-like things that fly around inside of sports arenas could be exactly the ticket as long as the winds aren't too strong.

Leanan, as I post this, NHK reporters and the government minister really sound like they are about to, how can I put this nicely?... they sound like they are about to panic and they want to run away. I've never heard anything like it, and I compare it to yesterday, when it seemed things things were potentially ok in their eyes. Today judging by voice tones and body language, they are scared. Really scared. I find their fear infectious, because it's probably very well founded.

We're a little over four days from the earthquake now, those in positions of authority/responsibility and those directly involved in addressing the ongoing situation at Fuchsehima will be utterly exhausted by now. So ~800 workers at the nuclear site have been evacuated leaving just ~50? That sounds like someone decided there's little more than can usefully be achieved by the people they have available.

No, actually what that means is that 50 people volunteered to give their lives for Japan.

I expect to see increasingly sophisticated spin appearing here at TOD from the nuclear lobby and industry, since this event basically terminates nuclear business as usual, and thus the expected profits those same nuclear corporations were greedily rubbing their hands in expectation of grabbing.

As always, zero admission of responsibility from apologists, expected behavior, sad, but expected. But corporations don't admit blame, they apply PR and marketing in order to increase shareholder value and minimize potential bad PR to a manageable level.

Here is some interesting info on this particular model of boiling water reactor (BWR). Something about 90% chance of containment failure...



New explosion, reactor 2 now

So now 1,2 and 3 have all had explosions.

Bang or explosion heard around the suppression pool at #2. This is an entirely different bag of chips than a hydrogen explosion in the refueling deck. This is something going on inside containment.

The suppression pool is the "torus" which is designed to quench any steam released from primary circuit or reactor vessel itself.

From my understanding this means that the wetwell has been breached and will have released pressure into the secondary containment surrounding the wet well "torus."

They also registered higher radiation in the wetwell (suppression pool) recently.

This could just be the wet well letting go due to old age and pressure and a coincidental increase in radiation.

Worst case, the pressure increased due to some failure of the reactor vessel itself and the increased radiation is due to some amount of ejected core melt or alternatively salt water if the core is somewhat intact.

But that's worst case, seems unlikely. I'd think if the reactor vessel had in fact ruptured that there would be more than just a bang.

One of the many ironies in this situation is the way in which the utilities and the environmentalists have sometimes silently cooperated to bring us to the current pass. Lots of folks assume that there are umpteen corporations eager to build nuclear plants when the reality is that most of the utilities are very reluctant to make huge capital investments and have been gun shy since the era of Three Mile Island. It has been far easier and cheaper for many utilities to simply extend the service life of existing nuclear (and nonnuclear for that matter) generation plants than to incur the costs associated with big ventures. Risk averse as they are, the utilities can always point to the environmentalists to explain why they don't want to build anything even though a lot of their reluctance is a simple fear of debt. So we wind up with lots of plants operated ten or twenty years past their original lifespans. In a rational world, we would have either given up on nuclear back in the 70s or decided to do it right, which would have involved replacing facilities like the Japanese plants. Of course it's possible that a modern nuclear plant would also have problems after so great an earthquake and tsunami, but it's pretty clear it wouldn't have these problems.

Coarse ideological narratives about tree-hugger environmentalists and greedy executives miss out on a lot of what's interesting about what's happening.

The problem I see is that decades ago it was decided that the standard reactor would be liquid cooled and not gas cooled. In a gas cooled reactor the fuel is contained in a matrix which expands as temperature rises and the expansion increases the space between uranium atoms also increases and the fission rate slows. There is a maximum temperature which the fuel can reach which is well below the temperature which would damage the reactor vessel. A loss of coolant would not damage anything. No need for emergency backup cooling systems.

It is just a guess but the choice of using a liquid cooled system may have been a case of price over ruling safety.

Water is a good neutron moderator and an absolutely fantastic working fluid for heat transfer. It's widely available inert and easy to work with and well understood.

So are we worried about 2 or 3. Uranium or MOX? It matters, right? Plutonium is much worse, no?

Since both 2 and 3 have popped, I think it is officially "worse".

Both 1 and 3 have experienced hydrogen explosions taking out their refueling bays. Spectacular but largely unrelated to the state of the core and primary containment.

2 has experienced some kind of explosion/pressure release in relation to the suppression pool, AKA torus, which is a big doughnut half filled with water, connected to the space around the reactor by big pipes, designed to quench any catastrophic steam release.

What that means and why it happened remains to be seen.

Somewhat more complex than "popped."

Quite a bit more complex, I know.

It's also still a long way from as bad as it can get, and they are pulling out all the stops to keep it from getting worse. It's still an ugly situation.

So far it seems to be touring all along the landscape from bad to worse. Has any authority definitively stated whether an untended reactor or spent fuel storage can go critical while melting? If not, things can only get so bad. If so, then things can get much worse.

Plutonium at .069 curies/gram is much more radioactive(230,000 times more) than uranium at ~3 E-07 curies per gram.

One segment of PBS's Charlie Rose tonight will be a discussion of the Japan nuke situation with several experts (don't know names). Rose is usually pretty good with scientific-type stuff.

Re the pools for storing the spent fuel rods. They are maybe the biggest danger in this whole mess. Check this article out.


EDIT: If the cores go they will have to abandon the place. This means that the pools holding the old fule rods will evaporate. The radiation that will be released from the old fuel rods is worse than what will happen from the cores.

NHK news now reporting fire in spent fuel pool at reactor number 4. They're saying this is very bad.

BREAKING: jesus... nhk is saying a pressure containment vessel may be cracked, or that the suppression pool is cracked (they are connected) and water may be leaking out of the suppression pool.... operators being evacuated...

explosion @ 6:14 pressure dropped from 3 to 1... Fukushima 1, reactor 2... 2.7 meters of fuel rods exposed... water still being injected, but other personnel being evacuated...


8,217 microsieverts per hours at 23:31GMT (8:31: am local)

Topix down 7.8%

NHK said 800-900 microsieverts per hour which is equal to 80-90 milirem. Typical occupational exposure limits are 2.5 milirem per hour or 100 mrem per week.

It depends on what kind of radiation is emitted. I would guess that most of the radiation is from radioactive cesium, Cs-137 which is a beta emitter totaling 1.6 Mev of energy.

8217 was the peak level reported so far.


TOKYO (Kyodo)--The radiation level at the troubled nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture shot up to 8,217 micro sievert per hour temporarily Tuesday morning after an explosion was heard at its No. 2 reactor, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The level as of 8:31 p.m. was more than eight times the 1,000 micro sievert level to which people are usually exposed in one yea

The level goes up and down depending on what's blowing up at the particular time :-(

Previous highest reported value was about 1600 microsieverts per hour.

@everyone, There is another way to look at this. The plants having trouble were built the year before Three Mile Island had its problem (IIRC). How many reading this are still driving 33 year old vehicles, and how safe are those vehicles - especially compared to today's state of the art vehicles? There is no doubt my all wheel drive, multiple air bag equipped, anti lock brakes and electronic stabilization system makes my vehicle considerably safer than one decades old. Oh, and it gets considerably better mileage and performance. While we are discussing potentially building new plants, isn't there an outside chance they will be superior to the ones already in service (usually FAR beyond their expected design lifetime).

SCRAM with man cutting rope with axe. To the Japanese designs. To the new ones. Advancement but wrong direction? Remember the atomic plane?

This quote from the blog of the nuclear power industry website that I linked to above, it was the earliest that I saw that noted the new explosion at plant #2. I like reading there because those guys are highly likely to be actual nuclear engineers, not just someone playing one on TV.

The RCIC is a pump directly driven by a steam turbine; there isn't any electrical generation in that system. I assume that there was damage to the RCICs from the tsunami just like the diesels, or possibly the site was so generally messed up (both people and equipment) after the tsunami that it took too long too get them online, and the pressure rose too high for them to be effective. That is just speculation; we won't know for weeks or months, probably, what the full sequence of events was.

I'm not sure what is "silly" about the backup generators. They are redundant, reliable, and would not have been a problem if not for an unanticipated common failure mode--an improbably large tsunami (a failure of site planning). That said, nobody likes having active components in the safety system, which is why Gen III+ designs feature natural circulation and other enhancements to safety.

There will be a lot of lessons learned from this, just as there were in prior accidents. I just hope the industry gets a chance to apply them and isn't shut down by the inevitable (and already beginning) knee-jerk reactions. Maybe some good will come of this--an accelerated plan to build Gen III+ and Gen IV plants and retire these older designs.

Sure, but...on the back slope of Hubbert's Peak, it's going to be harder and harder to afford new stuff, whether that's cars or nuclear power plants.

This plant was supposed to be decommissioned this month. Instead it got a 10-year extension. I think we'll see more and more things like that, because building new is expensive and we've become dependent on the energy produced.

IOW...I think there's a real possibility that we'll be the Soviet Union in the future, taking shortcuts because we can't afford not to.

IOW...I think there's a real possibility that we'll be the Soviet Union in the future, taking shortcuts because we can't afford not to.

After the uprising in Libya and the world lost over 1 mbpd of supply, I began to wonder if PO would ever be recognized. I can see spin being applied to explain why oil is sky high and/or the economy sucks, always implying that BAU will return once these "problems" are sorted out.

"If the danged (insert scapegoat here) weren't interfering, we'd have all the oil we need."

In some ways, PO is the man behind the curtain. Everyone focuses on the effects but can't understand the cause.

Meanwhile, depletion continues and economies around the world thrash and moan, waiting for a turnaround in the economy that will likely never come. There will always be another non PO "issue" to deal with.

Whatever malfeasance has been done in international finance, the bottom line is:

Debt is a claim on future money
Money is a claim on future work
The ability to do work is the definition of energy.

There is more debt than there is money and there is more money than there is energy so a lot of people aren't going to be able to redeem their coupons.

So yes, we can't afford to, but it has little to do with money.

BTW, I'm not implying you were referring to money.

The diagrams I've seen for reactor #1 show a storage pool for spent fuel next to the reactor--it looked like it was just below the level where the first explosion took off the top of the outer building.*

I've been looking for more information about any nuclear waste that was stored at this site, but I haven't found anything. Was there waste storage at the other reactors, or just #1? How much, what type? What were the storage conditions--was it protected by the same sort of containment as the reactor core? Is the waste significantly more or less dangerous than the fuel in the reactors? Did the hydrogen explosion(s) cause release of high-level waste? Is this a big issue or a tiny issue in the context of the whole event?

Thanks for any leads or perspective anyone can lend.

* http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-a...

[edit: sorry - I thought I had read all the comments, but I didn't see that this was discussed above. Never mind...]


If you go here


and read the first article it has a lot of info. There are poosl containing spent fuel rods right above the cores. They will boil off without cooling water and, as we know, there probably is not any getting to them. If they evaporate there will be problems worse than the cores melting by the sound of it.


from: http://allthingsnuclear.org/?835663e0

...Currently reactor 3 is in “cold shutdown”, at a target temperature of less than 93 degrees, she said. Reactors 1, 2 and 4 remain in full shutdown but are still being cooled using sea water.

according to http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0315/1224292164750.html

Written prior to latest events.

Did I hear correctly the Japanese PM just increase evacuation zone?

Number 4 reactor now on fire. Good grief. Used spent fuel burning.

Number 4 wasn't even operational at time of quake.

Anderson Cooper just reported that No. 4 is on fire.

Oh Oh, readings now in hundreds of milisieverts no longer microsieverts

Everyone within 30km told to stay indoors.

So what is exactly the WORST worst case outcome (excluding something crazy like a massive meteorite striking the plant now and spreading radio activity all over).

Let's assume that all 3 of the reactors melted down and all three had some leaks in their containment structures.

Wouldn't that still be a much better outcome than Chernobyl where they essentially had no containment structure at all to speak of and they had a graphite fire which spewed radioactive stuff up into the sky for a huge airborne radioactive plume? At least in my worst case scenario it would be a very localized and non airborne radioactive material leak.

spec - Granted it's way to early to make this point. But hey...what the heck: let's assume the eventual body count/contamination from the nuclear aspect is bad but not biblical. Wouldn't many folks consider the circumstances rather extreme and beyond many "worst case" scenarios? In a perverse way this event might add fuel to the pro-nukes folks. Things went so much worse then most could imagine and the vast majority of folks were not impacted.

But, as I said, it's too early. Not a prediction...just another of my patoned "what if's".

Containment is leaking, and this will spread in the air.

Worse than Chernobyl. Much more radioactive material involved. Fuel in multiple reactors + much more spent fuel in now drying pools above the reactors. Fuel in No. 4 dried out pool now on fire. Containment structures being breached by hydrogen explosions. Core meltdowns can cause steam explosions when ground water is reached. Workers forced to evacuate due to high radiation levels. This has effectively reached worst case as far as hope of any control over it is concerned. Time to just get everyone alive as far away as possible and start planning remediation on an international level from a safe distance.

So far, there is no indication of continuing super-critical fission, and there is not graphite-fed fuel fire, so it is NOT worse than Chernobyl. At least not yet. While it does seems that everything that could go wrong has, the fuel itself is decreasing in fissile activity. If they can just keep water on everything that needs watering, things should settle quickly. But that's a big IF.

"NEWS ADVISORY: Radiation amount in Chiba Pref. twice to 4 times normal level (13:14)KyodoNews"

"NEWS ADVISORY: Radiation 33 times normal level measured in Utsunomiya, Tochigi (13:12)"

From message feed here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv


10 PM EST live TV report or press conference by Japanese Prime Minister, NHK News:

Comments after Prime Minister's statement:
1. Number 4 reactor burning, perhaps due to falling debris from #3.

2. Blast in #2, a hole was observed in #2. Radiation release due to hole(?) and smoke observed.

3. Cooling continues for #1,2,3.

4. Radiation at #3 measured at around 400 milisieverts *not microsieverts).

5. Of the 800 staff, all but 50 who are doing the water injection have been evacuated.

6. People in the area of 20-30 km are asked to stay indoors and leave windows and vents closed.

More questions asked later in press ponference...

E. Swanson

7. Wind now turning onshore....expected to remain easterly for ~20 hours.

That's bad. I assume that they mean 400 mSv/hr.

If you start to look at what it would take to get radiation sickness, about 1Sv is where the scale starts. 6Sv is about where you have a 50-50 chance, and that's assuming you get medical care.

That's bad. I assume that they mean 400 mSv/hr.

Unfortunately you assume correctly.

From NYT:

But industry executives said that in fact the situation had spiraled out of control and that all plant workers needed to leave the plant to avoid excessive exposure to radioactive leaks.

If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

I'm very lazy being stuck home with a bad cold, laryngitis AND food poisoning, so I'm too lazy to look up the following: (maybe somebody else was there and remembers?) At one of the last three years AGU's (or maybe AMQUA) somebody gave a paleo-tsunami talk based on counting sand/debris over spill layers in a lagoon on the eastern side of Japan. Insofar as I can recall, they found that really BIG UGLY tsunamis corresponding to a 8-9 Richter scale earthquake appeared fairly common, like one every couple hundred years. Just a bit of pre-instrumental context for this mess. (snark on) Of course paleo-studies are always the first to get the budget axe as who cares about what happened in the distant past. (Snark off). Like I said, maybe somebody else remembers more details about such a study. In fact, they might have mentioned in the talk that the NE coast of Japan was a very bad place to put a nuclear plant...and I think they said they had Japanese govt or industry funding for part of the study...

Hopefully you will get better soon.

Here is a paper that may answer your query:

Minoura, Koji and Shyu Nakaya. 1991. "Traces of tsunami preserved in inter-tidal lacustrine and marsh deposits: some examples from Northeast Japan." The Journal of Geology,, Vol. 99, No. 2 (Mar 1991), pp. 265-267.


"The Japan Sea Earthquake of May 26, 1983 triggered a large-scale tsunami that surged over the coast of NE Japan and caused considerable damage. The tsunami resulted in peculiar sedimentary processes on the coast. Depending on the hydraulic scale of the tsunami, three kinds of sedimentary processes were recognized, each of which left unique deposits. Such deposits are expected to remain in sedimentary sequences, preserving remarkable sedimentary facies. Borehole samples drilled at different localities in coastal regions have been examined to detect traces of ancient tsunamis. Sedimentologicala and geochemical studies of the samples reveal that layered deposits, similar to those developed by the Tsunami of the Japan Sea Earthquake, are common in the drilled cores. Estimated ages of these deposits are exactly equivalent to the dates of ancient tsunamis documented in historical records. These results show that the invasion of tsunamis is recorded in coastal depositional sequences. From analyses of long borehole cores we conclude that large-scale tsunamis produced by submarine earthquakes have invaded the coastal regions of the Tsugaru and Sendai Plains at intervals of 250 to 400 yr and about 800 yr, respectively."

An interesting study, and very relevant information to help frame the recent tsunami within a historical context.

Hope this helps.


So we have 50 people trying to cool down 3 or 4 reactors, right?


BREAKING NEWS: Hydrogen explosion occurs at Fukushima No. 4 reactor

How is this even possible? reactor 4 wasn't even running at the time of the earthquake.


NHK just said the hydrogen was produced from the heat of the spent fuel in the pool.

The spent fuel at reactor 4 was said to be on fire by the Cabinet Secretary.

Its out now according to kyodo news.

Given the discussion here, it is unthinkable to me that ALL the pools aren't being irrigated. I know there is always a fog of war, but it's really hard to imagine how a national response with worldwide input wouldn't be covering all the bases by now.

I thought H2 was produced only when the water was running out and the rods were oxidizing?

Short answer IMO - They never got grid power restored to these stations and everything is being done on the fly using emergency equipment. These are sophisticated systems that probably haven't even had operational control rooms in days. All of their nuclear specialists could easily be devoted full time to any one of these stricken reactors, trying to analyze and respond to the rapidly changing and worsening conditions, and they have (at least) four of them to deal with simultaneously. And with ever-increasing radioactivity in the area, threatening the health of everyone who is trying to get close enough to do anything productive. They are simply overwhelmed.

And a lot of them are dead.

And a lot of them have lost friends or family or their houses.

Humans make mistakes easily. That is why nuclear power is so dangerous.


"heat" - no.

Hydrogen can be produced by radiolysis of water (as well as the reaction of hot metals and water/steam, like inside the reactors).

So any concentrated radiation source sitting around in water will increase the hydrogen (and oxygen) concentration in the water, which will off-gas at some time.
I would suppose with power on and everything functioning normally, they would use a re-combiner to safely burn the hydrogen with the oxygen and send the resulting water back to the spent fuel storage pool.

A hydrogen fire/explosion will commonly catch other things on fire if there are burnables around, maybe equipment/plastic shields/... being used in the maintenance of #4?

Could we have a refresher this late in the thread and with the potential for confusion with all the plant names vs. Unit #s for the various reactors at each plant - my particular question being which of the reactors is confirmed to have been operating with the MOX (plutonium) fuel ? I'm assuming the MOX reactor and the burning spent fuel are the two primary concerns at this point ?

There are two Fukushima plants. Fukushima Daiichi is Fukushima 1 and Fukushima Daini is Fukushima 2.

Fukushima 2 has four reactors and they have all been confirmed to be shutdown and safe.

Fukushiama 1 or Fukushima Daiichi has 6 reactors. Only 1-3 where running when the earthquake hit.

Fukushima daiichi 1 was the first to start to melt down and had a hydrogen explosion on Saturday.
Fukushima daiichi 3 was the next to go boom via hydrogen and did so on Sunday. This is the reactor with the Mox fuel.
Fukushima daiichi 2 had some sort of explosion that damaged the outer containment just a few hours ago.
Fukushima daiichi 4 which was shut down at the time of the earthquake is having problems with its spent fuel pool, a fire that was put out and just a couple of minutes ago a hydrogen explosion.

All the reports of radioactivity you are seeing are coming from the daiichi plant.

NHK is reporting that anyone within 30km of daiichi to remain indoors.

That's a great summary - thanks Rethin...

Thought it would be helpful if anyone was looking toward the bottom of the thread for the latest updates and started losing track of what was what exactly (and might be overwhelmed by trying to look back thru the previous 300+ comments)

Thanks for taking the time and effort to do this.



Things now seem to have gotten much worse, with government speaking of radiation levels that can cause sickness. This seem as though it is becoming the nightmare scenario everyone feared:



0303: Radiation is 400 times the annual legal limit near Fukushima's reactor 3, the Kyodo news agency reports.

0306: Winds over the stricken nuclear plant are blowing slowly towards the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo, Reuters reports.

0309: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says: "Now we are talking about levels that can impact human health. I would like all of you to embrace this information calmly. These are readings taken near the area where we believe that the release of radioactive substances is occurring. The further away you get from the power plant or reactor the value should go down".

0337: A low level radioactive wind could reach Tokyo in 10 hours, Reuters is quoting the French embassy in the Japanese capital as saying.

(All times GMT)



The entire output of atomic power in the United States is exactly equivalent to the requirements of the clothes-drying machines.

I literally can't stand being on the American highway. To me it is almost like being in a prison of madness. I can stand the background... Driving like crazy people. Where are they going? And why are so many of them going in that direction? They are all fleeing something. I would like to inquire what is in those trucks that are tearing down the road. Is it something of no use at all? Or something which is present where it is going? And often I have seen trucks, apparently carrying identical cargo, going in opposite directions, carting it here and there. The drivers tell me that they are carrying widgets.
~ Bill Mollison, 1981

It's not so much that I'm exactly against nuclear power, but rather, I'm against humans practicing it.

If we evolved in small populations, in small tribes of roughly 150, then I hypothesize that, while we may be able to rationally or logically make sense of the scaling-up of our activities and effects on our planet, I question our inherent capabilities to do so "instinctually" or "instinctively".
Evolutionarily, our brains may have a harder time processing scale beyond a certain level.

This is not to preclude evolution in that regard, but, in the mean time, the increasingly-unaffordable costs mount.

But when is enough, enough, anyway? That's a question of scale. Can we answer it-- or better yet, respond to it?

Japan already has more than enough energy; it is BAU that does not.

With BAU, quality-of-life is an illusion borrowed on credit. BAU, ironically, is an illusion borrowed from the past, from fossil fuels. It is a slow, controlled explosion.

Paradoxically perhaps, it may well be that "die-off" is what ultimately saves us, because then, we will be back in scale, back to where the err of our ape-like ways are more likely to be absorbed (but where we can continue to pretend to be more evolved).


Alaska_geo on March 13, 2011 - 4:05pm:
Not only were the sea walls protecting the plant not high enough, but apparently the back up generators were placed in a low area.

It's not like 'tsunami' isn't a Japanese word either. Or that the shortened form of Fukushima is Fuk.


Even if we said stop in the US, how much waste do we already have and how much time and money to keep it sort of safe? Is the problem already super big and we are all in? 1000 gigatons of waste v 1200 gigatons or what are we really looking at? Is there time?

Help please. Exemption for disasters in life insurance? Is this common in the USA too? Glad they will pay anyhow, but of course very sad too.
Life insurance co-pay does not apply to the full disclaimer earthquake
2011/3/15 11:42 2011/3/15 11:42 div/div.JSID_key_html div / div.JSID_key_html

生命保険協会は15日、東日本巨大地震で被災した顧客の契約について、地震による免責条項を適用せず、災害関係保険金や給付金の全額を支払うことを決めた。 15 Sun Life Insurance Association, for quake-stricken large customer contracts EAST disclaimer does not apply to the earthquake, decided to pay the full amount of benefits the insurance and related disasters. 〔日経QUICKニュース〕 QUICK Ntsukei [News]

New York Times reports that nuclear catastrophe appears imminent after third explosion at Japanese plant
Same data, different headline.