Fukushima Thread: March 15, 2011

Fire and Damage at Japanese Plant Raise Risk of Nuclear Disaster

TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to statements from Japanese government and industry officials.

In a brief morning address to the nation Tokyo time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pleaded for calm, but warned that radiation had already spread from the crippled reactors and there was “a very high risk” of further leakage.
The sudden turn of events, after an explosion Monday at one reactor and then an early-morning explosion Tuesday at yet another — the third in four days at the plant — already made the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl reactor disaster a quarter century ago.


1228: France's nuclear safety authority says it classifies the Fukushima plant accident as level six. The maximum is level seven, used only once for the 1986 Chernobyl accident, Reuters reports.


I guess a level 1 is comparable to someone dropping a jug of milk in nuke plant control room. Three Mile Island was a level 5, Fukushima is now a level 6. There is quite a bit of space in each division, and a Chernobyl level 7 outcome is still considered highly unlikely. Still a very bad scene.
This interactive msnbc before and after tsunami slideshow is a must view.

No making excuses for the design shortcomings but one should remember that in 1971 Japan was just starting to flex it's muscles as an economic power--that is when these reactors were first commissioned. The new Datsun 240Z was then the moderate means man's sports car. Times have changed but the underlying weaknesses of the Fukushima Daiichi design didn't.

I've been nervous about China's embarking on a fast nuke plant build out--they are at a stage of economic deployment now that is in many ways comparable to that of Japan in 1971. Plant designs are much improved but hardly fool proof. Extreme diligence is critical to things never going critical.

We have 7 billion people and counting. More electric power is going to be needed. Hydro also changes landscapes for long periods of time--we'd really don't want to flood every ecosystem that has electrical power potential. Coal...we won't go into that one. Other fossil fuels are in short supply. Large centralized generation is going to be needed-over half the world now lives in cities.

Though it may seem otherwise in light of the ongoing Japanese disaster-I believe we cannot afford to remove nuclear power from the future mix. We have too much radioactive material around and must develop nuclear power systems that will digest it and leave it in a much more manageable pile.

Solar thermal storage needs far more wide spread application on every level but it's buildout in a region as densely populated as Tokyo has limitations that have not begun to be addressed by its most ardent proponents. One good that likely will come out of this nuclear power nightmare is that a whole lot more energy will be devoted to solar thermal technology. It seems to have more undeveloped potential than any other of the renewable we can put online in a short time frame.

I guess a level 1 is comparable to someone dropping a jug of milk in nuke plant control room

I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the Pepsi Syndrome. One of the actors in this skit is the now Senator Al Franken.

When I hear solar thermal I can't help thinking "I wish, I wish". It seems solar thermal could get crushed by cheap PV. And that means we may not develop solar with storage option. But, until solar penetration becomes fifty times greater than today, storage is discounted too much to give solar thermal an advantage.

Hopefully if these guys get it right solar thermal will take off in a big way:


yes, picture #10 in the link you gave
is of the plant, though the "after" is before the roofs started being blown off...

Check out the lower right, 2 tanks that were within a (concrete?) berm have disappeared,
along with a few small structures - the green roofed building in the middle is completely gone. In general, everything seaward of the turbine halls appears damaged.

I would think these are not water tanks (who cares), but would either be some chemical whose spillage is nasty (acid, bleach or other anti-fouling agent? - they're near the sea water intakes),
OR was this fuel for emergency generators?

Any ideas?

more graphics at
#6 shows the location of the spend fuel pool.

Satellite picture
of the plant taken 9:35 AM Wednesday shows reactor buildings #1, #3, #4 pretty much destroyed, and a hole in building #2 with smoke coming out. Scroll down the page for a close-up of ruins #3 and #4. Looks almost like WTC ground zero!

The oil tanks for the generators were above ground--so that is likely them. That looks like a typical containment put around fuel tanks in these parts. US news made the point that at US nuke plants emergency fuel tanks are underground and that the Fukushima tanks were not. Oil tanks above ground to get washed away and generators in the basement to get flooded. I'm sure more than one person mentioned that that might not be a very good arrangement over the years.

Japan has such huge problems to deal with. It would do no one any good to start going after the people responsible for the plants design right now. I've been keeping the old Jimmy Dean song 'Big John' in mind when I think of the 50 souls still hanging in there fighting those runaway reactors--they are all Big John

It seems to me that these cascading failures will soon make it impossible for the plant operators to continue the cooling activities - except through suicide missions. The compromised reactor shield (or maybe the core itself?) at unit 2, and the exposed fuel rods at unit 4 will make cooling units 1 & 3 that much harder. Does anyone have knowledge of the status of the other "spent fuel pools" at the site? From the news-stories it seems that the unit 4 spent rods have gone critical and are rapidly boiling the water away from the storage pool, which may also have a serious leak. I would assume that the spent fuel meltdown would be that much worse than a core meltdown, because there is no containment structure whatsoever for it in the reactor design, and it would just melt down the side of the reactor housing, perhaps also compromising the reactor's torus on its way down.

The Japanese authorities should at minimum prepare for four simultaneous meltdowns of the three cores and one containment pool and begin evacuation of Tokyo (children, elderly, expecting mothers, etc).

BBC @ 1233: The British government's chief scientist John Beddington says Japan's reaction to the nuclear crisis is entirely proportionate. He says the situation in Japan is "totally different" to Chernobyl.

This coming from an economics professor...

The difference is that at Chernobyl we had one meltdown, Fukushima we have four meltdowns. Only through luck the winds have not been blowing to Tokyo. I would be very interested to know the radiation levels off the coast, but seems nobody is reporting those.

In another parallel to Chernobyl, the TEPCO communications have been as open as those of USSR. They are in full spin-mode, as there are repeated hourly releases about the status of the #2 (Dainii) plant reactors which are very clear, but only the legal minimum about "specific incidents" at the #1 plant on their website.

What is so hard about coming out with the truth?

And for a "chief scientist" he switched units for the hight the plume reached in Chernobyl (feet) to the expected hight in Japan (metre). He definitely sounded like a man with an agenda - Plenty more Nukes for UK.

And speaking of cascading failures and evacuations, let's not forget what is unfolding right now in the southern island of Kyushu:


NASA's Earth Observatory posted a satellite image of the eruption from Shinmoe-dake, showing the ash plume. According to the Earth Observatory report, the ash plume was as high as 15,000 feet and the subsequent ash fall prompted closure of nearby highways and rail lines. Authorities have stated they do not expect the Mount Shinmoe to pose a threat to lives or property, but some experts have warned that this eruption is similar to a violent eruption that occurred 300 years ago.

According to the Earthquake Research Institute of the University of Tokyo, the eruptions that occurred in 1716-1717 from Shinmoe-dake started as phreatic explosions, went to phreatomagmatic (which happen when magma and water meet) and then to a magmatic eruption. A lava dome was confirmed in the crater of Shinemoe-dake. Lava domes form when magma rises.

And remember that Shinmoe-dake is only one of twenty volcanoes in the immediate area.

The Jeff Masters blog (renown for hurricane information) has wind models regarding dispersion from Fukushima:



Water temperature increasing in spent fuel pools of reactors 5 and 6.


You may wish to change the Toyko bit to Japan.

The truth is always stranger than fiction, if Hollywood had dreamt up the current sequence of events and comedy of errors that this is turning into, nobody would ever bother to watch it, as it is just too far fetched.

Placing the spent fuel pools directly over the reactor core, is just further evidence that the whole nuclear industry just does not have a clue about real safety and the potential for cascading problems of the power in atomic forces.

"In engineering we trust."

.. all others pay alms.

or as Ian Malcolm said,
"God help us, we're in the hands of engineers.." JURASSIC PARK

It must be said, I do apologize to the engineers who are seeing this smirky comment as part of an ongoing assault on hardworking and caring and now sacrificing individuals who are simple humans, generally very intelligent and highly trained, doing their best in VERY tough situations.. but I'm also not going to shirk mentioning that this IS the bed WE have made for ourselves, with ongoing assurances about our presumed ability to control what we have wrought.

..plus, It's time we gave the economists a break from the onslaught for a few minutes.. they've been getting a snootful.

Maybe we'll get away with it one more time..

Engineers design. Management makes decisions. Marketing explains why what they did is good for you.

..which is why I've said 'It's the bed WE built' .. we have all got some kind of a stake in this.

At some point, engineers, designers and mgmt came up with and approved the plan of putting the spent fuel on top of the reactors..

Malcolm: "Science has attained so much power that its practical limits begin to be apparent. Largely through science, billions of us live in one small world, densely packed and intercommunicating. But science cannot help us decide what to do with that world, or how to live. Science can make a nuclear reactor, but it cannot tell us not to build it. Science can make pesticide, but cannot tell us not to use it. And our world starts to seem polluted in fundamental ways---air, and water, and land---because of ungovernable science."

- Jurassic Park

Well, from the npp2 spec, the pool also offers a ready source of secondary coolant for the reactor, so having it higher and nearby was a nice benefit. Obviously having a quick move for recently removed rods was important too. Really, a pool in a big concrete vault SHOULD be pretty robust, but it seems it lacks an easy way to top off the water remotely. Probably dropping the fuel in a rail-car container and moving it off-site would have been a better choice. They could still have left the pool there for emergency water only.

Sure enough, and I acknowledge I'm a non-engineer with the Tuesday Morning Quarterback's prerogatives.. but it sure seems like we're facing some headslappers at this point. I just hope we take the right lessons from them, both in tactics AND strategy.. and I don't claim to know what those are yet, either.

I believe the reason the spent rods are kept with the reactors is due to something called the "shared defense" strategy. The idea is that since you absolutely must keep both the reactor core and the spent rods cool, you might as well do it in the same place so you can (in theory) spend more money on safety and cover risk in one location rather than spreading that cost and risk across multiple locations.


Hi Hide_Away,

Are the ponds directly over the reactors, or just nearby? It's been hard to tell from the available information exactly where they are. However, it now appears from the unfolding events that all 6 units need constant power for at least the ponds to be kept in a safe state. Unfortunatley, the grid is down and may stay that way until its too late to control the ponds (radiation & heat will be too high to work in any of the units).

The potential for this new crisis was probably known to the Japanese nuclear power company from the start, but just forgot to mention it at any of their press conferences. The frustrating thing is we (the U.S.) probably have the logistics and equipment to prevent pool meltdowns, be so far as I can tell, we have not been involved. This may come back to haunt those who have stood by as this crisis has built from a foot note to now one of biblical proportions.

The fuel pools are at the side of the reactor housing, so that a ceiling crane (such as those in factories) can lift the rods from the reactor, move them over, and lower them to the storage pool. This all takes place inside the reactor housing (the paneled cube). The explosions of reactors 1 and 3 blew the cranes away, exposing both the concrete plug for the reactor as well as the storage pool, which appears to have less "armor" protecting it from the top.

Power should be an area where outside help could readily be brought to bear. Repairing lines from a functional source to the reactor site would go pretty quickly, and of course given the several days now any type of generator could be on-site. TEPCO has not updated plant status in a day or two for Dai-ichi, so the state of external power is unclear. Daini has routine updates which include off-site power is available and all is apparently well there.

I suspect radiation and mechanical issues inside the plants are now the more limiting factors, but of course it's hard to know without more information. Quite likely, if power were available reactors 4, 5, and 6 would have few issues. Surely, though, there is sufficient generator power for all six by now? The diesels from another plant could probably have been moved in 3 days.

I've heard it suggested that much of the plant's key electrical distribution infrastructure was submerged in sea-water (not just the generators). They may have enough power in the area now but have trouble actually routing to vital equipment.

The situation just seems to be in freefall, where the authorities are continually reacting to the crisis, rather than getting out in front of the next problem. Not taking away anything from those who are working at the plants (one would classify it now as a VERY high risk job), letting the generators run out of fuel shows the chaotic nature of the response and that the resources in place are being overwhelmed by the conditions.

Early in the crisis it was reported that the US military had offered Japan the use of its massive airlift capabilities, with substantial airlift already in the area and more arriving daily. Given this resource, it's hard to imagine how Japan can still be reporting that the on-going problems are largely due to a lack of electrical power and cooling capability at the main reactor site in crisis (Fukushima Dai-ichi)? Another report said that some of the best power equipment delivered to the site on Saturday could not be used because of "mis-matched connectors"!

I once worked for an American company that rents medium to large-scale, portable power, cooling and lighting equipment, with options for fast delivery just about anywhere in the USA and southern Canada. It could be quite expensive, with rental rates well over $100,000 per day not at all uncommon (20 years ago). But it was a real eye-opener for me as to what can quickly be put in place when the money is right.

This week, one of the many problem moments was said to be due to certain on-site water pumping equipment (possibly fire engines?) running out of diesel fuel, because no one had been closely monitoring diesel fuel supplies at that time!! How can this be the problem with work that should be the #1 priority for one of the most advanced industrial nations on earth? ...AND with an open ended offer of major logistical support from the largest military machine on the planet?? Someone is not making full use of what's available.

Just today I heard one possible explanation for some of this. The American offer of military assistance involves a plan to open up major depot site for US military equipment and personnel in northern Japan. However, that plan is still waiting for Japanese diplomatic approval, since it is being seen as a new American military "base" on the Japanese main island (Honshu). So vital help for averting catastrophe is now waiting in limbo, pending what appears to be a rather leisurely negotiation process with the Japanese foreign ministry?? If this is the sort of BAU attitude that the Japanese government is taking on the nuclear situation, then the current, sad course of events becomes both more understandable and IMHO more unforgivable.

Interesting that you state the offer of help is dependent upon concessions. This doesn't make it an offer to help - this makes it a marketplace transaction. The price asked may not be one Japan feels it can afford to pay,


Interesting that you state the offer of help is dependent upon concessions. This doesn't make it an offer to help - this makes it a marketplace transaction. The price asked may not be one Japan feels it can afford to pay,

How is it a concession to ask for temporary control of a piece of land for the sole purpose of bringing into country and stowing expensive equipment and highly trained personnel? This is for the purpose of helping Japan - and it is being done at no real cost to Japan (and great cost to the USA). I just don't see how freely giving away millions (if not billions) of dollars worth of US assistance is a "price" (except to the American taxpayer).

I did not state that the offer of help is dependent on anything. I don't know all the details, but I understand that the US military is already providing substantial assistance (saving hundreds of Japanese people from several destroyed coastal villages) and AFAIK the US has neither received nor expected anything in return. All I said is that the US wants a depot area in northern Japan to facilitate relief efforts. I would assume that this area is an alternative to flying everything and everyone home to an aircraft carrier or an Okinawa base each night.

I'm well aware of the history of American military operations in foreign lands (like Iraq). But I really don't think that an Iraq-like level of US duplicity is at work in Japan.

The old saying about "looking a gift horse in the mouth" comes to mind. As does the one about "no good deed going unpunished".

Yes, it seems obvious in retrospect that storage pools SHOULD have been separate from the reactors, and that the reactors should have been more widely separated as well. However, if some years ago one had suggested that there would be a need to contain and transport just-removed rods from a reactor refueling and park them in a warehouse behind Target, that would have raised all sorts of alarm.

Obviously somewhere in between would be the right answer, with perhaps a small cool-down pond very near the reactor but a bulk pond further away, and with significant isolation of the reactors from each other. But that would increase the staff to handle all the routine chores, the land required, and security issues.

You can't optimize everything.

Evacuating 12 million people is what you are suggesting. The scale is unfathomable at least to me.

Well, so is the disaster's scale. It will only get worse as the radiation levels will prohibit work at the site and the U and Pu will start really cooking off. From the reports of the rising temps at fuel storagepools they already seem to have too little pumping capacity in place to contain the disaster at this level.

I would start evacuation of Tokyo by "soft" methods, such as suggesting in the media that the young and elderly go to relatives in west Japan for the immediate time being until the situation has stabilized. Anything that will get the people moving without causing a panic.

With the rolling blackouts, petrol shortages, and the like, I see no possible way to evacuate Tokyo. Furthermore, I imagine most migrations would be towards Kansai, partiularly the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe megapolis, which would stretch already weakened infrastructure further. This is simply not going to happen, which is probably why officials keep saying that everything is under control -- because they have no way of carrying evacuations even if they were necessary.

This is the sort of incident which could possibly tip the system into runaway, as Japanese civilization gets leveled down to a place from which it can't recover... i.e. rolling blackouts aren't just the temporary state of affairs, but the norm, petrol rationing spreads as resources typically used at the consumer level are redirected for repair and cleanup. This of course lowers their production in the global economy which inhibits their ability to pay for continued repairs, meeaning many things just aren't ever repaired, and Japanese power erodes rather quickly. Then the question becomes, is South Korea, China, Russia and Hawaii ready for an influx of Japanese refugees... and would they take them?

Aftershocks are being reported in Tokyo, and it is probably too late to mobilise an evacuation.

i imagine that those who can are leaving already

There is no indication that the rods from pool 4 have goon critical, nor is it obvious that they can do so given the mix of aged rods and containment casings. They do however continue to have radioactive decay sufficient to generate enough heat to melt and burn them, which is bad enough.

I assume the plant engineers have a pretty good idea of how many days' worth of cooling water are in each pool, and may have been surprised by the fire in 4. If they could monitor the depth and temp of those pools, they may have elected to focus on the more immediate issues at 1, 2 and 3 for a while, though of course topping off all the pools would be a good idea to buy time in case of an evacuation.

The notion of co-locating multiple large reactors to save on siting approval costs and NIMBYism suddenly seems ill-advised.

I'm afraid you're right. Given a "situation impactor" that affects more than one reactor but affects them unequally, dealing with a reactor with a lesser problem that can worsen if there is no or limited intervention may become impeded by a reactor with a worse problem. Then the reactor with the lesser problem develops along the lines of the one with the greater problem until they're both greater.

Much can be learned by studying these disasters but also by studying disasters where significant recovery was realized. Apollo 13 is an example I like to cite because the thing that saved the astronauts in that mission was the early design decision to send to the vicinity of the moon two complete and independent spacecraft, each with its own power, propulsion, and life support systems. Also, the mission profile provided NASA with a choice as to whether to commit to lunar orbit or perform a free-return loop back to Earth (if I recall correctly, the latter was the default result of a do-nothing option) for a substantial amount of the translunar flight. A burn of the LM descent engine was required to vector the combined spacecraft properly for a survivable reentry once they were around the moon. My takeaway from all this is that very coarse details in the early stages of design seem to have a lot to do with recovering from problems. Deciding to co-locate multiple reactors in one relatively small area would seem to be the sort of decision that sends problems off into a worsening direction.

It sounds to me as if we need a whole lot MORE NIMBYism, not less.

If those who protested nuclear power in Japan (and there were very many) had been listened to, none of this would be happening now.

Saying that they should have done this or that is beside the point. There is always something that can go wrong, and no matter how much you try to guess about possible scenarios, another un- (or under-) expected one will come along to surprise you.

These are not some dimwits. This is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. If they can't make nuclear power safe, no one can.

Building a reactor in Tsunami alley right next to the ocean is about the stupidest thing ever. This whole cluster $%$# is because water destroyed the backup systems. Put the generators on the roof! Waterproof connections? My boat trailer has those.Z Just 20ft? of elevation and we probably wouldn't be worrying about this disaster.

They planned for tsunami. They planned for quakes. Heck, the whole darn island is about as aware of and prepared for these risks as anywhere in the world is.

Yet things went south quickly.

The point is that no matter how carefully you plan, something can (and eventually will) always come along that you hadn't quite planned adequately for.

If these things were further from the ocean, that would have made it that much harder to pump in ocean water to cool them.

Tsunamis in the past have been 100 meters high and went miles inland. How do you plan for that?

Where in the US or Europe is a plant going to be safe from quakes?


With GW, we can expect more and more unbelievably strong downpours. Even without a tsunami, if you have 20 inches of rain falling in a few hours at the same time a major quake hits, things can go sour quickly.

They sure the heck didn't plan for this tsunami.

Safe? How about the desert?

20ft more of elevation on this Japanese plant and we wouldn't have this conversation.

Of course other plants will have to be examined. Germany just shut down all their old nukes; it was just on Marketwatch.

To be fair they had a 6m wall to stop tsunamis. When was the last time a 10m tsunami hit California? Have they planned for that?

Diablo Canyon sits at 85ft above the ocean. Not sure about the other plants.

Not sure how likely tsunamis are on the east coast, be something to look at.

Your link to plate motion vector map is irrelevant to your purpose. I think you want a seismicity map.


There are large areas of central texas, the upper mid-west, and high plains with very low seismicity. OTOH, west coast, New Madrid zone seem like bad locations.


Thanks for the link. It still looks to be difficult to find a spot in the US where you can be sure that no earthquake will hit. And if you do, there are, of course, a thousand other things that can go wrong.

This kind of map, though, would be a good guide for deciding what to decommission first--the oldest plants in the most seismically active and tsunami/flood prone areas.

Your link to plate motion vector map is irrelevant to the purpose of finding areas of low seismic activity. Have a look at a seismicity map instead -- large areas in the lower 48 with very low earthquake/tsunami risks.


Tsunamis of the 100M class are very rare, probably once per tens of thousands of years on more. (Not talking about local ones, like the giant landslide splash in Lituya Bay Alaska (1700feet IIRC)), but things that cover a large area. They would require either very massive landslides, or an asteroid strike. So I think it is reasonable not to plan for that class of event (you gotta cut off the tail somewhere).

I do agree that GW makes potential weather caused flood events worse. And yes what if we got unlucky and had say a typhoon during an event like this....

According to some documentation I have heard about via news.google.com, the disaster exceeded what was planned for, and designed for.

The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants continues. Amazingly, a 40-year-old power plant built to withstand a 7.9 magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale shut down automatically as designed when the Earth began shaking. In fact, it stood up to an earthquake that released more than 40 times the amount of energy the plant was designed to survive.


If a car gets into an accident at 100mph with fatalities, and was only designed to let people 'walk away' up to 60mph, no one screams about the design, as far as I know.

Globally there are nuclear reactors. We have all accepted to have them, including the risks. Or we accept the risks until something goes wrong...

I can only hope the US does as well, if our reactors have to withstand something similar. I predict it will be lose/lose wherever and whenever such an earthquake or tsunami occurs next, no matter which nation is the epicenter.

I would think you could use helicopter firefighting equipment to dump water onto the spentfuel pools. Assuming the pools are semi-intact so the water will pool, that might work. The Helicopter can do that in far less than a minute so radiation risk to the crew shouldn't be too bad.

The fission products in the spent fuel should be mostly decayed, so at least that part of the inventory of radionucleotides shouldn't be so great. Plutonium not so much.....

Interesting idea!

Perhaps a brigade of firefighting water-dropping planes,loaded up with a boric acid slurry?

I'm thinking that after the explosion(s)/fire(s), there's a lot of debris around, so you'd want/need a steady/controllable aim.

How about a ladder truck with remote controlled monitor nozzle, with a TV camera so nobody has to be exposed to radiation?


Finally have an image of smoke rising from the plant yesterday.

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:

TEPCO says the holes in the wall of the outer building at reactor 4 have left the spent nuclear fuel pool exposed to the outside air.
by Reuters_MarkKolmar at 12:33 PM

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

Temperature in the spent fuel pools at reactors 5 and 6 now also rising.

From the Telegraph:

11.52 The head of France's Nuclear Safety Authority (NSA), which in the past hour upgraded the seriousness rating of the Fukushima threat from five to six out of seven, has announced that the concrete vessel around the number two reactor - designed to contain radioactive debris - is "no longer sealed."

Earlier reports claimed two eight metre holes had been blown in the exterior of one of the plant's reactors, initially thought to be reactor number four. But given these comments by Andre-Claude Lacoste, it may be that the earlier reports in fact referred to reactor two.

There are now blast-holes in the outer walls of reactor 4 building and a probable breech of reactor 2 itself.

I'd expect the reactors to release water vapor since the heat exchangers are out of service. That vapor is probably radioactive since it is very unlikely by what I've read to cool the reactor echanging heat from inside to outside of containment.

The question now is, was the fuel exposed to the water? Or, phrased in another way, how much long lived contaminants are at the steam?

Also, can't those reactors simply retract the fuel, so while meltdown could happen, it wouldn't cause the continuation of U spliting?

Can you explain what you mean by: "can't those reactors simply retract the fuel"?

Ok, I wanted to ask if they mechanicaly could pull the fuel rods apart from each other, changing its geometry so that even with no other control system working the primary reaction would stop.

But it's a moot point, since them I learned that without the external layer of the rods (AKA in a meltdown) the primary reaction would stop anyway.

To put it this way : The nuke-experts at the plant do the most humanly intelligent thing they can come up with, at this changing stage.

Personally I'm shocked and stunned that the IEAE -organization was not on top of this from day 1 ---- hour 1!

I thought THAT was one of the great clues being part of IEAE. Learning from and helping each other in an emergency, under the banner "There is so much at stake!"

They complained that Japan wasn't telling them anything. And they are not obligated to. It's all voluntary, and Japan was making like a clam.

Kinda like BP....

Wind at Fukushima currently ESE at 6mph, variable, blowing inland.


Particulates will be blown inland most of today. Best hopes for a devine west wind.

This event could easily be the one which pushes humanity firmly and inevitably down Hubbert’s slope at an accelerating rate. We’ll start burning through fossil fuels just so much faster.
As somebody wrote yesterday “The more detached I am the more obvious it all becomes.” (or something to that effect).


Commodities falling:

Crude Oil 97.85 - 3.30%
Natural Gas 3.93 + 0.33%
Gasoline 2.82 - 4.58%
Heating Oil 2.95 - 3.64%
Gold 1388.87 - 2.80%
Silver 33.91 - 5.62%
Copper 4.08 - 2.28%

Masters of Fortune are saying they are getting out.

We are heading to double dip recession / depression 2.0.

the OMX Nordic 40 is all down except one stock - Vestas Wind Systems is up about 10% in the past 2 days


And fortunately I never got around to selling last week...


That's clearly because of demand destruction. The changes at the supply side are biased into reducing production.

News commentators are using the phrase "Uncharted Territory". I'm sadly reminded of the BP oil spill...

Is there a "junk shot" for a nuclear meltdown ?

Sea water, and they already did it.

At least, unlike Macondo, nobody has suggested nuking the plant yet as far as I'm aware.

How about piling a few kilotons of high explosives on the inland side of the reactors and blowing them far, far out to sea? If they can just get it far enough to roll down the continental plate into the trench...send it all back to where it started.

This whole episode has me thinking a lot about my and my daughter's recent favorite Filmmaker, Hiyao Miyazaki, who released Ponyo in 2009, a retelling of 'The Little Mermaid', with clear points being made about how deeply we've scarred the environment, and how much we've 'swept our trash under the sea' to put the offense out of sight and mind.

I'm wondering how Miyazaki San is viewing his struggling Island Nation right now, and how he is searching to calculate how else he as a simple storyteller could try to express in some new way, after some 30 years (Starting with the fabulous Nausicaa in the early 80's) a message he has sent so compassionately and poignantly time and time again.

So no, don't make a big bomb and blow it into the sea. I'd bet that would make everything worse.

If you need some 'not quite escapist' fantasy films to get away from the news, check out these Miyazaki films as well..

My Neighbor Totoro (!!!!)
Castle in the Sky

Sorry, should have put on the "sarc" filter for that one..

Thanks for the clarification. Yes, you got me on that one. (Since I have heard quite similar suggestions for the last couple days..)

I'm going over to the shop to work on more solar hot air panels.. see if I can dial up an old Marx Brothers movie.

Nausicaa is my favourite by far - classic!

As is Spirited Away. Howl's moving castle is also very nicely made and something a little different.

Ents to the left of me, Ohms to the right- here I am, stuck in the middle with Yupa!

Lol, very good!

Kiki's Delivery Service is especially subtle and poignant, like a great Impressionist painting. Very little in terms of ecological warnings, however, unlike most of his other films.


Princess Mononoke!

Wonderful, powerful film with imagination.
The quality of a painting. Amazing imagery!
It takes no sides in the environmental issues it presents.
The lead characters have their separate ways.
One character is clearly Ernest Borgnine, of all things!

It is very much best to watch all these movies mentioned
in Japanese with subtitles. The English versions are insipid.

Song Mononoke Hime:

Theme song:

I heard that Studio Ghibli was having existential problems. ?

I love Mononoke too!

You really thought the English versions of Studio Ghibli insipid? I thought they were the best dubs I've ever seen on any film, cartoon or acted.

I don't understand any Japanese at all, have never visited the place and little experience of the culture. So I'm not sure I'd get much out of the subtle inflections in their tone of voice etc.

Yes... The dubs do not have the same power, the intent and immediacy, of the artists who made the movie. The words are not the same, either, between the English voice dubs and the English word subtitles, and, too, the Japanese. The movies play much more forcefully in Japanese.

I find a lot of connection with the Asian peoples. I am part Choctaw.
I liked CLAMP's animae "Chobits". You might enjoy it as well. It tells of a simple love. It is perhaps better as dub than sub: the online, aftermarket subtitles are very variable.

Howl's Moving Castle theme:

Chobits ending 2 song:

(use the "player 2" option??)

You guys start talking about anime and you'll drag me it too! Over on another site I visit I keep hearing about a series called "Tokyo Magnitude 8.0", about an earthquake hitting Tokyo... Funny how our science fiction and fantasy is a better guide for us now than anything else.

Actually, this sort of disaster brings to mind the apocalyptic side of Japanese media. Perhaps all we can wish for is that after it all we can live quietly again. Kinda like a manga I've read, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, that takes place long, long after everything has quite obviously gone to hell, when it's finally calmed down again. The first assumption is that there are hardly any people left.

Wow! Thanks for the tip! Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō


"The series depicts the daily life of a robot who runs a coffee shop some time after the Earth's ecology has collapsed. It is noted for its beautifully spare pen-and-ink drawing style, as well as its calm, meticulously paced stories and engaging characters."


Things seem to be getting chaotic at the reactors. Control slips away.

Great, cheers for that - will check it out.

They are now talking about dropping water from helicopters.


Edit : after that, as a last resort, if they can cool the reactors down, they might encase in concrete.

Why not carry a hose with a helicopter if there is ready air access? Then you need only one flight to have the job done.

Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground has suggested going to this NOAA site to track the movement of radiation. He says that it is reliable for about a 3 day period.

Hi fannybuckingham,

I tried a simple plot (I don't really know how to run the software) and did an 18hr plot with a trajectory from the plant's location (37.421389, 141.0325) and got the following results.

That is very interesting, thank you. It seems consistent with what others are saying at this point. Of course, it looks very neat as a line but the radiation must look like a plume so I don't really know what it means. There is an earlier post from the wunderground that wasn't up when I posted that link. I will go back to look at it.

Good point. The plume will be spreading as it travels. If this is off by just a bit, that plume would be right over Tokyo before being pushed north. Of course much of the fall out would come down in those early hours.

The spread will also be affected by altitude, which in turn can be affected by the magnitude of the heat plume that originates it. A powerful fire or explosion can have results significantly different than a minor emission near the surface.

Particle size and weather (including rain) makes a big difference too. Hopefully the local news has solid advice on when to take KI.

Something about your last statement really brought home to me on a deep level what these people are facing.

Heaven help them.

I think I need to take a break from this for a while.


A lot of positive atmospheric vorticity passing over Japan...pretty much the mean climatic setup for Japan this time of year. Where do those low pressure systems end up again?

Jeff masters had several days of northwest winds after passgae. Hopefully we won't have any major releases during the window of easterly winds.

The cold front and subsidence forecast for the next few days is certainly good news. However, much like the Gulf Stream is a favored path for "Nor'easter" low pressure systems riding up the US East Coast, vigorous low pressure systems also tend to ride along the oceanic warm Kuroshio Current that flows generally NE along the Japanese Islands. These systems will tend to loft particles of some of the more harmful isotopes high up into the atmosphere where they can be carried to the USA and Canada, not to mention falling at intermediate distances and ending up in the Pacific food chain. If the emissions are not stopped soon and end up being of several days duration or longer this is bound to be a problem for more than just Japan but for a much greater part of the world.

I'm really not worried about radiation at long distances away. If a fish gets some radiation, and has a two percent higher chance of getting radiation in its old age, that means practically nothing to nature. If we decide not to catch and eat the fish because of a fear of radiation, that would be good for the ecosystem, and for nature. Heck it might be the only way that the ecosystem of fishes will be allowed to survive. Thousands of miles is a great deal for this stuff to traverse. Chernobyl caused some problems due to rainout after about a thousand mile air journey, but this is likely to be between ten to a thousand times less of a release. The main worry should be, what sort of cleanup zone -or worse uninhabitable zone might be needed around the plant? Many thousands of people live there (not all was hit by the tsunami). I sure hope they will be able to go home.

In the medium term we may not have the luxury of deciding "not to catch the fish because of radiation" because of rising population and declining food productivity.

Otherwise I agree that the greatest immediate problems are closest to the point of release, especially the possibility that uninhabitable zones may soon encompass areas already devastated by earthquake, tsunami and fire, without even time for recovery or search for the missing.

What struck me from the NY times:

"A spokesman for the Japanese company that runs the stricken reactors said in an interview on Monday that the spent fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants had been left uncooled since shortly after the quake."

so thats potentially every pool at both plants if the radiation becomes too hot to work in..

I thought the news report today that the German public is 80% against Germany's continuing along with nuclear power generation is a sobering message. I realize that there is a significant Green Party in Germany, but an 80% political consensus is huge and obviously includes many more people than just Greens.
This from a country whose people are extremely well educated, talented in the execution of complex design, engineering and precision craftsmanship and also very comfortable with working within the constraints of highly disciplined work formats. And they have an 80% "No Confidence Vote" in nuclear power.
It seems to me there is a message here for everyone, not just the German government.

It would really be a good idea to just figure out how to live with less.

Since nuclear power adds to other forms of power (still about 10% of total energy in Germany), these sentiments are meaningless without direct action by 100% of the people to immediately reduce energy use by 10%. As several people commented earlier in this thread, merely being 'against nuclear' doesn't cost anything, energy-wise.

Your comments strike me as rather snarky.

You are assuming the worst about people--that they want to avoid risk without making any sacrifice.

This may or may not be true of some people. I doubt that it is true of all people. Especially those most committed to alternative energy and conservation.

Merely being 'against anti-nuclear' does not cost anything, and does not make your unsupported accusations true.

What an arbitrary requirement.

What if the population were to simply drop their energy use by 10% ? How would that be applied to Nuclear power specifically?

It's easy to denigrate peoples' opposition to a Powerful industry and players by playing on their powerlessness. If those polling numbers are accurate, then it says plenty about the winding course Germany has taken around their Nuclear fleet in the last several years.

Someone might be willing to admit that they have to jump into an ice cold shower, but still be prone to a bit of hesitation or 'bargaining' when the moment to strip down arrives.. we have some tough changes ahead of us, and more of '..then they laugh at you' helps noone.

You are right. I suppose I was just expressing frustration at something that probably can't be fixed in a straightforward way.

Energy use reflects the combined decisions that each of us make hundreds of times a day. For example, here in London, I turned on a light at my desk. It is possible that it is being powered by a nuclear plant in France. Each such action -- and there are many hundreds every day -- is an implicit vote for a particular form of organization and energy use elsewhere in the world. It would be very difficult or impossible to get enough information to make an informed decision that pushed things the right way each time.

That's why on days like this, I feel that we *are* a little like yeast. We have constructed a barrel to live in that is so much more complicated than any one of us can understand. I worry that in a few decades, we are going to be swept along by events entirely out of our control.

I appreciate that, I do.

This situation is going to add to the anguish about our predicament, and I hope I will keep my head and remember you are all my neighbors. We'll disagree, and we'll misspeak at times, and hope we are welcome to come back and keep trying, and be a bit forgiven in succombing to this tense time.

As Jackie Chan said so sweetly in Rumble in da Bronx after an unfortunate skirmish ..
'I hope next time we meet, we will be drinking Tea.'


"For example, here in London, I turned on a light at my desk. It is possible that it is being powered by a nuclear plant in France. Each such action -- and there are many hundreds every day -- is an implicit vote for a particular form of organization and energy use elsewhere in the world."

I just walked in from work, turned on the lights, this computer, the TV. It is not possible that they are powered by a nuclear plant (or coal-fired plant, or...). I voted early.

Hmmm, I wonder if these same people will refuse electricity from France's Nuclear Generators.

I'd say yes - otherwise they are hypocrits.


Anyone asked the French if they will give up Nuclear now?

Or china ? yes they will have Nuclear power and when their's blow up we all get a dose.....

If you're covered in the mud of modern life, and you're heading out of that puddle, but still have to go through more mud to get there, you can call that 'hypocrisy', or you can say 'life is complicated', even (especially?) while you're striving to simplify things.

Well said. Perhaps we can move past attitudes of sneering judgment being displayed by some here and talk soberly and compassionately about the enormous challenges facing all of us going forward?

Wind Rose for Tokyo for March. It appears that the prevailing winds are from the direction of the Fukushima plant.



Does anybody know of any realistic (i.e. not issued by someone whose job it is to calm or excite us) estimates of what it would take for this radiation release to become a health hazard in the northwest U.S.?

This is simply not going to be a problem.

I'm sorry, but I don't have time to go into detail just now.

Cheryl Rofer is correct.

We should recall that we were purposely setting of at least a dozen nuclear devices far larger tha these plants in the desert southwest of the U.S. and in the south pacific ocean on purpose for nearly 2 decades (1945 to 1963). At the same time we know the late U.S.S.R. was doing the same, so we have experience with how nuclear material disperses over the planet. Distance means everything.


So what, you are claiming that the open-air tests in the US desert SW caused no problems?

The Cold War may be over, but its legacy remains quite hot—and deadly. A new report estimates that fallout from open-air nuclear testing has killed more than 15,000 Americans and will cause at least 80,000 cancers.

Study: 1950s nuclear fallout worse than thought

Testing has killed thousands, a new study shows.

BTW the atmosphere is 3D. For a nuclear blast weather is everything, but for a long-term radiation release climate comes into play. Big difference.

Five thousand miles is a lot. Dispersal, washout, decay of short lived isotopes. I'm not worried about it hitting us (I'm a few hundred miles south of you). I expect we will get measurable amounts, but nothing that increases the overall risk here.

In Chernobyl the cloud made a strange loop, going north then east then south, passing through my city (500km crows flight from Chernobyl) a few days later, but after a 1000km+ journey. There were measurable but not dangerous in any way levels of radioactivity. Authorities were distributing iodine for children. I was a student at the time and our radiochemistry prof took out a counter and we were walking around campus listening to varying frequency of clicks - but there was never any concern.

The first problem was the immediate deposition of fallout and the radiation from that. The second problem would be the result of those radioactive elements entering the food chain. I recall hearing of an incident in which a worker set off radiation alarms upon entering a Canadian nuke plant. The radiation which triggered the alarms was traced to the sandwiches in a lunch box, which contained meat from a caribou that had been taken in the wild. It's a small world upon which we live, but our minds are much smaller still...

E. Swanson


>BREAKING NEWS: TEPCO unable to pour water into No. 4 reactor's storage pool for spent fuel

I heard one talking head say they are providing the cooling sea water with fire engines. Obviously, they need bigger portable pumps. The U S Seventh Fleet is nearby with an organic salvage ability and media reports indicate they helped extinguish the fire in unit 4. So hopefully they will supplement the sea water pumping capacity the Japanese have been using and thereby increase the cooling capacity available. The more cooling the better! Clearly, the Japanese would have problems bringing more fire trucks with the roads damaged as they are, so they need outside help. The Navy has helicopters and LCACs to effect the transport from the ships offshore to the plant. They are the logical source for that help.

I bet they wish they had this http://www.ptfnasty.com/ptfsuperpumper.htm !

I would think that getting the equipment is not the problem. It is getting the people in close enough to connect up new equipment in the hot zone. How many feet of lead suit thickness would a person need?

I just got an answer to my email to the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage

Thank you for your note/concern - the Navy and we are engaged.

So it seems help is on the way! Say a prayer for them!

Tell then I am putting in for all of them in the line of fire to get Navy Medals. That is the actual name of them. For jarheads it is a Marine Corp Medal and for grunts it is the Soldier's Medal. They earned those.

A lot of doomers here have been expecting the end of the world as we know it, but many thought it would happen in the United States first with its excessive oil dependence. Few including myself thought Japan with its high tech, fuel efficient cars and bullet trains would lead the world down the tubes.


It should have been obvious. Japan has no oil and must import it all. So it has turned to nuclear big time. It turns out this has been its undoing.

At the moment it appears the canary of the collapse is Japan, not gluttonous America. Who would of thunk it? I thought Japan was the model for the post peak oil world.

Population under control. Efficient manufacturing. Highly educated.
Doesn't get involved in foreign wars for oil.

Prius car production, public transport with bullet trains, and high tech all put out of commission by nuclear energy . The model for the future has failed.

Power down seems to be the only option for Japan. The problem is that at the moment Japan seems to be taking the rest of the world with it.

IMHO, they've been sucker punched and are solidly down but not out. I think Britain is just like Japan only without the high tech, bullet trains, population control, and manufacturing, and a habit of tagging along with America militarily. I still think they'll be the poster child for the slide of the west. Japan is like finding an unexpectedly motionless canary. Perhaps it's just pining for the Fjords?

I agree. Britain already has an serious energy cruch coming because of retiring nuclear plants, and no serious capacity to replace it. Now if those plant closures are brought forward in time the problem gets that much more severe.
The Japanese will go for shared sacrifice, which means they will heed calls to conserve X amount of power.

Few including myself thought Japan with its high tech, fuel efficient cars and bullet trains would lead the world down the tubes.

It is not Japanese high tech -- it is a General Electric design from the late '60s.

I had a '68 Pontiac LeMans. It was also dangerous, since the brakes were good for only one stop from 70 on a level highway. Negotiating any mountain downhill was hazardous. Eventually, American car makers adopted the disk brakes developed in Europe.

Merrill, and others,

A few hours ago, I ran across a photo of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, VT, which looks much like the ones at Fukushima! So I did a little more checking and sure enough it is a General Electric boiling water design, and it went online in 1972. So I think I’m getting a better understanding of why the Japanese plants were not designed for bigger earthquakes and higher Tsunamis.

The corporate headquarters for GE is in upstate New York, maybe 100 miles from Vernon, VT, where nobody had ever experienced an earthquake anywhere near 7.9, and nobody had ever experienced a Tsunami. So they designed for the worst conditions they could imagine for the eastern US, and probably grumbled the whole time about the ridiculous over-design and resulting high costs for their nuclear powerplant design. And don’t forget that their design had to compete with oil and coal fired powerplants, and other nuclear plant designs being offered by their competition, including Westinghouse.

Then a few years later someone from Japan called on the phone to ask about buying one of those nuclear powerplants, which were probably advertised as something close to magic at that time. (Remember that “too cheap to meter” phrase?) It may not have occurred to anyone involved, either in the US or Japan, until long after a contract was signed, that conditions might be a lot riskier on the coast of Japan, than in the Eastern US.

And by the time someone at GE figured that out, what were they going to say to the customer? “Oh, and by the way, we need to do a comprehensive redesign of the entire powerplant. It will cost about XX millions of dollars, probably take about two years, and it could double your total cost for the plant. Are you still interested?” So that may be how Tokyo Electric ended up with a near carbon copy of a nuclear powerplant designed for the worst conditions anyone could imagine for Vernon, VT, and similar places in the Eastern US.

In the early 1970s I was involved in some early designs for offshore platforms in the North Sea. We designed based on a "100 year storm". During the couple years we were doing the designs - with innumerable modifications - there were two winter storms in the North Sea that substantially exceeded the 100 year storm criteria.

As a good engineer I knew that meant we didn't have to worry about a serious storm for another 200 years.

My boss wasn't that impressed with my reasoning.


The above document lists the 23 General Electric Mark 1 reactors in the US. They are east of the Mississippi, except for Cedar Rapids and Nebraska City. It would appear that only Southport, NC is at all near an earthquake risk.

So earthquake and tsunami risks would not have been much of a consideration to US designers.

Most likely they were sold to the Japanese by high level trade commission involving plenty of diplomatic pressures about the mutual advantages of our cooperative defense and business arrangments.


Just drove in to work and CBC said 30 minutes ago that authorities are using the word "spewing" to describe the leaks from number 4. Verging on ......uncontrollable? Chinese evacuating workers back to China.

Japan is down now, but it will take some weeks to see this play out. What is hard to fathom/appreciate is the shutdown of industry across the country. I just did brakes on our Yaris last night, and was thinking about parts and supplies....disruption, by so many things Japanese that we all depend on.

It just keeps getting worse and worse. Evacuating Tokyo? This would be an unbelievable mass migration. When I get home tonight will I see on the news ribbons of humanity walking west, anywhere, all the while bombarded by energy particles and fear?

This is making me sick....I want to turn it off but am drawn to the reports and TOD.

Lets hope a better picture emerges this morning.


I think it's time to explore possible solutions to a worst-case. At Chernobyl 28 men sacrificed themselves to mitigate the spewing of radiation by dumping sand and then concrete on top of the reactor. How could the Fukushima reactors and perhaps more important, the spent fuel storage areas, be passivated? Are they accessible enough that they can be covered with sand and concrete? Do we have to ask men to die to get in there? I passionately hope not! What alternatives might be available, helicopter loads of something dropped from 10,000 ft? That would, of course, be wildly inaccurate and therefore would take a long time and many many trips.

Ideas? Knowledge (very welcome of course).

Perhaps this deserve a new thread.

The figure of 28 was for the victims of acute radiation sickness during the first three months of the crisis during 1986 alone: the true count over the entire course of the accident and remediation will undoubtedly never be known.

From http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/features/chernobyl-15/liquidators.shtml :

"Within the first three months, the group known as the “Early Liquidators”, those first on the scene including plant workers, construction workers and local fire-fighters, lost 28 members to Acute Radiation Sickness. Another 106 persons were treated for the same disease and survived. Nineteen additional patients died over the eight years following the accident, although these were not necessarily associated with radiation exposure."

There were 600,000+ liquidators all told, and most of them have not been followed closely. I'll have to look in my references later this evening: there might be more. But I do know that the helicopter pilots paid a very heavy toll, as did the liquidators who actually went onto the roof of the building adjacent to the destroyed reactor hall with essentially no protective gear to literally move debris by hand.

My heart goes out to the brave souls who are on the front lines of this fight.

If this really does turn into a worst-case-scenario tragedy, then you might say that one model of the future has revealed problems. Japan is not the only model for the future. Also... the fact that problems have been revealed doesn't mean it'll be abandoned.

One of the characteristics of the Japanese model that you didn't mention is centralization. Japan is the centralized, technocratic, "socialist" (not intending to start a political debate) model of the future. You have a big central government that runs big centralized power plants to power big centralized technologies. TEPCO is a state-owned utility.

At the far other end of the spectrum you have the whole decentralized renewables and decentralized industry model that some greens advocate. It is not necessarily low-tech, but it does tend to shirk really complex large-scale "white elephant" technologies in favor of things operated on a smaller scale.

This is what decentralized industry might look like.

Then you have things in between. I suspect that's where most of the world will go.

For full disclosure, I am one of the "pro-nuclear" people on here. But not rabidly so... I am pro-nuclear in that I think it should be evaluated rationally in comparison with all the other technologies available. Even if this thing melts down, I still think it's superior to coal. But if we can power the world with renewables, then that might be superior still.

But I am also not an advocate of "power down" scenarios. Personally they scare the hell out of me. I think a lot of people on here have ridiculous fluffy bunny ideas about what power down would look like... far fluffier and bunnier than the techno-utopian views of things like nuclear energy. If I start seeing that scenario unfold, I am stocking up on guns and preparing to defend my family against the religious-fundamentalists-with-psychotic-leader version of the film "28 Days Later."

Ironically a world that depends on renewable energy without "powering down" will also require a more centralized power structure to make sure that all those renewable energy sources can be properly integrated into a grid whose reliability resembles what we have today.

Unfortunately the "centralized power" is an anathema to half the electorate in the United States. They would much rather deny the problem, deny the science rather change their world view regarding that centralized power and concede that under some conditions it is in fact necessary.

Depends on how it's done. Here's an alternative:

Every neighborhood, town, district, etc. has one or more storage systems. The grid is really a series of peering connections, and connections to major "power vendors" like wind farms, solar, etc. The grid is allowed to bounce up and down and fluctuate, and the local storage system levels it. The local storage system need only be centralized at the local community scale.

Obviously big cities like Tokyo or New York would be more centralized, but that's part of being a big city. They'd probably operate like city-states.

Three thumbs up ~:)

Maybe like a globally connected Internet with local cache servers?

edit: Fairbanks Alaska maintains a citywide UPS system for the critical functions for the whole town. You do what you gotta do.

"I think it should be evaluated rationally"

You do realize that by saying this you are implying that anyone who has come to be skeptical of the value of nuclear power has done so by being irrational. Perhaps that was not your intention, but the implication is certainly insulting, to say the least.

We are heading into a world with major constraints on all fronts. That world is frightening to most who have looked into it. Powerdown just acknowledges that fact and tries to get ahead of it by planning a descent that would not be as totally chaotic as the alternatives.

I guess, though, that in the fog of discussion and the near universal ignorance and denial of our actual situation, those proposing a path that might be slightly better than the worst case will be confused with the worst case itself.

Socrates, after all, was killed partly because he was equated with the sophists, the very people he had spent his life arguing against.

In the same way we now have the absurdity of people blaming GW on environmentalists. It just doesn't get much more absurd than that.

I didn't say that.

As near as I can tell there are several rational reasons to be skeptical:

1) Is it really cheaper than renewables? The energy density of the fuel is huge, but so is the technical difficulty of using it and dealing with the waste products, shipping them, recycling or storing them, etc. An artistic metaphor that comes to mind is a horn of plenty in the middle of some kind of shifting labyrinth. To get there requires a lot of complexity, and sometimes the labyrinth does nasty things that surprise you.

2) It seems to be a technology that demands centralized political control, more so than renewables. A lot of people don't like that.

3) Do we need it? I lead a totally modern life, work as an engineer, have access to all the world's knowledge at my fingertips, and use much less energy than your average American. I live in an urban center, don't own a car, and walk/bike everywhere. At the very least this proves to me that many, many people could cut their energy use in half without sacrificing much of anything in terms of standard of living. We are really profligate wasters of energy in this country. There's a lot of fat we could trim. If we did that, would we fit under what renewables could reasonably support?

But there's other things on the pro-nuclear side:

1) Big cities. I cannot imagine Tokyo, New York, etc. existing post-fossil-fuel without nuclear power. Big cities require massive constant energy inputs. Maybe they could be surrounded by massive fields of wind turbines, solar panels, biofuel crops, etc. like ancient medieval kingdoms, but this leads us to...

2) One of the nice things about nuclear is that it is separate from the biosphere. It's this weird inorganic source of energy. Huh? Think about it. Do you really want technology linked into the same sources of power as the rest of the ecosystem? That's what biofuels mean. Think of the land use implications. How many acres of bio-crop does a nuke plant replace?

3) You'd need a nasty mishap every 25 years, or maybe even more often, for it to equal the continuous devastation of coal. We seem to permit the latter and most people don't seem to care. Google "mountaintop removal" and "coal sludge spill."

4) Is radiation really as dangerous as we think it is? We detonated hundreds of atom bombs in the atmosphere in the 50s, and we're still here. There are many reasons to be skeptical of the linear no threshold model, and of the fear-mongering about isotope traces left behind after something like this. People live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was a slight increase in cancer, but how does that compare to air pollution from coal and oil?

Do we need to light up the night like Las Vegas. What happened to conservation ?

That's what I meant by "do we need it?"

I define wasted energy as energy use that does not contribute to our actual standard of living (as opposed to illusory BS like "I feel better about myself because I drive a big car"). Unnecessary outdoor lighting definitely falls into that category, as does giant cars, silly disposable plastic novelty items, bottled water, etc.

The fact is that we waste... just downright pee away... enormous amounts of energy. The question is: if we cut most of that, would we still have an energy crisis?

Yes because in the United Security States of America as soon as someone suggests we don't need acres and acres of closed business space flooded with halogen light they are instantly treated to a full on assault by the crime boogeyman...

Besides, conservation is pretty much like admitting defeat and those who are "all in" with their belief that we can drill, drill, drill or nuke, nuke, nuke our way to maintaining BAU forever are not very apt to change their tune, even as the accumulated evidence to the contrary becomes overwhelming...

Yes. Sigh. The stupid. It burns.

How about this? How about acres and acres of open business space lit by dim LED lights. Your eyes will adjust. That's what pupils are for.

I probably sound like a pro-nuke pro-development pro-BAU ideologue around here because I'm not arguing for "power down," etc., but trust me... I agree more with your typical green than your typical American Fox News knuckle dragger.

BTW, the crime boogeyman comes from the same place as the irrationally-extreme fear of nuclear power. It's our tendency to exaggerate small risks if emotion is attached to them. People are afraid of crime, but they will drive a car.

adam, you sound reasonable to me. However, all reasonable discussions of nuclear energy generation must include a full and explicit plan, including costs, of the disposal of all waste products, at every level of contamination. It must also cover what is always ignored, the initial mining, which produces vast mountains of highly toxic and radioactive tailings. Every allegedly 'rational' discussion of this energy source that tries to minimize or whitewash these components is a clear demonstration of the fundamentally irrational character of nuclear power.

Wastes include the lifetime til safe storage/disposal of each and every contaminated item created during the life of the plant, including the plant itself.

I always know when I am reading a nuclear apologist or nuclear industry spin/PR person when this component is minimized or ignored. I learned this many decades ago from a prominent British antinuclear activist, and this has never changed.

Out of sight out of mind is not for example a proper answer to these questions, nor is: we dumped a bunch of containers into the ocean and now it's fine, too bad the containers will not outlast their contents. The ocean, by the way, is not a garbage can, it's the source and foundation of life on earth.

Any person who does explicitly cover all these areas is worth listening to.

Remember, nuclear is not replacing coal/oil, it is supplementing it, in order to account for ever expanding consumption levels globally. Same goes for renewables at this point in almost all cases, at best they are merely covering the rate of increase (that is the case for example in Spain, where electricity use has expanded over the last 20 years more than the amount they generate from wind power.

All future scenarios have to include conservation and reduction in global terms, and a full stop to rates of growth, ie, the first step, yet to be achieved, is 0 growth, the next step will be reduction. This will not be an option or a choice, it will be a necessity, and our societies will find ways to achieve this requirement in ways apparently unimaginable to most people.

Easy for me to see since I spent time on my grandparent's farm, which was built pre tractor, and still had horse drawn equipment in the sheds, and which consumed a tiny fraction of what we consume today. The living quarters were also small, warm, cozy, filled with quality stuff that would last a lifetime, and in my opinion, were superior in every way to the junk their grandchildren are building and believing to be necessary.

Japan reduced its power consumption 25% overnight, I understand some people cannot visualize less, but really, it's just not that hard. I don't use a clothes dryer and haven't for years, it costs me nothing and my clothes smell good naturally. That's just one example. In New York city in 1938 one person out of 400 had a fridge, they used iceboxes. Increasing consumption is not a requirement for either human happiness or satisfaction, quite the opposite is the case, as study after study shows when they compare global happiness levels.

How about this? How about acres and acres of open business space lit by dim LED lights. Your eyes will adjust. That's what pupils are for.

In case someone is scared by the bogeymen in the dark I have some low voltage DC LEDs that will quite literally blind you, they're quite easy to power with batteries and some solar panels.

Any 127 VAC ones? Can I pick your brains over this?


Hi NAOM, I have been working with off grid solar and battery powered outdoor LED lighting. If you want to pick my brain about that I'll be glad to oblige. While I certainly know a little bit about 120 volt AC LEDs that isn't my niche.

I'll drop you an email, the noise to signal ratio is way too high anyway.


North Korea goes dark at night. Is that what we want? They are two inches shorter than their counterparts to the South, but look at life expectancy.
North Korea 63.81 years old. South Korea 78.6 years old. Many experiments show less food over your life will increase life expectancy, so there must be other issues. Do not lose sight of the unseen benefits of our largess oriented society.

edit: The 14th Dalai Lama (pictured) steps down as political leader of the Tibetan government in exile.
You're lookin' swell, Dali
We can tell, Dali
You're still glowin', you're still crowin'
You're still goin' strong
I hear the ice tinkle
See the lights twinkle...

North Korea is a dictatorship run by a nutjob cult leader, and does a lot more than go dark at night.

If you took where I live and turned off the lights at night, I'd still have a 20mbit net connection, a pantry with 30 different kinds of mostly locally grown food, heat and air conditioning, etc.

Note my definition of waste: use of extra energy that does not improve our standard of living. I don't see why having a great big 100 watt sodium vapor light on behind my building at 3am while I am asleep (I live in a low crime area BTW) does anything for me at all.

Ummm, Scottsdale Arizona also goes 'dark at night' because they have a dark skies policy.

Yes, we should in fact minimize our light pollution and save energy in the process.

The main reason that there are so many light at night is the base load problem (yes, base load is more of a problem than a necessity)--they can't just shut down nuke and coal plants every night, so electricity is rather inexpensive during those hours.

But of course, the tired old false dichotomies have to be trotted out again and again and again.

~'If we don't have exactly the power mix that I am a fan of, we will all be living like North Koreans! (or in caves, or like cannibals--pick your cliche)'

"Do not lose sight of the unseen benefits of our largess oriented society."

I think much of what you pine for here are empty years. How modern OECD humans use their time is trivial in the extreme.

But yet we see the results. No amount of preparedness can save us. We have to plan and live together better. I do not advocate avarice, greed, overconsumption, etc. I just would call the moneyless, yet they have credits, Star Trek level of consumption and technology use as acceptable. Yet they did try to snake some locals to get some dilitium more than once. Maybe it is useless to fight human nature?

It's not human nature. There are societies that don't have these character flaws.

They have their own character flaws.

People are imperfect by nature, the best any society can do is keep those imperfections from doing too much damage.

These are the same N Koreans that at one point were eating grass because they had no food? Proper nutrition is a huge part of being healthy. My sister was an anorexic, she looks horrible.

Separate from the biosphere?

"One of the nice things about nuclear is that it is separate from the biosphere."

The belief in separation is the heart of the problem. There is no thing or process separate from the biosphere. Even the sun, a large nuclear reactor 93 million miles way, is not "separate" from the biosphere. Rather the biosphere is enfolded by the photosphere. The earth is not separate from the cosmos - it is all part of a single, interwoven mysterious tapestry that we call Reality. It is in siloing problems in isolation that they paradoxically become easier to solve and more prone to catastrophic failure given the inherent dynamism and complexity of the larger whole. As Albert E said: Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them .

Wrong wording then. I meant separate from the biosphere's ordinary energy flows. The right term might have been "separate from ecological primary productivity."

Primary productivity is perhaps a more narrow a term than you mean to convey. It refers to how much Co2 is transformed into organic matter through photosynthesis i.e. it only refers to biomass but would exclude PV, wind, solar thermal, tidal, etc.

The separation of organic and inorganic ecological processes is another example of an arbitrary albeit sometimes useful distinction. Uranium is no more natural or unnatural than silicon.

For me the deeper issue is our seeming alienation from life itself. We seem indifferent to the widescale devastation of the living planet driven by our insatiability to consume. And often it is a coalition of elites, governments and multi-national corporations that are shepherding us towards this dystopic future - into the realm of the hungry ghosts*.

*the realm of the hungry ghosts "They are constantly extremely hungry and thirsty, but they cannot satisfy these needs. In Tibetan versions of the Bhavacakra these beings are drawn with narrow necks and large bellies. This represents the fact that their desires torment them, but they are completely unable to satisfy themselves."

"People live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was a slight increase in cancer, but how does that compare to air pollution from coal and oil?"

Yes, indeed. My uncle was in charge of the long term studies at Hiroshima a while back.

Most of the people who were going to die were kind enough to do so during or shortly after the blast.

Meltdowns are different. They leave the immediate area uninhabitable for a long time.

And you're right about nuclear fuel being outside living systems like the carbon cycle. That's what makes scifi types so jazzed about it as it fulfills a part of their fantasy about escaping the bonds of terrestrial life.

Some of the rest of us think it might be a good idea for us to live within the limits provided by these living systems.

This is worth a revisit after reading some of the discussions.


Very moving, very depressing. Definitely worth a visit.

"Some of the rest of us think it might be a good idea for us to live within the limits provided by these living systems."

It depends on what those limits are. I don't think we know. I am skeptical of simple spreadsheet calculations that purport to show these limits, since they are assumption-ridden.

All sustainable cultures have lived within the limits of their regional ecosystem. All non-sustainable cultures have not. No need for sliderules or computers, the examples are plentiful.

We won't do that, but we can certainly do much better over the shorter period of time we are facing as resources deplete. And we can at least judge against known samples rather than dreaming about and guessing on unknown scenarios.

Some of the rest of us think it might be a good idea for us to live within the limits provided by these living systems.

We will dohboi, we will.

I agree with much of your point of view. Big cities exist because the people are able to import the large quantities of resources required to allow them to exist, as the consumption far exceeds the locally available resources. The most important resource is energy, typically in the form of fossil fuels but also electricity produced form some distance away and imported thru the grid. Worse yet, most transport uses oil to power the vehicles. As we are probably at Peak Oil, it may be anticipated that there will be an ever declining availability of oil and perhaps all liquid fuels as well, if alternatives do not appear.

The obvious conclusion of this is that big cities will no longer be able to provide the level of energy consumption we now enjoy. Declining availability results in fewer jobs and thus more overhead to maintain the population, a population which would tend to grow. Lacking other energy sources, such as nuclear, the future of the "Big City" would appear to be rather grim. The advantages which have resulted from high concentrations of people may disappear, and then the high population numbers may become a liability. Survival for large numbers of people might become very difficult, which would magnify any crisis, such as we are now witnessing in Japan. For example, without water, people start to die in 3 days, while without food, a couple of weeks results in deaths. Demand Destruction can become very personal in a Big City...

E. S.

Yes, before the use of ff nearly all cities larger than one million were the centers of empires.

Perhaps we have become clever enough to maintain large cities without these enormous inputs of non-sustainable energy, perhaps not.

Au contraire!

Per capita energy use in cities is much less than in developed exurban, suburban, rural areas.

Mainly a function of less driving, more public transport, multi-unit housing/office space heating/cooling, and much shared infrastructure not strung out over long distances.

Great and provacative new book on "The Triumph of the City:"

For instance, per capita GHG emissions from Tokyo are less than half that of Japan as a whole, and NYC is also less than half the per capita amount of the USA total:

Yes, per capita it is less, but it is also far more concentrated. That's the problem.

Fair enough.

I suppose if order is maintained in a large enough region, the best solution is for people to live in cities, in chaos, not so much. Best place to be in chaotic situation is probably a small city with good water and arable surroundings.

FWIW, Kunstler agrees with Glaeser about cities, except he doesn't think high-rises are a good idea - wants dense cities with max 4 story buildings.

Another interesting observation from Glaeser on mega-cities: Crowded mega-cities don't make people poor; poor folks move to cities to improve their lot to escape grinding poverty and/or warfare in rural areas.

The study mentioned apparently looked at CO2 emissions of cities, but my browser crashed on the site. Anyway, from the second summary article, the study seems to look at the direct consumption of individuals, not the total consumption required to supply all the resources required to keep the city in operation. It should be obvious that there's quite a bit of energy consumed outside the city's boundary that is directly required to feed the demands of the people within the city. That's the result of both the need to produce food and other resources and also the need to move those resources to the city where they are consumed. Water is a prime example as local supplies of fresh water are often limited, as the situation in Los Angles shows. The amount of energy directly consumed by an individual in a high density living situation can be small and economies of scale are obvious, such as the reduced HVAC demands from living in a high rise building.

Then too, it is not realistic to compare the energy used in high density cities with that of the surrounding suburbs, when the suburbs are often temporary situations that are later incorporated within the expanding boundaries of the city. Worse, after Peak Oil, the suburban development model which propelled the US economy for 60 years may crash. The suburbs developed as a direct result of cheap energy which made long distance commutes from low cost houses financed with 30 year mortgages to high paying employment with which allowed a middle class individual could pay the mortgage. Those conditions no longer appear economically reasonable, as the cheap oil has now been used up...

E. Swanson

City size (and configuration) will be limited to the resource area they are able to exploit. This at its most basic level means a food supply, going on to other resources as complexity grows. As energy becomes more precious, it will shrink the area a city is able to exploit (global-->local), and the population and complexity will reduce accordingly, with food being the bottleneck resource. Technologies (and city configuration) can be seen as "modulators", which will skew the exploitable area in specific instances (ie. rail can enable supplies of resources further away, concentrated "city-center" habitation will leave more exploitable resource area available for food, etc. versus a "suburbia" habitation when all else is equal).

Another aftershock at Shizuoka. 6.1 to 6.2 magnitude. Shizuoka is close to Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station which is reportedly undamaged

Japanese meltdown highlights energy dilemma as peak oil enters hot phase

Sydney increases its oil vulnerability as strategic shifts in ME threaten global oil supplies

Information I have right now is that the fire at Fukushima #4 is out, and the radiation levels around the plant are going down. Containment at #2 seems to be holding.

Headed out just now, will be back in a couple of hours.

Information I have is that four reactors are damn near out of control (as well as their spent fuel cooling pools)- with no clear evidence or ability to gather it as to what the true condition of the cores are; a no fly zone has been established and evacuation zones are continually being expanded.

But yeah probably nothing to worry about...

I think #4 has been in shutdown mode for a long time. But its spent fuel pool had a fire. So I think that statement was a bit of a misunderstanding. Three reactors and at least spent fuel pool (perhaps several). Not blaming you, reporters are prone to such mistakes.....

Spent nuke fuel pool may be boiling, further radiation leak feared

A nuclear crisis at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant deepened Tuesday as fresh explosions occurred at the site and its operator said water in a pool storing spent nuclear fuel rods may be boiling, an ominous sign for the release of high-level radioactive materials from the fuel.

...At 6:14 a.m., a blast occurred at the No. 4 reactor and created two square holes sized about 8 meters by 8 meters in the walls of the building that houses the reactor. At 9:38 a.m., a fire broke out there and smoke billowed from those holes.

...The agency said among the three, the situation is the severest for the No. 4 reactor because all the fuel rods are stored in the pool due to the change of the reactor's shroud. At the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors, up to one-third of the rods are kept in the pools.

I forget how cold it is there now. Poor folks.
1612: Our reporter Clive Myrie, in Yamagata, says that it has started to snow, which will make access to remote areas affected by the quake even more difficult.

This may answer some questions

Nuclear Energy Agency Severe Accident Management and Containment Safety Assessment Information

Link page to:

- Nuclear Fuel Behaviour during Reactivity Initiated Accidents Workshop Proceedings

- Nuclear Fuel Behaviour under Reactivity-initiated Accident (RIA) Conditions State-of-the art Report 2010

- Core Exit Temperature (CET) Effectiveness in Accident Management of Nuclear Power Reactor

- Implementation of Severe Accident Management Measures, ISAMM 2009 Volume 1: Papers

- Implementation of Severe Accident Management Measures, ISAMM 2009 Volume 2: Presentations

- Hydrogen and Fission Product Issues Relevant for Containment Safety Assessment under Severe Accident Conditions

plus Reactor Type, Components and Safety Systems for all Fukushima reactors.

I had been quite optimistic about getting these reactors into a safe condition but this is turning nasty quickly.

The main problems I see here are twofold, the fact that with the massive damage and complete lack of electricity and plant systems, these massively complex power plants have been reduced to nothing more than big nuclear pressure cookers with some diesel fire pumps bootstrapped onto them.

Second, radiation is now beginning to become a serious factor across the site. This makes rectifying the first problem much much more difficult. Running cable and repairing switchgear is very hard to do in 20 minute shifts.

They have to keep water flowing through these reactors and into/out of the spent fuel pools not for days, not for weeks, but for months. Even a "cold" reactor needs SOME level of water circulation. With 0 prospect of functioning plant pumps any time soon, this means humans manning diesel pumps for some time.

This is as out of control as you can get outside of Chernobyl. All the safety systems are moot when theres no power or logic to control them. Now it's just men with hoses a couple hours at a time until they get too heavily dosed.

A clusterf**k that will define the century given our need for nuclear power in the future.

In other words, there are four big bottles of controlled hell, little pandoras boxes if you will. On a day to day basis these are kept closed by vast numbers of computers, valves, miles upon miles of piping and cabling, detailed procedures, careful planning, and system upon layered system.

Now take those four bottles, strip all that away, and hand it to an 8th grader and tell him to keep the lid on it.

Given that this thing is progressing about as fast as they can figure out what it's doing, that really does feel like what it comes down to.

I keep thinking about those 50 people who didn't evacuate, running around in rad suits, trying to hold it all together. "Controlled hell," indeed.

There's 750 of them right now, volunteers, rotating in 50 at a time. Very brave, very selfless people indeed, it's sobering.

I am pro nuclear power. Pro nuclear because it's a viable option in the face of few others.

However, I am anti-complacency, and complacency is part of the human condition.

The people closest to a nuclear reactor are often the most comfortable with it, which is a huge problem.

It is so easy to forget, that a nuclear reactor is at one moment, a huge, C02 free, everest of energy. However, turn of the lights and leave that same bottle of energy alone for a week.

That nice shiny reactor will turn itself into a molten slag of corium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corium_(nuclear_reactor), which is literally the most vile, deadly, unbelievably retched substance humanity can create. It'll dissociate concrete into gas and component molecules, blast a library of incredibly toxic, radio toxic, corrosive, and otherwise horrible substances into the atmosphere, convert water into hydrogen peroxide, turn steam into hydrogen, and basically thwart any human attempts at containing it.

So it's good to keep that in mind when we're designing and running these things.

"So it's good to keep that in mind when we're designing and running these things."

Or perhaps we could shift to something a little safer...

Near term, pending fusion, or higher EROEI solar w/ adequate storage capacity, what do you propose as an alternative base load generator in lieu of coal and gas?

Find me 1000MWe that I can hook up the grid that's not fossil, not nuclear, and fulfills base load requirements, on the market right now, or within a 5 year investment horizon.

This accident and all nuclear accidents are very sobering in indeed and it is easy to dismiss all engineering attempts at mitigating danger as moot.

However, this is a 50 year old plant located next to a massive fault line in a Tsunami path.

Place a modern ESBWR: Link in a more seismically sensible area and tell me that it doesn't make sense given the alternatives to electrical energy (campfires and stone tools come to mind.)

"Find me 1000MWe that I can hook up the grid that's not fossil, not nuclear, and fulfills base load requirements, on the market right now, or within a 5 year investment horizon"

Natural gas?

That said, why do we (as a society) need to continuously provide "excess" baseload power? I consider the consistently lower price of off-peak power to be apriori evidence that baseload power is provided in "excess" of natural demand,

Yeah they deliver that baseload right to giant resistors to heat up the night. LOL

Seems like a design flaw in our society, no?

Thermal solar stores the heat in molten salt.

I guess low tech is ignored once you privatize the profits and put the waste and decommissioning charges on the public for the next 1000 years or so. LOL.

Nuclear appears to be able to redefine good banking practice and accounting common sense.

Never heard "corium" before, thanks for the info!

No, they are Japanese. Think if we sent the Marines what they would. Their jobs and nothing more or less. Just they way they see things, if it is time for the individual, it is time. Remember me well and do a shot of Sake for me one day.

Edit: The Navy helped put out #4, we probably had some jarheads that earned their Marine Corp Medals this week. Some squids got their Navy Medals. The highest non-aviation, non-combat award there is. Folks respect that one.

Yes the Japanese are communal and co-operative vs. our independence. That doesn't take away from people self irradiating - cognitive dissonance happens when you make the decision to harm yourself, Japanese or not.

That is what the shot of Sake is for. Can you say Kamikaze.

Keep in mind our boys over in the middle east that put on their pants every morning and go and do EOD or just out on patrol don't get Sake.

It's amazing what people will do for a sense of duty. Made a conscious effort not to bitch at work this morning myself.

Of course I never can forget, I was one of them. You also bring up another point, you can take sacrifice too far. Sometimes, you should surrender.

Not much to say to that other than it's appreciated, I've got good buddies who've related the level of suck that is encountered, - and very true.

Toshiba sends engineers to Fukushima nuclear power plant

Toshiba Corp. said Tuesday it has sent engineers to the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant at the request of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., aiming to address the problems at the quake-hit facility amid growing fears of radioactive contamination. The company said dozens of its engineers are set to instruct workers at the plant operated by TEPCO about the usage of pumps to inject water into the plant's reactors, adding the firm has already sent motors to activate the pumps at the facility.

Toshiba, which supplied much of the equipment for the Fukushima No. 1 power plant's reactors such as the No. 3 reactor, will consider sending more engineers if necessary, it added. While Toshiba has around 350 engineers who support electric power companies, two-thirds of them are currently dealing with accidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plant at Toshiba's headquarters or at the actual site.

Engineers certainly have an incentive to design and build safe plants. Perhaps it would be good to also send the accounting and marketing departments.

If the situation cannot be brought under control, the Chairman of TEPCO and possibly Toshiba should take responsibility and commit seppuku.

Engineers certainly do their best within the constraints of time and money.

However Engineers themselves are susceptible to getting lost in probability distributions, systems interactions, and complacency. The disconnect with the real world becomes very real.

What we need is more attention to the black and grey swans when we're dealing with engineering where unknown failure modes can cause worldwide financial, human, and social damage. I'd pay someone good money just to walk around engineers cubes, spill coffee on their schematics (well, mess with their computer models anyway), and make them get out of their mental boxes.

I had a professor in college who taught one class. He was eccentric, rambling, and scatterbrained but he had one mission in life, to champion the message that complex systems are beyond the human capacity to predict.

They made engineers take it (they hated it) and business students take it (they didn't get it.) He did an entire week on Chernobyl. Some people got what he was on about, I think I did.

God is that crazy old bastard a smart guy. I can see him right now, ranting about this accident, vindicated beyond all hope.

The liberal arts majors did not need the class. They wrote the textbook.

Hah! If there was one - in lieu of a textbook there was this ridiculous packet of badly photocopied excerpts taken from everything from well known books to trade publications to technical schematics.

If you actually manged to sit down and do the required reading, some of it was pretty interesting.

It certainly scared of any liberal arts majors that made it into the class.

So now you get to the heart of the matter. I was a dual major. The liberal arts majors were cheated by technology and accountants. Perhaps if there had been a widely used book, the Tsunami spec would have called for 20 meter protection. I think that is what you might want to consider my young Padowon. Like the scene in Schindler's list when the history professor told the Nazi's he was a mechanic after he found out they killed history professors right away. Maybe if enough folks would have asked why they were killing the history professors instead of the mechanics the whole mess could have been avoided. You can forget to go poop today and it is a nasty business. Perhaps you can eat an MRE and delay it for a day or two but at some point, you need to poop. You look down upon the liberal arts guys as parasites and not able to make it in science. Liberal arts majors don't lower themselves to look down. There is THE difference. Until the corruption of law school anyhow.

The mechanic says "Hell yes, I can build it."
The accountant says "What will it cost?"
The liberal arts major asks, "yes, but do we really need it? Do we really want it? Why?" (notice: The liberal arts major did not say it should not be built, he/she is just playing the role of Socrates 'gadfly', just checking)

The mechanic and the accountant throw the liberal arts major out of the room.

So it has always been. "But for a few distinctions, a thousand cities were lost." Albert Camus

But I am schizoid on these issues, raised by mechanics, educated by liberal arts professors, working in market and media research. Read my profile here on TOD and take anything I say with a grain of salt.


Actually, the liberal arts major says that the project has to cost 35% less in order to make his profit and loss committment to the CEO, and by the way, it was promised to the customer for delivery in 6 months instead of 10 months, with a penalty clause for each month of delay.

You can have it cheap, fast, or good -- but not all three.

Corollary: But you can have it expensive, slow, and poorly done.

Accounting is in the Sciences. Management is in the Arts. You describe an accounting problem.

Most marketing executives and business unit managers have Liberal Arts degrees, not STEM degrees.

Complex, chaotic systems cannot be predicted. It's called computational irreducibility.

It applies to efforts to claim that any technology is "100% safe." It also applies to a lot of the eco-doomer stuff you read on The Oil Drum, as most of that is based in closed-form mathematical modeling that attempts to predict the future.

So IMHO both the techno-cornucopians and the greens fail here.

But like you say... everyone hated that class, and nobody got it.

Such systems cannot be deterministically predicted, but they can be characterized and probabilities can be estimated.

Nobody has ever said nukes are 100% safe. They say there is definite probability of failure, estimated to be a reactor core breach per 100K reactor-years (or thereabouts). Of course, there can be neglected but significant considerations, or assumption errors on top of that.

Unfortunately, as WHT would point out with fat-tail distributions, the mean is heavily skewed by the rare outliers, and human minds don't tend to properly weight negative outliers. People gamble to win 1-in-a-million lottos everyday, but don't expect to lose 1-in-100K gambits on core meltdowns.

Where is Heisenberg when you need him? No one is certain and it cannot be determined. Yet, he will post below.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Priciple has nothing to do with this. Relatively speaking the mass and momentum involved in the earthquake made that an event of great certainty, once it occurred. It wasn't one of those quantum-scale measurements that was modified just by observing it.

The moment you measure you measure a man's heart it changes. It cannot be determined but predicted perhaps reliably. Nature changes man when he measures it. Who said anything about quantam reality, I speak of physical reality. Science majors, LOL.

The moment you measure you measure a man's heart it changes.

Well, if you speak in parables, you can assert just about any abstract eventuality. The reason many of us hang out here is to get at the reality.

I think he more meant it referring to the whereabouts of Heisenberg himself.. ;-)

The historical Heisenberg is long dead. It was a weak connection if he was referring to TOD commenter Heisenberg, who has interesting things to say.

Yes, perhaps a tenuous link!

Who was he? Is he still alive?

If you are talking about the physicist Heisenberg. In quantum mechanics they talk about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Essentially it was based upon measurement, the product of the uncertainty of a particals momentum, and of the uncertainty in its position cannot be less than Planks constant. So you can know where something is with great certainty, but then you know very little about its velocity. Or vice versa. It also relates to uncertainty in energy and time. This leads to weird things like virtual particles. By Einsteins E=m c squared uncertainty in energy can translate to a particle being formed from nothing, and existing for a length of time such that the energy times its lifetime is less than Planks constant. (This is where Stephan Hawking gets his black hole Hawking radiation from, one of the particles falls in, the other escapes) Also Schroedinger's infamous thought experiment about a cat. In quantum mechanics, you don't know the result of an experiment until you measure it. So we (mentally) put a cat in a box, with a device that would kill him if it detected a radioactive decay, with a 50% chance of detection. Is the cat dead or alive? We don't know until we open the box to look, but common sense would tell us it is either alive or dead. But quantum says it is 50% dead and 50% alive (at the same time), and only the act of observing it seals its fate.

I'm not talking about Heisenberg. I know who he is. I took modern physics in school.

(Old joke: Cop catches Heisenberg speeding, and pulls him over. "Do you know how fast you were going?" Heisenberg: "No, but I know where I am.")

I mean Beef's Jeff Goldblum-esque professor. Who I presume was not Heisenberg, since Heisenberg was dead before Chernobyl.

With Japan's reactors off line, there will be a greater demand for FF.

Now Germany is getting into the act

Germany shuts down seven reactors

Germany announced Tuesday the temporary shutdown of the oldest seven of its 17 nuclear reactors pending a safety review in light of Japan's atomic emergency

I am definitely anti-nuke but that sounds very knee jerk. Nothing remotely similair could occur in Germany to cause this failure. Surely better to plan it properly?

Radiation leak feared at spent fuel pool, water injection ordered

The government ordered the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., on Tuesday night to inject water into the pool at the No. 4 reactor to cool it down ''as soon as possible to avert a major nuclear disaster.'' ...

The firm said it has not yet confirmed the current water level or water temperature in the pool and will try to pour water into the facility from Wednesday through holes that were created following an explosion earlier Tuesday in the walls of the building that houses the reactor.

Due to high radiation levels at the No. 4 reactor, workers on Tuesday were unable to prepare for the pouring of water into the troubled pool. Difficult conditions have led the utility to evacuate around 730 of the 800 workers from the site, according to TEPCO.

The firm said its workers were only able to remain in the central control rooms at the Fukushima plant for 10 minutes to avoid exposure to excessive radiation levels. They have retreated to a remote site to monitor data on the reactors, it added.

This is the big challenge. Putting out a fire that's surrounded by poison.

Pouring water into a big pool 5 stories up under a ruined building is tricky but far from difficult.

Doing it with only a few people 10 minutes at a time is much, much harder.

Domino-effect under way
EU to stress test nuclear reactors http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/03/15/eu-reactor-stress-tests.html

Since humans appear incapable of acting until crisis sets in, I have to consider the Japanese nuclear failure as a massive blessing, and not in disguise. The world was about to build out nuclear to a maximum degree, without dealing with the safety or long term disposal issues adequately. Far better to stop and properly consider failure now before it's too late than after, these things are messy and hard to clean up after.

And remember, the choice between nuclear / coal /oil is false, we are using all, at full extraction rates.

I am going to be interested in seeing how nuclear spin and PR begins to appear here in TOD threads on these issues, there should be a few tests of different methods, most should be fairly obvious to spot. I believe the chance of this happening is almost 100%, so it will be interesting to see what lines of distraction and subtle denial they try to generate.

By the way, I'm all for a fully free market funded nuclear power plant, fully and absolutely regulated by state regulatory bodies at every phase of design, construction, operation, and de-activation, plants that have bonded and paid for all future waste disposal issues, for the life of the waste, and mining costs / tailing cleanup (since this is an impossible economic requirement, all notions of free market nuclear power should be immediately dropped as the open farce it is). Same goes for coal and its CO2, mercury, etc. I think with proper regulation and full removal of socialized subsidies for these forms of power generation we can safely say all new plant construction will immediately cease, since these conditions are never met, nor can they ever be met.

Aren't we using all at rate commensurate with marginal economic benefit? If we had no nukes, we'd use more of the others, but not necessarily end up with as much power.

Visualize a chess game. You are player X, mother nature is player Y.

You have fewer pieces than she does, and have now entered into a phase of the game where, while you are a skilled and talented player, you are also clearly able to recognize that checkmate is inevitable. She's also got some options in the game which you don't have, although you were given the option to inspect them before the game started, but chose to ignore that in favor of determining the rules yourself. In other words, the real rules are absolute and determined by Y, the rules we generate will fail but we believe they won't.

Your pieces are parts of your ecosystem. You can use them all up before being checkmated, or you can gracefully tip the king over and admit the inevitable defeat, thus preserving the lives and future viability of your various pieces.

I am unable to actually derive any meaning from the term 'marginal economic benefit' since from what I understand all nuclear power is not economically viable in the first place.

If we forget the entire 'economic' modeling, which I think is a good place to start, and look merely at extraction rates and long term viability of the various options, it's clear that none of the current options have any future.

We would probably, as you note, with fewer nukes, increase our coal extraction / burning rates, with a net gain/change in the chess game of exactly zero, since they will get burned up anyway, only maybe not as quickly.

Keep in mind they are currently majorly revising actual economically viable coal extraction re reserves, with massive downgrades in future reserves. No more 200, 300 year future talk, it's now approaching 20 to 40 years, which is about what was being discussed when I started following the peak oil issue in the late 90s.

I see this only in terms of a realworld chess game where we already have lost too many key pieces to nature to ever win, or even reach stalemate.

Future generations will curse us, believe me, and they will curse our toxic wastes we leave behind. Discussions of 'economic benefit' when the outcome is only destroying more of our ecosystem long term in all cases is just not something I can find any heart to really get into.

I don't know or understand why so many modern humans cannot respect mother nature, and why or where their profound contempt for her rules and limits came from, but I am unable to participate in that contempt or self-centered focus on personal greed, consumption, and fulfillment of desires that were not even an idea in someone's brain 80 years ago.

I see now that the requirement for all decisions to be taken in long term was not some side thing for those who managed to live more sustainably than we do, it was the only thing. Despite this I see ground for hope, but not in any way a hope that will satisfy artificial notions of economic development. But that's not a bad thing, it's a good thing.

I have in previous threads mentioned Soros's book The Alchemy of Finance, which strives to not be a work on finance, but on human behavior and social systems. It succeeds in my opinion. One of the key concepts therein is that the way we as thinking entities perceive reality is always filtered through our thinking, and this is not something you can get around. The requirement, so called, for x or y levels of energy consumption in my opinion fits in perfectly with this model. It's a feedback loop, we believe we require x or y level, then we generate x or y level, then we believe we need x or y + 1, so we generate that. Once generated, that forms a new floor for what we believe is necessary for human existence, even though it's totally obvious that it isn't, nor has it ever been.

To be clear, what Soros is noting here is the inevitable failures of social 'sciences' to achieve the status of certainty that physical science is able to reach. In other words, there can be no social science because the agent who is investigating is the agent being investigated, and that agent contains biases that are not possible to work around. So what's he's talking about is understanding social systems. Personally I would go further, because I do not believe science itself actually is doing what it pretends to be doing, but that is going way too far afield, and would lead to pointless discussions that would do little good.

This recent Japan nuclear problem to me is a perfect test for the core premises of several books I've recently started digesting, and their premises are being proved not just slightly correct, but absolutely so.

The corollary of this point is that it's not a one way process, ie, just as we adjust our world views to the x=x+1 process, so too when we hit the limit of that, determined by underlying tendencies and fundamentals, so too do we adjust mentally to a model which now is x = x -1, until a new relative steady state is reached (itself an illusion, since only once actual sustainable living is reached can we discuss relatively steady states, but it's an adequate working model).

So all these frantic postings from people here who insist that the x = x+1 condition are the only possible outcome and future for us are simply demonstrating Soros's notion of reflexivity in an explicitly clear manner.

When x = x-1 becomes the prevalent bias, these people will vaporize, or rather, the bias will vaporize, and will be replaced by those who maintain equally adamantly that an ongoing x = x - 1 is the natural condition, and it's absurd to suggest otherwise. At some point in the distant future we will bounce off and on from x = x, each time being corrected, again, as we try to use x = x +1 model, and returned to the x = x model. This won't be a choice, but it's so far in our future it's also pointless to even really discuss that future.

The core concept here is that there is no way for human beings to actually avoid the underlying bias and trendlines, which are mutually self-reinforcing, ie, there is no point of view outside of them that is solid, but we can note that this process exists, and then try to mold our thinking to fit this model, which in my opinion is a significantly superior model for understanding human actions and social thought.

To be clear: the bias we now internalize about yearly growth in consumption of electricity leads directly to yearly growth in consumption of electricity, it is a feedback loop. When our bias alters due to our views coming too far out of step with what the fundamentals can provide, the bias will swing to the negative side of the slope, which will involve declining, decreasing levels of electrical power consumption. How our biases achieve explanations to ourselves at that point remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, they will. I am glad to see such a fantastic real world test case here and now for these ideas, it's rare real concepts can be so readily tested, Soros used the market to test these, but he knew the ideas were much larger than the market.

This is how Soros explains all bubbles and boom/bust cycles, and I would without hesitation include the growth/decline model as fitting this perfectly, only more slowly, and over a longer and more complicated period of time.

In other words, we view our normal as normal, but that normal itself is not fixed, it's fluid, it changes. People don't like change, but when it comes, it comes, one can either resist (as in rightwing climate heating denialism), or one can move with it, ideally a bit ahead of it to give you an edge. Not impossible at all. Difficult, sure.

I apologize for using your very good and honest question as a foil to work these concepts out, but why not? that's what discourse is supposed to do in the first place.

What are the other books you are digesting?

THINGS WOBBLE. Gee, thanks, Soros. Hadn't a clue...


The developing world would go with less power, not the OECD.

In the end it may just be wind and maybe solar, plus hydro and possible geothermal. I'm really doubting nuclear can save us anymore. Past few years I've held out hope nuclear would be our answer to future energy crunch. Past 3 days I've done a complete flip. There are so many old nuclear plants like these that need to be mothballed. This is probably going to kill nuclear here in the US, especially if ANY radiation falls on US soil. People are going to go ape $%$%.

The developing world will leapfrog to solar + storage (or wind+ or wave+) in a distibuted configuration that does not require 24/7 "over-"power infrastructure. Why build and maintain a complex network to provide 20-40% more power than is needed 360 days per year? Are 5 days/year really worth it?

Most of the developing world is not developed to the point of having the infrastructure to build “rewnewables”. It takes a modern industrial fossil fuel economy to build them. I would also point out that the developing world lacks the money to subsidize uneconomical, at least for now, renewable energy sources.

Aren't we using all at rate commensurate with marginal economic benefit?

Not really. We are actually using it up as fast as we can get it! Nuclear and renewables just give us extra power right now. As the fossil fuels run out then we will be forced to use less energy. Apparently, that is the only reason that we(as a species) will ever decide to use less energy.

Isn't a stress test what precipitated the Chernobyl disaster?

"This is XXXX in Sendai.
You may already know that a huge earthquake attacked Japan on Fri.
Sendai is one of the center of the damaged area,
and my laboratory and the department of chemistry were seriously damaged.
Fortunately, there is no damage to people in the department, but the offices and labs may not be used for weeks or months. The community in Sendai is also seriously damaged, especially in the seaside area of Sendai, which is only 15 km apart from the campus, and TV news reported that hundreds people were killed by Tsunami (in the north area in Japan, over ten thousands people were killed. It's so terrible).
We have now a serious trouble in a nuclear power plant, as reported in US news. According to the Japanese news report, we are now escaping from the worst case, i.e., melt down, but the trouble is not still under perfect control.
Once the nuclear power plant problem is stabilized, it may be no problem to visit Tokyo. But for Sendai, very unfortunately, the situation of 3 weeks later is quite unclear. It is very sad... I guess that it is difficult to welcome a guest to the lab and department in this April."

From a research scientist in Sendai. Seems there is still hope for nuclear stabilization at least from his perspective.

My Japanese is terrible but I think I found a looting report. Not important other than it proves we are all the same. I wish them well and the best. Folks around here are hammering the locals about Katrina reactions. The TOD community is more enlightened about such things but the locals I blog with barely have English down, much less Japanese. They would not buy it.

Earthquake light products aim? From the warehouse's gasoline theft, Saitama
2011-03-14 19: 23
Disaster supplies gasoline cans 8 cans (LT), portable fluorescent pieces, such as meter 56 products (about 20 million yen worth) had been stolen from the disaster warehouse in Kita-ku, Saitama city, Saitama prefectural Omiya technical high school days, Omiya station announcements by turns. Looking into and theft incidents aimed at and what you are likely to become scarce in the aftermath of the East Japan earthquake.
Discovered, according to the police, a.m., staff of the school is the key to the warehouse door broken. It is said that was until 12 p.m. around.

from: http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0314/TKY201103140355.html

2152: AFP is reporting a new fire at the number four reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

2153: Flames are rising from the reactor, AP reports.


Is the fallout threat from the used rods worse than the fallout threat for the MOX rods? If so is it a mechanical or materials issue?

Not sure. Out of my depth. Would have thought the active rods would have a little more radioactive isotopes in them, but I don't know.

There was a fire there earlier. That is where they store all the used rods. They have had a hard time getting close because of the radiation.

Not good.

This is a different fire. The other one in the storage pool has been extinguished I think.

AP says the fire is in the "outer housing of the reactor's containment vessel," apparently not in the fuel storage pond like yesterday's fire.

But the boiling. Still bad no?
2246: Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that the storage pool in reactor four - where the spent fuel rods are kept - may be boiling. Tepco says readings are showing high levels of radiation in the building, so it is inaccessible. Radiation levels had fallen late on Tuesday but remained abnormal.

Edit: From a bad translation original Japanese provided. It sounds like a bulding fire that cannot be fought because of raditation levels is causing spent fuel rod water loss.
1St 1 Fukushima nuclear power plants, machines, and building again fire access cannot be
2011/3/16 7:01

TEPCO 16 Japan, Fukushima first announced that the fire occurred at the nuclear power plant (unit. Verify that 5: 45 am, East electric employees of nuclear reactor building in floor from the Northwest near the flame is going up. Before the Fire Department, local government bodies to reporting, firefighting.
Spot high radiation dose and rather inaccessible situation.
Blast during a periodical inspection in spent nuclear fuel out of the vessel, aircraft caused the fire. Was preparing to pour water on spent fuel storage pool fire once settled, but a temperature rise of spent nuclear fuel, such as concern,.

福島第1原発4号機、建屋で再び出火 立ち入りできず




But the boiling. Still bad no?

They're inferring that the water covering the spent rods is boiling because hydrogen is being released. As I understand it, they have a little time to figure out how to get more water into the pool to cool it down before the water boils away and exposes the spent rods--maybe a day or two.

NHK World TV says flames no longer visible at Daichi #4.

So maybe the boiling is a delayed reaction? I hope so and it quits soon.

So maybe the boiling is a delayed reaction? I hope so and it quits soon.

No idea what you mean by "delayed reaction." If the water's boiling because there isn't enough depth covering the spent fuel rods (the fuel rods are continually generating heat), it'll continue to boil as long as more water isn't put in. And if more water isn't put in, it'll eventually boil away, exposing the fuel rods, which would be very, very bad.

Oh, I thought the boiling started after the fire. How long has the boiling been going on? I thought maybe something got hot from the fire. The boiling is the from the heat from the rods? I am so mixed up please correct. Thanks.

The spent fuel rods are still generating heat from nuclear decay, the same as the ones in the reactor cores which are causing problems. The water in the pools provides cooling and also radiation shielding, allowing the rods to cool so they can be reprocessed or moved elsewhere. But if you stop cooling the pool water (which they did when the earthquake hit), it heats up and boils -- away. Exposed, overheated rods can generate hydrogen by water reacting with the zirconium, same as in the core.

I grabbed the following screenshot from the live NHK feed:

It is a cross-section of the #4 reactor, showing the spent fuel storage in the upper left (purple pointer). There is now a big hole in the top roof, but it is over the reactor. They decided that dropping water from a helicopter probably wouldn't work. Radiation is too high to do much.

All right Microsoft now we need translations for graphical characters or a nice universal label format. One day we will all speak Billgatese.

When they start talking about helicopters, you know they are improvising with whatever they have on-hand.

They really ought to have special purpose-built equipment on-hand that would let them direct cameras and water without the need for people to need to expose themselves to radiation.

Japan makes some of the best robots in the world. It would be readily possible, but does a sufficiently capable robot exist today?

I guess I should tell folks I went here and turned on Bing web translate and now I am blogging with Japanese folks directly and easily. It is amazing. They enjoy the support. Please try it ask me how if you can't get it to work. Google translate works too. First time I say folks can do this, at least so easily.

Haha! Do people actually use Bing?!

Edit: No offence meant, I just really thought that everyone always used Google and couldn't understand why they'd switch!

Number 4 pool has all rods, not only spent ones as it was under maintenance.

I use both. I like Bing because it is just a left click away. I guess I should add the Goggle too but it all works easy. Coke or Pepsi?

Edit: Ok I changed it to Google. Happy now, you made this old programmer do IT work. Nazi, LOL. Working with accelerators is fun no.

Edit2: Google's accelerators sux. It does not do the page it just gives you a box. Try Bing or tell me what I am doing wrong!

Ah, lol, if it ain't broke...

You can do the whole page in google if you paste the link into the box and click on the corresponding link that appears in the other box.

But far easier is to use Chrome instead of Internet Explorer or Firefox - then whenever you're on a foreign page it will just detect it and drop down from the top giving you the option to translate the page there and then.

Anyway, Bing language is probably just as good as Google. I was more thinking about its search function. When MS announced it (about a million years after google had already cornered the market) I wondered why anyone would switch from the google search engine to the bing engine.

What the heck, it's your life, do what you want! Lol.

I use Bing because Google's Autosuggest is the most obnoxious thing the world has ever seen. When they changed the settings so you couldn't turn it off, I fell out of love with Google.

Which autosuggest is that? Are you using Chrome? or IE?

In Chrome you can stop it asking whether you want to translate a page or not if that's what you mean?

This one.

I use Firefox, and prefer to have Firefox remember my searches. I search for the same terms every day, so typing p and having Firefox suggest peak oil is very convenient. Google now overrides that, providing its own user suggestions, which is incredibly annoying. It blocks the screen with junk I don't want to see. You used to be able to turn it off, but now you can't. At least not easily.

Ah.. ok is that in the little igoogle box in firefox? I haven't used firefox for so long!

I much prefer Chrome as it's so much quicker and less invasive. The autosuggestion in Chrome works much like you want I think - it basically 'remembers' the pages/searches that you previously made and then, depending on how often you make them will repopulate the rest of the text.

So, for example if you often search for 'Peak Oil' as soon as you type 'p' in the url it will autocomplete Peak Oil and you can search it. But if you then start searching 'Peak Coal' with regularity, eventually it will change to 'Peak Coal' on the autocomplete, depending on which term you search more often.

Browser really doesn't matter with this issue. Google overrides it all. I wish they would just let you turn it off, like you could before.

Maybe I should give Chrome a try again. I tried it earlier, and it was so slow and buggy I removed it.

I like Firefox, though, because I've become dependent on the various extensions. Colorzilla, BBCodeXtra, Copy Plain Text, ImageZoom, etc. I don't think I could put a Drumbeat together without Firefox. I suppose Chrome must have its own add-ons now, but I'm so used to Firefox's at this point I would have a hard time switching.

Yeah, fair enough. Chrome still doesn't have the quantity of add-ons that Firefox has. If you use them regularly then perhaps better off staying put. Chrome is nice if you want a no-frills, quick browser.

Bookmark the first page of your search results and you can reinitiate the search any time. Also, the search box to the right of the address bar saves your own personal history and you can turn auto-suggest off in Manage search engines at the bottom of the search engine list.

Bookmark the first page of your search results and you can reinitiate the search any time.

That really isn't practical for me, because I search on dozens of different terms daily. Bookmarking them all would be a right pain.

Also, the search box to the right of the address bar saves your own personal history and you can turn auto-suggest off in Manage search engines at the bottom of the search engine list.

Weirdly, I don't mind having auto-suggest on there. The suggestions are so small it's not intrusive, and also, when I'm searching using that little box, I'm usually searching on a one-shot term where it's actually useful to know what others are searching for.

What bugs me is that it lands me Google's main page, where the autosuggest is huge and obnoxious, actually interfering with my use of the page.

I have bookmarked this no-autocomplete page, and would be so happy if someone would write an add-on so that I could have that as the Google option in the little box. Until then, I'm either using the hosts file trick to block Google's Autocomplete, or using Bing as the default search engine in the little box.

Former NRC Commissioner, Victor Gilinsky, on CNN now: "This is much worse than Three Mile Island....." He was Commissioner during TMI. My comment Friday was that this will make TMI look like a cake walk. These old guys don't sugar coat things much.

Gilinsky: "It was five years before we knew the extent of the damage at Three Mile Island."

URGENT: Spraying boracic acid eyed to prevent recriticality at No. 4 reactor

TOKYO, March 16, Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it is considering spraying boracic acid by helicopter to prevent spent nuclear fuel rods from reaching criticality again, restarting a chain reaction, at the troubled No. 4 reactor of its quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

''The possibility of recriticality is not zero,'' TEPCO said as it announced the envisaged step against a possible fall in water levels in a pool storing the rods that would leave them exposed.

Lots of smoke and/or steam coming from the plant right now in live footage. Looks like it is from Number 4 reactor building.

Constant stream of "white smoke" rising into sky above the plant. The NHK helicopter is filming it from 30km away.

CNN reporting fire at #4 is lubricating oil, not 'spent' fuel.

I think that's old news. This is current. TEPCO press conference right now. They are very worried it seems. Something started up about 45 mins ago.

Keep us posted; we're late to the party. Links??

Fox is suggesting that Tepco was lying about the fire. They said it had been put out earlier, now they're saying it never was.

They are also reporting that 70% of the fuel rods have melted down in one reactor, and 30% are gone in another.

These percentage were about what TEPCO reported IIRC. I'm not sure TEPCO said the fire was out - One statement I saw said "no flames could be soon (through hole in wall)". That got reported as "fire is out".

It's still not totally clear though if the smoke is rising from reactor 4 or 3.

1 Sievert per hour just reported at plant gates a short time ago.

That was mentioned in the press conference. I think the data was 1000 microsieverts (that's 1 Sievert) near Unit #3 and 1 microsievert at the plant gate. That was apparently a "spike" which has since declined. They did remove all the workers from the plant for a time...

E. Swanson

Cabinet Secretary just said he made a mistake and mixed up mili and micro. Hmmm....
Doesn't sound right as a level of 1 milisievert per hour wouldn't be an increase and wouldn't cause them to evacutate all workers from plant. I am sure he was right first time when he said 1000 milisievert per hour maybe not at gates though as you say.

Thanks, I heard that too and was about to change my post...

E. Swanson

Coming from reactor 3 being reported.

6.4 milisievert/hr now reported as peak at plant gates. No info given on level within plant. Thy are saying they "have to correct cabinet secretary"

Victor Gilinsky on CNN said that there's no way they know what's going on inside the reactors at this point. I'm not sure what monitoring they have in place (still intact) or how they make these determinations, but I agree with Gilinsky. If water levels in the storage pools have dropped, the shielding (water) is gone and the area is far too lethal. Time to abandon ship.

After TMI, it took about 8 years to get to the bottom of the damaged fuel rods to fully assess the impact. There was a brief mention of their findings which appeared in SCIENCE, 4 December 1987, p1342-1345. In this article, there were estimates that some 20 tons (40,000 pounds) of fuel had melted and fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessel, which still remained to be retrieved. The clean up wasn't finished until 1993...

E. Swanson

Before I retired I worked for an offshore service company that was on the cutting edge in developing ROVs for the oil industry. In the mid-80s we got a contract to design, build and operate a very small, very specialized, remote vehicle to go into the Three Mile Island reactor vessel to do an inspection.

I'm not sure if that was the basis of your Science article.

I was not able to go on the inspection, as much as I wanted to, but a couple of the operators worked for me and I talked to them after they got back to Morgan City.

They said it was a complete mess, they had a terrible time determining their location during the inspection. It took several days longer than planned because they couldn't figure out what they were looking at half the time.

By the way, the remote vehicle has to stay there basically forever due to the high radiation exposure.

Also it turns out that a lot of materials; like most plastics, some metals, etc, really do not like high doses of radiation. It causes changes in their molecular structure and they fail in various interesting and wonderful ways. Luckily some nuclear engineers were able to give us all the necessary guidelines before we screwed up.

A side note - at the time we were told it this was classified and it may still be - but no one need fear that radioactivity will wipe out life on earth. It may wipe out all higher life forms but life itself will flourish. Yeast really is smarter.

Criticality!!!! How can you have criticality from spent fuel rod? This should be much harder in a pool than in the reactor?

'Spent' fuel isn't really spent. With water as a moderator it will remain sub-critical. Without water it can melt and burn, even go critical.

That's backwards.

Water is the moderator, under normal operation, which slows down the fast neutrons to thermal levels, thus increasing their reactivity with uranium.

Control rods with a high boron (which absorbs neutrons) content are used to quench the reaction in the core (these were automatically inserted when the earthquake hit).

Spent fuel will not go critical.

Water is also the moderator in the spent fuel pools. Spent fuel can contain enough fissionable material to sustain a low level reaction, though,as you stated, the primary function of the water is cooling and shielding. They don't wait to change the fuel until it is 100% depleted.

Achieving a critical state is more than just having enough fissionable material around -- it has to be in the right configuration. I have no expertise in this, but I doubt they would store the fuel rods, spent or otherwise, in a configuration anything remotely similar to that in the core. And surrounding it with water brings you closer to criticality.

Unless they all just fell in a heap after..I guess..an explosion, earthquake, flood, fire...

I wonder if they are worried that adding water to reactor 4 building (and/or others) in large quantities could be the event that has a "non-zero" probability of triggering criticality?

I've also seen reported that there is 3 times as much fuel in reactor 4's pool as there is in others in addition to it containing fresh fuel.

There is non-spent fuel in the pool outside reactor 4 though. Said to be due to a "reactor shroud change"

So? They would not put it in there in any configuration such that it could go critical. Why would it then go critical if the water evaporates?

Presumably TEPCO know something we don't. Cabinet Secretary was asked about this statement at his press-conference. He replied that they were doing everything to make it a zero probability (implicitly confirming that it was a possibility).

So, the spent fuel in the storage ponds can go critical. My brain is struggling to absorb the reality of this.

Ever since I first learned about nuclear power in 5th grade, I've been told, "no, don't worry, there is NO WAY that a nuclear power plant can explode like a bomb. It's IMPOSSIBLE." Impossible. Whenever some "uneducated" citizen would raise this question, scientists and officials would roll their eyes, and explain once again to the poor, stupid citizens that a nuclear explosion at a power plant was IMPOSSIBLE. I learned to roll my eyes, too.

Pity, the scientists and engineers and officials forgot to tell us about--apparently even forgot to think intelligently about--the "spent" fuel, stored right up next to the nice reactor, but cleverly outside the cozy, impenetrable containment shell. The spent fuel which can, apparently, go critical, if a very inconvenient natural disaster should interrupt our ability to tend it. The spent fuel that the scientists and officials assure us they can keep absolutely safe, from any and all hazards, imagined and unimaginable, for 10,000 years, or 250,000 years, forever. Didn't quite make it, did they?

There's a difference between something going momentarily critical and the highly controlled "assembly" of a critical mass in an atomic weapon... in the weapon the mass is driven together allowing the product to go critical and stay critical past a certain threshold that would normally result in a much smaller explosion that would fling fragments of the nuclear material apart... I believe that's what would happen if the reactor fuel or stored fuel went critical - it would very quickly release enough energy to blow itself apart since there's no mechanism for holding the fuel there and allowing the chain reaction to continue...

That's my understanding of it anyways - something can go critical and have a chain reaction occurring but it will quickly end because there's no way to sustain it once the energy is liberated, resulting in disassembly of the fuel... so no there really isn't any way to get an atomic explosion, as in a weapon, from a power plant.

"Going critical" is not synonymous with "exploding like a bomb," if you're thinking of a big mushroom cloud. What you were told in fifth grade is correct. "There is NO WAY that a nuclear power plant can explode like a bomb" is not contradicted by "spent fuel in the storage ponds can go critical."

True, although some media outlets would have you believe otherwise with a lot of scaremongering along the lines of "Could explode will a force far greater than any fission bomb so far"

Pure baloney. If it wasn't... then Tsar Bomba anyone? Still feel safe in Tokyo?

NHK-World dropped the live news conference and went to recorded footage. Hopefully back at top of hour in a few mins


Limited translation at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/yokosonews

CNN has video now.

There was someone just on TV who was saying that the problems with #4 are in part caused by the fact that they had recently removed some of the spent fuel rods from that reactor, and those of course are the hottest which means that the water would have boiled off sooner. Reactors #5 and #6 weren't in this category, but eventually those pools will also have the same problem if they are unable to keep the pools topped off.

Part of the problem with #4 is that the roof is largely intact, so dumping water from the air doesn't help as much as it would have if the roof were blown off.

But in reality they need to get some robotic cameras of some sort in there so they can see what is going on inside, and so they can start to try and get ahead of this thing.

the problems with #4 are in part caused by the fact that they had recently removed some of the spent fuel rods from that reactor, and those of course are the hottest

ilex upthread says all the rods--including, if I'm understanding correctly, the still-active ("live," "unspent"--not sure what the term would be) ones--were taken out of #4 reactor when it went down for maintenance and put in the pool along with some spent fuel rods. I now remember reading something to that effect myself. So as you say, that means what's in the pool is hotter than it would be if it were just spent rods.

I don't think they know what started either of the two fires. As I recall, an explosion was heard--but not seen, apparently--just before the first fire broke out. I've been guessing that was a small hydrogen explosion that set some nearby flammable thing on fire (one of the Japanese officials said it was the oil on some machinery, which might explain why it went out so fast).

An official also said the second fire wasn't a new one, that the first one hadn't been put out completely.

Anyway, if there was a small hydrogen explosion, again my understanding is that it would have been a result of the rods in the pool having heated up as the water level fell and releasing the hydrogen. Does that make sense?

note that radiation into water will cause radiolysis - splitting water molecules.

I presume that in a normally operating plant, the hydrogen produced would be circulated out by the pool cooling system.

This wiki page
notes (unreferenced) that air above the pool must be "monitored and treated" due to radiolysis. There are hydrogen recombiners. Or they may just vent the hydrogen gas.

This pdf notes that when borated water is irradiated, an irreversible hydrogen generation reaction occurs.

interesting collection of papers
and micro power above.

NHK TV just said the pool temp was 84 (or 83, I was distracted) degrees C.

Hate to throw in more problems but I think there is a chance they may be storing more than just spent fuel in Unit 4.

(1) The spent fuel from x years of operation (I don't know how long they have to wet store the rods before they can transfer to dry storage).

(2) The fuel that was in the reactor vessel before they shut it down for maintenance and refueling, which will include a lot of fuel that has not be used up as they only replace a portion of the fuel each time.

(3) They may already have the new fuel on hand for the anticipated start-up.

All of this will be stored in various pools that are NOT inside a containment vessel. If they are exposed to air when the water boils away the radiation will be catastrophic.

If it burns, it will be bad. If the resulting slag goes critical, it could be another Chernobyl (only with more fuel). I have yet to hear anybody clearly state either way that melting fuel rods can go critical, or that they cannot. I have heard conjecture both ways.

Edit: I believe Joules says they cannot. He's generally a respectable source, so I'll take that as a strong indication that melting/burning rods is the worst it will get. But there is a godawful quantity of such rods there.

Surely somebody will come up with a way to knock of roofs if necessary to dump water in the pools?

But what is the protocol for the reactors themselves if they melt down? You'll have meters of concrete and steel on the top and a molten hole in the bottom. Not a great picture.

TEPCO says "The possibility of recriticality is not zero". I'll take their word for it.

Every hour - every minute - they can delay a complete meltdown increases the odds it won't melt through both the reactor and the containment structure (although the containment in Unit 2 is reportedly leaking or ruptured.

If it melts into a slag heap with concrete and steel the Russian solution seems best - thousands of yards of concrete and a plaque for the workers that will sacrifice their lives.

I can think of several ways to remove the roof but they all either subject workers to unacceptable radiation or risk damage to the spent fuel pools.

I see the possibility of remote controlled cement trucks in Japan's near future.

Why will new fuel be stored under water?

Why would the partially spent fuel, likely not placed in a "critical" condition during the shutdown, suddenly go critical upon removal of the surrounding water?

I'm way out of my depth here but I read somewhere (lost the reference) that the "new" fuel is stored in a pool. It could be that they meant the core assemble with mixed new and old fuel which I think still needs cooling water until it is replaced in the reactor vessel.

You are right it doesn't make sense to store new fuel in a pool.

My ignorance of the refueling process in gigantic. My understanding is they pull the entire core for refueling and have to store it in cooling water. If anyone knows the details please enlighten me.

I don't believe the spent fuel can go critical but if it is not sufficiently decayed it will burn or melt when removed from the water, or if the water boils away. This will release lots of "bad stuff" into the atmosphere.

I note that even in dry casks they expect temperatures of 90 to 140 deg C. Above boiling but not enough to melt anything. Seems like they wait over 19 months to move from spent fuel pool to casks.

Fox had Simon Winchester on. He's the guy who thinks the US is headed for trouble because we "don't have enough ruins." Older countries have learned the hard way not to build in certain places, but the US is too young a country. (They interviewed him a lot after Katrina.)

He's written a new book about the Cascadia fault. He says there's a growing belief among seismologists that earthquakes trigger other quakes. He said with big quakes in South America, Asia, and New Zealand, that leaves only North America locked up. He thinks Cascadia and/or San Andreas are going to give, and the result might be a monstrous tsunami. He claims the USGS believes there's a 60% chance it will happen in the next fifty years.

This is a very interesting paper in that it tries to unify the actions behind earthquakes and their aftershocks (called the Omori Law)
"Unified scaling law for earthquakes" http://www.pnas.org/content/99/suppl.1/2509.full

This likely has some connection to how large ones can trigger one another. When I hear the term self-organized criticality (SOC), I always think of this connection before I give it any deeper meaning.

Another tidbit in that paper is they say that it is very difficult to detect very small earthquakes (magnitude < 2). I find that hard to believe because these get reported in places without a lot of major seismic activity.

BTW, Winchester only provided an intro for that book.

10 mintute old story from Nikkei News. Lists today's activity about Noon in Tokyo
Industrial safety agency by white smoke, steam or 3rd 1 Fukushima nuclear power from the unit.

March 16, 2011 at 10: 22 (March 16, 2011 11: 05 am update)Japan economic newspapers electronic version

White smoke from the No. 3 nuclear power plant security in the hospital or the first steam Hukushima
2011/3/16 10:22 (updated 2011/3/16 11:05) and No. 4 nuclear power plant damaged by an earthquake of large Toukyoudenryoku Hukushima East electronic edition Nikkei news, early 16th The second fire was but temporary. Ordered the night of 15 to No. 4 on TEPCO injection rapidly Reactor Regulation Law Minister of Economy, Wall 海江田. Unit 4 has a high radiation dose, the state workers away from the scene. TEPCO is considering entering the water and coolant is sprayed from the air. Around 10:30 am on February 16, NISA has confirmed that the Ministry of Economy, white smoke is rising from No. 3. White smoke and steam can be seen. The first nuclear power plant in Fukushima has remained tense.
TEPCO "has to consider boric acid sprayed by helicopter," announced (16 am)
The second fire 5:45 am TEPCO was carrying 16 employees in the central control room of Unit 4 batteries and found that there have been fire from the vicinity of the northwestern part of the building. 30 minutes later it was confirmed that the fire is invisible.
4 Unit building was damaged by the explosion of hydrogen was 15 am. Northwest side between 4 and 5 floors from the roof, a large hole 2 Tatsu Ai 8 square meters. High radiation levels around the building, which workers remained away.
TEPCO announced that it is considering aerial spraying with helicopters boric acid. Boric acid can be expected to prevent the Second Coming occur in industry chain fission reaction. JCO nuclear fuel processing company occurred in 1999 (JCO) Tokai Works (Ibaraki Prefecture, Tokai-mura) was also used in the criticality accident took place.
According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Ministry of Economy, No. 4, after the water temperature soared to near 84 degrees Celsius and the boiling point, it has not changed as well. As the water evaporates because of the state near the boiling point, possibly exposing the fuel rods would be down the pool water.
With the fuel rods are exposed state and radiation is emitted into the atmosphere. If it comes to things that are damaged by fire fuel rods, the reaction proceeds further by including the nuclear reaction products emitted from the fuel rods is also conceivable that the large amount of radiation that comes from.
The damaged part of the containment pressure suppression chamber and a hydrogen explosion and the building has been going on for Unit 1, 2, irrigation work. However, the extent to which you are recovering water level in the pressure vessel has not been verified, the situation continues to be unpredictable.

3号機から白煙、水蒸気か 福島第1原発で保安院
2011/3/16 10:22 (2011/3/16 11:05更新) ニュースソース 日本経済新聞 電子版  東日本巨大地震で被害を受けた東京電力福島第1原子力発電所4号機で、16日早朝、一時的だが2回目の火災があった。15日夜には海江田万里経済産業相が原子炉等規制法に基づき東電に4号機に速やかに注水するよう命じた。4号機は放射線量が高く、現場に作業員が近づけない状態。東電は空中から水や冷却材を散布する検討に入った。16日午前10時半ごろには3号機から白煙があがっていることを経済産業省原子力安全・保安院が確認した。白煙は水蒸気とみられる。福島第1原発では緊迫した状態が続いている。


Edit: Better translation. Google if nick asks.

EDit2: Nastrodamus must write code for Google. I pray. Boric acid can be expected to prevent the Second Coming occur in industry chain fission reaction.

I am so glad that I'm not drinking while trying to read that... or maybe I was...

I just want to know the characters for "Second Coming" and why that was chosen. I want someone fluent to crack my Rosetta Stone. Eastern philosophy, one word means all. Ah so, catson?

Edit: Comma in western position.

I just want to know the characters for "Second Coming" and why that was chosen.

I'll bet you a buck it means "meltdown." WAG.

Had the United States Japanese scholars understood or expressed the definition of the word mokusatsu a little better, maybe Little Boy and Fat Man stay in the hangar.

In an attempt to manage public perception, Prime Minister Suzuki met with the press, and stated:

I consider the Joint Proclamation a rehash of the Declaration at the Cairo Conference. As for the Government, it does not attach any important value to it at all. The only thing to do is just kill it with silence (mokusatsu). We will do nothing but press on to the bitter end to bring about a successful completion of the war.

One word matters over there.

Fox reports that all workers have been evacuated. It's become too dangerous for anyone to stay.

Listening to an expert on a local talk radio show and he is saying this is the worst possible news. Probably indicates they have totally given up and are going to let the thing melt down.

It sounds like this was forced on them, by a sudden spike in radiation. It simply became too dangerous to stay.

At 11:42 PM EST, Reuters reports:

Japan nuclear agency: Evacuation order of plant workers lifted at 0230 GMT after radiation falls

A little earlier, the NYTimes The Lede blog reported:

The Times’s Hiroko Tabuchi reports that a small group of workers remains at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, contrary to what an English translation of the chief cabinet secretary’s remarks had implied.

I posted Friday that this isn't something you can just walk (run) away from. I guess I was wrong. Let'er burn! Jeez....

Spies like us. Akroyd and Chase tackle each other running away after they launch an SS-25 at the US. Not cool, I think we are headed for used rod meltdown. Lets us pray.

If they are abandoning their efforts to keep these piles cool, meltdown is eminent, IMO. Cores in 3 reactors, not sure about stored 'spent' fuel in the pools. Reports are that there is far more material in storage. The rub: it all wants to be free.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Folks, if this PDF of a Tokyo Electric Power Company presentation from Nov 2010 is real then I think we have bigger concerns than we knew. http://www.nirs.org/reactorwatch/accidents/6-1_powerpoint.pdf

Some highlights:

-- Approximately 700 spent fuel rods are generated at Fukushima-Daiichi each year
-- 6,291 fuel assemblies in the common pool
-- 3,450 fuel assemblies in the pool at each reactor

This seems like an awful lot of nuclear material.


Any plutonium or just u-235 and fission leftovers?

Someone in another forum said they thought MOX had been introduced in September 2010, so perhaps not. But that is hearsay, take it with a grain of salt.

This is an interesting article:


I don't know the guy's credentials, but the story matches up with that of an "expert" on Rachel Maddow's show:


Here is a report on spent pool fires by the NRC. Supposedly it was released to the public in 2000 then removed from the public domain after 9/11 due to national security concerns:



The fly in the ointment for the firedoglake article is that it appears the fire was oil/lubricant elsewhere, and they let it burn out, only to have it flare up again.
Otherwise, they're right about what will (eventually, without cooling) happen.

The Maddow video is pretty good, very good for the press.

Thanks for the rogerwitherspoon link - interesting paper

(for a boiling water reactor's fuel in the spent fuel storage pool)

The time to heatup and boiloff down to 3 feet above top of fuel, per table 2.1 (page 2-1) after 60 days of decay time (the lowest the table goes), is 145 hours (>6 days). Did their "shroud replacement" start less than 60 days ago? If so, heatup then boiloff is faster.

I wonder if seiche had splashed out any of the water in the pool, getting a head start on boiloff.
Check out this video of a seiche in a mere 7.2 quake (the Japanese quake was ~100x more power).

Or shaken any fuel assemblies, perhaps physically damaging them (releasing fission products).
Probably won't move them into criticality, since they should be in racks (see the Maddow video - good shots of a storage pool).

Fig 2.1 on page 2-3 has a graph of the heatup time to release of radionuclides.
It's only about 3 hours to release of radionuclides when the spent fuel (in the case where it's very hot from a recent shutdown) is uncovered.
The assumption was heating from 30 deg. C to 900 deg. C, which causes cladding rupture.

But even after 4 years of proper/cooled storage, the heatup time is only 40 hours.

No mention of hydrogen from radiolysis.

Hmmm - given that there is NO fuel in reactor #4, what caused the explosion?
Any hydrogen would have HAD TO COME from the rods in the storage pool.
What else could be around? If there are quantities of solvent - or diesel spread by the tsunami - in there, the warm building could vaporize these hydrocarbons, leading to the explosion. Maybe this is more likely, the explosion was low and apparently stronger, compared to the hydrogen explosions in #1 and #3. Or, it generated more hydrogen to completely fill the building before it exploded.

As her guest (Frank von Hippel) notes - a meltdown is not needed to release lots of radionuclides, only cladding rupture - since the boiling points of most of the nasties is fairly low.
The full video is at:

The seiche idea is interesting. If there is no pumped circulation would there be sufficient convection circulation from the heat? Might steam bubbles form and cause local excess heat or maybe geysering? Interesting comment about the hydrogen coming from the pools, That would solve peoples problems about wondering why there was venting into the roof. Perhaps they have worried too much about the reactor core and ignored the ponds for too long?


Unit 3 was reportedly fueled with MOX in 2005(?) which contains a small percentage of Plutonium.

I don't know what the composition of spent MOX fuel would be and how much Plutonium is left but I wager it is more than zero and it would seem logical that some would still be in the spent fuel pools.

Another downer - If this really goes bad and the wind is along the coast the Daini facility is only 10 km away and what if they had to abandon that facility and its 4 reactors and spent fuel pools due to radiation from Daiichi. A couple days ago they were having their own problems.

Think I need another drink.

230,000 times as toxic to man? Make it a double.

Thanks. This is a really good report and disturbing. Confirms reports that unprotected fuel assemblies are stored at reactors. Does anyone know where the Common Spent Fuel Storage Pool is (p 10)? The individual reactor pools are bad enough.

Looks like they were trying to do the right thing (unlike U.S.) in that they have a detailed plan for moving spent fuel out of the reactor areas to be reprocessed. Unfortunately not until 2012, hence the onsite storage. As mentioned, I believe this is way ahead of what we have in the U.S. now that Yucca Mountain is off limits, and no plans have been put forward. The detailed specs for the dry cask storage indicate the kind of care and structures necessary to safely contain this stuff. As I write this in Illinois, a good part of my electricity comes from nuclear plants with spent rods stored next to them - the rest is from coal.

The Japanese people need our good wishes, prayers, karma or whatever your flavor of sympathy is.

Just like Katrina survivors, the Japanese are starting to get mad and feel like their government let them down. Of course, they will also internalize their emotions. Best thing I suggest is offer maximum goods and services. I also ask we all sympathize for their current mess of their own creation. There but the grace of the stress on a fault line go us. We went to Japan in the 19th century and opened it up. We owe them much and they owe us. We are family now.

Confirming anticipated fuel rationing. Good luck all.

East Japan earthquake: Iwate Prefecture emergency refueling limit full tank vehicles only
To meet a severe gasoline shortage, Iwate Prefecture began refueling limited, the only emergency vehicles such as police and fire departments, and in-kind shipping can be refueling fill it up. General car's less than 10 liters each. Pref. oil commercial cooperatives through each petrol station asked to.
OPS pair already had vehicles less than 10 liters of self-regulation. However, it was seen also to vehicles, such as carrying necessities to families stricken to fuelling beyond 10 liters. Damaging detrimental to the operation of emergency vehicles for the province is further refueling limit is necessary and determined. [Keiichi Yamaguchi]


Edit: Been navigating the Japanese Communist news site. Best detail yet. Of course I told everyone it was commie, you were warned.

The worst nuclear accident
To control all power concentration
East Japan earthquake badly damaged Tokyo power Fukushima 1st 1 believed to be nuclear power station in the cooling system that follow broken building also explosion did, Eva, (even on a building in explosion, fire happening high level radioactive material outside the leaked critical situation has occurred. Potential damage of the containment vessel is trapped radioactive nuclear fuel in the reactor core is empty bathtub even no. and became clear.
Is a serious situation, crosses, leaking radioactive material at once outside concern about widespread radioactive contamination. Government stands at the top, concentrated all power, and should prevent the situation further....


In Japan, the Communists try to get the satellite photos released? I told you they were a different bunch. Assuming I read it properly. Original on link. Good luck

Yoshii lawmakers are looking to expose are getting damaged by earthquake disaster area after an earthquake, Cabinet Secretary for stated purpose to respond to large-scale disasters information gathering satellite images to local governments, relief agencies, researchers, etc. But Cabinet Secretary is likely to appear is published with a threat to national security, such as refused to. "Safety" and is explained and terrorist organizations, such as.
Yoshii legislator "of high-performance satellites using a large amount of tax. Images do not open to the public it is not acceptable "and has criticized the response.


Here are some photos of Units #3 and #4:



Date and time is not known, but things look much worse than that after #1 blew. Looks to me like the blast from #3 damaged #4, judging from the fact that the top wall of #4 is leaning away from #3. Damage to #3 looks to have extended below the top of the reactor containment and might include damage to the fuel storage pool..

E. Swanson

Surveys Sunday afternoon: minutes-minutes to from the heart of this nuclear power plant Northwest of km 114 highway in conducted. So far examined by two observer places モニタリングカー in exterior h microsievert 330-240, car h microsievert 300-195 confirmed.

300 micro Sieverts from a car? How much does the exterior shell parts of a car block the radiation? Gamma rays then no? How much of gamma, beta and alpha are we talking. I forgot all that stuff. Are we just worried about the gamma now?

I think the form of radiation is dependent on the radioisotopes present... A car definitely wouldn't block gamma and probably not beta; alpha may be more of a concern with an explosion since it's more of a true particulate (I think it is essentially a helium nucleus). Gamma, if present, is definitely the most troubling since it's able to penetrate most any practical shielding...

Is there a sample compostion or a link to something. I honestly have been looking. I know it could vary due to many factors but do we have even an idea of a rough scale.

Gamma is energy.
Beta is an electron
alpha is a helium nucleus (2p 2n)

Alpha are weak and would not penetrate at all.

Gamma are bad news. Of course any of these are in the air and can come in via the air handling system of the car.

As Gandalf says, "fly, you fools"

get out of dodge.

Am I reading right? In addition to iodine pills certain antibiotics may reduce the chance of infection in the GI tract if administered after exposure?


IDK. Seems like you should be careful which bacterial you kill.

I might dig a fallout shelter this weekend ;-) (Just Kidding) Maybe a root cellar / falllout shelter.

But all this nuclear stuff is creeping me out. I was somewhat centrist on nuclear. Now I feel betrayed. Maybe I come back around after I forget about Fukushima. Humans are dumb that way.

But I worry about all these plants being too close together to keep them under control with large plumes of airborne radiation.

Very bad times. No end in site.

Seems like you should be careful which bacterial you kill.

Indeed. You could make things worse with the wrong antibiotic.

And that Wikipedia page you cite is talking about antibiotics after infection occurs, not as a preventative. The main Wikipedia page on radiation poisoning has a section on prevention, but the only medication it mentions is potassium iodide, nothing about antibiotics.

TFHG, you're interested in this for the folks in Japan you've been talking to, not for yourself here in the U.S., right?

Both. Does the US need to fly them some? We don't need it. If we do, other Bible type problems first right?

I do not need any meds. I hate meds actually. LOL.

I hack it out the old fashioned way.

My guess is that the antibiotic (along with other supportive therapy) relates to treatment of a near lethal dose, not to concern about lower doses, say below 0.1 Sievert.

--Beginning in the 50's. many considered whether or not it would be possible to survive a major nuclear war. A few individuals and governments built bomb shelters. Fortunately this question was never put to a test. One joke (or was it serious) that made the rounds somewhat later was to carry a shovel and water in the trunk of your car. If you were out in the country when the exchange occurred you quickly dig a small foxhole and park your car over the hole. The car would give separation from the fallout while you waited for decay of the short lived isotopes. I didn't carry a shovel but I can imagine circumstances that would have prompted me to crawl under a car or better yet, into a culvert.

Two reasons I have. Enemy and tornado.

I began doing some digging in my tiny yard. Mainly retaining wall construction for my mini veggie patch -- I am not impressed by my human skills to move dirt.

Now I have great doubts about the scene in Indiana Jones where they dig down to the ark with shovels so quickly.

Seems it would take me weeks to dig my own little fallout/root shelter (please know I am just joshing around).

So I imagine that fox hole would be smallish, but you never know.

If the ground is soft, maybe you do ok. Too wet and you are slogging some heavy mud. Too dry and you feel the ring each time the shovel strikes the ground. lol

I like the manual digging though. Real gritty work -- beats making exam questions and writing my grants ;-)

In a desert urban/open combat enviroment, movement in open terrain protected by dunes or structures is preferred to 'holing up'. You always have more options.

Edit: And enemy can make you dig like John Henry.

Gamma is energy

and Clapton is God.

Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation, of higher frequency than x-rays.

They don't need to come in through the air handling system of the car. Unless it is made of rather thick lead sheet.

"Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!"

LOL. Gammas are nasties.

I used 86-Rb and that is a hard gamma -- goes through 3" lead pigs.

Lots of energy though (very little mass) lol.

So is the MP-7's 4.6x30mm round. Still, it eats Kevlar like butter and you would be toast.

Yeah I am not too big. So when I played ball, I used to swing the bat as fast as I could to hit it far.

The big kids could swing slow and steady.

1/2 m v^2

so the velocity is more important eh?

Well velocity and the 'Devistator' jacketed round. But yes, it was designed to defeat Kevlar and to be able to carry more ammo. It leaves a nasty little wound. A 10 year old can control the weapon in fully auto, though shame on me for the image.
Edit: It will penetrate 9mm of mild steel at 50 yards.

Interesting idea with a bullet. I read though that the tissue damage is not as significant.

Less recoil. Higher energy. Definite advantages.

Is it easier to aim?

Seems there is a trade off, since the bullet can only go so fast. 5000 to 7000 fps I just googled ;-)

So to get more energy after that you need to beef it up with tungsten or depleted uranium so the bullet is dense allowing less air resistance. That is your beefier cousin -- armor piercing rounds.

Unfortunately, H&K has that covered too. The law enforcement version has better energy transfer. 2 g Action Law Enforcement 4.6x30mm penetration in 20% gelatine: bare at 25 m: < 30 cm.

That is actually a pretty good analog to Gamma radiation vs. other radiation.

Alpha would be a .50 pistol hollowpoint. Not making it through much armor, but doing massive damage if it does.

3" of lead should reduce gamma radiation exposure by ~95%. This doesn't stop it completely, obviously, but it can make it safe to work someplace for hours where otherwise you wouldn't be able to go there at all.

I also used radium needles during the 60's. If memory serves it is true that some of the 800 KEV gamma would pass through a lead brick, but most would be attenuated. We kept the needles behind lead bricks in a locked safe in a separate room. to take advantage of the inverse square law. I was not fond of using a needle holder to handle the radium.

All medical nuke is now electron gun based, no?

TinFoilHatGuy --I changed from general radiology to diagnostic imaging a long time ago. I retired completely a decade ago . Have never had cancer or any other reason to keep up with current therapy. I suspect that the answer to your question is most, but not all??

86-Rb is an analog of potassium so you use it to trace metal ion flows in cells.

The concentrated solution can keep the counter ticking away through lead 3" think, but the energy I am not sure of. I only watched the counter and "worked quickly" when I open the vial lol

The other isotopes are so wimpy. 35-S or 32-P which cannot make it through a 1/2" thick plexiglass sheet.

So the 86Rb was not looked upon fondly by my lab mates when we had to get it out.

it is true that we are so afraid of radioactivity -- maybe because it is invisible -- maybe the whole cold war thing. Dont know.

These days we use lots of X-rays which are far worse -- but the sources are heavily shielded so not too much to worry about ;-)

Forgot about the internal stuff like I-123 (?) treatment for Grave's. Is I-131 the fallout iodine? The lab stuff is potassium iodide right, what is the nuclear fallout compound?

Yes, potassium iodide would be good to have (USP Grade). I am not sure how much you would take though. Be careful not to poison yourself if you are advising them.

I think many iodine isotopes are made when fission occurs but only a few are longer lived. Check wikipedia on iodine isotopes.


So 131-I looks like the one to worry about in fallout, yes. 8 days is the half life and it can kill or damage cells if concentrated enough.

They know what to take and I do not ever give such advice, thanks for the warning. Family is all MD's and the Japanese government is good on such things too. I was referring to lab prep of the radioactive isotope. That is the I-123 that kills your thyroid then for the Grave's Disease treatment, no?

Are those crystals of pure radium. What were you doing with them?

I ate eggs covered in Tc-99 for a medical study.

Car would block alpha and beta and a very little very low energy gamma. It would not stop radionuclides being drawn inside with the air.


My point there was that a radionuclide could come in via air system and then emit a hard gamma.

So gamma can get in that way indirectly via the air system.

That's where HEPA filters came from;)


Sadly reporting anticipated pestulence. May the world render all possible aid in all possible haste.

Kamaishi shelter, injure and infectious diseases spreading
Announced of Iwate Kamaishi-shi Higashi Japan giant earthquake disaster countermeasures headquarters, 16, in city shelters is one flu, eight different infection symptoms have come up with.
Is calling for measures such as the headquarters takes more water.
And insufficient food and medical supplies in the prolonged evacuation, exhausted residents fitness comes in fear of spreading the infection.


Edit: Why do I keep hearing Gilbert Godfrey in the background on Comedy Central. Second time tonight. Didn't AFLAC just fire him for bad choice of jokes? What is going on?

CNN: Workers have returned to the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant after an evacuation order was lifted, Tokyo Electric Power Company said. [No story or link yet.]

Reported. Thanks.

All those remaining were pulled out for almost an hour on Wednesday because radiation levels were too high, but they were later allowed to return.


Trace amounts of radioactivity in the city water supply? I hope not.

From Fukushima city water radioactive materials... About half of the reference value
Fukushima nuclear power plant
According to Fukushima Prefecture, from Fukushima city water was detected radioactive materials.
About half of detected radioactive materials! Does not affect the health drink.
(2011-03-16 16: 18 The Yomiuri Shimbun)


Worker testimony of initial earthquakes. Worth posting both languages on this one. They only had one Gieger Counter for all those people. Imagine that.

Unusual piping, the water is dangerous! Fear of nuclear workers testified ...
Primary Hukushima
Misaligned pipe rolling high ceiling has a lot of water leak -.

Great earthquake occurred 11 East, in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station TEPCO, the testimony of male workers in the building had been running No. 1, revealed the first look inside the building was severely damaged.
This crew worked for the company and undertake the development of nuclear power. Are often the last summer working in the primary, there were 11 earthquakes, the building of Unit 1 was operating in areas without protective clothing should be worn without fear of radioactive contamination, co-workers electronics were working relationship with several people.
"Can not stand the strong shaking. It was like being pushed around sideways." 46 minutes of the earthquake at 2:00 pm. I heard the sound clash violently with Gachangachan cranes and lighting equipment is working on the floor. "I had a gut feeling this is not normal swing"
Off electricity in the building, emergency lights switched on. "Do not return to the spot," I heard indicated that violent shaking shift in the seams of metal piping in the ceiling had been laid, water has flowed swiftly. "It might be dangerous Wed. Flee." At the same time someone says, descended the stairs toward the exit with my colleagues on the ground floor there.
If you find a leak in a building, the rule is to always reported without touching by hand. But this time is continuing aftershocks from the fear of water may be contaminated with radiation, with the reactor at this rate, in the wind up being trapped here, stronger more fear.
The first floor was crowded with workers. To go outside is changing clothes work, but must receive the check amount nuked exposure, only one instrument to measure. Can narrow hallway was a long line.
Severe aftershocks continue even afterwards, "Hurry up" is raised here and there and roar. Although exposure was not "seen on TV footage of the building after the hydrogen explosion at Unit 1. Paralyzed legs and still think there could have been trapped." (Shadow of Naoko)
(Yomiuri Shimbun 14 hours 37 minutes 16 March 2011)


(2011年3月16日14時37分 読売新聞)


Is the translation indicating that Fukushima 1, reactor 1 was damaged directly by the earthquake causing lights and cranes to fall to the floor?

I think it says that something happened 45 mins after the quake. Lights were on up to that point - then something else hit which didn't feel like a quake (the tsunami). At this point the lights went out.

The machine translation screwed it up. It says the earthquake start a 2:46 pm. That's when he heard the cranes crash.

Ok, so he gives no indication of the time interval from that to "water has flowed swiftly" or was that a warning of tsunami rather than actual event?

I believe the water flowing swiftly was from a leak in a pipe not from a tsunami. And it all seems to have happened in a very short period of time.

I wonder if this is a pointer to the cooling issues? Damaged piping letting the cooling water run out.


I'm going to ask you to refrain from posting Japanese text. Link to it instead. I would guess most people here can't read it. Heck, if you don't have the character set installed, you can't even see it.

It will truncate it per your request next time. I just wanted any fluent folks to have the original. My bad.

Please do link to the original. I appreciate it.

I think the worker is saying the following:

He was working in an area of Fukushima 1, reactor 1 that does not require clothing to protect from radiation. At 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011, the large earthquake began shaking him sideways violently. He heard lamps and a crane crash to the floor in another part of the building. The main electrical power failed, and the emergency lights turned on. The violent shaking had broke the joints of pipes located in the ceiling causing water to gush (not leak) out. Someone shouted, "Stay away from the water. It might be dangerous (radioactive). Flee." Simultaneously someone else says to go down the stairs to the first floor and join the other workers. If you find a leak in a nuclear reactor building, the rule is always to report it and never touch it with your hand. Most of the time a leak is harmless, so the workers have no fear of them. But this time, everyone is really worried that the leaks are radioactive. With the aftershocks (maybe, possibility of aftershocks), people are also worried they may be trapped in the reactor building heightening the fear.

When he got down to the first floor, there was a large crowd of workers waiting anxiously to get outside. They were not allowed to go outside until they changed their clothes and were checked for exposure to radiation. Because there was only one instrument to perform the check, the process was very slow. I was waiting a long time in a narrow hallway to get out. Severe aftershocks (5th and 6th magnitude probably) occurred while waiting prompting several workers to yell, "Hurry up!"

Despite no released radiation being detected after the hydrogen explosion in reactor 1, workers were worried that some workers may have been been trapped in the rubble unable to flee.

Edit at 10:26 pm EST: A better translation: Terror at N-plant during quake

New transmission line construction to the recovery of the reactor cooling system

Aimed at recovery, while embarked on the establishment of a new transmission line Tokyo electric power company is Fukushima first nuclear power plant in from external power to provide a cool down nuclear reactor emergency core cooling system (ECCS).
Crisis and remain successful, fuel rods are exposed-Eva meltdown be avoided.
Emergency diesel generator etc. to operate in this nuclear power plant, a power outage by earthquakes, as well broken in, such as the effects of the tsunami.
Tokyo electric power company is a system of people from employees, fire pump with a power car continues to seawater injection into the furnace, but small capacity pumps had been rough going. You can lead a "stop absorption‑type cold/warm" State of, such as storing vessel cooling spray, high pressure reactor core spray effectively cool the reactor in high voltage external power supplies to ensure that the operation becomes possible.
(2011-03-16 14: 31 The Yomiuri Shimbun)


They should have begun restoring the power grid connection as soon as the severity of the situation became evident. They either downplayed the hazard in favor of the actual visible, emotionally striking effects of the natural disaster, or perhaps the location was inaccessible. BTW that doesn't really matter now.
How long would it take from now to make it operational? Does it solve any of their problems as the plant is practically destroyed now?
Of course, even if it helps only at one unit, it well worth the effort. Hope they're not already too late...

Someone dies because some accountant did not approve generators that I saw stacked 5 deep during the Jimmy Buffett concert here in Gulf Shores. You mean am I mad about that? That they only had one Geiger Counter on hand when the quake struck? Lets me use the Arts world to answer your question.
Warning strong language. I Am A Mushroom Cloud Laying Son Of An Immigrant Mother over this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAmwnD-Sv3c
Edit: In fact, Samuel L. Jackson needs to be the head of the investigation committee. I bet the IAEA gets further then.

I don't think it says they only had one geiger counter. It says they had to pass through a specialised contamination checkpoint (and clothes change) to get from one area to another of the plant which would have fixed detection equipment. There was a bottleneck at this one point. I am sure they would have also had held counters but they would be following protocol.

I am glad you cleared that up. I sure would have been sore.

It literally says there was only one geiger counter. But I think he means only one at that particular checkpoint which was a bottleneck. I'm sure there were other geiger counters at the plant.

Edit: actually it says only 1 measurement device. I'm not sure if that is a geiger counter or not.

Thanks for the translations/explanations. They're a big help.

I'm assuming "measurement device" meant part of a fixed installation. Maybe, amongst other measures, involving air being blown over subject into detectors and then measured. I would assume they had some sort of set-up like that but I could be completely wrong I admit.

You admit you might be wrong and I am the Creole/Korean navigating on Japanese Websites using Bing translate? Be careful, they might hire us to design the next one. Thing is, I would so overengineer it, that the cost overruns would end up breaking the US Treasury. The designs would post here for a year.

Please scroll up and see if you can decipher the intent in the choice of the characters machine translated as 'second coming'. Is that criticality or what? It is mokusatsu all over again. I just have a friend that thinks it is insignificant. I think it just might mean someting;)

Yes, it means re-criticality here.

Second Coming?

"People think if you put honest numbers into a computer, you'll get honest numbers out. So did I until I met a computer with a sense of humor" Manuel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

First mention of neutron radiation?

Neutron beam is detected in the days after hydrogen explosion this nuclear power plant unit had become again an undetectable level.
During nuclear fission neutron beam is coming out, but cause of discovery is unknown.


Edit: First mention of 5 and 6? 0956: Water is being poured into Reactors Five and Six at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Reuters reports, quoting the operating company.

As the wind shifts away from Tokyo/Hino, radiation counts drop back towards normal background levels (in the metropolis).

Sounds like things are really getting ugly inside, this happened last night:

As radiation levels rose, the lone 50 workers charged with cooling efforts were temporarily relocated. Hundreds of other workers had been evacuated Tuesday because conditions were deemed so dangerous.

Within an hour, though, the radiation levels dropped again, and the small group was permitted to return. In order for them to resume trying to cool the damaged sectors, Japan’s Health and Welfare minister had to waive the nation’s standard of radiation exposure, increasing the level of acceptable exposure from 100 millisieverts to 250--five times the level allowed in the United States.