Japan/Fukushima Open Thread Wed 3/30

From the hit anti-nuclear song 'Americium':

It's gamma rays will fall upon / the decaying fragments of the concrete walls / and the vines that try to grow upon / what remains of what we were / What can you do? / Americium

Rock on, industrial civilization!

Thanks for all this TOD. Not sure there is any other place where the information is coming together like this in public view. Thanks.

I think it is a poor decision for TOD to have Japan/Fukushima discussion in both a separate Japan/Fukushima thread and in Drumbeat.

well sometimes people make poor decisions. Comes with being human.

The thinking is that we have a great deal of nuclear savvy readers (and those with wide boundary insight) and discussion on this issue might get disrupted by Libya, finance, Syria, etc. in the Drumbeat.

Are diaries possible on this blog? Any interest?

I would like to thank everyone who works to bring us TOD for all their time and effort. I have been able to gain insight here that would probably have been impossible to gather without TOD. I prefer the separate threads because disasters tend to drown out commentary on other significant events by the way.

I am sorry. The crowd gripped by Fuku posts 500+ posts on a day. We are like nuclear waste, pouring over. We need a place to be. Sorry.
Dont bury us in deep repository please.

Latest update from JAIF:



In the 2nd pdf, JAIF states they believe low pressure in Reactors 2 and 3 are from leaking pipes/joints, not from any direct holes in the pressure vessels.

So my understanding is that no one (or robot or whatever) has actually located these "holes" or cracks or whatever they think is there? My point being that up to this point, its all just a guessing game on what really is wrong in regards to these breached reactors?

There was a story last Friday about there being a large vertical crack in one of the reactor vessels (the one with Pu in it), and I don't see much discussion about that any more.

They all have pu in them. one have mox fuel in it.

The vertical cracks or reactors all have pu? I say both;) Could not stop myself, sorry.

I looked thru the reactor status table you provided and couldn't find the following information that the IAEA.org has been reporting, specifically the temperature at the bottom of the RPVs (Reactor Pressure Vessel).

The indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV of Unit 1 has decreased from 323 °C to 281 °C and at the bottom of RPV remained stable at 134 °C. There is a corresponding decrease in Drywell pressure. At Unit 2 the indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV has increased from 154 °C to 177 °C and at the bottom of RPV has increased from 78 °C to 88 °C. Indicated Drywell pressure remains at atmospheric pressure. For Unit 3 the indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV is about 75 °C and at the bottom of RPV is about 116 °C. The validity of the RPV temperature measurement at the feed water nozzle is still under investigation.

This is from Mar 30.

If this be true, wouldn't it indicate that any melt of the reactor cores has not progressed as far as the temperature sensors?

I don't think anything with a camera or eyeball has actually "seen" the exterior of the reactor pressure vessels since the earthquake. The sensors aren't working and the void around the vessels themselves is highly radioactive now. I've not seen any reports saying robots are on the site yet.

Everyone's working off of other data; the presence of radiated water, low pressures in the vessels, etc, and are coming up with explanations as to what is causing these things to happen. The media tends to report people's opinions as hard facts, when no one really knows what the pressure vessel conditions are right now. I've seen both TEPCO and JAIA officials give different explanations as to why there's radiated water everywhere; leaking pipes, leaking pressure vessels, even leaking secondary containment structures. I don't think anyone knows for sure right now if they've got holes in them or not.

This may be a stupid question.

Can robots (those that have been made) be fully functional in a radioactive environment?

If an electromagnetic pulse can wipe out entire grids, would it be possible that radioactivity hamper radio communications, or any other part of a robot's systems?

It's not a stupid question at all. I wish I could give you a more authoritative answer but I'll tell you what I do know (B. of electrical engineering; lower-middle-aged sci-tech geek).

First, EMP and exposure to radioactivity are two different phenomena; radioactivity isn't going to induce "bulk" electric currents in the same way that EMP can. If radiation is strong enough to ionize air, it can generate EM noise that may affect radio communications, perhaps in ways that mimic elevated signal-to-noise circumstances of the sort that mere distance or a weak transmitter might cause. I don't think that the worst possible radiation flux at F.D.-I. is at the magnitude of what would ionize air [NOTE: if not, what would? Google "Slotin criticality accident"]

CPUs and RAM chips may indeed be affected; various CPUs and RAM ICs have "rad-hard" counterparts that can be obtained at highly elevated prices and the last I'd read on the subject, there were still rad-hard i486es being produced. My uncorroborated speculation is that ordinary CCD cameras may have a difficult time operating properly.

The robots twitch and go blind.
They can be sacrificed to important missions.
Radiation hardening adds cost.
Radiation hardened circuits often have less capability.

The radiation can add "snow" to the image.
Over time, it can damage the camera.
Video of radiation effects/damage:

The radiation can flip bits, change data, in digital circuits.
This means unwanted commands and erroneous readings from sensors.
If the circuits are for controlling motion, then coordination is lost.
Electronics designed to function in this are called "Rad Hard":

The minute dimensions of modern electronic integrated circuits
make them sensitive. They make mistakes when radiation,
even that coming FROM THEIR OWN PACKAGING, hits them.

If the radiation hits the right place in the right kind of
integrated circuit, "Parasitic SCRs", unwanted components
that arise by default in the implementation of the circuitry,
turn on and overheat, possibly destroy, the circuit:

At high levels of radiation, radio circuits cam jam and be destroyed:

Now, what is available in a rad-hard robot? I don't know.
2 "Packbots" are being sent to Japan:
2 Warriors:
Ida-russkie offers this link below

IIRC the original remote bots at chernobyl got fried

No, the carbon based bots got fried first THEN the silicone based bots got fried. Perhaps some additional carbon bots got fried after the silicone bots got fried.

While I agree that no one could have looked at the reactor pressure vessel, some accounts have definitely indicated eye witness observation of the outside of the containment structures. Should have been easier once they got lights. Still for reactor 2 this does contradict earlier reports. A post yesterday (and below) linked to a site that identified the insertion points of the fuel rods as a weak point (bottom of the reactor vessel). The fuel rods are apparently inserted from outside of the reactor vessel but from inside primary containment. Quote from JAIF report:

The agency said fluctuations in temperature and pressure are highly likely to have weakened valves, pipes and openings under the reactors where the control rods are inserted. Source: http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1301486904P.pdf

Yesterday some commented on the diverse info coming out "it is being solved" "reactor x is blowin up". Right now the same thing is still happening:

IAEA is glossing over the leaks into seawater for example, but JAIF shows some real problems at the facility, the "Science Ministry" (as per Jaif's collection of news) says, seawater is improving. NISA (?) says concentrations has increased to 3350 times normal... etc etc.
Further and more important: "now the tap water is drinkable" "now it is not", "export vegetables", "stop vegetables".

Conclusion: it is time for the Government of Japan (prime minister?) to start keeping a real iron fist on
a) what is being told should be consistent with yesterday, if nothing unexpected happens.
b) if rules require food or water to be stopped, then keep that for a week in that region.

Classical emergency response recommendations probably - instead we have everybody running around like chickens. I am disgusted.
Top politician, whoever you are: take some responsibility - you wanted this job because of that.

Yeah, the Bi-polar Tug-0-war continues.. Today Democracy Now! has a quick and tense debate between Monbiot and Caldicott.

Conclusion? hmm, maybe 'Every coin has two sides?' But it's good to see Amy Goodman bringing in opposite forces to duke it out. http://www.democracynow.org/

Caldicott uses the paper published by NY Acad Sciences, saying Chernobyl could be responsible for up to a Million Deaths, and Monbiot is going with the safer number of 43.

As Nicholson said in Prizzi's Honor, "What do I do, Marry her, or Ice her, which a these..?" (paraphrased, probably..)

Safer number of 43? No way. The "safer number" is the larger one, because it will teach us to treat nuclear power with the utmost caution.

I've already argued on here that the nuclear industry's hype about how wonderfully safe nukes are has made nuclear power less safe as it encourages complacency.

Hubris, and all that.

You guys may prefer the number that justifies your ideologies, but I think the safest number is the one that's the truth. Both hyperbole and denial can have lethal consequences.

Do you honestly believe that the total number of fatalities attributable to Chernobyl is 43? Truly? After reviewing the literature?

Did I say I did? Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote.

Don't be cute. Answer the question.

My point was that neither low-balling nor inflating these numbers make anybody "safer": safety can only be achieved through an honest appraisal of risk which puts data before agenda. That point stands regardless of what I personally believe about Chernobyl.

But since you ask, I suspect the number of deaths due to Chernobyl so far is somewhere between a couple hundred and a few thousand; the final count will probably be somewhere between 500 and 10,000. I take UNSCEAR as my most trusted source.

Neither "43" nor "1 million" do nobody any favors.

Thank you.

May I ask why you dismiss the much more extensive analysis (more than ten times as many sources than UNSCEAR) by Yablokov & the Nesterenkos, published by the NY Academy?

Not being more than an informed citizen who has reviewed a fair bit of the literature, I would say that accepting "a few thousand" would be very unsafe, indeed.

I believe the point goodmanj wants to make is that "safe" suggests using a number for propaganda reasons ie to back up one's own personal beliefs. A Nuclear Power advocate might say 43 is the real number, but a protester will say 1 million is the real number. I think that we first need to know the real truthful number, and after that form our opinion on the subject. Since that is the only way to make a real assessment of the situation.

Thank you.

What are we counting?

The number of times we repeat the same old debates..

I also think the soviets did some bonehead things while putting it to rest.

Glad YOU SUSPECT. Tell me - WHY are countries paying Boar hunters NOT to put radioactive boar meat on the market - 25 years AFTER Chernobyl? Get real.

"I missed your point, but you equivocated and I know a scary anecdote. Therefore you are wrong."

Classy argument ya got there. Ever considered a job in politics?

I hope you understand that I meant 'safer' from Monbiot's perspective, in that he seems to be saying that 'it's dangerous to apply anything but the MOST CONSERVATIVE estimate on this.

I don't think 43 is at all plausible, considering all the anecdotal info from workers there who mention how many they know who've died.. but I sure hope SHE is being cautious about her sources as well.

For me and most of you, it leaves us being fed such extremes, that we know we can hardly trust any of it yet.

This discussion reminds me of the flash bang tricks used by stage magicians. Meant to amaze and distract while "magic" is performed. Let's assume that Monbiot is right about the toll from coal fueled power and Caldicott and the New York Academy have useful figures on the toll from Chernobyl. I think that's probably the properly "conservative" stance until additional studies come along. I'm not happy about either option, as I think we ought to be working hard to get rid of them both.

And to those who say that we need the energy and can't do without them, I ask that they consider carefully the what they mean by "need." A rational evaluation looks at all sides of all options, and don't forget that one option is to find ways to need less energy. Either by lifestyle alterations or population reduction. And finally, don't forget that not to plan is not an option, it is just planning to take whatever comes. And it is likely not to be the optimum result.

Either by lifestyle alterations or population reduction.

Or by both/some of each.

Yes. Fully agree.

Come to think of it, population reduction is a lifestyle alteration.

How many children do you have (rhetorical question)?

Factual answer: None, at age 60.

I don't claim special merit, but I've known for as long as I can remember that the planet can't afford more humans, especially more of the Western consumers I would, necessarily, have produced.

Also, I've never wanted to subject children (or grandchildren) to the environment I see developing.

Well, I did say "rhetorical question," but in fairness I have to meet your ante. I'm 58 and have one offspring. Not that I didn't want two, but it just didn't work out.

A couple reflections: One, we can't "save the earth," it's not in danger. The natural processes that brought us here made us what we are and lead us to this point. Those same natural processes will undoubtedly continue, whether homo sapiens sapiens is part of the picture or not. I suspect that human societies will evolve in much the same way that human organisms have evolved. At some point in the future the result won't be homo sapiens sapiens any more. And the social organism it participates in will not resemble our current one either. Our challenge is to get from today to tomorrow and set a course that is not aimed at a wall or a cliff.

Second, and perhaps of more immediately practical use, the way to stop a stampede is not to stand in front and yell, it is to ride alongside the leaders and influence them to change direction. Then once they start to turn keep them turning until the herd is circling on itself. In other words take advantage of the characteristics of the animal to influence its behavior in the direction you want to see it go. How does that apply to us? It's pretty well accepted that wealthier societies have lower birth rates. I think it's commonly accepted that the reason for this is that investing a lot in a few children pays off more than investing a little in a lot of children, if and only if the few children are likely to survive. And of course with more to invest and fewer children to invest in, a regenerative circuit is established (positive feedback in the control loop). This leads me to advocate the strategy of "spread the wealth."

1. As to manners: Monbiot waited quietly till it was his turn. Caldicott interrupted. My opinion is she could use some coaching. She mentioned that she was actually a doctor, and doctors are not allowed to lie, unlike some other people.
2. On facts: Monbiot said coal is way more dangerous than nuclear, just look at the mining accidents in China and at Massey, and if you do body counts, nuclear is not that bad. Caldicott, soft on coal, said let's take this opportunity to go to solar and wind.
They argued about the number of people injured by Chernobyl, and Monbiot said really the main problem with Chernobyl was thyroid cancer, which is NTB. Caldecott said Can you read? Caldicott said a number of national and international organizations were in the pocket of big Uranium, to which Monbiot rolled his eyes derisively.

Yes.. Monbiot was smooth and collected.. but while it brings him Brownie points for Interview Sophistication, when he finally left it with '43 dead', in addition to his continual 'Coal' talking points instead of addressing Nuclear directly .. frankly, my jaw dropped and my regard for him is in limbo for now.

Yeah. The Guardian piece surprised me and I expected him to backtrack as he came to realize just what a monster we have at Fukushima Daiichi. So far, he seems intent on continuing his folly.

I disagree.

Fukushima Daiichi has to get a lot worse than it appears to have the potential to before it equals the human cost of a single year of coal power.

As I heard him say it on the radio, that is exactly the point that has swayed his support.

It may seem irrational to you, but the contrary position seems irrational to me.

they believe low pressure in Reactors 2 and 3 are from leaking pipes/joints,

I hope that is true, but would not be surprised if a vessel has melted through.

One of the things that has always bothered me about the BWR is the large pipe connections to the vessel below the top of the core. That may account for the unchanging water level reports.

PWR’s have some small instrument tube penetrations from the bottom. Not big enough to flow a lot of water. The big pipe connections are all above the core, so it can boil like a tea kettle even with a large pipe break.

Baby Nukes
As part of the US President's new energy initiative the DOE will increase focus on baby nukes. I am opposed to both the heavily centralized power monopoly model and to nuclear plants in general. But this approach does seem inherently safer and more manageable than the gigawatt scale plants that have dominated the nuclear renaissance discussion.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu has urged more research and
investment in a new type of reactor -- the small modular
reactor -- which he says is a safe long-term alternative.


For a species hell-bent on mass-suicide, I'd say this is a fine next step. Press onward, brave leader! The cliff approacheth ever faster!

The NRC and EPA are here to protect you.

Protective Action Guides, or PAGs as they are called by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are used to enforce the law following any incident involving the release of radioactive material. If there were a dirty bomb attack in America or nuclear meltdown, how would the EPA interpret the Clean Water Act? How would it interpret a whole suite of laws that impact upon our food, water and soil? As with the incredibly toxic pollution which has claimed many lives of 9-11 responders, the sole decision about what is safe is an administrative EPA process shielded from public scrutiny.

In 1992, the EPA produced a PAGs manual that answers many of these questions. But now an update to the 1992 manual is being planned, and if the “Dr. Strangelove” wing of the EPA has its way, here is what it means (brace yourself for these ludicrous increases):

A nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90;
A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and
An almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63.i

The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup thresholds thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever judged safe in the past. Under long-established EPA policy, in conformity with long-accepted international standards on “acceptable” amounts of radiation these proposed changes would increase the permissible amounts of radiation to levels where 25% of those exposed to these “new acceptable levels” would develop cancer based on the EPA’s own numbers.ii


Long Blackouts Pose Risk to US Reactors (AP)

Long before it happened in Japan, regulators in the United States knew that a similar, days-long power failure, whatever the cause, could lead to a radioactive leak in this country.

Alan Kolaczkowski, Nuclear Engineer: Looking at the blackout situations and losses of all power, we know that once those pumps finally die off -- I pointed out that DC-driven, steam-driven pumps can operate for maybe like half a day -- then you no longer can provide cooling water to the core. Ultimately the core can overheat, a lot of that heat would be deposited to the containment, and if in a long term you're not able to get the heat out of the containment, you can end up with releases to the environment. The plants that I understand are in Japan are similar in design to the Peach Bottom plant that I studied here in the United States. They are both BWR, I believe 4, Mark I-type designs, so the designs are certainly similar. So, I would expect that the kinds of issues that the Japanese have would be similar to what we studied with regard to Peach Bottom here in the United States. . . . Are there additional measures that perhaps can and should be taken to deal with a very prolonged loss of power such as Japan has had? . . . To be able to say that we are adequately defended to be able to have a loss of power for days or even weeks -- maybe that's something that we should look into.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." (Upton Sinclair)

edit to add 1 more:

The report is the first broad, if limited, set of results of the radioactive material captured by the filters and canisters around the Pacific from Nome to Guam, and as far inland as Montgomery, Ala. Of all those stations, Guam is the closest to Fukushima, about 1,700 miles south and outside the prevailing winds. At its highest reading, on March 22, Guam reported only a fifth as much radioactivity from iodine-131 as Dutch Harbor.

Dutch Harbor is more in line with normal air and ocean currents from Fukushima, about 2,700 miles away. Nome is 2,850 miles away, and its highest reading, on March 23, was only a third as high as Dutch Harbor's.

Anchorage, at 3,320 miles, is the closest large U.S. city to Fukushima. Juneau is 3,890 miles away, Honolulu about 3,810 miles, Seattle about 4,650 miles and Anaheim, Calif., about 5,400 miles. Aside from Anchorage, all reported some fallout, with Anaheim coming closest to Dutch Harbor in reported levels of radioactive iodine -- 1.9 picocuries of radioactivity in each cubic meter of air in Anaheim to Dutch Harbor's 2.8.

Dutch Harbor also reported the highest levels of cesium-137, more than three times any other reporting station in the United States and twice the level of the next highest station, in Guam. Dutch Harbor's reading on quickly decaying but dangerous tellurium-132, though tiny, was more than 100 times higher than any place else that reported.

As one of Alaska's most important fishing ports, state officials have sought to quell fears in Europe that Dutch Harbor fish were contaminated from Fukushima radiation. Even though the raw numbers in the EPA report showed levels of radiation that are probably right around background -- the monitor there is new and actual background radiation is unknown, state health lab chief Jilly said -- the news was enough for the state to issue a new set of assurances.

The headline of the state's news release announcing the EPA report was, "Harmless amounts of Japanese radiation detected in Alaska," and among the assurances was this: "These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are still hundreds of thousands of times below levels of public health concerns."


*So, I would expect that the kinds of issues that the Japanese have would be similar to what we studied with regard to Peach Bottom here in the United States.*

Peach Bottom is approximately 100 miles upwind from us here in NW DC.

Wait until that first salmon comes in radioactive.. Full of Cs-137. That won't be good. This could turn real ugly. Locally I saw a bunch of bags of GOM shrimp in the clearance bin a few months back. I don't think it was selling too well.

Way we are going, you won't want to eat anything out of the ocean.

That would be the best thing that could happen to Salmon.

Jacques Costeau stopped eating fish in the 60's - said it was too polluted then.


• Until the industry is ready to accept all responsibility and liability for any incident, then WHY should a Nuclear Power Co. be allowed to operate?

"But this approach does seem inherently safer and more manageable"

Safer for who?

And what evidence do you have to support this notion?


Tell me, how many have died due to nuclear plant accidents? And how many in coal mines? Or how many even when doing maintenance to your precious wind mills? How many have died on dust explosion in coal plants? Not to even mention the real stuff, like Bhopal 1984...

Nobody is going to convince the people who are intellectually invested in the magical evil potency of nuclear material that they are wrong, but if nobody speaks out against their view there will be many more victims like that poor Fukushima farmer.

Fear of nuclear hazards has probably caused more deaths in the last 40 years than nuclear power itself.

1. "Nobody is going to convince": Well ... why don't you give it a try. Don't be so negative.
2. "intellectually invested": aka "think" or "decided". Is undecided always the correct intellectual stance?
3. in the magical: do you believe that opponents of nuclear are anti-scientific? All approaches to the energy dilemma benefit from looking at numbers; ie, a scientific perspective.
4. evil potency: radioactivity does have a potential for evil, viz Litvinenko, assuming you feel that that was evil; and let's not forget the problem of reckless endangerment.
5. If nobody speaks out against their view: ie if no one proposes "atoms for peace"? Could we ever forget Eisenhower?
6. Many more victims like: Sorry this is too bizarre. You pro-nukes could start a purchasing cooperative to buy up irradiated spinach, dirt cheap, and by helping yourself, with no thought to the good of others, have saved the life of this farmer.
7. Fear of nuclear: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Some good people are on that side.

Some anti-nuclear advocates are also anti-scientific. They have made up their minds that nuclear power is dangerous beyond the ability of humans to deal with despite a lack of evidence to support their position.

Those people will not be persuaded because they simply will not accept evidence that contradicts their position as valid.

People who are not in that position can be persuaded that nuclear is a safe and clean alternative to traditional power sources.

Note: it isn't 100% safe, nothing is. It might not even be the safest option, or the cleanest, but it is also far from the most dangerous or the dirtiest and I don't see the level of fear and hate levelled at the options that are clearly worse in every respect.

Some anti-nuclear advocates are also anti-scientific. They have made up their minds that nuclear power is dangerous beyond the ability of humans to deal with despite a lack of evidence to support their position.

Perhaps, but I look at it this way. First, for the record I am a dual science and arts major with international studies. The science you talk about deals in absolute quantities or assignment of defined mathematical values. What a logician might call propositional and predicate logic. Propositional logic is first, the almost pure mathematical. If A is < B and A is > C then B must be > C type of exercise. Then we get to predicate logic. If I take a plane, I will land safely 99.999% of the time. PREDICATED upon that high success rate, flying is safe. Well there is the rub, it is all predicated.

We are all working on limited information and your statistics, statements, thoughts and experiments are all predicated on something. The search for what to predicate things on is called philosophy, the purest and highest art or science. The search for the truth and meaning. Above even the purity of math. You predicate everything you say on folks doing their jobs and doing them right. They actually have a wonderful track record predicated on a comparison with other energy forms. In terms of lives lost and treasure sacrificed, a good argument can be made IMHO.

Yet we have 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, K-19, and now Fukushima. There are other incidents. Yes, there are many that look at such things and it shakes their belief system. Why do you think the comment counts have exploded? I for one am not sticking my head in the sand or going NA,NA,NA with my fingers in my ears. How many Nuked Veteran tags (less than 100 currently issued in Alabama, never seen one) are there or have I met a nijū hibakusha, but I know they exist. So yes, calculate away and get us the best numbers and ideas you can, just understand when folks predicate their beliefs on something other than what you do, just entertain the possibility that maybe they are right and you are not? The arts majors made the science majors sign off on that one by sending the philosophy majors after them.

Good luck and I hope I did not make it worse. I hope I helped to clear it up. Remember the Planet of the Apes movie where the humans worshipped a nuclear missle and the ultimate fulfillment of their religion was the detonation of the warhead ending all remaining civilization for good? Many in the anti-nuke crowd believes that is exactly where we are headed. I am starting to drink their Kool-Aid myself.

Edit: One more thing. Linus Pauling won 2 Nobel prizes. One for chemistry, and one for changing his predications. Andrei Shakarov, a man that probably knew every statistic and fact you do and likely wrote or inspired some of it also changed his predications.

I do not deny that bad stuff happens in connection with nuclear power.

It is just that with what I have seen, including the uncontrolled releases of the 1950's and Chernobyl, I do not see where it is more dangerous than the alternatives.

People say that it will make vast areas of land unusable for longer than humans will remember not to use the land.

There is an old factory in my town (probably several, but one I pass regularly), the ground there is so polluted with heavy metals and complex toxic organic molecules that it can never again be anything but a factory. These hazards have no half life, and there is nothing but nature that is keeping them there. Any plants that grow there carry some of these toxins and are unsuitable for consumption.

Does this mean that we should not build factories anymore?

The fundamental assumption that makes a strong anti-nuclear position tenable is that radiation hazards are in some way unnatural and so much worse than any other hazards that we face that no amount of radiation can be tolerated.

I have yet to see anyone provide a supporting argument to this assumption that I find in any way convincing.

Maybe that is just my bias, but I would think that comparing the health effects of incidental radium ingestion in watch dial painters to the health effects of other workplace toxins accidentally/incidentally ingested by workers in the course of their duties shows that while it *is* a hazard, it is not that different from thousands of other hazards that we do not treat with the level of fear elicited by the mere mention of the "R" word.

The only difference I see is that we can detect radiation in vanishingly small quantities easily, so we know it is there.

So my old challenge still stands: show the harm, not just in isolated anecdotes but in verifiable statistics, then I will be convinced to your position.

How many people died in the exclusion zone around Fukushima Daiichi from consequences of the tsunami that could have been rescued if not for the radiation exclusion area?

How many people working at the plant itself, at the very heart of the risk, have died so far?

In that ratio, I see the real tragedy.

Then we get to predicate logic. If I take a plane, I will land safely 99.999% of the time. PREDICATED upon that high success rate, flying is safe. Well there is the rub, it is all predicated.

The description is misleading. Pure predicate logic does not deal with probabilities. What you are describing is conditional probabilities. Some consider that probability theory is a form of extended logic (see the work of E.T. Jaynes as an example). Yet, everyone agrees that probabilities are useful abstractions, as when we use weather forecasts daily. Flying is not safe if you wanted to take off when a hurricane has just reached the airport. That is an example of a conditional probability increase.

Why do you think the comment counts have exploded?

Well at least one can quantify it by conditional probabilities. The probability of interest in the subject matter is conditionally dependent on the extent of the potential carnage.
p(interest) = p(interest|noCarnage)*p(noCarnage) + p(interest|Carnage)*p(Carnage)

So most of the time we sit here reading TOD with nothing happening and so we get the regulars showing up. When some calamity occurs, more rubberneckers show up. IOW, the conditional probability that people will look at something is conditionally dependent on how it might interest them or affect them or titillate them.

What exactly drives you here, TinHatFoilGuy, when I know for a fact that you do not comment on TOD when a disaster is not a current event?

The arts majors made the science majors sign off on that one by sending the philosophy majors after them.

? Huh?

I recommend that people should read the Black Swan.

So - is the fear "real" if the deaths are not reported? Who is afraid of wind power, solar, etc? Wind power kept running after the quake. Come on... time for change was many, many years ago. Just the same old profit vs. humanity thing, ya know. Profit has always won. This is different.

What wind power? Add up the average output of every wind turbine in Japan, and you get *one* reactor unit at Fukushima.

I'm all for wind power, but people need to realize just how tiny our wind power efforts have been so far.


water entered a tank containing 42 tons of MIC. The resulting exothermic reaction increased the temperature inside the tank to over 200 °C (392 °F) and raised the pressure. The tank vented releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere. The gases were blown by northwesterly winds

wiki bhopal

There are some striking similarities, no?

What has Bhopal got to do with Energy? It was a checmical factory. Might as well start dragging floods and droughts to make your point (whatever that is) while you are at it.

And what evidence do you have to support this notion?

Not saying I advocate small reactors, but from a basic physics perspective, the problem at Fukushima is one of heat dissipation. This is a surface-area-to-volume-ratio problem, which gets easier to solve the smaller the reactor is. Generally, problems of heat flow, physical containment, system response time, and mass transport requirements get simpler the smaller you build something.

Things that get worse are complexity and manpower per megawatt. But I suspect that has a much bigger effect on operating costs than safety.

Nuclear plant grid would make actually quite a lot of sense, instead of mammoth reactors here and there. One would save a lot of power by NOT transferring it hundreds of miles. 10 MW plant is much more easier to shutdown instead of 1600 MW.

One would save a lot of power by NOT transferring it hundreds of miles.

I'm not gonna back you up on that one.

There's a common misconception by ... well, just about everyone that power transmission is wasteful and inefficient. In reality, the US electric power grid is 94% efficient -- and most of 6% loss happens in low-voltage residential distribution systems. Transmission of bulk power hundreds or even thousands of miles is damn near perfect.


Well if that's true then these plants should AT LEAST be located in their own exclusion zones, say 50km2, with MAN-MADE lakes...FED with natural sources BUT with ZERO DISCHARGE...

AND emergency discharge should be engineered for the 1000 year flood...cause YES, it could happen - ask Japan...

Is that feasable...is that fair...? They could donate the land to the public for state parks as part of their licensing...

So instead of 1 1600MW plant to worry about, you now have 160 10MW ones...each of which still needs 24/7/365/10,000 power to keep it cool.

Chance of reactor failure goes up from ~1 per decade to ~1 per month.

Brilliant! simply brilliant!

Somebody has never been involved in Reliability Analysis, have they? No understanding of the calculation of MTTF/MTBF on complex systems?

The analysis has conflicting factors here.

Larger reactors are harder to control and more hazardous in the event of a major event, smaller reactors mean more chances to have a major event but are easier to control if one should occur.

I lean toward the many small reactor position because a relatively mass produced design is easier for the industry and regulators to deal with instead of dozens of one-off or small production run designs where every single reactor has a unique risk profile to be dealt with. A standard design provides a much needed layer of simplicity in a complex system.

"a relatively mass produced design is easier for the industry and regulators to deal with instead"

I can see the headline "GE/Hitachi to recall 2,000 mini-nuke reactors due to faulty cooling valve"

I can see that headline, also.

You know what? They'd ship out and install 2,000 fixed cooling valves after the fault was detected and that particular risk would be resolved.

That is why a standardized design is *good*.

Yes, if it is a Honda or Toyota or a 747. Airliners get "recalls" (airworthiness directives) all the time.

Or small block chevy, because you can fix it yourself.. :-)

"a relatively mass produced design is easier for the industry and regulators to deal with instead"

At one time the US Navy had just over 100 S5W reactors running in and out of ports on a continuous basis. Standardization has a lot of benefits even for the military industrial complex, which is normally friendly toward limited production runs and one-offs.

So instead of 1 1600MW plant to worry about, you now have 160 10MW ones...each of which still needs 24/7/365/10,000 power to keep it cool.

You missed my earlier point about heat dissipation vs size: at the size you're talking about, a SCRAMmed reactor core wouldn't get hot enough to melt even if all water cooling failed.

Chance of reactor failure goes up from ~1 per decade to ~1 per month.

At which point you put the broken reactor back onto the flatbed truck, drive it back to the factory and ask for a new one. Maybe the event gets mentioned in the local paper.

As r4ndom says, while the chance of failure goes up as the number of reactors goes up, it's quite possible that the consequences of small reactor failure are so small that they come out ahead. I don't know, I don't have a dog in this fight, and I haven't done the cost/benefit analysis to know the answer.

But I'm getting annoyed by advocates on both sides who totally ignore one half of the cost/benefit equation to score points.

"a SCRAMmed reactor core wouldn't get hot enough to melt even if all water cooling failed"

Since we are discussing a theoretical 10MW mini-nuke reactor, isn't that pure speculation? Or have the reactors already been designed and tested?

"But I'm getting annoyed by advocates on both sides"

You are right, I should even handedly evaluate both sides of every bone-headed idea I run across. Sorry, will try to do better.

Since we are discussing a theoretical 10MW mini-nuke reactor, isn't that pure speculation?

No, it's based on a little thermal conductivity calculation I did, using specs for the NuScale mini-reactor design as an example. My results agree with NuScale's propaganda:

• The NuScale reactor design relies entirely on natural forces such as convection to circulate water over the nuclear fuel.
• Because the NuScale design uses natural circulation instead of forced mechanical systems such as pumps to circulate water over the fuel it eliminates the need for back-up or emergency electrical generators.

(I believe this blurb predates Fukushima, which makes it eerily prescient.)

But I'm getting annoyed by advocates on both sides who totally ignore one half of the cost/benefit equation to score points.

I am not in favor of Nuclear Power because I don't see how the supposed benefits outweigh the costs. All it will do is let us put off the day of reckoning, which is fast approaching. In reality, all it will enable us to do, given the political reality of today's world, is put off making the changes necessary to seriously reduce our fossil fuel use.

Using promises of 10MW mini-nukes that have yet to be built, let alone designed, to "solve" our problem reeks of something known very well in the software industry. It's called Vaporware.

The Trouble With Vaporware

"Miniature" nuke designs are actually a mature area of the field.

Many have been built for military purposes, and there are designs in the regulatory pipeline for civilian use. They have regulatory problems in the US because the regulations are written assuming custom-built large reactors and do not currently deal with "type certification + installation verification" which is the model needed to safely deploy small, mass produced reactors.

Regulatory framework is a big problem. IMHO, this is why we haven't seen a great deal of innovation in commercial nuclear energy technology, ensuring costs remain sky high and technological progress remains stuck in low gear with bad consequences, such as in Japan. The cost of inflexible and extremely burdensome regulation ensures the industry cannot innovate and thrive. The barriers to innovation and the cost-of-entry are just too high by **government fiat**. Type certification similar to how the FAA regulates aircraft design / production would be a good model to follow instead.

A new NRC framework is needed if we want the promise of standardized, mass-produced "nuclear engines" to become reality: units that can crank out many MW of continuous power, emissions-free, for 10-20 years on a single fuel charge and do so inexpensively and with intrinsic passive safety.

Right. More "flexible" regulation (of an industry already exemplary of regulatory capture) would surely give us safer, cheaper and more efficient nuclear power. After all, look what the approach did for the financial sector.

...units that can crank out many MW of continuous power, emissions-free, for 10-20 years on a single fuel charge and do so inexpensively and with intrinsic passive safety.

"Extraordinary claims..."

Uh, no. Did you know that NRC fees are about $5M/year for the privilege of being regulated, without regard for size of the reactor? That it takes about 5 years and $100M just to process paperwork before you can even think about putting a shovel in the ground. THAT is the kind of regulation cost that ensures an industry remains stuck. Politics is the biggest cost driver behind nuclear power...

I did know. And the only problem I have with any of it is that it isn't nearly rigorous enough to ensure safety.

Politics is how open societies decide what will and will not be permitted, in what forms and under what circumstances. I like it that way--or I would, if we could get past the one-dollar, one-vote model that currently hijacks our politics.

Never paused to try to quantify it, but it is not surprising and not necessarily a bad thing. I prefer that the organizations that engage in these activities be well funded, with strong technical and managerial resources as well as having the financial strength to make good on any injuries incidental to its efforts (posting bond etc).

It does remind me of the "barriers to entry" phenomenon we learned about in manufacturing strategy class. One wonders how much of the cost is the result of regulations promulgated with the intent to ensure safer and more cost effective installations, and how much is intended to keep new players out of the game. After all, in such a high tech field the only people qualified to write the regulations are usually the people being regulated. And the people who approve the regs (legislatures and political appointees) are rarely qualified to do much besides fund-raise and get elected.

Flexibility is not the same thing as corruption.

The current structure is based around Gigawatt scale custom designed installations, as is the tax structure. The base fees to put a reactor online in the US are such that small reactors are guaranteed to be unprofitable.

So they'll be built and deployed in China instead. But the reactors will be built, because the amount of power to be had simply cannot be walked away from.

False binary.

It seems to be the one being proposed however.

Regulations need to be able to change to reflect reality. This is flexibility. In the absence of corruption it is a good thing.

In the presence of corruption it is a bad thing.

The comment I replied to seemed to be equating flexibility to corruption, hence my reply.

"...units that can crank out many MW of continuous power, emissions-free, for 10-20 years on a single fuel charge and do so inexpensively and with intrinsic passive safety."

"...too cheap to meter."

Lots of claims, but the proof seems to be lacking.

Lots of mini nukes will lead to lots of problems not yet discussed.

What will be the security costs of running each of these small power plants?

Where will the spent fuel rods be stored in 10-20 years time when new ones are installed?

What sort of target do the mini nukes make in a time of war?


Small devices using radioactive materials have powered
radio repeaters, satellites and submarines for decades.

Everything fails. MTTF, MTBF, MTTR:

But, beyond that, we er, ah, angered a er, ah, few people
by destroying their lands, cultures, and ancestors
for oil.
Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I

And, further, some just want others to meet their favorite deity:

I've seen the mini-nukes presented as clusters in a single facility.

BTW: too cheap to meter referred to fusion power, and it does not mean "free" necessarily, but only "flat rate" - you don't need a meter. I know: stupid comment.

Maybe that's what Strauss meant. Nuclear proponents often claim it is.

I don't think there's any convincing evidence.


Regulatory framework is a big problem. IMHO, this is why we haven't seen a great deal of innovation in commercial nuclear energy technology, ensuring costs remain sky high and technological progress remains stuck in low gear with bad consequences, such as in Japan. The cost of inflexible and extremely burdensome regulation ensures the industry cannot innovate and thrive.

Nuclear proponents always claim that problems in the nuclear industry are someone else's fault ("enviros" or "regulators"). But if you think it through, these arguments fall apart. Nuclear power is a global industry. Did regulators or enviros have any power over the development of nuclear power in Russia, or in China, India, Ukraine, or Pakistan, or Brazil?? All those countries and many others have nuclear power plants but no effective environmental movement and very weak regulation too.
So if regulation and enviros were preventing the evolution of safe and advanced nuclear power, why did this evolution not happen in the locations where both enviros and regulation are absent???
(Maybe because the real issues are the capital requirements, technical complexity, and sheer cost of nuclear technology, because the "Enviros and regulators stopped us from doing the right thing" dog just won't hunt.)

China, Russia and India have the most reactors in construction or planning of any countries. These are mostly later generation boiling and pressurized reactors, but all three have new and innovative designs in the works.

"Enviros and regulators" in North America and Europe simply don't matter, because that is not where the future of nuclear power will be. North America and Europe are on a downward slide while the BRICs and Asia are on an upward path.

Even Japan may be galvanized by this catastrophe to shrug off the dead hand of US paternalism. It will be interesting to see whether the LDP gets back in power or the DPJ manages to exploit the situation to permanently replace the LDP as the governing power in Japan's essentially single party system.

There are a lot of nuclear power plants quietly making power all over the world.

The US makes and deploys new nuclear plants every couple of years.

Commercial nuclear power can't be deployed until the stack of legal paperwork equals the mass of the plant. Including shielding.

You 'forgot' France in your list.

This has happened with data centers: many smaller computers replacing one larger computer, and it has worked out quite well, so it seems, even for places that need near perfection availability.


You need to wear my shoes! I spent all day in a conference call with 48 other people concerning the dilemma of one cranky small computer called a network switch. 128 other small computers were inaccessible because of it and another 106 computers were at risk of becoming inaccessible while fixing network switch. It took 3 hours just to decide when to do that 15 minute fix.

I had hundreds of days like that. In case you have't figured it out, the associated stress is unhealthy.

Stay mellow and know that some of us are grateful that it's your job, now.

All appears fine with me. I haven't had a sick day or visited a doctor in over 3 years. But yes, stress is very unhealthy. And regarding the data center issue, all went well last night.

My point is the size of components within a complex system do not make the system less complex. Although the nature of issues and weak points will change, the tendency for challenges to arise will not go away. I'm ok with any size of components within a system. However, one should not be fooled by sleights of hand used by sales people and corporate PR to think complexity is reduced.

I watched the Senate hearing about Fukushima yesterday and much was said positively about use of smaller nuclear reactors. Because of unfamiliarity, I had to go google-search the subject to see what was up. I found the production deployment of these reactors for power plants does not exist today and is currently projected to be 5-10 years away. Due to my experience with challenges, a red flag pops up for me when folks discuss other topics when confronted with a challenge. Senators were looking for take-aways to improve the safety of nuclear power by learning lessons from mistakes made in Fukushima. For me, it was discomforting for NRC to prefer discussing small reactor and Gen3 large reactor plans rather than concrete actions to improve the safety of the current 104 nuclear plants in the US.

This has been tried. Because of the threat of nuclear war. Let me tell you about Camp Century.

Camp Century was a nuclear powered research center built by the US Army Corps of Engineers under the icy surface of Greenland. It was occupied from 1959 to 1966 under the auspices of the Army Polar Research and Development Center. Its climatically hostile environment was located a mere 800 miles from the North Pole.

The US Army Nuclear Power Program was created to develop small nuclear power reactors for use at remote sites. Most were based on existing US Naval reactor designs. Eight reactors were built in all, and six of the eight produced useful power. The nuclear reactor at Camp Century was the first of the US Army's portable reactors to actually produce power.

PM-2A Reactor Vessel

The portable nuclear power plant at Camp Century was designated PM-2A. Its designation indicates: “P” for Portable; “M” for Medium Power; “2” for the sequence number; and the letter “A” indicates field installation. The PM-2A was rated two megawatts for electrical power and also supplied steam to operate the water well. The PM-2A was built by Alco Products, Inc. of Schenectady, New York.

There is also a fundamental safety problem in using water as a primary coolant: it operates at very high pressure. Steam + high temperatures also causes problems with zirconium via chemical oxidation to form Zirc-oxide and hydrogen. Some proposed designs for small reactors utilize fluid coolants that are very stable and operate at atmospheric pressure (e.g. molten lead, molten salts) to eliminate the risk of a primary coolant system going BOOM and expelling radioactive contaminants into the environment. Moreover, passive-cooling designs can maintain decay heat removal even under a total blackout scenario.

Many options for better alternatives exist and smaller factory-built reactors using latest design knowledge acquired over the decades could make Fukushima reactors as relevant to the future of nuclear power as the Hindenburg or the de Havilland Comet were to commercial aviation.

Henry Ford II once reputedly quipped "mini cars make mini profits".

Same will be said of mini nukes, and with that comes cost-cutting, corner-cutting, and reliability issues.

Furthermore, to turn mini-nukes into a mass-market "must have" consumer durables, they'd have to talk up the safety of these devices.

Which will lead to operators deciding to not worry about the monthly safety checks (and save themselves some cash in process) because, "these boys are safe, [insert fave vendor here] told us so, so we don't need to worry". A recipe for lots of mini-disasters.

Yea well Wrigley got rich selling gum.

To be clear; I don't know that the baby nukes are safer but I do know that the larger and more complex a process the higher the likelihood for catastrophic failure. And if there is a failure, smaller systems are inherently more manageable.

TerraPower wants to use depleted uranium from nuclear waste sites as its feedstock and they are currently in discussions with Toshiba.

Is nuclear my first choice? No, at another site, Treehugger, I just slammed a lead blog article for suggesting that we should go full speed ahead with a "nuclear renaissance". At the same time, there is a lot of spent fuel laying around with a high energy content. If it has little or no economic value it is more likely to be neglected over the next 50-100 years (the "kick the can down the road" phenomena). Is this a preferable policy? Should we just bury it all? If so, where and how?

I just read that China was going to use spent fuel to power smaller generators.


Just make sure they come with a big hook so a helicopter can pick them up easily and drop them in rivers, lakes, oceans, swimming pools should they begin to meltdown.

You mean those things that feed and water the populace?

Heh. Heh. Remotely operated cranes,loaders, dozers, excavators with claw attachments. Dont forget those! Oh yeah!....the watershed!Let us not forget THAT. Holy Cow! So many things. . . . . to think of.

China's HTR-10, a 10 MWt high-temperature gas-cooled experimental reactor looks promising....
"In 2004, the small HTR-10 reactor was subject to an extreme test of its safety when the helium circulator was deliberately shut off without the reactor being shut down."


I don't trust gas-cooled reactors. This is a pretty uninformed opinion, but they run at temperatures that give me the willies, the moderated ones use graphite and water in ways that remind me of Chernobyl, and the fast neutron ones involve a combination of temperature, pressure, and high neutron flux that makes me glad I'm not a metallurgist.

I notice this from a link in Drumbeat.

"Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said."

Considering that it normally costs many billions to build nuclear reactors to begin with (I have no idea what the Fukushima reactors costs but it must have been something on the order of 10 billion).

That might give us a total for that facility of 20+ billion in costs and maybe a fair amount more.

Question: Given these costs is it possible that this facility ever generated enough power to come even close to justifying its costs?

We have seen a rather high serious failure rate of reactors world wide over the last 40 years (Chernobyl, 3 Mile Island and Fukushima). Thinking here of the total number of power reactors in the world compared to the number of big failures. A propensity to have catastrophic failures of any significant percentage of the total installations where the costs are so high would seem to be a large caution on the wiseness of building such installations.

This to me is a major item to consider when thinking of nuclear power going forward. We are heading fast towards serious energy supply issues and may be very stressed on a civilizational level in the not to distant future from being able to adequately deal with any more of the above type of disasters. Not to mention if things get real bad in terms of having a robust technical and resource base, how can we make the decision for future generations to have to take care of this huge amount of spent nuclear fuel for hundreds of years. They may just not be able to afford to do it.

When running a experimental program of very complex technology, such as the shuttle program, it is fair to make a decision that there will be losses in terms of lives and wealth. The failure rate of the shuttle program was not out of reasonable expectations for such a program. However, having the same general failure rate for what are supposed to be commercial power system just seems to me to be problematic in terms of decision making.


Hi - Attention the below is a rough calculation for fun. If you find major errors, reply on Wyo's comment and I will edit away errors!

500 MW x 90% x a year x 30 years is total energy output. For a year some 4000 million kWh.
The input is something like capital cost: 5 billion over 30 years 5 or 10% interest, is that some 200 -400 million per year?
maintenance: ? add some tens of millions
Work: ? 300 employees yearly salary about 25 millions
Fuel uranium: 100 tons x 62 $/pound (or 100 per kg) = about ten million dollars per year?

A kWh is what 0.05 $ a bit more, maybe. So income is about 200 million dollars per year.

Conclusion: Capital cost is major. Once the thing is built it looks pretty good. Normally if something pays off, and externalities are included (this case waste handling and insurance are weak points), then it also has a net benefit.

Compare to a solar heating system which pays off in maybe 15 years. That is probably still a net benefit (considering energy) because a large part of the cost is labor in making and installing it (the workers energy cost to live is only with difficulty included in EROEI).

Many reactors are already doing 40 and the largest reactor in the world, the 1600 MW monster in Finland will be built with 60 years as a baseline.

Can you please check my calculations and see if you agree, or if you know something more on this topic? That would be good help, brother.

The efficiency ratio of a nuclear plant is 30 percent but with using heated water after turbine for heating housing you would get something like 50-60 percent. You could heat up one million people city with 500 MW nuclear plant easily. The total heat power is something like 1500 MW anyway from that plant. That is the main advantage in the future. Most of the energy of nuclear really goes to the fishes today unfortunately.

Why is it not possible to use some technique like thermal-electric generators or Stirling Engines to extract power from the waste heat of reactors?

Stirling Engines and also termo-electric generators are comparable to the Carnot Cycle for their maximum efficiency - the same limits that occur to the turbines of a nuke (efficiecy = 1 - Tlow/Thigh, e.g. 1 - 300K/500K = 0.4).

One possible solution would be the magneto-caloric effect, but it is in it's early days and given the road we've taken i'm not shure we wille ever use the effect in large scale applications...

Just because the price of uranium is a small part of the energy output now doesn't mean much going forward. At one time oil was $1 a barrel(1931).

Tim, I think 60 years is just the buildout, at which point they'll start calculating the budget..

"500 MW x 90% x a year x 30 years is total energy output. For a year some 4000 million kWh."

That is 4 billion kWh a year, not 400 million. Or, to be precise, it is 4e9 kWh a year, or 4e6 MWh a year. (I don't understand how, but the meaning of the english word billion changes from place to place.) The latter is more commonly used to quote electricity for producers.

Your total revenue is right, so I guess the total energy was a typo.

I dont wanna be picky, -> but as you quoted me in your post: I did actually write 4000 million, the same as 4 billion ;)

Yep, I misread it.

Which is why ofcourse 4 e9 is better ;)

This would probably be better done against other nuclear reactors in Japan as well and then averaged. To take an extreme case is a little unfair.

Though after seeing the headline...i do have to ask what else, after this kind of incident, would the government be able to do except decommission this plant?

Small error but could make a difference. Unit 1 is rated to 500 MW but actually runs at 460MW (I believe). Units 2, 3 & 4 are rated at 800 MW. Assuming 750 each for 2, 3 & 4 and 450 for Unit 1 then the total MW produced is more like 2,700 MW vs 500 MW.

I'm not sure if your cost structure is for one unit or all four units.

Does the operating cost and the capital cost also include Units 5 and 6 which are larger still?

No, actually I took the cost roughly of a new plant (the Finnish one, yes with 3x production, but it can be 3x more expensive before ready too). So my figures is really just a quick-look. I was wondering about the fuel cost, there I am not sure at all...

Still Capital cost is large. But you seem to be able to recover say 100 million dollars per year for a GW reactor to pay for investment.

"Sounds good on paper" - so WHY do taxpayers get the never ending bill -as Insurance companies REFUSE to insure plants?
Orwell essay, In Front of Your Nose:

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

US federal law via the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act limits liability to $12.6 billion. Liability beyond this amount is borne by the US taxpayer.

I haven't read any discussion of this law regarding nuclear plant liability. That would be a first step to changing the law IMHO. The second step would be a workable plan with concrete steps to repeal this law.

I guess few people realize that politicians are merely representatives of taxpayers. To see them in any other way will accomplish little. I would prefer to hear what people are doing to repeal this law rather than what others are doing to keep this law unchanged.

Lessons learned from the democracy movements abroad are a valuable guide for such change. The writings of Gene Sharp provided a blueprint for these movements and his writings are a valuable guide regarding smaller challenges such as the Price-Anderson Act.

IAEA Says "There Might Be Re-Criticality At Fukushima"

Remember Fukushima?
If indeed the reactor has gone critical again, the whole concrete dome idea may have to be promptly scrapped.

The big difference between FUKUSHIMA and CHERNOBYL is during the crisis of the Chernobyl meltdown, the Soviet Union brought 500,000 of its citizens and spent $80 billion rubles to control the problem, whereas TEPCO a now broke corporation has employeed less than a few hundred people and has spent a fraction so far.

If the Japanese govt does not step in with international help, this might turn out to be the STRAW THAT BREAKS THE GLOBAL ECONOMIES BACK.


Where did you find "IAEA SAYS `THERE MIGHT BE RE-CRITICALITY' AT FUKUSHIMA". I cant find that on IAEAs webpage from today or yesterday.
Care to post a link?

Are you not using slightly too much bold text and capital letters, for the taste of this forum? Please.

Assume this was a copy and paste from ZeroHedge, and they don't give any detail yet, but here is an interesting paper published 2 days ago which makes the argument that the levels of Cl-38 being reported in Reactor #1 don't have an obvious explanation, and could be caused by episodes of criticality.


If true this is very bad news for control / cleanup crews. Getting caught in an un-shielded neutron flux makes getting your feet wet with contaminated water seem like an evening with Tokyo's most skilled Geisha.

Zero Hedge=for entertainment only IMO

On yesterday's Fukushima's open thread reddot posted a reply to my post (search donshan) where we were discussing sources of radioactive water leaking from the pressure vessel. The post showed that failure of seals in the control rods could cause leaks that might be the source of the radioactive water appearing in many places. .


While I was looking at several other control rod designs used in different Japanese reactors describing how the rods are inserted & retracted, I posted a couple of links to Japanese documents that showed they used pressurized water to hydraulically move the control rods up/down from the bottom the reactor vessel. I was wondering last night if the seals have failed, could the latches holding the control rods UP into the reactor against the pressure in the reactor vessel trying to push them out also fail? If one or more control rods even partially dropped down, criticality might occur, depending on the state of core damage. I am no physics expert to judge how credible this is.

reddot"s original posted link yesterday to Faierwinds.com where Gundersen discusses this control rod seal & leak failure mechanism is recopied here:


donshan, The report from JAIF mentioned above indicates seals at the control rod entry points are likely to have failed.

Yes, ALL CAPS means Zero Hedge copy & pasting from some real-time ticker news feed.

However, this has now been partially re-confirmed by Time.

Has Fukushima's Reactor No. 1 Gone Critical?
"The IAEA has said that the Fukushima nuclear power plant may have achieved re-criticality. “There is no final assessment,” IAEA nuclear safety director Denis Flory said at a press conference on Wednesday"

Reuters has a different spin, also reporting from Vienna conference by IAEA today:

High radiation outside Japan exclusion zone--IAEA

In a potentially negative development, Flory said the agency had heard there might be "recriticality" at the plant, in which a nuclear chain reaction would resume, even though the reactors were automatically shut down at the time of the quake.
That could lead to more radiation releases, but it would not be "the end of the world," Flory said. "Recriticality does not mean that the reactor is going to blow up. It may be something really local. We might not even see it if it happens.

Remember, even if you see something in quotes it doesn't mean the person in question actually said that word for word. That's how reporting on the fly works. They try to get the facts straight as best as they can. The rest is up to the reader.

It is pretty easy to calculate a lifetime revenue.
500 MW unit and 90% uptime = 4 million KWhrs/year
$.03/Kwhr = $120 million /year
50/40/30/20/10 year lifespan = revenue of billions: $6.0 / $4.8 / $3.6 / 2.4 / 1.2

Construction cost =
Operating cost =
Interest =
Fuel =
Decommision = $2 billion /unit

Revenue (35 years)= $4 billion

Hmm It depends on what the billing is in Japan per KwHr for generation.
Isn't it higher than in the USA?

I assume a meltdown is not priced into the cost of electricity? No.

I agree on the above - nice way to put it!
So, it appears as if a back-of-the-envelop calculation really IS quite tough on a nuclear plant...
But I suppose if you are a manager running an old plant you can get a decent salary out of the yearly revenue, with some fiddling with the write-offs,
as well as the politicians are happy for the taxes collected (on electricity or so).

Until the sporadic accident or a couple of reactors should get decommisioned in a country and that should be paid for THAT paricular year. Ouups.

Decommissioning doesn't get paid for by the company that runs the reactor. They go bankrupt instead. They only pay for decommissioning while they can still make enough profit from the proportion of sites that are still running to pay for it.

According to http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/ElectricPower/8230767 households consuming 290kWh/mo pay about 21¥ (about $0.25) for a delivered kWh.

Yes but that is for generation, transmission, and distribution. What fraction goes to generation, to get the power out to the property line of the plant? I just checked a recent electric bill (National Grid in New York) and they charged $.0477/kwhr for generation. So that is an upper bound. What costs does a generation company have besides the direct costs of the plants? What "overheads", non KwHr related costs? Ah, who cares: use $.05/kwhr as revenue to the plant, but not $.25.

Well, I see. You are citing the costs in Japan. Well, the best guess I'd have then is that 1/3 of the delivered cost is for generation; that would be $.08.

Japan, U.S. coordinate efforts on nuclear crisis

The Japanese and U.S. governments have set up four task forces under a joint liaison and coordination council to deal with the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, sources said.
The task forces have four respective aims--to shield nuclear substances to prevent their diffusion as soon as possible; dispose of the fuel rods to stabilize the situation at the plant over the medium term; decommission the nuclear reactors over the long term; and offer medical and livelihood assistance to residents near the plant.
The joint liaison and coordination council has met daily since operations began on March 22. U.S. participants on the council include officials of the Energy Department, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the military and U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

NHK World is running a special looking at disrupted manufacturing and supply chain problems. Will probably be repeated for the next few hours after the news bulletin (overnight Japan time). Recommended viewing

High Quality Feed at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/r/movie/

Showing at time of posting now.

Wow, was that Greenpeace that reported finding Cesium at 2,200 times normal levels 30km from Fukushima?


(Sorry about lack of citation...was on NHK show just when I clicked on link--maybe I even heard it wrong.)

"... Cesium at 2,200 times normal levels ..."

Not to be dismissive by any means, but if you detect any level of something that is normally not present you might be tempted to report that it is at "infinite times normal levels". It does of course make a more attention getting heading headline to say: "They have found a really big ratio" than to say "They have found a fairly small absolute number"

That "2,200" figure was from Japanese government testing and reported by NHK, not from Greenpeace. The two items followed on after the other. Greenpeace reported 10 microsieverts per hour in one area they tested where they recommended evacuation.

That "2,200" figure was from Japanese government testing and reported by NHK, not from Greenpeace. The two items followed on after the other. Greenpeace reported 10 microsieverts per hour in one area they tested where they recommended evacuation.

Ya, well, here is the thing about that as far as I understand it with my basic numeracy and physics filters plugged in; I have no idea what the background levels are in Japan, but surveys of background levels of Cesium 137 in surface soils in the United states at various locations done in the 1970's through the 1990's have shown values ranging from 0.001 pCi/g(dry) to 1.3 pCi/g(dry). So you have there at least a range of 3 orders of magnitude in what can be called a "baseline". And then the report from Japan of "2,200 times normal", also on the order of 3 orders of magnitude.

So unless that was a before and after test at the same location, which I doubt (was the Japanese gov't doing routine C-137 surveys in the countryside prior to the accident? seems unlikely considering how cocky they were about safety at reactors) there is little obvious information content for me in that ratio alone. I'm not saying the area isn't cooked, just that that ratio does not provide much evidence on its own. We really do need to see the absolute numbers they used to calculate it.

Going the other way the number quoted by Greenpeace of 10 microSv/hr is on the order of 30 times the average background level in North America. Sure, I'd get on the bus out of town, but it does not tell us anything about the Cesium level (assuming they were taken at the same place, which is far from clear) you need a radiation spectrum or some other form of analytic method for that.

"We really do need to see the absolute numbers they used to calculate it."

You could glance down about 2 inches...but I'll save you the trouble:

"measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m)"

From http://allthingsnuclear.org/

"The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m)."

To put that in perspective they add:

"This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m."

The Anti-Predictor: A Chat with Mathematical Sociologist Duncan Watts

The Yahoo! Labs scientist and author explains why the "law of the few" is bunk, why history is full of failed hedgehogs, and why we can't make good predictions about just those things we most want to predict

China Syndrome: Going Nuclear to Cut Down on Coal Burning

China pauses its plans to build the most new nuclear reactors in the world in the wake of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan--but will not halt them
China's new nuclear future is a mix of its own and foreign reactor designs. China has or is building heavy-water reactors from Canada, "evolutionary" pressurized-water reactors from France, pebble-bed reactors tested in South Africa, and even is working on reactors that would use molten salt for cooling and thorium for fuel. China has become the nuclear industry's living laboratory for new reactor designs and the learning that comes from actual construction.

A catastrophe waiting to happen.

China's coal industry and coal burning power plants are a catastrophe in progress for all of us.

This looks like a false dilemma. (China et al. would do well to power down and do permaculture. But then... [see blockquote])

At any rate, limited or myopic thinking and research, etc., appears precisely what gives us nuclear energy (and nuclear accidents/"accidents", waste, etc.), and false dilemmas.

"Japan doesn't even need nuclear power; it has so much geothermal energy. It's ironic that the same seismic threats to Japan are indicators of the country's enormous amount of geothermal energy. Japan has something like 10,000 natural hot baths, all using geothermally heated water. Any country with that many hot springs can tap geothermal energy for electricity.

So the question has to be asked: Why hasn't Japan developed this indigenous renewable resource? Why did they even bother with nuclear power? These sorts of questions will come up again and again in the future, and that's going to make it more difficult to develop nuclear power plants. I mean, Wall Street gave up on investing in nuclear power plants more than 30 years ago. The only way you can get in now is if the government -- which is to say taxpayers like you and I -- guarantee the loan."
~ http://www.alternet.org/environment/150385/time_for_plan_b%3A_our_civilization_is_on_the_edge_of_a_systemic_breakdown_/?page=entire

So what's the answer, Japan? Anyone here know?

No, China IS burning coal, and does not have Japan's geothermal assets. They are stretching their Hydro resources to the absolute limits.

The air pollution in China is so bad that it is a major and immediate health problem for them. They want to do away with GW of coal power to get rid of that air pollution.

So the best idea you can come up with is for them to "power down"?

I'm sure they are too polite to laugh in your face if you were to make that suggestion in person, but I wouldn't put any money behind that.

And did you have any information to suggest that a couple years (or weeks) back, when they were still going full-bore on Nuclear, that they weren't ALSO going full-bore on Coal?

Frankly, Any country in the industrialized and developing world will laugh in your face when you tell them they can't burn whatever they lay hands to, in order to build as fast as humanly possible.

You can snark at 'Power-down' all you like, we all know it's not a welcome message.. but I suspect it's coming, one way or another, and Nukes won't stop it, and IT probably WILL stop Nukes. They won't perform in the Minor leagues.. they'll fall right apart.

Oh, it will come. When there is no other choice at all.

Power saves lives and makes living more pleasant. Telling people they need to give it up is pointless.

"Telling people they need to give it up.."

Use extremes much?

Peak Oil doesn't mean "NO MORE OIL".. right? It means there'll be less and less..

A 'few' say powerdown means 'Lights out, period', but for the non-extremists, we're usually talking about 'using a lot less', to get into the range that is less destructive and wasteful, and can be supplied by as many clean and maintainable sources as we can muster. Too much energy makes Jack a fat, lazy entitled boy.. a little diet won't kill him.

There are a lot of choices.. but right now, Nuke and Coal are running along together.. both dirty and dangerous, where coal is like forest fires, and nuke is like earthquakes, all-quiet, then boom!..

And apparently, Japan isn't exactly tapping its geothermal resources.

So the best idea you can come up with is for them to "power down"?

Pretty much, ya. Conservation, natural holism, renewables, love, cooperation, permaculture, working less, making less, making things to last, throwing less out, recycling, "closing the loop", and stuff like that. 'The good life'. :)

"The important thing to understand about collapse is that it's brought on by overreach and overstretch, and people being zealots and trying too hard. It's not brought on by people being laid back and doing the absolute minimum. Americans could very easily feed themselves and clothe themselves and have a place to live, working maybe 100 days a year. You know, it's a rich country in terms of resources. There's really no reason to work more than maybe a third of your time. And that's sort of a standard pattern in the world. But if you want to build a huge empire and have endless economic growth, and have the largest number of billionaires on the planet, then you have to work over 40 hours a week all the time, and if you don't, then you're in danger of going bankrupt. So that's the predicament that people have ended up in. Now, the cure of course is not to do the same thing even harder... what people have to get used to is the idea that most things aren't worth doing anyway..."
~ Dmitry Orlov, 'Reinventing Collapse'

'Discussions about energy and our future' doesn't have to necessarily mean more energy, and since the "western BAU status-quo" seems corrupt/insane, vis-a-vis the natural environment vis-a-vis our ultimate survival, then it would stand to reason that far less energy is what we need: So, yes; power down.

I'm sure they are too polite to laugh in your face if you were to make that suggestion in person, but I wouldn't put any money behind that.

Speak for yourself. (As for your money, well, banking/money system's another problem too as we all know by now.)

I've been to China-- it's a mess in places (and as viewed from the air too)-- and I've spoken first-hand with many Chinese, as well as briefly and coincidentally, with a Korean hydrological engineer at Shanghai airport, about stuff along the lines of what we're talking about. That's when I was made aware of China's water problems and a little about its topography. We agreed that, and I'll quote myself; "China seems to be rushing to westernise, while the west is beginning to question its own lifestyle and changing directions."

AFAIC, anyone who's still advocating nuclear energy is still living in The Matrix.

Nuclear energy, perhaps especially what with its waste-management and decommissioning concerns, strikes me as, in part, a kind of lock-in of people to state/centralized-control. Like proprietary software. With the "corporogovernments'" hands firmly around our (great)grandchildren's balls. They'll need specialists and lots and lots of taxes. Wage-slavery lock-in and names and addresses to keep tabs and to whom to send the bills.

"You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it."
~ The Matrix

"To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated over, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither right, nor knowledge, nor virtue."
~ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Nuclear Energy: A Resource for an Insane Society

Most of the best geothermal sites in Japan are used as hot spas which are very popular and generate considerable local income and employment. There has been vocal opposition to past plans for geothermal schemes from those concerned with such spas on the grounds that they would diminish the heat in the spas. This concern is not entirely unfounded. A geothermal scheme in New Zealand did significantly reduce local the geyser activity which was a tourist attraction.

This is not to say Japan would not be wise to use geothermal energy, just to explain why there is opposition.

Fair enough and thanks... But yet that, too, sort of seems to boil down to powering down.
We're supposed to be an intelligent species: A lower-power life strikes me as a fun challenge for our intelligence. Nuclear's so last century. ;)

How much energy are we currently pulling globally, by the way? Has anyone on TOD ever calculated an estimate?
I imagine it would be stunning, and speak, in a way, of complete idiocy...

There are a few washrooms I've visited that have electronic/optical soap dispensers; and half the time, the electronic/optical taps don't work very well. I use more organic energy and time frustratingly waving my hands in front of the optics, trying to get the tap to open, than the supposed convenience.

Once, when a grocery-store automatic door was not "working" (not automatic), I almost ran into it. I had to actually pull the door open with my hands and arms and muscles.

Thanks Merrill. It's an extensive entry, so I'm going to bookmark it and read it later at length. (Hopefully there are examples that give the layperson an idea of the scales.)

I hope there are not too many examples that give a layman's idea of scales. Comparing things to "300 soccer fields" or saying "european streetcleaners make same amount of money as african college graduate in his first job" usually creates interpretations (many very visual) that influence the perspective. If something weighs 300 kilograms, then that's what it weighs. Changing it into "as much weight as all pidgeonfeathers lost in the US in the month of april" or "1/100th of a sailing boat in the 1st century AD" usually mixes up the message.

It's always about how things are "presented" or "sold" to the general public isn't it. Always profit first.

If Japanese people understood - as they certainly do NOW - about the inherent dangers in nuclear power - they would give up their geothermal pools - for life.

Tell that one to my 46 year old niece - still in Tokyo, her adopted home of 20 years. She is using her restaurant business contacts to try to help those affected by the quake. Her parents were holed up and not taking calls in shock since this started. Now, they are resigned to the fact that their daughter may die before they do.

The nuclear waste left behind will take a very long time to "go away". People matter.

I think there are plenty of reasons to doubt that a proper safety culture exists in China. The example of the USSR, which had a similar non-democratic command-and-control economic system, and China's existing, ongoing environmental disasters are two. But the state of affairs in China's nuclear industry is completely unknown to me.

Proper safety culture? In China? Their construction practice scares the B'Jesus out of me.

My guess is that the Chinese nuclear industry says that it takes safety seriously, and does most of the time. However, with NPPs, safety needs to be taken very seriously all of the time. China lacks a civic culture that can push back without fear of being jailed when the forces of profit/greed/power try to cut corners, which means the safety culture is in practice likely to be a lot weaker than in the US.

But it's unknown to me, and I don't want to make an absolute statement.

Understood. Yeah, who will a fella confront, your gaolor? Eh?

Within a single organization, separate teams can be assigned to develop competing technologies and designs. The competition in such cases often is multi-dimensional, including the safety dimension, rather than being strictly monetary, as would be the case for competing corporations. A proper organizational design can provide for separation of responsibilities and implement checks and balances. A good example is the US constitution.

Design and practice can diverge dramatically.

Rate: Geez. Iknow, huh? It's all a bit scary to me.

All the above is maybe theoretically possible.

But the real-world current state of China is corrupt State Capitalism, where unelected leaders enrich themselves and their cronies, while the checks and balances of a democratic process and a free press are completely absent. Even with those sources of feedback, Japan managed a spectacular failure.

What are the odds that the Chinese culture of cutting corners, haste, and corruption will make safe nuclear power plants? This is a country that is unable to keep toxins at fatal levels out of the milk sold to children and that lives with air pollution levels that damage health severely, so health and safety regulation is self-evidently non-functional.

Chinese political leaders literally have the power of life and death, and capital punishment is freely dispensed, along with long prison sentences for the wrong kind of speech. What are the odds that low-level workers who see bad construction practices will speak up, when whistle-blower protections do not exist, and corrupt officials have power to imprison or execute?

You should probably read "The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?" by Ian Bremmer.

State capitalism does a lot of things well, like building new cities, high speed rail, and coal power plants at break-neck speed, at least in China.
But it has failed miserably at protecting the health and safety of its' citizens, and at protecting the natural environment. Given that we have 30 years consistent evidence of this failure, believing that Chinese nuclear power will somehow be different from the last 30 years of Chinese history strikes me as somewhere between wishful thinking and willful denial of reality.

State capitalism has worked well in Singapore. It's citizens also appear to enjoy high standards of health and safety. China is simply lagging in these regards, but China is rapidly catching up as it becomes better off.

Singapore has a much smaller fraction of the economy directly state-owned than China, plus corruption is almost non-existent, while the rule of law is strong (especially property law). Democracy in Singapore is evolving from a facade to a reality. While Singapore does have a strong and involved state, it also has a semi-free press, and a vibrant private sector market economy.

So I am not sure that Singapore even qualifies as "state capitalism" anymore, but in any case I am much more confident in Singapore's ability to safely operate nuclear power plants than China.

China is immersed in its Confucianism and feudal past.
What do you think the Cultural Revolution was about? It would not of been possible without its Confucianism and feudal history.

It is now a feudal capitalistic state.

Clearly China is a culture undergoing very rapid change, but my experiences working with Chinese industry do not inspire confidence.

Previously I was a mechanical engineer designing equipment to build disk drives. Most of our manufacturing happened in Singapore, but we opened up some factories in China eventually. Chinese factories tended to modify process equipment, leaving out screws they considered un-necessary and replacing high-strength, high tolerance components with low-quality local manufacture. Infrastructure and quality control was much lower in China than Singapore and eventually my employer moved almost all high-end manufacturing out of China, because low quality outweighed low cost.

Pausing construction while we learn the lessons from Japan seems the most sensible thing to do. All the countries shoud be doing that.

This article has some pretty clear photos; my apologies if they're already posted in a previous string.


Really good, thanks. Noticed only one error in the report, the photo with the fire car pumping water is into probably pool 4 (not 1 as said in text, as that one should be next to the building still standing which is reactor 2). The photos are great.

For instance, I would like to check where the spent fuel pool 4 is, it should be possible to see how much the fire car pumps to the correct location. Well I am sure the technicians over there do that too.

It is really a sad story. It appears as if the response is a little low at the moment, probably sending a few hundred soldiers would improve the situation. At least they should clean up material which is not highly radioactive on the path from the gate to plants, for instance.

Is there anybody else here who thinks it's a futile quest to try and get the cooling pumps working again? We've already heard about salt and supply chain challenges. High res. photos of the exterior of the plant show water filtering systems are heavily damaged. We've had a hydrogen explosion in primary containment vessel of Reactor #2 (witness the damage to the top of the reactor buildings in 1 and 3). There are also air gaps in the piping that can destroy equipment, and take many hours to bleed (under normal circumstances). There is no place to store heavily radioactive wastewater that has been in contact with core, or damaged fuel rods in spent fuel pools. It appears multiple pipe breaks suggest steam and cooling pathways are no longer closed loop systems (but are leaking at significant rates).

I'm starting to think the minimal staffing at the plant (50 - 100 people), and lack of detailed information in press releases (unless a worker steps in some water and gets injured) are merely delaying tactics. They will never get cooling restored to these plants, they seek to continue "feed and bleed" as long as possible (working to dissipate decay heat), and hope that the situation doesn't significantly worsen and that the wind and weather will continue to move most of the airborne and water born fission products away from direct human contact (and ingestion) and to the ocean. It makes for surprising reading (or watching) to compare the response efforts to date in Japan with those at Chernobyl in Ukraine. With radioactivity releases now calculated at near Chernobyl levels, and 10 times the fuel stored (or in meltdown) at the site, I'm really troubled by the low-key and minimal efforts to date.


I'm starting to think the minimal staffing at the plant (50 - 100 people), and lack of detailed information in press releases (unless a worker steps in some water and gets injured) are merely delaying tactics.

It certainly doesn't look, to me, like a serious effort to manage a disaster of this magnitude.

"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind..."

~Bob Dylan

I'm starting to think the minimal staffing at the plant (50 - 100 people), and lack of detailed information in press releases (unless a worker steps in some water and gets injured) are merely delaying tactics.

The communists certainly did a lot better with their command and control than the Corporation is doing. I think that there would have been much prompter outcry and demand for multi-national cooperation if there weren't prevailing offshore winds and the presence of an infinite-appearing pollution sink nearby. We're going to keep moving the bar downwards and establishing new normals and baselines as we descend. 25 years after Chernobyl, we have much less resources to throw at disasters and problems; witness the disappearing international aid, even from the American empire. Just set the bar lower; potroast for all.

if there weren't prevailing offshore winds and the presence of an infinite-appearing pollution sink nearby.

As a comment I read elsewhere said, if there were to be another massive tsunami about now - what would that deposit on land?

I'm having flashbacks to discussions last summer here on TOD regarding the impacts of a hurricane on the GOM oil spill. Given the current eddies, any significant typhoon is going to redeliver the goods in a wind and water blown fashion many miles inland up and down the coast. A typhoon is a much more common occurrence, with very predictable outcomes, depending on the category. If/when we don't stop the pollution, the redistribution of heavy isotopes through wave action in a typhoon would probably irradiate the entire coastline due to the currents and eddies. Photo from Wiki on the Kuroshio current.

It seems the minimal response/staff at the site may not be a bad approach.
The reactors are scrap and the site is an unapproachable contaminated mess other than through tunnels. There is nothing useful to do that anyone has thought of.
Fixing some marginal problems, such as draining a few sumps or getting the lights back on in places does no harm, but does not change the reality that the site is leaking enormous amounts of radioactivity, not just into the water but also into the air and will do so for as long as the fuel stays hot, which is several years.
There is no known solution, no robot can even go through the wreckage to retrieve fuel rods from the remains of the storage pools, much less pull out the remains of the fuel from the bottom of the damaged reactors.
Meanwhile, cooling the reactor hulks makes steam that carries away the iodine and cesium that will poison central and northern Japan for centuries during that time. Increased cooling would mean increased runoff, not good given the limited water storage available. Pumping water into barges buys a bit of time, maybe, but where do the barges go?
Above all of that is the potential for recriticality, because the damaged fuel may accumulate a critical mass accidentally. TEPCOs reports of a "neutron beam" being repeatedly noted several days ago may be real observations. There was a lot of fairly fresh fuel in the reactor 4 pool, so the risk is not zero.
Either way, southern Japan should be less impacted, the winds over Japan rarely come from the north east. So Tokyo should be ok, even as Japan suffers

"There is nothing useful to do that anyone has thought of."

I believe several people (or maybe it is just one person repeating) have suggested getting the spent fuel from 5, 6 & common area the heck out there. That would be useful...no?

It's several. Repeatedly.

It would be useful, yes.

Very true and highly advisable, but not easy.
The common pool material is simplest, as it is the oldest and coldest, plus there is so much of it, close to 2000 tons.
Not sure if there is power on that facility or if the cranes work or how dangerously hot it is.
In any case, it would be a job. At 5 tons/shipment, before including water and holding tank, about 400 trips to somewhere. Probably needs a custom made facility on a heavy truck with shielded cab.
Fuel from 5 and 6 is hotter, but there is less, so maybe another 400 runs.
Do not know if such an effort might do more harm, if the truck has an accident and blocks the access road.
A barge would be better, but it would take a pretty deep tank and the harbor may not allow that.

I would rig up quadruple redundant cooling pumps on everything, just in case people have to evacuate this summer. The iodine, which is 90% of the emissions, has a short half life so it might be possible to return in the fall when the winds are again favorable.
Also, add storage tanks wherever possible. If the contamination can be kept away from the environment for a few decades, it would help a lot.


you mean robots like these? By the way DOE is sending these and other robots there along with 40 employees (scientists and engineers).

News from California:



SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- County supervisors on California's central coast want operators of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant to suspend license renewal efforts until more earthquake safety studies are completed. [....]"

Yup. As has been noted, local communities have major influence on land use decisions in the US.

PG&E, already in a world of trouble over a lax safety culture, may finally have to respond (expensively) to public outcry.

No one has mentioned pebble bed reactors lately. they are supposedly failsafe against melt down. if the helium is lost, they heaat up to an idling state (which is too cool to damage anything) and remain there stable until the helium is restored. their only risks are 1) dust from damaged pebbles (a very minor issue), and 2) the usual issue of waste dispostal. they are smaller than PWRs, probably cost more per KWH, but that seems like a bargain right now. reactions?

That'll be because they don't exist.


No commercial-level designs in production, problems with the prototypes which have been built.

For them to succeed commercially, they'd need to produce 500MWe per reactor. None that size has yet been built.

Add to that a reasonable prototype test period (10 to 40 years, depending on how reasonable you are) before building production PBRs, you can see that they cannot possibly make any significant contribution to electricity supplies until well after 2050.

China's HTR-PM "This was to be a single 200 MWe (450 MWt) unit but will now have twin reactors, each of 250 MWt driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine." "Start-up was scheduled for 2013." The HTR-10 (a smaller version of this reactor)program started up in 2000 and reached full power in 2003.

PG&E is a criminal enterprise.
The thought of them operating a nuclear reactor...

"Govt may spray resin on N-plant / Sticky material should keep down radiation"

Apologies if this link and the information therein has already been provided:


If attention to this site must be maintained over decades, it presupposes social and political stability for at least that long. Given the technological level our species has so far achieved, does it raise the question of whether we are adaptive over long periods of time?

Apologies if this link and the information therein has already been provided:


If attention to this site must be maintained over decades, it presupposes social and political stability for at least that long. Given the technological level our species has so far achieved, does it raise the question of whether we are adaptive over long periods of time?

Sure. Depending upon one's definition of "long," the question arises for all species.

If, instead of species longevity, we compare the history of human social stability to the half-lives of certain radioisotopes...

Something like 400 lightwater or pressured water commercial reactors operating for about 30 years so far. So 12,000 reactor years with one serious accident (TMI) and one potentially catastrophic accident (this one in Fukishima still unfolding - the question of how contaminated Northern Honshu is going to end up is up in the air right now). The de-commisioning costs just released by Tokyo Electric ($12 billion) are clearly specious - TMI site cleanup cost a good percentage of that and it was at least an order of magnitude less than this mess already.

So we now have a couple data points that show that these kinds of failure are not "one in a million" as I'm sure the actuarial studies produced by the industry and regulatory bodies would have it. There clearly should be much more invested in making the cooling systems "more" fail safe for these plants since this was the common failure mode for both TMI and Fukishima (its not like a 9.0 earthquake occurred directly under the plant cracking the reactors in half).

At the least, operators of these plants should now have to come up with credible options for control in the absence of a functioning grid (and other disrupted logistics) at their location for whatever a plausible interval is in light of the new reality - weeks or months, not hours or days as is the case now with battery packs and diesel generators.

Rather than 12,000 reactor years it seems more appropriate to say - out of 400 reactors, 6 catastrophic failures (TMI, Ch, + Fuk 1-4)...

I think Wall Street ran those probabilities 30 years ago, and the insurance industry 40 years ago. Too bad that even now, with real numbers, our politicians (of both parties) don't seem to care.


"Fukushima warning: US has 'utterly failed' to address risk of spent fuel
Nuclear experts told Congress Wednesday that spent-fuel pools at US nuclear power plants are fuller than safety suggests they should be. They say the entire US spent-fuel policy should be overhauled in light of the nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant..."

"By contrast, nuclear utilities in the US have over decades accumulated some 71,862 tons of spent fuel in more than 30 states – the vast majority of it sitting today in pools that are mostly full, according to a recent state-by-state tally by the Associated Press. It's a huge quantity of highly radioactive material equal to a great many Chernobyls' worth of radioactivity, nuclear experts say."

"At many reactor sites today, there is nearly 10 times as much irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pools as in the reactor cores, Lochbaum said. Yet those pools "are not cooled by an array of highly reliable emergency-cooling systems capable of being powered from the grid, diesel generators, or batteries. Instead, the pools are cooled by one regular system sometimes backed up by an alternate makeup system."

The spent-fuel pools are also not housed within robust concrete containment structures. Instead, "the pools are often housed in buildings with sheet metal siding like that in a Sears storage shed," Lochbaum said."

Yup. Someone should do a Google Map where clicking on a nuclear plant site pops up a photo gallery of its spent-fuel pool(s).

Neighbors might find it instructive.

As I've said here recently, and to various deaf ears over the decades, the spent-fuel ponds are a scary situation.

However, they aren't scary if one has the illusion that business-as-recently-usual will continue indefinitely, and short of that it's hard to prove a rationale.

Unless some initiative is taken, I expect many of them to ultimately evaporate/burn/melt in place through simple neglect: it won't be a priority until they start going sideways, and once that happens everyone will run the other way. For instance, in 30 years many locations won't even have working fire engines or the fuel to run them, much less the ability to deal with a melting radioactive slag pit.

In addition to a heavily-mechanized command economy, the Soviet response depended heavily on the basic trust and ignorance of the 500,000 troops exposed to radiation; that would simply not be replicable today even if one wanted to do it, much less in a resource-starved future.

The reactors, problematic as they can be, are a distraction: the real monkey trap is those fuel pools. They will be utterly low-profile and benign... until they aren't. It's not an engineering question, it's the intersection between aggregate human decision-making heuristics and the tangible world.

Like "global warming", "spent fuel" has a comfortable feel to it in the human mind. Perhaps we should re-name both. I'll work on it.

""spent fuel" has a comfortable feel to it in the human mind. Perhaps we should re-name"

How about calling it what it really is: nuclear waste?

Spent fuel is a really sneaky and dishonest term to apply to this stuff.

Because its not waste.you can retrieve the unspent fuel as does other countries.

Which is to say that 'Spent' is also very misleading, and part of why these pools are not noticed as the threat that they have become.


"Homeless Fuel" ... "Incomplete Fissibles" ... "Toxic Fuel"

"Unstable Remains"

You "can" retrieve about 95% of everything we call waste and use it for something else. Are we retrieving it?

At the very end of the process, after you're done reprocessing and reusing it, is the final end product non-radioactive and "walk-away safe"?

The radioactive waste will become weapons of future
warfare among villages. You go to the waste pit with a captive.
The captive retrieves pellets. The pellets are insinuated
into the neighboring village and its resources.

The radioactive waste will become magic charms and talismans.

It will become surrounded by myth, lore, and religiosity.

(The Daini reactors had some issues on March 12th, too?)

TOKYO (Kyodo)--Smoke was temporarily seen at the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, but it soon disappeared, its operator said Wednesday.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said smoke was detected at around 5:56 p.m. from a power distribution panel on the first floor of the turbine building at the reactor. The company, known as TEPCO, said it made a call to a local fire department.

The announcement came at a time when efforts are under way to contain the nuclear crisis at the radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, hit by the devastating March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The Fukushima Daini plant is located about 10 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, and its four reactors have been stable in so-called ''cold shutdown'' after suspending operations following the quake.

"No one really knows the net yield of nuclear power because at present its use is subsidized by fossil fuels in a thousand ways that cannot be estimated until we try to run a nuclear system without them.

Will nuclear power have a more concentrated value than the wood output of the solar system, or of coal, or of cheap oil from rich deposits? The new power plant seems to be more economical than the competing fossil plants as long as it is running on the accumulated storages of nuclear fuel and fuel prospecting done on fossil-fuel subsidy. Is nuclear power at this level of net power delivery possible in a culture that does not have the accompanying fossil fuels?" (Odum, 1971, p. 135)

Does anyone know if the generators were hydrogen cooled? And if so, what volumes of hydrogen are involved in a typical turbo generator system of this size?

this is a disaster for Japan and all over the world! but they still dont learn their lesson from that accident..nik

Japan Weighs Entombing Fukushima Citing Chain Reaction Risk

Japan is considering pouring concrete into its crippled Fukushima atomic plant as the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog agency warned that a potential uncontrolled chain reaction could cause further radiation leaks.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano yesterday ruled out the possibility that the two undamaged reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s six-unit Dai-Ichi plant would be salvaged.

Jeez, this oughta be interesting to watch unfold (Like, it hasn't been already).

Best, Roger Dodger.

I hope those presumed possible pockets of re-criticality are few, small and isolated.

But hopium is in increasingly short supply at Fukushima Daiichi.

The key is presumed criticalites. Until they get those robots to do some measurements it only so much hot air.

Or they could just turn off the lights and watch for eerie blue flashes.

Auto parts makers struggle to recover

Auto-related manufacturers in the Tohoku region are struggling to resume operations after their production bases were ravaged by the massive earthquake and tsunami earlier this month.

Only one subcontractor is mentioned which is in the 30 km exclusion zone of Fukushima Daiichi. The rest are dealing with massive earthquake and tsunami damage to the factories, as well as employees who have lost their homes.

China may double solar power goal amid Japan nuclear crisis

China is the largest solar panel producer in the world, but 90 percent of these panels are sold overseas, according to Huang Xinming, head of a research institute at JA Solar, another large Chinese solar power company.

Solar power produced in China only accounts for 1 percent of the world's total, mainly due to its relatively high cost compared to thermal power and hydroelectric power, Huang said.

re: Chernobyl. I don't know numbers - but I can tell you what it looked like for some people. In the 80's I was the Director of an Early Intervention Program in the US - served kids ages birth to three who had disabilities, chronic illness or other very critical illnesses. We had a group of kids and their families who were permitted to come into the US from Poland because of the truly bizarre disorders their kids had - it was I believe a "compassionate" sort of immigration status in the hopes that something could be done for these babies. One child was born without a cortex, another had an upside down heart, and a third had limb anamolies that were indescribable - as if some sort of animal had been attached to her torso instead of human limbs. Another child was born without a spleen and finally - a child who lacked the full compliment of veins and arteries in his circulatory system. I had worked with babies with all kinds of disorders and have never seen anything like these kids. All of them were from Poland - moms had either been pregnant at the time of the disaster or got pregnant shortly after and had been exposed to the contaminated cloud which traveled over parts of Europe but had not been adequately advised of the risks. There was nothing that could be done for these kids - except make what time they had comforatable. But my - those parents loved their kids and so desperately wanted some cure for them. My understanding is that some 120 families with such children had been permitted into the US at that time. So for sure that 43 number is bull.

Thanks for sharing that. It must have been heart-wrenching work.

I was hoping someone would post the reality of long term radiation damage, even if just a small slice. I'm sick of the liars here who are trying to minimize and disguise the dangers by legalistic methods that should be obvious to anyone familiar with how defense lawyers work: first get rid of all evidence you can (near meltdowns, errors where systems grew out of control but the accident was kept out of the public eye), then reduce the numbers as much as possible until you can try for reasonable doubt (ignore full spectrum of radiation damage long term, focus only on deaths, that's a dead obvious sign someone is either deceived and then speaking as one deceived, or that one is a paid PR person promoting vile toxic ways of creating long term waste that they will never get taken care of).

I've also, by the way, talked to a friend who has family in Japan, and he says similar things about how the Japanese deal with the after realities of Hiroshima / Nagasiki.

These apologists are doing one of two things: lying to themselves to excuse the inexcusable, or lying outright because they get paid to do so.

I was just talking to a friend about Chernobyl, he told me he just saw some documentary about the aftereffects of Chernobyl, 43 is indeed total BS, pure spin, blatant and flagrant attempt to mislead and deceive. I now give the nuclear industry, and those who are either inadvertently, or willingly, mislead by it, zero credibility. I consider everything they say and promote as a lie. Just like Big Coal.

Apparently nuclear ideology has an enforced off switch to the reasoning parts of brain, which lead people to either lie to themselves, or to others. All these lies are easy to pierce, which is what makes me wonder just what is going on here.

I do however understand why people who are allowing themselves to be deceived do so: the choice is actually conservation and powering down, and capitalism and industrial production simply has no model to support an economic system that is doing that, only growth, endlessly, at any cost. And many people here are deeply connected and attached to the notions of continued generation of business for BAU, no matter what form that might take.

Speaking for myself, I'm not going to waste any more time talking to these people, they are the problem, not the solution, and we only have one life to live, it's important to avoid people who are dead set on creating hell on earth in my opinion, no matter how they justify that to themselves. Just as it's even more important now, today, to support the people who are actually working at creating solutions and lower impact ways of life. The problem of course for future generations is that they will have to clean up the messes, or try, while the people who profited from all this are long gone. Hardly seems fair to me.

I was hoping someone would post the reality of long term radiation damage, even if just a small slice.

Well, the proponents and apologists will heap scorn on the very idea, but you should really read the analysis by Yablokov et al., published by the NY Academy:


It's massive and expensive, but check with good libraries.

For a quick, free overview listen (carefully--his English is imperfect) to Yablokov:


How many nuclear reactors are melting down in Japan right now? One? Three? Experts and the government contradict. What is a "partial meltdown"?

Radio Ecoshock has a new one hour show on this, plus news clips from NHK World with decent civil defense tips regarding radioactive iodine exposure (breastfeeding, pregnant, which veggies may be safe).

Also covers some economic news, including a big Mitsui container ship turned away from a port in China, being too radioactive. The company says the ship was in Tokyo harbor for a few hours on March 17th. How many other ships are radioactive? Many lines now refuse to go to Japan? What does it mean for the world economy if a big exporting country is shunned?

Speaking of shunned, the UK newspaper the Telegraph is reporting people from Fukushima are being turned away from hospitals and clinics, out of feat they are radioactive. Find all these links in my blog at http://www.ecoshock.info/2011/03/japan-triple-meltdown.html

The second half investigates the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors in California - where the operator and the NRC refuse to plan for an earthquake, even though faults have been found nearby. Interviews with activist Rochelle Becker and legal expert Steven Weissman of Berkeley U.

Quick download version of the Radio Show here:

Or listen to Green 960 AM San Francisco or online, Sundays at 6:30 and 10:30 pm

Alex Smith

It is a special moment. Also the largest Swedish newspaper has slowed down reports, and puts them out of sight - yesterday the link did not even work - you got to see "world news" instead. Like if many want to hide their heads in the sand : "no news is good news" - just that we who dig a bit deeper knows it is not.

See for example mega bequerels/m2 in Iitake (?) the village 40 km to the north. Or Reactor 2 suspected to melt through reactor vessel (the other, at least reactor 1 holds still, I insist, although the pressure is really high 6 BarA 31st - please get it down a bit Tepco...). Or small flows of highly radioactive water into ocean likely. This is not peanuts, folks. And it can get worse if wind changes, that is absurd, or if one pipes breaks, that is a risky game.

And it will cost, human suffering, and to Japanese society (like a small added tax the next 10 years). I believe the product supply is not such a worry, as the companies that used to do it in Japan, well, some other companies will rapidly (few months) step in an take over and sell. Sure, quality and so on might change, but after 2 months from now, there will be no more important parts missing for a customer who needs it and is willing to pay. Sure price might be a tad higher. But I am sure a PC or an industrial robot or flat screen will be available.

But the risk for Japan economy, and companies that were active with factories in northeastern Japan, the risks of a complete no-return is very real, still.
One accident, one cloud, one rainy day, 300 km away.

Could someone tell me if radiation levels will remain high enough in the contaminated water to suppress all microbiological growth? I know the lower down the food chain you go, the less susceptible to radiation organisms seem to be. Is this true from man down to viruses and prions? It appears perhaps this water will be held for some time. Are these damp and flooded crypts and tunnels a sterile environment now? The robot videos, if we ever get them, will show a moonscape? A sewer?

I think its a story about bodies (of people killed in the quake/tsunami) that have not been retrieved because of concern about post-mortem irradiation.

Here's an English version (I think):


Yes that is an issue right? Surely the radiation does not stop decomposition. Not to mention humane and identification issues. Of course the earthquake and tsunami consumed folks anyhow. Now a human face to this tragedy. I give deepest condolences and RIP.

Is this true from man down to viruses and prions?

Microbes are tougher than man when it comes to radiation. There is variation depending on the species. 500 Rads or so will kill you but Deinococcus radiodurans can take 3,000,000 Rads and keep on ticking:

That said sewers are full of life because they are full of "food" i.e. organic material, and there is not much of that in the construction of the reactor building. But given time there will be critters down there, life will find a way

30 March 2011 Last updated at 10:26 ET

Water clear-up 'urgent' at reactorBy Paul Rincon

Science reporter, BBC News So, according to Tony Roulstone, from Cambridge University's department of engineering, the substantial quantities of contaminated water will have to be pumped away and "immobilised" - perhaps by locking it up in concrete, which would then be stored...

"It seems the pressure from steam being relieved from the reactor was above its design pressure and that at some stage either that or a hydrogen explosion ruptured the torus or one of the connecting pipes."
"Now there seems to be water leaking out and causing these high levels of radioactivity."

So this means different buttons pushed at different times and we avoid 90% of this? Dang, we sure pulled a Munson.