Does anyone know if the water leaking from the plant can enter the ground water and make its way to faucets all over the area? I suppose that would be a real nightmare---toxic water everywhere, the price of electricity.

I think the geology will limit the spread directly from the site in groundwater. There's nothing like the Ogallala Aquifer underlying this location. And the local area may not even use groundwater for the water supply.

I looked at this when they reported iodine in drinking water...Tokyo, for one, appears to rely on surface reservoirs and dams.

Its my understanding that Tokyo gets most of its drinking water via large aqueducts from the surrounding countryside. Niigata, Nagoya, Fukushima etc.

I've seen one of those aqueducts in Niigata. Massive.

Niigata, Nagoya, Fukushima? No, no, and no. Most of Tokyo's water supply comes from rivers and reservoirs to the west (some from Yamanashi, Kanagawa and possibly Saitama) and rivers to the north. By far the biggest source is the Tone-gawa river system coming from Gunma. No Tokyo water is sourced from rivers originating in Fukushima or Niigata prefectures. And Nagoya??? Please, look on a map before writing something so patently ridiculous.

In hydrogeology, there is a commonly used technique called the breakthrough curve measurement. It essentially measures the time it takes for tracer solutes in the groundwater to travel a certain distance to where the samples are taken. With radioactivity, the trace is built-in and has some stability and is easily detectable (or can be deconvoluted from its half-life properties). So it would be relatively simple to do breakthrough curve measurements, especially in terms of "something is better than nothing".

The interesting finding with many breakthrough curve traces is they have significant fat-tails that cause some consternation to the research hydrogeologists. The fat-tails give the real effect that there are pathways that are much faster than normal. This also generates a greater travel for a given time for a fraction of the contamination. My analysis, which I think is at odds with the conventional viewpoint, is that disorder in the channel pathways allow flow to be described well by simple dispersion models. I was looking at this as part of my oil depletion research (the math is very similar) and so I have an entire chapter with modeled experimental data in The Oil ConunDrum.

If someone is interested in this topic, I have quite a few of up-to-date references in addition to the writeup, as I only finished this section in the last year.

pi -

I very much doubt that radioactive constituents entering the groundwater beneath the site would become anything more than a very localized radioactive contamination problem. Unless there is something very unusual about the geology beneath the site, the groundwater table is probably in direct communication with the sea and that there is a slight hydraulic gradient from the area near the site to the sea. Thus, one would expect the contaminated groundwater to slowly (probably very slowly) migrate from the site to the sea. Bad news for the local ocean environment, but probably not a serious problem once you get further inland. One would also expect that if there are any potable water supply wells in the region, they would be located a considerable distance upgradient from the site, as one does not usually want to put wells near the ocean due to concerns over salt water intrusion.

The above is all predicated on the assumption that there is nothing out of the ordinary about the local geology. I hope that's the case.

I looked for the answer to this last night, and I haven't found any answers. As we've learned with the fracking issue, once groundwater gets contaminated, water does what it tends to do and goes all over. And the tsunami will have further influenced the set-up in the short term. Where the water goes outside the swash zone depends primarily on how the water table is tilted based on the bedrock below what appears to be a highly permeable zone of silt/sand/gravel? But it also depends on beach morphology, rainfall, tides, saturation from the tsunami, and how the breakwaters affect the dynamics. Most importantly, does the massive flooding of radioactive water from above runoff in both directions both beachward and inshore due to a damming effect? The second link describes the geomorphology of the Tsukabara formation just north of Fukushima,

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, in Fukushima Prefecture, began operation in 1971 and has six nuclear reactors, the capacity of which is 4,696 MW. The power station is located approximately 250 km (155 miles) north of Tokyo in the towns of Futaba and Ohkuma, facing the Pacific Ocean. The site of the station covers about 3.5 million square meters (865 acres) and the plants are built on solid bedrock.

Merrill, if this plant were literally "sitting on solid bedrock," every ounce of water being poured on that plant would have been running off into the ocean or into the groundwater from the start of all of this.

Some water has been boiling off as steam. Some water is in the reactor pressure vessel, the dry well, the wet well, the secondary containment bulding and the spent fuel pools. Some water has drained off into the turbine buildings and probably into tunnels and trenches between the reactor buildings and the turbine hall. Some water has drained off into the tunnels connecting the condensors to the sea. And some has drained into the sea.

It is unlikely that there is much water directly below the reactor pressure vessel in the bedrock.

Thanks, PDV, good stuff. Merrill, look at the photos of the plant. Other than the concrete, do you see bedrock?

The problem with radiation is that it goes everywhere, because of the water cycle.

The radioactivity detected in the Tokyo water supply did not come from ground water seepage. It came from being carried aloft by the steam and hot air currents and then raining out over the Tokyo watershed.

The high resolution photos of the plant show that the site was once steeply sloping from behind the plant down to the ocean. The site appears to have two levels: one level for the road behind the reactors and the area around them, the second by the ocean and around the turbine buildings.

From diagrams of the reactor secondary containment buildings, and judging from the relative height of the destroyed top floor on 3 reactors, it appears that the reactor buildings are at least half below the grade around them. To construct the very heavy reactor buildings, the contractors would have preferred to excavate to bedrock and then build the reactor building foundations back up from the bedrock. Later they would have backfilled to the level of the landward road.

Water on the surface (much of it paved) is not going to run back up hill. Any water seeping out of the reactor buildings is going to find it easier to run down to the turbine buildings and then to the ocean.

Whether any water seeps into the bedrock below the reactor building would depend on whether there are any sizeable cracks in the foundation and whether the rock beneath the building is porous.

"The radioactivity detected in the Tokyo water supply did not come from ground water seepage."

I don't recall anyone claiming that it did.

As to running "back up hill," as iato's diagram shows, just because the surface level slopes in a certain direction does not mean that underground layers slope the same way.

From everything I have ever read about it, predicting exactly where and how and how quickly water will flow or migrate underground is notoriously difficult, even in apparently clear cases.

The radioactivity detected in the Tokyo water supply did not come from ground water seepage. It came from being carried aloft by the steam and hot air currents and then raining out over the Tokyo watershed.

And to bring some order to the apparent mystery, that one day it was OMG, the Tpkyo water has too much fission products to be given to infants, then the next day everything is OK. A large metro area, will get its water from a number of sources. Shut off the sources whose levels are above the allowed limit, and the new combined (@ reduced flow volume) will then fall within specs.

The problem with radiation is that it goes everywhere, because of the water cycle.

It also lasts a long long time...maybe long enough for a few more Tsunamis to wash over it.


Fred, you vandal. I love it though. No simple constraint to nature's methods of mixing things is there?

We can mix up an image to convey a different shade of truth.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHahahaha! well done well done. Ya that time thing - alot can happen in a few hundred - or a few thousand years....


The problem with radiation is that it goes everywhere, because of the water cycle.

Well . . . in this case, it is more of a help than a problem.

I know it is trite but "The solution to the pollution is dilution" actually helps in this case I'd say. Granted it sucks to have radioactive particle contamination anywhere but better to have it get diluted in the convection world's largest ocean than contaminate the land & ground water around Fukushima. Yes, it sucks having all that radioactive water released but it is the lesser of evils for right now.

I strongly disagree on that with you. When the radio active molecules get into the ocean, they get into the food chain. Bio accumulation starting from plankton to fish, to birds and man to the shores.
Once on shore they will poison the food chain there for centuries to come.
The plutonium molecules even for eons..

It is better to keep the molecules at one place and declare it a dead zone.


I agree, Roger. If we could localize and condemn this disaster, then we would not be talking about it here today. The problem with radionuclides is that it is a gift that keeps on giving for eons (not just 500 years as someone suggested below). We can put a coffin on top, but there is no way to plug up the bottom of this mess from releasing into the environment to eternity.

Iaato, indeed. It seems that we now have to choose between:

1) Keep the corium in the reactors as cool as possible and thus releasing radio active nucleotides in the sea through the water flow--> global fall out in the sea.


2) Let the corium burn on cement and thus release a radio active cloud in the air --> global fallout in the air.

Thus far we see both happening...

But the second option is too dangerous: uncontrolled fission and explosions could happen and thus send even more core in the air.

Option 1) seems the least worse at the moment.

Maybe when a system is in place to capture and filter the water flow, it is even not so bad after all.


We can't filter isotopes from large volumes of water, even though the Tokyo water company is trying.

Didn't you get the memo? Everything's going to be juuuuust fine.

"Experts: Ocean life can handle radioactive leaks"

My fave line:

"It's a very large ocean," noted William Burnett of Florida State University.

I would add that the Pacific is in fact the largest ocean, but as a non-expert what would I know.

OK, then... this all being the case, why are the workers giving up their lives frantically trying to stop the leaking into the ocean..? From one story to the next and sometimes even within one sentence we're not getting internal logic, let alone all the facts.

It´s getting worse every day....

If it goes on like this for some weeks, there will be plutonium fish all over in the seas at Japan...


I fully agree, and have been saying it for some time. People don't realize that a cubic kilometer of ocean water is a billion tons, and there are billions of them in the Pacific. The stuff that can't be captured and held in storage tanks, should be put into the ocean. On site, it presents hazards to those who need to try to prevent more breakdown of the fuel integrity, and eventually to seal off as much contaminated ground/equipment as deemed wise. The worst place is to let it become airborne -especially if it happenes on a day with onshore winds.

This is so obviously "lawyer-speak". Rare elements get concentrated and we are the top of the food-chain. We will get to eat hugely concentrated amounts of what was "diluted" by the ocean. That is the way oceans work.

For a good idea on how the nuclear industry is doing a lot of this all the time and in all the media, please have a look at this:

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster And Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit

Rare elements get concentrated and we are the top of the food-chain.

Yes, but cesium 137, the biggest danger here, is only mildly bioaccumulative. Concentrations in carnivorous fish are only 100 or so times higher than the water they live in -- compare to bioconcentration factors of 10,000-100,000 for things like organic mercury.

(Re other isotopes: Iodine-131 isn't a big issue because of its short half-life; Strontium 90 *does* bioaccumulate quite a bit and has a long half-life, but there's not much of it in the Fukushima wastewater.)

The bioaccumulation factor of cesium is TINY compared to the amount of dilution we're considering. TEPCO is talking about dumping 10,000 tons of radioactive water into the ocean. Even if it doesn't dilute very much, and stays within 20 km of Fukushima (avg ocean depth 40 meters), the effluent would be diluted by a factor of 2.5 million. If the Fukushima output spreads in a 20 km wide band along the coast as far as Tokyo, the dilution factor is 30 million. If it dilutes into the entire Pacific Ocean (it can't, the half-life is too short) it'd be diluted by a factor of 70 TRILLION.

It's legitimate to argue about whether dilution is a good tactic to use. But bioaccumulation doesn't change the story: it is, so to speak, a drop in the bucket.

Goodman, where there's smoke, there's fire. If there's I-131 and 137, and the reactors are breached, then there's strontium and plutonium, and lots of other stuff too. Ten different dirty bombs at one locale with various loss of integrity and criticality, with isotopes leaking everywhere. Should I call these Goodman's Rules? Have some sushi.

Iodine is a gas and cesium is liquid at room temperature; cesium vapourises at 650 deg C. It's easy for them to escape from a reactor into the atmosphere when it is vented to reduce pressure if the fuel rod cladding is breached. Elements like strontium, plutonium etc. have much higher melting points and even higher boiling points and so it is much more difficult for them to escape the reactor during a venting operation. They also contaminate the memergency cooling water to a much lesser extent compared to iodine and cesium.

Nearly all of the measurable radioactive contamination any distance from the reactor site is down to iodine and cesium because they were blasted into the atmosphere during the venting and subsequent oxy/hydrogen explosions; hardly any of the isotopes with high melting points would have escaped into the plume.

One more link on bedrock geology to put this issue to bed. I sure am going to miss the internet when it's gone. It makes being a generalist much easier. But some hydrogeologists who know the area here weighing in would be great.

Please note that in general, bedrock, especially on major faults, tends to be fractured and tilted, and overlaid with soil and sand. The water tends to follow the fault lines.

I am not a hydrogeologist but I have a comment up-thread on what they can measure

I figure it is OK for a non-specialist to write on this topic, because one eminent research hydrogeologist, Steven Gorelick from Stanford, wrote a book on peak oil with quite a cornucopian slant. Turnaround is fair play I guess.

TEPCO has 15 water tanks buried to a depth of 50 feet on the site to collect rainwater and runoff that sinks into the ground (otherwise known as groundwater). On April 01, one of these came up contaminated with I-131 at 10,000 times the legal limit.

Iaato -

I guess the main point of my previous post is that if the geology of the site has typical of shoreline features, it is highly unlikely that there will be much groundwater movement in the inland direction. Sure, the tides will cause the groundwater in the immediate vicinity to make a twice-daily 'sloshing' back and forth, but the overall general direction is usually from land to sea.

Furthermore, as disruptive as the tsunami was to the surface of the shoreline, it was over in a matter of minutes and probably had virtually no impact on the groundwater movement.

I also think that one other point needs to be made: that for a contaminant to enter the groundwater regime and to then migrate within that regime, it has to be either soluble or a fine fine colloid. Both iodine and cesium readily form soluble inorganic compounds, and so one might expect to fine them in the onsite shallow groundwater. However, strontium is far less soluble, and plutonium less soluble yet. So, I don't think they'd get very far once in the ground. Also, soils have a natural ion exchange capacity, so one should also expect some of these contaminants to be bound to soil particles almost indefinitely.

I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of Fukushima, only that groundwater contamination should be pretty far down on our worry list (a list that is already plenty long and growing).

Joule, the nuclear industry uses this advertisement of being "built on solid bedrock" to give the appearance of stability to these plants, even though that is far from the truth, especially when built on one of the most active fault lines in the world. I feel it is important to correct misinformation that may become important down the road. Absolutely the contaminants are filtered by soil, and only filter down through stable soils at a slow rate (1 cm/year?). But we're talking about recently destabilized soil with large cracks in it and the foundations, with continuous flooding with fresh and sea water, to the point that you are seeing this:

(thanks, Kalimanku!)

So who knows what is happening down there? Especially since dyes being injected aren't showing up in the places that they expect them to.

Now I know why they are reaching somewhat stable pressures inside these reactors. They have become very skilled at forcing in water at nearly the same amounts (48,000 gallons/day) for it to be coming out the other side. With this much leakage going on in the piping, is there anybody left who thinks they can still get the conventional cooling systems running again?

they can still get the conventional cooling systems running again?

That depends on what you mean by conventional cooling system? Pumps/piping for pouring water into the reactors, and spent fuel pools, that is the best we can hope for at this time. Closed loop cooling system -no way. Partially closed loop, pour water in, and capture Most of what runs out for recycling sounds doable. Of course some of it, afer it gets more contaminated must be pumped into long term storage.


Closer... but now you have a carriage return before the closing ">".

If I reply to your post, you won't be able to do the edit.

LOL. Fail, Kalimanku. What a loser. Did I mention that my husband sat on my glasses last week?

Oh No!

There was a program on PBS that said that the land had subsided by about 3ft which is why some of the Tsunami defenses were topped.

If that is in fact the case would that have any impact?

Yup. Good point.

Good stuff re coastal hydrology right here:

More, (commercial wesite, contamination remediation):

Search on "coastal hydrology". Perhaps someone knowledgable can help with the regional & local geology & hydrology?

I can understand your concern with groundwater contamination, but it is likely misplaced. Groundwater tends to flow slowly and not travel far. If you read the effects of hydrofracking and the resultant groundwater contamination, the main problems are always nearby wells or, in a few cases, nearby streams.

The main thing that is near to the Fukushima plant is the ocean. Water flowing from the plant either over the surface or through the ground and rock under the plant is a significant pollution problem. It is also extremely hard to clean up in any reasonable time frame. You can also be sure that if the groundwater flowing through the gravel deposits and rock fissures and ending up in the ocean will not help the situation.

Radioactive material that gets into the ocean can easily travel a fair distance. Again they need an exclusion zone (a much bigger one than for the groundwater) and a testing program. This accident is almost certain to fishing anywhere near the plant.

The far more serious problem is radioactive material that is emitted into the air. It can be transported long distances and deposited in the large population areas south of Fukushima.

Preventing the reactors from burning and sending lots of long half life into the atmosphere to be deposited in major population centers should be the top priority. Stopping the reactors from steaming should be the next priority. Controlling surface runoff to the sea should be next. Groundwater is still important, but it is down the list.

They also need an exclusion zone and a testing program for any wells that are near to the plant.

I haven't misplaced anything, Poobserv; I've just moved on. I mentioned previously that the Pacific will become a dumping ground, and I'll be eating radioactive salmon next year or the year after. The close in hazard to Japan is from the air. The hazard to the rest of the world is slower, through the Pacific Ocean. Placing an exclusion zone on the Pacific Ocean is a case of closing the barn door after the horse is already gone.

"I'll be eating radioactive salmon next year or the year after."

Worry more about the crabs. They tend to concentrate the nuclides. Their habit of eating their old shells after molting also conserves the isotopes. The Bikini atoll crabs are still too hot to eat. The radionuclide of annoyance is Cs-137.

"As an example, coconut crabs (refer photo shown above) form an important (and prized) source of food in the Marshall Islands and, in certain locations, have been found to contain above average concentrations of cesium-137. Residual amounts of cesium-137 in the soil also contribute most to the external dose rate."

Even after multiple thorough nukings, the cesium is more trouble than the plutonium or strontium. Potassium fertiizer has some success in reducing the cesium uptake, but it look like another generation before it drops to safe-enough levels.

As a coworker put it, "The Deadliest Catch" is about to get a whole new meaning.

Enjoyed the read thanks for the link.

Your comment immediately made me think of fracking.

Firstly, this plant is right next to the sea. If the water has been drinkable then the sea has not been contaminating it with salt and other minerals so there is a low likelihood of anything from the plant getting in.

Secondly, it takes a long time for water to get through into the main aquifers. The short lived and thus more worrying radionuclides, eg Iodine, will have decay to very small levels. Many aquifers taken very long periods of time for water to percolate so by then the nuclides such as Caesium and a lot of the other worrying ones will have decayed too.

Summary, it isn't likely to get through and even if it does it will have decayed.


A modest proposal

Pushing silt around [news link] is insufficient.

Lift the reactor vessels and toss them in the ocean:

Not sure how you go about doing that or if its even physically possible.

Just a couple thoughts: I dont recall any helicopter design that was capable of lifting in excess of 450 tons,on any drawing board, ever. Who, in their right mind, would go in there to rig it up? Parking a de-commissioned aircraft carrier over the site is not in the cards either.

I'm not a civil engineer, but what is being proposed at your link is a cofferdam, not a seawall. It is highly unlikely that "sunken barges and rocks" could be used to build a dam capable of resisting the ocean currents, especially in storm/high tide conditions. Concentrating all the bad stuff in a reservoir that then is breached is worse than the current situation. Building a structure sufficient to do what is proposed would take engineering, subsea excavation, millions of yards of concrete, and the area is radioactive, so how could this be done?

Help me out. It is easy for someone to imagine a quick fix of piling refuse up in the ocean but it is quite another to actually contain water in a lagoon or reservoir fronting the Pacific Ocean. How could this actually be done?

Step 1 is to build a seawall to contain runoff and close up the seawater cooling loop that runs under all four turbine halls. Good strong breakwater forms a six-acre lagoon. Water will evaporate. Radioactive particles won't.

Step 2 is to build a 20-ft tall dike along the west walls of all four reactor buildings, plus two flanks to the lagoon. Start serious water flooding to cool reactors. Smash the roof of #2 and airdrop boron, shredded tin, water. Keep it up until all four reactors are cool enough to entomb by pumping concrete from the top of the dike.

I think it's a good idea to bunker-bust the turbine halls, to aid runoff of radioactive liquids into lagoon. The main idea, however, is to use vast amounts of seawater to drown everything.

The seawall could be done in two weeks. Push a dozen barges overloaded with cement, rocks and debris into position and scuttle them sideways. At the same time blast the outbuildings to rubble and start building a perimeter dike around the reactors by pushing rubble with bulldozers. Install big pumps to move seawater. Doesn't matter how tall the dike is -- start flooding the reactors, blast the roof off #2 and air drop boron. When the dike is 20 ft high and the lagoon is more or less secure, Tomahawk the turbine halls. The key to making this work is an enormous water flood, as in multiple acrefeet per hour, pumped from the sea to the reactors and partly aimed to hit the SFPs. Ideally everything should be wrecked, pulverized, washed toward the lagoon and cool enough to start pumping concrete from the dike.

I know it's nuts. I don't see any other way to gain control.

Won't all that ordnance just exacerbate the problem? Ideally, we would want to contain and sequester the fission products (of which there are hundreds of tons), not scatter them all over the place with explosions.

The clock is ticking. I think it has to be cauterized immediately, before fissile lava from #2 finds a path to the water and explodes. Blowing up the outbuildings and turbine halls is relatively safe. Unroofing #2 has to be done with finesse -- but quickly! no matter what the perceived risk.

It is unlikely that it will take months for the damaged reactors to have a melt through. So if a melt through followed by a steam explosion is in the cards, we will have it well before any serious civil engineering effort can be implemented at this site.
It is rather more likely that the plant, riddled with cracked pipes leaking super radioactive water, will become increasingly hazardous to be near. Yet the 4300 tons of nuclear fuel on site need ongoing cooling to avoid a much more serious nuclear accident. The lack of apparent effort to ensure that kind of capability is maintained for a few decades even if unattended is a serious omission, imo. It may eventually mandate the kind of man made nuclear cesspool that is described above.
Just hope that no earthquakes disrupt the slow decay of the contaminants therein.

Satellite loop for Japan. Looks like inland flow for them this evening. Forecast is for sustained onshore winds starting midweek.

[h/t Jim in MN]

*It may eventually mandate the kind of man made nuclear cesspool that is described above.*

These proposals assume no natural or human negative interventions, such as earthquake, tsunami, war, civil disorder, pandemic - one could probably think of others. The premise is social, political and natural stability into the indefinite future.

These proposals assume no natural or human negative interventions, such as earthquake, tsunami, war, civil disorder, pandemic - one could probably think of others. The premise is social, political and natural stability into the indefinite future.

And that, in a nutshell, is why nuclear energy in it's present incarnation is unethical, immoral and has no place whatsoever in our future energy mix! Either we go back to the drawing board for a completely new fail safe reactor design that takes into account all of the above or it simply can't be allowed.

Anyone who disagrees should be volunteering their time to help clean it up.

Anyone who disagrees should be volunteering their time to help clean it up.

Anyone who disagrees should sign up to be on-call for any future cleanup. No excuses, when called, you go!

"Anyone who disagrees should be volunteering their time to help clean it up."


And don't forget to let your kids, grandchildren and any great-grandchildren you may have, know that you've volunteered them to help too! ("Son, this Tyvek suit was your grandpa's, and one day it'll belong to you.")

Charming tradition.

Trouble is, they're volunteering everybody's kids, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, ad infinitum as fodder for their grand "look how safe nukes are" experiment.


I don't get why are you so confident this corium lava is still critical, to be still in the ground-melting-steam-explosive liquid lava phase after 3 weeks. It is certainly damn hot, but it has some of the control rods and all other junk molten in it, more or less, unknown geometry, we don't know anything, so neither case is to be taken as facts.
I'm optimistic since that much time passed, criticality should not be a question, things should be cooling down very slowly - but nevertheless it's still releasing really bad amounts of radiation, still need continous cooling of those small surface area hot blobs on the RPV bottoms, and this will go on for a very long time.. This scenario doesn't need to get any worse, it's already the worst nuclear incident in our history.

I'm thinking it may not need to be critical to be generating sufficient heat to maintain a molten state. From prior authoritative statements I've seen on TOD, it is inaccurate to speak of the fuel as cooling unless it is actively being cooled by water flow or water evaporation. The heat generated by fission products as they decay is sufficient to melt down the fuel rods and cause the fuel to slump into the bottom of the vessel.

Several authorities have indicated that they are operating on the assumption that the reactor pressure vessel has been holed and the fuel has escaped into the sump. It's not clear to me if this sump is now flooded to cool that fuel, or if it is dry. It is also unclear whether the concrete can withstand the heat of the pooled fuel, I think that's of particular concern if the sump is not flooded.

Civil engineer specializing in highway design here.

A vertical, concrete dike holding that much water (you'll need more than 20', the spent fuel ponds are about 50' in the air), will be a MASSIVE construction. Dams that size have foundations about half their height driven in the ground, and thousands of cubic yards of concrete. They'd need to be heavily braced and reinforced at the base to anchor them against the weight of so much water, and be designed to withstand earthquakes too.

I did look at the numbers for building an earth berm around the site, about 60' high. I assumed a 1000' long seaward side, and two 300' long arms; there's a hill behind the reactors on the landward side that the berm could tie to. The volume of embankment needed is staggering; over 500,000 cubic yards of embankment, plus concrete lining the water side, to create a 60' high berm with a base of 120'. That wouldn't stop the water flowing underground to the sea; those channels would need to be sealed as well.

A berm that size would contain 2,400,000 gallons of water, minus the structures already there of course, and assuming it was filled to the brim.

Building such a containment device would require demolition of many buildings (possibly the turbine bldgs unless there's enough room between them and the ocean), and many large (100+ ton capacity) trucks, bulldozers and shovels, all which would need to have filtration and shielding systems on them to protect the operators from radiation.

Now that's arguing within your expertise! Thanks for that.

you'll need more than 20', the spent fuel ponds are about 50' in the air

Good news is, after the Tomahawks go astray and destroy the reactor buildings, the fuel rods will be much closer to the ground.

can we build a containment dike around this idea?

I'd have preferred deep burial.

They will try all the obviously wrong "solutions" first and then they are going to build a cofferdam, drown it in water and then start getting near it and cleaning it up without getting poisoned so quickly in the process.

Unfortunately, there seem to be few civil engineers with cofferdam and soil-mechanics experience on TOD.

Cofferdams are temporary structures, and not intended to be used for years into the future. I wouldn't trust anything built to hold back 50'+ of water that didn't have a deep foundation, either, especially when you consider what the condition of that water would be. Building a berm around the reactors would be very time-intensive, but it could be done, and it would be more stable than a cofferdam. Moving and compacting 500,000+ cubic yards of embankment doesn't happen overnight though.

Yes, excellent work.

I'm guessing the Japanese have already done some such calculation and are shtng themselves at the thought of the vastness of the project.

I don't suppose there is any chance that such a project could be put into the operating budgets of all current nukes so that these 'externalities' could start to be internalized and the market would be able to get a clear signal of the enormous costs associated wit this industry?

Nah, never mind--they will find a way to dump all the expense on tax payers.

Maybe all the pro-nukers here and elsewhere will volunteer to pony up their life savings to help pay for it, then volunteer to run the endless trips into the area with dump trucks and construction equipment.

Nah, that would require them to have a scintilla of integrity.

Sounds like the old nuking solution to stopping the Macondo gusher.

Obviously you know nothing about a power plant. "Turbine Hall" is a term used largely by the media and possibly some foreign countries. The turbo generator is usually about 40 feet above the ground, on what is commonly called the "turbine deck", allowing for bottom exhaust to the condenser and providing space below for feed pumps, heat exchangers, and other appliances in the process. Therefore water can actually flow through the area under the turbogenerator.
Pulverize everything? What do you think it is made of, glass? We are talking steel items here that weigh as much as 150 tons. The total mass of the turbogenerator is probably at least 500 tons, very few small pieces there.
Now your idea. Instead of solving the problem, you propose a lagoon full of radioactive material becoming more concentrated every day. This is hardly a solution. What about the next tsunami? The next typhoon?
If this is the best you have to offer then why not put a cork in it and learn from those who actually know about the subject? A crisis is not improved by crackpot ideas.
If this seems like a rant, then so be it. The oil drum needs some cleaning up. Crackpot ideas and doomsday poetry are not constructive.

Well the nuclear folks working hard at Fukushima seem to be as crackpot as they come. No prior planning or thinking going on is there.

They tried helicopters with a lead plate or something, firetrucks, hooking up power lines to bomb-blasted facilities.
They tried that tank -- what happened to that tank. They had robots too. LOL.
They tried diapers, sawdust and concrete.
How about the dye to trace to leak -- no success there. Maybe when they find the leak, then they will do what again. Nothing. They are just going to rinse and repeat until the radiation is dumped in the ocean. No end in site.

Not a lot of success there in Japan at the safe Western Designed Nukes.

Kind of hacked at it like a blindfolded kid whiffing at a Piñata.

But I am used to the controlled message machine from nuclear folks. Hard to believe the rhetoric if there isn't a plan when the lids blow off these plants is there.

Look I am pro-nuclear, but show me a little careful thought. Where is your battle plan when a system fails?
Can nuclear people handle failure at all? Or do you just wait 15 years to get a lid on it?

Answer these questions or we will think nuclear industrial whitewashing is CRACKPOT.

I was very pro nuclear, before I realized that they could melt down even when they are shut down! I guess I should have done more research :)

They have no plan. I haven't seen one. They will continue to try to keep them cool enough so they don't melt anymore. The water will fill the barges, the barges will sail out into the ocean and probably empty the contents into the Pacific. Japan's seafood industry will most likely be toast for what, 30 years? Not sure what they plan to eat.

In the beginning, I remember reading...just give them a few days and everything will be fine. After a few days they'll be cooled down enough so everything will be fine and dandy. Yeah right! Lying SOBs... These things are as hot as ever.

Nuclear power is great... when it doesn't melt down and destroy fisheries, lands, human lives, and drift 7000 miles? and drop I131 on grass in Illinois. Toyko could turn into Detroit. (probably?). That works in nuclear's favor. Not.

The best that could happen is the earth in this area cracks open and swallows the whole works into an abyss.

I'm starting to think the only good place for nukes is on a ship or in a submarine. At least if you lose cooling, you can pull the plug and sink her to the bottom and hope she stays intact.

My pro-nuclear stance is if and only if ...

I get tired of hearing the controlled nuclear message that we onlookers are crackpot. That is crackpot calling the kettle black or something like that.

But yes dump the whole mess into a very deep hole. Maybe load it into a Russian sub and send it down to the bottom of the ocean. We are used to that happening too.

I may be wrong (commonly am) but I believe Japanese commercial fishing fleets travel well beyond their local waters. I think the people who will be devastated by the loss of local fishing grounds are the traditional local fishermen who have a small boat and fish locally, bringing back fresh catch daily or at least frequently.

Yes, and they often use methods in other waters which are prohibited in Japanese waters due to being destructive of the fisheries. "Punch & Run" is actually a core fisheries strategy for them. Watch for an aggressive push to expand these destructive far-seas fisheries using the nuke contamination as a rationale. As rationale's go, it's a good one: but Japan has been destroying fisheries around the world without it for a long time.

Obviously you know nothing about a power plant.

I know that's where all the electrons live.

Bulldozing, bombing, or otherwise massively disturbing a contaminated site just isn't going to help things, especially inland, where people live. I think the best thing to do to limit inshore contamination would be to pump the water into barges or tankers offshore, so it can either be processed later (unlikely) or dumped out in the central Pacific. Ships of a useful size may not be able to get close to the plant, though. There may also be other technical issues that I don't know about that prevent such an operation.

I have been thinking about a reverse osmosis desalination plant. Would it be possible to use such a plant to purify the contaminated water? Or some similar device based on molecular filtering. I mean that such a filter could be able to concentrate the non-water molecules to a slurry that could have a sufficiently small volume to dispose in safer ways than just diluting it in the ocean and atmosphere. How fast could such a treatment plant be set up? Could the volumes of contaminated water in the Fukushima plants fit inside a limited number of tankers until such a plant comes on line?


Wasn't the next step in uranium separation the centrifuge?

cacadril -

I would think that some sort of ion exchange set-up would be more applicable. There are ion exchange resin that are highly specific for certain chemical constituents. I believe that certain types of ion exchange have been used in various steps inthe production and separation of uranium and plutonium. In this case, since we are dealing with highly radioactive contaminants, it would probably be best to dispose of the resin instead of trying to regenerate it, as that would only concentrate the radioactive substances into a small liquid stream.

As to whether this is actually feasible in the scale required and under the very difficult circumstances at the site, I have some doubts. It is well to keep in mind that in a radioactive hot zone, it is extremely difficult to perform even rudimentary tasks, and so setting up even a simple system under these conditions would be a very daunting project. If the workers can stay in the work area for only a very limited amount of time, they aren't apt to get very much accomplished. After a while, we are going to start running out of qualified (and willing) people who haven't already used up a year's worth of permissible exposure.

the Russians have a ship designed for that. They use it to decommission submarines. the Japanese helped the Russians build this so they would stop dumping them in the sea of Japan.

I saw a news article this weekend that Japan has requested that ship be sent down to Fukushima to help decontaminate some of the water.

The absolute worst outcome would be to convert a large proportion of the radioactive material into an aerosol, airborne ash, or other breathable material and send the cloud of breathable radioactiveinto the air and over Tokyo. A cloud of breathable radioactive uranium, plutonium, strontium, cesium, iodine and whatever other elements happen to be around floating over Tokyo would cause huge numbers of casualties.

Sending a bunch of warheads into the plant has a pretty good chance of causing a toxic cloud to go up. Probably the warheads are not a good idea.

A less bad, but still very nasty outcome would be place large portions of the Fukushima reactor in direct contact with the sea. Lifting the fuel rods and dumping them at sea does exactly that. They would still be radioactive. They would still be polluting the ocean around them and they would be even harder to clean up. Again, probably not a good idea.

Putting in a coffer dam to try to isolate the site from the ocean and to flood the reactor, might work for a while. There are a few problems that I see with the idea. It would create a lake of highly polluted water. That lake would be separated from the sea by a 20 ft wide wall of sand and gravel and nothing else. The wall would be susceptible to damage from terrorism and natural events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and storms. Finally, coffer dams always leak to some extent. Nothing is impermeable. If the coffer dam would slow the spread of the pollution down while they could get things under control then it might be worth a try.

A more reasonable approach is to figure out where the leaks are occurring. Supply a temporary storage place to divert the water coming into the leaky structures. Fix the structures in the dry. And finally, put in some pumps to get the cooling systems working again.

As far as I'm concerned, the quicker they can do it the better.

"Blow it Up"
"Dump it into the OCEAN"

As I understand it, Sushi is supposed to be served UNCOOKED.

Throwing bombs at things and dropping offensive junk into the sea (which feeds and waters the world, ultimately), is the Industrialist's equivalent to throwing a Tantrum, a desperate attempt to either A) pretend to be 'acting forcefully to fix things', or else B) 'hiding the failed results', if A didn't work.

'Modest', they are not.

The other problem with this idea, of course, is that the last remaining disposable supertanker was screwed into the seabed at Macondo-252, bow first, to try to shut in the DWH blowout....

The other problem with this idea, of course, is that the last remaining disposable supertanker was screwed into the seabed at Macondo-252, bow first, to try to shut in the DWH blowout....

What does this mean??? I followed the Macondo oil spill very closely, and I have never heard of any such thing! I this a joke? If so, then I'm afraid I don't get it.....

Just a joke from some of the discussions here during the oil spill.

I get it. And was trying to find a way of reviving it. Interested beat me to it.

There were a great many schemes put forward trying to solve Macondo. And similar schemes are upwelling once again for Fukushima. Perhaps one of us will come up with a plan that will actually work. I doubt it. Nuke it? Wrap it up in duck tape?

I personally suspect that the best thing to do is nothing. This thing is a monster, bigger that all of us. It is spewing and will continue to spew radionuclides all over the Northern hemisphere for a long time to come. I bet by now they have blown full circle back to Japan. Little by little, every day the rain will fall. We can blame Malvina Reynolds.

Ever see Kurosawa's dreams? One of his last works. He dreamed that Nuclear plants were all blowing up along with Mt. Fuji. Folks were running and he asked where are you going? This is is a small island. And it's a small world.

Wow. The dialog even says;

"The six reactors. They're exploding one after another.."

Time to start getting ready for the Toxic Jungle. (Nausicaa)

The containment lagoon would not be leakfree. And the isotopes I'd worry about are the longlived ones, like Cesium, so it would only delay, but not materially affect the outcome. I wouldn't worry about shortlived isotopes in sealife, simply freeze the fish for a month or two, and any shortlived isotopes will be gone before eating. But, the longer lived ones, if present in enough concentration, mean you have to discard the catch.

You know, people say that the storing of radioactive waste is just putting the job off to future generations. So what happens now with this ball of used pasture. People come up with suggestions for entombing it, flooding it etc. What on earth do you call that? I call it pushing the problem off to future generations.


Blow the crap up? Imagine this thing is a big pile of shit. The stink would be all over the place. Only this crap does not compost away.

I would be ashamed to even suggest such a thing?

Posted late yesterday, I moved it to here.
Who called crappy gear ala K-19 a few days ago? Hell no, I won't go! I would have emailed all plants in the world by the 13th.

Emergency worker relates his experience at radioactive Fukushima plant
He had not carried a radiation dosimeter. He wore a full-face gasmask, rubber gloves, long boots, and he wore a white outfit made of a gauze-like material over regular work clothes. He joined with several other workers to try to connect the outside power grid to the nuclear power plant.
"Full-fledged protective gear was probably running short since an earlier stage," he said. "You are supposed to have plastic protectors around your boots, but we only had something like the garbage bags that you can buy at any convenience store. We used packaging tape to put them around our boots," he added.

He said it was hard to do the job while wearing a gasmask. "Because of the gasmask and other equipment, it was very awkward moving around, and the gasmask came partly off many times. I probably inhaled a considerable amount (of air containing radioactive substances)," he said. The only person in the man's team who had a dosimeter was the team leader.

And elsewhere - governments are protecting the people from their fear of radiation by raising the safety levels. Either that or raising the legal limit so what exists is now legal.

The European Union has authorized radioactive load in foods in Japan has increased substantially. Until now, a maximum of 600 becquerels of radioactivity (cesium 134 and cesium 137) per kilogram allowed, but since last weekend for example oil or herbal suddenly 12,500 becquerels per kilogram, more than 20 times as high. The increase was recorded in Emergency Ordinance 297/2011 on March 27 and was in force.

Soon things get sorted as they already should be - a net food importer country won't export it's food to the opposite side of the world for a long period of time. Lots of otherwise wasted energy saved.
Seems we don't even have to wait until the (real) oil price boom, only need various type industrial disasters all over the globe so mutual fears will eventually stop this squandering way of life.
Not too serious, just out of good thought..

If I can play devil's advocate here (oh god, what am I getting myself into), one could argue that the low levels originally permitted were useful to identify small-scale local polluters and force them to clean up -- but when faced with global-scale contamination, the damage done by panic caused by exceeding radiation limits could do more damage to life and health than the damage done by the radiation itself.

the damage done by panic caused by exceeding radiation limits could do more damage to life and health than the damage done by the radiation itself.

Could? That's the bar - Could? You do realize with that bar set that low - the DEMONSTRATED failure of fission power is why every plant should be shut down NOW and dismantled - is stronger than 'could'.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) has a different position of radioactive bits in the food supply here.

Most of the time regulations have a penalty associated with violation. What's the penalty for selling something that is in violation? Far simpler to raise the limit, call the new limit OK and then not have to worry about bans/creating compliance.

And elsewhere you have things like this which create a compliance issue, for how can you keep it calibrated and what do you do when your supplier ships you something that sets off your counter?

This is an old story/"joke" - A father places his young son on a kitchen chair and says, "Jump to Papa." The little boys jumps and his father catches him. They do it again and again; the little boy laughing all the time. Then on one jump the father backs away just as the boy jumps and the boy lands, splat, on the floor. The boy looks up from the floor asks, "Why Papa. The father says, "Don't trust no one."

This is the essential problem with this whole mess - there is no one you can trust. But, this only echos what is occurring in many segments of society today.


there is no one you can trust.

An example - if a government official tells you something, its up to you to check and verify.

I join with Jackson in dissenting. Manifestly unfair.

Could? That's the bar - Could?

That's not a bar, that's me giving an *potential* rationale for the decision. Whether that rationale is valid or not depends on data which I don't have. Thus, "could".

The argument, as always, is that safety is never an absolute, but always a comparison between alternatives.

Small amounts of radiation in food may be harmful, but a global panic leading to mass global food destruction, food riots, starvation in poor countries, scurvy, and botulism from amateur canning in rich countries might be worse.

Nuclear power plants are also occasionally harmful, but shutting them down immediately would cause blackouts which might cause even greater death and illness.

The fact that I'm using "could", "might", etc. in making these comparisons proves the point: that nobody is making the comparisons necessary to evaluate the relative safety of alternatives.

botulism deaths from amateur canning in rich countries might be worse.

VS what - the E-coli infections from commercial food? What separates "amateur" canning from "professional" - someone is getting paid?

What's next? Is someone going to defend the botulism toxin as OK because its "useful" as botox?

Nuclear power plants are also occasionally harmful,

Being shot at with a bullet is also occasionally harmful. US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan - an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed thus based on such "logic" as "occasionally harmful" being shot at is not all that dangerous. Winning $100 in the powerball lottery will happen more often than being harmed by a bullet, using "odds".

But somehow, someone always wins the lottery, nuke plants keep failing and making 100's of square miles no-go areas and few people sign up to be downrange of firing weapons.

Conflation of risk and odds, argument from anecdote, assumption of universal conspiracy ... Your reply demonstrates just how far we are from being able to make a rational assessment of risk.

Perhaps it's hopeless, perhaps we are all condemned to rush around blindly, startling at shadows and jumping into the path of oncoming trains. (If you conclude from this that I consider nuclear power a "shadow", you're totally missing my point.)

Maybe we should listen to the old man in the cave and not eat the cans and worry about strontium 90.

Perhaps it's hopeless, perhaps we are all condemned to rush around blindly

Ummm, what? Because of your little argument with Eric Here? I don't think so.

Conflation of risk and odds,

The demonstrated failures of fission show not only odds but the risk level.

In the face of demonstrated failures of fission power the reaction of, and I quote:

Nuclear power plants are also occasionally harmful,

or Gizmoto's article about how there is a net benefit to society with Nuclear Power AS DEMONSTRATED BY PLACING Uranium in gasoline to get more power from the internal combustion engine

or arguing its the Japanese PEOPLES fault and not the Corporations for the events post March 11th 2011?

Are you really sure you want to be slinging around stones about the "quality" of "debate"?

My little bullet example is how an object is, on "occasion" harmful. Just like a nuke plant is, on occasion, harmful. If that bullet is just sitting in a box, not attached to a casing with powder its got a lesser chance of being harmful. And if its the new bio-bullet (thanks for that link yesterday BTW) one can argue how "safe" it is.

But a bullet is made for a purpose, just like a fission plant is made for a purpose - that purpose is to create nasty toxic radionuclides. Fission power, by its design purpose is ment to create things that are toxic.

argument from anecdote

VS arguing from totally made up things like 'could be mass panic'?

assumption of universal conspiracy

You forgot erecting straw men, like this one - where did ANYONE suggest a 'universal conspiracy' today?

If there can be lead in unleaded gasoline being in the oil from the beginning then there can be Uranium in gasoline. Its in the rocks everywhere.

I chuckled at the uranium in gasoline one, too. But TOD has the rep of having knowledgeable contributors. People looking for sane opinions come here to find them. Often they will have unreasonable ideas or concepts that need exposure and discussion, just so that they can be assisted in developing opinions based on reality and realistic thinking. Blowing these people off doesn't help anyone, it just results in offended people with unrealistic attitudes seeking more people who think like they do.

TANSTAAFL. Tomahawks, bulldozing into the ocean etc are examples of magical thinking, which does not stand up to reasonable analysis but persists unless it is exposed to analysis. This is your opportunity to add a little more sanity to the world. I can't think of a better reason for TOD to exist.

hazard = risk x consequences

Not where I work.

Hazard is a potentiator of risk: "sharp", "toxic", "radioactive" etc.

Risk = probability of a hazard being realised x consequences of realisation

a fission plant is made for a purpose - that purpose is to create nasty toxic radionuclides.

Wrong.  The purpose is to create heat (most of which is used to make electricity).  The nuclides are a byproduct, which are occasionally useful but mostly a headache.  The bulk of the fission products decay to relatively harmless levels in 500 years or so, with a few exceptions like Tc-99.  The real problems are the transuranic actinides.

My little bullet example is how an object is, on "occasion" harmful. Just like a nuke plant is, on occasion, harmful. If that bullet is just sitting in a box, not attached to a casing with powder its got a lesser chance of being harmful.

If that bullet spent 99.98% of its life keeping dangerous animals from harming you and your livelihood, you'd have a reasonable analogy.  As it is, you're just silly.

"The nuclides are a byproduct"

One can just as easily say producing electricity is a byproduct, after all 2/3 of that heat just goes into warming our cozy little planet.

Thats why it can never become the panacea against global warming

The direct-heating effect from power plants is minuscule compared to the radiative forcing effects of greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel combustion.

I'm about as far from being pro-nuke as you can be, but while the heating of water by nukes can be a hazard for local flora and fauna, it is insignificant in terms of GLOBAL warming.

Botulism at the hands of overzealous canners appears not to be a significant risk.

Bot toxin is only dangerous if you do not cook the canned food. Furthermore, the bacteria would produce gases and the little button in the seal would not be sucked downward.

The risk of Bot Toxin are likely equal for home canning and store bought food items. But the data would be so little that no one could get a good comparison of the two groups imho.

It is not as if C. Botulinum is floating around in the air. It is an anaerobic bacteria after all. Oxygen kills the bug. Most of the spores are found in water sediments.

In any case pressure cooking is all you need. End of story, hence the reason Bot is only of national interest in all things Bio-security and Bio-warfare. A few grams of Bot toxin would be very very bad. ~50 ng LD50 for it.

the damage done by panic

You omit the damage done by complaisance.

No I didn't, and in any case the damage done by complaisance is becoming more obvious by the day. I'm just pointing out that every decision is made on a balance scale that has two sides, in which unintended consequences weigh heavily.

That really depends on how contaminated and with what. It's probably more worrying if contaminated products get into processed foods, as well they might with raised thresholds. There may well be heavier elements in the same contaminated food with more serious health implications, plutonium spiced tuna sandwich anyone?

It would be more sensical to spend time helping people understand the implications of the radiation levels rather than hiding the extent of the contamination, but that's probably quite idealistic on my part.

It would be more sensible to spend time helping people understand the implications of the radiation levels rather than hiding the extent of the contamination, but that's probably quite idealistic on my part."

They've had the chance to tell us, decades of (nearly) accident free time to educate the public about nuclear issues, radiation safety etc. But they told us then it would cause too much concern, that people wouldn't understand. Now they are telling us that they cannot tell us now, not even elaborate on it, because "it would cause panic" - we should just keep on trusting their word just like before.

Looking at the 50 year history of the nuclear industry, the deception, dishonesty, out-right lying - have led to a situation where there is no other way than to do your own research. Just like with peak oil and IEA or OPEC - we have no reason to believe anything these people say.

These institutions and their interest groups, with the time and massive resource available to them - haven't bothered to produce a single notable documentary on this issue (I know of?) - which would conclusively and with technical details, explain just how safe and efficient nuclear power is. They don't seem to have the need or the urgency for such for some reason - despite their own admission that the public remains too ignorant to understand their plight.

And most importantly the response you most often get from them, for even asking, let alone questioning their domain - is dismissal, ridicule and harassment. This all indicates that these people aren't on the side of angels - rather that they believe they are above all else - untouchable - in charge of forces and interests not even democratic governments can touch. Those who challenge don't threaten them - for now.

- Ransu (the Idealist?)

, plutonium spiced tuna sandwich anyone?

Its not tuna but it is radioactive.
"Wild caught" from a "hotspot"

Yes, eating it can be deadly. But not if it's prepared properly.

Ok, ill be the first one (edit: no I wasn't :P) to bite: explain how exactly in practice "panic caused by exceeding radiation limits could do more damage to life and health"? If you're going to wildly speculate - do it all the way!

I could also speculate that the levels permitted were carefully engineered by the regulatorily captured authorities with streamlined collaboration with nuclear business and military interests - to portray exactly the levels they could get away with at any given time.

And now that convenient sources of radio nuclei such as from above ground nuclear testing, low level waste being used for landfill material and the nuclear weapons industry - have been deemed inadequate - and its such a long time from Chernobyl - you need a new dose of global fallout to even the odds again.

Just a little bit more so that the toxic chemicals and poor lifestyles can catch up with the levels of general cancers needed to hide any epidemiologically provable connections. Just like with the tobacco industry.

Then we can all have nice harmless cancers of undetermined origin - and no one needs the inconvenience of having justify them.

Oh you just did. Thanks for that.

While I do believe that the physical and logistical danger from this event is greater than the psychological danger, the psychological danger may become a real public health issue as well. At the clinic in Los Angeles where I work, I am starting to hear clients tell me their friends are telling them that the world is ending, and my surfing friends tell me there are crazy rumors spreading out on the lineup.

As I mentioned before, I am working on a one-sheet for clinicians-- basically, what the hell do we tell clients when they start talking about this stuff in session?

One thing I DON'T want to do is just say, "Listen to the news, they'll tell you if everything is OK," because it's insulting.

If clients are obsessing about this, and it's interfering with their activities of daily living, this needs to be identified and dealt with. Tricky, because you have to honor the legitimate concern, but treat any obsessive behavior. However, if clients spontaneously express interest in learning more, I think that's adaptive, and I want to know where to refer them. I'm thinking the following:

Most Basic Information:

* Rad Net
* Radiation Network

It seems like a Gross Beta Count Rate over 100 means "watch it" and any sustained bumps over 500 might mean... I don't know, what? Check with the CDC, limit outdoor exposure, wear a hat? I don't have a clue.

As for monitoring Water Quality, the raw data links provided by the CDPH seem to be the only source available:

The units of measure are confusing. Is there anything anyone could say about what sensible limits are and how to read the raw data? Like, "just check the line for CS-134 and see if the level is less than X value." And again, if those values are exceeded, do what, precisely? Drink bottled water, season fresh fish with Boron?

It's depressing that there is no PDF available for April 1, the link is broken It's probably just a glitch, but...

Anyway, thanks... this is harder than I thought it would be. And if anyone has any other ideas for the one-sheet, let me know, I will probably post it within the next week or so for more detailed comments. The clinic may well institute some stupid policy of their own before I get to suggest one, but so far, they have shown no sign of doing this.

panic caused by exceeding radiation limits could do more damage to life and health

At the clinic in Los Angeles where I work, I am starting to hear clients tell me their friends are telling them that the world is ending

I'm sorry, I forgot about Americans / Californians / LA - indeed this could get ugly...

the rest of the world

(ducks) ;)

I get talk like that from people I work with and I'm in a software development firm rather than a clinic. Last week, I made one of my co-workers feel much better when I showed him an error was made when converting the Mayan calendar to the Gregorian calendar and, in fact, he had another 50 years.

I had no idea this kind of crazy talk finds its way into the heads of those who won't let go.

Thanks, Brit... it's not that bad yet, but the surfers will wave their boards at the military helicopters, who will circle and hoot their sirens, and the surfers will say, "See? It's coming!"

WHAT is coming? The tenth planet Xhibu, our space brothers to the rescue (looking like a fine plan at this stage) or, yeah, the Mayan prophecy thing.

So, I made good progress on the one-sheet, will post here probably on Wednesday, see what y'all think. If it's good, maybe it can help keep people from panicking... and even if things are, like, not so good, direct them top some well-vetted resources.

That fact sheet would be useful, as a clinician I have had a number of queries. It's very difficult to be balanced and informative with these issues.
I find a common problem to be the misunderstanding between external and ingested exposure, fairewinds videos are a good demystifier for this (you can tell Arnie was a teacher!).
The most tricky query I had was from a person in Japan that was coming into contact with a humanitarian that was regularly going into the contaminated zone. He was worried about being in close proximity to him.
It really makes you think about which isotopes are present as well as what appears to be a combination of lack of proper decontamination for people coming out of the zone as well as myths like "I'm too old to get harmed by radiation",
There's also those questions you can't answer without more information... should I go further west?, is it safe to eat the food?, is it safe to drink the water?
The Japanese government, IAEA, TEPCO should all be ashamed of not providing answers to these questions that are, hmm.. digestible to the public. I would predict a large number of fatal cancers (100s at least) from areas that really should be off limits that are still outside the exclusion zone, perhaps 70km would be reasonable at the moment, but we really don't have the data to be sure...

I cannot see any increase in permitted levels in the linked to document (which is available in English rather than machine translated German) at
It impliments testing requiments of imports from Japan, calls for the interchange of information and says:-

"In the meantime it is appropriate to use these pre–established maximum levels as reference values to judge the acceptability to place feed and food on the market."

Latest update by Fairewinds:

Brief summary: Possible chain reaction in unit one, indicated by isotopes reported.

First indication: neutron radiation was detected some distance from the plant.

Second indication: Chlorine-38 has been detected in unit 1. It comes from Cl-37 absorbing a neutron. That comes from seawater and seawater was used for cooling the reactors for some time

Third indication: Tepco report on isotope concentrations in various reactors indicated short lived isotopes Te-129 and I-131 are still being created in unit 1.

Conclusion: periodic uncontrolled nuclear fission is still (or at least has been) occurring in unit 1. The intermittancy can be explained by the cooling water periodically filling the core, starting the nuclear reaction, which then massive increases the heat produced which boils it off and stops the reaction again. The reactor should be cooled with added boron which would hopefully stop any chain reaction from occurring. Also if chain reaction is producing fast neutrons, the emergency personnel working at the plant could be exposed to high doses without it being detected.

What fun: The nuclear percolator. Just needs a huge coffee basket.

Mr. Corium - some reassembly required. Free dosimeter*

*While supplies last

Or you can just get a coffee cup here:

How does this square with the relatively low temperatures on the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels especially #1 which has been stable for some time at 113oC as reported by the IAEA on their web site?

It's still possible that the reactor vessels are intact but the pipes themselves are all leaking like sieves. The water/steam would carry damaged fuel rod material along and out the breaks in the pipes, so you get higher radiation levels in the water for the reactors that were more damaged. If the short lived Iodine isotopes are being produced, that doesn't mean the cores are still monstrously hot, only that they're still undergoing some amount of nuclear fission, probably in the melted portions.

Does anyone know of a method to calculate how much fission may still be ongoing depending on the values of short lived isotopes being found?

Perhaps a competent nuclear engineer could make a judgement based on the isotope proportions. I think the Fairewinds guy was at that a little.

Temperatures for Reactor #1 at the bottom head are the highest of the three reactors. Feedwater nozzle temperatures are some 3 times the amount of the other reactors. There also appears to be temperature instability at feedwater line with transient temperature increases around March 23, and again around March 29.

Yes. I posted on this last night, in the previous thread, and Nate headlined it at the top of this one. I was beginning to wonder whether anyone would ever notice.

To repeat: Nothing Gundersen says seems unreasonable to me? What do our experts think?

PhilR: No URL in link code.

(You won't be able to edit after replies.)

Oops, fixed.


I asked around some nuclear physicists at Uni. Sure, nothing is wrong in what Gundersen says. That does not make it true, or even if so a huge problem. But it might be. Only TEPCO and Jap government and probably Chu knows, and they aint telling us...

One alternative explanation is californium. That substance can fission into different substances, spontaneously. Howeever shold not be there in the quantities needed to explain the table from last week shown in film from Gundersen. That Tellurium 129 (70 min) and Cl38 IS difficult to explain away. Also for nuclear physisicists...

And for sure there is something fishy with the temperatures of reactor 1.

As usual: analytical errors? There has been a few already?

Can neutron beam be the right term?

It seems the lights are slowly going out in terms of current nuclear information.
The mobile radiation surveys posted by Health Canada for instance were suspended till further notice on Mar 25.
The Austrian site which projects the spread of the emission plume has become much less specific about the levels of contamination in the plume.
The Japanese monitoring data for radiation around the site was admittedly suppressed.

Does anyone have a list of sites that are still active and current, other than the handful of locations that just show local radiation counts?

The JAIF site is now, too, of little value.
I love that for pressures they show instead the word "Stable".
Sounds good! Its stable! Stably... open to the atmosphere.

Lots of readings:
Readings by prefecture with time series data graphs:


But still looking for levels of radio-actives.

Japan's 'radioactive particles' in Moscow

From: AFP
April 01, 2011 10:30PM

RADIOACTIVITY from Japan's damaged nuclear reactor has been detected in the atmosphere around the Russian capital Moscow, officials from the municipal facility treating nuclear waste said today.

Radon, a company set up in Moscow to monitor radioactivity and dispose of radioactive waste in central Russia, has been detecting traces of iodine and strontium isotopes since last week, deputy director Oleg Polsky said.

If strontium 90 can be detected in trace amounts in Moscow, how come there are no levels of strontium 90 being reported from the monitoring in Japan? Nowhere do I find any report in Japan that even says - not detected for strontium 90.

*If strontium 90 can be detected in trace amounts in Moscow, how come there are no levels of strontium 90 being reported from the monitoring in Japan? Nowhere do I find any report in Japan that even says - not detected for strontium 90.*

Either the Japanese are not fully reporting emissions, or there is some leakage in Russia or elsewhere, or both.

“The isotopes confirm that it’s a process connected with the accident,”

"Govt holding radiation data back / IAEA gets info, but public doesn't"

"The Meteorological Agency has been withholding forecasts on dispersal of radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant despite making the forecasts every day, it was learned Monday."

So, yes, pavel, the data on radio-actives IS suppressed.

"Meteorological institutions in some European countries such as Germany and Norway have been publishing their own radiation dispersal forecasts on their Web sites based on their own meteorological observations."

A clue as where to find the data you are looking for, etudiant.

This news came out at 12:00... about an hour ago.

I think it's becoming increasingly clear that the Japanese government either doesn't know or isn't telling what it knows about contamination. Perhaps the people who would otherwise measure this are working at Fukushima now instead, but it is very, very clear that measuring contamination has taken a back seat to everything else, and that the government doesn't want to admit that they've just created a radioactive nature park out of many people's ancestral lands.

In a typical Japanese understatement, the government has said people will not be able to go back into the 20km zone "for weeks or months"... By which they mean EVER. I think once the scope of this is known, Japanese opinion will turn decisively against nuclear power permanently, which is a major crisis because they depend on nuclear power for 30% of their energy.

To me this is a major scandal. Perhaps it comes out of the idea that there is no place for these people to go - it's over 100,000 people and there are already hundreds of thousands of internal refugees due to the tsunami. Everyone is going southwest if they can. There are still many people living in gyms and such. Adding new nuclear refugees, who people will be afraid are contaminated, will just worsen existing issues. However, this point of view essentially is potentially sacrificing the health of many people who are not evacuated.

I wish it was clearer how much contamination is still belching from the ruins, because with the wind turning inland a much larger area including Tokyo, or at least suburbs of Tokyo, is at risk. There is simply no way to evacuate Tokyo.

There is simply no way to evacuate Tokyo.

Sure there is. Announce that dangerous levels of radioactivity are blowing in from the north-east, and everyone should leave... probably not in a very safe or sustainable manner, but it'd definitely work.

I'm trying to think of a previous case where a major industrial conurbation has been completely evacuated, and failing.

During the Chernobyl disaster, there was a subtantial risk of a second even bigger explosion if the melted core sank through the concrete to water below. According to this documentry:-
at Kiev, Minsk and Gomel, trains with over a thousand carriages stood by to evacuate the cities. Fortuately it did not come to pass so we don't know if the evacuation would have worked.

There was an earlier interview with a Japanese journalist who discovered that TEPCO was reporting 'No plutonium found' was based on not looking for it.
So the same may be true here.

However, the wind pattern would dictate larger depositions in North America and Europe before getting to Moscow, so there is a gap.
Also. strontium unlike iodine or cesium, has a very high melting point so it is best spread from an airborne nuclear blast, which is not the case here.

In reality, strontium is a bogeyman. Cesium has a similar half life and is likewise bioactive. It is at least equally dangerous and demonstrably being emitted in large quantities.
It represents by a distance the greatest risk to Japan and the world from this disaster.

Strontium is only mentioned by the reporter.
The lab spokesperson only mentions iodine and cesium.
That seems more credible and is certainly plausible.

The suspension of the Canadian mobile surveys is very odd.

A small nuclear reactor may be a better source of cooling power for light water reactors during grid outages.

The Fukushima disaster was made worse by:
- the failure of the diesel generators to provide electrical power to operate the reactor cooling and spent fuel pool cooling pumps after the tsunami, and
- the failure of the steam turbine RCIC system to be able to reject decay heat outside of the wet well.

The compact nuclear reactors of about 10 MW to 50 MW output would provide a reliable source of electrical power to the cooling equipment of a large light-water reactor. Two or three of these could be installed in place of the diesel generators and most of the battery backup equipment.

In normal operation, the small reactor would provide added generation capacity to the grid. Thus, the operating status of the reactor would be known at all times. When there is a loss of grid power, the output of the small reactors generator would be disconnected from the grid and supplied to the cooling systems. As a general principle, systems which are in continuous operation are better maintained and tested, and hence are more reliable when needed, than are systems that are installed and left in standby status until called upon in an emergency.

It would appear that small reactors, such as the Toshiba 4S or the reactors used in submarines can be designed to be very rugged and reliable.

One might even ask whether the larger reactors should even continue to be built/operated if smaller units are materially more reliable and safer.

...otherwise, doesn't Rube Goldberg come to mind?

If only small reactors are used, then there are more of them. So one needs to compare:
- one conventional design 1000 Mw light-water reactor,
- one hundred 10 Mw reactors producing the same power, or
- one 1000 Mw reactor and three 10 Mw reactors providing added/emergency power.

Possibly the latter is both safer and more economical. Futhermore, it is an arrangment that can be retrofitted to existing ligh-water reactors.

Doubling the complexity of a system to avoid one failure mode doesn't seem like good design to me.

Each reactor has a steam turbine RCIC system, as well as multiple diesel generators and a battery backup plant to run the rest of the cooling systems. My proposal is to use small reactors instead of the emergency generators. I think that the overall complexity is about the same, but the small reactors would be in continuous use and therefore more reliable.

Relying on systems that are in standby is pretty risky. One of my favorte anecdotes is about the building in NYC where, during one of the power outages, the turbogenerator on the roof came on, ran for a short time, and then stopped. The battery plant ran down and a building power outage resulted. When they installed the turbogenerators to replace the diesels in the basement, they had installed a small holding fuel tank on the roof. The pump to pump fuel from the main tank in the basement was on grid power. Whenever they tested the turbogenerators, they always tested OK.

Whatever we design from here, I'd say the number one design criterion should be this: that you can shut off any or all of the support services and walk away from it, and it'll fail to a safe state.

They all have longer coping times then this first generation reactor.

"longer" is not automagically "long enough", you know.

Well, considering a century of experience with diesel engines (you say "systems which are in continuous operation are better maintained and tested" - this was in fact NOT the issue as we all know), their somewhat ^^ better safety measures in an event of failure, and the fact that all plants have many redundance with lots of these units... So why?

IF we could somehow deal with the paramount engineering effort to build a critical safety system AT LEAST 2 TIMES ABOVE the potential tsunami level (or with any hazard based on the site location, at least double the otherwise thought-to-be-safe safety barriers, it's not that much extra cost when you're building a nuke plant..), I can't see a reason how a small reactor would make a good alternative by any means.. Or more small reactors?!

This single bad decision on vertical positioning contributed far more to the current outcome than any of the technology behind - in turn, if these diesels were small reactors standing on the same height, we would now have twice as much flooded/melted down cores with who knows how much extra contamination to worry about.

Really, great idea..

True, the Achilles heel in this case was the fuel tanks and air intakes for the diesel, along with their being located too low. However, we know from the submarine application that small nuclear reactors can be operated for extended periods of time sealed in a strong metal tube. They neither need air nor a supply of fuel. Even if the diesel's fuel tanks had not been destroyed, it is problematic whether they could have been refilled in time. Fuel supply after the disaster occurs is a real concern, for example, in designing uninterruptible power for data centers.

Even if the diesel's fuel tanks had not been destroyed, it is problematic whether they could have been refilled in time.

This simple focus on alternate power, overlooks the fact that pumps, pipes structures and seals were ALL likely also compromised.

So even if they had power, proper cooling was not going to happen.
Just look at the cracks, and how even with power, they now simply spray water.
The fundamental issue here is power density, and it is now very clear labeling something 'spent fuel' is more wishful thinking, than physical reality.

Yes...nuclear submarines are completely safe....
Oh wait, you said "can be"

K-19, 4 July 1961, the reactor almost had a meltdown and exploded, resulting in 8 deaths and more than 30 other people being over-exposed to radiation.[15] The events on board the submarine are dramatized by the film K-19: The Widowmaker.

USS Thresher (SSN-593), 1963, was lost during deep diving tests and later investigation concluded that failure of a brazed pipe joint and ice formation in the ballast blow valves prevented surfacing. The accident motivated a number of safety changes to the US fleet.

USS Scorpion (SSN-589), 1968, lost.

K-27, 24 May 1968, experienced a near meltdown of one of its liquid metal (lead-bismuth) cooled VT-1 reactors, resulting in 9 fatalities and 83 other injuries.[2] The ship was deactivated by 20 July 1968.

K-431 reactor accident on 10 August 1985 resulted in 10 fatalities and 49 other people suffered radiation injuries.[3]

K-219, 1986, the reactor almost had a meltdown. Sergei Preminin died after he manually lowered the control rods, and stopped the explosion. The submarine sank three days later.

K-278 Komsomolets, 1989, Soviet submarine sank in Barents Sea due to a fire.

K-141 Kursk, 2000, the generally accepted theory is that a leak of hydrogen peroxide in the forward torpedo room led to the detonation of a torpedo warhead, which in turn triggered the explosion of half a dozen other warheads about two minutes later.
Ehime Maru & USS Greeneville, February 2001, the American submarine surfaced underneath the Japanese training vessel. Nine Japanese were killed when their ship sank as a result of the collision.[16]

USS San Francisco (SSN-711), 2005, collided with a seamount in the Pacific Ocean. A crew member was killed and 23 others were injured.

HMS Vanguard & Le Triomphant, February 2009, the French and British submarines collided in the Atlantic while on routine patrols. There were no injuries among the crews, but both ships were damaged during the collision.

You include 3 non-nuclear and 2 possible non-nuclear incidents that could have happened to non-nuclear submarines. I'd call that pumping the list.


I suppose...but I just cut 'n pasted out of wikipedia and was too lazy to add the link. Of course, nuclear reactors aren't dangerous's those darn tsunamis.

Tsunamis are very dangerous. This one killed over 10,000 people in Japan alone.

Don't disrespect the tsunami.

How many people have the 4 reactors and contanments killed so far?

Maybe I have a different definition of "dangerous" than most people, but I'm just not feeling the fear.

"How many people have the 4 reactors and contanments killed so far?"

We don't know. However, given the radionuclides known to be wafting and flowing from the site in large quantities, and the external exposures experienced, at least, by workers on-site, we can be confident that we already have walking dead.

Let's not be counting them as dead men yet. Sure, they are in the riskiest location involved in all of this, but they haven't keeled over.

I didn't make myself clear: I simply meant that it is virtually certain that there will be some deaths from the radiation and contamination already released at Fukushima Daiichi, whether among workers at the site or others.

I don't know how many. Chris Busby says hundreds of thousands. I don't know if anyone has applied the ICRP model, but it would likely predict relatively few.

However many there may be, I was referring to people who have already been exposed. Thus, "walking dead." Overly dramatic? I think it's just the probable truth.

The numbers matter when comparing the relative safety of power sources.

There is no good way to die.

You bet the numbers matter. And one of the principal reasons we don't have good ones is that the industry and the regulators it holds captive have hidden, obscured and fudged the data and spun their analyses for profit.

And then they have the audacity to dismiss skeptics because we don't have good numbers.

I'd hope that post-Vietnam, we'd all realise that body counts are not necessarily the best measure of the impacts of this tragedy.

They are, however, one of the important measures, especially when honest and accurate.

In the case cited: 58,000 Americans and more than two million Vietnamese.

And, if Yablokov's body count for Chernobyl, and/or the ECRR prediction for Fukushima Daiichi are within an order of magnitude of reality, those would be pretty significant numbers, too.

The expected death toll from the tsunami is now around 30,000. The tsunami damage/death/destruction are easy to understand - immediate, in your face disaster. The nuclear accident is much more insidious - latent death and damage over decades - and much easier to minimize or dismiss. Don't be fooled by the different natures of the phenomena in play.

This is why I am asking for the links.

Chernobyl was 25 years ago, surely we can quantify the outcome of it better than the estimates differing over 5 orders of magnitude that I've seen.

I have now read exactly one analysis predicting a high impact from this event, spread out over 50 years and using the linear exposure risk model and what appear to be quite pessimistic contamination figures.

There's a lot of smart people on the anti-nuclear side, why can't/won't anybody point me to well formatted analyses justifying the high estimates for Chernobyl? I'm sure the final number is over 48, but by how much?

And why do potential deaths from radiation count so much higher in some people's estimates than concrete, in-your-face deaths from other sources?

Because it is the gift that keeps on giving.

As to the numbers no one has...
Where does the funding come from to produce such figures?
How easy was it to get access?
Why did they hide the Kennedy information in an archive?
After 47 years, definitively, what were the circumstances
of his death? In other words, time passing does not lead
to a clear view of an obstructed object. The obstruction
destroys the credibility of authority. This is directly
antagonistic to those who embrace authority:
it is polarizing.

Why do none of the anti-nuclear people want to provide links to their sources?

You guys had to learn this stuff somewhere, is it osmosis?

These zealots have their beliefs and facts are not going to get in their way. Don't hold your breath for real citations as opposed to Greenpeace political propaganda.

The links have been posted through out the threads on TOD for the last 3 weeks, but some people keep pretending otherwise.

The heavily criticized WHO report: Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident, September 5, 2005

Greenpeace new study reveals death toll of Chernobyl enormously underestimated April 18, 2006

The Other Report on Chernobyl (TORCH), Ian Fairlie, PhD, UK. David Sumner, DPhil, UK; April 26, 2006

... about 30,000 to 60,000 excess cancer deaths are predicted

A Review of: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment Volume 1181 of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, published online in November 2009, was authored by Alexey V. Yablokov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexey V. Nesterenko, of the Institute of Radiation Safety (Belarus), and the late Prof. Vassily B. Nesterenko, former director of the Belarussian Nuclear Center.

It concludes that based on records now available, some 985,000 people died, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl accident. That is between when the accident occurred in 1986 and 2004. More deaths, it projects, will follow.

Source and Effects of Ionizing Radiation (5.5 MB PDF file), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), 2008 Report to the General Assembly with Scientific Annexes, Volume II, Annex D, Health effects due to radiation from the Chernobyl accident, Advance Copy, 2011
UNSCEAR estimates 62 deaths to date.

There are not many, if any, studies funded by the governments in the fallout zones. They do not want to know.

Placing the bar at death is much too high because it ignores deteriorating health and the displacement of civilians from their homes and possessions.

A couple of useful meta links were provided, finally, and I've actually been asking for this information on and off for years (not just the past couple of weeks). I needed to see some of the logic in the high estimates to be able to evaluate them for myself.

After doing some digging of my own, and finding an actual research paper on cancer in the Ukraine, I can see where the high estimates have come from. You take the highest incidence group found by the researchers and multiply by the entire population of the region, straight up. This means that the highest estimates are off by orders of magnitude unless there are mechanisms at work here that are not covered in even the most alarmist writings. One might even suspect counting all incidences of cancer as deaths, even if cured or from an unrelated source.

The numbers from the WHO report reflect the best estimate I have seen given all the known factors.

I think that placing the bar at death is perfectly fair when making safety comparisons. It gives a clear and unambiguous mark that reflects all sorts of causes. When looking at disability you have to start answering questions like "is thyroid cancer worse than emphysema?" When looking at displacement you need to include loss of livelyhood, such as shrimp fishermen in the GoM, and evaluate the relative value of the displacements.

Additionally, death is final. There is no coping or getting better from being dead.

Health problems linked to aging coal-fired power plants shorten nearly 24,000 lives a year, including 2,800 from lung cancer

And why do potential deaths from radiation count so much higher in some people's estimates than concrete, in-your-face deaths from other sources?

Because accepting radiation is a blank check. Radiation is an insidious mine field carried by the wind. It prowls the world. With no bang and no help when your life walks across it.

But radiation expires. Sometimes the expiration date is in the far future, but it expires.

Chemical contaminants carry the same risks, are carried invisibly and silently around the world, don't expire, and many of them bioaccumulate up the food chain.

You are entirely correct, there is no free lunch.
The main gain from the proposed smaller reactors is that they should fail more gracefully.
If they do not, they are unattractive.

Obviously ganging up a bunch of reactors versus just one big one only works if the cost/watt of the smaller units is lower, so that the extra cost of combining several can be offset.
Given the decade long certification and construction process for large reactors, that should be an easy hurdle provided the smaller units can be a pre certified package.
As no one has such a package as yet, it is a goal, not a reality.

All that aside, your initial idea of a small nuclear APU for the plant seems very good to me. It surely would have been a godsend in this case.
The only quibble is that it is not cheap to get a small reactor/steam turbine/generator setup, but against the $100-1000B cost of this disaster, chicken feed.

Introducing a whole new technology to solve what appears to be (at this time) an implementation problem at Dai-ichi seems unwarranted to me. TEPCO put all of the generators in a single place, which turned out to be a bad one. It should have put one set of generators in one place, and another set somewhere different - uphill on the same site, or a mile or so away on another tract of land.

Splitting and duplicating the generators seems like a no-brainer to me, so I think why such a thing wasn't done needs to be examined, especially since TEPCO received information that the seawall at the plant might be inadequate. (I'm pretty sure the answer will be that safety costs money, and TEPCO didn't want to spend any reconfiguring its plants. But nobody knows at this point.)

"safety costs money"

Indeed it does.

And does anyone really think that this is only a factor at this particular facility?

Companies and countries have and will be cutting costs wherever they think they can get away with it. Redundant backup systems that will only be seen as a good investment in the absolutely worse case scenarios are likely to be the first things to go or to be overlooked.

This is a completely predictable, expected type of development. Add to that all the other human foibles--corruption, incompetence, ignorance, complacency...and we can begin to see the folly of creating an industry in which nearly everything has to go nearly perfectly essentially forever in order to prevent an absolute catastrophe.

These things are just simple common sense, but somehow those that point them out are vilified extremists and luddites.

This strikes me as the very definition of insanity. Must we run every *possible* nuclear plant design to failure, before accepting that nuclear power is not safe enough, or cheap enough to warrant the effort?

Look at the chart at the bottom of this page and consider:

Small reactors like the Toshiba 4S design (which does not yet exist as anything other than a paper exercise at the moment) are meant to produce process steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity like any other thermal reactor does. That requires cooling loops and control panels to switch and regulate the power produced and these were the parts of the Fukushima plant that failed when they were swamped by the tsunami a couple of weeks ago; I expect that any on-site small reactors would have also shut down in the same conditions and would not be providing power when most needed.

There's a reason power reactors are built above-ground, especially in Japan, to prevent a cave-in or major landslip triggereed by an earthquake crushing the containment structures or even the pressure vessel. Instead, as the recent earthquake showed the reactors at Fukushima rode out the shaking and earth movements with little or no perceived damage to the core, the pressure vessel or the primary and secondary containment structures although we may not know exactly what happened to the structures until the reactors are cool enough, both thermally and radiologically to be thoroughly examined.

It appears to me that the long thin shape of the Toshiba design is vulnerable to a slip-shift of the surrounding ground causing the casing and internal structures to fracture, resulting in a live nuclear core and hot liquid sodium coming into contact with the moisture in the steam loop within a compromised primary containment (there appears to be no secondary contaiment). This would be a Bad Thing.

As for submarine reactors, they are typically fuelled with very-highly enriched uranium to produce high power levels in the small space available to them in the hull. This is also done to space out the time between refuellings as that involves a major refit of the submarine with the hull opened up for access to the reactor spaces. The designers of such reactors in the West are reportedly using 90%-plus U-235 fuel elements nowadays so that the initial fuel load in the reactor will last the expected lifespan of the vessel it powers, twenty years or more. That would make a tempting target for any would-be nuclear terrorist as it is weapons-grade material suitable for bomb-making unlike the lightly-enriched uranium in conventiaonal fuel rods. Luckily submarine reactors are not kept on land in civilian facilities but are, when in harbour, surrounded by armed military guards. They also sit in a sea of cooling water, another convenience land-based reactors do not have.

"as the recent earthquake showed the reactors at Fukushima rode out the shaking and earth movements with little or no perceived damage to the core, the pressure vessel or the primary and secondary containment structures"

What? you forgot the part about the magic pony!

The information we got before the news channels were swamped by the result of the loss of coolant systems at the reactors is that the equipment at the reactor buildings themselves all survived the earthquake and the tsunami. The control rods went home automatically and the reactors were scrammed within seconds of the earthquake being detected. The wet-well coolant systems kept running until the batteries failed using the steam pump loops as they were meant to. Any significant breach of the reactor vessel or steam loops due to earthquake damage would have caused pretty much immediate overheating and oxyhdrogen/steam venting much earlier in the incident than did in fact happen. It is possible the concrete primary and secondary containment structures did take some damage from the earthquake but discovering that will require eyeball examination, something that can't be done for months or even years.

In contrast, the Daini plant only 10 km south of the Daiichi plant experienced the earthquake at a similar energy level as the Daiichi plant suffered. It shut its reactors down safely, not losing power to the tsunami due to slightly different coastal geometry and the higher positioning of its emergency generators. There are level-3 IAEA incident tickets outstanding against three of the four reactors there but I've not been able to find out what they refer to.

"It is possible the concrete primary and secondary containment structures did take some damage from the earthquake"

Indeed...a much better description than the line I originally quoted.

Allowing for the fuzziness of "some damage" I would even replace the "possible" with "likely"...

Why do you think it "likely" that the containment structures sustained any damage, particularly of a level that would mean they failed to do their jobs? The Daini reactors 10km from the Daiichi site seem to be in good shape, physically and they suffered the same amount of ground movement energy during the earhtquake. The design of the structures at Daiichi were meant to cope with a magnitude 7-plus earthquake which is what they were subjected to and they look to have come through it OK with a bit of room to spare.

"Why do you think it "likely" that the containment structures sustained any damage"

Because there is all sorts of radioactive crap flying/leaking out of the reactor sites. Honestly what is your point?
The entire Daiichi site must now be decommissioned sorta proves the "structures at Daiichi" did NOT "come through it OK".

It's likely that you got that sentence out of context.

It's also possible that the radiation is from either the ruptured torus on Reactor 2 (didn't rupture from the earthquake, but from the steam/hydrogen explosion), or one of the spent fuel rod ponds. IIRC high radiation didn't get detected around the reactors until after the explosions at Reactor 2 and 3 took place.

Nojay is correct; the problems began with the reactors when the backup generators could not get the pumps working; the batteries ran the valves and gauges only, and the steam operated pumps began failing after many hours of use. Had backup generators been able to provide power before the batteries failed, or offsite power had been restored quickly, the Daiichi reactors would have probably shut down in a similar manner to the Daini plant.

"would have probably shut down in a similar manner to the Daini plant"

But they didn't, did they?

The point is, a similar plant did not fail when exposed to the same conditions. The Onagawa plant also shut down properly under the same situation. The lesson to be learned here is find out what was different at Fukushima and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Unless you're one of those people who want all nuclear reactors turned to "off" right this minute.

The point is, a similar plant did not fail when exposed to the same conditions.

Daini only just made it by the skin of its teeth. It will all be clearer in time I'm sure.

It is not an either/or - shut all plants right now or just manage to new known risks.

Clearly the recent microfractures on aging Boeing fleet is just another warning signal that just extending the operating licenses of existing plants nearing end-of-life based on only evaluating known failure modes may not be the wisest strategy.

OTOH, Germany, according to Reuters story, is unlikely to re-start their old plants and will be adding new coal capacity

It's as if the "key" decision-makers (those who have the greatest investment and most confidence in the status quo) are prisoners of their own thinking in how to balance a complex and dynamic set of choices.

Increasingly it seems that fundamental change will require a new set of players to come forward with a strikingly different set of choices and strategies.

Good point about the Boeing fleet. But it also illustrates that complexity can be handled rather well. First, realize that cracking is always going to happen with aluminum aircraft. Aluminum has no fatique limit. That means that, unlike many iron-based materials, there is no lower limit below which no fatigue-induced cracking will occur. Aluminum-based materials will ALWAYS eventually break when exposed to dynamic loads.

The solution that has been applied, periodic rigorous inspection, has worked pretty well. Not perfectly, and the method can be improved. Experience is often the only way to discover the unforeseen, and since we cannot reliably and unerringly predict the future, incidents will continue.

Given that we cannot unerringly or even reliably predict the future, one must look at the risk to assess the value of systems that may cause bad things to happen. Some risks are not worth taking. Sometimes people must be restrained from exposing other people to excessive risks. This is generally known as risking a catastrophe. Storing explosives in a residential area is an example of this.

When (not if) there is an aircraft incident, one to 500 people are immediately and directly at risk (more as planes get bigger). Or more if there are unfortunates on the ground in the path of the descending plane. When (not if) there is an incident with a nuclear fission based machine, the effects can be more widespread and may last hundreds to thousands of years. I place the current nuclear energy industry in the group that should be restrained from risking a catastrophe. Just my considered opinion.

Disdaniel, let me try to put it in a different light...

It's like the Doc being asked about the surgery and he says: "the operation was a complete success!" The patient unfortunately succumbed to unforeseen secondary complications afterwards.

There are level-3 IAEA incident tickets outstanding against three of the four reactors there but I've not been able to find out what they refer to.

Emergency power and cooling was lost at 3 Daini reactors. Power and cooling was restored just in time to prevent emergency venting. Smoke was seen pouring from Daini plant as recently as a few days ago.

Smoke or steam? Was it generator exhaust, you should see the smoke that comes out when they start up one of our local backup gensets.


There was a news article (not more than one paragraph IIRC) about a week ago about this incident. Apparently they started a turbine to check it out, and smoke started pouring from an electrical board. When they shut down the turbine, the smoke stopped; the board had probably been damaged in the earthquake and no one had checked it out.

They never said anything about restarting a turbine and that would be a ludicrous thing for them to be doing just now. They said the smoke was coming from a power distribution panel in the turbine hall and they turned off the power and the smoke was observed to stop. That is not very reassuring. If they turn of all the power to the plant what do you think will happen? Clue: it's already happened up the road.

I referred to the Toshiba 4S because it was a Japanese design.

Perhaps the Russian naval reactors would be more suitable. They use pressurized water designs, and they build small, packaged reactors similar to those in Russian icebreakers.

There are hydro powerplants that have a small turbine for off grid plant maintainance or black net start up. The idea has merit but do the plant owner dare to run an auxilary reactor after a major earthquake or equivalent? And a 10 MW class powerplant needs a substantial heatsink for itself to generate power and a water/air heat exchanger or sea water cooling could be damaged by earthquake or tsunami.

One interesting power source in the plant were the small turbine that were powered by boiloff steam from the reactor core and then condensed the steam in the torus and powered a pump pumping torus water back into the core. This worked as long as there were batteries powering the electronics and something cooling the torus.

This system could have had a longer run time by:
Adding a dynamo to the turbine charging the batteries. (idea from TOD)
If it had enough power, and non-clogged pipes to the sea, a second pump cooling the torus with sea water.
It could have dumped core boiloff steam to the atmosphere and thus used up all the torus water before melt down, every hour of delay until fuel damage is good and gives time for other solutions and makes the melt down smaller.
It could have had another larger reservoir with clean water to pump from while wenting steam to the atmosphere and then run untill the core got too cool to power the turbine.

Venting core steam to the atmosphere is of course a nono, especially when the fuel might be damaged. This lead to my biggest surprise with the Fukushima plants, why did they not have a proper passive core preassure relief system that vents steam and gases thru a robust filter? Such were implemented in Sweden after TMI, dont know if they would catch 90 or 99 % of the activity but they would have gotten most of it and protected the building integrity and thus made a huge difference. The filters used in Sweden are water tanks that the steam and gases bubble thru and then a moisture separator, they are activited via a rupturing disc that gives way when preassure gets too high in the containment.

The purpose of the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) System are to provide makeup water to the reactor vessel for core cooling when the main steam lines are isolated or the Condensate and Feedwater System 'is not available.

The functional classification of the RCIC System is that of a safety related system. Its regulatory classification is an engineered safety feature (ESF) system.

The RCIC System (Figure 2.7-1) consists of a steam turbine driven pump and associated valves and piping capable of delivering water to the reactor vessel at operating conditions. The turbine is driven by steam produced from decay heat and exhausts to the suppression pool.

The RCIC System is normally aligned to remove water from the condensate storage tank and pump the water at high pressure to, the reactor vessel via the 'A' feedwater line. The suppression pool is an alternate source of.water. Additional discharge flow paths are provided to allow recirculation to the condensate storage tank for system testing, a pump minimum flow line to the suppression pool for pump protection, and recirculation for lube oil and barometric condenser cooling.

Following a reactor scram from power operation, fission product decay continues to produce heat. If the reactor vessel is isolated from the main condenser, pressure will increase to the point at which safety/relief valves will open to relieve steam pressure. If the Condensate and Feedwater System is not operating, reactor vessel water level decreases as decay heat continues to boil away. coolant. This is tlhe reason the RCIC System was installed. The RCIC System initiates automatically on level 2 (-38") reactor vessel water level and maintains sufficient, reactor coolant inventory to allow complete shutdown without compromise of the fuel cladding integrity. The system may also be manually, started by the operator and is functionally backed up by the High-Pressure Coolant, Injection (HPCI) System.

The RCIC seems to be engineered as a "last line of defense". But it relies on battery electrical power and a limited amount of water from the condensate storage tank and the wet well torus. There are also possibly problems with overspeed trip as the temperature of the core rises. At any rate, it does not seem to fulfill the function of "maintains sufficient, reactor coolant inventory to allow complete shutdown without compromise of the fuel cladding integrity." It will be interesting to see an analysis and reconstruction of how it functioned.

So the additions would be:
- a dynamo to keep the batteries charged,
- a heat exchanger sized to dissipate the decay heat, with pumps and piping able to withstand earthquake shaking,
- pumps and piping to circulate sea or fresh cooling water to the heat exchanger, and
- electrical power and circulation of cool fresh water to the spent fuel pool.

Assuming you are talking about a small secondary LWR reactor spinning a turbine, as opposed to say some sort of huge radioisotope thermoelectric generator. How do you keep this reactor online during an event such as the earthquake that caused the primary reactor to SCRAM? In an earthquake of the magnitude Japan experienced assuming the reactor itself did not trip, wouldn't the highly balanced turbines tear themsleves apart? And of course if you don't need to shut a secondary reactor off during the quake why not just drop the primary reactor off the grid and droip down to (wild guess ahead) say 5% power and continue to run and cool itself without a seconday system?

Small reactors can be designed to be more robust physically that large ones. New small reactors can be made to be passively safe themeselves, so there is no need to deliberately SCRAM them whenever there is a hint of trouble. The smaller piping, pumps and turbines can be designed to be more rugged, shock mounted, etc.

Small reactors aren't going to keep on delivering electrical power if their control panels and switchgear get flooded out by a tsunami which is what happened to the diesel backups at Fukushima. If the small reactor is sited safely on high ground to avoid this happening then the existing diesel generators and fuel supplies can be similarly located which obviates the point of building a billion-dollar small reactor plant with all its licencing and safety requirements as an adjunct to the main reactors on the site.

A small nuclear reactor may be a better source of cooling power for light water reactors during grid outages.

Brilliant! No doubt you have umpteen perfectly rational sounding reasons why the best way to deal with critical failures at nuclear reactors is... (wait for it)...


God help us all.


Didn't you know, "The Poison is always close to the poison" ?

"Side Effects" by Steve Martin

Dosage: take two tablets every six hours for joint pain.
Side Effects: This drug may cause joint pain, nausea, headache, or shortness of breath. You may also experience muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, and ringing in the ears. If you feel faint, call your doctor. Do not consume alcohol while taking this pill; likewise, avoid red meat, shellfish, and vegetables. O.K. foods: flounder. Under no circumstances eat yak. Men can expect painful urination while sitting, especially if the penis is caught between the toilet seat and the bowl. Projectile vomiting is common in thirty per cent of users - sorry, fifty per cent. If you undergo disorienting nausea accompanied by migraine and raspy breathing, double the dosage. Leg cramps are to be expected; one knee-buckler per day is normal. Bowel movements may become frequent - in fact, every ten minutes. If bowel movements become greater than twelve per hour, consult your doctor, or any doctor, or just anyone who will speak to you. You may find yourself becoming lost or vague; this would be a good time to write a screenplay. Do not pilot a plane, unless you are among the ten per cent of users who experience "spontaneous test-pilot knowledge." If your hair begins to smell like burning tires, move away from any building or populated areas, and apply tincture of iodine to the head until you no longer hear what could be taken for a "countdown." May cause stigmata in Mexicans.

Read more:

emergency backup power needs to be as simple as possible. A nuclear reactor is not simple. even a small one can add to your problems. either add to your battery bank or add emergency generators or both.

yep, all the while creating more nuclear waste to (not) deal with...

A small nuclear reactor may be a better source of cooling power for light water reactors during grid outages.

"A grid outage"? This has been repeated often. Do you have a citation that the Tomoku transmission system was 'down' on, say, March 12th?

Anyone please: If you have a citation that the grid was "down", and it required stringing new wires, would you please post it, if it is not too much trouble.

Experts: Loss of electricity greatest threat to U.S. nuclear plants

After the massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake knocked out the electrical grid powering Fukushima Daiichi, emergency diesel generators provided power for just one hour before a tsunami washed away the plant's diesel fuel tanks and flooded critical switching gear, said the NEI.

New Repairs Delay Work at Nuclear Plant in Japan

Hundreds of employees of the utility, which owns the disabled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, had worked through the weekend to connect a mile-long high-voltage transmission line to the No. 2 unit in hopes of restarting a cooling system that would help bring down the temperature in the reactor and spent fuel pool.

Thanks for the references, although they leave a lot to be desired. Hey press - how about a little tiny bit of detail on this crucial item?

The next paragraph in the Times article (the second citation) says

After connecting the transmission line on Sunday, engineers found on Monday that they still did not have enough power to fully run the systems that control the temperature and pressure in the building that houses the reactor, officials from the Japanese nuclear safety agency said.

What do you make of that? Bizarre.
First of all the story is dated March 21st. So they waited until march 21st to work over the weekend? They worked over the weekend to connect wires to one of three high-voltage transmission circuits, and found it doesn't have enough power? You can run an automobile assembly line off a transmission line. Not satisfactory.

Plus: Mile-long. A mile long, along the three routes of the High Voltage towers does not get you off the plant property. They figured the grid was good a mile away? So the story is something like you have crews out there over the weekend getting wires back up on the towers? Which of the three circuits did they fix? What was the problem. Tower fall over, bend, sag? Photo?

The first story, from CNN, does have the magic words:

After the massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake knocked out the electrical grid

That's it. That is all the detail. And that is the story that is circulating. But think of what that means. There are three circuits into Dai-ichi. This means that all three circuits were "knocked out". (one triplet of wires to units 1&2, one to 3&4, and one to 5&6.) How do you knock out a circuit? The components are wires, insulators, towers (pylons), transmission substations. Can you think of anything else? A wire has to be compromised. Or else a transmission substation outage (not a distribution substation).
I don't get it. I just don't get it.

So the official story is: hey the wire didn't work.

How do you knock out a circuit? The components are wires, insulators, towers (pylons), transmission substations. Can you think of anything else? A wire has to be compromised. Or else a transmission substation outage (not a distribution substation).

There doesn't need to be a great deal of physical damage. A single line failing took down the entire NE power grid in 2003. I would think that a great deal of generation and demand going offline during the earthquake & subsequent tsunami would do a good job of knocking down the entire grid.

There doesn't need to be a great deal of physical damage.

Even if a single wire can take out a circuit, there are three (3) circuits going into the plant. The story is that a crew was "out there" over the weekend "stringing a line a mile long".

And the towers and wires that you can see in the photos after the explosions are OK.

The 2003 outage started at First Energy supposedly with a tree-trimming issue. The protective relays shut the system down, after imbalances because of the loss of the ability to do long distance wheeling (or some such). That is not the story we are getting here. It is not a case of resetting the protective relays, and bring the system back up. The story is repairing lines, damage to transmission lines.

See "Section 8. Performance of Nuclear Power Plants Affected by the Blackout" of Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout in the United States and Canada: Causes and Recommendations for a description of the behaviour of Canadian and United States nuclear power plants during the network disturbance. Of the 9 US nuclear power plants that shut down, all but Oyster Creek used their emergency diesels.

I haven't seen an exact description of the chain of events for Fukushima. Possibly their reactors tripped when they saw a frequency or voltage anomally on the transmission lines into the site. More probably they tripped because an earthquake detection system commanded them to or because they have local seismic detectors. Detecting the P-wave would give the reactors a head start before the S-wave arrives. Note that the Tohoku Shinkansen trains are stopped by seismic alarms, since they take about 1 minute to brake to a stop.

Interesting and good, but a little off the topic. Power failure is being blamed for the loss of the pump function leading to overheating and "meltdown". And the grid owned by Tohoku is being implicated by rumor and innuendo in that failure. I suspect that the grid worked pretty well, and did not contribute to the incident materially. (That's where I am "coming from".)

As to the 2003 blackout, sure when the grid is down, as it was, and you are down, you use diesel for the pop machines, and eventually for plant restart from black.

I wouldn't expect a reactor to trip because of a anomaly on the transmission lines. There is a transformer in between. (Aside: I wonder now what happens when the grid goes down? If you are leaning against a wall, and the wall falls over, you fall over too... The grid is the wall, much bigger than than any plant. I guess you might as well go down. No point in generating power. Second aside: How much power does it take to run a plant? What percent is consumed on site?)

Traveling at 250 mph during an earthquake could be ... iffy.

"I wouldn't expect a reactor to trip because of a anomaly on the transmission lines. There is a transformer in between."

The line impedance is reflected right through the transformer. It does not supply "isolation" in this sense. These systems are alive. They test and adapt constantly. Faults ripple through them and make for wild gyrations among far-flung installations. In the Pacific Coast Inter-tie, a High Voltage Direct Current transmission system, the difference in the transient impedance of the wires versus the non-oscillatory nature of the earth causes much fun when establishing the connection. It is that sensitive.

Impedance isn't really applicable to DC circuits. It's simply resistance.

It is confusing, is it not?

When a battery is connected to a coil of, say, insulated wire... things start happening. The electrons start to flow. This makes a magnetic field that grows. That growth looks like movement. A moving magnetic field induces a flow of electrons in the wire: The flow is impeded by its own reflection in the magnetic field bouncing off of the source resistance of the battery, the source impedance. Energy leaks out as the electrostatics of the situation start to charge the plastic and air insulation system with an electric stress. This relieves itself back into the wire when the battery is removed. Removing the battery makes its source resistance suddenly appear as an open circuit to the coil and its insulation system: The prop has been kicked out... The magnetic field collapses suddenly and its motion meets no opposing reflection from the now missing battery. Pressures fly upward into the hundreds of volts. The dynamic stress resonates with the dielectric storage of the insulation and the system oscillates at a high frequency.

Nothing is simple.

It does this whether the designer thinks about it or not.
Like TinFoilHatGuy's frozen valves example on the Thresher.

Poetically lovely. Much more interesting than my "conventional electrical wisdom" throwaway.

Keep it up (no matter what the narrow reductionists say).

Inductance and capacitance do matter, and together cause transmission line effects. These need to be carefully considered to prevent instability and ringing.

See the section "Why the Generators Tripped Off" beginning on page 93 which discusses why "At least 265 power plants with more than 508 individual generating units shut down in the August 14 blackout."

Generators always sense electrical disturbances on the connected transmission lines, and if the disturbances exceed set criteria, protective relays operate to disconnect and shut down the generators. This would result in a steam turbine speeding up a generator with no load, so a bypass dumps steam directly into the condensor, bypassing the turbine in order to prevent a runaway overspeed condition. In both fossil fuel and nuclear plants the boiler is also shut down, taking care to keept the boiler below temperatures that would damage it. A coal fired boiler does not shut down immediately either.

I haven't been able to find a specific story about how/when the transmission lines into Fukushima Daiichi were damaged. For the initial shutdown this would not matter. Nuclear and fossil fuel plants in the earthquake region were shutting down all over, and there would have been an electrical cascade collapse like the Northeast outage even if the lines were not physically damaged.

There are abundant news stories about running in the emergency power line in order to bring outside power to Fukushima Daiichi. Most likely this is because the transmission lines were damaged between Fukushima Daiichi and their endpoints. I did try to follow them on Google, but it is hard to follow the wires.

it is hard to follow the wires

You can follow the shadows of the towers, sometimes easily. The wires are like a vague haze, also. The towers themselves are often only a blur. Sometimes the right-of-way clearing is obvious.

Hey! It looks like some of the Google maps imagery was taken after March 11th 2011. (probably just the plant area)

I spent a fair amount of time researching the grid question. However, I didn't post what I found because I also wasn't entirely convinced.

Anyway, the path I went down regarded articles stating the transmission pylons (towers) collapsed. I wanted to see a photo or video confirmation of this but was unable to find. I did find one website where a journalist drove to the front gate of the plant and included a few photos of the damage. His article said he saw collapsed pylons but I didn't see any in the photos.

Another article I found said the grid to plant was not owned by TEPCO. I forget who but I think it was the other nuclear plant. They found a substation with power and constructed a new line to Fukushima with two wires. The first line was straight. And the other line detoured around a lot of debris before connecting to a mobile unit close to reactors.

Tohoku owns the transmission system in that area.

Generation and transmission and distribution are separate functions.
"They found a substation with power". Does not sound too good. A transmission substation within a mile of the plant? It should be visible on Google maps, and I have not seen it. You are welcome to look. Did they run the wires on poles? High Voltage? Two wires? Well at least it is a detail. That is more specific than a lot of the reporting, other than "over the weekend" and "a mile".

I saw one photo of a collapsed pylon by the SONY corp, but it was a distribution pole. So I suppose the range for the word "pylon" is pretty wide.

Yes, it was Tohoku. I had read it was lower voltage in that it wasn't 250K or 500K. I don't know normal voltages, but I think it was 11K or so.

Here's an article I hadn't seen before.
Teams Race to Restore Power

Motoyasu Tamaki also acknowledged that the complex was old, and might not have been as well-equipped as newer facilities.

Meanwhile, plant operators said they would reconnect four of the plant's six reactor units to a power grid Saturday. Although a replacement power line reached the complex Friday, workers had to methodically work through badly damaged and deeply complex electrical systems to make the final linkups without setting of a spark and potentially an explosion.

"Most of the motors and switchboards were submerged by the tsunami and they cannot be used," Nishiyama said.

There is a lot in this article. This quote explicitly states what I think is going on:

"Most of the motors and switchboards were submerged by the tsunami and they cannot be used," Nishiyama said.
Even once the power is reconnected, it is not clear if the cooling systems will still work.

This is a very different story from "loss of backup power" was the "main cause of the crisis", which is the title, the opening theme, and the point of the second paragraph.

Again, my focus is not on power within the plant. It is "when was the grid up?"

I don't know what to make of so much of the text of the article.
I assume it is describing a lot of the same events as this story printed Thursday March 17th, describing installation of new pumps at the plant, the work being done, I think, behind units 1&2.

Pylons down should show up in the satellite pics. I don't see any.


Exactly. I've looked at bird pics, heli pics, video and still photos. And none showing a collapsed pylon near the plant. And there was one article by a journalist who put it in words and gloated about his photo of the front gate of TEPCO. But no photo of a pylon...

Here is an article that flatly states that the grid was down, written on the 12th. Talks about station blackout.
(Scientific American - paragraph 3) Maybe more information will be forthcoming....
By the 12th, Unit 1 exploded, so even if the gird came back, it would be too late for unit 1.

But the reporting is so bad. Here is a quote from a related story on "Bergeron"s conference call

What occurred at the plant was a "station blackout", which is the loss of offsite air-conditioning (sic) power combined with the failure of onsite power, in this case diesel generators.

Re contamination of groundwater, the population in the vicinity of the Fukushikma-I plant use water from small reservoirs in the mountains for domestic use, not groundwater. Surface contaminated waters certainly can migrate to aquifers (and recent reports of groundwater contamination verify that), but proximity of the plant to the ocean indicates groundwater will flow to the ocean. What the plant itself uses for drinking water hasn't been revealed

The big crack pictured at the top of the last open thread
may have misdirected a lot of thinking. The worrisome crack
seems to be somewhat differently situated. Here is a re-presentation
of searchings from late last night. A SITE PLAN is linked to below.

More original drawing:
1 Reactor
2 Turbine Building
3 >1000 milisieverts at the water surface on #2 installation
4 Ducts are 16 to 25 meters deep
5 The water is very close to the top
6 about 60 meters to the sea
To the right of 6 is the sea.

The turbine buildings are designated as the "Radiation Control Zone" where the strict control on radiation is required. However, the ducts and tunnels are outside the Zone. The pipes for pumping sea water to the heat exchangers go through these ducts/tunnels.

(We keep calling these "trenches" and that may be the translation of the Japanese word, but remember that these are actually tunnels.)

Very wonderful diagram:
But it is too big to put up here.
(Even if you scale images, their entire size is sent.)

Shaft leading down into tunnels.
for today's date
They also state:
Crews have dispersed about 2,000 liters (more than 500 gallons) of synthetic resin in a 500-square-meter locale, according to Tokyo Electric. The aim is to hold the released radioactivity on the ground.

Photo of "concrete" job through hatch:
It may actually be the newspaper and sorbent, from other reading.

SITE PLAN showing power transmission lines, canals, and discharge:

These look to be three different locations; but shafts to sea water circulation ducts, yeah, probably (location 3?). 1 Sv/hr there is scary.

Someone wondered about angry empty insulting replies:
A believer.
To attack the belief is to attack them.
They therefore project, and perceive to attack belief with derision.
This attack passes through the opposition without effect.
The opposition holds to an idea derived through experience.
In dogma, truth is revealed by an authority.
In science, truth is discovered for one's self.
The best way to attack any heretical thought is to burn its texts.
Not deride its converts.

Voices of light
The passion of Joan of Arc

what was the root cause of fuku? the rules! rule 1 shut down the reactors in an earthquake. this exposed the defect in the design of the reactor. once the shutdown was put into effect the only power available was the standby generators which the tsunami eliminated. now with the nukes shut down there is no power available to pump the cooling water for the reactors or the stored rods. with no cooling water for the stored rods hydrogen is generated and the explosions followed with all the resulting problems.

Be careful boiling this down too simply. These BWRs have control rods that must be inserted into the fuel from below, using a power source, I believe.

What if they kept even one online for the power, and then the earthquake or Tsunami created containment leakages and failures in the Control Rod equipment? Then you've got a set of Rods that are ready to 'really' melt down. What's happened so far happened with supposedly successful reinsertion of the control rods which had already had several hours in which to start cooling.

Until recent we would have all agreed that shutting down a raging, self-sustaining 3 GW furnace, called a reactor, in the rise of a quake is a better idea than not being able to shut it down afterwards. It's still unsure if there haven't been some sort of structural failure inside the cores, that may even prevented complete scram due to the unexpected forces of the shocks / not to mention how many other systems might have failed as a result (turbines/generators spinning at high speeds for example doesn't tolerate well 9.0 earthquakes, if not that: the turbine buildings actually got flooded - good luck generating electricity with equipment under water..). Good chances are the plant couldn't run by itself for long afterwards the quake.

Whether you're right or not, doesn't really matter - new rules will be written, which might.. sorry, these surely will eventually lead to another "wtf" scenario somewhere else.

There was once this nuclear reactor covered with much extra steel around the entire containment vessels. Then that entire system was manned and placed under many feet of shielding water. During post rebuild deepwater trials something went wrong and the reactor scrammed. That was a problem because that would cause this locomotive reactor system to sink to crushing depths in the deep sea. There was an air tank backup system designed to handle such things but the designers forgot Charles' or Boyle's Law, I forget. We lost over 100 men and the reactor too, and the USS Thresher still lies at the bottom of the ocean.

Now THAT'S comedy!
...other than the tragedy...
But STILL! From an engineering viewpoint...
We never have it all figured out.
Ask a software engineer:
Go from page 1 to page 2 of a long thread on TOD
and your "New" count resets to zero.

The Thresher

Did you read the article you cited? It does not mention the reactor or a scram. The article talks about a burst pipe in the engine room. The subsequent blowing of ballast creates ice as the gas expands, and jams a valve open.

Did you read the article you cited? It does not mention the reactor or a scram.

From the article:
High-pressure water spraying from a broken pipe joint may have shorted out one of the many electrical panels, which in turn caused a shutdown ("scram") of the reactor, with a subsequent loss of propulsion.

English is my second language. Let me guess, it is your first.

Yup, first. What's your first language? My mistake. The article does say
"It's more likely that the engine room crew was simply overwhelmed by the flooding casualty [citation needed]".
I had wondered about the Thresher, whether it was a nuclear - meltdown, actually. But the wikipedia article does implicate a possible scram and loss of forward propulsion. I said nuclear wasn't a factor. My mistake. It may have been.

NP, I was too harsh. 20th century military history was a minor.
The best.

once the shutdown was put into effect the only power available was the standby generators which the tsunami eliminated

Not exactly.
1. When the reactor was scrammed, the procedure seems to be to stop the turbine. I believe that this is not a requirement. With the control rods inserted, little new heat is produced in the reactor, but the reactor is still hot. The turbine could still run, generating electricity, and drawing heat from the reactor. I believe that this is what the test at Chernobyl was intended to demonstrate, although that test failed for other reasons.

2a. The standby generators may have been knocked out by water, but this seems like a design oversight; something that could have been handled had the need been forseen.
2b. The standby generators may have been knocked out by something other than water; there was a story briefly that the stand-by generators are "no good".
I have not come across a clear story on the power failure.

3. The grid was energized, so the diesel generators were not the "only power".

Question: How many (independent) diesel generators were there? One for each unit? One for units 1&2 and for 3&4 and for 5&6 (like the pressure relief stacks)? One for the entire site? Two for the entire site, for redundancy? ...

Second question: How many of those generators were in working order before the tsunami struck?


The generator outputs 1000MW of electrical energy at 500kv (or thereabouts.)

It is tired directly to a massive transformer that is tied directly to the grid. If the grid goes down and the generator keeps running it would be destroyed, or at the very least slow to a point that it would loose frequency, now you're putting out under-voltage, out of frequency 500KV electricity. Useless.

It is no easy feat to re purpose a base load scale turbo generator set to instead run your piddling little local power requirements in a few seconds upon detection of a blackout.

If you can somehow shunt electricity away from the grid into the plant, you still have a much bigger problem. The entire shabang is designed for a 1000MW electrical load so the turbine, reactor, pipes, controls, everything are so scaled.

Thermodynamically, mechanically, fluid dynamically, it's all setup for a certain flow of steam from a certain sized reactor turning a certain size turbine, against a certain size load, being cooled by a certain sized cooling tower. If you can only present 1/1000th of the rated load of the plant, you cant really use the thing period.

Edit - Chernobyl was a coast down test. That is they used the momentum of the hundred ton turbo generator shaft to spin the armature long enough to put out enough energy to spin the cooling pumps just long to get the big diesels humming. Whether this was done with the main generator or an auxiliary plant generator I couldn't say. I will say it is a rather stupid design in retrospect. However, they did shunt power back to the plant, but only temporarily. It does nothing for the problem that you cant actually run the plant against that little of an electrical load.

It is possible to be able to run after loosing then grid but it needs to be designed in with for instance mechanisms for dumping steam directly into the condenser. In Sweden it only works about 3 times out of 4 withouth getting something unballanced and tripping the plant. The main benefit is a much faster reconnect to the grid and faster rebuilding of the grid after a major blackout. Increasing the likelihood for a successfull house turbine transition has been part of the grid reliability efforts.

Thanks for the information, that's pretty impressive.

Seems akin to re purposing the engines on the space shuttle to heat up their dinner in a pinch.

So basically they throttle the plant thermally down to the lowest practical level and use a bigass bypass/throttling valve to shunt a majority of the steam flow directly into the condenser?

What implication does this have for design of the turbine? It seems like the turbine wouldn't even get out of bed below a certain amount of lbs/steam flowing through it?

Does it pose an issues for the generator itself?

The turbine has to keep the RPM, steam has to be dumped before it revs up and gives an overfrequency trip. How a steam turbine handle very low mass flows is an interesting question, the answer is not obvious for me. I would guess that condensation will start way back in the low preassure turbine. Were I to design such a device I would investigating dumping all of the flow from the high preassure turbine into the condenser, although I would start with checking how it has been done in detail and I have not done any of that.

The generator can probably handle a lot but overfrequency or overvoltage could harm the plant systems.

I can certainly imagine adding a MW steam pipe & turbine to a GW plant. Then you can shutdown the big one during a scram event, but use the residual heat to keep the little guy going. Of course you need a provision to disconnect the little guy from the grid, but that shouldn't be difficult.

I will accept that you can't send the steam into the turbine and generator in order to cool the reactor once the reactor is scrammed. But I do have some comments all the same:
1. I know there is "spinning reserve" - units that are powered and synchronized to the grid but not putting power out to the grid, and also before a unit is connected to the grid it goes through this synchronization process.
2. If the grid (or the connection to the grid) went down when the tsunami hit, 50 minutes after the quake, does that change your analysis? The load is there, arguably.
3. As for the Unit's gradual loss of power, units are sometimes run less than nameplate, for various reasons - BTU content of the coal, emissions limitations, or equipment is offline for maintenance.
4. If continuing to run the steam through the turbine/generator would considerably hasten the removal of heat from the reactor, how hard would it be to create a device that presents an appropriate load in order to be able to achieve that goal?

Or more to the point - can you compare the rate at which heat is removed from the reactor by the cooling systems and by the turbine/condenser/generator?

Oops - I see that the discussion above is on this topic. Let me spend some time reading it.

Webcam from Fukushima, from south of buildings. (only seems to go back to March 17th)
I am surprised that there isn't security camera video available from March 11.

An article about the difference between Dai-ini and Dai-ichi. In short, reconnecting to offsite power, aka the grid owned by Tomoku.

Anybody seen this? perhaps it has been posted before.
Note the 200,000 military personel and dependants being withdrawn from Japan. What's up with that?

One guess... it frees up a good bit of quality housing for the displaced people living in gymnasiums.

I dont know how much personel USA has in Japan but temporarily closing bases would of course save electricity and other supplies. The biggest problem with it is probably that it would make it harder to counter a North Korean military agression. Wonder if the bases ever would be restaffed given the state of the US federal economy?

The evacuations appear to be voluntary evacuation of US Department of Defense service member's dependents who reside on Honshu. There may also be evacuation of DoD civilian employee's and dependents as well, e.g. teachers from on-base schools.

Questions on voluntary departure answered

General Information

Q. Is the United States Government authorizing departure of DoD personnel and dependents?
A. On 17 March 2011, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense authorized DoD eligible family members, located on the island of Honshu, Japan, to depart to the designated Safe Haven location of the United States.

Q. What is authorized departure?
A. Authorized departure is a voluntary program whereby US Government employees and eligible dependents that are stationed abroad are permitted to depart a foreign area at government expense.

Q. Why is departure authorized?
A. Departure is authorized due to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant following the 8.8 earthquake and tsunami.

Q. My sponsor is deployed, will he/she come home?
A. Return of deployed members will be on their normally scheduled rotation.

"Departure is authorized due to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant following the 8.8 earthquake and tsunami."

Good find.

At least our military isn't beating around the bush about this being a major threat even for people living far from the plant.

Does anyone know how common this type of evacuation is? I heard elsewhere that this was the first time it has been employed outside of a war situation.

The DoD would not want to have a big problem of having to quickly evacuate dependents if things actually got bad. Nor would they want to deal with the psychological problems of people who want to leave but can't without DoD paid travel. So this is the prudent course of action.

The Japanese are probably not unhappy to see them leave. It may reduce the bill they have to pay for maintaining US bases in Japan.

I have to agree, saw it first hand.

Best Wishes

edit: Reread.

Even if this isn't a ssrious physical threat, for several reasons this seems like a good idea:
(1) Relieving anxiety of the servicemembers and their family.
(2) Making housing available locally.
(3) Reducing fuel and electricty consumption.
So if we add, even hypothetical real danger, it is a slamdunk!

(I haven't asked the Japanese visitor in the office next to mine, if he's here for genuine business concerns, -or just wants to be out of the hotzone.

I've seen two descriptions of this withdrawal.

One, that it's a way of creating "fewer mouths to feed" and taking the pressure off the Japanese.

Two, and more disturbing, is that Yokosuka hospital is advising military parents to send children under 5 out of the country.

(Article from Stars/Stripes was posted on previous thread.)

1st, note that this article is two weeks old.

It says in the article that radiation was one of the concerns, especially for children and pregnant women.

I'm guessing that more and more people, to the extent that they have the means, are going to leave the Tokyo area. This process will be greatly accelerated if there are further official warnings about radioactive drinking water.

I find it quite silly and a little bit peepingtomish that the US still has -obviously- more that 200 000 military personnel in Japan, after 65 years, common !
No wonder the Yanks have unpayable juggernautical governmental deficits ...

Nah, we're not worried about the Japanese any more, they're our buddies. Heck, they make our cars! But we can see China and North Korea from over there, so...

The US has more than 100 military bases of various sorts all over the world.

It's called empire.

Here's to wishing this is the beginning of the evacuation of all of them.

There is always a way to rationalize it.

Sendai Airport a symbol of U.S. forces' cooperation in disaster recovery

SENDAI -- Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by tsunami triggered by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, has emerged as a symbol of U.S. forces' cooperation in disaster recovery efforts.
Maj. Neal Fisher, 39, underscored the significance of U.S. forces stationed in Japan. He said the forces were prepared to quickly respond to the disaster, while it took four days before U.S. forces was dispatched to Haiti after it was hit by a major quake in 2010.

Gunderson claims that unit 1 has intermittent criticalities that periodically boil off the water, shutting down the chain reaction.

The problem is that the pressure, level, temperature and radiation logs do not support that claim.

Homogeneous mixtures of low enriched UO2 cannot support a chain reaction. Neutrons slowing down gradually in collision with oxygen atoms are likely to be absorbed by U238 atoms at intermediate energy, resulting in no fission.

It is necessary that fast neutrons leak out of the fuel rods into the water to slow down in collisions with hydrogen nuclei, and then leak back into a fuel pellet to be absorbed by a U235 atoms causing fission. This requires that the careful geometry of the fuel pins and water be maintained over a volume at least a few feet in diameter to maintain a viable neutron flux.

If the lower portion of the core was continuously submerged it would be intact, but the neutron absorbing control rods would also be intact. They are mechanically locked in position when not moving.

My guess is that the core has been completely destroyed with a lot of melting and re-solidification. A pile of pellets would not contain enough water for adequate moderation, nor would ZrO2 be a good moderator.

The only serious criticality threat is the unit 4 fuel pool, because it contains some low burnup fuel. It depends on the details of the fuel racks. If they contain a lot of boron carbide plate I would not worry about criticality. If they are open racks, they need to maintain boric acid concentration in the water.

Some of Gunderson’s comments are valid, but his claim that workers are exposed to unknown neutron radiation from a pulsing reactor 1 misses the target completely. The reactor is shielded by enough steel and concrete to protect the workers at full power. Fuel that has melted and leaked out of the reactor cannot achieve a critical geometry. A low level criticality in the reactor would be a relatively minor issue.

There are about nine different accidents running in parallel on this site. I would give the highest level of attention to the damaged spent fuel pools.

Thanks, Bill.

What might be the source of the 38Cl and why would there be so much more 131I at unit 1 than at the other reactors that shut down at the same time?

What might be the source of the 38Cl

Don’t really know kalliergo. every reactor that has fuel in it has a sources of neutrons and a neutron flux. The intensity of that flux depends on the source strength and multiplication factor. As long as the multiplication factor is less than 1.0 it is sub critical, but if it is close to 1.0 and there is a substantial neutron source, there could be a significant neutron flux, but still many orders of magnitude below that at full power.

Perhaps they got a water sample that spent a long time in the core, or perhaps a measurement error.

The source of the 38 Cl must be 37Cl + "slow neutron" (< 1 eV) -> 38Cl . Chlorine 38 is not found in natur as it has a half life of a half hour or so.

From BillHannahan:

*Some of Gunderson’s comments are valid, but his claim that workers are exposed to unknown neutron radiation from a pulsing reactor 1 misses the target completely.*

From PNNL:

"News seems to be getting worse, with evidence of periodic criticalities occuring in unit 1, which will have the impact of making it ever harder for workers to get near the reactor vessel for repairs*

I think that's likely taking place in Reactor 1; the accepted estimate of damage in that core is around 75%, so it's possible some of the melted core is now on the bottom of the reactor in who knows what kind of configuration. It's possible there is a slightly higher concentration of uranium in this mass that can go critical; it could build up heat to the point it 'bubbles' or fizzes, loses the geometry and goes subcritical again, but now the proper geometry is somewhere else in the mass, so it continues with the low level fission process.

Fission is creating the short lived Iodine isotopes; by now we wouldn't be seeing hardly any of it so long after the control rods shut down the main reactions.

"Fission is creating the short lived Iodine isotopes; by now we wouldn't be seeing hardly any of it so long after the control rods shut down the main reactions."

And, probably, the 38Cl. That certainly seems the most reasonable explanation.

So, how much does this intermittent (presumably) fission complicate the situation? For instance, how much more difficult does it make the task of cooling the corium in (and/or out of) the unit 1 reactor vessel?

Fission is taking place in all nuclear fuels whether they have been in the reactor or not. A sustained chain reaction is quiet different kettle of fish and requires very specific conditions. With the devil's brew of isotopes that are in the fuel I would expect there to be enough neutrons knocking around to heighten fission activity and so the production of these isotopes. Putting numbers to it is quite another matter and I would defer to a specialist to calculate. However, you must remember that there is a LOT of used fuel around there so even a VERY small percentage of fission can yield a large number of isotope atoms with no need to invoke any chain reaction or thaumaturgical event.


But, the numbers matter. If stontaneous fission events are rare, they amount of products they create could be insignificant. Mainly their effect is to provide seed neutrons once you've achieved criticality.

Well, we have a few thousand tons of material there, I will leave it to you to calculate the number of atoms :) Even a rare event would still happen a lot but I can't put a number to it but I am hoping that someone can.


Homogeneous mixtures of low enriched UO2 cannot support a chain reaction. Neutrons slowing down gradually in collision with oxygen atoms are likely to be absorbed by U238 atoms at intermediate energy, resulting in no fission.

This sort of lines up with the work based on Schwinkendorf's dissertation:

Bill, are there any other useful references you might suggest?

Bill, a question that I have is what happens if you rearrange the fissile material in the reactor. Say the rods are exposed for a while soon after the scram, energy being produced by decay is several percent of the design thermal output of the running reactor, and then it gets hot. The Zr reacts with the high pressure steam which is the dominant gas in the reactor, and flashes away (high pressure H2 gas warning). Lots of little grey cylinders of refractory oxides are loose now. The fuel bundle materials get all hot and runny--I've seen liquid metal and it moves fast-and then, at way above the melting point of your fuel bundle hardware, but way below the temp at which your pellets really start melting and fusing with other materials, these heavy grey pellets at around 11 gm/cm3 sinking to the bottom of the metal melt in a big heap.

The question is, if one put 50 tons or so of 4% enriched UO2 pellets in a heap, does it go critical? I understand that the prompt criticality would be very short lived, as the energy yield would fluff the pellets up a bit.

(edit) Just did a little light reading, looks like the control blades which contain the Boron will melt out, hit the water in the bottom, and push two phase steam water up into the core. that is interesting, because that is a re-criticality scenario. Anyway, original question still is, what happens if you heap up 50 tons of 4% UO2 pellets. Also, 50 tons of high burnup pellets, at 2% UO2 and lots of waste products.

Define heap. You need critical mass and critical volume combining to give a critical density. Look up Plutonium and you will see it stored in rings as this reduces density of the whole object. If your heap is low and flat it is a different beast to one that is near spherical. Speed of assembly is important as, once you near critical mass/volume, if you add it too slowly you may find fuel is burned up as quickly as it is added and you never reach a sustained chain reaction. If you have an exact critical mass it will cease to be critical as soon as the first fission takes place. Also how are the pellets stacked? Hexagonal, square, random? Different densities thus different critical volumes and mass.


Heap: pellets are in random orientation, heap has domed top, lower surface conforms to RPV contour, diameter = RPV ID at bottom.

If it helps any, a random packed pile of spherical pellets would be roughly 64% pellets, 36% water. Changing the shape changes the percentages a bit, but so long as they're as long as they are wide it's pretty close to two thirds.

Anyway, original question still is, what happens if you heap up 50 tons of 4% UO2 pellets. Also, 50 tons of high burnup pellets, at 2% UO2 and lots of waste products.

Clarity, the Sandia spent fuel pool study made it clear that without water, criticality is not possible. So a load of hot fuel pellets slumping into the bottom of the vessel will not support a chain reaction.

I do not know what happens as pellets quench and water migrates into the pile. Best guess is not enough space between pellets to support a chain reaction.

What if a stack of cold pellets collapse into clean water? Possible criticality, but negative temperature coefficients including fast acting Doppler spreading limit energy yield and peak power to modest levels.

Nobody wants an unplanned criticality, but if it happens, you want it to be inside several feet of concrete and steel. It will not produce a great deal of energy or additional fission products compared to what is there now, just inject boric acid and shut it down.

Bill, working on finding the Sandia reference re spent fuel pools.

Just to be clear, my question is whether a fifty ton pile of 4% enriched UO2 pellets has the potential to go critical, Keff = or > 1.000? Without water.

Bill ... I think you are being a little too hard and rule bound with these speculations. Fast neutrons certainly are more likely to lead to criticalities when moderated and reflected, but not necessarily so. Criticality accidents appear to be quite common, Wiki suggest 60 have taken place to date. There is certainly a lot that we don't know about the status of the reactors, geometry of the damaged fuel, mass of the fissile material, and availability of boron as a neutron absorber. I look at the temperature and pressure data for reactor #1, and it looks to me that there could be a good indication for transient criticalities (leading to a rise in temperature) around March 24th and March 29th. I don't think your analysis rules out transient criticalities (especially since we have 3 or 4 good indications that they may have taken place), but it may provide us with a pretty good explanation for why they are not lasting very long and are relatively short-lived.

I don't think your analysis rules out transient criticalities

Right Idyl, there could be low energy undetected criticalities, but Gundersen’s claim of high energy events that boil the core dry are not supported by the instrument data.

His claims that workers are getting neutron exposure from unit 1 reactor are not credible because workers are not inside containment, that is, not inside the shielding.

All the information we're getting indicates that there is at least some water in each reactor vessel. IOW, if there's a 'blob' of melted core material sitting at the bottom of Reactor 1, it's under water and subject to moderation. Of course, that water is also full of boron, so there can't be a lot of spare neutrons running into things either.

I think I read sometime these last few weeks that the control rods have a higher melting temperature than the core itself. If the reactor core reached a temperature high enough to partially melt, as is thought to have happened in all three reactors, then the control rods aren't really controlling much anymore, are they? The reactor fuel would have melted (at least in the middle of the core where its hottest) and slumped towards the bottom, and the control rods would still be sitting where they were supposed to be.

A "melted blob" of fissionable material at the base of the reactor would require that the entire core assembly, including the hundred or so tonnes of steel structure holding the fuel rods and control rods in place had melted or holed sufficiently for molten fuel and other material to fall through. This can happen, but realistically only in a fully operational reactor running at its usual thermal power setting (for reactor 1 that's about 1300MW, for the others it's about 3GW) that suddenly loses cooling circulation. By the time the cooling systems shut down at Fukushima fission had been stopped for several hours in all reactors, reducing the thermal output to something like 5% of maximum settings. The fuel rods are self-heating from isotope decay and when the water level dropped below the top of the rods the cladding started to oxidise from the excess heat and presence of high-pressure high-temperature steam and they almost certainly fractured at that point.

The fuel pellets will melt if their temperature reaches about 1200 deg C but that is also the temperature required to melt or hole the core structures too. That takes a lot of energy as well as high temperatures and I don't think that there was actually enough energy left in the system to cause significant melting of the non-fuel core structures via conduction and radiation.

My semi-educated guess is that when the reactors are opened up for inspection in a few years time most of the damaged fuel will be found at the top of the reactor core in a jumbled mass. Below them will be less-damaged sections of fuel rods which were protected by continued immersion in water and steam even after the cooling loops failed. The core structures will be damaged but not, as in a true meltdown, totally burned through. There will be some debris in the bottom of the reactor but that will be segments of cladding and lumps of fuel and perhaps parts of the core assembly, not Tchernobyl's Mister Blobby.

By the time the cooling systems shut down at Fukushima fission had been stopped for several hours in all reactors, reducing the thermal output to something like 5% of maximum settings.

5% of 1300 MW is 65 MW

A mid-sized modern steelmaking furnace would have a transformer rated about 60,000,000 volt-amperes (60 MVA), with a secondary voltage between 400 and 900 volts and a secondary current in excess of 44,000 amperes. In a modern shop such a furnace would be expected to produce a quantity of 80 metric tonnes of liquid steel in approximately 60 minutes from charging with cold scrap to tapping the furnace.

65 MW is sufficient to melt a hundred tons of core structure, absent conduction and radiation issues, in about an hour. Yes, conduction and radiation are there, but they are there in the steel making example above too. Certainly the center of the core is going to get runny pretty quickly. Throw into that the energy release from reacting 40 or so tons of Zr with super hot steam.

Realistically, if you could run the experiment a few dozen times, hopw many cores do you think would just melt out in the center and drop into the bottom of the RPV? Of those, how many go fast enough so the pellets don't alloy in too much? Throw in a wild card, tons of Zr ready to grab any oxygen from the oxides?

Too soon to say what the regulatory outcome will be. Fukushima has shown that we need to get a handle on the real world failure modes for these reactors. A lot of people are homeless today.

The foundry I worked at a while back used inductive heating to melt iron, not an electric arc but it took similar amounts of power as you describe to fill the two big crucibles for a 180-tonne pour for casting the biggest of the paper-making machine rollers the foundry produced. The crucibles were designed to retain heat and keep the melt concentrated for maximum efficiency. I dread to think how much energy it would have taken to melt that sort of load if it had been hundreds of tonnes of fuel rods and core structures spaced out in a large conductive metal shell surrounded by steam and free air -- definitely hundreds of megawatts, possibly thousands.

The bad news is that it was possible to keep the melt in the crucibles for a day or two before the pour was actually performed as they didn't lose heat very quickly. We could buy the electricity to make the melt overnight when it was cheap and then pour during the day shift when most of the foundry workers and metallurgists were on hand. Similarly a reactor vessel is designed to be well-insulated so that the heat generated by the fuel goes mainly into the steam loop and hence to the turbine-generator to make electricity. The decay heat may not have sufficient energy to completely melt out the core and drop the slag into the bottom of the reactor vessel but it isn't going away soon unless they continue the pump-and-bleed operation they are carrying out at the moment.

You have just given a good example of where intermittent electricity from wind may be used beneficially.


Not really. When the foundry started a melt they really needed to finish it and for that they needed consistent baseload power. Having the power drop off half-way through the melt because the wind stopped blowing would mean they would have to stop and let the furnace cool down again. That's wasteful and bad for the production scheduling since they might have to make several melts in sequence to complete a run of castings in a particular order.

Nights are the times the baseload stations can supply cheap power as demand drops from the daytime peaks. More and more businesses have been changing their operating practices to take advantage of low-ticket-price baseload power wherever possible so it's not as good a deal as it used to be. The foundry changed over from gas-fired furnaces to electric melting in the 1980s specifically to take advantage of the overnight baseload tariffs. There were other reasons such as replacing worn-out equipment and finer control of the initial melt compared to the older gas-fired furnaces but the cost of energy per melt was, I understand, the biggest factor.

Yes, sort of, the output from windfarms is predicted out for several days--fairly reliable in a twelve hour forecast. That is why the "intermittent power" argument against wind is so weak.

Wind power is fairly reliable over a day or two as opposed to guaranteed weeks in advance which is what the baseload contracts offer. If the wind does drop or reaches speeeds that require the turbines to be feathered and that power goes away suddenly then the night's melting operation might have to be aborted or cancelled. It's unlikely they would get a refund from the wind power suppliers though, either for the financial costs of delaying the melt/pour operation or for the power already consumed and lost in the partial melt the previous night.

Rough costs of an overnight baseload power buy in the UK, if I remember correctly, is about UKP 50 (USD 80) per MW/hr. Assume the furnaces consume about 50MW and melting 160 tonnes of iron that means the electricity costs are going to be UKP 2500 per hour for three or four hours to get a complete melt (for various metallurgical reasons the iron is heated well beyond the melting point, to about 1500 deg C). That would give you an idea of how much one wind-power forecasting glitch could cost the company just in terms of wasted power costs.

And living within 30000 Meters of a failed wind tower means what again. You cannot use your toaster. Trade-off right. How many evacuated from Japan -- SO FAR? And you guys are still blogging pro-pro-nuke. I see base power is important, but at what price? Maybe try to be sensitive to all the Japanese children who will get bone cancer. A lot of base power is sent to resistors and worthless night lighting.

The problem here is the word "intermittent" being injected into what started out as a demonstration of just what 65 megawatts looks like.
65 megawatts is pretty impressive. But, no, you would not want to melt your charge using the windmill out back of the factory. Power from a grid supplied by a variety of sources is the common stability we see and expect today. If wind is added, adding to the list of sources, the availability improves, from a user's point of view.

Well, the grid baseload power is not 100% reliable either. So some sort of engineering compromise between the cost of an unexpected shutdown, and the cost of the power has to be made in any case. So its more a case of trading off the cost and reliablity issues.

The 5% figure is the amount of heat remaining a fraction of a second after SCRAM. The heat output declines rapidly in the next few minutes due to the decay of short-lived isotopes, to 1% in a few hours.

The difference between a reactor and a steel furnace is that the reactor is full of water, which has about 40 times the heat capacity of steel. And once the water starts to boil, boiling 1 kg of water takes as much heat as heating 13 kg of steel to the melting point.

If there is 40 tons of Zr in the RPV of Number 1, and the reaction Zr + H20 yields 5,800,000 joules/kg, there is 1.6 MWhr/ton Zr available. If that cooks off in the first hour, there is a 64 MW power contribution for the one hour period.

Two hours after the quake at Fukushima:

On 11 March at 16:36 JST, a "Nuclear Emergency Situation" (Article 15 of the Japanese law on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness) was declared when "the status of reactor water coolant injection could not be confirmed for the emergency core cooling systems of units 1 and 2." The alert was temporarily cleared when water level monitoring was restored for unit 1; it was reinstated at 17:07 JST

I would point out that TMI melted substantially in the the first three hours following the scram.

The point is that the heat available from decay and Zr reaction is adequate to melt a core (see TMI). Cooling water can (has) failed. There is a mass of enriched uranium present which will reconfigure. Can 50 tons of 4% UO2 go critical if its in a heap? I did find a reference showing critical mass of U versus enrichment for several neutron reflector conditions. With the steel at the bottom of the RPV acting as a reflector, 50 tons is not ruled out. Without water.

How does boron go in between a melted heap of core? The boron cannot penetrate a blob. LOL Once again without knowing the exact state of the system the posturing that all is fine is totally unfounded. Nothing I can see is assuring that these reactors are under any sort of control. Where do the Cl-38 come from? LOL. After they stopped the reactor and began to flood it with sea water. The only way to get Cl-38 is neutron capture. Neutrons come from nuclear material that is still going and going and going.

No end in site is there?

The control rods are made of boron, aren't they? Wouldn't they melt and flow right along with the fuel rods, and be contained within whatever's at the bottom of the steel vessel? For that matter, since we don't know the geometry of this theoretical blob, some of the neutrons thrown off by fission may be leaving the blob and could intersect other fuel rods, so yes, the boron in the water is still helping control that. Thing is, you don't know, I don't know, no one knows, so we're all speculating. Is that OK with you?

As for whether the reactors are or aren't under control, I guess that depends on your definition of "control". I keep seeing reports that the cores aren't fully submerged in water, yet they aren't continuing to melt. That sounds to me like the operators are controlling the temperature by pumping cooling water in them.

I don't see anyone saying "all is fine", though. Certainly that's not accurate. I see people trying to figure out what's going on; is everything totally out of control (to go to the other extreme)? No, so I'd say reality is somewhere between the two and has been for some time now.

Ordinarily, I would have expected that severely damaged fuel rod assemblies would assume a geometry that would make a fission reaction unlikely, even if some water were present. However on reflection, a few questions have come to mind.

1. Do we know when the fuel was last replaced in each of the reactors? Presumably a new fuel load would have a higher proportion of fissile material than one that has passed through most of its life cycle.

2. Is there a possibility that the standards for the fissile proportion of new fuel were increased over the years to increase the life of a fuel load?

I was also wondering whether the arrangement of the control rods entering the reactor from the underside allowed unexpected failure modes; for example, could they have jammed when the quake occurred with the result that they were not adequately inserted to fully shut the reactor down?


Just looking at wiki article on corium composition and formation ... seems to me we might expect the control rods to melt away and relocate to the lower plenum before the uranium oxide deforms, melts, and possibly covers it over. The silver-cadmium-indium alloy in the control rods melts at 1300–1500°C, cladding follows, and uranium oxide begins to melt and collapse at 2700–2800°C. A lot of hope and optimism seems to depend on the geometry: "Chain reaction and corresponding increased heat production may progress in parts of the corium if a critical mass can be achieved locally ... this condition is highly undesirable." How much does conversion and decay of U-238 to Pu change this dynamic? I'm sure we have more comprehensive reviews in DOE and NRC databases.

But the heat is coming from the fuel rods, and air/steam is circulating bewteen them. So the control rods will be cooler than the fuelrods. A couple of meters below is water. A thermal analysis would have to be done to determine which would melt first.

Discussions underway for Russia to supply a liquid waste facility to Japan:

Early on I supported generous evacuation areas to minimize emotional stress and to make it difficult to fabricate calculations showing high fatality counts.

Not difficult enough. Gundersen’s site has a calculation predicting 220,000 deaths in 10 years for emissions so far.

A few key assumptions;

The ICRP model then takes this dose and multiplies it by arisk factor for cancer linearly based on the cancer yield at high acute doses of theJapanese survivor populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…

This method cannot apply to internal doses from radioactive substances,called radionuclides, which have been inhaled or ingested in food or water. This isbecause these substances have varying affinities for DNA and different parts of thebody and can deliver very high energy to local tissue. The ICRP method cannot eitherbe applied to inhaled or ingested hot particles, which are solid but microscopic andcan lodge in tissue delivering high doses to local cells. There is a great deal ofevidence that exposure to internal radionuclides is up to 1000 times more harmfulthan the ICRP model concludes.The ECRR risk model deals with this issue by adding hazard enhancement weightingfactor to the doses calculated for internal radionuclide or particle exposures.

Wow! I had no idea that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors had full anti contamination suits with supplied air, clean showers and beds, and they had high quality radiation free food and water shipped in.

assuming the same spectrum of radionuclides and pathways forexposure the cancer increase in the 100km population is 66% and these cancers willbe manifest in the next ten years.The cancer rate for all malignancies in the Japanese population is 462 per100,000 per year. Therefore the annual number of cancers in the 3,388,900 populationof the 100km radius is 15,656. In ten years there will be 156,560 cancers normally ifthis 2005 rate is maintained plus an extra 66% of this number diagnosed fromFukushima that is 103,329 extra cancers due to the Fukushima exposures.The annual dose from this contamination can be calculated in mSv. If we assume 365days and 24 hour a day exposures then for 2µSv/h the annual dose is 17mSv. Thepopulation is 3,338,900 so the collective dose is 56,761 person Sieverts.

He assumes the exposure inside is the same as outside and remains constant.

The ICRPabsolute cancer risk factor is 0.05 per Sievert. Thus the ICRP predicts 2838 extracancers in this population from the Fukushima fallout

He takes the liberty of calculating a ICRP number using his faulty assumptions. In ten years we will know who is right.

If a modest dose of radiation is really so dangerous as to increase cancer rates by 66% we would have hundreds of thousands of easily measured fatalities from Chernobyl by now.

I think the fact that Gundersen has this on his site tells us a lot about Gundersen.

*If a modest dose of radiation is really so dangerous as to increase cancer rates by 66% we would have hundreds of thousands of easily measured fatalities from Chernobyl by now.*

Another issue here. The environment of the Soviet Union was so comprehensively polluted and fouled, from so many causes, that although I am not a medical epidemiologist, as a layman I would find it hard to credit than anyone could parcel out the numerous causes of morbidity and mortality in that country and its successor countries. Add social pathology and you have a brew of the utmost complexity.

"I would find it hard to credit than anyone could parcel out the numerous causes of morbidity and mortality in that country and its successor countries."

Quite right. And the nuclear industry and its apologists have been using this uncertainty to their advantage for a long time, now.

re: mortality estimates
He did not write that post.

If by "he" you mean Gundersen, and by "that post" you mean the prospective analysis on the Fairewinds site, that's correct. The analysis is by Chris Busby, as I've already pointed out.

While the anti-nuclear movement has been using this to point all fingers at nuclear.

Works both ways.


This is merely your apocryphal claim. It is a fact that asthma rates were much lower in the USSR compared to Europe. If you would supply the actual data on pollution induced deaths in the USSR and Russian you would have something to say. The lifespan of Russian men reflected their heart disease through bad nutritional habits and alcoholism. If pollution was so bad it would be a leading contender to explain the lower lifespan.

Increased cancer rate is not fatalities.
I just saw a chart that showed that the rate of skin cancer went up 70% in the USA between 1973 and 1988 (and lymphoma up 60%, while many other cancers remained steady), and I don't remember seeing a story about it. A 66% increase in cancer rate might go unreported.

I had no idea that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors...

Sarcasm, I take it.

*A 66% increase in cancer rate might go unreported.*

A Russian man with cancer may very well die of alcoholism before succumbing to his cancer. What is the cause of death? I knew of people who died as a result of working at a certain factory on the outskirts of Moscow. Suppose these people also suffered from undiagnosed cancers. What was the cause of death? Industrial accidents? Industrial accidents while drunk?Violence? You could be beaten to death in a drunken brawl. Would your liver cancer have killed you eventually?

*What was the cause of death? Industrial accidents?*

Sorry, I failed to write clearly there. People who worked at this factory died - just died. No one knew the exact cause. But there was a complete turn over of employees every few years. From a personal communication from an organic chemist working for the Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

the rate of skin cancer went up 70% in the USA between 1973 and 1988 (and lymphoma up 60%, while many other cancers remained steady), and I don't remember seeing a story about it.
A 66% increase in cancer rate might go unreported.

Martin, I remember stories about it; big push to use sunscreen.

If lymphoma increased by 60% centered around one industrial plant, of any type, particularly nuclear, at the bull’s-eye, it would be a very big story.

Hopefully officials will keep good records so the uncertainty can be reduced.

The analysis you quote is Chris Busby's. Do you contend that Gundersen's association with Busby (for whom I know the insiders have contempt) "tells us a lot" about him?

Also, this:

"Wow! I had no idea that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors had full anti contamination suits with supplied air, clean showers and beds, and they had high quality radiation free food and water shipped in."

...went right over my head. I fail to understand how it proceeds from the quote that precedes it.

Also, this:

"Wow! I had no idea that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors had full anti contamination suits with supplied air, clean showers and beds, and they had high quality radiation free food and water shipped in."

...went right over my head. I fail to understand how it proceeds from the quote that precedes it.

Busby says that the ICRP model, which is based on Hiroshima/Nagasaki data, underestimates risk because it's based on external dose data, and people near Fukushima are also receiving *internal* doses. His favored ECRR model therefore multiplies the ICRP results by a "weighting factor".

Bill is pointing out that the Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors probably also received a heavy internal dose as well (because they obviously had no anti-contamination suits), so this "weighting factor" can potentially double-count the internal dose.

Bill's point is a good one. The relationship between internal and external dose may be totally different at Hiroshima/Nagasaki vs Fukushima. Some weighting factor might be appropriate, but without more data there's no way to know what it should be.

However, Busby's analysis does not rely on this weighting factor. Instead, it's based on a relationship between excess cancer rates and contamination from Tondel (2004). More about that in a moment.

Bill is pointing out that the Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors probably also received a heavy internal dose as well (because they obviously had no anti-contamination suits),

But Bill was wrong with that implication and that's well known and uncontroversial.

Initial radiation is released by the explosion itself. Residual radiation comes later from radionuclides, radioactive isotopes either generated by the explosion or else induced in soil, building materials, bodies, etc, by neutron bombardment unleashed by the blast.

The bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki produced their share of residual radiation, but it didn't stick around long, for two reasons. First, both bombs were detonated more than 500 meters above street level so as to wreak maximum destruction (surrounding buildings would have blocked much of the force of ground-level explosions). That limited surface contamination, since most of the radioactive debris was carried off in the mushroom cloud instead of being embedded in the earth. There was plenty of lethal fallout in the form of "ashes of death" and "black rain," but it was spread over a fairly wide area.

Second, most of the radionuclides had brief half-lives--some lasting just minutes. The bomb sites were intensely radioactive for the first few hours after the explosions, but thereafter the danger diminished rapidly. American scientists sweeping Hiroshima with Geiger counters a month after the explosion to see if the area was safe for occupation troops found a devastated city but little radioactivity. Water lilies blackened by the blast had already begun to grow again, suggesting that whatever radioactivity there had been immediately following the blast had quickly dissipated.

"Wow! I had no idea that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors had full anti contamination suits with supplied air, clean showers and beds, and they had high quality radiation free food and water shipped in."
...went right over my head. I fail to understand how it proceeds from the quote that precedes it.

Kalliergo, the author claims that this accident will result in some internal exposure, therefore a huge multiplier must be applied to the WWII data. He implies that there was no internal exposure for WWII survivors.

In reality WWII survivors often slept outside and consumed contaminated water and food. No such correction required.

Radiation is one of the most studied risk factors we face. It is controversial because the effects at low levels are so small we are not even sure if they are net negative or positive.

If radiation was as harmful as this author claims there would be no controversy. It would have been proven long ago.

The analysis you quote is Chris Busby's. Do you contend that Gundersen's association with Busby (for whom I know the insiders have contempt) "tells us a lot" about him?

Yes. Anyone with a modest understanding of radiation effects would see some of the errors in this calculation. If this analysis was submitted in a serious academic course on radiation effects it would receive an F.

The fact that Gundersen allowed it on his site tells me that he did not detect these errors or decided to ignore them. I cannot read his mind, but either way, it is reveling.

If radiation was as harmful as this author claims there would be no controversy. It would have been proven long ago.



It is my understanding that the original studies of the effects of radiation from Hiroshima and Nagasaki were mainly concerned with the effects of the external effects of radiation. In fact it appears that nobody attempted to tease out the differences between external radiation from the blast and internal radiation from inhaled particles or ingested radiation from food or water. "The control group used for comparison purposes in the Yale study by Dr Finch consisted of the population in the suburbs farther than 2500 or 3500 meters from the explosion..."
E. T. Arakawa of the AEC's Oak Ridge National Laboratories also did a study. From Arakawa's figures it will be noticed there had indeed been little fallout in Hiroshima and Nagasaki proper, the fallout had drifted down on the suburbs a few miles away. Another study published in 1967 in the New England Journal of Medicine- As compared to the rate for the preceding years, not only had there been a rise in leukemia incidence among those who were less than 1500 meters from the explosions, but there was a similar though somewhat smaller rise for the population beyond 10,000 meters who could not possibly have received any of the direct radiation from the flash of the bomb.
What I am getting at is that if you try to find excess mortality and radiation induced leukemia or other cancers and birth defects etc by using a control that has been at least equally exposed to internal radiation from the fallout and compare them to people who also had external exposure along with the internal exposure, you will only get evidence of the effects of external exposure. This says nothing about the dangers of internal exposure.
There have been covert studies of internal exposure on small numbers of people.
In radiation experiments funded by our government, 827 pregnant women at Vanderbilt University were (without informed consent) given oral doses of radioactive iron. These women were, you know, poor white trash. No children in the control group contracted cancer. 3 children born to the radiated women had childhood cancer.
Or this:
Heinrich, et al vs William H. Sweet, the Estate of Lee Edward Farr, Massachusetts General Hospital, Associated Universities, Inc., MIT, and the USA, 44 F. Supp. 2d 408; 1999 U.S. Dist. Lexis 5796. The Heinrich case is a class action suit filed in 1997 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on behalf of three deceased individuals by surviving family members. The complaint alleges that during the 1950s and 1960s, the defendants conducted boron radiation experiments on the decedents—who suffered from terminal brain cancer—with the knowledge that such experiments offered no therapeutic value to the decedents.
The federal court rendered a recent decision on April 20, 1999 rejecting the government’s contention that the claims were time barred. The decedents had been treated by Dr. William H. Sweet at MIT and at Dr. Lee Edward Farr at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York - a nuclear research center operated by the Associated Universities, Inc. and owned by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. As a supposed treatment for brain tumor, the decedents were unwittingly injected with boron and their skulls irradiated. All suffered excruciating pain and died.
In the 1960s, Dr. Sweet and other physicians wrote articles and reports about the failure of the BNCT experiments. These articles and reports indicated that the experiments failed because of inadequate scientific evidence regarding the nature of boron distribution in the human body, inadequate scientific evidence regarding boron chemistry, inadequate scientific evidence regarding the proper shape of a neutron beam for BNCT, and the absence of requisite dosimetric equipment to measure radiation. Furthermore, on September 16, 1982, Dr. Victor Bond (“Dr. Bond”), Dr. Farr’s successor as head of the medical department at Brookhaven, stated in an interview that:
The early experience was very unfortunate… Then they went beyond that. It wasn’t stopped until long after it became evident it wasn’t working—that’s the criticism of it. Damage was done to patients just as damage was done with the first external fast neutron radiations, because radiobiology wasn’t that well understood. Heinrich vs Sweet, et al, 44 F. Supp. 2d 417, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5824 (1999).
The plaintiffs successfully argue that they could not reasonably have known about the connection between the injury and BNCT until 1995, when the President’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments disclosed the facts about the BNCT experiments. The court found that reasonable diligence to discover the claims does not require plaintiffs to scour medical journals such as The Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology or The American Journal of Roentgenology: Radium Therapy and Nuclear Medicine after their loved ones die of terminal brain cancer.
The 1986 Markey Report

Kalliergo, the author claims that this accident will result in some internal exposure, therefore a huge multiplier must be applied to the WWII data. He implies that there was no internal exposure for WWII survivors.

No you implied "no internal exposure". The author implies it was trivial compared to the initial external dose.

There was relatively little fallout in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and thus very little long-term internal exposure. That's why people could live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki almost immediately after the bomb yet you still can't live near Chernobyl. Most of the fallout from these bombs was distributed high in the atmosphere with the mushroom cloud. Where mainly short-lived fallout did rain down was in areas away from the towns. In fact leukemia rates well away from ground zero spiked higher than close to the blast over the next few years.

You just can't compare the local levels of potential internal exposure from breached fission power plant contamination with that from "small" atomic bombs exploded well above ground. That's what Busby is saying and it is true.

Since the bombs were detonated at a height of some 600 metres above the ground, very little of the fission products were deposited on the ground beneath. Some deposition occurred however in areas near to each city, owing to local rainfall occurring soon after the explosions. This happened at positions a few kilometres to the east of Nagasaki, and in areas to the west and north-west of Hiroshima. For the most part, however, these fission products were carried high into the upper atmosphere by the heat generated in the explosion itself. The majority would have decayed by the time they landed around the globe.

Duplicate deleted

Thanks, goodmanj & Bill. I see what Bill meant, now.

I actually think your basis for condemning the Busby analysis may be based not on a fundamental error in comparative analysis as much as it is on his inartful and confusing way of expressing the key fault of the ICRP model. My radiation physics is spotty, but I'm working to fill the gaps as quickly as I can, so, I'll try to track this down.

In point of fact, Busby analyzes Fukushima Daiichi using both the ECRR model and extrapolation from Tondel. I'd be interested in your critiques of that exercise.

Here's another couple of problems with the Busby analysis. Overall I think it's a good attempt which makes some necessary assumptions which unfortunately torpedo the significance of the results.

Busby's analysis goes as follows:
1) Estimate contamination as a function of radius from the plant.
2) Calculate population at various radii from the plant.
3) Multiply average contamination within 100 km by a constant "excess cancers per unit contamination" factor, then multiply by population within 100 km to get total predicted cancers.

The problem is that this assumes that both population and contamination are uniform within the 100 km radius zone. This is not even remotely the case. For instance:
* The population is relatively low close to the plant where radiation is highest
* There's (apparently) a plume of contamination extending out to the northwest, but population there is relatively low.
* The highest concentration of people in the 100 km zone is in Sendai, due north, where according to this data, radiation monitors were inacessible due to a damaged building during the time period Busby did his calculation. They have since been reactivated, and show radiation levels just 3% of what Busby assumed.

In short, a good effort, but you need a GIS database to do this properly.

Secondly, Busby argues that because the IAEA's data on contamination vs external dose disagree with Busby's infinite flat ground plane model, the IAEA is lying about the contamination level. This might be true, but there's an alternative answer: Busby's infinite flat ground plane model is inaccurate. The land surface, after all, is not an infinite flat plane. If you assume that there are trees, buildings, etc. nearby the detector, this will increase the surface area which can radiate toward the detector, raising the detected external dose. This could bring the IAEA data and Busby's model into closer agreement.

In short, a good effort, but you need a GIS database to do this properly.

Goodman, his number, 192,000, is 68 times higher than his IRCP number 2,838. But his IRCP calculation includes most of the errors we pointed out. An IRCP calculation corrected for these errors would produce a much lower number, giving a much higher ratio.

If you really think he made a good effort, do you think the IRCP methodology is junk; why?

Goodman, his number, 192,000, is 68 times higher than his IRCP number 2,838. But his IRCP calculation includes most of the errors we pointed out. An IRCP calculation corrected for these errors would produce a much lower number, giving a much higher ratio.

The major discrepancy between ICRP and his "ECRR Tondel" numbers is due to different input data regarding the odds of getting cancer from a given radiation dose. The ICRP data come from Hiroshima/Nagasaki; the ECRR Tondel data come from a study in Sweden after Chernobyl. Both are large-population studies: I'm not qualified to assess their relative merits. His third method, "ECRR absolute", is also probably highly contingent on cancer-per-sievert-hour assumptions.

My complaint that he's "smearing" population and radiation together applies to all three methods. I gave some examples which suggest that he's overestimating the risk, but it's also possible (but less likely) for this error to give an underestimate; you'd have to do the calculation correctly to know.

If I'm right and his method *is* drastically overestimating risk, it would bring both his IRCRP and ECRR estimates down, roughly in proportion.

Interesting regarding Tondel et al. I have not read it, but I will. I know/knew two of the authors. Olav Axelson is now dead alas - I knew him rather well. Lennart Hardell I have met one or a couple of times.

I regard both as competent and serious researcher, although somewhat controversial in the epidemiological community. At least that goes for Hardell, there are probably several co-scientist that would not agree with my characteristic.

so if:
1) the geographic distribution is affecting lower population density areas
2) the ECRR is more indicative of the risk in this case (more like Chernobyl than Nagasaki/Hiroshima)

then probably 50 000 may be a conservative estimate of cancers from Fukushuma. Let's hope that Japanese researchers are given the opportunity to do some good research on this.

It would be interesting to look at individualized dosing as a risk factor, maybe combine with mobile phone records...

Thanks for that.

I agree that there are huge problems with the methodology. Perhaps, fundamentally, it is a fool's errand to attempt such an analysis so early in this event, with relatively little data, of suspect quality, available and releases of radiation and contaminants very far from over.

Not withstanding the above, Japan and the world at large would be well advised to demand full access to all relevant data associated with this mess and its aftermath, to include access for independent monitors to measure contamination and radiation.

It is absolutely inexcusable that claims of mortality from Chernobyl vary between 43 and 500,000 (or more). To permit similar confusion (to use the gentles description that applies) to prevail with respect to this latest event would be crime against science--and nature.

Perhaps, fundamentally, it is a fool's errand to attempt such an analysis so early in this event, with relatively little data, of suspect quality, available and releases of radiation and contaminants very far from over.

Yes, but in Busby's defense, he's not trying to publish a dry post-hoc analysis: he's trying to guide policy decisions during the crisis. Telling the Japanese government in 2012, "well, the data's all in now, and you definitely should have evacuated more people last year" does nobody any good.

In this sort of situation, I've got a lot of respect for back-of-the-envelope calculations. But it's important to know their limits.

Agreed. Whatever the eventual outcome, Busby's stab at it suggests that serious attention must be paid.

The best evaluations comes from end-point outcomes, rather than models. We have our own experimental lab in Chernobyl, which happened in April 1986, 25 years ago. Look at birth and death rates after 1986, locations of the increased death rates, and longevity over time since then.

Nuclear apologists will attribute the sudden increase in death rates and drop in longevity to increased alcohol intake after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Correlation is not causation, however. And that explanation does not explain the concomitant cliff-like drop in fertility rates. One could also argue that the earlier crash in fertility rates in the SU coincided with the above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the SU beginning in 1949, with the largest megaton releases occurring in 1961 and 1962.

I would suggest that the most logical and obvious reason for the sudden drop in longevity for Russians is due to fallout. Cancer rates would put the matter to the rest, but there are puzzlingly no data from the USSR. Please note the high cancer rates in downwinders, however.

Edit: Chirping crickets again.

"The best evaluations comes from end-point outcomes, rather than models. We have our own experimental lab in Chernobyl..."

Absolutely. And we have entrenched institutional reluctance to collect, disseminate and analyze all the available data.

Despite all the railing about how preposterous it is to accuse WHO of conspiring with IAEA minimize bad PR for the industry, that is precisely what has been happening in the real world--by design and formal agreement.

Whatever the true mortality figures from Chernobyl may be, it is entirely obvious that the number is closer to Yablokov's 983,000 than to Monbiot's 43. If nuclear proponents were interested in real accuracy, they'd have been busily helping to dig into the 5,000 papers reviewed, rather than glibly tossing off accusations of post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy.

The demographic statistics Iaato cites ought to lead anyone with an open mind and solid reasoning ability to suspect that the effects of nuclear fallout figure prominently in the cause(s) -- and to do the damned data collection and analysis required to test the obvious hypothesis.

Now, this is what I was talking about.

You are right, the timing of that demographic dip is mighty suspicious, though if I didn't have that timing pointed out to me the demographic trend explanation appears plausibe as well. Do you have any other sources?

Your link to cancer rates appears to lack data for the countries of greatest interest, and among the rest the highest correlation is to working conditions (which should function as a proxy for many environmental exposure risks).

Food for thought, at any rate.

You can't be serious, can you?

Nuclear apologists will attribute the sudden increase in death rates and drop in longevity to increased alcohol intake

Do you have a graph of cancer rates over this time period? Are they geographically increased in high fallout areas?

Did cancer, fertility and death rates for wildlife follow the same trend as humans?

If so, that would tend to rule out the emotional and economic factors. If not, that would tend to rule out the radiation exposure.

I don't have graph handy, but there are any number of studies like this one floating around:

A national cancer registry to assess trends after
the Chernobyl accident.

Okeanov AE, Sosnovskaya EY, Priatkina OP.
Swiss Med Wkly 2004;134:645–649

Original article
Peer reviewed article


The National Cancer Registry has been operational in the Republic of Belarus since 1973: information on all new cases of malignant tumours is registered. The data are kept in a computer database and used for assessing the oncological status of the population, and for epidemiological studies. We compared findings before the Chernobyl accident of April 26, 1986 (Chernobyl) and findings between 1990 and 2000. The overall comparison on the changes in the incidence of cancer morbidity in Belarus is presented. The increase is statistically significant for all regions, but significantly greater in the most chronically radiation-contaminated region: the Gomel oblast.

The paper presents a comparative analysis of the incidence of cancer morbidity in the population of two regions of Belarus, selected for the greatest difference in their radioactive contamination following Chernobyl. The highest contamination occurred in the Gomel region and is mainly due to high levels of radiocaesium (137Cs) in the soil and in the alimentary chain, especially in rural areas. A relatively low radioactive fallout was noticed in the Vitebsk region, considered here as the “control” area. We compare the situation before and after Chernobyl in the two regions.

The overall cancer morbidity rate in all organs including colon, urinary bladder and thyroid, was significantly higher in the Gomel region than in Vitebsk.

In populations living in two areas with high 137Cs contamination (oblast of Gomel and Mogilev), the peak incidence rates of breast cancer were already reached between the ages of 45–49 years, 15 years earlier than in the Vitebsk region.


Full text available:

Epidemiology statistics is a really tricky subject. The paper fails to compensate for confounding factors. For example, if smoking was more prevalent among the population with a heavier radiation doses, either by random chance or because people figured "heck, if fallout's gonna kill anyway, I might as well die happy", the effect on cancer rates would dwarf the effect of fallout itself. The paper is aware of this issue but unable to correct for it due to lack of smoking data.

I'm not denying a link between Chernobyl and cancers: I'm saying that this paper's statistics aren't good enough to draw conclusions.

Trust me, I'm aware of the shortcomings. I'm also aware that there are dozens more "where this came from" and that most of them also (unavoidably) exhibit less than ideal methodology. Nevertheless, the weight of the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence should be persuasive.

Anyway, why aren't you nuclear proponents bearing the burden of proof, as you properly should? After all, you're the ones who want people to live with risk of exposure to radiation and radioactive contaminants.

You believe it's safe? Fine. Prove your extraordinary claim.

you nuclear proponents

Who, me? I'm just a big ol' fence-sitter, taking potshots at bad science on both sides.

I've got a much more basic explanation for both the birth rates in that graph.

The largest decline in birth rate was in 1960-1969. Birth rates tend to be highest for women in their 20's. If you were in your '20s during the 1960s, when was your birthday? During World War 2, probably.

The U.S. had a postwar baby boom. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, had a massive during-war baby crash -- fertility rates dropped by a factor of 2 during the war. Remember, the Soviet Union lost >20 million people during WWII, and almost every young man was away at the Eastern Front for 4 years. Fewer babies born in 1940-1945 means fewer women giving birth in 1960-1969.

Fast forward another generation, to the late '80s, and we get to the second dip.

Children not born during World War 2 = Grandchildren not born during the '60s = Great-grandchildren not born in the '80s.

The US shows much the same pattern, but we tend to focus on the high side (the Baby Boom and the Echo Boom), because for us the century-long drop in overall fertility due to wealth, education, and birth control isn't as large.

The largest decline in birth rate was in 1960-1969

On top of your arguments, one has to add number of children in families. It is a bit incidental, but through my years of living behind the curtain, few of my peers had any siblings. Half of my high school class were one-child families. Nobody had two siblings. Literally nobody. The 60s brought first upswing of living standards (which we know kills fertility rates) and the pill (which we know kills fertility rates).

I have read that a poor economy is the cause of the low birth rate in Russia. Until 2007, the number of abortions exceeded the number of live births because many Russians could not afford to have a baby. Because Russia is a large country spanning 2 continents, you can not judge the effects of Chernobyl by the demographics of the entire country. One needs to correlate the birth and death rates with the areas that received fallout, the people who were exposed or the amount of exposure.

Russian Federation Reported Total Abortions and Live Births 1992 to 2008

year Abortions live births
1992 3,436,695 1,587,644
1993 3,243,957 1,378,983
1994 3,060,237 1,408,159
1995 2,766,362 1,363,806
1996 2,652,038 1,304,638
1997 2,498,140 1,259,943
1998 2,346,138 1,283,292
1999 2,181,153 1,214,689
2000 2,138,750 1,266,800
2001 2,014,710 1,311,604
2002 1,944,481 1,396,967
2003 1,864,647 1,477,301
2004 1,797,567 1,502,477
2005 1,675,693 1,457,376
2006 1,582,398 1,479,637
2007 1,479,010 1,610,122
2008 1,385,600 1,713,947

A high price for crude oil improves the Russian economy so people have more babies.

The link lists the number of abortions and births by region, so if someone wants to expend the effort, one could search for a correlation with the areas that received the greatest fallout.

It is, of course, very difficult to estimate the number of deaths due to Chernobyl. Some of them have not happened yet, and even looking back it is generally hard to be sure that the cancer that killed a particular individual twenty or more years after the event was caused by the radiation. Instead, we have to compare the number of cancer deaths in a contaminated area with the number that we would have expected to occur had there been no contamination. The difference, the number that can be attributed to Chernobyl, can be only a rough estimate because of all the uncertainties in the calculations. What stands out, however, is that the lowest one by far, by a factor of at least two orders of magnitude, comes from an agency that was set up to promote nuclear technology. - Institute of Science in Society

Sorry, but I am so bloody upset that I have to get out of here for a while. I remember sitting in a kitchen in Moscow with the chemist I mention and a friend, and as the chemist described the situation in that factory, added to everything else I was learning, a realization came over me, and I said: Russia is dying. That was in 1991. And it still is dying.

I find what is happening in Japan now unbearable.

"Govt holding radiation data back / IAEA gets info, but public doesn't"

"The Meteorological Agency has been withholding forecasts on dispersal of radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant despite making the forecasts every day, it was learned Monday."


So, what is the rational response?

It looks like the nice Russian lady, Natalia Manzurova, was right:
"Run away as quickly as possible. Don't wait. Save yourself
and don't rely on the government because the government lies."
Photo 02 shows the "Belarus Necklace" she, too, bears.
Warning: disturbing image.

Debate about what a safe threshold of radiation is?
Scan down the page a bit. A bit more.
Warning: disturbing images.

An open letter to Japan?:

- RUN!
- The authorities have turned off the information you need
- to make an informed consent!

Hey, we're, the U.S.'s, getting our loved-ones out.
200,000, I hear. Honshu Island. They say it's badly damaged.
Photos have been hard to find.

By withholding the information on radioactive debris
this has become very ugly indeed.

The order allowing dependents to leave Japan was issued Mar 17th, so the US military has been pretty upfront about this.
Three lashes with a wet noodle for the mainstream media and reporters that failed to read the document.
Mar 21 the carrier George Washington left its base 30 km south of Tokyo well before completing a refit that was in process. The 700 workers involved are still working on the ship which has left its air wing behind pending completion of the refit. So there was concern that parts of the ship might be contaminated that should not be, hence the move.
The US also pushed for a 50 mile evacuation zone, an option resisted by the Japan government because it would really compound the problems in an area already reeling from the tsunami.

Overall, it seems that things are deteriorating, that more radioactivity is found as more of the plant is reentered. The elephant in the room is the spent fuel, almost 3000 tons of it, that needs to be kept cool and under water for many years. How will that be possible if the plant becomes too contaminated to stay?

This could become a huge and lasting wound on the country, with world wide spillover. That is the fear and it is not eased by censoring information sites or quietly shifting standards, even though that was done and in spades after Chernobyl, by all European governments.

almost 3000 tons of it

1800 tons.
Each of Units 1 through 4 is roughly a Chernobyl-4 (180 tons).
Most of the fuel is in the "common pool", of which we have heard almost nothing.

You are right, but the near 3000 ton estimate was also including 5 and 6. They too are at risk if the site gets abandoned.

These things are always hard on the dear pets that people love:

The people had only a few hours to leave, and they weren't allowed to take their dogs or cats with them. The radiation stays in animals' fur and they can't be cleaned, so they had to be abandoned. That's why people were crying when they left. All the animals left behind in the houses were like dried-out mummies. But we found one dog that was still alive.

We moved into a former kindergarten to use as a laboratory and we found her lying in one of the children's cots there. Her legs were all burned from the radiation and she was half blind. Her eyes were all clouded from the radiation. She was slowly dying.

Right after we moved in, she disappeared. And this is the amazing part. A month later we found her in the children's ward of the (abandoned) hospital. She was dead. She was lying in a child's bed, the same size bed we found her in the kindergarten. Later we found out that she loved children very much and was always around them.

From Chernobyl.

Please let my sad post stand for awhile. Then remove as OT... ?


Areva Executive Praises Nuclear Power, Urges Loan Guarantees

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Jacques Besnainou, chief executive of the U.S. arm of nuclear giant Areva SA (CEI.FR, ARVCY), said that the world must embrace nuclear power and advocated the continuation of U.S. federal loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants.

To those who think "nuclear is dead, I do not agree at all," said Besnainou, speaking at the Columbia University Energy Symposium in New York on Friday. He said that there is no alternative in the U.S., Japan, or in European countries if nuclear power plants are phased out and new ones are not approved.

On the sidelines of the event, Besnainou said that he doesn't think the cost of building new nuclear power plants will rise as a result of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant. He rejected the argument that licensing a new reactor will now take longer, or that increased resistance from the public would cause the price to go up.

"Nuclear is the cheapest" power source, Besnainou said, adding that this is so even if one includes both the cost of building a new plant and then retiring it. Although building a plant might cost between $5 billion and $7 billion, Besnainou said that it then "becomes a cash machine." The operational cost is very predictable, he said.

We shall see Mr. Besnainou!! Politics and reality have a strange way of trumping beliefs.

One has to wonder: If that magical force, "the market," agrees (after 40-plus years of data) that "[n]uclear is the cheapest," why are those guarantees (and liability caps) required?

Sounds like a lame confidence trick by a shameless "corporate welfare queen."

Hey it is cheap ... until they explode ... but even then, the liability is capped. Hurray!

If nuclear is the cheapest power source, then it does not need U.S. federal loan guarantees.

The French Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute (IRSN) is doing some pretty bold work on modeling of human health impacts for the accident at Fukushima. Their assessment of sea water contamination came out today. Press release (translated into English) and PDF (extended report in French) are provided. They seem most concerned with radionuclides that are soluble and can be transported over large distances, and those that are heavier and present a risk for concentration in sediments:

Depending on the persistence of these radionuclides and their concentrations more or less important, some plant and animal species could be contaminated to significant levels, justifying the establishment of a radiological monitoring program of seafood from areas Coastal Japan's most impacted (Google provided translation).

I can't help but match this to news from EU public safety officials that the guidelines for radioactive contamination on imported foods have been significantly raised. Apparently, not because of any specific concern over public health, but in an effort to prevent global food shortages from taking places. Message to the public: "please don't ask too many questions, because we have few other options. Cross your fingers, and hope for the best."

So much parallelism with the Gulf of Mexico Horizon disaster.
Here we are again with a leak.
No one knows how to plug it.
Blowout preventer?

Turns out a pilot-light would have been a good thing.
A flame running on propane.
Replaces the hydrogen-purging ELECTRIC heaters in the containment.

Someone mentioned a solar panel farm to supply emergency power.
I mean... it IS pretty funny that if you turn it off it explodes.
...Like a Windows Laptop that has to have enough battery power remaining in order to turn it off in an orderly fashion.

Dr.Pretorius,"don't touch that lever!You'll blow us all to atoms"
Bride of Frankenstein

I agree and I see no end in sight.

I read Transocean rewarded top executives with safety bonuses because they recorded the best year (2010) in safety performance in the company's history.
Transocean executives get bonuses

Different, in the Gulf the plug was the issue, here offloading water improves the chances of success. I am so relieved TEPCO has responded to the laws of thermodynamics and not politics. Keep the facility as non-radioactive as possible and this will work out

Yes, there are many differences between an oil well mishap and a nuclear plant mishap.

The similarity I see regards a robust emergency plan when mishap occurs. I could be wrong and I respect those with differing opinions, but it just seems too much of the response for both mishaps has been adhoc and chaotic rather than planned like clockwork.

Don't take me the wrong way. In the case of Macondo, the end-result could have been far, far worse and I am content with the end result. Also, the mishap led to the new NTL-06 regulation which requires more robust emergency plans. Regarding Fukushima, I'm content industry experts are making the best decisions possible with the challenging situation they face.

Do you honestly feel there are absolutely no similarities?

Let's see
C8H18 + O2--> CO2 + H2O

Nah you have 1. Saw daughter kissing a classmate or 2. Daughter having the preacher's twins.

The rest makes perfect sense, but C8H18 is Tetramethylbutane.
There's a funny old song about it:

Equation-Balancing Tutor to balance the following equations:
Methanol CH3OH + O2 --> CO2 + H2O
Gasoline C8H18 + O2 --> CO2 + H2O
Hydrogen H2 + O2 --> H2O

Sounded good. Came up near the top on Google. What would you use?

I would rather see 4 deep water oil leaks over the 4 runaway nukes in Japan. The nukes will do much more damage to the world imho. At least a well can be capped in 4-6 months. No end in sight for meltdowns. No end in sight.

Well then you're lucky, you got both! (and we can rinse it down with a couple Coal Ash Spills..)

We'll also have to add in blowouts or failed well casings from shale gas fracking, a record number of pipeline explosions and safety violations, 2010 gas and oil power plant explosion in Middletown, Connecticut, dam failure at aluminum mine in Hungary in 2010, mining accidents in Chile and China, and likely much more.

Aren't levels like this of short lived I-131 proof that reactions are still taking place?
High level of iodine-131 detected in Fukushima
"Tokyo Electric Power Company says it detected 300,000 bequerels of iodine-131 per 1 cubic centimeter, or 7.5 million times higher than the legal limit in samples taken around the water intake of the No. 2 reactor at 11:50 AM on Saturday."
Cubic centimeter? Not meter? Did they measure they radioactivity of the water before they dumped it?
"Monday's sample also shows 1.1 million times higher than the national limit of cesium-137 whose half-life is 30 years."

Aren't levels like this of short lived I-131 proof that reactions are still taking place?

No, you need to measure several isotopes with different half lives and calculate the ratio between them. You need to do this to be able to determine if there has been a huge reaction and relese a long time a go or a small reaction and relese recently. And you also need to be sure that the sample is not from mixed sources and that is especially hard at Fukushima where we probably have three more or less melted cores and one more or less melted pool with fairly recently used fuel.

TY Magnus

All is fine and dandy here, keep movin' folks.
You will soon hear from the pronuclear camp "it is little, it will be diluted, it is local... no additional longtime health effects for one single person from this accident".

TEPCO actions (from NHK):
TEPCO now suspects that the radioactive water could be leaking from a cracked pipe, and then seeping through gravel into the damaged concrete pit.
It is planning to inject a type of chemical into the gravel to harden it so that water won't flow through.
TEPCO is also planning to board up the breached sections of an offshore dike to prevent the leaking water from spreading further in the sea.

TEPCO still dont have a clue. Send in 500 men with machinery NOW.

Latest drawings. Notice #3. Leak under the reactor to the water table.

Radiation leaks

Cant this be used as an argument to ask TEPCO step away without loosing face?
I mean it is clear that TEPCO are not experts on digging dikes and draining ground water. Sounds like a job for the engineering corps of the Jap military. Get going Mr PM!

TEPCO stays and supports with safety and drawings and clean-up and reducing water leaks.

Just like in the deep water horizon no one will take over until the guy in charge pays his pound of flesh. He is already two steps away from the nut house.

"TEPCO stays and supports with safety"

Because nothing says safety quite like TEPCO...

Ever notice how cutesy the Japanese charts are? Soft, warm, comforting shades of baby blue and pink...

Numbs me into stupefied complacency.

But always clear as a bell and you understand them without translating the labels. Trust me, Japanese person looks at this and mutters 'kuso' to themselves.

No confirmation, but look for mandatory evacuation zone to be extended to 30 KM soon.
These are only plans, but...

The measured radiation levels in the towns and cities around the plant are falling, not rising. The possible evacuation of Iiwate village where a higher than expected amount of radiation was discovered about a week ago has been called off as the levels there have decreased due, I understand, to the decay of I-131 contamination.

NHK is now reporting that water 7.5 million times the safety limit has been discovered flowing from reactor 2. This is by far the highest level ever.

7.5 mil. times legal limit of iodine in sea

The operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says 7.5 million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine 131 has been detected from samples of seawater near the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, found on Saturday that contaminated water was leaking from a cracked concrete pit near the No. 2 reactor.

Experts say this makes it clear that highly radioactive substances from the reactor are flowing into the sea, and that the leak must be stopped as soon as possible.

The utility firm said samples of water taken near the water intake of the No. 2 reactor at 11:50 AM Saturday contained 300,000 becquerels of iodine 131 per cubic centimeter, or 7.5 million times the legal limit

The reason levels have been slowly dropping at most points inland is simply because the wind has been favourable.

*The reason levels have been slowly dropping at most points inland is simply because the wind has been favourable.*

Thank you.

Obviously, there is a war of information/disinformation underway. This fog of truths, misleading partial-truths, deceptions, diversions and untruths makes it almost impossible for anyone not possessed of inside information to know what is happening. But as often happens in these cases, even those on the inside know less than they ought.

One notes that sometimes uncomfortable or inconvenient questions are dealt with by being ignored. Questioners may depart, but the crisis will not so easily lose patience.

Safety limit or legal limit? There is a difference.

*Safety limit or legal limit? There is a difference.*

Does this imply that the legal limit may not be a safe one?

Maybe, maybe not. The ideal spherical frictionless theoretical nuclear power plant when operating properly should emit no radioactive materials at all in day-to-day operations. In practice there are trace amounts of radioactives released either deliberately or by the action of operating any plant. For example a small amount of tritium gas is produced due to neutron capture in the coolant water within the reactor. Such gas is removed from the water and released into the atmosphere where it dilutes to the point of being effectively invisible, unless a use for it is determined -- for example I have a small capsule of tritium hanging from my bedroom lamp. The radiation from the gas inside the capsule energises a phosphor and I use it as a night-light so I can find the switch in the dark. Similar capsules were used for military rifle-sights which is where, I think, this one came from. I don't think you can buy them over-the-counter in the States though.

The releases from a power station are controlled by legal limits, and for radioactive substances most or all of these limits are set on the principle of ALARA -- As Low As Reasonably Achievable. They are not set by the effects on health or the environment which are usually only noticeable and dangerous at much higher levels than the legal limits. If the legal limits are exceeded or even approached then investigations and remedial actions are required because something has gone wrong -- a pump seal is leaking, a spent fuel rod has been damaged, someone is not dealing with washing water or discarded protective clothing properly. In the case of Fukushima they know what's wrong and are trying to fix it but a similar leak a million times smaller could well have breached the safety limit rules without necessarily causing any noticeable health hazard or damage to the coastal environment.

*The releases from a power station are controlled by legal limits, and for radioactive substances most or all of these limits are set on the principle of ALARA -- As Low As Reasonably Achievable. They are not set by the effects on health or the environment which are usually only noticeable and dangerous at much higher levels than the legal limits.*

This is too general and abstract, IMHO. The environment is not just a small black box with simple inputs and outputs.

The effects of radiation are not black-box with simple inputs like, say the levels of pollutants produced by coal-burning power stations. They have limits (however sketchily enforced) because they emit large quantities of assorted toxins as part of their daily operational cycle, something nuclear power stations are not permitted to do by law.

Carbon-fuelled power stations burn stuff and throw the exhaust out into the world for the people living downwind to breathe in continuously and nobody gives a damn, pretty much. Their concern is saved for the nuclear power industry which doesn't poison their children chemically day in day out, only going into a frothing rage when something like Fukushima happens and pretending the hundreds of thousands of deaths and illnesses caused by burning coal EVERY YEAR don't really exist.

The EPA in the USA recently announced they wish to reduce the amount of mercury emitted in coal power station smokestack gasses from the current amount of fifty tonnes a year to under five tonnes. Imagine the outcry if a nuclear power plant emitted five kgs of mercury vapour by accident and compare it to the complacency of the victims of coal-fired stations who are OK with sucking the stuff in because it's not radioactive and the coal stations have been there for decades, a traditional power source. Of course the coal-power industry is already up in arms about the EPA's attack on their business model, claiming it is impossible to reduce their toxic emissions to such a miniscule level as five tonnes a year because it is more than As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA).

Don't subtract one source of unhappiness from another.
Add them together.

Cigarettes are a much better example.
Add car accidents, guns, ALCOHOL!
The medical industry kills 150,000 a year in America alone...
and maims how many times that? Old folks homes with rotting bed sores?

But, see, they are invisible in the corporate media.
What if each one was exemplified, celebrated, and mourned?
Like a television star?
Would this complacency still obtain?

Car companies wouldn't like it!
The cigarette companies all were let off the hook... $ speaks!
The medical industry fights mean for their piece of the pie.

This one counter-argument is: those deaths have no relative press and so do not exist.

This is why I can't stand seeing "X times the limit" in news reports. In addition to being ambiguous, if somebody changes the legal limit all the values shift.

Sieverts and becquerels!

from the NHK source a few posts up:

"The utility firm said samples of water taken near the water intake of the No. 2 reactor at 11:50 AM Saturday contained 300,000 becquerels of iodine 131 per cubic centimeter, or 7.5 million times the legal limit.
TEPCO said the figure had dropped to 200,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter, or 5 million times the legal limit, in samples taken at 9:00 AM Monday.

Monday's sample also contained 1.1 million times the legal limit of cesium 137, which has a half life of 30 years."

FWIW from

"Fish contamination is now emerging. The Ibaraki fish association announced it detected a high contamination level of iodine 131 (4,080 Bq per kilogram) and cesium 137 (526 Bq per kilogram)."

Oh and this is just priceless too:

"The Ministry of Health and Welfare is now assembling an advisory committee to establish safety standards for radioactive contamination (only temporary standards exist now)."

"7.5 million times" any limit (and this word "limit", I do not think it's being used correctly...) sounds mighty bad to me as a layman, unless someone can explain that there's something exponential in the scale used to measure this form of radiation which mitigates that considerably.

This is just terrible use of language and math for communicating what's happening. Imagine a news story in which we were wondering if someone were 7.5 million times the legal limit of DUI, or 7.5 million times drunker than what the medical establishment says is the beginning of impairment.

I will be honest. When I hear any million times and radiation in the same sentence, I think done potato in 45 seconds. Granted, probably a bad mental picture, but it keeps me away from it too. Great point about how this sounds to the average Joe.
The best

Now if you take 133tons of this highly radioactive water, and mix it into a cubic kilometer of water, that cubic kilometer is right at the limit. Now you have millions of cubic kilometers to work with, so you could dilute it to well beyond detection limits. In this case dilution is your friend. Letting in end up on land, you only have 2 dimensions of dilution (east/west) working for you, but in the open ocean the third dimension (depth) changes things dramatically.

Here is latest data from DOE fly overs (April 04):

It seems to me that the levels at isolated hot spots are falling, but radiation counts on a regional basis as a whole are rising.

Radiation levels consistently below actionable levels for evacuation or relocation outside of 25 miles

Hmm 25 miles? That's about 40km which is double the Japanese government's evacuation zone.

Latest dispersion projections suggest that inland areas may be getting substantial fallout over the next few days. Will be interesting to see how these projections compare with actual recorded weather patterns and radiation readings.

From your link:

"Radiological materials has not deposited in significant quantities since March 19"

Spraying of water onto the spent fuel ponds at Reactor 3 and 4 began a few days before the 19th. The explosions at the reactors all happened around March 13-15. That's the only event that took place prior to the 19th that hasn't continued to take place.

Most of the onland contamination was deposited when atmospheric conditions were favourable (or rather unfavourable). Since then they have had the wind blowing offshore almost all of the time. Over the next few days however projections aren't so good.

I hesitate to bring this up as my background is Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace and not nuclear, but this could continue on for months and months and end up like a giant dirty bomb generating complex, spewing radioactive nasties in the air for years. It, God forbid, it becomes evident that this is what is happening, what about nuking the sight? It is a horrible thing to contemplate, granted, but once it was done, it would possibly burn up all the fuel there that is generating the problem, and the radioactivity would then be able to decrease over time. People live now in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a nuclear bomb might be cleaner over time than letting this site spew nuclear radiation for several years. Locals could be offered homes in a few of China's empty mega-cities, and rebuild lives there for a few decades. Insanely terrifying, out of the box idea, granted, but it might in the long run be the lesser of two evils if nothing else will stop this. It could be done in a controlled way to minimize damage.

Already been proposed and most agree it would just make things much worse. Also dropping the whole thing into the sea is impossible and a bad idea too. Try 'nuclear bomb' as a search term.

Is there some fatal flaw in the human psyche that believes the ultimate solution to any problem, with implications beyond what they are (currently) able to conceive of, is to nuke it? Or is that just a USA thing?

Curtis LeMay, Harry Truman, Robert Oppenheimer, Leslie Groves, Enrico Fermi, Albert Einstein, Douglas MacArthur, Josef Stalin, Alexander Feklisov, Edward Teller, Andrei Sahkarov, and Nikita Kruschev. I would say maybe 'white' guys, LOL. I don't see any other link. How about the one name you probably do not know of, Feklisov. Top Soviet spy. Put the Rosenbergs in the chair and the bomb in Stalin's lap. He also helped Kennedy stop WWIII in 1963. For real.
Best wishes.

*Curtis LeMay, Harry Truman, Robert Oppenheimer, Leslie Groves, Enrico Fermi, Albert Einstein, Douglas MacArthur, Josef Stalin...*

If Stalin had been in charge of Chernobyl, or for that matter of Fukushima, and he were having a good day on which he felt beneficence towards his fellow man, he would only have had the principals in the disaster shot.

Yeah but Feklisov and Sahkarov balance Stalin. LeMay asked for permission to drop the bomb allegedly a dozen times from four Presidents. Thank God only one said yes, twice though.
Few know how Feklisov saved the world IMHO.

the nuke it idea is so stupid it must be a troll.

The amount of radioactivity in Fukushima is 1000 times (if I have read correctly The Oil Drum) MORE than Hiroshima.....

burn up all the fuel there that is generating the problem

While there might be some issues with "unburnt" fuel, the bigger problem is the natural radioactive decay of all the extraneous muck that was created by burning the fuel. It is causing the heat buildup, which has largely facilitated the release of it into the environment, resulted in explosions, etc. If you "burn" more fuel, you have more muck.

I find it funny in the extreme that someone would think that a few hundred thousand Japanese would just up and go and move to China on their own! I find it even funnier that someone would think the Chinese would actually offer to accept a few hundred thousand Japanese in their country! I would actually find this all incredibly funny - the funniest in a long time - if it wasn't so tragic.

A hundred thousand japanese that are willing to build a future for their children would be welcome in Sweden. I expect our cultures to mesh togeather realy well.

But the situation is not that bad.

This is the link to the 2nd page of the article, where this quote came from:

"Iodine-131 in the water near the sluice gate of reactor No. 2 hit a high on April 2 of 7.5 million times the legal limit. The water, which was not released into the ocean, fell to 5 million times the legal limit on Monday. "

IIRC the high radiation levels in the water, specifically I-131, were from the tunnels at Reactor 1. This article's saying even higher levels are found in the tunnels at Reactor 2!

Also, here's an article discussing their latest attempts to stop the leak, using something called "liquid glass".

"In the latest step 3,000 liters of the gel-like sodium silicate, which acts as an adhesive, were poured into rocks supporting the pipes running to the ocean. Authorities said the substance would continue to harden over time and could continue to slow the flow of water."

Don't they want something that would harden quickly, rather than 'harden over time'? ISTM that anything they use that gradually hardens will have a channel carved through it by the water, defeating why they're using it in the first place.

The plants are not designed to be shut off from the ocean are they? They cannot close valves or do anything can they? The have a fully open system to the ocean will no controls. Wow. genius plan.

We are left with inverse Drain-o. Sounds very promising.

Leak Fixed - collant seawater discharged

Release of Irradiated Water Is Stopped WSJ * APRIL 5, 2011, 8:01 P.M. ET

The leakage of highly radioactive water from a cracked concrete pit at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi reactor No. 2 has stopped, the Japanese utility said early Wednesday.

The leakage stopped after workers poured 1,560 gallons of "water glass"—a sodium silicate compound—through holes around the pit and at the bottom of the pit, a Tepco spokesman said. . . .
The small progress came as the government defended its decision Monday to dump 11,500 tons of low-level radioactive water into the ocean. The water is being discharged to free storage space for the much more toxic water that is blocking access to machinery vital to the repair work at the quake-hit complex. . . .
The seawater has filled vital areas of reactor buildings, making it impossible for workers to repair the cooling systems that are crucial to achieve a lasting solution to the current radiation crisis. The disaster was spawned by a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11.

I have to recommend reading the commentary posted on this blog:

"#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Says Highly Contaminated Water from the Pit Stopped

OK. So the water is going elsewhere.

It's getting to be like "Whack a Mole". One hole seemingly plugged, and water spews out somewhere else.

However, if any Fukushima I Nuke Plant news was reported in Japan in the past few days, it was either about this hole that was spewing radioactive water, or the dumping of contaminated water into the ocean. Wag the Dog.

The real deal is their sheer inability and impossibility to cool the Reactors on a permanent basis because of way too much radiation in the reactor buildings and turbine buildings. Sure they can use the temporary pumps hooked up to the external power, or concrete pumps to sprinkle water to the Spent Fuel Pools, but these operations simply generate more highly contaminated water.

Unless you get the pumps up and running, they are nowhere near "the stable" condition.

What a better way to hide that fact, than to let people (particularly the so-called journalists) focus on a crack in the pit?

(I still think that "crack", which we now know is on the substrate level below the floor of the pit, is a regular drain.)

Isn't there any Japanese reporter who can ask the most fundamental question? "What is your plan?" Not the piecemeal cutesy little silly "solutions" (like bath salt and sawdust) to plug a figurative hole in the bigger mess all around them, but a systematic, fleshed-out plan for the bigger mess itself. It's been almost 26 days since the earthquake/tsunami that knocked out the plant. Sure they have a plan by now, don't you think?"

There is more, worth a read, to get a Japanese perspective on the situation.

The Keystone cops plug up the water one place so that they can drain it in another, put it on a barge, and take it out away from their coastline and dump it, even though the only hope for any containment of the heavier, longer-lived isotopes is to leave it be inshore. Some have suggested that the Kuroshio current is acting as a bit of a dam, holding back the eddying toxic mess.

And commentary on our knowledge gaps about the effects of low level radiation.

Apologies if someone has already asked this question, but what exactly is "liquid glass?"

I looked around online, and found the epoxy resin that we use to make nice shiny bar tops, and also a lovely product which, when sprayed onto a surface, forms a thin, strong film that repels stains and inhibits bacteria....

Does this name also refer (I hope) to a highly technical product with the capability of plugging a radioactive leak?


Already posted by Bendal. Also see Wikipedia article. I've used it for muffler repair. More detailed information would be needed to decide whether it is a sensible attempt to solve this problem, or just more flailing.

Sodium Silicate

It's available at the auto parts store
as a sort of "you can give it a try..."
head-gasket sealer for blown heads.

The store also has radiator stop-leak
which tends to be powdered metal.

Other useful purchases might be the
fluorescent leak-tracing dye and a
black-light, ultraviolet, penlight...
only bigger.

Anyone remember polywater? That's a fun read:

Xenon's anesthetic action comes from structuring water:

Water is interesting stuff:

Maybe TEPCO is surfing the Oil Drum for ideas. I recommended radiator stop leak (aka liquid glass with copper and microfibers) on Friday

Nuke it from's the ONLY way to be sure.

To be sure of what?

Does this mean you're going into orbit?

"If you find you're at odds with another, try to walk a mile in his shoes. This way, you're a mile away from him. And you have his shoes."

Nuke it from's the ONLY way to be sure.

Not sure which one of you is being more sarcastic, but that is one of my all time favorite lines from the movie "Aliens". A sort of allegory that sometimes the most obvious solutions can get lost in the confusion of a seemingly hopeless situation.

Not to be taken literally in this unfortunate situation.


Dang! I missed a Ripley quote..

We've had so many calls that sounded like this one, I thought it was serious..

'Pologies, King

To be sure of what?

That no aliens, eggs, or face huggers survive where they can replicate!

Bulgaria, from NEK:

Today, 5th April 2011,



The two documents that have been signed, i.e. Memorandum of
Understanding and Addendum 12 foresee that till 30th June 2011 the two companies will do their best to perform a detailed analysis of nuclear and radiation safety issues. NEK EAD and Atomstroyexport will review the external impacts on the sustainability and the operational safety of the Belene NPP units.

In case that International, European or Bulgarian Nuclear Power Authorities present new safety-related requirements, both Parties will make every endeavour to provide the Project compliance with such requirements.

By the signed documents the Parties extend the effectiveness of the Agreement between NEK and ASE till 30th June 2011. Both documents are considered in force from 31.03.2011.

All activities related with new civil works and new equipment manufacture are stopped.

During the negotiations, discussions were also initiated on the Analysis and Justification of the Units Seismic and Natural Calamities Resistance, consisting of 600 pages, prepared by leading European nuclear power experts.

What I am waiting to hear from nuclear power advocates - and personally I am not opposed to it in principle - is not that that the consequences of the Fukushima catastrophe are not so bad, have been exaggerated, and that the effects should be remedied given time and patience. I want to hear that these nuclear power advocates are aghast, scandalized and worried. I want to hear that no industry has the right to trash and befoul the environment and harm human beings. If they were shocked that way, then I wouldn't worry quite so much about the danger of nuclear power, because I would know they were personally affected, not only in an intellectual but in an emotional sense.

Cold people dealing with great power do not inspire confidence.

I think everyone connected to the design and construction of nuclear power should work as if their own lives depended on their knowledge and integrity.

In all fairness, most engineers are competent, but I think a bigger problem is the management, IMHO, because to managers, the bottom line takes precedence over safety.

*In all fairness, most engineers are competent,*

No doubt.

Yes, well... I wasted a million hours of my life arguing with brain-dead bean counters over the relative costs of, for instance, building or not building certain levels of redundancy into systems.

However, considering the almost certainly minimal costs of locating backup power and switchgear where it would not be easily flooded, at a nuclear plant on the shore of a tsunami-prone ocean... it's hard to think of the engineers who let that happen as competent.

I'll bite: The consequences are unknown, and the anti-nuclear advocates jumping all over this are so far ahead of themselves they'd need binoculars to see their own bums.

So far it doesn't look that bad if you just look at the immediate consequences. The long term consequences may be mild or severe, but it is way too early to make that call.

It sure does make great drama.

"So far it doesn't look that bad"

Perhaps I'm simply "troll feeding", but what would you consider bad?

Just a few out of a great many: : 15 dead, 170 injured : 11 dead, 16 injured, massive environmental contamination : 29 dead (15 of them children), 52 injured

Fukushima, 200,000 citizens evacuated so far.


I think you won that hand. LOL.

Here the specific risk that a nuclear meltdown in Europe within 40 years is: 1 – (1 – 0,000029)40 x 150 = 0,01597 or 16%

All those little risks add up! Russian roulette anyone?

Garbage in, gospel out...

We CANNOT know the probabilities a priori, we're not yet gods, despite us acting like we are.

And since when has 0.016 = 16%? Some mistake there....

Did you even do the calculation?


I just did it. LOL

Are you always so confident in your view of reality regardless of the integrity of well-informed alternative perspectives?

Likely you don't realize how your approach likely makes many so much less receptive to your point of view regardless of what it is.

Are you so confident that I am wrong?

I'm not trying to persuade any anti-nuclear advocates here, I'm trying to understand them, and most of what I've been getting back is not at all flattering to their position.

Would you think differently if this reactor complex were located inland in a populated area?

*So far it doesn't look that bad if you just look at the immediate consequences.*

It doesn't look bad from where?

The long term consequences may be mild or severe, but it is way too early to make that call

That applies to both sides of the argument. Erring on the side of caution would, however, appear to be the wiser strategy.

Beware of what you are saying! Do not troll on this subject!

Look at what fallout does to mankind....


I'd like those here who persist in minimizing the dangers of radiation and contamination by radionuclides to read the material at the link Roger provided, slowly and carefully.

Are you prepared to do so and come back here and dismiss it as "anecdotal," to continue to defend the ICRP model?

That one links to this one:
"Only 50 deaths caused by Chernobyl?"

Thx for that link, KD. Thought I'd provide an excerpt of key findings for those who don't click to it:

The IPPNW/GfS Report "Health Effects of Chernobyl - 20 Years After the Reactor Disaster" documents the catastrophic dimensions of the reactor accident, using scientific studies, expert estimates and official data:

* 50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids;

* Congenital defects found in the children of liquidators and people from the contaminated areas could affect future generations to an extent that cannot yet be estimated;

* Infant mortality has risen significantly in several European countries, including Germany, since Chernobyl. The studies at hand estimated the numberof fatalities amongst infants in Europe to be about 5000;

* In Bavaria alone, between 1000 and 3000 additional birth defects have been found since Chernobyl. It is feared that in Europe more than 10,000 severe abnormalities could have been radiation induced;

* By referring to UNSCEAR one arrives at between 12,000 and 83,000 children born with congenital deformations in the region of Chernobyl, and around 30,000 to 207,000 genetically damaged children worldwide. Only 10% of the overall expected damage can be seen in the first generation;

* In Belarus alone, over 10,000 people developed thyroid cancer since the catastrophe. According to a WHO prognosis, in the Belarussian region of Gomel alone, more than 50,000 children will develop thyroid cancer during their lives. If one adds together all age groups then about 100,000 cases of thyroid cancer have to be reckoned with, just in the Gomel region;

* Altogether, the number of Chernobyl related cases of thyroid cancer to be expected in Europe (outside the borders of the former Soviet Union) is between 10,000 and 20,000;

* In more contaminated areas of Southern Germany a significant cluster of very rare tumours has been found amongst children, so-called neuroblastomies;

* In Germany, Greece, Scotland and Romania, there has been a significant increase in cases of leukaemia;

* In a paper published by the Chernobyl Ministry in the Ukraine, a multiplication of the cases of disease was registered - of the endocrine system ( 25 times higher from 1987 to 1992), the nervous system (6 times higher), the circulation system (44 times higher), the digestive organs (60 times higher), the cutaneous and subcutaneous tissue (50 times higher), the muscolo-skeletal system and psychological dysfunctions (53 times higher). Among those evaluated, the number of healthy people sank from 1987 to 1996 from 59 % to 18%. Among inhabitants of the contaminated areas from 52% to 21% and among the children of affected parent from 81% to 30%. It has been reported for several years that type I diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) has risen sharply amongst children and youth.

When someone claims nuclear is safe, I guess they figure all these effects are OK. When nuclear is given a free pass on CO2, I wonder if all the construction, mining, processing and decommissioning emissions (that's a LOT of diesel, steel, concrete, etc.) are being counted. Watch 'Into Eternity' about Onkalo, Finland's UG spent fuel repository. That's one small country with 4 reactors. Is the CO2 of that operation counted? Watch 'The Battle of Chernobyl'. Is the CO2 of that clean-up and sarcophagus building counted? So, between the human (and other life) health costs as indicated above, and the CO2 and other costs going forward for tens-hundreds of thousands of years, why are we doing this? Oh, yeah - so we can have electric clothes dryers, toilet seat warmers, flat screen TV's etc. Makes sense, right?

When someone claims nuclear is safe, I guess they figure all these effects are OK

Precisely the reason I showed my distaste for the "body count" approach.

Unfortunately, when comparing relative safety you need to choose something to measure that is unambiguous.

Death rates and causes of death in large populations are difficult to hide and are publised in world-wide databases. This gives a way to compare.

If you don't like that nuclear has caused fewer deaths than either oil or coal individually (let alone taken together) both among energy workers and the general population, then you don't like it.


People die all the time. Of course a large number of deaths can be "lost" in the noise. Especially if they happen in a period where the USSR collapses and its aftermath. Death rates most certainly did spike in the Ukraine in the two decades following Chernobyl whatever you attribute it to. Although the spike is clearly visible in Russian and Belarus, by far the sharpest percentage population drop was in the Ukraine.

Cigarette smoking related deaths were covered up and denied for decades.

The cigarette related deaths were denied, but they could not be covered up. They were right there for anyone with access to the data to see.

That is how we ended up where we are with respect to smoking.

I do not believe that there is a conspiracy powerful enough to hide or misdirect the causes of hundreds of thousands of deaths anywhere in the world sufficiently to fool WHO. If there is, it would be the folks with the money, the oil industry.

So where's the WHO study on the huge drop in fertility and increase in death rates in the most affected countries in the two decades following Chernobyl? Oh, I forgot they all drank themselves to death, everyone knows that, so there's no point looking further.

Ukraine's rate of population decrease didn't bottom out until about 2002 at -1% per annum. Russia and Belarus both bottomed out at about -0.5% per annum in about 2003. As of 2009, Russia and Belarus were back to close to 0% growth with Ukraine still shrinking at -0.5% per annum. Source World Bank Indicators.

By order of percentage population drop: Ukraine, Belarus, Russia.

From 1975 to 1985 all three countries averaged about 0.5% population growth per annum with the dramatic fall beginning in the latter part of the 80s.

* 50,000 to 100,000 liquidators (clean-up workers) died in the years up to 2006. Between 540,000 and 900,000 liquidators have become invalids;

Reports on the number of liquidators are highly uncertain, but 1 million is the very top end of the estimate; most are down around 300,000. I can't read the original German report for details, but if there are more invalids than there were liquidators, something funny's going on.

At last a freaking link to third party information (if not what I would consider a reputable site).

I was beginning to wonder if I'd have to paint myself blue and charge in with a claymore to elicit any sort of real defense.

Why do you consider not as a reputable site.

Do not troll on this subject, please educate yourself first.


I do not consider a reputable site.

The Guardian article was only one of many linked from that site, and the only one that wasn't completely alarmist.

I still found it useful, and I thank you for providing it.


Thanks for your posts. I don't agree with everything that you write, but most of it makes sense to me.

I also await public comments from nuclear power advocates that go beyond saying that "the situation at Fukushima isn't so bad". It clearly is very bad, and would be much worse for Japan if the wind had not been blowing offshore during the largest emissions of radioactive material into the air.

It remains to be seen what will happen when the winds shift onshore.

It remains to be seen how much radioactive material has been washed into the ocean.

It remains to be seen whether cooling can be maintained for many months or years until a more stable situation is established.

To me, the main conclusion that emerges from this accident is that humanity is not capable of constructing political and social systems that can rationally deal with the type of risks posed by the nuclear power generation systems currently in use. Our emotional reactions also appear not to be up to the challenge of balancing risks that extend many generations into the future against the current need for more energy to maintain the life-style that "developed" nations now enjoy and "developing" nations aspire to attain. Hell, we can't even cope with the enormously simpler problem of balancing the risks of cancer in people alive today caused by accidents like those we have seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi against the other bad things that will happen if we phase out nuclear power generation in the near future.

Maybe, as some have suggested, there are better ways to liberate energy from nuclear fission that will not have the long term trade-offs that so befuddle us now. Maybe there are other technologies that will rescue the comfortable lifestyle that depends so heavily on fossil fuels. Maybe the only long term solution is to step away from the life style that requires these sources of energy. These are surely the most important long term questions that humanity faces today.

Many thanks to the organizers of The Oil Drum for providing this forum to discuss these issues. Crises attract the attention of people like me, who ought to be thinking and doing something about these issues even when there is no crisis.

What's my point? I don't know. Just sayin'


What's my point? I don't know. Just sayin'

Well said, all the same.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, and by people much smarter than I am, it is not very likely that a civilization in the fullness of its bloom will voluntarily choose to wither. Never happened before, despite the fact that all civilizations have eventually withered, whether they wanted to or not.

Therefore, with all seriousness and no hint of irony or sarcasm, I propose another option:

Accept that there are no "solutions" and party like there's no tomorrow.


"I propose another option: Accept that there are no "solutions" and party like there's no tomorrow."

Amen brother!
No sarcasm neither.

*To me, the main conclusion that emerges from this accident is that humanity is not capable of constructing political and social systems that can rationally deal with the type of risks posed by the nuclear power generation systems currently in use.*

I tend to agree with that, Bill.

I don't consider myself anti-nuclear power in the abstract. But you are right, IMHO, to question our innate ability to organize complex and dangerous systems in the long run without harming ourselves and damaging the environment.

All best wishes,


Human life is only protected via meager regulations, which are its last bulwark. Industry/Wall street does not care about human life -- only money -- so it needs to cheapen human life to make more money as resources deplete.

Couldn't agree more pavel!

from NHK:

"Plant radiation monitor says levels immeasurable

A radiation monitor at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says workers there are exposed to immeasurable levels of radiation.

The monitor told NHK that no one can enter the plant's No. 1 through 3 reactor buildings because radiation levels are so high that monitoring devices have been rendered useless. He said even levels outside the buildings exceed 100 millisieverts in some places.

Pools and streams of water contaminated by high-level radiation are being found throughout the facility.

The monitor said he takes measurements as soon as he finds water, because he can't determine whether it's contaminated just by looking at it. He said he's very worried about the safety of workers there.

Contaminated water and efforts to remove it have been hampering much-needed work to cool the reactors.

The monitor expressed frustration, likening the situation to looking up a mountain that one has to climb, without having taken a step up."

The helicopters that overflew the site are hot and require special measures for decontamination. The cement pumper trucks being sent are considered sacrificial - they will become too contaminated to use again. This is looking much more similar to Chernobyl every day. Where indeed are apologies from the 'experts' who declared early on that everything was under control and the reactors were safe?

Recall all the froth and frenzy over the possibility of a 'dirty bomb' attack? Now apologists are all over the place feeding the line that radiation isn't really so dangerous when the terrorists aren't dark-skinned people from some middle eastern country but corporate CEOs in suits and engineers in lab coats.

This is really bad news.

It basically means that it is now impossible to get any form of contained cooling going on in plants 1,2 and 3.

So the only option now is the Chernobyl way...
to dig a tunnel under each plant, fill it with concrete to hold the meltdown. And then force a lot of people to cover all the plants with concreet and steel-



"Recall all the froth and frenzy over the possibility of a 'dirty bomb' attack? Now apologists are all over the place feeding the line that radiation isn't really so dangerous when the terrorists aren't dark-skinned people from some middle eastern country but corporate CEOs in suits and engineers in lab coats."

And, just like was predicted to be done in the aftermath of a dirty- bomb attack, the official allowable levels of exposure to radiation and radio-actives have simply been increased. This allows business to go on as though nothing has happened... at the expense of the fully disposable peasantry.


Image Credit:

Cold people dealing with great power do not inspire confidence

That's been bothering me too. Some nuke proponents seem to lack humanity. I'd say they lack wisdom too, otherwise they'd keep their mouths shut until the full damage is known. Counting (radioactive?) chickens before they hatch is not good; it shows arrogance in a situation where humility is needed.

Where is Admiral Rickover when you need him? Yes?

"I do not believe that nuclear power is worth it if it creates radiation. Then you might ask me why do I have nuclear powered ships. That is a necessary evil. I would sink them all.

"I am not proud of the part I played in it. I did it because it was necessary for the safety of this country. That's why I am such a great exponent of stopping this whole nonsense of war. Unfortunately limits — attempts to limit war have always failed. The lesson of history is when a war starts every nation will ultimately use whatever weapon it has available."

Further remarking: "Every time you produce radiation, you produce something that has a certain half-life, in some cases for billions of years. I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it."

(Economics of Defense Policy: Hearing before the Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States, 97th Cong., 2nd sess., Pt. 1 (1982))

He was quite something. Thats about all I can say.

You ask for too much, unfortunately.
There had been a suggestion of a "nuclear priesthood" as a social element to manage longer lived radio nucleotides.
Given the sad decay of just ordinary priesthood noted in the past few years, that idea seems pretty ineffectual.

Imo, the only possible response to this disaster for a nuclear advocate is to recognize that big is not beautiful and that water has no place in a nuclear reactor.
No amount of tinkering or larger water pools will eliminate the reality that these devices are too dangerous. Japan and the northern hemisphere will bear the scars of this lesson for centuries.
So that means nuclear is in a dead end unless small and idiot proof designs can be brought forward quickly.
We may be facing a discontinuity we are very poorly prepared for.

Secondary lesson, the best is the enemy of the good.
Yucca Mountain is no panacea, but the world would be better off today if that repository were open and accepting spent nuclear fuel.
As is, the fuel sits around the world near reactors, just waiting for the cooling and the maintenance to fail.
To my mind, boosters and zealous antis both have done grave harm to our community.

Unfortunately, the spent fuel that is most dangerous is too hot to be moved, to Yucca or anywhere else. For decades.

So we just let it burn up and emanate in peace?
The level of what is dangerous will need to be reassessed after this disaster, just as the background radiation levels will have to be.

"So we just let it burn up and emanate in peace?"

Not intentionally. But, we're not capable of moving and entombing it, and we don't have any other solutions, and our civilization is sliding into a permanent energy and resource crisis, which is not likely to increase long-term social, economic and political stability...

I would guess that there's a pretty good chance that some (more) spent fuel will, indeed "burn up and emanate"--somewhere, sooner or later.

We could, of course, stop producing more.

"the best is the enemy of the good"

The wisdom of the third best choice:

The best solution needs new things and lots of development.
The second best choice costs a lot.
The third best choice gets the job done.
The fourth best choice does not.

As remembered from a book called something like:
"The Agony of Creation"
Associated with Northrup Corporation

Yeah, whenever I hear any phrase including the words 'best, enemy, good' I can be pretty sure that someone with an essentially evil plan is trying to foist it on the public as the modest, common sense, reasonable, and 'good' thing that only the pie-eyed, unrealistic idealists would oppose.

Usually they have not spent more than about a half second (if that) considering unintended consequences.

One obvious consequence of rushing all our waste to Yucca is that is will be claimed that the last problem for nukes has been solved, so we can now go on and extend all the lives of all the old nasty nukes for generations, and go ahead and build a whole new generation of thousands of new nukes.

Let's just leave aside the uncomfortable fact that the geology of the mountain is extremely porous, so nasty, corrosive stuff will leak in to any containment area, and then even nastier radioactive poison will leak out into the water table...

This is one of the many predicaments we have created (and continue feverishly) to create for ourselves and our progeny and the planet, predicaments with no good solution.

But we will continue to apply our our happy, hapless 'can-do!' attitude to it, the same kind of sappy ignorant optimism that got us into these impossible messes in the first place.

Wisdom is nowhere remotely to be seen.

The wisdom of the third best choice
is meant to guide design
in a rational environment.

Creating a situation with zero fault tolerance,
where any fault is potentially expensive beyond any estimation,
is not rational.

There are soon 7,000,000,000 human-brand monkeys on this sphere.
Lives made from the energies of pure things dug from the earth.
That energy is running out. There are no good solutions RIGHT NOW.

Your move.

where any fault is potentially expensive beyond any estimation, is not rational

Putting a monetary price on everything is far from rational.

The reason the energy is running out is that we're consuming too much. Stop it. Now!

I normally defend the press as underpaid and underappreciated, but my gosh. Good news though.

Leak of radioactive water from nuke plant decreasing: Tepco

Kyodo News

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday its latest move to stem the leak of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may be working as the flow seems to be decreasing.
The utility injected 1,500 liters of "water glass," or sodium silicate, and another agent near a seaside pit where the highly radioactive water is seeping through.
"The volume of the flow appears to have decreased and there may have been some effect," a Tepco official said...
The utility has been pouring massive amounts of water into the reactors and their spent nuclear fuel pools as a stopgap measure to cool them down but the measure is believed to be linked to the possible leak of highly contaminated water from the reactors.