Fukushima Open Thread Fri 4/8

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Yesterday brought the strongest aftershock yet to Japan, which caused some damage at another nuclear reactor.

Thursday's quake damages Onagawa nuclear plant

Nothing major, but problems include:

  • Splashed spent fuel pool water (not much)
  • Water leaks around plant
  • Blowout panels in turbine building damaged
  • Three of four external power lines out

Tepco reported that the reactors at the Fukushima plant sustained no additional damage, but then they have apparently been remiss in reporting the actual state of affairs previously:

No. 1 reactor lost cooling function on March 11

Unreleased data obtained by NHK suggest that the failure to maintain the cooling functions of the No. 1 reactor at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant possibly triggered a hydrogen explosion at an early stage.

The data show that the water level inside the No. 1 reactor dropped to 45 centimeters above the fuel rods, or about one-tenth the normal level, nearly 7 hours after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The fuel rods become exposed 11 hours later.

But they are now thinking ahead.

New cooling options being explored

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is considering alternative methods, including the construction of improvised systems, to cool reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Ongoing operations--which involve pouring water directly into the reactor cores to lower temperatures inside the pressure vessels of the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors to below 100 C--have not worked as expected, and restoration of the reactors' existing cooling systems is not likely to happen soon.
"It might be wise to set up new cooling systems," said Michio Ishikawa, the top adviser of the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute. "If the current conditions continue, the amount of radioactive substances being discharged from the reactors might increase. Therefore, all possible options need to be considered.

Others are looking even further ahead.

After Japan, global experts come up with safety plan for nuclear plants

This group of 16 nuclear scientists — from the United States, Germany, Spain, France and many other countries — has issued a statement, ‘Never Again: An Essential Goal for Nuclear Safety’, that was handed over to the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Wednesday.
Importantly, the group has warned against "a natural tendency of human beings for complacency".

...or the natural tendency of regulatory bodies to conduct studies and then ignore the findings.

How did we get here again?

This pdf report from Areva, dated April 7, provides a good visual step-by-step overview of the Fukushima accident.

Meanwhile, Japan is buying fewer roses:

S Korea Seeks To Diversify Export Markets For Roses

SEOUL, April 8 (Bernama) -- South Korea is seeking new overseas markets for roses after shipments to Japan have plunged following the massive earthquake and nuclear crisis, Yonhap News Agency reported a state-run farm exporting corporation as saying Friday.

and the financiers have managed to survive all this:

Hedge Funds Chase Japan Opportunities After Enduring Quake, Nuclear Crisis

Hedge funds investing in Japan are scouting for opportunities after weathering the country’s worst earthquake and resulting nuclear crisis as the Bank of Japan pumped record funds into the financial system.

R-SQUARED Master Fund, which benefited from investments in put options and credit default swaps before the March 11 temblor, is finding opportunities in subordinated debt. Dymon Asia, which started a macro hedge fund in 2008 with capital from Tudor Investment Corp., sees potential in the foreign exchange market after the fund returned 8 percent last month.

"Never Again" - sounds good to me. I'm glad that 16 top nuclear scientists and I are starting from the same place. Now the only remaining task is answering a simple yes/no question: "Can an event resulting in the release of radioactive contamination occur in the future?" The answer is yes. So we are done with nuclear power, right?

Ask the elderly. Edited post of mine from nola.com

Bill it is going to get ugly. Have you seen the footage? I am half Asian. I grew up over there. You know how we freak out in the USA when it comes to kids. Well over there, it is all about the elderly. Folks over there are just surviving and rebuilding. When summer comes and the blackouts begin, it will be a global anti nuclear movement not seen since the nuclear test ban treaty. Money or status will not matter. Where is Linus Pauling when you need him?

You don't know me but I'm your brother
I was raised here in this living hell
You don't know my kind in your world
Fairly soon the time will tell
You, telling me the things you're gonna do for me
I ain't blind and I don't like what I think I see

Takin' it to the streets (repeat 3x)


Such simple yes/no questions would indeed solve a lot of problems
if the criteria is "no risk at all".

But what to do with the majority of humanity that can not be supported
withouth the current technologies or the next better generations of
various technologies if the criteria is "no risk at all".

My support for nuclear power is based on the manny kWh needed to
survive, preferably while transitioning to better technologies, nuclear
and other and preferably while making the CO2 and other loads on the
environment smaller. I base this on liking people and culture and nature
is nice too, unfortunately is a lot of people and nature toast if enough
people get desperate for energy.

Feel free to be aginst everything that is bad but please also figure out
a way to feed people and give them tools to transition to sustainable

I see no reason why the anti-nuke folks and the safe transition folks cannot get together and come up with a workable plan. Even the most hard core anti realize that is stuff is nuclear science and you just do not bury all these facilities in concrete or dump the materials at sea.
First step, no NEW plants.

First step: Opening ones eyes and see all of the predicaments we have.

I dont even think all of us people/families/nations/cultures will make
it even if we handle peak oil, climate change, various waste heaps, etc
next to perfect since too many nations are broken and cant change
in time.

For me is "transition" about getting from the current technology base and
infrastructure to one that has the potential to function indefinately.
I litterally know thousands of good ideas for this that at least are
good for getting a nordic country closer to this goal. One major asset
that helps manny of these ideas is having lots of electricity, electricity
that do not harm the climate. I am very keen on us keeping the nuclear
power we have and developing it further since that opens lots of
possibilities for doing things for the global situation and even doing
it withouth having to get a lot of local powerty that would be politically

We could close all nuclear powerplants in Sweden if we at the same
time closed a lot of industry and closed our borders and started to
adapt policies for getting rid of people. Most of us would make it, we
could become a shining example of rich people living frugally while
leaving others to rot.

I would rather build new nucler powerplants while scrapping the old ones
and in parallell with this develop both nuclear power and "alternative"
power. This power is needed to run a high tech society withouth oil and
making this high tech society able to manufacture lots of things that
a fossil fuel free and over several generations transitioning world needs.

No 'NEW' plants. I would consider 'replacement' plants if the most at risk ones were closed first. If the replacements were not near populations centers, the coast or active seismic zones. If we had long term storage and waste processing going in earnest. If we still sought the path of renewables. In reality, that is what you want too, we are just negotiating the timeline.

We have long term storage going in earnest and the political decision is that it is ok to replace old nuclear plants with new ones one for one while we are investing in renewables. These are not paths that we are looking for, its ongoing investments that can be hurried up although the nuclear investments so far only are for upratings and life lenght extensions.

Waste reprocessing for transuranic recycling is a tall order for little Sweden but a 20 year project should not be impossible, we can probably develop one advanced nuclear technology.

We are gifted with one of the globs oldest and most boring bedrocks with the only downsde being no geothermal power, it is a lot harder to build adequately safe nuclear powerplants in Japan.

It would be better for Sweden to build reactors such as a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor that would burn the waste then reprocesses it.

That could be ideal but its a 10-20 year project to build and test the first generation. It could become an alternative for the newest of the current reactors. I expect such technology to mature after the repository is built tunrning it a very over engineerd interrim storage, but that will only happen if we invest in developing better tecnology.

See above post. Aren't you Swedish fellers in on the AIP sumbmarine too? Next generation technology for a nuclear free Navy is a goal too.

Yes, we have even been training the US navy to teach them abut AIP submarines. Unfortunately I have heard a nasty rumour about USA not paying all the bills for this.

This idea only works if the nuclear weapons disarmements continue and you stop using boomers. The fissionabels in the weapons shuld be blended down into fuel and the reactors used on the surface powering civilian container ships that bridge one continets electrified railway network with another.

I would not consider any new plants until all the current waste is safely underground. The nuclear engineers can work on that problem for a few years before building new plants replacement or otherwise. Closing dangerous Gen 1 plants should not be contingent on new planta. They are dangerous and beyond their use by date.

It feels good that the final repository probably will be building as we hopefully builds some new generation 3+ plants. It is unreasonable to wait until all the old waste is underground since there is an about 20 year lead time from core unloading to deep bedrock, basically waiting for it to cool down enough for not damaging the final repository by overheating it.

I understand that this is a tougher problem in countries where the process of finding a suitable repository design and volonteer municipialites has failed. We have been working on this for about 30 years and spent billions in RnD and now we have designs for the whole chain from bedrock interrrim storage pool to deep bedrock that are good enough to certifie and build. If they clear the cetification, it has to be good enough for all critizism.

The newer plants are in general better then the old ones but there has been some regressions between the generations where a new feature or simpler designs turned out to not be better then the generation before. There has been lots of modifications and additions to the reactors, especially the oldest ones as problems and risks has been found. The first complete write off were in 1970 when Marviken 1 were not started at all since it might have been unstable and had too little redundancy in its safety systems. All the reactors since then has been possible to modifie step by step but personally I would have prefered that the oldest had been repalced by new ones a decade ago, that were unfortunately politically impossible.

I think what we are witnessing in Washington DC over the budget today is a good example of our ability to handle larger issues such as nuclear safety, powering our future, dealing with global climate change, etc.

I think that those saying that the engineering problems can be solved and nuclear power can be made safe are following the same belief system thinking that also promised us a permanent waste repository and electricity that would be too cheap to meter. In an ideal world, maybe those things could happen but we do not live in an ideal world, and are unlikely to for the foreseeable future.

This is not a simple matter of being pro-nuke or anti-nuke. But it is a matter of looking at the track record of this industry, including near misses and major disasters, and evaluating whether or not the risks are worth the benefits. The failure of industry or government to come up with a solution to the waste as well as the inability and unwillingness of private industry to invest and insure the nukes suggest its eventual demise in a free market economy.

Did you catch my report of the delay of the Scotsboro reactor startup here in Alabama?

Saw that - just scanned it briefly. Busy here....

I prefer a free market economy where the government can handla ballancing its own budget.

Would you restate that, please, Magnus? It really doesn't make any sense, to me.

The concentrations of wealth in USA where financial profits are private and financial losses are subsidised by the government who runs a huge deficit is fairly often blamed on "the free market economy".

I prefer living in a free market economy where the government ballances its budget and do not bail out too large to fail buddies, its is possible to ballance a budget even when living in the aftermaths of a huge socialistical experiment that became so inefficent that everybody started dismantling it.

USA is culturally extremey influential and if USA wreack what you call "the free market economy" it will backlash over here and make one of the most valuble tools for economical efficiency and renewal less usefull.

Todays budget debate in the US congress is a laughable show by reality deniers arguing about pennies on the dollar.

I see what you mean. Thanks.

I'm afraid that I don't think anything remotely resembling a "free market" is possible or desirable.

Markets (to the extent that the term has any intrinsic meaning) either have rules, and enforcement of those rules, or they are merely battles for advantage where the strongest and/or most heavily-armed always win.

If markets do have rules, and enforcement, the questions arise: Who makes the rules, with what goals, and for whose benefit? How are they enforced, by whom, and what are the consequences of violation?

In America, these decisions are made by a one-dollar, one-vote process, thinly cloaked in the trappings of democracy. In Sweden, the cloak of democracy was, for quite a long time after WWII, rather thicker. However, with your recent swing to the right, it may not be long before your system is as openly operated by, and for the benefit of, "the winners" as is ours.

Markets (to the extent that the term has any intrinsic meaning) either have rules, and enforcement of those rules, or they are merely battles for advantage where the strongest and/or most heavily-armed always win.

If markets do have rules, and enforcement, the questions arise: Who makes the rules, with what goals, and for whose benefit? How are they enforced, by whom, and what are the consequences of violation?

Yup, that pretty well sums it up.

Taking a broader view, society needs rules, if for no other reason than to rescue us from the tragedy of the commons, prisoner's dilemma, race to the bottom, call it what you will, it's all the same dilemma.

Despite the religious fervor with which proponents embrace "free markets", it has been known for a long time that totally free competition often leads to very undesirable outcomes, even, I hasten to add, for the rich and powerful, although they generally do much better than the others. Only the end-of-times zealots and other crazies who crave chaos for its own sake could really want a totally rule-free market (in other words, economic anarchy).

The real question, so succinctly stated above, is who makes and enforces the rules?

Another way to think of it: If free markets had any benefit-- which is not clear to me-- it was at an earlier stage of human civilization, when competition might actually have produced better goods and services. It's not a strategy that works in a mature market with limited resources. Our economy needs to act its age, but it behaves like a 65-year-old guy who is still slamming shots and trying pick up girls at the local nightclub. Pathetic, really.

I feel that as markets have matured and become deregulated, the quality of goods and services has declined dramatically. I can think of very few products, from automobiles to software, where I would prefer the 21st version to the 1989 or 1995 version.

As for your question, Nubs: Perhaps a guild of retired industry professionals, who would be compensated with only a modest enhancement to their social security payments, should make and enforce the rules, and have absolute authority to prevent products from entering the marketplace. "Word 2007? iTunes 10? Very funny! Sorry, these use way too much memory and the menu structure is too byzantine, you will not be releasing these."

Perfect? No. But I think if you were able to remove the profit motive, people making energy policy would think more about what benefited their grandchildren than what would fill their wallets.

"82 year old divorces wife to spend
more time with his three girlfriends"

Money changes everything.


Ha! Touchez, K.D.! Point taken.

*turning green with envy* :-P

Aye... and we need more greens.

If markets do have rules, and enforcement, the questions arise: Who makes the rules, with what goals, and for whose benefit? How are they enforced, by whom, and what are the consequences of violation?

That is one of the most important roles for a government.

In America, these decisions are made by a one-dollar, one-vote process, thinly cloaked in the trappings of democracy. In Sweden, the cloak of democracy was, for quite a long time after WWII, rather thicker. However, with your recent swing to the right, it may not be long before your system is as openly operated by, and for the benefit of, "the winners" as is ours.

This kind of rot is phenomenon that excist everywhere, what for you is interpreted as a thicker cloak of democracy is for me a process where the government and large sectors run by tax money got to intimate with each other and started buying the political process to keep the power and money flow within the right group of people in the ruling social democrates party. Its no good ater a generation on this downslope.

Handling increased global competition, Reagan, Thatcher and the fall of the Sovjet empire inspired us to start reversing our implememtaion of too much socialism that it had started to become inefficient.

We do of course risk to fall in another political trap much like the US one. The key here is to never ever let one solution dominate it all, power must allways shift otherwise it will sooner or later get corrupted. Another difference is that our lobbyists mostly are producing companies instead of lawyers and finance.

The problem is corruption, for a plausible reason, in this as in everything else.
Nuclear proponents closed their eyes to deficiencies in the GE Mk 1 design because to do otherwise might kill nuclear power. So it was used in many places.
Environmentalist opposed Yucca Mountain because it did not look good enough for indefinite storage. So there was no place to put spent fuel.
Now we have busted reactors and overstuffed spent fuel pools polluting the heart of Japan. Did anyone want this? Probably they did not.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The late Admiral Gorshkov of the former USSR used to say that the best is the enemy of the good.
We are all relearning that lesson, very slowly if the news on Libya or the US budget negotiations are to be believed.

"the best is the enemy of the good"

That's the second or third time in the past few days I've seen this aphorism applied, with the notion that a wholly unacceptable (either in general or for certain people who have to live near a proposed project) non-solution was the good that well-meaning (but presumably daft) citizens keep from happening, because of a presumably unrealistic expectation of sanity.

If we want some realism I might suggest that Yucca Mountain was "least insane of the politically feasible" options for a wholly avoidable and predicatble problem that we created for ourselves, and pile on every day. I prefer that phrasing to "good."

It's kind of amazing to me (and I don't mean to pick on you specifically here) that in all aspects a large % of society seems to think that "the truth" or best practices or what have you should naturally lie somewhere in the middle between two opposed camps. I don't see why this would follow. Sometimes the assumptions of one camp are just wrong and making any adjustments to please that camp are faulty and harmful. Had this experience with a few police several months ago, in which two cops in the same day told me mantra-like that "there are three sides to every story", the stories of the two parties they are called to sort out a problem with, and "the truth somewhere in the middle." I told both officers that I certainly hope that isn't their operating assumption, as for example with a little old lady getting mugged. Is "the truth" somewhere in the middle between the little old lady being the victim of a perp, and the perp claiming he didn't do it?

You make a good point that this aphorism is most useful when both parties share a common goal, such as reliable energy or clean cities or lower cost food.
It clearly is inappropriate when that is not the case, as when there is no common goal.

I think you miss the point.

The aphorism, to the extent it has any use at all, is not applicable here.

Yucca is not and never was 'the good.' Do you have any idea of the structure of the rock in the parts of the mountain they planned to 'safely' store this stuff forever? If not, you might want to try to find out. Oh, wait. You can't find out, because the geologists they hired to investigate this were fired the minute they pointed out that the place is full of porous, swiss-cheese-like formations that would leak water in and nasty junk out of the containment area and who knows how far afield. (I met one of them through a friend and he told me all about it in great and very technical detail.)

I am always suspicious when people use the aphorism, since it always seems to be people with really, really bad (can we just say "evil") ideas trying to present them as the reasonable "good" middle, while the actual sober, reasonable realists are portrayed as hapless idealists, mooncalfs, halfwits, and dodos.

There is no 'perfect' out there I don't really know of anyone claiming that their solution is 'perfect' (besides the usual technocopians).

I think complacency is also a huge factor. Basically, inertia carries on while people argue over inane details.

For the waste, just put it in dry cask storage and work out the details over the next 100 years. It's no going anywhere, and if it is stabilized enough to not need active management, then many more possibilities open up. I would generally be in favor of reprocessing to simply extract the actinides and stabilize the rest into a form that is incapable of accidental criticality.

The anti-nukes are rabidly against dry-cask storage, because they think that if they fill the cooling ponds to capacity, then the reactors will be forced to shut down, and they don't give a fig that this gambit is very dangerous, as we have just seen!

The nuclear industry is against dry-cask storage, because the gov. promised to take all this stuff and has been collecting billions of dollars for years as payment for that service. If the waste goes into dry casks, then the government has far less incentive to take it. Beyond that, it is expensive, and the government won't pay for it (out of the waste-management fund), because the anti-nukes would go into hysterics. So it sits in the pools waiting for disaster.

Similar story with new reactors. The anti-nukes tried the poison-pill strategy once too often. Wait for a reactor to be completed, and then bring up some complaint that was known at the beginning, and pretend it is a new revelation. That prevents the reactor from being licensed, so it can't be used and the utility goes under. The utilities understandably demand that any complaints known at the beginning need to be dealt with before the construction starts, the anti-nukes find this entirely unacceptable since it undermines their primary means of punishing apostate utilities. So here we sit, no new reactors get built, even those that would merely replace older and less safe reactors.

So now we have countries like Japan that can't shut down their nuke plants, because they need the power, and they can't replace them with safer nukes, because the anti-nukes won't have it, and they can't use anything else because they simply have no natural resources. So the oldest, most unsafe, plants must be used regardless of what is or is not discovered about them as a result of this accident.

All the while, coal is ramping up and the ocean is turning to acid.

Do you really think that global warming 20 or 50 years out is going to do us in? Maybe we need to worry about the next major blackout instead? Why do we have to go around looking for zebras when horses will do just fine? Just whose agenda is global warming, anyway?


you really think that global warming 20 or 50 years out is going to do us in?

Renewables are clearly the right answer, but if forced to choose between fossil fuels vs nuclear, I'll take nuclear. In my opinion, both are dangerous and damaging, but neither is a likely existential threat: the difference is, fossil fuels hurt you badly even if you *don't* screw up.

Goodman, can we prioritize the urgencies of these multiple problem? I asked if we could focus on the next major blackout. If the US is 20% nuclear, and the grid goes down, and the nukes cock up their toes for want of electricity, where does that leave us?

"No one really knows the net yield of nuclear power because at present its use is subsidized by fossil fuels in a thousand ways that cannot be estimated until we try to run a nuclear system without them. Will nuclear power have a more concentrated value than the wood output of the solar system, or of coal, or of cheap oil from rich deposits? The new power plant seems to be more economical than the competing fossil plants as long as it is running on the accumulated storages of nuclear fuel and fuel prospecting done on fossil-fuel subsidy. Is nuclear power at this level of net power delivery possible in a culture that does not have the accompanying fossil fuels?" (Odum, 1971, p. 135)

Well, the backups at Fukushima worked just fine until the diesel generators were literally flooded with seawater, and then for 2 days past that. Despite the earthquake and tsunami.

What planner would have considered 2 weeks to get grid power back to the station with the on-site generators a shambles a reasonable assumption before it happened? I mean really, is there ANY precedent for a 2 week total power outage to a high priority facility since we first established the power grid?

Now there's a precedent. It's going to be in every plan going forward from here.

This doesn't mean there will be perfection. There will be other incidents. What we need to do is watch what the real effects are from this one then decide as a society whether we consider the risk worthwhile in the context of all alternatives.

Then we need to act on that decision, decisively.

Note that no matter what path we choose there will be a price, and the people who advocate dropping nuclear like the bomb had better make themselves aware of the price of their path, as should the people who want to go full forward with nuclear power.

Is it not the effects of choosing a path without understanding the risks the whole point of the anti-nuclear movement?

R4ndom, in general, planners don't consider any future but growth and prosperity for all, as they do not have a mental model that considers peak oil. You have been here at TOD for 5+ years. Do you believe that the future will allow for less energy production/consumption and thus less complexity?

This is the problem. The future will not resemble the last 200 years in any way, shape, or form. There is no extrapolation possible from recent history. Thermodynamics dictates that the future will be less complex as a result of less energy. Any precedent created by collapsing complexity will be immediately replaced by a new catastrophe caused by even lesser energy inputs to the system. That is the problem of descent. Most can't grasp it, and do not allow for it in their plans. The risks of our future as complexity declines will become a continually changing target. The turning point and biggest hazard is the binary problem of electricity. It dictates civilization, and it is either on or it is off. It is the human failure to appreciate that problem which may bring humanity to a sudden halt.

Actually the coping time of new reactors would easily handle 2 weeks without power. i.e. the AP-1000 has water storage on top of the building and it is gravity fed.


The problems are so far "beyond the design capacity" of the plant that the Japanese are working in uncharted territory, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at U.S. nuclear power plants.

"No nuclear power plant has ever considered the inability to get on long-term core cooling for more than a week, much less three weeks," Friedlander said.
Some Japanese experts now say the effort is in danger of failing unless Japan seeks more help from international experts to bring it to an end. Tetsunari Iida, an engineer-turned-industry critic, said the situation is "beyond the reach" of Japan's closely knit nuclear establishment.

"A real exit strategy has to start with an inspection by the world's top experts on nuclear accidents," Iida told reporters at Japan's national press club last week. . . .

. . . And Was said the reactors have to be cooled in order to let the molten fuel harden again: "Only when it solidifies are you sure you can contain it." He said Tokyo Electric should be in the lead -- "It's their plant" -- but he added, "There's a lot of different areas in which they could benefit from international help."

Not exactly.
AP-1000 is designed for 3 days.
AP1000 Pre-Construction Safety Report

One shortcoming of the system is that after 72 hours the Passive Containment Cooling Water Storage Tank (PCCWST) on top of the Containment Shield Building needs to be refilled. This requires active pumping. A seismically qualified tank and diesel driven pumps are to be added to the Auxiliary Building, to provide a supply of water to the PCCWST adequate for 7 days post accident (see Section for more details).

Another note of interest. Fuki Unit 1 was scheduled for decommission in February, 2011. It's license was renewed for 10 years after 40 years of operation. Such renewals avoid newer reactor designs.

What planner would have considered 2 weeks to get grid power back to the station

Nah, Daini had grid power by midnight, when TEPCO issued the first Plant Status bulletins. It wasn't the grid, it was the design of the plant - its connection to the grid that was bogus.

I fail to comprehend the logic here, but let me try:

Because one of the other facilities in the area got power back before the lack of power became a problem at Fukushima Dai Ichi, it is a problem with the design of Fukushima Dai Ichi that caused power to not be restored to it, not the fact that the power lines running in from outside were knocked over by an earthquake and washed away by a tsunami.

Did I get that right?

"What planner would have considered 2 weeks to get grid power back to the station with the on-site generators a shambles a reasonable assumption before it happened? I mean really, is there ANY precedent for a 2 week total power outage to a high priority facility since we first established the power grid?"

WAR! Think WWII and Europe. Good Grief! I'm sorry to have to say it yet again! I know it's forgotten again and again by the nuclear supporters. Do you honestly think that with the oil and water problems that we keep discussing here that there will never be a war in a country with a nuclear reactor???? Again, in a war, the power grid IS targeted!

All those nukes will be blow to bits in a conventional war, spraying the countryside and metropolitan centers with dirty bombs. You do not need nuclear weapons. You just need to target the other country's nukes.

I lived close enough to hear the siren tests at Diablo Canyon. Everywhere you go, even the hot-dog stands, there are stickers explaining what to do if the siren is heard continuously for 3-5 minutes.

In the newspaper there was published a study "proving" the safety of the concrete storage casks. It quoted a test where a fully loaded jet fighter plane was flown full-speed into a concrete barrier. Of course the plane disintegrated. But an airframe is not a shaped-charge. A shaped charge can be made from a champagne bottle that will blow a hole of the same diameter through five feet of concrete. The rest of the weapon then follows through.

Those tests are irrelevant distractions, for that is not the threat. The threat is corrosion, the slow forces of weathering and decay, the inevitable victory of entropy erasing all of our attempts to impose order. The only plan to deal with this is "somebody someday will figure something out", which is merely an incantation.

Damn! We had a nice surprise in store for you "civilized" humans, and now this big Japan earthquake and follow-on calamities got you thinking about it.

The Devil

Yair...r4ndom. I don't get your point. The problems started the moment the generators went out...as I see it wasn't a two week outage that caused the problem...I'll bear correcting by other folks of course.

Cooling wasn't a problem until the batteries died, they did have multiple backups.

That was the window of opportunity, and it is the damage to the surrounding countryside that prevented bringing in grid power during that window.

In short, if the earthquake and tsunami damage had been isolated to the plant itself we would not be having these discussions weeks later, but we all know that disasters don't work like that.

PEOPLE and the health of same - including the world we live in - should ALWAYS COME FIRST.

Sadly - it is the LACK OF POLITICAL WILL - by politicians bought and paid for by corporations - who wish for PROFIT ONLY - regardless...

Coal is NOT the answer either - SOLAR and renewables are becoming more cost effective - against coal and the "hidden costs of cleanup, insurance, and deaths" that NUKEs bring.

As Nuke Power is 20% of what the USA utilizes - have everyone cut down their use by 20% - put in retrofit program benefits for homes and businesses to compensate.

NOT MORE OF THE SAME PATH TO DESTRUCTION - If we are so smart - use it not for status quo - but for THINKING!

Stanford University and others have proven we CAN DO BETTER.

The world can be powered by alternative energy, using today's technology, in 20-40 years, says Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson

"But it is possible, without even having to go to new technologies," Jacobson said. "We really need to just decide collectively that this is the direction we want to head as a society."

Jacobson is the director of Stanford's Atmosphere/Energy Program and a senior fellow at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy.


huh? Oh I see, you clarified to Goodman.
Well we have had a few grid blackouts. How did those work out for starters?

overstuffed spent fuel pools

Overstuffing has not been the problem so far. Most of the fuel on site is located in the common pool, which has managed to stay out of trouble. "But the road to hell is paved with good intentions" and indifference, plus mistakes (as in "mistakes were made").

The fuel pools may not be full, but they contain far more fuel than needs to be there, and this is increasing the consequences of a fuel pool fire dramatically. Fuel rods should be removed from the pools and dry-casked as soon as it is safe to do so, to minimize this hazard. This is not a new idea.


"When the plants were originally designed, it was thought that the spent fuel would remain on the sites only two or three months after they came out of the reactor during a refueling outage and then the fuel would be shipped offsite for reprocessing or disposal," said Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"When those plans changed, we just filled the pools up to capacity without ever rethinking whether we should provide better safety or barriers," he said.

The Japan nuclear crisis has raised concern for U.S. officials because of the areas where safety practices overlap. By contrast, Germany, for example, has relied more heavily on storage of spent fuel in casks that can be hardened against attack or accidents with concrete.

One of problems limiting the wider use of the dry storage units is their upfront costs: each cask costs about $1 million or more. Critics say the costs are roughly comparable with cooling pools over the long run but require initial capital spending that can be a tougher sell to management and shareholders. . . .

. . . . The TEPCO presentation noted that the utility had taken steps to increase storage capacity for spent fuel at the plant complex beyond its original design. Those included "re-racking" the pools in the reactor buildings to increase their capacity and then building a separate large, pool outside and a separate hub of metal casks that do not need to rely on electricity.

But the only significant open space left for storage remained inside the reactor buildings, according to the document. TEPCO had the capacity to more than double the number of fuel assemblies stored in the reactors from 3,998 at the time of the quake to 8,310 assemblies.

"They were headed for dense pack and that would have made the situation even worse," said Frank von Hippel, a Princeton University physicist and former U.S. adviser on nuclear security risks in the Clinton administration..

More at the link.

But the only significant open space left for storage

That may be true if you limit the locations to those at sea level, but it looks like there is a lot of land up the cliff. http://goo.gl/maps/6JmD

I guess overcrowding is an issue. My mistake.

I see that the dry cask area is full and the common pool almost full. So, that's not good. I read that the common pool lost cooling at some point, but have not seen that repeated. On the priority list, the protection of spent fuel rods would be up there.

The late Admiral Gorshkov of the former USSR used to say that the best is the enemy of the good.

Being a Swede attributing this to Admiral G seems a bit odd.

We have an old saying (proverb) that uses the exakt same words, but it goes like this:

You should not let the best be the enemy of the good!

I once had a boss who frequently kept repeating this. (He had a tendency to be a bit sloppy sometimes.) I would have thougt this proverb or something similar was common also in other languages.

I know you are a long-time member; I have read many of your comments and respect your bringing balance to perspectives. Thank you for your response that attempts to do just that.

However, you misunderstand my point, in that "no risk at all" is not the criteria. Expected Outcome is the criteria. Outcome = Effect x Probability. The "scientists" mentioned had already implicitly covered the "Effect" variable by stating "never again"... I agree, the consequences of nuclear contamination are so great that the expected outcome is too great to bear if the probability of such an event is nonzero. Thus, I moved on to the second variable, the probability. Since this is nonzero, I consider the circle closed. The expected outcome is not permissible so we should not pursue the activity.

Restated in a way that does not require the implicit consent, there are two questions: "Can an event occur which would result in nuclear catastrophe?" and "Should such an event occur, are we willing to leave the consequences to our descendants for any reason?" My answers to these questions are YES and NO, and thus I am opposed to nuclear power plants. Each person must decide for themselves, and society as a whole must continue to decide every day.

I would say that all pros and cons on both sides of the nuclear debate, while often quite compelling when taken individually, are irrelevant in the face of this overwhelmingly universal argument which does not force human beings to subjugate their natural abilities to so-called expert opinion, empirical evidence, or "rational" cost-benefit analysis. As in the case of the financial disaster of this past decade, perpetrators of violence upon humans will attempt to make the population concede their right to judge by claiming the matter is "too complicated" for the average person, which is simply not the case, as I have demonstrated above. The technically complicated issues are not relevant; only a basic historical knowledge and a very simple value judgement is necessary.

The historical knowledge I refer to is this: 3 plant failures out of 600 (lumping all of Fukushima together for fairness) - this .5% failure rate is already infinitely higher than the permissible rate as per the decision gate I describe at my opening (not because 'risk' is not permissible but because the reasonably 'expected outcome' of such a risk is not permissible, as in ".5% x Nuclear Catastrophe = Unacceptable Loss"). Furthermore, witness that fate has fittingly shown us 1) one failure due to "Man" (Chernobyl), 2) one due to "Machine" (TMI), and 3) one due to "Nature" (Fukushima), thus sending us a clear message that every potential avenue of failure in the system is, in fact, a "realizable" point of failure. We are being sent a message.

Of course, ultimately all of these disasters are actually due to Man. His Hubris. His Greed. His Fear. It brings great shame upon us that our children will live in a world where we gave them such a tremendous burden only so that we could fund our own trivial pursuits, however lofty they appear in our own best dreams or worst delusions.

No power is necessary when the choice is between rapid progress now and leaving a habitable world to our children. But, fortunately, the choice is not between nuclear progress or universal retrogress. There is abundant solar energy. Simple back of the envelope calculations will show that for the same portion of our work we currently expend on all energy (15% of GDP), we can supply all major human energy needs (including transport) with solar in 10 years. Fortunately even slightly more involved calculations show the same thing:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030

If we have the will to do so. I do. Do we together?

Thank you for reading and considering my contribution to your thoughts.

The big problem is not the ammout of sunlight that reaches the surface of the earth, the big problem is getting from what we have now in hard to handle political limitations, factories, infrastructure and educated people to a better and better situation. Reality is full of hard to handle limitations and I am quite upset for the new ones that this disaster has given on top of all the death from the tsunami, the nuclear meltdowns and the multi billion dollar holes in the world wide web of manufacturing. I probably think too much on the long term and too litte on the day to day but at least Europe will probably get a large additional hole in the energy supply in the 2020:s and 2030:s.

One example of the limitations is the idea that Europe cold get most of its electricity from solar power in Sahara. Imagine if we had gone forward with this and gotten a good deal with Gaddafi...

I am willing to risk another TMI where I live but not building new nuclear powerplnats in a ways that gives Fukushima 1 accidents. We have since a long time put security systems in place to handle a TMI or worse in a way that makes the damages on the surroundings much smaller. We were unfortunately on our way to test that about five years ago when backup diesels that were supposed to be independant of each other were not and all of them were taken offline by a grid transient leaving Forsmark 1 withouth power. The staff did the right things and got it back on line but it could have deteriorated and given a TMI kind of accident. This were not hushed down and everybody had to both reevaluate the safety culture and technical systems, it were not fixed by finding someone to blame and then avoiding doing something substantial.

Nuclear power is serious stuff, you have to acknowledge the dangers, search for them and when anything fails start correcting before you loose more safety margins. It is power suitible for humble people who think for the long term, thus I actually like the movie "Into eternity", it is suggestively anti-nuclear but it is not secure to be gung-ho positive.

Although almost nothing is gong-ho positivism secure for the long term, you got to use your brain and not only feel good about stuff...

Actually many deals were made with Ghadafi. One of them had to do with keeping black Africans from coming through Libya on their way to Europe. Another was I'll say I did Lockerbie if you get me off the terrorist nation list and other restrictions plus I'll give up trying to get a nuke (I bet he wishes he had one now). But he was Ghadafi. He didn't want US bases on Libyan Territory. He wanted to control the money generated by Libya's oil. Libya's oil reserves with its easy to refine sweet crude are bigger than those in the Entire United States . With Sarkozy and Cameron on the same page, it was time to bring back transatlantic harmony, save a few civilians by bombing them, and stumble into some prime oil wells. Notice that the US's biggest military base in Europe isn't in Germany (just why are they still there after 65 years?)it's Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, built after NATO bombed Yugoslavia. Who knows how many rendered people were tortured there?
As for TMI, it was worse than the official studies said. Have any independent researchers ever received or seen the raw data that the official report was based on? Have people that worked on the research come forward saying what they knew was not in the official conclusions? Was there an honest attempt to track where the radiation released went and separating out the health effects of those actually contaminated so as to not dilute the effects? Is it Possible there was more radiation released than that from the data given by the nuclear power company?
I wouldn't trust my health to the nuclear power company and NRC regulators. What a great track record US regulators have with the financial meltdown and the BP Gulf oil catastrophe. And FEMA did such a great job on disaster mitigation in New Orleans after Katrina. I don't think the US would have done any better than Japan if a Fukushima sized nuclear disaster had happened (and it is probable,it is just a matter of time anywhere in the world where there is nuclear power)in the US. A private corporation is run on greed and cost cutting. US regulators are suborned by industry. The Federal government in the US is not for the people or by the people anymore. Even rule of law is failing in the mortgage foreclosure crisis. The US is a fine place for hedge fund operators and big bankers. And the US isn't the worst place in the world where nukes are operated.

Another was I'll say I did Lockerbie

I have heard that too. I have forgotten who the alternates were though.

As for TMI, it was worse than the official studies said

As for TMI, I think most people think: well, Not That Bad

government in the US is not for the people or by the people anymore

Thomas DiLorenzo points out that it wasn't true even when Lincoln said it was: he had suspended the constitution, arrested the Maryland legislature and denied habeas corpus, to save the Union. Huh?

So the only way you would accept it is if the probability of a horrific event is zero, and a non-zero probability means "the circle is closed". So in one breath you claim "no risk at all" is not your criteria and in the next breath you say that it is. Cognitive dissonance displayed in all of its glory.

It seems you and I are having a semantic misunderstanding. "Risk" to me refers to the probability. Suggesting that my standard is "no risk at all" sounds to me like one thinks, if I were to apply that to other industries, I would not accept any alternative where there were a possibility of disaster. I clarified by saying that it is not the "risk" (probability) of a disaster but the overall expected outcome when considering the magnitude of the disaster as well as the likelihood, that matters.

Thus, I can accept annual plane crashes and a coal-mine collapse every decade because the resultant disaster is, as sad as it is to say, relatively minor when compared to the unimaginable horrors of a complete nuclear meltdown reaching groundwater. So NO, "no risk at all" is not my criteria. High risk with low magnitude would be fine and indeed we wouldn't be here talking about nuclear today if it were the case that nuclear were relatively innocuous.

Please, ad hominem attacks like saying I suffer from some psychological disease do not further whatever legitimate arguments one may possess in favor of nuclear power; instead, they weaken fair opposition by allying it implicitly with those who appeal to violence as a means to their ends. Please do not resort to violence in such crucial times as these.

Thank you for carefully considering my thoughts as I do those I read here.

I agree that the concept of risk is strongly related to probability. And cognitive dissonance is part of the human condition, not a psychological disease. It just struck me that in one sentence you were saying A!=B and in the next A=B.

No, you (perhaps both?) are just misunderstanding the basic concept of risk. It =

(probability of an accident occurring) x (expected damage in case of accident)

Or in gambling terms--odds times stakes.

The problem with nuclear power is that the stakes are so enormous that--even if there are relatively low odds of an accident occurring at any one plant in any one year--when they do occur, they can be totally catastrophic. And over enough time (and these things have to be actively and competently managed to stay safe basically forever), the probability approaches 100% that some combination of events will bring about a major failure.

It is the classic Damocles sword situation--the probability of the thread breaking in any given moment is low, but the likelihood that it will eventually break is essentially certain and then the consequences are fatal. This is not a kind of risk most of us would be willing to take in any other area of our lives, but somehow we have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, and bullied into it.

"The problem with nuclear power is that the stakes are so enormous that--even if there are relatively low odds of an accident occurring at any one plant in any one year--when they do occur, they can be totally catastrophic."

This is key to the fundamental disconnect we are experiencing. Nuclear proponents simply don't believe that nuclear accidents are "that bad."

Remember, we are being told, over and over, that relatively minimal mortality and morbidity resulted from Chernobyl. We have seen the radiation hormesis conjecture bandied about, in support of the notion that low dose radiation isn't very harmful. And so on.

Very well-organized efforts, supported by individuals and entities with ties to the nuclear industry, are underway, with the goal of undermining the LNT model, for the purpose of making nuclear technology more profitable--simply by spending less on preventing public, worker, and environmental exposure to radiation and radionuclide contamination.

As we can see here, they have a foot firmly in the door.

"Very well-organized efforts, supported by individuals and entities with ties to the nuclear industry, are underway, with the goal of undermining the LNT model, for the purpose of making nuclear technology more profitable--simply by spending less on preventing public, worker, and environmental exposure to radiation and radionuclide contamination.

As we can see here, they have a foot firmly in the door."


RIGHT - that is why 25 years later - no one can eat the radiated wild boar around Chernobyl. Governments PAY HUNTERS NOT TO HUNT - -

Nuclear is and always will be INSANE!

Profit first is killing humans - generationally.

I don't know about that. Even Chernobyl didn't kill all that many people. Fewer than the Bhopal industrial disaster, for instance. Those that were killed died due to incredible incompetence on the part of the clean up crews. Had they avoided drinking locally grown milk for even 3 months, the deaths due to that disaster would be in the double digits.

That is really the best you've got though. Wars over oil kill hundreds of thousands routinely, but the worst nuclear disaster in history, which is 10 times (or more) less bad is unacceptable.

I know you'll say something about a meltdown hitting groundwater, but seriously, you can't do any worse than Chernobyl. They really got that meltdown to be about as bad as it can possibly be.

Some truth in that and the same mistakes are being played out again. The evacuation zone should long ago have been widened and to think that people still in that zone will not get sick is fantasy.
The argument about risk is very important here.
The commonly used description of this in epidemiology is HAZARD
Hazard=probability of event x consequences of event

There are many emotive ways to look at the issue of nuclear power but the core argument just require simple logic. I also believe that the arguments are not too technical. Making that much land unproductive and uninhabital is impossible by any other means (apart from perhaps vast chemical contamination with a persistent agent) That places the measure of hazard on a different rank to other human activities.
Taking the above calculation, it does indeed mean that the hazard is larger unless the risk is effectively 0 (I would probably accept 0.0000001%).
the Nuclear industry had demonstrated that it cannot achieve this standard. I believe they genuinely tried.
So, "never again" is an appropriate motto.
Never again to waste time,effort and resources in building a plant that could be used to build up renewable energy supply.
Never again to justifying civilian reactors because they have a military purpose.
Never again to be negligent of the waste created by an industry so that we can avoid making the hard decisions about he true cost of the clean up.
Never again to corporatising profits while socializing risk.

Slap, this pile of hot, cooking isotopes is going to keep cooking in perpetuity. It will continue releasing steam as long as we have to continue the cooling, since many of the sources are now "fresh air" exposed. Reports suggest that the garden hose-release steam, wash, rinse, and repeat will continue for months or even years until a coffin can be fixed. Even then, there is no solution to the groundwater and ocean releases, which will probably also continue for eons. All the while this process of isotope deposition is cumulative. The land and ocean around the plant will continue to get hotter and hotter as this cooks. This is the difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima, and why Fukushima is going to be much, much worse, IMO.

Chernobyl was one single explosion over land, with no continuing releases into the air (no marine releases) to get into the food chain. The heroic effort to sequester the contamination from air distribution and create a large exclusion zone which will be permanently off limits made it a discrete event. This disaster in Fukushima will just keep getting worse and worse as more and more radionuclides are released to be spread by wind and water over the years. The problem here is the need to keep spraying this with a garden hose, thus creating a continual distribution to the food chain to bioaccumulate. As long as we're pouring water on this thing, the entire globe is getting doused with radionuclides via steam, potential explosions, and ocean currents.

Edit to add: And there are reportedly 25-30X as much radioactive fuel at Fukushima as there was in Chernobyl to power the ongoing reactions into eternity. Contamination equals dose, distance, and duration.

While I agree with you that Fukushima's full effects haven't been felt yet, it's not clear to me that the long-term consequences will be worse than Chernobyl. For all that it's a monumental clusterf*ck, the Fukushima incident has managed to avoid setting fire to the fuel. As a result, Fukushima's radioactive emissions have mostly been short-lived, volatile isotopes like cesium and iodine, rather than dangerous nonvolatiles like strontium-90 and long-lived actinides, and the total amount of radioactivity released may be much smaller -- jury's still out on that.

It's the difference between being handed a plastic bag full of sewage with a pinhole in it, and a plastic bag full of sewage with a cherry bomb in it.

It's the difference between being handed a plastic bag full of sewage with a pinhole in it, and a plastic bag full of sewage with a cherry bomb in it.

The continued pinhole size of the hole in the plastic bag is only maintained by some firemen standing by with glorified garden hoses. The minute the firemen stop spraying the field, we've got cherry bombs, and the longer we wait, the bigger the boom. How long can those firemen stand by the hoses?

As long as it takes.

Put yourself in that position, would you back down before the job was done?

R4ndom, this is a hopeless battle. Radiation exposure and contamination is dictated by dose, distance, and duration. If anyone within 100km of Fukushima is listening, please get out of there.

no dose = time+distance+shielding

The levels are decreasing.

What levels are decreasing? Where?

How long is the trend to which you refer and what does it look like on a graph?

And citations, please.


Graphs, since you asked for them, showing point monitoring of radioactivity levels in towns and cities around the Fukushima plant. The worst-affected place being monitored in this series of reports is Iiwate village just outside the 20km evacuation zone which got press coverage a couple of weeks back because of some hot-spots found soon after the reactor releases. It's down from over 40uSv/h at peak to about 5uSv/h yesterday. Only places in Fukushima prefecture are over 1uSv/h and many places such as Daigo and Nakagawa about 100km from the Daiichi plant are recording close to the natural background level now.

There was a significant rise in recorded radiation on the 20-21st March in cities to the south of the plant -- I presume this was due to a wind shift. In other places the decay curve continued pretty much unabated and in all cases the trend is downwards.

My hypothesis is that there are no significant airborne releases of radioactive materials happening now and haven't been for some time. There is a lot of fallout, especially on-site at the plant where the ground, buildings etc. are contaminated by debris from the steam releases and the outer containment destruction of the reactors. The major radiation releases were from volatile elements and chemical compounds such as iodine and cesium, the less-volatile materials such as plutonium and strontium mostly stayed in the reactors.

The radiation on-site is decaying -- no graphs that I've found but the JAIF reports list monitored readings at the Daiichi site on a daily basis. The trend is generally downward for locations at the plant boundary reported regularly. Here's a sample of some numbers I've collected via cut-and-paste from the JAIF pdfs:

The Main Gate: 264.6μSv/h at 06:00, Mar. 22			
The Main Gate: 254.8μSv/h at 13:30, Mar. 22			
The Main Gate: 277.5μSv/h at 15:30, Mar. 22			
The Main Gate: 229.35μSv/h at 7:00, Mar. 23			
The Main Gate: 226.8μSv/h at 11:10, Mar. 23			
The Main Gate: 265.4μSv/h at 15:00, Mar. 23			
The Main Gate: 212.8μSv/h at 06:00, Mar. 24			
The Main Gate: 209.4μSv/h at 12:00, Mar. 24			
The Main Gate: 202.0μSv/h at 21:00, Mar. 24			
The Main Gate: 193.8μSv/h at 06:00, Mar. 25			
The Main Gate: 259.0μSv/h at 11:00, Mar. 25			

170.3μSv/h at the main gate at  08:00, Mar. 26			
170.7μSv/h at the main gate at  11:00, Mar. 26

{skip a few days}

94μSv/h at the Main gate as of 15:00, Apr. 8th

86μSv/h at the Main gate as of 15:00, Apr. 9th

There is one location within the plant where some time-series recording of radiation levels has been reported in these pdfs, a location only described as "the south side of the office building". Here's a few numbers from that location (not complete as the earlier pdfs were not consistently listing this result). Note that the reported values here are in in mSv/h, that is milliSieverts/h and not microSieverts/h as in most off-site and boundary reports.

1.05mSv/h at the south side of the office builiding as of 09:00, Mar. 30th

0.94mSv/h at the south side of the office builiding as of 21:00, Mar. 31st

0.73mSv/h at the south side of the office building as of 21:00, Apr. 5th.

0.65mSv/h at the south side of the office building as of 15:00, Apr. 8th

10km across the bay to the south is the Daini nuclear power plant which has its own monitoring equipment which has been recording higher than normal levels, almost entirely due to the fallout from the Daiichi plant. It too showed an increase on the 21st March to a high of 26uSv/hr but since then the radiation levels have been falling steadily and the most recent report is 3.0uSv/h as of 15:00 local time on the 8th April.

There was a significant rise in recorded radiation on the 20-21st March in cities to the south of the plant -- I presume this was due to a wind shift. In other places the decay curve continued pretty much unabated and in all cases the trend is downwards.

The spike on the 21st was likely an undocumented release from unit 3 (containment pressure rose on the 20th and abruptly declined). The character was similar to the spike on the 15th and unlike the small fluctuations related to wind shifts and precipitation:


There has been no official explanation for the spike and it may be that TEPCO doesn't know what was happening at this time.

[page link to reactor stats down at this time - likely will be back up later or after the weekend]

unit stats

If I can anticipate the response to your post: "External dose is not the same as contamination."

This data indicates that short-term harm is probably not too serious, but the long-term harm comes from breathing and ingesting long-lived isotopes. We do not yet have good data on soil contamination.

However, the fact that the external dose is decreasing with an absolutely *perfect* 8-day half-life suggests that the dominant source of radiation here is I-131, which is a hopeful sign for the future.

I know you are sincere, and I appreciate that you've taken the time to extract the reported levels. However, none of it seems particularly indicative of the overall situation.

First, as has been pointed out repeatedly, measurements of airborne radiation will vary widely simply because of wind patterns, terrain, etc. Reports over a relatively short period tell us little.

The radionuclides scattered about the site are, of course, decaying. However, except for those with the very shortest half-lives, not at a rate that would result in significant reductions of radiations in the air over a few days. It seems much more likely that activities like bulldozing layers of soil over the debris are the major contributing factors to those readings. And the wind, of course, even on-site.

It will take a much longer period than has so far elapsed to gather and collate meaningful data. It will require widespread, systematic monitoring of air, soil, water, flora, fauna... And it will take the honest and open sharing of the collected data by the authorities, something we have definitely not seen to date (from, e.g., either the Japanese or the Americans).

Meanwhile, the links to crowd-sourced radiation measurements Iaato has provided are quite interesting.

On-the-ground measurements of radiation levels at various points around Fukushima are available as daily PDFs at the MEXT website although they are simple date&time/exposure tables. They're not provided in any sort of a series of graphs plotted against time. Here's a link to the tables:


The recent daily results are compiled from over sixty radiation monitoring stations in the area around Fukushima; I think they're fixed locations, established after the incident started as they all lie outside the 20km exclusion zone. Earlier pdfs from mid-March have fewer stations listed. As of today 9th April the highest reading on the list is 53uSv/h, just on the 20km border from the plant to the north-west. The other double-digit readings are in the same direction in a cluster about 30km from the plant. All other readings are single digits or less.

If there are any data-mining wizards out that who could hack the pdfs into plots of radiation levels against time for various locations and/or other useful charts (zones?) then the data is there waiting for you to use it.

There is a good chance most or all these detectors are calibrated or at least somewhat accurate, not something to be taken for granted when reading data from a crowd-sourcing operation.

"As of today 9th April the highest reading on the list is 53uSv/h, just on the 20km border from the plant to the north-west."

So, annualized, not quite ten times the usual limit for nuclear workers.

And ignoring, soil, water, plants, livestock, etc.

Two weeks ago that location had a reading of over 80uSv/h compared to the latest reported value (47.5uSv/h as of 10:02 local time 9th April) so at that rate of decline it will be below the nuclear plant employee annual exposure limit level in less than three months and it will continue to fall after that of course. Just over 20km west of the Daiichi plant, a similar distance but not in the same direction as that high reading point today's reading is 0.4uSv/h which is about 3% of the maximum employee (11uSv/hr = 100mSv/yr) exposure.

In reality and without cherrypicking the data this table shows there are hotspots and elevated levels of radioactivity all over the place. The readings vary depending on weather and temperature and general randomness -- I've yet to see any error bars on the readings which are typically given to a decimal place. What can be understood from the time-domain information in these tables is that the radiation levels are going down as one would expect in a situation where no more substantial release of radioactive material from the reactors is occurring, at least into the atmosphere where decay products can be deposited on land. The spike in readings on or around the 20th-21st March is anomalous and has not been repeated as far as I can see. I'd like to know why that spike happened myself but I don't think anyone knows exactly what happened with any degree of certainty yet.

No question the workers have caught the tiger by the tail (man, it's metaphor night!) but I believe that running away is the worst possible option. This tiger gets less dangerous over time, not more, according to the inexorable laws of radioactive decay, and it's not yet too hot in there to make work impossible.

I'm watching the red towers signifying radiation grow tonight on Pachube as the winds die down over Japan.

And here's some confirmation for what I've said tonight.


Those radiation towers are well south of Fukushima. He will need to adjust the scale soon. I think

according to the inexorable laws of radioactive decay

What do you mean? Radioactive decay says that heat is going to be generated, which leaves open the door that the temperature will be going up.

All radioactive sources have a half life, which is the time it takes for half of a given source to decay.

After one half life the intensity of the source is also halved.

For a given quantity of radioactive material, the shorter the half life the more intense the radiation but the quicker the intensity declines.

This is why radiation from the more intense sources is less of a long term threat, as after 10 half lives it is reduced to under a thousandth of it's original intensity.

Obviously, sources with long half lives that start at a dangerous level are dangerous for far longer.

"Fukushima's radioactive emissions have mostly been short-lived, volatile isotopes like cesium and iodine, rather than dangerous nonvolatiles like strontium-90 and long-lived actinides, and the total amount of radioactivity released may be much smaller -- jury's still out on that."

Surely you didn't mean to imply that 131I isn't dangerous, or that 137Cs is either safe or short-lived. Did you?

We don't have any disagreements on the role of radioactive iodine in thyroid cancers or the thirty year half-life of cesium 137, I'm pretty sure. And we just reviewed the metabolism of Cs here, fairly thoroughly.

I know you actually know this, but in case some don't:

As of 2005, caesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the zone of alienation around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Together with caesium-134, iodine-131, and strontium-90, caesium-137 was among the isotopes, distributed by the reactor explosion, which constitute the greatest risk to health.


If Wiki is insufficiently authoritative, I can go to the "real" literature, but that won't be necessary, right?

And the jury can't even be empaneled, yet, on the total amount of radioactivity, and contamination, and concentrations thereof. It looks like it may take a rather long time even to conduct discovery in this matter.

No, 131I and 137Cs are both dangerous. But 131I has an 8-day half-life, so it stops being dangerous pretty quickly, while 137Cs is flushed out of the body in a few weeks or months once exposure stops.

90Sr, on the other hand, lingers in bone for years or decades, making it considerably nastier on a per-becquerel basis.


And when I referred to 137Cs as "short-lived", I meant in contrast to the actinides, which stick around for tens of thousands of years or more.

And the jury can't even be empaneled, yet, on the total amount of radioactivity, and contamination, and concentrations thereof. It looks like it may take a rather long time even to conduct discovery in this matter.

I absolutely agree. I was responding to Iaato's post, which had rendered a verdict and proceeded to sentencing.

"137Cs is flushed out of the body in a few weeks or months once exposure stops"

But as Iaato's link above indicates, exposure may not stop for months.

I really do wonder why some seem to be trying so desperately to sugar coat this very grim situation.

For god's sake, quit pulling individual sentences out of my arguments and using them to brand me a rabid pro-nuclear zealot.

137Cs is bad. 131I is bad. Fukushima is bad. But the question we're addressing here is, can we say for sure it'll be worse than Chernobyl? I say we can't tell, because while Fukushima is ongoing, Chernobyl caused dangers not seen at Fukushima.

Why is there no room in this forum for skeptical agnosticism?

Sorry, I didn't know the title of the thread was "Let's compare Fukushima with Chernobyl."

As to agnosticism, as I recall that has something to do with acknowledging what we don't know.

One of the things we don't know is how long this thing is going to go on spewing all sorts of really nasty isotopes...

I hope and pray that all such emissions stop tomorrow, but that prospect is just not looking promising.

So let's stop minimizing probably exposures by assuming what we cannot know and what seems to be have a vanishingly small chance of taking place--it is very unlikely that the regions adjacent to the plant will be enjoying an environment free of exposures to radioactive isotopes for the foreseeable future.

To my mind suggesting otherwise is not being a "skeptical agnostic" but is rather painting a very rosy picture of the future that is not based on anything but wishful thinking.

But perhaps I'm missing something. If so, please do correct my misunderstanding.

Sorry, I didn't know the title of the thread was "Let's compare Fukushima with Chernobyl. ... But perhaps I'm missing something. If so, please do correct my misunderstanding.

You may be missing the tone of the thread at the point I entered it.

Slaphappy: "you can't do any worse than Chernobyl."

Iato: points out how this *could* prove worse than Chernobyl. And he could be right. But he follows that up with: "This is the difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima, and why Fukushima is going to be much, much worse, IMO."

I replied with reasons why he might be wrong about that.

So let's stop minimizing probably exposures by assuming what we cannot know and what seems to be have a vanishingly small chance of taking place--


--it is very unlikely that the regions adjacent to the plant will be enjoying an environment free of exposures to radioactive isotopes for the foreseeable future.

Agree. But how big an area, and how long into the future, compared to Chernobyl? As Kalliergo says, "the jury can't even be empaneled, yet."

Simple - because there are many more fuel rods than Chernobyl.
- because after the 9.1 quake - with many aftershocks of 6.0+ - and the big one a few days ago of 7.1 --- IT WILL NEVER, NEVER, NEVER --- BE STABLE ENOUGH FOR NUKES.

Hypothysis, risk factors, words on a page - do not take into account PEOPLE and SAFETY FOR GENERATIONS - all for greed and short term profit -- at everyone elses expense?

Come on! Get real and get moving on true alternate energy programs - which DO deprive GE and others of their sacred "monthly rent" -- as it is harder to take their rents if the system is de-centralized.

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

EDIT : After posting , seeing my question is superfluous by your answers to similar questions ,

so disregard the following ...


Strontium-90 and cesium-137 are the radioisotopes which should be most closely guarded against release into the environment. They both have intermediate halflives of around 30 years, which is the worst range for half-lives of radioactive contaminants. It ensures that they are not only highly radioactive but also have a long enough halflife to be around for hundreds of years. Strontium-90 mimics the properties of calcium and is taken up by living organisms and made a part of their electrolytes as well as deposited in bones. As a part of the bones, it is not subsequently excreted like cesium-137 would be. It has the potential for causing cancer or damaging the rapidly reproducing bone marrow cells.
Strontium-90 is not quite as likely as cesium-137 to be released as a part of a nuclear reactor accident because it is much less volatile, but is probably the most dangerous component of the radioactive fallout from a nuclear weapon.

died due to incredible incompetence on the part of the clean up crews

This is just rude.


The debate about how many people got killed by Chernobyl is still going on.

But some victims of radiation maybe better off dead.....watch this.



ad hominem attacks like saying I suffer from some psychological disease

Cognitive dissonance is not a disease; there is no DSM-IV billing code for it. It's perfectly normal.

"the consequences of nuclear contamination are so great that the expected outcome is too great to bear if the probability of such an event is nonzero. "

But yet you find the certainty of death by coal to be acceptable?


48 dead in the US last year, and 2433 in China. And don't forget the 29 dead in New Zealand, a place not usually considered a coal mining mecca.


If you want to end coal mining too, then you will have to start figuring out the excess deaths caused by the lack of electricity. By the way, solar power isn't death-free either.

There is some difference in my mind between people killed in a mining operation who choose to work there and get paid for doing it... and the general public being exposed to radiation after accidents whether they were in favor of nuclear power or not. Additionally coal mining disasters are at least limited to one-time events and not potential problems on into the future.

In fact not only does the general public not get paid to work for the industry, be we support it in numerous ways which shield the industry from market forces.

Interestingly in forums other than this I've noted that a lot of pro-nuke people are also of the opinion that workplaces like coal mines are over-regulated by government. The accidents suggest to me they might be underregulated, but this is not an area I'm familiar enough in.

Mines are naturally dangerous places, the problem isn't so much that the mines are underregulated though, it is that corporations are underregulated. The actual regulations are good, compliance is spotty because the consequences tend to be inconsequential.

Frankly, every officer of a corporation in a position to stop a major violation that does not do so should be barred from holding a position of responsibility in any corporation for at least a decade.

"the consequences of nuclear contamination are so great that the expected outcome is too great to bear if the probability of such an event is nonzero. "

I also disagree with this. The consequences of nuclear contamination are serious, but not infinite. Decisions are never made in isolation: we're always weighing two alternatives against each other. The alternatives to nuclear -- coal, oil, even renewables -- involve a finite hazard, so we should *consider* nuclear as a possibility, despite the finite risk.

We may reject it after comparing the risks, but it cannot be instantly disqualified unless it poses a universal existential threat -- I believe it does not.

As member h2 has said, nuclear power has not been brought online INSTEAD of coal, oil, but in ADDITION to these, making the argument moot. As much coal-fired electrical generation as the resource permits is still being constructed, especially in China.

I disagree. Can't speak for China, but in the US we could pull coal out of the ground a lot faster if we wanted to. As for plant capacity, I took a class to visit a local nuclear plant and a coal power plant two years ago. On the days I visited, the nuke plant was at full capacity, while the coal plant was only running two of its four units.

Should nuclear energy go away, coal has the capacity to substitute for it in the short term. Renewables are currently nowhere close: if we want to use them, we're going to have to get off our asses in a big BIG way.

(And that, by the way, is my hidden agenda: not to promote a business-as-usual complacency, but to insist that we think about renewables on a colossally bigger scale.)

"It brings great shame upon us that our children will live in a world where we gave them such a tremendous burden only so that we could fund our own trivial pursuits"

Yes indeed.

What is so important about what we are doing... that all the other animals are sacrificed and our own future's birthright squandered?

In America we send our children to kill other people's children so we can steal their oil so we can drive to work and sell each other Chinese made goods then drive home to sit in-front of our video screen and escape into a world of unreality.

America is like a whore with pus running out of her...
And she's got a gun
There isn't anything you want from her anymore
But she's gonna make sure you pay

We went to the moon as a public relations stunt...
then walked away. "What foolishness to go into space
when the real money is made fighting wars and selling junk"
are the goals that illuminated our path.

And to this great end we consume more than anyone.
And we've now taught this lesson around the world.


You are welcome to remove these words.
They shame me.

Nuclear power has shown the reality of radiation exposures to the public, and the public is rightfully fearful. I am in the camp that believes there is NO safe dose of radiation. The problem with simple Yes/NO answers is that it is hard to fit nuclear power radiation exposures into the radiation exposures we get every day, which most of the public is unaware of.

What puzzles me is this same public, that fears nuclear power, appears to take the risks of radioactive radon in the air we breath everyday without fear. It seems inconsistent.

The buildup of radioactive radon in 1 of every 15 homes in the USA is causing an estimated 21,000 deaths a year due to lung cancer according to the EPA. One can be a non-smoker and get lung cancer too. In fact radioactive radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Radioactive radon seeps out of the ground due to naturally occurring radioactive minerals in our soils. In many areas of the country radioactive radon seeps into basements and houses above the danger levels of 4 picoCuries/liter, where the risk of getting lung cancer is equal to the risk of being killed in an auto accident according to these charts in links below.

Here is the link to the EPA's site on "A Citizen's guide to radon":


Charts at this link below show that average indoor radon levels of 1.3 picoCuries/liter statistically would cause about 2 non smokers per 1000 to get lung cancer each year. Outside air averages 0.4 picoCuries/liter so your lung cancer risk is still not zero.


My post is not that nuclear power is completely safe, but I would think that there should be more public fear and call to action about publicizing the risks of radon and fixing this problem. Reducing indoor radioactive radon levels to safer levels (but not absolutely SAFE levels) is a common solution. Testing the home for radioactive radon is the first step.

Putting the risks of nuclear power into the same context as risks from radioactive radon in our air is needed perspective.

The fact that many (most?) people don't even know about their risks from radioactive radon in their homes is what bothers me in this nuclear debate. So when experts say that the radiation reaching the USA in our water and milk from Japan is "safe", they are misleading us. However, when radiation levels are thousands of times less than the radioactive radon we all breath everyday anyway, it is hard to say any added risk of cancer is statistically measurable.

same people would buy a granite counter top filled with uranium or buy power made from coal which dump tons of thorium into the air each year.

I am skeptical that uranium in granite counter tops constitutes a health hazard. Uranium has such a long half-life, that the rate of natural decay can't be very high. I assume that the danger from depleted uranium comes from its being pulverized into dust on impact, and also from chemical toxicity.

"Natural" unrefined uranium and thorium in materials like granite come with all the decay products of hundreds of millions of years (and a few fission products too) entombed with the parent radioactive elements. When the stone is cut and dressed those small amounts of radioactive materials escape into the atmosphere and the local environment. Some decay and fission products close to the finished surface emit radiation directly into the environment, hence the ability of a modern detector to make a significant reading of radiation levels if pointed at a shiny granite worktop.

Radon is also a problem at coal power plants, but it is permitted under the ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle. Coal is delivered to a power station as lumps but it is crushed into a powder form, usually in ball mills before it is blown into the furnaces mixed with air to be burnt producing heat, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, mercury vapour, fly ash etc. The crushing operation releases radon trapped within the coal lumps and this is vented to the air to be dispersed by dilution. The coal station operators can't do anything about the radon so the legally permitted level is set higher than the expected releases rather than being limited due to the amount of damage it does in normal day-to-day operations. The alternative would be to shut down the coal-fired power generating industry as a widespread health hazard which isn't going to happen because we need the electricity.

Numbers please?

I am skeptical that uranium in granite counter tops constitutes a health hazard

Me too. My physics department just ordered a geiger counter, and I've got granite-tile countertops in my kitchen. I'll do a little experiment next week and let you know the result.

Granite is VERY variable. Try your local counter top maker (not shop) or the local grave stone maker. Either of those may have a good range of samples to try.


I am skeptical that uranium in granite counter tops constitutes a health hazard.

Of course. Though apparently it's not quite impossible.

“He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman, a pediatrician. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen, which had richly grained cream, brown and burgundy granite countertops. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house.
The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day. In Dr. Sugarman’s kitchen, the readings were 100 picocuries per liter. In her basement, where radon readings are expected to be higher because the gas usually seeps into homes from decaying uranium underground, the readings were 6 picocuries per liter.

Aberdeen in my native Scotland is often referred to as the Granite City. I remember the claim being made years ago that no nuclear power plant could ever be built and licenced near Aberdeen because the radiation levels present in the local area would exceed the permitted emissions from the plant even before it was ever loaded with fuel and brought on stream. There are other areas in Britain which have similarly high natural background radiation levels such as the south-west of England where there are many old tin and lead mineworkings, some of them dating back to the days of the Phoenicians.

Refractory brick, firebrick, is radioactive:

Gamma rays inside brick or stone buildings
30-500 mRem/year
1500-24,000 cancers per year IF EVERYone in U.S lived in them

Yellow and orange tile:
"coated in a uranium-based glaze"

"yellow onyx tiles, no radiation.We have our Own honey onyx mines"

Radioactive machine tools:

"On a side note, I was in a machinery dealer in Cleve, and a furnace broker walked in with a gieger counter. He was waving it into each oven he was interested in.

Some of the older refractory lining is quite radioactive, but a different kind of radiation. (the kind unable to penetrate the skin, but inhaling the dust would still be very bad).

Edit: Oilfield welders tell me that all the metal involved (surface tanks for brine, well casing, pipepline) is all "hot" and wait awhile before scrapping out."
"I know in the packer repair business, they repair packers and run them back into the well they came out of, contaminated or not. They all have their piles of steel that the recyclers will not take. Same story in the surface equipment business."

--> "Don't try to get one of those old civil defense "Geiger Counters" off ebay. They measure minimally in REM, or in other words, kill you in a few hours type of levels. The levels a contaminated machine would likely be a couple orders of magnitude lower, in millirem(mR), or microrem(uR). At minimum survey meter with a pancake GM probe would required to quantify any contamination."

"Speaking of radioactive materials, I have heard countless times that thoriated TIG welding electrodes are radioactive. We regularly sharpen 2% thoriated electrodes on a belt sander."

Granite with radiation reference:

Granite counter-tops and radiation:

nice date - could we stay on topic? Stop with dividing and distracting.

STAY ON TOPIC - Nuclear is not the answer. Nukes still need 10+ years - billions of dollars to de-commission + WHERE TO PUT THE HOT WASTE?

THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO DO THIS RIGHT - Nukes have proven - they are not IT.

Alternate energy + building retrofits work. Get used to it.

•"brutes have risen to power, but they lie!" Charlie Chaplin

I am very upset too.
Everyday reveals evil.
Those who can see and express it will be the first to be purged.
It is called a decapitation attack. It is common in revolutions.
I can only imagine these venues offer a handy list.
Is exploring the minutia and ramifications as distraction too much?
Or does it support and render perspective to the knowledge gained.
The problem under discussion reaches into every aspect of modern life.
It is a reverberation of similar problems faced by fallen civilizations of the past. And it's fun.


time to double down on nukes.

These rectors are Old designs.

I think the public is largely unaware of issues such as radon or granite-table-top radiation. Therefore they cannot be "inconsistent" with their beliefs as regards to them.

Also radon is an inevitable natural phenomenon if you build on certain soil types. Here is Finland we have granite (uranium containing) base rock, and specially in my home town of Tampere we have a large pile of granite sand dumped by the passing glacial melt couple of dozen millenia ago. The whole place basically reeks of radon gas. In Finland we have construction regulations dealing with measuring the radon as well how to construct over it: basically the regulations demand certain type of sealing to the foundations and or ventilation - free or machine assisted. Radon exposure is the largest single source of radiation exposure in Finland.

Yet the comparison between radon exposure and risk caused by contamination by fallout from a possible nuclear incident is problematic in several ways:

Radon is basically an inevitable 'natural' harm we can only try to mitigate. It is also very limited in its consequence. The EPA figure sounds plausible. If you had such regulations and implemented them you might perhaps take that down to 10%. Still a lot of people dying though...

However for the nuclear power we have other non-polluting alternatives. Obviously many would disagree but I think this is an ongoing debate still. Only time will tell.

However it is the consequences where the comparison fails most critically: for a nuclear incident, the potential damage is almost "unlimited": it can render large areas uninhabitable for decades, even whole countries or parts of continents potentially. And in the process expose millions of people. Such an incident could seriously damage the whole of civilization for generations, as well as tilt any 'cost-benefit' calculation on its head as regards to electricity price or quality factors.

The district of Fukushima where the plant is has a population of more than two million for example. And the districts north of Tokyo now under harms way amount to much of the domestic food production that Tokyo relies on. Therefore the balance of risk formula - a kind of 'threshold model' - suggested by human conscience above, would suggest that we cannot use nuclear and should instead put all our effort, however expensive and technically challenging, on renewables (as well as efficiency and lowering consumption).

I believe realistically we cannot do this under the status-quo (where the nuclear option would shine). Getting by with just renewables will require large changes to the way western lifestyles work. But that is not a technical problem. It's a political and ultimately a human problem. I mean there is no law of physics stopping us there in that front.

OK, I'll bite.

"Can an event resulting in the release of radioactive contamination occur in the future?" Actually, it can occur in the present, and does every time a coal power plant operates at all. Our use of fossil fuels has bombarded us with far, far more radioactive fallout than nuclear power has. More importantly, think about what you're saying. If your primary concern is to minimize the exposure of radiation to the human race, the natural actions to take would be some combination of these.

1) Eliminate coal power.
2) Force people to abandon Denver, and move to sea level.
3) Abolish air travel.
4) Everyone must sleep alone (humans are radioactive, you know...).
5) No more light bulbs (Tungsten filaments), no more smoke detectors (radiation sources used internally), no more propane lanterns (Thorium lantern mantles).
6) No more granite used in construction of buildings.
923827) Abolish nuclear power.

Radiation is all around you, it is important to put things in perspective.

For example, it is not terribly rare for common well water (yes, drinking water) in the US to contain up to 10,000 becquerels per liter of Radon. The most radioactive fish found in the sea off of Japan is about 40% of that level, and people freak like it's the end of the world. Fact is, the workers at the plant are only alive because they worked at the plant, and it was hardened against the Tsunami. There have been no reports of radioactivity killing anyone yet, nor are there likely to be any in the future. So, what's the problem? A catastrophic disaster that killed nobody.

The problem here is the incredible double standard. Coal, oil, natural gas, automobiles, airplanes, trains, all of these things are allowed to kill a few thousand (or for coal, a few hundred thousand) people per year with no complaints. For nuclear, however, it is a different standard. Anything that raises the possibility that it might cause any sort of problem, even one that kills nobody, is totally unacceptable. Nuclear is beaten down when its worst disasters kill fewer people than are killed routinely by any of these other things in an average year! There is no rational basis upon which your religious hatred for nuclear power can be based. By any measure (people killed, radiation released, etc....) it is one of the safest industries on the planet, accidents included.

Anyway, you might get your wish. We'll phase out nuclear, ramp up coal, and Miami will disappear beneath the waves at about the same time coral goes extinct. It doesn't have to be that way, but thanks to common stupidity, that's what we're going to get. Thanks. Glad you're there to look out for us.

No, you don't bite-- you don't even bark.

You're whining. As well you should, because there are some very, very big dogs in this yard.

Many of us want to live in a very, very different kind of world than you do. We do not think science will stop advancing if population and personal energy consumption crashes, and we're going to make damn sure that's the future our species is going to inherit.

It may be impossible to prove exactly which cancer deaths, still births, and genetic deformities are directly attributable to ionising radiation.

I have a pretty severe mutation myself, actually-- and of course, I will never know what caused it. So I think my, er, level of commitment and investment in this issue might be a bit greater than yours, perhaps.

Anyone who has taken high school physics knows almost nothing rips apart DNA (and the structure of matter itself, as someone here pointed out) as efficiently as radiation.

"There seems to be a never-ending cabal of paid industry scientific ''consultants'' who are more than willing to state the fringe view that low doses of ionising radiation do not cause cancer and, indeed, that low doses are actually good for you and lessen the incidence of cancer. Canadian Dr Doug Boreham has been on numerous sponsored tours of Australia by Toro Energy, a junior uranium explorer, expounding the view that "low-dose radiation is like getting a suntan"...

Ionising radiation is a known carcinogen. This is based on almost 100 years of cumulative research including 60 years of follow-up of the Japanese atom bomb survivors. The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC, linked to the World Health Organisation) classifies it as a Class 1 carcinogen, the highest classification indicative of certainty of its carcinogenic effects.

In 2006, the US National Academy of Sciences released its Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (VII) report, which focused on the health effects of radiation doses at below 100 millisieverts. This was a consensus review that assessed the world's scientific literature on the subject at that time. It concluded: ". . . there is a linear dose-response relationship between exposure to ionising radiation and the development of solid cancers in humans. It is unlikely that there is a threshold below which cancers are not induced."

Peter Karamoskos
April 8, 2011
(via enenews)

You're countering an argument that slaphappy is not making. We're all aware that radiation is dangerous: slaphappy is questioning the *relative* danger of nuclear power vs its alternatives.

I don't take either side in this debate, but it's annoying to see you talking past each other.

Yea, but he says that light bulbs are more dangerous than radiation

Alas, if I annoyed, I am nothing more than a whining cur myself! However, I had a different interpretation of SH's post. Mr. Happy does not seem to think radiation is dangerous, or not very dangerous. Trying to quote in context:

"There have been no reports of radioactivity killing anyone yet, nor are there likely to be any in the future. So, what's the problem? A catastrophic disaster that killed nobody."

My position is that credible research suggests this position is incorrect, and lots of people are going to die as a direct result of the radiation released from this accident.

You are correct that I did not engage with the relative danger of nuclear vs. its alternatives in detail. The alternative I mentioned briefly is reducing human population and reducing consumption, which could be accomplished quite effectively in a single generation. This would be a social solution more than a technological one, and the challenges would be enormous, but more manageable, I think, than any solution that assumes static or increasing levels of population and consumption.

I was surprised to see plutonium-238 is used to power pacemakers. I did have some witty remarks regarding a fella with a heart of plutonium, but I decided I should show sensitivity and be thankful I haven't needed medical care of that nature.

Here is a link to the "Never Again" document on Scribd: NEVER AGAIN: An Essential Goal for Nuclear Safety.

If anyone finds a link to a PDF that doesn't require a fa$ebook account, please post it.

ETA: Here's a video purportedly (it looks authentic to me) from inside the exclusion zone that may (or may not) have been posted before.

Here is a link to a Tsunami warning written in stone like the Ten Commandments. What makes you think TPTB are going to listen to computer screen characters or a laser print?

Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors

MIYAKO, Japan - Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.

"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants," the stone slab reads. "Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point."

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan's northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

The markers don't all indicate where it's safe to build. Some simply stand -- or stood, until they were washed away by the tsunami -- as daily reminders of the risk. "If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis," reads one. In the bustle of modern life, many forgot.

"Do not build any homes below this point." That sounds a lot like the warnings we're going to post around whatever nuclear waste repository we finally build: "Danger! Nasty stuff! Don't dig here!". But those warnings will have to last tens, or hundreds, of thousands of years. Sure. That'll work.

And too bad the ancestors forgot to put on their sign, "Do not build any nuclear reactors below this point."

It was in stone.
XI Thou shalt not split the atom.
XII Thou shalt not unearth unstable matter.
Moses accidently dropped that tablet. And please do not knock my Roman numerals. If somones knows Ancient Hebrew fine, but where did the second set of tablets come from anyhow, BC Kinkos?

One ice age will eliminate surface markers.

"But those warnings will have to last tens, or hundreds, of thousands of years."

And remain interpretable for as many years.

Here is what English looked like a mere thousand years ago:

Hwaet we Gardena on geardagum
Theodcyninga thrym gefrunnon
Hu tha athelinga ellen fremedon...

(First 3 lines of "Beowulf" if memory serves--MS dated ~1000CE)

And here's a mere ~600 years ago:

Sithen the sege and assaut wats sesed at Troye
the burgh brittened and brent to brondes and askes
the tulk that the trammes of tresoun there wrought
wats tried for his tricherie the truest on erthe...

(First four lines of "Gawain and the Green Knight" iirc, ~1400 CE)

All languages change, and when society changes rapidly, as it almost surely will in the coming decades and centuries, language will likely change rapidly, too.

How do your write a message in a language that you can be sure will be understood forever. Even when we still have a good idea of what the letters likely stood for, many texts can remain virtually untranslatable to us.


afaik, gmta.

hahahee rotf lmao!

How to warn about radiation?

Carve the periodic table of the elements into stone. Since it is laid out based on physical principles, the concepts will persist assuming the laws of physic are invariant through out the ages. The atomic weight and atomic number will teach the base 10 number system.

Create stone cases and place samples of selected elements in them. Carve the symbol of the element on each case. Put Geiger counters in various cases. Even though they will likely be nonfuntional when discovered, maybe they can be reverse engineered and understood. Create a symbol for a Geiger counter, carve it into the stone cases containing them, and use the symbol in pictographs.

Carve a map of the cave into stone. Carve the elemental symbols into the map identifying where the radioactive stuff is located.

Carve the symbols for nuclear radiation into stone and show which isotopes emit which forms of radiation.

Draw pictographs showing which elements are safe and which are radioactive and deadly.

Define time elapsed since the cave was made using radioactive decay of uranium-238. Maybe a super durable clock could be created using uranium.

Warning without an explanation will pique curiosity and be ignored. An idiot with a case of dynamite will not be able to understand the message, but an archaeologist, scientist or engineer will.

All the equipment and element examples are scattered, horded, and used to make jewelry and talismans by the very first people who find them. The pictographs and rock carvings are obliterated as heresies or peeled from the walls and displayed in wealthy abodes, museums, or as side-show curiosities.

Sorry, but I think this is an example of thinking that is too centered on our current ideals and expressions..

The periodic table may harken to our model and our basic description of the physical world.. but a 'durable' message won't fit in a bottle that big.. it can't be a big physics or chemistry lesson.

Phonetic writing tends to follow changes in the way languages are spoken, although, since dictionaries, formal English orthography has given up on trying to follow phonetic changes.

But there are non-phonetic writing systems. Has Chinese writing changed as much?

Furthermore, if you put the repositories a couple kilometers deep in the rock of the Laurentian Shield, you may not need to warn populations very long. If we succeed in not warming the planet too much, it is only on the order of 10,000 years until the beginning of the next ice age. After that, for 100,000 years or more the repository will be covered by over a kilometer of ice, which should pretty much erase all surface evidence of the repository. Any civilization during the next warm period which is able to detect the entrance and unplug the shaft would also be able to understand what they are dealing with.

it is only on the order of 10,000 years until the beginning of the next ice age. After that, for 100,000 years or more the repository will be covered by over a kilometer of ice,

Clever. I like it.

The Japanese writing on the stone tablet that is mentioned is shown in the New York Times. I am a Japanese specialist, and I can tell you - it's very easy to read, even now. The characters are the same for "tsunami", and even the classicisms aren't enough to obscure the message.

There have been extensive reforms even in Japanese, characters have been simplified and the orthography has been modified slightly. On the other hand, old English isn't taught in high school, while classical Japanese IS taught in high school in Japan. I can read 1000 year old Japanese as long as it's not handwriting and not the classical Chinese used in Japan (I will have to learn that eventually). In Japan there are more people with my level of expertise or much greater levels.

These people didn't ignore the stones because they couldn't read them, and from what I understand not everyone ignored them either - in Aneyoshi they paid attention and the village was saved.

Wonder how many new stones will be set?

I hope many.


In a remote valley near my childhood home in Hawaii:

The "marker" referred to is a gray-and-yellow concrete post about 100 feet above sea level.

That looks like a piece of granite, doesn't it? Loaded with fissionable thorium and uranium, emitting neutrons spontaneously and undergoing a number of fission events per second...


"Oh, meltdown. It's one of those annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus."
-- Charles Montgomery Burns

This is a question I've thought about quite a bit. Dohboi is absolutely right that we can't expect any writing to remain comprehensible over tens of thousands of years, and we can't assume that any technological artifact or scientific code we leave behind will be comprehensible, because for all we know the people who dig it up could have lost all of our current scientific knowledge.

The goal is not to communicate danger to an advanced scientific civilization that follows us: they'll figure it out pretty quick. The challenge is to communicate the danger to a primitive society that doesn't know the periodic table from a calendar.

Various artists and thinkers have tackled this challenge over the years: my favorite proposal calls for a forest of giant concrete spikes sticking out of the ground, to convey the idea of danger emerging from the earth. This is totally the wrong approach. Today, ancient stoneworks like Stonehenge, the Pyramids, etc. are intriguing destinations for tourists. Future humans will probably be equally curious.

Here's my proposal: nothing proves a point more effectively than a lethal demonstration. So bury the waste in as durable a vault as you can make, but just above the vault, build a few small, obvious, easily-opened chambers. Inside each chamber is a small, beautifully-made necklace with a pendant. The pendant has a skull on one side, and our radiation symbol on the other. The pendant is made of a few grams of weapons-grade plutonium. (alternate idea: a big synthetic diamond made of pure carbon 14.)

Anyone who finds the vault will find the pendant. It won't take long before the person who wears it dies horribly. The pendant will migrate around in a primitive society, killing people now and then (it's a fantastic murder weapon), but it's small enough to kill individuals, not entire nations, and both the radiation symbol and the vault where the pendant came from will have a sinister reputation. People may return to the vault from time to time to see if they can find more beautiful but lethal artifacts, but they will know exactly what they're getting into.

If they are too primitive, then they will not be able to dig, cut and blast through the rock and concrete plug. Carve warnings into stone on both sides of the plug. Hopefully the ones who get past the plug will be smart enough to realize what they opened and reseal it, perhaps adding warnings in their language too.

Plutonium used in weapons is not particularly radioactive. During the manhanttan project, scientists routinely worked with subcritical masses of plutonium by hand.

Carbon 14 beta decays. A carbon 14 diamond might cause burns and might cause skin cancer later on, but not "It won't take long before the person who wears it dies horribly."

Yeah, I spent some time worrying about the best isotope to use, which is why I mentioned the C-14 diamond. Ideally you want a gamma emitter with a 5-10,000 year half-life. But the main point of my post is the general principle of the lethal warning shot, not the specific isotope to use.

Plutonium used in weapons is not particularly radioactive. During the manhanttan project, scientists routinely worked with subcritical masses of plutonium by hand.

It's an alpha emitter, so I'm willing to bet they wore gloves and washed up very carefully after touching it. Our future primitives won't be so careful.

Carbon 14 beta decays. A carbon 14 diamond might cause burns and might cause skin cancer later on, but not "It won't take long before the person who wears it dies horribly."

A pure 14C diamond would be a pretty massive beta emitter. A 10-carat 14C diamond next to your skin will deliver a whole-body dose of several sievert/day. Not all of that will penetrate the skin, but I think its effects will be noticeable. And don't sell the burns themselves short: from what I've read, many of the Chernobyl firefighters died not from classic radiation sickness but from infected beta burns coupled with a radiation-weakened immune system.

In any case, there are plenty of other options. Radium, for example, has a half-life that's a bit too short, but it's a classic.


Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. They are kept in lead-lined boxes.
As a gift for her scientific discoveries, Marie was presented with a pendant containing radium.

So Marie Curie, a brilliant scientist who worked with the stuff and probably knew more than or as much as anyone else in her day about it, couldn't figure out that it was lethal.

But somehow people thousands of years from now are.


One other troubling linguistic point. Even if a particular word remains in the language, it's meaning is likely to change, sometimes to its exact opposite (or close).

'Nice' used to mean "silly."

And on the other hand, 'silly' used to mean "blessed."

Worse yet, the Modern English word 'money' came ultimately, through a rather bizarre set of historical accidents, from a Latin word that meant "warning" (moneta < monere "to warn").

So you might put "warning" all over the area and the future inhabitants might conclude that there is tons of money buried beneath the ground there!

Here's a quote from the "Never again" document:

On the other hand,it appears that, in the siting and design of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plants, an unlikely combination of low-probability events (historic earthquake plus historic tsunami leading to loss of all electrical power) was not taken sufficiently into account.

It seems patently obviously the there is only one "low probability" event in this list: the earthquake. Historical records dating back many centuries show that large Tsunamis are far from low probability events given the occurrence of a major earthquake in Japan. Once there is an earthquake and large tsunami, only a fool would consider a station blackout to be "low probability". The authors of this essay are well aware of Bayes Theorem, and they know that earthquakes, tsunamis and blackouts are far from independent events. So how can they call this an "unlikely combination of low-probability events"?

And besides, how "low probability" are earthquakes that cause a similar degree of ground acceleration? Scroll down to the "Notable Earthquakes" table in this Wikipedia article and you will see that earthquakes with similar levels of peak ground acceleration are fairly frequent, and a larger one occurred in Japan in 2008.

In my line of work (biology/ biophysics), I typically round probability estimates up to p=.001 unless there is exceptionally good reason to believe a lower figure. Everyone knows that it's easy to come up with extremely low probability estimates that don't hold water.

In my line of work (aviation), we round anything bigger than 0.000001 to 1.0. There is no point working with anything as big, except it is added over lots of flights, over an extended period, or just one small detail that won't have a big influence at the outcome. (And yes, that number of decimal places is counted, there are 5 zeros after the comma.)

I'd hope that the nuclear industry has highter standards. If we have a few aeronautical accedents every year, the world goes on...

When I was designing/building telecommunications systems, the "gold standard" for availability (i.e., that a path/circuit will be accessible and working when a user wants to make a call or transmit data) was 99.9999%. An expensive goal.

The world, alas, has changed in the past decade. Carriers have learned that customers will (have become conditioned to) accept much lower availability (and much poorer performance) than we used to think. Combined with consolidation (fewer choices for dissatisfied customers), a great deal of money can now be saved by not bothering to build systems as well or maintain them as carefully.

Are people wiling, also, to accept an occasional catastrophic nuclear power plant failure? If they are, to what extent is that willingness founded on a perception that the consequences of these failures really "aren't so bad" -- that, for instance, even Chernobyl only resulted in a handful of fatalities?

I worked in that same industry. One day the chief engineer shorted out the main card frame for the 3:1 DAX by dropping a screwdriver. Dropped the whole office, switched and dedicated lines. Took 10 minutes just to get a display going and 30 minutes to finish putting back in all the connection scripts from the PC. Nowhere near 99.9999%. We had cats that would run on the cable trays. There are pictures in the archives from the '90's. The owner was nuts.

Don't tell me, let me guess: This was an independent telco.

I knew some of those guy, including a full-fledged madman in Mississippi. Some of my best engineers came from those places, cuz they were used to keeping things working under insane conditions.

The independents had a great thing going (a few still do). They could borrow vast sums of money from the REA for 50 years at 3%, with little supervision of expenditures. Some had very fancy CO's in tiny little towns, and most of them lived in very nice houses. ;^)

Techs still find rats in the traps on the main central office in Manhattan, no?

I have built several systems with much added cost and complexity for full redundancy, to meet procurement specifications, yet only shipped them populated non-redundantly to lower the purchase cost.

In spite of this, the wired network still performed best immediately after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. There is a lot to be said for systems that are robust -- simple, durable, resilient, and fault-tolerant. Which is the opposite of what the world pushes toward today.

In spite of this, the wired network still performed best immediately after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. There is a lot to be said for systems that are robust -- simple, durable, resilient, and fault-tolerant. Which is the opposite of what the world pushes toward today.


In spite of this, the wired network still performed best immediately after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Not for Shigeru Yokosawa. Hear his story.

Ultimate sacrifice given for a lifeline / As tsunami rushed in, hospital worker spent his last seconds securing satellite phone

Yusuke Amano / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

RIKUZEN-TAKATA, Iwate--An administrator at a hospital destroyed by the March 11 tsunami gave his life to protect a precious lifeline--a satellite phone that was doctors' only link to the outside world after the disaster.
Sixty-year-old Shigeru Yokosawa was scheduled to retire at the end of the month, but he died in the tsunami that consumed Takata Hospital in Rikuzen-Takata.

According to Kaname Tomioka, a 49-year-old hospital administrator, he was on the building's third floor when he looked out the window and saw a tsunami more than 10 meters high coming straight at him. Tomioka ran down to the first floor staff room and saw Yokosawa trying to unhook the satellite phone by the window.
Tomioka shouted to Yokosawa, "A tsunami's coming. You have to escape immediately!" But Yokosawa said, "No! We need this no matter what."

Yokosawa got the phone free and handed it to Tomioka, who ran up to the roof. Seconds later, the tsunami struck--engulfing the building up to the fourth floor--and Yokosawa went missing.

Hospital staff could not get the satellite phone to work on March 11, but when they tried again after being rescued from their rooftop refuge by a helicopter on March 13, they were able to make a connection. With the phone, the surviving staff was able to ask other hospitals and suppliers to send medication and other supplies
Someone has taped a piece of paper to the satellite phone that reads: "Yokosawa's phone. Our chief is helping us from heaven."

Robust is a cheaper, lower grade, coffee bean.

sounds untrue to me

The Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞?) is a Japanese newspaper published in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and other major Japanese cities.[1] It is one of the five national newspapers in Japan; the other four are the Asahi Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and the Sankei Shimbun. The headquarters is located in Otemachi, Chiyoda, Tokyo. It has the largest circulation of any paper in the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yomiuri_Shimbun
Yusuke Amano (born 10 April 1978) is a former Japanese football player.
Author's facebook http://ja-jp.facebook.com/people/Yusuke-Amano/100001593670551
E-mail English Newsroom: dy@yomiuri.com

dear colleague - unfortunately the reference book I have on avionics engineering dealing with systems engineering and MTBF calculations is at the office bookshelf - but I can recall from memory that the decimal places you are talking about are at least conservative.

And the demands for reliability keep going up, with more planes each year AND more automation expected: from basic good old ILS to autopilots to autoland. And now we need TCAS, area augmentation and 3d-approach paths to handle the ever denser and thinker 'cloud' of planes circling our busiest air pockets.

And it all starts from us. We're the accredited SI-standards lab who copies the physical quantities originating from NIST and feeds them into the calibration cycle of every maintenance tool, measuring device and avionics box. And at each step in the traceability chain you gain at least 3dB of uncertainty - usually much more. Basically what I'm saying we have much decimals than that ;P

In addition the aviation industry has an excellent 'human-factors' training which explains humans frailties and common sources of errors, mistakes, complacency etc. As well as an international system for openly reporting and examining each and every 'incident' close-call - and procedures for reacting to them immediately: changing maintenance instruction and flight procedure manuals whenever something/anything can be done to improve safety or reliability. And all this has been done internationally for decades.

I too sure hope those boys at the nuckelear powerplants have done their homework on system engineering reliability modeling. And I hope they don't try to make the argument that the energy they provide is 'so valuable' that it 'costs' a few broken eggs now and then not to invest every effort and expense on safety. Can you imagine if an airliner tried to make that argument. They'd be out of business next day.

Six Sigma

"A six sigma process is one in which 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million)."


If you look at the way PRA (Probabilistic Risk Assessment) first gained traction at the NRC, you'll see many numbers used as input to the calculations that were just pulled out of thin air. For instance, the risk (probability) of a "once in ten thousand years" earthquake is set to 0.0001. Just like that, for many events thought to be unlikely. Belief systems and "common sense" are used to assign risk probabilities as inputs. These values get thrown into the mix of calculations that spit out results that are then relied upon to arrive at numerical values for "risk".

Garbage In, Gospel Out.

About half way through the documentary A is for Atom, you have Robert Pollack, a Reactor Engineer for EAC, explaining just that. Their initial early experiment basically produced no data they could rely on. And the first accidents they had were completely off the scale of what they had prepared for in their contingencies.

Again it was relatively 'easy' for the aviation industry, supported by the space race and experimental military aviation - to establish experimentally - almost all the parameters they needed to evaluate structural, aerodynamic, material, as well as electrical reliability criteria - for single components all the way to complete systems. And the frequent very dramatic and public accidents forced the industry into compliance and to develop a very strict but effective safety culture.

To do the same for a nuclear power reactor is problematic to say the least. But again there was a large element of cost-cutting and business interest heavily there too. And as was described by Pollack, as long as your safety systems could get away with "accident not happening" they would appear to be safe enough ie. they wouldn't be put under a real test. This then came the standard for the bean counters to design for and the rest is history.

Very true. It's not feasible to actually test the safety systems of nuclear plants under actual failure conditions. Unlike aircraft, for instance, where you can test things to destruction under realistic failure scenarios.

For the same reasons (and without getting too far off-topic), proposed missile defense shield systems will never be able to be tested well enough to demonstrate reliability and efficacy. That won't stop proponents who stand to profit from the venture from claiming otherwise.

Here's a video ...from inside the exclusion zone that may (or may not) have been posted before.

Wow, thanks PeakVT. 112 microsieverts/hour @ 1.5 kilometers from the plant and increasing with every reckless step.

Too bad about those dogs. They seemed fairly well fed, though. If they're not being fed, I shudder to think what they're eating. (Incidently, despite the quake damage, the excellent condition of the roads made me a bit envious.)

TEPCO won't take Chernobyl approach to resolving nuclear power plant crisis

It may take 10 years to start removing damaged nuclear fuel from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, but the plant's operator is adamant not to bury the damaged reactors while fuel remains in them, a company official has told the Mainichi.

"We will not bury the site while radioactive materials remain. We will definitely remove the fuel," Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) adviser Toshiaki Enomoto told the Mainichi in an interview, stressing that the company would not bury the reactors in concrete in a "stone tomb" approach like the one adopted at Chernobyl.

TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata has announced plans to decommission the plant's No. 1 through 4 reactors. Normally it takes 20 to 30 years to decommission a reactor, but the process at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is expected to take even longer as workers must start by developing specialized equipment to remove damaged fuel.

*Commenting on TEPCO's response to the disaster, Enomoto said, "Problems that we had not predicted happened one after another. Even inspecting the site has been difficult, and this accumulation of events has been responsible for the work not going as we have hoped."*

A succinct statement of the overall problem - problems that are not foreseen.

Will TEPCO be around long enough to make good on this promise?

*Will TEPCO be around long enough to make good on this promise?*

The existential condition of humanity is such, that none of us can guarantee what we will be doing ten years from now. That is perhaps the main difficulty with nuclear power: Time lines that in some cases exceed human, and maybe social, life expectancy.

Looking back in evolution ,
there used to be a time that oxygen was an ever abundant poison to the then prevailing lifeforms ,
until life evolved ,


Even bigger timelines are in play for sure

Young, fresh sand grains
with sharp edges

Worn, rounded sand grains

Really worn sand may have made the journey from shore, through uplift to mountain top and weathering, and running back to shore in streams and rivers, ten times.

We've only danced on this earth for a short while.


Here's an NRC fact sheet on decommissioning nuclear reactors:


There is a list of decommissioned reactors in the US. The Trojan plant was located between Seattle and Portland, and its Wikipedia article is interesting (if sad). Sixteen years of service. Great animated image of cooling tower implosion.

In 2005, the reactor vessel and other radioactive equipment were removed from the Trojan plant, encased in concrete foam, shrink-wrapped, and transported intact by barge along the Columbia River to Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, where it was buried in a 45-foot-deep (14 m) pit and covered with 6 inches (150 mm) of gravel, which made it the first commercial reactor to be moved and buried whole.[13] The spent fuel is stored onsite in 34 dry casks, awaiting transport to the Yucca Mountain Repository.

This was 13 years after shutdown, but of course the reactor vessel did not have spent fuel in it anymore.

It seems sly to promise removing the fuel in ten years' time--after the fuel will have cooled off--when evidence of criticality events suggests that new decay products may continue to be generated.

Second, declining to entomb the reactor means that ongoing emissions to the atmosphere will continue for a long time. To make such a statement without detailed profile of current radioactive emissions... well, where are these data? One wonders how to evaluate such a decision in terms of public safety. That would be a decision for the government, or that should be officially sanctioned by the government (not merely accepted in silence).

Third, we know that the fuel is seriously damaged at several reactors. "Partial meltdown" has been used. Is it even practical to salvage damaged fuel?

Fourth, we have heard rumors that the site is peppered with fuel fragments from one of the explosions. Has there been a sufficient survey of the situation? Shouldn't such a survey be conducted before making such decisions?

"Broken pieces of fuel rods have been found outside of Reactor No. 2, and are now being covered with bulldozers, he said. The pieces may be from rods in the spent-fuel pools that were flung out by hydrogen explosions."


I was curious whether data on radiation levels is available. One site, http://atmc.jp , provides a great deal of government-released information, including graphs of (ionizing?) radiation levels throughout Japan. Also provides buttons for Google translation.

I was just looking at this. Maybe here's my answer to where the existing gases went when they splinted Unit 1 with N2?


100 sieverts/hour in the drywell? That's impressive.


100 Sv is impressive, but it is not at that level, it just went off the graph and now it cannot be measured by whatever instruments they have there. Or they got toasted. Last measurement is 4 days old.

I wonder if they toasted their instruments when they bled that gas into the drywell?

The winds are variable, with scattered rain showers this evening, according to the "nuclear weather forecast" for Japan. The red columns on Pachube are getting taller.



What do the red columns on the Pachube site signify? It's not explained from what I can see on the website. Radiation, contamination, local paranoia about nuclear power, what?

The display is visual representations of crowd-sourced air Geiger readings rather than quantitative, which I prefer, Nojay. In this case I'm looking for relative change over time. But you can still click on each marker to get digital graphs over time. I like your explanation downthread, Nojay, about how readings in the air relate to food and water contamination. Radiation contamination is dependent on wind and precipitation patterns. But there are many things you can do to protect yourself--the problem is that you can't detect it with your senses. That makes it creepy. And the science is confusing and requires education, which I'm not seeing a lot of in the MSM.

We have 104 ticking time bombs in this country waiting to go off given any blackout excuse. And there are a lot of different excuses, especially considering peak oil. It will pay to be informed.

Also look for them to build a fabric (think more like a rubber raft not a tent)structure over the super structure of the plant. These kind of building works better then a metal building for ventilation control. plus they have off the self designs from DOE clean up projects.

My guess is they would build a bamboo frame and slide the fabric up and over this by using long cables.

Toshiba proposes decommissioning 4 reactors in 10 years

Toshiba Corp. has proposed decommissioning four troubled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power station in about 10 years, a much shorter time frame than the 14 years needed to dismantle the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States, industry sources said Friday.

Toshiba, one of the two Japanese reactor makers, filed the proposal with Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, after compiling it with U.S. nuclear energy firms including its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co., according to the sources.

Toshiba believes it can rely on the U.S. firms' expertise from the 1979 Three Mile Island accident to decommission the Fukushima reactors.

What do you think are the chances that they want a cost-plus contract?

Toshiba believes it can rely on the U.S. firms' expertise from the 1979 Three Mile Island accident to decommission the Fukushima reactors.

Uh-huh. And I believe I could rely upon my boyhood experience with model rocketry to design a replacement for the space shuttle.

I wonder what Toshiba really believes about time and cost.

There is also recent and present expertize and experience of contractors doing clean up work at the national laboratories.

GE, designer of the equipment, is in on this - how great is that? Make a handsome profit on the original design and then make a few hundred million (billion?) more when the thing blows up?

It's the same as Deepwater Horizon: supposedly the only people with the expertise to fix the problem are the ones who made it in the first place.

JoulesBurn, I love your sarcasm:

Nothing major, but problems include:

Three of four external power lines out
It's getting so you can't believe everything you read.

“We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when
everything the American public believes is false.”

– William Casey, CIA Director (from first staff meeting, 1981)

In tandem with above comments, lots of attention now being showered on facilities that were opeating under the radar some. I'd not heard of any of the following. This article posted today:

"Davis-Besse boasts the two worst industry accidents in the United States since Three Mile Island and discoveries as recently as 2010 have been enough to bring alarm and outrage to citizen's groups fighting to protect public health and the Lake Erie Basin from a profit and greed driven catastrophe. A hole in the original reactor head; equipment failure and malfunctions; worker instability, mistakes and incompetence; an F2 tornado; and a concerted effort by the NRC and FirstEnergy corporation to cover-up major systemic problems with the Davis-Besse reactor have led to several near catastrophes in the 34 year history of the plant's operation. In 2008 a Tritium leak was discovered by chance. Discoveries of cracks in the reactors replacement head in 2010 and subsequent inadequate repairs have been brushed aside by NRC regulators to allow the FirstEnergy reactor to operate full steam ahead until another replacement lid can be put into place in the fall of 2011. ...

In 2002 Davis-Besse faced what the U.S. Government Accountability Office describes as "the most serious safety issue confronting the nation's commercial nuclear power industry since Three Mile Island in 1979." It was discerned that only 3/16th of an inch in a stainless steel covering was the only thing holding back the high-pressure reactor coolant. A breach would have resulted in a severe loss of coolant accident, in which superheated, super pressurized reactor coolant could have jetted into the reactor's containment building and resulted in an emergency that threatened a chain of events culminating in core damage or meltdown. As summarized by Tom Henry in the Toledo Blade:

...in 2002, Davis-Besse's old nuclear reactor head nearly burst. The lid was weakened by massive amounts of acid that had leaked from the reactor over several years. The acid induced heavy corrosion on top of the head. Radioactive steam would have formed in a U.S. nuclear containment vessel for the first time since the 1979 half-core meltdown of Three Mile Island Unit 2 in Pennsylvania if Davis-Besse's lid had been breached. The only thing preventing that was a thin stainless steel liner that had started to crack and bulge, records show. Correcting the problem kept the Davis-Besse [reactor] idle a record two years. Federal prosecutors later described the incident as one of the biggest cover-ups in U.S. nuclear history. Two former Davis-Besse engineers were convicted of withholding information and put on probation; the utility itself wound up paying a record $33.5 million in civil and criminal fines; this represents the "largest single fine ever proposed by the NRC."


On the other hand there was no news of any variety about the ongoing crisis on the ABC World News last night. Stunning. They also managed not to say a word about Libya.

You really can't expect the mainstream media, fully captured now by corporate interests, to report on this stuff. Not when Charlie Sheen's Torpedo Tour is in full swing.

Not sure how this is "under the radar" when it is cited in training in virtually every nuclear plant in the country.

NRC Reactor Safety Team Assessment
or here:

The original PDF was upside-down.
This German version is proper.

Official Use Only

Damaged fuel that may have slumped to the bottom of the core

Damaged fuel may have slumped to the bottom of the core

Damaged fuel may have slumped to the bottom of the core

Those who are Google Sketchup or Google Earth inclined will appreciate this. Here is a Sketchup rendering of the Fukushima site:


Sweet. Some serious freaks out there.
Do you know how to get comments back to the developer?

A much more detailed summary of events here:


Also, the radiation spikes (graphed on page 59 of the VGB summary, and on page 26 of the Areva summary) are strangely periodic, a little over 12 hours.

Good summary ,

but where did they obtain the temperatures for the outside of the reactors at the 2nd of april ?

(there's nowhere a mention of them that I know of in the nisa , jaif , tepco docs)

Reactor outs.  
unit 1
250 C
128 C 

unit 2
180 C
450 C

unit 3
90 C (?)
115 C

Sensor information for unit 1 to 3 here http://www.gyldengrisgaard.dk/fukmon/ but I can't find where VGB got the 450C number from, although they reference IAEA April 2 at the bottom of the page. All the IAEA reports in writing it "the temperature at the bottom of the RPV was not reported". Numerous sources have said that reactor melted, leaked out through the control rod entries, etc. That would be one tough thermocouple if it were still reporting. 450C would glow a very dark red, BTW, so if they have a camera inside the building, and the containment is open, they would see it.

Precisely ,
allthough I have seen reports of exterior (reactor) temperature measurements before , via thermal sensing as I recall , I have a suspicion that these are 'behind closed doors' data sources , VGB might have had insight into these though.
I'm with you that many of these reactor sensors are not to be relied on no more , considering pressure readings of 0 atm. and temperatures of -33 Celsius fi.

Should we have a right to know ? Surrounding countries say so , but how many info gets channeled through security channels ? Or perhaps these external measurements were too incidental and too few to make them periodic

GJNL, In my opinion, should we have the right to know is what forums like this are working through.

There is zero doubt in my mind that we are only seeing a thousandth of the data being collected from the complex. They've got a really tough situation here, and talking to the public about it is not a priority for them. At the same time, as Friedman points out, the world is flatter every day.

Rule #5
In a flat world, the best companies stay healthy by getting regular chest x-rays and then selling the results to their clients.

No shortage on x-rays here I'd say ...

Type K thermocouple is good to 1200 C.

Thermocouple calibration is more complex than a simple temperature limit. I think that a type K is considered in calibration for something like 30 uses, with excursions over 600C counting as 1 use and excursions over 1000C counting as two. The manufacturers generally advise replacing them monthly if you want to be sure of good data. Anyone know the actual specs for usage?

Here's a slick crowd-sourced realtime radiation depiction of Japan in 3d--you'll need Google Earth plugins to view it.


Interesting comment about the pulses, Clarity. Steam build-up, release, steam build-up, release. The third link has the same oscillations duplicated in experiment on pages 6 & 7.

What jumps out at me in both of these documents is the lack of data (pp. 59, 60, 64) after March 30th. Wasn't that when the black smoke started appearing near the spent fuel pools of Unit 4? If the fuel rods got blown all over the landscape at that point, wouldn't the readings at the site and thus the entire situation become worse by an order of magnitude after that? Given the fact that the situation is much worse as a result of the blown SFP #4, I find it interesting that these "leaked" official documents and corporate powerpoints go no further than the 30th.

Others pointed out earlier that high readings were correlated with high tide, backpressure
in pipes to the sea.

This assessment is fine, and I'm glad for the additional detail (particularly on earthquake accelerations), but they still repeat the myth that the primary containment vessel pressure was vented to secondary containment (or the refuel floor at the top of the reactor building). Likely they are cutting and pasting from the faulty Areva report to make this claim, which goes to show just how hard it is to effectively kill these errors once they have been made (and repeated over and over again in reports such as this). I liken it to the story on the irrigation dam failure along the Abukuma River in Fukshima Prefecture that many nuclear proponents keep suggesting destroyed an estimated 1,800 homes (and was subsequently minimized by the press). 1,800 is the estimate for the total numbers of homes lost to the tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture (and losses from the irrigation dam failure were 5 houses and 8 lives). There is no venting pathway from the primary containment structure to the fuel servicing floor in the reactor building. This cannot be done. Could everyone who is interested in the facts please stop repeating this error, and remind blogs, media, and industry assessments to do the same. The IAEA, NRC, NEI, NISA, JAIF, TEPCO, and many others have never suggested this as an explanation for how hydrogen gas ended up in secondary containment, so it bears keeping in mind that there are no official accounts that support this view (and no reactor building schematics that indicate this is even possible).

Regarding tsunami defenses, this report suggests that the offshore breakwater (or 5.7 meter levee) in front of the Fukushima site was primarily intended as a defensive barrier against a storm surge from typhoons (and not a tsunami). The 13 foot bluff in front of the power plants, and siting the structures on higher ground was the main defense against a tsunami wave (which has more energy than a storm surge, and will run-up higher on shore … as we see from the evidence at the site). Obviously, their siting guidelines for tsunami protection were clearly inadequate … so it's probably a moot point.

Lastly, the report suggests ECCS cooling was initiated and working between the time period of the earthquake and tsunami at all the operating reactor units (and running off diesel power subsequent to the full station blackout). I think there needs to be more work to substantiate this claim. I've seen one unofficial report suggesting a loss of coolant accident in Unit 1 prior to tsunami wave and loss of back-up power (based on inferences from operational data at Unit 1). This would point to the earthquake as possibly having caused damage inside the primary containment vessel. Obviously, this report has not yet been substantiated, and it seems to go against the grain of most official reporting provided so far (which does not necessarily make it incorrect).

There is venting of the rest of the reactor building to the refueling floor. The process of venting the primary containment out to the stack could have resulted in leakage to other spaces inside the reactor building if the pumps and fans designed to do the venting weren't working properly. So there was a path (obviously) for hydrogen to accumulate in the upper level, even if the diagrams showing a designed-in way to do that are incorrect. No, they would not vent to the refueling floor deliberately. Yes, they could have done so inadvertently.

No, they would not vent to the refueling floor deliberately. Yes, they could have done so inadvertently.

I believe this is exactly Idyl's point. The documents referred to suggest this was a deliberate or designed pathway rather than accidental condition due to damage previously sustained or an unforeseen consequence of the actions chosen. The fact that people were injured in each of the explosions strongly suggests accidental/unforeseen consequence. Undoubtedly they had to risk venting the way they did to ease unsustainable pressures that would have led quickly to known dire consequences.It is true that the workers knew there was a risk of explosion due to the state of the reactors.

Agree that the Areva diagram does show a vent path directly to the refueling floor, and that is incorrect. I guess I just don't understand Idyl's harping on that and the fact that other news outlets are repeating the assertion. The hydrogen accumulated on the upper levels of the reactor buildings regardless of whether it got there on purpose or by accident. Seems like the distinction is only important when the time comes for The Search For The Guilty.

The distinction might also be important to ecosystems near other near-duplicate Mark I designs and, ultimately, to the one big ecosystem that is home to all life here on Earth.

IMHO, of course.

Interested_public has it exactly right:

1) Deliberate venting to refueling floor: this means no problem with reactor primary containment vessel integrity, no problem with venting pathway (which strangely doesn't exist), and design basis safety features performed as expected.

2) Hydrogen accumulation in refueling floor (hard to deny) without deliberate venting to secondary containment: this means problem with reactor primary continent vessel integrity (pointing to long standing concerns about Mark I containment vessel design), or failure of venting pathway to outside environment, and design basis safety features did not perform as expected.

The difference between the two is perhaps one the most central questions regarding this accident, since it has EVERYTHING to do with the adequacy of defense in depth safety features, and whether this accident could have been prevented with greater attention to engineering, costs, fixing inherent (and well documented) design flaws with better retrofits, or scrapping these inadequate designs all together (and the 23 reactor units in the US that are based on exactly the same flawed design principles).

The disappointing thing about the explosions is that there was no apparent learning.
After the first incident, nothing changed as far as we know in the procedures. Reactor 3 is larger and the explosion was much more violent, but came in response to the same operator actions.
Was there no alternative?

I agree. I believe they could have vented the primary containment vessel pressure to the outside environment at a much earlier point (before containment pressures reached twice the level of design tolerances). In early status updates from TEPCO, you read over and over again: "We are preparing to implement a measure to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment vessels in order to fully secure safety." They do not go into any specific details regarding these preparations, but I believe they were awaiting for evacuations to be completed (or agreed upon, or started, or even for weather conditions to change) before taking this rather drastic step (with echoes of TMI radioactive gas release fully present on everyone's mind). So they perhaps waited too long, underestimated the performance of these containment structures, and also failed to adapt and learn from earlier mistakes (as well). I think they acted on the assumption that containment structures would hold under a given pressure, and for a certain length of time ... but they were wrong. The hard pathway to the outside environment is a pretty robust system, I don't think there was a leak along this pathway. I think the safety tests performed in North Carolina at the Brunswick BWRs in the 1970s provide a pretty clear indication that these containment vessels couldn't hold pressure above very modest design specifications, and that the pressure vessel refueling cap and flange (leading directly into refueling floor) was a weak component.

Was there no alternative?

Almost certainly no by the time they took this measure. The fact that the explosions at units 1 2 and 3 manifested differently suggests different levels/types of (earthquake?)damage and different reactor states. The explosion at unit 4? Perhaps problems with the fuel storage pools contributed to the explosion at unit 1, very likely at unit 3.

Without better access to the buildings, confirmed reliable readings of temp/pressure/radioactivity (including isotope ratios), and a clear, detailed timeline (including interviews with the on-site workers and all available instrument readings) for the first phase of the accident it is difficult to understand what the current state of affairs is and what current risks are.

TEPCO has some of this information - perhaps the US/NRC does as well...

That is stunning.
Three reactors explode in sequence, over three days, in response to similar operator actions and there was no alternative?
The reactor 3 explosion was so massive it damaged the reactor 4 building sufficiently for the spent fuel pool to fail in turn
That seems to be a truly serious design deficiency. The operators recognized disaster coming, but were helpless, even though they had several days to develop a solution?
Given the current outcome, a radiating slag pile for a decade or longer, it is hard to see what they could have done worse by trying something different.

Unit 4 building appeared intact following the unit 3 explosion. I have seen only speculation about the unit 4 explosion - hydrogen from the fuel storage pool that was perhaps damaged and leaking from the quake. Without knowing more precisely the conditions at the plant following the quake and tsunami it is hard to say whether there were safer alternatives to the actions chosen. My understanding is that taking no action (to vent) would have resulted in faster/more extensive core melting followed by release of core material and possibly explosive distribution of it.

OK, I think I understand your point of view now. It's a good one. Those hydrogen explosions made a bad situation worse, and whether or not the venting systems worked properly is an important question. I'm still not clear on whether or not a total station blackout scenario was ever part of the Mark I containment design basis. Not that that matters; if it wasn't then it should have been.

The design basis is for a loss of coolant accident (which is what you have when back-up power systems don't work and you can't operate ECCS). The hydrogen explosions did not just make "a bad situation worse," it was a bad situation. It damaged electrical systems, structural integrity of reactor building, spread radioactivity around the site, exposed spent fuel pools (and maybe led to leaks), ejected fuel components up to a mile away, apparently dropped a crane into SFP (still speculative), led to larger environmental releases of radiation (and concerns over evacuation extent, food and water safety, ocean contamination … potentially lasting several weeks to months to years), and much more.

I can easily imagine a completely different accident scenario without hydrogen explosions where we have adequate shielding from radiation, structural integrity to reactor buildings, little release of radiation (beyond vented gas), no water flow to basement levels from spent fuel pools, a site that looks visually intact from an observers perspective (minus tsunami damage), power to control rooms and throughout reactor units, and even a cold shut once power lines were re-established and cooling systems restored. We are far from that scenario at the moment, and hydrogen explosions are a major reason for this.

I'm looking now at some SBO stuff I googled up.... unbelievable, really. Not only was an extended SBO not part of any US reactor's design basis, it wasn't even on the radar until the 1980s. Until then there was no requirement to have a reliability program for diesel backup generators at all, never mind trying to assure they'd run under adverse conditions in an extended power outage. In the late 1980s the entire risk of a prolonged SBO was dealt with by changing the regulations so that operators had to have a reliability plan for their generators. And that's about it. If the generators failed, once your DC batteries ran out of juice you were toast and at least a partial meltdown was probable.

One can only conclude so much re. NRC regulations vs. Fukushima since Japan reactors are not regulated by the NRC. There must be similarities, though. General Electric, Westinghouse, etc. must have lobbied hard internationally for commonality and cost control. I can see GE favoring regs that mirror the NRC's. I can also see Japan deciding they've had quite enough education about nuclear energy from the US already, thank you very much, and decide to do it differently.

The article Daiichi Reactor Design includes schematic of BWR-2 reactor. This is the predecessor to Fukushima's reactor which is BWR-3. The article states a key safety feature called an Isolation Condenser was "removed" from BWR-2 to save money.

If this one feature alone existed at the Fukushima plants, they could have relieved reactor pressure without electricity, without venting radioactive gasses/hydrogen, and without losing reactor inventory resulting in uncovering fuel. It's critical valves are DC operated, so loss of power is irrelevant, and it works without pumps, by gravity. GE BWR's brought these simple and effective condensers back in its new designs. If Fukushima 1 had isolation condensers, they would have attained stable hot shutdown and the plant would not have been destroyed, this goes for the other units as well.

The detailed schematic of BWR-2 shows three possible paths. The normal path is a safety valve from the steam outlet that flows into the suppression pool. A 2nd path I don't see explained is a safety valve attached to pressure vessel head. I haven't found any information where this flows. The 3rd path is a personnel and equipment hatch.

This diagram doesn't show vent to stack. The question I haven't found a clear answer for is whether or not the vent was upgraded as it was in US. Other articles I've read state the non-hardened vent is sheet metal that likely would explode if the concentration of hydrogen became too high. Another diagram I've seen shows a charcoal filter and fan outdoors in the stack. Loss of power would be a problem for flow.

Thanks for this … exactly what I have been looking for these last several weeks. The schematic is very informative, but no vent or outlet is identified to secondary containment. 6 items are identified for the fuel servicing floor:

1 - Service Crane and Hoist
2 - Equipment Storage Pool (Steam Dryers and Separators)
3 - Reactor Service Platform
5 - Removable Top Shields
12 - Fuel Handling Grapple
13 - Fuel Service Platform

The GE BWRs were considered a cost saving design (primarily because of their "small in size" primary containment vessel), so it's no surprise to me that the isolation condenser was removed (if it was thought to be excessive and too expensive). From what I have seen (or read) there are 11 safety overpressure relief valves on BWR models 1-6. 7 are part of the Automatic Depressurization System that shunts steam and gas to the torus or suppression pool (from reactor pressure vessel). The remaining lead from the wetwell to the drywell. You point to the steam outlet (item 16), this goes to turbine building to generate power. There are vents inside secondary containment structure for removing gas (and these operate with the assistance of the standby gas treatment system, and is intended to remove gas and also keep reactor building at negative pressure). And as you suggest, it cannot withstand venting from reactor pressure vessel (which is typically at some 7.3 Mpa or about 70 atmospheres). A hard vent was later recommended (mandated in the US) as a retrofit to address inadequate design considerations. These lead to the outside environment when installed (and not to secondary containment). As I've said before, it seems very unlikely to me that anybody would engineer a pathway that deliberately floods a main working area of the site with dangerous radioactivity and fission products that would render such a location permanently off limits. I'm certainly open to someone proving me wrong … but it will take more than a loony-toons cartoon from AREVA. Show me the technical description, schematic, or official report (since you can't build a power plant without one).

Thanks brit0310!

This is the drawing:

There is a detailed comment:

"The safety valve was not likely used to relieve pressure, as by the time that automatically activated they let pressure get out of control to the point where it is almost at the design limits for the vessel. Electromatic relief valves off of the main steam lines were almost undoubtedly used instead, which dump steam directly into the suppression pool, which is the massive donut shaped structure at the bottom, through large nozzles. The steam then collapses to water averting a huge pressure spike in primary containment, as obviously water takes up a much smaller volume than steam.

Releasing steam to relieve pressure results in uncovering fuel. When fuel Is uncovered the fuel temperature rises to very high levels, and at around 2200 degrees F the cladding, made of zircaloy, begins to react with the steam to produce hydrogen gas among other things in an exothermic reaction, producing more heat. The hydrogen is then later vented with the steam, does not condense in the suppression pool, and helps to pressurize the primary containment. The primary containment is maintained filled with nitrogen gas (zero oxygen) for this very reason to prevent the possibility of a devastating explosion within the primary containment. The problem really presents itself when they vent the primary containment to the reactor building atmosphere to relieve pressure, and the hydrogen sees oxygen and the slightest spark causes a massive explosion as we saw on the news."

These are well worth looking at.

There are numerous comments on this webpage regarding non-hardened vents at Fukushima. Although these are just comments, they are on a GE website.
Setting the Record Staight

Had the Japanese installed hardened vents for their Mark I containments as GE and the US NRC recommended, the hydrogen explosions in Japan would not have occurred.

I linked to that GE ("setting the record straight") page in my previous post on this topic. I would expect no less from GE than to defend their design in the midst of the massive failures we have seen at Fukushima. You'll note … they give no alternative explanation for how vented gas gets to secondary containment, or why there was a hydrogen explosion in primary containment for Unit #2. Their main argument for the sufficiency of their engineering is that their containment design "meets all regulatory requirements." I would respectfully disagree, and suggest that the best way to measure the adequacy of a reactor design's containment and safety systems is whether they perform well in a design basis event, and prevent an accident from taking place.

The detailed comment to the blog post quoted above is also very good and informative. I have heard it suggested once before (also in a comment on a blog post) that operators at Fukushima vented gas from the primary containment vessel to secondary containment through the reactor building ducting. So far, I have not been able to substantiate this, nobody has explained how this can be done, it appears to contradicts the AREVA narrative of a controlled release along an established pathway, and it also contradicts official accounts provided by IAEA, NRC, NEI, NISA, JAIF, TEPCO that primary containment gases were vented to the outside environment. The heightened concern over radioactive release to the environment and the urgency regarding evacuations at the time related to this release seem to further indicate to me (in pretty clear terms) that the secondary containment structure was not the intended destination for this release.

Stepping back from the issue … I'm also very interested how these faulty storylines and errors get generated in the first place, and re-enforced by repetition (and even by folks like me who challenge the narrative). If all publicity is good publicity, it really doesn't matter whether the information is factually correct or not, people scan these comments, read "venting" and "primary containment" and "secondary containment" and see what they want to see (fit the information into their prior existing template or storyline). The best explanation for this faulty storyline I can suggest is naive and faulty reporting by non-experts in the media in the first hours after these hydrogen explosions. They simply didn't know, and reported venting took place and reactor structures filled with hydrogen, and there was an explosion. Knowing what we know now, and being at some distance from the heat of the initial blast (with respect to time and calm reflection), I think we can start clearing up some of these faulty details and move the narrative forward with better information and additional questions. Sadly, Japanese officials and TEPCO (a month into this accident) don't seem to be making this any easier.

I think it's just a proclivity to feel what is in primary containment will flow into secondary containment. I'm an engineer so I realize they are just words that popped into someone's head and thru seniority were selected and popped into the document. Many people don't realize the words don't have any meaning in and of themselves and are merely used to identify a component of the system. The attributes of the component must be found elsewhere and it is a huge mistake to garnish any meaning solely thru the word.

Here's an interesting report from Dr. Magdi Ragheb, Ph.D in Nuclear Engineering.
Blackout Accident

Report includes a photo (Figure 8) showing 1979 earthquake damage incurred by duct that attaches to stack. This document includes details I hadn't read before. For example, I don't recall reading Unit 4 at Daini nuclear plant had a hydrogen explosion. It includes explanation for design decision to build plant for an 8.6 earthquake. A quarter way thru document it shows the decay heat power ratio used for calculations to determine reactor heat over time. Then decay curves for various isotopes. Infrared signature photos... It'll take awhile to read this.

If the pressure suppresssion system is not able to quench the steam and reduce the pressure in the containment shell, the buildup of pressure in the containment, unless controllably released, would cause it to fail at it weakest links which are the piping and instrumentation penetrations.

One ton of Zr can interact with 792 lbs of water to generate 88 lbs of H2 gas. Each meter length of fuel rods cladding contain about 15.4 tons of Zr.

A hydrogen explosion is stipulated at another site at unit 4 of the Fukushima-Daini plant that was reported to have access to offsite power and hence recovered as designed from the combined earthquake and tsunami events.

The repetition of the failures and hydrogen explosions in one unit after another in a cascading fashion, suggests a systematic repetition of the same emergency procedures.

Reactor comparison:
Daiichi Unit 1 is BWR-3, Units 2-3 are BWR-4. Daini Units 1-4 are BWR-5
Daiichi lost both offsite and onsite power, Daini had offsite power continuously.

Aluminum in Boral spacer of fuel assemblies in spent fuel pool is speculated as source of black smoke from Unit 3 on 3/21. Also, aluminum with oxygen is combustible at high temperature.

EDIT: correction, added Ragheb report, leakage source, zirconium, additional quotes, reactor comparison, aluminum

This is not Fukushima.
But it shows that the diesels could be inside the reactor building, and why wouldn't they be? If you click on the picture, you will link to the larger PDF. The question: what happened to the backup power? Both grid and diesel? Why is losing power OK?
As I have said, the Daini plant was taking power, at midnight, from the same substation that Daiichi had three (3) HV circuits to.

Been there. Done that. Tested and working. Floats too or can submerge. Note the diesel generator. Much safer.

Nuclear submarine

Still, some smart guys went to this as a 'better' solution or a step forward.

Air Independant Submarine

Bottom drawing shows this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotland_class_submarine

The Gotland is a surprise. I bet few US citizens are aware of the Swedish sub. Also in Wikipedia, nuclear reactors in the US navy. The USS Enterprise has been out there 50 years!

Fewer still know about the Nazi U boat type XVII with a Walter gas turbine, 2,500 hp (1,900 kW) engine.

"But it shows that the diesels could be inside the reactor building, and why wouldn't they be?"

Because the plant was begun with 'off-the-shelf' designs from GE and the contractors didn't have the experience with nukes to modify the layouts to fit the local situation. Some later plants do have the generators inside. Once the initial structures had been completed and were online modifications of this sort were looked at as prohibitively expensive - and an admission that the current layout was inadequate.


Thank you. A very nice article on some relevant details that distinguish Daiichi from Daini; why one survived and the other was destroyed. It refocuses attention on the distinction between "the grid went down", and "our connection to the grid went down".

Thanks, Martingugino. American and European nuclear engineers' challenges for the next 2-3 years is to figure out how to run 50 year old nukes so that they can deal with power outages of up to a month. Then they need to figure out what to do with spent fuel pools so that they are not reliant on active cooling processes. They need to figure all of this out before we reach political collapse.

No problem - but what happens when some 'unforeseen circumstance' renders the generators inside a radioactive structure inaccessible?

I think you might be saying "easy in hindsight". But
1) the fact that the Daini plant, which was built 10 years later, survived shows that better designs can be recognized in advance, and
2) we are not in "hindsight" territory. The diesel generators were not needed at the Daini plant to run the pumps. Electricity needs to go from the grid to the pumps reliably, mostly on wires.

To answer your question, however, I am sure civil engineers can think of everything I can think of.

My point was that the next nuke failure will most likely be different than this one. That's all.

I wouldn't count out short-sighted self-interest just yet.

If you have 12 minutes, here's a video worth watching. Two Japanese journalists take 2 dosimeters (or Geiger counters, not sure which) and travel to Fukushima. The scenes of devastation in places and the mix of pastoral scenes with alarming counters is jarring as are the scenes of cows and packs of dogs wandering freely. The readings are frightening by the time they reach 1.5 km from Fukushima.


Please correct me if I'm wrong: At approximately 100 microsieverts/hr. outside the plant, a person who stood there would be receiving an average annual dose every 24 hours. Is that right?

The annual radiation number is from the sun and other very low non particle sources. Near the plant, the radiation number on the meter is from radioactive particles and very dangerous. It isn't the radiation that kills one, it is the proximity or ingestion of radioactive particles and then the radiation.

The news is full of this misunderstanding.

*The annual radiation number is from the sun and other very low non particle sources. Near the plant, the radiation number on the meter is from radioactive particles and very dangerous. It isn't the radiation that kills one, it is the proximity or ingestion of radioactive particles and then the radiation.*

Thanks, Lynford.


Please correct me if I'm wrong: At approximately 100 microsieverts/hr. outside the plant, a person who stood there would be receiving an average annual dose every 24 hours. Is that right?

2400 µSv/year would be about the average natural background dose, yes. It varies considerably from place to place, and the average total dose is higher of course.


The annual radiation number is from the sun and other very low non particle sources. Near the plant, the radiation number on the meter is from radioactive particles and very dangerous. It isn't the radiation that kills one, it is the proximity or ingestion of radioactive particles and then the radiation.

No, it is the radiation that hurts you, unless you're talking about chemical toxicity. It's just that you'll get a larger dose of radiation from a particle which is close, and larger still from the same particle if you've ingested or inhaled it.


Read here for where the background radiation comes from:


It is not the radioactive particles (isotopes) that kill. Rather, it is the radiation emitted by those particles that do harm. The closer you are to them, the more likely their emissions (alpha, beta, gamma, neutron) will hit your body when they decay. If you eat radioactive isotopes or breathe them in, then you are an easy target. Your only hope is to excrete them before they go off.

In summary, the health danger from radiation is due to:

  1. the flux on your body from external sources, including cosmic radiation and the decay of nearby radioactive isotopes
  2. radioactive isotopes scattered in the environment which could potentially be ingested or inhaled

But also note that your background dose also includes naturally present isotopes (potassium-40 and carbon-14) which can't be avoided as well as radon (which can be minimized to some extent).

Actually, due to cosmic rays, radon, and natural radioactives found in common building materials the baseline radiation that people are exposed to is of exactly the same type being measured.

Not to mention that the sun sends us no shortage of relatively high energy radiation, we are just pretty well shielded from it by the atmosphere. This is why radiation exposure is higher in an airplane or high in the mountains than at sea level.

And in the case of radiation poisoning it *is* the radiation that kills. Ingestion of radioactive particulates just cuts out the layers of defense from skin and muscle letting beta and alpha radiation straight into vital organs.

But... what is the banana-equivalent dose?
It's all safe, right? Like eating a banana.
The public has been told this over and over.
What is your estimate in terms of bananas?

The BED has been calculated exactly one gazillion times since the world at large discovered the Internet. When careful, non-wackos do it, it usually comes in between 75-100 nanosieverts per banana. When nutjobs do it, it comes out higher, because they forget that not all the K in the banana is 40K.


100uSieverts/Hr is about 1000 bananas an hour.
Someone could eat a banana every 3 seconds...
Lke a hot-dog eating contest!
Take some stamina, though. Yagottawanna, yaknow?
It all sounds so... safe.
Radiation is just like bananas...
So... safe...

Thanks a lot for that! I sent that link to my friends in Japan also. Indeed the media there is very 'sanitized' to say the least - and to see footage like that really gives you perspective. I'd like shake hands (after proper decontamination) with those guys who made that video. Reminds me of my road trips around Kansai with friends - expect we didn't have natural or man disasters along the way. I'll post comments they have on that video as soon as they have a chance to watch it.

We did a trip to Hanford like this once when I was in college. It's one of the most beautiful places I have been in the Pacific Northwest. It was the peak of the spring migration (about this time of year), and you could see 10s of thousands of birds at any one point in time making their way North. It's the last remaining wild stretch of the Columbia River that has not been dammed in the US, the Hanford Reach, and I wanted to go there to see it. We passed by radiation warning signs on a remote dirt road, "enter at your own risk" (maybe it was more strongly worded, I can't recall), and didn't have dosemeters, so don't know my exposure levels. I doubt I would have ever heard of a dosemeter at the time. I'm sure radiation levels were pretty small, if not insignificant. We pitched our sleeping bags on a sandbar beside the river, slept out in the open under a gorgeous moon, and 3 or 4 reactors looming in the distance. Walked around some more in the morning, signs of deer, swallows nesting in the bluffs, watched some ravens dancing along the ridges, and drove out of the area once again on a lonely dirt road winding among the sagebrush, and not another person in the area for 20 or 40 miles. It was amazing!

"Ionising radiation is a known carcinogen. This is based on almost 100 years of cumulative research including 60 years of follow-up of the Japanese atom bomb survivors. The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC, linked to the World Health Organisation) classifies it as a Class 1 carcinogen, the highest classification indicative of certainty of its carcinogenic effects."


"Radionuclides, once deposited by rainwater or air onto the ground, will find their way through the ecosystem. We are already tracking its path from rainwater to creek runoff to tap water, but we would also like to monitor how much these isotopes that make their way into our food. For example, how much gets taken up by the grass and eventually winds up in our milk?"



The NHK link says, in the text, that "The newly reported problems add to the downing of 3 of 4 external power lines at the Onagawa plant".
Christian science monitor says

Two out of three external power lines to the Onagawa nuclear power plant, 75 miles northeast of Fukushima and near the epicenter of Thursday's temblor, have been damaged, causing power loss.

Tiny little conflicts of information.

I heard on NHK Higashi-Dori? lost cooling of its spent fuel pool for 1 hour and 21 minutes as a result of the recent aftershock. No problems reported, no temperature rise reported, system restored.

Well, if indeed cooling was lost for 81 minutes, I'll guarantee that there was a temperature rise. But if they don't report it...

...it must have been trivially insignificant.

Nothing to see here...

Could you remind me what it is you're after with the Grid Power issues you keep pointing towards?

It seems to be pointing to a position you're presenting, but I don't know what that was. What do you conclude with the various bits of misreporting and such with regard to how many lines have fallen or not fallen..


I have been unable to find a timetable, even tentative, that describes how this situation in Fukushima will ultimately be dealt with. Currently, the approach seems to be flood the containment structures and fuel holding areas with water, and nitrogen where needed, then attempt to deal with the water which become "hot." All of this to prevent further fuel damage and explosions.

Just how long can you keep this up? I assume the structures, or what's left of them, are also getting "hotter." Less access over time seems a certainty.

Is there a plan and timetable for ultimately safely shutting down these runaway reactors or are we witnessing nothing more than an ever more difficult holding pattern. If the latter, then mainstream media has utterly failed us. No news isn't good news. We deserve much better than this.

Also, as an aside, why aren't the best minds on earth in Japan doing their best to solve these problems? Have I missed something?

*Is there a plan and timetable for ultimately safely shutting down these runaway reactors or are we witnessing nothing more than an ever more difficult holding pattern. If the latter, then mainstream media has utterly failed us.*

I read today that there is a joint project underway between US and Japanese companies - I recall that Babcock & Wilcox is one of the American firms - to shut down and isolate the facility. It envisions years of work to accomplish the mission.

Your last question is a good one.
The entire disaster management effort to date is a national embarrassment for Japan.
Workers sharing dosimeters and wearing garbage bags because there are no boots is not confidence inspiring. Where were the regulators and who was in charge?

Re the clean up, it is impossible until the reactors cool down sufficiently, so several years at least.
The unstated assumption is that the emissions from the leaks and the damaged fuel pools can be managed well enough to permit people to work on the site. There is no objective evidence that that is in fact true.

No one has publicly measured the airborne emissions from the site or provided a rough radiation map for the various outside parts of the plant, much less any measures inside the turbine hall for instance.
We do not know if the plant is getting dirtier over time or not, and by how much.
So it may be that the site could in fact gradually become a super Chernobyl, with over 20 times the nuclear fuel openly exposed in an uninhabitable radiation zone.
We hope that this is not the case, but there is nothing to preclude it in the data provided thus far.

This is the issue that has bothered quite a bit. Just what places are contaminated with just what isotopes in just what pattern, what's still coming out of the reactor, and what that means. Much was made of how the iodine has decreased in affected areas - well, it would, it only has a half-life of 8 days, so unless a lot is being pumped out then that should be a transient health effect. But what about the cesium? Strontium?

Recently news stories have come out about Minamisoma, in the 30km zone, and how the remaining people are trying to get the town up and running again. Is that a good idea? The story here:


Even assuming that things are in a much better state (which is supported by drops in iodine in affected areas), if there is a slow bleed for years of contamination, that's could build up to serious levels. What will that mean for the surrounding region? Some people are going back to the affected zones. I really feel like the extent of the danger is either not known or is being kept secret. Considering the depth of the crisis in that area, it is entirely possible that the extent and shape of the area needing to be evacuated and kept as an involuntary park is still unknown, but the possibility that they are purposely not trying to find out is also there. Greenpeace has done it's own readings and recommended a larger evacuation zone, but the Japanese government seems not to want to touch this issue.

At least people in Japan seem to be waking up. A song called "Zutto Uso Datta" or "It's always been a lie" by a popular singer about nuclear energy in Japan has popped up all over the web (despite attempts to take it down).

When you look at Japan in Google maps, you come across sections where it is all gone but paths and dirt. That's it. When you first realize what you are looking at, it takes you aback a little.

zutto uso datta
It was always a lie

"They had spun to serious lie" (#zutto_uso_datta)

54 nuclear power plants in this country
"They're safe!" CMs and schoolbooks say

We trust on them, They conclude the fiasco as "unexpected" disaster
The Black Rain from the good sky
They had spun to prosecute the business
with serious lie and it was in vain
Say, the lie:
"nuclear power plants are safe"

They had spun to serious lie
Popeye not contaminated, please!
They've pretended: patch on patch worse
however they should've known that was human error

We cannot close the radioactive substances diffused

How many people contaminated?
A countless, reliable Government...

Can you find good water just apart from this town?

Tell us the truth
We know They would not admit...

No escape way

They all spins to lie and shit from the beginning
T E P C O and other power companies
We should have being faced on this realty

They all are s*** from the beginning

And They seem to spin and spin

Hey, We had spun s*** outrageously

Urged to sing even such a cowardice

They all are s*** from the beginning

And They seem to spin and spin yet

Hey, We had spun s*** outrageously

It was always a lie
zutto USO datta


Oh my... where to start? You need a plan before you can hash out a timetable, and you need a good handle on exactly what you're dealing with before you can come up with a plan. It will take weeks - maybe a year - before enough facts are gathered and physical inspections made to determine the extent of the problems.

The radioactive fuel and structures will cool over time, so more access over time would be a reasonable assumption, not less. I think everyone realizes the open-loop cooling they're doing now is not sustainable for very much longer. My guess is they come up with a Rube Goldberg type of cooling system that will be jury-rigged into the primary containments. Planning for that could take months.

These are not runaway reactors. The possibility exists for uncontrolled chain reactions to still occur in melted corium, and that would be very bad, but in no way would even that constitute a "runaway reactor".

How do you know the best minds in Japan are not working on this? As for the reporting, it could and should be better, but what on earth makes you think we deserve better? As a society we have stood by while journalism has been turned into infotainment over the last few decades. We are getting exactly what we deserve.

Uh..... does this mean no more imported Japanese Wagyu beef carpaccio?


guess you will just have to get it from the USA.

Yeah, we do produce it here and have for a time. I would never eat that stuff, myself. I would rather buy welding wire or tools. I did warn my son, who is a sous chef in a high end restaurant in Denver about the beef, and he said they get it from the states here. He brought me an 80 dollar bottle of balsamic vinegar from Italy,but I just cant bring myself to open it!! That's just me. In this culture of excess its so very easy to want way more than a feller actually needs, the mindset of deserving something for nothing runs rampant. The wages of apathy and self-indulgence are.... Well, you can fill that in. OK! Gonna go get a nice steak out of the freezer from the steers we butchered this fall. Hope its from the split-eared red one!

Why such endless discussion with the implicit assumption that nuclear is vital today and will continue to be vital?

It supplies 3% of UK delivered energy. Worldwide, the fraction is 2%. For every country where the proportion is higher than this, like France, there is a country where it is lower, like Spain or Australia (zero).

The notion that it is hard to displace 3% of delivered energy by other options is ridiculous.

As stated earlier by most, you just can't cut and run, as easy as that sounds. We have to slowly strangle this beast. Slowly and carefully.

*We have to slowly strangle this beast. Slowly and carefully.*

There's time?

Good point. We are another explosion and a wind shift away from having millions of people forced to "cut and run." External water baths and dealing with toxic runoff followed by what? Will they ever be able to restore normal cooling functions with all the damaged plumbing and an increasingly radioactive environment? Is "hope" the plan?

*Will they ever be able to restore normal cooling functions with all the damaged plumbing and an increasingly radioactive environment? Is "hope" the plan?*

I'm not an engineer, but I sense that there is only one option: Control and isolate. Simply dumping concrete or using some similar expedient would not only be desperate but useless. Control and isolation will take tremendous resources and much time. What other practical option is there?

I suspect you are correct. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope that nature doesn't throw another curve ball in your direction. But Jesus, what a fragile situation to be in.

It shouldn't be the case in Fukushima, but luck is going to play a huge role in the final outcome.

*Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope that nature doesn't throw another curve ball in your direction.*

The American engineers paraphrased today - I think it was in the NYTimes - say they know how to do it. There appears to be a very large and very high priority project underway, with offices in the States and Japan so they can work around the clock.

Let me see here. Control and isolate. Slowly and carefully strangle. Isn't that what TFHG just said? BTW, luck and hope have been in play here for quite some time. It's called a wing and a prayer in some quarters, and it's all you have sometimes. Geez.

There's time?
Time is set by radioactive decay. For our everyday lives and for turning down nuclear power.
The link for my time zone's atomic master clock is http://nist.time.gov/timezone.cgi?Central/d/-6
The link for the radioactive isotope's clocks are http://www.buzzle.com/articles/list-of-radioactive-elements.html

We are pawns to the atom's timescales. In all parts of our lives.

Time is set by radioactive decay.

More nonsense. Decay is random, and if you designed a clock that way you could make some lunch money by calling it a stochastic clock, and hoping for the novelty.

The principle of operation of an atomic clock is not based on nuclear physics, but rather on atomic physics and using the microwave signal that electrons in atoms emit when they change energy levels.

Not as esoteric, though.

Decay is random
Thanks for the correction on the clock mechanisms but I thought radioactive decay was stochastic. That is random but has determinstic elements, i.e. half-life. Are we back in the Heisenberg quantum world again? Anyhow, I tried to make the point, We waste time as time wastes us. We cannot hurry. So maybe, As the processes of the atom drives the master clocks of our lives, so does the decay of the isotopes drive us. Yes it is much uglier.

Decay is random
Thanks for the correction on the clock mechanisms but I thought radioactive decay was stochastic.

I would suggest stop digging yourself a deeper hole. There is no real distinction between random and stochastic. It's about the same thing as arguing between the differences of meaning between the words dumb and stupid.

That is random but has determinstic elements, i.e. half-life.

The variation in randomness comes about from the constraints on the process so one will see different probability distributions depending on those constraints. See the Maximum Entropy Principle.

Overall, it is really not that hard to fact-check these misconceptions, so as not to mislead people.

web who I am leading or misleading? Maybe that is whom. If it is not quite right, steer me right. What, I am falsely leading folks into believing it is going to take a long time to deal with these issues? You make it sound like I am recruiting for some kind of cult. Maybe I am just trying to learn and was giving it back as I poorly remember it from school 25 years ago. Do your students enjoy your lectures or do they just sit quietly and then leave ASAP? You know this stuff much better than I. I am not dumb, but there are also issues and answers that I know better than anyone. Everyone has that. Why do we keep having this conversation?
I used advanced timing systems in the communications world. Stratum-1 level clocks and then we also synced with the radio waves. Eventually satellite took over. So yes there was no atomic clock for me, we just referenced one. Just call me a dumb field engineer then.

Do your students enjoy your lectures or do they just sit quietly and then leave ASAP?

I don't teach, and I bet your comeback is "no wonder".

While one can see a predictable radioactive decay curve, the individual particle emissions themselves would be impossible to predict. Vegas would love radioactive decay betting.

"Place your bets, step right up. When will the Beta particle fly?"

The predictable part of the curve is that it is exponential, which is the distribution of much of the random and natural world.

A = Ao exo (- k t)

Contrary to webs assesment I was just a little behind. The half life chart is the calendar driving this party, forget the clock. I know the science forefathers had to be able to determine that chart somehow. I was not suggesting the clock was dangerous, just forget atoms do not fly apart. So how many atoms do the clockworks sample to get its reference, 1? It can measure it without destroying it, because nobody changed orbit or left? Got lost again, when do you destroy by measuring?

Great for his time-bomb!
Unobserved, he would be both alive and dead.
Avoid entanglements in Copenhagen, little meow meow TFHG!

In theory one could use the decay time constant of an isotope as a standard for time. They would need to collect data off the radioactive decay long enough to have good stats. Then they would calibrate off of that decay. But that would be hair-brained. Why not use a quartz crystal? ;-)

You misunderstand how atomic clocks work.

Electron vibrations? Been a while.

And we start by issuing 20-year license extensions to all the plants nearing the end of their original 40-year operating lifetimes. Then we put the head of one of the largest nuclear power operating companies in charge of national energy policy.

All that has been done quite recently. Good luck with that plan.

What country?

The United States. I'll backtrack a bit here... I should have said that the nuclear industry is very near and dear to the president, but he has not actually appointed anyone from that industry to head up energy policy.


I stand by the assertion that the NRC is going full steam ahead with respect to issuing 20-year license extensions to every operator that asks for one. In some cases, plants have been shut down because they became too expensive to operate. I am unaware that any license extension application has been denied.

Don't backtrack too far.

A nuclear Obama

The Obama administration has proposed $36bn in federal loan guarantees to jump-start the construction of nuclear power plants in the US

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was Senator. The company has donated over $269,000 to his political campaigns.

Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Energy Future.

Illinois, where Obama began his political career, gets approximately half of its electricity from nuclear power, more than any other state.

It currently has 10 operable reactors at six sites. The Quad-cities Nuclear Power Plant, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, is a GE Mark One plant, with the identical design and nearly the same age as the Fukushima reactors.


Well, many of us are Americans, and it's 8% of input energy here. And it's about 20% of *electricity*.

Displacing 20% of our electricity supply, while simultaneously working to eliminate another 70% (fossil fuels), and replacing both with stuff that's now 4% (wind and solar) is not a trivial challenge.

Replacing nuclear is easy. Replacing nuclear while also replacing fossil fuels is harder.

Two more doublings of wind/solar will get us near to replacement level for nukes.

Mostly, though, we need to vastly cut back our usage and increase efficiency. Better insulation and other measures can greatly cut down on cooling and heating. Phantom loads can be mostly cut out. And yes, dressing warm in winter and sweating a bit in summer is likely going to be part of the plan. Why should we expect a challenge this vast to be completely painless? Cutting our use to a quarter puts us well within reach of being supplied by renewables (with a bit more ramping up) and some NG backup, and then we go from there. Anything close to BAU is a non-starter under any (physically and ecologically) realistic scenario.

Of course, with the inanity that seems to rule DC (and good chunks of the country) right now, no plan that remotely begins to address the magnitude of the problem is likely to be enacted. Political "reality" now seems so totally removed from every other kind of reality that it frankly boggles the mind.

Installed wind power in the us is 45,800 megawatts.
Now because the wind does not blow 100% you must de-rate this by 70%. of intermittent power. a simple doubling will not replace any nuclear plant. because of their intermittent nature wind power can not replace any power plant of any fuel source. Its a waste of money and a blight on the landscape.

But it is not all there is ,
and you are not a judge of what should and should not
The fact that we still (by your implication above ) seem to have no solution for overcapacity on the grid is among one of several indications that we still have a long way to go towards a most sensible infrastructure

The World Wind Energy Association forecast that, by 2010, over 200 GW of capacity would have been installed worldwide,[1] up from 73.9 GW at the end of 2006, implying an anticipated net growth rate of more than 28% per year.


So within 5 years a quadruple increase in capacity (200GW) to around half that of total nuclear capacity (400 GW) ,

I'd say it is not so difficult a choice


Not to rain on this parade, but there is a world of difference between installed capacity and delivered power.
Windmills are a bear to keep running, subject as they are to huge variable stresses and very sharp power fluctuations.
My guess is that the MTBF is a couple of years at most, so unless the tariff is set so high that the hardware can be changed out every few years, the operator goes bust.
That certainly seems to be the case. The skyline in windy areas of Europe at least is littered with frozen windmills. The same may be true here, but I've not been to California lately to get a current picture.
Compared to an old nuke such as Vermont Yankee, up for 40 years and now looking for a 20 year extension, windmills have a very long ways to go.

My guess is that the MTBF is a couple of years at most, so unless the tariff is set so high that the hardware can be changed out every few years, the operator goes bust.

Lets have some facts instead of guesses.

And just for fun I could easily make the same kind of 'guesses' about nuclear power plants: those things are so complex and expensive to maintain - requiring special materials not used in other industries, requiring specially certified maintenance tools and people, and the turbines and generators are subject to complete failure if a power spike or radiation leak activates the emergency system shutting down the system. And to make ends meet they have to rely on containment structures, seals and delicate electronics that have to last for decades under corrosive conditions and intense ionizing radiation... (this is fun when you don't have to source anything, isn't it?)

Also the comparison is bad - you can't seriously claim that a wind turbine won't last for 40 years just because they haven't existed that long yet - how about we give them a chance to prove themselves. As for the anecdotal about frozen windmills everywhere - the industry who has invested and is investing in those huge wind farms hasn't had problem with it. They seem to be able to make money off it just fine with the current relatively small subsidy. If the subsidy should be removed, it should be removed from other industries too (eg. nuclear weapons related subsidy).

Nuclear power has had a 30 year, much more heavy subsidized run to perfect its efficiencies, which for the first few decades were crap. Considering the rapid development of ever larger wind turbines, especially huge off-shore ones, we can safely assume those will progress much faster in reliability and efficiency. After all they are just propellers with gears and a huge monolithic generator. There is nothing special in material or engineering terms in them. We have been making those for all kinds of power plants for the last 100 years.

Indeed, here in California, on the road to Palm Springs, I see more stalled windmills than I did five or ten years ago.

There is a private veterans organization here in California that was attempting to set up a program to train veterans to do maintenance on these units. Many veterans returning from the mideast would be a great fit for this job-- requires a great deal of discipline, similar skill set to some technical military positions, and working in a hot desert environment. From what I understand, the work is not dull, either, though it can be quite dangerous. I do not know the status of the program at this time, but it seemed like a great idea.

a good wind plant is up 30% of the time. a nuke plant is online 90%. When Joe-six-pack comes home and the internet won't put the ballgame on and the beer is warm.Wind power will not be popular.

Yeah. Too bad we didn't start performing vasectomies on all the Joe Sixpacks about three generations ago.

Fourteen would be a good age. You can pretty much identify them by then.

I'm really not sure how much more of this stupidity I can take.


What exactly is a Joe Sixpack and how do you identify one at 14?

I almost forgot... a great quote on fourteen year-olds and elitists by John Rogers of Kung Fu Monkey:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.



Two more doublings of wind/solar will get us near to replacement level for nukes.

I make it three doublings (2009 wind+solar generation was 75 terawatt-hours, vs 800 TwH for nuclear), but your point still holds. But that's only the start: I want to make a big dent in fossil fuel usage, and I don't want to wait for three doublings of renewables to get started.

Of course, with the inanity that seems to rule DC (and good chunks of the country) right now, no plan that remotely begins to address the magnitude of the problem is likely to be enacted.

That's what I'm getting at. Renewables + conservation can get us where we need to go, but it's a long and pretty strenuous trail to hike, and we're standing around in the parking lot while our leaders argue over who forgot the trail mix.

An example of conservation/efficiency

The wasted energy of street lights in Chicago (my hometown) drives me nuts. Chicago has ~250,000 street lights and at least half the light is transmitted into space! (i.e. totally wasted)

If the city switched to LED lights (which use 1/2 the energy of sodium vapor now in use) it could cut power used by ~150 million kwh/yr, and save ~ $9 million/yr from the power bill. And that is just the lights controlled by the city! Imagine if we did that state/nationwide!

Support for this "crazy" notion can be found here http://www.illinoislighting.org/chicago.html

Awesome picture of all the wasted light at the bottom of the page....arrrggghhh!

I don't see the connection between the way the light is generated and where the light goes.
Are those different issues?

Since the LED lights send the light they generate down to the street--not up to the sky--they are connected in this case. But my broader point was about more efficient lighting design and use, rather than a specific lighting technology.

Many LED lamps come with internal reflectors to form the illumination pattern they project.. This is done to get as much usable light as can be had. I bought a 4W (four Watt) LED PAR floodlight for outdoor light illumination from above that always gets left on. It is dazzlingly bright if you look into it, even from a distance. Nothing around or behind it is lit.

LED lamps made to replace common lighting have several LEDs in them because as you make LED-elements larger and brighter with more current density they will get hot and you loose both the efficiency and life-time. Either you have many many small LEDs in them or you need some cooling fins to dissipate the heat. For the so-called ultra-bright LED elements it is cooling which is the limiting factor. Touch them but be careful not to burn your fingers.

Also one lighting quality factor is distribution - with LED's you need to do something because they are sharp point sources. Ever try to illuminate a working space with a single bright point source - or even couple ones. You get sharp nasty shadows everywhere. This is also another reason for having multiple, at least dozens if not hundreds of LED's to get even distribution out of them.

Also to get a decent lighting quality from LED's you need to mess around with their composition to get the right colors out. And still the so-called white LED's have a terrible spectrum (ask any printers, graphic designer or artist).

So when you combine all these: multiple elements to lower current distribution, diffusers and reflectors to distribute the light evenly and doping them to get half-decent color rendering index out of them - you get something that is not so efficient anymore and very expensive.

In engineering terms it is almost always better to go for the second best of the best: simple fluorescent lighting for example. Ten times more efficient than incandescents, an even distribution of light, very high CRI and relatively long life. And still very cheap.

In my (small 12m2) office I have a lighting fixture with a simple plastic-metal film reflector, an electronic ballast and two 36Watt 1200mm long tubes with a colour of 5000-5400K and CRI of 90%. They give 2x2350 lumens of light evenly diffused over all my work surfaces. The tubes cost 10 dollars each. Try doing that with LEDs.

No, really, check it out!
The new stuff is really good.
I just put my finger on the 4W dazzler, at your subliminal suggestion, and it is just above ambient, just noticeably different than the wall.
The color temperatures are much improved. This one is quite pretty and very much the same color as a very bright incandescent. It replaced a compact fluorescent to appease a penny-wise landlord that pays the bill. It uses a "light engine", a single LED. The cost is stupefying, yes. I will take it with me and use it an a mobile application where its insensitivity to mechanical shock will be a great thing. When I drop it live, there is no hot filament to destroy nor breaking glass releasing phosphor and mercury. Ramping-up mass production will lower the cost significantly.
Try one! Try the new Maglight LED flashlight or flashlight replacement bulbs, too. If you drop it lit, it doesn't break and go out. The Sylvania "Golden Dragon" light is a great thing in my off-the-grid mobile world.
Simple battery LED lights make light well past the point where the batteries are totally dead (at 1.34Volts per cell with a high internal resistance that precludes the lighting of a filament flashlight bulb).
These technologies reduce the energy density requirements.

My little house:


My point was about general lighting - not handy torches and head-lamps. I was also initially very exited about LED's - buying various 'white' and 'ultra-bright' modules to play around with them. And they indeed looked really really bright - as well as better in color as incandescent.

However when I actually had to get a certain amount of general lighting in a lab environment work surfaces - I ended up calculating I would need 50 ultra-bright most expensive LED-modules! to replace two florescent tubes. Not only was it amazingly expensive, but the saving in power was only half of what the florescents used. It's a long time and i've lost the calculations and meter-reading I did back then - but nowadays you can get free software to model everything.

Also I'm talking about real off-the-shelf products here - with datasheets giving you the current density and light flux emounts - so one can cancel out the subjective bias:

I guess the promise of better, faster, cheaper with "ramping up mass production" applies to everything: LEDs, wind turbines, nuclear power plants. Yet why is it that a decent tool box still costs more and more each year?

Sincerely Ransu

Cutting-edge IS expensive.
There are on-coming technologies that out-perform LEDs.
I even saw a microwave version of Nickola Tesla's plasma-shere!

For a decent toolbox, try a briefcase or a small piece of hard luggage. All the tools are accessible: You don't have to remove everything on top and dig to the bottom, like with a box. Hard luggage slides past each-other and so packs and retrieves well in a car.

I enjoy your posts very much!


You're right - the technology exists and will only get better. The Stanford Study - link posted in this thread - suggests we can mix solar, wind and other technologies to make up the slack.

Problem is political -- WHY are the RADICAL REPUGS suggesting that we do not need the new technology -- even AFTER being proven to decrease fuel expenses?


Precisely because it works - it works soooo welll - that plant OWNERS are losing money.

So, they want their high monthly rent to keep coming in.... thus kill energy efficiency for the short term -- kill all of us in the long run -- with climate change, nukes, poisons, etc.

most of the green technologies are government boondoggles which will not deliver the promised power.

Seeing that the current rate of yearly increase in windcapacity is conservatively 50 GW ,
and considering that it takes at least 5 years to build a nuclear plant ,
then with an average of 2.5 GW delivered capacity per nuclear plant ,
you would have to start building 100 new nuclear plants the next 5 year to keep up with the current rate

And windproduction is still expected to rise exponentially


The WWEA sees a global capacity of 600000 Megawatt as possible by the year 2015 and more than 1500000 Megawatt by the year 2020

an average of 2.5 GW delivered capacity per nuclear plant
1 GW

In other words :

You need just 40 Windgenerators of 5 MW built each year to equal the capacity of 1 nuclear reactor being built each 5 years ,

oh my , how nuclear is running a lost race ...

Ending up just like the old relay-tube , beautiful and physically sound ,
but just no match for the cheap , small and efficient transistor ,
not disappearing completely , but only used within its narrow specialty niche.


I don't dispute your point, but please take the time to get your figures straight.

I understand ,
It's because I'm such a hyperbolic ,
but 25% is practically 100% with these growth figures ,
start thinking in orders of magnitude !

The ultimate solution to me in dealing with intermittency and overcapacity would be hydrogen fueled powerplants , producing their own hydrogen during overcapacity , through tidal generators or hydroelectrics , and reapplying the hydrogen during nighttime and periods of winter and doldrums.

Windfarms can be spread wide to maximize continual winds , winds can be forecast for greater and greater periods , so capacity schedules can be planned weeks ahead

Tidal generators and hydroelectrics will provide for a steady and predictable productionscheme.

Solar in the tropical and desert regions will be another insurance.

The key is incremental and modular expansion to steadily fill the gaps and reach for the peaks we need above the baseline to start with energy storage and retrieval systems.

Have you seen the nice Lawrence Livermore graph on energy(here). They used to break out domestic oil and imported oil, which was amusing.

"Why such endless discussion with the implicit assumption that nuclear is vital today and will continue to be vital?"

Well, to some extent, we have proponents who are strongly attached, financially, professionally and/or emotionally, to the technology, and to imagine a world without it threatens their very identities.

More generally, we have a widespread expectation of continuous growth (of the necessity of growth)--of populations, consumption, production, profits, etc. Since many have now recognized, belatedly, that the fossil fuels that have so far largely powered industrial civilization are not inexhaustable, alternatives, in very large quantities, are viewed as essential. And many see renewables as too low-density, impractical, unprofitable and, in some cases, not net energy producers. So, we gotta build nukes.

I would suggest, as would quite a few here, that we would be best served by starting at the beginning, asking how many of us "need" how much exogenous energy, for what purposes. Of course, I'm not hopeful that we will do that.

*Well, to some extent, we have proponents who are strongly attached, financially, professionally and/or emotionally, to the technology, and to imagine a world without it threatens their very identities.*

No doubt we've heard from some of them here. A passionate attachment to the technology doesn't prove they're wrong, of course. None of us are as objective as we might imagine. But the final verdict is not ours.

*Well, to some extent, we have proponents who are strongly attached, financially, professionally and/or emotionally, to the technology, and to imagine a world without it threatens their very identities.*

That , and the fact that they represent the modern alchemists in search of their 'stone of wisdom ' ,

humankind values it's witches and wizards ...

They would become an underground movement if banned , the mystic kind ,

better have them high on the footstall perhaps

I have read the thousands of Fukushima posts and posted nothing because I have no technical expertise to offer. However, I am willing to bet that when it hits the fan that people in the US will demand, yes demand, that nukes be built.

They will not care about "probabilities." They will not care about risk factors. They will want anything that promises some possibility of BAU continuing.

It is a sad world.


Good point, and a real possibility.

I can only hope for a kind of sudden (near) universal revulsion as people become aware of what they have become.

Perhaps an "Omelas" moment?



"Why such endless discussion with the implicit assumption that nuclear is vital today and will continue to be vital?"

Because the first alternative is coal. I posted a bit about its direct death rate above. And there has been a decade of hysteria that the CO2 from burning coal will ruin the planet. So doing a quick 180 from 'coal is evil' to 'coal will save us' is going to be a hard sell. Revoking Al's Nobel Prize would only be the first step.

The second alternative is natural gas. IF they can find enough and you don't mind drinking fracking fluid.

The third alternative is the Great Die-off. That's a really tough one to sell politically. Especially since none of the supposed true believers have been willing to commit suicide to demonstrate the sincerity of their beliefs.

I work in the PV industry. We can't do a complete replacement of nuclear in time to avoid building more nuclear or FF plants, much less replace the coal plants. The production capacity isn't there. We'll need one more generation (40 years) of something before we get to where we could start phasing out nuclear/coal.

In a past career I was a Navy nuke. A bunch of high-school graduates and an ensign can safely run a nuclear plant through all kinds of excitement if there is a Rickover-class absolute dictator in charge at the very top.

On the other hand, the "night" problem has a possible solution. NaS, not to be confused with Network Attached Storage (NAS), not that the news media will ever get it straight. But how fast can NGK build them? And how long do they last in the real world?


32 MW-hr. Considerably better than the one on the boat, which was about 1.5 MW-hr according to this;


(I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of that source.)


32 MW-hr.

Aha! I've been looking for an energy storage figure for NaS batteries. People have been crowing about their power rating, and I keep saying "does no good if they only last 2 minutes."

Doing a little homework, I found this:

Back-of-the-envelope, to provide gap-filling power for a mid-sized city dependent on local renewables, you'll need something like 8000 MW-hours. This means 20,000 batteries, with a footprint of 75,000 m^2 (280 meters on a side), and a cost of $6 billion.

This is not a small facility, but it's in the ballpark of a large new coal power plant with the same power output. Surprisingly reasonable!

"The third alternative is the Great Die-off."

This is of course the usual black-and-white thinking that goes around all too often hereabouts--it's either BAU or catastrophe.

Imagination failure warning.

How about things get really hard, but we muddle through without causing massive amounts of even worse damage for the future to try to deal with?

Not as dramatic or sexy, but pretty much how we have gotten by.

Any attempt to perpetuate the infinite growth delusion of BAU is just pushing toward a likely even bigger collapse a bit further down the road.

Great pain does not necessarily = "Great Die Off"

But it does require a smidgen of maturity from leaders and others. It could be that a smidgen is too much to ask for in our current political climate, but some of us will keep asking.

Thanks for the NaS link, by the way.

Any attempt to perpetuate the infinite growth delusion of BAU is just pushing toward a likely even bigger collapse a bit further down the road

This is the game the climate change delayers play. One quibble though, infinite growth is not the problem, infinite consumption (of capital, non-renewing resources) is.

["I work in the PV industry. We can't do a complete replacement of nuclear in time to avoid building more nuclear or FF plants, much less replace the coal plants. The production capacity isn't there. We'll need one more generation (40 years) of something before we get to where we could start phasing out nuclear/coal."]

Production capacity is not the main issue.

PV was already adding more GWh to grids, than New-Nukes. before Fukushima.
A bigger question, is how we manage the Cyclic nature of these.

PV and wind are ramping in volume so strongly, that inside a decade decisions about what peak production rate to target will be needed. ie when we start to decide how fast we need to phase out Nuclear / coal.

Given the LONG (and likely, now even longer) lead-times of New Nuclear, they will start producing power, right about when PV and Wind level off having met a sufficient replacement-rate level.

That means even from 2012, choosing a new nuke, is a very hard decision.

Building new Nuclear for Capacity-hold-up (ie replacement) to me make sense : the plants and infrastructure are in place, and costing money, we might as well get some GWh from them. Even that decision, has just gotten MUCH harder to sell.

A bigger question, is how we manage the Cyclic nature of these.

Manage intermittency with ridiculous quantities of pumped and intermittent hydro. Double the size of the turbine halls in all the dams in the western US and fill them full of extra turbines and pumps. When the wind and sun aren't available, use the hydro instead. When the wind and sun come out, make the Colorado and Columbia rivers run backwards.

We can also find a broad range of Time-of-use adjustable demands to work as 'Effective Storage' answers to renewables' variable supply.

We can pump up Water Heating and Refrigeration at Homes and Businesses, as a form of 'warehousing energy' instead of treating grid power as a JIT non-inventory item..

We can also find a broad range of 'batch-based' automatic feed(?) industrial processes which can simply turn on or ramp speeds or parallel production lines up and down as surplus power from renewable sources drives pricing structures that trigger them.

I would suggest, as would quite a few here, that we would be best served by starting at the beginning, asking how many of us "need" how much exogenous energy, for what purposes. Of course, I'm not hopeful that we will do that.

Well, look around the world and pick an existing country with the level of energy consumption you'd be comfortable with. E.g.:

327 e6 BTU/cap:  USA
216 e6 BTU/cap:  Russia
143 e6 BTU/cap:  W. Europe average
117 e6 BTU/cap:  South Africa
 74 e6 BTU/cap:  world average
 66 e6 BTU/cap:  Mexico
 65 e6 BTU/cap:  China
 54 e6 BTU/cap:  Brazil
 41 e6 BTU/cap:  Egypt
 25 e6 BTU/cap:  Indonesia
 17 e6 BTU/cap:  India


If immigration trends show people "voting with their feet", most of the world wants higher consumption. Just raising the world minimum to the current world average will require a considerable increase in energy supply. So, among other things, we gotta build nukes.

I have been lurking for a while and appreciating the informed discussion. Going to take the social risk of jumping in here 'cos this (energy needs, kwh/capita) is a familiar topic and I'd like to contribute a few thoughts to the pile.

Precis: The things "the world wants" may not require the grotesque levels of energy consumption found in the US.

Thinking point: many USians have emigrated to W Europe, to a polity consuming on average less than half as many BTU/person/year as they were previously accustomed to -- and are enjoying their new life. Many of them blog about how great it is and how much they like it there. Hence, there is no reason to assume that cutting energy consumption in half results in a 50 percent decline in happiness or life satisfaction. We do know that inflating energy use enormously, as occurred in the US between the 40's and the 90's, did not result in a vast increase in reported happiness or life satisfaction: broad survey results suggest Americans at the end of the Naughty Nineties, wallowing in cheap energy and easy credit, reported themselves as if anything a bit less happy or satisfied than their forebears in the 50's who lived in smaller houses, seldom flew on planes, etc. So, for heaven's sake, can we stop pretending that energy consumption per capita equals happiness? [http://www.commondreams.org/views/052800-105.htm Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies]

Thinking point: many things are done in the US in the most energy-intensive ways possible, as if the point of every human activity were to exhaust fossil fuel resources as fast as we can (10 calories of oil to grow one calorie of corn? Pleeeze). Enormous savings in energy can be realised simply by doing things (a) more slowly, (b) with fewer layers of middleman processing/profit-skimming, (c) more locally, (d) on a less lavish or gargantuan scale, (e) with intelligent deployment of insulation, efficient lighting, co-generation, etc. Before closing our eyes (to the costs) and reciting the "more more more" mantra we could stop and consider the gross wastefulness of most of our energy use and how much BAU (if that's what we want) could be supported simply by trimming the waste.

Thinking point: many people try to emigrate to the first world because they are trying to escape the conditions imposed on their native countries by first-world resource extraction. If you lived in Appalachia right now, or Alberta, you might be thinking about fleeing from the gross toxicity and ugly damage done by the fossil liquidationists. You might well flee to an urban area elsewhere. This doesn't necessarily mean that your life in a high-energy consumption area is happier because you get to consume more energy there or live in a modern convenience apartment instead of your old cabin by the creek. It might be happier just because you aren't living next to a slurry pond or suffering asthma from tailing dust or drinking sludgy "post frac" water. You might have been quite happy to stay home if your home hadn't been ruined and your life there rendered unbearable. So we should bear in mind, I think, that the eagerness of populations to flee the periphery of empire and head for the core may have more to do with the ruination that the empire's accumulation strategy has imposed on their homelands than on the core's innate attractiveness (difficult though that is for the egos of core-dwellers to contemplate).

Thinking point: The Viking colony in Greenland died out, so J Diamond and others tell us, because they could not bear to revise their consumption expectations. They could not bear to eat fish and other seafood, which they considered 'heathen' fare and not worthy of their religion and status. The island ecosystem would not support their cattle and the beef/grain diet they considered themselves entitled to. To accept anything "less," (to live in a way consistent with the resource base they had landed in) would have been a "step down." It would have demoted them to "savages" (in other words, shivering in the dark, living in caves, and other "devolution" tropes). They stuck to their cattle and grain, failed, starved, and died with a wealth of food right next to them. The indigenes meanwhile were merrily thriving on the diet that the picky (spoilt?) inflexible invaders refused to touch. Whenever I hear the "shivering in the dark, waaaah" trope -- or indeed the "if not coal/nukes then nukes/coal, waaah" trope -- I think of those Vikings. So proud, and so certain that their lifeway was the only possible or worthy lifeway, and so terrified of losing status... unable to think outside their box, they were buried in it.

Nice contribution, thanks for that.

Indeed the false dichotomy bandied about, that its either nuclear or coal - shows a great lack of thinking outside the box - or perhaps willful ignorance to fulfill some ulterior motive...

Here's an excellent short lecture on why this is so: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

For example the claim that we could not heat our houses hear up north without either nuclear or coal is simply untrue. As anecdotal as it is - up here in the cold cold Finland - of my colleagues one has just recently finished building a house, another one is designing hers. They will both be insulated to an almost passive house standard - requiring almost no heating from the start anyway (the German standard is better than ours though) and for the extreme cold period they include multiple heating systems: a ground heat-pump and a pellet burner - as well as a good old fashioned fire place (more for comfort, and frying sausages than heating).

It is also very fashionable these days to convert your old oil burners into pellet burners - there's an economic conversion kit for that. The government here was supposed to subsidize pellet production in order to scale it up and lower prices in the long term, but for political reasons it wasn't done. Now we have to import pellets from Sweden because of the high demand.

The image of heating your house using electricity or oil is considered old-fashioned, expensive and simply stupid - not for environmental reasons though - but because everyone senses that those things are just going to get more and more expensive every year.

People who promote the nuclear vs coal dichotomy also want to frame the issue as purely a technical problem - ceteris paribus as to status quo. They also hold a more radical dichotomy which they rarely voice but merely allude to: that any change in western lifestyle is a) wholly impossible b) and would amount to going back living in caves, mass die-off etc. As if there was no middle ground - no room for improvement - no efficiencies yet taken advantage of. Such people's time perspective is fixed on the present - like the Vikings you talk about.

I believe we need the new generation step forward - the young people haven't dug themselves into those trenches yet - or at least they have a fondness for giving things a try with the benefit of the doubt. It is they who will build the smart super-grid, the large storage facilities needed to balance intermittent energy sources. And they are willing to try new modes of transport, working and recreation - which do not squander copious amounts of energy. Telecommuting to work, using video conferencing instead of driving between offices etc. Taking an adventurous boat or train trip instead of flying on packaged holidays. Those are the new fashion. Young people will do this with enthusiasm and not look back at old men mumbling how things can't or shouldn't work like that.

- Ransu

Thanks to all for this thoughtful discussion, the pro/anti Nuc argument was getting tedious. Let me second the thought that less energy is a large part of the answer to future usage.

I share the concern that the political process is inadequate to handle a paradigm shift of this size, look at the Republican response to Obama’s modest efforts at encouraging green energy. On the other hand, it looks like the markets are going to enforce the shift to a low energy future. Entropy is more dependable than politicians.

P.S. a couple months back the NYT ran an article on decreasing automobile travel in the US that included a graph of gasoline price versus US travel miles per capita that captured the unprecedented shift now underway. I have lost the article and graph. Anyone have it bookmarked?

I don't have that article and graph, but you might find the graphs in Gasoline Prices And Sales: What They Tell Us About The Economy of interest.

I thought that the third graph was interesting, because it shows that gasoline consumption per capita rose to 1.72 gallons/day in 1999, and then it declined to about 1.54 gallons/day by 2009. That is a decline of about 10.5%, much of which happened during the price spike and recession, although it started a downslope with the earlier recession.

The consumption has been essentially flat since the beginning of 2009, although there is just the start of a down trend at the beginning of 2011. It looks like the data end in January, so there may be a more severe drop in February and March.


A few new thoughts and I found my graph in this article:

I've seen many changes over the last few years where I work to lower energy consumption and increase recycling. I understand this isn't the home but I would think it raises the consciousness of all in this direction.

The biggest change revolves around a concept called the "remote office". If desired, employees may work from home and company pays all expenses to do this. Standardized laptop computers include powerful tools for netmeetings and instant messaging. Phone systems allow all to start conference calls world-wide. With a telephone headset, one can attend a staff meeting and bake a rum cake at the same time. Of course, there are occasions when one must go to office. Standard offices are available for this purpose where laptop is plugged in and phone is quickly configured for correct phone number.

Many changes in the office have happened. The bathroom got the biggest overhaul. Auto-flushing toilets, electronic faucets (no handles), blowers for drying hands (no paper) and lights off when empty. All conference rooms are lights-off until someone enters room. Evening maintenance folks turn off any cube lights left on. Security folks turns off all lights on floor when noone is around. Electronic coffee makers, hot water, filtered tap water (no bottled water), NO cups (supply your own), electronic paper towel dispenser for wiping cleaned cups or countertop, microwave oven. Software-based fax capability (no paper), expense reinbursement via software fax (no paper flow) and discouragement of printing unless essential. Paper recycle bins, aluminum/plastic recycle bins and annual recycle pickup for computer equipment. All computers have lcd displays (no heavy monitors).

I'm personally about to make a big-push for solid-state hard-drives (less heat and power). My immediate management is extremely resistant to change, however, I'm very good at playing politics to get my way.

I haven't read any others discuss changes of this nature. I find it tough to believe I work for the only company in US undergoing such change. Oh, almost forgot, there is a K-5 school on the office campus.

Indeed. Furthermore, Cuba has the SAME life expectancy as the USA, and yet, and emits about 1/8th of the CO2 per capita....
36 Cuba 78.3 76.2 80.4
36 United States 78.3 75.6 80.8

You didn't reply to what I wrote, Bill.

Believe, I know that most of the world wants higher consumption. Considerable effort has been expended, for a very long time, to encourage them to want it.

They won't be getting it for much longer, so maybe we should consider the suggestion in the post to which you didn't really respond.

Okay, now I have a new nuclear worry. Any thoughts on this?

Geez! I would love to have some of the many engineers who are always so patient on this site with us lowly normals comment on this - in short the link is about flaring solar storms' ability to knockout power grids, and the question as to what this would mean re fission plants. Is this errant sci-fi or a genuine concern?

Specifically, he writes

"Nasa scientists are predicting that a solar storm will knock out most of the electrical power grid in many countries worldwide, perhaps for months." [He provides links to multiple sources about this]"


"I am simply warning that a large solar storm - as Nasa is predicting - could knock out power throughout much of the world, especially if the earth's magnetic field happens to be weak at the time."

That's a nightmare beyond comprehension, really, but not impossible and very frightening.

just a wordgame , associative and divergent , any reference to research is 2nd hand information , thats why you have research , because the author wants the firsthand data.
Everthing else is a derivative , its up to yourself how to handle it , finding the right sources is what counts , and you yourself decides whats right

It's certainly not sci-fi. There's no doubt that power grids are vulnerable to EMF from solar storms, and it should now be pretty clear to everyone paying attention that nuclear plants, spent-fuel pools, fuel-processing facilities... all require continuous electrical power for cooling and few, if any, are prepared for long-term loss of grid power.

Someone else will have to calculate the probability of this happening on a planetary scale, but it is neither impossible or unimaginable.

The eastern half of the U.S. is particularly vulnerable, because the power infrastructure is highly interconnected, so failures could easily cascade like chains of dominoes.

Clicking bookmark for map of US nuclear plants...

The eastern half of the U.S. is particularly vulnerable, because the power infrastructure is highly interconnected, so failures could easily cascade like chains of dominoes.

The domino theory?
All transmission networks are "interconnected". If by "cascade", he means that protective relays will recognize an anomaly and trip, disconnect, this will cause an outage, but not for weeks, months, and years. We have had a couple of blackouts already. Remember? Not great, but not ... you know. NTB.

The length of any such blackout would probably depend upon how many transformers were blown. Replacement takes time and the inventory is limited.

I'm not going to promote this as a primary concern. No need. There are plenty of things that can cause station blackouts at nuke plants and serious questions about preparedness for such blackouts.

The reason for protective relays is to prevent the destruction of equipment. Like the electrical panel in the home prevents a short from burning down the house. The article "What If the Biggest Solar Storm" ignores protective relays.
As I mentioned, we have had transmission system blackouts, and they did not require the replacement of, say, transformers.

Last comment on this: You're missing a fundamental point. The EMF we're talking about here has the potential of inducing enormous stray currents in every single conductor--on both sides of every protective relay, for instance.

And? This relates to the "domino theory"? Or not.
The domino theory does not mean that you walk into a room and kick over all the dominoes.
The reason I mentioned "relays" is to help this guy with his "domino theory"; to provide the mechanism by which this "cascade" might happen. Don't blame me. He is the one who brought it up.

The article "What If the Biggest Solar Storm" ignores protective relays.

As well it should.

There are a wide variety of protective relays which are designed to protect the AC system from faults. Most are simple over current relays, but some are complex multifunction devices. Solar flares cause large DC potential gradients across the earth, and if you've got a conductor connecting points across that gradient then you get a large DC current flowing. That causes lines and transformers to burn up. It also causes the instrumentation transformers that the protective relays use to look at the line currents to saturate (core flux is inversely proportional to frequency) which can leave the relay blind - you can sort-of tell when that is happening because it generates large even harmonics, but that assumes they are capable of or configured to look for that. Big DC currents are an absolute nightmare for the power grid. See the comments from jg_ below.

Finally, even if it works the relay protects the system by opening the breaker and cutting off the power - which is apparently a problem for nuclear power plants. Your confidence is misplaced.

which is apparently a problem for nuclear power plants

"apparently"? Meaning that the event at Fukushima shows us that we should not be using breakers? If you are talking about some localized effect at power plants caused by solar storms, ok but that wasn't what the article was about. If you are saying that connecting a nuclear power plant to a network has been now shown to be inherently unsafe, you've drawn a new lesson from Fukushima.
And by the way, the grid was up before midnight, so why didn't the Daiichi use it, like Daini did?

But I accept that solar flares can cause problems, even new problems, and new failure modes.

You claimed that the protective relays would prevent the destruction of equipment, in reference to solar storms. I pointed out why they will do no such thing.

In reality the backup diesels are a new (and needed) addition. All you need to destroy these plants is loss of grid power and loss of the generators, and we've just had one example of how that can happen. Doubtless there are more.

A big solar storm could take out grid power for a prolonged period over a wide area. Then you are running on the generators for an extended time - one system away from overheating, pressure build up and hydrogen blowing past the cap seal (or popping the torus), leading to explosion.

NPP's cannot be made safe.

EDIT: Why didn't Daiichi use the grid? Who knows, some additional problem with any of the equipment in the system, maybe even something simple. Another example of the vulnerabilities of such a system.

You are making two points then:
1) nuclear plants are not safe, and
2) the grid is not reliable enough for nuclear power plants.

I don't think that diesels are new, but that's me.
In my opinion, this is not an example of loss of grid power, despite the many times that has been repeated. The stringing of wires on-site, behind units 3-4, for which there are photos, is not a grid problem; it is a plant problem. We'll see.

But otherwise I don't disagree with you: the limited liability of NPPs shows that the owners think they are too risky; an all-too-typical "externality".

Finally, even if it works the relay protects the system by opening the breaker and cutting off the power - which is apparently a problem for nuclear power plants.

Cutting off the power isn't apparently a problem; cutting off the power and then destroying the backup generators is a problem. You've got to come up with a mechanism where the solar storm destroys the diesels, and I haven't thought of one yet. (The electrical damage from solar storms comes from EMF integrated along very long wires to create large voltages: its effects on small objects are negligible.)

"You've got to come up with a mechanism where the solar storm destroys the diesels, and I haven't thought of one yet"

I really don't think the burden lies with the general public to imagine scenarios where grid + diesel could go out for several hours--long enough to be a problem (we just witnessed one!).


Usually, don't people just put a lot of tape over the switch you don't dare turn off?

No not QED.
QED means "And that is the point that was at issue".

The discussion so far has not focused on the obligations of the participants, so that comment can't be QED, since the point at issue is whether the a large solar event is a threat to America, via the domino theory, and the domino theory is the proposed scenario.

Not quite. Quod erat demonstrandum, translates, literally, to "what was to be demonstrated" and is commonly used to mean "thus the point is made."

The point that was made is that it is specious to demand that posters discussing the possibility of long-term, widespread damage to the grid from solar storm-induced EMF prove that such an occurrence could result in station blackouts leading to cooling failures, because it wouldn't necessarily cause failures of backup power. That reasoning is specious because we know, from experience, that all sorts of things can and have caused loss of availability (or limited duration of availability) of backup power.

I really don't think the burden lies with the general public to imagine

No that's certainly true, in general. But this is a discussion. If you want to say "I think we could have a scenario where a big solar storm knocks out all the nuclear power plants and wrecks America", isn't it natural for people to say "Wow. That would be awful. Tell me more about that or this part of that."

I can see you might think that a solar storm might knock out the grid for days, so that we would be down to our last strike, so to speak, which is not good. Even though, actually, here, the grid didn't go down for a few days, but it makes you think all the same, yea but what if.

It's not sci-fi, but it's a little overwrought. This has happened before: solar activity peaks every 11 years, usually causing one or more intense solar storms. Past solar storms have damaged power networks, but never seriously. "NASA scientists are predicting a huge storm" is overstated: the prediction is simply that as we're heading toward a solar maximum in the next couple of years, solar storms are more likely.

We can't rule out a storm intense enough to bring the continental power grids down, but none of the many storms that have occurred since continental power grids were invented have been big enough to do so.

And even if they did, you'd need a second disaster to disable the reactors' backup generators. Remember, Fukushima was a two-point failure with a common cause; I can't come up with a scenario where a solar storm would destroy a diesel generator.


Well I can come up with a natural disaster that could knock out the infrastructure surrounding any nuclear plant in the world.
he Tunguska event, or Tunguska explosion, was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, at about 7:14 a.m. KRAT (0:14 UT) on June 30 [O.S. June 17], 1908.Estimates of the energy of the blast range from 5 to as high as 30 megatons of TNT (21–130 PJ),[6][7] with 10–15 megatons of TNT (42–63 PJ) the most likely[7]—roughly equal to the United States' Castle Bravo thermonuclear bomb tested on March 1, 1954, about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and about one-third the power of the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated.[8] The explosion knocked over an estimated 80 million trees covering 2,150 square kilometres (830 sq mi). It is estimated that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. An explosion of this magnitude is capable of destroying a large metropolitan area.
Any nuclear plant anywhere.

1)The first article he cites mentions interference with communications, only.
2)The second article says "Such a storm in 1989 caused power grids to collapse, causing a five-hour blackout in Quebec".
3)The third, talks about an event in 1859, saying "Telegraph pylons threw sparks and telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire"

Well, ... ok

2)The second article says "Such a storm in 1989 caused power grids to collapse, causing a five-hour blackout in Quebec".

This was more useful than the 1859 one, as it gave valuable insight into the failure mechanisms.

You can mitigate the Solar Flare effects, with additional equipment & operation.

["Since the 1989 blackout, Hydro-Quebec has installed transmission-line series capacitors at a cost of over $1.2 billion and has improved its real time measurement, monitoring and communication capability for grid management. Most utilities in susceptible regions have relied on similar guidelines and limited contingency plans but they have not been tested fully and may not be sufficient for a rapid response to any large-scale cascading grid failure."]

One of the effects of Solar flux, is to induce DC loop currents, and if ignored these can increase both resistive losses, and worse, shift the magnetic balance of the transformer. Iron saturation effects magnify the impact of this.

So, as they describe above, you can add series capacitors (not cheap), and also with some warning, you can ensure no single transformer is running at full thermal load.

The risks from a solar storm are significant, if only because we have examples from recent history.
The 1859 storm, known as the Carrington event after the astronomer who recorded it, was world wide and so powerful that telegraph messages could be sent while the power was switched off.
A similar event today would be hugely disruptive, as current electrics and electronics are not designed to survive large stray voltages induced in every piece of wire. The repair and restoration of the grid would take years, because the large transformers at the heart of the system have no standby alternatives and take years to build. So the damage would cascade very unpredictably. Afaik, it is not in the design specifications for any nuclear of conventional power plant. A NASA comment is here:
Fortunately, researchers have found that this event was the largest in the past thousand years, but it would be a civilization shaking event.

The power grid as it exists in the U.S. today is also vulnerable to attack by an EMP weapon. The idea that continental America is immune from foreign assault should have been proved false by 9/11. Any future enemy could do extreme damage to our electricity-centered society, not by bombing a city but by bombing our sky.
If we are are really going to build a "smart grid" for the 21st century, we should be spending defense dollars to put it underground and shielded. Eisenhower built the interstate highway system because he saw the Autobahn in Germany and the need to move tanks around, and the interstate system was designed to accommodate military transport. So a combined military/civilian investment is nothing new.
And as a bonus, much of the local opposition to new transmission lines would disappear if the lines were buried.
Long-haul lines could be buried along the interstates, and new technology (cryo?) could be developed to increase the efficiency. As it is, above-ground high-tension lines lose what, 30 percent? And anyone with a .22 can cause a blackout

what, 30 percent?


I'd say an attack on Americn soil is a 1 in a thousand year event ,
so you shouldn't worry about it
You can deal with it later ,
you'll have a solution by then

We're weak an stupid now.
We are hated around the world.

No way ! You are still a knowledge and communication powerhouse !

You are too kind ~:p

Re: ~:p
Is that a Mohawk?
By the way, is that your tent camper, the Volvo?

It is my home of two years.
I have the upstairs.
My dog has the downstairs.
Structurally, it will do 70MPH as shown.
Three little solar panels for lights/computer/radio.
All LED interior lighting.

The film is made and posted by someone in Virgina state.



Burying cables underground will not shield them from EMP, the current power grid is over 94% efficient, and underground cables will not improve that efficiency.

Also, I'm having trouble coming up with a believable scenario where 9/11 turrurists manage to build a megaton-class thermonuclear weapon and a rocket big enough to carry it into the magnetosphere.

Not to mention that the failure rate for underground cabling is higher than that for overhead. Think JCB.


And most of the inefficiency is in the local distribution, not transmission.

From NHK earlier today

TEPCO "detected on Thursday 110 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per cubic centimeter in seawater...The government's nuclear safety agency stressed the need to monitor areas of high radiation concentration more closely to clarify possible contamination of the ocean."

Yep, stressin' the needs...Heyyyy, it's the Stressinator, stressin' the fishes...Stressinatin' some stress at The Nuke Plant.

Woe, dudes- understatin' the needs.

It could be that the agency's intended emphasis was much more urgent, and just does not translate well...Right?

Crap! The 'lost in translation' idea is not relieving any stress at all!

*shoulders maintaining level at earlobes*

I just saw this today, pretty interesting to watch the Geiger counter numbers as they travel the 15+ km towards Fukushima. I was surprised they went in with no protective gear but at least they gave up at 1.5km from the plant when radiation levels got too high for their comfort.


That video is impressive in that it shows the reality on the ground, as opposed to TEPCo's "press release" reality.
I noticed the stray dogs reverting to a pack. I wish they had taken dose readings from the dogs to see what they had accumulated from a month of living on the streets.

Japanese speaker here.

Here's another video (a different reporter duo) this time who drive right up to the front gates of Daiichi:


I linked to where they're talking to Daiichi employees at the gate who are wearing full-body protection. The reporter gets out of the car to talk to the employees. The employees warn him to get back into the car and close his door, because it's dangerous. The reporter obediently closes his door, but then rolls down the window anyway, and they say he shouldn't roll down the window too far. Crazy.

Once again, these reporters are wearing virtually no protection, and are walking around in dirt and debris quite close to Daiichi. Given that the NRC report leaked to the NYT states it's likely that fuel elements (from a spent fuel pool) were ejected up to a kilometer from Daiichi, you can only guess what they're tracking back into their car (and back to wherever they live).

In the video, the two power plant employees start arguing about the best route back to the expressway before getting edited out, which is kind of comical.

Thank you so very much for this.
The song is beautifully done.
Sung by "Rose in many colors" Ave Maria:

ローズインメニーカラーズ Rozuinmenikarazu

Unforeseen Circumstances: US Government Shutdown

NRC website states:

In the event of a government shutdown, the NRC will continue operating for at least one week with available funds. The NRC will use interim Management Directive and Handbook 4.5, "Contingency Plan for Periods of Lapsed Appropriations" (interim MD 4.5), which supercedes, M.D. 4.5 dated November 4, 1987, as guidance for addressing a lapse in appropriations. Interim MD 4.5 addresses agency roles and responsibilities in implementing a shutdown of operations when all available funds have been exhausted. Additionally, the interim guidance identifies functions that are considered excepted from shutdown for the safety of human life or the protection of property a timetable for implementing a shutdown, and general guidance on employee rights, obligations and benefits.

Political brownouts. How long until the political blackout?

I would call it a Boehner Brownout. Not sure when we'll see the Bama Blackout. With 1 hour before shutdown, Boehner just announced funding would be extended 1 week.

As a nurse, I am going to have to call this a Boehner Code Brown. I am not going to provide a link; you are going to have to google it.

Calling it a boehner is sufficient. As a nurse, you must know what a priapism is.

Bama has its own problems. The 'man' has been keeping us down for too long.

Former Farm Bureau, Forestry Association officials defend property tax efforts

By Brian Lawson, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times

BIRMINGHAM A former Alabama Farm Bureau executive director and the former chief lobbyist for the Alabama Forestry Association testified for the defense Thursday in the federal trial of Alabama's property tax system.

The plaintiffs argue that farming and timber interests drove through legislation and two referendums in the 1970s that created a tax benefit for themselves at the expense of Alabama public schools. The State of Alabama is being sued by families of black schoolchildren in Lawrence and Sumter counties and families of white schoolchildren in Lawrence County.

Kelly testified first. He recalled the efforts in 1982 to establish the "current use" system, which sets a lower value on farm and timber property, reducing the tax rate.


Notice the last one -

bullet Furniture - More recently, certain metal objects in the home are reported to be partly made of spent radioactive material.

There, good recycling solution, and now we have planty!

Just don't suck on them.

keep in mind the democrats had a large majority last summer/fall when this budget was supposed to have been passed. They lost the house and almost the senate because of this and other spending issues.

Either party is fine with me. They both make great fodder for jokes. LOL...

I was curious how much NRC would be impacted by shutdown. I would have thought not much since it seems to be one of the required agencies for safety. After reading on the NRC website it would only have one week of funds and begin using a contingency plan, it made me pause to wonder. The contingency plan may just change which accounting buckets are used for funds. Don't really know.

EDIT: oops, positioned in wrong spot.

I do not know about the NRC but DOE is funding 30 days in the future. The contractors are funded by their contract. The last time the government was shut down they still went to work but got paid late.

Video of Chiba Refinery - Ball of fire. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/stream/m_news/vn110311_9.htm

Be ready to watch and listen if you click the link – this is the sort of collateral damage society accepts (and hides) so that the privileged few can gobble energy and profit.

http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/ 2011/ 04/ chernobyl-legacy-by-paul-fusco.html

Thanks for this, Wits End.


April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to build an undersea silt barrier stop the leak of radioactive fluids from its crippled nuclear station after attempts to block the flow of contaminated water from a reactor failed. "A silt fence ensures that mud down deep doesn't seep through," Hidehiko Nishiyama, Japan's spokesman on nuclear safety, said in Tokyo. The barrier may take "several days" to install and will "ensure that water doesn't leak from the area in front of the No. 2 reactor's intake duct and the conduit."

I'm having flashbacks to Boom--F*ing Boom. Maybe they should call BP for advice and a deal on used equipment?

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I am going to nibble some nori noms and head out for a crust ski with my honey. My geiger counter says all is well, for now.

Some new photos including one showing the tsunami wave flooding the Daini plant:


Other info:


You can see black smoke rising from above the plant during the flooding

So this is Daini , the one that got away ?

( you forgot your href= attribute in your links)

Excellent! Finally security camera photos. Flooded to the top of the fencing - 58 inches.

The press release PDF shows that the grid interconnect for units 1&2, including the transformer building and its surrounding parking lot, did not get wet.

The NYT has a good article on the nuclear contract workers in japan:


High pay to take rads, mob involvement and company intimidation. You get the picture.

*High pay to take rads, mob involvement and company intimidation. You get the picture.*

You see what an advanced country Japan is? In the old SU Stalin would have made them all ZEKs and saved a lot of money [snark].

Yup. Thanks, JayByrd. Another must-read.

Since the mid-1970s, about 50 former workers have received workers’ compensation after developing leukemia and other forms of cancer. Health experts say that though many former workers are experiencing health problems that may be a result of their nuclear work, it is often difficult to prove a direct link. Mr. Kawakami has received a diagnosis of stomach and intestinal cancer.

Hard to prove... especially if powerful forces don't want it proven.

From the NYT article

But a security guard would not let him out of the complex.... “Show me your IDs,” Mr. Ishizawa remembered the guard saying, insisting that he follow the correct sign-out procedure.
Mr. Ishizawa said he shouted at the guard. “Don’t you know a tsunami is coming?”

You can be safe from a tsunami without leaving the site. Go up the cliff behind Units 1&2, and you will be high and dry. With a nice view.

From the NYT article:
Tetsuen Nakajima, chief priest of the 1,200-year-old Myotsuji Temple in the city of Obama near the Sea of Japan, has campaigned for workers’ rights since the 1970s, when the local utility started building reactors along the coast; today there are 15 of them. In the early 1980s, he helped found the country’s first union for day workers at nuclear plants.
The union, he said, made 19 demands of plant operators, including urging operators not to forge radiation exposure records and not to force workers to lie to government inspectors about safety procedures. Although more than 180 workers belonged to the union at its peak, its leaders were soon visited by thugs who kicked down their doors and threatened to harm their families, he said.
This brings up the whole issue of - engineers and scientists can think up way to mitigate these disasters but mostly it is businessmen and politicians who make the decisions as to what actually gets done and enforce safety regulations.
Obviously many of the workers at Fukushima are the contact workers. I don't know about the US nuclear industry but I have read that US oil refineries after Reagan began hiring non-union temporary contract companies to do work at US oil refineries and there were many more major accidents such as the one at BP's refinery in Texas?/Louisiana? around the time of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. Incidents caused by say a non-union non English speaking welder making repair welds where a sign in English warned of the dangers of fire.
I have read that the Yakuza in Japan is tolerated because finance,industry, and political parties use them to do illegal actions that they can't take the chance of doing. Peter Dale Scott calls this Deep Politics. Chicago is a good example of how it works in the US.
Ovid Demaris ‘Captive City’

From the moment of its incorporation as a city in 1837, Chicago has been systematically seduced, looted, and pilloried by an aeonian horde of venal politicians, mercenary businessmen, and sadistic gangsters. Nothing has changed in more than a century and a half. The same illustrious triumvirate performs the same heinous disservices and the same dedicated newspapers bleat the same inanities. If there has been any change at all, it has been within the triumvirate itself.
In the beginning, the dominant member was the business tycoon, whether it be in land speculation, railroads, hotels, meat packing, or public utilities, Pirates like Potter Palmer, Phillip Armour, George Pullman, Charles T. Yerkes, and Samuel Insull fed the city with one hand and bled it dry with the other.
Around the turn of the century, with the population explosion out of control, the politician gained the upper hand over his partners in the coalition. It remained for the gangster to complete the circle in 1933 following the murder of Mayor Cermak. Today it is nearly impossible to differentiate among the partners – the businessman is a politician – the politician is a gangster – the gangster is a businessman.

So it is not surprising that Jack Ruby (murderer of Oswald, alleged assassin of Kennedy) came from Chicago or the previous governor of Illinois, Blagojevich was convicted of corruption (after he tried to use the appointment of Obama's replacement in the Senate for his own political gain rather than Obama'a.) and even the present US President is a product of Chicago politics. What did Charley Ferguson say in acceptance speech for his Oscar winning documentary - Inside Job. "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong," Ferguson said.

Enough of politics but do we really think that the nuclear industry can be kept honest, maintaining the necessary safety standards when profits are at stake?

Enough of politics but do we really think that the nuclear industry can be kept honest, maintaining the necessary safety standards when profits are at stake?

Er, no.

The nuclear industry, just like any corporation, should be held responsible for the externalities caused by it in executing its charter which the People have given it. With a threat of punishment of the corporation being dissolved, capital confiscated and assets sold in a public auction. Now tell me how many times has this happened?

Regulatory capture defines the way the business and political worlds are entangled. There is no need for gangsters anymore since now you can pillage and murder in broad daylight. And if and when you are actually found guilty of these things - you just pay it off with money - unlimited as it is in the world of finance these days.

In a world where the people held corporations to account - the job of the regulator would be the same as a judge in a court of law - with the help of the jury (an informed people) they would oversee the compliance - and openly debate about the restrictions and consequences for breaking them.

What we have now is a farse where the regulator is rewarded with power and influence for "nurturing" the industry it was supposed to oversee - and for individual bureaucrats there is no requirement for independence before or after employment - the revolving door is like a circus carousel between their respective offices. It is a system of legalized corruption, funded by a plutocracy which benefits and directs it.

Its funny how people can imagine the meat-packing industry being run by mobsters, perhaps with the result of getting some contaminated meat on the market ones in a while. Where as for some people the mere suggestion that the nuclear industry systemically colludes with the regulators to hide and downplay the effects and hazards of nuclear contamination is a sacrilege - and is promptly dismissed as "a conspiracy theory". I would eat a bit of spoil meat anyday instead of having my home county 'salted' with Cs-137 for the life time of my grandkids.

Well said.

Two related divisions among people are belief in the goodness of people and trust in authority.

If they believe in innate goodness, then regulation can be presented as a silly and unnecessary impediment.

If they understand madness, or have understood the history of commerce, then the absolute need of real control is appreciated.

When madness captures authority, then all bets ore off.

"Ongoing operations--which involve pouring water directly into the reactor cores"

But where does this water go after being injected?

I understand they are doing "feed and bleed" which involves pumping cold water in and pumping heated water out, thus cooling the fuel rods inside the reactor vessel. There seem to be be leaks that allow some water to escape the reactor containment structures but it's not been confirmed as no-one can get near the relevant parts of the buildings to inspect them properly as the radiation environment is too high and it will be so for a long time.

Could be wrong but this is different about the Japanese. If it were Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Phillipino, and USA, we would not turn this in. The Creoles would have whacked the reporter if he came nosing around. These are all biased opinions and stereotypes, but you tell me. I can assure you my 50% Korean/50% Creole self would go all Wang Lung from The Good Earth.

Tens of millions in 'lost' cash found

SENDAI (Kyodo) Rescue workers and citizens have turned in to authorities tens of millions of yen in cash found in the rubble-strewn tsunami-hit areas of the Tohoku region, police said Saturday.

While police and local governments are pessimistic about finding the original owners, unless the money was found with some form of identification, survivors are calling on authorities to use it to help in the reconstruction of the ravaged areas.

Edit: If it were a bank. Personal stuff you turn in.

Edit2: Maybe not a TEPCO exec. Maybe you keep his cash and look for more. Split it with the town.

Image from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission site

Note the transmission tower. They have the power going up through the insulators and going out the ground lines.
So that's how it works.

Hey, you're missing the big shake and the big wave. Other than that it looks pretty cool.


You seem to have almost a single subject obsession with the state of the power grid after the quake. While I think it's one of many things I'd like to know more about, could you say explicitly what you are getting at as I'm not sure.

What I do know is that a huge amount of generating capacity suddenly went offline at once. This should have happened before any significant demand destruction as the generating stations shut down automatically on seismic detection from remote sensors before the quake even reached them. The grid is then under extreme strain as the frequency drops and protective action will be taken both automatically and manually. Then the quake hits and distribution lines start bouncing up and down and the whole grid is at massive risk of cascading failure. And then finally they are hit by a tsunami. Even if some physical connectivity might exist via some route to get power to Fukushima Daiichi, I can't see how you seem to be so sure it should have been there, either immediately or very soon after, given all that had happened.

Are you suggesting perhaps the station blackouts were "political"? That is one company gave low priority to energising circuits to a competitor perhaps rather than solely basing restoration on priority needs?

Martingugino: You seem to have almost a single subject obsession with the state of the power grid after the quake. While I think it's one of many things I'd like to know more about, could you say explicitly what you are getting at as I'm not sure.


The same...if Martingugino would share his operating hypothesis, we might be able to help find evidence to support/refute it. As it is, I'm starting to think of him as a crazy uncle...

Since lack of cooling is the direct cause of the buildup of heat, and since loss of power to the pumps caused lack of cooling, I think it makes sense to look at lack of power. There may be a lot of weak links in nuclear power production, but this one shouldn't be one of them. It is all old old and well known technology. The first backup source is the grid. The substation was powered. Is there any question about that? There are 6 three-wire circuits from the substation to the plant. This is redundancy. Some towers were knocked over by the tsunami, but those are in areas with general devastation. That does not describe the area around the plant. You can look at Google Earth, which has dates on the images, and see the the towers are good after the event, as still photos of the plant confirm. So it is not a tower, but at most a wire that went down from the transmission lines. But it would have to be at least six wires to knock out six circuits. It does not sound reasonable to me, and the reports of work on wires all seem to focus on work on the plant site. The story was that crews worked "all weekend". Yes, but on what? I am just saying - I don't see any reason to believe that the grid is implicated in this disaster, even though a lot of people are saying it.
I think the problem at the plant is that a relatively simple thing - getting power to pumps on wires - how hard is that - was not done carefully enough. Plus, plus, they brought in emergency generators, and it didn't help. What does that tell you? It was the internal circuitry that failed. Saying that the grid failed is an extra hypothesis that does not help explain the situation, plus does not have any evidence for it.
Other than that ... nothing.

I do believe that the owner of the transmission lines, Tomoku, knows the state of those circuits, since they have to know that to operate the transmission system. I do not know why they have not commented on this topic. But there is a lot that is not being said.

But I talk about it "all the time" partly in the hopes that someone will present some hard evidence that it is false, by just not letting it go. Or until people stop saying it.

This is what happens, Martin, when the net energy of a source approaches 1 (nukes at ~2)? You can't bootstrap a nuke once the grid is down. There is too much dependence on fossil fuels to do the ancillary work of a nuke. Is nuclear power at this level of net power delivery possible in a culture that does not have the accompanying fossil fuels???

Charlie Hall's estimate of 5 for civilization is probably about right. Once you get below 5, you start to lose the boosting powers that electricity provides. Why? Because . . .

You are saying that you think the power problem at Fuku was independent of the grid (i.e. the power problem happened "inside" the plant). But this problem would have to be somewhere between the grid connection and the diesel generators? If the diesel generators could supply power for cooling after the 9.0 then the wiring to them was okay--until the tsunami hit and then all we "know" is that the wiring between the batteries and the cooling point was okay (sorta).

Or am I still missing what you are saying?

From wikipedia Fuku 1 article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents
3 Direct effect of the quake+:

"When the earthquake was detected, units 1, 2 and 3 underwent an automatic shutdown (called scram).[146]

After the reactors shut down, electricity generation stopped. Normally the plant could use an external electrical supply to power cooling and control systems,[147] but the earthquake caused major damage to the regional power grid[citation needed]. Emergency diesel generators started but stopped abruptly at 15:41, ending all AC power supply to the reactors. The plant was protected by a seawall which was designed to withstand a tsunami of 5.7 metres (19 ft), but the wave that struck the plant was estimated to be more than twice that height at 15 metres (49 ft).[148] It easily topped the seawall, flooding the low-lying generator building.[149][150]...After the diesel generators failed, emergency power for control systems was supplied by batteries that were designed to last about eight hours.[23] Batteries from other nuclear plants were sent to the site and mobile generators arrived within 13 hours,[151] but work to connect portable generating equipment to power water pumps was still continuing as of 15:04 on 12 March.[22] Generators are connected through switching equipment in a basement area of the buildings, but this basement area had been flooded.[149] After subsequent efforts to bring water to the plant, plans shifted to a strategy of building a new power line and re-starting the pumps, eventually resulting in cable emplacement reported at approximately 08:30 UTC.[152]"

That's pretty much it. The story is
1. What: The electrical connection was not working between the grid and the pumps.
2. When: At midnight that connection should have been working.

Before that and other than that, I have opinions, but there are a few more unknowns.

This story applies six times, once for each unit, or if you wish, once for each circuit.

Some input from someone on wikipedia! The substation and the transmission lines to the Fukushima Plants, are apparently owned by TEPCO not Tomoku. The 2003 annual report is in Japanese, but page 24 shows the transmission map, and the northernmost lines are Fukushima.

Even if some physical connectivity might exist via some route to get power to Fukushima Daiichi, I can't see how you seem to be so sure it should have been there, either immediately or very soon after, given all that had happened.

Thanks for asking the question, and even for challenging the idea. Here is the beginning of the argument:
1. The substation. It's not essential that the grid be up in the first hour or so. In fact all we know "for sure" is that substation and at least one of two circuits to Daini was working by midnight.
2. There are six circutis to Daichi. We can see that there are six circuits to Daiichi, on Google maps. There are three strings of towers with two circuits each, each circuit with three wires.
3. The status of the six circuits. There is no reason, a priori, to think that the circuits to Daiichi are different from the circuits to Daini. If two circuits can get power to Daini, it is reasonable to think that six circuits can get power to Daiichi.
That's the "a priori" case.

There are additional "facts" after that, almost all, in my view, on the side of the grid being up.

But the reason that it is important, is that if the pumps failed and the grid was up, that is quite pathetic, and really quite an argument against nuclear. It will be quite hard to explain away this disaster, even harder, in my view, than the current argument. The current argument now is "that plant was designed to survive a 7 meter tsunami, and we got one a lot bigger, that flooded the diesels". That is not quite the way I see it. If the design constraint is that there might be a seven meter tsunami, that does not mean that it makes sense to build a nuclear plant on the ocean, in an earthquake zone, seven and a half meters above sea level, which is what they did.

I am confused. Are you saying that plain old grid power was available the whole time but it wasn't/couldn't be used to restart the cooling systems? Like it had to be the diesel generators or nothing?

I have heard some colorful statements about diesel engines--with the implication being that the only reliable diesel engine is one which is already running. Apparently, any diesel engine that has been poorly maintained or which has been immersed in water is well on its way to being an even bigger disappointment than one's ex-girlfriend.

If a running diesel engine is immersed in water without any flooding prevention it will be as disappointing as your ex when 6' down. If the grid was lost, during a shut down, the the generators were the only step before sayanora Japan. There was no defence in depth. The generators were not protected. The electrical supply was not protected. The height of the tsunami is irrelevant. If they had a 3m tsunami in the middle of a storm running a decent storm surge they would have been just as stuffed as last Christmas's turkey. Just local flooding from a bad storm?

They did not do their homework properly and did not answer the right questions. The system was totally open to disruption by flooding. If they lost power they lost the reactor. Next to the sea, tsunami zone, typhoon zone and they put power gear in a basement?

I have big doubts about the working condition of the generators and the pumps even before the tsunami struck. I also wonder how soon TEPCO decided to abandon site rather than to try and save the day. Could the whole thing have been avoided by a surge of effort in those first few days or did they know the previous state of the plant when they made that decision.


They have the power going up through the insulators and going out the ground lines.
So that's how it works.

Nuclear electricity is different that way. Note also that it only flows 33% of the time.

Although this may have started with a sketch by an engineer, it has obviously been improved for use as an illustration in a publication by a communications major. Other than illustrating the fact that in a boiling water reactor the water flows between the reactor vessel and the turbine and condenser, it is pretty useless.

I found this one from the Union of Concerned Scientists :


Its a schematic of a BWR Mark I operation broken down into 24 steps

Very informative

Here's even more detail. This should put to rest the question of intentional venting to secondary containment. I pasted these gif's together from BWR Plant Photos - inside and outside

Left Side Reactor Right Side Reactor
Right Side Reactor Right Side Turbines

These are to my knowledge Mark 2 or 3 reactors however

Oh. I see now.
I had known it wouldn't be exact because there are 3 reactor models I've focused on and it's only 1 diagram. I hadn't noticed there was also a containment design model difference. A link I posted above called Blackout Accident has photos of the Mark I and Mark II. I see the Mark II redesigned the location of suppression pool. Yes, the diagram I posted is not Mark I.

Here's the models for the various units.
Daiichi 1 is BWR-3, Mark I
Daiichi 2-4 are BWR-4, Mark I
Daini 1 is BWR-5, Mark II
Daini 2-4 are BWR-5, Mark II Advanced

Thanks for the clarification.

Very small screen, here...
Can you please put in quick words the proof contained in the drawing?

The diagram shows all pipe connections and none empty inside building.

Here's the link to one of the sections. The number before the .gif can be changed to be 1-4 and is each of the sections. I'm not sure if this will help to display on a smaill monitor.

Thank You

The, perhaps hardened, vent to the outside is the design intention.

What's this sheeting proposal thing?

The Japanese govt requests TEPCO to study building frames around buildings and mounting sheeting to the frames. The goal is to keep radiation contained.
Govt eyes huge sheet

Would that be like using sheet piles as a guide wall for a slurry wall construction project.


my guess it would be more like this.

This is a fabric ( think more like a rubber raft not a curtain)structure over a nuclear waste pit(lots of plutonium and other crap) in Idaho. It has a ventilation system which passes through HEPA filter banks. I should think they could have filters or resin banks to catch the iodine and strontium 90. They just finished digging up this waste and packaging up targeted waste. The thing is this controls contamination from getting out. cooling the reactor will still be a water cooling system. If you are talking about 10 years you got to do something to control the stuff that is able to get out. These structures work better then a metal building.

I like that building...

I'm assuming it gets pretty windy there. The effort to create one or even a series of closed fabric structures might be a fool's errand.

Seems to me they'd be better to use a lot of sheets--small ones, maybe shaped, staggered at different heights, with the goal of collecting all the contamination by the time the air reaches the last sheets at the top of the structure. Sheets could easily be replaced when they reach "maximum" contamination.

They should also be trimmable, like sails, so they can spill out some air if the wind blows too hard.

Lots of unemployed sailmakers out there, what with the economy not exactly supporting the boat industry....

(Don't even get me started on the irony of using the same principles used in building windmills to clean up a nuclear site.)

I've seen this kind of structure (like in Idaho) in a hockey arena in Quebec. If it withstands our winter, it will withstand theirs. Reactor buildings are big, tad shorter and wider than Lincoln Memorial, (which is also size of a regulation hockey rink). Reactors are taller and in radioactive environment, but the construction does not look like a technological wonder.

It not rocket science.its ventilation control over time that will clean this up at the plant. Seems like they will have some time to wait while the reactor cools down.

The only problem these buildings have, is getting to much snow on the roof.

I dunno. Sea breeze is different than land breeze...

Especially when breezes turn into typhoons.

Soil cesium limit set for rice / Some farmers won't be allowed to plant this season, possibly longer.
"The Fukushima prefectural government announced Wednesday that rice paddies in Iitatemura have shown as much as 15,031 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. Part of Iitatemura is within 20 kilometers to 30 kilometers of the plant, where residents have been instructed to stay indoors....The maximum level was based on studies that have shown brown rice absorbs one-tenth of the radioactive cesium in soil. Since the provisional guideline for radiation in rice is 500 becquerels per kilogram under the Food Sanitation Law, the government decided on a limit of 5,000 becquerels per kilogram."
You have to scroll down a bit to find levels higher then 500 Bq/m3 (not Bq/kg,) I wonder why they use different measurements for everything? )
【3-14】(About40kmNorth/West) 2011/4/8 10:07 I-131=27,000 Cs-137=24,000 3.8 n(Bq/m3)
【83】(About20kmNorth/West) 2011/4/8 12:10 I-131=210,000 Cs-137=270,000 μSv/h=53.5
Even the highest reading I can find is 270,000 Cs137 Bq/m3 which is about 157 Bq/kg.

"The maximum level was based on studies that have shown brown rice absorbs one-tenth of the radioactive cesium in soil. Since the provisional guideline for radiation in rice is 500 becquerels per kilogram under the Food Sanitation Law, the government decided on a limit of 5,000 becquerels per kilogram."

At first glance, and without tracking down the studies, this doesn't make much sense.

Does a kilo of (harvested, dried?) rice (it's all "brown" unless milled, BTW) absorb the Cs from a kilo of soil? Hardly seems likely. One suspects that the calculation is much more complex and that the results depend upon multiple other variables.

I suspect calculation is very complex indeed. Here are some facts to start with.

However when you remember your plant biology class, it does indeed make a lot of sense.

Plants are nutrition maximisers. They will use up all the available nutrients in the soil, however small the concentrations. Rice particularly likes to take up potassium even when it is excessive in the soil. And the grain is where most of those nutrients are used for to guarantee success of the next generation. We humans have enhanced that even further when we selected the stalks with the most and biggest grains.

"Rice particularly likes to take up potassium even when it is excessive in the soil. And the grain is where most of those nutrients are used for to guarantee success of the next generation.

No. There is relatively little K in grains, except for the bran. The fact that the element is essential for plant growth doesn't mean that it ends up concentrated in the seed.

And I didn't, apparently, make my point sufficiently clear: The 1:1 relationship between a kilo of soil and a kilo of harvested grain is, intuitively, nonsensical.

We have very good reason to worry about Cs moving from the soil into the food chain, and concentrating as it moves up. Simplistic, probably simply wrong, claims are unhelpful.

The reference is brief but the report seems confident about the 10% takeup value. If anyone has experience of growing rice under fallout conditions it will be the Japanese, given the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki plus the residues of the American aboveground nuclear tests in the Pacific from the Fifties onwards.

That value could also be derived from experimental data as the uptake of regular cesium will be the same as radioactive cesium-137. An experimental rice paddy could be seeded with a known amount of cesium in the soil and water and then after harvesting the cesium level in the rice grains measured and compared.

The report didn't mention a radiation level in the paddies in question so I don't know if it would be safe to actually test the hypothesis properly by growing rice there and then testing the results for cesium uptake. Even though a lot of the work is now automated there is still a remarkable amount of human labour involved in planting, tending and harvesting rice in Japan.

Rice uptake and distributions of radioactive 137Cs, stable 133Cs and K from soil.

Tsukada H, Hasegawa H, Hisamatsu S, Yamasaki S.

Department of Radioecology, Institute for Environmental Sciences, Kamikita-gun, Aomori, Japan. hirot@ies.or.jp


The distributions of radionuclides in plant components as to radionuclide transfer to animals are important for understanding the dynamics of radionuclides in an agricultural field. Most of the non-edible parts in these components are returned to the soil as organic fertilizer where they may again be utilized in the soil-plant pathway and/or are mixed with feed for livestock. Rice plants were grown in an experimental field and separated at harvest into different components, including polished rice, rice bran, hull, leaves, stem and root, and then the distributions of radioactive 137Cs, stable 133Cs and K in these components were determined. The distribution of 137Cs in polished rice and rice bran was similar to that of 133Cs, while that of K was different. The concentration ratios of 133Cs/K in leaf blade positions increased with aging, which means that the translocation rate of 133Cs in rice plants was slower than that of K. At harvest the distribution of dry weight in polished rice to entire rice plants was 34%, and the distributions of 133Cs in the polished rice and the non-edible parts were 7 and 93%, respectively, whereas those of K in the polished rice and the non-edible parts were 2 and 98%, respectively. Findings suggest that the transfer and distribution of 133Cs, not of K, provide better information on the long-term fate of 137Cs in an agricultural environment.

Thanks. The problem, as suspected, is not in concentrations of Cs in the grain.

(And, please, Asian friends, stop polishing away all the good stuff in the rice.)

The stated relationship of Cs /kg of soil and Cs in the harvested rice cited by kalliergo must be a 'rule of thumb' for their particular soils, fertilizer usage, etc., etc. The actual situation is much more complex.

First of all, some soils have plenty of available K and some do not. Soil K content depends on the parent material, climate, soil clay content, history of K uptake and fertilization, etc., etc.

One might expect that a higher available K content in the soil would to some extent 'dilute' the Cs: think of the way iodine pills are protective when radioactive iodine has been ingested by humans. If plants are short of K they will presumably take up more Cs. There is not much luxury consumption of most essential elements by plants (sorry, ransu); instead plants tend to take them up in the ratios present in plant tissues.

Second, as the article cited by Merrill points out, Cs and K are not identical in terms of the rate at which plants move them around from leaf to bran to the seed itself.

Always nice when the discussion has some plant and/or ecological content!


I didn't cite it. I questioned it.

There is relatively little K in grains, except for the bran. The fact that the element is essential for plant growth doesn't mean that it ends up concentrated in the seed.

That is true. However accusing me of making false claims is also unhelpful when its basically nitpicking and sophistry. I think I made my point quite clear by referring to facts (the link) and then commenting on recalling decades past memories of basics of biology. What I said about rice (as almost any plant) taking up excessive potassium is a fact - and plant nutrients being used to produce the seed and/or fruit is also a fact. My point being that taking in account this potential mechanism of bioaccumulation into the food grain - the 1:10 ratio they decided cannot be considered to be "not making much sense" as you described it. But I try to avoid metadiscussions like this in the future - they just end up being about egos rather than issues.

Nitpicking and sophistry. Indeed?

Time for a chill pill.

The original claim didn't make sense and Merrill's post explains why it didn't: because concentrations of Cs in the grain aren't the problem.

I don't remember or care who made the claim suggesting that rice concentrates K in the seed. I just knew that it was erroneous and pointed that out.

Why is it that these authorities are having to rely on estimates and guesswork to set such safety limits?

How is it that after 25 years since Chernobyl - we still don't have any facts about radioactive soil contamination?

How difficult has it been for bodies like the IEAE, UNSCEAR or nuclear industry lobby with unlimited budgets to do the research - with huge areas around Chernobyl, as well as around each every nuclear waste processing site and plant - available for study on fallout distribution, soil chemistry and bioaccumulation in plants?

Could it be that as long as the issue can be hidden, with confusing units of measure and methods of sampling and epidemiological limits to correlation to a single source, they don't have admit that the hazard from a nuclear accident is far greater than any benefit nuclear power can give us.

How many rice paddies were contaminated in the Tchernobyl incident? That's where any baseline on contamination of soil and crops relevant to Japan is likely to come from and that's not even allowing for the fact that the Fukushima releases are not the same as the Tchernobyl releases and definitely not the same as the nuclear weapons fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the case of Tchernobyl the entire reactor melted down exposing the surrounding area to everything in the core including stuff like Strontium-90, uranium and plutonium, lofting it on a pillar of heat from the burning remnants of the core and the building and spreading it widely. In the case of Fukushima almost all the observed contamination outside the site is I-131 and Cs-137 from the venting operations and the reactor vessels are still intact in that they are still containing the sorts of radioactive materials that escaped into the wild in the Ukraine and western Europe. The I-131 contamination is going away quickly given its short half-life, leaving Cs-137 and trace amounts of Cs-134 as the major problems to be dealt with in the future when considering agriculture and soil contamination in the area.

I wonder what the Japanese will come up with in terms of a technological solution to the widespread contamination -- growing and harvesting cesium-seeking crops to leach radioactive material out of the soil, perhaps?

Rice sucks up a lot of water, did they even consider that? I am waiting for new data of fallout after the rain today, or yesterday,or tomorrow. Jst can be confusing for someone in the US.

Yes, rice sucks up a lot of water and yes, they did consider that. They are Japanese, after all and rice is important. They've studied rice very carefully, for centuries indeed, and they know that rice absorbs and retains about 10% of the cesium present in the soil and water it is grown in. They have set a legal limit of 500Bq/kilo for radioactive cesium in rice and they expect that soil with a contamination level of 15,000 Bq/kilo will produce rice with a cesium content of 1500Bq/kilo which is unacceptable for human consumption so they have banned rice growing in this particular location.

The tables of local radiation measurements in the Fukushima area include weather reports where and when the individual measurements were taken; it has rained in a number of locations over the past few days.

Reading Point  【83】 (About20kmNorth/West)

 Date and Time  uSv/h  Weather   Reporting organisation

2011/4/5 11:16  58.3  No Rain    JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency)
2011/4/5 13:24  50.9  No Rain    Police (counter NBC operations unit)

2011/4/9 9:04   39.6   Rain      JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency)
2011/4/9 10:02  47.5   Rain      MEXT

This is a quick check of the location with the highest contamination reading normally found on the Fukushima tables, a spot about 20km NW of the plant labelled Reading Point [83] which has been sampled by different organisations at various times. I don't know if they're using their own equipment or whether it is common to all readings. The variability on a particular day is interesting; sampling error or perhaps calibration differences between individual instruments or possibly just random changes in local conditions.

Ransu, your point about confusing measurement labels is a good one. I tried to find a chart yesterday that cross-referenced Becquerels, curies, rads, roentgens, rems, coulombs, grays, and sieverts, particularly the nano, micro, milli pico, kilo, and mega designations. I gave up, printed out some lists and will make my own written list later. I found myself wondering whether the moving target of measurements was intentional--I'm not stupid, but my head was spinning trying to move decimal points up and down trying to convert microSV to tenths of milliRoentgens, which is what my antique meter reads. The background radiation contamination over the years accumulates--for example, Tokyo's normal urban background reading is 0.08 microSV/hr. If you need a new bar that's lower, just invent a new system? I understand that there is a difference between exposure, effective and absorbed dose, etc. (described at the third link below), but I get a sense that the nuclear industry would like me to get the message, "don't you worry your little head about this, little lady, we'll tell you when something's not safe?" And then I tried looking up limits for food and water and got completely lost in competing websites from different countries limits for food and water and soil in Bq/kg, pCi/L and Bq/m^3 and cm^3 or m^2. Then given that those limits and measurement methods have changed over time, I finally gave up. Just looking at Japan's safe annual limits for workers over time, the number has shifted from 50mSV to 100mSV to suggestions for 250MSV. And regulating agencies waffle using terms like limited repeated exposures and emergency allowances when they move the bar, which then remains at the higher level. My head hurts. This is our future.




And the US's supposed measurements organization is as useless as tits on a bull. Their website was the least helpful of any of them. Hmmm, I wonder who writes their paychecks?


Yes, specific food limits can depend somewhat on the radionuclide, as to what limits should be, but the general FDA limit for food is 170 Bq/kg (or 4,590 pCi/L?). I think? And the water standard, I think, is 3 pCi/L for I-131. Since 1 Bq = 27 pCi, then the water limit in the US is . . . all over the map? So 15,000 Bq/kg, Nojay? It sounds like a moving target to me? And I'm not listening to the official reports on readings anymore, I'm sticking with crowd-sourced readings. The link below is helpful for all of this figuring--the yellow and orange coded readings are spreading.


I think we're going to have to let all of this stuff go to melt down into the bedrock and groundwater to leak endlessly. And we're going to cover it all with . . . a sheet???

Radiation measurement isn't rocket science -- it's *ATOMIC* rocket science! In reality there are different measurements because they measure different things in different ways and you can't convert from one to the other very easily just as you can't equate volts and amps even though they're both electrical units, same as coulombs and watts, impedance and resistance etc.

Bequerels are the count of radioactive decay events -- 1 Bq is one event/second. Sievert is a standardised measurement of exposure of a typical human body to radiation from external sources; a pile of dirt might have a high Bequerel count but be covered by blocking material such as water or uncontaminated dirt and hence have a low Sievert measurement, or it might be a thin layer of low-Bequerel-count material but spread over a large enough area that the Sievert value is high because of the area of exposure. A pin-point dental X-ray would have a small Sievert value, a chest X-ray would expose a greater area of the body to a much higher dosage because the volume of tissue to be penetrated is much greater.

To complicate things further the radiation being measured might be neutrons (very unlikely unless a reactor is running nearby, but I've worn a dosimeter badge when working on a reactor site where neutron beams were generated for scientific research) or charged particles (alphas and betas, often not energetic enough to get through clothing) or gammas which are electromagnetic and again the energy levels can vary. There's also X-rays but reactors and radioactive materials don't produce them (usually). They all have different effects on the Sievert count but that value is a good estimate of how dangerous a given location is to be spending any length of time in hence the annual accumulative limits for nuclear plant workers, X-ray technicians etc. There are other older measurements such as Roentgen Equivalent Man, or REMs, and Grays which I don't know much about since they've mostly been superceded by the Sievert.

The two values are linked in that an area with high Sievert readings will have airborne dust particles that might be breathed in and radioactive chemicals with high Bequerel counts in the water being drunk or local food being eaten. It's not guaranteed though and the only way to really check Bequerel levels is to take samples and put them through lab tests to measure the activity from standard-sized amounts.

When looking at food and drink that you ingest or the air you breathe the Bequerel is important as the radiation effects of radioactive decay occur very intimately inside the body. Sieverts are a measure of how dangerous a given location is just standing around or working.

To use the banana analogy, if you wear a suit made from bananas your dosage for the potassium-40 they contain would be measured in Sieverts. The number of Bequerels you consume depends on how many of the bananas you eat.

EDIT: I had a look at the failedrobot crowdsourcing site you mentioned. You may not realise it but many or most of the readings used on that map site are actually the same data I've listed here occasionally, from official sources such as the Japanese police, TEPCO, JAIF etc. The weird thing is that the mappers haven't included the really contaminated locations about 20-30km away from the plant, places where the measurements are as high as 50 uSv/h. Again if you click on any of the bubbles the chart for any given location against time is usually decreasing or, if it's already a very small value the radiation level is staying pretty much level at normal background -- in some cases it's well below the Japanese average background as mentioned on the mapping page (hot springs resorts are usually above normal background due to minerals leaching from deep underground, pulling up the average for Japan as a whole).

It's like the fellow said: if all the air were removed from this room for 10 minutes, the average amount of air during the year would hardly change at all, but we would all be dead.

My concern regarding the lack of consistent measurements is creep of limits. It is very easy to confuse the public with the dizzying array of measures for food, soil, and water, with exponential differences depending on 3 or 4 factors. As others have mentioned in the conversation above, the amounts in soil and water are much more important than hourly readings in the air, which give only a limited sense of the accumulation, and no information about bioaccumulation. There are way too many ways to represent the contamination in different measures, and I anticipate a lot of room for abuse. In the end, I will have to treat all food with suspicion and make sure the Geiger comes to the store and the restaurant with me, a new normal.

What do microsieverts have to do with radiation in food? Is not that just background radiation? The numbers of numeric character
【83】 indicate the points measured by monitoring car. That is not soil sampling. 【2-11】(About5km South/West)
Ookuma Town Island Soil Soil 3/31 13:00 I0131=423,000 Cs-137=98,100 is soil sampling. The numbers which include hyphen (Ex. 【2-8 】 ・
indicate the points of dust sampling

Dust samples and soil samples are collected and later tested in a laboratory for contaminated material, hence the reported value given in Bequerels which is usually further broken down into Cs-137 and I-131 contamination levels. Breathing in this dust or eating food grown in contaminated soil will lead to greater exposure to radiation but it does not map simply to a Sievert measurement for an individual or even a group of people exposed -- are they wearing breathing masks or not, what foods do they eat or avoid? Different circumstances mean different levels of exposure from ingesting and breathing contaminated material.

The Sievert rate given in the assorted tables is separate to the Bq values for soil and airborne dust samples. The values in Sieverts are the current "background" level of radiation measured directly by a detector, from airborne dust and vapour as well as radiation from the local soil, rainfall and deposits on trees, walls, roads etc. Everyone who spends a specific time at a given point will be directly exposed to that amount of radiation whether they have breathing masks or not or whether they eat local produce or drink the water. For example, if the reading at a given location is 30uSv/hr then spending three hours there will result in a cumulative total of 90uSv exposure to radiation. Protective clothing will stop most but not all of of that radiation reaching the skin.

There are a lot more Sievert exposure readings available than Bequerel counts of contamination because it's easy to set up lots of detectors or put them on helicopters and trucks and drive them around. Taking samples and testing them takes trained individuals going out into contaminated areas and exposing themselves to bring the samples back to the labs. There are some places where sampling is done automatically, such as water treatment plants which report contamination levels several times a day but all of them are some distance from the Fukushima plant and the effects so far away are minimal and often unmeasurable.

If they want to seal off the plant from the sea, they got a few troubles. Click on Fukushima in the bottom right to see the damage to the breakwaters. http://demo.erdas.com.au/WebExamples/IWS/jquery/swipe/japan.html

Non-profit Open Innovation portal to contribute to end nuke crisis in Fukushima

The situation at Fukushima Daiichi is still as difficult as 4 weeks ago. Engineers struggle to stabilize the situation and progress is difficult to achieve in view of numerous issues to be solved simultaneasly.
To bundle technical expert knowledge - now distributed over a number of web sites and threads - InventCap started a Non-Profit open innovation portal "Help to stop nuke crisis in Fukushima". Technical proposals about health and environment protection, cooling systems, radition protection, general plant repair issues and measurement techniques will be collected and rated. Promising proposals will be forwarded to IAEA and TEPCO.

Japanese rally against nuclear power

TOKYO, April 10 (UPI) -- Crowds totaling 17,500 people rallied in Tokyo Sunday to demand the shutdown of nuclear power plants, organizers said.

I was surprised to read of the large number of people attending rally relative to earlier rallies. This rally included other attractions such as music and was billed as a charity event. So, I'm not sure how anti-nuclear it truly was. Nevetheless, I would mark it as a success for anti-nuclear camp.

The link Super Huge Demo says:

The event looks like being part protest, part rock concert, part charity event. The line-up features DJs Axeman and Yahman, MCs Rankin Taxi and Rumi, and live bands including Jintara-Mvta, a raucous big band that includes members of Cicala-Mvta, Soul Flower Union and others.

Here's an interview of the protest organizer, Hajime Matsumoto. Normally, his group seeks an alternative community and isn't focused on the issue of nuclear power.
Agitator Speaks Out

The Japanese media is deliberately downplaying the crisis by saying 'we are safe' and 'there will be no immediate effect.

This rally included other attractions such as music and was billed as a charity event. So, I'm not sure how anti-nuclear it truly was.

I was surprised to read that, brit. You make it seem as though the demonstrators were tricked or lured into attending the rally.

Yet, as the article you linked states, the demonstration was called the "Hangenbatsu Choukyodai Demo (literally, the 'Anti-Nuclear Power Plants Super Huge Demo')." The handbill pictured in the article has a huge radiation hazard symbol on it, and underneath, in bold caps, it says "NO NUKES."

Here's a link to a Japanese-language ad for the event. It also bears the nuclear symbol. A single line of english text says, "April 10th Stop The Nuclear Power Plant." Here's a video of the demonstration showing people carrying anti-nuclear signs.

Imho, these people knew they weren't at a charity ball. As for them being lured by the music, the listed bands appear to be obscure, d.i.y bands, nothing to attact much of a crowd, not in Tokyo anyway, which is well known for its bustling music scene. Baby-Q isn't even a band, it's a freaky dance company. Take a look. They probably chased people away.

Lets say a Typical US House uses 2000 kWh per month, 24 Megawatt hours per year, 240 Megawatt hours per decade.
How much Spent Fuel waste would 240 mWh generate? Something like 200 grams?? - how many cows/people could that amount of waste take care of if it were broadcasted in a worse case mishap? Who much land could that contaminate? Trying to get my mind around this situation in terms of kWh consumption. We know how many tons of coal / CO2 for a 100 watt light bulb for 12 hours/day, but I'm clueless on eco impact from Nuclear kWh consumption.

In 2008, the average monthly power consumption per U.S. household was 920 kWh, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. "Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 15,624 kWh (1,302 per month) and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh (521 per month)."
Mine is down to 275 kWh per month for a three bedroom home (gas heat and hot water, no air conditioning), down from about 320 a year ago before I got serious about CFLs and putting electronics onto power strips.
As old Ben said, "Waste not, want not."

A little closer to home. 920kWh/mo = 11 Megawatt-hours/year = 110 Megawatt-hours/decade per average US Household. Anyone want to stab at calculating the magnitude of toxicity/damage from 1 decade-household worth of Nuclear kWh released into the environment? Enough to bankrupt a whole state? Of all the discussions here, the one about these sites decommissioned by 500 lb bombs sticks foremost in the mind. It's past time that someone (Gov,The Industry) get serious about securing spent fuel and relocating from population centers. Whats a way to demonstrate this risk? A Homer Simpson Solar Flare episode cratering the Power Grid and.... you choose the ending.

The US generates about 800 billion kW-h of nuclear power annually, producing about 2000 tons of spent fuel. So 110 MW-h gives about 300 grams. Of that, fission products make up about 10%. Of that, about 80% is in nuclides which are stable or have half-lives of less than 1 year.

Here's a nice photo of Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant on Tennessee River near Athens, Alabama.

Browns Ferry

Does this look safe?

Thanks, Brit, for the image. The nukes are all built near water because they have to have it to cool the stars they are playing with. Weren't they sweating having to shut down nukes in northern Georgia two years ago as a result of that bad drought? Nukes need lots of electricity, water, and intensive management and maintenance to prevent accidents.

As LongTimber points out, we're heating extremely hazardous toxic substances to 5000 degrees C, and then cooling it back off to 300 degrees C, and then dumping most of that electricity into the atmosphere as it rolls down the lines, all so that we can increase the size of our big-screen TV each year? That would be a good calculation--how many Bq/kg of toxicity are we willing to put up with for each application?

The image below discussed yesterday in the Drumbeat thread (thanks Leanan) shows the absolute lunacy of expanding nukes so that we can continue our happy motoring society with electric cars.


If we had the slightest awareness of the effects of our "happy motoring" society on our built environments and quality of life, we'd discard it1 like the terrible idea it so obviously is, regardless of power source.

Carfree Cities

[1] You rural folks may keep your cars (if the rest of the world doesn't), since efficient alternatives aren't really feasible at low population densities. Please limit your use responsibly.

Venice has no cars

yes and it sinks like a cesspool.

What does a city full of automobiles stink like? What does it sound like?

What does it mean for everyone not in autos themselves?

Oh... and what percentage of the land is taken up/given over to cars and associated uses? Look that one up.

Venice is dense and walkable, a lovely labyrinth.

Something much like it ought to be possible by having service cars underground but actually creating it will probably need some kind of straight jacket for the short term comfortable and some kind of richness that attracts people. One kind of recreation of venice walkability are the very largest shopping malls.

Venice richness probably came from the very efficient logistics by boat and the tides gave it a cheap sewage system. An empire of trade were built around this but as time went by others started to outcompete them and the society started to turn inwards to guard the old wealth and play a zero sum game creating a nasty secret police control society before it fell.

It has lived on being a tourist attraction for about 200 years and got a boost from the general wealth in the last third of the 1900:s, one of the closets neighbours is btw a large oil refinery.

I have only been there once, must get back and visit more. Never plan a day in Venice, just let it happen as you walk around with no hurry at all, ok plan a little, next time I must find a guided tour of the original jewish ghetto.

Of course, I sometimes hear comparisons between Venice and Stockholm. Somewhat relative, I'll grant.. but do you sense they have some similar areas or feel? (I worked with a cameraman who lives on his boat in Stockholm, gets around somewhat by Kayak..)

No, I find them quite different. Stockholm has a lot of water that gives good views, good public transportation and some good walkable areas like the old town, but it is nowhere as dense. On the other hand is Stockholm much more then a tourist attraction.

The Villages, Florida is a city built with roads to accommodate golf carts.
Golf Carts Swarm Florida

I've visited The Villages multiple times. It has a town center with many shops and entertainment is held. Most folks drive around in golf carts although most carts are not as fancy as the link shows.

EDIT: typo correction