Fukushima Open Thread Fri 4/11

Yet another large aftershock shook the region around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing a brief evacuation of workers and an interruption to the electricity flow to external pumps used to provide fresh water to cool the reactor pressure vessels and spent fuel ponds. The injection of nitrogen into the No. 1 primary containment vessel, aimed at reducing the risk of additional hydrogen explosions, has also resumed. However, the pressure is rising slower than expected, suggesting a possible leak.

The International Atomic Energy Agency status summary for April 11 shows no substantial change over the past few days:

Note that while freshwater is being injected, it is not being cycled. Added water replaces that lost due to evaporation (which provides cooling) and leakage (unknown extent, but which could add to the volume of radioactive water flooding certain areas of the plant). Most of that salt added from the seawater used earlier is still there.

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan Monday released an estimate that the plant had may have been releasing up to 10,000 terabecquerels or radioactivity per hour at some point. Although it is now estimated to be releasing only 1 terabecquerel per hour, the cumulative burden in the nearby vicinity is still increasing, The government forcing an expansion of the recommended evacuation area.

Japan may raise nuke accident severity level to highest 7

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan released a preliminary calculation Monday saying that the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been releasing up to 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials per hour at some point after a massive quake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11.

The disclosure prompted the government to consider raising the accident's severity level to 7, the worst on an international scale, from the current 5, government sources said.

And tomorrow they will say "oh no, we made a calculation mistake, it was really only 10 000 nanobecquerels".

The cover up and farce continues.

If the rating is going up to 7 and 7 is the maximum - is the coverup like how the volume knobs of Tufnel's Marshall amplifier went up to eleven and the scale goes to 8 instead of 7?

And really, give the "experience" of Wells' War of The World radio show - if the global radioactivity now exceeds the old safety standards what else is there to be done beyond moving the standard and calling it the new safe level?

Don't worry ... they've already done it in the EU. Apparently, not out of any concern for public, but to stave off global food shortages. I'm guessing the EPA won't be too far behind (it was already in the works over a year ago).

Everything is still going according to the 1972 'Limits to Growth' standard run script. For what else could this vast release of lifespan-reducing radioactivity be, other than "Pollution"?

Moreover, absent our collective thirst for more "Industrial Output", why on Earth would anyone have built a nuclear reactor atop a live earthquake fault, on a coastline dotted with centuries-old plaques that read "Do not build below this sign. Beware of the Great Tsunamis"?

Yes, in the end we will trash and burn everything in our desperate attempts to eke out a little more energy from the globe. The link below is slightly OT, but it illustrates what happens when the growth-oriented political system amplifies unintended consequences and antipodal interventions. The solution to pollution is more technology and more industrial output, which just leads to more pollution, which is in part why the pollution curve is delayed and amplified in overshoot. Other reasons for the delay include feedback delay, population overshoot impacts, etc.


Apparently, not out of any concern for public, but to stave off global food shortages.

I can envision it now. If food becomes scarce enough, they will dilute the contaminated food into non-contaminated food (just like they do for drinking water) until it reaches the arbitrary govt limit for edible food.

Radiation Contaminated Food will have a warning label, like for tobacco products:
"Consumption of Radiation Contaminated Food can damage your health."

So before Solyent Green, there will be RCF.

Thanks to TOD, I envision it as a step on the stepped collapse model.

Radiation contaminated food might forestall the need for Solyent Green by reducing longevity and births. Population reduction by deadly pollution that people can not detect with their senses is the preferred method. They will be pleading for more of it to have enough electricity to power the TV, keep the beer cold and run the air conditioner. We have been selected.

Tomorrow they will add "Some prefectures showed a higher value compared with the average values obtained before the accident; however, it does not
affect people’s health."

For a bit of context, the specific activity of I-131 is 4600 Tbq/g, so we're talking about a total release rate of about 2 grams/hr at peak (assuming those numbers are even right).

1 Becquerel is one disintegration (of a nucleus) per second, so it's worth remembering that we're talking about individual atoms here.

And it's also worth remembering that the I-131 at least has a half-life of 8 days, so will be gone in 3 months.

"...so will be gone in 3 months."

After fission and releases cease.

The effects for exposed populations, however, will continue for decades. Google "Chernobyl necklace."

No, I-131 stopped being generated with the shutdown of the fission reaction, which stopped with the SCRAM.
No credible evidence of continuing fission - a single newspaper report that doesn't even use the term "neutron beam" properly doesn't count. Not to mention that if there were significant amounts of fission occurring then they wouldn't be able to maintain RPV temperatures with the current boiloff rate of 6 m^3/hr
(about 8 MW, consistent with decay heat expectations).

After 80 days (10 half lives) the total amount of the stuff will be reduced by a factor of 2^10 = 1024; that holds for whatever is left inside the reactor vessel as well as anything outside.

As for I131 release, as long as they make sure to not give contaminated milk to people (kids in particular;
something not very well handled in Chernobyl), then it should be ok. Really.

Try to understand this: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

In this case, the extraordinary claim is that everything is hunky-dory. Your burden. Not met.

No, my claim is that I-131 has a half life of 8 days, and that whatever energy source is still active in the RPV is releasing less than 8 MW, hence no ongoing fission. That's not extraordinary, that's just physics.

Almost finished with you, but first: There is no one here who doesn't know the half-life of 131I and few who can't either calculate the potential power output of the remaining cores or at least understand others' calculations. If those are the only points you were intending to make, why bother?

It is extraordinary to claim or suggest that the radioactive iodine isn't much of a problem "as long as" youngsters don't drink milk when you have no idea what the distribution of that contaminant may be, where it is concentrated, how it may or may not have impacted, or be impacting the food and water supply, etc. It is extraordinary to assume, as you apparently do, that the Japanese will handle the public health issues associated with this catastrophe more cautiously and expertly than did the FSU authorities at Chernobyl. Certainly, given the record to date, there is little evidence to support such an assumption.

It is simply reckless to be as certain as you appear to be that no recriticality has occurred or might occur. The throwaway line about "a single newspaper report" simply reveals that you have missed most of the relevant reporting and commentary.

It is extraordinary to overlook the marine releases and to ignore all radionuclides other than iodine (including the similarly volatile Cs), etc.

This is the same kind of misdirection and reductionism we see and hear endlessly from from nuclear apologists, along with a profoundly immoral effort to shift the burden of proof. I think the world has had just about enough of it.

Kalliergo, I would love to buy you a beer or two or three. If you are ever within 10 miles of TMI look up a bar and grill called the Silver Lake on the west shore of the river. Well stated.

Rolling Rock? You're on. ;^)

Excellent, could not have said it better myself.

For my clarification, are you saying that iodine is beside the point in the main, but there may have been some recriticality, and there is no reason to blow off the issue of recriticality?
Never mind. I see the discussion is continued below.

Not so easily finished with me, buddy. You state that everyone on this board knows all about I-131, half-lives etc. Then why do we get someone like BlueTwilight below saying "Dangerous amounts of I-131 could be spewing out of the reactors and fuel rods at Fukushima Diichi for more than a year. "?

That's 45 half-lives, or a reduction of 13 orders of magnitude. The total radioactive inventory of I131 in a power reactor like this one is probably under half a million curies (and a fair amount of it has already been released), and as I've repeated more than once and you just aren't getting, there is no ongoing source of fission generating significant amounts of new iodine. If there were, they wouldn't be keeping the reactor temps stable with the water injection rates they are stating. Are they deliberately lying about 6 m^3/hr? I don't think that's plausible.

So what does that mean? Well, bioaccumulation or no bioaccumulation, in a few months the I131 will be gone.

The discussion of bioaccumulation is interesting, but it's worth remembering that it takes time to accumulate significant concentration increase during which the decays are ongoing. So I stand by my claim that the radioiodine is not a significant threat to health and safety of the public, provided proper, well-understood precautions are taken. Yes, deposition levels are being monitored (check out wikipedia, or TEPCO, or IAEA, or NISA for data) and food is being monitored (same).

Now, cesium is a potentially more significant source of long-lasting contamination. It is possible to sift out of the IAEA data what the levels of soil deposition of C137 are. There you do have time to have significant amounts of bio-accumulation. But here too C-137 is easily monitored, and the food supply can be protected. They will probably not be able to use the farmland around the site out to several kilometers, and around Itaki. But I haven't seen enough hard data to know one way or the other.

I would again say that several claims in this thread about how nothing is known about contamination levels, that all milk in the US is unsafe etc etc. is just wrong. Things are being measured and reported by many independent sources, and these types of events are fairly well understood.

It seems that when it comes to nuclear power, or nuclear anything, a significant set of people who perhaps ought to know better seem unwilling to let a little truth stand in the way of a greater cause. Somehow in their eyes, nuclear anything is so inherently evil that twisting (or ignoring) facts is justified for the purposes of stopping it. I think that is a very bad mistake.

Nuclear power is no different than any other human industrial activity - it has dangers, but it also brings benefits. Some of those dangers are straightforward to eliminate through good engineering, others are less easy - but not impossible - to deal with (at this point I'm sure someone is going to start talking about millions of years for Pu to decay - to which I respond that the SNF goes back to the same specific activity level of the ore it came from within a few hundred to a few thousand years, not millions). All I'm arguing for is that a rational, consistent cost-benefit analysis be applied to all human activities, be they coal, solar-PV, hydro-fraccing, or power-down strategies or any other pet cause of people on this board. You can't harp on nukes for releasing a muCi of H3 and ignore coal plants that release Ci's of thorium in their exhaust gases. You can't complain that nuclear power is unreliable because of the rolling blackouts in Japan and ignore the intermittency of renewables. And you can't worry about claimed excess cancer cases due to nuclear plants and ignore the likely health consequences that would come from drastic reductions in energy consumption (and living standards). [those are all specific examples of comments I've heard over the past month]

Then why do we get someone like BlueTwilight below saying "Dangerous amounts of I-131 could be spewing out of the reactors and fuel rods at Fukushima Diichi for more than a year. "?

Because they are anticipating the criticalty incidents going on for a year VS your incorrect statement that the reactions stopped after the SCRAMming.


No, I-131 stopped being generated with the shutdown of the fission reaction, which stopped with the SCRAM.

And this link shows that your above position is wrong.

Tepco, the plant operator, said earlier this week that it had – on 13 occasions – detected beams of neutrons near the reactors. Neutrons are produced during fission of nuclear fuel, and are the key driver of the chain reaction that sustains continuous fission reactions in a reactor.

I look forward to your admission that your statement was FACTUALLY incorrect.

Nuclear power is no different than any other human industrial activity - it has dangers, but it also brings benefits

That is, as you say above "wrong". Many human industrial activities failure modes do not make 10's or 1000's of square kilometers not fit for human use for years.

So yes, for the failure modes, there is a difference. The failure modes are the only reason "we" are having a discussion.

ignore the likely health consequences that would come from drastic reductions in energy consumption (and living standards)

Yea. like less excess calories and less processed sugar in the diet. Best to ignore them thar food-things that are risk factors for diabetes.

I'll just blockquote the 3rd comment response to the BLOG posting you listed as a reference.
(That wasn't me, btw, but he makes all the points I'd make.)

Of course, if you check back, you'll find the actual rate of neutron detection was at rates consistent with naturally occuring neutron emitters. And, also, that the "beam" issue in the original translation (which is what seems to have started off the various conspiracy theorists) was a mistranslation.

It's worth a look at the continued monitoring records from the site and the prepiphery. No neutron activity.

There's also no evidence temperature/pressure spikes in the reactors or containment drywells, as you'd expect to see were criticality "flashes" occuring.

One obvious last point. How much iodine, etc. would you actually expect to be produced by "flashes"? Not a great deal, I'd suggest. From memory, it's about 3% of fission events that produce Iodine 131 as a decay product. It takes months of sustained operation to build up a significant inventory in fuel.

I maintain that the evidence for significant amounts of ongoing fission (significant enough to release large amounts of I131) is unconvincing. TEPCO itself has had to retract several of their radionucleotide analyses already, so I would claim that you would need either the IAEA or NISA to confirm that statement.
Which neither has done, to my knowledge.

Regarding human activity rendering 1000's of square km's unfit for human habitation - have you ever seen New Jersey?

Quips aside, there are plenty of other activities that damage large areas of land; tar sands mining, lignite mining, mountaintop removal, downwind of the Norilsk nickel plants, love canal, etc. Not to mention the millions of km^2 that will be lost essentially forever due to sea level rise (caused by coal & oil).

Regarding your last comment, you are probably beyond rational discussion. Modern, industrialized society offers people a vastly longer lifespan than our agrarian/pre-industrial ancestors. Arguing that we should cease or drastically reduce industrial activity because of the risks to human life is not rationally defensible. And it's a sad fact of thermodynamics that industrial activity requires large amounts of energy.

That being said, arguing that we should strive to reduce our environmental impact by improving efficiency and switching to lower-impact energy sources is very defensible and rational.

I'm an industrialist, so I sympathize and agree with your general outlook. But we part company on what's happening at Fukushima Daiichi. You wrote:

reactor temps stable with the water injection rates they are stating. Are they deliberately lying about 6 m^3/hr? I don't think that's plausible.

Corium leaking from two reactors, all three had exposed cores. Most of that water is leaking out as rapidly as it is being pumped, highly contaminated. TEPCO says no one will ever be able to work in or near Unit #3.

I'm glad I'm not the only one on this thread who thinks critically. But I'm not sure I follow your point. I was merely pointing out that with the water flows they are indicating there isn't any significant fission ongoing. If there are leaks (no doubt there are - I hear the recirc pump seals may have gone) this only makes that point stronger (leaks -> less water -> less heat removal possible -> a smaller upper bound on the amount of ongoing fission; bound set by lack of observed temp increase).

No doubt that plant will be a cleanup mess from h*ll; but the containment did what it was designed to do. It contained the core. The dirty work of cleaning it up is what we have robots for.

No doubt that plant will be a cleanup mess from h*ll; but the containment did what it was designed to do. It contained the core.

A level 7 event "contained the core"?

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "core" and "contained".

30-50,000 TBq of I-131 is a few grams of material. The core was probably 100 tons.
We're not seeing any T-99, Sr-90 or other less volatile isotopes.

Yeah, it contained it. Enough of it to make a big difference.
Don't get me started on the difference between Fukushima (INES7) and Chernobyl (INES 7),
other than to say that INES probably needs to be updated.

Yeah, it contained it. Enough of it to make a big difference.

Perhaps the difference was due more to the wind direction. "Luckily" it was just ocean to the east. But yes, I'm glad the remaining concrete containment is still there.

I would not necessarily confuse what has been reported with what has been detected.

other than to say that INES probably needs to be updated.

Are you suggesting we need a Level 8?

"According to Kyodo, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission reported Monday that the plant, at one point after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, had been releasing 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactivity per hour."

“This corresponds to a large fraction of the core inventory of a power reactor, typically involving a mixture of short- and long-lived radionuclides,” an IAEA document says. “With such a release, stochastic health effects over a wide area, perhaps involving more than one country, are expected.”"



Perhaps the fundamental, underlying arguments are not revealed.
Is the defense of these statements by so many, that the accident is nothing, has no measurable effect, causes no harm, etc..., in service to the proposal that Mankind can not destroy the earth? That these powers lie only with a chosen deity?

Notice they say "the plant" released that much radioactivity into the air. They don't give any more specifics than that either, so it could have come from the venting of steam/hydrogen from the reactors, from the explosions on Reactors 3 and 4, or from the fire in Reactor 4's spent fuel pond. Without further information we don't know what they are really talking about here.

"Without further information we don't know what they are really talking about here."


These are the first glimpses of reality.
The first words of confession.

It would not be a surprise if the numbers were still "vague".

Written by salonlizard:
... the containment did what it was designed to do. It contained the core.

Both the primary and secondary containment systems in reactors 1, 2 and 3 failed. The radioisotopes being emitted into the air, leaking into the ocean and dissolving in the coolant are from the disintegrating fuel rods. General Electric's containment system is undergoing an epic failure, in triplicate. The outer containment of reactor 4 was not even sufficient to contain spent nuclear fuel. Pathetic....

I'm glad I'm not the only one on this thread who thinks critically.

Perhaps we need to start by defining what critically thinking really means...

I have been thinking critically about what all the spin meisters and self deluded individuals have been mindlessly spouting about the safety of nuclear reactors.

To me they are just more examples of the absolute refusal of the vast majority to accept natural limits.

They say things like nuclear is cleaner than coal or smugly state that those who are against nuclear, will come to understand the realities of life when they are deprived of the comforts provided by our modern civilization and the lights are shut off.

I'd say to them, you are fractally wrong, at any resolution or detail that one may care to examine those arguments, the arguments fail to hold up!

Your fundamental premise, that this system that has emerged from our species having accidentally discovered how to
extract the energy from a finite quantity of fossill fuels and has put us into ecological overshoot, is proof positive of human ingenuity and that therefore we are destined by our infinite cleverness and wisdom to be henceforth forever and ever capable of outsmarting the natural laws of physics, chemistry and biology.

Those veiws are the epitome of hubris!

We have become a species that has come to ignore our connections with the natural world we have chosen to ignore our hard earned knowledge over the centuries.

We have swallowed hook line and sinker the absolute lies of the propagandists, our government leaders, and corporate facists that we are divinely endowed with superiority over the entire universe!

I would suggest to all who hold these views to take a very long and hard look at the the centuries old tablets inscribed in Japanese that warn against the dangers of building any structures below them next to the sea.

To me they say many things, they warn against the futility of the shallow neon lit world we now inhabit. They also make clear that there is no way we can construct warning signs about the dangers of radiation that will survive thousands of years into the future to protect future civilizations that might have emerged from the ruins of our own.

To continue to falsely promote the safety, nay, the necessity of nuclear energy, and to say that we can't survive without out it is to put it bluntly a crime against all future humanity. It is beyond unconscionable.


Centuries-old Tsunami Warnings Carved in Stone

“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.

Seems like they forgot to mention, no nuclear reactors either...
Critical thinking indeed!

Critical thinking led me to reevaluate my position on nuclear power about 20 years ago.
Critical thinking is also needed to make anything safe including nuclear power.
(Applying critical thinking: making it safer, "safe" is an expression for "safe enough". )

As a species we have never ever had as much knowledge as we have right now but we have lots of failing institutions in multiple countries and cultures and people who absolutley do not want to change. This is what makes me realy upset and depressed, huge problems, lots of solutions and little action. We have manny, manny solutions but we block each other from using them and now we get huge mental blocks for advancing nuclear power and millions of people in the next generation will be withouth electricity.

Magnus, you have provided your own answer: all the decaying institutions and mental blocks and decline of underlying social structures are NOT reasons to forge ahead into implementing the most dangerous technology we have at our disposal. They are reasons to pause and to analyze exactly what the needs are and how best they can be met. Are we justified in pursuing a means which, when everything goes wrong, will destroy the utility of land around it for generations? Are we justified in pursuing a means which, when everything goes wrong, will have difficult to quantify health effects for generations. Is it reasonable to reassure ourselves that these health effects are negligible when we really don't know that, when there are only assertions without concrete, long term, multi-generational, data. I think that such long term data should be in hand before we can truthfully assert that such a technology is really safe. Pretty safe when nothing unexpected happens is NOT good enough when it comes to something as dangerous as nuclear power (from mining to plant safety to waste disposal). Come on, get real with your critical thinking, we don't even have a standard, and widely used, method of storing spent fuel or decommissioning a plant. It is really all experimental right now, isn't it?

Since it has just been proven that REALLY SERIOUS failures CAN happen, I do not believe that the burden of proof lies with the people who would use a precautionary principle, but with those who make the assertion of "It's safe, trust us." Right now I am trying to find easily understandable information about the safety of milk and food in the eastern US. I have a granddaughter who is a toddler, and I eat food grown in my yard, though I do have a greenhouse which can be watered with well-water. I have seen the UC Berkeley monitoring site (http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/UCBAirSampling), but I do not yet know of such a site for the Northeast.

I am really sick of the ad hominem arguments cluttering up the psychological landscape when all that I really want is a fact based discussion of health risks RIGHT NOW. I already know what I think of the wisdom of nuclear power, but RIGHT NOW we have a serious situation. I am not yet convinced that the health risks to my family are dire, but how can I inform my family about whether it is safe for the toddler to eat the cheese she loves, or the swiss chard coming from the greenhouse watered with collected rain water... maybe collecting snow and rainwater is not a good idea right now... questions questions... questions. I need data and a way to understand it, not assertions that everything is fine, or that we will all die of thyroid cancer. Etc., etc.

The implementation of nuclear power has already been done and some of them were no good.

I want those facilities to be fixed or replaced with new better ones, nuclear or other.

Powering down is no alternative as long as there are hundreds of millons of people who need the power and the waste is in a long term unsafe state, the only acceptable direction is for me to use the power in a better way and muddle thru.

Nuclear power might be the devil for you but when you have the devil in your rowboat you better row to the shore. (There is another devil in trying to translate sayings. )

I am not asserting that everyting is fine it is quite FUBAR, everybody wont make it.

Powering down is no alternative as long as there are hundreds of millons of people who need the power

Need the power? So the 52 inch LCD HD TV can work need?

"need" may be very overrated - do you need a series of 60 watt bulbs or will a 1 watt headlamp do to light up your path?

Need the power? So the 52 inch LCD HD TV can work need?

No, I need the power so the server farm can run the website I use to argue with dunderheads.

Oh, yeah, and so the ICU that saved my kids' life can operate.
And so the factory that made the micro-processors in the oxygen monitor used by that NICU could operate.
And so the doctor had light to operate by. And so that the factory where the doctors' dad worked
to put him through college could operate. And so the factory that made some pretty awesome antibiotics
could work.

Do I really need to go on?

People who have an over-romanticized view of pre-industrial life really annoy me.

For powering factories making clothes, refridgerating food, running barn machinery at farms, heating homes, making fertilizer, running water works, and so on.

Mostly what humans have used the vast amount of very cheap energy they have gotten mostly from fossil fuels, is to extract enormous quantities of resources from the natural world and dumping wastes back into it.

There is no indication that we would use vast new clean sources of energy in any less destructive way than we have used the energy in the past.

As to your list, homes should mostly be so well insulated that they don't need much heating, fertilizer should be mostly based on recycling nutrients, clothes should mostly be made at home, food should mostly not be refrigerated--buy it fresh and local every day.

Yes, it would be good to ration our dwindling energy resources to be sure farms, water works, and emergency services get what they need. But those would be a tiny fraction of our current use which mostly goes into producing crap that no one one really wants, that they buy to impress people they don't like...and to drive in absurdly oversized trucks to places they don't want to go...

No, I need the power so the server farm can run the website I use to argue with dunderheads.

Well - that excludes this site:

1) This is a virtual Lake Wobegone - Everyone here is above average
2) Look to the right. See Sustainable web hosting provided by GAIA Host Collective http://www.gaiahost.coop/ That means one doesn't NEED man made fission power to do what is needing to be done.

Your list doesn't NEED fission to accomplish it.

And you are welcome now that I have removed your ignorance.

As for:
argue with dunderheads

You might wish to look at your life and make some changes if this is what you are doing.

I am really sick of the ad hominem arguments cluttering up the psychological landscape when all that I really want is a fact based discussion of health risks RIGHT NOW.

Fair enough. I will try to dig up some links for you; there is a lot of information out there.



If you would prefer a non-governmental source:


I would suggest that if you are concerned you try to cross-check many different sources - academic and governmental (EPA & DOE) tend to be pretty good, but this is a case where you have to do some legwork. There are plenty of radicals out there who are happy to spread mis-information.

Regarding cheese, remember that it is usually aged, which is a good thing when it comes to I-131 (8-day half-life).

Also, keep in mind that there is often a very big difference between a detectable level of a radioactive
element and a dangerous level of the same element.

As for now, me and my family skipped the following of our menu:

- milk
- leafy vegetables, like spinach, broccoli
- mushrooms
- bleuberries
- shrimps

Because they tent to bio accumulate fast.

Ugh, it's here at 61 North. I brought groceries in and scanned them; the food was clean, but the front carpet was approximately double background, ~12-15 clicks per minute. Alaskans take their shoes off at the door; and the rug is washable. But it's here. No more seafood for me.


Interesting. What was your rug like before Fukushima? You're doing a controlled experiment, right?


You bet, a daily time series. The rug has been the same as background daily, 5-10 CPM, until now. I have now rolled up the other area rugs in the house, and will cover the raised beds tomorrow.

You don't need radiation to skip brocoli ;P.


You can add parsley to the list. And that's not because of the taste ;-)


As a species we have never ever had as much knowledge as we have right now

I believe all historical collapsed civilizations were at their peak...
...right before they collapsed ;)

I'm glad I'm not the only one on this thread who thinks critically.

I was struck by this statement as well.

Dear FMagyar,

You are clearly very concerned about the impact of so many people on this planet (your use of the term "overshoot"). I suggest you do your part to ameliorate the situation by not having any children, and by removing yourself from the planet as soon as possible, since your presence here is clearly something you think is wrong.

The rest of us will try to muddle along in an imperfect world, seeking to improve it where we can, by making rational decisions and trying to find smarter ways of doing things.

I seriously doubt the people who made those tablets had much insight regarding either nuclear energy or neon. They did however have some seismic experience we would do well to heed. Let us not forget that more than 25,000 people have lost their lives from the tsunami, rest their souls.

I maintain that the evidence for significant amounts of ongoing fission (significant enough to release large amounts of I131) is unconvincing.

I see you have walked back from 'SCRAMed and stopped' to "release large amounts of I131" where "large" is left undefined so that as other evidence shows a reaction you can say "oh, but that us small, I said large".

essentially forever due to sea level rise (caused by coal & oil).

And this "caused by coal and oil" is an actual fact? That big 'ole fusion reactor a few miles away will have an effect.

you are probably beyond rational discussion.

Typical response - rather than admit 'Say, I mispoke' or 'Oh hey, I put up a straw man about nebulous health claims and got wacked upside the head that what you eat has a very direct effect on "health" and the cheap, excess energy has resulted in diabetes' you go with "beyond rational debate".

For there to be a debate there has to be a willingness to have accurate facts. Claiming 'the reaction stopped with the SCRAMing' starts off with, as a Congressman said "not intended to be a factual statement."

Arguing that we should cease or drastically reduce industrial activity

Here's a hint: You might want to keep your straw men to yourself that way you can burn 'em for heat later.

Because I've not argued the cessation of industrial activity. Drastically reduce will happen as part of the future - less Cheese Doodles as another has put it.

that we should strive to reduce our environmental impact

A good start would be an admission that the "Peaceful Atom" and "civilian atomic power" is a failure and move on.

But it isn't a failure.

One serious radiation release every couple of decades still pollutes the landscape less than Chinese coal, and we *can* take steps to further reduce the chances and severity of the next release.

Nuclear is only a safety failure if you look at it as the only game in town. It isn't and the most popular alternatives (by actual deployment) are so much worse as to make the worst that nuclear does look like a damp firecracker.



No. Nuclear isn't safe in the sense that there are no consequences to using it, it is safe in the sense that the actual alternatives in place are so much worse as to make the consequences look mild.

That is why I insist on seeing the body count. Coal kills hundreds of thousands of people every year, if nuclear wants a piece of that action it's going to have to try a whole lot harder than this.

Coal kills hundreds of thousands of people every year,

You keep repeating this - but coal doesn't kill "hundreds of thousands" - it just shortens their lives.

And you keep up a mantra of "seeing the body count" along with variations of 'no one dies from nuclear'.

And yet - for coal you accept a shortened lifespan but for the failures of fission - a shortened lifespan and/or mutation isn't good enough.

Nuclear is only a safety failure if you look at it as the only game in town.

I look forward to your spirited defense of fission in the next drumbeat I make my longpost in.

"You keep repeating this - but coal doesn't kill "hundreds of thousands" - it just shortens their lives."

I would point out that, other than the workers who died at Chernobyl trying to cover the reactor, that's exactly what radiation releases from nuclear plants do as well.

Natural Gas, the safe, clean choice of the fossil fuel has outright killed more than Fukushima already this year:

Of course, 5 people dieing in a pipeline explosion could be interpreted as having their lives "shortened".

No one is going to die from Fukushima? How about horrible cancers that people survive? How about birth defects? How many babies have been born with a brain outside of their skull because of a natural gas explosion?

How many cancers and birth defects does a natural gas explosion cause? How much arable land is lost in a natural gas explosion? When a gas main explodes in Pennsylvania, does cesium end up in Japanese milk?

By the way, given that China finds the deaths of thousands of people in coal mining accidents annually to be acceptable, are these people who can be trusted to be responsible and honest with fission?

People will die from radiation released from Fukushima. There might be birth defects from it (does a birth defect count more than a death?)

Not enough people to justify the rhetoric, however.

Note that that was 5 people in a sinlge natural gas related event. Pipeline explosions are a relatively frequent occurence, it is a rare year that doesn't have at least a couple.

And that is the safest fossil fuel.

Taken as a lot, fossil fuel energy is absolutely dreadful.


The comment was deleted about the suicide? About the spinach farmer who killed himself when the spinach market evaporated? Did it turn out that that story was an urban legend, or ... what was the thinking? We're not counting suicides?

Arugula, purchased 4/7/2011, Cs134 @ .49 Bq/kg
Kale, purchased 4/6/2011, Cs134 @ .5 Bq/kg
Spinach, purchased 4/7/2011, Cs134 @ 1 Bq/kg, Cs137 @ 1.3 Bq/kg

these are said to be recent results from UC Berkeley testing in the Bay Area around SF, California.


The usual peculiar equivalence is posted: you'd have to eat N kg of this food to receive the same "dose" of radiation that you'd receive during a single round trip flight from SF to Wash DC. N is very large numbers from high hundreds to mid-thousands. So we are supposed to feel comfortable, I think.

[I notice that drinking milk and eating spinach are now being solemnly described (CRIIRAD) as "risky behaviours." Building and operating nuclear power plants, however, is not being (officially anyway) defined as a risky behaviour. This gives me a strange sense of having fallen into a Kafka novel, or perhaps something darkly humorous by Vonnegut or Brunner.]

I don't feel quite comfortable. I'm troubled by the usual ambiguity: they're comparing an ambient whole-body exposure to the ingestion of hot particulates. If those particulates linger in the body (and they seem to based on the bioaccumulation research for cesium, for example) then there is point-source emission at zero distance from cells in the body, and that's how cancers get started, no?

I find these comparisons of whole-body ambient irradiation to ingestion/inhalation disingenuous at best. I would find it much more relevant if anyone could guesstimate the number of cells in my body that are likely to be irradiated -- for how many years -- if the cesium bioaccumulates for, say, 2 years of eating spinach tainted with cesium from Fukushima (or wherever, I really don't care about the nationality of the cesium). And then I'd like to know the probability of carcinogenic action at each of those irradiated sites.


The argument (I won't bother naming names) that we needn't fear cancer clusters from incidents such as these because our medical technology is so very advanced these days that cancer is treatable, manageable, etc., I find neither convincing nor comforting. I have known too many people (friends and acquaintances) who have died of cancer, and very few of them went easily or quickly. For all too many, the advanced medical techniques merely rendered their last months of life even more unpleasant. (I can tell a few success stories as well -- "slash burn and poison" occasionally works -- less than half the time if my sample is at all representative.) This is not a good way to die. And with Peak Everything breathing down our necks (and ongoing privatisation of all services and draconian cuts in services to everyone but the affluent) how many people will be able to afford the advanced high-tech medical care that provides even decent pain management for cancer patients?

For residents of the US w/some access to high-tech medicine, a cancer diagnosis may not mean instant death, but it may mean bankruptcy, loss of job and home, descent into poverty, crushing medical debts, etc. Surely this also must weigh somewhere in the balance when we calculate the costs of radioactive pollution.

Sometimes it seems that we are desperately trying to keep the techno-industrial nexus alive so that it can offer us palliatives and interventions for the diseases it is inflicting on us... a kind of grand-scale protection racket (much like GE claiming the expertise to clean up the disaster created by its own plant design).

BTW, this may be slightly OT but when I was young -- which is 40+ years ago now, strange to say -- I don't remember that there were cancer wards for children. I don't ever remember hearing about even one child who had cancer when I was a kid; it would have been considered extraordinary. Cancer was an old-folks' disease in those days (well, old folks and heavy smokers). Now it seems we have whole wards in major hospitals dedicated to child cancer patients, charities devoted to child cancer patients. When did this happen? Why is it happening (well, you don't need three guesses to connect cancer incidence with elevated toxicity of all kinds from all sorts of industrial processes)?

How much medical maintenance overhead can a society absorb as the externalised cost of toxic methods of generating energy?

It has been raining lightly on and off today. I was about to use some collected rainwater to keep my spinach fresh and alive a few more days. Then I thought about it for a few seconds and used water from the tank instead. I hated that moment. It is obscene to poison the rain, for us to be learning to regard rainwater with suspicion and indeterminate anxiety.

How much medical maintenance overhead can a society absorb as the externalised cost of toxic methods of generating energy?

At this point, very little. Flapping of hands by public health regarding a radiation event below:

For Erica, rates on childhood morbidity and mortality post Chernobyl on page 274 at the link below, with rates and percentages based on concentrations, and a second link on rates following prenatal exposure:




The statistics about children exposed in utero from 8-25 weeks, and the fact that the lifetime risk is highest for the youngest children exposed--it's hard to know what to say.

I hope all who are saying "43 deaths from nuclear power" take the time to look at these links and note the sheer number of severe illnesses (not cancer, and often diseases of the endocrine/autoimmune system) which resulted from radiation exposure. It's important.

Babies conceived in Fukushima around January 1 and possibly exposed to radiation at a crucial time in the mother's pregnancy will begin to be born in mid-September. At about that time, babies and children who were very young at time of exposure may begin to show signs of damage, if any. I'm not usually much for prayer, but I am going to pray that these little kids will be okay.

I hope all who are saying "43 deaths from nuclear power" take the time to look at these links and note the sheer number of severe illnesses (not cancer, and often diseases of the endocrine/autoimmune system) which resulted from radiation exposure.


The people who are making the 'show me the corpses' arguments are not sociopathic ghouls but instead are making a very narrow argument on the one or two points they can stake out as "correct". And, with respect to a death one can directly link due to the speed of death, location of the body, and other factors - they are right.

But if a body count or saving each and every life is the metric - why not devote their emotional energy in far more tangible ways like stopping the occupations of various Nation States in other nation states?

Well, I seem to be the only one stongly insisting on body count measures, but that is just because when talking about safety it is a reasonable and hard to mask proxy for all of the hazards.

If there is death then there must also be illness and lesser injury, but it is easy to brush off and hide anything less than death (anyone for an Agent Orange cocktail?)

I'm also very clear that there have been many more than 43 deaths from nuclear power. Chernobyl had racked up a significant body count by 4 weeks in, and it was very clear that the releases were going to result in illness and death over a wide area.

What I don't get is why people who are very clear that they do not consider the risks from nuclear power acceptable, which is a position I can respect, get so hostile when it is pointed out that they spend far more energy trying to stop nuclear and getting all up in arms over radiation risks when far worse is happening every day with nary a peep out of them.

I have my guesses as to why it is, but until I see people forming human chains around new coal plant sites trying to get them to stop construction like happens with nuclear plants I'm going to guess that most anti-nuclear advocates would not find my suppositions flattering.

That's because they are suppositions with absolutely no basis in actual fact.

I spent a huge amount of time, effort, hassle and money--far, far more time, effort and energy than I spent on anti-nuclear pursuits during this period--as did thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of environmentalists to stop the proposed massive build out of coal plants in the US. A major force in this struggle was the Sierra Club which is also officially against nuclear plants.

You seem to think that because--in the fact of the greatest nuclear accident in history (or tied)--people right here right now aren't spending most of their time railing against other threats that we all are oblivious to these threats.

I find this assumption to be bizarre in the extreme.

Will you be offended if I ask what specific things and how much time and money you have spent over the last few years fighting against coal plants?

There is also the false position of 'nuke or fossil fuels'.

(I'd be interested in hearing about the effort spent trying to stop the man VS man violence. Lots have died in Iraq, Kosovo, Chechnia, Bosnia, et la. If the objection is tied to human life.....looks like plenty of lives being shortened.)

OK, if you are so serious about getting coal shutdown, what serious alternative to coal do you propose?

It should be able to provide predictable power with a reasonably high power density, so as to allow manufacturing plants that run processes that waste material when interrupted to function well.

And no, I would not be offended by your question. I have done *nothing* to get coal plants shut down. Frankly, it wasn't until I was extending my research for this discussion that I realized how bad they really were. I already knew they were worse than nuclear, how much worse was a surprise, I was not expecting to find over 100,000 deaths/year from normal operation.

I only needed to scratch the surface before to see that nuclear was clearly safer. The challenge of confronting dedicated anti-nuclear advocates as fairly as possible forced me to look more deeply at both sides, and what I have found has frankly pushed me harder into the pro-nuclear side.


The best way to get coal shut down is to have a replacement that is at least as good at providing power and yet safer.

Natural gas is the business consensus alternative, but it is still inherently polluting and NatGas pipelines are dangerous.
Geothermal and hydro-electric are good replacements, but are geographically limited and limited in output by their associated resource.
Wind and solar power both suffer from varying degrees of unplanned intermittency.

Nuclear can be deployed almost anywhere (whether it should be or not), provides large amounts of steady power, and does not pollute significantly in normal operation.

This makes it look to me like the best way to get coal out of the system is to get nuclear in, so advocating against both at the same time appears to me to be fighting yourself.

It should be able to provide predictable power with a reasonably high power density, so as to allow manufacturing plants that run processes that waste material when interrupted to function well.

What kinds of plants specifically? Why do we need to have manufacturing plants that run processes that waste material when interrupted to be constructed in places that can't provide uninterruptible power from renewables?

Have you considered the possibility that perhaps a complete rethinking of our entire 24/7 manufacturing paradigm is what needs to be done? Do we even really need what those plants produce?

Someone made this comment here the other day and I can only paraphrase it from memory:

The wind is blowing today, I'm going to work to smelt that steel...

until I see people forming human chains around new coal plant sites trying to get them to stop construction like happens with nuclear plants

Like these protests, for instance?

...and so on and so forth.

(NB: I think this is a very interesting debate, and I'm not firmly on either one side or the other. Seems to me that no side has a monopoly on good points or fallacious arguments.)

That sort of thing doesn't make the news around where I am.

I guess I was wrong about the extent of opposition to coal, but I still maintain that without a viable alternative to coal that coal use will continue at maximum rate regardless of protests.

re: nary a peep
Can you see that this false belief is the source of your consternation?

Only in part.

If it hasn't been peeped in my direction am I supposed to be psychic and just know about it?

I didn't say anything about what you are supposed to be. Breathe.

Scientific data provokes rational reflection, yes.

"I hope all who are saying "43 deaths from nuclear power" take the time to look"

They will look at you with that smile reserved for errant children and go "Aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnd?" They will point out that your information comes from teachers and, worse, professors. The authority of the source will be called into question, not the step-by-step rational presentation it offers. Statistical proof will be dismissed in insistence of a toe-tag by toe-tag accounting. Anyone seeking to illuminate a different truth than the one given to them will be derided. In the end, they will shake their heads, pat you on the back and give you a big hug, say they love you anyway, and pray for you.

The "43" position, that radiations are harmless, are also arguments for the survivability of a nuclear war.

The way to present the data is from an authority figure. Are there any benign, financially, politically, theologically, non-attention seeking or self-aggrandizing, and otherwise disinterested authority figures? Would such a person seek authority?

A trusted authority:


"Beck Dismisses Cancer Deaths From Chernobyl"
"Glenn Beck accused the "I hate nukes" people at the United Nations of distorting the number of deaths resulting from the Chernobyl disaster. In fact, the UN's estimated death toll of 4,000 includes fatalities connected to increased exposure to radiation, and that figure is far lower than estimates by other reputable scientists."



"The accident destroyed the Chernobyl 4 reactor, killing 30 operators and firemen within three months and several further deaths later. One person was killed immediately and a second died in hospital soon after as a result of injuries received. Another person is reported to have died at the time from a coronary thrombosis. Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people on-site and involved with the clean-up and it was later confirmed in 134 cases. Of these, 28 people died as a result of ARS within a few weeks of the accident."

28 is the number presented in The World Book Encyclopedia years ago, for our children to learn from.

Yair...Good morning folks. For me this computer has opened a world that I barely knew existed. I respect and am fascinated by the input from the highly educated and knowledgeable writers who comment on TOD.

If you have read any of my comments you will realise that I speak from a simplistic point of view...I have little formal education, my Mum taught me to read and write and that is about as far as it went.

This, and a life time spent in remote places has probably given me a different perspective to most folks who post on these pages. I am a bushman with a love of open spaces. I like to hunt and fish.

Some years ago I did a trip back into the southwest border country where I spent my younger days clearing land with chains and 'dozers.

It was a disturbing and emotional experience.

Marginal fourteen inch rainfall country that we cleared for grazing has been ploughed for opportunistic cropping and rivers that once ran clear are now muddy with the run off from channel irrigated cotton.

And then there is the mining. I went looking for a well loved place where I used to catch yellowbelly and catfish...a beautiful wide lily edged lagoon on an unnamed little creek...and I found it almost obliterated by a coalmine spoil heap. I sat in my truck and wept.

Now, in that same region there is talk of thousands of fracked wells to produce coal seam gas for export.

I have thought about this energy problem a lot and, disturbed and all as I am about the damage being done to the country I think fossil fuel electricity generation for the masses is a better option than nuclear...in Australia the foreseeable future holds little prospect of large scale solar/hotrock/wind generation. Hydro has been pretty much built out in Tassy and the Snowys.

A while back I thought that maybe a couple of strategically sited nuclear plants may have been an option to provide us with a “Niagara Falls” type supply to provide a future “powered down” sustainable Australia of say fifteen million people with some base load power for local manufacturing...the rest of the country could live off the grid.

The ongoing tragedy in Japan has changed my thinking.

As I see it now...from what I have learned on TOD...if we continue to burn fossil fuel all the bloody stuff will be gone in a couple of generations anyway. This will have warmed the climate and raised the sea levels and probably caused pestilence and wars...but this beautiful blue planet will still be habitable and some critters apart from humans will hopefully still exist. Given time, I am guessing the climate will change again and come back into some kind of equilibrium for a future “powered down” civilization.

If we take the nuclear option the chances are that over the same time frame considerable portions of nations will be poisoned for thousands of years...our gift to those unborn generations. From the point of view of this old bloke that realy isn’t on.

Sorry about the long post and all... but does my view point make any kind of sense?

Very good to meet you.

Finding the obliterated, beautiful little stream, sorrow and outrage...
is shared.

Yes, burning everything makes sense, given the demonstrations of Fukushima, Chernobyl. Too, there are the fires of human madness yearning for ignition, as illustrated by Terry Jones. Humans can not be trusted to husband such energies wisely. They are sick, sick puppies. Listen to the arguments in these threads about the harmlessness of the fallout. These are arguments for the survivability of nuclear war.

The situation is not rational. Making sense may have no meaning.
The perception is that nuclear may allow Business As Usual through the decline of the carbon resources. The fact may be that it is too late already, and has been for decades, due to the overshoot of population, energy consumption, and lifestyle expectations versus the realities of exhaustion and development time. The situation is insane.

Now it's mountain-top removal.


They push the debris over the side and fill thee valleys between.

I always look forward to your posts.


And then there is the mining. I went looking for a well loved place where I used to catch yellowbelly and catfish...a beautiful wide lily edged lagoon on an unnamed little creek...and I found it almost obliterated by a coalmine spoil heap. I sat in my truck and wept.

I know exactly how you feel! My family owns a tiny house located behind these skyscrapers in Sao Paulo Brazil.
When we bought the house about 40 years ago this area was covered with little ponds where I would catch snakes, fish and frogs. Occasionally a cow or a goat would wander down our unpaved street and munch on our hibiscus hedge.

Now it looks like this and that river in the picture is completely dead! Some call this progress, I don't!


I recently joined an attempt to stop the Belo Monte Hydro Electric plant that is ready to start construction, we lost, the project will go on despite international protests against it. The we *NEED* massive amounts of energy to grow the economy crowd, have won again, the consequences be damned.


Grow Baby Grow! The idiots don't believe in any limits. They equate ecosystem preservation with naivete and living in the stone age, they are ignorant fools and are in for more than a few nasty surprises.

Hi Scrub;
I'm looking down over some lovely and my beloved New England woodlands, waterways and rocky outcroppings, while sitting in a 27th floor Hotel Bedroom at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, about to report in for work as a cameraman on a Poker Tournament.

The contradictions are mindboggling. On one side, I was very lucky to 'get the call', and have a nugget of good-paying work over here on the Extremely Discretionary side of the Economy (Referring to Westtexas' 'Get thee to the Non-Discretionary side of the Economy' aviso) .. I am feeding the Boilers of 'TV-Land' which I can't even bear to watch. The Beautiful Flatscreen TV in the room here offered me 48 channels of Desperate Attempts to grab the cheapest strands of my attention and pull me in.. just junk food that I don't even linger on with morbid curiosity anymore. It's all just hollering at us like paparazzi trying to get the celebrity to shine his grin towards their particular camera for a golden second. The TV is dark, and I'm typing to TOD and listening to a handheld Transistor FM radio, for a glimmer of real news without the onslaught of Corporate Pharma Pushers trying to scare me into shooting their junk.

The Casino is on an Indian Reservation, supposedly helping the Tribe and the State of Connecticut 'make an honest buck'.. but a crewmember from another shoot doing the Mohegan TV Spot here this week suggested that the Cash isn't going to the schools as promised but is supporting the General Fund, and that the State has become highly dependent upon this cash stream. Telling, no? (See 'Jack Abramoff' for relevant examples.)

I wonder how much of 'the House take' heads over to the Corporate Families that now own Vegas, and have been buying up and out the Tribes and the Casinos all over our States, systemizing another funnel for the great Bloodletting by Corporate America (Who fly flags from compliant offshore Island States now, to avoid feeding these US Socialists too many tax dollars)..

I also wonder what a 'Follow the Money' Graphic would look like if presented as a Hydrological Cycle.. as the number of Disabled and Senior folks ambling, staggering and rolling around the Casino Floor suggests to me that there are a lot of Medicaid and Disability Dollars in play here. I'm not against Social Support systems, but when you have a population being fed a 360-degree Billboard of Possible Addictions they can Treat themselves to, the benefits are quickly redistributed away from those with real need.

"The last living speaker of the Mohegan language, Fidelia A. H. Fielding, died in 1908. The entire corpus of Mohegan is known only from a Smithsonian Institution report made by an anthropologist who lived with her.[5] It was only some 70 years later that her descendants returned to the land to found Mohegan Sun. Gladys Tantaquidgeon filled a multigenerational gap in knowledge."

(It seems that Daniel Day Lewis was NOT a member of this Tribe.. as the "Last of the Mohicans", but he played one on TV)

Some of my income is honorable.. and I think I just look better WITHOUT the lipstick.



I hope you're a writer, cuz you're good. I could read a book's worth. Count me in as an editor.


Ugh again. You boys and the passage of time have transported me to the land of Bladerunner, or maybe Lost in Translation, or both. How did I get here to the land of anomie? Oh,right. Fossil fuels and capitalism.

Yair...thanks fellers for the understanding of my comments. It is interesting to get an insight as to how folks from such different circumstances can end up thinking much the same...I don't feel so lonely.

Greetings Scrub.

It's refreshing to hear from a new poster, and I share your sense of sadness at times. But I would suggest that you might want to take a second look at the nuclear vs. coal trade.

I am a physicist and planetary scientist by training, so I have spent a long time studying the details of the climate and I have a fairly good understanding of nuclear fission (I've even spent time working at a power plant).

I am truly, profoundly worried about the long-term impact that climate change will have on our planet and humanity, and about the effects on the habitability of parts of the world (not least Australia). It appears clear to me that the use of coal power is the principal source of this danger. And the carbon impact will persist for millenia, particularly if we eventually melt the Greenland ice sheet.

From where I stand, I believe that the perceived dangers of nuclear power have been vastly overblown. I also see that people have a deep, unthinking, primal fear of radiation. I think it's perfectly natural to fear things that you can't see, may not fully understand, and that society in many ways encourages you to be afraid of. But it is not wise or rational to be ruled by unthinking fear.

I'm not saying that nuclear power is risk-free. It clearly isn't. But the risks can be reduced very significantly (compare Chernobyl (no containment) with Fukushima (1st generation containment): less than 10% of the I131 release and as far as I've read, almost no transuranics). Good safety engineering clearly helped, and made a significant improvement.

I do think that if one were to take a very sober, careful look at the risks, costs and benefits, I do think it is something that should be used. I do not think that sustained, responsible, well-regulated use of nuclear power would "render the planet uninhabitable", or anything close to that.

Fukushima is being pushed as a huge catastrophe by many, but it's worth remembering that the radiation has, to date, (and I hope it stays that way) not killed anyone. Anyone. In the midst of a calamity that killed more than 25,000 people. And remember that few years ago almost 230,000 people were killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami. Yet we don't not seem to be discussing the phase-out of coastal living... I have trouble understanding the double standard.

Check this out for a comparison: http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

We seem to routinely accept activities that inarguably kill thousands or hundreds of thousands annually, and/or that cause significant long term environmental damage (driving cars, coal mining, warfare, sex) yet somehow when it comes to nuclear power, the standard is "not a single death" and "not a single atom released" (Earlier in this thread someone was arguing that the radiation danger from I131 wouldn't pass until every single atom release had decayed).

About seven billion tonnes of coal a year is dug up from deposits often many hundreds of metres below the ground. This kind of mining kills people -- 29 miners died in one incident in New Zealand last November, for example. China is proud of the fact that only about 2,500 people died digging coal there last year, down from 4,700 fatalities in 2006 and much higher numbers previously.

In contrast uranium mining extracts about 50 million tonnes of ore a year usually from open-cast mines which are highly automated and don't involve underground gallery working (although there is a small amount of gallery mining done). The number of dead from mining uranium is miniscule compared to the deaths from coal, and that's before it's burnt to generate electricity and its waste products dumped into the environment to kill and cripple more people.

Disclosure: I am the son of a coal miner.

Hmmm. But isn't the relatively lower death toll from uranium mining at least partly due to the fact that it is conducted on so much smaller a scale? only 3% of world energy generation is nuke, right? whereas fossil mining is the vast majority of energy-mining operations, hence many hundreds of thousands more people are involved in it.

To make this discussion of risk meaningful we need not merely raw numbers of mortalities per year, but mortalities measured against some kind of result metric (this is really an abominable way to think about our human project, but let's continue in quant mode for a minute or two more). For example, how many TW/h of electricity (including BTU equivalents in direct heating by combustion of coal/oil) are realised per annum for fossil fuels? How many TW/h per annum for nuclear generation? Now, how many premature deaths per TW/h for each sector?

I now pause to reflect that this discussion tacitly accepts routine human sacrifice as the the foundation of our culture; in this respect I suggest that anyone who still refers to the Aztecs as barbaric, primitive, cruel etc. needs to take a good long look in the mirror... And I suggest we all ask ourselves how many deaths per annum we accept as a "reasonable" price for Cheez-Whiz, 24x7 air conditioning, private automobile transit, cheap air fares, and all the rest. Don't forget to count those killed in colonial wars for control of energy resources. There may, at some point, be a quiz :-)

You mean something like this?

I now pause to reflect that this discussion tacitly accepts routine human sacrifice as the the foundation of our culture; in this respect I suggest that anyone who still refers to the Aztecs as barbaric, primitive, cruel etc. needs to take a good long look in the mirror... And I suggest we all ask ourselves how many deaths per annum we accept as a "reasonable" price for Cheez-Whiz, 24x7 air conditioning, private automobile transit, cheap air fares, and all the rest. Don't forget to count those killed in colonial wars for control of energy resources. There may, at some point, be a quiz :-)

Too many people forget the true price of their lifestyle. Some of us are trapped in the awareness of the price and the knowledge that personal action can only do so much to reduce that price.

Uranium mining is quite a new business. Before the 1950s there was no mass market for it. Because of this the best sources of uranium ore are only now being exploited, the easiest to get at and the richest in metal-to-ore ratios. Easy to get means that surface mining, open-cast working is the cheapest type of operation involving large earthmoving machinery and excavators, a low-manning ratio per tonne of ore recovered and per kilogramme of metal produced and with relatively safe working conditions. There are some underground workings for uranium but they tend to be tiny, almost family businesses producing only a few tonnes of metal a year and economically dependent on the market price not falling substantially.

On the other hand in a lot of countries coal has been extracted for centuries -- we talk in Britain of King Coal, before oil became the prime mover in the world of gasoline engines it was coal that powered the ships and the trains, fed the factories, heated homes, made the producer gas that lit the streets and later generated the electrical power that lit the world. It fuelled, literally, the Industrial Revolution. And now it's nearly all gone, all the good-quality coal, what the Welsh used to call Black Diamonds, gone, the five metre thick seams, gone, the viable surface deposits, gone. What's left is deep underground, hundreds of metres down in thin fractured seams lousy with water and gas, rotten with dirt that has to be washed out of the coal on the surface and dumped where no-one cares (except there was the Aberfan disaster in the 1960s so they do care today). And the only way to get that coal is to send men down deep underground to get it. And the men they send can die if a roof slips or water floods in from a broken seam or gas breaks out from bad rock formations.

Most of the coal pits in Britain are gone now, bled dry years ago. Many of Britain's coal-fired power stations use foreign coal so the death toll here is not too high any more although the health issues still linger -- miners still get invalided out of the industry suffering from the picturesquely-named blacklung and stonelung. The places abroad we buy coal from though, it's a different matter. But hey, at least it's not nuclear power but old familiar coal, a known quantity and an old friend.

r4ndom, a nuclear power disaster on the other side of the Pacific Ocean is forcing me to take precautions by discarding rainwater that I otherwise would have collected and used. I am partially covering my garden to minimize the fallout that accumulates in my soil. I will probably plant fewer crops this summer than I had planned. Despite killing more than 10,000 people Japan's earthquake, tsunami, aftershocks, burst dam, burning natural gas plant and wrecked crude oil refineries did not create a hazard over here. TEPCO's cost for this disaster has been externalized onto people around the world. So go ahead, gobble down radioactive food, water and milk. Find comfort in government increasing the exposure limits to keep the food industry solvent and people fed. Because it is all low level contamination outside of Japan, the negative effects will not become apparent for decades and even then they will barely have statistical relevance, easy for hysterical proponents of nukes to deny, just like with the consequences of Chernobyl.

The Tsunami killed several people on the west coast of the US. Not many, but there's always someone who won't take a real threat seriously.

I recommend that you get in touch with your state (province if you are in Canada) university's agricultural extension. They should be talking to the physics folks and have a good idea of the threat level in your area and appropriate actions.

Take their advice seriously, whatever it is. They should be quite well insulated from non-agricultural interests.

I see you have walked back from 'SCRAMed and stopped' to "release large amounts of I131" where "large" is left undefined so that as other evidence shows a reaction you can say "oh, but that us small, I said large".

Ok, fine, let me clarify. I claim that when the rectors were scrammed the cores went sub-critical, and have stayed that way. There is no credible evidence otherwise, and there is significant reason to think that wouldn't happen (controls rods inserted well before the tsunami, boron injection, heat balance, lack of short-lived tracers in the release gas samples. Those fabled neutrons were seen kilometers from the reactor - no way could they be from the cores - even if they arent just background or measurement error)

I claim that when the rectors were scrammed the cores went sub-critical, and have stayed that way

And like your binary position of 'without nuclear fission power humanity will be in a pre-industrial civilization' your claim is incorrect.

Good thing I'm here to educate you and remove correct your ignorance. But its why TOD is not a place of dunderheads.


nuclear fission reactions continued at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station well after the plant’s operators had allegedly shut down the reactors there. The paper says there may be what are called “localized criticalities” have occurred in the plutonium and uranium left in the reactors—little pockets of fuel that have gone critical,


tellerium-129, That isotope has a seventy-minute half-life. Well, that can only exist if there had been a fission in the last half-day, because it would have all decayed away otherwise.

But when you have fission going on in what is left of the cooling tanks...

According to TEPCO, radioactive iodine-131 amounting to 220 becquerels per cubic centimeter, cesium-134 of 88 becquerels and cesium-137 of 93 becquerels were detected

"And you can't worry about claimed excess cancer cases due to nuclear plants and ignore the likely health consequences that would come from drastic reductions in energy consumption (and living standards)."

Really? As for any animal, all a human being needs for good health & a good standard of living is fresh food, fresh clean air/water, shelter, exercise, and a healthy social life.

How many of these things does industry produce? Do most people in the wealthiest most industrialized nations of world have this? Even if you could argue that they do (i wouldn't), what about those other people in those other countries who supply the goods, and what about all of life on Earth for that matter?

When we talk about energy "needs" are we talking about needs for optimum health, or about misdirected cultural desires over and above those? What fraction of current energy use and industrial activity are required to ensure humans get those things I enumerated in my first paragraph? Certainly, there is room for some, if carefully measured; but we are *not* carefully measuring, and we are *not* smart about how we allocate resources. What would happen to the energy "needs" & health of the US or Japan for example, if people spent their spare time outdoors growing their own food with their neighbors? Just from all the TVs, computers, and AC being turned off, we could probably kill all the nukes is what.

Drastic reductions in energy consumption (with or without nukes) are coming and no amount of kicking and screaming for the preservation of a culture which must die one way or another will stop them. So the best plan is not to try to figure out how to continue with BAU, but how to live in this new world in some reasonably dignified way, while at the same time healing rather than destroying what is left of life on Earth (I have chosen to study permaculture but there are many avenues). A tall order but not at all impossible if we would only live up to the Sapiens in our name.

As for nuclear, your arguments are mono-faceted. Is it more dangerous than coal, as a question is moot, because we will burn through all the coal. Nor is the almost comical counting of bodies to determine some kind of metric a useful in any way. The real question is: once the fossil fuels have been burned through, there are several more billion people on earth, political and economic stability are out the window and ecological collapse and climate chaos make many parts of the world uninhabitable -- what kind of infrastructure do you want to be left with? Brittle, massive, costly, toxic & dangerous, centralized, non-renewable, complex OR robust, small scale, inexpensive, low ecological impact, decentralized, renewable, repairable by the community? If you live in the wet dream of BAU the answer is debatable, but if you've got your eyes open, then, duh?


Really? As for any animal, all a human being needs for good health & a good standard of living is fresh food, fresh clean air/water, shelter, exercise, and a healthy social life.

If you have a practical scheme for supplying 7 billion people with these things without massive, energy-hungry industrial civilisation... well, you know, we'd all love to see the plan. [1] Bear in mind that at no time in recorded history has humanity changed any behaviour en masse in the absence of direct, short-term benefits (or "benefits"). It's easy to argue that we shouldn't live the way we do today: I agree completely. The problem is that we /do/ live this way, and it's not much fun explaining to the dying that they should blame 20th century socio-economic and political forces for their painful deaths. They are likely to look for answers that suggest things they can do to stay alive, which will tend to mean other people dying instead. A negative sum game, in fact.

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrkwgTBrW78 of course, though I'm not claiming "it's gonna be alright".

practical plan:

fresh food -

gardens everywhere, small scale & ecologically sound,
like people did during WWII, as they still do in
many parts of the world, and as they will do, by
necessity everywhere, in the not too distant future.
Organic horticultural operations have a significantly
higher yield than agricultural ones both per unit area,
but especially in terms of EROEI.

Of course they require more engagement, attention and
manpower then petro-ag, like everything in this list.

fresh air and water -

by not building things like fukushima. by increasing
rather than decreasing the number of trees on earth, and
restoring damaged watersheds and ecosystems.

shelter -

by building with natural materials, like earth bag, adobe, or junk,
etc. living in much smaller, simpler, and better insulated structures.

simple stuff really.

energy -

(not it my original list, but hey what the hell). by using
significantly less of it (gasp). by intelligently using what
one has at one's disposal, which will follow very rapidly, one
could almost say spontaneously, when the prices skyrocket.

For example, food preservation in areas where it is very cold
outside wouldn't be done by attaching one end of a giant copper
cable for hundreds of miles to a powerplant burning highly toxic
materials which will either end up as a long term storage nightmare
for generation upon generation of humanity or in a weapon, and the
other end to a fridge. Instead, the food would simply be placed
outside or in a cold cellar. It would not be as convenient, would
require more care and knowledge, etc., but it's not impossible.

Once energy becomes prohibitively expensive, you can also expect to
see many ad-hoc passive heating and cooling systems built, again by

exercise & social life -

both would be magnified significantly by doing the first three above.

end of plan.

Don't get confused, what cannot be sustained is consumer capitalism, humanity is a different story entirely. The real question now is, given that you agree that BAU is not possible, what's your plan, poking fun at people who are actually trying to find solutions on the internet, or is it putting your hands up and saying, hey, we're all going to cannibalize each other anyway, so, what can I do?

I have to back up salon here. I wouldn't go as far as saying things are hunky-dory. But at least the I-131 threat passes after a decent amount of time. The real concern is with the Cesium (137 IIRC). That would have many fewer Becquerels per atom (in the ratio of halflives), so a problematic amount of it could be hiding under the Iodine numbers. So the real issue, is how much Cesium (and maybe Strontium) ends up in the soil. Of course I,m assuming people weren' ingesting the I-131 when it was at high concentration, as the damage is done when it decays (ie. mostly within the first week or two after exposure)

"Of course I,m assuming people weren' ingesting the I-131 when it was at high concentration..."


You are also assuming, implicitly, that 131I is no longer at high enough concentrations (anywhere in the food or water supply?) to be problematic. Again, why?

Would iodine bio-accumulate? If so, it could be getting 1000+ times more concentrated even as it is breaking down through its half lives, couldn't it?

Sure, that's why you see all the references to milk. Cow's milk can contain radioactive iodine at levels 1000 times those measured in the critters' pastures.

A google search for "iodine 131 bioaccumulation" will bring up lots of worthwhile reading.

So the people coming on here saying~ "there is no problem since the radioactive decay will reduce the concentrations to miniscule levels are either completely ignorant of this rather basic and obvious fact (yet somehow think they are so vastly knowledgeable that they must bestow upon us their vastly superior knowledge!), or they are just blowing smoke up our as...h?

It is an issue of time in assessing the problem. For drinking fresh milk, that much radio-iodine would be very bad. Make the same milk into sharp cheddar (aged six months, or Parmesan, (8 or 9?)) and the radioactive iodine is gone.

However, the cesium, or heaven forbid the strontium would not be gone. For those, it's a biblical 7 generations(150 years) to get rid of most of it, with most defined as 97%. If you want 99.9% gone, then it's 300 years. A whole different issue.

A regular geiger-counter can't tell the difference, so a troublesome amount of cesium could be hiding under a larger amount of iodine, although the iodine is now 4 half-lives into it's decay, so it's 1/16 as much as there was on T-Day. And [light-bulb!] that might be why they evacuated some more towns today. The radiation is not dropping off like an iodine curve, it's hanging around like cesium.

For the problems with cesium, google marshall islands, cesium, coconut crabs. After multiple nuclear weapons tests, it's the cesium that is causing trouble. The plutonium, strontium, and uranium, not so much.

And remember no one has boiled a core in salt-water for a couple of weeks before. Neither TMI nor Chernobyl did that. The submarine reactors that sank may have, but they are 2 miles down, and were PWRs as well.

"And remember no one has boiled a core in salt-water for a couple of weeks before. Neither TMI nor Chernobyl did that."

Excellent point. We are in uncharted waters here. And if even the previous major nuclear power plants aren't going to be good guides, I'm not sure the bomb testing is going to be much use either--very different dispersal pattern.

Beyond cesium, shouldn't we expect some volumes of partially tritiated water? Short half life and doesn't bio-accumulate, but also passes through all boundaries into every part of the body.

But I've hardly seen it mentioned.

The NIH and NCI made this easy-to-understand Flip Chart in 2002 to explain to Native Americans near Nevada Test Site all about Iodine 131 and milk. It is disturbing on many levels.

Edit: http://www.remm.nlm.gov/nuclearaccident.htm is where I found it, and much more. Also, didn't meant to reply exactly here, missed my mark a little, sorry.

Thanks for the image-code, Gergyl.

The better to illustrate the Poisoned Milk with.

My point is just that with Iodine you can wait it out. You could make powdered milk out of I-131 contaminated milk, and put it on the shelf for a couple of months, and then it would be safe. You can't do that with Cesium. So if proper precautions are taken, using the I-131 release as a metric of severity isn't a very good indicator. We need to know about the other longer lived isotopes, because they will determine the long term fate of the area.

"So if proper precautions are taken, using the I-131 release as a metric of severity isn't a very good indicator. We need to know about the other longer lived isotopes, because they will determine the long term fate of the area."

The ratio of I to Cs is pretty much knownable/calculable, because the fuel composition is known. So, to the extent that they are using test equipment capable of distinguishing between the radionuclides (not simple Geiger counters or dosimeters), the amount of iodine released can tell investigators a lot.

Once again, the trust that "proper precautions" have been or will be taken, seems misplaced.

I and Cs are not equally volatile.

Dangerous amounts of I-131 could be spewing out of the reactors and fuel rods at Fukushima Diichi for more than a year. It takes about 79 half-lives to completely eliminate 1 mole of radioactive substance. 79 half-lives is about 1 year and 9 months for I-131. Since there are many metric tonnes of fuel rods, there is probably more than 131 grams of I-131 present. The supply of fresh milk will be contaminated as long as those reactors continue spewing radioisotopes, which at the rate of progress in Japan will be more than 3 months.

Rain in the U.S. seems to concentrate fallout by about 500 to 5,000 times. I-131 decays to about 1/2,300 of its original amount in 90 days. When the wind shifts in the summertime, there will be about a three month reprieve in the U.S. for the I-131 to decay enough to eliminate the concentration caused by rainfall. A cow's body might concentrate the I-131 further. After 3 months and assuming the reactors continue emitting their poison, the wind will shift blowing the fallout back toward the U.S. contaminating the milk again.

Based on my calculations I will not drink fresh drink milk made in the U.S.A. until more than three months after Fukushima Diichi stops spewing radioisotopes into the environment. That will probably mean no consumption of fresh milk until the autumn of 2012. Since I do not have a Geiger counter to test for contamination, I will err on the side of caution.

Has everyone else done the same calculation?

Where are the warnings to pregnant and breastfeeding women?
On bio-accumulation of radioactive iodine in human fetuses:


" Radioactive iodine, cesium, and strontium, all beta emitters, become concentrated in the food chain because of bioaccumulation. At the top of the food chain, of course, are humans, including fetuses, and human breast milk.

In 1963, one week after an atmospheric nuclear bomb test in Russia, our scientists observed the magnifying power of bioaccumulation when they detected radioactive iodine in the thyroids of mammals in North America even though they could not detect smaller amounts in the air or on vegetation.

Bioaccumulation is one reason why it is dishonest to equate the danger to humans living 5,000 miles away from Japan with the minute concentrations measured in our air. If we tried, we would now likely be able to measure radioactive iodine, cesium, and strontium bioaccumulating in human embryos in this country. Pregnant women, are you OK with that?"

I just want to point out that there are three levels of bioaccumulation possible here, each multiplying the effects of the former.

Cows eat a lot of grass to make a little milk, so bioaccumulation of radioactive iodine, cesium, strontium (not much of that here?) etc, will likely be in the range of some thousands of times.

New mothers and pregnant drink lots of milk, so they are bioaccumulating further, maybe tens of times?

Then the fetuses and infants accumulate these further in their bones and tissues, since they are rapidly taking in new nutrients, unlike most of us who are at a more or less steady state.

So multiply these together and you have biomagnifications in the range of tens to hundreds of thousands, perhaps more.

This level of bioaccumulation is well within the range of what we see elsewhere; for a fast paced, dramatically scored video introduction to the general subject:


So even if levels are quite low for most of us, it is not clear that we shouldn't worry about fetuses and nursing kids.

I suggest the iodine concentration in mammals today may be due to drinking water as well as eating grass etc. Many cows in the US are not free range today and how much fresh forage is delivered to or eaten by any of them in March or early April would be an interesting question.

Good points. This may be one time that we can be glad most of our cattle are fed mostly on corn and soy mostly grown last year.

Which means that even a year (or two or three?) after they get this thing covered, if they get it covered, and it stops spewing, cows and other critters will still be eating toxic hay and soy/corn from the year before. I hear chickens don't take up quite as much . . . .

No. The danger halves every eight days. Once the bioaccumulated values become much longer than normal background levels we can stop worrying about it. It doesn't matter if the feed was tainted with I-131 when it was harvested, if its been stored for a few months.

Twenty five years after the catastrophe, restriction orders remain in place in the production, transportation and consumption of food contaminated by Chernobyl fallout. In the UK, they remain in place on 369 farms covering 750 km² and 200,000 sheep. In parts of Sweden and Finland, restrictions are in place on stock animals, including reindeer, in natural and near-natural environments. "In certain regions of Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland, wild game (including boar and deer), wild mushrooms, berries and carnivorous fish from lakes reach levels of several thousand Bq per kg of caesium-137", while "in Germany, caesium-137 levels in wild boar muscle reached 40,000 Bq/kg. The average level is 6,800 Bq/kg, more than ten times the EU limit of 600 Bq/kg", according to the TORCH 2006 report. The European Commission has stated that "The restrictions on certain foodstuffs from certain Member States must therefore continue to be maintained for many years to come".[6]

As of 2009, sheep farmed in some areas of the UK are still subject to inspection which may lead to them being prohibited from entering the human food chain because of contamination arising from the accident:

"Some of this radioactivity, predominantly radiocaesium-137, was deposited on certain upland areas of the UK, where sheep-farming is the primary land-use. Due to the particular chemical and physical properties of the peaty soil types present in these upland areas, the radiocaesium is still able to pass easily from soil to grass and hence accumulate in sheep. A maximum limit of 1,000 becquerels per kilogramme (Bq/kg) of radiocaesium is applied to sheep meat affected by the accident to protect consumers. This limit was introduced in the UK in 1986, based on advice from the European Commission's Article 31 group of experts. Under power provided under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 (FEPA), Emergency Orders have been used since 1986 to impose restrictions on the movement and sale of sheep exceeding the limit in certain parts of Cumbria, North Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland... When the Emergency Orders were introduced in 1986, the Restricted Areas were large, covering almost 9,000 farms, and over 4 million sheep. Since 1986, the areas covered by restrictions have dramatically decreased and now cover 369 farms, or part farms, and around 200,000 sheep. This represents a reduction of over 95% since 1986, with only limited areas of Cumbria, South Western Scotland and North Wales, covered by restrictions.[18]

369 farms and 190,000 sheep are still affected, a reduction of 95% since 1986, when 9,700 farms and 4,225,000 sheep were under restriction across the United Kingdom.[19]

In Norway, the Sami people were affected by contaminated food (the reindeer had been contaminated by eating lichen, which are very sensitive to radioactivity).[20



ETA: Good link on radioecology after Chernobyl

The UK situation is a little different as the soil type in those areas retained much more of the isotopes which then became available through plants.


I was specifically talking about Iodine, my comments are laced with caveats that longer lived species like Cesium 137 are likely to be problematic. I've been saying all along, that aside from directing nearterm health responses, the real issue is contaimination with the longer lived species. No doubt some northern Japanese cropland will become off limits. Fortunately much of the releases will end up in the ocean, rather than sitting in the top few centimeters of the landsurface, where they can be taken up by plants.

. Fortunately much of the releases will end up in the ocean

I'm guessing ocean life has a different position.

The longer lived fishes will just have more pressure on them and help move the sea to jellyfish domination is my 1st guess.

Perhaps now sharks will "get cancer".

Clean up will take decades, but I think the worst of it is over.

After a month of genuine sorrow for tsunami victims and evacuees, erstwhile study of wrecked containment, melting cores and spent fuel pools, despairing continual release of contaminated water in the ocean -- finally the Luddite faction is tragic and amusing. History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man.

Maybe the pressure will be off tuna for a bit. A good thing for the fishery.

The caption under that graphic from Wiki reads:

The portion of the total radiation dose (in air) contributed by each isotope versus time after the Chernobyl disaster, at the site thereof. Note that this image was drawn using data from the OECD report, and the second edition of 'The radiochemical manual'

There is a fundimental difference between the way radioisotopes spewed into the air at Chernobyl and at Fukushima Diichi which makes that chart inapplicable to the current disaster. The release of radioisotopes suddenly stopped almost completely on May 5, 1986, 10 days after it began. Time Line Chernobyl: May - December 1986:

5 May - To start with, there is a great deal of radioactivity released, nearly as much as on 26 April. However, the release later stops almost entirely. No acceptable explanation has yet been found for this fact. According to Grigory Medvedev, who was a member of the government committee, the fire was extinguished because the graphite had burnt up.

The atmospheric concentration of iodine-131 in air from Chernobyl began decreasing on day 10 in the graph because the release of radioisotopes virtually stopped, not because it decayed away in the fuel rods. They are continuing to be emitted at Fukushima Diichi. Note the increasing contribution of iodine-131 during the first 10 days while the fire burned. The duration of iodine-131 fallout depends on how much is in the fuel rods.

The yield by weight of Iodine-131 by the fission of uranium-235 is 2.9%.
Fukushima Diichi reactor 3 nuclear fuel: 90 metric tonnes = 90 Mg
lifetime of nuclear fuel assembly: 3 to 6 years
total portion of UO2 that fissions in nuclear fuel assembly: 1%

90 Mg * .01 / 6 yr / 365.24 days/yr = 411 g/day of UO2 consumed

411 g/day of UO2 * 235/(235 + 2 * 16) = 361 g/day of U

.029 * 361 g/day = 10.5 g/day = .080 moles/day of 131I

Now I have a differential flow problem with iodine-131 created while it decays and which I am having difficulty solving. The amount of iodine-131 produced in one day will require about 75 half-lives to completely decay. Because there are 3 reactors at Fukushime Diichi, and iodine-131 will accumulate for a while before the rate of decay equals the rate of production, I still estimate more than a mole of iodine-131 present when the scam occurred during the earthquake. Fallout of iodine-131 will be a problem in the U.S. until 90 days after the wind shifts, the reactors stop spewing it into the atmosphere or 1 to 2 years elapses.

Now I have a differential flow problem with iodine-131 created while it decays and which I am having difficulty solving.

half-life of I-131 = 8 days

Given that you produce 0.080 moles/day, how much I-131 is needed to get a decay level exactly equal to the production level?

.080 moles/day -> .640 moles/8 days
.640 moles over 8 days is decayed if you have 1.280 moles of I-131.

1.28 mol equals to 773 PBq (6.02214179(30)×1023 mol-1 × (1 - 0.5(1/3600×24×8))

I still stress that natural Potassium-40 have a concentration of about 60 Bq/kg in the human body.

After 443 days, you get about 16 Bq left. That is, ALL the iodine-131 in the 3 reactors. I doubt that a single thyroid can manage to capture all that iodine.

Divide that number, per, let's says 1 million and you get 284 days, 1 billion, 204 days, 1 trillion, 124 and 44 for 1 quadrillion.
I don't know the duration of iodine pills.

Interesting. The bioaccumulation video above says that the hawk has 666,666 times the level of contamination that is on the wheat, but how long did it take the mice to eat the wheat, the weasels to eat the mice, the hawk to eat the weasels? (Two months in all?) There are two rates going on: the rate of bioaccumulation and the rate of decay.

There is a certain amount of radioactive Iodine that cannot be detected in milk for one cent a gallon. Is this amount harmful?

"radioactive Iodine that cannot be detected in milk"

It can and has been detected in some areas. If pregnant women and nursing mothers drink, as they are advised to do, lots of milk, it will bioaccumulate further in them and then even further in their fetuses/babies. I just wonder at what point these most sensitive parts of our population should be warned.

I think you misunderstood the question. But it is hardly important.
It was can we detect any amount that is harmful, or are there amounts that are harmful that we cannot detect. And then I wanted to restrict the tests we use to cheap tests, assuming that an expensive test would not be done: is there a harmful amount that we cannot detect with a cheap test.

At those amounts one has to specifically look for I-131. If your machine is designed to look for specific energies, it is sensitive enough not to miss individual counts.

I-131 accumulates in specific places in thyroid gland and generates greatly amplified tissue dose.

1pCi is 0.037 decays per second. At the same time normally occurring potassium, distributed rather evenly through the body, produces 60 decays per second and nobody cares.

There was also 8 vs 100 days "decay" problem in one of the links.

Radioactive decay has half life of 8 days regardless of whether it is inside or outside the body. Biologic half life is 30 to 100 days. So for practical purposes one dose of pills should saturate thyroid for several months.

The don't believe there are any large dairies where I live that are free range. The feed will be primarily last years supply until late May, early June.

Thanks for your comments.

The focus upon radiation units such as Bequerels has always been confusing for me. It's not confusing because I don't understand what a bequerel is. It's confusing because I would expect the total mass and mass density would be more understandable. For example, with an oil leak, the total barrels of oil going into environment would be published. From this, further detail would include the percentage of various hydrocarbons. Regarding density, this is normally expressed as parts per million. The goal of scientists would be to project where the mass of toxic substance would go and when the concentration would drop below safe levels.

It just seems deceptive to say something like we measured I-131 100 Bq/l rather than I-131 ppm. I would want to know the total kg of I-131 and other toxic substances expected in an area, the ppm measurements of these substances and the ppm value for when substances are no longer a concern. And how these ppm traverse thru the food chain. The affect of half-life is easier to understand this way because kg and ppm reduce by half. 1 kg of I-131 will decay to a safe level faster than 1000 kg of I-131. To focus on half-life and say either mass will decay to a safe level in 4 half-lifes is not exactly true.

Does anyone know why ppm is not used?

"Does anyone know why ppm is not used?"

They don't use ppm because parts per septillionrillion or quintillion isn't scary enough. If you saw a pollutant in water was 0.0001 ppm you'd not regard it as particularly dangerous and most chemicals, with the possible exception of some warfare neurotoxins, wouldn't be dangerous at those levels. However a highly-radioactive substance could be dangerous at those concentrations, or at least if ingested it could increase someone's chance of contracting particular cancers by a percentage point or two hence the very conservative legal levels of radioactive substances set as permissible in food, soil, air and water.

A litre of water contains 10^26 atoms of hydrogen and oxygen. That's a hundred million million million million atoms. A contamination level of 100Bq of I-131 in that litre of water, the maximum dose allowed in drinking water for children, would represent 14 hundred million atoms, a ratio of 1 iodine atom to 7 thousand million million atoms of hydrogen and oxygen, or as you would like to see it, 0.0000000014 ppm. Not very scary, is it?

BTW the World Health Organisation sets the upper limit for drinking water contamination with radioactive materials at 3000 Bq/l. The Japanese have set their limits a lot lower, especially for children. As of 11 April in Mito, about 40km south of the Fukushima plant the amount of I-131 in drinking water is reported as 0.91 Bq/litre. The Cs-137 level is too low to be detectable although the limit for that is 200Bq/litre.

"septillionrillion" ????

So you are claiming that the US and Japanese government and the UN are conspiring to needlessly frighten people about radiation levels just for the hell of it, for shts and giggles?

Perhaps you could come up with a more bizarre claim, but I wonder.

I'm not sure who you think your audience is here, but we all know how small an atom is.

And we all know that very small amounts of ingested radio-isotopes posited in bones and organs can do a lot of damage.

The "septill..." thing was a spelling error which I did try to fix but the blogging front end didn't let me re-edit the post for some reason.

The previous poster suggested he understood ppm contamination better than Bequerels. I was pointing out that the actual contamination is miniscule and wouldn't mean much to folks used to panicking about 1 ppm of mercury in their canned tuna.

Bequerels represent atomic decay events that can happen inside the human body if the water or food or air is ingested which makes it more useful for measurements of contamination that might affect people directly. Small physical amounts of fast hot radioactives such as I-131 are more dangerous than larger amounts of longer-lived materials such as Cs-137 but the Bequerel scale levels them out in terms of their threat to health. It's not an exact match though -- iodine Bq limits are set tighter than some others because of the concentration of iodine in the small thyroid gland.

So you are claiming that the US and Japanese government and the UN are conspiring to needlessly frighten people about radiation levels just for the hell of it, for shts and giggles?

Dohboi, you keep doing this. Nojay wrote in the post you're replying to that the level expressed in ppm "isn't scary enough", in that it undersells the threat from a radioisotope which indeed "could be dangerous at those concentrations".

So no, he's *not* saying that everyone's conspiring to needlessly frighten people. Quite the opposite.

It's like Don Quixote vs the windmill around here.

Sorry for the delay with chiming in. Another long work day...

To confirm some of your later responses. Yes, my question was about ppm and not Bq. I tried to point that out without getting too wordy and you correctly interpreted.

I find your answer fair enough. When the number is verbally spoken as dot-zero-zero-zero-..., it becomes far more difficult to say or remember. I had a feeling it would become a very small number but hadn't done the actual calculation. I probably should have been clearer by saying the only part of ppm set in concrete is the pp. So, I would just use ppb2 to mean parts per billion squared. So, the 1400 parts per quintillion would be 1400 ppb2.

There is probably more truth than many would admit regarding the scariness of the number. I guess the politically correct explanation is the newsworthiness of the number. I've heard this said regarding whether journalists should say tons of radiated water or gallons of radiated water. I'll just try to focus on the measured value in comparison with various limits. And that's a good point about realizing different entities may have different limits.

Anyway, thanks for comments.

EDIT: typo correction

For others who may still be bemused by the Bequerel, it is a simple thing, but often used confusingly.

One Bequerel is one atom disintegrating every second.

Each disintegration gives off radiation - generating the 'click' you hear on a geiger counter .

So if you are talking about 100 Bq, that's 100 disintegrations per second.

You'll have noticed now that whether this is good or bad depends on how big the thing you are measuring is.

- If you have a swimming pool of milk that gives off radiation at a rate of 100 Bq, well, that's not so bad is it, 100 disintegrations every second sounds scary but it is spread out across the whole pool - so considering any one glass of milk you might drink, the number of atomic disintegrations per glass is going to be tiny. So, not that radioactive at all really.

- if you have a gallon jug of milk that's giving off radiation at 100 Bq, well, that's a different story - a glass of milk from that jug would have about 8 disintegrations per second - so about 480 'clicks' or counts per minute on a geiger counter and I'm not sure I'd want to drink that (background is about 20 here)

- and if you took a drop of milk to test and found it was 100 Bq, that would be BAD NEWS indeed. Works out at approx 3.6 million counts per minute for a glassful of that milk.

So, the take-home message is to watch the units. Always ask yourself:

1) Bequerels per _what_ exactly?
2) And how big is that 'what' compared to how much I come into contact with? (Much smaller? Much bigger?)

TEPCO seems to have been guilty of this - reporting Bq per square meter one day, then Bq per square centimeter another day. Figures look the same but of course the later one is 10,000 x higher.

Thank you.

After hearing how small the parts per value is, I was wondering if it was just easier to measure Bq vs parts per billion squared (ppb2).

The denominator confusion with Bq is another reason I'd prefer ppb2. I've seen articles where jounalist mohogulated kg (kilograms) to kl (kiloliters) when writing about radiation in water. Somehow forgot to drop the k. I didn't know TEPCO also mohogulated the denominator.

Human body is about 60 Bq/kg1 or 60 Bq/L, for K-40 (i.e. gamma rays). K-40 account for less then 11%2 of background radiation (gamma, beta and alpha).

1 http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer%20products/potassiumgenerali...
2 http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/teachers/06.pdf

Does anyone know why ppm is not used?

Because the stuff is being diluted (and in some cases concentrated) as it travels around. For a fairly well mixed medium, like air ppm probably makes sense. But using Becquerels means you know the total amount present. Saying the ppm (of say water leaking into the ocean, says nothing about the ppm once its diluted to a cubic kilometer, but knowing the total dose does allow you to compute that number.

79 half lives is a totally ridiculous statement. I assume you are looking for the last radioactive atom to decay, but that is an absurd standard. Something can be dangersous at concentration X, worth avoiding at .1X, and not even worth worrying about at .001X. After a short while (couple of months) current Iodine is longer a concern, but longer lived isotopes will be.

If you are wondering 2^79 is about one Avogadro's Number.

Bluetwilight is trying to get rid of every atom. The math doesn't actually work that way once you are down to very small quantities, as individual atoms have a probability of decay, not a certainty. Only when you have a large sample set does the distribution come into play, or in this case the first-order reaction rate.

A better criteria might be when does the decay rate drop to banana levels of activity.

According to my calculation there was more than 1 mole of iodine-131 in the fuel rods of the three reactors when they shutdown on March 11, 2011. If so, then one year later there will be at least 13 billion atoms of iodine-131 remaining emitting at least 1.1 GBq. If there were 2 moles, then double those figures. Contrary to what some posters are stating in this thread, fallout from iodine-133 could still be dangerous next year if those reactors continue spewing radioisotopes into the air. Iodine-133 will not decay to an insignificant concentration in the U.S. by June 2011 unless the wind shifts or the reactors are sealed. Since I do not have a Geiger counter and have an ample supply of powered milk, the safest approach is to not consume fresh milk until 2012 depending on the wind direction and continuing emission from Fukushima Diichi.

Edit: to correct errors in date of disaster at Fukushima and I failed to convert decays/day to decays per second. 1.1 GBq should be 13 kBq, so the amount of iodine-131 will not be significant after 1 year. After 26 half-lives (7 months), 1 mole will decay to 8.97 x 1015 atoms and 8.95 GBq. With three reactors (more than 3 moles) by autumn of 2011 iodine-131 should decay enough to be irrelevant.

http://xkcd.com/radiation/ shows a very understandable chart comparing radiation doses.

It includes the proverbial bananna, as well as mammogram, xray, etc.

shutdown of the fission reaction, which stopped with the SCRAM.


Huh. Then why the statements made by officials about 'detected criticality'?

And, if you knew something about the nuclear reactors - there are other things beyond Iodine 131 being made.

For those schooled in the old ways; 1 terabecquerel = 27 curies, so 270,000 curies.

Yes, this is a 7 on the "grand oops" scale.

Like the pascal, the becquerel is mathematically elegant and practically useless.

Like the pascal, the becquerel is mathematically elegant and practically useless.

To an American? Pa is a unit we use here every day, mostly (but not always), in kPa and MPa forms...

That must be why my HPLC uses kPa and the radionuclide doses I measure are in megaBeqs on the scintillation counter. Perhaps useless to only those outside of pharmaceutical analysis, then.

Actually, probably only to Americans, given the US people we work with (Pfizer and the like) insist on using antiquated non-SI, while AstraZeneca and Nissan don't.

From Perrin's final post to the last (now-closed) Fukushima thread:

The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan released a preliminary calculation Monday saying that the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been releasing up to 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials per hour at some point after a massive quake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan on March 11.

The disclosure prompted the government to consider raising the accident's severity level to 7, the worst on an international scale, from the current 5, government sources said. The level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale has only been applied to the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

The current provisional evaluation of 5 is at the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.

According to an evaluation by the INES, level 7 accidents correspond with a release into the external environment radioactive materials equal to more than tens of thousands terabecquerels of radioactive iodine 131. One terabecquerel equals 1 trillion becquerels.

Haruki Madarame, chairman of the commission, which is a government panel, said it has estimated that the release of 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials per hour continued for several hours.

The commission says the release has since come down to under 1 terabecquerel per hour and said that it is still examining the total amount of radioactive materials released.

At some point? Several?

What does the curve look like before and after that possible peak? (There are 730 hours in a month.)

How long is the current release rate expected to continue? (There are 8,766 hours in a year.)

The estimated total atmospheric release of 131I at Chernobyl (1.8 million terabecquerels) is equivalent to 180 hours at the "preliminarily calculated" Fukushima maximum.

Marine releases? Other radionuclides?

I don't find this reassuring.


Don't worry, the levels of radiation:
"are below any levels of concern"
"do not pose a threat to human health"

By the way, did you already get your recommended dose today?

"The recommended level of 1,000 microsieverts excludes radiation from the natural environment and medical devices"

The spin continues:
"it does not affect people’s health."
"safe levels"
"only miniscule amounts of radiation"
"we need not be worried"

Is this the INES 7 event?


*"The recommended level of 1,000 microsieverts*

Per hour?

Sounds like it's a new US RDA. I wonder if alpha or beta emitters are preferred. Can I buy supplements?

"Sounds like it's a new US RDA. I wonder if alpha or beta emitters are preferred. Can I buy supplements?

:-) The cookie question returns. I'd forgotten that.

You have have been provided with four cookies spiked with radionuclides. They are labeled, and each contains pure emitters of one type of radiation; alpha, beta, gamma and neutron. They all have the same activity level, and the same half-lives. You are allowed to throw one cookie in the trash. One cookie can be put in a pocket, one must be held in your hand, and the last one must be eaten.

Arrange the cookies to minimize your dose. Explain your reasoning.

How long do you have to decide?

Ha! Erica pinpoints the critical question.

OK, since nobody else has answered:

Hold the alpha; your skin is sufficient protection.

Pocket the beta; clothing should block radiation.

Toss the neutron emitter; it's launching particles that can make bad things happen to atoms that are very important to you, especially if passing through a moderator, and you are mostly an excellent moderator. Edit: Try to get a friend at DOE or NRC to take it to New Mexico.

Eat the gamma; it's gonna penetrate you no matter where you put it.

Full disclosure: I remember the cookie quiz from long, long ago, so no intellectual effort was required. I'm sure it's all over the net, anyway.

no intellectual effort was required

Now that's inviting people to quote you ;)


Beta particles will penetrate clothing and skin. A hand can withstand more nuclear radiation than internal organs. I would put the alpha particle emitter in my pocket and the beta particle emitter in my hand while holding my hand as far as possible from the rest of me.

..plus sending a strongly worded letter to the Girl Scouts of America.

(I can't seem to refuse their Peanut-Beta Cookies, though!)

Something that I don't like is we only get "maximum rates", we don't get total amounts. Therefore, we have no idea on the quantity of radioactivity here.

The following is one of the rare which give total doses:

Today's quake was right in Fukushima province and only 6km deep. The range has been reported as 6.6 in some stories up to 7.1 in others (the link above gives the round figure of 7.0).

It seems to have knocked out power to the fractured plants again. How much damage could such interruptions cause, or is it already so snafu that the activity there is just some kind of hand waving anyway?


It seems to have knocked out power to the fractured plants again.

For 50 minutes. The only data point for earthquake induced transmission outages, so far.

Thanks, mg. From the article:

"Steam, Nitrogen Leak

Radioactive steam and nitrogen escaped from the containment vessel at the No. 1 reactor and the company is checking radiation levels around the reactor, spokeswoman Megumi Iwashita said by telephone before the latest temblor.

Tepco started injecting nitrogen into the vessel to reduce the risk of a hydrogen explosion. The pressure inside the vessel is rising more slowly than expected, indicating a leak, Iwashita said.

Earlier today, the company said a hydrogen explosion was unlikely at the No. 1 unit.

“The situation is getting messier, especially at reactor No. 1,” Lauri Myllyvirta, a campaigner for Greenpeace, told reporters in Tokyo today. “It seems likely that re-criticality or chain reactions in the fuel are taking place in there. Water isn’t going to be a solution for cooling the extra heat that generates.” "

I hadn't been thinking about radio-active nitrogen. It seems that this is mostly a problem for the poor workers at the plant, since its half life is seven seconds.

Speaking of nitrogen, I recently read this:

1914 Ernest Marsden, Rutherford's assistant, reports an odd result when he bombards nitrogen gas with alpha particles -- something is thrown back with much greater velocity. This is the first report of nuclei fissioning.

I'm assuming this is not a problem in the particular situation at Fukushima....?


Also, regarding your comments about mothers and advisories, I have a hypothetical (not just for you but for the group at large if interested):

If your daughter had married a nice young Japanese fellow, they had settled on the north side of Tokyo, and had a baby girl one month prior to the Tsunami, what would you tell her about breastfeeding the baby? Her intention was to nurse the baby exclusively on breast milk for 7-8 months, then gradually introduce solid food and wean by 14-18 months.

They can't/don't want to leave Japan because of his job. Your daughter would like to continue nursing as much as possible, figuring that the overall immune system benefits (i.e. minimization of germ infection risk) probably trump everything else. But the radioactivity concerns are a new factor.

Should she switch to formula entirely, try to freeze her milk for a couple of weeks at a time to allow I-131 to decay, get a geiger counter, etc?

Also, not that it matters just now, but she'd like to know if she's at a higher risk for breast cancer later by allowing potentially radioactive milk to accumulate in her breasts for nursing?

I offer this hypothetical not to sensationalize the thread (I hope that won't happen.) But it's a human, practical issue that depends nonetheless on science for its resolution, and I think it might create interesting, thoughtful and specific discussion....

"Should she switch to formula"

I was thinking about that, too. I'm no fan of infant formula, but these types of accidents turn lots of evaluations on their heads for a while.

More and more, though, all of us will have fewer and fewer remotely good options to pick from--only slightly different shades of bad, really bad, really super bad, much worse than that, and the very worst. And it will generally be impossible to distinguish between most of these gradations most of the time.

Does anyone else remember the movie "Sophie's Choice"?

she should have been staying well away from the evacuation zone, and not eating herself local produced milk. She could take vitamins with safe iodine in it already. They had such supplements in Russia when my wife was there a few years ago.

Erica, you raise a really good question. It makes me sad, and it's in part why I'm here trying to learn more. I'm not really sure about a lot of this as a health care professional. IIRC, we got a 2 hour lecture on health physics and radiation medicine in school; it was pathetic. Our society has discounted the threat. Here are some ideas. My heart really goes out to mothers in Japan.

As Dohboi says, there are just bad choices and worse ones. If it were my daughter, I would have sent them a plane ticket and explained what might happen to her child if she stayed. The ramifications of various doses is unfortunately the type of information that is lacking in this situation, because there is no reasonable possibility of adequate evacuation. If not evacuation, then minimize air, food, and water contamination for the child. Head upwind as far as possible, stay out of the rain, find a clean well-water source, and take lots of showers, wash hands a lot, stay indoors. Mom and child could wear a hepa mask when outside. Take off shoes and roll up carpets; keep floors and surfaces clean. Monitor hazardous air and turn off HVAC during bad days (onshore winds). Breastfeed if Mom has a clean source of water. Do what Pi has done and leave urban settings, which allow less personal control in a disaster, and which are more vulnerable to outages. Because of the variety of isotopes, I'm not sure freezing milk will do much, and if that were used, I'd sure check it with a Geiger counter before using it. And babies can do fine without milk for a while, there have been cases of babies allergic to almost all kinds of milk, but that still requires a clean water source for other liquids.

Replacing the iodine and ensuring adequate calcium intake with multivits would help, and formula works, but only if the water is untainted. Mom could eat kelp powder or Nori to maintain iodine levels of her own, and she should also take calcium, I imagine? I would want a geiger counter to check food and water sources, as public health information is slow or missing in this case for example, either due to regulatory capture or the chaos of a disaster in a complex, highly structured bureaucracy, or both. All of this is really hard to do in a disaster, especially if one has not prepared some ahead of time. As we descend post-peak, there will be more and more opportunities like this for learning and adaptation.

Would distilling water by boiling and condensing in a kitchen set-up provide decontaminated water?

Not sure but an interesting question. I would think higher temperature would increase decay rate. You may want to ask mother in law to boil it. Powdered milk is made by boiling water out of milk. Trying to find powdered milk from a safe place may be a good idea for pregnant ladies on west coast.

Regarding water, I would use activated carbon and change filters often.
Home Water Purifiers

Here's an article explaining reverse-osmosis, ion exchange and activated carbon methods.
How To Remove Radoactive Iodine-131 From Drinking Water

Temperature affects chemical processes. Emission of radiation is a nuclear process, and nuclei couldn't care less about the chemical stuff going on around them. Temperature doesn't effect nuclei at all until things get so hot that the nuclei are able to bump into each other like in a fusion reaction. And you won't be doing that to milk without a tokamak.

Thanks for correction. The advantage of the powdered milk is as someone said in another comment, it won't spoil as quickly and can be left on shelf to allow decay over time. Also, this is true of other products made from milk such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream that will last longer if left refrigerated.

Does cheese keep in the freezer for 10,000 days?

Sure. But after 9,000 days, you'll probably need to replace the freezer....

So we need a freezer to keep our cheese long enough to out-wait the half life of the isotopes polluting our food chain, and to power all those freezers we need more nuclear plants!

Now that's what I call a captive market.

Thank you everyone. As I expected, these were thoughtful responses.

One irony that has struck me is that people who say that small doses of radiation are ok, or that nuclear power is the same as or better than alternatives, sound a lot like the people who insist that there's no difference between breast milk and formula.

But numerous studies show that breastfeeding supports a baby's immune system so well that the practical wisdom among moms these days is that formula equals ear infections while breastfeeding tends to provide roboust health. And studies (especially a large-cohort Russian study) indicate that even after controlling for societal factors, breastfeeding increases a baby's IQ by 3-10 points.

The point I'm making is that sometimes there's no obvious spot on the line where unfortunate or necessity-driven choices become negative health effects. But no parent wants to be on the wrong side of that spot--which is why statements like "just don't drink the milk" can be really frustrating. Just because your baby isn't going to turn green and develop an extra head doesn't mean the effects of these decisions won't show up later--and you may never know if your baby could have been healthier or smarter if you'd done things differently.

I think your statement illustrates well why the withholding or distortion of fallout information is truly criminal.

The problems illustrated by Chernobyl were not of the 2nd head sort. There were a lot of neural-tube disorders. These are mentioned in experimental animals in "The True Battle of Chernobyl":
Doing a Google image search on "anencephaly" gets the idea across. Perhaps ask someone to do it for you, as it delivers pictures of human monsters.

We are walking oceans. The mitochondria in our cells are independent, free-swimming entities with their own DNA. There are critters munching the ends off of the rods and cones in our eyes to keep them clear and others scarfing the debris off the blood vessels in our brains. Milk is a flow from this sea. It is alive, too.

I hear you about the lack of accurate information. I also wish there were better numbers or at least a more respectful tone. "We are measuring this, we should be measuring this but we can't right now because the people who ran the lab are dead. We are not sure about the effects, but our best guess is xyz." At least then people would understand that no one really knows these answers. The false reassurance is very frustrating.

I had not made the association with neural tube defects, but now I remember. Very disturbing.

Is there any information on how they are measuring radiation levels around the site, such as at the gate? If they have a detector point up, it would mostly be seeing reflected radiation from sources at/around the reactors, and some radiation from gases passing overhead.

I read they take air samples and send them to Daiini site for analysis. Analysis uses a Germanium solid-state counter with measuring time of 500 s. For example, the 3/27 samples at Western gate found volatile I-131 measured 4.5x10-4 Bq/cm3, particulate I-131 measured 2.1x10-4 Bq/cm3, volatile Cs-137 measured 1.4x10-5 Bq/cm3. Te-132 measured 1.2x10-4 Bq/cm3. This measurement is called activity density.

> with measuring time of 500 s ... particulate I-131 measured 2.1x10-4 Bq/cm3

This sounds something like 1/10 decay during the measurement period if the sample is anywhere around 1 cm3. It's amazing what technology can do these days.

It's now official an INES 7 event:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20110412/t10015249911000.html (use google translate)


Posted at 4:30, Edit at 7:40

News of Level 7

Reflected here:

Not reflected here:




Monday April 11th 4:40 Pacific Standard Time U.S. West Coast

Edit: An explanation:


"TOKYO — Japanese authorities planned Tuesday to raise their rating of the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis to the highest level on an international scale"

"Officials reclassified the ongoing emergency from level 5, an “accident with off-site risk,” to level 7, a “major accident.” "

"According to Kyodo, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission reported Monday that the plant, at one point after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, had been releasing 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactivity per hour."

“This corresponds to a large fraction of the core inventory of a power reactor, typically involving a mixture of short- and long-lived radionuclides,” an IAEA document says. “With such a release, stochastic health effects over a wide area, perhaps involving more than one country, are expected.”"


So, the Japanese are raising the level.
They are saying that it spewed the core, yes?

7:20 PM my time

(I've gotta quit editing the above 'cause I'm making a confusing mess of the times and my own idiocy.

So, if higher boiling-point radionuclides were released, "at one point" like Strontium 90, which oxidises yellow, was the Tokyo "Yellow Rain" really the same as Belarus's?:


"The "yellow rain" seen Wednesday in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo was caused by pollen, not radioactive materials as many residents feared, the Meteorological Agency said Thursday."


"Similar to the explanation in Japan, government officials claimed that the yellow radioactive rain that fell in Gomel, Belarus was merely pollen and nothing to worry about. We now know that was a bold faced lie."

I remember when this came out.
The yellow rain stories are a lot harder to find, now.

Does anybody see reported levels of Strontium -90?

"U.S. daily press reports have indicated that radioactive strontium 90 from the fallout of thermonuclear explosions is nothing to worry about."


IAEA Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Accident (12 April 2011, 14:30 UTC)


"Provisional INES Level 7 Rating

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can confirm that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has submitted a provisional International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) Level 7 rating for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This new provisional rating considers the accidents that occurred at Units 1, 2 and 3 as a single event on INES and uses estimated total release to the atmosphere as a justification. Previously, separate provisional INES Level 5 ratings had been applied for Units 1, 2 and 3."

They are saying that it spewed the core, yes?

Yes, they are finally 'fessing up. Every fire and every explosion spews more exposed core material and more exposed fuel rods that were previously in SFP into the atmosphere.

Edit to keep up with Kalimanku: Yes, yellow rain is very suspect, as is black rain or snow, according to historical reports at Chernobyl and elsewhere, not something to play in. Hilo has picked up the highest milk contamination so far; probably no coincidence that the words rain and Hilo are synonymous.

Then this is very sad.




TEPCO finally seem to come a bit to their senses:

"The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that the amount of leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it" an official from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.


Exceed Chernobyl.... wow..

But then again, it's 4 reactors in meltdown we are talking about here, not one.


I'm expecting competing versions of this statement being tossed around between TEPCO , the NISA , IAEA and the Japanese government the coming next few days...

LOL!! indeed... they have taken all the same spin lessons. Wonder what PR firm is behind this all.

"Nuclear accident in Fukushima 'very different' from Chernobyl: IAEA"

"The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the release of radioactive materials from the Fukushima plant is about 10 percent of that from the former Soviet nuclear plant."




I was doing some research on the PR firms behind the Nuclear Industry, when I stumbled upon this:

"A particular problem seems to exist with the reactors operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO) - 14 of their 17 reactors were considered to need additional inspections, with the No. 1 to 4 reactors of the Fukushima Prefecture No. 2 plant considered to have had ‘‘significant’’ problems following the mistaken discharge of radioactive materials into the sea through a drainage pipe that came to light in October 2009.

The Fukushima reactors have suffered a host of problems including in January 1989, when an impeller blade on one of the reactor coolant pumps in Unit 3 broke at a weld forcing a reactor shut down while in 2006 Fukushima’s Unit 1 was shuttered following leaking irradiated water."

Well.. it seems that the Fukushima plants has had troubles before!

"It seems for the moment, despite domestic safety concerns in Japan’s nuclear industry, the country is continuing to successfully locate export markets."

So much for PR for selling nukes....


Roger Roger ,

their business revolves around decay does it not ?

Imagine the PR needed to market this as 'clean' tech ?

They had some success while it lasted ,

but so did asbestos

I don't have any illusions however that 'big bucks' will leave them alone.

Too much grease there to keep it clean.

But I must not be too unfair to those that work the industry with a passion ,

no one can help themselves having a passion


Now I understand it. The NEI has Hill and Knowlton as their principal PR firm behind them.

Hill and Knowlton, you know, of the 'smoke and mirrors' campaign to hide the health effects of smoking:

"The tobacco industry has waged a fifty year campaign to hide the health effects of smoking. In 2005, the US Department of Justice's legal case, asking for a staggering $280 billion in damages, finally reached court. They argued that the tobacco industry carried out a fifty year campaign of deception. At its heart was Hill and Knowlton. An Executive Summary of Preliminary Findings notes:[3]
At the end of 1953, the chief executives of the five major cigarette manufacturers in the United States at the time - Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, Lorillard, and American - met at the Plaza Hotel in New York City with representatives of the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton and agreed to jointly conduct a long term public relations campaign to counter the growing evidence linking smoking as a cause of serious diseases. The meeting spawned an association-in-fact enterprise to execute a fraudulent scheme in furtherance of their overriding common objective - to preserve and enhance the tobacco industry's profits by maximizing the numbers of smokers and number of cigarettes smoked and to avoid adverse liability judgements. The fraudulent scheme would continue for the next five decades.":


One of the tactics was to create a controversy over health where there was not one. For example one Hill and Knowlton memo from the sixties says: "The most important type of story is that which casts doubt in the cause and effect theory of disease and smoking". Eye-grabbing headlines were needed and "should strongly call out the point - Controversy! Contradiction! Other Factors! Unknowns!"

Now, THAT sounds eerily familiar with the Fukushima disaster spin, doesn't it?


PS; Hill and Knowlton also did PR on Iraq parts 1 and 2. They are really good...


Thank you for the research.

I am grateful to all of us that we live in an era where 'most' citizens can access news material and research like this on the Internet.

I would hate to have to live through this back in the 70s, where people had only TV and newspapers for information, or months-later peer reviewed articles.

Your last sentence is exactly what we did with TMI.

I'm expecting competing versions of this statement being tossed around between TEPCO , the NISA , IAEA and the Japanese government the coming next few days...

Interesting mulitlingual struggle going on in twitterdom space for the future of nukes--scroll down to the tweetspace at the link below. The biggest meme appears to be Chernobyl-bad or no? Complete with stoners worried about their pot.

Plantas de marihuana podrían absorver radiación de Fukushima.


10000 TeraBq / hour would be for instance 2 kilograms of I-131 per hour


Or 75000 kilograms of Cesium-137 (Not likely)

Yeah. These "preliminary calculations" are apparently only for 131I.

Cs numbers later, maybe.

What about Plutonium?


Plutonium enters the environment primarily through releases to the atmosphere or direct discharge to
ponds, streams, or oceans. Emissions to the atmosphere will result in plutonium fallout. In the case of
weapons testing, approximately one-fifth of the plutonium released falls on the test site (Harley 1980).
The rest is carried in the atmosphere, adsorbed to particulate matter and is transported back to earth via
dry or wet deposition.

Once plutonium is deposited either on the land or surface water, resorption to soils
or sediments is the primary environmental fate of plutonium. A small fraction of plutonium reaching the
soil will become solubilized either through chemical or biological processes, depending upon its chemical
form. In soluble form, plutonium can either migrate in groundwater or surface water or be available for
uptake into plants; colloidal forms of plutonium are not as available for uptake as soluble forms.

Atmospheric releases of plutonium occurred as a result of former atmospheric nuclear weapons testing or
routine or nonroutine nuclear reactor operations and fuel reprocessing. The rate at which plutonium is
removed from the atmosphere depends on the chemical and physical properties of the particles, as well as
the meteorological conditions. The larger the particles, the faster fallout will occur. The particle size
expected to be released from either of the above mentioned sources ranges from 0.3 to 1.1 μm. At the
highest altitudes, aerosols in the atmosphere descend by gravity; at lower levels, they are transported with
the general air movement (UNSCEAR 2000a). In the lower stratosphere, the mean residence time of
aerosols range from 3–12 and 8–24 months in the polar and equatorial regions, respectively. Removal
half-times from the upper atmosphere to the next lower region range from 6 to 9 months and removal
half-times from the high atmosphere were found to be 24 months (UNSCEAR 2000a). The global fallout
rate of 238 Pu, predominantly from the SNAP-9 accident, as determined by Harley (1980), was 0.002 pCi/m2/day
(7.4x10-5 Bq/m2/day) based on plutonium levels measured in surface soils. The global deposition rate of 239,240Pu
was equal to 0.03 pCi/m2/day (1x103 Bq/m2/day) (Corey t al. 1982).


The plutonium was not volatilize. The hydrogen blew in the outer containment building but not the fuel. The hydrogen is generated by the zirconium oxidizing If it had become volatilized they would be reading more then a trace on the ground outside the plant.

Take a peek at current photos of Units 1-4, Russkie, and tell me how many of the spent fuel pools are still in existence?

Then have a look at the short 20 second video linked below showing the explosion of Unit 3, and tell me where the plutonium in the spent fuel pools has gone?


Since you apparently think it's no longer in the spent fuel ponds, perhaps you can explain why very, very little Pu has been found anywhere?

Btw, why haven't they found any other long-lived isotopes from these spent fuel rods you believe are scattered all over the place? You know, uranium, strontium, stuff like that?

not reported != not there

It would seem likely enough that any manpower is being fully utilized 'handling' the reactor vessels and SFPs, and that, like working in a minefield, you would not do a lot of venturing outside of 'known pathways' and anywhere not necessary for the most pressing tasks at hand.. for the exact reason that the likelihood of coming across a 'biggish chunk' might be the last mistake you ever make.

We've already heard that they had to bulldoze over some hotspots in order to create access to the reactors.

AFAIK they bulldozed "one" hotspot, right between Reactors 3 and 4.

When the Pu was announced as being found, some of the discoveries were 500m from the reactors. This was several weeks ago and presumably when every man was needed to tend to the reactors and spent fuel ponds.

Ok, they've found "slight" amounts of Strontium "near" the plant. For some reason I would be expecting to find so much Pu, Strontium and uranium around these plants if an explosion scattered fuel rods everywhere, that it would be in large amounts impossible to avoid. That they're not seems to indicate the fuel rods are still in the ponds and what we're seeing is what got oxidized (probably from Reactor 4's pond) when it exploded/caught fire weeks ago.


The strontium is already found at a distance of 30 kilometers of the plant:

Of course "the amount found so far is extremely low and does not pose a threat to human health". But no actual level, amount, curie, cpm, ppm or uSv is given (as usual).

But the next statement reassures us again:

"There is no safety limit set by the government for exposure to strontium"

OK, that makes any level save.


"There is no safety limit set by the government for exposure to strontium, but the amount found so far is extremely low and does not pose a threat to human health, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said."

Sounds like the Department Of Entertainment has weighed-in.

"Samples of soil and plants were taken March 16 to 19"
The results were unavailable to the public for almost a month.

If it was hot enough to boil-off the strontium, would it be polite and only boil-off a little strontium?

"If it was hot enough to boil-off the strontium, would it be polite and only boil-off a little strontium?"

Yes. Metals evaporate in incredibly tiny amounts all the time, at surprisingly low temperatures. I read recently about a laboratory performing an analysis of a materials sample where the amount of nickel was higher than expected. The chemists investigated and found a stainless steel bench in the lab was leaking nickel atoms into the air and corrupting the reading. Stainless steel is an alloy with large amounts of nickel and some of it was boiling off as vapour at room temperature whereas the usual boiling point of a mass of nickel is 2732 deg C, according to Wikipedia.

Modern scientific instruments can detect incredibly tiny amounts of chemical elements in samples these days, and radioactive ones are easier than non-radioactive ones to spot and quantify from their radiation hence the use of the Bequerel scale to measure and report the contamination levels from Fukushima. It can still take a few days for samples to be analysed properly, especially if the amounts of elements such as Strontium-90 being looked for are incredibly low as these probably are. I'd be surprised there aren't measurable amounts of plutonium, technetium and other members of the nuclear zoo in the samples but the "elephants" are I-131 and Cs-137 and to a lesser extent Cs-134 as there is usually a lot of them in spent fuel rods and as chemicals they boil off very easily and can be blown out of a reactor during steam venting or via water leaks. Getting even a gram of strontium-90 out of a damaged fuel rod takes a lot more energy but mobilising a few million atoms is a lot less trouble.

Cesium is a highly reactive chemically, combining with water to form CsOH for example. However cesium hydroxide is an exceedingly powerful base and must combine with other materials to form other compounds.

In what chemical compounds does the cesium occur when it is released from the reactors? Are they volatile and likely to continue to be formed as the temperature decreases?


Like Jodium, Cesium will form a gas in a nuclear fire like Fukushima.

The other nucleotides like strontium and plutonium have a much higher melting and boiling point.

That's why they usually talk about Jodium and Cesium.

But don't under estimate Plutonium oxide. And the way that can bind to small parts and travel the globe.

The higher the temperature, the more the extremely dangerous stuff comes out of the meltdown.

But the Cesium will come anyhow...


Well, if cesium and iodine get together, they form cesium iodide, a salt with a boiling point of 1277±5 °C. So if they pass from the reactor core through an environment (primary or secondary containment) that is cooler than that, they should be a liquid or solid. Cesium is an alkali metal and iodine is a halide, so in a hot environment with lots of other stuff like water around, they are going to react and form compounds. I doubt that there is any elemental cesium gas boiling off of anything.

When caesium burns in air, the superoxide CsO2 is the main product.[22] The "normal" caesium oxide (Cs2O) forms yellow-orange hexagonal crystals,[23] and is the only oxide of the anti-CdCl2 type.[24] It vaporizes at 250 °C (482 °F), and decomposes to caesium metal and the peroxide Cs2O2 at temperatures above 400 °C (752 °F).[25]


That may be, but if the cesium is outgassing from the fuel rods into a steam atmosphere wouldn't it form CsOH (or CsCl, given that there is a lot of salt around and Cs is more electropositive than Na)?


I don't know, I'm not a chemist, but Chlorine 38 was detected (http://www.fairewinds.com/updates).

What I do know is that Jodium and Cesium burn in a nuclear fire and escape as gas.
And if the fire gets hot enough, the rest of the herd will follow....


Roger, you may be confusing some of us here who are not familiar with Dutch when you say "Jodium."

"Iodine" is the usual term in English speaking circles.

thanx for that!



I kind of like the term Jodium, though. It looks like it should be an element discovered by or named after "Jody," a name I associate with a cute little girl I had a crush on in elementary school'-)

"If it was hot enough to boil-off the strontium, would it be polite and only boil-off a little strontium?"

It is fun, isn't it? Everything is boiling-off all the time. High vacuum work brings a particular appreciation of this.

"Boiling Point: 1384.0 °C (1657.15 K, 2523.2 °F)"


A kiln at 1550F is yellow-orange.

These melt-down events are described as "White hot".

5000K, over twice the boiling point of Strontium...
or have I confused myself?

TOKYO, April 12 (Reuters) - Slight amounts of strontium, a heavy radioactive metal that could lead to leukaemia, have been detected in soil and plants near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan's science and technology ministry said on Tuesday.

Japan has already detected radioactive elements including iodine, caesium and plutonium, in areas near the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power after reactors there were crippled due to a loss of power that disabled cooling functions. (Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Joseph Radford)



"Accidents involving overheating and meltdown are possible in any nuclear reactor.

In such accidents, not only would readily volatile noble gases like iodine and caesium be released to the environment, but a small portion of the actinides, including plutonium and neptunium, would be released.

As the activity of the actinides is substantially higher in the case of MOX, the consequences of such severe accidents become more serious."



h = half-life = 8.04 days for 131I
D0 = 10,000 TBq / hr = 864 x 1018 decays / day / hr

- D0 * h / ln(.5) = 10.0 x 1021 atoms / hour

(10.0 x 1021 atoms/hr) / (6.022 x 1023 atoms / mole) * 131 g/mole = 2.2 (g of 131I)/hour emitted

According to this site:-
(and my own calculations) the specific activity of I-131
is about 4600 TBq/g. 10,000 TBq/h is 2.17g/hour not 2kg/h

Yeah , saw the miscalc allready , will correct

After making milk undrinkable in some places in the US, the Fukashima fallout reaches Europe and contaminates food:



Advises against eating vegetables with big leaves.....and the article says it is 8x higher in the West Coast US? wow.

BTW Joules, it isn't Friday :) You guys ought to be able to spell 'Fukushima' by now...no need for copy and paste :p

"Eat your spinach" may not be what the Doctor orders, eh?

"Eat your spinach" may not be what the Doctor orders, eh?

In all seriousness - alot of us are just getting our gardens up and going - is the uptake of these isotopes by various veggies of any real concern ? I admit that I had been kind of blowing this off as not having much of an impact on the US (particularly eastern US) but as more info is released and the picture becomes clearer I'm not sure what to think anymore. In short - could there be real danger in growing and eating certain veggies from your own garden ?

I just planted a bunch of lettuce, spinach and other early cool season crops (near the Catskill Mtns. in NY) and I definitely have creeping doubt as to just what they may be "enhanced" with by the time they are ready for harvesting.

I am already lobbying the family carpenter for more cold frames, or better yet, a small greenhouse for my lettuce. We can water with the well water.

is the uptake of these isotopes by various veggies of any real concern ?


If you listen to the r4ndom's of the world being right next to the fission plants in Japan which spawned this discussion has been proven "reasonably safe".

may be "enhanced"

This incident will have a global effect for years. Given the depleted Uranium used as slugs in Iraq/Afghanistan was detected in the air in Great Britain, some of the material from this event WILL end up in your garden. And it will KEEP being there for years.

Watering with well water would have less contamination than rain water. Running all the compost through bio-filters like compost worms (then getting rid of the worms) would lessen the total load in your garden.

But to prevent would take greenhouses, the air exchange being filtered, and many other things.

Are you wearing N99 masks? Bathing after going outside? Shaved your head? (as hair traps particles from the air)

(Now - getting out of the Northern Hemisphere looks to be not only a movie plot line but would be a way to minimize the exposure)

At a certain point - this is a global event of shared misery. Its why the governments are raising the safe limits - so they can call the new norm "safe".

Thanks for the reply Eric.

"Global event of shared misery." - well put...

So basically this will be a case of yes it will make it into our crops but what kind of impact it has is really anybody's guess. And if problems do start to surface they'll be diffuse enough such that no slam dunk implication will be able to be made linking it to this singular event...

"Plausible deniability" or some such nonsense...

Well I guess I'll just be eating a lot baby spinach and immature lettuce this spring.

You might want to up the vitamins and minerals (Azomite/ http://remineralize.org ) and look towards foods that have liver/kidney boosting effects (Turmeric tea) and heavy metal purging effects (natto, cilantro and I understand prune juice)

Good luck

I mentioned the possibility of getting a good filter system for our HRV to my sweetie last week. At the time I was thinking that it might be overkill. But as I think about the future accumulated load from this and other accidents which are almost assuredly guaranteed, I decided that having an air filtration system is not overkill (the alternative being to shut it off for long periods of time). So I have to admit, I put in an order for one this morning; I even get to buy local. This company looks like it expanded into this area as a result of the bad Alaskan fires several years ago. More examples of the costs of pollution, coming at us from every angle, with increasing ramifications and increasing costs if you want to stay healthy.


The point here is to minimize the load in the air, water, and food. I'm afraid you pushed me off the fence, Eric.

Sorry to be obtuse, but what is an HRV?

"what is an HRV"

Humongous Recreational Vehicle?

It's an air filtration system capable of filtering out a Human Retro Virus >;^)

Heat recovery ventilator. We have a wood-fired boiler with radiant heat, which means no air exchange unless we provide some. The HRV exchanges the air in the winter and recovers some of the heat. We turn it off in the summer.

A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) is an air-to-air heat exchanger that draws cool outside air into a building and preheats it using the warmth of the exhaust airstream, thereby reducing heat loss. In addition, the incoming air is usually filtered.

"Data for the west coast of the United States, which received the Fukushima radioactive fallout 6-10 days before France, reveals that levels of radioactive iodine-131 concentration are 8-10 times higher there, the institute says."

The NGO is suggesting avoiding dairy products and rain-fed water sources. And that's in France.


"Fukushima radiation taints US milk supplies at levels 300% higher than EPA maximums"

Nice table here of water testing done at various sites across the US:
"Los Angeles, Calif. - 0.39 pCi/l (4/4/11)
Philadelphia (Baxter), Penn. - 0.46 pCi/l (4/4/11)
Philadelphia (Belmont), Penn. - 1.3 pCi/l (4/4/11)
Philadelphia (Queen), Penn. - 2.2 pCi/l (4/4/11)
Muscle Shoals, Al. - 0.16 pCi/l (3/31/11)
Niagara Falls, NY - 0.14 pCi/l (3/31/11)
Denver, Colo. - 0.17 pCi/l (3/31/11)
Detroit, Mich. - 0.28 pCi/l (3/31/11)
East Liverpool, Oh. - 0.42 pCi/l (3/30/11)
Trenton, NJ - 0.38 pCi/l (3/29/11)
Painesville, Oh. - 0.43 pCi/l (3/29/11)
Columbia, Penn. - 0.20 pCi/l (3/29/11)
Oak Ridge (4442), Tenn. - 0.28 pCi/l (3/29/11)
Oak Ridge (772), Tenn. - 0.20 pCi/l (3/29/11)
Oak Ridge (360), Tenn. - 0.18 pCi/l (3/29/11)
Helena, Mont. - 0.18 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Waretown, NJ - 0.38 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Cincinnati, Oh. - 0.13 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Pittsburgh, Penn. - 0.36 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Oak Ridge (371), Tenn. - 0.63 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Chattanooga, Tenn. - 1.6 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Boise, Id. - 0.2 pCi/l (3/28/11)
Richland, Wash. - 0.23 pCi/l (3/28/11)

Again, these figures do not include the other radioactive elements being spread by Fukushima, so there is no telling what the actual cumulative radiation levels really were in these samples. The figures were also taken two weeks ago, and were only just recently reported. If current samples were taken at even more cities, and if the tests conducted included the many other radioactive elements besides Iodine-131, actual contamination levels would likely be frighteningly higher."

And then there is this cogent point:

"As far as the water supplies are concerned, it is important to note that the EPA is only testing for radioactive Iodine-131. There are no readings or data available for cesium, uranium, or plutonium -- all of which are being continuously emitted from Fukushima, as far as we know -- even though these elements are all much more deadly than Iodine-131."

And: "And even with the milk samples, the EPA insanely says not to worry as its 3.0 pCi/l threshold is allegedly only for long-term exposure. But the sad fact of the matter is that the Fukushima situation is already a long-term situation"

I think by long term exposure they mean, you consume it every day for years at level X. A few days (or week or two) at a somewhat elevated level won't have as big effect. It is the total dose over a significant fraction of your lifetime (if the linear effects model is correct) which matters. Yes Fukushima is a long term issue locally and regionally. Hemisphere wide precautions (avoid leafy vegetables and fresh milk) for a few weeks should be sufficient for distant sites.

I myself then would use 10x as the short term exposure limit.

And: "And even with the milk samples, the EPA insanely says not to worry as its 3.0 pCi/l threshold is allegedly only for long-term exposure. But the sad fact of the matter is that the Fukushima situation is already a long-term situation"

They said long-term for more like 70 years, not 1 month.

Beside, everybody should know you got 1500 pCi/kg of K-40 in your body. That should make the comparison completely ridiculous.

Amount of potassium element in body: 140 grams (1.5 pCi/g or 55 Bq/kg of body weight)

Typical K-40 activity in body: 0.1 uCi; This means that there are over 200,000 atoms of K-40 that decay in the body each minute!

Typical K-40 activity in soil: 10 to 20 pCi/g1

1 http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/consumer%20products/potassiumgenerali...

The EPA is claiming that only miniscule amounts of radiation are reaching the USA from Japan and we need not be worried.

Are the actual hard radiation numbers for the USA posted somewhere?

I would like to make my own decision whether the levels are safe and whether I should be more careful in my food choices.

Oh great. I live in Philadelphia, we've got the most radioactive tap water of the 14 American cities reporting it so far.

I know it's "not much" additional radiation and such. (This is on top of what I'm sure were higher doses than we were all told about the TMI accident.) But still... geez, the planet is run by madmen. Someone fails to consider that Japan has earthquakes and tsunamis and the water in eastern Pennsylvania and the milk in Vermont end up "enhanced."

... aaaand forecast calls for rain tomorrow.

I haven't found a comprehensive listing. CDC, EPA, FEMA and NRC are all involved with monitoring, along with state health departments, etc.

In California, there seem to be a total of about 20 air monitoring stations being used to compile reports, operated by various agencies. The California Department of Public Health is publishing sketchy reports about every two days, and is assuring everyone that only air monitoring is necessary.

I'm sure somebody is undertaking more thorough investigation, but I haven't found those reports, yet.


EPA's RadNet Monitoring Data provides selected data across the U.S. for:

Air Filter and Cartridge
Drinking Water

That "undrinkable" is actually only "not advised to drink it" and it's far from "the substance that makes you die". Honestly, we shouldn't drink milk at all, whether it's radioactive or not. It's just bad to your health.

BBC News interview - Japanese minister calls for big energy savings:

Kaoru Yosano - Japanese Economics Minister

Factories, offices and households all need to save electricity but we can't allow it to effect the manufacturing sector because its crucial to Japan's economic growth. Whereas at home individuals can save energy much easier.

When I was a child there were only two light bulbs at each household. No fridge, no air conditioning. I expect electricity shortages to last three to five years so people will have to get used to saving energy at home. The Japanese people are wise so when we explain clearly I'm confident they will cooperate.

Three things: Japanese economics ministers aren't exactly known for their radical statements - so this should be considered a serious estimate. Imagine making a statement like that anywhere else in the western world, let alone the US! And the reference to his childhood about making ends meet without much electricity is so true - and so often forgotten these days - even the western life-style world hasn't been gorging on unlimited electricity for more than 50 years. Yet still some consider even a reduction in its consumption as going back to the caves and taking up human sacrifice and cannibalism.

Fortunately my laptop takes about two light bulbs worth of electricity - I can manage without the fridge and aircon just fine :P

"I can manage without the fridge and aircon just fine :P"

Yes. Many can.

However, what do you think the the populations of Phoenix and Las Vegas might be without air conditioning?

How would diets change without domestic refrigeration? What about those whose medication requires refrigeration?

I've lived for long periods of time without electricity, and for longer periods with very limited power. It's certainly doable (and life without the pervasive 60 Hz hum can be refreshing), but it won't be a trivial change for most.

Japan... has hot, humid summers (increasingly so as one moves south) and dense, urban populations. And I'll be very surprised if BAU power production/consumption is restored in 3-5 years.

Modern fridges don't require all that much juice (maybe 100 watts). So I don't think sacrificing them makes sense. Turning the thermostat up 5 degrees for the cooling season might make a big difference. I've always thought the Japanese were way to much into the western suit and tie thing. Abandoning those would be a big benefit. Also swopping out bulbs for LEDs...

I live off-grid with solar & wind power only, so monitor all my electrical use. My little 6 cu. ft. apartment refrigerator uses about 135 watts when running, that's less than most full-size fridges run on. It's in a pantry cooled to the outside, shut off from the inside heating, so runs less than if it was just in the kitchen, as is usually the case. Nevertheless it is my largest consumer of electricity overall. My desktop computer used to use more per month, but the laptop uses way less. Point is that refrigeration IS a big component and air conditioning is even more so, if you have it.

Compared to the old per household claim of 1300watts, a modern energy-star refrigerator won't be much. My AC compressor draws 5KW, as does the electric dryer, and the electric range (oven). Those are the big users. Were probably now around 500watts baseline (more in the winter, the furnace fan draws a lot, and in the summer AC, and window fans). I haven't put our frig on the kill-a-watt meter -it would be too tough pulling it out from its niche to get at the plug. The dishwasher use .81KWhrs (not including energy in the hot water), if you avoid the stupid resistance heat dry cycle.

Fridges really are getting better. I bought a new GE 18 cu ft fridge/freezer, and it uses 100 watts running, and should use about 310 kwh/yr (based on a 5-day reading). I had an equivalent 80's-era fridge that used about 1800 kwh per year... nearly 6 times more. For a few years I had a chest freezer with a temp controller to use as a fridge. It also used 100 watts running, but only about 110 kwh/yr. The new one is worth the extra energy, but it shows how low you can go.

"Modern fridges don't require all that much juice (maybe 100 watts). So I don't think sacrificing them makes sense."

Any savings from pulling the plug on the refrigerator would be offset by increased trips to the ER very quickly. And since summer is coming, buying ice would not help the overall situation.

I have lived without refrigeration -- from "entirely" to "minimally" -- for about 3 years now (mine is *not* one of those boats with a deep freeze and fridge and genset). Over this period I have not experienced even one trip to the ER. Managing food supplies w/o refrigeration requires only a bit of common sense and extra planning and thinking effort -- i.e. intelligence, memory, and forethought, qualities whose absence from our lives equals the much-prized concept of "convenience".

The main thing about living without refrigeration is not that you will end up in the ER (fear! fear! fear!) but that you might actually have to plan and think about your food, i.e. manage it, instead of expecting it to be a no-brainer. You have to eat the stuff that spoils quickest, first. So meal plans are arranged not only around how much you have in stock, but around its lifetime. At the beginning of a trip, or just after a shopping day ashore, you eat the fragile soft fruits and vulnerable veggies. Then you turn to the old reliables, keeping them alive in water as long as possible. And as provisions run low you eat the survivors: taters, onions, cabbage, citrus, dried fruits, canned meats.

I don't find this a hardship. I don't find that using the brain to plan and manage food stocks is any different, any less or more satisfying, than using it to manage, say, the maintenance schedule on my (nonexistent) car or the backup schedule for my computer, or reading charts and tide tables and planning a safe and efficient transit of an archipelago. We only think that food should be standardised, uniform in quality, brainless and convenient because we despise some kinds of work (work related to food, food storage, food production, food preservation, food literacy) and admire and valorise others (engineering, mathematics, mining, driving large machinery, wielding weapons etc). I think just as much brain and skill are involved in competence at any complex task, and no survival-oriented task is to be despised. In short, I think we should respect the skills and knowledge of prosperous peasants, as well as those of engineers who build bridges. [In fact I would hazard a guess that deep knowledge of e.g. the management of a nuclear plant may be far less useful in the decades to come than deep knowledge of producing and managing food supplies with minimal electricity and fossil inputs. But that's my "life loving economic doomer" personality speaking :-) ]

Apologies for the lengthy post, but I do get tired of these simplistic, alarmist tropes about the "unlivability" of life without all these convenience gadgets and lots of electric power to run 'em. Actually a lower-energy lifestyle is not unlivable at all. I live this way by choice and quite enjoy it. As a side benefit I save a lot of money by so doing; and if BC Hydro shuts down (which I doubt, but it could happen), the disruption to my personal lifestyle will be noticeable and irritating, but not genuinely devastating. I think that's a good investment of my time and attention span -- risk reduction, in fact.

I'll try to write up a detailed account of low-to-no-frigo food management and post to my personal blog, with URL here. It has become second nature to me now (not having a fridge) so will take some time to think about and verbalise the actual procedures and habits that maintain fresh food w/o a big hot compressor running 24/7.

Oh and btw, a bit of disclosure: I used to be a software engineer for Big Science (astronomy/astrophysics) so I did get my licks in with the high-status skill set, the math and engineering and big machines and so on. But I retired early and voluntarily, mostly due to peak oil and climate destabilisation issues: wanted to decarbonise my lifestyle (at least partially) and do something more *useful* with my brain and hands for the years remaining to me. Strangely I don't feel "demoted" at all :-)

R-40 Ice Box:

R-40 is like an 8-inch thickness of insulation.
The ice, preferably block, must be kept out of the water.
It must be supported on a very smooth surface without texture.
A bottom-drain should maintain about 3/4 of an inch of water.
The lid should be on the top with the same effective thickness.
Polyisocyanurate foam board is nice to work with.
Trash-bags full of wadded shopping-bags and bubble wrap work too.

A block of ice will last a week.
Cube ice will freeze together into a clump.

A sub-box of lesser dimensions and about an R-6 can be made inside.
The ice can be in this inner ice-box, on a surface, out of the water.
This can best be an off-the-shelf ice-chest, adding the shelf.
Really sensitive stuff goes in this inner box.
Meat goes right on the ice, always. Milk to the side.

The leakage inner to outer keeps less sensitive things cold.
The spaces between the inner and outer box is available for them.

Root vegetables keep well outside in the dark. Rutabagas!
Refrigerating a tomato destroys its taste.
Cabbage likes light.
Look at how they are kept in the market.

Apologies for the lengthy post, but I do get tired of these simplistic, alarmist tropes about the "unlivability" of life without all these convenience gadgets and lots of electric power to run 'em. Actually a lower-energy lifestyle is not unlivable at all. I live this way by choice and quite enjoy it. As a side benefit I save a lot of money by so doing; and if BC Hydro shuts down (which I doubt, but it could happen), the disruption to my personal lifestyle will be noticeable and irritating, but not genuinely devastating.

Ehem, er um, Rootless Agrarian, psst, didn't you get the memo? You can't live like that. You're supposed to have *NEEDS*, that require massive amounts of energy, 24/7. You sir, or mam, are a danger to 'The American Way of Life'. I'm not sure that you can be allowed to continue living in the manner you describe.

Seriously though, kudos to you! However I must say that a small solar powered fridge to keep the beer cold is a luxury that I would add, at least here in tropical Florida where I live.

Oh, BTW you seem to have left out the link to your blog, please do post it, I'd like to check it out.



Still behind on everything ("all behind like the cow's tail" as Granny used to say). But here's a quote for the day.

It’s worth noting, for example, that for the amount of money it would take to replace the 23 US nuclear reactors that have the same flawed design as the ones at the Fukushima Daiichi plant – $276 billion, at an estimated average total cost of $12 billion per reactor – we could give every one of the 130 million homes, apartments, and condominiums in the United States a $2000 conservation retrofit, including caulking, weatherstripping, insulation, and the like, with room in the budget to spare. That would save more power than those nukes would generate, and do it with no fuel costs, no security threats, no radioactive waste, no risk of catastrophic meltdowns, and an annual maintenance budget per home equal to a couple of takeout pizzas.

The ArchDruid Report

Re: The cost of replacing the 23 Mark 1 reactors in the US
It does seem like conservation is the overlooked option. Feedback would help conservation.

Yes, like Fred says, please post the link to your blog. I'd be quite interested in reading it.

"I used to be a software engineer for Big Science (astronomy/astrophysics) so I did get my licks in with the high-status skill set, the math and engineering and big machines and so on."

I wonder just how common this is for someone with this type of background to change to "simplify" their life? My background is very similar: 19 years at the University of Arizona doing engineering and constructing (Yes, in University Research the engineers also get to build the things.) of research equipment in the Astronomy and Physics departments. Got to be involved with building the Arizona Imager/Spectrograph (pdf) that flew on the Shuttle in the early 1990's. I forget which flight # but have the mission patch somewhere. Had many interesting conversations with Willis Lamb. Then 13 years being the System Admin for a Rural Electric Co-op. Retired early, again voluntarily, for much the same reasons you did. I'm enjoying myself much more than anytime before. Getting my hands dirty doing something "useful" in my life is so much more satisfactory, even if it's shoveling s**t, literally at some times.

Now I'm growing a huge garden, insulating a smaller, older house, building my own solar heating stuff, building a passive solar greenhouse and so on. I'm purposely keeping the things simple, avoiding unneeded complexity. Learning older ways of food preservation that don't require ongoing energy inputs. These were things that I have been interested in for decades, literally, but the time came that I knew I had to make the change and walk the walk instead of just talking. The last several years have been filled with hard work, but I feel better about myself in so many ways.


I don't know where you guys get your numbers from.... a modern fridge with 260 liters volume needs 100 kWh per year. That's an average of 11.4 Watt. This is for the most energy-efficient fridge in Switzerland, without a freezing compartment. I realize fridges in the US are larger on average, but nevertheless, this is by far big enough for most people/families.

The most efficient refrigerators here in the USA, in the stores, are tagged as using 365KwH/year (1KwH/day). I have thought about how to improve that, but no obvious great ideas so far. You might expect that energy use would drop overnight, when the door is not being opened, but I can't say that I see that. 100 kWh/year seems good!

In winter, the biggest consumption of electricity is for the blower on the gas furnace. If I pay a lot of attention, I can cut electricity consumption in half - down to 10 kWh/day , but it's too much trouble.

Most America refrigerators still have coils on the bottom, or at best on the back. The bottom is the worst place to put them, of course, but the most aesthetically pleasing.

I have never seen one with a coil on the bottom. unless you are talking about a commercial refrigeration unit.

I had forgotten the versions with coils in the bottom of the cabinet, but a Google image search of "refrigerator coils bottom" brings back memories of cleaning them.

The modern little refrigerators have the coils in the sides, under the sheet-metal. So just on the other-side of the thin, thin, thin R-8
insulation away from the cold box.

A simple and good thing would be a R-40 box, top-opening box so the cold doesn't flow out, timer that only turns it on at night. Or day, if it's solar! No new development required, just re-arrange the parts in a rational way in regards to energy consumption.

Solar ice!

Sure, PV panels and a Peltier cooler gets close, but this is so much more... energetic and dangerous! Cheap and rugged, in concept.

These involve ammonia vapor in a pressurized system. In the sunlight, the ammonia refrigerant is driven from an adsorbent (with a "d"). It pools in a colder place: a reservoir in intimate communication with water. At night, the now cold adsorbent creates a vacuum ("sorbent pumping") forcing the ammonia to vaporize. The hottest ammonia molecules evaporate first, taking more than their share of the thermal energy of the system with them.

At 260L that fridge is half the size of mine, and then I have a freezer that size too, and I really want to get another chest freezer for bulk storage. What we have is *barely* big enough for once-a-week grocery runs plus a complement of staples and leftovers. When stocking extra for a winter storm the fridge is chock full.

But then, I guess "most families" don't shop for 8 or 9 people in the house, either.

Still, if the goal is to be resilient of shortages and to expect more stays of expected family members, less storage is going the wrong way. Higher efficiency is the real need, IMHO.

Sun Frost is a maker of efficient refrigerators and freezers of various sizes. Coils are on the top, and compressors run on AC or DC. Use about 25% of the power of most other contemporary brands. Built in California.

Good to have someone focusing on the refrigerator. One claim seems off

By contrast, the average refrigerator in a home typically consumes about 90 KWH per month.

Well, that would not be typical for the target audience - and why say it?

"However, what do you think the the populations of Phoenix and Las Vegas might be without air conditioning?"

Modern Phoenix and LV do not have any adobe building with meter thick walls.
If there is any "old town" left in either place, I think its residents will do very nicely. But I bet it has all been 'redeveloped'.

I can't see adobe doing the trick in Phoenix, where the summer low temps are around 90F. Its supposed to work by thermal mass. It should work great in New Mexico, where most people live at 5 to 8 thousand feet.

Evaporative coolers would work pretty well in Phoexix although less so during the period of the monsoon when humidity increases. Because evaporative coolers have limitations in terms of delivering cold air, they are not currently in vogue but should be again if / when rates for electricity rise. Adobe and evaporative coolers should probably be enough to make "the valley" reasonably livable during the summer months.

"Evaporative coolers would work pretty well in Phoenix..."

...where the average annual precipitation is about 9 inches, the groundwater has been in overdraft forever, and the Central Arizona Projects relies upon pumps and hundreds of miles of canals and aqueducts to to turn the Colorado into a muddy trickle before it gets to Mexico.

You can also go hybrid. I'm in California, which is pretty dry, and gets more summer sunshine than Arizona. I have a portable evap cooler, which can evaporate maybe 20 liters per day. That displaces the first few KWhr of AC demand daily. Not a total replacement, it would require several times as much, and the air would definately get clamy. But, as a supplemental (actually better as a baseline, use it when you have the windows closed to keep the heat out), it can take a substantial chip off of your cooling bill.

Yes, we have a weird hybrid system as well. Too complicated to explain here, but we use ceiling fans and exhaust fans on a thermostat which kick in automatically when the heat exceeds 90 in the attic. Thus, we delay the time when we have to use the air conditioners.

And we use wall units. Even though individually they are more inefficient, we only cool the rooms that we are actually in-- the living rooms and stairwells have very high ceilings, and it's pointless to cool them. (Fortunately, our living room is on the first floor, which is below ground level on the north side and never gets that hot.) So our total energy use is much lower than with central, and we do not have the maintenance problems that zone systems have if they are not run flat-out all the time.

The conversations I had with HVAC contractors were unbelievable, they all wanted to do central zone systems, it was very hard to find someone to build this. The culture of excess is just incredibly powerful.

I used to live in Lakewood California (LA), and the attic would get to be 120, which is too hot. It was my cousin's house, so I was limited in what I could try. I put in an electric fan triggered on temperature, and I was not impressed. He had to put on a new roof, and put in those turbines. Is there any evidence that those work, and if so, can you explain them? Ridge vents are the current fashion, I believe.

But my question, assuming that you cannot shade the roof, can you nail (say) plywood to the 2x4s on the underside of the roof, to direct the hottest air up to the ridge vents, if they were there? And try to keep the attic at the outside ambient temperature, again assuming you have decided to throw away all that heat energy that is there for the taking.

You raise many excellent points, too many for a non-engineer contractor to address in a comprehensive fashion, so just a few quick speculations:

* We do not use the passive turbines, because in our judgment these were not powerful enough. We are trying to suck air out of the whole house, not just the attic, so we use a pretty serious exhaust fan.

* There are collateral problems with this, like we were told it would not leak, and it does. This is a manageable problem I have not gotten around to solving, but now I have some minor mold issues to deal with. The rest of the system has been very robust for three years so far, thermostats are still very reliable.

* It does seem to work, but I cannot quantify how much it helps in any units of measure. It's just a general assessment based on a relatively low increase in our energy bill when we rolled out the system.

* This is absolutely a work in progress-- it is the core of a final system. We need insulation throughout, particularly on the underside of the roof-- something like what you describe-- and we're not in a position to do that yet, that is phase 2. Panels on the roof could be part of that or phase III.

Do you know the temperature of your roof on the outside? It sounds like you have no attic?

Negative, no temperature on the outside. We have a tiny central crawlspace that is kind of an attic, and this is where we suck hot air from three rooms before trying to blow it out through the giant, slightly leaking fan in the roof. We use our micro-attic as if it were a giant duct.

Q1. Well do you know the temperature in the attic, other than it must be over 90?

Q2. Anything you can do to shade the roof? Or misting the roof?

1) I am sure the temperature in the attic gets well over 115, but I will check this summer. I have measured the interior of my car at 117 when it is 95 degrees outside. This is why I cannot drive my 42-MPG '91 Honda CRX (with no AC) in the summer, though I do use it as much as I can in the winter.

2) There is a kind of insulation which goes underneath the shingles on the roof which is supposed to be fantastic, but it is very expensive. In a year or two, we will need a new roof, and that is what we will probably do. When the roof is done, the solar panels go up... if we have any money by then!

I wonder if they make anything that looks like a solar panel, but actually is just a shade for the roof?

Yet still some consider even a reduction in its consumption as going back to the caves and taking up human sacrifice and cannibalism

Given the nastiness of politics on this side of the pond, even a quarter as much sacrifice would probably result in mobs looking for victims/scapecoats to eat.
As long as it stays sunny, and until the AC season starts, I seem to be netting out about two lightbulbs worth onto the grid. I suspect PV to start selling like hotcakes in Japan.

*No fridge, no air conditioning*

I live in Washington DC, which has a summer climate similar to that of Tokyo. Without air conditioning vulnerable people would die.

Perhaps to some degree, I guess. In the old days there were low-tech ways of staying cooler, like having shade trees, and using drapes and awnings. But modern developers would rather clear-cut the entire lot so they can squeeze in more homes, and then compensate for it with a big compressor.

Older office buildings were set up to let people open the windows and let in some air - modern glass and steel towers don't really support that any more.

*In the old days there were low-tech ways of staying cooler, like having shade trees, and using drapes and awnings.*

In the old days people probably died of the heat. In some areas of our modern cities they still do. You can expect the elderly and people with cardio-vascular and lung problems to have an especially difficult time of it.

I hear from a secondary source that the Japanese are expecting health problems this summer.

"In the old days people probably died of the heat."

You bet they did. We may be about to learn that natural selection for humans was merely interrupted, not terminated.

Speaking of heat, may I recommend the book "Heat"? It chronicles the killer heatwave in Chicago in '95. It points out that for heatwaves in the earlier generation, people just went out en mass and slept under the stars in the park. Everyone knew who was most vulnerable and looked after them.

In '95, two neighborhoods right next to each other showed very similar demographics for poverty etc, but one had about 10 times the death rate of the other. It turns out that the biggest factor was that in the latter neighborhood, people knew each other and weren't afraid to open windows, ask for help, check on elders, meet in common spaces...

This kind of resilience from just not being consumed by fear and from knowing and caring for neighbors is often overlooked in our circles, where we often imagine bucolic country doomsteads versus apocalyptic urban cannibal chaos.

Fears can work out that way. To a senile 80year old, fear that someone may try to breakin can be all consuming, even though the odds, are quite small, whilst fear of heatstroke may be nearly nonexistant. So by reacting to one fear, a far greater danger is ignored.

Plus I suspect that in the good old days, a lot of these people with severly compromised health were probably taken during times of stress -like a heat wave. death rates have always been higher during them. An important question might be, how much life did these victims have left? Were they mostly in the process of checking out, and the thermal stress just sped up the process, or might they have gone on for years?

The book claimed that the media exacerbated fears by playing up (and even making up) robberies while downplaying the risk of heatstroke. The whole city culture still essentially is in denial that the whole thing ever happened, which doesn't bode well for the next heat wave.

"In the old days people probably died of the heat."

You bet they did. We may be about to learn that natural selection for humans was merely interrupted, not terminated.

I apologise in advance for being a jerk, but I could't resist...

Last time I checked my Origins .. natural selection had something to do with reproduction. And by the time you are eligible to die of heat induced heart failure you should've already at least tried to do all the damage you can. Therefore we cannot get rid of this tendency - in fact pretty much any tendency, genetic one, in our elderly - through natural selection. Indeed these people seem to be beyond it! Biological beings among us, but not governed by natural selection! Amazing! Someone call Nature. I want my honorary PhD...

As a species, and more specifically as a tribe, a certain group might've ones benefited from having the elderly around - passing on traditions, guiding and teaching the young, taking care of kids, and generally having a good spiritual influence on the group. The group would then have an evolutionary advantage by reproducing successful as a group.

However, and this is where it gets nasty - we no longer have any use for the elderly (talking through my technocratic cornucopian daemon) ... they provide no evolutionary advantage to our species - in fact taking care of them past their "useful life" is a great cost to the system - and the argument that they are beneficial as consumers is moot as their descendant (or financial institutions holding their pensions/insurance) are perfectly capable of providing that service in the lucky event they choose to recycle their humanure content.

And because; only the elderly really need fridges and AC -> peak loading electricity demand -> global warming -> surplus population. The solution should be obvious.

* Where's the disclaimer for TOD not advocating what comments here might suggest * :P

PS: in case someone manages to this seriously - the above is (poor?) attempt at black-humor...

Nah, it was reasonably good black humor.

However: "And by the time you are eligible to die of heat induced heart failure you should've already at least tried to do all the damage you can."

Just to keep it straight, heat stress is a real issue for, e.g., sick children, also.

You can run cold water in the tub.

If you raise the brain 10 degrees C in 1/10th of a second
the animal just turns off.

Microwaves were used to kill mice without scaring them
in adrenal studies.

I lived in D.C. as a teen ager in the late 1940s. People did not die of the heat. The windows in almost all gov't buildings were openable, but didn't help much as there was often no breeze. Gov't had a rule that people could leave work early if their office temp. exceeded 100 degF. Upper management generally had AC and didn't get to leave (officially), but with everyone else gone, I wonder who would be checking up. I remember hearing that the British foreign service characterised D.C. as a tropical posting for which tropical dress was not acceptable for diplomats. But England was still in pretty bad shape from the WWII bombing, so they really didn't seem to mind. There were no bombs falling and no raging mobs, like in Bombay.

Over night the temp. would drop so that buildings with thick stone walls remained cool inside, unless some idiot turned on the heat during the night.

Later in life, when I had moved away, I met a lady who had discovered that
a water-bed with its heater turned off and its cloth covering removed was a great 'modern' way to deal with the heat. Lie on it naked, in good thermal contact with the tepid water, removed the heat from your body quite effectively.

The British foreign service story sounds like a vaguely different version that I heard that the fortifications at what was at the time called Georgetown were built oversized, and had a higher proportion of officers before the revolution, as the city was five miles south of the point at which The British army got Tropical Pay.

I fear serious problems a lot sooner. My co-worker has family in Sendai (not hit by the tsunami), he heard maybe that 30% of the people in the evac zone are still there, getting no services (like food and water), and the fear a lot of people may be starving. Outside of the official zone, he says people are waiting for it to be declared an official evac zome -because then the government has to pay for the evac -not because they think it is safe.

Thanks, eos, for really bumming me out. That is really a deeply tragic and heartbreaking situation.

Are any international agencies trying to get help to these people?

old days: sleeping porches

Help solve the medicare problem.

I always though the development of air conditioning destroyed the American republic.
Before it came, the federal government shut down in the summer and everybody went home.
Once A/C came in, we got permanent government, with all the parasites and excrescences that gives rise to.
So maybe a lower power future has its advantages.

Thanks, x.

I really hated that. Everyone should see it.

Pripyat Redux.


atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant
and where they have made a desert they call it peace...

maybe the version for our time is "Where they make a ghost town they call it Progress"?

I ... I'd give up.

Blow-by-blow of the first two days from the Yomiyuri:

TEPCO tardy on N-plant emergency

TEPCO management will be destroyed and the government crisis has not yet played out.

Tension with the US

The fallout in many spheres has not been reckoned yet - energy supply and policy, economic impact, political - domestic and foreign

*TEPCO management will be destroyed*

That's what I hear about TEPCO itself, if destroyed means nationalized.

3ed-hand WORD OF MOUTH:

An acquaintance, ex nuclear work-hand
His friend still in the business
is going to Fukushima
And says:
"Lava is flowing out of the reactor vessel"
I am told.

I've peeled away all the other wording
leaving only the core of the statement
that holds up or is held on to
under interrogation.

Yeah, that appears to be a mop.

As the recent NY Times article makes clear, the Japanese nuclear industry equips its gamma sponges with similar high-tech tools.

Fire reported at reactor # 4- Reuters via Stratfor.

Must be the SFP. No core in that reactor.


In "battery storage building" next door...

A worker saw fire at a building near the No.4 reactor at around 6:38 a.m. (21:38 GMT) and a fire fighting unit of the Self Defence Forces was sent to fight the blaze, a TEPCO spokesman said.

"Flames and smoke are no longer visible but we are awaiting further details regarding whether the fire has been extinguished completely," he said.


"...a building near..." We shall see.

Now from the same source the fire and smoke were spotted at "reactor # 4" at 21:38 GMT, but they are no longer visible. Statement by TEPCO.

So what is likely to be burning?

Sounds like hydrogen from the decomposing fuel rods reacting with the cooling water spray.
Hydrogen burns with an invisible flame, so one only sees something if some other object nearby catches fire or if one looks through an infrared scanner.
Reactor 4 has had several of these 'fire detected and then presumed out' events. Some were followed by explosions.

There was happy talk from Adm Willard, Pacific Command head, who said that things were getting a bit better daily, although that was before the new report of fire in building 4.
There is more equipment on site and the measured radiation has diminished, but the disaster itself is proceeding untouched other than by the spray of cooling water, which does not seem to be more than marginally effective.
The situation is not under any semblance of control and could get much worse, imo.

"Reactor 4 has had several of these 'fire detected and then presumed out' events. Some were followed by explosions"

"The situation is not under any semblance of control and could get much worse"

That sounds like a fair assessment. But on the hydrogen thing, what would be left in there to catch fire?

This cannot be good. Building one?

Bad News for All?

Batteries and it is out?

Good News for All?

Yes, looks like a battery rack. You've seen plenty of those, I'm sure, TFHG.

Lead-acid batteries vent hydrogen, spark makes fire, lots of nasty sulfur compounds, etc., burn. Ordinarily, the smoke wouldn't contain radionuclides...

Edit: And lead. Lots of lead has been added to the local atmosphere. Minor problem under the circumstances, of course.

The "minor" problem of the lead has no expiration.

Neither does arsenic or mercury, but that hasn't stopped coal plants from dumping the ash containing these materials right into the environment.

This fire site surely is not close to building 4.
So was there another fire or just confusion?
If the way news is handled at Fukushima is representative of the overall management, this will be a very long and painful process.

NPR's "On The Media" examines Japanese press clubs (Kisha Clubs). The piece is over 2 years old. Whether it helps explain the information coming out of Fukushima, I don't know, but the Kisha Club system did hinder reporting (foreign reporting, at least) on the Tokaimura nuclear accident in 1999.*

...in Japan, press clubs – they call them Kisha Clubs – are like in-house P.R. units. There are thousands of them located inside every office you can imagine – government agencies, political parties, businesses, even consumer groups. Outsiders are barred and membership is exclusive, open only to journalists from major newspapers and networks. The organizations that host these clubs also rule them, to a certain extent...

TAKASHI UESUGI: They like the convoy system; no one should stand out. If you are the only one who gets the scoop, you are given the cold shoulder. If you are the only one who doesn't write it, then you are condemned by your company.

MARK PHILLIPS: To safeguard against accidental initiative, members of a Kisha Club, reporters from different papers, share notes in a practice call memo-matching. It often results in newspapers printing identical stories.

MARK PHILLIPS: But the bond between reporter and official runs deeper than the booze, the cigarette breaks and the office space they share. Their whole careers are intertwined.

TAKASHI UESUGI: Strangely enough, if a reporter started out covering Mr. Aso when he was Foreign Minister, basically the same reporter follows Mr. Aso for the rest of his life. As your pet politician rises up the food chain, so does the reporter who follows him.

MARK PHILLIPS: In this setup, reporters play the role of protector, not investigator.

TAKASHI UESUGI: If the reporter gets some information about this politician’s rival scheming or something, he would warn him. You see? If your politician has a big downfall caused by a scandal, you have a downfall too, maybe getting assigned to some remote area. Then you can't write anything.

* http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/29/worlddispatch.pressandpublis...

You think that is Bizarro. This ex-commie fighting vet is about the join the Japanese Communist Party. Look at their wiki propaganda.

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP, Japanese: 日本共産党, Nihon Kyōsan-tō) is a political party in Japan.

The JCP advocates the establishment of a society based on socialism, democracy and peace, and opposition to militarism. It proposes to achieve these objectives by working within the framework of capitalism in order to achieve its goals,[1] while still struggling against what it describes as "imperialism and its subordinate ally, monopoly capital." Although it is a Marxist party, the JCP does not advocate socialist revolution; it proposes a "democratic revolution" to achieve "democratic change in politics and the economy", and "the complete restoration of Japan's national sovereignty", which it sees as infringed by Japan's security alliance with the United States although it firmly defends Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan.

So the communists are the democracy pushers. Ok maybe communists are not our answer but all that just flew in the face of years of military indoctrination.

There are plenty of "democratic socialist" and communist parties out there which don't propose violent revolution. We have a few tiny but noisy hard left factions in the UK who DO advocate violent revolution, and they're legal; eg., http://www.swp.org.uk/ . (Would this commitment to democracy last long if they ever came to power? We'll probably never know :) )

Sure we do. Ask that Brit, Lord Acton.

Er, did you mean to reply to another comment? I don't get it, otherwise. Cluestick spoken here...

(Would this commitment to democracy last long if they ever came to power? We'll probably never know :) )

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

From previously posted link.


This quote reveals a big problem:

“Japan needs to investigate what happened and determine what actions should be taken at other nuclear plants and explain this to the Japanese people and the world,” said Tadashi Narabayashi, a professor of nuclear engineering at Hokkaido University. “That will help restore trust in nuclear power.”

The first part says that Japan needs to investigate and explain. That makes sense to me.

The second part:

“That will help restore trust in nuclear power.”

shows that Prof. Hokkaido has already decided the outcome before the investigation has started. Evidently, to him the investigation is a formality intended to restore public confidence. He has already decided that nuclear power is safe.

In my opinion, just wait until the riots start. Besides, Tokyo riot police nuked most of their water cannons, remember? No, once the old folks decide, that is the ball game. I think they got there last week. It only gets worse now until the government relents. Both of our governments. We shall see.

I've been looking for portable nuclear spectometers.
Here's a prototype identifying nuclides using a Personal Digital Assistant:

One of these can be built in an hour using NIM modules, Oldschool:

These folk have offerings:


Pieces to roll your own:
for "Nuclear Instrumentation Modules"

What it is is a scintillation crystal, a photomultiplier, a pulse-height analyzer, and a histogram generator. Particles of various energies make flashes of light in the crystal make various pulses of height in the PMT and are totted-up to make a spectrum of how much energy/how many particles. Oldschool.

Allows you to know what you've got, not just "clickclickclick".

Wouldn't it be ironic to buy a whizbang radiation detectormatic only to find it was useless because its electronics were fried by the EMP?

In the mid-'80s a Dutch punk band called BGK had an anti-nuke song called "Nothing Can Go Wrogn" [sic].

I couldn't find a lyric online but I remember it begins:

Men who know the price of everything and the value of nothing
playing with powers they don't understand
taking risks they can't comprehend

Somewhere in the middle:

Playing Russian roulette with all chambers loaded

There was some bit quoting the counter-arguments:

... and miners can go on strike
And we don't need no lip from some camel-riding sheikh

And ended with:

It provides labor and has proven to be safe

I don't recall the entire lyric.

But the kicker is the cover art and T-shirt design:


Use: ≤img src="http://homepages.nyu.edu/~alr237/bgk_wrogn.jpg" width=30%≥
(substitute real triangular brackets)

Thanks. I should point out that I'm not 100% sure but I think this artwork was done just a few months before the Chernobyl accident... the lyric was written in '85 or early '86 I should think.

TOTALLY OT (sorry)

I couldn't find the lyrics either. It seems that the album "Nothing Can Go Wrogn," does not contain the song "Nothing Can Go Wrong," at least not on the Alternative Tentacles release. The song does appear on a benefit album featuring various artists. See Zer.* If I understand her post correctly, she added the song from the benefit album to a ripped version of the AT release of NCGW.

But beware, "When you pirate MP3's, you're downloading communism" (Zer's blog displays a graphic reminder of that fact, which doubles as a link to pr0nhub). Downloading a benefit album for the Umkhonto may not count as supporting communism, however. I'm not sure. So if you just want the benefit album, there's a link to that on the site as well.

B althasar G erards K ommando. Ouch!

*Zer is a her? Profile says so.

15 Nuclear Reactors on New Madrid Fault Line

" There are 15 nuclear power plants in the New Madrid fault zone -- three reactors in Alabama -- that are of the same or similar design as the site in Japan experiencing problems. The USGS report predicts that a major quake would create horrific scenes like something out of a science fiction movie, potentially cutting the Eastern part of the country off from the West in terms of vehicular traffic and road commerce. "The older highways and railroad bridges that cross the Mississippi River, as well as older overpasses, would likely be damaged or collapse in the event of a major New Madrid earthquake," according to USGS."


Along similiar lines - figured this was a prank when I fist saw it last January. but hell - FEMA taking this seriously

" The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) procures and stores pre-packaged commercial meals to support readiness capability for immediate distribution to disaster survivors routinely. The purpose of this Request for Information is to identify sources of supply for meals in support of disaster relief efforts based on a catastrophic disaster event within the New Madrid Fault System for a survivor population of 7M to be utilized for the sustainment of life during a 10-day period of operations. FEMA is considering the following specifications (14M meals per day):

- Serving Size – 12 ounce (entree not to exceed 480 calorie count);
- Maximum calories – 1200 and/or 1165 per meal;
- Protein parameters – 29g-37g kit;
- Trans Fat – 0;
- Saturated Fat – 13 grams (9 calories per gram);
- Total Fat – 47 grams (less than 10% calories);
- Maximum sodium – 800-930 mg;

Requested Menus to include snacks (i.e. fruit mix, candy, chocolate/peanut butter squeezers, drink mix, condiments, and utensils). All meals/kits must have 36 months of remaining shelf life upon delivery. Packaging should be environmentally friendly. "


Level 7? 36 month shelf life? - Yikes - Boy Scout or not, not as prepared as I thought - perhaps watching 2012 will make one feel better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ce0N3TEcFw0

New Madrid's produced major earthquakes in the past: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Madrid_Earthquake . Although the main fault zone's sparsely populated, there are plenty of large built-up areas that would get a hard shaking. Somehow I doubt the local seismic building codes are as robust as Japan's. It's a disaster waiting to happen (like the Pacific North West quake that will flatten Vancouver, Seattle and Portland one day, or the legendary Californian Big One which will similarly expose lousy compliance to weak construction codes) -- even if the aging BWR plants are unaffected.

That's rubbish. There's maybe six reactors total in the New Madrid zone, two of which are BWRs with Mark-I containment, plus one BWR with Mark-III containment. Look at this map.

Depends upon one's definition of "New Madrid zone." The geology in that part of the world is a remarkably good conductor of seismic energy (unlike the relatively unconsolidated stuff we live on here on the west coast).

"Church bells rang in Boston..."

Right, but reactors aren't church bells, or un-reinforced masonry structures, either.

Look, I think that every reactor needs to be looked at very carefully, with much more pessimistic assumptions about natural disasters. But we have to deal with facts, like that there just aren't 15 BWRs like Fukushima close to the NMFZ. There just aren't.

And as r4ndom likes pointing out - the Japanese reactors survived the earth shaking just fine.

(It was the lack of power that doomed them. Will the power keep flowing to the reactors in question or will they enter failure mode?)

Very good question.

I know that any plant planner must have considered power failure (hence even 40 year old plants having both diesel and battery backup), but there are failure modes for the diesels other than "swamped by a tsunami" and as we've seen battery backup can't be built to last all that long.

The biggest issue I see from Fukushima Daiichi is the failure of the industry in retrofitting older plants to accommodate lessons learned. "The Industry" had already learned to protect the diesels better, yet the FDI backup generators were very exposed for their location.

Perhaps, if we can't get new plants to replace the old, we can at least get regulators to require upgrades of older plants to fix such issues before issuing extended permits.

What control does the US industry have over the industry in Japan, France or any other country?

In theory: none.

In practice: these are a lot of the same companies, so quite a bit.

However, it is really on the regulators to insist on the upgrades, and there it is strictly by country.

or on the underwriters.

The more TOD-like New Madrid "fun" would be the New Madrid cutting loose in the winter and the 20 inch natural gas pipes going up north suffering multiple breaks.

Most of the pipes are buried, some are underwater in the Mississippi. Just imagine all the natural gas heated homes in the north along with the electric peak gas powered generators all going cold. Combine that with the lack of coal trains due to rail damage....

There are lots of risks to lots of reactors in the U.S., but from what I've read it seems that the 1811 New Madrid quakes may have been less powerful than previously assumed, and at present, ground motion along the fault is undetectable. The risk of catastrophic quakes at New Madrid may be much lower than previously believed. There is, however, a fair bit of controversy on this issue.

New accident summary and progression provided by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of Japan. It's from April 04, but I don't think it has been provided here yet (I could be wrong):


I'll point out, they clear up some confusion regarding venting pathway for hydrogen gas from reactor containment vessel. Some have suggested this gas was deliberately vented to reactor refueling floor (where hydrogen explosions took place in reactors 1, 3, and 4). This was not the case. They provide two venting pathways (page 20) in their summary: 1) through a bursting disk to the external stack, and 2) through standby gas treatment system (SGTS) to same stack (namely outside the reactor buildings). Neither suggests hydrogen was deliberately vented to refueling floor or upper levels of secondary containment structure (as claimed in several accounts). Rather, release of gas points to a leak of primary containment vessel, or failure along venting pathway (as discussed here and here). I hope this clears this up (and we don't keep seeing this mistaken claim over and over again ... and especially from such major industry sources as GE and AREVA).

Norman Solomon writes on 30 years of clean nuclear.

I was coordinating the National Citizens Hearings for Radiation Victims in 1980, one year after Three Mile Island. The voices came from uranium miners, atomic workers, veterans, downwinders exposed to atmospheric nuclear bomb tests . . . and many others. The people who testified were from a wide array of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. But in addition to radiation exposure and suffering, they had one huge experience in common.

They'd been lied to—not once or twice, but repeatedly. Year after year.

There is no danger, the officials told them. You are safe.


Commentary No. 10, 2011-
Advising the Public About Radiation Emergencies:

Their emphasis.

"Radiation exposure is perceived by many to carry a very high risk to health compared with
risks from other hazards associated with modern technology (Slovic, 1990). This concern about
radiation exposure is believed to make it difficult to inform the public adequately before,
during and after a radiation emergency."

...reckon so.


According to Table 1-1 of the PAGs, this Incident is in the Late Phase: Ingestion of Contaminated Food and Water...

Already been knowin' that. Rained like piss pouring out of a boot all day and night, here in Kentucky, over by that New Madrid. I swan.

Is there any nuclear reactor in use anywhere that can truthfully assert that if one random day everyone went home, and didn't return for a year, leaving the plant to be colonized by bats, that there would be no radiation release from the plant, or from the spent fuel ponds or any other associated paraphenalia? ( No restricting the domain of the question to produce the desired answer )

Suppose there were an invasion, like Red Dawn or something, and everyone fled for a while. Would the nuke plants go apesh*t without heroes to keep em running?

Suppose Beavis and Butthead ( or Homer Simpson ) locked themselves in the control room for a week. Could they cause a radiation release if allowed to press all the pretty buttons?

Is there any nuclear reactor in use anywhere

I believe the pebble bed test reactors - that may be the case.

Thorium pushers claim the design of a thorium reactor would meet your criteria - but like Stirling cycle engines today, there are not a whole lot of production Th reactors in use.


Demand for Th reactors has been very low.
Because you cannot make a proper nuke without enough Pu.
And the Th reactors don't produce enough Pu.

So, no Th


My understanding was that the Thorium reactors work on paper but never quite work right when built.

The Pu "need" is interesting - and such a need fuels the rumor of a clandestine atomic bomb operation under the leaking reactors.

There is nothing clandestine going on. The Military and the Nuclear Power Industry are close cousins and have been from the start; making electric power and bombs goes well together.

Nuclear power reactor designs built in the West from the 60s onwards were pretty much useless as weapons-grade plutonium breeders as they produce too much Pu-240 in the fuel rods which "corrupts" the Pu-239 fission process required for a successful nuclear explosion. Making weapons-grade material was done in specialist reactors (see Windscale and Hanford) and the infamous RBMK-4 Soviet design which WAS dual-purpose and pretty crap at both. By the Seventies the Big Boys (US, UK, France, China, Soviet Union) had all the weapons-grade plutonium they would ever need. The number of deployed weapons was actually reduced due to treaties (SALT, SALT II, START) and rational thinking breaking out and the efficiency of the newer small-ball weapon designs meant they needed less Pu per device anyway. Right now the US has about 70 tonnes of weaponisable Pu-239 in store; that's enough to make about ten thousand weapon cores if they wanted to, but they don't have ten thousand weapon assemblies to put them in, or ten thousand missiles and bomb casings to launch them with because all that stuff costs money and wastes effort to keep it in the arsenals ready for use. Because of that they don't need to make more Pu in a form that could be used in weapons. Fuel-rod Pu-239/240 burns well in reactors though since they're not intended to explode like a nuclear weapon.

The US bought a pile of surplus weapon cores from the old Soviet block countries and are working to burn it in reactors to reduce the world stockpile. The UK has about 100 tonnes of weaponisable Pu and is similarly working to burn it in power reactors. The French have reduced their weapons stockpiles and as far as I know the Chinese aren't planning to expand their own arsenal of weapons although modernising them is a possibility.

The debate between building thorium reactors, pebble bed designs etc. and more classic light-water reactor designs such as the PWR and the BWR is more about economics than scientific capabilities -- the LWRs have a fifty year operating track record of a fleet numbering in the hundreds which the new concept reactors typically don't have. There are fuel production facilities and fuel reprocessing operations already in place to deal with spent fuel rods from LWRs although they've not ramped up as much as intended because raw uranium is cheap and reprocessing costs money. The political costs of extended waste storage, especially after Fukushima might well kickstart reprocessing operations and possibly get rid of the stupid ban on such operations in the US at which point the 70,000 tonnes of fuel rods currently in store there suddenly becomes the US Strategic Uranium Reserve.

Okay, here's more detail about how things actually work in a reactor.

There are two common isotopes of plutonium "bred" in fuel rods. One is Pu-239 and this is the stuff used in nuclear weapons. The other is Pu-240 which pollutes or "poisons" any Pu-239 present and makes its use in nuclear weapons pretty much impossible.

In a power reactor like the pressurised-water and boiling-water reactors that are the most common in the world today the fuel stays in the core for over a year at a time. It'd be difficult to impossible to operate the reactor on short fuelling cycles because of the way they're built and refuelled. The plutonium breeding cycle goes:

U-238 plus neutron -> Neptunium-239 -> Pu-239.

If the fuel is left in the neutron flux more than a couple of weeks then the breeding cycle continues:

Pu-239 plus neutron -> Pu-240.

The specialist reactors that produced Pu-239 for weapons did so by, for example, putting U-238 pins into the reactor core and then extracting them after a short period, a week or less. By that time some Pu-239 had been created in the pins but not a lot of Pu-240. The pins were processed to remove the plutonium and the U-238 reconstituted into fresh pins for another pass. This was repeated until there was enough Pu-239 with hardly any Pu-240 for the weapons projects. There isn't any way to insert and remove material from an operating light-water reactor, deliberately so, making them useless for weapons production.

In addition most of the plutonium bred in the fuel rod is actually fissioned to generate more energy during the years it spends in the core. Only the Pu left over when the fission reaction is shut down by the control rods being inserted is left in the rods when they are removed from the reactor.

As for the MOX thing mentioned in those reports you mentioned, until recently Japan did not reprocess its own fuel rods (I think they're building a facility at the moment to do so). Instead they sent some of their spent fuel rods to the UK which has a fuel-rod reprocessing and nuclear waste handling facility at Sellafield. It produced fresh mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel rods for TEPCO and other Japanese nuclear power plant operators. These have a percentage of the fuel pellets made from plutonium oxide with both Pu-239 and Pu-240 in them rendering the material useless for weapons. Some (or all, I'm not sure) of those MOX rods were in Reactor 3 at Fukushima when the tsunami hit.

The Japanese have no weapons-grade plutonium breeding reactors and, it appears, no real interrest in developing any. For obvious reasons the folks who have developed such reactors in the past don't sell the technology to anyone else. The Japanese already have a stockpile of plutonium but it's hopelessly poisoned with Pu-240 and it's still embedded inside the spent fuel rods in flasks and storage ponds on various sites around Japan.

Thought there was a late-generation bomb design that could use mixed isotope Pu? High neutron pulse core or something. Probably beyond your average Taliban.

Depends upon what kind of thorium reactor you are talking about. solid fuel thorium has been mixed with uranium with the shipping port reactor. Worked well because the thorium is turned into uranium 233. but it is chemically hard to reprocess. Thorium and uranium are hard to separate and therefore you can not enrich the resultant uranium/Thorium mix.

The molten salt reactor worked well too but they were working out the materials used for the higher temperatures they run at. The neutrons were causing micro cracking in the nickel reactor vessel. They had solved these problems by adjusting the chromium in the alloy when the project was pulled. In a liquid fluoride reactor,as I understand things, does not release iodine because it is attracted to the fluoride in the salt. so if this had been a LFTR the salt would have heated enough to melt the frozen salt plug in the drain and the salt would have drained to the cooling tank where it would have passively cooled. it really is a walk away design. The other thing is the reactor runs at nearly zero pressure. so no steam explosions.

The pebble bed reactor built in Germany was a promising idea, but with some real engineering glitches in practice, mostly, afaik, dealing with the recycling of the fuel pebbles.
The feed mechanism jammed, not a good thing when dispensing hot radioactive fuel pebbles.
There have been working, walk away style thorium reactors. The glitch here is that there is no commercial unit that combines this with a power generator, mostly because the molten fluoride salt that serves as the heat transfer fluid is seriously corrosive, so making a heat exchanger that will stand up to it for decades is beyond current know how.
There have been walk away reactor designs that use helium cooling, notably the Ft St Vrain reactor, but it was never completed into service because of engineering problems with the helium management.
So walk away reactors exist and work fine. Getting them to produce useful electric power at a reasonable price in a reliable manner still needs work.

ABB Atom PIUS would have been a walk away secure PWR:s if it had been built. The possible launch customer, CHP for Helsinki got politically blocked by the Tjernoble accident and the technology got buried in archives.

The idea were to have a very large preassure vessel made out of prestressed concrete filled with borated water and inside it a reactor vessel that at the top and bottom were in contact with the borated water by a bundle of open vertical tubes. If heat were extracted to fast or two slow from the reactor vessel inside the borated water volume the ballance were upset and natural circulation started shutting down the nuclear reaction and cooling. The long term cooling were then done by natural circulation thru heat exchanges inside the preassure vessel and a segmented dry cooling tower on the top of he building.


Just wonder how well a very large prestressed concrete shell filled with water would hold up in an M9 earthquake.
The design relies on the integrity of the structure, but appears to fail gracelessly if the structure does.

The concrete wall thickness were planned to be 7 m with plenty of reinforcement, most of the mass would have been concrete making the water the smaller part of the mass being accelerated but I have no idea if that realy is significant. Three out of four natural draft cooling towers must survive an earthquake, aerople crash or equivalent for the very long term natural circulation cooling system.

All of the security systems would have been structure and water based with no valves or electronics needed for the function, non structural etheral based security systems are not yet a possibility...

I suspect the design were originally inspired from ideas about building BWR:s underground in bedrock, such were planned but never built in Stockholm. It is a little like building a bottle ship and probably were too expensive even if you get exellent physical robustness. One idea from that project were backfillig the main constructioning tunnel with gravel as a giant filter for filtering steam and gasses from an accident. Remember that this were ideas from well before TMI. Such a filter were later built in a huge concrete silo for the now closed Barsebäck plant.
The next step in the innovaton were to secure a conceret preassure vessel by building it in direct contact with the bedrock.

Some of these ideas and more could be usefull for todays proposed miniature PWR:s and BWR:s.

That is very clever.

"A one-meter diameter pipe which is open to the
enclosing reactor pool is located below the core inlet plenum.
A tube bundle arrangement inside this pipe
minimizes water mixing and ensures stable layering of
hot reactor loop water on top of the colder reactor pool

If the tubes were refractory and spread-out from each-other, then they could also be a component of a means serving to quench the neutron-exchange reaction in a melting, flowing core. Tubes auxiliary to this convection fail-safe could also fill this function, perhaps being fitted with metal plates that melt to open them up to the flow of the lava.

(If the diameter of the vessel containing reactants is small enough, the reaction stops. On popular way to make a prompt neutron incident is to empty a 6" pipe into a 50 gallon drum, or to do a process in a bigger container than specified.)

The Japanese (maybe TEPCO) had an incident just as you suggest.
In a clean up of a spillage, they poured contaminated fluid into a bucket and had their prompt neutron incident. I believe there were casualties.
Most nuclear sites have oddly shaped lab vessels to eliminate that kind of accident.


I may be full of nonsense with these tubes, though. I don't think there are sustained neutron reactions in the mass of melted fuel in the absence of a moderator.


If the fuel is in a ball as they are design to go if they melt. There is also melted control rod in the mix. The metal is sliver,cadmium, and indium. plus whatever steel is there.


And the masses melted and cooled in Chernobyl. They are visually inert.

Thank You.

I remember there were "issues" with Thorium - but had not heard about the pebble-bed problem.

To me, this thread has to rate as the all time most depressing one, ever posted on TOD!

Most especially because of the delusional individuals who somehow still want to put some sort of positive spin on this most tragic nuclear disaster. May I suggest they pack their bags and go to the exclusion zone and volunteer their help to the victims.

Indeed. You have yet to see pro-nuke guys volunteering for Fukushima.

I take this as evidence that they actually know just how bad nuclear power is, they just can't bring themselves to admit it to the rest of us. Amazing how strong a misdirected ego can be!

Just look how often they have to be reminded that Nuclear Power Plants aren't "Grid Outage Friendly" and that there will be grid outages in the future.

Any idea what the problem with the grid was this time? Towers, wires, substations, ... Or how they fixed it? It's fixed now, right?

I would volunteer to go to Fukushima to help out there and I'm anti-coal enough to be classified as pro-nuke. I don't speak Japanese well enough to understand the work orders and safety briefings, I live over five thousand miles from Japan, I don't have a work permit and a whole lot of other stuff gets in the way of me being there and standing around and getting in the way of the people already on site trying to get stuff done.

I am planning to go to Japan later this year and while I'm there I'll drop two or three hundred thousand yen into the economy. I may well travel up to Tohoku if the shinkensens there are running by the time I get there but that depends on whether the Sendai railway station is operational again given it was smashed by the tsunami and earthquake.

"To me, this thread has to rate as the all time most depressing one, ever posted on TOD!"


I'm here, again, because these things disturb me.
I used to love watching the animal programs on T.V. as a kid.
Now they all end with "And we are killing everything you see here."

... The creepy chorus of "It is nothing" is grotesque.

Damn it, you made me tear up.

When the NISA INES 7 upgrade hit al.com, speak appeared. Total apology. I got an attack on me by another pro nuke but I shrugged it off. I will cut this one down. Any help posting responses on al.com is appreciated. The Scotsboro reactor hearings will happen, they were just postponed.

I almost agree with you RevBob.. but the US nuclear industry is very well run. The difference is unlike the other federal departments that just hire anyone and give them no direction as we saw with the federal government oversight on oil drilling, the NRC is well run, independent, and they rotate constantly the... As to you Tinman, I am surprised an intelligent person can sometimes be so unintelligent. 27000 dead people from a Tsunami, no one dead from a nuclear accident due to a 48 foot Tsunami that leveled everything hundreds of miles around it, EXCEPT THE NUKE FACILITY.. and you are anti nuke.. how about being anti earthquake or anti tsunami? I see this as just the opposite, a plant designed for an earthquake 120 times less powerful, designed for a tsunami only 15 feet high, and then never upgraded as we did, yet all but the diesel generators survived this. I see this as proof of how well they are built, and one small problem that can be easily corrected everywhere else.. I see the positives, you see the negatives. And you cannot deny I am right.. said from the start this will be a local event, and it is and will remain that way.

Hehe remember few months back there was an article about the issues with nuclear fusion, lack of resources for fission (Uranium etc) and inherent risks of nuclear energy, and the author was bashed :)

That is my point still.

Even at the radiation release levels so far, I expect more Japanese people will die this year from Chinese coal plants than from Japanese nuclear. (Of course I can't prove that, but look at the prevailing winds).

Anti-nuclear advocates should be out there building wind generators and solar plants in big enough numbers to displace coal and nuclear if they are really serious about environmental safety.

"Anti-nuclear advocates should be out there building wind generators and solar plants in big enough numbers to displace coal and nuclear if they are really serious about environmental safety."

Why do you assume that we're not?

I'm sure you can get a lot of us to both pay for and physically install these if you agree to go to Fukushima and help clean the clean up effort at Daiichi.

I'm not going to Japan for the same reasons that most of the anti-nuke people aren't out there holding weekly wind turbine raisings: I'm needed right where I am by people I care about more than I care about where my power is coming from.

If the anti-nuke people were actively engaged in making renewables happen to the extent that the "go over there and clean it up" position demands of the pro-nuclear people we wouldn't need nuclear, so I don't think it's happening.

*I'm not going to Japan*

So you're not there? How do you know what's happening on the ground, so to speak, what it is like and feels like to people living there?

From what I hear, Tokyo is safe as of now, but the Japanese are well and truly shaken.

Scared people are not a radiation health hazard.

Even if I were there I could not take a mop and clean up scaryness.

*Scared people are not a radiation health hazard.*

*Even if I were there I could not take a mop and clean up scaryness.*

Too flippant. I think sarcasm is in bad taste here.

I have the impression that for you if there aren't dead bodies lying on the street the consequences aren't so bad.

I don't believe that nuclear power is necessarily a bad thing. I agree that coal is probably going to kill a lot of people. That's not the issue concerning Fukushima, IMHO. This issue has to do with competence, trust and integrity.

So I've got bad taste. Shoot me.

You accuse me of not knowing what it's like in Japan when you clearly aren't there yourself.

And you are right, since nuclear is competing with power sources that kill people *every day*, if the second worst nuclear power incident since we started using nuclear power hasn't managed to top the death toll of a natural gas pipeline explosion I am singularly unimpressed with the danger.

I agree that coal is probably going to kill a lot of people.

People die *every day* from being exposed to the exhaust of coal power plants, and every now and then we lose a bunch of coal industry workers in mining or other industrial accidents just so we don't forget.

Pipeline explosions are a regular occurrence, and frequently have casualties associated with them as well.

Are the families of the people dead from the mere chemical risks from fossil fuel power happy that their loved ones didn't die of radiation poisoning?


*You accuse me of not knowing what it's like in Japan*

Accused? Like Emile Zola? I implied that if you're not there you're not likely to have a firm grasp of the effect of Fukushima on Japanese society. I'm not there either, but I've read a brief personal and private estimation.

*if the second worst nuclear power incident since we started using nuclear power hasn't managed to top the death toll of a natural gas pipeline explosion I am singularly unimpressed with the danger.*

Dead is dead. Morbidity is morbidity. Disruption is disruption.

I have no problem with safe nuclear power which accepts liability. I think it might buy some time as climate change kicks in.

I don't care for the way Fukushima is belittled just to make a point in a debate.

Dead is dead. Morbidity is morbidity. Disruption is disruption.

That's my point!

And nuclear is responsible for so much less of all of those than fossil fuels that I'm unimpressed with the arguments that it is too dangerous to be used.

If you apply the same safety standard to coal we would have to shut down every coal mine and power plant in the world, effective immediately, and bury the waste where it could never be found again (let alone actually used).

And as far as "belittling" Fukushima: it is only part of a disaster that has claimed over 20,000 lives, and it is a part that has so far directly claimed none. The only thing it has going for it is that it is a nuclear plant releasing radiation. Certainly that is something to be respected and dealt with, but the level of fear being expressed should be reserved for bodies in the street levels of catastrophe such as that which surrounds it.

*And nuclear is responsible for so much less of all of those than fossil fuels that I'm unimpressed with the arguments that it is too dangerous to be used.*

A wood stove is too dangerous to be used if you don't know how to use it.

If nuclear power advocates and companies would cut the arrogance, admit the risks and accept the liabilities, while spending what it takes to put safe advanced units on line, it would go a long way towards convincing people. Include a plausible plan for eventual decommissioning.

People don't want to hear that the risks are negligible (baloney), or acceptable (to whom?) and that other sources of energy are more dangerous (so what?). They want to hear the whole truth, including negatives (which always exist), without self-interested promotions and distortions.

First off - let them accept the liabilities in law. Let taxpayers off the hook for liabilities. Then the public will begin to believe in the sincerity of the industry.

If you can't accept the liability, then don't build the plant, because it suggests a lack of confidence in your own plan.

Right, they don't want to hear the whole truth.

All risk is relative. There is risk in not doing a thing or in doing it. To ignore the quality of a risk in comparison the the risks involved in accomplishing the same goal through other means is base foolishness.

Put the energy companies on the hook for the health costs of fossil fuel energy as much as they are for nuclear and we'll be on solar and wind in no time flat.

that has so far directly claimed none

And yet:

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said on Sunday the two missing workers at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been found dead at the plant.

Two from either radiation or a mundane industrial accident. You don't really think that radiation is the only hazard in a power plant that has experienced multiple explosions? Let us say for the sake of the discussion that it was radiation, it really doesn't hurt my case at all.



Yes, I am heavy handed on the body counts, but that is because the most used alternatives to nuclear have such significant body counts.

Point of information: the two found dead at Fukushima died of bleeding from multiple wounds. Estimated time of death is coincident with the tsunami, and long before any explosions at the plant.


(And to head off the usual jumping-to-conclusions, no, I'm not claiming that Fukushima will not kill anyone. I'm saying that these two particular deaths were not caused by nuclear accident.)

If the anti-nuke people were actively engaged in making renewables happen to the extent that the "go over there and clean it up" position demands of the pro-nuclear people we wouldn't need nuclear, so I don't think it's happening.

Some of us are trying to do exactly that but forces that are assembled against us are pretty well funded unlike ourselves. I live in Florida and support F.A.R.E., we just got our butts handed to us again by the legislators and Florida Power and Light.

Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy

This week the Senate Energy Committee ignored the needs of our industry, and voted to give total control of renewable energy development to the Investor Owned Utilities, extending their existing monopoly all the way to the sun.

Watch the meeting, the amendment, and the comments from Senators- watch the video here

You may actually receive return phone calls or emails from Senate staffers who think that the bill that they passed was successful or helps our industry in some way. If you do receive correspondence from them, simply ask:

"Please show me where in the bill an independent producer of renewable energy is able to sell all of the electricity that they produce to the grid at an economically viable rate."

Oh, yeah, FP&L wants the rate payers to fund two new nuclear reactors near Miami. Aptly named Turkey Point.


But you are so right it is the anti-nuke people who support renewables who should bear the brunt of the blame for the proliferation of nuclear. Hahahahahahaha!

Shockingly I don't actually have the resources to personally build large-scale solar and wind. What I have done for 20 years or so (my whole adult life) is attempt to vote for, advocate and have consumption patterns when possible that pushed toward renewables. And all through that time I've been outvoted, outconsumed and out-advocated.

I haven't seen you make the argument, but over the past couple of days several people have been voicing an irrelevant demand that people who are for nuclear power go over to Japan and help with the cleanup.

Practicalities aside, the people who are in a position to do so are probably already on the way over and not wasting time arguing with people who won't listen anyway.

I haven't seen you make the argument, but over the past couple of days several people have been voicing an irrelevant demand that people who are for nuclear power go over to Japan and help with the cleanup.

I posted earlier a report where some the 50 had to go in with plastic bags duct taped on when TEPCO ran out of boot covers. I sumbit if I were asked to do it, it would have been done, Japanese or not. I also sumbit that the VP or supervisor that asked me to go in with Glad bags for protection would be right next to me the whole time. Involuntarily if necessary. He would not make it out of the room after he told us. Nothing would be done about such actions later either.


Odds are quite good that the manager that made the demand wasn't even on site.

Well someone had to give the order, and I have been there. You do not give such orders over the phone unless it is from high above. Then you just ask for onsite command. No structure can deny that, for fluid situations demand it. No, trust me, the person giving the order would volunteer to do it too. Then you say, never mind. That is what separates military from civilian.
Best wishes.

people have been voicing an irrelevant demand that people who are for nuclear power go over to Japan and help with the cleanup.

And I've seen people claim the condition of the plants show how "reasonably safe" fission power is.

One can live their position or one can be a keyboard commando.
(Hat tip to Todd and Ghuan)

the people who are in a position to do so are probably already on the way over


Indeed, they are among the "thousands of untrained, itinerant, temporary laborers who handle the bulk of the dangerous work at nuclear power plants here and in other countries, lured by the higher wages offered for working with radiation," the article states.

"Some workers are hired from construction sites, and some are local farmers looking for extra income. Yet others are hired by local gangsters."

They spoke to the newspaper of the constant fear of getting fired, trying to hide injuries to avoid trouble for their employers, carrying skin-colored adhesive bandages to cover up cuts and bruises.

Yuko Fujita, a former physics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a longtime campaigner for improved labor conditions in the nuclear industry, called it "the hidden world of nuclear power,"

So much for the idea that experts are "experting" there.

Yes. They are demonstrating how relatively safe (no scare quotes needed) nuclear power is compared to the major alternatives.

You got a beef with that, pony up some proof.

This is indeed the second worst nuclear power incident ever. That much is obvious at this point and only a fool would even try to deny it.

Yet even the worst-case estimate of the consequences of the worst nuclear power incident ever pales before the very real body count of fossil fuels (let alone the ecological damage they wreak).

Frankly, even if we were to decide that popping a nuclear plant every 30 years was "acceptable" (which it obviously isn't), nuclear still beats coal, oil, and even natural gas as far as consequences go.

I have had a chance to look through the additional materials presented last week, and I have been mostly keeping my mouth shut about it because I mislike being personally insulted for having a politically incorrect viewpoint, but having looked the worst in the face, presented by the strongest anti-nuclear advocates, I still favor nuclear power.

They are demonstrating how relatively safe (no scare quotes needed)

I was not using "scare quotes" (whatever the heck they are)


I'd say that the design passes the "reasonable safety" test admirably.

OK you carried mine forward. Fair enough.

Yet even the worst-case estimate of the consequences of the worst nuclear power incident ever pales before the very real body count of fossil fuels (let alone the ecological damage they wreak). Frankly, even if we were to decide that popping a nuclear plant every 30 years was "acceptable" (which it obviously isn't), nuclear still beats coal, oil, and even natural gas as far as consequences go.

Just whose agenda is global warming, anyway? Enjoy the clean environment Tepco spin below before it gets taken down. I stopped listening to or reading anything entitled climate change or global warming about 6 years ago, when it became clear to me that the agenda had been co-opted.


How big is Tepco's marketing department, and how big is their environmental decontamination/risk mitigation team?

Global warming is just the icing on the blackened cake of fossil fuel health hazards.

So who cares that the poles used to be tropic 100 million years ago ?!

But I sure WOULD care if they'd STILL be tropical AND wasted because of some 'hot' dinosaur hobbysauce ...!

*groan* I was wondering why no-one'd suggested factoring in future direct/indirect deaths from global warming in this "which is worse, coal or nuclear?" debate. Now I'm hoping it goes away again...

Although it's interesting and I'm learning stuff from both sides, ultimately it's pretty academic, isn't it? We've got nuclear, we've got coal. Whatever should or shouldn't happen, what WILL happen is pretty predictable. Some of the older nuclear capacity will be decommissioned. A few new nuclear stations will be built here and there, but the supposed "nuclear renaissance" won't happen anywhere that the general public gets a vote. Coal use will continue to climb, especially as the oil price takes off. CO2 emissions continue rising. Climate warms. By the end of the century, if the technology still exists and there's anyone around to use it, there'll be a disaster footage compilation TV show that'll look like a bad Hollywood blockbuster. The end, roll credits. Lights up. Hmmm now, where'd I park the car?

I love Green Acorn. What's that symbol on his chest?

Edit: Image cut from Iaato's pdf.

Great image, Onan. That's Nuclear Boy's stinky diaper--must be the heavy poo that's left after he farted. It's a good thing that nuke farts don't add to climate change like fossil fuels.


Chernobyl boy is so bad! He teases poor Nuclear Boy mercilessly, calling him "Poopier Boy." Nuclear Boy tries to explain that spent poo doesn't count and at least he didn't go no. 7 in the middle of the classroom like Chernobyl Boy, but Chernobyl Boy just holds his nose and laughs at him. Children can be so cruel.

In the meantime, I will pray for the people in Fukushima, that peace will come to them soon. That's the least we can do for receiving Nuclear Boy's energy for so many years. Don't worry. With each passing moment, Nuclear Boy gets better and better. I'm sure of it.

LOL, LOL. Thanks for that. No, spent poo doesn't count, clearly. I wonder what the US will get for initiating, receiving and dishing out Nuclear Boy for so many years?

Nuclear Boy's mommy and other mommy's are taking care of him just fine without his deadbeat dad. See how they defend him against Chernobyl Boy?

"Chernobyl Boy literally exploded out of his containment vessel right in the middle of Social Studies," Nuclear Boy's other mommy said, "whereas Nuclear Boy held on til after class."

"Yes," added his mommy, "and Nuclear Boy's turds are so cute! Only one-tenth of the size of Chernobyl Boy's massive flop."

"Chernobyl me once, fool am I.
Chernobyl and Fukushima me twice, fool we all are." -- Me

Here is an interesting report from JAIF. It provides a simple graphical view of the radiation situation evolving over time.

Assuming the disseminated data is representative, it is easy to see the impacts of day-to-day events in the trendlines, and it is even more obvious that the overall radioactivity situation has been improving.

Of course, it's only better up to now -- until the reactors are fully under control there could be new spikes up at any time. Still, things could easily be much worse.

The question isn't "is nuclear safe" but "is it safe enough, compared to other sources"? Any hard decisions such as these require trading off competing but dissimilar values and risks. It does not help that quantitative values and weights are hard to come by, as even the factors used in the consideration are not obvious to all. Perhaps worse, though, is that the human mind has a hard time weighting more than a few decision factors, and each person tends to discount some factors significantly (single-issue voters, for example). Perhaps worst, though, is that many risks are probability curves with fat-tail distributions, which tend to be discounted by human minds and neglected by short-term, high-discount managers in industry and gov't.

Paleocon, yes, absolutely, the fires and explosions have stopped for now, so we are not seeing any additional significant environmental load by air, at least at a distance. The widening of the local evacuation perimeter however signifies an increasing environmental load in soil and water locally that the authorities can no longer ignore. And that does not mean that the corium is not continuing to cook, with continued releases by water. Here is week-old marine data from the same spokespeople, JAIF, with the same assumption of completeness and lack of dissembling with data. Please note that for close-in data, the JAIF shifts from Bq/L to Bq/cm^3, which is a measurement 10,000X smaller, as Ben pointed out in his great explanation above. Silt fences? Don't get me started.


The reason for the shift between Bq/litre and Bq/cm3 in the two tables is because the sampling and reporting was done by two different organisations (TEPCO did the close-to-shore sampling and testing, the national governmental group MEXT carried out the at-sea sampling and testing operation). The JAIF simply published the numbers they were given.

shifts from Bq/L to Bq/cm^3, which is a measurement 10,000X smaller

Actually it is a factor of 1,000X. A cm^3 is a milli-liter.

So it is, enemy. All they needed to do, then, was add three zeros, then, to those inshore measures to make them equate to the offshore ones. Instead they used a different measurement. I rest my case regarding Tepco et al.'s confusing use of measures.

The radiation consequences should be separated into the current ground contamination, which reflects the deposition of radioactive particles in rain or snow over time and the actual site emissions, from the leaking spent fuel pools, reactor sites and explosion debris.
The former has been mercifully low thus far, because the winds have blown the bulk of the emissions to date offshore. As summer approaches, that will change.
With the wind pattern shifting to inshore, the ongoing airborne emissions will be deposited more consistently inland. Unfortunately, there is no prospect of any substantial improvement here, as the TEPCO efforts are only hoped to allow for the full removal of the water contamination towards the end of June. So the site will continue to emit, moderated only by the very gradual heat loss as the decay process continues.
That suggests a basis for the governments decision to boost the severity rating of the accident, it will make the evacuations that imo are inevitably coming more understandable.

Looks like GE has made a strategic choice for solar PV. My guess is that they will quietly dissolve whatever is left of their nuclear ambitions.

From GE press releases:
April 07, 2011 07:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
GE Achieves Highest Publicly Reported Efficiency for Thin Film Solar, Earns New Orders and Unveils Plans to Build US Manufacturing Plant

Highest-Ever Reported Efficiency of Nearly 13 Percent on a Full-Size CdTe Thin Film Solar Panel
More than 100 Megawatts of New Orders for Thin Film Solar Products
GE to Build 400-Megawatt Manufacturing Facility, will be Larger than Any Existing US Solar Panel Plant Today
Solar Strategy Complemented by Announced Acquisition of Power Conversion Technology Company Converteam
GE Completes Acquisition of PrimeStar Solar, Inc.

Look for GE to be the world leading combined producer of wind turbines and solar PV in less than 4 years. GE had essentially zero of these 8-10 years ago.

This invented word makes me want to puke my kidneys out: http://www.nce.co.uk/opinion/viewpoint-spreading-the-ecomagination-aroun... ... but clearly they can see which way the wind's blowing, so to speak, and are following the money to money it's blowing... See also the GE site - http://www.ecomagination.com/ -- hmmm, there's a "Facts on the nuclear energy situation in Japan" sidebar link, leads here: http://www.gereports.com/ges-updates-on-the-nuclear-energy-situation-in-... ... somehow that reminds me of BP's efforts last year. Why do all corporate websites smell the same, anyway? Oh hey! They take comments, and it looks like they're not removing all the critical ones...

Corporations wrapping themselves in goodness is completely vile.

Remember "People Do"? The punch line was "Do people (Insert fuzzy, warm imagery here... "love puppies more than money?"). People Do (Big close-up of Chevron tie-in). This one is from when the format had become familiar:
Dow has their "Human Element" series... sort of:

Corporations wrapping themselves in goodness is completely vile.

I agree that when they're blatantly lying about their intentions (oil company ads spring to mind), it's vile. But here's the deal: if we're going to seriously switch to green energy, we're going to need stuff like:
* Hundreds of thousands of wind turbines, each the height of a tall office building, with composite blades larger than a jet aircraft wing
* Hundreds of millions of solar panels, manufactured via vapor deposition in a clean-room setting

Who's going to make this stuff? Not your local Sierra club. The green energy movement needs corporate sign-on, organizations with the expertise and infrastructure to mass produce millions of tonnes of parts and equipment.

GE, for all its nuclear industry background, is a general-purpose manufacturing company with the resources to actually build renewable energy on a scale that matters, and has diverse enough interests that one can hope it's genuinely interested in green energy, rather than obviously painting its turds green and calling them caterpillars, like BP and GM do.

So let's give 'em a chance.

But on that note, let's put this 400 MW/year solar power manufacturing plant into perspective. On the one hand, one year after it opens it will have doubled the number of solar panels in the U.S. On the other hand, running full speed it'll take 10 years of output to match the electricity generation of *one* nuclear power plant. To make a dent in the way energy is generated in the U.S., we need to consider this "strategic choice by GE" to be a tiny first step that needs to be repeated hundreds of times.

Corporate law needs to change.

It was created to allow slaves to become people: "3/5ths of a man".

Corporations behave as psychopaths. There is no empathy. There is just greed. They must make the most money or value possible or they will be in violation.

We must eliminate this mistake.

There are other, non-dystopian ways to organize effort.

The panels will power 250,000 homes. Whoopie!

We must use less energy.

The population grew by feeding on the energy of carbon.

We must reduce the population.

The answers are so simple.
Impossible, yet simple.

"I love the leader!"

I wanted to play you the Devo "Corporate Anthem", but it has been pulled from the internet. Had to go to Russia, like so often these days, where there is still freedom of information.


Gazprom song:


Nuclear, Ho!

We'll meet again:

I probably should not respond because I do not know what you are getting at, but...

It was created to allow slaves to become people: "3/5ths of a man".

That provision in the Constitution gave greater representation to the "slave states" in the House of Representatives, but did not serve to advance the causes of the slaves, or gain them recognition as people. The territories were to be made free of slavery primarily by being free of blacks, as well as free of indians.
Blacks did not get to vote until after the civil war, and then only in the south; not in Ohio, for example. There was an effort to get slaves registered and to the polls to vote Republican; but not to get an education. Whites at the same time were being excluded from the polls, which some feel gave impetus to the Klan. The last may be first, over my dead body.

Perhaps I don't know what I'm about, either? I've always been told, many different sources, about how corporate law in the united states arose from laws dealing with the incorporation of slaves into the body public as a whole. In detail. On and on, to the point of yawning. I don't find these references in trying to compose a reply to you, martingugino. History IS being rewritten online: If you are comfortable quoting Easter Island as an example of a human driven environmental catastrophe... look it up. Last time I did, that story was largely gone.

I've been told that corporate law in the united states arose from laws dealing with the incorporation of slaves into the society.

That idea makes no sense, and if it did, and were true, what would that mean? Just forget it or ask people you trust. My advice.
Easter Island is in Wikipedia. And it refers to Diamond's book. So ... it's not gone?

Good advice, always.

I read today's version at your suggestion. It is different than the last version that I had read. There, the depopulation was due to interactions with outsiders. Given the bulk of the article, the environmental message is still quite attenuated.

We're clearly on different political planets, so there's not much point in discussing this further. But without placing any value judgments on corporatism or socialism, I will say this: if we must annihilate corporatism before we can start to build a green energy world, we're totally screwed. Socialists of all shapes and sizes have been trying to tear down corporatism for 150 years now with little success. If it takes another 150 years, it'll be too late.

Thus, I believe a renewable energy-powered world can only be built with the cooperation of corporations, not as a followup to their destruction.

(One last thing: as you say, corporations behave with psychopathic greed. But greed is easy to predict and control: just create the proper incentives to channel it.)

"just create the proper incentives to channel it"

But the corporations write the rules.

I agree that it is an uphill battle to do away with corporations, but really, they are required by law to only do things that increase shareholder profits. Any CEO, however well intentioned, who goes against this is going to get canned and replaced with another.

While there may be individual exceptions, the main way that corporations make money is by extracting resources and turning them into products that eventually become junk or effluents.

So it requires no individual greed--the system is essentially designed to consume the earth, and it is doing that very efficiently.

We can make all sorts of adjustments around the edges, but as long as corporate super-personhood unchallenged, we will be batting away at the tops of the flames while the fuel-base of the fire goes untouched.

Cooperation and corporation don't generally go very well together.

But the corporations write the rules.

They don't have to. There are plenty of cases in which the public has written the rules despite the efforts of the corporations. The 40-hour work week, child labor laws, and the Clean Air Act, just to name a couple.

See my other post for more.

Without a difference in potential, there is no flow of energy: We would simply smile at each-other in mutual understanding.

Any sort of "ism" fails at the agent-client relationship. They offer to improve the lot of their citizens, but the value generated disappears into the pockets of the distributing agents. In this way, they are all equal.

The flippant response would be:
"I, however, agree with you. A profitless psychopath will leave us "totally screwed.""
But I feel more respect is in order.

Is there concentrated profit in renewable energy? comparable to the yearly exponential growth provided by carbon? Carbon, which they only have to dig out of the ground: It is free, everything else is just transportation and transformation costs. Nuclear clearly only works when underwritten by the people. There is profit in good times, no loss in bad. $30,000,000,000 could have been trimmed from the budget by halting the subsidies for oil. Pure gravy. Dumping the used product into the public air eliminates a major loss of profit: more gravy.

Distributed renewables are a great thing. However, they do not address the overshoot.

This would be a great time for the new, big breakthrough in energy sources: Fusion with simple embodiments that reduce the implementation time, some way to make energy pour out of one of the 11 dimensions of string theory, arrival of benevolent aliens who loved our old movies, plasma gassifiers jetting into MagnetoHydroDynamic generators allowing our cars to run on sneakers and our homes on tires...

Perhaps the people here with gardens and lands living self-contained and independently at a great distance from urban centers will seed a future the rest will never see. They are hedging their bets.

List of economic systems:

With a negative sum game going forward with permanent economic contraction in general, can we set the bar at profit, or will we have to set it lower at survival?

Is there concentrated profit in renewable energy? comparable to the yearly exponential growth provided by carbon?

There is if we the people tip the playing field for them. Legislate a massive carbon tax and huge tax credits for investment in renewables, realign corporate profit motives, and the corporate marbles will roll downhill in the new direction of maximum profit. This is difficult, but much easier than destroying corporatism.

To battle a corporation, use aikido. Redirect the opponent's energy and use it against him, rather than confronting it head on.


Close the door to carbon. Open the door to renewables. The little animal will run through. Yes.

The rat owns the keys. The legislature, the media, and the regulatory agencies are all famously captive to the corporations. The people at Minerals Management even have sex with them. General Electric, again, as example, owns media outlets. The gas companies are having the EPA dismantled. You're supposed to spit after saying "carbon tax". Renewables are called "corrupt green energy" on the radio.

The people living independent of centralized supply make decisions based on the common good or on how many beers they've had. Based on the common good, there would have been a fleet of fully appropriate "robots" built, ready, and waiting for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Based on profit, there was not even one. No amount of shifting tax burdens about would have made the development of such a thing profitable. Based on beers, no number of beers hides nuclear boy's diaper from embarrassing eyes... after all, nuclear boy's dad says he is all grown up now, perfectly safe, and needs no diaper.

I feel I prattle on. The point is moot?

If the world is as you see it, the only possible responses are either capitulation and submission, or armed revolt. I'll try for an environmentalism based on hope and effort, rather than fury and despair.

Yeah, I was gonna edit that last line.

A third choice is implicit in my text.


Nuclear seems then the path of least resistance. The corporations seem interested and the people need only do nothing. Armed insurrection would take privation.

Nuclear, Ho!

In your worldview, the corporations intend to gobble up the entire planet. How can you become independent from that? No, the choices are give up, gun up, or government.

Now... These are not my words, intention and scale were not the subjects of my thoughts worked so carefully so they could be sent to you over just these two little wires:

"corporations intend to gobble up the entire planet"

In all truth, my worry for the world in this regard would be that, if no further grotesque profit is perceived to be had, the value accrued from their avarice is then simply withdrawn from the system and horded within the confines of their estates.

There are people living free.

Nuclear is beyond human competence. Don't get me wrong there.

Renewables are, among other wonders, a safety net: They will be what is left. My little home has four small solar panels for the LED lighting, radio, and this little netbook (HP 210).

A student and friend in the power industry informs me of the staggering scale of energy usage, of the 100% availability of nuclear.

Energy flow diagrams show that cars are bigger than all that put together!

My arguments are for the situation of Business As Usual: transparent transition.

I wanted to find an image, of "impermanence", or of Shiva's dance, to convey that intent is only an impulse.

I enjoy your posts, goodmanj: they are thoughtful and polite.

Don't despair. The political system is halfway to collapse already, just be patient. Independence and relocalization will be easier without that albatross hanging around our necks. The political system has to collapse before something else can birth anew in it's place. Hopefully it won't have an extra eye.

For me, this is a good example of the double-standard regarding safety.

Is the Cd in CdTe too dangerous?

From Wikipedia,

Itai-itai disease (イタイイタイ病 itai-itai byō?, lit. "ouch ouch sickness"), was the documented case of mass cadmium poisoning in Toyama Prefecture, Japan, starting around 1912. The cadmium poisoning caused softening of the bones and kidney failure. The disease is named for the severe pains (Japanese: 痛い itai) caused in the joints and spine. The term itai-itai disease was coined by locals.[1] The cadmium was released into rivers by mining companies in the mountains. The mining companies were successfully sued for the damage. Itai-itai disease is known as one of the Four Big Pollution Diseases of Japan.[2]

brit0310, Cd in CdTe PV panels is inert in the crystalline structure, sealed in layers made of other inert things, and has been test for release in very hot fire conditions like what might happen on a burning roof. The results have been published, and the conclusions are that Cd releases are insignificant. There is definitely a challenge to prevent workers from Cd exposure at PV manufacturing plants. This I believe is a solved challenge.

Now coal, on the other hand, releases lots of Cd to the environment both through the stack and in the ash ponds. THAT is nasty.

All this is easily retrievable from public sources. There is no double standard here. Go and read and understand them before quoting some other irrelevant anecdote from 1912.

GE to Build 400-Megawatt Manufacturing Facility, will be Larger than Any Existing US Solar Panel Plant Today

Notice the carefully worded conditions.

First Solar has over 2GW of capacity, and will hit 501MW in the USA, but not till 2012.
So the Existing, US and Today are vital 'spin qualifiers'.

Highest-Ever Reported Efficiency of Nearly 13 Percent on a Full-Size CdTe Thin Film Solar Panel

and again, this has the 'spin qualifier' of Full Size, as thin film R&D is already some distance ahead of 13%

A solar thin-film cell has reached a top efficiency of 20.3% at the German Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (ZSW), Germany.

I'd imagine the R&D was started well before Fukushima, but this is a timely press release all the same.

New Solar PV has already easily passed the GW added by New Nuclear, pre Fukushima, and Nuclear has taken quite a lurch negative in the balance-sheet post-Fukushima.

2011 projections are ~15.2GW, which best targets the low hanging fruit of peak-AirCon loads, as that tends to naturally track Solar PV availability.

This from 2006
Air conditioners are the single largest contributor to California’s peak power problem, accounting for greater than 50 percent of peak demand on hot summer days.

"Anti-nuclear advocates should be out there building wind generators and solar plants in big enough numbers to displace coal and nuclear if they are really serious about environmental safety."

I don't know how to build this stuff but I did choose to buy it for my personal use. My view of things is to "live the solution you want to see." It continually puzzles me why others deny that living with an independent power system "is not practical"--it's worked for me for 9 years now, supplying all electrical needs. In fact all of my closest neighbors live this way, utilizing solar, wind or hydropower exclusively. No reason why anyone on this board cannot do the same. Just adjust your power "needs" to fit your budget and get it done.

Now that is a position I can respect.

"Anti-nuclear advocates should be out there building wind generators and solar plants in big enough numbers to displace coal and nuclear if they are really serious about environmental safety."

See the Ritter Group's solar division.

Started as a reaction to Chernobyl.

"the NRC is well run" Really?

They still have to answer to my I email to the NRC asking them how much radioactivity there is in Indian Point, and they have yet to respond, and it is almost 2 weeks....

from Patrick Morcillo
to "diane.screnci@nrc.gov"
date Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 11:49 AM
subject Information of the quantity and quality of radioactive isotopes
mailed-by gmail.com
hide details Mar 30 (6 days ago)
Dear Mrs Screnci

I can NOT find the AMOUNT of radioactivity in the plants broken down
by isotopes in the link below.


I live in the Bronx, NY, well within the 50-mile zone (the distance
that President has asked US citizens to move away from the Fukushima
plant in Japan) and due to the recent Fukushima nuclear plant
emergency (see link below), I wish to be informed as to the amount as
well as to the breakdown by different isotopes. Needless to say, a
perfectly accurate number is not needed, but rather, a range would be
perfectly acceptable.


Patrick Morcillo, Ph.D.

"the NRC is well run" Really?

It seems they were getting all up in the grill of some of the nuke plant operators so a group approached Congress and the NRC was told to back off.

Yup - well run. Independent of the lawmakers. Lawmakers who will outright lie. Lawmakers like this gem:

His remark was not intended to be a factual statement,

Hmm. So it was an intentional lie.

You must remember that we elect actors not politicians. Any script they read is OK, someone else wrote it so they are not responsible.

*said from the start this will be a local event, and it is and will remain that way.*

From what I hear, Tokyo is half illuminated compared with pre-March 11. In other ways, including morally, Japan is not the same as it was before March 11. Fukushima is a very large cause of this.

*...and will remain that way.*

You have special access to the events going on at Fukushima? It may very well be that the event under way at Fukushima will be brought under control. But it is not under *your* control.

"What you've heard" - I don't get the mainstream media like CNN and CBS. I would think a lot of people would like to know what is rumor vs fact regarding Tokyo's pre quake vs. postquake electric power draw -- do those iconic neon cityscapes look the same right now in Tokyo, how are people adapting, etc?. If this has been covered on 60 minutes, i must have missed it.

*do those iconic neon cityscapes look the same right now in Tokyo,*

I am not there myself but that's what I hear. I don't want to reveal the source as it is personal.

Is that wrong, and is Tokyo illuminated as it was pre-March 11?

Silminnäkijä: Tuhon Jälkeen

The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE sent a reporter to the tsunami hit area just one week after the event. Here is her moving report of the journey through the devastation and local people's heart breaking stories.

Silminnäkijä ("Eyewitness") Tuhon Jälkeen ("After the devastation")
Broadcast on YLE channel TV2 on Monday 11.4.2011
duration 30 min

Reporter: Katri Makkonen, camera: Ivar Heinmaa


YLE has kindly arranged the video stream to be viewed abroad.

Here is a full transcript translated into english. Took me all night.

I was thinking if TOD could try out at least one "non-Fukushima thread" to discuss the economic, political and social consequences of the tsunami in Japan. I think when you watch this you'll understand what I mean.

- Ransu

Thank you for your work on the english translation.

Thank you, pretty sobering

Thank You, ransu.

Cities are just... erased.
People wander though their world remade as debris.
The fate of the animals that depended on the people...
Their lives were a total construct, and now it is gone.
It is done.
The lowlands will coax them all back with its riches of soil and fish.

Except, the humans made a great dangerous pile of pure things.
The tsunami set it free.
The soil and fish are now not safe, maybe for lifetimes.
The same agents travel all about this world on winds.

It is the failure of human ingenuity.
This invites endless review.
Especially with such high stakes, the stability of life.
The same dynamic played during the Gulf, here on TOD.
Once it was capped, interest evaporated.

At the coldest:
No one knows how to put the natural world back to right.
If the earth itself causes great damage, the damage is done.
When humans do something really stupid on a huge scale,
it would be best not to do it again.
Introspection becomes urgent.


Show me the Temple, Ezekiel
From which the water of life flows on
To the river that flows forever

From the temple of God the water flows
From the temple of Man the poisoned fire
Of Fukushima

On the banks of the river of peace and joy
Show me the fruit on the limbs of life
And the leaves that heal the sick of grief

On the banks of the flowing fire of Man
Sterility and speechless death,
The roving dogs go masterless

The temple that Herod built for himself
On the shore of the everlasting sea,
A portent and a sign

April 12, 2011


agree. One non-nuclear thread...

The injection of nitrogen into the No. 1 reactor pressure vessel, aimed at reducing the risk of additional hydrogen explosions, has also resumed. However, the pressure is rising slower than expected, suggesting a possible leak.

"Reactor pressure vessel?" Don't you mean "Primary Containment Vessel?" This is NISA's term for what General Electric calls the drywell, the bottle-shaped container surrounding the reactor pressure vessel. The drywell is connected to the circular torus or wetwell underneath. GE refers to the combined drywell/wetwell as the Primary Containment.


I thought the NRC suggestion was to pump nitrogen into Primary Containment, which is the normal vent path for hydrogen, to reduce the explosion risk from periodic venting for pressure relief. The normal path for excess pressure being: Reactor Pressure Vessel -> Drywell -> Wetwell (AKA supression chamber) -> Stack. I cudBwrong.

Sorry, I erred. Fixed.

these photos from http://www.houseoffoust.com/fukushima/fukushima.html
from them and videos of the various explosions I think that #1 was a straight forward hydrogen chemical explosion although powerful. #2 exploded internally damaging the containment - breached. #3 was a two phase explosion with an initiating hydrogen explosion (with visible fireball) exploding out the sides followed immediately by a vertical explosion from the center = drywell exploded. #4 explosion happened in the dark and no photos but the Spent Fuel Pool looks so damaged I can't imagine it holding water. I can't imagine the #3 SFP being undamaged. So from the time after the explosions/fire there have been large direct pathways for the radioactive material formerly in containment to the outside world. How long has TEPCO/Japanese government known this, I wonder?

The speculation on Unit 3's explosion was that the two part explosion terminated with the cap coming off of the reactor and the contents shooting straight up. More speculation at the link below on rods strewn about the plant. I also saw a video I can't find now of unit #4 burning, scary.


And if Tin's report of a new plan to flood the containment is correct, my level of alarm just increased. Sand and boron were used in Chernobyl, which worked effectively to "douse" the corium a little; I guess that they can't get at the corium in this case to do that, unless the thing explodes again and creates an opening from the top. I guess we could be headed in that direction if we put water in the containment? They can't be thinking of doing that, can they?

Thanks for these links. I certainly don't know if the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel is intact, but there are 2 things which I think are evidence that it is still intact:

1). The Reactor Safety Group / Nuclear Regulatory Commission confidential report leaked to the NY Times says that it is. This report was not intended for public consumption and, it is reported, was based upon the best available information including nonpublic reports. If all that is true, then it follows that all of the experts at the accident site believe that the No. 3 RPV is still intact.

2). The radiation levels are too low. If the No. 3 RPV exploded, with something like, (what is it?) 100 tons of very radioactive fuel, I think we'd be seeing higher radiation levels. The Chernobyl radiation levels near the exploded core were reported at 300 sieverts / hour, probably a wild guess, but I don't think we've seen any reports of radiation that would be consistent with anything near that level at Fukushima.

Of course, I don't know. I cudBwrong.

If any of the RPVs were completely compromised (burst open, lid blown off, whatever) wouldn't they have had to evacuate or suffer dozens of deaths within a day or two?

There is the Reactor Pressure Vessel - RPV - there is the primary containment of that - the drywell - There is the torus outside of the RPV but with direct connection to it and outside the drywell. What I was thinking was that the drywell blew up as the 2nd (vertical) part of the explosion at #3. For it to blow up, there had to be leak(s) from the RPV to the drywell so there is a direct pathway from the RPV to the outside world as the reactor building often called the secondary containment is definitely damaged in #1 through #4. In #2, the explosion did not damage the outside building from what can be seen but was speculated to have damaged the torus. They put a hole in #2 building so it would not have a hydrogen explosion. So the radioactivity from #2 and #3 RPVs have a direct route to the outer world. I would call that containment - breached. So we all 4 spent fuel rod pools exposed to the outer world with it doubtful that 3 and 4 can even hold water and probably 1 is broken as well.
This would have been the case since the fires and explosions with TEPCO and the Japanese government knowing it but only now somewhat admitting it.

I'm with you now gepay1. The NRC Reactor Safety Group report says that the drywell/wetwell system or "primary containment" on No. 1 is intact, because it's holding pressure. The Nos. 2 and 3 are suspected damaged, because they are not holding pressure. I believe both were likely damaged in hydrogen explosions. The drywell, and the part of the wetwell that is not filled with water, contain nitrogen in normal operations to reduce explosion risk. The loss of cooling generated much, much more hydrogen than is seen in normal operation. Secondary containment, the outer buildings, is long gone on 1-4.

There are leakage paths from the RPV to the drywell in all three, otherwise we wouldn't have so much radioactive water all over. However, the big questions for me are, how big are those leaks, and are they likely to get bigger?

It would be real nice if the leakage rates don't get much worse, because then in a slow, frustrating, dangerous, complicated, expensive cleanup process, the various groups working on the problem can prevent most of the people at risk from getting sick. Since the Tokyo metropolitan area, at 39 million people, is the world's largest, there is an enormous population at risk.

So even though the RPV's, and/or the associated plumbing that goes in and out of them, are leaking abnormal amounts of water, the RPV containment remains essentially intact. If they start to "let go," and larger cracks and holes begin to open, then the situation could get much worse. If the holes get big enough, it could become hard to maintain water pressure in the RPV and a total failure could result. There are lots of data and models, but I don't think that anyone has a real good idea of exactly what is going on inside the RPVs.

There is something like 100 tons of active fuel in each of Nos. 1 - 3, and a similar amount in the spent fuel pool of No. 4.

If the discussion is on where the leaks are, the pipes running to and from the RPV itself are more likely candidates than the RPV. The pipes are made of far thinner material than the RPV, and running salt water through them probably didn't help their condition after they were violently shaken by the first earthquake. The RPV is made of steel 8" thick or more, and if one of them had a hole in it courtesy of melted core material eating through it they'd be unable to keep any pressure or water in it at all.

In re: flooding the containment, I was a bit puzzled to see this news:

"World's largest concrete pump heads to Fukushima" - Google News search:

Whatever project has just lost it's concrete pump is going to be pretty pissed off if they see it on TV sitting around idle for weeks, which I take to mean they plan to start Operation Cheops in the near future. So why flood the containment first? Also, I could swear I saw a recent quote from TEPCO saying they wouldn't start with the concrete until they'd recovered the spent fuel rods, at least? (They seemed to mean recovering the fuel rods in the reactors, too, but I can't imagine they'll be moving any time soon if they've melted at the top end.)


Maybe the concrete pumps can be used first to spray water to cool the corium (meltdown fuelrods).

Only when the corium is cooled enough, the concrete can be poured. Otherwise the decay heat will crack open the concrete like an egg. (Chernobyl lesson)


The cooling will take a long time, several years if the core is seriously compromised.
When the fuel assemblies fail and collect together at the bottom of the reactor vessel, their ability to dump heat into the water rather than into each other declines.
Blowing the mass apart in a steam explosion would solve that problem, but spread contamination on the largest scale.
So the plan is plentiful water, lots of patience and hope nothing breaks.
Unfortunately, that leaves the fuel in the damaged spent fuel pools unattended, so their emissions will continue for the duration.
The likelihood of losing a chunk of Japan to a Chernobyl like 'human free nature zone' is very high, imo.


In Chernobyl the corium stopped somewhere in the basements.
They dug a tunnel under the Nuke. The first plan was to put liquid Hydrogen under the corium.
But at the end the tunnel was filled with concrete.
After that the sarcophagus was built.

What is the difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima?
Why does Fuku needs several years of cooling? And Chernobyl not?
Or was the biggest part of the core in Chernobyl blown up and burned away?
Or is it the huge amount of spend fuel rods in Fuku?


You hit on the key difference, most of the core was destroyed in the Chernobyl explosion.
The 'elephants foot' left for the photo was about 10% of the 180 tons of fuel in the core.
At Fukushima, there are four plants, three with full fuel complements, all with storage pools that are overstuffed. Estimated fuel, ex long term storage pool and reactors 5 and 6, about 1800 tons.
The fuel pools are leaking, so their fuel is not properly cooled/shielded and the reactors are obviously ruptured, as evidenced by the massive contamination of the cooling water and the reality that the pressure in two of them shows as negative.
So Fukushima now is an insanely radioactive scrapheap the size of several football fields, stuffed with many Chernobyls equivalent of nuclear material, some of which is in leaky reactors and some of which may be in spent fuel pools, steaming radio nucleotides into the air with each cooling injection of water.
Just look at any photo of the site, a ruin bigger than the World Trade Center after 9/11 and deadly radioactive. Not an easy or quick cleanup job, imo.

The one thing going for them, is that most of the contaminants are washing off in the water, rather than becoming airborne. With the water most can be put into storage tanks, or goes into the ocean, so the exposure to humans is less (and it takes longer, meaning people have time to put measures in place.

So be it. The new line will be that it is good for the ocean because it repletes the strontium depleted surface waters, thus making for a healthier ecosystem. And since the ocean is huge, it will just disappear. Where's my sushi?

The destruction to unit 4 is so surprising. It was off for months. More off than cold-shutdown. If it was only that the pumps were off, how long would it take for the water to boil?

The fuel in pool 4 is estimated to be currently putting out about 2MW by TEPCO, although I suspect that is a low estimate.

The spent fuel pool in reactor 4 is the part of this incident I'm most worried about as it has the freshest set of spent fuel rods on the site which are now directly exposed to the environment. If I remember correctly reactor 4 was defuelled in November 2010 and the rods moved to the pool some time after. There were already a coreload of rods in that pool meaning the total number is very high (1331) and half of them (about 700 or so) are still loaded with lots of heat-generating decay products even after three months from the defuelling operation.

The estimate of 2MW sounds about right, assuming the other rods are from the previous fuel cycle which would have been completed several years ago. The total thermal energy of the first set of rods would be well under a MW with the fresher rods contributing most of the problematic heat and probably causing the fire and hydrogen release that blew the panels off the enclosure.

I think they will first pump grout( not concrete) into the reactor 4 vessel to seal the spent fuel pool.

they will still try to get some kind of cooling system and contain the off gassing.

It think they will build a fabric structure over the reactor building and run ventilation through a filter bank of some kind to trap the iodine and other gases before it leaves.

Indeed, NoJ. Apologies if this was posted here before, from Kyodo News earlier today, might have gotten lost in the torrent of confusing information:

"...Nishiyama also said TEPCO sprayed some 195 tons of fresh water into a spent nuclear fuel pool at the No. 4 reactor's building through the night, after finding from a sample taken Tuesday from the facility that the temperature of the water was 90 C, much higher than the usual 20-30 C.

TEPCO has been unable to monitor the temperature of the pool water regularly as measuring equipment is not working. The No. 4 reactor, halted for a regular inspection before the quake, had all of its fuel rods stored in the pool for the maintenance work.

The injection of coolant water in the pool is needed to prevent damage to spent fuel rods from overheating. The water level in the facility has also been lowered following recent strong aftershocks that jolted the plant, TEPCO said.

Nishiyama said TEPCO also found that the radiation level in the air some 6 meters above the pool reached 84 millisieverts per hour before the water-spraying operation. The 400-milliliter water sample will be examined at the adjacent Fukushima Daini plant Wednesday to check to what extent the spent nuclear fuel stored there is damaged."

Terrific site ... especially the reactor schematics. Thanks for posting this.

supporting the earlier comments about the immense savings that can be made through conservation, without causing collapse of our civilization etc etc as some project --

for example, if we car-pool, we triple or more gas mileage, and reduce wear and tear on existing cars

if we turn down interior heating in winter, we can save a great deal. in the UK as late as 1970, average winter time temperature indoors was 60 deghress F. today it is 70. rolling it back to 1970 means wearing sweaters -- not a big deal

A/c in summer? sensitive electronics may require location in a room or rooms that stay relatively cool. the rest of us got along just fine at 80 degrees F or hotter, and we could again. rationing is the answer: by prices, or by coupons, your choice.

In the winter, they have heating for the building, then they have a/c running to cool the computers in the computer room, I am not kidding.

in the UK as late as 1970, average winter time temperature indoors was 60 deghress F. today it is 70.

I've seen that figure quoted before but don't believe it is the full picture. Perhaps if you averaged all the rooms in a house. Typically in the UK before central heating people had coal fires. Sitting beside that coal fire was more like 90F than 60F. In 1970 the living room thermostat at my parents home was set at about 72F. My grandparents had their gas central heating at 85F in 1970. I can't think of anyone I knew who had their living room temperature at 60F in 1970 when it was occupied in the evening.

I vaguely recall the Electricity Boards (as they were at the time) may have said something about 60F in the 1960s but I also seem to recall they said that rose in the evening to about 70F - I've seen an old clip with this on a documentary somewhere.

Edit: Just remembered (also from a historical documentary) - after WW2 there was a huge strain on electrical supply in the cold winter months. A campaign was started to encourage people to wear more clothes and to use less electrical heating. They deliberately underplayed the average UK living room temperature even at that time to make those keeping their house warm think they were being exceptionally greedy with limited available capacity.

Of course, these were living room temperatures. Bathrooms and bedrooms etc would usually be much colder before central heating.

I heard a talk from a chemist who was from Scotland - he was describing an experiment, and he mentioned in passing that the temperature was in the mid 50's Farenheit. At the end, during the Q&A, someone asked what sort of apparatus he used to cool the thing down to those temperatures, and he was a bit dumbfounded - that was room temperature for Scotland for that time of year.

When was that? I'm Scottish. He may well have been having a little joke. Institutions such as universities were often hotter than anywhere else as radiators just sat on full blast and the way to reduce the temperature was to open all the windows. There would of course be the exceptions.

Been there done that. It is called a war footing. I grew up on ration cards and script. Truth be known, rationing got my dad a new Cadillac. Courtesy of the emerging Japanese consumer. Hormel Chili, Dinty Moore Beef Stew, Taster's Choice Instant Coffee, American beer and cigs. Honest;) Dad and mom have passed, so I can tell the truth now. He made millions of yen and won off the black market. They all did. It was like I was a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas. No lie. I have a fair idea of how this plays and the fact that it is Japan though tragic is a Godsend in a sense. We team up so nice.

Edit: Confession. We also siphoned gas out of the Cadillac. That is how I know they are so good at it. Big tank, though I never thought dad or his crew ever 'whacked' anybody but enemy or used the trunk for a body. The problems just got transferred. Even LT's. Especially LT's.

LT? lieutenants?

Yep. Also known as Frag Fodder, butter bar and 90 day wonder.

Two and three winters ago I went all winter without any heat at all (just above Mason-Dixon line). It started as "let's see how long I can do this" and ended up "why haven't I always done this?" I was living on the second floor of a three-floor building (three unconnected units, each the whole floor). It got down into the 40s F on the coldest nights. Honestly the only time I really felt it was getting out of the shower. When sleeping under a comforter I was as warm as if it were 70. Had I had the sense to do this when I started living there I would have saved thousands of dollars and quite a bit of energy.

My wife would not go for this extreme now and my housing situation is different, but we're still going w/ the sweater instead of cranking the heat.

*in the UK as late as 1970, average winter time temperature indoors was 60 deghress F. today it is 70. rolling it back to 1970 means wearing sweaters -- not a big deal*

We're in our 70s, and 60 F indoors would be punishing for us. We bundle up outdoors when we see young people walking around in shorts. We're not infirm, just old. People older than we are might very well sicken and die.

*A/c in summer?*

In DC we use fans during the day, and A/C in the bedroom at night.

New plan. Flood the containment structure. I hope it works better than the attempted beaching of the Yamato.
Good luck.

Picture of Stephen Chapman at the AMRA 50th Anniversary Convention

Interesting. Have not seen this before, any idea of where it comes from?
It seems a premature approach for now and as long as the reactor is still way above the boiling point of water.
You'd just set yourself up for a massive radioactive steam explosion.
Also, there is a possibility (likelihood) that the torus is damaged in reactor 2, perhaps also in others.
So the concept may not be feasible, even if attempted.

Interesting. Have not seen this before, any idea of where it comes from?

Traditional Japanese tub

Wonderful work. A piece of art.
Just compare the spare and minimalist esthetic of this bucket with the excrescences of the containment design.

To give the proper scale, it is more bathtub sized.

Looking at the last diagram, I think I get what their thinking is -- the Asahi Shimbun report says this is only a proposal, it has not been given the go-ahead.

Flooding the primary containment vessel would put a large mass of water around the core causing the decay heat in the fuel rods to be spread through the extra mass via conduction and convection, dissipating it through the much larger surface area of the containment vessel. It wouldn't have worked a month ago when the decay heat of the core was tens of megawatts and the water would have boiled to steam but now the decay heat has reduced to a few MW this might work, limiting the water to less than boiling point and thus limiting the core to a temperature that wouldn't result in more hydrogen disassociation or cause further damage to the fuel rod cladding.

There are a number of problems though -- can the secondary containment structure (the concrete building) take the weight of so much added water? What happens in an earthquake with all that added mass? There are thought to be cracks in the containment vessels of at least one of the reactors -- would these be exacerbated by the extra pressure from the mass of water, could the drainage systems cope with the leaked water? Having so much water in contact with broken fuel rods will contaminate it and that contamination will build up unlike the current operation where "feed and bleed" produces lightly contaminated water but in large quantities every day.

The NRC Reactor Safety Team (RST) document leaked to the NY Times has some remarks about this plan. It recommends no direct injection of water into "primary containment," which is the drywell/wetwell system surrounding the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). The drywell is the bottle-shaped vessel in the various diagrams. The RPV is another "container" inside the drywell.

"The primary containment injection flow path is through the RPV."

I interpret that to mean there is enough water leaking into the drywell from the RPV so that no direct injection is needed. This comment is repeated for Nos. 1-3. It also says the goal is to raise the primary containment water level to a level equal to the top of the fuel, I presume to provide additional cooling from a water jacket surrounding the RPV, but it cautions about the weight load given the seismic hazard.

I'll say again--I'm not a nuke engineer. So experts can feel free to jump in here. But it is disturbing to me how many articles on recriticality issues surface on the net, with no good answers to the problem. I believe that this one below suggests that reflooding is may not be a good idea. The modeling below is about early reflooding rather than later, but either way, it seems like throwing water on a really, really hot griddle.


Recriticality has been studied for a total loss of electric power accident scenario. In a BWR,
the B4C control rods would melt at about 1500 K (due to an eutectic reaction between B4C
and stainless steel) and relocate from the core before the fuel would during core uncovery and
heat-up. If electrical power returns during this time-window, the duration of which is
predicted to be in the range of a few minutes to about 40 minutes, it is likely that the core will
be reflooded using water from Emergency Core Cooling Systems (ECCS) or feed water
supplies. Since this water is normally unborated, recriticality is possible, for which the only
mitigating mechanisms, at least in short-term, are the Doppler effect and void formation. . . .

. . . With regard to the predicted risk for fuel fragmentation and melting, and prevailing uncertainties, it is
recommended that systematic studies of reflooding and recriticality continue. The improved
reflooding models should be validated against data from high temperature reflooding
experiments. Equally important is the further improvement and testing of the codes
capabilities to model the entire BWR primary system as realistically as possible in order to
capture the reactor power – primary system behaviour feedback effects.

You know what just realized? This is the basis of an Ed Asner-based skit from Saturday Night Live in 1984:


"You can't put too much water in a nuclear reactor."

Holy crap that's amazing.

Chlorides attack concrete as well as steel. So the strength of the concrete should be questioned particularly with all that weight due to the water.