The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi powerplant has worsened significantly as it becomes clear that one and possibly two reactors there have suffered a breach in primary containment, making the incident definitely the second worst nuclear accident yet seen. Nonetheless its human consequences seem certain to remain …
That's not the point is it? The point is whether to believe a journalist who thinks that students are experts. (Hint, pretty much by definition, they are not).
I refrained from posting about your last article as others had said it better than I. And while I will concede that this one is slightly more restrained than the last. I still find it odd that you are trumpeting Nuclear power as safe, albeit with a caveat that it is relatively safe.
I suggest you stop until this is all over.
I'll even ask nicely. Please stop.
I agree - Lewis Page please could you stop writing these overly optimistic articles about the safety of these nuclear incidents which have not, yet, been bought under control.
At the same time, I'd also like to request that all the media doom-whores out there also stop writing their overly pessimistic articles about these nuclear incidents which have not, yet, caused significant radiation exposure to very many people at all.
Of course, the second request is never going to be fulfilled; as scare stories = big money. So, while I don't fully share with your optimism Mr Page, please do keep on writing these informative articles.
Safe compared to what?
Offhand, I doubt that Nuclear Power has killed anything like the number of people that either coal or oil power generation has ... every year we hear of people dying in coal mines and oil rig accidents ... and the full cost of the recent Gulf disaster will not be known for years!
No, I'm not paid by the Nuclear Power industry, nor do I have any interests in the coal or power industries ... I just happen to live about 60 miles inland of the Gulf of Mexico ... where dead wildlife washes up every day and hundreds of miles of our coastline remains drenched in oil residue - so don't tell me that Nuclear power is more dangerous than Oil and Coal.
Yes, the news on the radio this morning was reporting that coal mining kills 5000 people a year in China. Granted that's to some extent a reflection of their (lack of) health & safety rules, but it's certainly less safe than nuclear. So far the collapse of the hydro dam in this quake is likely to have a higher death toll than the nuclear incidents, don't you just love "safe" green energy.
Compared to fossil fuels?
Fossil fuels are not harmless. Petrol, for example, contains a few percent benzene, a dangerous and lifetime-cumulative carcinogen. Every time you catch a whiff of petrol at a filling station, that's a little more benzene causing transcription errors in your DNA for the rest of your life. That ultrafine-particle soot coming out of a diesel is little better. Coal is full of polycyclic aromatics and tars, not unlike that which a cigarette smoker inhales. And when oil refineries encounter an earthquake or other serious accident, carcinogenic combustion products are vented to the atmosphere in uncounted tons.
That's without mentioning global warming.
You probably know of someone who died of anthropogenic cancer. You can't tell if it was induced by the oil industry, atomic bomb testing, Chernobyl, some other human activity, or natural causes. Cancer rates are increasing, but that's to be expected, as other fatal illnesses become curable and the population ages. Nevertheless, some part of that increase must reflect the poisons that we are putting into our ecosphere.
Life cannot ever be risk-free. The risk attached to using oil products seems acceptable (ignoring global warming). Nuclear power? I feel this article is very premature - let's see what it looks like a year from now. And let's make damn sure that any future nuclear plants are *intrinsically* safe. If anything knocks out the power grid and all the backup systems, I want to know that the reactors can just sit there for the next few months without exploding or catching fire. Which this deply flawed 1960s design couldn't, and hasn't. Nowhere on the planet is earthquake-proof (witness New Madrid). They're just much less likely in the UK than in Japan. Ditto tsunamis.
Occasionally poisoning many square miles with radiation for decades or centuries to come isn't acceptable to me. Although there again, if you find out what the levels of chemical contaminants are like near the site of a Victorian municipal coal gas works or ironworks ... someone who did that today would be jailed.
"I still find it odd that you are trumpeting Nuclear power as safe, albeit with a caveat that it is relatively safe."
Nuclear power is safe(r) than other forms of power generation (excepting perhaps a bank of solar cells, minus the manufacturing of such....oh wait, more caveats....crap).
The reason nuclear power has the "frothinggreenies" (good term) up in arms is because of its potential to be catastrophic. A Chernobyl (or worse) accident has the /potential/ to make large swaths of land uninhabitable and potentially irradiate food sources and people. Thus, with the higher risk, higher countermeasures have been put in place. Arguably, a coal plant (or even a coal mine) doesn't have the /potential/ to kill as many people as a full-on nuclear accident (not a just a bad (read: "things go wrong") meltdown, but transportation of waste, etc).
Fear the risk, sure. That's what engineering battles. Decry it as being inherently unsafe? That's where you become wrong, since even coal power has more deaths annually, and has proven itself to be more unsafe.
Uranium doesn't magic itself out of the ground you know.
Nuclear power does not begin and end with the power station you fuckwits. Uranium ore has to be mined too, and that predominantly occurs in astoundingly corrupt dictatorships that don't give a flying fuck about the safety of their workforce. Coal is hazardous to mine, oil is hazardous to extract and uranium ore is also hazardous to mine. Oddly enough, many people would prefer it if we didn't have to get our power from any of them.
WTF? Whilst I'm not too sure about Kazakhstan ... it maybe a little over the top to describe Canada and Australia as corrupt dictatorships (unless you feel that having the Queen on your money makes you a serf).
Less rant, more facts please.
(The 3 countries named supplying > 60%).
@AC 16 March 2011 19:55 GMT
"Uranium ore has to be mined too, and that predominantly occurs in astoundingly corrupt dictatorships that don't give a flying fuck about the safety of their workforce."
Of course, coal is mostly mined in more enlightened places, like China.
I hear that Germany has responded to the situation in Japan by shutting down nuclear power plants pending 'safety inspections'. Given that the necessary increase in coal burning to make up the shortfall will lead to a net increase in the radiation exposure of German citizens, this seems like a remarkably stupid response.
Hopefully the safety review will go something like - "Are we near a subduction fault?" "No" "Check - Start her up again boys".
And while we are talking about harm...
... when was the last time anyone saw an estimate if how many people would have died or suffered other harm if the products of modern technology didn't exist? The answer is probably "never". The number of people in Japan that owe their lives to this power station alone will run into at least hundreds of thousands. Just to take a single example, there will be thousands of people alive today because the hospitals had power to do emergency surgical operations, keep ITUs going, keep blood stored at the right temperature, power dialysis machines etc, etc. Each life saved is one up to the power plant.
This equation works for fossil fuels, too - there is never going to be anything so bad that it outweighs the benefits in pure health terms that have come from their use.
For the "Frothinggreenies"* out there - just how many lives would be lost through going to inefficient, contingent green technologies? Will it be more or less than maintaining "always-on" power generation? And, finally, if you still want to move to contingent power generation (i.e. it is generated *if* something else is happening (sufficiently windy/sunny), are you going to work in hospitals telling people that their loved ones died because we needed to move to "safer" technology?
@AC: Uranium doesn't magic itself out of the ground
Given that almsot 40% of the worlds uranium comes from Canada, Australia, and the USA your assertion that uranium mining "predominantly occurs in astoundingly corrupt dictatorships that don't give a flying fuck about the safety of their workforce" is borderline.
But more importantly worldwide production of uranium last year was approximately 50,000 tons almost exclusively for power generation, compared to 5,990,000,000 tons of coal in excess of 5 billion of which is for eclectricity generation. Coal produces 45% of the worlds electricity and nuclear produces 20%. Some simple maths on these figures shows that 1 ton of uranium produces about the same amount of electricity as about 45000 tons of coal.
The upshot of this is that mining uranium would have to be 5 orders of magnitude more dangerous than mining coal per ton for the production of fuel to be of an issue in terms of the overall saftey the nuclear power life-cycle compared to the production of fuel in the coal power life-cycle.
Im not sure why but out of all the bullshit statements in these comments your was the one I felt compelled to debunk.
Beer? because it is St Patricks day and I'm about to go to lunch :)
Apples and oranges, Originone
"But more importantly worldwide production of uranium last year was approximately 50,000 tons almost exclusively for power generation, compared to 5,990,000,000 tons of coal in excess of 5 billion of which is for eclectricity generation.
Coal is a naturally occurring mineral deposit. Uranium is found trapped in ores. One of the biggest sources of uranium is (IIRC) granite, and you have to mine a metric sh!tload of granite to extract a useful quantity of uranium.
Lewis is like Lt. Frank Drebin in front of an exploding fireworks factory. "Nothing to see here please disperse!"
"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"
Where I and many other posters are distressed with your reporting Lewis is your total lack of concern for loss of life.
A single death is a disaster. Dismissing it with claims that more have died by other causes, or in other incidents does not make it ok. Do you understand?
Lack of Concern???
I see nothing in the article indicating any lack of concern for loss of life. What he said said is that as things look now there is unlikely to any loss of life due to radiation at this point, thought there may health effects for some of the site workers in the long term, or possibly not and no-one can say at this point.
I dont think he ever said it was ok. All he said was in comparison with other forms of generating electricity the safety record is looking pretty good.
Compared to living on the coast near a fault line, nuclear power is extremely safe.
A single death is a disaster.
Right you are.
When that person dies shall we have our disaster party. Until then perhaps we could hold fire?
No doubt, when this is all over and there are some 100 year lumps of warm concrete we can have this debate again, but with actual facts
@amanfromearth: You seem to have missed the news recently.
The nuclear plant didn't spontaneously combust. There was an earthquake followed by a tsunami. I'm not sure how you missed this. Many people have died.
Fortunately, the power system the Japanese rely on has performed above spec and there hasn't (yet) been another disaster.
This is seen as a good thing by most people. When lots of people are dying, it's quite normal to be glad that more people haven't died.
I suppose we could join you in ignoring the issues at hand, put our lives on hold and pray for the dead until the disaster is over but, personally, I don't think that's a very helpful response.
I personally don't see any lack of concern in the article. If anything I see a concern that all the current media reporting is based around a nuclear incident that although severe, is nothing compared to the devastation and loss of life that has happened due to the earthquake and tsunami.
Add to this the pollution problems from all the heavy metals that will have been spread across acres of farm land and swept out to sea after the industrial areas of Japan were hit by the tsunami and it makes the nuclear problems seem small in comparison.
However, looking at the reports in the media today you would think that the biggest problem facing Japan and the health of its population is the nuclear issue, which it is clearer not.
People like a good scare story and obviously don't like that Lewis is using science and facts to point out that we're not all going to die. Japan has way bigger problems that are being ignored by the main stream press in favour of ratings friendly headlines.
Re: @AC 15:12
"The nuclear plant didn't spontaneously combust."
But I'm getting the impression from the news reports that that is precisely what's happening!
The earthquake and tsunami were days ago, the operators are working on the reactors to shut them down, but the damn things are *still* bursting into flame/exploding.......
At the time of writing
.. there are 11 upvotes and 33 downvotes.
And as my post was about the value of a life, I wonder why there is a 3:1 ratio.
Really this makes me very sad that very few value life any more. If life is so worthless that it can be disregarded so easily, what do those people consider to be of value? Possessions? Holidays? Money?
"And as my post was about the value of a life, I wonder why there is a 3:1 ratio."
Won't *somebody* think of the children? Oh no wait, wrong topic.
Maybe it was because you were wrong.
"The nuclear plant didn't spontaneously combust"
And that's the amazing part. People seem to be heavily information overloaded these days because the production rule
"thousands dead" + "nuclear reactor involved" --> "nuclear energy is unsafe"
seems to be massively triggered all over the place to the point where some nations are pointlessly switching of their reactors to "reconsider safety measures".
Either it's the relentless awfulness of the financial burnout or the relentless awfulness of the daily celebrity news.
... in this context, a single life is irrelevant. Thousands are already dead, thousands more may already be dead, and the death toll from the bad weather in Japan could well add hundreds more. Seriously, the one man that died at the power station just fades into the background.
In all honesty, death is only relevant to those directly affected by it. I mourn for my loss when someone I know dies. I do not mourn for those I do not know, because it does not affect me.
@amanfromearth: Could be that most of us who do value life
have figured out that the ones yammering the loudest about the value of life are most frequently the ones who value money, holidays, or possession above life, and are merely using it as a cudgel with which to beat the rest of us.
What a joke. Can't you check your sources, Lewis? You know, citing some "experts" that have been proved to be a total fraud doesn't really help your already dubious point of view to gain any credibility...
One only can assume that the rest of the article is just as uninformed.
I would like to point out that the reg readership consists of IT professionals and people generally interested in IT. That, unless I am mistaken, requires electricity. This has to be generated and nuclear seems to me to be the only stopgap between fossil fuels and 'green' energy.
Although nuclear energy is inherently unsafe due the the temperatures and radiation, the measures taken to make it as safe as possible (even destroying 3 very very very expensive reactors when they may have been able to have been saved) show that it is the only way to go - at least for the time being.
"Millions of children were also fed contaminated milk following Chernobyl: according to the IAEA the incidence of thyroid cancer among such children and young people rose to one case in 4,500"
Lewis, in your first article on this subject you claimed that the Chernobyl accident had basically no adverse effects on anyone other than those cleaning up the site. It was obviously wrong, so thanks for admitting it.
I suggest you re-read the article. Lewis was talking about one specific aspect of the Chernobyl disaster. He did not state that the incident in totality had no adverse effects.
They played down Chernobyl
Until the reactors are under control there can be no accurate assessment of what has happened and what the risk is to the japanese population. Mr Lewis was jumping the gun and a lot of forum members seemed to agree him if I remember rightly. I am not against Nuclear Power stations but at the moment I'm quite against them being built on the Pacific "ring of fire".
This isn't jumping the gun...
As I see it, this article is just trying to stand at the opposite end of the lever.
Every time radiation is released into the atmosphere, the news is all over it, trumpeting it to the world. Not to play it down... but if that radiation that leaked has a half-life of a few seconds, it's not exactly the end of the world. Yes, we don't want another Chernobyl. Yes, what's going on is dangerous.
But is it really worth the current media frenzy of "It's China Syndrome all over again!" ?
Too bloody right.
"but if that radiation that leaked has a half-life of a few seconds, it's not exactly the end of the world."
Uhm that's not totally accurate.
If they had purified water, the the half life of the radio active material would be measured in minutes. With impure salt water, you get more trace material collecting the half life of the material is a bit longer. (But not by much)
But yes, to your point, the danger of the radiation leak is minimal.
Sanjay Gupta a medical reporter for CNN had been wearing a radiation detector. It measured a trace amount of radiation. His comment to the Anchor was that the Anchor probably was exposed to the same level if not more in NY city. (I'm paraphrasing but the vid is on the CNN site.)
And yes, I agree with the 'China Syndrome' comment.
I'm no longer sure...
I'm no longer sure who to believe.
I'm no expert in these matters but I'm hearing a lot of people panic, and I'm hearing people tell me that everything's under control.
Should I stand in the doorway of my nuclear shelter?
stand in doorway?
Unless you're in Japan to the north of Tokyo I'd suggest standing at the bar of your local pub. You'll be helping the local economy, and won't have to suffer the anguished scaremongering of the tabloid press (which sadly includes the BBC these days). Then in a few weeks when we have more of the facts we can debate the issues with some semblence of accuracy.
No, but perhaps you should review
Lewis's article about "fair and balanced neutral reporting."
... believe the calm one saying "there is no problem that can't be dealt with". No-one with any sense follows a headless chicken, which is what the doom-mongers are.
beyond satire now mr Page
Focusing on the fact that not many people have been killed yet is missing the point. This site is now too dangerous to approach and is dependant on people risking their lives and health to stop it getting much worse. It will be too radioactive to dismantle for centuries and will be dangerous all that time.
"It will be too radioactive to dismantle for centuries"
That prediction is pretty certainly to be very false.
"too radioactive to dismantle for centuries"
Hardly. It only took 14 years to cleanup Three Mile Island.
Site too dangerous to approach?
Just like an oil refinery or production platform going up.
How much of hamshire dorset and west sussex would need to take precautions or be evacuated if the Fawley refinery burnt down, and how many carcenogenic substances would be scattered across England and France?
An oil platform being destroyed only sells a few newspapers, but you can spin scare stories on anything "NUCLEAR" for weeks. I would also note that the majority of the "information" currently being put around by main stream media is just air time filling wild speculation, usual without support facts or figures.
They declared the end after 14 years...
But the #2 reactor room is still too radioactive to enter and TMI didn't melt down like Fukushima...
There is a fused lump of MOX fuel....
at the bottom of at least one of these reactors. How long is the half life of plutonium?
Too dangerous to approach
for people afraid of their own shadows perhaps. I rather suspect the radiation levels are actually within acceptable limits, but the effects of previous scaremongering and "abundance of caution" ninnies are exacerbating rather than helping resolve the situation at the reactors.
"How long is the half life of plutonium?"
No-one cares because you can carry plutonium in your open hand without bursting into boils in a second.
Also, these reactors don't run on Pu.
What you missed
"How much of hamshire dorset and west sussex would need to take precautions or be evacuated if the Fawley refinery burnt down"
I don't know. But when "Europe's largest peacetime fire" occurred at Buncefield fuel depot in 2005, it was brought under control in 5 days and only 2000 homes were evacuated.
"An oil platform being destroyed only sells a few newspapers, but you can spin scare stories on anything "NUCLEAR" for weeks."
There was an oil platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year. It was in the news for months...
My father was a fire officer...
...he risked his life and health many times to stop things getting worse (my mother still has the commendation for one particular example of him doing his duty). Are you suggesting that he shouldn't have done that, or that each and every time he (and, of course, all other fire officers) should have this type of coverage each time they need to do something they accept as a risk of the job? I can assure you, he would not have wanted that, nor would the others.
The workers at the power station have my respect, but I do not think they want your pity - they are doing their duty, and that is enough for them.
Re: "How long is the half life of plutonium?"
Destroy All Monsters said:
Also, these reactors don't run on Pu."
Actually, it is widely reported that reactor #4 does have plutonium in it. It's the only one of the group that does. Haven't seen anything that explicitly explains why #4 has Pu and the others don't, but there it is.
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