back to article Fukushima situation as of Wednesday

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 …

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  1. mikew
    WTF?

    Declaration of interests

    Lewis, could you please declare your interests. Are you being paid by the nuclear industry to post upbeat messages about this nuclear disaster?

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Declaration of interests

      I'd like to point out at this juncture that opinions of all strengths are often made with no money changing hands whatsoever, and anyone who assumes that there must be some interest to be declared whenever a controversial view is aired is a twit. Thanks for listening.

      1. Some Beggar
        Unhappy

        This is absolutely fair enough.

        But there is typically _some_ editorial control exercised when opinions stray over the line from, say, "strongly supportive of nuclear power" into "smugly patting oneself on the back while japan is still suffering aftershocks, when there are people being evacuated, and when the infamously taciturn emperor of japan is making almost unprecedented public announcements"

        I happen to sit in broadly the same pro-nuclear camp as the author. But the timing and the tone of these two articles is astoundingly poor.

        I don't care what lobby is paying Lewis, but if he's being paid for these incredibly crass articles then somebody is chucking their gold into a pisspot.

        Likelihood of passing moderation 4% and falling ...

        1. The Commenter formally known as Matt
          WTF?

          Is it only me

          Is it only me that is getting really bored of trolls:

          1) Accusing authors / other commentards of being paid corporate shills

          Sure - it does happen, but when you accuse someone of being a shill, just because you disagree with them, kinda makes you sound like a shill.

          2) Moaning in your (published) comment that your comment is unlikely to pass moderation ('cos their out to get you).

          My God - Have you never read any reg comments before? Seriously go read some; criticism of an article or author pov, or just bat-shit crazy conspiracy ramblings are all a-ok as far as the mods are concerned.

        2. The Commenter formally known as Matt
          Stop

          timing

          >But the timing and the tone of these two articles is astoundingly poor.

          Yeah updating your readers on a unfolding major international story really is bad form.

          and pointing out that although this is serious almost no-one has died (1 crane op in an accident last I heard) but some scummy jurnos we getting this confused with the huge amount of dead from earthquake/tsunami is really terrible. Its almost like Lewis wants to get those facts recognized.

          1. Some Beggar
            Headmaster

            re: Is it only me

            Firstly, you don't appear to understand what the term "troll" means. It's pretty common ... look it up before you next pluck it out of your ad hom basket.

            Secondly, you mean "they're" not "their".

            And thirdly, I made the moderation comment because my response to the previous article /was/ moderated. It clearly didn't include enough bat-shit conspiracy theory rambling.

            If you're genuinely bored, you could always turn off your interwebs and do some work.

          2. Steve Murphy

            "just because you disagree with them, kinda makes you sound like a shill"

            Lewis is dishonest by omission, whether he is in the pay or not, look at this example of careful manipulation

            "Edano stated this morning that efforts to get water into the pool are to begin shortly using pumps on the ground, an earlier plan to drop it from helicopters having been abandoned. Edano said it was important to add water gradually "as there are safety concerns" with dumping a large amount in at once."

            Note, he does not mention the reason why first attempt to use the helicopters was abandoned - why does Lewis omit that.

            Secondly, an worse, the next sentence is very deliberately places to suggest the first attempt was abandoned because of the concerns with dumping water.

            So, it is not disagreeing, it is despising news manipulation, it is be dishonesty by omission. Lewis is not reporting news at all, he is promoting the nuclear agenda - paid or not it does not matter.

        3. Reverend Brown

          Tone?

          His first article was certainly full of enough zeal to make folks a little uncomfortable, but the point is sound.

          "Nonetheless its human consequences seem certain to remain insignificant against the horrifying backdrop of the earthquake tragedy elsewhere in Japan"

          Media's focusing on the wrong tragedy.

          1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
            Coat

            Media Focuses on the now not the past.

            Yeah, its a cynical position.

            But the Quake and Tsunami have passed.

            Unlike Katrina, the Japanese people are handling the lack of food/supplies like normal rational people.

            Until there are riots the only news is that the recovery process is happening. So what does it take to report on the sad number of fatalities?

            But the nuke disaster is happening now.

            So the reporters are like vultures watching a train wreck happening and reporting on it.

            They are just pandering to us, the viewers and readers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        twit?

        Anyone who seems to assume that someone is off base asking for a declared interest in todays world is not paying attention. Just because you agree with the original post does not mean it should be taken as fact without question. You feel that opinions should be allowed. You are correct. You feel that controversial views are allowed. You're correct again. You and the original posted however seem to be losing track of the distinction between advocacy and reportage. Mr Pages articles all read like they are written by a flak or nuclear fan-boy. They are littered with not just opinion, but rah-rah cheer leading. I admit that I feel strongly that perspective on "safety" from outside the containment of the nuclear industries echo chamber seems seriously lacking from The Reg. Time after time there have been nuclear accidents including many injuries after full assurances have been given about safety. Those injuries are not counted because they were not "commercial" power plant accidents. Still nuclear accidents don't make distinctions about who they kill, or leave homeless. Bottom line - "We almost lost Detroit" in a nuclear accident that almost no one knows about (there is a book about it). And every time you look under a rock, you find deception in the so called safety as it is proposed and implemented by the nuclear industry (and TEPCO in particular). Please think about how many times TEPCO has already been caught falsifying safety records. Don't believe me - read another author for The Reg - Rik Myslewski. His article at the following link is required reading. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/15/fukushima_reactor_shell_reported_breached/

        Now is name calling really how you want to spend your time...?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Six of one ...

        "[...] anyone who assumes that there must be some interest to be declared whenever a controversial view is aired is a twit."

        Something several of your journalists seem to be guilty of, no?

    2. Martin 19
      FAIL

      RE Declaration of interests

      Mikew, could you please declare your interests. Are you being paid by the wind turbine industry to post downbeat messages about this nuclear incident?

      .. wow, this Ad Hominem 'declare someone to be a shill' stuff is piss-easy, isn't it?

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      On the other hand...

      Doommongers and assorted smugholes might be beholden to The Green Lobby, who knows.

      Awaiting commentards referring to incomprehensible garbage written by Nostradamus any moment now.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Right you are...

      ... I would think that is quite obvious at this point; the Japanese PM is evacuating tens of thousands of people, the severity has been upgraded to 6 (just one notch below Chernobil but there is no chance for a solution in sight). What I question is why The Reg lets these ridiculously biased articles being published; it seriously undermines the credibility of an otherwise fine publication...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        been upgraded to 6

        By ?

        1. blackcat
          Stop

          Exactly..

          The IAEA has yet to rule on the INES level. Lots of people have speculated though.

          Also the level has very little to do with the amount of radioactivity released. Three mile released more curies than Windscale but it was almost all radioactive gas with a half life of a few hours. Windscale actually released bits of fissile material and burnt fuel into the countryside. The fallout from windscale was far worse than TMI. If this is a level 6 then windscale should have been a 7.

          And at all of the Fukushima reactor the steel pressure vessel is still in place. Even at TMI the fuel never made it out of the pressure vessel and something like 1/3rd of the fuel is sat in a solid lump at the bottom of it because it had a meltdown under power. The crack in the pressure supresion ring is not really any different to them venting steam, there are still many layers between the fuel rods and the outside world. The Chernobyl scenario where the core itself is exposed to fresh air and daylight (which pretty much happened at Windscale given the cooling method!) would require some pretty spectacular failures to achieve. It would also take some pretty huge fire to breach the fuel rods stored in the cooling ponds as zircaloy melts at over 2000degC. (if you believe the 9/11 nuts, they claim even a jet fuel fire won't damage steel so zircaloy should have no issues)

        2. Demosthenese

          by..

          by France ... Japan's main business rival in exporting nuclear technology.

      2. Cheapster
        Thumb Up

        Agree, not really journalism let alone IT stuff

        As a long standing naysayer, obviously the multi billion effort is now taking huge amounts of resource that could probably be useful elsewhere.

        For what? My local nuke powerstations (Scotland) generally only work a couple of months a year (there is a small problem so one hot water heater gets shutdown - fixed - started up while the other was offline for several months for routine maintenance, we're lucky if there ever work and they cost a fortune). And then they cost billions just to take them slowly apart and bury bits in concrete and stuff.

        If Japan didn't have these steam engine generators they would be in a much better position. I hope they get there as quickly as possible.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          FAIL

          You think so?

          "If Japan didn't have these steam engine generators they would be in a much better position."

          If Japan hadn't built nuclear powerstations, they would not have gotten their economy to what it was just before the quake. Japan has few natural resources, and hydro, wind and solar can't cover their current needs by a long shot.

      3. iMacThere4iAm
        Stop

        One notch

        Don't forget that like the earthquake magnitude scale, the IAEA scale is logarithmic, meaning that a '6' as recently suggested by French authorities is supposedly one tenth as severe as Chernobyl.

      4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        WTF?

        Safety is no accident.

        "... I would think that is quite obvious at this point; the Japanese PM is evacuating tens of thousands of people, the severity has been upgraded to 6 (just one notch below Chernobil but there is no chance for a solution in sight). What I question is why The Reg lets these ridiculously biased articles being published; it seriously undermines the credibility of an otherwise fine publication..."

        Are you really that daft?

        While the odds of anything really bad happening, and luckily no serious injuries have occurred, don't you think that it makes sense to still take precautions?

        Here in Illinois there are something like 6+ active nuke plants where 2 of the oldest plants are near a fault line. (Not a very active fault line since we don't get many earthquakes in IL that are even noticeable.)

        Since these plants have the same design, the local nutters are wiggin out.

        Common sense points out the following:

        1) Illinois (USA) hasn't had a *major* earthquake in years.

        Largest earthquake recorded was measured at 5.3. Note the scale is *logarithmic*

        That was back in '68 I think.. well before you were born. 5.3 vs 9.0, big difference.

        2) Tsunami? If Illinois got hit with a Tsunami, either you'd be dead, or this guy Noah really existed...

        The point is that as Lewis brilliantly pointed out in his first article that the safety features worked, albeit that the plant took a hit at 9.0 harder than it was initially designed for, and that if the back up generators and their backups hadn't failed, we wouldn't have had this problem in the first place.

        What I find troubling are twits like yourself. You want electricity but you don't want to be realistic about what it takes to generate it. Nuke plants being designed today are safer that the plants designed 30+ years ago. But they wont get built because of the FUD being created by these mindless twits who protest anything at a drop of the hat.

        Fossil fuels? Yeah, we've got one of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants just across the state lines in Indiana that supplies power to Chicago and beyond. This plant was grandfathered so that it didn't have to shut down or put very expensive upgrades to reduce their emissions. (The power companies exploited a loophole that allowed older plants that should have been phased out from getting these mandatory upgrades.) But again, protesters about the CO2 emissions. Solar? Not good enough? Wind? Not good enough and many would protest about the ecological damages that Solar and Wind generators do to the environment. (Yes, they do have an ecological impact too.)

        Do the math. Nuke power is necessary and cleaner and safer than other forms of energy. In fact, I'll wager that you have had more deaths involved in the production of non-nuclear energy than you do from nuclear energy.

        1. The Mighty Avenger
          Thumb Up

          Bravo

          Good points Ian. I like how you summed it up and pointed out that Nuclear in the long run is actually better for us than fossil fuels. Job well done. :)

    5. IrishRed

      Why read this dude?

      Mike is 100% correct. This Lewis cupcake has been unerringly blatantly 180 degrees wrong about every single aspect of this debacle since it began to unfold.

      Every prognostication he's made has been completely refuted by facts at ground zero within 6 to 24 hours. This is irresponsible, not just dumb.

      Why is anyone even bothering to read this guy?

      He should demand a refund for that Cambridge degree in Engineering.

    6. Chris Harden

      uh huh

      http://www.2flashgames.com/2fgkjn134kjlh1cfn81vc34/flash/f-Watermelon-Cat-8473.jpg

    7. Anonymous John

      Re Declaration of interests

      It's good to read the truth, rather than the FUD the media is spreading.

      The BBC has just reported some US official saying that it was worse than Three Mile Island. True, but meaningless.

      Three Mile Island resulted in no deaths,injuries, or dangerous radiation exposure. Most people nearby got about 1% of a year's background radiation. Nobody got more than a year's worth.Yet nowadays, it's seem as a major disaster. Total nonsense.

    8. byrresheim
      Thumb Up

      Wrong Question

      Correct question: Mr. Page, could you please tell us where the spent fuel ponds are situated and - once you found out and told us, could you please also tell us why that placement is highly worrying indeed?

    9. DavidD

      Jumping on the band wagon

      If you are talking specifically about the nuclear plants, how much of a disaster is it? We don't know yet. Fear mongering speculators will say it's horrific, more calm and less pant wetting types will say it's bugger all. As far as the world is aware so far no one has died of radiation poisoning, the only people to die at the plant have been caught in explosions.

      I also love how all the countries are talking about seeing if their nuke plants could withstand an earthquake like that when Fukushima sustained very little damage from the earthquake. What caused all the problems was the huge tsunami which came in.

      It really doesn't help with the US saying it's all going to blow up and everyone should run for miles when their people know less about what is going on at the plant than the Japanese government. Damn fear mongering yanks, If one of your nuke plants went up like this you would just abandon it and let it melt down.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a PR exercise

    This entire episode has come across like a PR exercise in damage control. With every passing day, the news is progressively worse, and things we were assured "couldn't possibly occur" are now happening. The plant operators are either incompetent or dishonest.

    Perhaps this won't turn out to be a disaster on the scale of Chernobyl, but the constant revision of the facts and ongoing uncertainty about the real state of the reactors has seriously undermined my perception of the safety of nuclear power.

  3. Alister Silver badge

    A lone voice crying in the wilderness

    Thanks again, Lewis, for another calm, dispassionate look at the risks and outcomes of the Fukushima incident. Unfortunately, I think you will be drowned out by a chorus of doom crying commentards, as usual.

    1. Ian Stephenson Silver badge
      Boffin

      the constant revision of the facts

      You mean, like, real science?

      As more information becomes available you adjust your model and your hypothesis.

      It's only religions and the frothinggreenies* that refuse to adjust their stance regardless of any changes to the observed facts.

      *Frothinggreenies is copyright of me and I waive all rights to royalties now and future for its use.

    2. Smallbrainfield

      Yes, but that's the nature of facts isn't it?

      Perhaps if they'd released a press release the day after the first explosion entitled 'HOLY SHI T WE ARE FUCKED' we'd all be laughing about it now, eh?

      If you take the balance of reporting in the mainstream media, most of it is focused on the nuclear power station as it's far more exciting and less depressing than watching people pulling their dead relatives out of collapsed houses.

      Plus you can have much sexier graphics and make it far more scary. I mean the earthquake was like, days ago, right?

      1. J 3
        Stop

        You mean, like, real science?

        "You mean, like, real science?"

        Apparently you wouldn't be able to recognize real science if it was biting you in the elbow.

        I mean, last time I checked no journal editor published my any of my papers the day after I had an idea...

        Ah, I see, you were being "analogical" there. Bad analogy anyway. Very bad. Not even getting into the whole testing thing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Published....

          "I mean, last time I checked no journal editor published my [sic] any of my papers the day after I had an idea..."

          Perhaps they read your first few sentences and noticed that you don't even proofread, and chucked your papers for that reason. :)

          1. Ian Stephenson Silver badge
            Coffee/keyboard

            @AC: Published

            I did think it, but I thought it would look like sour grapes if I said that.

            Plus I have a habit of littering mistakes on any grammar nazi post i make....

            He's entitled to his opinion of my post, though I would like to point out I made an analogy, I was not being "analogical" though given the spelling of recognised I put this down to him being American.

            1. J 3
              Happy

              @ @AC: Published

              "I put this down to him being American"

              Hey, no need to start the name calling! I'm a South American though, does that count?

              And doesn't your computer show quotes, like "this"? You know implying a bad "analogical" joke? Does not know science OR sarcasm, I see.

              1. Ian Stephenson Silver badge

                "I put this down to him being American"

                Nope purely spelling recognised being English and recognized being the American spelling

                I just assumed it was a word used in America, because I have never come across it here in the UK.

                As a South American it would probably make for sense for you to have learned the American spellings than our spellings.

                Please accept my humble apologies for any unintended slight. The post was more to make sure you knew it was not me who posted as AC.

                I am not getting into the whole "There is no such thing as American English" argument. That I save for installing new software.

            2. J 3
              Boffin

              By the way...

              Nitpick, I know, but I keep forgetting to mention also (in the 1st AND 2nd post) that science does not usually "revise facts". It revises hypotheses, and later theories, derived from the increasingly accumulating facts. See, you learn so much on these forums it's not even funny.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        revision of the facts

        @Ian Stephenson: "As more information becomes available you adjust your model and your hypothesis. It's only religions and the frothinggreenies* that refuse to adjust their stance regardless of any changes to the observed facts."

        I'm not talking about the observable facts as they actually unfold - I'm referring to the "facts" we have been given about the design of powers stations, disaster planning, and the projected implications of the inflicted damage.

        For example, I recently read an article by the same author describing this as a 'triumph' for nuclear power. Let's be frank - it isn't. I was alarmed to read that they had not planned for an earthquake of this magnitude, or for a tsunami to sweep away the emergency generators. The "science" that assured us this was a safe design was wrong. The "science" said there was a planned management process for the disaster was wrong. The "science" that initially told us there was no cause for concern was wrong. Am I now supposed to feel confident about future assurances from this "science"?

        There's a disturbing arrogance to this "science" that gives us these assurances, and ploughs ahead without due diligence. How do you think the people living near this reactor would have felt if the designers of the power station had admitted it might completely fall apart if a really big earthquake hit? I'm all for science (and nuclear energy), but I think we need a lot more transparency in future. Even now, I get the impression there has been every attempt to disguise how serious this could have been (and might still be). If we try to shout down people who complain about this dishonesty, we will only give science a bad reputation.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          WTF?

          @ Ralph 5

          "For example, I recently read an article by the same author describing this as a 'triumph' for nuclear power. "

          Huh?

          Do you not understand that the reactors survived a quake that was upgraded and registered 9.0?

          That is beyond the designed rating. And yes, 9.0 is an order of magnitude worse than an 8.0.

          The reactors failed as planned.

          What didn't go as planned is that they they got hit by the Tsunami and both series of back up generators failed.

          Let me be clear. The back ups failed, and the back up generators to the back ups failed. (That's two levels of redundancy)

          Its the lack of water pumping to continue the cooling process is what's causing the trouble and danger.

          The point is that the quake and tsunami combo punch was a disaster beyond what the designers comprehended.

          Lewis is right. The fact that the plant survived the quake intact and the disaster isn't worse is a bit of a triumph.

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            @Ian Michael Gumby

            "Do you not understand that the reactors survived a quake that was upgraded and registered 9.0?

            That is beyond the designed rating. And yes, 9.0 is an order of magnitude worse than an 8.0.

            "

            As has been said several times -- 9.0 at the *epicentre* is different to 9.0 at the site. Most sources claim the quake was within operating margins at the site of the power plant.

            The reactors failed as planned.

            "The point is that the quake and tsunami combo punch was a disaster beyond what the designers comprehended."

            Q. What is the main cause of tsunamis?

            A. Earthquakes

            If you plan for an earthquake in coastal Japan and don't plan for a subsequent tsunami, you are demonstrating a massive lack of judgement.

        2. teacake

          @Ralph 5

          "The "science" that assured us this was a safe design was wrong. "

          You appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that it was "science" that decided how resilient to make the plant, when it was actually the bean counters. The scientists designed it to survive the level of quake and tsunami they were told to - five times weaker than the one they actually faced in the event. That the plant has survived at all means you could criticise them for over-engineering, but that might seem a little churlish if you do it at the same time as screaming at them for the problems the plant is now facing.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Real science is OK

            @teacake: "You appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that it was "science" that decided how resilient to make the plant, when it was actually the bean counters."

            I agree with you entirely - please note that I enclosed "science" in quotation marks when I made those statements because I see many of the assurances about this plant as a PR exercise by bean counters masquerading as science. Real science will be harmed if we tolerate this kind of nonsense. The reality is that this plant was poorly planned (no allowance for a tsunami??) and the response to the disaster was poorly executed. Trying to pretend that this was a success will only make everyone suspect every assurance made by the nuclear industry as a whole.

      3. Tom 13

        I dunno. I think they'd be much more interested in pictures of

        them pulling out the dead bodies if only there were more pictures of that to be had. The Japanese people seem to have done a generally good job of evacuating areas that allegedly could not be effectively evacuated in the case of a event of this magnitude. So I'd say the so called mainstream journalists are just fuck-all pissed that the Japanese are screwing up the templates for all of their tear-jerker stories. But the radiation scare works better for the new stations anyway because they get to keep asserting that experts can't KNOW there won't be significant ill effects because most of the ill effects will occur in the far future.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Flame

          Evacuating?

          Seeing cars race away trying to outrun that tsunami is not 'evacuating'. There was hardly any time for that, between the 9.0 quake and the wave, and the results are clear: 3500 confirmed dead is the latest figure I heard, and at least that number missing. And if you aren't seeing Japanese rescue workers pulling dead people out of piles of debris, you're simply not looking.

          Evacuating is what was done afterwards to get people away from a *potential* second disaster, which plant workers and others are working very hard keeping it as small as possible.

    3. J 3
      Heart

      Dispassionate

      I don't think it means what you think it means.

      Hello. My name is...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Game The System

      Submit some burbling nonsense about doom crying ecotards. Instantly win 40+ upvotes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah ...

        "Thanks again, Lewis, for another calm, dispassionate [...]"

        ... thumb me down, but Lewis isn't being dispassionate, and the OP is guilty of burbling nonsense.

        If you find yourself in ready agreement with such a manifestly inaccurate statement, do us all a favour, hop off the bandwagon, just for a minute, and give yourself a good, hard kick in the clue gland.

        I'm not attacking nuclear power (if anything, I have been impressed by the plants withstanding a 9.0 as well as they have ); I'm attacking your obvious group think.

        While I'm here. Learn some politics. If you think that nuclear power is safe and wish to convince others of that thesis, wait for all the ecotards to be proven wrong by events and then give them both barrels. Light up your pub talk / dinner party / chess social / facebook / twitter / blog with "I told you so you stupid hippie freaks". When the reactors and emotions have cooled.

        As the moment you are driving people away from your cause, with some very ill-timed hubris.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    MIT experts???

    Again, this propaganda is just ridiculous: the "expert" you are talking about has been debunked as a member of the business management department; MIT has retracted the paper as the credentials of the author (who usually writes about topics such as "Human resource management practices in China") render his views no more relevant than mine (or even worse - yours). Demagogy at it's finest!

    1. PhilBarker

      Experts? Or students?

      From the about page of the MIS NSE blog: "This is a blog written by the students of MIT’s Nuclear Science and Engineering department, with the support of our faculty." http://mitnse.com/about-2/

      1. IanPotter
        Megaphone

        RE: Experts? Or students?

        Hmmm, it is a quandary who to believe. Students of Nuclear Science and Engineering or the average el Reg Commentard...

        1. PhilBarker

          neither

          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).

  5. DrXym Silver badge

    Naked Gun

    Lewis is like Lt. Frank Drebin in front of an exploding fireworks factory. "Nothing to see here please disperse!"

  6. amanfromearth
    Flame

    Numbers

    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?

  7. There's a bee in my bot net

    Wow... more?

    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.

    1. Risky

      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.

    2. fatchap

      comparison

      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.

    3. captain veg

      comical

      "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"

      -A.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @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.

    5. Will's
      Flame

      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

      1. CABVolunteer
        Flame

        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.......

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        "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.

    6. Douglas Lowe

      No more...

      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.

    7. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Happy

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        safe

        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.

      2. Nigel 11
        Unhappy

        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.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        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.

        1. ClickMonster
          Stop

          Corrupt Dictatorships?

          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%).

        2. Bilby

          @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."

          Like Australia.

          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".

        3. Originone
          Pint

          @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 :)

          1. The Indomitable Gall

            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.

      4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        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?

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      @amanfromearth

      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.

    9. amanfromearth

      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?

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Because...

        "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.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Because, "amanfromearth"...

        ... 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.

      3. Tom 13

        @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.

    10. Ammaross Danan
      FAIL

      Inflation

      "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.

  8. Syntax Error
    Unhappy

    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".

  9. Ben Bawden
    FAIL

    Oh dear

    "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.

  10. Jaap stoel
    Paris Hilton

    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?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    mitnse.com

    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.

  12. Hermes Conran
    Dead Vulture

    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.

  13. vilemeister
    IT Angle

    Power

    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.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Terminator

      "It will be too radioactive to dismantle for centuries"

      That prediction is pretty certainly to be very false.

    2. RichyS
      Stop

      RTFM^HA

      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.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      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.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "too radioactive to dismantle for centuries"

      Hardly. It only took 14 years to cleanup Three Mile Island.

      1. Hermes Conran
        Alert

        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...

      2. Hermes Conran
        Pirate

        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?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          FAIL

          "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.

          Imagine that.

          Also, these reactors don't run on Pu.

          1. Kevin Turnquist

            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.

    5. ArmanX
      Megaphone

      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!" ?

      1. DF118
        Pint

        @ArmanX

        Too bloody right.

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        @ArmanX

        "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.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      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.

      1. Red Bren
        Flame

        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.

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4525504.stm

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6181626.stm

        "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...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Re: What you missed

          "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."

          and buncefield is a minor site compared to fawley which handles around 20% of the UK refining capacity. (the cunning clue is in the large tankers parked outside)

          buncefield also only held "relatively" clean refined materials, and not all the nasty crap that a refinery handling crude oil has to manage.

    7. Tom 13

      No, but perhaps you should review

      Lewis's article about "fair and balanced neutral reporting."

    8. Tom 13

      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.

    9. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      It's easy...

      ... 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.

    10. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      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.

  14. Dunstan Vavasour
    Flame

    Public perception of risk unrelated to probability

    Why are people having a go at Lewis?

    We live surrounded by radiation: it comes from the sky, from the ground, and people take actions all the time which expose themselves to radiation - getting on an aircraft; moving to a city made of granite; having an X-ray or CT scan. There is very good collected data about the harmful levels of radiation, not least from 50 years of running nuclear power stations, and international safety levels have been set with reference to this collected evidence, well within the bounds where potential harm might happen.

    What has happened at Fukushima is a right mess, and it will take them years to decommission. And there have been short releases of radioactive matter into the air: matter with short half lives, blown out to sea by the wind, with an intensity which is detectable but has no health consequences.

    Away from Fukushima, we have a country where large numbers of people have no homes to go back to, thousands are dead, large areas of cultivation have been ruined and the land contaminated with salt, and a significant proportion of the country's electricity generating capacity has been lost.

    The focus on Fukushima is understandable, but its consequences will minimal.

  15. Lomax
    FAIL

    And what about the plutonium?

    I note that this marketing piece completely fails to mention the fact that reactor #3 was powered by MOX fuel which contains large amounts of plutonium. Any leak here will be likely to lead to very serious health effects - and for a very long time to come. Nice try but I don't expect many people will buy your propaganda.

  16. Steven Jones

    Rather more measured

    This is a rather more measured tone, and it rather demonstrates that in rapidly changing circumstances it's best to hold off coming to a conclusion. However, quite apart from the danger to health (which should really not be compared with the deaths due to the tsunami, but to those with other technologies under the same circumstances), there are some things which do need to be addressed.

    1) the Japanese now have a lot of radioactive junk on their hands. That is going to be very expensive, both to dispose of and to replace the generating capacity. This will not be an insignificant part of the recovery cost, and that's expecially so if there were measures that could have been taken to better protect the plant. Whatever this is, it is not a triumph.

    2) was the risk assessment carried out properly or was it unduly iunfluenced by short term financial considerations. There's an article in the Telegraph today (involving Wikileaked cables) that it was and the penalty has been paid.

    3) there is a psychological element to nuclear power - it plays to some of the deepest concerns of people being seen as a very long term, unseen, misunderstood killer. People may not be wholly rational about risk assessment, but if it's not dealt with then the case will be lost.

    4) there is a record of the Japanese (and, for that matter, the British) nuclear industry being involved with coverups. This includes the faking of tests and quality assurance (as happened at Windscale). This is a matter of trust - it's important.

    Personally I'm generally pro-nuclear, but it's obvious things have not gone as well as they could have been and I'm not convinced by those saying the scale of this event could not have been forseen. Neitgher the ground acceleration rates, or the height to the tsunami at the reactor location were unprecedented.

  17. ybird

    you're doing this on purpose aren't you?

    "So far from Fukushima proving that nuclear power is dangerous compared to other technologies, it seems to be proving quite the reverse."

    scarcely believable how glib you're being about this, lewis. please go back to moaning about defence spending. or just go.

  18. benzaholic
    Boffin

    Fair and Balanced?

    Lewis has a clear slant toward a particular side of the issue, but when read with reasonable intelligence and skepticism it provides some balance. I haven't heard or read any other descriptions of the types of radioactive elements emitted at certain points or their half lives.

    At least he provides a fairly current summary of the conditions at the facilities, which TEPCO seems less willing to provide in a timely manner. Separating that information from his Don't Panic opinions isn't that hard to do.

  19. The Mighty Avenger
    WTF?

    Guys settle down

    Look... considering only one of the nuclear power plant workers died from being hit by a crane and the rest have had minor intake of radiation... I would very much appreciate it if everyone would quit it with the "Nuclear is Evil" bull. What about the incident in the Gulf of Mexico with BP's screw up several months ago?? Have we already forgotten about that? Seriously all you commentators need to just lighten the heck up.

    Here is some additional food for thought if you guys could use a refresher on the whole situation... http://www.slate.com/id/2288212/

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Something which should be considered...

    ...when reading Lewis' articles. Lewis is ex-royalnavy, which I think explains quite a lot.

    1. IglooDude

      Please?

      Some of us are not familiar with what being "ex-royalnavy" entails, could you elaborate?

      1. Darryl
        Joke

        Well, DUH

        "ex-royalnavy" obviously means that you're being supported by some secret society of nuclear power lobbyists.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ex-royalnavy

        Probably means "somewhat more familiar with nuclear gadgets than the average man in the street", but it's shorter to write.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No, what it means

          is sufficiently on the side of 'The Establishment' to have gone into The Forces, prepared to contribute to the deaths of foreigners on the say-so of the British Government, the basic requirement of joining up voluntarily. The pertinent bit being 'on the say-so of the British Government'.

          1. IanPotter

            RE: Bertram 17

            Well if you live in Britain you've almost certainly done something at the behest of the Government. Filled in your census form yet...?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              No

              I'm undecided whether to send it to No. 10 unopened, or to 'spoil it'. I'm also considering posting what I have to say to them, hee, as an open letter.

              I'm one of those fairly rare individuals who, when 'authority figures' tell me to do something, I tell them to fuck off (or offensive variations thereof). Which isn't to say I'm proud to say this. I just don't understand why the rest of you do as you're told. Which I'm assuming you do since you assume I do.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                I suppose its kind of funny

                'here', not 'hee'. I'm wondering about this keyboard lately! Or these fingers.

          2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Perhaps it means ...

            ... "has some idea what the word "duty" means, and how it motivates people to get on and do a job for the greater good at the risk of one's own life".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Grenade

              Oh

              like going into Iraq to kill tens of thousands of civilians in order to stop Saddam using his WMDs, because Blair lied? That serves the greater good? That is the definition of 'duty' is it?

              I was just thinking this morning how the problem with the politicians - and eg proponents of the Death Penalty who are unfazed by innocent people being executed - is a belief in Act Utilitarianism.

              I used to say (which isn't to say I no longer believe it) that to be a philosopher, first you have to be a psychologist, in order to understand your vested interest in believing this notion or that, and thus have a chance of avoiding the pitfall of self-deception.

              To join the forces you are supposed to, when it comes to it, kill whoever your superiors order you to kill. If you are not aware of that perhaps you shouldn't be allowed to join up anymore than an imbecile is allowed to vote. If you join up with the intention of disobeying such an order (ie you join solely to learn a trade and see the world)...well, that's another argument.

              So, what do you think? If Blair, Brown, Cameron, whoever, gave orders (however indirectly) to blow up - lets say, a building in Tripoli, despite the likelihood of lots of innocent civilians being in it or so near that it'll kill them anyway, does it make it acceptable, because No. 10 said it was? Or is it that actually you don't care because you just follow orders / do your duty ?

              You would, of course, have it that invading Iraq served the greater good, and, indeed, that breaking the Law is not a problem if doing so 'serves the greater good'?

      3. Tom 13

        Not British myself but as a long-time reader I'd say it is short-hand for saying

        somebody who has dealt with imminently life threatening scenarios and knows better than the average Joe how to meet and overcome them so you don't wind up dead, maimed, or injured on the other side of the event. Also someone who is familiar with the actual lethal effects of chemical, nuclear, and solid projectiles which are commonly associated with such events as opposed to someone who has only read mainstream media drivel about their possible effects.

        And really, you have to admit that just writing "ex-royalnavy" is much quicker than that.

      4. Munchausen's proxy
        Pint

        Apologies to Kipling

        It's Lewis this and Lewis that and shut yer yap, ya shill,

        But it's 'Thank you, Mr. Page, sir', when his writing fits YOUR bill.

    2. There's a bee in my bot net

      Some balance?

      Indeed, more balanced than the last article.

      However, you shouldn't take it as read that his descriptions of the types of radioactive material release are the full story. After all there is an argument to say that low doses of Iodine 131 are more harmful than high doses (if Wikipedia is to be believed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodine-131 ).

    3. Thorsten
      Grenade

      No, I won't

      Look... you don't know what radiation dosage those 50 workers still on site have been exposed to. This information has not been released. It may well be that it's been high enough that they stand a good chance not to survive the next few weeks, or it may have been low enough that they only have a somewhat higher chance of developing cancer. That only one died from being hit by a crane and two more missing after an explosion (somewhere I read about 5 confirmed deaths, but I can't remember where) doesn't make it a small issue.

      There are 3000 square miles around Chernobyl lost to agriculture for centuries. Mushrooms from the woods in South-East Germany, 1000 km from Chernobyl, may be safe to eat again in 300 years, and wild boars that eat those mushrooms cannot be hunted for meat either. Thyroid cancer numbers are 30 times higher than normal in the Ukraine. The impact of the Fukushima accident will only become apparent in 20 years, but I'd wager that it will be measurable. So, would everyone please stop with the "Nuclear is safe" bull until then?

      We may decide that the extra risk carried by Nuclear technology is acceptable. But it does carry a risk. However, what long-term damage does a collapsed windmill cause? Or a broken solar furnace?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        safe?

        "what long-term damage does a collapsed windmill cause? Or a broken solar furnace?"

        Or a collapsed hydro-electric dam? Or a coalmine explosion? Or an oil-rig fire? Or ...

        Life isn't safe, and there's no such thing as safe energy. Get over it.

      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        @Thorsten

        "However, what long-term damage does a collapsed windmill cause? Or a broken solar furnace?"

        One crashed windmill - not much. Other than to the bloke on whose head it has fallen.

        But how much damage thousands of *operational* bird-choppers do over a period of time? You cannot say that.

        How much damage to the environment their manufacturing does? No word on that either.

        And the main thing that the proponents of "renewable" solutions refuse to see - you can't have enough of these to meet our needs for electricity unless you cover the whole Earth with the bee-smashers (and then you will still need backup turbines), which will be worse then 100 Chernobyls, as far as I am concerned.

        1. Thorsten

          @Vladimir

          "But how much damage thousands of *operational* bird-choppers do over a period of time? You cannot say that."

          At least they won't give you leukemia. "A government-sponsored study of childhood cancer in the proximity of German nuclear power plants found that children < 5 years living < 5 km from plant exhaust stacks had twice the risk for contracting leukemia as those residing > 5 km." See: Kaatsch P, Kaletsch U, Meinert R, Michaelis J. An extended study on childhood malignancies in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants. Cancer Causes Control. 1998;9(5):529-533.

          "How much damage to the environment their manufacturing does? No word on that either."

          Most probably much less than the damage caused by processing and storage of Nuclear fuels and waste.

          "you can't have enough of these to meet our needs for electricity unless you cover the whole Earth with the bee-smashers"

          Any numbers? Any source? And who insisted on wind being the only option?

          Anyway, let's be silly and suppose it should be wind only. Wikipedia says that world power consumption is on average around 15 Terawatts. Work is underway on 10 MW turbines. That would make it 1.5 million turbines when running at full power. On average one turbine every 340 square kilometers. I've got the feeling that we might be able to cluster the things a bit tighter, so that covering the whole Earth won't be necessary.

      3. Tom 13

        Actually, my FB friend who actually works at the plant has posted, and while

        he may be very Japanese, but even he isn't capable of putting on face so brave that he's making upbeat posts and joking about going back for his iPhone when they initially sounded the alarm for the building. And yes, he's a nuclear engineer, not a janitor. So I expect the radiation levels are quite safe despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the media and the rest of the professional mourner's lobby.

        1. Thorsten

          Really?

          Well, if "Japan's Self-Defense Forces have postponed a mission to dump water by helicopter on the No.3 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, because radiation above the facility has climbed too high for such work" (source: NHK), then I don't think that radiation levels are "quite safe". At least that's what my friend Harvey tells me. But then he's a white rabbit, so what does he know...

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            let's be silly

            You seem to have spread your windmill over entire surface of the Earth - including oceans and Antarctica. Nice.

            Now, only count those on the surface minus Antarctica - you get 1 per 90 sq.km

            Now, remove all mountains, lakes, cities, nature reserves and places where winds don't blow. I don't know the exact figures but it will be *much* denser.

            Now, even your 10MW mills won't ever work at 100% and you need redundancy for failures, maintenance and bad weather.

            The end result: good bye, blue sky, RIP birds and bees.

            All the other stuff -leukemia etc., there are studies suggesting living close to transmission lines does the same, mobile phones heat up your brainz, and you don't know if your house is not built over an old gas plant or lead mine tailings dump, plus you get radon from the ground, nasty stuff from the cars outside the window and many other things to worry about before any concerns about nuclear.

            What people need is cheap geiger counters to be available at local Robert Dyas, so that they could measure the radiation levels themselves when they want. This will kill off 99% of the "silent killer" fears and panicmongering and protests.

            1. Thorsten

              yes, let's

              Firstly, 15TW is the total energy consumption, not just electricity consumption. But anway, wind power already can already deliver 1% of that, and I don't see a 100-fold increase covering the whole planet.

              Secondly, I personally wouldn't a priori exclude Antarctica or off-shore locations. Not many bees there to fret over, and plenty of wind.

              Thirdly, given this government-sponsored study on leukemia incidences, if I'd live close to a nuclear power plant (which I don't), I would worry about the effects on the health of my children more than whether there's mobile phone transmission mast in the vicinity. (and actually I don't worry about those)

              In another post you mentioned fusion energy. I'm 100% with you on that. I don't see wind as the sole energy source. (I prefer solar furnaces and solar updraft towers, btw) But until fusion power is ready, I much rather use renewable energy sources than nuclear technology. Do you have a problem with that?

    4. Jolyon

      Why people are having a go at Lewis.

      I guess in part it's because his first article on the subject proclaimed this situation as a 'triumph' which even stauch supporters of nuclear power and western engineering practices in general thought was perhaps a bit strong and almost certainly premature in any case.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        Re: 'triumph'

        Take a look at what these plants have coped with, multiple earth quakes (including one of the largest in history) that have physically moved the country by an estimated 4m and altered the axial tilt on the planet, plus a tsunami on an un presidented magnitude.

        The designers and builders did a good job, regardless of whether you think nuclear power is a good or bad idea.

        Next we'll have people complaining about office blocks not being safe against large airplanes or asteriods

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Jolyon

          Coped

          Arguments about whether or how well these plants have coped aside there's a distance between "a good job" and a triumph in most people's eyes.

          Even if this is indeed a triumph my point still stands that it is describing it as so when many people believe otherwise that has generated the volume of negative posts.

          It's definitely a triumph of building the Lewis Page brand.

    5. Munchausen's proxy
      Boffin

      Can you expand on this?

      "...reactor #3 was powered by MOX fuel which contains large amounts of plutonium. Any leak here will be likely to lead to very serious health effects - and for a very long time to come.."

      Why does this make it so much worse?

      1. Munchausen's proxy

        Sorry, I don't think I was clear

        I meant to ask why the existence of plutonium makes it so much worse, not to beg the question by assuming the existence of 'very serious health effects - and for a very long time to come.'

        1. Jim Morrow

          why plutonium is bad

          it's a highly toxic metal. think mercury or lead on a very, very bad day. you don't want plutonium dust in your body. or dust from other heavy metal for that matter, including your black sabbath cds.

          but it gets worse. plutonium's a powerful emitter of alpha particles and neutrons. (depends on the isotope.) it also has a very long half-life: 30,000 years or theresabouts. so if plutonium gets lodged inside you and somehow doesn't manage to poison you, it will very likely give you a nasty cancer.

          i think lewis page calls this sort of ionising radiation "sunshine units" or something equally cheery.

  21. GettinSadda
    WTF?

    Come on Lewis!

    Lewis Page (this article): "The highest level reported at the plant was a single brief reading of 400 millisieverts/hour"

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/16/fukushima_workers_evacuated) "...radiation levels now falling from 1,000 millisieverts on Wednesday morning to 600-800"

    Also worth noting:

    Lewis Page (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/15/fukushima_update_tuesday): "Fukushima update: No chance cooling fuel can breach vessels"

    Lewis Page (this article): "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"

  22. Jonathan White

    Hmm..

    A single death on it's own is a disaster. A single death when you've got 10,000 corpses on your hands already is hardly even going to raise an eyebrow.

    While Lewis's appraisals of the condition of the Fukushima situation do seem to be verging on the optimistic, his opinion on the health risk seems fairly valid : few if any people have been harmed and few people will end up being harmed, all other things being equal. As things stand, the Fujushiima 'disaster' is going to cause less overall harm than a warm summer's day in Britain does.

  23. trashbat
    Alert

    Seems balanced to me

    You've got Rik Myslewski in San Francisco, and you've got Lewis Page in Soviet Russia. Not really sure how any of this relates to tractor production though.

  24. ian 22

    Lewis, you WILL let us know when the time to panic has come?

    I ask because this Fukushima situation appears to be in free-fall. Others might call it a death-spiral.

    If this is classified as a triumph by the nuclear power industry, I'd not like to see what they would consider a failure.

  25. Ross 7

    Comparison

    You wrote "...according to the IAEA the incidence of thyroid cancer among such children and young people rose to one case in 4,500" however you omitted to state the starting point this is to be compared to. One presumes it's a number smaller than 1/4500, however that is a rather large field :)

    We can't tell from the report whether the risk doubled, or increased by 1% - neither of which is terribly good news, but one is an awful lot worse than t'other. Oh, and if you do use %, please can you differentiate between % increase and % points increase - my pet peeve. Gets awfully confusing when people use one and mean the other.

    Thanks for including the *length* of exposure, which other reporters on this site (and other outlets) have overlooked. Being subject to a months worth of background radiation in a month is generally fine. Getting exposed to it in 12 pico seconds not so much... Ergo my dig at the dumb American navy PR type that said his boat had been subject to a months worth of background radiation on another post.

    1. JimC

      > few or any will be harmed

      I suspect you're forgetting the number of people likely to be killed in road accidents as a result of a panic stricken exodus from the region.

    2. amanfromearth

      I venture to disagree

      Loss of a single life is a massive disaster, so much so that loss of 10,000 lives is not 10,000 times worse.

      With death, counting is no use.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Loss of a single life is a massive disaster,

        Sorry, but only for the dead person and their immediate friends and family. In the grand scheme of this massively overpopulated planet one death is irrelevant. Reality is harsh. We all die.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes

          and like with Lewis's justifications, it is bean counting. Most non bean-counters think that is kind of disgusting. Bean counting, allied to an astonishing failure to equate reactor safety with the trustworthiness of those running it. Lewis and his supporters seem like it wouldn't even register if their nice safe modern designs were to be run by, say, the Cali cartel, or the Sicilian Mafia. Pro-nuclear commentards point to eg BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster as evidence of how much safer nuclear potentially is, but the point is it's the same calibre of people running both.

    3. Thorsten

      increase

      "You wrote "...according to the IAEA the incidence of thyroid cancer among such children and young people rose to one case in 4,500" however you omitted to state the starting point this is to be compared to. One presumes it's a number smaller than 1/4500, however that is a rather large field :)"

      In parts, the increase was staggering:

      "In the age group of 9-year-old children, the incidences in three regions defined as the 'high-dose area', the northern, and the middle oblasts, increased by factors of 50, 20, and 6, respectively."

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9402636

    4. byrresheim
      Dead Vulture

      What is the failure criterion?

      Apparently, there is none for Mr. Page.

      These articles remind me very much of a joke about a worker falling from a skyskraper: "I don't know what they've been on about - I've dropped 200 yards by now and still nothing has gone wrong ..."

      Even if there is no further loss of life at those plants, please consider Sellafield, where a pile of lethal rubbish sits and sits and sits and none dare call it Windscale ...

      Please tell us Mr. Page: will that heap of radioactive sludge one misstep away from criticality have to be multiplied by 4, 8, 16 or 32 in the japanese case?

      1. Bilby
        FAIL

        Sellafield, Windscale etc...

        Please can we put an end to this pointless slur. Sellafield is the BNFL site housing the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant; the Calder Hall Magnox Power Plant, and the Windscale Plutonium Plant.

        It was always called Sellafield; no one changed the name.

        Windscale was (and still is) a part of the Sellafield site. It gets mentioned very little in the news these days, as it has not been operational since the fire. It was a reactor for making Plutonium for the UK Nuclear Weapons program, it has never been in any way related to nuclear power generation.

        Next door to Windscale on the same site is the Calder Hall power station, which was the worlds first commercial nuclear power station. It ran for several decades with no newsworthy incidents, and is now being decommissioned as it has reached the end of its life.

        Still on the same site is THORP, which is the currently active part of the Sellafield family. Here, spent fuel from around the world is cooled, stripped, and reprocessed into new fuel. Again, little attention has been paid to this site by the front pages, as rather tediously, they keep not having serious accidents.

        Sellafield is the place, Calder Hall and Windscale are the names of two farms that were purchased by BNFL to build their facilities on.

        Windscale is the bit of the facility that had a big accident, that has given the greenies something to frighten their kids with for over 50 years; it was a very early reactor with a number of design flaws, built to make atom bombs at the height of the cold war. But as it is no longer doing anything, no-one refers to it much. Sellafield however is still an active BNFL facility, and it is 100% wrong to call Sellafield 'Windscale', or to say that anyone changed the name.

    5. IglooDude
      Headmaster

      I'm only a dumb ex-usnavy type myself...

      but it seems to me that being subject to a month's worth of background radiation in a month is as generally fine as getting exposed to it in 12 pico seconds, which roughly speaking is a hospital X-ray. What I presume you're getting at is that getting a month's worth of background radiation repeatedly every twelve picoseconds over (say) the course of a full second is certainly more "final" than "fine". Perhaps the dumb American navy PR type was trying to get at that, too.

      And notwithstanding the above, I do share your pet peeve and agree wholeheartedly with your first two paragraphs. I holler at news anchors (well, the television they're appearing on) that talk about Americans driving N million more miles this year, and failing to indicate whether that's a 1% increase or 1000% increase over the recent average.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Yes, but...

        ... x percent of a very small number is still a very small number. Thyroid cancer is quite rare, and so a 50-fold increase might still only be very small (from 1 a year to 50 a year on average, for instance). OK, it does depend on whether you count 50 cases a year of something eminently treatable as being serious, but the point remains the same.

    6. Tom 13

      Yes, the reactors are in a death spiral of sorts.

      They are pretty much toast and will never be used again. They may take years to clean up and decontaminate. They have released radiation into the atmosphere. BUT nobody has been killed by the radiation. In what is in point of fact a worst case scenario (the earth has moved beneath the plant followed immediately by the ocean coming crashing in, the complete loss of auxillary services which might otherwise ameliorate the situation) with competently trained technicians on the ground, the great radiation disaster of such epics as "The China Syndrome" HAS NOT HAPPENED. And at this point, it is actually very unlikely to happen. They've cooled most of the reactors and only one remains troublesome. They have a plan to address that. They have taken extreme measures, and they will take whatever additional extreme measures are necessary. And no one was killed as a result of the nuclear part of the incident.

      1. ian 22
        FAIL

        Yet. You forgot to use the word "yet".

        As an agnostic (read: not a true believer in the nuclear religion, or any other, really), I also tend to scepticism. It warms my heart to read the quaintly naif messages of those who have yet to learn that the same power that made kittens and bunny wabbits also put snakes in the grass. You may learn that Tokyo Electric Power Company is a false prophet. They do have a record of covering up safety failures at their reactors. Perhaps you will never learn, but that is not my responsibility.

        Don't let my bitter ravings interfere with your celebration. Meantime, I will continue my death watch via NHK News. NHK say that Fukushima now ranks above Three-Mile Island (but yet below Chernobyl) in the disaster scale.

    7. JonHendry

      Concern about nuclear power isn't about immediate death

      "A single death on it's own is a disaster. A single death when you've got 10,000 corpses on your hands already is hardly even going to raise an eyebrow."

      The concern with nuclear power isn't about immediate deaths. It's about the long-term, lingering deaths of radiation poisoning, cancer (survived or not), sick or malformed children, etc. potentially for years.

      That ex-KGB agent who was poisoned with an isotope of Polonium certainly died, but it took weeks.

      Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if most immediate deaths that occur during nuclear accidents are not due to radiation but rather due to more mundane causes, such as burns, or like the guys in the SL-1 incident, two of whom were killed by a steam explosion, and the third who was nailed to the ceiling by a control rod launched by the explosion.

      Talking about how many have died so far misses the point, and misses so badly that it suggests the whole matter hasn't been seriously considered at all.

    8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      In Soviet Russia reactor scrams YOU!

      But why is Lewis there?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm all for Nuke Energy

    As long as the nuke energy in question is from a Thorium reactor. Yes, they are a bit harder to start up, but they are no more difficult to run and really easy to shut down. It seems really crazy to me to run a reactor where you spend most of your time trying to keep it from going out of control.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Least worst outcome?

    If it had been an Oil powered plant what would be the environmental consequences of a few million barrels of oil being washed into the sea? What about a gas plant if the gas holder had exploded Bruntsfield style? or even the effect of a few thousand tons of coal being spread over the surrounding land?

    Probably many more deaths at the plant and more toxic material into the environment

    Looks like so far the nuclear station is on top - with just a bit of rapidly decaying radioactive steam the only thing to worry about (so far)

  28. proto-robbie
    Pirate

    Raindrops keep falling on my head

    Am I missing something, or aren't and haven't there been large pockets and streams of gas / particles fired into the atmosphere with radioactive content of unknown concentration and composition from four reactors?

    I have a friend in Tokyo who doesn't share your confidence. Science and reality don't necessarily coincide, as Eyjafjallajokull demonstrated recently.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Title

    I'm really enjoying Lewis' series of articles on this, is it possible that he could be sent out on site?

  30. Andydaws
    Go

    A small correction

    apparently, the idea that the reactor 3 suppression pool was damaged has now been discounted - as it should have been from the start given it's held above-atmospheric pressure throughout.

    There's a good deal of hysteria on here. Certainly, from a radiological perspective, Lewis is right. going over a few...

    Lomax, plutonium isn't especially more toxic than other actinides.

    Hermes Conran, there's no question of the site being "too dangerous to approach". The workers are more than approaching it, and no credible authority thinks they're in any immediate danger.

    Ben Bawden, the point about thyroid cancers being the only cancer that showed a notable increase is that it's probably the most treatable cancer it is - and had the Russians had the sence to do what the Japanese have prepared to do, if needed, and hand out iodine tablets, that problem could have been reduced to a tiny percentage of what it was.

    "Anonymous Coward" - in fact, the paper you complain about has been picked up by the MIT nuclear engineering department, and is now being recommended on thier blog site

    Sir John Beddington, the Government's Chief Scientist, is quite good on worst case and consequences, here.

    http://ukinjapan.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=566799182

  31. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    how long do we have to put up with Page's uninformed rubbish. Please sack him.

    EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger: There could be catastrophic events within the coming hours

    1. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down

      @AC 15:33

      "EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger: There could be catastrophic events within the coming hours"

      Günther Oettinger is a career politician currently in an unelected position. Why on earth would would anyone want to listen to anything at all that he has to say? You complained about 'uninformed rubbish' and then quoted from some eurocrat who almost certainly knows absolutely nothing at all about what is going on in Japan.

      This place gets more like the daily mail every day.

      .

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
        Grenade

        why ..?

        "Why on earth would would anyone want to listen to anything at all that he has to say?"

        because spreading panic sells more newspapers, not to mention boost to "green credentials"?

        everyone wants to be "green", and as a result of that coal pollution will continue at even higher rate and for longer.

      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger

        Is backtracking like crazy: "He just wanted to share his concern and that he was really touched by all the images of people and the victims" (source: BBC)

    2. hugo tyson
      Flame

      Not "unknown concentration and composition"

      No, because they have not been of "unknown concentration and composition" - steam from pure water has some N-16 which has so short a 1/2life as to be safe after minutes; steam from seawater has another completely predictable radionuclii mix, that needs more care; it's blowing out to sea, and it's small amounts anyway.

    3. Lomax
      Boffin

      WRONG!

      "plutonium isn't especially more toxic than other actinides" - This is FALSE. MOX fuel is far more dangerous than traditional U-235 based fuels. One microgramme PU-239 is considered a lethal dose if inhaled or ingested.

      "At a press conference in Tokyo, Masashi Goto, who worked for Toshiba as a reactor researcher and designer, said the mixed oxide (MOX) fuel used in unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant contains plutonium, which is much more toxic than the fuel used in the other reactors."

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-20042852-76.html#ixzz1GmLBowZS

      "Critics of plutonium MOX fuel say its use increases the risk of nuclear accident due to the neutronic effects of plutonium on the reactor. In the event of an accident - in particular the loss of coolant - the reactor core is more difficult to control due to both neutronics and the higher risk of fuel cladding failure. In addition, plutonium MOX emits higher gamma radiation and much higher neutron radiation than uranium fuel."

      http://seekingalpha.com/article/258146-tokyo-electric-power-in-the-eye-of-a-nuclear-storm

      1. proto-robbie
        Headmaster

        Oh yes they are...

        ...each is unknown, because:

        a) at something like one thousand degrees Centigrade, most of the expelled material is going straight up into the air and it won't just be nitrogen and hydrogen - melting has definitely occurred within the reactors, since many of the rods are damaged, and there is no certainty of the composition of the ejecta, also -

        b) It is not clear which reactor(s) or storage tanks the radiation is coming from, nor, since it is not being measured above the buildings, how powerful it actually is.

      2. Munchausen's proxy
        Headmaster

        Citation required

        " One microgramme PU-239 is considered a lethal dose if inhaled or ingested."

        I refer you to http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/pubs/00326640.pdf (Warning: PDF)

        1 microgram of Pu-239 as a whole body burden was considered a safe threshold for workers at Los Alamos during the Manhattan project. There was considerable thought put into that calculation, including a fudge factor to ensure safety. Experiments done to design assays to measure the clearance of Pu-239 from the body involved injections into humans of amounts around 5 micrograms usually, but in the case of two terminal cancer patients, about 95 micrograms.

        None of these experimental subjects were found to have been killed by the Pu, that you tell us authoritatively was at least 5 times a lethal dose.

        The paper I linked is an interesting read, with a lot of fairly accessible information straight out of

        experimental data. Since it isn't wildly speculative nor sufficiently negative, I suppose it will be denounced here.

        1. Lomax
          Stop

          Splitting the hair

          "Plutonium in a finely divided aerosol can be lethal if inhaled in microgram quantities"

          The politics and technology of nuclear proliferation

          Robert Fred Mozley [1998]

          "Experiments on beagles have shown that a very small amount of plutonium in insoluble form will produce lung cancer with near-one-hundred-percent probability. When this data is extrapolated to humans, the figure for lethal lung burden of plutonium comes out to about 27 micrograms."

          IEER: Health Effects of Plutonium

          Arjun Makhijani [1997]

          Ok, so the widely used number of 1 microgram seems to be incorrect and rather exaggerated, I should have double checked it before posting. But we can split hairs all we want, the fact remains that plutonium is one hell of a nasty element, especially Pu-239 & 240 which are the main isotopes present in MOX fuel. If, as seems to be the case, fuel rods containing MOX fuel have melted in the core of reactor #3 some Pu will have been released along with the steam. Sadly, the very real health effects of this release are completely unaffected by your attempts to deny them.

          Incidentally, at least according to Makhijani, the study you mention has some very serious flaws.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lolwut

      Forgive me for not giving a tuppenny shit what some German lawyer thinks about what's going to happen in a nuclear power station on the other side of the world.

    5. Hermes Conran
      Coat

      "No credible authority thinks they're in any immediate danger"

      My mistake Andydaws, full radiation suits must be a northern japanese fashion at the moment.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        @ Hermes...

        ... when I go out on rallies, I am expected to wear a minimum level of safety equipment. Thus, by your argument, fireproof clothes and helmets prove that there is a clear and present danger. To the contrary, I am in no immediate danger of harm, but the safety equipment is mandated just in case something does go wrong. It also helps one to focus on the risks that might occur.

    6. J 3
      Happy

      Heh...

      I suggested that after the last article, but it got blocked... (will I get YOU blocked now?)

    7. JonHendry

      About that MIT paper

      Andydaws wrote: "in fact, the paper you complain about has been picked up by the MIT nuclear engineering department, and is now being recommended on thier blog site"

      No. They rewrote it dramatically, without noting their changes, and even state that the disagreed with the original author's title.

      They basically reused the structure and supportable basic facts, but discarded many of the original author's claims and conclusions.

  32. Andydaws

    Come on Gettin

    Read Lewis' article, Gettin Sadda. One's about whether melted fuel would breach the reactor pressure vessel.

    The reactor 2 PV is intact - the damage is too the containment. One's designed for 80-100 atmospheres pressure. One for 3

    One thing to note, about the decay heat as discussed by Lewis. BWRs like the ones at Fukushima have to be shut down every 2 years or so for refuelling. When they are, they're depressurised, and the reactor cap unbolted and removed.

    So, I think we're all agree that that wouldn't be happening if there was a significant heat removal problem - the sort of thing that needed the reactor being kept pressurised...

    That's usually about 7 days after shutdown. You still need to circulate water, but it's not problematic, by that stage, to just keep adequate cooling with an open pool.

    No-one's about to be opening up these reactors for a year or two - but we're in a different place, in terms of a cooling problem compared to the first few days after the reactors scrammed.

  33. Andy J Poulton
    Flame

    Despite the scaremongering......

    Although this is a disaster on a gargantuan scale, there can be no denying that there is also no denying that we [in the UK] are deep in the mire with regards to the ole 240v

    We have to close coal fired stations despite sitting on coal because the EU tells us to, wind power is clearly destined for a supporting role [what happens when the wind does not blow], wave power is a little slow in producing commercial quantities of power, tidal power ....what happened to all those barrages?

    Solar power - the sun kicks enough out and does not "stop", unlike wind, although a cloudy day poses a problem.

    Gas - similar problem to coal really so where does that leave us?

    IMHO it's nuclear or start turning the lights out and the problem will be exacerbated as electric cars become more popular - after all, all that happens is that the CO2 problem moves from car exhaust to power generator - and we won't have enough leccy unless something is done and nuclear just fits the bill nicely just don't build it on a major fault.

    And, we have yet to experience any casualties from this incident, there may be some in the long term but I bet they will be low in number compared to the losses caused by the Tsunami and will be small compared to deaths through airline crashes. After all, when a plane crashes, no one suggests we should stop flying [apart from an occasional green], 3,500 [approx] people die on UK roads EVERY YEAR - but I don't hear too much of a clamour in relation to banning cars.

    Let's get real, STUFF HAPPENS. Plan and manage to mitigate risk but let's not cut off our noses to spite our faces, after all, if we do, we'll all be huddling around camp fires to cook our food and we'll sleep when the sun does and rise when the sun does

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NEARLY well done.

    I nearly stopped bothering with the article when I reached the author's name, but I elected to carry on and risk it. And instead of reading another partisan piece of non-journalism, I was rewarded with a half-decently accurate and informative piece (At least given recent journalistic standards).

    'Wow', I thought: 'Lewis has learned his lesson. 'He might have actually become a better journalist because of the the fall-out (no pun intended) caused by his last piece.'

    Shame he stuffed it up on the last line.

    I'm not sure if he's trying to be trite about a reactor accident, or if he just likes using El Reg as some kind of personal soap-box to force his opinion upon the rest of us, or if he's just an embarrassingly bad journalist.

  35. dotdavid
    Pint

    Thick skin

    I can't believe what a thick skin you have Lewis ;-)

    El Reg certainly doesn't shy away from contraversial topics - and a good thing too, because coverage from the BBC and other sources has been pretty poor. It's why I come here.

    Pint because you all deserve one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Nope

      Campfires won't be allowed for the risk of burning yourself.

      Food, risk of food poisoning, and risk of injury while farming.

      And as for rising when the sun does, well, we won't have sun cream, I guess, so you can forget that too.

      Sarcasm aside, I agree with everything you just said.

      On another note, I'd like to say I think some of the people commenting are being to hard on the author. I agree with much of what he has to say. There is some bias, but there is bias everywhere. Deal with it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cold calculations

      To me at least, the last line of the article seemed accurate. The nuclear power industry is not the most dangerous of today's technologies.

      Commercial aviation is another example of a technology where the possibilities for, and results of, accidents are horrific but on the whole the safety record is not horrific.

    3. Beanzy
      Headmaster

      Pedant post for AJP

      "are deep in the mire with regards to the ole 240v"

      indeed we are....... we stopped rating it at 240V a decade ago it's 220V or 400V for most LV supplies in the UK.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    engineering triumph -- best troll EVER!

    All cooling efforts suspended. Radiation levels immediately hazardous to human life. Two or three reactors acknowledged to have melted down. Engineering triumph indeed.

    Whether or not wide swaths of the japanese countryside become as uninhabitable as the area surrounding Chernobyl, I think we can safely (safely? funny word) call this a complete failure of design and implementation. Lewis Page, admit you were wrong.

    Mr Page is also a global warming denier, I believe. Hope he's more right about that than about the engineering triumph at fukushima.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Random thoughts

    The nuclear 'disaster' is certainly distracting the media from the vastly larger, vastly more important, tragedy of the 20,000 (?) killed by the tsunami. When one considers the long term implications of this tsunami, it's going to have significant impacts on Japan and the world.

    How many workers each year fall to their death from wind turbines?

    How many millenia will it take for nuclear energy to catch up to the 7- or 8-figure total death toll caused by dams bursting over the years?

    Why don't we (humanity) stop renewing nuclear plant licenses once the design of the facility is stale compared to state-of-the-art? Maybe 20 years max, then force the operators to build a new plant with more modern safety features. It's difficult to improve 'the fleet' if the oldest 'ships' are not retired; especially when considering that the worst ones are, well, the worst ones. It's a bit like trying to clean the air when people continue to drive their old cars. Eventually you must scrap the old cars if you wish to make any actual improvement in air quality. Same with reactor safety. Improve the design AND RETIRE THE OLD ONES.

    1. zooooooom
      FAIL

      @AC @ 160:01

      "Why don't we stop renewing licenses when...."

      Easy. Nuclear is already so un cost effective, that increasing the decommisioning cycle is contrary to the aims of those in the game - which isn't to save lives, its to persuade a skeptical investment community that they want to get their hands dirty (shouldn't that be 'hot' - ed) with nuclear.

  38. hugo tyson
    Flame

    Media bias

    IMHO there are 2 reasons the media is reporting on the nuclear plants:

    a) it has the word "nuclear" in it - dumb people love to be scared of that word

    b) it is the only part of the current Japan crisis where

    i) anything much is actually changing on short timescale - hour by hour

    ii) and there's a chance it might change for the worse which makes a good story

    ....all of which sell papers and get people to watch (so sell adverts).

    If there were no nuclear plant story the media would be very bored with the plain 'quake and tsunami cleanup efforts, don't you think? Even though 10's of 1000's of people have been killed, injured, rendered paupers and homeless, in the rest of the country, and if they're unlucky and there's an outbreak of disease, it could go way beyond that? But it's not good TV....

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the subject of balance

    Nuclear power does seem to be getting a bashing here even though, as stated, this plant has withstood two natural disasters in quick succession.

    It doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that if it had been a hydroelectric dam in the path of the tsunami, and right near an earthquake's epicentre, that could have caused a disaster of its own (and far more serious than anything that's happened at this nuclear plant).

    When that has happened in the past there hasn't been this same hysterical response. Where were the news bulletins claiming that hydroelectric power is just too dangerous?

    1. squilookle
      Unhappy

      Actually...

      "It doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that if it had been a hydroelectric dam in the path of the tsunami, and right near an earthquake's epicentre, that could have caused a disaster of its own (and far more serious than anything that's happened at this nuclear plant)."

      From the BBC:

      "A dam burst in north-eastern Fukushima prefecture, sweeping away homes, Kyodo news agency reports"

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598

    2. Bilby

      @ hugo tyson

      "If there were no nuclear plant story the media would be very bored with the plain 'quake and tsunami cleanup efforts, don't you think?"

      I presume the cleanup hasn't finished in Christchurch, but the news media here in Australia have apparently forgotten all about their earthquake. Perhaps NZ should have invested in a couple of nuclear power stations to keep the media spotlight on their recovery effort.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Not quite as awful as the last article, still dire

    Lewis's first article was awful, something that can haunt him for ages. "no risk of containment breach", shows nuclear power is safe. No we have containment breaches in >1 reactor and nuclear power is safe because many of the isotopes are of inert gases or they'll decay. Missing the point that the energy company isn't disclosing what's coming out, so you can't make any conclusions about whether these are short lived or long lived.

    FWIW, I've worked in places with dose badges, not scared witless by the thought of alpha particles (high intensity neutron fluxes, those are bad...). What this disaster does show to me is that the economics of nuclear power are even weaker than before

    * this failure has shown that the ops teams make mistakes because failures are so rare nobody knows how to handle it.

    * the amount you'll need to spend to make reactors safe has just gone up, and all that is upfront capex, expected to pay off over decades.

    * the costs of decommissioning these boxes has just gone up.

    * someone will have to pay the cleanup costs.

    * building reactors with better containment means more steel and concrete, CO2 footprint increases.

    companies' liabilities stop at their stock market value, after that they just declare bankruptcy and walk away. We taxpayers end up footing the bill instead.

    Nobody worries about living 10 miles from a wind turbine.

    North africa is waiting for someone to invest the money to do large scale solar power. The oil countries have lived in denial here (no global warming, no limits to oil), but maybe with the Arab Spring we can have a better story here. But if we waste our spare cash (of which we don't have any, if you haven't noticed) on nuclear reactors, we don't get that opportunity.

  41. Leona A
    FAIL

    difference is

    this was Avoidable, where as an earthquake and / or Tsunami isn't. The Fukushima disaster IS man made. Born out of cost cutting and man's arrogance.

    1. mmiied

      avoidable how?

      the disal pumps failed because of the tusnami the backups could not be gottent here in time bacsue of the damage form the quake and the tsunami

      if you are sugesting that it was aviodable because we shouldhave never build it in the first place then all the deaths caused by falling houses broken bridges and cars thrown about are "avoidable"

  42. SteveinSeattle
    Gates Halo

    SteveinSeattle

    Reading today's article makes me realize what an "ignorant fool" a prior author was. Oh, it was Lewis! To refresh everyone's recollection, this is what Lewis's article from the other day had to say about the trivial situation in Japan. (BTW, I am not necessarily opposed to nuclear energy in concept but that is like saying you are not opposed to communism in concept. I have never seen it work. Its power company liars and deceivers and their shills in the scientific community that cause me concern. As one former NRC member (I think) said the other day, her long experience with scientists in the nuclear industry convinced her they are just too optimistic about everything, costs, time frame and risks. That is not science.)

    "So to sum up: all plants are now well on their way to a cold shutdown. At no time have their operators come even close to running out of options. No core has melted down and come up against the final defensive barriers: the safety systems did not come even close to failing, despite being tested far beyond what they had been designed to take. One person has sustained a small dose of radiation which need cause him no concern.

    The whole sequence of events is a ringing endorsement for nuclear power safety. If this – basically nothing – is what happens when decades-old systems are pushed five times and then some beyond their design limits, new plants much safer yet would be able to resist an asteroid strike without problems.

    But you wouldn't know that from looking at the mainstream media. Ignorant fools are suggesting on every hand that Japan's problems actually mean fresh obstacles in the way of new nuclear plants here in the UK, Europe and the US."

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hearsay

    Working with someone whose son is in the US military and does nuclear related stuff and was sat next to him when he got texted that US military now consider the radiation levels in Japan to be top secret. Make of that what you will but it didn't install me with a great deal of confidence.

  44. Sir Smokesalot
    Thumb Up

    so Nuclear bad....could be a damn sight worse....

    I see a lot of moaning about the article which personally I think was well written if bias to the nuclear argument. As a Pro-nuclear supporter I welcomed the positive spin on this painful chapter in Japans history which is a huge change from the doom sayers on BBC et all.

    I would simply like to ask all those quick to damn Nuclear as a power source / method for generating electricity : Whats the alternative....cover ever square inch of our great land in wind farms that are proving less than effective and nothing but a cash cow for those in power over the last decade. Or do we continue to burn fossil fuels that while not in our (well my lifetime I hope) lifetime will dwindle to nothing.

    If we had spent a fraction of what has been pissed up the wall by the greenies on wind farms on the like over the last 20 years perfecting and developing nuclear power I suggest we would be in a far better position to meet our energy demands for the future than we are now.

    1. Chemist

      That seems highly suspect

      You can't keep radiation levels a secret !

      All sorts of people will be measuring, near and far. After Chernobyl, for example, the pharmaceutical research site I worked at in England ( >2000km away) spotted the abnormal levels very quickly because they were concentrated on ventilation filters. It's so easy to detect extremely low levels of ionizing radiation

    2. vaporland

      there, fixed that for you

      "If money provided to the nuclear power industry over the last 60 years in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, insurance liability and other 'hidden' costs had been directed towards alternative energy development, we WOULD be in a far better position to meet our energy demands for the future than we are now."

      Ok all you free market folks, here's your chance. Let's remove all government subsidies and secondary insurance liability borne by taxpayers worldwide on fossil, nuclear, solar and wind power development.

      Let's have REAL FREE MARKET competition, not the corporate welfare supporting GE, ABB, EXXON, et al in their efforts to push dirty energy (short term profitable, long term major environmental and societal liability).

      Commercial nuclear power has had more than 50 years to prove itself, but it cannot survive in the free market without billion dollar subsidies. This is money better spent elsewhere. We've been told for 50 years that solar is 'the future'. If nuclear had not gobbled up all of the research interest / dollars, solar would be viable today.

      Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy, stated that boiling water reactors were great for submarines, but for commercial power generation, not so much...

      1. A J Stiles
        Alert

        What you're missing

        Fossil fuels are, to all intents and purposes, invisibly subsidised.

        The invisible subsidy being that we are using them up faster than they are being made.

        Oil is going to run out. And before that happens, its cost will outstrip that of even unsubsidised nuclear power. We are going to have to build non-fossil fuel plants, of whatever flavour, eventually. That is going to require a significant energy investment -- and there is the distinct possibility that there won't even be enough left to do that. In which case, we're in big trouble.

        Analogy: Orphaned as a teenager, you have become accustomed to living from your inheritance, trying to forget that it would not last forever and you would eventually have to get a job. One day your bank statement arrives, and you discover that you have spent so much of it that now you can't even afford a new suit for the interview .....

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    on the subject of misunderstood...

    At least Lewis isn't posting articles like the Guardian yesterday, who captioned their pic of a Geiger counter with scary interpretations, whilst failing to notice it was calibrated in microSieverts not milliSieverts. Even then, the reading was low.

    For those of us who have read and understood nuclear power and radiological protection in the proper documents (and I don't mean newspaper pull-out sections, I mean the ones with CEGB, BNFL and even MoD written on the covers), Lewis is just about the only balanced view out there right now. Keep it up.

    1. Lomax
      Thumb Down

      MOX Fuel

      Yet he completely fails to mention the fact that reactor #3 was burning plutonium based MOX fuel, which now appears to have breached the containment vessel. Sadly, it would seem that this type of fuel was also used in reactor #4, and this fuel is now burning up in the open fuel storage pool. I would recommend Lewis, yourself and others who fail to grasp the significance of the presence of PU-239 in the fuel at this site to do your homework instead of attempting to patronise the rest of us with your very limited understanding. Oh and for the record, I am and remain pro-nuclear - but this is clearly a very serious incident by any measurement.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Point missed

      Seriously, this is so missing the point. Whether Lewis is right or wrong here regarding how bad this turns out is not the issue. The point is surely that it's all too premature. His tone has already shifted down a gear - admission enough that he realises he had missed the mark with his first article. This one smacks so much of trying to claw back some credibility.

      Which is all rather sad... the central point - that much of the media is over-stating the doom and gloom - is one worth making. But his choice of how he made it has done a reasonable argument no favours.

      It is simply too soon to be judging anything right now. Making political points or using this as an opportunity to spout long-held prejudices - right or wrong - is disrespectful.

  46. mark 58
    FAIL

    Sorry - you are wrong on this...

    Lewis,

    I look forward to you articles - but you really do have this wrong. Most of the workers left at the plant will die from raditaion effects in the next ten years or so. You are trying to use your knowledge to underplay a situation that steadily gets worse by the minute, (as the saying goes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing).

    Please go back to destorying the armed forces upper brass and decision makers as you are actually very good at that.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @mark 58

      "Most of the workers left at the plant will die from raditaion effects in the next ten years or so. "

      Assumes facts not in evidence. Post proof or retract.

      Unless "raditaion effects" are something deadly I've never heard of, of course ... In which case, you can go back to enjoying the "destorying[1] of the armed forces upper brass" & etc.

      Honestly ... Do the anti-science, so-called "green" folks have even half a clue as to how ignorant they come off in this kind of thread? It's absolutely mind boggling ... Worse than watching the train-wreck that the International news is displaying with their completely ignorant, "let's churn up the sheeple" take on a relatively minor radiation leak.

      Seriously ... This thing is contained. It's not going to get into the Jet Stream. What little radiation might be released will be dropped/washed into the water of the Pacific Ocean (which is rather large). It'll mix with the NATURAL radioactive stuff that is washed into said ocean by all the creeks, streams & rivers that constantly erode natural radioactive material, and be lost in the already present PPT ... You won't even see a statistical blip in radioactivity in sea-salt production around the Pacific Rim[2].

      [1] You mean my 7 × 5½ inch "Commando" comics in the early '70s were not real, honest to gawd/ess true stories of how the Brits always won, everywhere, in every battle? I'm crushed! Crushed, I tell you!

      [2] San Francisco ElReg Office: For fun and enlightenment, take a Geiger Counter to the Salt Pile in the Port of Redwood City ... And we EAT that stuff![3] ;-)

      [3] I went to purchase some kombu to make dashi (the wife wanted some soup, and my pantry was bare, which is rare for me ...). Both Whole Foods & Sonoma Market are completely sold out of anything that might, possibly, contain iodine. People are actually consuming large quantities of fucking TABLE SALT to get iodine into their system! Ignorance is rampant ... and we're STILL making cuts in the education budget? Sometimes I despair ...

    2. Munchausen's proxy

      Again, citation needed

      "...but you really do have this wrong. Most of the workers left at the plant will die from raditaion effects in the next ten years or so."

      Why do you think so?

  47. Sean O'Connor 1

    Title

    If it turns out that Lewis was right after all could all the people who've been screaming at him here please leave The Reg and never come back? Just leave this site for people who want a more sane fact based slant and not the hysteria we're getting elsewhere.

    Superb articles Lewis, please keep them coming and ignore the critics.

    1. byrresheim
      Happy

      Ahem

      Please compare the factual content of his first article with the facts known and proven two days later. Mr. Page made statements that _could_not_ be made in good faith at that point in time by someone with even superficial knowledge of the technical problems.

      Small wonder he now faces criticism questioning either his good faith (very first post of this thread, complete with loss of stiff upper lip by el Reg) or (most other critics) his competence.

      Perhaps you take the effort of just thoroughly reading and comparing Mr. Page's articles? Half an hour w/Wikipedia would do you no harm either, you might even take the time to look up David Lindorff's scathing article - and not to miss out on googling for the engineers who constructed the thing and resigned from GE - they give very interesting reasons for resigning.

      As far as I am concerned, I am looking forward to Mr. Page's article about those engineers and their story - up to now, I always had the impression that he was pretty good at debunking engineering boondoggles, so hopefully he finds back to his usual form?

  48. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    and now for something totally different ...

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2006/4/chernobylhealthreport.pdf

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...industry shill or not...

    Personally, I disagree with much of the fairly calm/pro-nuclear comments and surprised at the level of thumbs-up in support of them on these threads.

    The author has certainly been guilty of some inaccuracies that support his position but severely damage his credibility -

    For example:

    "radioactive isotopes of caesium and iodine are created during normal running. They have short half-lives and decay to insignificant levels within days of a shutdown".

    Caesium-137 has a half-life of 30-odd years making particles of it dangerous for a few hundred years anyway (~300 if you're UK government, 600 for more independent "experts")

    Or, his assertion that only a handful of people were killed by the Chernobyl disaster.

    It's just not measurable; It's not like cancer turns up wearing a sign saying "made in Chernobyl" is it?

    But there is a fair chance that the extremely high proportion of the 100,000s of Liquidators who are now dead died as a result of their sacrifice.

    If we are to believe that this multi-reactor incident poses no major threat then we have to believe that

    * Leaky reactor pressure vessels can still contain almost all radioactive material (hmmmm...convince me)

    and that

    * the most dangerous isotopes that probably have leaked and continue to leak e.g. Plutonium, Uranium, Caesium-137, Strontium-90, will not travel far (no succour if you live in North-East Japan). This is highly dependant on wind patterns and how high into the atmosphere they get. If they get higher up they could be carried a helluva long way.

    and

    * believe what (all) governments and the notoriously deceptive nuclear industry are telling us. If you're that credulous you probably think Vista was a classy operating system...

    Mind you there's so much Caesium-137 all over the northern hemisphere from the atmospheric weapons testing that we probably shouldn't eat anything anyway.

  50. Lomax
    Alert

    Chernobyl

    There are a lot of people here who seem to be convinced that no deaths occurred as a consequence of the Chernobyl meltdown - this is FALSE. Seventy people at the plant were killed as a direct consequence of the accident. Furthermore, the latest UNSCEAR reports suggest that "up to 2002, about 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident, and more cases are to be expected during the next decades". The five-year survival rate of thyroid cancer is 96%, which would mean 160 additional deaths. This would indicate total deaths caused by the accident to be well in excess of 200 - quite contrary to the FALSE claims made by Lewis and others.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      So...

      ... how is this worse than those who think thousands died? To be honest (and I'm happy to regarded as callous), 200-300 deaths is actually not that bad, and demonstrates that the anti-nuclear lobby is just plain hysterical.

  51. Mike VandeVelde
    Megaphone

    a leg to stand on

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKhEw7nD9C4

    CONTAINMENT CAN NOT BE BREACHED! NUCLEAR IS PERFECTLY SAFE! YOUD KNOW IT IF YOU WERENT THICK! IT'S JUST A MINOR PROBLEM! ERRR, A SERIES OF MINOR PROBLEMS! NO DANGER OF RADIATION! ERRR, RADIATION IS HARDLY HARMFUL ANYWAY! YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND IF YOU WERE CAPABLE! CHERNOBYL NEVER HURT NOBODY! NUCLEAR IS PERFECTLY SAFE!

  52. Jemma Silver badge
    Badgers

    I said this before, but it bears saying again....

    ::For the attention of Greenpeacetards and those people whose idea of research is somewhere to the left of guesswork...

    Fact 1 : The systems in the Japanese reactors are 40 years old.

    Fact 2 : They pre-date 3 Mile Island, so they have aux systems that run on external power - either electrical power or diesel aux generators are fitted.

    Fact 3 : The aux cooling failover procedure didn't - hardly surprising considering large scale diesel engines don't like a mouth full of sea water and assorted houses turned into matchwood, ditto with cooling water intakes. Even train sized diesel engines have to be blown through and vented before they are started to make sure there is not water in the cylinders... if there is, and you start the engine - say goodbye to it - bent cranks and valves and god knows what else will result. Not to mention these engines had a limited fuel supply.

    The primary safety systems WORKED, so please stop wingeing, because if they hadnt - half of America (depending on the wind direction, and assuming containment failed) would be enjoying luminous cow-tipping as the new national pastime. The 'shake sensors' worked perfectly - I don't want to think about what would have happened in a place that doesn't have these systems in place.

    All the reactors scrammed successfully - they all shut down - its the auxiliary systems that failed to maintain cooling after the event, so as such the reactors, and remember these things are 40 years old, older than alot of houses - hospitals and other buildings.

    Not to mention the fact that after being hit by a massive earthquake (with the equivalent energy of 485 megatonnes) - they got a faceful of saltwater - a 20ft wave travelling at upwards of 15-30mph - full of debris - a situation that 40 years ago was not being designed into buildings - and even now is something we havent learned to control, and you begin to realise that these things performed far over their survival envelopes. Bear in mind that the majority of the scrammed reactors are still safe.

    As to the nuclear power plainchant wingeing - 99.99999999% of the time nuclear power is safe and clean. It is cleaner, albeit more expensive, than virtually all other forms of energy. The ones that are cleaner have a power/area ratio that is massively poorer - bar liquid salt solar towers.. that cant really be built in temperate zones since their output would be so variable and would need some sort of backups anyway. This is assuming that the much safer Thorium based reactors don't come on stream as they are expected to..

    In all the accidents that are well known the problems have either been human error, design faults (that in newer kit have been solved to a large extent) or a bloody great earthquake plus a side order of tsunami suburb salad...

    I'd like you to think for a second - as to what would happen to a nuclear rich country like France if the same thing happened there - an 8.9 quake in the middle of the channel and then a tsunami (of probably a lesser extent).... a moderate hydrogen explosion really isnt in it, in that situation.

    Do we need to use so much electricity - no we don't - converting all bulbs to LED - as I have done at home saves at least 80% of the lighting power requirement - yes, the bulbs are more expensive... but on the other hand they last longer. It takes electrical power to make petrol for example - so why don't we stop buggering about with Prii - and the government to fit sump/transmission heaters to all vehicles on the road and all new production... a 1995 Renault Safrane 2.2 Auto without heating 21/22mpg average for short journeys... plug the car in for 30/45 minutes before a journey 26.1mpg... which will probably improve if I fit a transmission heater as well, AD4 transmissions don't like the cold, which increases transmission losses and therefore further lowers efficiency. Oh yeah, and even running both of those for 45 minutes costs you less than 4p - depending on your energy prices. It saves you a lot more at the pump.

    There are all sorts of things we can do - but half of us don't know that we can do it - we look at the cost of LED bulbs and cringe - but we don't realise that these bulbs last much longer (some of the ones I have are still working after 3 years!). Its possible to get assistance to fit up solar systems, both PV/PH, to your home, and make money exporting money back to the grid...

    Get a free examination of your home or company premises - and look into assistance for the required changes.

    The local police station in my town - has a great big efficiency indicator on the wall - yet all the bulbs in the lights are conventional, energy wasting bulbs. The police complain about their problems with money... swapping over the bulbs alone (that are generally always on) saves around 80% of lighting energy use... less 'lectric, more money to spend on sitting waiting for speeders...

    As a closing argument - it says a lot when an ex director of a environmental organisation on the scale of greenpeace - is happy to sit on TV and admit to the fact that the safest type of power generation and that which most supports the environment... is Nuclear Power.

    P.S. Is it just me, or isnt it humerous to listen to the US media yapping about the 'nuclear armageddon that isnt' without pointing out the fact that the last time Japan had a nuclear problem it involved 2 hot-rodded B29's....

    1. Lomax
      Happy

      Hahaha

      You're funny.

    2. proto-robbie
      Pirate

      So, no change for forty years?

      A nuclear station isn't a static entity after construction, at least not in this country. Safety is, or should be, the prime consideration, and the overall requirement was (when I worked there) for one fail to danger in 10,000 years.

      So, it doesn't matter how much money can be saved by x, y or z; if they can't make the safety case they don't go in. Alternatively, if they enhance efficiency and safety, they most likely will.

      So, these Japanese reactors:

      a) Are too close together

      b) All have the same conceptual flaws

      c) Are too near the sea, at least vertically

      d) Can't power themselves when the grid fails

      e) Have insufficient, vulnerable backup, after thirty years opportunity to improve it

      f) Have no one willing or able to say it wasn't good enough, nationally or internationally

      This, although massive, was not, I suspect, a 1 in 10,000 year event. The likelihood of different scenarios obviously varies from country to country, but this was not unexpected in Japan, and should not have caused this appalling damage. That means, I think, that the safety case was not accurately established, and/or not complied with.

  53. a_mu
    Stop

    loss of faith

    But we have been promised that nuclear is safe, all these inter locked safety systems,

    and an easily foreseeable natural event has killed how many reactors ?

    Ok, by luck not design, we might be relatively safe,

    but we were promised these were safe by design !

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @zoom

    "Nuclear is already so un cost effective..."

    Well... cleaning up these sorts of messes isn't going to be cheap.

    It just strikes me that we may have settled on a 'local optimum' of cost and safety. So we over-design the nuke plants to last 40 years, but the design and safety concepts are obviously extremely stale at 20 years. Perhaps a more 'globally-optimal' solution is available if we design nuke plants to be forcibly life-cycled in twenty or so years. Then they could be built better, faster, cheaper, AND probably safer.

    1. byrresheim

      Your Idea is Perfect, but

      in practice that possibly results in a completely new variant of RBMK-1000 - a reactor type that definitely was not "over-designed".

  55. Relgoshan
    Go

    FOR SCIENCE!!

    Bearing that YES, this earthquake was uprated to a 9.0, and YES it occurred only a dozen miles underground....perhaps we ought to recall that it did not occur a dozen miles directly beneath this facility. It is my feeling that Fukushima's Big One and Big Two (that's what Dai-ichi and Dai-ni mean) did not experience vibration at five times their limit, but rather at almost exactly their design limit. If TEPCO says that readings taken at the site reflect a vibration of five times design capacity, that's great! But my concern would then be that Japanese nuclear plants should have a slightly higher design capacity in the future.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Correction

      "Big One and Big Two that's what Dai-ichi and Dai-ni mean"

      No, it just means Number 1 and Number 2.

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      But...

      ... no-one has ever suggested that no lessons should be learned. Of course they should, but that doesn't mean that nuclear should be abandoned.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Wot about the workers - part 2

    Maybe the Emperor could find it in his time to invite the workers and their families (what might be left of each) and emergency workers and families to tea at palace when this situation has calmed down a bit?

    A simple tea: one of gratitude, respect, empathies across losses and a lifetime event to cater for a lifetime event?

    (I reckon they should all be offered early retirement without losses and bonus equivalent to the nature of the duties they chose to discharge and responsibilities they chose to commit to).

    Even a cherry blossom has to bloom?

  57. daryanx
    FAIL

    You didn't by chance work for the Iraqqi gov in 2003.....?

    Reading this article, as I watch TV footage of a (series) of smouldering heaps of reactors being doused by Helicopter, I'm reminded, firstly of the same thing post Chyernobl, but also of that bloke during the Iraq war, you remember, the guy giving a press conference assuring everyone there were no Americans in the city (while we could clearly hear the gunfire of them in the background) and that in fact the US army were commiting suicde at the gates to Bagdad.....

    I'm also reminded of the officials mid-way through TMI declaring the reactor "stable"....in much the same way a runaway train is "stable" because it hasn't fallen off the tracks yet......

    ....What pro-nuke cheerleaders need to realise is that the reason why the public turned against nuclear power post TMI was due to the fact that the rose tinted glasses wearing pro-nuke supporters were telling them one thing, they're own eyes told them a different story, and they ceased to trust the nuclear industry.

    The authors of articles such as this are doing the industry no favours, but merely adding fuel to the flames...And from the looks of these TV pictures, we've enough of those!

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Wot about the workers mate?

    1 - I suppose lots of the nuclear plant workers lived locally or maybe even in a beautifully historic fishing village just along the coast from the plant (as in The Plant).

    Q: how did they summon the strength, energy and stamina to report to work or to stay at work knowing the extent of damage and possible effect on their own homes, families and domestic situations?

    2 - were access to the plant made difficult how did shift rotations take place and did onshift workers put in additional hours in order to meet the crisis?

    3 - here in the UK we can expect disruption to services should the snow be of the wrong type (airports) or leaves on the tracks be the wrong type (trains) or some other trivially minimal thing.

    Yet at the Plant and surrounded by devastation of earthquake of stunning magnitude and further devastation of tsunami of even greater magnitude with access/ingress/exit the Plant made nigh on impossible these devoted souls appear to have stuck to their duties and responsibilities

    4 - the motivation to do so when some/most/all monitoring equipment at an active nuclear plant went skatty and yet to continue ...

    Let's here it for the workers at the plant el Reg.

    Not the desk bound at head office or regional office but those onsite taking risk and putting themselves in way of harms and hurts to make the place safe again after a huge sideswipe by nature and natural events. And I guess some of those workers will have experienced losses and pain in events outside of the plant too.

    Maybe it would be good for someone to contact human resources at the plant (yes, I know ... ) and ask for the workers story to be made, heard and viewed?

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Seriously ...

      ... I don't think the workers would want it. They are simply doing their duty - they probably do not want individual recognition or praise.

  59. vaporland

    killian is lying to you

    Corporations profiting from nuclear power development are lying to you. Find and read the book WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT (http://www.amazon.com/Almost-Lost-Detroit-John-Fuller/dp/0345252667) - this book was published in 1974 and details the history of civilian nuclear industry accidents worldwide up to that point in time.

    The book makes it clear that everyone in the nuclear power has 'good intentions', but they are blinded by science and profit, and ignore substantial risks again and again.

    Did you know that a reactor (Enrico Fermi I) melted down in Detroit in the 70s, and came within seconds of breaching the containment? Did you know that another reactor caught fire in 1957 (Windscale I) and burned for days, spewing radioactivity across the UK countryside?

    This stuff is NOT SAFE, UNFORGIVING OF THE SMALLEST ERROR, and the people promoting its use are LYING TO YOU... (and perhaps themselves as wel...)

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Yessss...

      ...and the CIA were responsible for the Twin Towers incident.

  60. TheRealRoland
    Headmaster

    Coverage in US vs Europe

    What I'm really disappointed at:

    * Coverage of the nuclear disaster in the US is at the level of "Should we start buying iodine tablets? Maybe, maybe not" [Glenn Beck] -- "This is what a geiger counter looks like, and here's a breathing mask everyone should have in their home" [NBC Morning show]

    * In the frenzy of trying to fit in news between commercial breaks, even the Surgeon General in the US got a bit frazzled, was not clear enough in her comments, and viewers were already off to the stores to start buying and taking iodine pills.

    * News here is seen as entertainment; "Are we all gonna die? We'll know more after this break" -- or along the same lines in CBS national evening news.

    * The French Agency is consistently upgrading the severity of this incident -- and is constantly being quoted / mentioned on the US TV. However, looking at news coverage in the UK, Germany and NL, it's not nearly as 'ohmygodwereallgonnadie' as here in the US. I wonder why that is.

    * All footage shown on TV is repeats -- sometimes taken (looks like) during a tour of a nuclear power plant -- nowhere do you see a time stamp clearly displayed somewhere on screen, to show that the footage has any relevance to what's being discussed.

    In other words -- the media, in their 24/7 blood thirst for viewers, is whipping up enough viewership to last us a life time. And has to come up with more 'armageddon' like stuff to keep the viewers from getting bored again.

    I think Lewis' articles provide us with a concise overview of what's (probably) really happening, what probably causes are, and what possible outcomes would be.

    I have to come across any other website to provide me this detailed information. Yeah, snippets on ARD.de, news.bbc.co.uk, and some Dutch websites.

    And what's even worse? Nobody here in the US is talking about the humanitarian disaster currently taking place in Japan -- it was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, remember?

    Yeah, we're seeing a lot of relieved parents from students who came back from Japan. Always nice 'aaaawh' footage right before Entertainment Weekly, etc.

    Keep these articles coming.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    Picture of nuclear plant is deceiving

    this is how it looks like today:

    http://files.newsnetz.ch/bildlegende/36184/453376_pic_970x641.jpg

    Doesn't look a lot better than Chernobyl, does it?

    1. Steven Jones

      @AC

      Well it's not very pretty, but it's still nothing like as bad as Chernobyl - with the pictures from that disaster you were looking straight down into the core which was exposed to the atmosphere with a graphite fire throwing a huge plume of radioactive material into the atmosphere. Graphite fires are difficult to extinguish, as was found in the 1957 at Windscale. It's not clear if the amount of radioactivity emitted has yet reached the levels of that earlier incident (helped by the winds blowing contamination away from Japan at the moment).

      What you are seeing here is the cladding blown off the building holding the containment vessel, not the actual cores themselves. If this can be brought under control then the contamination will be much more localised than at Chernbobyl where there is a 30km exclusion zone to this day. It's difficult to see a mechanism by which this could become anything like Chernobyl, although events have not played out yet.

      The biggest question is going to be over the costs of increased safety standards that will no doubt be demanded in many countries as a price for continued use of nuclear power. There is clearly a case for such a review - the Japanese installation has been found to be deficient, and I've no doubt there are others in seismically active areas which are also vulnerable.

      There is a further issue - it's not just vulnerability to natural disasters that has to be examined. Coastally located nuclear plant is also vulnerable to terrorist action. Given the events in Mumbai where a small group of terrorists came ashore and took over a large hotel, then it's quite conceivable that a small group of terrorists could be landed ashore in a small boat launched from a cargo ship (as appears to have happened in India). If such a group took over a nuclear power station that could be very nasty indeed if it was possible to disable cooling systems for a relatively short period of time. These things can be guarded against, but it costs money.

  62. Adam T
    Thumb Up

    Oil

    Far more dangerous than nuclear powerplants, and responsible for more death and evironmental ruin.

    Drilling accidents, transport accidents, corruption, war. Oil is pretty nasty stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Oil ...

      Add to the list

      Alcoholic beverages

      tobacco

      internal combustion engine and vehicles powered by it

      firearms

      hospitals (I understand many people die in hospitals)

      .

      .

      .

      Common factors: human beings, risks

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Safety

        If you want to be totally safe - be dead.

  63. Munchausen's proxy
    Grenade

    We're missing a great chance for sensationalism here

    Yes, yes, we seem to have the nuclear aspect covered, but shouldn't we be in full-on panic mode and shutting down every hydro-electric dam and tidal generator, based on the incredible, proven destruction and death wreaked by the moving water in this event?

    /beer, coat, troll, whatever

  64. gef05

    thank goodness

    So, everything is great and there's no cause for alarm. Super. Maybe I'll book that trip to Tokyo after all, seeing how it's all sunshine and smiles.

  65. cnapan

    These articles are refreshing because the other side of the argument needs stating

    Fear sells more than actual death.

    If hysteria and fear force the world to turn its back on the only form of power generation that has ANY chance of replacing TODAY the power stations that are turning our planet into tomorrow's hellhole, then who of you will own up to your share of responsibility for the people whose lands are flooded or whose crops fail because you didn't like nuclear power?

    It is largely to the benefit of nature that such a wide area of Chernobyl's surrounding area is closed off. If people were allowed to live there, then they would die of the more ordinary things, such as road accidents, smoking and lifestyle related disease and so on, just like the rest of us. They would not be walking around with two heads.

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/features/chernobyl-15/cherno-faq.shtml

    But this isn't a story. Neither is it a story that evil radiation doesn't always last for generations even if it does get out. The last thing people want to hear when they're foaming at the mouth is that lot of the radioactive stuff that gets out stops being radioactive minutes or hours later.

    Neither is it a story that despite being battered by on of the most severest earthquakes in recorded human history followed up by a tsunami that most of us can't even imagine, all but a few people have been exposed by anything approaching significant levels of radiation.

    What should be a story is the *actual* death of 10,000 or so people, and the destruction of the homes and livelihoods of millions more.

    What should be a story is how the world is being terrorised into falling back on building coal and gas power stations as the only alternative to 'unsafe' nuclear power.

    So, thank you to the author of these articles.

    I've donated some money to help these people rebuild their lives. Put aside the hysteria and get your credit card out!

    www.redcross.org.uk/JapanTsunami

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    safe ?

    ...... Radiation leak in reactor 3 rendering No4 unapproachable, and the nice TEPCO rep appears to be softening up the public for "re-criticality" accident amongst all the now overheating spent fuel in what was until the water boiled off, a cooling pond. Hey, how bad can it be....?

    The poor sods working this site on the ground, in the midst of what must be a scene of pure chaos post earthquake/tsunami and multiple explosions must be at the limits of human endurance right now.

    Not far from a routine refuelling operation ? My hairy arse !

  67. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Disappointing

    For all the extreme screaming (on both sides) I see just one AC comment that seems to be in touch with reality "Wot about the workers mate?".

    Thank you for that one bit of sanity.

  68. amanfromearth
    Flame

    And the news is

    from the BBC -- "US officials have concluded that the Japanese warnings have been insufficient, and that, deliberately or not, they have understated the potential threat of what is taking place inside the nuclear facility, according to the New York Times. Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, earlier said he believed that all the water in the spent fuel pool at reactor 4 had boiled dry, leaving fuel rods stored there exposed. "We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures," he told a Congressional committee."

  69. Todgers
    Stop

    Does this represent a retraction if the guff you posted on the 14th and 15th?

    Or is that not your style?

    It is indeed impressive how well the plants themselves survived the earthquake. But the strategy which lead to 2 further hydrogen explosions after the first was clearly flawed ( anyone else wonder why they didn't rip the roof off the buildings before filling them with an explosive gas mix? )

    What we now have is reactors that are NOT cold stopped ( as you proclaimed they were about to be on the 14th ) with all the control and monitoring blown to shit. Dropping water out of helicopters is tragically desperate and an indication of how far from stable the reactors are.

    There is no graphite core to burn here - this isn't the same as Chernobyl - you are right there. The number of people at risk is much smaller. But if you think the health risk are so trivial why don't you go write you next piece of techno- jingoism from the edge of the exclusion zone?

  70. byrresheim

    No Chernobyl indeed.

    It seems this is not going to be a second Chernobyl. It could however become even worse. You see, they had a very original idea in designing these reactors that makes a catastrophe possible even without breaches of the reactor containment proper.

    They put the spent-fuel-pools on top of the reactor. The spent fuel then is supposed to spend the rest of its life covered by cooling water. In case the spent fuel ever falls dry - because the water is not sufficiently cooled and evaporates or the pools leak, because the have been damaged by the earthquake or in one of the hydrogen explosions - and there is some danger of this happening in Japan right now - the casings of the fuel rod starts to burn.

    Thus, if things go wrong, the effect of Chernobyl might be attained by means of another mechanism.

    Quick lookup:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    the schematics are right at the top. You also will not have to look very far for explanations of the chemistry behind the hydrogen explosions.

    Let's just hope that this risc assessment does not become reality.

    1. Steven Jones

      Chernobyl comparison

      There would need to be a source for a major fire as well for this to be as bad as Chernobyl. At the latter location there was a huge explosion inside the core followed by an intense graphite fire throwing a hug radiopactive plume high into the air. There should not be the same souce of combustion in this type of reactor so the really heavy contamination will be more localised - also a low would depend on wind direction.

      The final results of this need careful evaluation when all the dust, metaphorically, and literally settles. The scenario that we've seen must come close to worst case - at least for this type of reactor.

  71. TakeTheSkyRoad
    Grenade

    As a race we're in such a state...

    It's depressing it really is... some many people who know so little have vast infulence over the path we take. The sooner we get off this pressure cooker of a planet the better in my opinion.

    We just don't trust experts (eg. scientists/specialists) to know what they are talking about and I'm not talking about poor old Lewis here.

    Prime example here is there's a problem at this plant and suddenly lots and lots of people are experts talking with authority and know about reactor design (new & old), risks of exposure, how this compares to three mile island/chernobyl, radiation fires..... all fed by news sources who are all doing the same thing, trying to be an "authority".

    Now I'm no nuke expert just an interested observer but I am prepared to trust the experts and I think signs are not very many people do at all..... the net and the information binge has made allot of people feel like expets when really you're just a bit better informed.

  72. markl66

    Nuclear not required for life on this planet

    Why are some comments on here so aggressive? I don't like the attitude that because some people have an opinion, others of a different opinion call them twits. Well I am no twit but personally would feel safer in a world without nuclear energy. I don't full understand the physics, but to my reasoning, even if the chance of a bad nuclear accident were very small, over the possible lifetime of the global nuclear industry (1000s of years?), multiply by the number of power stations and take into account the time these radioactive elements take to decay, I expect the risk to life to be high. I personally like the path of energy conservation and using as little energy as possible in our lives, that then we dont NEED these scary technologies.

  73. E 2

    Shilling

    I do think Lewis is being somewhat of a Pollyanna, perhaps his initial post was a troll, but to accuse him of shilling is unjustified.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      Lewis Page background info

      "Armed Forces Career:

      University Air Squadron, RAF 1988-91

      Royal Navy officer 1993-2004

      Navigator, HMS Quorn 1994-96

      Long Mine Clearance Diving Officer course 1996-97

      Ops Officer, HMS Middleton 1997-98

      All-arms Commando course 1997

      Executive Officer, HMS Bridport 1998-01

      Officer in Charge, Southern Diving Unit One 2001-04

      Joint Improvised Explosive Device Disposal No. 1 Operator course 2001

      Education:

      Cambridge University (Engineering degree 1988-91, St John's College)

      Islington Green Comprehensive"

      ( from http://lewispage.blogspot.com/ )

      Note, no scientific training in nuclear physics nor in nuclear engineering...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        You are joking of course...

        I don't suppose he spent much time at Cambridge specifically studying marine engineering but I get the impression nevertheless that he somehow knows how to drive a boat.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Maybe...

    The Japanese could do away with nuclear and harness earthquake and tsunami power instead?

  75. E 2
    Paris Hilton

    It's a question of failed risk assessment AFAICT

    Very odd that South Korea is sending a large chunk of it's boron reserve to Japan (BBC report early Wednesday MST).

    Why does JP not have tonnes of boron just waiting for this to happen?

    Thus failure of risk assessment. Initial cost of a boron stockpile is maybe not trivial, but following that the boron would just sit there in containers, waiting, not going anywhere!

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Or maybe...

      ... it got damaged by the real problem here - earthquake and tsunami. Or maybe it just isn't possible to get the boron from the store to the place it is needed - transport links are badly affected.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not going anywfere?

      With the luck of the Japanese during this disaster, their storehouse of boron would have been in a warehouse on the docks -- washed away by the tsunami.

  76. Ed Cooper
    Unhappy

    I'd like to believe Lewis

    However this spent fuel pond problem sounds like a total disaster, no containment, super heated fuel rods, radioactive steam bath if you do manage to cool it. Surely there is a serious possibility now that as soon as they do manage to quench it somewhat the site becomes dangerously radioactive.

    What are we then left with, five other spent fuel pools to also slowly boil away and burn?

    That sounds like a total mess. Though on the upside they're getting a grid connection soon though looking at the state of the facilities you have to think it's a bit late.

    Criticality in the fuel pond!?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Possibility of criticality in the fuel cooling pond....

      Yup it's a realistic, but hopefully remote possibility. When stored, the fuel rods will have been toward the end of there life, fair enough, but still reasonably energetic. They will have been stored in a scheme where geometry prevents fission from continuing unchecked, covered in water and doubtless some boron and allowed to cool.

      Trouble is, theres been a record breaking quake, massive after shocks, power interruption, multiple explosions on site hurling stuff all over the place, water pumping has ceased, insufficient staff to tackle all of the sites problems simultaneously, and insufficient power. Whether or not the ponds are even in a state fit to hold water is open to question, bearing in mind their proximity to substantial explosions.

      Right now any worker sticking their head over the edge of the pool may just see that the contents are in disarray with hotspots all over the place, collecting a fatal dose in the process. In effect, the fear is that ponds have in effect become jumbled chaotic, dirty, inefficient, uncooled, unshielded and uncontained reactors in their own right, or at least a nasty collection of smouldering, possibly burning and highly radioactive hotspots.

      Think about chucking down a pile of scaffold poles, and at every place they touch, their temperature starts to climb. A gross oversimplification, but good enough for these purposes.

      It should stay relatively local, but MOX or Uranium dust could end up getting distributed by fire in such circumstances. Not Chernobyl to be sure, but sufficient to make the clean up a dangerous and astronomically expensive propositon.

      I would not be surprised if a decision were to be taken when all is safe, to simply stabilise the whole mess and turn it into an exclusion zone. Farm land is hard to come by in Japan, but radioactive waste and agriculture is an unhealthy mix, and the cost of recovery of waste/clean up could be simply more than even the Japanese economy can bear, given the thorough trashing dished out by the quake, after shocks and tsunami and the number of homes and amount infrastructure erased by last weeks events.

      If they live long enough to drink it, the guys now working at the Fukushima reactors are going to have every right to as many beers as they can handle.

      Beer, I'd move up the bar for them. Wouldnt be in their shoes for anything.

      1. Steven Jones

        Criticality...

        If by criticality you have the normal meaning, that is the sustained nuclear chain reaction required for a fission bomb, then there is no chance at all of that. That's simply because the fuel used is not weapon grade. The Uranium is not enriched enough to creat a bomb, and there is insufficient plutonium in the MoX fuel to do so. Also, to create a true fission bomb it's necessary to confine the fissile material for a sufficient period of time for the chain reeaction to take hold (which is achieved in fission bombs using conventional explosive arranged to confine the fissile material for a limited period). In open air, bring a critical mass together there will be a much more limited explosion caused by the generation of heat. Very dirty and messy, but localised.

        In this case, what you can get is the fuel heating up to melting point and a chemical or steam explosion sufficient to spread radioactive material over the local area. Nasty, very, very difficult and expensive to clean up, but it's not a fission bomb.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "realistic risks"

    "if it was possible for the spent rods to restart a powerful reaction of the sort seen in a reactor core - which would make it very hard to cool them effectively in the storage pool - Edano stated that this is not a realistic risk."

    Hey Mr Edano, didn't someone back when the plants were designed also claim that a tsunami over 6.5m wasn't a realistic risk?

    If I were you, and bearing in mind that I'm a physicist and you're probably a politician, I'd choose my words a lot more carefully.

    No sensible person these days believes anything coming from the nuclear lobby anyway, unless it can be independently confirmed. Serves them right.

    As a physicist turned engineer, with a decade or two of experience around safety critical stuff, I do actually trust the underlying technology, and the basic engineering. On the other hand, history and personal experience means that I have no trust in the industry's management, especially the private sector profit-centred management. But without the motivation to keep costs down, nuclear is uneconomic. Square that circle if you can, dear reader.

    Anyway, does anybody think Lewis really thinks he's doing the industry any favours with his coverage here?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Government statements

      I find Lewis' slightly hysterical reporting of every statement made by the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, Edano, a little disturbing. Perhaps Mr Edano's every word is true, but it strikes me that, apart from the company running the plant, no one has a greater need to present events with a positive gloss than the Japanese government - if only (I'm being charitable) to prevent escalating panic in the population.

      Recycling the words of ministers as some absolute last word in truth is unedifying at best, and in journalistic terms distinctly unprofessional, as is packaging 'opinion' as 'analysis'. I can't think of a single prior article where Lewis Page has taken the words of a British Government minister or corporate boss as indisputable fact, so why the sudden attack of rather studious credulity?

      Just cheap, Lewis.

    2. Munchausen's proxy
      Pint

      Not a linguist, then

      If 'it was [sic] possible for the spent rods to restart a powerful reaction of the sort seen in a reactor core', they wouldn't be 'spent', would they? They'd still be in the reactor core, reacting.

  78. Frederick Karno

    A little bit of reality

    As an ex nuclear worker a little bit of a reality check is needed.........

    This is an incident the like of which have never been faced, A disaster at 1 reactor would be bad enough and would stretch the available man power but to have 4 in various forms of trouble is totally unprecedented..The tonnages of the materials involved dwarf any other incident.

    none of the first 4 reactors are in any way at this time safe, numbers 1 to 3 although they have been releasing activity the bulk of it is still behind heavy shielding reactor 4 is a different animal and i hope they have done their figures right and havent cut any corners as at present it would appear we have 140 tons of irradiated fuel not long out of the reactor sitting in a pond outside of the main containment open to the air.

    The problem here is that this could possibly go critical and start acting like a reactor but with no control no cooling , bothering about whether its mox or any other type of fuel becomes irrelevant the cocktail of radio nucleotides from a reactor make even small amounts of this stuff in the air highly dangerous as has been seen with chernobyl the effects are deadly and long lasting. The radiation level in spikes at the site gate has been if its to be believed 1000mSv or 1 Sv this suggests to me that at least 1 if not all of the other 3 reactors are in various stages of meltdown causing gamma and neutron radiation burst to occur dose rates at this level to workers would be lethal at 5 Sv this is a substantial distance away from where the problems need to be tackled.

    My heart goes out to the workers in these conditions who are fighting now not only for their own lives but for the safety of their families many of whom will have already lost loved ones in the tsunami and to ry and prevent a full scale Chernobyl style realease

    A full bown debate about the pro's and cons of nuclear energy whilst needed does nothing to help these poor souls and should be kept for when there is some semblance of order restored at this plant and that could be quite some time.

    1. Andydaws

      Question...

      How do you propose to get low enrichment fuel to go critical in the absence of a moderator?

      1. byrresheim

        There is no need for it to go critical to cause havoc

        all that is needed is for the storage pool not to be properly cooled any more and fall dry, either partially or, even worse, completely.

        If that happens - and the possiblilty cannot be excluded at this point in time - the zirconium casing of the spent fuel rods will start burning, resulting in rather heavy pollution.

    2. John X Public
      Thumb Up

      A bit of actual balance

      Finally, thank you Mr Karno.

      Yes, the Fukushima situation is *not* the End Of The World. Nor is it all Sunshine And Puppies. The unfolding events have not yet caused, and may never cause, any widespread and critical harm. However the potential still exists for some very nasty outcomes indeed.

      While it is true that the media vultures at large are not helping anyone by feeding alarmist speculation to the world I fail to see how El Reg's vulturine feeding (all be it from a different perspective) on the same carcass can be excused in the name of balance. Particularly as I fail to detect a great deal of balance in Lewis Page's articles.

      The risk of an extreme nuclear power station accident may be very low, but the costs of such an accident are also extremely high. Do you want to pay your bill in regular instalments, or No Deposit, No Interest, No Payments for ??? years? Hard to clearly evaluate the cost/benefit of such a deal.

  79. vanishment
    Dead Vulture

    Who's the Troll? Page or the Reg?

    (apologies if this appears twice - connection stalled first time)

    Quote: "So far from Fukushima proving that nuclear power is dangerous compared to other technologies, it seems to be proving quite the reverse. ®"

    Add this to Mr. Page's previous article: "Fukushima is a triumph for nuke power: Build more reactors now!" and you can see that the Reg, apparently enamoured with Mr. Page's "reporting", is self-trolling in an effort to boost readership through controversy - the lowest trick of the trade and an insult to any intelligent readership. And before we get started again on the validity of expressing opinions and calling commenters twits - yes, I mean YOU, Ms. Sarah Bee of the Reg - Mr. Page's inexcusable PR spin ("Build More Reactors Now!", etc, etc) for the nuclear industry is actually placed under the rubrik "analysis" by the Reg - not "opinion". If that's what the Reg considers analysis, lord only knows how low your actual opinions will go.

    Clever bylines and cheeky writing are one thing. Being a die-hard shill for the nuclear lobby is quite another. Mr. Page's copy-and-paste opinions (or "analysis", as the Reg sees fit to call them) are embarrassingly premature, technically incompetent, and obviously don't belong in a journal that purports to be duly informing IT professionals. I'll look elsewhere, thanks.

    1. Bob Douglas

      Evacuation

      I can't recall an evacuation and potential or real dangers from radiation from any other type of power plant

  80. Charles Thornton
    FAIL

    Louis is an embarassment to El Reg

    Consistent in his support for the insupportable. To this man there can never be any bad news about nuclear power. As far as he is concerned if a storage pond is dry and it is too hazardous to allow helicopter pilots to fly over to try and cool the rods it is a mere bagatelle.

    The fact that the containment at one reactor is breached is nothing to worry about. A distant helicopter crew flying from the USS Ronald Reagan receive a dose of 400 milliSv in one hour which is 4 times their monthly allowed dose is incidental to the onward march of the glorious reactor. Monthly allowed doses? P'shaw set too low by the whiny nannies of the US regulator.

    Get rid of him Reg, send him to World Nut Daily.

  81. Krudler
    FAIL

    It's a pity Lewis can't suffer a little writer's block.

    Lewis, you've shown that, on this issue (not to mention a few others), you're a bit of a bell end. I suggest you step away from the keyboard, and spend a little more time sharpening Orlowski's pencil.

  82. llamazj

    It seems the author is in the first stage of mourning.

    Nuclear Energy is dying and the author is in the first stage of mourning: Denial.

    "No, no cause for alarm people, it is not dead, you'll see, everything will turn out right . The sun will shine the birds will sing, and tomorrow we will all have a good laugh about it all, won't we."

    You can read it all up on the internet: "The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalize overwhelming emotions. It is a defense mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain."

    So don't be alarmed, you see it is perfectly natural what you are feeling.

    Next you will become angry when things get worse, you will tell us that the situation could have been safed, that it was only the circumstances, the inability of the people there.

    Then you will start bargaining: Fukushima is only an isolated incident, has nothing todo with the situation anywhere else, there are no Tsunamis in Wyoming.

    Then after a short period of depression you will start to accept the facts. You can read it all up. When you are on wikipedia next time to prepare your next article.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      @llamazj

      "Nuclear Energy is dying"

      You wish!

      I can give you this prediction - in a couple of weeks' time there will hardly be any mention of Fukushima in the media, the politicians who yesterday were announcing immediate revision to their country's nuclear plans will backpedal and explain that "they have to make hard decisions and accept the risk for the strategic good of their peoples", within the industry, the accidents at Fukushima will give an impetus to push for retirement of older plants and higher investment into newer designs.

      No matter how much the arm-chair tree-huggers want to drag everyone back into stone age (somehow expecting that *they* will magically retain their warm houses and cups of herbal tea in the process) the achievements of humanity will continue to be expressed in aviation, nuclear power and space travel (and maybe some IT :-) ) for the foreseeable future.

      If you want safer and more abundant energy - stop lobbying for the futile and wasteful windmills and push for investments into fusion research.

      1. lee7
        FAIL

        See - more lazy moronic denegration of those who care about where we all live.

        @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        > No matter how much the arm-chair tree-huggers want to drag everyone back into stone age

        What a contribution to the debate.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          "those who care about where we all live"

          What a poetic name for a bunch of clueless idealists and bitter misanthropists.

  83. jim 45
    Thumb Down

    no real attribution

    An article like this needs some context. Who is the author, really? What does "posted in Physics" mean? We can't find out, because the link to "Physics" is bad.

  84. testdept
    Flame

    In fairness, Lewi$ has updated the Reg frontpage Picture

    http://bit.ly/fvEDRm

    - now go plug a reactor with your (well paid for) a$$.

  85. touchwood
    Big Brother

    “It ain’t what you don’t know that counts. It’s what you know that ain’t so.” (Will Rogers)

    Well done Lewis! It's so refreshing to get non-FUD info from the Media!

    It would be nice if all the naysayers educated themselves by reading this:

    http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-accident-updates.html

    But then, living in UK generates an awful lot of negativity, dunnit?

  86. Patrick 8
    FAIL

    Where is Lewis Page now?

    Japan is seriously Foo Koo'd! With the situation growing worse, US warships getting the hell out of the reactor zone, Americans warning not to listen to Japan and increase the evacuation zone to 80Ks. More reactors joining in the the mass party... where is Lewis Page to save the world when you need him? We need to clone him and stuff him into each reactor to plug the leaks. If we can't get enough of him to stuff, we need to take all the pro nuclear posters on here and stuff there asses into the reactor along with him so they can have a jolly good time together talking about how great nuclear is. Whats that? none of the pro nuclear people volunteering to do their part to save the world? I thought so!

  87. JonHendry

    Why is Lewis writing about nuclear power?

    As far as I can tell, Lewis' Royal Navy career didn't involve service on a nuclear powered vessel, so it's not like he has a relevant background.

  88. Horizon3
    Thumb Up

    Good Article Lewis

    I know many of you have as a sole source of information, the lamestream media, which sensationalizes anything and everything to do with oil field, mining or nuclear. And gets 99.99% of it wrong 99.99% of the time.

    A GOOD source of facts on this, is from the various nuclear energy outfits that are plentiful on the net, and I am not talking about blogs by ex professors or other envirowhacks.

    Here is a good one to start with. The NEI http://is.gd/iUtRYQ .. it's not biased it just reports the facts as it gets them, FROM THE SOURCE!! not from a bunch of politicians that definitely are biased.

  89. Jean-Luc Silver badge

    Facts, spin and perception.

    It'll take a long while before we know all the facts. But, while I still like nuclear overall, this is far from business as usual and we will see the PR impact of this for decades. It is by no means a success for the nuclear industry. I applaud Lewis for presenting a different view, but a bit less triumphalism would do wonders for his credibility.

    Designs requiring active cooling should be viewed with great skepticism. Designs requiring active power and management to sustain a reaction and which shut off safely in the absence of power or coolants should be preferred.

    This is a bit like Tet in Nam in 1968. Sure, it was military disaster for the VC. But it was bigger political disaster for the US government. No matter how well we can pat ourselves on the back on the engineering savvy that will, probably, avoid a large disaster, people are not going to take this as a success. Reactors will be seen as unsafe and any explanation otherwise will be very hard to put across, even if the reactors do gradually cool w.o. loss of life. Any purely technical analysis of this accident is missing the point - emotion and fear have always surrounded nuclear power and this is NOT going to help.

    Japan is very active seismically. Get with it. Vancouver, where I live, has occasional (500yrs?) magnitude 9 earthquakes. Our newer highrises are supposed to come through 7.5s without a sweat. Will they? Dunno, but we are being asked to plan at the higher end of quake risk. For a nuclear plant? Let's just say that I would expect a newer plant to withstand at least a regional 100-year quake, right on its site, not just plan for something of that magnitude elsewhere. It doesn't have to survive as a plant, but it should not present a danger.

    The damage to nuclear power is tremendous, IMHO. I've been watching my Cameco (uranium) stocks plummet. I don't mind much, an opportunity to buy low at some point, but the betting money is that nukes will suffer very much at this point. Too bad, regardless of my stocks, because I think nuclear has a large part to play to minimize emissions, but this will be a huge setback. Dissident Greens who are pro-nuclear could be sidelined and the general public could veto new nuclear plants.

    While I applaud the resources, guts and ingenuity of the engineers, Tepco and the Japanese nuclear industry haven't exactly been on the forefront of safety practices in the past. Time will tell what went wrong and if it could have been avoided. My guess: we'll end up applauding the engineers more than the probable findings of cut corners by the managers.

    The media is indeed not doing a great job putting the risks in perspective. Are you surprised? This is manna from heaven for ratings and is much more interesting than the general human suffering in the quake zone which has been handily eclipsed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      From the mouths of vested interests

      Great link! I mean we're sure to get the REAL LOWDOWN on the SAFETY of nuclear power from the people who make it all happen! After all, they know just how SAFE and CLEAN it really is and how many FLUFFY KITTENS and PUPPIES are SAVED every year by not having to breath noxious fumes from other nasty fuels.

      Oh, hang on...

      Aren't these the very people with a half century track record of obfuscation, falsification and outright porkies when it comes to the safety record and frequently iffy practices of their industry? Who think transparency is a dirty word and treat "national security" as a shield for blunting even the simplest of questions?

      Paris; more credibility, less credulity

  90. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    NewClar!

    Way to go.

    NOT

  91. cnapan
    Unhappy

    The nuclear debate MUST be now.

    "A full bown debate about the pro's and cons of nuclear energy whilst needed does nothing to help these poor souls"

    Of course it doesn't.... But we don't even have a debate when the people dying are miners or oil workers. The world's press don't descend en masse to every incident of an energy worker who loses their life... except of course if they lose it in a nuclear facility.

    Nobody is claiming that nuclear power is 100% safe, not even the author of these provocative articles. The issue is whether the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the risks.

    We're busy changing the atmosphere of the planet in such a way as to guarantee huge suffering in the future. Leaving aside the *FACT* that fewer people die each year in the nuclear industry than die supplying oil and coal, the long term effects of us not adopting carbon-free energy sources are profound to human life (and all other life for that matter). Anybody who claims to care about the future can't turn a blind eye to the continued disgorging of the fossil carbon which, when it was last in the atmosphere, ensured that the earth was significantly hotter than it is today.

    At this time, renewable energy sources can only contribute a small fraction of the power our civilisations need to survive, and for all but sparsely populated countries near the equator, renewable energy isn't even close to being able to run our civilisations.

    People like James Lovelock aren't known for their closeness to the Nuclear Lobby, but they can see where our planet is heading, and they have the imagination to see the suffering on an unimaginable scale that is *inevitable* if we continue to release fossil carbon.

    I would have a lot more respect for people who want to close down nuclear if they had a similar zero-tolerance to the loss of life in the service of their power needs from all sources of energy.

    Now 10,000 people being downed or smashed to pieces by floating wreckage in 2 short minutes across a huge swathe of Japan - with hundreds of thousands more homeless and millions suffering from intermittent power threatening their economy and way of life for the next couple of years at least... that's a *real* tragedy, but seems to be nothing but a pale side show right now, and I find that very, very disturbing.

  92. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)
    Coat

    lewis, trolling a nuclear disaster is surely a new low

    not that that is what i'm doing now or anything.. is it?

    as icon.

  93. Chris Ashworth

    I think

    Let's compare the consequences of a catastrophic failure at a coal/oil/solar/wind/tidal power plant....to the consequences of a similarly catastrophic event at a nuclear plant.

    Let's also be very clear.....a serious earthquake and tsunami in Japan is definitely *not* a black swan event....this was entirely predictable.

    Perhaps if Mr. Page is so comfortable with the safety of nuclear energy, he would like to be one of the staff in the control, or one of the helicopter crew flying over the 'safe' reactors.

    (Pro-nuclear here)

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    DON'T PANIC!

    DON'T PANIC!

  95. brizat

    personal wrap-up

    ok, things are getting a bit entrenched,

    of course lots of us who are not on the pro-nuke side would, metaphorically speaking, like to see Page hang for his crimes. That is, to be more precise, for his abysmal triumph-article and the continuation of that line. Why? Because it doesn't help to copy or write all kinds of facts that suit you, with lots of technical talk, when you are continuing to relativize.

    Relativize by saying nothing will happen, belittling past incidents (let's not go there again) and things like "seem certain to remain insignificant against the horrifying backdrop of the earthquake tragedy elsewhere in Japan". I mean come on. Stuff has happened, will happen, and against the backdrop of a sufficiently terrible event anything seem's certain to remain insignificant. What's the point with all that? There is scaremongering and ritalin-slinging.

    And the fact side? Well the original triumph-article was, as the author conceded I think, in parts taken over from another source, specifically this (i.), which took it over from this (ii.). The piece was authored by a Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT. It turned out, he is in fact a research scientist, but not in physics and certainly no expert in nuclear physics safe for the fact that his father worked in a German plant for years. Great. Laughs were had on all sides, but aside from theories that there may be a spin-campaign somewhere in the mix (iii.), a critical attitude is in order in any case. If it was genuine, this was a piece written by someone with no real expertise on the subject, with the goal of placating his relatives' fears, who starts off "I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake", continues to say lots of calming things, but among the no doubt well written compilation of facts and understandable language are misrepresentations (iv.) and wrong predictions. He rounds off by recommending not to trust the rest of the media safe for a few recommendations, all of which are websites with clear pro-nuclear background (ans.org, world-nuclear-news.org and bravenewclimate.org). I am very willing to believe that Dr. Oehmen meant no harm, he may just be pro-nuke himself and have tried to write an illuminating explanation of events in Fukushima. But the way his article has since been spread and promoted didn't do this background justice, it was embraced as expert science rather than a good writeup by an educated layman. Who overestimates his own knowledge and makes false predictions where real experts worldwide are extremely cautious. And that is not so impressive a base for an article that pretends to be all hard indisputable facts. For technical criticism of the Oehmen paper that I believe may have some substance have a look at this (iv., apparently written by a physicist), and, less obviously educated but still seemingly knowledgeable, this (v., apparently written by a "nuclear safety engineer").

    No, those who are not too concerned about scaremongers, greens and other favourite hate-objects that they fail to see the shamelessness with which rather controversial opinions are being packaged amidst facts here, are disgusted, just as you are (rightfully in my opinion) disgusted at factual inaccuracies or sensationalism elsewhere.

    But, personally, I don't think it makes sense to try to make a scandal out of everything Page writes from now on. There are a lot of people who enjoy his writing, and eventually, you either get that a certain writing style does not imply being right, or you don't. I will avoid reading these articles and commenting on them from now on, and simply accept this as another policy area where the reg trumpets some kind of technocratic conservatism that is not mine. There is IT matters after all, and nowhere else I know are they covered with such style.

    i. http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/

    ii. http://morgsatlarge.wordpress.com/

    iii. http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/03/the-strange-case-of-josef-oehmen/) and

    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/03/bad-oehmen-confirmation-bias-sources-astroturfing/

    iv. http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/53461/fukushima-nuclear-accident-simple-and-accurate-explanation

    (look for the 1st comment of Mark Schmidt)

    v. http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=display&sid=20110311112544990&title=OK,%20let%20us%20go%20through%20what%20he%20wrote&type=article&order=&hideanonymous=0&pid=908175#c908199

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Horizon3: "the facts, from the source"

    You mean like the convicted-for-fraud outfit, TEPco?

    Also, your username, Horizon3.

    Horizon is a popular word.

    Then there's Horizon Nuclear: "Horizon Nuclear Power is a UK energy company developing a new generation of nuclear power stations. A joint venture between E.ON UK and RWE npower, we plan to deliver around 6,000 MW of new nuclear power station capacity in the UK by 2025. " [1]

    See, that's the problem with the nuclear industry isn't it. Not the technology, the compulsive tendency to be economical with the truth. Six words in and you're misleading already. "Horizon .. a UK energy company". Well if you consider a joint venture between two German companies to be a UK company, fair enough. I don't think that's entirely truthful, what do other readers think?

    I assume you have no interest to declare here? Is that a safer assumption than "defences against a 6.5m tsunami will be sufficient"? It's certainly less risky.

    [1] http://www.horizonnuclearpower.com/

  97. flibbertigibbet
    Alert

    Reactor number 4

    Lie by omission is the best way to do it. That is what Lewis has done, and I see it has only been picked up in the comments at the end.

    Oddly, this has reduced some of my worst fears about nuclear power. Supposedly the worst that can happen is a breach of the core, with an ensuing melt down. That appears to be what has happened here, possibly more than once, and not too far from a city holding 20 million people. Yet that those melt downs aren't going to cause major disaster. That's a pretty amazing, probably even worthy of the faint praise Lewis is throwing at them.

    What Lewis doesn't mention is reactor number 4. The reactor number 4 was being re-fuelled. The live cores had been removed, and are sitting in the spent rod storage pool. The reactor core melt down Mr Lewis focuses so intently on isn't even a possibility for reaction number 4. But, that isn't a good thing. Those live cores are no longer within those layers of containment.

    Even under normal conditions, when there are only spent fuel rods in the pool, the water in storage pool must be constantly circulating in order to prevent overheating - basically the water boiling. If the water boils away the spent rods will overheat and catch fire. There seems to be little doubt now the water is boiling. There is now speculation it may have boiled dry, but I gather no one actually knows because the radiation levels are so high nobody can look. I gather we know some are exposed because that is the only way the hydrogen could be generated. That is the hydrogen that caused the explosion has blown holes in what little containment there was, exposing the entire shebang to the atmosphere.

    As others have pointed it is very unlikely spent fuel rods will go critical. But there are live fuel rod's in number 4's pool. So the worst case scenario being painted is the live fuel rods in reactor 4's storage pool will melt, go critical, and resulting nuclear fire will burn/vaporise a fair portion of the atomic zoo of radioactive poisons that lie in the spent fuel rods, allowing them to rain them down onto Tokyo. Is it even possible to evacuate a city of 20 million people?

    And is this scenario likely? I only know reactor number 4 is what everyone with a clue is following closely. As Lewis says, the rest is almost a good news story. I'd like to think the doomsday scenario is far fetched. But if it was, I'd expect Lewis to dismiss it, just as he dismissed many of the outcomes that have come to pass in his previous article. Instead he choose to point noisily to all "minor" disasters at the plant, while studiously ignoring the main threat. I wonder if that is because it is to scary too contemplate, or he is just one of those without a clue?

  98. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Backup power

    According to the BBC this morning, they're hoping to re-connect mains power today that is needed for the cooling system and the backup generators.

    So either the BBC's reporting is even more moronic than normal, or the backup generators aren't backup generators at all.

  99. alis

    Idiotic statement

    "So far from Fukushima proving that nuclear power is dangerous compared to other technologies, it seems to be proving quite the reverse."

    You must be thinking of those terrible wind turbine fires or the solar cell explosions threatening oh 10s of sea birds and some fish that would have resulted from being hit by a tsumani as a reuslt of being built in a earthquake zone.

    Can I point out that the risk (if you understand the concept of risk) represented by what we are seeing is orders of magnitude different from "other technologies". What will happen if there is a significant aftershock right now? What happens if the hydrogen/oxygen explosions that are now considered to be inside the primary containment get worse, as the current trend seems to be.

    Its WAY too early to be sitting smugly on the "nuclear power has proved its safety" side of the fence. We would still only have to be a bit unlucky to see what has been a contained disaster turn into a complete nightmare.

    Saying nuclear power is proved safe by this is like drioving like a maniac and saying that its obviously ok to do so as the safety features of the car meant you didn't die when you crash.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Idiotic indeed

      "Saying nuclear power is proved safe by this is like drioving like a maniac and saying that its obviously ok to do so as the safety features of the car meant you didn't die when you crash."

      With all due respect - read your own post.

      What you are saying is that the cars are too fast and dangerous no matter how driven and even with the modern safety features. Therefore, they should be banned and people should only be using bicycles, because only they can be considered "safe".

      This is rubbish.

      1. alis

        Nope...

        Buikding Nuclear power stations the way we are - on earthquake zones, on shingle beaches, built so that they have positive power gradients at high temperatures allowing them to melt down is driving like a maniac. Building nuclear power stations that are actually safe would cost to much or meanthey would have to be built where we would not like them to be. It would mean knowing how we are going to dispose of the waste.

        And people who cannot safely own a car are banned, as are cars that are not safe enough.

        Your metaphor of the cars is actually better. Thank you.

    2. Steven Jones

      Safety etc.

      It's wrong to say that it's orders of magnitude different from other technologies (assumign you mean all the others). The worst single disaster caused by equipment involved in power generation was the breaching a dam at Bangiao in China in 1975. It is thought that up to 85,000 people were killed by this and the 61 other dams that were damaged in the event.

      There are now dams in China where, if breached, the death toll will be in the 100s of thousands, possibly millions. Dams are not only vulnerable to structural failure and to climactic events, but also seismic events.

      Whilst fossil fueled generation does not carry the same danger of a single event catastrophe as hydro, there have been cases of explosions which have killed hundreds, as have coal mine disasters. The larget fossil fuel explosions have generally been in transport, typically on trains. In the Ufa train disaster in Russia, 575 people were killed. The potential remains for much large ones. It's also important not to neglect the health risks - coal is a big killer to this day. Miners are the largest number of victims, and whilst single event disasters may catch the headlines, a coal miner is at far greater risk of dying prematurely from lung disease than anybody in the vicinity of a nuclear power station.

      Of course wind turbines and solar are inherently less dangerous. However, that's as a result of their basic shortcomings. That is that they provide for very low concentrations of power generation - that makes it safer, but it also makes it much more expensive, more difficult to use and requires a much higher level of investment and maintenance. In the case of windmills, the UK wil be driven to use far more off-shore capacity. Indeed the availability of shallow water sites is limited, and it's very likely floating wind turbines will be required. As the sea is a very hostile environment, the maintenance load will be very high and this is far from a risk-free activity. Among the most dangerous jobs in the UK are those at sea and on conctruction and maintenance.

      Of course nuclear will have to up its safety game, and it's also vulnerable to terrorist action (imagine a small terrorist unit disabling the cooling system). This will increase costs - the one thing we know for sure is that the era of cheap energy is over.

  100. A J Stiles
    Stop

    Haven't you got it yet?

    The news media exists for one purpose alone: to sell audiences to advertisers. Reporting the truth doesn't even get a look-in. The truth doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is people's perception.

    Reality is malleable. Subjective is the new objective. This is all a TV show, and we will be rescued by the hero at the very last minute ..... but first, of course, we need something to be rescued *from*. And here are some products you might like to buy.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Haven't you got it yet?

      Wow, man, the scales have fallen from my eyes. I'm quitting right now.

  101. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Stop listening to the crap on the BBC

    This whole article is one big lie, there are so many incorrect things in it that I could not be bothered to debunk it. Suffice to say:

    700 people (soldiers) have been dispatched to the plant to cool it down, those 700 are medically doomed, working in groups of 70 directing seawater to cool the site down. Where does the contaminated seawater go?

    You should gather independent radioactivity stats, or even check Bavarian stats (thousands of miles away), they detect the exact same increase in levels as those reported by Japanese authorities for Tokyo - so, or there is another nuclear disaster going on somewhere we do not know about OR Japan is full of bs, you are free to chose!

    Japan is just one big lie when it comes admitting facts about nuclear disasters and it is criminal to believe what they have to say.

    Learn German and read/listen to German news, you will get a completely different picture.

    Ever since the BBC news started mentioning "War on Terror" I knew they had lost grip. BBC used to be trustworthy ... used to.

  102. Richard Bijster
    Stop

    Get rid of this joker Lewis and his nonsense reporting

    "So far from Fukushima proving that nuclear power is dangerous compared to other technologies, it seems to be proving quite the reverse. "

    I think most of us are getting tired of this bullshit nonsense from Lewis. Maybe Lewis should get the next flight to Fukushima and pitch a tent right next to the 4 reactors located there. Seeing as it's all so safe, he can give us live updates as this disaster contines to unfold right from the centre of the 'safe as houses' disaster. Again, he comes to the above conclusion when it's still not clear how things are going to eventually unfold. With the current ploy of dumping water from the air, it's obvious that desperation has started to set in.

    Here's some up-to-date 'positive' news about safe nuclear power generation when it all goes wrong:

    Fukushima No. 1 plant

    -- Reactor No. 1 - Suspended after quake, cooling failure, partial melting of core, vapor vented, building damaged Saturday by hydrogen explosion, seawater being pumped in.

    -- Reactor No. 2 - Suspended after quake, cooling failure, seawater being pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, vapor vented, building housing reactor damaged Monday by blast at reactor No. 3, damage to containment vessel on Tuesday, potential meltdown feared.

    -- Reactor No. 3 - Suspended after quake, cooling failure, partial melting of core feared, vapor vented, seawater being pumped in, building housing reactor damaged Monday by hydrogen explosion, high-level radiation measured nearby on Tuesday, plume of smoke observed Wednesday, damage to containment vessel likely.

    -- Reactor No. 4 - Under maintenance when quake struck, fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, abnormal temperature rise in spent-fuel storage pool but water level not observed, fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor, no water poured in to cool pool, spraying of boric acid being considered.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      check Bavarian stats

      I don't know about Bavaria but here in the middle of London @13:15 GMT on 17.03.11 the readings are not more than they always were (less than 1 microSv/h).

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Eh? :-)

        I wonder what the downvote on my post above means - that you disagree with the measurement? Or maybe that you are disappointed that it is too low? Or that you disagree that the levels in London are usually low? Or what?

        May be that the measurements are not precise enough?

        I can give some clarification - the precise number is below the scale of the meter. The counter is calibrated to give 5 clicks per second at 1 microSv/h. It actually clicks once or twice every 2 - 3 seconds (fewer after Sunset). So the levels are definitely less than 1 microSv/h.

  103. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Before we all get carried away one way or another...

    Re-visit the definitions of "Risk", "Benefit", "Danger", "Security" and "Economic dependence" and then re-visit the assertion that a governments primary responsibility to protect its Citizens.

    If, having done so rationally, you believe that Nuclear Power should be the dominant/majority energy generating process in the UK you should support the government. If, as I do, you believe Nuclear could be a part of the mix but there are additional and better solutions to be deployed then lobby strongly for the government to get of its collective arse and do something about it.

    Fukushima is not Chernobyl and is unlikely to become so. Let clerics spend time counting the angels on a pinhead, please.

  104. nederlander
    Alert

    Informative but..

    I found the article interesting and informative, much more so than anything I've found elsewhere on this topic. I'm convinced nuclear power is relatively safe during the lifetime of the plant (especially when compared to coal, which will probably make us extinct.)

    What I have against Nuclear is the long term. It seems inevitable to me that within the thousands of years that spent fuel will remain highly dangerous, it will be exposed to the water cycle, to the atmosphere and will become finely distributed within the bioshpere. We certainly cannot rely on there being well educated and funded technicians tending our waste continuously for such a long time. None of our storage (or other!) technologies have been (or can be) tested on the timescales involved. Sea level changes, ice ages.. you get the picture. Creating nuclear waste is a very irresponsible way to get rich in the present.

  105. deadfamous
    Alert

    Our own back yard

    Okay - you have no sewers, no outside, but as many rooms as you like....

    How big a house do you need?

    Or, to put it another way,

    Where do we put the nuclear waste?

    Which room?

    Which earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, volcano - proof room do we put the nuclear waste into?

    Wake up everyone...

    1. Name 7

      What cost?

      And what will cost to dispose of all that waste?

  106. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " read/listen to German news"

    "Learn German and read/listen to German news, you will get a completely different picture."

    Indeed, but be sure to pick the right channel.

    My spies tell me that earlier in the week, RTL (Berlusconi?) were reporting that Tokyo was being evacuated.

  107. byrresheim

    No Chernobyl indeed - II -.

    As there is no update forthcoming , a short summary of what is known to me as of march 17th, 13h53 GMT + 1

    Reactor 1 - core meltdown probable but not certain

    Reactor 2 - partial core meltdown certain

    Reactor 3 - core meltdown assumed, no final proof

    Reactor 4 - spent-fuel-pool loosing water, high probability that the _non_ spent fuel in this pool was exposed to air. Fire put out, no assessment for further risk of fire

    Reactor 5 - slight rise in temperature, no serious problems reported

    Reactor 6 - ditto.

    The lawful dose of radiation has been multiplied by 2.5 by the japanese government, otherwise work in the compound woud be illegal by now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      But still...

      ...It's a triumph for nuclear power still, right?

  108. Gerardo Korndorffer
    Flame

    what really annoys me...

    ...is that some people blame it on "...something that could not be predicted..." ...for heaven's sake guys (and the occasional geek lady)

    Japan already had a 8.4 Richter quake back in 1933!!

    Still the plant was designed to stand a lot less than that, (and that is ignoring the fact that the earthquake was 75 miles away).

    That is a serious irresponsability, plants should be designed to stand a lot more than what is suggested by historic series.

    Tsunamis and floods should not be able to put any of their vital systems out of work. Specially if you are to have it by the sea in a seismic area.

    Congrats for the engineers, (and builders), that made it so it did not fall to pieces, but on higher levels of responsability it is time for torches... and it is not the time to congratulate on how a plant was above its specs...it is time specs are upgraded to match actual needs...safety is mandatory, and quakes&tsunamis stronger than those known of are to be expected and included in the specs.

    BTW, if you get a disaster related to some other forms of getting energy you just clean up the mess, (some chemicals can be nasty but they can't kill you meters away), afterwards and rebuild....I dare anyone comparing accidents can say the same about nuclear waste. (Exclusion zone anyone?)

    The reasons nearly no one is considered a death victim are that most will not die immediately and people tend to be evacuated before rad leves can kill you on the spot. You will die or have a miserable life afterwards. Check this http://rarediseases.about.com/od/rarediseasest/a/chernobyl.htm

    Let's get some nice stats on Japan in 10 years, shall we?

  109. solaries
    FAIL

    terrorist nuclear reactors

    From what I watching the situation in Japan it looks worst than Chernobyl with several reactors venting hydrogen gas exploding blowing off the roofs of several reactors and containment pools in trouble the government and nuclear industry seem to be running around with bags over their heads denying whats happening this nuclear crisis I hope this puts the last nail in the nuclear industry. I hope this makes Japan rethink their energy production options and consider safety a top priority.

  110. lee7

    Greens are clearly stupid.

    For wanting clean energy. Billions is invested in oil, nuclear, and other "big ticket" energy systems with huge commercial backing. Spend a tenth of that (as some of the more forward-looking energy companies are starting to do because (they do exist for that reason) they see a profit), on clean energy, and I reckon that tidal, wind, geothermal, etc all suddenly start to look very cost -effective.

    Does anyone not think that the whole after-tsunami thing would be going better if the Japanese weren't spending huge amounts of time and resources to deal with a dead (and deadly) nuclear power station. This is not a triumph of anything. It is (yet another) disaster.

    The lazy labelling of the environmentally conscious as somehow being odd, unscientific, foolish - even the word green is pejorative in many uses - irritatesme beyond belief. Oh fuck it, lets concrete over the world. It always seems to me that those who ridicule "greens" are often those who don't want to give up the gas guzzler, and expect free, cheap petrol to go on forever. These are the ones who need to be ridiculed, not the environmentally aware.

  111. lordbyte
    Thumb Up

    Interesting article; It may be correct!

    It mentions the Sievert unit, and recorded Sieverts, I did not see the dangers of air polluted plutonium, but again I am only informed from general media, reporters and scientists has different point of views. Panic Is a problem and this article, if correct; really cools down any panic. Wikileaks has some documented reported complaints about the safety of Fukushima Nuclear power plants. They where retrofitted to withstand a 7.0 Earthquake, It did however face a magnitude of 9.0 and simultaneously a Seaquake plus Tsunami. I think we should design Power Plants to face this stress and still have a safety margins. IIRC the eartquakes in japan can be predicted some minutes before they hit the dangerous facilities. We need to improve this.

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