back to article Fukushima: Situation improving all the time

Events at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan went well at the weekend, with two reactors there successfully brought into cold shutdown under off-site power, power lines hooked up to other cores being cooled using seawater and some progress in refilling spent-fuel storage pools. Initial …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "can't be concealed"

    This bloke that says trust the government, these things can't be kept secret... he does know that post-Chernobyl, academic institutions in the UK were ordered not to publish what they knew about radioactivity levels?

    Is he trying to tell us there's no way that suppression would be repeated?

    Because if he is, I for one don't believe him.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      questions questions

      And might you be able to provide any credible reference to academics being told (and ten obeying) these mysterious instructions? In the absence of a reply, I suspect not

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      I'd hazard a guess

      that a few more people have (access to) geiger counters than back in 1986. And that not all of them are in the same Nuclear Radiation Numbers Suppression League.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        We had a geiger counter...

        ...in the school Physics lab.

        Even as the deadly radioactive dust from Chernobyl was falling, it barely registered a blip (in Sussex). We set up a sheet to try to collect some of this dust, and failed. To be honest we got stronger readings pointing the thing at each others testicles (hey, it was an all-boys school in the middle of the night, what d'you expect? ;-) ).

        Summary: We were more radioactive than this hyped-up radioactive fallout. Need I say more?

        1. Mike Richards Silver badge

          We also had a geiger counter

          And our physics lessons on radiation were rendered useless, by the standard sources being less radioactive than the Cornish granite walls.

          If anyone hasn't seen it; the XKCD comparative radiation chart is a superb illustration of the amounts of radiation being talked about:

          http://blog.xkcd.com/2011/03/19/radiation-chart/

          I had a CAT scan last month, judging by the dose I received I should be developing superpowers any day now.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Does it rain a lot in Sussex?

          There may well be more Geiger counters around now than back then.

          Anyway, Sussex may not have had radioactive rain, but other places did. Think wet places in north Wales, north west England. That's all for now.

      2. JLH

        Dose meters

        "that a few more people have (access to) geiger counters than back in 1986."

        Err... well no not really. 1986 was not that primitive a year.

        Ionizing radiation detectors have been around for over a hundred years, beginning with gold leaf electrometers and cloud chambers.

        "Geiger" counters as you term them are pretty standard bits of kit in any physics lab, or health physics setup, and were certainly common in 1986.

        In 1986 I was a student at university, working at a CERN experiment.

        My PhD is in experimental particle physics - so I know a thing or two about radiation detection devices - and I have also worked for several years in a medical physics department.

        I really don't like the term "Geiger counters" being used by the media - there are many, many types of radiation detectors, which are relevant to the type and energy of the radiation you are tyring to measure (spark tubes, scintillators, ionisation chambers, Geiger counters, filem dose badges, calorimeters, semiconductor detectors, drift chambers)

        What you see on TV are dose meters - which are likely to be ionization detectors.

        1. John 62
          Troll

          don't like the term Geiger counter?

          Yeah! It's the Geiger-Muller counter, get it right!

          [or is it an "halogen counter"?]

    3. Anton Ivanov
      Thumb Down

      We do not live post-chernobyl

      We live in the day and age when everyone can get a geiger counter, measure and post the measurement on a blog. So concealment does not work (at least in most developed countries).

      In any case: http://xkcd.com/radiation/

      Says all that there was to be said here.

      Note the banana and the coal plant.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Andydaws

      Unmitigated drivel

      Well, I was doing a postgrad degree, in what's now the "Dalton Nuclear Institute" at Manchester University - then the Department of Nuclear Engineering - that's news to me.

      I even ended up discussing them on a BBC local radio discussion, through a connection with a mate from undergrad days, who'd joined the BBC.

    6. Chemist

      Indeed drivel

      I've posted this elsewhere but after Chernobyl the pharmaceutical research site I worked at in NW England ( >2000 km) from Chernobyl, spotted the radiation very quickly as it was concentrated on the ventilation filters. The news got around VERY quickly.

  2. Steve Murphy

    Armchair psychology now.

    "Public health consequences also look to be nil based on reports thus far, apart from possible psychological problems from needless stress and panic."

    So, along with not being a nuclear expert, Lewis is also doing armchair psychology. Please, don't ever to be a journalist though.

    Lewis, why are you reporting that things are improving when you were reporting there was nothing wrong last week?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Haven't you heard?

      Nuclear accidents cure cancer. Any contamination in your milk will actually make you healthier. That's why the nothing wrong is now even better.

    2. Helena Handcart
      FAIL

      @Steve Murphy

      "So, along with not being a nuclear expert, Lewis is also doing armchair psychology. Please, don't ever to be a journalist though"

      So, along with not being a nuclear expert, Steve is also doing armchair criticism. Please, don't ever to be a psychologist though. [sic throughout]

      Far be it for me to defend Lewis, who I'm sure is perfectly capable should he be bothered, but anyone who has a modicum of intelligence and education could, rightly, associate stress and fear with longer-term psychological problems in a sufficiently large population. In addition, he pointed out in earlier articles several worse-case scenarios, which despite having happened, are being controlled better than could be expected.

      And remember, this is the country that had an outbreak of hysteria over Pokemon...

      e.g. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/410728_4

    3. Seanmon

      Armchair psychology?

      Nope. It was found after the Chernobyl event that stress, fear, anxiety - justified or not - had a significant health effect on the "victims" - whether they'd actually been exposed to radiation or not.

      http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Chernobyl/chernobyl.pdf. Page 20.

  3. Charlie Stross
    Stop

    Unfortunately, thousands will die ...

    There is a huge health risk, unfortunately, and it may well kill tens of thousands over the next few months as a direct result of the reactor outage at Fukushima Daiichi.

    See, Western Japan and Eastern Japan do not share an electricity grid; because of an historical accident, in the 1890s when they were first getting electric lighting, one utility chose to run at 60Hz and the other picked 50Hz. Consequently there's no grid interconnect between the two halves of the Japanese electricity supply system.

    Eastern Japan has just had 15 nuclear reactors scrammed by an an earthquake. Some of them may be checked out and approved to start delivering base load again over the coming months, but they all need a thorough inspection at this point -- and we know for sure that at least three of them will never work again (not after they've had seawater pumped through their primary coolant circuit).

    We are now heading into summer. And Tokyo doesn't have enough electricity to maintain power everywhere even in spring.

    Summer in Tokyo is savage: temperatures routinely top 35 celsius with 100% humidity. In a heat wave, it can top 40 degrees for days on end. Back when I visited in 2008 the heat wave had broken and daytime temperatures were down under 37 degrees again -- the week before it had been over 42, and joggers had been dropping dead in the street.

    Greater Tokyo also has 30-million-odd people, of whom a large proportion -- maybe 20% -- are 75 years or older.

    Elderly folks do not handle heat waves well; they get dehydrated easily and if they don't have air conditioning they die in droves. Normally it's not a problem in Tokyo because 80% of households have air conditioning, but with rolling blackouts and insufficient power it's another matter. They can try and evacuate old folks into school gyms with aircon and portable generators, but the logistics of moving several million geriatrics are daunting, to say the least. Not to mention feeding them, keeping them hydrated, providing their medication, and handling sanitation.

    If Tokyo experiences a heat wave this summer, the deaths (from heat stroke, among the other-75s) may well outnumber the direct fatalities from the earthquake and tsunami combined.

    1. Abremms

      Heat wave

      I won't say I dissagree with you, but I'm not sure what this has to do with Fukushima. or Nuclear power in general. If they had been using any other form of power generation, they would likely be in this same situation. the lack of power is caused by the earthquake and tsunami, not thier inability to restart thier reactors.

      if they had used Hydro and the dam was damaged, how long would it take to repair? If they used coal and that plant was damaged, how long would it take to repair? it's all just useless speculation. If you want to question the old descisions that led them to have a split power grid, thats all well and good, but its academic and mostly pointless.

      Thousands may die as you say, but it will be as an indirect result of the massive natural disasters. I don't see how any blame can be laid at the feet of nuclear power for this one.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Alert

        @Abremms

        "I don't see how any blame can be laid at the feet of nuclear power for this one."

        Clearly, you're not a "journalist" or a "newspaper editor", because they can see clearly that those deaths will have been caused by that dastardly killer Nucular Enurgee, even if no radiation has been involved (or so the boffins say, but as we can't see that radiation we can't verify that (which we won't do anyway because as newspaper editors we have to get the news out, not bother with wasting our time on verification))

      2. Charlie Stross

        Heat wave

        Irony doesn't work well on the net: my point was that the *absence* of nuclear power from the Fukushima plants may well cause a ton more deaths than a full-on Chernobyl grade disaster, or even a magnitudfe 9 quake followed by a once-in-a-thousand-years tsunami.

      3. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Boffin

        Not so sure I agree with Abremms

        While a fossil-fired power plant would have received the same inundation that Fukushima did, it would not have caused the intense environmental impact/review that a nuclear plant would do. An oil-fired plant might have resulted in a mid-sized oil spill, but the supplying pipeline could be shut down pretty easily, so the spill shouldnt be more than a 500 barrels or less. A gas-fired plant could be shut down even more easily with even less environmental impact. A coal fired plant would have mostly resulted in a pile of wet coal, with the only environmental effect being if a lot of coal ash was still onsite waiting to be shipped out at the time of the tsunami.

        Damage to all these types of plants would probably taken them offline, but because there would be less decontamination/exposure concerns, possibly only for a month or two, depending on the level of structural damage.

    2. Old Tom
      Boffin

      There is interconnection...

      ... using back-to-back high Voltage DC (HVDC) converters maybe not enough capacity (total capacity is 1.5GW - according to Wikipedia...)

    3. Ben Bawden
      Dead Vulture

      Natural selection?

      I mean, who the fuck goes jogging in 42° heat?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Dead Vulture

        Correction

        I mean, who the fuck goes jogging?

    4. Sean Baggaley 1

      @Charlie Stross:

      I agree that the Japanese are going to have a tough year or so while they take stock, lick their wounds, draw up plans and rebuild their damaged infrastructure.

      But we're talking about a nation that has already survived being on the losing side in World War 2, as well as suffering *two* direct hits by *nuclear bombs*.

      They've been through much worse than this. It'll be hard, certainly, but they'll recover. (And I'm sure the resulting cultural changes will make for an interesting novel or three for you to write.)

      Toshiba has been working on mini-reactors for a few years now. (More info here: http://www.economist.com/node/17647651) I wouldn't put it past them to see this as more of an opportunity than an obstacle. Such "mini nuclear reactors" could be used to *save* hundreds, if not thousands, of lives by providing emergency—perhaps even permanent—power.

  4. Andy Taylor
    Thumb Up

    Excellent article.

    Thanks for helping to get things into perspective, Lewis. I'm not a particular fan of Nuclear Power but I am fed up with the "we're all going to die" paranoia being touted by most media outlets.

    Even worse, they are mixing up information within the articles:

    <Paragraph on power station situation>

    <Paragraph on power station situation>

    <Paragraph on wider impact of power station situation>

    <reminder of the number of people killed or missing from the earthquake/tsunami>

    <Paragraph on power station situation>

    This makes it look like the power stations have cause thousands of casualties.

    1. TheFifth

      I've noticed this too

      I agree with you here. I've noticed that most of the coverage on the BBC news website seems to lead with a big scary 'Nuclear Disaster' headline, but when you read the article it has one line about the plant and then just talks about the numbers of dead. it doesn't even qualify that the dead are not from the nuclear issues. Scaremongering at its worst.

      1. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Come on be fair

        The BBC has also run a 'nuclear disaster - did the media overreact?' story. Admittedly nowhere did they suggest that their meldownathon coverage might have had anything to do with scaring people half to death.

      2. Jez Burns

        BBC coverage

        I couldn't believe the lack of clarity and the constant tone of paranoia in the BBC coverage of this crisis either. I wouldn't normally bother getting annoyed about this kind of thing enough to write 'Tumbridge Wells' style complaints, but I get the feeling the mainstream media are desperate to milk this for all it's worth, and cause mass fear and anxiety in the process. I sent this to them, but I somehow doubt it'll get published:

        "What is wrong with you (the BBC)? There is no information in your reports, just knee-jerk scientifically illiterate alarmism, unfounded and disproportionate insinuations about possible food and water contamination (presenting normal safety precautions as warnings of impending doom), and lazy speculation dressed up as reporting, achieved by linguistically conflating the terrible tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami with the real, but hardly catastrophic crisis at Fukushima. I get the impression the BBC and other news organisations are tangibly disappointed by the lack of human culpability in the earthquake and tsunami, and are almost willing there to be a real nuclear disaster in order to obtain some juicy hand-wringing headlines and prance around like some sort of vindicated Cassandra, able to point a finger of blame for the whole natural disaster at mankind. Please compare the lazy and ill-informed BBC coverage of this incident with the sober, scientific, informative and rational coverage from The Register and hang your heads in shame."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          BBC, and Other Definitions

          The Six O'clock news on BBC 1? The World at One on Radio 4? The rolling news on the BBC World Service?

          The stuff I heard in the radio wasn't especially doom-laden. Perhaps you should have just turned the telly off.

          Now.

          "Scientific."

          Scientific journalism?

          Really?

          There's science journalism. But that's just journalism. It has a different yardstick for measuring truth. Three quotes to other websites does not a scientific paper make. Lewis might well have a better angle on this than other hacks, but your portrayal of his pieces on Fukushima is "scientifically illiterate".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      BBC pfft

      ah yes the BBC...

      beautiful headline on the evening news last week;

      "Threat level at Nuclear plant raised to level 5, two levels below Chernobyl"

      After I heard that I wrote a complaint. A main headline like that, no context to go with it. I think they were having a "let's write the worst headline we can with the least amount of information we have/can give" day.

      Jokes

  5. Andy Farley
    Thumb Up

    This might interest a few

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

    I've not checked his methodology as I was only just sent the site but have a look.

    Cheers for the article Lewis. If I were a paranoid man I'd draw the conclusion that Big Oil was planting anti-nuclear propaganda...but I'm not, I just think it's people being stupid. Stupid trumps conspiracy any day.

    1. Vulch
      Boffin

      As might...

      http://xkcd.com/radiation/

      Comes complete with a note of sources.

    2. Eugene Crosser
      Thumb Up

      deaths-per-twh

      That was an excellent topic to pursue. While I earlier read some of the reports and commentary I was thinking how useful it would be to have actual figures of casualties per unit of energy generated, in different industries.

      I have my doubts though if the casualties in the Uranium mines where properly accounted for, especially in earlier days of nuclear energy, and in more opaque places like the Soviet Union. Although I doubt that they would tip the balance.

      1. Andydaws

        Casualties in uranium mining

        The overwhelming majority of uranium mining is "open cast", as opposed to deep mining. The quantities of spoil that have to be shifted mean it has to be a VERY rich deposit to make deep mining economic. That's much, much safer, and also means things like radon exposure are readily managed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Badgers

          re: The overwhelming majority of uranium mining

          I heard it was mostly done by In-Situ Leaching http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/nuclear/dupr/qupd_tbl2.html

  6. Thomas 4

    Whole lot of water

    3 tonnes per minute = 180 tonnes per hour * 13 hours = 2340 tonnes.

    According to wikipedia: "The tonne (unit symbol t) or metric ton (U.S.),[1] often written tautologously as metric tonne, is a unit of mass equal to 1,000 kg (2,204.62 lb) or approximately the mass of one cubic metre of water at four degrees Celsius."

    So this means the fire engine sprayed 2340 m3 of water, or in El Reg units, approximately 507 elephants worth.

  7. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Not yet?

    I'm not entirely sure it's time for those fighting the fires to remove the bike-clips from thier trousers yet. It seems to have been a really close thing between cooling the reactors and them getting a bit too warm.

    We've not been told what's actually going on - been told 'it's steam' when the news vids showed smoke.

    Also not yet had any info as to how much damage has been caused to those who managed to connect the power back up again or those who were fighting the fires at close quarters.

    1. MinionZero

      @Whole lot of water

      @"3 tonnes per minute = 180 tonnes per hour * 13 hours = 2340 tonnes."

      It makes me wonder how much of this water will run off back into the sea?. The ground around the reactors are undeniably highly radioactive and that much water being dumped on and over the reactors will result in some of it running off and dumping high concentrations of radioactivity in the sea (and on the sea bed), which is a major issue for the local fishing industry, as it will get into the food chain. (It will happen with the rain anyway, but this will increase with that much water being dumped over the reactors directly).

      Also the local concentrations of radioactivity will inevitably be higher in the sea than on the land, not least because the wind has also been blowing over the sea for much of the time the reactors were leaking badly.

      1. Steve X
        WTF?

        Say again?

        "The ground around the reactors are undeniably highly radioactive"

        What makes you think so? There's been no leakage or spillage of highly radioactive material, and in general the surroundings of a reactor have to be kept very clean so that people can work there. I've seen no suggestions that any of the reactor surroundings have significant levels of radioactivity.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          @ MinionZero

          I think you will find that the pollution caused by all of the industrial chemicals being washed into the sea will dwarf any radioactive runout making its way to the sea.

          Thats assuming there was some sort of radioactive problem to run out which as the cores have not been affected certainaly doesnt look like the case...

          Either way, i wouldnt recommend eating any fish caught off the coast of Japan in the coming months, but not because of radioactivity!

          1. MinionZero
            WTF?

            @lglethal

            lglethal:@"I think you will find that the pollution caused by all of the industrial chemicals being washed into the sea will dwarf any radioactive runout making its way to the sea."

            That's a straw man argument. I'm not talking about industrial chemicals worldwide or whatever, I'm talking about *additional local sea life problems from local radiation*.

            lglethal:@"Thats assuming there was some sort of radioactive problem to run out which as the cores have not been affected certainaly doesnt look like the case"

            Wow WTF!, especially "which as the cores have not been affected" ... WOW, just WOW! … that's an incredible statement of jaw dropping troll like ignorance (and I think you are trying to troll), especially considering it was bloody obvious even on the first Friday night (over a week ago!), that due to the finds of Isotopes of Caesium & Iodine in the grounds around the reactors, that the only way you get these found in sufficient quality is from broken open fuel rods. Yet they (their government) didn't at first want to admit that. Even now they are only just starting to admit to some fuel rod damage. They also held back for days on telling us the full truth about how far the cores were exposed. They didn't even at first want to admit the cores were exposed at all. Well we are far beyond that as well now.

            Plus that's just a fragment of what I could say about the state around the buildings, but clearly you & your down voters don't want to read up on what is happening and it appears prefer to troll forums to put down anyone for daring to use the word radiation.

        2. Andydaws

          Radiation sources.

          Indeed - most of what I've seen suggest that the great majority of exposure at Fukushima is gamma - that's more likely to come from back-scateer reflection from exposed fuel ponds, etc.

        3. MinionZero
          WTF?

          "What makes you think so"?

          @"What makes you think so"?

          WTF! makes you deny if FFS!

          Have you not heard the radiation doses around the buildings?!

          @"There's been no leakage or spillage of highly radioactive material"

          WTF! try reading some news about what is leaking. Its been too radioactive at times to enter the area, but according to you not highly radioactive, BULLSHIT!. If there isn't any highly radioactive material around that building, then you go sit on the lawn around the reactors and take a pack lunch. In fact, have a good time, try staying there all day, you would do the world a favour as the average IQ of the planet would go up!

          Oh and as you clearly can't work it out for yourself, try also imagining water also entering and leaving the reactor buildings or can't you imagine that far.

          By the way, here's some more info for you to ignore and that's before you also ignore the about 350 references this page has also got. Plus that's just for starters but I'm sure you will ignore even that info.

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

          1. Chris Hartley 1
            FAIL

            #"What makes you think so"? a.k.a Calm down lad.

            Awwwsomeones not had their Wheatabix today.

            If you've been paying attention like a good little boy then you would have learnt that the radioactive isotompes that were released where very short-lived, mere minutes. That's the reason behind the fluctuations ( that big word means going up and down) in the level of radioactivity. And so far, the longest lived isotope detected outside the reactor is Iodine-131 which has a half-life of 8 days.

            Thus the radioactivity won't last long at all. Not just from the dilution in the ocean from any contaminated run-off, but becaus the most of the isotopes would have decayed to a more stable element before the water even carried them to the sea. And Iodine 131 would be effectively gone in weeks (and the small amount released would ensure dilution to conentrations barely detectable above background radiation levels)

            Maybe you sould read read and learn about this issue from something other than The Sun or a GreenPeace pamphlet and not be such an angry 'tard, asking someone to kill themselves because they pointed out errors in your 'reasoning'.

            1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

              Re: #"What makes you think so"? a.k.a Calm down lad.

              Alright boys, take it down a notch please.

        4. Will 30

          Clues that the site might be dangerously radioactive.

          What makes *me* think the site around the reactors is radioactive is that if it wasn't, a man with a pair of eyes would have been sent to check the water level / temperature in the storage ponds. Perhaps he would be lowered by helicopter if the stairs are all blocked by the explosively destroyed upper storeys, and the collective might of the Japanese fire brigade neglected to bring a long ladder with them.

          Of course, he's not going there at all, even in a helicopter, because it's too f-ing dangerous.

          1. Abremms
            Thumb Down

            longsuffering sigh

            there is radioactivity, and then there is radioactivity. As has been stated in Lewis' articles and elsewhere, the vast majority of radioactivity at the fukushima site is from short half-life isotopes in the steam. when they vent the steam, it is very dangerous in the immediate vicinity, but that majority of the radioactive material has decayed by the time it crosses the street.

            back to the topic at hand, I used to work with a guy who had previously worked for the EPA on cleaning up nasty nasty chemical spills and Very Bad Things. he always used to say "the solution to pollution is dilution". things that are very nasty at 100% concentration become decidedly less scary at .001% concentration.

            Besides, as stated earlier in this thread, we should be far more concerned with the chemicals washed out to sea by the tsunami from other sources.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Radiation != radioactive substance

            'Radiation' means emitted alpha, beta and gamma particles (or neutrons). If not covered by shielding, radiation beams out of the spent fuel rods and said man with a pair of goggles would indeed be irradiated. As soon as shielding (water in this case) is restored the RADIATION drops to normal levels. For the ground to be contaminated RADIOACTIVE ATOMS need to be separated from the spent fuel and spread over the ground - they then emit RADIATION from the ground, and the ground indeed needs to be decontaminated. This is why fire in the spent fuel rods is a problem as vaporised material from the fuel rods is thrown everywhere. However in the absence of actual spread rod material, high radiation readings above the spent fuel pools might mean absolutely nothing about contamination of the ground whatsoever.

          3. Steve X

            @Will 30

            There is a difference between radioactive contamination, and radiation.

            The ground within the site is not highly radioactive.

            The fuel rods in the storage pools are highly radioactive, that's why they're in the spent fuel pools. Anyone approaching them too closely would be irradiated.

            In order to contaminate the site, or the ocean, physical material would need to be spread from the fuel rods onto the ground. So far there is no indication of that having happened. Any vented material has been in the form of quickly-dissipated steam, containing short half-life elements, which had produced short-lived spikes in contamination around the site. Not *of* the site.

            So, entering and working on the site is not harmful. People are doing it. Dangling over the spent fuel pools to take a gander at the fuel rods would be suicidally stupid.

            That, of course, would be the case even were the reactors operating normally.

          4. MrCheese
            FAIL

            @ Will 30

            So you're summarising that because no-one has entered a disaster area unnecessarily it must be glowing at night?

            What are your qualifications for making that statement? Oh and can you say HEALTH & SAFETY you epic numpty - the fact it's a nuclear power station is irrelevant, if it was a quake/tsumani/explosion stricken garden centre they still wouldn't needlessly and thoughtlessly throw people in.

        5. NukeBoy
          Thumb Down

          Sheer ignorance

          You see the problem with most of the news coverage and so called 'expert' opinion is the sheer level of ignorance that they convey.

          I have listened to the experts who the various news channels keep trawling out for an update. The language they use such as 'radiation leak' and 'radiation into the atmosphere' tell me these people dont know what they are talking about.

          A few facts for you.

          For radiation in the levels that has been touted in the press (~400mSv/hr, they dont say if this is gamma or beta gamma) there has to have been a breach of primary containment and reactor material is in the environment.

          For levels to be detected as far away as 100 miles reactor material is in the environment.

          There is a massive difference between radiation (emanating purely from inside the reactor core) and contamination (from material escaping to the environment). Please dont throw words such as radiation around with such gay abandon if you dont know how to use them.

          Thankyou.

          1. Thomas 4

            Wow....

            All this from one post about elephants.

      2. Tim Worstal

        Err, no

        "Also the local concentrations of radioactivity will inevitably be higher in the sea than on the land,"

        For the opposite of "concentrate" is "dilute". And when you dump something in hte Pacific Ocean you do tend to (as long as it dissolves in water of course) dilute it. So tyhe correct phrasing is

        "Also the local dilutions of radioactivity will inevitably be higher in the sea than on the land,"

        Something which really doesn't sound quite so worrying, does it?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race.

    I think that can only be true in regards of the precautions taken. It does sound daft. but its true that nowhere else are such precautions taken.. It is true that more people die from toaster related accidents than nuclear power.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: more people die from toaster related accidents

      A cynic might rephrase that as "more deaths are readily attributable to toaster related accidents" but I'm happy to accept "we're not really sure, but probably very few" as effectively considerably better odds than e.g. a smoking motorcyclist faces, and he's maybe better off than a couch potato with bad diet ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Troll

      but...

      80% of the electricty that feeds my toaster comes from nuclear reactors. If I burn the toast on Saturday, will it be reported as a nuclear accident?

      1. mmiied

        depends

        what are you tosting?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Black Helicopters

          What am I toasting?

          Bagels.

          Damn, it's a zionist plot as well!

        2. MrCheese
          Joke

          @ mmiied

          Spent fuel rods of course! Spread some marmalade on those bad boys and you're good to go

          Disclaimer: It appears reading so many comments may be affecting what little sanity I can muster today!

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      True

      Much the same for air travel.... because there are inherently more potentially disastrous outcomes, safety is taken very seriously. In other areas (carbon-burning plants or factories, or road travel), the perception of danger is a lot less, safety isn't taken so seriously, many accidents happen and many people die.

      I think it's a psychological thing with us, humans seem to be OK with thousands of people dying every day in individual accidents but freak out if it were one-tenth of the people dead all in one big accident.

    4. MrCheese
      Joke

      @ AC 12:23

      Aaah that's all very well but what does that do to the stats if the toasters are running on electricity from nuclear powerstations?

      As the Beeb would say "REPENT NOW WE'RE ALL GONNA FSCKING DIE!!!"

  9. GettinSadda
    Boffin

    Quality of Lewis' data

    According to the second paragraph of this article: "World Nuclear News reports(link) that reactors 5 and 6, which were hooked up to a new power line from off site on Friday, were then able to restart their cooling systems..."

    So, I wonder what that linked report says about the new power line link-up for reactors 5 and 6: "External power has now been connected to unit 5 and 6, allowing them to use their residual heat removal systems..."

    Yup, that's all the story mentions about the new power link to reactors 5 and 6. If I put a generator outside the building and ran a cable through the wall that would fit with the quoted report, so where does Lewis get the further information that it is "a new power line from off site"?

    OK, let's look a little further. I wonder who the most authoritative source on this matter would be... maybe the International Atomic Energy Authority. I wonder if they have anything to say on this matter. Oh yes, yesterday they published a detailed report on their website about the status of Fukushima Daiichi.

    So, what does this say about power for reactors 5 and 6: "Officials configured two diesel generators at Unit 6 to power cooling and fresh-water replenishment systems in the spent fuel pools and cores of Units 5 and 6".

    Interesting, so not off-site power then? Are we sure? Ah look, the report also contains a nice table entitled "Fukushima Daiichi Summary Table - Units 1-6 (20 March 2011, 21:00 UTC)" I wonder what that says. There is a row for "Off-site power" and under reactors 5 and 6 we can see "Not available".

    If you have any doubts about the quality of the data Lewis uses for these articles, maybe this has given you some answers.

    1. Chris Harden
      FAIL

      um

      Reactors 1 and 2 have the external power line, 5 and 6 have generators - in the big wide scheme of things does it really matter which way round it is?

      So in a two page article you find one, inconsequential mistake and take a stab at the authors integrity over it.....

      <Rude comment removed as it wouldn't have gotten past moderation>

      1. GettinSadda

        @Chris Harden

        To be honest...

        I only found one error, because I already knew that reactors 5 and 6 were powered from locally generators before I started reading, so I stopped soon after finding that mistake.

        What I am trying to flag here is that Lewis (who's work I generally quite like!) keeps writing articles that are so full of positive spin that Winston Smith would have thought them unrealistically optimistic, about an incident at a nuclear power station (and I am moderately pro-fission). When these articles also include 'facts' that seem to be poorly researched, I can't help feeling that at the very least he needs to up the dried-frog pill dosage.

        1. mspletz
          Boffin

          Actually, it's all in your definitions

          This has cropped up before, though I've been looking at so many various sites I don't recall which one mentioned it, so I can't provide a link.

          Apparently, 'external' power, in this context, is 'power not coming from the reactor itself'. So, both the *off-site* feeds from the power grid, and the *ON-site* power from the diesel generators are both considered 'external' power.

          Don't know if it's true or not, but if it is, it still isn't as confusing to the average reader as radioactivity versus radiation.

    2. MrCheese
      Boffin

      @ Gettin Sadda

      IT translation fail here I think; I'd perceive generators to be "external" or "off-site" power sources as they are not the mains electricity, they were provided "externally" then bought in from "off-site" to provide "power"

      I think you're interpretation of that differs depending which industry you work in

  10. Richard 120
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like flying

    It just makes me think of the whole thing about flying being one of the safest forms of travel yet it is a great cause of anxiety in many many people.

    Possibly because when things go wrong they go colossaly wrong and bad plane crashes are generally horrific in terms of losses and gruesomeness, similarly when (and it's the only one really of note) Chernobyl happened there were massive consequences.

    I guess it's just perception.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Massive Consequences.

      I think if you want massive consequences in power generation you need to look at Banqiao which killed 171000 people. By any reasonable measure, Chernobyl has resulted in less than a thousand deaths. The UN even stated it's 4000 additional thyroid cases as an overstatement - and remember 92% of thyroid cancer suffers are still living 30 years later!

      1. Richard 120

        Nasty

        In that case we should kill all beavers then.

        I guess another part of the (naive) perception is that nuclear power is synonymous with nuclear bomb.

  11. David Pollard
    Pint

    Radiation measurements

    Philip and colleagues, who provided this translation and summary, deserve a pint at the least.

    "I made these as quite a few people are getting confused with all the numbers floating around and to show in an easily viewable format the levels that are being stated."

    http://fleep.com/earthquake/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not sure

      I think those numbers look a bit on the low side.

      I've been following the readings from the Riken Institute at Wako (also in Saitama) and they appear slightly higher:

      http://www.riken.jp/engn/r-world/topics/110314/monitoring.html

      Regardless I think the worrying bit is they are climbing, while Lewis tells us the situation is improving...

  12. dave 46

    Amazing

    I support nuclear power, I believe fission is the future of power generation for the forseeable future and I know there are modern designs which are inherently safe and don't need cooling pumps running constantly to prevent disaster.

    But this article has so much positive spin and sugar coating even I think I'm being lied to. Maybe Lewis is training for a career in politics.

    1. Jolyon

      Career

      He's after a career in journalism - never a bad thing to be good box office on a heated (if you'll forgiver the pun) issue if you want people to pay you to write or say what you think.

      We're not being lied to, it's just a different spin on the same information everyone else has - it's not like he's on site and knows something no one else does and is not telling us about it.

      1. dave 46

        a title

        That's my point, I know he isn't lieing, I absoilutely know it's objective fact but the amount of spin he puts inbetween the facts makes me instincitvely doubt anything he says.

        Quite a talent right there.

  13. Paul Williams
    Stop

    Miising the point...

    Go to a mother of a young child, give some milk for her baby, then tell her that it contains radiation levels 10% higher than normal.

    Thats insignificant - even more so when you consider that 'normal' levels have massive safety margins. And yet, chances are she wont give that kid the milk.

    Most Reg readers are nerdy types - they understand that the leaks at Fukashima were, in the wider scheme of things, harmless. But to say that is to miss the point. - Nuclear powere in the near future is dead - no-one will want nuclear stations near their home, not because Nuclear power is dangerous, but because nearby residents think it is.

    While Lewis's facts are straight and intentions are honorable, articles like the ones he's come out with this week actually make the situation worse - because when people are afflicted by the sort of cognitive dissonance created by being told nuclear power is safe on one hand while seemingly seeing reactors blow up and smoke pouring out on the other, they're going to assume that the narrative is spin - after all - they just saw (what they thought was) a reactor blowing up....and the day-by-day revisionism doesnt help - 'Nuclear reactors are great'....'Nuclear reactor problems arent as bad as they seem'...'No chance of containment breach'...'Containment breach is harmless'...its a sequence Alastair Campbell would be proud of.

    It would have been better to wait until the situation has calmed down, and then produce a dispassionate careful analysis of what happened, what went right, what went wrong, and what we can learn, and what inputs we can take into the future of nuclear power elsewhere in the world.

    1. CADmonkey

      I, for one,...

      ...welcome my lifebuoy-in-a-sea-of-slime overlord and his daily dose of sanity.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Making a point.

      Keep calm and carry on.

      Wise advice, and it is available printed on wall posters, tea mugs, scatter cushions ... and also occasionally in the science section of El Reg.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      And that is exactly why this kind of article is necessary

      Do you genuinely think that any journalist is capable of waiting until the situation has calmed down before writing articles? Of course not, they've got newspapers to sell and bills to pay.

      When several news outlets are producing "DOOMSDAY! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!" type articles, and others are producing more sane "It's serious, but not to general public safety" articles, people are eventually going to see the final result and realise that they should never have believed the doomsayers.

      The proper analysis that you're talking about will occur when the IAEA et al get a chance, much like the Air Accident Investigation people do for aircraft accidents.

      You'll never see the results of eitehr on the news, of course.

  14. Seanmon
    Flame

    Can we now focus on the real problem?

    I.e. the thousands of homeless, hungry, bereaved people and the devastation to the Japanese landscape?

    BBC, Daily Mail, The Sun and all the rest of you. Hang your collective heads in shame. You can consider yourselves directly responsible for worsening the situation for these people. The situation at Fukushima was serious, no doubt about it, but was a side show. But your hysterical fearmongering reporting distracted attention from the real issues, loaded more fear and worry on a suffering population and in some cases actually PREVENTED invaluable aid getting through. I hope you can all sleep at night knowing you contributed to the death toll. J'accuse!

    Those having a go at Mr Page for perceived pro-nuclear bias: Yes, I've found some of the past week's articles a bit too Rah-rah for my taste too, but a LOT more balanced than most of the guff that's been written.

    And no, I'm not a huge proponent of nuclear power. I'd love to live in a world where we didn't need it. But realistically, it's the only practical long term source of energy the human race has right now. Greenpeace: How many of your idiotic windmills do you think would have survived half as well as Fukushima?

    1. Andy Christ

      You're missing the point

      Even if a wind turbine farm falls prey to an earthquake and tsunami, its failure will not endanger anyone. It is only through a massive and risky effort that the Fukushima plant is _perhaps_ being stabilized; without such intervention can you even imagine what the situation would be like right now? Nor has this unfortunate episode yet reached a conclusion...

      1. JimC Silver badge
        FAIL

        > wind turbine will not endanger anyone

        Hmm, wind turbine mast height xxx, mass yyy, blade rotation speed aaa, blade mass bbb, really doesn't matter what the fill in numbers are it wil sure as hell kill you if it falls on your head...

        1. Abremms

          wind turbine

          the problem with this argument is that wind turbines, with current technology, are incapable of providing the power we need without taking up unfeasable tracts of land. Thus, we have to make the choice between being able to provide enough power at a minimum acceptable risk, or drasticaly lower the amount of power we use so we can get away with safer forms of energy.

          Given the civil nuclear industries track record, it really does seem to be the safest option available given current technologies without making drastic changes to the way our civilization works.

        2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Boffin

          Wind Turbines

          Wind turbines are certainly safer for people than a nuke plant, but A) the wind doesnt alway blow B) wind turbines are big, rotating fly swatters if you are a bug or a bird, C) they use rare and toxic rare earth metals, and the processing of these is both limited in quantity and highly polluting. It's an open question whether wind turbines could really replace thermal power plants of various stripes.

    2. Abremms

      @Seanmon

      I definatly agree that we need to focus on the real disaster here. the fact that there are people in Japan not getting aid because of this sensationalist, ignorant fearmongering in the media is shamefull.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Now remember children ...

    Nuclear Power will have no harmful side-effects whatsoever.

    Compared to being patronized into oblivion by a journalist anyway.

    You are an intelligent journalist. This is an (allegedly) intelligent audience. So when you have a section called "analysis", why not give us analysis instead of speaking to us like we are children ?

    Or is it all about reminding us how darned clever you are ?

  16. Frederic Bloggs
    Thumb Down

    Conflation rules...

    Let's use the natural disaster to make sure that everyone knows just how scared our, patently non-scientifically literate, journos are. Let's do this by deliberately joining together the thing we are scared of (invisible stuff we don't have a clue about), but where nothing much important is happening, with another disaster that has killed tens or many hundreds of thousands of people.

    And (no doubt accidentally) leave out the true cause of their deaths, viz: drowning or crushing.

    Here are today's examples.

    Auntie is doing its best to be impartial: "However the cooling systems are not yet operating, and the head of the UN nuclear watchdog (the IAEA) said the situation "remains very serious". Some workers at the stricken facility were temporarily evacuated after smoke was seen rising from reactor No 3. The official death toll from the twin disaster has now risen to 8,450. Nearly 13,000 people are still missing following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the country's north-east."

    The Grauniad is almost balanced (by newspaper standards) but blots its copybook at the end of its piece: "While hundreds of workers battle to render the nuclear plant safe, Japan continues to count its dead. Police estimates show more than about 18,400 died – 10,500 in Miyagi prefecture alone. A further 452,000 people are living in shelters. "It is very distressing as we recover more bodies day after day," said police spokesman Hitoshi Sugawara."

    In the meantime, the Right Wing press is laying it on the line big time. In the Thunderer, the headline: "Levels of radiation rise in crops, officials say 20,000 may have died"

    The Daily Mail says:

    "# Smoke seen rising from area which housed core of spent nuclear fuel in reactor Number 3

    # Power restored at all six reactors, but coolers have to be checked for damage before they can be switched on

    # Electricity could be used to pump more water to cool overheated reactors

    # Death toll passes 18,000"

    Do you suppose Rupert has shares in renewables? Doesn't seem credible, but what other conclusion can one draw (that's printable)?

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Rupert's credibility.

      No need to cast aspersions. This could be easily explained if he holds a goodly chunk of investment in gas, which will skyrocket if the world buys into his tripe and cans nuclear.

      There you are, ticks all the boxes for credibility while maintaining necessary amounts of self-serving editorial control and pure evil.

      1. The Other Steve
        FAIL

        The Grauniad is almost balanced ???

        Weapons Grade Fail.

        1. Jolyon

          Guardian Anger

          You'll need to expand on that for those of us that haven't read that paper's coverage - what has it said?

          Is their unbalanced reporting the reason Lewis Page hasn't written anything for them for over a year?

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Quietly reworded

      I wish the BBC would allow us to see the changes made to an article after posted. Right now it reads:

      'The official death toll from the quake and tsunami has now risen to 8,450.'

      1. Chemist

        I had to correct them recently

        They had a post on the Japan feed that actually, to anyone with even half a brain, was about evacuating Brits from Bahrain !

      2. Cicero

        The Agenda is Clear

        It was actually worse than that. At about 0730 the line referred to above on the BBC said "The overall death toll has now risen to etc etc" . So you had: Nuclear; Nuclear; Nuclear; Death Toll; Nuclear; Nuclear etc with the quake and tsuami not mentioned until half way down the page. I was so amazed at the transparency of the agenda being pedalled (or the incompetence; you decide) that I took a screenshot thinking it would probably change during the course of the day.

  18. Mahou Saru

    Good grief...

    Some of the media hype like BBC's "Japan nuclear progress as toll up" inferring heavily that the deaths were caused by the nuke situation rather then the tsunami is sickening. Sure they mention that the deaths are caused by the twin disaster which is the earthquake and the tsunami, but that is a single lined buried within a whole article about the nuke situation....

    Lewis's articles make a lot more sense and then most I've read so far, and at least they don't cause situations like:

    "Alarm about the Fukushima reactors has pushed many people away from the disaster zone. NHK reports that doctors and other medical staff are reluctant to volunteer for relief work, and truck drivers do not want to deliver supplies because of concerns about radioactivity."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/16/japan-quake-tsunami-freezing-temperatures-relief

    So before having a go at Lewis for writing a positive story rather then scaremongering, think what the mongers are doing especially when it makes the situation worse.

    1. dave 46

      a title

      Sugar coating it isn't the answer the negative scare mongering. It just makes people believe the scare mongerers more.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Renewables are much safer.....

    Banqiao Dam 1975:

    As a Direct Result of a 1 in 2000 year Flood the Breach of the man made Banqiao Hydroelectric Dam resulted in the Deaths of more than 170,000 People.

    From wiki wonders world of facts: According to the Hydrology Department of Henan Province, in the province, approximately 26,000 people died from flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine. In addition, about 5,960,000 buildings collapsed, and 11 million residents were affected. Unofficial estimates of the number of people killed by the disaster have run as high as 230,000 people. The death toll of this disaster was declassified in 2005.

    So... much 'better' than Nuclear.

  20. Si 1
    Thumb Up

    Mass media hysteria

    I suspect that the majority of the mass media's attempts at alarmist reporting of the Fukushima incident will die down now that they have some real explosions to report on, i.e. bombing Gaddafi.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Whilst you're at it..

      Dont forget the 2009 Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam Accident that Killed a mere 75 workers.

  21. Jon Green
    Alert

    The operation was a success, but the patient died.

    Rather a biased article, which fails to note the effects of the evacuation zone and partial quarantine around Fukushima. Those who stayed are finding it hard (to say the least) to obtain food and potable water, and hospital supplies within the area are running critically low, as there is little aid entering the region.

    The reactors may not have caused the widespread distribution of radionucleotides originally feared, but the consequences of their failures are still killing people.

    1. Steve X

      Shortage of food and aid

      Shortages which are a direct consqeuence of the media scaremongering and (non-Japan) government cowardice, which are preventing people from bringing much needed, and available, aid into the area.

    2. Bluenose
      Thumb Down

      So the earthquake and tsunami caused no problems.

      Irrespective of whether there is an evacuation or partial quarantine around the plant, people all over North Eastern Japan are suffering from lack of food and water not just at Fukushima. This believe it or not is because a 12 metre tusnami hit the North Eastern coast probably damaged or destroyed water pumping stations, water treatment plants and as well as causing major damage to the road and rail networks. It also destroyed many harbours.

      So far I can't see any reason to blame the nuclear power plant for people lacking food and water but I think I can see major logistical problems causing serious issues for the transportation of food and water into not only Fukushima but every other place hit by the tsunami.

    3. MrCheese
      Boffin

      @ Jon Green

      Are we talking about the precautionary evac zone set by the Japenese or the knee-jerk 80km evac zone stipulated by the yanks?

  22. Chris Cartledge
    Coat

    Improving?

    How can the situation be improving? According to Lewis there has never been a real problem...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Chris Cartledge

      Umm let's see, well there was no nuclear disaster last week and the plant is now starting to be made safe (or more safe at least), therefore the situation is improving despite there being no "problem"

      See?

  23. poohbear

    Shill?

    The writer comes across as a shill for the nuclear power industry. Basically his recent articles have been attempts to sell the party line that "nuclear power is safe", look it even withstood an earthquake and tsunami.

    However, the reactors did not survive undamaged. It has taken major efforts by humans to keep them from going critical.

    Lets ponder what would have happened if the aftermath of the disaster had been a little different, and humans were NOT able to rush to the rescue? Then what?

    What many proponents of nuke power fail to realise is the short-lived nature of human society. How many communities have not been attacked in war for more than 100 years? Nuke reactors are a prime target for any enemy.

    If they Romans had built nukes, would they have been able to ensure continuity of "due care" for their projects, and the resulting highly toxic waste, for the last 1500 years?

    What makes anyone think modern warlike humans will be any better?

    There is still no safe permanent disposal for nuclear waste. Who is going to look after it for the next 100k years?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Because...

      irradiating the land you aim to occupy is such a good plan.

      I think we can do at least as well as the Egyptians did a few thousand years ago when they buried their kings/gods. That would be a legacy ;)

      Think about a couple of reinforced concrete pyramids ;) Of course we could also go for deep, deep sea storage, or (when we finally build a space elevator) we could chuck it back at the greatest local nuclear reactor of all - the sun.

      Oh, and the minor point that most fission power stations have some quite significant defences (in the form of concrete and steel).

      Looking around the area one of the safest places to be was inside the power plant - new information indicates that the tsunami was twice the height of the defence design specification. There have been a handful of "normal" deaths (i.e not related to ionising radiation sources).

      The buildings survived rather well - the shutdown was well in progress when the tsunami took out significant amounts of the infrastructure (but still not the buildings)

      We should carry on building nuclear reactors as safely as we know how, we should look at non-weapons tech to build safer reactors still. We should look at mini plants (substation sized).

    2. Andydaws

      It's a funny thing....

      But as soon as I see someone using "going critical" as loosely as in this post, I immediately assume they're not the sharpest tool in the box.

      Critical has a strict meaning in nuclear matters - it means the number of neutrons generated "generation to generation" is greater than one. Geeting hot isn't "going critical". Being short on coolant flow isn't "going critical".

      At least have the decency to get the terminology right.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @poohbear

      ..."It has taken major efforts by humans to keep them from going critical."

      Please be careful with your use of 'critical'. As far as operating nuclear reactors are concerned, 'critical' is normal. Misusing the term may lead those who do not understand the terminology from becoming needlessly alarmed.

      I admit that a reactor being shutdown should not be critical once the control rods are inserted, but I seriously doubt that in this case, the cores would have become critical in the nuclear sense even if the cooling had completely failed and they were damaged by heat.

      The design is such that if a complete meltdown could occur, that resultant puddle of radioactive mess would be distributed over a large enough area such that a critical mass would not pool in any one place to allow an uncontrolled nuclear reaction to happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a funny thing.... → #

        > But as soon as I see someone using "going critical" as loosely as in this post,

        > I immediately assume they're not the sharpest tool in the box.

        Erm, I got that from the moniker "poohbear"

        Sigh, I know I'm prejudiced ...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Critical

      "It has taken major efforts by humans to keep them from going critical."

      No, it hasn't. The moment the quake hit, the control rods went home, the reactor scrammed, and the critical reaction stopped. That part of the failsafe worked perfectly.

      What has caused the problems since is the decay heat due to the radioisotopes in the fuel rods. Even a major meltdown is unlikely to allow a critical reaction to restart.

    5. IglooDude

      Are you sure?

      "There is still no safe permanent disposal for nuclear waste. Who is going to look after it for the next 100k years?"

      The Romans didn't have the ability to launch things into space. 100,000 years is a long time not to be able to (say) fling some major tonnage of radioactive waste into the sun. Sure, currently it is akin to Ferdinand and Isabella having Christopher Columbus load raw sewage as cargo to bring to the mid-Atlantic for dumping, but you're the one waving around historical precedent.

  24. Volker Hett

    So everything is fine?

    And the japanese are just plain stupid to stop delivery of food from the region?

  25. cnapan

    Complain to the Media about their misleading coverage

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

    This 'hompage' (sic) is where you can explain to the BBC what you think about the quality of their investigative journalism.

    The BBC is the single most influential news service in the UK, and one of the best funded on the planet, yet is one of the worst offenders in the misleading media hysteria.

    The irony is that up till now, they've been dutifully promoting the idea of climate change. In one short week they have managed to scare the public into embracing fossil fuels again. What plonkers.

    1. Mahou Saru

      @So everything is fine?

      Errr why take food from an area that has been badly hit by a tsunami and the people there are badly in need of supplies....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      whats "safe" ?

      Well apart from that old favourite, the "precautionary principle", remember what happened with BSE over here? Beef sales dived through the floor, so the government brought in any number of checks and restrictions in order to restore confidence both within the UK and internationally.

      I'd be more concerned about the food (and people) under those carcinogenic clouds from the oil refineries and the long term effects from flooding agricultural areas with heavy metals from the ruined industrial complexes.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      @ Volker Hett

      No that's what's called a precaution; you know, something you do "just in case". They're not stopping the food leaving because it IS glowing but because there is/was an albeit tiny chance that it MIGHT be.

      If you can't make simple distinctions like those you're going to have trouble seeing the facts

  26. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Meanwhile, in the real world...

    Smoke is rising over units 3 and 2. Sea-water cooling of unit 3 is being delayed. TEPCO admits having no idea about the cause of these smokes.

    Sure looks both « improving » and « firmly under control ».

    1. Andydaws

      No, "sea water cooling" isn't delayed.

      for someone who's posted so much on here, you've not yet got much grasp.

      Sea water cooling is ongoing on reactor 3. What was under discussion was venting of pressure in the suppression chamber. It's risen to about 2 bar (gauge), against a design pressure of 5 bar.

      It's been decided to postpone it, because the pressure's now stable - and has been since around noon yesterday.

      I suspect they're in no hurry, because as power comes back, they'll get back the residual heat removal systems, which will let them cool - hence depressurise - the chamber without releasing more short-lived products.

      Incidentally, you were assuring us a few days ago that the R3 suppression chamber and containment were breached. For something with a hole in it, it's obviously doing remarkably well holding pressure.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        @andy

        « Sea water cooling is ongoing on reactor 3. [...] It's been decided to postpone it »

        So, is it ongoing or postponed? Anyway, AFP says that it has been delayed (news line from 13h05 GMT -- you can check by yourself), and I'll stick to that until further news.

        « you were assuring us a few days ago that the R3 suppression chamber and containment were breached »

        Nope, I didn't ever mention unit 3 before that message you replied to. You must be somehow confused.

        « for someone who's posted so much on here »

        Now, you have to be joking...

        1. Andydaws

          cooling, or venting - rather different things, you know. Or perhaps not.

          Note the dates and times.

          http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Stabilisation_at_Fukushima_Daiichi_2003111.html

          "During the day, the company had noted a pressure increase within unit 3, warning that venting may be required. Preparations were underway to open the relief vale on the torus suppression chamber, or if that had proven full of water, another valve on the reactor containment. These operations had been expected to release a more significant amount of radioactivity than earlier venting, but Tepco has since said the higher pressure is stable and it does not need to vent."

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still Here

    I worked on a former nuclear site for many years, and in a former Plutonium production facility for 3 years.

    I'm still alive and in fine health.

    1. Jolyon

      Tremendous

      That's very helpful. I'll add that my friend worked at Cadarache. He drank only mineral water, ate salad every day and died of pancreatic cancer before all of his children reached adulthood.

      I really don't think these small parcels of anecdotal evidence add a great deal to the debate.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Graham Bartlett

    @Charlie Stross

    Would any alternative have been better? There was a sodding great fireball from an oil refinery too. This oil refinery was the opposite side of Tokyo from the earthquake and wasn't even touched by the tsunami. How well do you reckon an oil-fuelled power station would have survived at Fukushima?

    As regards the grids - that's just crazy stuff from the Japanese. Not so much the different supplies, although that's pretty bonkers, but the fact that they've not done anything about joining the grids. I was sponsored through uni by a company (now called Alstom Transmission and Distribution Power Electronic Systems Limited - we needed small writing on business cards!) who amongst other things specialised in building back-to-back high-voltage DC links to join AC transmission grids, rectifying one grid to DC and then regenerating an AC sine-wave with the right frequency and phase. They'd been doing it for a while, and they're not the only ones in the market either. If the Japanese hadn't the nous to get one of these in place any time in the last 20+ years, they're mad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It would have survived fine

      I reckon that if an oil-fired powerstation had been shut down in a controlled manner then it would have been OK 2 days later. Unlike a nuclear power-station there would only be a couple of days worth of fuel on-site so the amount of energy available to make nasty things happen is just orders of magnitute less.

  29. The Other Steve
    FAIL

    Shill, shill, conspire, tin foil. Ass hats.

    Oh look, someone has a different opinion than me and it is based on facts, therefore rather than enter into an argument based on facts - of which I have none - I will simply take the most intellectually lazy and dishonest route of deciding that they are therefore in the pay of/conspiring with some massive global cartel which is massively inimical to the interests of humanity in general, and to me personally in particular since I'm so damn important.

    This will save me the bother of having to listen to them or modify my opinion in the face of any facts that don't fit the coherent but utterly uninformed view of the world I have manufactured from whole cloth.

    In the mean time, people are dying in their thousands as a result of all the other fucktards like me doing the same thing, but that's nowhere as near as important as the fact that my ideology is intact.

    Yay me!

    1. Jolyon

      Ash sat

      "people are dying in their thousands as a result of all the other fucktards like me doing the same thing"

      Sorry, are you saying paranoid Reg readers are killing people in Japan by over-reacting to Lewis Page articles and calling him a shill?

  30. Andy Farley
    Thumb Down

    Way to miss the point Bluenose

    If you see the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, do say hello.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Spin works both ways, of course...

    Isn't it WAY too early to say "Ah, but food grown in the region"? The quake/tsunami was barely over a week ago, ffs, and even then it took a couple of days for the reactors to start having their fun'n'games.

    Those are some seriously fast-growing crops to have gone through a complete growing cycle and be harvested in that time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      dust

      The contamination is presumably dust that has fallen on the leaves. Until you teach cows to wash the grass before they eat it then they will ingest the dust on top of the blades of grass. So their milk will be contaminated within a day. I seem to remember the same stuff happening when Sellafield burped...

      But the food contamination is something that has been measured, its not something that is being done just-in-case.

  32. zerocred
    Thumb Up

    I'm off to buy shares in each and every nuclear co.

    But really - they're down ~20%

  33. Pavlov's obedient mutt

    alternate realities

    Reading these articles, and then reading the NYT.BBC etc articles - well, its like there are two different events being described.

    I admire Lewis' writings, but I can't help getting the slight feeling he's got an agenda here.

    Still, I chose to believe his reporting over the babble being spewed by the more mainstream press, which we know, for sure, has many agendas.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      This is actually a report from TMI

      ...an event with minimal radiation release. Xenu icon because alternate realities.

      "When I got up Saturday morning my lips were burnt more. And they were blistered. I couldn’t blow my nose, it was sore. I never had this before.

      Sunday morning I was blistered more. You know how you get sunburn blisters. (But) I never got blisters in the sun. I never had blisters on my lips before then. Down in like your throat was really hot. It’s like you couldn’t drink enough. My chest. It was like putting hot towels on you, except the heat came from inside. This is something you can’t explain. It’s just like you were burning up inside. And you just wanted to drink. I don’t know if my getting sick with this heart condition was related to the accident, but that burning feeling in the chest was located right over where that valve went wrong. (Bill had to have a heart operation in December 1980.)

      Now, it didn’t affect everybody the way it did me. Now my son, he was like that. My wife stayed in most of the time. She got a little bit. She could taste it, and got a little hot, but she didn’t get like I did.

      We were gone seven days. We had a four year old male German shepherd. He was healthy when we left. He knew how to take care of himself because we go to Florida every winter normally, and he would stay in the garage. We had food prepared. We had 200 pounds of Purina Dog Chow separated out in boxes. I had ten five-gallon cans of water that he always used. Same cans he ever used. And, we left a window cracked in the garage, and he had a mattress in the back. When we came back, he was laying on his mattress dead. And his eyes were burnt white. Both eyes burnt white. He didn’t eat no food, hardly any food. He drank a whole five-gallon can of water, and he threw it up all over the garage. He was dead a lot more than a day. We walked in, we were sick. And you could still taste this like burning galvanized steel, metal.”

      1. Andydaws

        Amazing what you find....

        when you search on a quote from the post above.

        It apparently comes from a website called "Three Mile Island alert" which also treats us to gems like:

        "“I went to the barn around four, four-thirty (in the morning). We were milking cows. And the barn started to shake. And I heard a rumble like underground. Well, I wouldn’t say an earthquake. But it was going like ‘brrup, brrup, brrup.’ And then it shook and shook and we didn’t hear the big rumbles. But every now and then you could hear a rumbling in the ground. And Paul, my brother, was with me and he says, ‘That’s an earthquake.’ I said, ‘Paul, it don’t sound like an earthquake. Earthquake, it just rattles. But you don’t hear the noise, the brrup, brrup.’ It just (was) like there was boiling water coming underground. "

        earthquake, eh?

        "And so, about ten after seven, I started for the house, ‘cause I’ve been working since early morning. And I looked outside. It was so blue! It was so blue! I couldn’t see ten feet ahead of myself! I got scared"

        opaque poison gas, eh?

        Any alien abductions?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Boffin

          What are these people smoking?

          Didn't it used to make people mellow?

  34. Shocked Jock
    Stop

    Informative reporting

    El Reg's reporter turns up with "Events at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan went well at the weekend" and "sampling of food from farms in Fukushima province revealed that so far, in line with expectations, no dangerous radioisotopes have been released from the plant in significant quantities" - no source, no attribution - but it doesn't look much like this to me:

    "Engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi facility, 155 miles northeast of Tokyo, had been racing to restore power to cooling systems at its six reactors to reverse the overheating that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years."

    Or this:

    "Tokyo's tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has caesium as well. Rain and dust are also tainted.

    "In the province of Ibaraki, a centre of vegetable production, tests found radioactive iodine levels in spinach that were 27 times the accepted limit.

    "Milk in Fukushima was found to be contaminated with radiation 17 times that limit. "

    These are all from journalists who verify their sources and do not try to emulate Dr Pangloss.

    Here's more, from Auntie this time:

    "The crisis has still not been resolved and the situation at the [plant] remains very serious," Yukiya Amano, the head of the IAEA, told an emergency board meeting."

    El Reg's editorial staff needs to get a grip. Even if the intended readership is likely to have a pro-science bias, it is laughable to claim that there's no problem, and then that the problem is near to a solution: it reads like the pronouncements of a deluded dictator telling everyone that all the people love him.

  35. John 62

    Channel 4 news

    Channel 4 News was doing a sort of retrospective from Jon Snow who had gone to Japan shortly after the quake and toured around a bit to report on the extent of the damage. what I got from it was that they thought the nuclear situation was worrying and may be worrying long term, but they couldn't believe the UK news was spending so much time on what was happening at Fukushima Daiichi when most of the north-east of Japan's main island had be flattened and probably tens of thousands were dead and there was snow, too, falling on people with no homes.

  36. Big_Boomer
    Thumb Up

    Balanced Reporting

    I will undoubtedly get shed loads of flames from the Anti Brigade but bring 'em on! ;-)

    I have thoroughly enjoyed Lewis's balanced reporting of this issue.

    He has never indulged in scaremongering, he has reported based on the available data, not on hype and hyperbole, his writing is careful and considered and he hasn't once risen to the bait that all you trolls have thrown out there. Keep up the good work Lewis.

    If any of you had ever visited a Nuke and seen how they are built you'd realise why they were still standing after an 8.9 earthquake and a 12m tsunami hit. Reinforced concrete walls several meter thick, foundations sunk down into the local bedrock, airlock doors everywhere.

    I'd far rather work in a Nuke, even a 40 year old one, than work in any other type of power station.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      re. Informative reporting

      I don't think anyone is trying to say it isn't a serious situation, but it is true to say that the global effect of "the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years" is nil, and the local effects are almost nil. No-one has died as a result of "the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years".

      In the context of the thousands of deaths caused by the earthquake and tsunami, the nuclear incident is insignificant and the way in which it has become the media focus has meant that relief efforts for the survivors of the earthquake are being hampered.

    2. There's a bee in my bot net

      RE: Balanced Reporting

      I used to live just down the coast from Sellafield/Seascale/Windscale call it what you like. I've been there on school trips and as an adult. It is a fascinating place with its own single man on site police force. No longer generating electricity but is reprocessing the nasties from other nuclear sites.

      I doubt most of that would still be standing if struck by an 8.9 earth quake... you are right though, the actual reactors would likely still be intact. But cooling towers and the like probably wouldn't.

      My current local nuclear installation Winfrith on the other hand... I would give that a fighting chance. Mainly because it was shut down a decade ago and is currently being decommissioned. (I say currently, but a lot of that has stopped due to lack of money).

  37. dr2chase

    Strictly speaking

    "The Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants ... seem to have been very, very safe places to be compared to just about anywhere else in the stricken region."

    Excepting those moments when the buildings exploded, and when radioactive crap intermittently burped out. This is "safe" in the same sense that the (well-managed) Hawaiian volcanic eruptions are safe -- civilians are kept well away from the excitement, and nobody gets hurt.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re. So everything is fine?

    @Volker Hett

    It isn't that the Japanese are stupid, it is just that, worldwide, the nuclear industry is subject to more scrutiny than any other human activity. Whether or not the precautions being taken are overkill for a given situation, the regulations have to be adhered to (unlike many industries where there is blatant flouting of rules), so with nuclear "safe" isn't good enough, it has to be "very safe" and so foodstuffs from a "contaminated" area are subject to restrictions (even though it might be safer than food produced near an asbestos plant).

    The over-reaction of world governments to the "contamination" doesn't help (fuelled by poor reporting of the facts) and there will probably be a bit of a political element to some of the calls for restrictions (similar to the UK's BSE affair when some EU countries took the opportunity for an outright ban on imports of UK produced beef for years; using a health scare to support their own producers).

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Safe...

      As in didn't collapse (except the crane) or suffer significant structural damage from what we can only describe as an $EXPLETIVE big earthquake followed by an $EXPLETIVE big tsunami.

      Following that there have been a couple of explosions, and the occasional evacuation for limited time.

      Seriously - that's what's good about this place, you can see and predict the dangers which are happening.

      If I was outside the plant at the time of the quake/tsunami then I'd likely not care what was going on - I'd be on a cloud with a harp already...

      1. koncordski
        Megaphone

        Yes, ok, but what about.....

        ....Libya? Come on Lewis, there's a crazy tent dwelling evil dictator being spannered by some quite exciting sub launched missiles. What's more half of the pounding is coming from you favourite RAF/BAE makework scheme the GR4 Tornados. That's before we get the whole USA operation 'Lockerbie Payback' angle on it. Get typing Lewis.

    2. Dahak

      On a related question.

      Coal fired power stations release radioactive materials.

      Does anyone know who much Drax [which generates similar amounts of power to Fukushima No. 1] emits?

      Or Liddle and Bayswater [similar combined GW] in Australia?

      1. dr2chase

        Partial info here

        http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/780347.html

        Note the distinction between with, and without scrubbers, and the problems of incorporating fly ash into concrete.

  39. There's a bee in my bot net

    Almost balanced...

    Read dispassionately and without regard to previous articles, this one is almost balanced. It is still leaning on the pro nuke side but keeps that to a minimum, spoiled by trying to shoe horn in your opinion that "It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race". I would counter by suggesting there are innumerable other things that are safer, stroking fluffy kittens for example. Though anything can be shown to have some danger, however remote or ridiculous that danger might seem. Say, catching Bartonellosis from fluffy kitty when kitty gets angry and scratches you, and being immuno-suppressed you fall horribly ill, contract pneumonia and die. Far fetched I know, but then so is my office being struck by a meteor.

    I'm also sceptical of the notion that (in respect of the power plants) "they have not and will not harm a hair on anyone's head radiologically". Thankfully there have only been a handful of contamination cases reported with little detail of the doses received. The one case of exposure that stated a dose over 100mSv (100mSv/yr being the limit over 1 year in normal circumstances for a Japanese nuclear worker, 250mSv/yr in emergencies) didn't state how quickly that dose was received but it is safe to speculate it was hours rather than a year. Unfortunately (or perhaps more appropriately fortunately) not enough data exists about the consequences of doses below 250mSv/yr so it is not simply enough to say that there are no side effects because we haven't seen enough data to know one way or the other. It would be more responsible to say any exposure over 50mSrv in a short period of time carries a likely risk of increased susceptibility to ill health, with regular medicals being made available to that person for their lifetime (I would also add, at the expense of, but not provided by, the nuclear authority whose plant emitted the radiation).

    As is the nature of radiation exposure to complex organic life, the effects are not always immediately apparent (except in high doses over short periods of time or concentrated doses), nor does every organism react in the same way or suffer the same damage. It is a complex interplay relating to the type of radiation exposure, the energy level and duration, the area affected, the age and general health (including pre existing cellular or genetic damage) of those exposed. Then you need to consider the effects of the exposure on a cellular level, is it directly damaging cell structure? Causing chemical changes? Or is it damaging DNA. In the case of DNA, effects depend on whether the radiation damage causes a single or double stranded break and the individuals ability to repair the damage. Another factor in successful cell replication is where in the DNA strand the damage occurs, Not to mention the number of incidents of damage within the body. Pre existing risk, such as family history of disease and previous exposure to radiation sources also play a part in long term outcomes of radiation exposure.

    1. CADmonkey
      Grenade

      Stroking fluffy kittens?

      Have you never heard of toxoplasmosis? It can send your children BLIND.

      I am measurably more paranoid* about the cat shit in my garden than any nuke plant.

      *fekked off as well....bloody cats

      1. David Pollard

        Fluffy kitten disease bigger risk than radiation

        Antibody reaction tests suggest 2 billion people worldwide have been infected by toxoplasmosis. It presents a much greater risk than present levels of man-made nuclear radiation.

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

        This ghastly disease that makes rats lust after cat piss appears to cause stillbirths in humans as well as in sheep.

        http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/19612900471.html

        "Dr Joanne Webster, a lecturer in infectious disease at Oxford ... also says we are likely to find more evidence of the parasite's impact on children."

        "There is some initial research that has found hyperactivity and low IQ in children with high Toxoplasma levels..."

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/850556.stm

        http://www.schizophreniaforum.org/new/detail.asp?id=1468

        Apparently toxoplasmois can re-surface when the immune system is weakened. Anyone for autism?

        1. CADmonkey
          WTF?

          @ David Pollard

          Lewis? Please write an article about Toxoplasmosis immediately - I have teh fear!

          1. There's a bee in my bot net

            Toxoplasmosis

            I specifically didn't mention Toxoplasmosis as I didn't want to cause widespread panic!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    El Reg article on RT

    You made the big time with your glowing piece of nu-klear thinking Lewis... Max Keiser has your article in the trailer for his upcoming Tuesday show on RT - http://maxkeiser.com/2011/03/21/fukushima-triumph-for-nuke-power-propaganda/

  41. BillyTheFish

    if you don't like the sensationalist reports...

    ...don't read the Mail, BBC, Sun version of events, it only encourages them to print more of the same. For supposedly intelligent people, that idea that the Daily Hate is overplaying the situation should hardly come as a surprise, for fuxache!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    "the regulations have to be adhered to"

    You may think that, but only if you have closed eyes and mind.

    TEPCO didn't adhere to the rules, and their executives got caught. BNFL didn't adhere to the rules, and got caught. And so on.

  43. Some Beggar
    Stop

    We have always been at war with Eastasia.

    Chocolate rations are being increased.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    Wait ... I think I might be getting my unapologetic bullshitters confused a bit there ...

  44. xperroni
    Joke

    I wanna be a journalist!

    After following the Fukushima story the whole week through The Register, MITNSE and WNN, and then glancing back at the mainstream media's treatment of the subject, I've made up my mind:

    I wanna be a journalist!

    It's gotta be real fun, ditching anything remotely factual in favour of your own apocalyptic fantasies, cherry-picking keywords from official reports to apply a veneer of legitimacy all over the fraud – and then watch the general populace gasp and run around in fear! Boy ain't that living.

    Yes Lewis, you should me ashamed of being a reporter – but not because of your peers. How dare you disrupt an otherwise beautiful ballet of overblown reports, negligent misdirection and outright lies with your pesky "facts" and pedant "experts" (MIT boys, I'm looking at you). You should have learned long ago the lesson of that bastion of journalistic integrity, The Sun:

    Never let the "truth" get in the way of a good (as in "mass hysteria-inducing") story!

  45. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Insurance

    There is one factor Lewis has not mentioned and that is insurance.

    You cannot insure *anything* against a nuclear incident even though the insurance companies say the risk is too low. Well that is unusual!

    So Mr. Page when your house is contaminated by a privately owned nuclear facility you will get nothing. Maybe the government will give you £50 and a tent.

    Without debating the pros and cons of nuclear power maybe the acid test should be whether a facility can get insured for all liabilities resulting from an accident.

    If my house is demolished by a runaway wind turbine I can claim for a new one from their insurance company.

    So bad luck to all the farmers and other people who live to close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, they are on their own.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Are there any physicists out there?

    But first dude!

    Get your isotopes right.

    While iodine-131 might half-life over 8 days check out iodine-129 dude!

    Hint: think 15 million years like.

    Now then, physicist, pray tell:

    1 - how many a-bomb equivalents in the earthquake of 20110311

    and

    2 - how many a-bomb equivalents in tsunamis of 20110311

    ?

    Close approximations will suffice with a-bomb rating taken from something historic but not too painful in a cultural sense.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      WTF?

      I think 15 million years.

      But to me, that makes it *less* dangerous, not more as you are less likely to see too many of those atoms decay inside of you over a lifetime.

  47. Jemma Silver badge
    Stop

    Once more, with feeling.... (apologies to joss whedon)...

    You know - its amazing to me that people who are supposed to be educated and trained professionals, which are the majority of the people that read this site, seem to have the same IQ, and the same behavioural traits as a chicken thats just been rendered headless...

    There has been radioactive contamination - but if you look at what radio nucleotides they are all the short term types - so far there has been no indication regarding long term nasties like the plutonium in the MOX fuel. The reactors are under control and will remain so - and the short term contamination is just that. Short term. I made the association with 3 mile island in the US - the situation there was massively overstated and the actual contamination was gone within 8 months... so will it be here.

    If this had happened anywhere else the nuclear situation would be irretrievably worse, because the plants were built in known earthquake areas and toughened to withstand such. The fact they survived a 6 in 140 year earthquake, followed by a 1 in 1000 year tsunami and as such survived amazingly unscathed should be a resounding vote of support for properly built, designed and maintained nuclear power systems.

    Then you have the losses of people - the destroyed families and the lost children and all the rest of the horror stories - but that doesn't sell internet space or papers. In places like the US, there are probably a fair number of a certain generation who still think that the only good Japanese person is a dead one - so 'human interest' stories just aren't going to cut it.

    As to the people who howl about nuclear contamination killing people... life kills people - and you dont get that in the paper... banner headlines screaming "89 year old died of natural causes, life to blame, royal commision called"...

    I have tried to explain to member of my own family the reality of this - and its "since sellafield almost every house in the street has had a cancer sufferer" - they dont get the point that all sorts of things can cause cancer - a carpenter that works with carcinogenic dusts his entire life and doesnt wear a mask - a farmer who spends his entire life on a open tractor or combine, not to mention spending alot of his time slopping DDT & dieldrin round the place... but its cancer, so it has to be from the nuke plant...

    Please people - if you are going to rant about things - at least rant and winge and whine about them from a position of actually knowing what you are wingeing about... its not that hard to wikisnuggle...

    I am Pagan by religion - which should mean I bounce around the place likening Nuclear Power to the devil and love hybrid cars to bits... I do neither. The Toyota Prius is a marketing ploy and nothing more or less (for heavens sake its perfomance is almost exactly the same as a 1964 Humber Sceptre saloon - and its manufacturing and transportation derived pollution is more damaging than running the aforesaid Sceptre since '64). Nuclear is safe, and for 99.999999% of the time entirely safe - compare that to gas/coal which is polluting 100% of the time.. have I made the point yet..?

    And kudos to Lewis, for actually sensibly finding out the actual information and presenting it sensibly - if the mediatards in general had done their job properly, there would be less panic and less stress all round. The irresponsible reporting has likely cost lives on its own, and that is not a pleasant thought now is it? Sadly we all bear some responsibility for that - having forced media to assuage our impatience by putting out information and reporting that is so far from the left of research it reads like the guesswork of a RAF accountant...

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Point of order

    It appears the plants were designed to withstand a 7.9, and got hit by a (9.0 at epicentre) 7.1 local. Thus, within limits. That then leaves the gensets cockup thingy. Of course, it's good to realise that nuclear power only can be tamed by constant vigilance. That is, quite a bit of infrastructure is needed not just to run it, but to cool it down too. If the entire population around the plants had been wiped there'd be much bigger problems. Even if everything shut itself down automatically and failed safe in the face of a complete coolant boil-away, without humans on-site the results would've been far less pretty for ensuing clean-up. Nuclear power requires active security and human attention through and through. Something to think about.

    Anyhow, I don't expect the whole thing to go kaboom now, and that outlook hasn't changed from a couple days back. Which is good. The rest we'll read in the miles and miles of after-accident reports. Which is going to be excuisitely boring, though indubitably valuable lessons can be learned. Maybe they will be, too.

    That leaves the networking situation, the power situation, and the general misery of a large swathe of lives wiped out and quite a lot of general destruction that needs to be fixed. How about all that?

  49. poohbear

    Unarmed and defenceless

    Yet plucks up the strength to respond...

    @John Robson: "irradiating the land you aim to occupy is such a good plan."

    Refer to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Do not assume attacker wants to occupy your land.

    (If I remember correctly, Quark, in Star Trek: Deep Space 9, when told of the attacks, said words to the effect of "They irradiated their own planet?!!" ... Yes, humans are idiots.)

    Nuke may be designed to withstand quakes and tsunamis, but how about Bunker Buster and similar bombs? Or next year's version?

    Your solutions for waste have, I think, all being considered, but none implemented. Why is that?

    @Peter Gathercole and others: apologies re the use of the term 'critical', I'm just a programmer and observer of international affairs, not a nuclear scientist. I thought I was using the correct term for 'something bad will happen'.

    @Andydaws: See above. Poohbear is pretty sharp, don't confuse intelligence with familiarity with nuclear terminology.

    @The Other Steve: I've read a few of the author's pieces on the situation in Japan. He mixes propaganda with reporting. Is it a sin to point this out?

    @Anonymous Coward (21 March, 14:58): see

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23710 for some info on just how responsible these companies are.

    1. byrresheim

      The Word "Critical"

      don't worry to much: language an be treacherous. "Critical" is derived from the greek word for decision and has - in all other sectors of technology - come to mean: something decisive, possibly, even probably, bad, is going to happen. Only in atomic technology does it mean: business as usual, plant's ready to work.

      Thus, when you were (quite correctly in my humble opinion) talking of a critical stage in the development of this incident, the cargo cultists could target you as hopelessly naive - without - as is their wont - giving a second thought to their vocabulary or underlying technology. (No, I am not trying to flame the only apparent nuclear engineer who participated in this thread)

      "Critical" in atomic technology used to be the same critical as everywhere else - something decisive is going to happen - because it originally meant the stage where the nuclear chain reaction starts - leading to the desired big atomic explosion.

      And that is the original sin of today's civilian atomic technology, still encapsuled in seemingly harmless words, but also in designs for nuclear power plants that are far to similar to designs meant to produce material for bombs.

      You don't need to be a philosopher to wonder what it is with a technology that applies the word "critical" to mean "normal working condition".

      Anyway, seems there is hope that the bullet was dodged again this time - irrefutable proof that bullets are harmless, isn't it?

  50. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Meanwhile on planet earth

    Food and water in the region have been found to exceed legal limits. Now it is possible that for some reason these limits were set stupidly low, but even stupidly low does not translate 'as no risk' or maybe the Japanese are restricting this produce (in an area that is currently short of food) for political reasons. I'm sure Lewis knows the answer.

    1. Andydaws

      yes, and no.

      it's true that food - mostly stuff with a tendency to concentrate Iodine, like spinach -is currently over the very low legal limits.

      But again, context is everything. Those limits are set on the basis of people eating large amounts, over an extended period - years, in fact. They're based on a concept called "pathways" and "most exposed individual". On the same basis, Sellafield discharge limits used to be based on risk to someone eating shellfish from the area around the plant several times a week for five or six decades.

      Now, the issue so far appears to be excess Iodine 131. Which has an 8 day half life. After three months, 99.999% has decayed away.

      The issue will hang on how much Caesium is also out there. That appears to be detectable, but only in very small amounts, within permitted limits. That's got a 30 year half-life so is a lot more problematic.

      I seem to end up keep saying this, but so far the closest analogue seems to be Windscale fire in '56. That resulted in an order to dump milk from the affected area for 6 months, but detailed follow up studies on exposed individuals show no effects. Windscale put out a nastier mix of isotopes, especially in that it involved Polonium and other nasties.

  51. E 2
    Alert

    Interesting/useful site showing radiation measurements

    http://www.rdtn.org/en is showing a map of radiation measurements taken in various locations around Japan.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Pint

      Interesting

      I'm sure people will uncover unsupected hot spots where stuff got dumped at random during the last decades.

    2. Raving

      Surprise Surprise

      Elevated background levels of .5 - 1. microsieverts per hour are clearly indicated around Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture.

      Exposure at that level carried over the course of month translates to .336 - .672 millisieverts

  52. Dave Bell
    Boffin

    Biasing the figures.

    One thing which is fairly obvious from the Chernobyl figures, when you look at where the radiation was detected: nuclear power plants are the places set up to detect nuclear radiation. The places with obvious levels of radioactivity happened to be near nuclear power plants. A few years later, after somebody analysed weather radar records, and went to check, they found a hot spot in Yorkshire.

    But the other side of this is that radiation is easy to detect. Geiger counters, and other instruments, with give you a very good analysis. Chemical pollution, from any cause, is much harder to track. The analysis is harder, and picking out the signature of particular event is more uncertain. Radiation decays in quite a predictable way. It doesn't depend on temperature, soil chemistry, or the presence of a particular sort of bacteria.

  53. Havin_it
    Thumb Up

    Hyper Rescue and Super Pump Truck

    I love Japan.

    That is all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Go Hyper Rescue, Go Super Pump Truck!

      Go Mega Nuclear Disaster Suppression Team! Extra Lucky!

      I was quietly imaging them running to the scene, jumping about power rangers style and all joining hands and morphing into Super Pump Truck!!! But thought it might be in bad taste to admit...

  54. C 2
    Stop

    RE: one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race

    "Operating nuclear power stations is not just very safe, or safer than other methods of generating power. It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race".

    I have to disagree, you need to consider the experiments and so forth that lead up to this technology as well as the waste products and consequences. So far millions have died, and millions more horribly sickened because of this 'activity' if you count the use of bombs and the Chernobyl disaster.

    The particular nuke tech that the US chose to the exclusion of all others (and the rest of the world followed) is great for making those horrific weapons of mass destruction called 'nuclear weapons'. This particular tech also leaves behind 'spent fuel' that is dangerously radioactive for THOUSANDS of years. In order for your closing statement to be true you need to find a way to guarantee the absolute containment and decay of said waste for the several thousand year duration, without harm to our descendants, or the environment.

    Had the US gone with Thorium fluoride molten salt reactors there would be no bombs, and waste products that decayed in only 20 years. What's more the entire industry would have been far less expensive from beginning to end. No high pressure steam cooling is required either, and its even more efficient. As if that wasn't enough these types of reactors can 'burn' the decay products of the current nuke tech the world is using.

    Furthermore the thorium design uses the nuclear material as a molten working fluid, in a container with an actively cooled "freeze plug" so that in any emergency the active cooling shuts down and the molten material flows into a shallow tray where it cools and is not a threat. The test reactor built in the 50's demonstrated this method of shutdown every weekend. It was THAT safe!

    As for safer activities, or even just safer and more reliable means of power production I STILL petition for SOLAR, and not horribly overpriced PV, or the big fields full of mirrors that someone needs to go clean. BTW both of those solar options can only generate power for about 8 to 10 hours a day.

    THE method I'm referring to has been around for about 30 years. And due to its design it can easily provide power 24/7/365. The Aussies came pretty close to building one, but the coal lobbies and politics dragged it down.

    Basic design, test plant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-EvV90MeDY

    Someone even came up with a variant design that is about 1/3rd the price of a coal powered plant (KW for KW).

    Floating design very inexpensive: http://www.floatingsolarchimney.gr/

    Cheers,

    Charles

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Proof aliens exist

      "So far millions have died, and millions more horribly sickened because of this 'activity' if you count the use of bombs and the Chernobyl disaster."

      Because on this planet this hasn't happened.

      Even if you count the bombs you won't get even to 1 million, but to count the bombs is like blaming fertiliser industry for the war deaths from explosives.

      1. C 2
        Badgers

        RE: Proof aliens exist

        My mistake I had presumed that the cities that the US bombed were a lot more populous. So I revise my previous estimate. Going from the wikipedia article it looks like between 150,000 and 246,000 perished in that attack. Then you can add in 200,000+ from Chernobyl, although some estimates are much higher.

        So while I may have been inaccurate in my first post, this is still many times the number of people who have perished from any other source of energy we use, except possibly hydroelectric, where dam failures can wipe out entire valleys.

        My point remains Valid that nuclear is far more dangerous than other 'human activities' as the consequences have not played out. We still have thousands of years to go just to conatin the deadly waste products.

        We also have to contend with the very high risk of some hothead pushing the button (again) and nuking one or more cities.

        As for environmental damage, all the nuclear testing has destroyed on entire island, and who knows how many hundreds of square miles of land, along with all the creatures and plants.

        Solar is still a better answer, especially plants that can perform at 70% or more of their capacity at night.

  55. Mike VandeVelde
    Flame

    Mr Page is Fukushima'd

    The abridged version of this lunacy is almost funny. The events you've been slowly admitting are happening seem horrifying enough to me. I guess you're a harder kind of man, if it's no big deal to you unless thousands of people are dying. Those workers at that plant arent following any sort of "nuclear safety" manual that sets out this situation and all the steps they are to be taking. They have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. "Cancer is a normal way to die", holy shit man.

    I kept coming back here only to lighten up from reality a little and get a picture of the rosiest potential outcome still humanly possible. But the community of commenters that sprung up got interesting as well. So I guess I'm happy you did what you did there. You had facts in there with your happy twists, and anything you forgot to cherry pick would usually come up in the comments. There was the insulting tone, but fuck this is the internet. Great troll, but you really wouldn't get my vote for any kind of journalism award though.

    You were, unreasonably optomistic shall we say, several times with your predictions. You were callous to the dangers the workers have faced and are facing. The underlying story of ingenuity and heroics is fascinating, and you demand that it receive less attention. Reactor buildings explode and containment breaches emit radiation and spent fuel burns, and you think people who are worried are ignorant?

    Can you admit at least that we should be taking a harder look at facilities that require active cooling? Is this the only 40 year old reactor out there? Are there any more with the same design flaw on the way? Should any existing reactors be re evaluated for tsunami risk? Nope none of that is worth discussing because nuclear is safe and all reasonable contingencies have been accounted for. Except this one. And that other one, and those other few. Hey let's build hundreds more of them, and maintain their consequences for thousands of years, because our bad luck must have run out already by now!!!

    1. Andydaws

      A correction.

      "man, if it's no big deal to you unless thousands of people are dying. Those workers at that plant arent following any sort of "nuclear safety" manual that sets out this situation and all the steps they are to be taking. They have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. "Cancer is a normal way to die", holy shit man"

      One, just one worker has been exposed to 100mSV. All other doses,even for those working on the plant are considerably lower.

      100mSV, even in a short time produces no immediate symptoms. It may slightly elevate the chances of cancer, but not at a level that's a major shift.

      To quote Richard Wakefield, Emeritus Professor of epidemiology at the Unversity of Manchester:

      "If you take one of the workers who's been exposed to 100 milliSieverts (mSv), that's not going to have any serious short-term effects," he said - "certainly nothing like the situation facing the Chernobyl emergency workers that killed 28 of them.

      "The risk of a serious cancer arising from that kind of dose would be less than 1% in a lifetime - and you have to consider that the normal chance of dying from cancer is 20-25% anyway."

      And if you doubt his credentials:

      "Professor Richard Wakeford has made significant contributions to the assessment of the risks to health posed by exposure to ionising radiation, especially low-level exposures. His particular expertise is in radiation epidemiology, notably in utero, preconceptional, occupational and environmental exposures and cancer “clusters”. He has sat on national and international expert groups, written extensively on the subject (including many papers in the peer-reviewed literature), and is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Radiological Protection."

      1. Mike VandeVelde
        FAIL

        context

        The radiation exposure limit for workers was raised from 100 milliSieverts to 250 milliSieverts, which is only done in cases of danger to human life, and was probably not done just to keep that 1 worker you mention on the job.

        250 milliSieverts is equal to about 50 chest xrays.

        An average person receives about 2.4 milliSieverts in a whole year from normal background radiation.

        You get around 0.01 milliSieverts per hour flying in a jet plane.

        I understand that there have not been any Nazis opening the ark of the covenant face melting episodes. But even if you believe that we already have access to the entire story, I still say it is callous to minimize the danger the workers are facing, regardless of if you can teach about it in a classroom.

  56. Gilgamesh

    I wish ...

    .. there was another word journalists could use instead of "stricken"

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    ""the regulations have to be adhered to"

    I wanted to post a link to a New Scientist article about the frequent occasions when the Japanese nuclear industry have been caught out not adhering to regulations, and other instances of poor judgement. I didn't have the link earlier, now I do:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20263-japans-record-of-nuclear-coverups-and-accidents.html?full=true&print=true

    Have a read and draw your own conclusion.

    The same article points out that today, Reuters are reporting that TEPCO wasn't up to date with scheduled inspections on various items at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, including a backup power generator for reactor 1.

    But don't worry, on the whole these are good, competent, trustworthy people,in a well run and competently regulated industry which has no need to lie to its potential customers or to its fellow citizens. There's just the odd bad apple to take care of, and then everything will be just fine. Won't it?

    1. Andydaws

      Which proves what?

      The putative flaws in operations haven't had the slightest impact on the performance of the stations, or any relationship with what's caused the problems they've got at the moment.

      TEPCO and it's personnel seem to have done a remarkable job, given the challenges they've faced. Things like connecting the turbine hall firefighting system to maintain water injection to the reactors won't have appeared in any standard operating procedures - and to have maintained the control that they have, in the absence of what seems to be the majority of the instrumentation on the plant is a major achievement.

      There are some questions to be answered. I'll be surprised, in the end, if it turns out that venting into the secondary containment was the only option (although, even if it wasn't, I've still some sympathy in terms of reducing emissions to the local environment). And given what was going on around them, I can even understand the apparent lack of focus on the condition of the spent fuel ponds.

      But, overall, no - the performance looks remarkable. And the pre-earthquake operating experience of the plants, in terms of availability etc. certainly looks as though they were well run.

  58. ThomB

    The point is...

    that apparently nobody knows the specifics well enough or is ready to disclose (all) the facts. This may be a sign of incompetence, or part of an elaborate plan to avoid a mass panic after the combined disaster that struck Japan on March 11 and 12.

    As a result, most of the coverage one gets to read/hear/see in recent weeks borders on speculation, whether it is "pro-nuclear" like Lewis Page's articles or "anti" like the BBC reports so many posters complain about. Sadly, that's all you can be sure of at the moment where Fukushima is concerned, as neither TEPCO nor the Japanese government seem to be very consistent in their information policy, which leaves even local media in the dark.

    Moreover, whatever your position on nuclear power may be, it's hard, if not impossible to deny that TEPCO has a history of false reporting and systematic concealment regarding plant safety incidents. A CNN report from September 2002 revealed that the company "[had] submitted a list of 29 cases of possible cover-ups of cracks on the core of 13 nuclear reactors, at three plants" (read here: http://archives.cnn.com/2002/BUSINESS/asia/09/02/japan.tepco/index.html); other sources claim that the company later acknowledged there had been 200 such cases between 1977 and 2002 alone (cf. Stephanie Cooke, "In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age", Bloomsbury Publishing 2009, p. 388). Still other sources say that more accidents were reported in 2007 (cf. http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0198-391032/Criticality-accident-may-have-happened.html; I searched the English version of TEPCO's press release database but didn't find anything related to this particular announcement.) So I guess it is safe to say that the company itself has contributed a great deal to the mistrust and fears surrounding the latest tragic incidents. And no amount of science can explain that away.

  59. John X Public
    Grenade

    Triumph? Pyrrhus would be proud.

    Balance is not just supporting an contrary extreme (ask Monty Python). Yes, the usual suspects are being overly hysterical about the radiation danger but just waving all the concerns and real issues away is not balance, merely another form of extremism. And that is the part that continues to get up my nose about Page's articles.

    'The reactors involved are a 40-year-old design and much less safe than modern ones.'

    What is the ratio of older 'less safe' reactors to 'modern ones' in the world today anyway?

    'It now appears that despite all this they have not and will not harm a hair on anyone's head radiologically.'

    More by luck than judgement Mr Page. I fail to understand how you can assess this situation as 'no harm, no foul'. If a passenger jet runs out of fuel but crash-lands without killing anyone people seldom walk away saying, 'Oh well, no harm done. Where's my luggage?'

    Statements like "The charge of the Light Brigade was an enormous success! They reached the guns they were told to attack, huzzah!", kind of ignore the bigger picture.

    Fukushima Daiichi was designed to withstand a peak ground acceleration [Ref 1] of 0.18g. Checking the 'Notable earthquakes' section of the relevant Wikipedia article [Ref 1] indicates that the best guess currently for the 2011 earthquake may have hit 2.7g, well above Fukushima Daiichi's designed limit. Please note the difference in impact between deep and far vs shallow and near earthquakes, Christchurch (6.3 Mag) has almost the same peak ground acceleration recorded as for Tohoku (Japan 2011). In fact, there is almost no notable earthquke listed with a peak ground acceleration [Ref 1] of *less* than 0.18g.

    Looking at highlights of Japan's earthquake history [Ref 2] shows that this scale of peak ground acceleration is probably not entirely unexpected. A brief survey of the list indicates that earthquakes greater than magnitude 6 that are close to, or even on, shore are pretty common in Japan. Of particular interest are the 2005 Miyagi quake [Ref 3] and the 869AD Sanriku quake [Ref 4].

    It looks to me like Fukushima Daiichi's design brief was woefully inadequate in the first place and that no effort has been made in the last forty years to improve the situation. I'm not sure how poor planning and inadequate risk mitigation can be spun as a success for the nuclear industry.

    Let me be completely clear, the Fukushima Daiichi plant failed completely in the wake of the 2011 quake and tsunami. *All* of the on-site safeguards and infrastructure totally failed to prevent reactor meltdown and eventual catastrophe. *Only* the emergency scrambling of ad-hoc resources and the willingness of emergency workers to take significant risks prevented the entire Fukushima Daiichi plant from collapsing into an uncontrolled disaster. Yes, the Japanese pulled the grenade out of the fire but it wasn't part of some hugely successful master plan on the part of the nuclear power industry.

    The absence of a nuclear disaster in this case does *not* imply that the chance of a nuclear disaster occurring was nil. Can we put this mindless contrarianism to bed now?

    [Ref 1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_ground_acceleration

    [Ref 2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Japan

    [Ref 3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Miyagi_earthquake

    [Ref 4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/869_Sanriku_earthquake_and_tsunami

  60. Eddie Edwards
    Joke

    Read all the coverage here

    I just wish Lewis Page would get off the fence and take a position with regard to nuclear power.

  61. Raving
    Linux

    Initial food sampling

    Care for some Fukushima® sashimi?

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Riiight.

    So, four partial core meltdowns, exposed fuel rods, cooling pond fires but nothing dangerous happened and no one's covering anything up.

    Radiation, after all, is second only to sunshine in terms of sheer healthiness and wonderfulness and the radiation in food and milk? Sheer hysteria I'm sure.

    Never before have I seen a more gullible bunch of retards than the current crop of pseudo-intellectuals desperately trying to persuade themselves, and everyone else, that nothing bad happened at the Japanese Nuclear plants.

    Give it a year or two , or three, and we'll have footage on the TV of some tearful Japanese executive admitting that it was all far far worse than they admitted at the time and how ashamed he is for leading everyone up the garden path but he was under such terrible pressure not to lose face.

  63. ITSMeagain
    WTF?

    Right...

    I guess you even had some people almost convinced that they must have been confused about all those reports about not being able to enter the site and water and food radiation levels going through the roof.

    Your last sentences

    "Operating nuclear power stations is not just very safe, or safer than other methods of generating power. It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race."

    made it clear to everybody except the most hardcore troll what utter nonsense this is...

    Complaining about the painfully hysterical reporting by the MSM is one thing - denying what is happening here is something completely different.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "woefully inadequate in the first place"

    Spot on.

    There's a lovely post somewhere on these threads where some pro-nuclear commenter points out that there have only been four events of this magnitude in the last hundred years.

    It is then pointed out to this commenter that the planned lifetime of these plants is typically 40-60 years, which on average would seem to be time for one or two events of this magnitude.

    Meanwhile, in the forty years or so since these plants were designed and built, and in the decade or more since it became very very clear that the initial design assumptions were very inadequate, no visible effort has been made to mitigate the consequences of the original protection being inadequate. No plan to improve protection, no plan to safely close the plant. Presumably the electricity was needed and the cost of upgrade wouldn't have been helpful to the corporate profits. That's OK then, isn't it.

  65. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Some excellent news...

    ...to round it all up. Now they can start their cleanup efforts in high gear without having to worry about nuclear meltdown (and other fun stuff).

    Glad (and good) to hear that it wasn't a total disaster as Chernobyl.

  66. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Coat

    Safe nuclear power?

    Just to add my own 0.05c's to the mix ... I say that there is NO thing as asfe nuclear power.

    My challenge to the pro-nuclear lobbyists is as follows : First design (and implement) a working device which can neutralize hazardous radiation (such as can be found at Chernobyl).

    Then design a working device which can stop any nuclear process (such as in a standard nuclear power plant) 100% cold within a short time. Currently all nuclear plants have to go through a shutdown process which can take days to complete.

    Then, and only then can you say that nuclear power is 100% safe.

    I'm leaving this planet for a safer one.

    1. xperroni
      Go

      Safe fossil power?

      I totally agree to you. That's why I say there is NO thing as safe fossil power, and challenge the pro-fossil lobbyists to design and implement:

      1. A working device that can neutralize hazardous oil contamination (such as can be found at the Gulf of Mexico);

      2. A device which can stop any combustion process 100% cold within a short time. Currently putting down a fire can take days to complete.

      Then, and only then you can say fossil power is 100% safe.

      By the way, when you're being bombarded by cosmic rays in inter-planetray space, send a prayer to all us poor earthlings!

  67. Andydaws

    Some news re the isotope mix detected, and hence medium-long term risk.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/03/22/134755614/Japan-Nuclear-Power-Development

    apparently, there's little evidence of anything from the fuel ponds, and of the material vented from the reactors, iodine is massively predominant

    and

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/03/22/134746912/radioactive-milk-only-a-danger-after-58-000-glasses?ps=cprs

  68. Matthew 3

    Really freaked out now

    Even George Monbiot agrees with Lewis:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/21/pro-nuclear-japan-fukushima

  69. Andrew Hodgkinson
    Boffin

    Don't ask Lewis, ask the IAEA

    Horse's mouth:

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

    On the ground:

    "At two locations in Fukushima Prefecture gamma dose rate and beta-gamma contamination measurements have been repeated. These measurements showed high beta-gamma contamination levels" ... "results ranged from 2-160 microsieverts per hour, which compares to a typical natural background level of around 0.1 microsieverts per hour. High levels of beta-gamma contamination have been measured between 16-58 km from the plant. Available results show contamination ranging from 0.2-0.9 MBq per square metre"

    On food:

    "Results provided recently by the Japanese authorities range up to 55 000 Bq per kg of I-131 in samples of Spinach taken in in the Ibaraki Prefecture. These high values are significantly above Japanese limits for restricting food consumption (i.e. 2 000 Bq/kg)."

    I'm sure "high levels of beta-gamma contamination" are perfectly safe, and the government have made their food safety standards far too tight, since levels of radiation over 27 times higher than the maximum amount permitted are all just fine.

    After all, having to spray water from fire trucks through the shattered remains of a building housing a nuclear reactor is just all in a day's work in the world's safest power generating industry.

  70. Hugh 3
    Thumb Up

    I'm on it...

    I'm turning our house into a nuclear power station immediately. I shall operate it from my chair by the TV.

    "Operating nuclear power stations is not just very safe... It has to be one of the safest forms of activity undertaken by the human race"

  71. bugalugs
    Unhappy

    I, for one

    have stopped eating bananas.

  72. cnapan

    Dumb Britain

    I had to laugh when I saw that the post above which tries to clarify what 'critical' means with respect to nuclear reactors got more thumbs down than thumbs up.

    Is it really that hard for the commentards to actually look up a single fact for themselves?

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

    "k = 1 (criticality): Every fission causes an average of one more fission, leading to a fission (and power) level that is constant. Nuclear power plants operate with k = 1 unless the power level is being increased or decreased."

    So, thumbers-down, a fact is a fact. Nuclear reactors are *usually* critical. If you want it to get a bit hotter, make it supercritical for a time. If you want to make it cooler by a bit, make it subcritical for a time. But the resting state of a nuclear power station is that it is critical.

    Why is this important?

    Well, next time some swivel eyed loon screams that the nuclear reactor is 'going critical', you can just shrug and ask them if they have any news.

  73. ian 22
    WTF?

    Oh oh! Lewis is at it again.

    Every time Lewis produces a radiant ^W glowing report on the situation, another bit falls over.

    I believe I see a pattern here.

    The USians are evacuating the bases near Tokyo, including (ironically) having their nuclear-powered aircraft carrier stand out to sea. Another bit falls into place...

    How do you do it, Lewis?

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    "turning our house into a nuclear power station"

    You're buying a Toshiba 4S back-garden-size nuclear reactor then? As supported by Bill Gates? What could possibly go wrong?

    http://www.fastcompany.com/1594671/bill-gates-goes-nuclear-with-toshiba-tie-up

    Don't forget the relevant regulatory clearances. Oh, hang on, in the name of 'enterprise', the Millionaires Cabinet (all 20+ of them) will today announce the abolition of all unnecessary red tape. Except for people on PAYE, obviously.

  75. The Islander

    I find it amazing ...

    that on a site with so many erudite readers, a little common sense is often absent.

    The industry of harnessing nuclear fission energy has been in existence for about 70 years by my reckoning, if the wartime efforts of the early 40's are counted. (It might be useful for a learned academic to explain the business / commercial rationale for this industry over it's lifespan.) That's a long time in which the environment could be effected - after all, a release of material might take seconds with very long lasting consequences. And any serious incident at a nuclear plant has the potential for massive effect on all life. That warrants unprecedented attention and questioning.

    There also appears to be an overwhelming trend towards NIMBYism. How many of us would like to live within 30 Km of a reactor? Some contributors talked about dilution of contaminants in sea or air. Reminder folks: sea and air circulate on an enormous scale, toxic material within is borne around the planet. That means free delivery to you and me for added-value.

    There has to better evaluation of long term risk and impact of endeavours that could effect life globally. And it has to be free from any interest group.

  76. Acme Fixer

    Doesn't Change Reality

    I think Page's perspective is interesting, but that doesn't change reality. For instance, the four nuclear power plants at the Fukushima Daiichi site, even if tamed and made safe, are likely to never come back online. The bad publicity has done a tremendous amount of damage to the nuclear power plant industry's reputation, not to mention the many hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost to replace the four plants.

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