back to article Oh noes! New 'CRISIS DISASTER' at Fukushima! Oh wait, it's nothing. Again

The world's media is working itself into an unedifying state of hysteria (again) following the news that radioactive water has leaked from a holding tank at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, damaged two years back by a tsunami and earthquake which led to the death and injury of more than 20,000 people - though not a single one …

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  1. tony72

    "It's not global news. It's not national news. It would barely even be local news, in a sane world."

    Too true. Unfortunately not much actually is significant news, and the 24 hour news channels have an awful lot of time to fill. They get as much mileage as they can out of situations like Syria and Egypt, but those kind of things do drag on so, and there's only so many pathetic sob stories and excruciating human interest puff pieces you can take before even an over-hyped scare story like the current Fukushima "crisis" becomes at least a little entertaining.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      What about morning breakfast

      Couldn't get away from it that morning, someone was in a boat on either BBC or ITV one even claimed it was the worst disaster ever (At which point I turned off the TV).

  2. Rabbit80

    Thanks

    Thanks for clarifying El Reg..

    I will sleep better tonight knowing that I am not going to die from radiation poisoning the next time it rains.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Beta?

    I think you might be getting Alpha and Beta confused.

    Alpha doesn't go through skin and can be stopped by a piece of paper. Beta although much lower mass and therefore lower 'energy' (for some definitions of energy) can burn skin directly.

    The bigger concern is that the beta emitters in question from a reactor are probably Strontium and Iodine which are biologically a bit unpleasant because they accumulate in bits of your body which you would prefer not to be spewing out radiation. Ingesting water full of radioactive Sr or I is rather worse than standing next to a much more active lump of an alpha emitter like Uranium or Plutonium.

    Probably best not to drink large amounts of water from a waste pond at any large industrial facility then.

    1. firefly

      Re: Beta?

      True, however while alpha particles can be stopped by the skin they cause immense damage if inhaled or ingested, as Alexander Litvinenko found to his cost.

      Beta emitting radioactive iodines have a habit of accumulating in the thyroid gland, which is why potassium iodide tablets are issued to people after a nuclear incident to 'fill up' the thyroid, preventing the takeup of the radioactive iodines.

      Thyroid cancer is the most common cancer associated with nuclear accidents, but it's one of the most treatable cancers known, with well over 90% of people surviving.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Beta?

      "Probably best not to drink large amounts of water from a waste pond at any large industrial facility then"

      I found discovered this to my cost. I now have super powers but the weight of responsibility burdens me greatly.

    3. Mikel
      Unhappy

      Re: Beta? followup

      Today it is reported that 100 millisieverts measured was the limit of this measurement device. Retaking the measurement with a more capable device finds 18 times as much radiation. Maybe now we should start to be a little curious about the progress here. Maybe the author could do an update about how 1800 millisieverts per hour in 300 tons of missing water is no cause for alarm.

  4. John Robson Silver badge

    MRI

    We live in a world terrified of the word nuclear, to the extent that when technology is used to actually help doctora understand what might be wrong and heal us we rename it to avoid the word.

    That's all that is wrong...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Nuclear"

      It doesn't help that there is a significant contingent who mispronounce the word and make it sound even more scary.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MRI

      No, we live in a world terrified of what nefarious purposes that governments put supposedly peaceful nuclear power generation facilities to - eg the Windscale fire being the result of a secret atomic bomb project. Windscale would have been quite safe, had not the UK government demanded that the facility produce weaponised plutonium in addition to electricity.

      It is also clear to the average person that the materials involved in nuclear power production are significantly more dangerous than those used in other types of generation, and remain that way even after 'spent' and require secure storage for the foreseeable future.

      Finally, and most telling, given the above and that power generation companies are after all capitalist profit making entities, the average person is used to such companies taking shortcuts in the name of profit and their habit of being economical with the truth.

      1. cray74

        Re: MRI

        The Windscale reactor was the epitomy of early nuclear reactor design overconfidence and ignorance. It made Chernobyl, infamous for its lack of a containment dome, look like a model of safety.

        Windscale's design entailed a tunnel filled with a big block of flammable graphite, heating the graphite to hundreds of degrees with nuclear reactions, and then cooling it by blowing fresh air (you know, full of oxygen) over the hot, flammable graphite. Yes, truly a safe concept.

        Surely nothing could go wrong in a reactor lacking adequate numbers of thermocouples to monitor the core's temperature; having only a single shutdown system (the control rods); and lacking any passive safety features. The one bit of lipservice to safety - which most of the designers thought was a waste of money - was a filter on the hot air exhaust chimney. (And it worked extremely well, though it was only treating the symptoms after the reactor caught fire.)

        And you're incorrect about its operation. Windscale was *only* meant to produce plutonium for bombs, and completely designed around that goal, with no provisions for, say, power production. Later, Britain tried to make it produce tritium for hydrogen bombs to keep up with the Americans, and that's where some of the trouble began - this began producing hotspots in the graphite.

        I love nuclear power, especially modern reactor designs with their elegant, brilliant passive safety systems. But I cannot say anything good about Windscale's design except maybe, "it was simple and cheap."

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        2. Somerset John
          Pint

          Re: MRI

          "But I cannot say anything good about Windscale's design except maybe, "it was simple and cheap."

          A bit like the politicians then.

  5. phy445

    "They always have a back-up"

    So just how did this disaster come about? Something to do with the back-up failing I seem to recall.

    1. smartypants

      Re: "They always have a back-up"

      The disaster was 20,000 people being killed and whole towns and villages being erased from the face of the earth by a tsunami - which also took out a nuclear facility, killing nobody.

      Nuclear power is safer even including Fukushima, Chernobyl and the rest than Coal, Gas - you name it. Nobody is claiming that nuclear is perfect. What we need is a SENSE OF PERSPECTIVE which will stop us doing what Germany did - ditch the only form of power generation which can power our civilisation WITHOUT Co2 release.

      The trite way nuclear is being treated at such a critical time in our history is frankly sickening.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "They always have a back-up"

        Including 2500 people who were killed when their train was hit by a Tsunami.

        I hope the UK government learns from this and cancels HS2.

        1. Shugyosha
          Holmes

          Re: "They always have a back-up"

          "Including 2500 people who were killed when their train was hit by a Tsunami."

          I'm fairly sure that didn't actually happen. I can't find any corroborating evidence, the Wikipedia page for the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami doesn't mention it, and a list of worldwide rail accidents from 2010 onwards (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rail_accidents_(2010%E2%80%93present)) only states this:

          "11 March 2011 — Japan — 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami – four trains are missing on lines running along the north east coast of Japan following an earthquake and subsequent tsunami. They are found later, it was just general confusion and phone network breakdown."

          And 2500 people would be one hell of a big train.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: "They always have a back-up"

            There was a train taken out in the Boxing Day tsunami. In Sri Lanka I think.

            A quick search and very lazy link to Wikiwoowah later shows I was probably right. Wiki has a death toll of 1,700.

    2. Jaybus

      Re: "They always have a back-up"

      They did have proper backups. We just have to accept the fact that it isn't possible to backup/protect against tsunami, volcanoes, asteroid impacts, and other such things we puny humans are powerless against.

    3. mmiied
      Mushroom

      Re: "They always have a back-up"

      in nuclear power your bckups have bckups what hppenes is each backup failes one after each other based on the servirity of the disaster till one holds but as each one fails your options to get the plant back working go down hill till the last backup leaves the plant a smoldering weck that will take decades to clean up but leaves the civiln population unharmed.

      if I remember the disaster right the backups eventuley held but the cores are scrap.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. NumptyScrub

      Re: The fossil fuel industry relies on this hysteria

      quote: "to totally change the atmosphere past the point of no return"

      Source? IIRC from paleoclimate estimations, we've had far higher greenhouse gas percentages (especially CO2) around before now; if it is truly a "point of no return" we would not be in the atmospheric position we are today, because we could not have "returned" from it all those millions of years ago.

      Not that I'm disagreeing with your other points, but that quote seems an awful lot like the (unfounded) sensationalism we've seen wielded against nuclear power.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The fossil fuel industry relies on this hysteria

        There was no "WE" back then.

        The planet will survive. Humans may have a fair bit of trouble doing so. That is what "point of no return" is about. The point where it turns into a mini Ice Age.

        Think along lines of northern half of Europe and North America being under ice -- in 50 years' time. Think about where those people will go, how they will go, who will let them in and who will pay for it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The fossil fuel industry relies on this hysteria

      "So thank you, each and every one of you standing in the way of nuclear. You are helping guarantee that we'll turn Greenland into an ice free paradise after all."

      Actually, thank you to each and every politician responsible for killing the future of renewable energy. If they just allowed the engineers to get on with the job of debugging the fledgling technology and designing scalable integrated solutions, then renewable energy could become a reality and economic success.

      Instead, a combination of political stupidity (ROCs) and powerful lobbying and propaganda from the fossil fuel sector has ensured that renewable energy engineering will remain small scale and low priority.

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  7. xperroni

    Radiation Superstition

    Indeed, there goes journalism again in its mission to inform and enlighten.

    These days I never miss a chance to point out to people that Guarapari, the coastal town where my family spent summer vacation when I was a kid, is actually more radioactive than what Fukushima was in late 2011. A friend of mine actually got angry at me for this, insisting that some difference in the "kind of radioactivity" had to somehow make Fukushima more dangerous than Guarapari.

    Alas, guess we can't so easily make up for forty-odd years of misinformation...

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Re: Radiation Superstition

      Ahh yes, the usual "but that's natural radioactivity" claim that leaves me speechless, as if somehow it's magically different. I can only guess these people deal with blocked chakras and distance healing.

      Nuclear is the sole viable option we have at the moment, but we need a stop-gap until the new stations are online - and that would seem to be shale gas (inter-alia).

      All the protesters in Surrey also forget that their windmills kill 150 people per trillionkWh (Yottawatt?), solar 440, and nuclear (including all the disasters ever) a mere 90. So, not only do renewables fail in supplying power in a predictable and manageable way they kill more people too. But who'd let that get in the way of prejudice!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Radiation Superstition

        There is a difference though. In one case the radioactive material is a dusting or soil contaminant that you do not necessarily want to get into your lungs or generally into your body (can that happen easily? I dunno)

        1. xperroni

          Re: Radiation Superstition

          In one case the radioactive material is a dusting or soil contaminant that you do not necessarily want to get into your lungs or generally into your body

          Guess not, though people just love to bury themselves in it. They seem to enjoy the warmth it gives off, and some also believe it has "medicinal" powers.

          I am obviously talking about Guarapari's beaches' sand, whose radioactivity comes from the thorium in the monazite ore mixed to it. Surprisingly, people don't think so highly of material from Fukushima, even though it's often less radioactive than Guarapari's.

      2. M Gale

        Re: Radiation Superstition

        Not trying to join the greentards in the campaign against nukes here, but I have to wonder how people are getting killed by windmills? Short of being underneath the thing when it explodes in a hurricane, I have to wonder just what they were doing? Not enough cliffs in the area to abseil down?

        1. Andrew Norton
          Boffin

          Re: Radiation Superstition

          They need regular servicing, and people fall. They're big huge things without much else around them, and people will drive into them.

          More importantly, when it's icy, they can throw a chunk of ice hard enough to go through a roof at a distance of a mile, or parts of the blade through a roof at 3 miles.

          Oh, and then there's the biggest killer - FIRE.

          If it's too windy, they have to be stopped. they are braked to a stop and locked down. Sometimes the brake fails, or is applied too late or not at all, and the friction makes the unit catch fire. Good luck putting that out - they usually don't bother, and try to deal with the flaming bits flying off to stop it spreading. Sometimes that doesn't work, and at least one turbine fire caused a wildfire that destroyed an area of Australian national park roughly the same size as the fukushima exclusion zone at it's peak.

          There's been over 300 accidents just in 2011 and 2012, 26 of them fatal, just one accident in Brazil last year (where a bus crashed into a section of turbine) killed 17, (that's more than half the count of Chernobyl, and... 17 more than Fukushima, the only two level 7 nuclear events) and I bet you've never heard of it, I hadn't.

          Reuters video - http://www.reuters.com/resources_v2/flash/video_embed.swf?videoId=231891110&edition=BETAUS

          1. Professor Clifton Shallot

            @Andrew N.

            "There's been over 300 accidents just in 2011 and 2012, 26 of them fatal, just one accident in Brazil last year (where a bus crashed into a section of turbine) killed 17"

            There's plenty of good reasons to favour nuclear power without suggesting that crashing buses mean that wind power is inherently unsafe.

            I wouldn't want anyone to suggest nuclear power was dangerous just because a cement mixer crashed into a school on the way to build the new Sellafield or whatever.

        2. Mike Richards Silver badge

          Re: Radiation Superstition

          People are killed when working on wind turbines (and rooftop solar installations) simply because they're at height - so the cause is simple things like insecure footings, and inadequate safety equipment.

          1. Ammaross Danan
            Coat

            Re: Radiation Superstition

            @Mike Richards:

            "...so the cause is simple things like insecure footings, and inadequate safety equipment."

            Just like getting exposed to this puddle would be bad "footing" and "inadequate safety equipment" as well. If Windmills were designed like nuclear reactors, They'd be fenced off a mile out, they'd be surrounded by a concrete wall, have a pyramid shape (for extra stability), and the workers wouldn't be able to climb the unit to service the turbine in the first place.

          2. smartypants

            Re: Radiation Superstition

            "People are killed when working on wind turbines (and rooftop solar installations) simply because they're at height - so the cause is simple things like insecure footings, and inadequate safety equipment." (i.e. the inference is they didn't die from renewables power generation)

            So, I suppose by the same logic, you would exclude deaths from mining accidents in the statistics for the risk of coal power generation (or nuclear for that matter, assuming your raw material comes from a mine)?

            We could also reduce deaths by drunk drivers significantly with such arguments. A car properly designed to cushion the impact with airbags would avoid unnecessary loss of life, so if a drunk driver mows over a pedestrian, he can blame the lacking safety features of the car rather than the lack of control at the wheel.

            Renewables don't kill. People just die.

      3. xperroni
        Mushroom

        Re: Radiation Superstition

        Ahh yes, the usual "but that's natural radioactivity" claim that leaves me speechless, as if somehow it's magically different.

        It gets worse. Telling my friend radiation doesn't work like that, and that he was ill-informed about the subject, only got him angrier, but after he calmed down I convinced him to let me send some articles on the subject to his e-mail, so he'd see how the matter isn't at all like what is broadcast in the mainstream media.

        And so I sent him various articles (ranging from scientific papers to Wikipedia entries) about nuclear engineering, natural radioactive areas in the world, facts about high-profile nuclear accidents and the like. His answer?

        I'm sorry, but I don't agree to none of your justifications.

        So a dimly remembered news piece on someone who died of cancer right after Fukushima's plant was hit by the tsunami is definitive proof that nuclear energy is Evil (C), but a scientific paper giving quantitative evidence that more people died in the evacuation than would be lost if they stayed put is a "justification".

        Christ.

      4. Irony Deficient

        trillion kW·h

        Yet Another Commentard, the short-scale trillion was used by James Conca in his report, so the unit is deaths* per PW·h.

        * — The numbers are a combination of actual direct deaths and epidemiological estimates, and are rounded to two significant figures, per the report.

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: Radiation Superstition

      "Atomic power is no more unnatural than when I sail my boat on Saranac Lake." Einstein

  8. brainbone
    Pint

    Sanity from Lewis Page

    While I disagree with Page's habitually unscientific pandering to climate change deniers, he is absolutely correct when it comes to pointing out the mass hysteria that surrounds anything "radioactive" or nuclear.

    Compared to all other sources of energy we have today, nuclear is by far the safest -- especially when you factor in pollution (including CO2) from other energy sources. Now, if we could only see meaningful investment in generation 4 reactors, like MSR.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sanity from Lewis Page

      I also quite like the inclusion of links to select references, which should help with any pre-conceived objections that some might proffer.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Scott Terril

    And you thought Sharknado was scary enough... here comes PUDDLENADO!

  10. intrigid

    [citation needed]

  11. Zot

    Watching the NHK channel last year had...

    ...Doctors advising pregnant women to move away from open windows. This was their best advice because, well, what else could they do? It impossible to figure out what's real in that situation.

    Although we don't know the real long term effects of the damaged rector are, it would be nice to know whether the Japanese government is going through total denial of the situation, or whether everything really is safe for now.

    1. Brutus

      Re: Watching the NHK channel last year had...

      "long term effects of the damaged rector" tend to be minimal, but the short term ones are of the order of dropped babies at christenings and garbled names at weddings. Or falling into open graves (I've seen it happen!).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alpha radiation does not penetrate skin. Beta does. Not much, but the bigger danger comes from ingestion as internal organs can be grossly affected by beta radiation.

    That being said, I fully agree with the reporter. This story is baing hyped beyond reason. Thanks El Reg.

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/radiation-sickness1.htm

  13. Adair

    At the risk of...

    a severe downvoting, it's worth remembering that the 'safety' of nuclear power is largely a product of neurotic attention to what could happen if it all goes seriously pear shaped. The 'safety' isn't intrinsic to the process, it comes at a phenomenal cost, as does the power produced.

    Whether, in the long term, NP is significantly more 'dangerous' to overall human health when compared with other forms of generation is probably moot. But of all the means we have of generating electricity nuclear power is probably easily the most dependant on there being stable and reasonably affluent societies to maintain the systems that prevent NP from becoming a very long term problem to those who may lack the money, technology, or even the understanding, to keep the NP show on the road, let alone safe.

    NP is a positivist technological gamble, it may pay off, but there are no guarantees.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At the risk of...

      That is true, no guarantees.

      But that's the problem. Why is everyone so neurotic about nuclear fission power? Because when things go wrong, they can go wrong in a BIG way. Why were they so concerned about Fukushima? I guess the possible evacuation requirement of the most populous metropolitan area on the planet is not worthy of concern - or did everyone forget that little part of this topic?

      Also, the waste lasts hundred of thousands of years and can contaminate a huge area if containment fails, as well.

      So, in other words, it is the SCALE of a single incident that is of concern, not simply the odds of the incident occurring in the first place. Yes, yes, we need energy but any reasonable human being must consider how widespread a single nuclear incident's affect is felt - and that can be huge: there has only been 2 Level 5 accidents yet note how many people and how large a zone of influence was affected. That must count for something in the realm of "intelligent conversation".

      Many nuclear plants around the world are aging, many beyond their original design perimeters. Nuclear embrittlement will become a greater and greater concern for these old reactor vessels and the companies involved (at least in the United States, where the power plants are privately owned) are attempting to squeeze every last dime out of their investments by getting operating license extensions from the NRC. Pushing a design beyond spec plus absolute desire for profits may just equal big problems in the future.

      Maybe we've been lucky, maybe there will be no significant problems. But tell that to the people who live by, and in the shadow of, a nuclear power plant - it's easy to say "No concerns!" when you're not the one living there.

      1. Graham Marsden

        @AC Re: At the risk of...

        " it's easy to say "No concerns!" when you're not the one living there."

        Meanwhile, thousands of people keep dying in road accidents or from lung cancer due to smoking or liver failure due to alcohol or...

        ... but they don't make for headlines which boost viewing/ reading figures.

      2. lost

        Re: At the risk of...

        You do know that the technology has advanced with nuclear power significantly. Things change, technology advances. Something built 40 years ago will not be the same as what can be built now.

        1. drexciya

          Re: At the risk of...

          Now the technology may have improved, but there's lots of OLD nuclear reactors around. The Fukushima reactors were more or less end of life (reactor design from end 60s/begin 70s), but the Japanese government allowed TEPCO to keep them running for some 10+ more years.

          On top of that the efficiency of current reactor types (which mostly use enriched uranium, which can also be used for nuclear weapons) isn't particularly high. There are some better options in development, like the much quoted thorium reactor, which should receive more attention. But we still have loads of old reactors around and there's NO simple and cheap option to get rid of them.

          My biggest gripe is that the management of TEPCO, as well as the Japanese government, handled this disaster in a very unconvincing way. In my opinion there were some fishy things going on, long before things went wrong and the actions performed by TEPCO have not done much to actually solve the problem.

          The biggest problem for nuclear is mismanagement (read: corporate greed) and sheer stupidity from a design point of view (nuclear reactor in an inappropriate location, too many reactors at one location, inappropriate designs, no way to decommission reactors safely and cheaply).

          Nuclear can be a good, or even better, alternative for wind and solar, but only if we take into account these very important characteristics.

          1. xperroni
            Facepalm

            Re: At the risk of...

            Now the technology may have improved, but there's lots of OLD nuclear reactors around.

            And yet, it is on the shoulders of those OLD reactors that the industry's stellar safety record was built (in two out of the three worst accidents in nuclear history, one didn't claim a single life, and in the other there were no deaths due to what was inside the plant).

            So either nuclear technology is already safe enough to offset bad management, or the managers are already good enough to make even unstable technology work properly. You can't claim that both technology and management are poor, otherwise we'd have lots of meltdowns going around, which clearly isn't the case.

            On top of that the efficiency of current reactor types (which mostly use enriched uranium, which can also be used for nuclear weapons) isn't particularly high.

            Their efficiency "isn't particularly high" compared to what, exactly? Renewables? Wait for a cloudy or windless day, then tell me how much more efficient than zero a nuclear plant is.

      3. xperroni
        Headmaster

        Re: At the risk of...

        Why is everyone so neurotic about nuclear fission power? Because when things go wrong, they can go wrong in a BIG way.

        I wonder, though: when you say that "when things go wrong, they can go wrong in a BIG way", what do you have in mind? Because two of the three worst nuclear accidents in all time, Fukushima and Three Mile Island, have not claimed a single soul as far as nuclear power is concerned – and in the case of Three Mile Island, not a single soul, period.

        Now how many people did die in the third worst oil industry accident of all time? I bet it was more than zero.

        I guess the possible evacuation requirement of the most populous metropolitan area on the planet is not worthy of concern - or did everyone forget that little part of this topic?

        It would have been if that was the case; alas, it wasn't, Tokyo was never at danger. In fact, recent studies of the Fukushima evacuation concluded that forcing people out of the area claimed more lives than would be lost if they were told to stay put:

        (...) [T]he “Reconstruction Headquarters” has reported approximately 1100 disaster-related (premature) deaths among the evacuees, due to psychosomatic effects (67%) and disruption of medical and social welfare facilities (18%) (Saji 2013, Table A5). *

        Also, the waste lasts hundred of thousands of years and can contaminate a huge area if containment fails, as well.

        Yes, it can leave a huge area about as contaminated as... The beaches where my family would spend summer vacation when I was a kid. Not much of a disaster, then – specially if compared to recent incidents such as the BT oil spill.

        So, in other words, it is the SCALE of a single incident that is of concern, not simply the odds of the incident occurring in the first place.

        This is a bit like that argument against flying – "oh, sure airplanes kill less people relative to number of passengers than cars, but on the other hand each car accident kills only a few people, while a single plane crash can kill HUNDREDS!" – which ignores the fact that, if a plane crashes with me inside, it makes no difference to me whether other people also kick the bucket, as I won't be around to miss them anyway.

        Likewise, whether a given energy source kills a little people every day, or hundreds in a single snafu, is irrelevant to the deceased – the only thing that makes a difference is how much people get stuffed over time.

        1. DaLo
          Alert

          Re: At the risk of...

          "... approximately 1100 disaster-related (premature) deaths among the evacuees, due to psychosomatic effects (67%) ... "

          I don't think you can take any article seriously that states there were 737 deaths due to psychosomatic effects. Unless of course they all had a suicide pact because they believed they were suffering from advanced radiation poisoning when they weren't.

          In fact it would seem worrying that it would be reported as such as that would sound like they were trying to cover up 737 deaths by bluffing.

        2. smartypants

          The needs of newsertainment distort our sense of danger...

          "whether a given energy source kills a little people every day, or hundreds in a single snafu, is irrelevant to the deceased – the only thing that makes a difference is how much people get stuffed over time"

          True, but this applies more widely too. A news source cannot keep interest up about a story which kills day in, day out, which is why people have to die in an unusual or spectacular fashion to make the news.

          The List of Newsworthy Ways To die:

          1) Nuclear. Rare but amazing viewing figures when it happens

          2) Wars (as long as they don't go on, e.g. Syria or Afghanistan, in which case your death is only interesting if it involves unusual ways of dying - e.g. your head getting chopped off or being poisoned by chemical weapons).

          3) A plane or train crash. Everyone likes to have these rare disasters shown to them for their entertainment, and they never bore by going on and on.

          4) Car crashes but only if loads of people die at once, preferably in a big fireball involving petrol tankers, and preferably at the height of a bank holiday getaway.

          5) Terrrrrrrrror. (War on)

          6) Crazed serial killer.

          7) Your uncle (but only if you are under the age of 18)

          8) Morbidly fatal obsesity (as it usually involves prying into the 'final years' with beds and cranes etc)

          And so on.

          Meanwhile, the vast majority of death is just too damned everyday to be entertaining enough to feature as news.

      4. smartypants

        Re: At the risk of...

        "Yes, yes, we need energy but any reasonable human being must consider how widespread a single nuclear incident's affect is felt - and that can be huge: there has only been 2 Level 5 accidents yet note how many people and how large a zone of influence was affected. That must count for something in the realm of "intelligent conversation"."

        The main effects of nuclear disasters have been:

        a) Fear across a widespread population caused by hysterical reaction to a failure and

        b) Death and trauma due to unnecessary evacuations that take place as a result.

        So yes, we should start to have an intelligent conversation about actual risk to population and the steps the authorities should take.... it needs to change.

        And while we're having an intelligent conversation, let's not continue to underplay the 2 million deaths each year from atmospheric pollution - most of it related to fossil fuel combustion.

        Let's also not continue to underplay the deaths that will be caused across the human race if we succeed in changing the atmosphere sufficiently to cause sea levels to inundate the vast areas of low-lying land that currently house some of the world's biggest populations or provide their food.

        Our message to the 22nd century: "Sorry we stuffed up the planet, but we rejected the only viable alternative because although it was the safest, including when it went wrong, we preferred to run around hysterically at the very mention of the word NUCLEAR."

        Get a grip

      5. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: At the risk of...

        @AC 19:37 Because when things go wrong, they can go wrong in a BIG way

        This is exactly the mental process behind fear of flying. Air travel is much, much safer than road travel, but the rare accidents are much more noticeable. People think (wrongly) that they can escape from a road accident, but that they're powerless in the face of an air crash or nuclear incident.

      6. Tom 13

        Re: it's easy to say "No concerns!" when you're not the one living there.

        I lived within a 30 minute drive of TMI at the time of its accident.

        Yes, I had a serious concern: I was concerned that a chowder head like you would panic my mother into doing something stupid like trying to self-evacuate without knowing where she was self-evacuating to and what path to follow.

        The possibility of radiation exposure? Not a bit.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: At the risk of... (AC @ 19:37

        "But tell that to the people who live by, and in the shadow of, a nuclear power plant - it's easy to say "No concerns!" when you're not the one living there."

        Happily. When the people around Dungeness power station were asked their opinion when the UK govt was looking at sites for new nuclear stations, a majority said "yes please".

      8. Alan Johnson

        Re: At the risk of...

        The more we learn about the reality of worst cas enuclear accidents the more we find that reactors ar esfaer than we though much less radioactivity is released than was assumed in modelling. If you compare the worst impact of a catastrophic ereactor failure, chrenobyl with atotal death toll of immediate and long tern affects of far less than 100 to the worst case effects of other industries and power sources you realise that not only is nuclear much safer on average but the worst case impact is relatively benign. A quick comparisson to the worst renewable energy disater with 170,000 dead and several towns wiped form the map is significant but strangely ignored by greanpeace etc.

    2. xperroni
      Headmaster

      Re: At the risk of...

      a severe downvoting, it's worth remembering that the 'safety' of nuclear power is largely a product of neurotic attention to what could happen if it all goes seriously pear shaped. The 'safety' isn't intrinsic to the process, it comes at a phenomenal cost, as does the power produced.

      That's debatable to say the least. Rod Adams among others thinks much of the "safety" built into nuclear engineering could be dismissed without significant hazard increase, and at huge cost savings. And let's not forget there is a vast difference in energy density between nuclear power and other energy sources, so even if it does cost more to make it this safer, it's also far more worth the trouble.

  14. Mike Wilson

    Nuclear power will be a terrible loss

    The hysterical reporting in mainstream media means the majority of the public think nuclear power plants are dangerous and a bad thing. I think it is unlikely we will get any new nuclear plants in time to stop the lights going out when peak oil/gas/coal hit and the cost of energy goes up exponentially. The damage to our economy and way of life are likely to be huge. Then, perhaps, people will ask why we can't have some of those wonderful thorium reactors. By then we won't be able to afford them. We'll be waiting for the boffins to get fusion working - only another ten years and it'll be ready. Unfortunately, fusion boffins have been saying "give us ten years" since the 1970s.

    1. ScissorHands
      Devil

      Re: Nuclear power will be a terrible loss

      I'm asking for anything that is not uranium-cycle light-water-moderator-based. How about you? And no, Gen III+ designs do not work - right, Finns?.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear power will be a terrible loss

        How about a LFTR? Molten-salt reactor and uses Thorium.

        If you're willing to stick with uranium there's work being done on failsafe reactors: even naturally-self-regulating ones (recall one based on uranium hydride being worked on—there are also the TRIGA research reactors: so safe they don't even need shielding).

      2. drexciya

        Re: Nuclear power will be a terrible loss

        Agreed on that one. I haven't heard much about the progress of these new reactors in Finland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant) , but it's way over schedule both from a time and money point of view. I think that smaller, simpler units are the future. These huge designs, requiring big teams of people to even build them, prove to be unworkable/unmanagable.

  15. tsingliar

    There will be many, many radiation deaths

    There will be many, many radiation deaths from Fukushima, nearly all in Central Europe.

    Due to the panicked switch in Germany from nuclear to coal. Burning coal releases uranium and thorium in the ash. Enough of it that the nuclear-fuel energy content of the ash can exceed the energy generated from burning the coal. Oops.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: There will be many, many radiation deaths

      Not to mention the potential problems when tailings dams burst. Ask Stava, Italy, Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, and Aberfan, Wales.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Re. fracking

      Have you looking into how thoroughly Gen IV reactors use their fuel?

      Beam solar from space planetside? Disaster waiting to happen. Beam gets redirected and you've got an orbital beam of mass destruction on your hands. Not to mention, who's going to OWN the blasted thing? You're not going to get the nations of the world to cooperate on this one: energy means power means leverage in the world conflict (and many countries could care less about not surviving to the next day—they're ALREADY under existential threat for other reasons).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re. fracking

        "Have you looking into how thoroughly Gen IV reactors use their fuel?"

        And exactly HOW many Gen IV reactors are in service? Oh, that's right - NONE. Please stop making a statement to try to prove a point when the effect of said point is non-existent.

        In the United States, for example, 1/2 of the 104 nuclear plants currently in operation are over 30 years old...and their design lives are only 40 years. Out of the 104 nuclear plants in operation in the United States, 23 reactors are GEN ONE.

        http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/15/news/economy/nuclear_plants_us/index.htm

        So 52 reactors are reaching their life expectancy but many of the companies are trying to extend their operational life through US NRC license extensions. But they are meeting resistance of economic realities: the aging boiler systems just might become too expensive to maintain.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/15/business/energy-environment/aging-nuclear-plants-are-closing-but-for-economic-reasons.html

        So we have discussions on the future of nuclear power...but we really need to discuss the CURRENT condition of nuclear power in order to reach a proper conclusion. Many plants around the world are aging beyond design specifications and a several countries around the world have not deal with the disposal of the nuclear wastes from the plants in operation today. So, from the looks of it, in the next 20 years we'll have a tremendous amount of nuclear-level waste - from decommissioned boiler system parts to used fuel rods - that we must handle before we even discuss what we will do with the same materials from any NEW plants we construct.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Re. fracking

      What's the heat loss on that? Just saying, if it's a lot, we can bypass the middle man and end up directly inducing global warming...

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Re. fracking

      What we need to do is give up on fracking as the toxic disaster it is, anyone who disagrees is clearly in league with Big Oil and should be treated as an enemy of humanity.

      Glad to see you've still got an open mind and aren't giving in to hyperbole.

    4. Daniel B.
      Mushroom

      Re: Re. fracking

      I agree on you with both Fracking and space-based Solar.

      But I strongly disagree with your stance in Nuclear. There's a reason I stopped funding GreenCheese; they not only have a pathological hatred against Nuclear, they spread outright FUD and lies on that topic. No, fusion isn't fission. No, ITER can't be turned into an atomic bomb, no matter what the last Batman movie said. No, it isn't the same. No, Fukushima wasn't that bad. No, No, No. And they love to mix in actual weapons nuclear testing with "nuclear power". I'm sorry but putting dudes within the danger area of U235 without shielding isn't the same as a power plant. Or blowing a nuke.

      We should be building Gen-4 reactors, if only to substitute the Gen1 and Gen2 ones (like Fukushima Daiichi) and start switching over from coal to nuclear. And even those are stopgaps as the final goal is to do fusion. Meanwhile, burn most of the "useless" fuel with the molten salt things so we don't have nuclear waste lying around as well...

  17. Chris G Silver badge

    Oh My God It's Nuclear!!

    Knee jerk reaction with no coherent thought, It must be banned because I don't understand it and can't be arsed to learn about it.

    @Adair, Nuclear power is generally the cheappest even when allowing for long term decommision;

    http://nuclearradiophobia.blogspot.com.es/p/cost-of-nuclear-power.html

    I know the next one is Wildlypeadia but it does quote a few reliable sources.

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

    If there are no affluent and stable societies there is probably no need for nuclear power anyway.

    Why would something with as much research and multiple redundancy as nuclear power be a technological gamble?

    I did some work at Windscale in the late '70s, I'm still here only have the one head and so far no unpleasant side effects other than an unreasonable dislike of Facebook!

    1. Adair

      Re: Oh My God It's Nuclear!!

      Just for the record, I'm fairly agnostic about nuclear power as a viable source of energy when set against the other options; and certainly in the near term (next twenty to fifty years), it may well be critical, BUT there remain huge unanswered questions which are more to do with poilitcs and economics than technology.

      There also remains the underlying and huge assumptions about 'human progress'---it is by no means a given. Civilizations rise and fall, but the decay rate of nuclear waste remains immutable.

      NP is NOT cheap, neither are most other forms of generation, but to act as though somehow NP is a panacea is just foolishness, no different to the wind power advocates who cannot seem to grasp the fundamental weaknesses of that particular method, and so on...

      Philosophically, if we can guarantee the ongoing 'progress' of humanity into some technological wonderland then NP is a jolly good bet. If we can't then it's just another bit of nest fouling, along with all the other shit we are dumping on the future. Like bacteria, maybe we're just accelerating towards that day when the resources in the petri dish run out and that's it---it was fun while it lasted, well for some at least.

      Then again, who knows what may happen?

  18. Vociferous

    How many people do you think were killed at Chernobyl?

    Chernobyl is the worst nuclear accident in history. Take a wild guess how many confirmed deaths there's been. Early estimates were that 960 000 would die. So, how many do you think?

    The answer is "47". There have been 47 confirmed deaths due to the Chernobyl accident, another 212 cancer deaths are probably due to Chernobyl. All of these deaths are among "liquidators" who worked on the burning reactor.

    To be sure, e.g. Greenpeace *projects* that another 93000 people will die in the next 70 years, but these deaths haven't shown up yet, and there is no sign of increased cancer rates in the Ukraine, except a very small increase in thyroid cancer.

    By far the worst effects of the Chernobyl disaster were not due to radiation, but psychology: the population became convinced it was doomed, so alcoholism and suicides in the area rose explosively.

    Ukraine is presently in the process of reclaiming most of the "forbidden zone" around Chernobyl.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How many people do you think were killed at Chernobyl?

      As usual, why don't we forget the OTHER costs you are not mentioning?

      Like the number of livestock, and therefore incomes to the ranchers, destroyed at the time of Chernobyl. Why don't we also ignore the produce destroyed; the milk destroyed; the $2.3 BILLION it will cost the international community to build the new IPS; the 18 billion rubles ($18 BILLION) for the initial disaster containment; the ongoing estimated $235 BILLION over the next 30 years on cleanup and health maintenance; the increased (but non-lethal) thyroid cancer rates and the suffering of the population due to this

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Belarus_radioactivity_and_thyroid_cancer.png

      ...?

      Billions of dollars in expenses which directly affects individual human beings in their quality of life; if their governments are spending 6% of the GDP on Chernobyl costs, I guess that means that overall services must be cut by the same level. If the government orders your source of income, your farming, destroyed, what becomes of you?

      Why not ignore EVERYTHING except the few statistics you only wish to quote to make your own point valid?

      Go ahead, downvote this. It only makes the person doing so look even more foolish. The FACTS are all there for you to find but if you only look for a justification for positive reinforcement that's all you'll get out of them - Chernobyl is a TERRIBLE example to use when discussing 'crying wolf' over nuclear.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: How many people do you think were killed at Chernobyl?

        " the 18 billion rubles ($18 BILLION) for the initial disaster containment; "

        Well, which is it? 18bn USD, or 18bn RUB? There is not a 1-to-1 ratio, it is closer to 33:1 (RUB:USD).

        I am inclined to ask you to please check your other figures to ensure consistency and accuracy. I cannot take you seriously when you posit that either the currencies are equal, or that '$' indicates "whatever currency I am thinking about".

    2. KayKay

      Re: How many people do you think were killed at Chernobyl?

      Do you have any credible figures on birth defects? that's something wind and solar are not known to produce but radiation is.

  19. Don Jefe
    Unhappy

    I thought the comments looked suspiciously weighted. Why not go back to no comments on these pieces?

    1. smartypants

      Why don't you put up a compelling and reasonable counter-argument against the posts you don't like? Isn't that a bit more honest than asking the site to shut down reactions to comments you may not agree with?

      I know, it can be hard just *knowing* that nuclear will kill us all and just not being able to find the evidence for it once you look past the hysterica.... Frustrating!

      1. Don Jefe

        My original comment, in support of nuclear power, was censored by the El Reg overlords. The comment that was posted was my retort to the censor; guess they/he/she/it let it through to be funny...

  20. Herby Silver badge

    Then there is those who want Nuclear Free Zones

    But have yet to get rid of all their smoke detectors that actually USE a nice bit of Americium in the detector cell. Yes, it is quite small, nanograms if I remember correctly.

    It is a low energy alpha emitter, long half life.

  21. Alistair Silver badge

    dammit. I have to chirp on this one.

    To hell with it --- I can live with the down votes.

    If we want to catalogue "which energy source is killing more than which " we have to have comparable studies on the life cycle of the energy sources. And effectively there are no comparable studies.

    There is in this thread a lot of good data, and some good debate. There is also a lot of hyperbole.

    What I will say is that there are technologies ( sorry -- canuck here) that use nuclear to generate electricity that are NOT based on the fast breeder technology that was rampant in the late 60s and 70s and are somewhat safer than those. There is also a lot of research going into thorium salt based reactors which could well be safer still, and have the advantage of eating (albeit slowly) through the "garbage" from both light water fast breeder tech and deuterium based reactors.

    In the long run, **if** the planetary ecological changes are indeed driven by carbon output, then we have to remove the carbon outputs. That means bye bye fossil fuels. Renewable resources are limited at this point to a) HydroElectric b) wind c) Solar d) tidal (some would lump a and d together, in reality we shouldn't) Only a) and d) portend consistently available supply, since b and c are subject to the day to day variances of mother nature. And even then a) and d) are subject to longer term vagaries of nature (lack of rain will cut into your hydro reservoir and tidal effects can be altered by silt deposits)

    Now, supposition being that the "ecological change" we may see from "too much carbon output" will cause horrendous problems -- we've seen that there are scientists on all sides of the issue (the change is natural, the change is man made due to carbon, there will be huge sea rises, there will be no sea rises, and various combinations of these) -- since there are still arguments going on in the scientific community we need to be open minded. But for the sake of this argument, lets suppose that

    a) man made carbon in the atmosphere is the problem

    b) there will be horrendous sea level changes as a result.

    Renewable power sources are subject to the same ecological changes that will cause b). This makes them a less than reliable resource to head off a).

    (yes - this is a bit of a jump, but here's a pivotal point - we're supposed to be causing a horrendous affect on the global ecology, why would we make our energy dependency on something that will be horribly affected by change?)

    Thus we as humans have to rationally accept that we need to change our energy sources.

    We need to accept that renewable resources may be as negatively affected as much as the rest of the ecology by this terrible affect of carbon in the atmosphere. We are left with ....... very few options.

    ITER will be a great testbed for a wonderful concept. But our ability to deploy that in a useful form cannot in any way be compressed to meet the time lines of destruction that the ecological change theories used to panic everyone predict.

    There are reasonably stable forms of nuclear technology that are available now, and can be deployed in time frames that *are* likely to meet these cases.

    What does *not* exist anywhere is a modern, updated robust infrastructure that will carry that energy out to the folks that will use it. Yes infra does exist, but not to meet the needs of charging all those electric objects that will replace the currently fossil fuel burning objects.

    Thus -> economic implosion is occurring world wide? -> rebuild the electrical infrastructure and build a whole lot of small scale, non-breeder nuclear reactors. Design the reactors to include an upgrade to (some other form of nuclear, to ITER, to ???) ... And THEN start including the renewable sources.

    damn could solve two problems in one go.

    too bad the politicians don't have the will to make it happen.

    I'm sorry, I live between 8 (count em) active nuclear reactors 4 east of me and 4 west of me, and I'd quite happily take the 4 that are offline and in decommission and have them spun up again as thorium salt research reactors. Yes I am pro nuclear. And until fusion comes along and actually works I will be.

  22. Mikel

    Stand near this puddle for 50 hours, die.

    That is what it takes to kill 50% of humans - the LD50 is 5,000 millisieverts. 100 hours would be invariably fatal at 10,000 millisieverts.

    Now living in a world where 8 inches of sea level rise by the end of the century and those inherent risks to life and property are reason enough to scuttle the entire world economy, that 100 millisieverts per hour looks like a pretty big deal. Do you have any idea how hard it is to drown in 8 inches of water?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Stand near this puddle for 50 hours, die.

      Not that hard, given a comatose human can drown if he ends up face-down in just TWO inches of water (enough to cover the mouth and nose, and if you're comatose, even the gag reflex may be down).

  23. sunnyskies

    "As usual, why don't we forget the OTHER costs you are not mentioning?"

    This is indeed the problem. I am surprised at the breezy tone of this article, and the number of comments here that ignore this issue.

    For example, the current cost to clean up Fukushima is projected at USD 112 billion. Thousands of people are still displaced and have not yet been compensated by the utility, TEPCO. Since the utility keeps fudging the extent of the problem, it is certain that the final clean up costs will be greater.

    Before you sneer at the current release of radiation, keep in mind that there are trade partners that currently ban Japanese food products. Fourty-two countries and regions have imposed restrictions on food imports from Japan as a result of the nuclear accident (source: Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries). This means: Japan cannot simply restart the fishing industry in Tohoku while radioactive water is leaking into the ocean, saying "it's nothing". The market isn't buying. This is a major loss of revenue, of course. Hong Kong is the actually one of the top destinations for Japanese food exports, and it has a ban on products from the prefectures affected by the Fukushima disaster.

    There is currently a debate in Japan about whether the utility can even handle the clean up job. Dale Klein, Former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is now on the committee to monitor the clean up operation. Recently, he called them out in a public hearing, stating: "These actions indicate that you do not know what you’re doing, and that you do not have a plan, and you’re not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people."

    This is not some green tree-hugger group getting hysterical. This is the head of the committee to monitor the current clean-up operation, a member of the nuclear village, part of an advisory body to TEPCO Board of Directors.

    So, please, let's be realistic about the costs. The fact is, we don't know yet how costly the clean up at Fukushima will be. It will cost a lot, maybe even more. There are no simple solutions to this situation.

    1. Mikel

      $112B?

      That wouldn't even compensate the displaced for their lost possessions, let alone their real estate - do you have any idea what 150 square kilometers (37,000 acres or 10 square miles) of Japan costs? It's not going to cover their medical treatments for the next 80 years either.

      Folks here think you're an alarmist, and you are WAY too conservative.

  24. Mario Becroft

    Who will be the Elon Musk of nuclear power?

    Surely what the world needs is a new visionary and technical leader to come along and shake up the nuclear industry, demonstrating how safe and cost-effective nuclear power can be using new technology, by actually building the new plants. Doubtless the regulatory environment is difficult, but that's part of the challenge.

    1. Sweep

      Re: Who will be the Elon Musk of nuclear power?

      Bruce Wayne of course

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Who will be the Elon Musk of nuclear power?

      Can't be done because the problems aren't technical. They are purely political and fear driven. Anyone bright enough to do the technical work takes one look at the political mess and decides their skills are better used elsewhere.

  25. itzman

    Re : the OTHER costs you are not mentioning?

    Well; the answer to that of course is simple. Almost none of those other costs were necessary.

    The absolutely staggering and amazing thing about Chernobyl is that it is pretty much the worst possible nuclear accident imaginable. A larger reactor still semi-critical with its guts out there in the open air burning spewing the scariest shit imaginable, and...

    ...almost nothing happened.

    the extremes of tinfoil hattery that greenpeace et al have had to resort to to explain why thousands of people haven't died, why no two headed squirrels that glow in the dark have been spotted, why people who stayed there throughout eating their local food are alive well and healthy...should have blown the LNT model into smithereens.

    The problem is, governments want scary nuclear deterrents. The oil gas and renewable industry want scary nuclear accidents. The media LOVES scary nuclear accidents. Greenpeace and the Guardiian positively bathe in asses milk for a scary nuclear accident.

    And the tighter the regulations are made to pander to the scare, the more the nuclear accident costs, and the nuclear power, at every stage.

    The collective insanity of the west in giving votes and degrees to people and telling them they are as good as anybody, and should have an opinion, carefully formed by the MSM in collusion with the interested parties on everything from rabbits having gay sex to the intricacies of beta radiation, is all well and good till the reality of where its leading them finally dawns. A population bereft of common sense, suspicious of any science or technology, but having total faith in crystals, aromatherapy and homeopathy, wielding the power to destroy itself through sheer stupidity vanity and utter incompetence, is the logical end game.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What in the WORLD?...

      "And the tighter the regulations are made to pander to the scare, the more the nuclear accident costs, and the nuclear power, at every stage."

      Where in the (crazy) world did you come up with THAT theory? The cleanup costs of nuclear, from an accident to fuel refinement - is vastly decided by the actual physical contamination involved. It will cost the country of Japan billions to clean up Fukushima because there is that much physical work involved, from dismantling the reactors to cleaning up the fuel rods to decontaminating the countryside. The "regulations" that you mention will come into effect to limit exposure to the cleanup technicians - and I, for one, are glad that they are there for the aforementioned technician's sake.

      Wow. People will say just about anything in an attempt just to prove themselves better in the discussion than the other person.

  26. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Re: How many people do you think were killed at Chernobyl?

    The costs are largely due to an over reaction to the danger

    Suppose the reaction to Aberfan (slag heap slipped onto a school killed 150) had been to build a concrete box to contain every slag heap in Britain and the shutting down of every coal mine in wales - the cost would have been a fair % of GDP.

  27. SERIOUS CALLERS ONLY

    Did any of you lot actually read the article?

    Sorry to shit in your cornflakes during all this mutual black slapping. But Lewis page says "the scientific consensus is that absolutely no health effects due to the Fukushima radiation will ever be detectable"

    However that's not exactly what the article he's linked to suggests.

    "The UNSCEAR committee’s analyses show that 167 workers at the plant received radiation doses that slightly raise their risk of developing cancer. The general public was largely protected by being promptly evacuated, although the WHO report does find that some civilians’ exposure exceeded the government’s guidelines.

    "

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: "Slightly raise their risk of developing cancer."

      More obligatory xkcd

      Slight increase

    2. KayKay

      Re: Did any of you lot actually read the article?

      I am sure the Government Guidelines were not set at 99% of the fatal dose.

  28. AussieCanuck46

    What Ever Happened To All The Fun In The World?

    After reading all of your valuable and informative comments about nuclear power, and about national security leaks, and about global warming, I'm no longer sure what what form "the end of the world" will take, or even whether or not it's already happened.

    I'm so confused. I don't know whether to kill myself, bury myself, or just dust myself off and have another beer. Please help.

    1. billse10
      Pint

      Re: What Ever Happened To All The Fun In The World?

      @AussieCanuck - not sure whether you're an Australian in Canada, the other way round or just generally confused, but have a pint from my local ...

    2. Captain DaFt

      Re: What Ever Happened To All The Fun In The World?

      The fun's still there. Pick any scenario and people have been running around screaming "OMG!! WE'RE ALL GONNA *DIE* FROM THIS!!" every since Ogg got pissed with Ugg for pissing in the fire and hit him in the head with a rock.

      It pays to take a break from all the media once in awhile (after all, it thrives on and drives most hysteria), go outside, take a few deep breaths, look at the stars, count your blessings, and go do something fun.

      Funny thing, after a break like that, it's hard to actually get back into the 'We're all doomed mindset', and you find that it's a bit amusing watching all the hysteria over whatever's on the news this week.

  29. Marshalltown

    Did any of you lot actually read the article?

    That really is precisely what the article links to suggests - or not - depending upon the reader's initial view. The slight elevated risk of cancer actually would simply bring the worker life expectancy to near population normal rates. Without sorting out nuclear-plant workers from the general population first and then comparing the Fukushima workers specifically against that subpopulation no effect would be detectable. Even using the subsampling would be problematic because the effect on the rate is "slight." The fact is that without a much larger population of exposed workers the measurable effect will be lost in statistical noise. Also, different types of radiation present different hazard levels. As long you don't ingest or inhale alpha emitters, alpha radiation is nearly harmless. The outer layers of the skin, which are basically a dead armor, will be sloughed off and no effects should actually enter the living part of the system. UV from sunlight is more hazardous.

    The effectiveness of the evacuation is in fact unknown. The exposure of the population would be in general lower than that experienced by the workers at the plant. The given the size of the evacuated population, the statistics would very likely reveal what affect the exposure might have had, if they had remained in place. As it is, some people might have had their lives shortened by the exposure, but you would never be able to say which. Instead, we really do know how many died because of the evacuation and who those were. Personally, I'm not sure which is better.

  30. jake Silver badge

    About a billion years ago (in internet time, call it 1986) ...

    ... I filed a bug report on a batch of bad RAM (or maybe EEPROMs; details from a billion years ago are hard to retract from the dusty file drawers of my brain unless I'm restoring an old bit of kit ...) that were throwing spurious errors. In the bug report, on a lark, I suggested that it was probably Alpha Particles off the heavy metals in the salt pile in Redwood City, which was just off our shipping & receiving dock.

    PhD Engineers scurried about for about a week, until I confessed to the joke. I nearly got fired.

    It's amazing how little highly trained people know about stuff outside their field.

    Me, I generalize ... seems to keep me saner than most.

  31. smartypants

    RE: Did any of you lot actually read the article

    From the UNSCEAR report :"The general public was largely protected by being promptly evacuated, although the WHO report does find that some civilians’ exposure exceeded the government’s guidelines."

    No it wasn't largely protected by the evacuation. It was largely traumatised, and led to the deaths of more people than were ever at risk from the radiation. If they wanted to protect the population, the best thing to do would have been to ban smoking!

    If the same authorities had applied the same measure of risk to the airline industry, or Cornwall, there would be no aircraft and there would be no people living in Cornwall.

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: RE: Did any of you lot actually read the article

      Almost right.

      There 's nothing I would describe as human in Cornwall.

  32. smartypants

    "This means: Japan cannot simply restart the fishing industry in Tohoku while radioactive water is leaking into the ocean, saying "it's nothing". The market isn't buying. This is a major loss of revenue, of course. Hong Kong is the actually one of the top destinations for Japanese food exports, and it has a ban on products from the prefectures affected by the Fukushima disaster."

    There are two things to point out here:

    ONE

    It isn't necessary to ban fishing, because the risks to life are unmeasurably small. That said, the biggest problem with the Japanese fishing industry is the overfishing of stock, and the unnecessary temporary suspension of part of that industry can only be a good thing in the long run for the fishing industry. It's easy to show in other fisheries how a reduction in over-exploitation can avoid species collapse and the attendant collapse in the industry, so when you're measuring the impact of a temporary ban on fishing, please ensure you include the positive impact an interruption has on long term effects.

    TWO

    You're good at measuring the economic impact of the hysterical overreaction of the authorities to a nuclear disaster, but can you apply the same rigour in analysing the effect of burning fossil fuels on the world's population in the next two or three centuries? Tell me about the economic impact of a 7 metre sea level rise and tell me If we ought to do something to prevent it. The science is quite clear about the effect of raising Co2 levels, and it takes a particular form of denialism to be comfortable continuing with the release of fossil carbon in the face of the evidence. Yet civilisation would collapse if tomorrow we relied solely on renewables. Countless millions would die.

    Even if you don't subscribe to the theories of climate change, the air pollution alone from fossil fuels kills more people each day than died in Chernoby.

    So please, no lectures about people being blaze about the risks of nuclear. A bit of perspective is needed, no?

    1. sunnyskies

      "It isn't necessary to ban fishing, because the risks to life are unmeasurably small."

      I'm not sure you've been following this news story, but the water that is leaking from these storage tanks is emitting 100 millisieverts an hour. You're not going to convince many people to drink that or eat fish that were swimming in that water. Also, this is the fifth time these tanks have leaked since last year. There are many tanks on site with the same design, they don't know where the water is going to go in the future, and there is now discussion that the design itself is flawed. We have every reason to expect more leaks like this.

      You don't seem to recognize that the market has already spoken. Over forty countries and regions outside of Japan have banned products from Fukushima, and they certainly won't start buying if Japan begins fishing there while radioactive water is still leaking into the ocean.

      I suspect you are not aware of the history of industrial pollution in Japan, and the horrible track record that corporations have. I will certainly agree with you that we should be concerned about climate change, but towards that end maybe we should be thinking more seriously about conservation? To me, that seems a more plausible way forward than trolling with the "but if we used only renewables civilization would collapse!!" line.

      1. smartypants

        "To me, that seems a more plausible way forward than trolling with the "but if we used only renewables civilization would collapse!!" line."

        Honestly, sometimes I just wish we could divide the population into two groups.

        One would have a power supply whose only guarantee was electricity when you want it, and the other would use a supply whose only guarantee was that all the electricity came from renewable sources.

        You would naturally choose to be in the second group. That way I think would be the only way you would finally have it shown to you how important it is to have electricity in our civilisation when you need it.

        But then I think how cruel it would be to separate the population like this. Those of us who actually keep the lights on and the food and heat flowing, the factories running and the hospitals curing have a moral duty not to let the hard of thinking die!

  33. David Gale

    Coal...?

    El Reg is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

    Let's just suppose for one moment that carbon is an issue. Currently, under an EU mandate, the UK is in the process of shutting down six coal-fired power stations that will put the country's power generating capacity on a knife-edge. UK energy costs are already amongst the most expensive in Europe and are a major factor in our economic slow-down. We are told that coal is nasty and that we must stop using it but, in the next few years, India and China alone will bring on-stream four coal-fired power stations PER WEEK.

    Now pardon me for being a pedant, but if closing six coal-fired power stations demonstrably further damages the UK economy whilst making, effectively, zero difference to carbon emissions on a global scale, why are we handing a commercial advantage on a plate to other nations?

    We have around 300 years of coal and gas reserves, so why wouldn't we pour our development money into fusion research?

  34. D@v3

    Obligitory

    http://xkcd.com/radiation/

  35. Frederick Karno

    Dear me

    Unfortunately media like to sensationalise,governments like to under report,getting to the truth is extremely difficult.

    Your article is as guilty as many others of taking a mix and match approach to reporting ,would the reporter go and drink water that Tepco and the Japanese government announced was clean,without testing it themselves ?

    These 4 reactors will never produce usable power again, everyone reading this today will be long dead before the clean up is complete, this reactor design was cheap and cheerful if run well.

    It wasn't run well and is not so cheerful now.

    Nuclear still has a place in energy production, if run properly but who can be trusted to do that when profits are involved,i am a Nuclear advocate but Private firms have no place in running reactors at all.

  36. Ed 13

    It's a bund

    The "backup dam which had been built around the tanks" is generally called a bund. You'll find them around oil tanks and the like to catch the leak rather than letting it just soak in to the ground.

    The bund is often open, which helps you see if there's anything in it, but this also means that they accumulate rainwater, which has to be drained off.

    As an aside, I seem to recall that The Register you to sell little beta sources. Those glowing key fob things, which held phosphor coated vial of tritium.

  37. R.Wolfe

    on the east coast here in America we have hundreds upon hundreds of Dolphins dying due to an "Unknown Plague" could it possible be the metal drums they used to dump Nuke waste in 60 years ago could be failing ..No way that could never happen they are made of the best steel available NOT!

    When ever big unfavorable news hits and the Mainstream media doesn't want it covered, they always try to clean it up or dumb it down or make it seem less troublesome than it really is , if they did not do this they would have to shut down the plant and clean up the mess and we all know that it's pretty much impossible to do that & who wanted to do that ? It would cost way too much money to try and get the contaminated water out of the non contaminated water A.K.A. the ocean when all they have to do is seal off the leaking water tank and use the existing ones that haven't failed YET.

    Its way easier to pay a mews outlet and say the problem wasn't as big as it was first thought to be if fact it;s just a little ole puddle you could walk though with water proof boots on !~ "Nothing to see here folks go on home" ...Nothing to worry about at all !

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Hundreds of dead dolphins? NOAA says that it is an infection of morbillivirus.

      However, the thing you are really missing is that "Mainstream media" do want this covered. The BBC has an "independent consultant" who is saying things like:

      "The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic, What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else - not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.

      Apart from him, clearly, who has measured it as "absolutely gigantic".

      "It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse,"

      "The Japanese have a problem asking for help. It is a big mistake; they badly need it." aka "Why haven't I been contracted yet".

    2. Captain DaFt

      " could it possible be the metal drums they used to dump Nuke waste in 60 years ago could be failing ..No way that could never happen they are made of the best steel available NOT! "

      Um, you do know that those drums were encased in concrete, and the steel drums inside were expected to rupture before the they even hit the sea bed?

      The idea was that sea water would infiltrate the waste and slowly dilute it over several years.

      That radioactivity's been been long since dispersed, and since Godzilla never showed up, apparently had no long term effects on anything.

  38. Lars Silver badge

    Stop downplaying it

    It was a disaster in many ways. People have not been able to return home, some have committed suicide. It was a psychological disaster for the nuclear industry. And what makes me sad is that Fukushima was warned about not having reserve electricity for a larger problem. I suppose company greed is to blame as they did nothing about it. Fukushima was not Chernobyl, that was worse, but even Chernobyl was caused by human error (stupidity). Anyway, perhaps we have a very similar opinion on what is a DISASTER and what is not. And even if we support nuclear power, I do, as I think it is worth developing along many other ways to improve the production of energy, Fukushima was a big FAIL.

    1. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Stop downplaying it

      Actually a lot of people evacuated after the tsunami and during the reactor meltdowns have returned home to the area around the plant. It's not a disaster so you haven't heard about their return in the news. The Japanese government recently finished reassessing the contamination levels and have opened more areas to the public again. The big worry of contamination shifting due to weather, rainfall, wind etc. has mostly gone away after thirty months, the areas that are still significantly contaminated won't change much and are still out of bounds.

      Nobody's building older GenII plants, the sort that blew up at Fukushima due to overheating. The improvements you want have already been developed to the point where new reactors are expected to have a working life of at least sixty years minimum. What gets in the way of them being built is the high capital up-front cost and the fact existing reactors from the 70s and 80s are actually in very good condition, in part because they were overbuilt in the first place and after regular inspections they are often being given licence extensions to operate for another few years and this has reduced the demand for new construction. At the same time gas is cheap, coal is abundant and nobody cares much about CO2 levels and air pollution.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Stop downplaying it

      Replying to my own post I would want to add this. Fukusima could have become a real success. a nuclear plant that survived both a tsunami and an earthquake. Trains crash, airplanes crash. The debris are cleaned and we go on using them. The expectations and the reason for those expectations are higher with nuclear power, much higher. Although those behind and responsible for even minor "accidents" will want to downplay it, I have never seen any large fraud in the nuclear power industry. If you want to look for the real bastards in the energy industry look for Shell, BP and similar in the US and Russia. The gas flaring they do all over the world, lying and cheating about it. is far worse than anything "nuclear" so far.

      1. P0l0nium

        Re: Stop downplaying it

        Or how about "The real Bastards are the 30 sets of "Nuclear experts" that built 30 nuclear reactors that were each proof against a "Thousand year event" and were surprised when one "Thousand year event" happened at one site within 40 years" - after only 1200 'reactor years' of operation"

        I mean, "What could possibly go wrong?

        If this were Disneyland, you wouldn't have to make this stuff up.... Oh. wait a minute, its not Disneyland

  39. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    There you go

    When initial attempt to seed panic fails - try again.

    Clearly, it began to dawn upon some environmentally concerned journos that the initial fuss has somewhat subsided, so they must have felt obliged to release a new BBC scary story with an alarming headline.

    There is absolute 0 new information in the article and, instead, it is full of things like "if something has happened once it will probably happen again" and "who knows what's happening there where we can't see", apparently coming various consultants and enviro-scientists.

  40. TrishaD

    @ Itzman

    "The collective insanity of the west in giving votes and degrees to people and telling them they are as good as anybody, and should have an opinion ... "

    Erm, I'm afraid that's called Democracy.

    If you can think of a better system, please do tell.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: "that's called Democracy"

      No, the system we have today is not democracy, but a parody of democracy.

      Decmocracy is where every citizen is called to vote on issues, and every citizen is AWARE of the issue and of its consequences, thus vote IN CONSCIENCE and are willing to be subject to the result of the vote because they are sure that all other voters have done the same.

      Instead, we have a system whereby almost nobody has the slightest clue of what is at stake because they are either too stupid to understand or they just toe the party line whatever happens. That, in turn, means that the result of the vote itself has no legitimacy in the eyes of people who voted for something else, because everyone is convinced that all the others didn't give a damn.

      And don't get me started on those who the spin the issue until nobody knows what we're voting for anymore...

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: "that's called Democracy"

        @Pascal Monett

        What we have today is not a "parody of democracy", it's representative democracy, the worst possible system except for all the others.

        The pure, direct democracy practised in the Greek city states of antiquity was impractical in the populous Western European societies that re-introduced democracy. With modern information technologies it might be possible to revive direct democracy, but that wouldn't necessarily be a good idea. The voters of Athens may have been in a position to know everything about the subject of a vote, but that didn't necessarily mean they took the trouble to do so. Don't forget that "demagogue" is a Greek word.

        1. KayKay

          Re: "that's called Democracy"

          Also only a small number of people were qualified to vote. Women, slaves, strangers (ie not local born citizens) etc were excluded; in some cases poorer real citizens were also not eligible. So it wasn't so much a "democracy" as a very populous ad-hoc parliament.

          Heaven help us if "internet democracy" is established. First they'd have to have a way of ensuring everyone only votes once... and the IT is not up to that yet.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: @ Itzman

      A better system would be an actual democracy where the people can cast votes on key policies. Log onto a website and cast your vote on a variety of policies that interest you, or submit a new policy for vote. Referendums every day. Everyone can vote but people with more education have a higher weighted vote. Those with degrees in the policy related subject would get even higher weighting.

      See in comparison to that our current system isn't a democracy at all. It's closer to a dictatorship, where policies are dictated to us. We only get to vote every four years, which means we have no control over policy inbetween votes. And this joke of a vote comes down in reality to two options, two parties. So across a whole plethora of issues over a 4 year period we are supposed to pick from just two representatives, often whom share the same policies on issues. What a joke! And nevermind that even if you vote for a party based on what they say they will do they can easily change their minds once in power.

      See "in power" sums up the corruption of the current system. "In power" is shorthand for saying they are dictators who cannot be removed for 4 years. In a better system there would be no concept of anyone being "in power". No-one individual or small group of "politicians" would ever be handed such power.

      1. Chris Miller

        @NomNomNom

        That would be a ludicrous system. I'd vote for better government services and greatly reduced taxes. How about you?

        Which is precisely why representative democracy was invented.

    3. Daniel B.

      Re: @ Itzman

      If you're talking about the US, it isn't a Democracy. USA was founded under the idea that Democracy is a horrible thing; thus what you have in the USA is a "Polity".

      If you're talking about the UK, it isn't a democracy either; it is a "Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy". It does operate with a limited use of democracy, mostly in that you get proportional representation.

  41. Benjol

    I notice how the anti-nuclear commenters seem to have subtly segued from 'you will die' to 'it costs lots of money'.

    And I have difficulty understanding the "ok for nuclear, but only if civilisation is going to continue". Cutting off a primary power source seems like an excellent way of crippling civilisation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I notice how the anti-nuclear commenters seem to have subtly segued from 'you will die' to 'it costs lots of money".?

      No, not really. We've brought up the "you will die" issue (and note, also brought up the "vast amounts of toxic waste that must be handled" issue), but that was all dismissed with a wave of the hand and a "Meh! We really don't consider that an 'issue'" reply.

      So switching 'cost' computations - from lives to money - seems to be the only point that these people DO wish to comprehend.

      The lives affected by nuclear, from the accidents to the cleanup and disposal of nuclear sites around the world, doesn't seem to bother them because it isn't their lives being affected. Creating the nuclear fuels for the nuclear industry (military and industrial) creates some of the most toxic wastes in the industrial world, but why bother to count all of that if it is out of sight, out of mind? [/s]

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
        FAIL

        "vast amounts of toxic waste that must be handled"

        meh

        1. Dave the Cat
          Thumb Up

          Re: "vast amounts of toxic waste that must be handled"

          There's also the Canadian CANDU reactors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candu

  42. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Five times annual radiation limit?

    So.... that's one dental x-ray, then?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Five times annual radiation limit?

      "The Petaluma Seed Bank", purveyor of heirloom seeds, is housed in a former 1900-ish bank building. The radiation inside is quite a bit higher than the radiation outside, thanks to radon leaking out of the stone walls. (I went in with a radon detector, because the year before I could only get one in 15 of their seeds to germinate). When I pointed this out, I was asked to leave. The hippies running the place didn't want to hear it.

      Religious folks don't want to understand reality.

  43. james 68

    "news"

    "It's not global news. It's not national news. It would barely even be local news, in a sane world."

    in a world where "news" consists of who is wearing what handbag with what dress and who has the most stupid looking rat/dog contained within said handbag I'll gladly accept this story as news, if only for the break in fashionista fake famewhore tedium about some useless tart that passes for "news" these days

    1. Snake
      Thumb Up

      Re: "news"

      Hear, hear

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the words of Keith Mandemant (Steve Coogan)

    No one died.

  45. Jeff Wojciechowski

    Why?

    Why is the media against everything I am for? Sanity and Logic.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    THIS article should be national news

    When i was watching this last night on the national news (I'm based in France) I was scoffing at all the alarmist language... and of course, they didn't mention radiation levels, the type of radiation or anything remotely resembling fact....

    Hell, a SMOKER has more chance at getting cancer than the guy who walked in those stupid puddles... or a voracious banana eater... you can use a nice banana equivalent dose calculator to calm the masses here:

    http://ob3.s3.amazonaws.com/banana-equivilant-dose.html

  47. Drew 11

    If nuclear power stations were required to be insured by the owners, they simply wouldn't exist.

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      FAIL

      @Drew 11

      You mean this type of insurance?

      Please do your homework before posting complete bollocks.

      Or better yet, don't post where you haven't a clue.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually I understand it was these guy's who quoted Fukashima, fortunately for them, in the end the Japanese government agreed to underwrite the risk, due to TEPCO's past record, and geography/earthquake risk generating an understandable high quoted premium.

  48. a_mu

    missed the point ?

    I though the point was that this should not have happened, should have been spotted earlier, and should have been reported,

    none of which happened,

    when it comes to nuclear, are we happy with that situation,

    I'm not.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC casting doubt on veracity of statements ..

    "A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated." link

  50. This post has been deleted by its author

  51. phy445
    Alert

    "Almost all of this was contained by a backup dam..."

    Just been checking the statements from TEPCO. apparently about four cubic meters of the leaked water was contained by the dam. The remainder of the 300 tones of water is merrily diffusing its way through the soil.

    Reading the announcements from TEPCO is eye opening. They seem to be reacting to events rather than getting on top of things. They didn't even think to monitor water levels in their storage tanks until this leak was spotted. Not measuring things makes for good plot twists in films like Jurassic Park, but the nuclear industry has no excuse. IIRC there was a leak at Sellafield/Windscale that was't found for a long time because they did't bother to monitor the levels correctly.

    Nuclear power, much like communism, looks like a reasonable idea on paper, it just all falls apart when humans get into the equation.

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