James Woods: the genius of Steve Jobs was in making upwardly mobile middle class people in developed capitalist countries feel good about buying electronics produced under slave labor conditions in factories run by the most corrupt communist regime on Earth, employing primarily women of childbearing age, as they have the nimblest fingers and most patience. However, don't bring that up to your iPhone-toting friends or indeed on this forum, unless you wish to suffer the wrath and fury of the "it just works" crowd.
22 posts • joined 24 Mar 2011
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Hillbilly boy shot up his daughter's laptop because she bitched about doing her chores? The only person he humiliated was himself. Ol' boy should be more in control of his emotions, letting his anger run away with himself like that is not a good sign. You save the gun for life-threatening situations, not getting into a pissing match with your own 15-year-old teenage daughter on facebook. Jesus.
Also, ol' boy is pretty ignorant, ain't thinking too far ahead. What happens when she *does* go off to college? What type of fella is she going to bring home to pa? And how much fun are they going to have re-watching that video now that's out there on Youtube for eternity. What about when ol' boy gots to git a new job hisself someday? Corporate may not look to kindly on hiring a gun-toting redneck with anger issues.
Only thing this dumb redneck shot was himself in the foot.
It's time to think big. If El Reg can send PARIS to space, how about some El Reg - themed gadgets and hackery we all could use and appreciate? I'm thinking if the world's largest ad broker can come up with Go, our collective minds amongst the Register staff and readership can forge Vulture to one-up them. And a question: how many of us would buy a shiny new El Reg - themed red Nokia N9 loaded with cool apps dreamed up by the Register hive mind? I know I would. There's no reason the Register can't turn into the world's largest brilliance broker out of this, and maybe even make a few of the team (whether hard-driven employee or avid reader) rich in the process.
Here's a "sensible" link to strontium contamination
But I'm sure the wise felows downvoting my posts and lambasting me with ad hominem attacks will be quite happy to blow it off. Particularly since no-one has developed any bone cancer in the last two weeks, it's of no concern.
Normally the Register would be the first to seize upon these little revisions to prior estimates ("Whoops turns out twice as much nasty leaked out as we first told you") and bits of bad news leaked out in dribs and drabs ("Oh you mean *radioactive* strontium? Sure, there's a bit about") as evidence that perhaps not all is as rosy over there by the exploded out-of-control nuclear power plant in the middle of an evacuation zone as the bureaucrats would have us believe.
Instead the Register keeps stubbornly insisting that because no one was flash-fried in the Fukushima debacle, all is hunky-dory, not only with that particular plant, but with nuclear power in general.
It's disappointing. Not only do these ridiculous nuclear cheerleading articles damage the credibility of Page & Orlowski, they damage the credibility of the Register. And pillorying readers who dare to question nuclear power as a safe way to generate electricity, mocking them as anti-Jetsons (whatever the fuck that is supposed to signify), etc. only makes the Register appear all the more petty and small.
It would have served the Register better to keep the Fukushima reporting balanced and factual, and leave the editorializing till at least the plant was brought back under control. Right now too many facts are still unknown.
We do keep seeing articles with revised contamination estimates and "oh by the way" mentions of additional repercussions not discussed previously. Given that it's going to be a good long while before Fukushima is back under control and the evacuation zone lifted, it is extremely poor form (as opposed to the Register's usual brand of witty cheekiness) to go rambling on about how the whole thing is a trumped up scare designed by hippies to put the poor little put-upon innocent nuclear power industry out of business.
There's no melt-through, have another banana, book a flight to Madras
And stop downplaying the destructive consequences of the tsunami in order to try to clear the decks for your non-existent nuclear armaggedon scenario.
So sayeth the folk tarring and feathering anyone with the temerity to speak up against nuclear power. Geniuses and sage prognosticators they are, all of whom of course are nuclear power plant engineers who just happened to stop by El Reg to set the record straight for poor souls such as the fellow above living in Japan on $7 bottled water thanks to his woefully misinformed notions as to what actually constitutes a nuclear power plant crisis. Nobody has got cancer yet, what is he complaining about anyway? 15 people fell off windmills in the time it took to read this post. And did any people fell off a nuclear power plant? That's right, didn't think so. Now eat your radioactive cesium, a little radiation does a body good!
P.S. "What precautions do you take against radiation in your daily life" as some kind of witty riposte to a thumbs down on Fukushima is like inquiring "soooo... what do you do to avoid inhaling second hand smoke anyway" of someone pointing out a massive forest fire up the hill.
"Safe limits for everything. This concept also applies to radiation and radioactive isotopes."
Um, no. You are confusing overdose with safe limit.
Food is something your body needs to survive. It's possible to overdose on one particular kind of food and thus harm your body (e.g. salt) but in general, food is not poison. You can overdose on water but you can't live without it.
Poison is something that harms your body. Your body doesn't need it and you can live quite happily without it. It might tolerate some level of insult from the poison, or it might not. The effects could be immediate or they could be delayed (cancer).
Salt is food.
Radioactive isotopes are poison.
Arguing that nuclear power is A-OK because human cells are "designed to repair DNA damage" doesn't make any sense. It's like saying that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is A-OK because nature has equipped you with a skull.
Arguing that death by salt overdose is just as bad as death by radiation poisoning, therefore nuclear power is A-OK makes no sense either. I can't think of an analogy to point out the absurdity of this argument... it's already extremely absurd in its own right.
As long as nuclear power is used, there is always a risk of catastrophic failure of containment systems. Containment systems at Fukushima failed and there is definitely radioactive cesium in the environment and very probably a number of other long-lived isotopes. In the ocean, this does not magically go away any more than it does on land. It accumulates in the food chain.
The more Chernobyls and Fukushimas occur, the more the planetary ecosystem gets polluted with radiation. Saying that so far the pollution in some places is sometimes the same as background radiation in such and such other place doesn't mean anything. It's like saying a pile of garbage that keeps growing is no problem because it isn't yet as big as a mountain of trash. Why not just stop piling up the garbage?
"Led to the death of absolutely nobody" is not really a high standard
Saying that the Fukushima mess hasn't killed anyone (yet) doesn't really make for a ringing recommendation for nuclear power, in my view. The stuff that is spewed all over the ground and in the water is stuff that gives people cancer over the long term... so it's kind of disingenuous to say that nobody has any signs of cancer yet, so A+ for the Fukushima disaster!
Salt is not "a killer". Anything in excess can be harmful (even too much plain old water can be harmful)... that is not the same as something which, in and of itself, is a poison. Radioactive isotopes are poisonous. If you get them inside your body, the only question is how soon can your body flush out the poison before it does too much irreversible damage. In some cases the body cannot flush the poison out fast enough (cesium), in others, not ever (strontium).
Saying salt is a killer and windmills "kill" people proves what exactly? Salt, taken in moderation, is healthy. Windmills, constructed safely and serviced carefully and safely, don't kill anyone. It is a bit of logical sleight of hand to claim that non-nuclear power "kills" people.
My point remains the same. The risk associated with nuclear power generation is too high. It has to be handled nearly perfectly from cradle to grave, whether you are looking at the fuel, the construction of and failsafes built into the plants, the waste, etc. etc. etc. It's a chain where every link is critical and cannot be broken. Witness the case at Fukushima. The earthquake also caused an oil storage depot to blow up in Chiba; it's not still burning and spewing oil all over the place. Fukushima, on the other hand, is still not under control and the full extent of its contamination of the environment is unknown.
As for the ad hominem attacks claiming I have some sort of emotional hatred of nuclear power, or want to downplay the tsunami, etc.... really? Because I refuse to go along with this preposterous nonsense masquerading as journalism in the Reg pages, and I am willing to call out El Reg on what I consider to be bad reporting, somehow I must be an evil or sad or pathetic or ignorant "sort of person"? Errr... no.
Further to the point of downplaying the tsunami: the triumphalism evidenced in the articles the Reg has published on this topic downplays the consequences of this disaster, in my view. People can't go to their homes or jobs and farmers can't farm, etc. but Messrs. Orlowski and Page would have us believe this is all some sort of bureaucratic boondoggle and the poor misguided slobs in the Japanese government are just trying to cover their asses.
Similarly, they dismiss any discussion of the aftereffects of Chernobyl (wildlife mutations, cancer in the surrounding human population) as overblown nonsense... we are not talking about UFO articles on Pravda here. There are reputable scientists who can back up their claims that yes, Chernobyl had an effect on people's health, and yes, Fukushima is a huge clusterfuck that by no means vindicates the safety procedures of either that particular plant or the whole industry.
I can't help but wonder why the Register, normally a bastion of skepticism and of not toeing the party line (whatever the party), has suddenly taken it upon itself to claim loudly and repeatedly that Fukushima is not a disaster and was handled just fine. Meantime, the news reports keep coming out that more of this or that poisonous isotope was released than initially estimated, the exclusion zone is not going away, and the plant is not going to be under control any time soon.
If the plant was back up and running right now, and the most contamination that leaked was some stuff with a brief half-life, and there was no exclusion zone... then I might buy into pronouncements declaring we should build more Fukushimas, and I might snicker at the "mummy mummy there's a nuclear monster" asides as well.
But that is not where we are and the Reg is ignoring reportage and data that undermine its editorial position that nuclear power is just fine and dandy. These are all opinion pieces, not factual reporting.
Errr I don't follow the seawater argument. So bizarre one is not sure how to reply.
Salt is not a poison. Salt is necessary for life. You can ingest salt and you won't die.
Radioactive cesium is a poison. It is not necessary for life. If you ingest it, it builds up in your bones and muscle tissue and your body takes a while to flush it out; long enough that cancer is a real risk. Radioactive strontium is even worse. The body treats it like calcium and it does not flush out of your system entirely; it accumulates in the bones.
How in hell does saying that drinking too much seawater will make humans sick somehow imply that ingesting radioactive isotopes is safe? There is no safe dose for ingesting these things. There is a safe (there is even a necessary) dose of salt, on the other hand.
As for seawater, lots of good tasty stuff grows in it. Fish, for example. Seaweed. Shrimp. Whales, even, if you are so inclined. Hand me an oyster dripping with brackish salty water and I'll scarf it right down. Hand me an oyster grown in water contaminated with radioactive cesium and strontium and I will decline.
Paris, because even she knows that not everything salty is bad for you.
Japan doubles the estimate (estimate!) of radiation released at Fukushima
For those of you keeping score at home via banana consumption, you'll need to head back to the local grocer to double your intake.
Or check your favorite news outlet.
The news is not going to get better about this mess; it is going to come out in dribs and drabs about how extra-fucked-up it actually was and is. Cleanup will not be trivial and I don't believe the exclusion zone is a bunch of bureaucratic BS; it is there for a good reason.
Bananas and salt and Chernobyl
Bananas: potassium is not radioactive. It has a radioactive isotope that exists in miniscule quantities.
Salt: you can ingest salt and you won't die. In fact, the body needs salt.
Chernobyl: bizarre mutations in the "teeming" animal and plant life in the exclusion zone have been and continue to be observed, including albino birds and trees that don't know which way is up when they grow.
Radioactive cesium is a bitch. It's all over the place around Fukushima, and the health effects will be long-term because the half-life is long-term. It doesn't "dissipate", it concentrates within the food chain, just like mercury in fish. No one has yet addressed what will be done to clean up the radioactive isotopes spewed all over the immediate area of Fukushima, particularly the longer-lived isotopes, for which there is NO SAFE DOSE to ingest into your body. If you eat radioactive cesium, you are fucked. The only question is how much, and how soon. Hopefully it is only a little and not for a long time yet. But no one knows and the reactor complex is still. Not. Under. Control.
Essentially all that the Reg articles have said on the Fukushima boils down to these points:
1) Well at least most of the fuel seems to have been contained!
2) The tsunami destroyed entire towns! Why are you whining about a little radiation?
3) Chernobyl was a bunch of shit. We could all go live there right now and nobody would grow a third arm tomorrow.
4) Hey, background radiation exists everywhere! Bananas, airplanes, and Madras! So STFU hippies!
5) People die in mines and fall off windmills. Chemical contamination and accidents with non-nuclear power have killed more people than nuclear power. So again, STFU hippies!
None of this addresses the central problem with Fukushima and with nuclear power in general: so far (so far!) humanity has only dodged the bullet when it comes to nuclear catastrophe. There have been some serious messes and some serious health consequences, but so far the nightmare scenarios of toxic nuclear plumes blowing all over the world and causing instant sickness and death have been avoided. But dodging the bullet doesn't mean getting shot at is safe. Nuclear power is extremely risky, extremely dangerous, and it creates extremely toxic waste for which there is no cleanup; the only solution is to dig a deep, secure hole and hope nobody digs it back up (or it leaks out) for thousands of years.
The Fukushima incident was not vastly worse because we are so great at designing and maintaining nuclear power plants. It was only by sheer luck or the grace of God or whatever you like to call it that the the disaster did not turn out infinitely worse.
As it is, radioactive cesium and other isotopes are out there in the food chain and there is still no answer from anyone as to how this will be cleaned up. All the sheep can do is bleat about bananas and flight attendants and Madras. I don't see anyone flying over to Fukushima to eat the spinach or drink the green tea, though. Least of all brave Messrs. Page and Orlowski, and certainly not on their own dime. (Will the Register foot the bill to back up their trolling, I wonder?)
Some people are more invested in arguing over the Internet than in the reality of Fukushima
"The point is, and always has been, that what ever level of disaster you want to attribute to Fukushima, the tsunami based destruction around it makes it insignificant. It really is that simple."
No, it really is not that simple. Houses can be rebuilt. Roads can be repaved. Power lines put back up, destroyed ships, cars, planes remanufactured.
Salt water can be washed away with fresh water. Ingesting some salt won't give you cancer. As for saying salt has a half-life of billions of years, that doesn't even make any sense. Salt isn't radioactive.
What do you propose to do about radioactive cesium in the ground, in the ocean, and in the water table?
Reminder: there are no safe doses of radiation.
I know your precious little web cartoon with the USRDA of radiation is cute and cuddly and snarkily funny, but it won't do shit for you as protection from getting cancer. Neither will writers of the Register be around to pooh-pooh the cancer diagnoses that are bound to result from the Fukushima accident in coming years (just as they did from Chernobyl).
The reason that radiation dosage guidelines are so incredibly low for nuclear power plant workers is not because a bunch of hysterical hippies somehow conned governments worldwide into over-regulating the poor, put-upon nuclear power industry. The dosage guidelines are low because the safest dose is zero, and the stuff is ridiculously poisonous. In most cases, if you ingest radioactive isotopes, they tend to do things like hang out in your body, become part of your bones, and cause cancer.
It astounds me that the hacks at El Reg can continue to blather on about how wonderfully fine Fukushima is when the plant is still not under control and the full extent of contamination is still unknown. Yes, unknown. In the purest, non-Rumsfeldian sense of the word.
Paris, because even she has more shame than the paid trolls running amok in the "Science" section of El Reg.
Why no mention of the radioactive cesium contamination?
Shit like this is disingenuous:
"To date no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident."
What, we should expect people to develop cancer in a few weeks?
In any event, these are facts which El Reg refuses to lay emphasis on:
* The plant is still not under control
* It has spewed radiation into the air, on the ground, and in the sea
* There are still a host of unknowns as to the degree of contamination
* Everyone near the plant has been evacuated, homes abandoned, businesses shut down
* Agricultural exports from the area have been banned
Instead we hear in El Reg's "reporting" on the issue that the plant not being under control is no big whoop, 'cos the super-fancy steel containment stuff is like, totally fine! And there's a website where you can see just exactly how much teensy-weensy bits of radiation have been released, shoot, less than you would get from a banana shake in Madras! And nothing is unknown except just how incredibly awesomely wonderful nuclear power is, and how extra-believable the IAEA (those known jaundiced critics of the industry) are! And the spinach and green tea from the area are like, totally super-safe, eat some and you can't even taste the difference!
I must hand it to the Register, these horribly biased articles by two staff writers (who clearly are on the payroll of GE as well as El Reg) whose "reporting" has involved nary a single trip to any part of Japan, let alone Fukushima itself, have done a great job of herding the average El Reg reader into the nuclear corner ("well if I oppose it I must be an unwashed ignorant peasant, and heaven knows I am *not* one of those! I read, dammit!"). Well done.
I look forward to your downvotes and acerbic comebacks questioning my IQ, the quality of my DNA ,etc. etc. etc. Meantime Fukushima is still a giant clusterfuck, bad news keeps leaking out in dribs and drabs about how it's actually much worse than a couple of stricken reactors farting rainbows and extra-fortified sunshine.
Just address the cesium issue (the cleanup of the stuff, not your assessment that there's not enough to worry about), would you El Reg? And with a different writer, these two clowns who have been on the case thus far have managed to turn this topic into a war between El Reg and its readership: always a smart business move.
Sooo.... where's the latest article from Orlowski & Page pooh-poohing Fukushima?
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Radiation released by the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has caused soil contamination matching the levels seen in the Chernobyl disaster in some areas, a researcher told the government's nuclear policy-setting body Tuesday.
"A massive soil decontamination project will be indispensable before residents in those areas can return," said Tomio Kawata, a research fellow of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, at the meeting of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, which sets policies and strategies for the government's nuclear power development.
According to Kawata, soil in a 600 square kilometer area mostly to the northwest of the Fukushima plant is likely to have absorbed radioactive cesium of over 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the yardstick for compulsory migration orders in the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
Kawata also said soil in a 700 square km area is likely to have absorbed 555,000-1.48 million becquerels per square meter, which was a criteria for temporary migration during the Chernobyl disaster.
Of course, Chernobyl itself was NBD, so I guess we will soon be treated to an article pointing out that exposure to radiation in some remote corner of the Himalayas is near-as-makes-no-diff the same as what anyone having lunch next to the melted reactor cores of Fukushima would experience, and people are still climbing Everest every day, so big whoop! And wind power is the new Great Satan. Keep up the valiant quest for truth there fellas.
Missed the point?
Cpt Blue Bear: "Simple: the naturally occurring radiation exposure in those locations is higher than at Fukushima but no one is being evacuated from there. Oh, I forgot that's "natural" radiation so it's alright.[/SARCASM]"
No, it's not that simple. It is unlikely that the hot springs in Iran will suddenly display a temporary spike in radiation thousands of times normal or start spewing radioactive cesium all over the ground. My point, which you clearly missed in your blind haste to triumphantly thump your chest, was not that naturally occurring radiation in the two locales Mr. Page dug up on Wikipedia was any the less harmful for being naturally occurring. My point was and is that the Fukushima plant is not under control and has blown up several containment buildings (but not to worry, says Mr. Page, that's a design feature) and has spewed tons of radioactive water into the sea (but not to worry, says Mr. Page, if you pee in a large enough swimming pool no-one will notice) and has in general exhibited no signs of stability just yet (but not to worry, says Mr. Page, we should look for our guidance on radiation safety levels to countries where stoning adulterers and pooping in the street are still the norm). The reason there is an evacuation zone in Fukushima and not Madras is there is a nuclear plant that just blew up and puked radiation all over the place in Fukushima, and not Madras. As to whether the Iranians or Indians should evacuate areas where the populace is exposed to higher than normal levels of radation, that is another question entirely. It is a question of resources, policy, governance, etc. for those countries, and has fuck-all to do with whether or not it is safe to go scarfing down the cesium-tainted produce outside the gates of a nuclear power plant with three reactors suffering compromised fuel integrity and unknown containment integrity. I hope that makes it "simple" enough for you, Captain.
WTF does this have to do with radioactive hot springs in Iran or background radiation in Madras?
So Mr. Page dug up the places on Earth where people are exposed to the highest known levels of naturally occurring background radiation, then proceeded to conclude that everything is fine in Fukushima?
More false parallels. The radiation in Fukushima isn't coming from hot springs in the ground or any other naturally occuring, steady, low-level emissions source. It's coming from a fucking man-made nuclear power plant that suffered multiple explosions, contaminated tap water as far as Tokyo, spewed radioactive cesium all over the ground, and is still not under control. Periodic massive spikes in radiation exposure have occurred, uncontrolled leakage of radation into the ocean has occurred, and the plant lies in ruins, shattered concrete and twisted rebar all over, containment bolts blasted loose, etc.
Like it or not, any part of that plant could suffer an unforeseen malfunction at any time.
Mr. Page's argument is tantamount to standing in a wildfire evacuation zone saying "the smoke exposure here is less than what someone gets who smokes a 2 packs a day of unfiltered cigarettes in Iran every day for a year, and I don't see the government of Iran banning cigarettes. Therefore this evacuation zone is bullshit. Pay no mind to the negligible soot in the air or the houses burnt to the ground a few miles down the road."
Am I glad that things in Fukushima appear to be gradually coming under control, and radiation doses are (thankfully) not catastrophically high to the surrounding population? Most certainly. It is my most fervent hope that Fukushima comes under control soon and the whole thing is either shitcanned under concrete or safely rebuilt and run under even higher safety standards in future. Japan has little choice but to use nuclear power on a large scale. And once things come under control, no doubt we will be treated to more self-congratulatory crowing and preening from the likes of Messrs. Orlowski and Page.
But dodging a bullet doesn't mean getting shot at is safe. And long-term, nuclear power is not less dangerous than coal, oil, wind, solar, etc. It is immeasurably more risky and dangerous. The argument is not about how many people have or have not died or gotten ill due to nuclear accidents, or how effective safety precautions have been thus far over the brief period of time that humanity has used nuclear power. The argument is about looking at the ramifications of the worst-case scenario. Chernobyl gave us a good long look at that, and now Fukushima has given us another glimpse.
Nice try, but you are trolling, Mr. Daws
The story out of Fukushima is constantly being revised; first we heard that the reactor core containments were intact... then we heard they were compromised... then we heard of radioactive water being dumped into the sea. Now it seems the evacuation zone has been widened-- but this is all merely needless overreaction in your and Mr. Page's book. We can be certain more unpleasant facts will continue to leak out about the Fukushima crisis and the contamination there is real, not imaginary.
On the subject of coal, I am afraid you have completely missed my point... and inadvertently proved it at the same time. My point is that energy from sources other than nuclear may or may not be safe... but that safety is largely dependent upon how well-constructed and well-run the energy plants are. You can dump fly ash into the atmosphere or recycle it into concrete. You can build a gasoline engine with high or low emissions. There is a degree of control over the pollution involved.
There is no cleaning up nuclear waste. It only accumulates. And the risk associated with exposure is enormous. You can't make nuclear waste less hazardous, or recycle it into bricks, or anything else. You're stuck with it.
There is simply no getting around the fact that nuclear power creates nuclear waste, which is highly toxic and has to be kept contained and isolated from the environment for thousands of years.
On a side note, your statistics are rather slapdash and spurious. Burning coal is not a nuclear reaction and produces no radioactive isotopes beyond what existed in the coal to begin with. So saying a coal plant will put tons of uranium into the environment is false... sort of overlooks the fact that the uranium contained within the coal was already in the environment in the first place. Coal burning does not create uranium. It does not create nuclear waste. More importantly, if a coal-fired power plant blows up, there is no risk of widespread radiation poisoning.
Your claim of experiencing more (negligible) radiation exposure from a coal-fired plant than from a nuclear one is a red herring. Radiation exposure from fly ash produced by a coal-fired plant is negligible nearby the plant (on the order of 2 millirems a year) because there is no nuclear reaction going on.
Radiation exposure from a nuclear power plant is only negligible so long as containment procedures are in place and do not fail. If they fail (see Chernobyl), they failure is by definition catastrophic and extremely dangerous.
For an objective report on Chernobyl, see:
Of course, if you worked at a nuclear power plant, you doubtless would have heard of the TORCH report... interesting you fail to mention it as a credible source. Apparently you would rather make false claims that the UNSCEAR reports found no health impact.
Here are some quotes from the UNSCEAR reports:
"For the last two decades, attention has been focused on investigating the association between exposure caused by radionuclides released in the Chernobyl accident and late effects, in particular thyroid cancer in children. Doses to the thyroid received in the first few months after the accident were particularly high in those who were children and adolescents at the time in Belarus, Ukraine and the most affected Russian regions and drank milk with high levels of radioactive iodine. By 2005, more than 6,000 thyroid cancer cases had been diagnosed in this group, and it is most likely that a large fraction of these thyroid cancers is attributable to radioiodine intake. It is expected that the increase in thyroid cancer incidence due to the Chernobyl accident will continue for many more years, although the long-term increase is difficult to quantify precisely."
"The present understanding of the late effects of protracted exposure to ionizing radiation is limited, since the dose-response assessments rely heavily on studies of exposure to high doses and animal experiments. Studies of the Chernobyl accident exposure might shed light on the late effects of protracted exposure, but given the low doses received by the majority of exposed individuals, any increase in cancer incidence or mortality will be difficult to detect in epidemiological studies."
My point remains: nuclear power is extremely risky, with no way to minimize that risk. No one engineered Fukushima to fail-- on the contrary, it was built with multiple failsafes and it was built to survive a major earthquake by people living in one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. And yet, it failed. Reactor buildings blew up, radiation leaked and continues to leak into the air and water and ground, and with widespread effect.
Saying "well it only leaked a little, the tap water in Tokyo is fine for babies so long as the contamination doesn't last for a year" etc. etc. misses the point. A petroleum processing facility caught fire in Chiba after the earthquake-- we aren't reading of efforts to continue to get the plant under control weeks and weeks later, and we aren't hearing reports of petroleum showing up in small quantities in the water in Osaka as a result, or seeing people evacuated for miles around. And this is the difference between nuclear accidents and accidents with other forms of power.
Not this again
"That is serious radiation: after an hour exposed to it you'd be likely to suffer actual radiation sickness, though you'd be just about certain to recover. Two hours, and you might die: four hours, a fatal result would become likely."
A fatal result would become likely? What would Mr. Page's description of getting shot with an Uzi be like?
"That is serious firepower: after being exposed to a few rounds you'd be likely to suffer actual gunshot wounds, though you'd be just about certain to recover. Ten rounds, and you might die: twenty rounds, a fatal result would become likely."
But not to worry:
"But these were in fact very brief spikes right next to a damaged core, resulting mostly from very short-lived isotopes that were decaying before they could drift beyond the plant fence. Nobody at all has been exposed to such levels."
Really? Because the one constant theme to this story has been how much more fucked up everything is in reality, compared to the official press releases. Nobody really knows what isotopes got out into the wind, water, and ground. In contrast to Mr. Page's assurances that nothing leaked but "mostly very short-lived isotopes", we have Reuters reporting that
"TEPCO appears to be no closer to restoring cooling systems at the reactors, critical to lowering the temperature of overheated nuclear fuel rods. On Tuesday, Japan's science ministry said small amounts of strontium, one of the most harmful radioactive elements, had been found in soil near Fukushima Daiichi."
Mr. Page studiously avoids any extended discussion of the effects of ingesting radioactive isotopes, which is the real health risk that will be the legacy of Fukushima (as it was with Chernobyl).
No mention of radioactive cesium at all in Mr. Page's article this time around. Though doubtless if it was mentioned, it would be something along the lines of "if you ate nothing but sushi fished from the waters off the coast and salad made from lettuce harvested just outside the reactor core building for a year, the most you could expect would be a 0.0000000001% chance of hair, which is readily curable by having your hair cut on a regular basis, which 90% of the population does already, so there! Plus, billions of people died for your windmills and solar panels, hippies. So get a fucking haircut and a shave."
And: saying x people die per terawatt of energy source X blah blah blah is a false comparison.
Accidents that occur during the process of mining coal, refining oil, etc. are not directly attributable to the properties of coal and oil themselves. If you spill oil all over yourself, you wash it off with soap and water. You can pick up a lump of coal, then wash your hand and have a sandwich. Falling off a windmill doesn't contaminate the ground for centuries. When you're done with a solar panel, you don't have to stick it in a salt mine for a few millennia and hope no one digs it up.
These two flaws in Mr. Page's reasoning-- A) that we don't have to worry about what happens if we eat radioactive isotopes and B) deaths per energy form is a valid statistical measure of the safety of that energy form-- irk the shit out of me. That, and his condescending, sneering tone. It ill-serves the Register; and these trolls of his and Mr. Orlowski's masquerading as articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster (yes! it is a disaster!) do not inform, they only inflame.
These articles will serve as an epitaph for the credibility of El Reg on nuke issues
Downplaying Chernobyl is risky business, journalistically speaking. It's nice that Orlowski & Page think they have the figures to back up their absurd claims that cesium-137 is the healthiest thing since momma's milk, a li'l ol' radioactive iodine never hurt nobody, and the number of fatalities from a nuclear power plant explosion that showered radioactive isotopes all over Western Europe can be easily counted on two mutated hands. I searched the intardweb for "TORCH Chernobyl report" and found a somewhat different set of conclusions, however. Said conclusions did not appear to be sourced from a nefarious cabal of stinky long-haired hippies feverishly hacking away at their (all-manual) Underwood typewriters whilst high out of their anti-Jetsons minds on ganja.
El Reg has always won my admiration and respect with its inimitable style. This style includes brilliance on the order of referring to Google as "the world's largest ad broker", effectively characterizing Larry Ellison as an evil being from outer space, the creation of the Paris commenticon, the PARIS project, and on and on and on... this is genius that the world would be hard-pressed to do without.
The recent series of articles relentlessly trolling the El Reg readership on the issue of nuclear power safety, in the wake of one of the worst earthquakes to be witnessed by man in recent memory no less, is not the kind of brilliance I associate with Le Vautour Rouge. Thumbs up to sticking it to the mass media for going into hysterics and blathering disinformation... but that's not what El Reg is doing at this point with these articles stirring the pot about the Fukushima incident. And it really comes off as unconscionably crass (though normally I am a huge fan of a certain amount of crassness, judiciously applied) to do so well before the final reports on the total exposure are in, even before the decision has officially been made whether or not to just shit-can the whole operation and bury it under concrete. Which is what I think the Register should do with this whole series of articles fellating the nuclear power industry.
Several points made in this debate are a bit specious to say the least
1) The currently mandated levels of safe exposure for nuclear power plant workers are apparently ridiculously low. Proof being that the government-mandated safe tolerances are far less than what you would get eating a banana every hour for a year straight, or racking up your frequent flyer miles as a traveling wholesaler for perfectly safe cesium-137 vitamin supplements.
It seems "mad, fear-driven, irrationally-low safety levels" are to blame for a) mankind failing to explore the stars in a timely fashion and b) our current flawed reality not matching up to the prophetic vision for the future as envisioned by the sage animators at Hanna-Barbera studios and the wise executives of ABC television circa 1962.
I don't know about the fearless hacks at El Radioactive Reg, but if I was working in an industry where safety regulations are required, you can bet your ass I would want the safe limits for exposure to toxin X to be 100% driven by fear and set as irrationally low as fucking possible. Permissible ill health effects five times lower than what you would get from attending the average Celine Dion concert? Count me the fuck in, gentlemen.
2) Weaselly phrasing along the lines of "nobody has ever been able to show that this isotope has any health consequences at all" when discussing exposure to various radioactive isotopes. This is a nice way of dancing around the fact that a lot is still not understood about radiation exposure. It also sidesteps discussion of the issue of long-term contamination of food supply. Cesium-137 takes hundreds of years to decay completely away, and in the meantime it is already showing up in plants and animals intended for human consumption. What happens if you keep eating and re-eating the stuff because it is in the ground, in the water supply, in the food chain? Nothing we need worry our pretty little heads about, according to Messrs. Orlowski and Page.
3) Misleading industry safety comparisons to coal, oil, wind, hamster wheels, etc. as other forms of power generation.
E.G.:" 'Not one person has died from radiation,' Sir David King told the Guardian. 'Let me put that in context – in the same week, 30 coal miners died. Generating electricity from coal is far more dangerous.' "
Yes, but 30 coal miners didn't die from exposure to unshielded, highly-refined coal. More likely they suffered from the statistics of working in an industry not subject to "irrationally low" safety levels. Coal, oil, and so on are industries where cutting corners on safety and putting workers in harm's way are (unfortunately) tolerated... precisely *because* these are much less risky endeavors than generating nuclear power.
4) Complete omission of discussion of the hazards of nuclear waste and (going back to point 2) the wider health issues of long-term fallout contamination. What do we do about the waste products from nuclear power, which require extreme isolation from the rest of the environment for thousands of years? What about the fact that, thanks to Chernobyl and nuclear testing, we can now tell apart wine vintages via cesium-137 testing? These are somehow good things?
It's nice that El Reg was quick to let the air out of the mass-media hype bubble, but blaming the dirty hippies and their "irrationally low" safety levels for keeping us from taking vacations to Mars is a wee bit far-fetched, in my opinion. El Reg is sounding like the mouthpiece for the nuclear industry lately, and I miss its characteristic jaundiced "they're all mad" view when it comes to reporting on the clusterfuck at Fukushima.
*(BTW: "Orlowski and Page" has a nice ring to it... could pass equally well for a venerable law firm or a retro-indie-rock duo.)
Escaping disaster ≠ safe.
Yes, the news media have been guilty of hype. In the US, at least, the lead story prior to the tsunami disaster was all-you-can-read about how some actor wasn't getting paid enough to keep his porn stars in the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. And yes, it appears the Tokyo authorities are erring on the side of caution with announcements regarding babies vs. radioactivity; we should expect no less from the nation that gave us manga exploring such topics as super-sized radioactive babies rampaging through Tokyo hellbent on destruction.
At the same time, I can't help but feel that Mr. Orlowski (and by extension El Reg) is playing the same hype game as the rest of the media, merely in reverse... instead of trolling the public that apocalyptic doom is at hand, Mr. O. would have us believe that exposure to radioactivity is just fine so long as it doesn't singe your skin off within minutes... and cancer risk? Mere fractions of a percentage point higher than what you already endure, lads, so have another swig of radioactive milk as you munch down your radioactive spinach.
While I am a huge fan of El Reg's tongue-in-cheek irreverence, in this case I can't help but feel an unpleasant overtone of intellectual snobbery ("Fools! Had you passed your Physics A-levels you'd know that this is all totally fine, pay no mind to the reactor buildings blowing up left and right, they are *designed* to do that, you imbeciles!") and plain old trollery ("Fukushima is totally safe I would so move there tomorrow LOL").
This accident could have been horribly worse, and thankfully it appears (appears!) to be more or less coming under control... but that doesn't mean that nuclear power is fine and dandy and we can all go back to worrying feverishly about whether the latest smartphone has poor reception or the latest actor to go batshit insane will be able to secure his coke supply over the coming year.
People might fall off a windmill generator from time to time, but you don't need to build four levels of super-reinforced stainless steel and concrete containment around one, and you don't have to bury the windmill rotor in a salt mine for thousands of years when you're done with the thing.
What's the opposite of fearmongering? Safemongering?
On the one hand, it has been refreshing to read the article series on Fukushima, get a bit of perspective, and learn some important facts omitted in hysterical coverage elsewhere (like the fact that the control rods dropped in place right after the earthquake). But I think that Mr. Page, in his analysis of the relative safety of various forms of energy, has conflated dangers intrinsic to each form of power generation with regular old, shit-happens, people-fuck-up dangers.
That is to say, workers falling off wind turbines or mine safety incidents are not problems with wind power or coal power per se, but instead are attributable to human error and fallibility. Saying x people fell off wind turbines last year is one thing, but making the jump to saying wind is way more dangerous than nuclear is entirely another. Instead of looking at how many people perish in the pursuit of X as an objective measure of how risky X is, I submit that it makes more sense to look at the margin for error associated with the pursuit of X. The margin for error with nuclear power is vanishingly small compared to other forms of power.
If a mine collapses it is undoubtedly a tragedy but the population need not be evacuated, nor the area abandoned for decades. Say what you will about the hype around Chernobyl, the area has been abandoned and will remain so for many many years. Thank goodness that there have been so few accidents and fatalities associated with nuclear power-- the alternatives are not near zero, a few, some, a lot, or a helluva lot. The alternatives are near zero or a helluva lot. It is this awareness of (and fear of) the tiny margin for error associated with every step of the nuclear power generation process that has driven the hysteria in the media, with the regrettable effect of making Fukushima seem worse that it is... but let us not kid ourselves, just because we got lucky as hell doesn't mean nuclear power passed some kind of stress test with flying colors. We barely escaped a planetary-scale disaster by the hairs on our suddenly exposed asses.