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Fukushima: health disaster or PR fail?

by Rowan Hooper

One thing about having a nuclear accident in a rich country is that at least there is going to be good medical care and long-term monitoring. The repair and clean-up operation is another matter, of course — which is why Japan is currently under pressure to accept help from abroad in fixing the appalling mess caused by the three reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

But having great monitoring, assessment and medical treatment of citizens is one thing. It is quite another making sure information is communicated to the public clearly and openly. That is something at which neither the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), nor the Japanese government have succeeded at all well. And without good communication, fear and misinformation about radiation can understandably grow.

I was talking about this last week with Gerry Thomas, who runs the Chernobyl Tissue Bank (CTB) at Imperial College London. The CTB collects and analyzes samples of tissue from people exposed to radiation after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the USSR (present-day Ukraine) in 1986, and monitors the occurrence of thyroid cancer in contaminated areas.

About Fukushima, she is dismissive of the health risks. That might seem cavalier to people in the Tohoku region of northeastern Honshu who are worried about radiation contamination, but Prof. Thomas has seen what happened in Chernobyl — which released far more radiation than Fukushima has to date.

“Fukushima is nothing compared to Chernobyl,” she told me. “It really is nothing, it’s a tenth of the dose of cesium.” (For the World Nuclear Association report on this, see bit.ly/17urZKd)

The problem in Japan, she says, is more one of communication than public health.

“They’ve got a huge problem out there — largely a PR problem; it’s not a health problem because none of this is going to do anything health-wise,” the professor said.

Our conversation came about because I’d seen a news clip on NHK reporting 18 cases of thyroid cancer in a monitored population around Fukushima.

Fukushima Medical School monitors some 360,000 people who were aged 18 or younger at the time of the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. What you might conclude from the report — but you’d be mistaken — is that there is a direct link between the cases of cancer and the release of radioactive material following the meltdown. I asked for Thomas’ opinion.

What we don’t know, she told me, is whether these thyroid cancers are to do with the environment in Fukushima — or whether there is something about the genetics of the people monitored.

We also don’t know, she pointed out, whether the frequency is similar to that seen in other areas of Japan. In Chernobyl (where children were exposed to more than 100 times the maximum dose of radioactive iodine seen after Fukushima), thyroid cancers did not present themselves until four or five years after the disaster.

“Given what we know about radiation dose and time elapsed since the accident,” says Thomas, “I personally cannot see how this finding can be related to the radiation — the doses were too low and the time too short, based on what we know from Chernobyl.”

She directed me to a recent scientific paper reporting the results of radiation monitoring of adults and children around Fukushima. The paper, published in Proceedings of the Japanese Academy, Series B (which you can see for yourself; DOI reference: 10.2183/pjab.89.157), reports on the whole-body radiation screening of nearly 33,000 people.

“Internal exposure levels of residents are much lower than estimated,” write Ryugo Hayano and colleagues of the University of Tokyo.

In the town of Miharu, about 50 km from the stricken power plant, Hayano’s team monitored 95 percent of schoolchildren (aged 6-15). The radioactive cesium in the bodies of all the children was below the detection limit. In other words, they are emphatically not eating food contaminated with radiation.

This sort of nonsensational, reassuring result isn’t something that will generally get reported by NHK or other media outlets.

We are all exposed to radiation, all the time (this fantastic dose chart makes it clear: xkcd.com/radiation) There is, however, a special fear of radiation that is introduced to the environment by human activities. But that fear can get out of hand. Far more radiation was released in the Chernobyl disaster than has been so far from the Fukushima plant, but even the Chernobyl disaster — the world’s worst — can be put into context.

“If you compare Chernobyl with what we allowed to escape into the atmosphere as a result of the nuclear tests in the Nevada desert, that was far, far more than Chernobyl,” Thomas says. “We’ve got a short-term memory about things like this. Instead of looking back and saying, ‘What do we know from exposures in the past?’ we just panic about the next one.”

Her advice: Talk to people.

The Japanese authorities — whether officials from Tepco, the government or monitoring agencies, or academics — ought to be open and learn to communicate better.

As Thomas puts it: “They have got to talk to the local population, they have got to talk to the fishermen, and they’ve got to make people understand that low levels of radiation don’t matter because we’re all exposed to it all the time.”

Rowan Hooper (@rowhoop on Twitter) is the News Editor of New Scientist magazine. The second volume of Natural Selections columns translated into Japanese is published by Shinchosha at ¥1,500. The title is “Hito wa Ima mo Shinka Shiteru (The Evolving Human).”

  • Sam Gilman

    Wow. Japan Times actually allows a scientist with expertise in radiation and health a voice! Well done. Seriously. This article is greatly appreciated.

    • Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson

      I agree it is a very good column, but unfortunately, particularly when compared to his previous column containing impassioned criticism of Japan’s bad science when it comes to whaling, I find the author’s lack of clear backing-up of Prof. Thomas’s statements quite disappointing.

      • Sam Gilman

        That he has a personal passion on another topic doesn’t bother me. The headline here on the other hand is rather less one-sided than those articles that form the general anti-nuclear campaign in this paper, even though the person speaking has far greater expertise than the Japan Times usually cites.

  • charlesjannuzi

    Isn’t really addressing the status of the rod pile or the melted down cores. This is mostly about the exposure due to the explosions and emissions in the first few weeks of the crisis.

    Until you can start to give detailed info. on the melted down cores and the rod pile in No. 4, you are for the most part blowing smoke and confusing people.

    • Starviking

      People have real concerns about the exposure they received during the first few weeks of the accident. To claim that an article which trys to scientifically explain how that exposure is likely to affect people as “blowing smoke and confusing people” is mendacious.

      • charlesjannuzi

        As I said, it is blowing smoke and confusing people. First, they are not going to get any answers to those questions, nor are they going to have my questions addressed–unless they are here to get laughs from the likes of you and SG and PatLogan2. I doubt you even know who you are, let along much of anything about the situation at Fukushima Daiichi.

      • Starviking

        Charles, it’s a pretty solid piece of scientific journalism. The fact that you don’t like it says a lot about you.

    • Sam Gilman

      Could you explain what you think the problem with the spent fuel pool is, charles?

      I have to say, dismissing the views and experience of one of the leading researchers into the effects of the Chernobyl disaster does seem a bit like you are the person trying to sow uncertainty and confusion.

      • charlesjannuzi

        It is part of a damaged reactor building, in danger of collapse, and overloaded with spent fuel. Did I answer your question? I’m sorry for any uncertainty and confusion you may feel as a result of my saying something.

      • Sam Gilman

        The fuel pools have been inspected by teams from overseas and have been found not to be collapsing at all. They were actually reinforced two years ago. If you’re working under the impression that the fuel rods in the pool were exposed in the early days of the crisis, I’m afraid that was a mistaken report by the US NRC chair, which the NRC later withdrew.

        Does that solve your concern? I am working on the assumption that you are open to new information.

      • charlesjannuzi

        SOURCE SAMMY?

        Otherwise I have to work on the assumption that you are one of the three stooges here.

      • Sam Gilman

        Charles, of course – you are quite right to ask for sources. I have lots. I always try to make sure everything I say on this topic can be backed up.

        Here is one IAEA report that deals with the spent fuel pools:
        http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/fukushima/missionreport230513.pdf

        Another here:
        http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/fukushima/statusreports/fukushima31_05_12.html

        Example of one of their visits is here:
        http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1307406888P.pdf

        American Nuclear Society analysis is here:
        http://www.hps.org/documents/ANSFukushimaReport.pdf

        A Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority presentation is here:
        http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/fukushimaupdate160913.pdf

        As for the US NRC spent fuel pool error, see here for a rather colourful account of what happened:
        http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/09/nrc_response_to_fukushima_a_mistake_turned_public_opinion_against_japan.2.html

        I hope that answers your questions. If you need sources for anything else I’ve said on the topic, please don’t hesitate to ask. No doubt you will extend the same courtesy to me. ;-)

      • charlesjannuzi

        I suspect the rods are warped from over-heating and/or the debris will obstruct offloading efforts. Again, more PR about them doing something than them actually being able to do something.

        http://enenews.com/gundersen-spent-fuel-rods-break-during-removal-process-fukushima-unit-4-racks-distorted-fuel-overheated-pool-boiled-suspects-will-be-stuck-long-long-time-audio

        Alex Smith, Host: In a previous Radio Ecoshock interview you said that the Japanese should start unloading nuclear fuel bundles from Reactor 4 as a priority before that building collapses. Are they doing it?

        Arnie Gundersen, Nuclear expert with Fairewinds Energy Education: Well, they’re planning as of November to begin to do it, so they’ve made some progress on that. I think they’re belittling the complexity of the task. If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]

        I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.

        Smith: I should point out to listeners that you were a fuel rack expert in the nuclear industry, so you know what you’re talking about.

      • Sam Gilman

        You’ve written this message twice; I’ll reply to the other one which is a stand-alone comment.

      • Sam Gilman

        I saw your reply, although the moderator didn’t allow it through. I think it’s a pity that after asking for sources (which I provided for you) you tell me you “don’t need to read” them. All you’ve done is show me that you’re a closed-minded person who does not cope well with having his beliefs challenged. A herd member perhaps?

      • charlesjannuzi

        A stooge maybe? I asked for specific quotes and sources, not a reading list of a stooge. Thanks anyway.

      • Sam Gilman

        No, Charles, you said you didn’t need to read anything I gave you because you’d “read enough already”. You didn’t even look at what I gave you. And now you’re pretending you don’t know how to use the search function on your browser to find key words in a document? You don’t know where the ctrl and F keys are? Really?

        You also label me a “stooge” based on absolutely nothing. Usually, one needs to have evidence – financial links, social contacts etc. – before one can say “this person is compromised therefore I do not trust their information”. That’s not an unreasonable thing to do.

        Instead, in this case, Charles, your own logic works like this: “I do not want to accept what this person has to say, so I will construct a fantasy that they are a stooge to protect my belief structure.”

        All you are doing by name-calling and blankly refusing to read anything that challenges your worldview, is putting up walls around your ideology to protect it from the outside world. It’s really transparent.

        What other conspiracy theories do you believe in? 9/11 was an inside job? Area 51 contains an alien spacecraft? The moon landings were faked? The British royal family are seven foot shape-shifting lizards?

        It’s all very well having these other fantasies as they don’t harm anyone but yourself. In this case, however, there is real harm done to real people by spreading such conspiracy theories and paranoia.

    • PatLogan2

      What information do you want about the spent fuel pond at unit 4 – which is what I assume you mean by the “rod pile”

      OK, did it ever go “dry” – i.e. left the fuel exposed to air? Apparently not

      http://atomicinsights.com/oak-ridge-researchers-prove-fukushima-unit-4-spent-fuel-pool-never-a-danger/

      Is there any evidence whatseover of physical damage to the rods and the racks that hold them? No:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCY0xQRZ1UY

      Is the building containing the SFP in any way compromised – apparently not:

      http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130828_09-e.pdf

      AS to the state of the cores, if anything the evidence is gathering that they’ve not melted through the reactor bottom heads, much less the containments – vertical radiation survey in the containments show maximum gamma intensity level with the lower end of the reactor vessels – which suggests that’s where the fuel is. Were it “melted through” the intensity would rise as the containment floor was approached – it doesn’t

      • K. Zoldi

        Dear PatLogan. For your info, a SFP is 8 meters deep ( think how many floors is that – at least two.)
        If you examine the many videos of the No.3 reactor, you will see, that the only “floor” remaining after the explosion is the so called 1st floor, where the top of the reactor, the reactor-cap (which is missing) is located. (most of the body of the reactor -along with the core) is on the sub-terranian levels. Watching the many videos, you will no doubt notice, that rest of the decks/floors that were above the currently remaining “1st floor” appear to be missing…
        Draw your won conclusions as to “any evidence whatsoever of physical damage whatsoever” to the SFP…

      • C.J. Bunny

        K.Zolidi, you asked in part for detailed information about reactors 1-3 and the SFP in building 4.
        PatLogan2 made some effort to give you the detailed information about no. 4 SPF. I think the attitude in your reply is a bit mean-spirired considering the efforts to help inform you as requested. Your rebuttal instead asks about no.3 SPF – so I think it only fair that accept that you were wrong about no.4 SPF, perhaps even thank the commenter courteously, before moving on to ask for more information about a different SPF.

      • ddpalmer

        You apparently don’t know or understand what you are talking about. What do you mean by ‘reactor-cap’ that you claim is ‘missing’? The 1st floor you speak of is the level at the top of the SFP, the only things above this was the refueling crane used to move the spent rods. The cranes destruction in no way effects the integrity of the pool.

      • charlesjannuzi

        Right, said evidence which is explained in detail at Reuters. NOT! And where are you geting your gamma intensity level info.?

      • charlesjannuzi

        http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/05/26/11896155-weakened-fukushima-nuclear-pool-is-not-unstable-japan-insists?lite

        “The No. 4 reactor is visibly damaged and in a fragile state, down to the floor that holds the spent fuel pool,” Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, told the New York Times. “Any radioactive release could be huge and go directly into the environment.”

        Some environmental critics charge the No. 4 reactor presents a particular risk of a knock-on disaster if a subsequent earthquake were to topple it or puncture its fuel storage pool and allow the 65 feet of water now covering and cooling 1,535 uranium fuel assemblies to drain away.

        Tepco has taken steps to shore up support for the pool, which measures 30 feet by 60 feet across, by adding a cement column underneath.

        http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2012/05/21/fukushima-daiichis-unit-4-spent-fuel-pool-safe-or-not/

        As for the pool in #4, it may not be leaning, but the side of one of the wals was bulging outward over an inch, indicating there is structural damage. Concrete is a wonderful material in compression, but in tension it crumbles (hence the use of rebar). From what I understand, TEPCO put a piller underneath the pool, to help support it, but I see no evidence of external support to the walls.

        Buildings which suffer EQ damage are often structurally unsound. This means the next big quake could have unpredictable effects on the integrity of the building.

        My guess is TEPCO is playing for time, to get the rods to the point where they would normally be able to be removed, typ 3 years or so, rather than aggressively pursuing a solution before a quake hits.

      • Sam Gilman

        Charles, could you do me a favour and provide, say, three citations of Hiroaki Koide’s academic research? You know the drill, papers published in decent journals.

        The thing is, I look at Hiroaki Koide and I see someone who has failed to publish pretty much any kind of respected academic research over a forty year academic career. I see someone who has failed to gain promotion even once over forty years – in a country where ageing counts for quite a lot in hierarchies. I look at Koide’s record and I see someone who gives me no reason whatsoever to consider him a decent expert.

        Notice how I don’t look at his conclusions to decide if he’s right. I look at his pedigree, which appears to be non-existent.

        As far as I can see, he’s in the media because he tells the media the story they want to hear.

      • charlesjannuzi

        MOST is NOT ALL. And we shall see just how uncomplicated the dust and debris described here will be very soon–or not? Their stupidity was in overloading such a pool in the first place, but now we will see if they can actually unload it. I have my doubts, as so much of the coverage is anodyne, not real info.

        http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Readying_for_Fukushima_fuel_move_2609131.html

        Underwater inspections in the pond have shown most of the fuel to be undamaged, but the pond contains a lot of dust and debris which will complicate operations. The cover is fitted with air filters that will prevent any release of radioactivity as the fuel is moved.

        Transport containers will be placed in the empty and undamaged reactor vessel and the fuel will be transferred to them underwater using the fuel handling machine. The used fuel will eventually be placed in the site’s shared used fuel pool, which was undamaged by the natural disasters two years ago.

        Removal of fuel from unit 4′s storage pool is one of the highest decommissioning priorities at the site.

  • rideforever

    Gerry Thomas is doing a great job !
    This is how you become a successful scientist in 2013 … you say exactly what the industry wants you to say. “Yeah, Fukushima – no problem, no nothing to worry about, radiation – nah, forget it … everything is fine. 6 reactor meltdown – don’t worry !!”
    In this way, Thomas ensures she will be funded by big business in the future who will pay for her “research”; because they know she will find “the right thing”.
    And that’s how mankind does business.

    • C.J. Bunny

      Ah yes, the National Cancer research Institute of the USA, that famous nuclear industry big business that funds the Chernobyl Tissue bank. They are probably making Prof. Thomas spread the “research” that cancer is bad to increase their funding.

    • Sam Gilman

      Gerry Thomas is a respected researcher of many years standing. Do you have any evidence at all that she is corrupt?

      Why is it that her work is considered mainstream science? (Because it is) Are all scientists corrupt?

      Why are you so hostile to what she says? Do you positively want people in Japan to die of cancer?

      I knew about her work already. What bothers me on a human level is witnessing the reaction of people like you.

      She’s one of the world’s leading experts in the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster. When she says that, in her judgement, Fukushima will not cause major health effects, the response of a morally functioning human being is to say “I find this greatly comforting and I hope she’s right.”

      But you? You need a good look at your values.

  • $3849430

    I had a “vision” that it would take 60-65 yrs. for the Fukushima accident to wipe out Japan. It “said” now would be a good time for a Japanese to emigrate to New Zealand.

  • philippesama

    There are clearly 2 attitudes in front of the Fukushima disaster. Both have, or claim to have, a “scientific” approach. Every serious citizen should consider carefully each of the 2 positions. Since science is apparently unable to decide simply and clearly between the 2 protagonists, it is good to look for other explanations. It is disturbing to see that many “specialists” are directly dependent on the nuclear industry. Their “research” and their “reports” are generously funded by the designers, manufacturers and operators of nuclear power plants. Similarly the “authorities”, in particular members of the Government, receive aid and support of same industry. In front of them, there are repentant who prefer risking their careers, if not their lives, to finally say what they know. In front of them there are revolted victims who have direct experience of suffering allegedly impossible. In front of them there are ordinary humans who have no other interest than their own lives and those of their families, who have no other means than the energy of despair. There are also many other differences. I hope that more and more men will finally think about the real reasons for all these lies, and in the future of humanity. The answers are complex, and television never gives true explanations.

    • C.J. Bunny

      No

      “There are clearly 2 attitudes in front of the Fukushima disaster. Both have, or claim to have, a “scientific” approach. Every serious citizen should consider carefully each of the 2 positions. Since science is apparently unable to decide simply and clearly between the 2 protagonists”

      Science is able to decide. Unfortunately, despite getting equal billing and often more coverage in the media, one side only claims to have a scientific approach; when in fact it is not scientific in the least.

      “It is disturbing to see that many “specialists” are directly dependent on the nuclear industry.”

      In reality, the “specialists” that do “research ” and write “reports” are funded by anti-nuclear campaigners, traditional energy industry providers and environmentalists. (Although, sitting in your front room wearing a lab coat and making youtube videos, doing “research” and making up “reports” doesn’t need much funding. The answers are complex and the explanations might be difficult to understand. But that is a reason to listen to qualified experts, rather than armchair cranks whose income does depend on presenting a biased psuedoscience. Science and rational people have decided. Conspiracy theorists have decided the opposite.

    • Sam Gilman

      How do we know which approach is genuinely scientific? It’s just like with climate change denial. We see what the clear majority of scientists publishing in high quality peer reviewed science journals say. And they back up the account of Gerry Thomas. Be honest: have you gone to read cancer journals, journals on radiology, health physics and seem what they make of Thomas and the WHO and UNSCEAR? You can’t talk about science without reading the science, Phillippe.

      Now, unless you want to propose a grand conspiracy theory involving thousands of individuals, medical workers, universities, academic publishers, cancer research foundations etc, you’ve got no choice: Thomas is clearly representing genuine science.

      Deal with it.

      • philippesama

        This is unfortunately not that simple. Any statement claiming to be unquestionable and final is more than suspect, it is not credible. A true scientist would never claim knowing the truth. The experimental method, the basis of modern science, makes assumptions and retains only those confirmed by experiments strictly controlled. Anywhere, anytime, any assumption could be challenged by new discoveries.

        History has shown just how pride and contempt only produce disasters. Remain modest, remain critical, remain vigilant, remain combative.

      • C.J. Bunny

        Mister Philppe, I’m really impressed at your humbleness and reason. I think that is the most rapid 180 degree turn that I’ve seen from someone originally holding an anti-nuclear stance. I hope Sam Gilman can continue to convince others with his/her excellent and well-explained arguments and that they, like you, will admit they were wrong and reject the nonsense psuedoscience they previously relied on.

      • philippesama

        I just try not to be a fundamentalist fanatic. I am deeply convinced of the immense harm of any form of use of nuclear energy. Without being a scientist patented, I got strong enough knowledge to firmly substantiate my opinion. This clearly posed, I listen to those who are not with me, and even those who just pretend for some obscure reason, and I try to understand. I try because I still do not understand the people who accept cinisme coldly make the earth uninhabitable for millennia. For now I’m trying to understand. But I can also consider other attitudes …

      • Sam Gilman

        If you could provide the evidential reasons for your convictions about the dangers of nuclear power, perhaps we could move from generalisations to specifics.

      • Sam Gilman

        I see. You’re taking the “science is never certain” rhetorical approach. That has a certain pedigree.

        Corporate lawyers working for tobacco companies used to get hold of doctors willing to take their money and publicly challenge the clear weight of evidence about smoking, and declare “look, the truth about tobacco is complicated”.

        Right-wing ideologues and fossil fuel companies track down a backwoods halfwit physicist who’ll deny global warming if it gets him on TV, and claim to the world the man represents some repressed-by-socialism majority of science. They’ve also been active in smearing proper scientists with baseless and nasty claims about funding and corruption.

        For everyone else: go back and look what I said: Not that science is black and white, but that Thomas’s views are aligned with the clear majority of views expressed in quality published scientific research.

        Notice how Phillippe didn’t deny this.

        Notice how he refuses to back up his smear against professional scientists He just lets it hang in the air like a bad smell.

        Phillippe, I think you should go work for Exxon-Mobil. They’d like you there. Failing that, try Fox News.

        (I should point out that I am not the first to notice the disturbing parallels between climate change denial and the anti-nuclear movement when it comes to undermining public confidence in mainstream science.)

  • billsimpson

    The only people in serious danger are the people working close to the damaged nuclear reactors, not people miles away from the plant.

    • Random Commenter

      So the fish that are swimming and eating in radioactive water near the plant.. and then migrate worldwide are of no consequence? Really?

      • Starviking

        Do you see serious danger in fish with low levels of radioisotope contamination?

      • philippesama

        It is not “low levels” but very high levels.

      • ddpalmer

        No it is not very high levels.

  • K. Zoldi

    1. The article says: “Fukushima is nothing compared to Chernobyl,” she
    told me. “It really is nothing, it’s a tenth of the dose of cesium.” –
    Is it really? Somebody please explain to me, just HOW EXACTLY was this
    “fact” (???) established, since the radiation-measuring gauges were
    BLOWN TO SMITHEREENS during the explosions of the reactors at the
    plant… Not to mention the REAL fact, that Chernobyl was only ONE
    reactor versus FUkushima’s THREE, and let’s not forget to add the loaded
    Spent Fuel Pools, especially the one at the No. 3 (MOX) reactor, which
    did not exactly come out unscathed from the explosion…

    2. Even the data by “SPEEDY” could not be considered reliable immediately
    after the accident, due to the large number of radiation gauges destroyed
    during the explosions… So, just HOW are these low figures to be
    trusted, please?

    3. In addition, the regrettable INCOMPETENCE of the worldwide news-media certainly has not been helping either…

    • ddpalmer

      1. Chernobyl’s ONE reactor was larger than any of the THREE Fukushima reactors. It also had no containment structure and had its lid blown off. The Fukushima spent fuel pools, including the one at the No. 3 (MOX) reactor, came close enough to be unscathed as to be essentially normal.
      2. Well knowing a reactors power history and design it is relatively simple to calculate its isotope load. From physical measurements of known contaminants released and current radiation levels a very good estimate of how much total was released can be calculated
      3. In addition your unfounded belief in the FUD certainly colors your view.

      • charlesjannuzi

        All accounts I have read agree that there is/was much more fuel at the Fukushima reactors. They have lost control of four reactors, hardly a good situation to be in. When they account for all the fuel that was there before the explosions and melt downs, then I’ll be impressed.

  • El Anon

    rest your mind at ease. As Abe said: “some may have concerns about Fukushima. I can assure you. Everything is under control.” Now you’re under control. Yah, you do what we tell ya’. Ya you’re under control. Yah, you do what we tell ya.

  • philippesama

    “Nuclear power is a hell of a way to boil water.” Albert Einstein is as objectionable as you and me, but infinitely more credible as a scientist than many other …

    Just two important remarks to the debate:

    If I am not mistaken, the only thing that a nuclear plant is essential is making plutonium. And what is it for, plutonium?

    And only 10% of the world’s energy comes from nuclear power, it is quite negligible. And this share has been declining steadily for several years! Happy;-)

    • Starviking

      10% negligible? If I were to lose a negligible 10% of my salary it would hurt. If the poor were to lose 10% of their benefits it would hurt.

      As for the production of Plutonium, the type produced in commercial reactors is pretty much useless for bombs – it has too much Plutonium-240 which causes bombs to fizzle instead of explode.

    • Sam Gilman

      However, Einstein never said that nuclear power “is a hell of a way to boil water.” This is a meme spread by anti-nuclear activists. It’s actually a good example of the way they invent authority for their pseudoscience.

      Check here:

      http://en.wikiquote.org/Albert_Einstein#Misattributed

      Obviously, now you know that Einstein didn’t say what you think he said, your opposition to nuclear power will weaken, given the importance you have placed on his opinion…

      …right?

      Well, no of course not. You’ve picked your view and you’re manipulating the evidence to fit it.

      For example, that nuclear power only provides 10% of the world’s electricity is an argument against it is all the more true for everything except coal and gas, which are busy disrupting the climate. It’s an irrelevant argument.

  • Toolonggone

    “Fukushima: health disaster or PR fail?”

    For volunteer workers at the Daiichi Nuclear power plants, it’s the former. They are working in the excessively stressful environment in which they put their life on the line of duty due to the risk of exposure to high radiation in the facility.

    For most of us in Japan and around the world, it’s the latter. Unlike Chernobyl, Fukushima is located on the coast side. Most radioactive materials spewed from the reactors in the first 9 months since 3/11 were blown off to the Pacific Ocean–not toward the inland. That’s why evacuation order was limited to certain areas of Fukushima, plus small warnings about the radiation hotspots outside the prefecture. Government’s mishandling of crisis situation and progress report on decontamination did nothing to debunk the myth or exaggeration made by foreign media. It actually led to induce the fear or phobia toward radiation, by creating the stigma toward local residents who have lived in the community nearby the nuclear power plant, and volunteer workers who are working 24/7 days at crippled facilities in no-man’s land until today.

  • GRLCowan

    The Japanese electorate chose the least antinuclear government it could.

    “Largely a PR problem; it’s not a health problem” — for the Japanese government, and its friendly news outlets, is it really a problem at all? If its natural gas tax rates are typical, that government is gaining half a billion dollars for every month that it can keep Japan’s citizens’ nuclear power stations offline.

  • charlesjannuzi

    http://enenews.com/gundersen-spent-fuel-rods-break-during-removal-process-fukushima-unit-4-racks-distorted-fuel-overheated-pool-boiled-suspects-will-be-stuck-long-long-time-audio

    Alex Smith, Host: In a previous Radio Ecoshock interview you said that the Japanese should start unloading nuclear fuel bundles from Reactor 4 as a priority before that building collapses. Are they doing it?

    Arnie Gundersen, Nuclear expert with Fairewinds Energy Education: Well, they’re planning as of November to begin to do it, so they’ve made some progress on that. I think they’re belittling the complexity of the task. If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]

    I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.

    Smith: I should point out to listeners that you were a fuel rack expert in the nuclear industry, so you know what you’re talking about.

    • Sam Gilman

      Charles, thank you for coming out as an ENEnews reader. No wonder you’re so worried. ENEnews sprang up fully formed and moderated, with neat logos and everything, within about two days of the tsunami. It’s a very dubious site, nominally run by a mysterious attorney in the US (he exists, he’s on the records of the Florida bar, he has an office address, but he doesn’t seem to advertise for business anywhere. All a bit odd. A bit black opsy, frankly. Don’t forget that oil and coal companies are not fond of nuclear power either.) What ENEnews does is distort news (think – why does it re-write headlines) in order to wind people like you up. You should take a step back and see how they do it.

      The interview you cite describes Arnie Gundersen as “a fuel rack expert in the nuclear industry”. He’s nothing of the sort. Nor (despite various assertions) has he ever managed a full-blown reactor, and in general, nor is he seen as any kind of expert whatsoever by the kind of people who should know: professional nuclear engineers.

      Gundersen certainly has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering, but following graduation, he got an administrative job in the nuclear industry. He was never in charge of a full-blown reactor, nor in charge of any fuel racks. After a few years employment, he had a falling out with his employers, they sued him, and it ended up with him paying them an undisclosed out of court settlement.

      He then got a job as a high school teacher. For nineteen years. (He often claims this time as also being involved in the nuclear industry). We know all this because court documents force him to come clean.

      Sometime in the mid-1990s he began “Fairewinds Associates”. He titled himself “chief engineer”. That sounds impressive: it suggests that he manages other engineers, that he teaches them, that he has achieved this chief status through proving himself in front of his peers.

      Except, well, that he was the only engineer Fairewinds associates ever had. There wasn’t anyone else even working for Fairewinds Associates. Except for his wife Marge.

      He started picking up consultancy fees from anti-nuclear groups as an expert witness (I’ve read estimates that this was a $300/hour gig.) He promoted a theory of “hot particles” that had been considered and rejected by scientists a long time ago, but it didn’t matter. He was good at convincing the courts. He still goes on about hot particles today – particles that no one can detect apart from him.

      On Fukushima he has made claims that the fuel pools were the source of the explosions (we all know they were not), and has even suggested they boiled dry – which we all know they have not.

      Look at the claims he makes in that interview. Think critically – you owe it to yourself. How does he know these things he claims to know? Is he psychic? Was it a case of remote viewing?

  • charlesjannuzi

    And by the way, they have been working on removing the rods for about a year. If there are no problems, what is taking so long?

  • philippesama

    Old discussion but don’t forget, Fukushima is the worst accident ever happened on earth. NO MORE NUCLEAR.