Stories from Tohoku – too often forgotten in Fukushima Frenzy

The above trailer for Stories from Tohoku is both heart-rending and heart-warming. It reminds us of the tragedy that struck the northeast Japanese coast on March 11, 2011 that has been too often overlooked in all of the discussion about the temporally-related, but far less devastating, events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

Atomic Insights has been guilty of a misguided focus on the wrong part of the event; I am deeply sorry for not spending enough time thinking about ways to help the survivors whose lives were disrupted by the earthquake and powerful tsunami wave.

It is good to hear that the people have not been forgotten and that other Americans are doing what they can to help the people and the area recover.

If you have DirectTV (channel 375) or the Dish Network (channel 9410), Stories from Tohoku is scheduled to air today. I would be grateful if someone was able to record the show and send me a DVD for personal use.

About Rod Adams

20 Responses to “Stories from Tohoku – too often forgotten in Fukushima Frenzy”

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  1. poa says:

    Honestly, Rod, I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. This is a blog about atomic energy, not natural disasters.

    Its reasonable that your blog addressed the disaster as it applied to Fukushima, particularly in light of the fact that the event at Fukushima was, (in your estimation), sensationalized by the media and the so called “antis”. Also, you had the occasional drop in, like myself, that was affected by the media hysteria, and afflicted with a number of, (again, in your estimation), misconceptions and unfounded fears.

    Do you regret not posting about the recently kidnapped girls in Nigeria? The Syrian imbroglio? The ebola outbreak in africa? Of course not, because these are not issues related to NE.

    If any apologies are due here, I would opine that they are owed by those here that tried to convince us that the Fukushima evacuees were experiencing anything less than a true disaster. They got a double whammy, and whether or not you believe the mass evacuation was necessary, to them, it was still a disaster.

    You cannot be expected to address all the issues the Japanese people face as result of the earthquake and tsunami. The service you have provided is to attempt to
    calm the hysteria that surrounds the Fukushima nuclear event. I suspect I am not the only one your efforts have reached. Remember, people such as myself do not live in a vacuum. When you reach me, I reach others, as well.

    Give yourself a break.

  2. Bill Chaffee says:

    Those who diverted attention away from the real disaster by exaggerating the magnititude of the radiation release at Fukushima are the ones that should be apologizing.

    • John T Tucker says:

      Exactly. I suppose it makes Rod feel better to say it, and I can see how from the magnitude of the EQ and Tsunami’s destruction he could arrive at such a perspective and wish he could have done more to help, as we all probably do, but in reality he is probably close to the last person on earth, if not the very last, that needs to feel guilty or be apologizing for the hype around fuku.

      I would like to see some apologies from big media for their near totally incompetent coverage and the “expert” sources “studies” and cometary they employed on the matter. Thats long overdue.

    • John T Tucker says:

      The more I think about it, I feel Rod would actually need to apologize if he had done any less to address the misinformation surrounding Fukushima Frenzy. That misinformation is causing real problems with our ability to address important environmental and energy issues. That will harm even more people.

      Look at this article on right now HP. Its first sentence in considering climate change induced flooding references not lives lost to flooding, not the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami but Fukushima specifically. ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/19/maps-rising-seas-storms-threaten-flood-coastal-nuclear-power-plants_n_5233306.html )

  3. Eamon says:

    In total agreement with the posts here – Rod, you have nothing to apologise for. When even the Japanese Media pushes hysterical anti-nuclear hype and generally ignores the problems facing people on the Pacific coast of Tohoku it’s no surprise that focus rests upon the problems at Dai-ichi.

  4. Reese says:

    I was out of town a few days, and missed your request on the day it was made. However, I have Directv and if a replay comes up, I’ll zox you a copy. There is currently no show scheduled which includes the string “TOH” in its title or description for the near future. I’ll keep an eye out.

    • Rick Armknecht says:

      I have Dish. I DVR’d it — now I need to see if my Brother-in-Law can get it onto a disc for me.

    • Rick Armknecht says:

      Also, Reese, when I recorded it, it was labeled “Japanese American Lives” (subtitle or episode name was “Stories from Tohoku”)

  5. NNadir says:

    Whether or not is the responsibility of pro-nukes to address the disaster itself, I think it is incumbent on the pro-nuke community to remind the anti-nuke community that many more people died from being in a coastal city than died from the reactors.

    I mean no respect to the dead when I do this – and I do it often – in order to point out the undeniable fact that the anti-nuke community is engaging in very selective attention.

    I frequently ask them if (in their words) “that Fukushima proves that nuclear energy is unsafe” isn’t it also proved by several orders of magnitude that “coastal cities are unsafe.”

    Usually, in order to avoid answering this question, they point out that I’m not a nice guy because I’ve asked it, but they don’t answer the question, because they can’t answer it.

    The case is even stronger when you point out that they don’t oppose coastal cities because of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed a quarter of a million people, and vanished down the memory hole since nothing radioactive was involved.

    This always opens up a chance for me to repeat, as often as is necessary, my mantra, “Nuclear energy need not be perfect to be vastly superior to everything else. It only needs to be vastly superior to everything else, which it is.”

  6. Twominds says:

    I need the expertise of this community.

    I was in a discussion at the comment section of Guardian site, at their piece about Tepco going to release groundwater to the sea.

    Someone said that the meltdowns are still going on, at which I said that that would be impossible. The counter remark was ‘why else would Tepco still cool the core remains’?

    I find that I have no answer to that.

    I don’t have the mathematical tools to calculate the rest heat of the core remains, but I can’t imagine they would melt again without cooling. Not after more than 3 years.

    Am I correct in this, and what other reasons are there to keep pouring water, especially when all the water makes Tepco’s work more difficult?

    Can anyone help me with this question or point me to places with info about this? Not only I don’t want to be caught pants down again about this, I’m curious now as well!

    • Engineer-Poet says:

      Someone said that the meltdowns are still going on, at which I said that that would be impossible. The counter remark was ‘why else would Tepco still cool the core remains’?

      Because the remains of the fuel is still generating heat, just like the spent fuel in the fuel pools is still generating heat.  But the fuel is a long, long way from molten, so there is no on-going meltdown.  Even the fuel in dry-cask storage is still generating heat, just not enough to get it very hot.

      what other reasons are there to keep pouring water, especially when all the water makes Tepco’s work more difficult?

      Because they don’t want that fuel to get hot enough to start any unwelcome physical or chemical transformations.  Water is also used for radiation shielding, so every effort will be made to seal the containment vessels so they can be flooded and men can work on removing the damaged reactor cores from atop a safe 20 feet of borated water shielding.

  7. Wayne SW says:

    There are no meltdowns in progress, but overheating and further fuel damage could occur if active heat removal were not available. Usually this is in the form of storage pools or, for shutdown but fueled reactors, residual heat removal (RHR) systems. But for the reactors with damaged cores the normal RHR systems are either damaged or not functioning as they are designed (because of fuel relocation), so they have to do the best they can and keep pumping cooling water through the pressure vessels. Some of that water is captured and filtered and either stored or re-used, but the volumes are a challenge. A lot of the efforts at that site now are directed to managing the volume of contaminated material. It is not an impossible task, but is a formidable challenge.

    • Wayne SW says:

      Eventually decay works its magic and active heat removal will not be needed. This is the basis for dry cask storage. But we aren’t there yet.

      • poa says:

        And what is the projected timeline to “get there”….?

        • Wayne SW says:

          I am going to hedge a little and say it depends on the power history of the fuel assemblies being stored. Used assemblies typically stay in the storage pool at least five years, sometimes ten, before they can go to dry casks. The NRC has authorized dry storage in as few as three years, but I am guessing those were relatively low-burnup assemblies. In the case of the damaged cores at Daiichi, it’s a bit more complicated because you will literally have a “mixed bag” of different-aged fuel materials glommed together because of core disruption. I’m guessing they will want to tend to the high side of the cooling time before they are ready to think about stopping any cooling flow. I don’t have detailed data on the power history of the fuel assemblies so its just a rough guess.

    • Twominds says:

      Thank you!

      So do you have any idea how hot the damaged fuel would be without cooling? How would the temperature damage it further?

      This means Tepco must prefer the hassle of more water over more fuel damage. Given that challenge, you’d think that the damage they’re avoiding this way would make some other step in decontaminating or decommisioning that much harder.
      Excluding renewed melting, what kind of damage could that be?

      • Engineer-Poet says:

        “Without cooling” means what, perfect insulation?  If no heat at all could escape, you would wind up with some extremely hot material.  High temperature would potentially melt things or evaporate volatile constituents, some of them radiotoxic or otherwise troublesome.

        The goal is to remove the core material and break up any re-solidified masses into pieces small enough that they don’t reach troublesome temperatures when left to air-cool.  Those can be put in dry casks and left indefinitely.

      • Wayne SW says:

        If the water flow was stopped there would still be heat transfer modes removing some of the decay heat, but there is a chance that they would not be as effective as removing the heat as water flow, so there could be additional damage. Heat transfer is a complex process and in this case it is made more difficult because we don’t have detailed knowledge of the geometry of the heat-producing materials. We can make guesses based on the damage we saw with the TMI-2 core, which is basically slumped fuel rods and relocation of some material in an irregular pile at the bottom of the pressure vessel, and if I were to guess at this point that is what I would envision. But until they can get into the PV with an optical probe and do an inspection, we’re not sure, so better to play it safe and keep the water flowing through the PV as best you can.