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17 Comments

  1. Rod,

    Just for the record…Will wasn’t “assigned” anything. To my understanding, the media room doesn’t have any bosses. The paper was the result of a voluntary group effort by kindred fed up with Gundersen/Alvarez-inflicted FUD. I am proud to have been a part of it. I am also proud to be able to call Will a friend.

    Les

    1. @Leslie Corrice

      I think you misunderstood. The only use of “assigned” in my post referred to the headline writer. One thing that many misunderstand about the media is that the article authors often do not choose their own headlines. When Will publishes at Atomic Power Review, he takes care of every aspect including layout and choosing the headline. At ANS Nuclear Cafe, there is some support that often includes suggestions for alternative headlines that might provide better results.

      (I publish a post every month at ANS Nuclear Cafe.)

  2. Rod, many thanks for the link and the coverage.

    Les, I think Rod probably changed the original wording, but to clarify:

    I worked with Will on the concept for the response and ANS provided resources to assist in the preparation. One of my goals is to leverage the voices and the reach that ANS members have via social media as well as to participate in the nuclear blogging community. This effort achieves both ends, and I hope that we can see collaborative efforts like this in the future.

  3. Hey folks,

    I appreciate all the discussion on Fukushima. I feel like I have read the entire internet on the issue because it hits close to home. My wife is Japanese and her entire family lives within a 90-250 mile radius of Fukushima in the Aormori, Ibaraki, and Tochigi prefectures. I have been there as recently as 2010 but not since the Tsunami. My wife has traveled to Japan a couple of times in the past year for short visits.

    Recently, my sister in law was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing 5 months of chemotherapy. (Obviously her cancer has zero connection to Fukushima). She, her husband, and their 2 year old girl live in a small city in Ibaraki, which is about 100 miles south of Fukushima. Understandably, my wife is going over to help her family. She is going to be there for a little less than 3 weeks and I of course have my concerns. I will probably be heading over at some point in the not to distant future as well. I’m less concerned about my own safety than my wife’s 🙂 Not going to Japan is simply not an option for us.

    I, like most of America, had virtually forgotten about Fukushima being a global issue because it was out of the MSM. Then, a few weeks ago, I saw a report about the doomsday predictions and it sucked me in. I started reading everything I could get my hands on and had all these worse case scenarios going through my head. I read the MSM, Alvarez, Gunderson, Fukushima-Diary, Ex-Skf-blogspot, and some various message boards. I have also read the other side such as atomicinsights and TEPCO’s press releases to provide me with a sense of balance.

    Some of my concerns are as follows:

    Day to day life:
    -showering/tap water (they are currently drinking bottled water)
    -playing outdoors (reports of “black dust” and Cesium137 in the soil)
    -rain
    Can anyone address these?

    Emergenies:
    -Can anything happen with the 3 melted down reactors at this point?
    -Are they affecting the water table?
    -In the event of an emergency, is 100 miles a reasonably safe distance?
    -Where did the doomsday begin, with Wyden? Gunderson? Alvarez? Why did they point out reactor 4 SPF whe it seems like the other reactors would be more of a threat?

    If you can address even one question that would be great, even if it information that I may not want to hear. I’m not a science guy so the mystery of what I don’t know has me worried. Like I said before, we’re in a tough spot where not going to Japan is out of the question. Thank you for your time, I have found this website to be good resource- thank you Rod, and also the people who have taken the time to share their thoughts on the message board.

    1. All that stuff inundates Internet searches for information. It is a shame. They have even gotten into the more sensible forums.

      These guys here are smarter, but I know of no internal exposure has been reported measured above background. No test has revealed anything problematic that I have seen. There was some reports of cesium in urine that really made the rounds but in reality it was too small to say anything. 1.30 Bq/l was the highest I saw – Finnish people have less than one to around 50 Bq/l normally in comparison (around 2000)- And that was constant.

      Honestly worry and being depressed is probably the biggest health risk there. By far.

      I know groundwater can on average flow about 10 to 20 meters a day. But it flows downhill towards the ocean generally. They have test wells and there would be ample warning if contaminants were headed your way.

      I think probably staying cool and away from biting insects is going to be one of the real greatest concerns along with not getting depressed in such a artificially dismal atmosphere from the radiophobia. They had a surprisingly bad flu season this year too so she may want to get a flu shot but most of that is over.

      I hope your sister in law does well in treatment.

    2. While I’m neither a nuclear engineer, physicist or biologist, I will try to answer your questions.

      -showering/tap water (they are currently drinking bottled water)

      Unlikely to be an issue, especially when you are 100 miles away. In most places, water is extracted near the place it is distributed to. In that case, 100 miles is just too far for any contamination causing health effects. In addition, the Japanese government has extremely harsh (overcautious) regulation regarding contamination of food and water, with thresholds orders of magnitude below what is problematic.

      -playing outdoors (reports of “black dust” and Cesium137 in the soil)

      At that distance, it isn’t even remotely a problem. Even within the evacuation zone, it’s mostly a long-term problem (think decades, “what if someone spends their entire life outside” scenario). At 100 miles, there just is no problem.

      -rain

      All the “washing out” by rain has happened within the evacuation zone within weeks after the accident. There no longer is anything left for the rain to transport, especially not at that distance.

      -Can anything happen with the 3 melted down reactors at this point?

      Well, “anything” is pretty broad, but it is extremely unlikely (Rod would have me say “impossible”) for anything to happen by now. The reactors are shut down and there isn’t much energy left in them to cause anything bad to happen. Even if something did happen, they now have a plethora of emergency gear like pumps, generators and concrete vehicles on-site, which was hard to get right after the tsunami because of blocked roads.

      -Are they affecting the water table?

      No. The remains of the reactor are within the containment building, which has a concrete floor several meters thick. The fuel cannot reach the water table from there nor is it hot enough to “melt through” like it is sometimes proposed.

      -In the event of an emergency, is 100 miles a reasonably safe distance?

      That would have been plenty of distance even for Chernobyl. At that distance, a nuclear accident simply cannot affect you, even under the worst of circumstances.

      -Where did the doomsday begin, with Wyden? Gunderson? Alvarez? Why did they point out reactor 4 SPF whe it seems like the other reactors would be more of a threat?

      As far as I know it started with Alvarez, but the people opposed to nuclear power are well-connected and if someone finds “an angle”, everyone will pounce on it. You are correct that the reactors are a bigger worry than the pool, however, the pool is convenient if you want to scare people because it contains a lot more material than the reactor. Hence, making up a scare story about the pool lets you conjure up a much bigger disaster scenario. Since their goal is to scare people about nuclear power, this approach is much better than making something up about the reactors (which of course doesn’t stop them from doing that, too).

    3. @Gomez –

      Nothing that happens to the formerly melted, now solidified reactors will cause any health concerns outside of the facility itself. There are high radiation areas inside the shield building, but personnel access outside the shield is unrestricted by radiation doses. There is no physical mechanism that could cause the solidified material to escape from its current container and no mechanism that would cause it to significantly heat up. As discussed with regard to the used fuel pools, the decay heat after more than a year of being shut down is not sufficient to overcome the increased losses to the surrounding environment. The maximum temperature that could be reached in the lump is well below the melting point.

      Nothing at the plant is affecting the water table.

      In the event of an emergency at the shutdown facility, a few hundred yards is a safe distance. 100 miles is about 5,00 times that distance.

      The doomsday scenarios associated with unit 4 spent fuel pool date back to March 17, 2011 when the Chairman of the NRC testified to Congress that the pool was dry and that he was recommending a 50 mile evacuation of all Americans. That testimony and order received world wide publicity and media repetition. Professional fear mongers like Gundersen and Alvarez understand that many people forget where they “heard something scary about unit 4” so they have continued to imply that there is something especially dangerous there.

      https://atomicinsights.com/2011/03/focus-on-food-water-shelter-dr-greg-jaczko-is-wrong-and-giving-dangerously-bad-advice.html

    4. Gomez, as you said, Ibaraki is south of Fukushima. As such, it is important to remember that the main plume of fission products was NNW of the plants. Deposition outside the main plume was negligible. I was at US Forces Japan in April 2011 helping to monitor the efforts of TEPCO, MEXT, and NRC, and while I have not closely followed the progress at DNPP lately, I will try to briefly address each specific concern you list:

      showering/tap water (they are currently drinking bottled water) – Not a concern. To my knowledge, there is no issue with groundwater contamination closer to the plants, so Ibaraki should certainly be fine. The main issue with groundwater I’ve seen is fresh groundwater leaking into the plants, mixing with the contaminated cooling water there and creating a greater radioactive waste disposal problem. There may be other reasons to drink bottles water, but I don’t think DNPP should be a consideration.

      playing outdoors (reports of “black dust” and Cesium137 in the soil) –

      rain – Not a concern. Rain will only pose a radiation health risk if it passes through a sufficiently dense cloud of radioactive materials suspended in the atmosphere on the way down. Such clouds of contamination simply do not exist.

      Can anything happen with the 3 melted down reactors at this point? – The greatest danger posed by the reactors, IMHO, is the potential for mechanical failure of the vessels and piping caused by the earthquake and subsequent stresses. Even then, a great deal of the decay heat has taken care of, and it will not get hotter.

      Are they affecting the water table? – Not to my knowledge. A greater concern is run-off to the ocean affecting local fishing.

      In the event of an emergency, is 100 miles a reasonably safe distance? – In a word, I’d say yes. In a further word, I don’t think the potential for an “emergency” is great enough to worry about it much.

      Where did the doomsday begin, with Wyden? Gunderson? Alvarez? Why did they point out reactor 4 SPF whe it seems like the other reactors would be more of a threat? – I question the use of the word “doomsday,” but the main concern with SPF4, as I recall, is that it was filled with new, unexpended fuel at the time of the accident, and therefore potentially has greater reactive potential, making proper cooling more critical. Additionally, structural stresses have affected both the integrity of the cooling mechanism and the pool itself.

      The big concern with SPF4 (and the other SPFs) was what is called an unintentional criticality event. This was especially a concern shortly after the accident, as we dd not have the ability to sufficiently monitor what was actually happening in either the plants of the SFPs. To my knowledge, this has significantly improved, and is no longer a prime concern. I personally have very little concern about unintended criticality with regard to the plants, as the damage to the cores has likely resulted in a geometry that is incapable of sustaining a critical reaction.

      I have been to Japan several times since (and during) the accident without reservation, and fully agree with others that your greater concern should be summer heat and mosquitoes. Best wishes for your sister-in-laws recovery. Odaiji-ni.

  4. Growing up we had black dust that covered everything. Did I live next to a melted down reactor? No. I lived next to a coal fired power station.

    Black dust, brown dust?? it going to be whatever color the dirt in the area is. There is not enough material deposited on the ground to affect the color of the soil. We are literally talking about a gallon sized volume of material. It wouldn’t even change the color of the dust if you dumped it all in your back yard.

    It is just a scare tactic. Does anybody really pay attention to the color of the dust in their homes or on their sidewalks? No. Somebody yells its black dust its evil. Then people look down and see black then get scared never stopping to ask if it has always been that way forever, even before the power plants were built.

  5. @ Gomez

    I think what Japanese should be worried about is the lack of confort they will experience again this summer. At some point causing deaths.

    Need I remind everyone on this board that last summer, elderlies died because of lack of proper air conditioning?

    The innocent elderlies are the indirect casualties of the industrial accident that happened in Fukushima. The direct link is with the Japanese leadership or lack thereof.

    The summer is around the corner and the nuclear plants are safe. This is beyond me.

  6. @Alex – WRT that story, it was long on scare and short science. They report “10x normal,” but what is the actual value? And how does it compare to levels that pose health risk? The lady’s assertion that radiation might be in the air is treated as fact. It has been my observation based upon topics with which I am familiar that CNN et. al. are singularly unreliable when it comes to any reporting that requires scientific knowledge or interpretation.

    1. @submandave – welcome to Atomic Insights. I do not think I have had the pleasure of reading your comments before, but anyone with a handle that starts with “sub man” is always appreciated here.

  7. Hi folks,

    I have read a fair amount of the articles on this website, and I appreciate the common sense that you collectively display in providing information and clarity to the general public regarding nuclear energy and the the physics of fission. Radiation is, to the lay person, scary, mysterious, and inherently suspect. That said, it appears that you (the collective pro-nuke posse which primarily contributes to this blog) have no patience for anyone supporting the position that nuclear energy poses any credible threat to human health whatsoever.

    Regarding Fukushima – I will say this: I am no expert, but I know the aroma of BS when it hits my nostrils. First of all, TEPCO has repeatedly LIED to the world press. Why, if the situation was truly under control, did it take months for TEPCO to admit that a meltdown had even occurred. If everything at Fukushima is hunky dory, why is the massive mess not cleaned up? In fact, it appears that over a succession of events spanning the last 14 months, the visible physical condition of the reactors is in fact deteriorating. This is what I can see with my own ignorant eyes. Of course, in the process of researching the state of affairs at Fukushima, I have been drawn into a diverse set of information sources. I would like to draw the attention of this forum to an article recently posted at the National Security News website:
    http://www.dcbureau.org/201204097128/national-security-news-service/united-states-circumvented-laws-to-help-japan-accumulate-tons-of-plutonium.html

    The title says a mouthful.
    I do not know how credible the article is, but I did click on several of the links provided to review alleged sources, and so far, I have seen nothing to indicate bad scholarship.

    So…. I would love to see your collective response both to the article, and to any light this might shed on Fukushima. If the assertions in this article are correct, and Japan has been quietly amassing weapons-grade plutonium for decades, might this change our perspective on the safety of spent fuel pools?

    PS I have seen your handling of the Chernobyl fallout debate and the Fukushima scare, and I conclude that, despite your self-perceived objectivity, that you perhaps turn a blind eye to evidence that may contradict your assertions. For example, I see innumerable sources which contend that health effects In Ukraine and Belarus of the Chernobyl meltdown far exceed the relatively small impact cited in the World Health Organization report (which essentially limits its findings to excess cancer deaths) These effects include undeniable and dramatic increases in birth defects, heart disease, and respiratory disorders throughout the region. Watch the numerous videos of Belarussian orphanages which house large numbers of deformed and abandoned children and say again with a straight face and clear conscience that these tragedies are not the result of the nuclear accident… can you? Really?

    I am not trying to bait you here. I simply hope to foster a little more open-minded introspection. After all, the only human trait more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.

    1. @Seth Casson

      Your detector of a lack of patience for anyone supporting the position that using nuclear energy poses any credible threat to human health is right on. Like many of the commenters here, I believe that the only way that massive use of nuclear energy will pose any threat to human health is if people decide to use that energy explosively in the form of weapons. As long as we are talking about nuclear power used in controlled fission reactors that are designed to reasonable codes and standards, there is no threat to human health.

      Tepco did not take months to admit that the cores in units 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima had been damaged. They might have taken months to determine the EXTENT of that damage. You may not know this, but nuclear reactors are not built with any kind of detectors that would allow operators to actually measure the damage. We can do it, but it takes quite a while to do the analysis of the chemistry and radiation reading that allow damage assessments. This is not “lying” it is engineering and science – they take a while.

      I do not believe any of the anecdotal scare stories over the careful analysis performed by the WHO. If you visit http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html and click through to the links to read the massive sets of papers produced, you will find out that the assessments were not limited to “excess cancer deaths”. Every conceivable disease with any proven relationship to radiation exposure was analysed.

      The main conclusion of the study is that irrational fear and irrational response actions that reinforced that fear are the major culprits in the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident.

      I recognize that knowledge is often mistaken for arrogance. I have been called arrogant ever since I started school. For some odd reason, my classmates thought it was highly unfair of me to do my homework, ask questions, raise my hand to answer the teacher, and obtain a reasonably high portion of ‘A’s’ through 18 years of formal education plus another 2 years worth of nuclear technical training. I apologize for providing so many correct answers over the years and causing some people to think that I look down on others when I try to share knowledge.

      Fortunately, I have had some people who really seemed to enjoy my classes and my efforts to teach. My effort is founded on a basic belief that ignorance is curable through study.

      1. @Rod, As someone who started reading this site in a state of near-hysteria over the dangers posed to the human race by Fukushima, I found your comments and answers to be confident, reassuring, and empathetic. Certainly not arrogant. Thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge so publicly.

        @Seth Casson, While I agree with your skepticism – particularly about the empirical observations of birth defects related to Chernobyl – one of the points that I have seen Rod and his colleagues repeatedly make on this site is that radiation is only ONE of a myriad of toxins that can negatively impact human health. The Soviet Union had absolutely no sense of environmental responsibility at all, which means that the high numbers of birth defects, cancers, etc. could very plausibly be attributed to a host of non-radioactive (but still highly toxic) pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, lead, and many other less well-known chemicals. Look at this list, for example: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/methods/cwa/pollutants.cfm

        My point is not to diminish your concerns, since I share them, but to point out that the mass media’s emphasis on radioactivity can serve – intentionally or unintentionally – as a diversion from other, perhaps more serious and persistent threats.

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