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

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

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  1. Marshalltown

    Did any of you lot actually read the article?

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

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

  2. jake Silver badge

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

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

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

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

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

  3. smartypants

    RE: Did any of you lot actually read the article

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

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

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

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime
      Trollface

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

      Almost right.

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

  4. smartypants

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

    There are two things to point out here:

    ONE

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

    TWO

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

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

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

    1. sunnyskies

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

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

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

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

      1. smartypants

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

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

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

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

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

  5. David Gale

    Coal...?

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

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

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

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

  6. D@v3

    Obligitory

    http://xkcd.com/radiation/

  7. Frederick Karno

    Dear me

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Ed 13 Silver badge

    It's a bund

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

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

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

  9. R.Wolfe

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

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

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

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2. Captain DaFt

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

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

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

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

  10. Lars Silver badge

    Stop downplaying it

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

    1. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Stop downplaying it

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

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

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Stop downplaying it

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

      1. P0l0nium

        Re: Stop downplaying it

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

        I mean, "What could possibly go wrong?

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

  11. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    There you go

    When initial attempt to seed panic fails - try again.

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

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

  12. TrishaD

    @ Itzman

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

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

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

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: "that's called Democracy"

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

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

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

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

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: "that's called Democracy"

        @Pascal Monett

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

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

        1. KayKay

          Re: "that's called Democracy"

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

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

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: @ Itzman

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

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

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

      1. Chris Miller

        @NomNomNom

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

        Which is precisely why representative democracy was invented.

    3. Daniel B.

      Re: @ Itzman

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

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

  13. Benjol

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

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

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

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

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

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

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime
        FAIL

        "vast amounts of toxic waste that must be handled"

        meh

        1. Dave the Cat
          Thumb Up

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

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

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Five times annual radiation limit?

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

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Five times annual radiation limit?

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

      Religious folks don't want to understand reality.

  15. james 68

    "news"

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

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

    1. Snake Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "news"

      Hear, hear

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the words of Keith Mandemant (Steve Coogan)

    No one died.

  17. Jeff Wojciechowski

    Why?

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

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    THIS article should be national news

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

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

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

  19. Drew 11

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

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime
      FAIL

      @Drew 11

      You mean this type of insurance?

      Please do your homework before posting complete bollocks.

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

  20. a_mu

    missed the point ?

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

    none of which happened,

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

    I'm not.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC casting doubt on veracity of statements ..

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

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. phy445
    Alert

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

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

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

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

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