"Those scaredypants of the US forces bar personnel from going within 80 km of the plant."
God forbid that anyone who joins the army might be put in danger while they're helping someone else. No wonder Iraq is such a shambles.
As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down, the salient facts remain the same as they have been throughout: nobody has suffered or will suffer any radiological health consequences. Economic damage and inconvenience resulting from the quake's effects on nuclear power have been significant, …
If there is no danger, then I think Lewis Page can "walk the talk" and go in to start helping with the cleanup, because apparently the evacuations are just fearmongering and there are no serious consequences to being near the vicinity of the plant- the levels used to trigger an evacuation are stupidly low.
So Lewis and his All-Nuke Band, off you go! Looking forward to seeing your videos of you proving that you believe in what you say, and that you are not just acting as a paid mouthpiece for the nuclear industry.
Or will you just stay where you are, nice and safe and snug, writing out unproven opinion pieces?
Perhaps you can fly via Chernobyl and go eat some nice local berries and vegetables?
As there have been no fatalities caused by Chernobyl's radiation, it should all be fine! (Lets forget that the science says otherwise, see previous post referencing an actual scientific paper saying millions have dies from Chernobyl's insidious and long-lasting effects)
First up, kudos for keeping the comments going when you already know about 80% of what will be posted.
Secondly, this: "The levels in three of the five samples are so low, and of such isotopes, that it is quite possible they result from long-ago nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. "
I understand that you have you view, and by god you've taken such a firm stand that you can't back down now. But REALLY, this is getting ridiculous, and unfortunately damaging the credibility of the rest of what you write.
"Yes, there is plutonium; yes it may have leaked from the reactors; yes it is, let's face it, undesirable and will have repercussions - but let's try to get it in perspective" is surely a better approach than "nothing has happened, people, there is no nuclear leak, la la-la la, it's all a giant conspiracy"?
But I guess I'm not a reporter. The unfortunate thing is that this is starting to colour my view of the Reg, formerly my beacon of truth and sober analysis in a world of meeja hype. Can we have Andrew O back please?
The levels of Plutonium found are - in fact - so low as to be indistinguishable from background radiation. The Plutonium found is in such miniscule quantities that it's not clear where it came from. Reactor 3 uses some plutonium in it's fuel. However, the fuel is ceramic pellets of Uranium and Plutonium, if the fuel became hot enough to eat through the fuel rod casing and vaporize there would be a large quantity of uranium associated with the plutonium. As yet there has been no report of any such finding. Additionally, fission reactors can produce very small quantities of Plutonium as a fission product. Very small quantities. Since the source of the Plutonium is not yet clear, and the quantity found is so miniscule at this point, you're making quite a large leap to conclude that the fuel in unit 3 became uncovered sufficiently, and for long enough to melt completely. Since the reactor had scram'd and cooling had been active for a few hours before the total loss of cooling, it's not really clear whether there would have been sufficient heat remaining in the system to cause that level of damage.
So, in the absence of further information, I prefer not to jump to a catastrophic conclusion. But hey, perhaps that makes me a rational human being instead of a fear-monger?
Re-read my post.
The Plutonium could have come from multiple sources. If the specific analysis says that it came specifically from reactor 3 and is not a fission product, then the question becomes a) why is there such a miniscule amount, b) where is the uranium, and c) how did it get there? Is it possible, for example, that when the upper structure of the unit 3 containment building blew apart during the hydrogen explosion that infinitesimal quantities of plutonium dust that were already contained within the structure were released into the environment? The reason the building exploded was that the operators had to vent the steam from the reactor to reduce pressure inside so that they could inject more water. The steam contain a quantity of hydrogen which exploded. Since the steam and hydrogen came directly from the reactor it contained iodine, cesium and other isotopes produced as a result of the fission reactions during normal operation. It's not impossible that a small amount of Plutonium was included in that matter and was locally distributed during the explosion and subsequent steam venting (the so called white smoke) seen many times over. It could also be as a result of all the water dumping operations to ensure the spent fuel pond is full.
All I am saying is that there are several vectors for the trace amounts of Plutonium found to be there. But the one immediately suggested is that the nuclear fuel inside reactor 3 became hot enough to melt and the resulting steam that was vented therefore included some nuclear fuel. Fine, except, the reactor does not appear to have become that hot, the damage to the core is undeniable, but damage could range from slight warping of fuel and control rods all the way to total melt down. It's one of those phrases that is not very precise, and if you say reactor core damage to most people they imagine a pool of glowing radiative material attempting to eat it's way through the containment vessel, where the actual damage could be anything ranging from warped fuel rods to the total melt own.
If the reactor had suffered a significant melt that allowed the Plutonium in the MOX fuel to escape with the steam, then why only the Plutonium? and why in such small quantities? If this was the result of a core melting and vaporizing fuel, then there should be more uranium than plutonium found, and the quantity right nest to the reactor should not be barely detectible trace amounts.
Now, I'm not jumping to any conclusion, but in the absence of anything suggesting the worst case of an actual release of fuel, I have to consider that there are other more likely reasons for the release.
False -- where in the hell do you think we get it from, the magic nuclear pixies of Elfland?
Not only that, but the US and Soviet governments, during their shared mid-century mania for blasting whole tribes of aborigines right out of their ancestral atolls, scattered a reasonable quantity of plutonium dust into the upper atmosphere of the planet, from whence it descended...well, pretty much everywhere, really.
So the first question is: Did the plutonium found at Fukushima even originate at Fukushima? Or was it instead deposited there over the last few decades, from an origin rather more southerly in latitude than where it's ended up?
Nobody's sure of the answer yet, so it's a little premature at the very least to start shrieking about how the Fukushima reactor vessels must be horribly smashed to tiny flinders and shedding a thick plume of magically vaporized plutonium from their exposed cores into the jet stream, thence to flutter down onto North America and Europe like invisible evil nuclear death snow.
Would be nice if you'd followed your own advice and did a bit of research:
a) Plutonium can be made by spontaneous fission in U ore.
b) There were natural fission reactors on Earth, which produced Pu and other transuranics also naturally.
c) Pu is considered a primordial element as it has at least 1 isotope with half-life of about 80 million years.
Looking at what happened in Japan it is clear that all nuclear power must be abandoned. That a relative small plant like that can cause an earthquake and a tsunami like that is a clear indicator that these atoms are evil. We MUST make a earthwide ban on atoms and make sure that none are ever produced again.
Time to bang the rocks together guys, with the level of superstition and irrationality around right now, anyone with a scientific or technical education may find themselves on the wrong end of a pitchfork before long.
Personally, I'm moving to my compound in Missouri...solar panels, wind turbines and a small atomic pile for overcast and calm days.
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The inevitable fate of anyone who relies on Fox News* as a source.
* Quoting an anonymous parent of one of the workers, who has been understandably terrified by the loony reporting of mass media, a charge being led by Fox News.
Off to wash my hands, I feel dirty having visited the Fox News site.
not a single number posted in regards to how much radiation the works have actually received. that information is readily available, by the way, and so far none of the workers have reached the 250msv limit at which point they must be withdrawn from the plant. and that 250msv limit is very low, its not a limit set because "at 251msv YOU WILL DIE" its a limit set because its the lowest reasonably possible.
that article is EXACTLY the kind of fact-free fear mongering that these El Reg articles are seeking to counter.
also, the comments on the fox article? they made my brain explode.
not to react to some of the bile that has been spewed his direction since he began his nuclear crusade..that is admirable.
as to the Fukushima situation. there has been a lot of nonsense in the press, but this is normal. a huge salute to everyone involved in making *sure* Fukushima did not (and will not) escalate into something truly horrible.
whether he is right or not, i am glad that Lewis had the balls to stick to his original agenda without toning it down at all. right or wrong, it shows principle.
As far as the news is concerned all the worst fear mongering is becoming reality, despite invocations by Lewis and friends to appeal to the Gods of High-tech-Mountain.
They're finding high radioactivity in tunnels outside the turbine building, 10000x normal values. The fbeef around Dai'ichi (die itchy?) has been reported to contain 'abnormal' radioactivity. The IAEA is calling for doubling the area of evacuation - this could easily affect one million people considering it's quite a densely populated area.
But lets all keep saying no serious long term consequences come out of this incident, and that they are dwarfed by the other damage from the quake. But so far it's looking more and more like the story will be different and many have sold the bear skin too early perhaps.
I only wish the Reg science writers and cheer leaders will come back in a few weeks to eat their shorts and flog themselves before the world. But they'll be probably busy elsewhere saving the world from fear mongering. They must really hate fear.
Lewis Page needs must maintain wood in his war-on, so now invents the War on Fear, since the wheels came off his last bandwagon, the glorious War on Terror. Next up will be the War on Mild Angst, using Space-Lazors to zap any dissenters. Coincidentally, his scheme to power this HappyWorld™ platform using a head of journaillistic hot-air is also shaping up nicely.
As you were, SeaLord Page [with minions bowed afore ye]
I thought power was made only from happy thoughts and rainbows! Who could have possible imagined that generating enough power for a large population could be dangerous and there would be risks?
We obviously must stop using any type of power generation with any amount of risk. That leaves.... oh wait, nothing.
What health consequences are enough to sway the fact deniers? Not rad burns. Will someone have to die on the site from prompt exposure before Page will cite a health consequence? Will more people have to die from radiation than from the tsunami? Will it have to become the #1 cause of death for 100 years?
What economic consequences are enough to sway the fact deniers? Not the loss of economic value from the rolling blackouts currently sweeping Japan. Not the cost of scrapping the reactors. How much loss of livlihood from irradiated fish and crops (even if it's just a scare) is enough?
Now Page blames the failure of the bright future of personal hovercars and cities in the clouds on acceptance of the facts evident at fukushima. No, it couldn't be that flying cars are inherently too dangerous to have falling out of the sky in your city, or that cities in the clouds use up power that might otherwise be put to use solving poverty.
Reprocessing spent fuel is notoriously expensive. Nobody does it any more except France, and their industry has to be subsidized. Where does Page get this stuff?
"No, it couldn't be that flying cars are inherently too dangerous to have falling out of the sky in your city, or that cities in the clouds use up power that might otherwise be put to use solving poverty"
You are absolutely right - it couldn't. Otherwise motorcars would have been banned everywhere except in enclosed tunnels and aeroplanes would have onlyt been allowed above the Arctic Circle.
I'm afraid life is too dangerous for you - it will lead to your death with 100% probability. Life should be banned forthwith.
Airplanes are flown by well-trained pilots with significant amounts of schooling, simulation, and mentoring. In other words, they're pros. Perhaps that's why the airliner fatality rate per passenger is so low. To contrast, of all the on-the-road fatalities we have every year, how many are from people in ordinary passenger cars rather than public conveyances driven by licensed drivers?
Lewis, I've enjoyed the substance of all your articles but could we perhaps have less of the military style absolutism? The articles are rightly full of criticism of hysteria and sensationalism, but the correct response to that is calm consideration of the facts, and neither distain, nor contrarianism.
Your article throws up a number or questions I wonder if you'd be kind enough to address:
You report that the three workers burnt by radiation are fine: an oncologist commenting here says it's too soon to say such a thing and that the dose they received was localised, raising risk. What's the basis for your prognosis and (you having a physics/military background) which oncologists are you quoting?
You state that: "Elsewhere, emissions of radioisotopes into the sea are well above normal regulatory limits, though not such as to cause any health concerns", followed by: "According to Japan's nuclear safety authorities, the seaborne levels of radio-iodine near Fukushima Daiichi are not such as to necessitate any bans on fish or similar", and yet the BBC today say: "radioactive iodine levels in seawater near the plant reached a new record - 4,385 times the legal limit" and Nature published the following contradiction: ""We don't have enough data yet, and what we have are still patchy," says Jim Smith, an environmental physicist at the University of Portsmouth, UK. In the meantime, the Japanese authorities are taking many of the right precautions, such as quickly implementing an evacuation zone, and banning farming and fishing in the areas worst affected, he says.". So what is the case with this sea borne iodine? To understand the risk one needs to know what biomass uptake of this radioactive iodine will be over the 80 days it is extant. We also need to know what caesium uptake is, since it decays over a period of 300 years. Marine fauna, such as brine shrimp, are known to accumulate certain toxins many hundreds of times ambient levels. In stating that there are no risks which marine biologists/toxicologists are you quoting?
When you state: "Some bans on produce from the area around the plant have already been instituted, though these are likely to be of brief duration as iodine-131 has a half-life of only eight days – it will all be gone within weeks no matter where it has reached" would it not be more explicit to say that the radioactive iodine will have decayed in three months since you are writing for non-physicists? To use the half-life figure may give the impression that you are underplaying risk and, in so doing, are guilty of the reverse of the hysteria. The last thing we need is more misrepresentation, I'm sure you'd agree.
In mentioning the risk of farmland having to be abandoned due to radioactive caesium you do the same thing: "it has a lengthy half-life". What you mean is that the caesium would radiate for three centuries, isn't it? May I suggest that explicit declarations of this sort of fact would serve to strengthen the integrity of your reports.
"In one spot 25 miles from the plant an IAEA team has reportedly measured activity as high as 3.7 megabecquerels from caesium"… you state. While nature reports levels 50 times higher: "Soil samples taken on 20 March from a location 40 km northwest of the plant showed caesium-137 levels of 163,000 becquerels per kilogram (Bq kg−1) and iodine-131 levels of 1,170,000 Bq kg−1, according to Japan's science ministry." Does this not suggest that one cannot allay all concerns over land contamination as we appear not to have an accurate final picture of this issue?
A regular refrain in your articles is that the nuclear industry is safe: "nuclear power is far and away the safest form of energy generation and remains so in the wake of Fukushima". May I suggest that this over-simplifies the issue? Each technology has various issues: geothermal energy raises the issue of heavy metal contamination of ground water, earthquakes and cooling over time: wind power raises irregular supply, bird and bat kills, land/sea area use: solar power requires expensive components, large surface area and offers irregular supply and inconvenient hours: wave energy will suffer and incredibly hostile environment with consequent reliability problems. One cannot simplify nuclear generation down to: it hasn't killed anyone. Even that statement was misleading: it referred to this current incident and not all nuclear generation. I also note that people commenting in favour of nuclear generation vs. coal have regularly pointed out the danger of coal mining while ignoring the very real problems associated with uranium mining. Polemical simplifications do not do these subjects justice.
Here you misrepresent the toxicology: "Thus such things as radiation dose limits or permissible levels of iodine-131 are not set rationally, they are set to be as low as they can possibly be. For instance, absolutely no measurable health consequences at all result from radiation doses of 100 millisievert a year: if everyone in the UK were subjected to such doses for ever, nothing – no extra cases of cancer, nothing – would happen." No, Lewis, that isn't correct, it's polemical. You misrepresent a probability as an absolute. In consistently taking this approach you undermine your otherwise interesting article.
Finally, you state: "We here at the Reg are still glad we linked to his assessment in the first days of the crisis, and that we early on reported the truth about Fukushima – that on the facts of the case it has been a triumph for nuclear power, not a disaster" but I could not find your reasoning to support that. Power generation is a business, so your reasoning must be commercial. The nuclear industry has a reputation for asking for government subsidy: pricing guarantees, cost over-run subsidies, loans, policing, decommissioning costs, the right to ignore mining clean-up and no implemented longterm storage costing. Now some of that is not their fault (longterm storage has been inhibited though in-vitrification technology doesn't appear to have matured) but much of it is, and it doesn't suggest commercial viability… far less triumphant viability. For this disaster to be a triumph for the nuclear industry it is not simply a case that TEPCO should not have killed anyone, or contaminated a significant area, it would be necessary to show that the generation of nuclear power remains highly profitable WITHOUT taxpayer subsidies and yet I see no calculation for clean-up costs in your articles. Please offer us your reasoning and explain why this accident makes nuclear power significantly more commercially viable.
Without this reasoning some of these statements could be dismissed as baiting for hits and that lets the side down. Thanks again for your valuable alternative perspective on the issues.
...is the constant supply os scare stories that the media pushes convincing everyone and their neighbor that were all either doomed to die horribly or grow an extra tail. Poster after Poster here bangs on at him about how he shouldn't say anything balanced because people are "dying right now". So Lewis feels he must rebut those critics, and I kind of understand that point of view. Once the crisis has completely passed, it will be time for a more sober discussion of the future of nuclear power, but I don't think that time has come. However the constant cries of irrational criticism aimed at nuclear energy fed by a constant diet of lies and un-truths does need to be combated, if merely for the sake of balance.
"Once the crisis has completely passed, it will be time for a more sober discussion of the future of nuclear power."
Ah yes when interest has died away and no one is listening we can talk about the real issue.
He's made his point, what does he hope to gain from making it over and over? Those that heard have heard those that haven't will never listen.
Maybe I am using the wrong news sources, but I have not seen any coverage that is as hysterically anti-nuclear as Lewis Page's is hysterically pro-nuclear. I find his dismissal of the consequences of Chernobyl rather glib.
If radioactive caesium from Chernobyl "didn't cause any measurable health consequences" this is largely due to the difficulty in making such measurements. It is difficult to count additional deaths resulting from a relatively small increase in risk across a large population, but that doesn't mean they are not real. The Chernobyl Forum's 2005 report estimated 4000 additional deaths as a long-term consequence of the Chernobyl accident. They deliberately looked only at the most exposed population, in which the radiation doses are in a range that is better understood than the low doses experienced farther afield.
The assumption that there are additional deaths comes from applying the "Linear no threshold" concept, which says that you draw a straight line from the mortality rates at high dosage down to the origin of the graph. You then assume that you can divide the total radiation exposure by the numbers in the exposed population, then plot the exposure and say "X deaths will result".
Which sounds fine, until you find out that NO-ONE's been able to demonstrate a statistically reliable correlation between low dose exposure and increased mortality. It's simply another assumption, taken since it's conservative.
However, the Chernobyl exposure should have been the first real chance to look for effects in a large population, with low-dose exposure. And, guess what - the epidemiologists haven't been able to pick out an actual signal that shows an increase in mortality (we'll leave aside the loons who apparently attribute the whole of the post-soviet increase in mortality to the Chernobyl effects, despite the same increases being apparent in areas where there was no exposure).
So, there's a circular argument here.
Worse, most of the "linear" studies that follow exposed groups (like those post Windscale) don't show an increase. In fact, studies like those following up cancer rates from increased radon exposure show no excess mortality.
Making claims of extra deaths that are based on extrapolations from a model that's been adopted, not because of strong supporting evidence, but instead on a precautionary principle, is a very shaky approach - especially when there's to statistically detectable signal to support it.
The assumption that there was a low dose effect was made in the absence of any evidence - to whit, a large population exposed to low doses. The original model had data from hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, who were mostly high dose victims.
So in the absence of that, the focus was on linear studies of low dose groups, like those exposed as a result of the windscale fire. Those mostly show no detectable effect. Similarly with most studies with groups like those exposed to radon in the home.
So, then we get a large group exposed, and again the epidemiologists can't pick out a signal.
So, yes. There are two assumptions you can make. One, there's no detectable relationship between low doses and mortailty. That's the view now taken by bodies like the professional body for US Health Physicists, and the French National Academy of the Sciences. Or that there is an association, it's just too small to measure.
I'm not sure, other than inertia, why the latter's being argued. It's (IMHO) inherently unscientific, as it's an unfalsifiable hypothesis.
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