back to article Praying for meltdown: The media and the nukes

Sensationalism has always been part of the popular media - but Fukushima is a telling and troubling sign of how much the media has changed in fifty years: from an era of scientific optimism to one where it inhabits a world of fantasy - creating a real-time Hollywood disaster movie with a moralising, chivvying message. Not so …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep calm and carry on..

    Maybe that lasted into the 70's... afterall who remembers/learned the lessions from Banqiao Dam? (lmgtfy:

    Hydro power really is dangerous....

    1. Mad Mike

      Yes, really, really dangerous

      This dam failure caused the deaths of 171,000 people and 11 million people lost their homes. Even with Chenobyl, the figures are massively less and that was a really bad nuclear accident!! Why not lookup how many dams fail per year and you might be surprised. The safety record of the nuclear industry is the best of any electricity generation mechanism. Let's not let facts get in the way of a good story though!!

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Clean danger v dirty danger

        I think there is a perception that if you die crushed by a wall of water or drown or suffocate in a coal mine or burn to cinders in an oil fire - this is natural and "clean" and Gaia will look after you, whereas if you die of radiation poisoning, it's dirty, un-natural, man-play-godly, anti-gaian and you will somehow be deader than "normal" dead.

        The radiation is a silent killer - it is so treacherous that you can die 50 or 80 years after being exposed and all that time you won't even know that you're DOOMED!

        1. Anonymous Coward

          it is so treacherous that you can die 50 or 80 years after being exposed

          I'd be quite happy surviving fukushima for another 80 years... Argh I've just been exposed... I see the news is now saying the the radiations is here in the UK as it's been detected in Glasgow...

          skulls icon.

          1. Seanmon


            Radiation is, quite frankly, the last health hazard in the world that Weejies need to worry about.

            (Yes, I am one)

            1. Scorchio!!

              Re: Glasgow

              You should live in Cornwall then, where high and toxic levels of radiation occur naturally. Frequently written off as 'background radiation' in much the same way that unwanted effects of medication are written off as 'side effects and unwanted deaths in war are called 'collateral damage', it must be healthy! It's Gaia!

  2. Hermes Conran


    Even those convicted liars who run these plants have had to admit that the core in at least one reactor has melted. The fact that good civil engineering and drastic risk management has prevented hundreds of people being poised so far does not detract from the fact that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      'despoiled for generations'

      Like the areas around coal-fired power plants you mean? Besides which, does the concept of 'half-life' mean anything to you?

    2. Reading Your E-mail

      Point proven perfectly

      "Reactor melted"

      Yep, but so what, if the whole plant had melted then we would have a problem, but the reactor melting means it's buggered for use again, not that the whole world is going to expire in a burst of gamma rays

      ...and nothing has been despoiled for generations, just cause they wrap your chips in it doesn't mean it's credible.

      1. Annihilator

        re: Point proven perfectly

        "just cause they wrap your chips in it doesn't mean it's credible"

        I love you :-)

      2. LaeMing

        RE: just cause they wrap your chips in it doesn't mean it's credible.

        Over this side of the world you haven't been able to wrap chips in newspaper for decades - the ink was causing food-toxicity issues.

    3. Bronek Kozicki

      fact ...

      "... that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations"

      fact, really? Who says so?

    4. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      "Meltdown" in this case...

      ;;;refers to melting of fuel *within* the core - it's not escaped, just melted into an unusable blob in the base of the reactor vessel. Three Mile Island did something similar (and without any known health consequences).

    5. Mad Mike

      @Hermes Conran

      Looks like a Redtop reader and he's fallen for it hook line and sinker. Even with the radioactive water and plutonium found to date, the amounts are pretty tiny. The area around the plant will be cleaned up within a few years and everything will return to normal. Radiation escaping into the sea is not too big a deal as the sea is immense and the dilution effect is massive. So, very quickly the radiation is so dispersed it offers no real threat.

      People in Edinburgh and other areas such as Dartmoor with large amounts of igneous rock are exposed to higher levels of radiation each and every year!! Ever heard of Radon? Look it up in relation to building in this country.

      1. Equitas

        People in Edinburgh ........

        are in an area which, volcanic plugs excepted, is generally sandstone.

        Try Aberdeen which is mainly granite.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: People in Edinburgh ........

          Yes, this "people in Edinburgh speak weird because of the radon" meme should be investigated by Page and Orlowski if they're so keen on debunking common myths and tracing their propagation.

        2. Annihilator
          Thumb Up


          "volcanic plugs excepted"

          Straying way off the point here, but I think this is what was meant. "Old" Edinburgh is pretty much built entirely on igneous (castle) rock. And there's that looming big thing called Arthur's Seat just off to the side.

      2. It wasnt me
        Thumb Up

        Hmmmmm.... I have an idea.

        You comment on the dilution effect got me thinking. Who are the real experts in the dilution effect?

        Perhaps we could put homeopaths to good use and get them to clean up the mess? I quite like the mental image of Gillian McKeith being sent into the reactors. Oh noes, theres no shits for me to examine!

    6. Anonymous Coward


      "the fact that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations"

      Do you have a source for this "fact"? The whole area around the plant is a mess, yes - tidal waves will do that. And there have certainly been releases of radioactive materials from the plant. But I'm not aware of any evidence that there has been significant contamination of the area with long-lived radioactive materials.

    7. Anonymous Coward

      This really is disappointing.

      The Register is a technical publication and to continue to give oxygen to the wilder speculations and comments devalues the Science and Engineering professions and professionals who participate in them.

      Without doubt there are issues to be addressed and they will be - but perhaps not as all of us would wish.

      While 'we' continue to squabble and shout about 'nuclear accidents' then the public will continue to to think science and engineering is populated by arseholes and incompetents - which it most certainly isn't!!

      Truth to tell, there isn't much to be seen now as far as the nuclear side goes. There is a lot more interesting stuff to be done with regard to earthquake engineering and alternative energy. Given were Japan sits I suspect there will be a re-vitalised interest in geothermal and other power sources.

    8. Aaron Em

      "hundreds of people being poised so far"

      What, they're taking a day off from clean-up to do a gigantic dance number?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Spot on

    Although I'm not so sure I share Orlowski's optimism with regards to the general public and their ability to parse all this stuff properly. Look at Germany, where the electorate has made bold gestures to the effect that what they want is the unachievable conglomeration of super-industry, green energy and no nuclear. Same thing going on in some quarters of Japan, although since they're actually in a seismic danger zone and have recently suffered a terrible cataclysm, that's much more understandable. I just have doubts about whether people will reject the scaremongering when it has such visceral appeal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is obtainable.

      "All our* power is made from 100% renewables"

      *Where 'our' means the stuff generated here, when there's a shortfall we buy it off the French and don't ask questions.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Well, I live in Germany, and the talk over lunch was of the 24000 year contamination, China syndrome and how long to evacuate the whole of Tokyo. It was rather depressing that I couldn't make headway against this.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        In Japan

        Do they call a 'China Syndrome' a '200 miles off the coast of Brazil' syndrome?

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Germany, eh...

        Well, the discussion to tear down the 8? reactors that were SCRAMed at the news of the JAPAN INCIDENT a couple of weeks ago is now in full swing. Ancillary to this I heard on the radio that Germany plans to import hydropower from Norway. This will replace about 1 nuke. A laudable idea but guess what's first on the list of talking points: NIMBYness regarding the power converters and public fear of the high-voltage lines. Sigh.

    3. Sil_W

      @ somethingmissing

      Your comment about trusting the public to parse all this stuff properly does raise a good question about the democracy we all automatically laud as the be-all and end-all of moral government. What if the public, through ignorance or fear, set themselves on a self-destructive course? Does political morality, and the need to avoid undemocratic rule at all costs, require that the destruction be allowed to run its course?

      1. CD001

        I've often thought

        I've often thought that Democracy, being (supposedly) governance for the people, by the people, is fundamentally flawed by the fact that it's run "by the people" - have you never seen the Jeremy Kyle show?

        (actually I haven't, I have a job, but from what I can gather it's like the Essex chav version of Jerry Springer).

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: I've often thought

          The main problem with rule by the masses is that the masses are not always (read: rarely) right. And the IQ average of 100 means that a large proportion of the population will be on the lower side..

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Plato was right

        I'd say enlightened dictatorships/monarchies are probably the best form of government, but the problem with that is that it's much more of a lottery, and there's no way to really guarantee that a good leader won't be replaced by an idiot/tyrant. The problem with democracy, on the other hand, is that it nearly never results in the best possible (or even good) governance, but the upside is that it provides a mechanism through which people are able to signal their consent and approval. So the question is, as you said, whether or not we should go waltzing towards extinction due to our own mass stupidity, as long as our politics retains (broadly speaking, of course) a consensual element. Speaking for myself, I think in general totalitarianism leads more predictably to suffering, and since we're going to go extinct some day any way (and are almost certain, from a Darwinian standpoint, to be 'responsible' for our own demise), at least we can try and reduce suffering on the way there. Not to say I'm a democrat, mind - I find it endlessly infuriating living in a democracy. But it might just be the least worst option.

  4. Jolyon


    "("like a dirty bomb" we were told)"

    Who told us that?

    Also a link to an online copy of the Daily Mail's "Nature's Deadly Rage" would be great if you could provide it; Tim Black couldn't either although he did link to other quoted articles in his similarly themed piece on Spiked.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      1st result Front page spash 12 Mar 2011

      Can't find it in their archive though

    2. David Pollard

      Locating "Nature's Deadly Rage"

      There are searchy-looky thingummies that can do it for you, e.g.

      Registration is apparently required.

    3. Jimmahh


      "Also a link to an online copy of the Daily Mail's "Nature's Deadly Rage" would be great if you could provide it..."

      Err... you did try Googling the phrase; Daily Mail's "Nature's Deadly Rage" didn't you....?

      Because an online version of that copy seems to be the first result


      1. Jolyon

        Goo goo

        Yes, I googled. And yes, an online copy 'seems' to be the first result but as you will no doubt have seen, being the thorough sort of person you so clearly are, that's just the (rather impressive) front page. If the text content is available it would appear to be behind a paywall and I am too much of a freetard to take that route.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Asking wolf to guard the sheep...

          "I am too much of a freetard to take that route"

          And you expect Andrew Orlowski, of all people, to help you???? You're not much of a freetard at all, or you would have known better...

          1. Jolyon

            Baa humbug

            Good point.

            No one even knows if he reads comments anyway.

            What was I thinking?

      2. ian 22

        the Daily Mail???

        There's your problem right there.

  5. Riscyrich
    Thumb Up


    Good point, well made....

    Thanks Andrew.

  6. GavinL
    Thumb Up


    This morning Radio4 had someone on (can't remember his name) that basically said that we were stupid for worrying about the radiation levels and that they insignificant in the grand sceame of things.

    Finally some sence on the BBC.

    1. barryred
      Thumb Up


      I believe this is the clip you're talking about is with Sir David King, on a 'Recycle nuclear fuel for power' piece. (link @ end)


      However, while Sir David King tries to be rational and explain the real situation, the interviewer is doing his best to guide him to saying the sensationalist bits. When the guiding fails, he just throws out the arguments himself.


      Thankfully Sir David King was quite able to defend the rational corner!


      1. LaeMing

        Bit like the Queensland Floods

        A disaster to be sure, but some of the TV reporters were getting visibly flustered by the effected locals just getting on with the clean-up rather than running around howling woe.

    2. LesC

      We're dooomed....

      The very same BBC has reported that a Fukushima radioactive I-131 particle has been found at Glasgow and another in Oxfordshire. On the Beach, indeed.

      Would think that some of the beaches around Dounreay and Sellafield / the Irish Sea would have concentrations of radioiodine higher than that.

      Mines is the one with the suicide pills in the pocket.

      1. mmiied

        Dounreay indeed

        google "Dounreay particles" if you want a good scare story

        BTW I used to like with in 1 mile of thouse beaches

  7. dr2chase

    Can you do better than this?

    The issue, as near as I can tell, is that there's mess of radioactive water in there, and it appears to be consuming workers' exposure allowance a lot faster than I would like.

    Those would be interesting numbers to know, and I have not heard them reported. If TEPCO has a supply of workers adequate for a year of exposure at current rates, I think things will turn out ok. If they only have one month's supply, I think "Nucular Power Roolz!" is a bit premature. Would be interesting, also, to know if they are training new workers specifically for this job (using similar plants) so as to ensure a steady supply, just-in-case.

    And yeah, this is a PR disaster, and I am more than a little worried that the other likely-better designs are going to be tarred with the same brush. In particular, there's no particularly easy answer to the pair of questions "if these other designs are so safe, why aren't we using them already?" and "if you were sure of this old design, and you're sure of this new design, what's the difference in actual safety?"

    1. Nigel 11

      No easy answer??

      "if these other designs are so safe, why aren't we using them already?"

      We are using them already. (The old ones haven't yet been decommissioned, for economic reasons.)

      "if you were sure of this old design, and you're sure of this new design, what's the difference in actual safety?"

      "Passive cooling". That the new designs don't require electric pumps to be continuously powered, in order to avoid a melt-down. The old design assumed that a days-long power outage couldn't happen. The new ones don't make that faulty assumption.

      Is this too hard for the man on the Clapham Omnibus? Probably not. The average journalist? Well, that IS a hard question!

      1. Oninoshiko

        In addition

        for LFTRs if they do overheat, a plug (imagine some ice plugging up your sink drain) melts out and the core (which is normally liquid, making the term "meltdown" meaningless) just flows out into containers which make is more dispersed, taking it non-critical (a normally operating nuclear reactor is "critical" meaning there is enough density if fissile material to sustain a chain reaction).

        The reason we don't use them they don't generate enough nuclear waste. Because I am fully aware of how "tinfoil-hatter" that sounds, let me explain. In the 1960's, when much of the choices were being made about what should be researched in the field, there was a little cold-war with the Soviets going on (you might have heard about it). A core part of this was the creation of atomic weapons. One of the common ingredients (Pu-239) in a atomic weapon just so happens be in the waste products of common Pressurized Water Reactor designs.

        This combined with a underestimation of the amount of U-235 was available lead to a concentration of development designs based on the dirtier, less-safe, and less readily available (0.74% of U is U-235 vs. almost 100% of naturally occurring Th is Th-232, in addition it is estimated that there is 4x as much Th as U naturally occurring) fuel.

        Most of the waste from the Thorium fuel cycle is not suitable for weapons, and the excess of U-233 which is produced is mostly fed into the core to sustain the reaction. The U-233 which is above the requirements is such a small amount that it is not considered a large proliferation risk. That said, there is normally too much Pu-240 in waste from a "conventional" civilian reactor to be used directly for weapons but centrifuges can be used to remove the contaminating isotope.

        There have been a couple of LFTRs built, notably the MSRE in 1964, which went critical (remember, being critical is the normal state for a operating nuclear reactor) in 1965, and operated as a research reactor until 1969. This tested many of the systems, including (and possibly most importantly) the frozen-salt-plug safety-valve, which was used to shut down the reactor multiple times. There has been a resurgence of interest in this technology lately, I have read of programs in PRC, India, and Japan to finish the necessary components to use this technology for power generation.

        1. Andydaws

          Except, of course,

          that LWR fuel is also loaded with Pu238 - which you most definitely don't want in your nuclear weapons production cycle.

          LWRs are lousy breeders. Their refuelling cycle is far too long, and hence runs the fuel to too hingh a burn-up. That;s why early designs linke MAGNOX were designed for on-line refuelling - you could shuffle the fuel to manage flux exposure, to get good plutonium breeding.

          One thing that LFTR enthusiasts miss is complexity of the associated processing plant, if they're going to breed. The breeder ratio is marginal at best - under 3% even in near ideal conditions. And to get that, you've got to be doing amusing things like spraying the fuel through an inert atmosphere to extract Xenon and other volatiles, bubbling it through liquid bismuth to remove protactinium (which is the precursor to the U233), and sparging flourine through the fuel to extract other uranium isotopes. All with fuel at 600C plus. Not a simple engineering problem.

          And At decent scale, I'm a long way from convinced that the putative air cooling for decay heat removal is going to work. Simple surface-area-volume considerations suggest that you'd have to distribute the fuel into a LOT of separate cooling tanks, each with active air circulation.

          It's a technology worth having a serious look at, but most of the protagonists aren't thinking of the engineering realities.

    2. Veldan

      Though it works both ways

      It's also a case of people being scared of NP means less money gets allocated to NP which means the old plants sit there, not being upgraded to modern standards and when they finally break well after their lifespan we turn around and lay blame on NP when it was the fear of NP that stopped them from getting the attention/money they deserved to make them safe. </rant>

      We don't know that our new designs are fool proofed, but 50 years of reactor research (my understanding is the Fukushima designs are form the 1960's) tends to go a long way into improving something.

      Most of the new pebble bed and molten salt reactors are passively cooled, or simply built in a manner that makes meltdowns or explosions impossible (aka, the reaction stops and they can cool themselves without any outside intervention).

      Newer tech that is just on the horizon even goes so far as to boast plants that couldn't explode/meltdown even if you actively tried to make them do so.

      Without the money, we will never see these being made.

      If we all supported NP and funded it whole heartedly, not only would the cost of it lower, we'd also be able to assure the capital to upgrade old plants instead of milking them long beyond their safe running lifespan.

  8. Chris Miller

    What is it with science reporting?

    With a few honourable exceptions, news media seem to find it perfectly OK to have science/technology stories covered by reporters who clearly have no knowledge whatever of the subject. This does seem to happen (at least, not very often) in other subjects. Sports reporters are expected to understand the difference between soccer and cricket; music reporters are expected to be able to differentiate between a guitar and a drumkit. No motoring column would ever appear containing a statement such as: "the Whizzo SuperFast has a top speed of 200mph - for comparison, that's twice the distance between London and Birmingham".

    Yet the Times recently lifted a story from the Asahi Shimbun that said: "radiation levels of 500mSv/hr, which is twice the permitted dose of 250mSv", without realising what a howler they had perpetrated. Surely there must be at least one subeditor who passed A-level physics?

    1. James Pickett


      "Surely there must be at least one subeditor who passed A-level physics?"

      Probably not, or he'd be out in the real world doing something useful...

    2. despairing citizen

      Ref: What is it with science reporting?

      easy cheap answer, most of the people in front of the camera and in the management, have Liberal Arts (Burgher Flipping) "degrees", and you would probably have to teach them how to count above 10.

      the harder answers are most news "producers" scrapped anything that looked like a real research team, and concentrated on producing pretty animated graphics to entertain the viewer.

      With notable exceptions (for example Lewis in the defence articles here), most reporters have never worked close to an area they are providing information or commentary on, and in the era of rolling news, they can't be bothered to go dig up somebody who has.

      Bottom line if you want facts, you will need to go digging for them yourself.

      1. Equitas
        Paris Hilton

        I'm intrigued ......

        as to what this "Burgher Flipping" degree referred to by "despairing citizen" may be. Of course, if "despairing citizen" had a degree in English -- or even reasonable primary-school English -- he or she would recognise a burger on sight. As it is, clearly "despairing citizen" is going to be a "fail" even by the standards of McDonalds' Hamburger Academy!

        Paris -- because presumably even she can spell "burger."

        1. despairing citizen

          Ref: I'm intrigued

          Dyslexi RULES KO!

          Burger Flipping as in the only job you are qualified to do if you have;

          Art History

          English Literature (other than be pedantic at other people typo's)



          go to germany and burger flipping is probably a Phys.Ed or Politics course (which would actually be useful)

          1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Ref: I'm intrigued

            Er, what's your point, caller?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "what's your point, caller?"

              No one ever asks that of aManfromArse. Why ask it here, now?

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

                "Why ask it here, now?"

                Don't anger the Moderatrix!

                This is a good occasion to upshift a link from laters:


      2. Frank Bough

        Jesus wept, man!

        If you're going to criticise someone's education, then you could at least get your spelling correct. What a berk.

    3. Jolyon

      Might argue about some of the sports reporters

      but in general this is spot on - it's acceptable on BBC radio (and as commercial radio is worse in every other respect I doubt it is any better here) for a presenter to laugh about their ignorance of science and their inability to do trivial arithmetic.

      Even their professed experts treat the subject as though it is something no one could possibly ever understand which has to be dumbed down to the level of the inattentive halfwit rather than being presented properly and allowing the audience to reach for understanding.

    4. Jacko

      Re:What is it with science reporting?

      I've not read all the comments, 186 at the time of writing, so someone may already have mentioned this:

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thorium salt?

    Have they solved the corrosion problems with those yet, or are you seriously suggesting that we build molten salt reactors that need replacing every 4-5 years? World record run is about 4 years IIRC and it had to stop because it would otherwise have fallen apart.

    So while thorium salt solves (more or less) the nuclear problems, it gets defeated by chemistry. Its simply not economical to build a nuclear power station with an expected life of about 5 years.

    The problem with nuclear reactors is ECONOMIC... You can make them a) safe and expensive or you can b) make them run for a long time.

    The main problem after a meltdown is ECONOMIC, it will cost a bloody fortune to keep the reactors safe, while at the same time they don't generate money.

    The problem with accidents is also ECONOMIC. As it stands now over 1% of civil reactors appear to suffer a partial core meltdown for some reason or another before they get de-commisioned. Now you can argue causes, and the number of deaths until the cows come home. However, insurance companies don't give a toss about why an accident happens, they will just use historical data (aka facts) to predict the real-world odds, and unfortunately they are not very good, so getting comprehensive insurance for your local power-plant is going to be bloody expensive.

    1. RMS

      AND YET...

      ... more people have died in Wind Turbine and Hydro Electric Power accidents in less time. These also require huge subsidies to be built and MADE economical, even though the former will never be able to provide base load power and is a total waste of time and money. And the later of which also renders huge areas uninhabitable and has displaced far far more people over the last 40 years than nuclear power has.

      The thing is, there really is no debate about whether or not we need nuclear power. The debate is if we want to live in a world with increasing standards of living or not. If we do, then nuclear power is an absolute necessity.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Spot on

      Also nuclear power is largely the victim of its own spin: in the fifties it was the future which is why Wormold memorably sold the "atomic pile" vacuum cleaner. Only the future didn't turn out anything like as rosy as it was promised. The arms race and the stockpiling of nuclear warheads certainly didn't help but after Thee Mile Island it was largely Paradise Lost. An accident that "could never happen" happened and the politicians were forced to respond.

      Contrary to much opinion I don't think that mainstream media has got that much worse in the last fifty years: it has become very much more diverse. News programming on networks has taken a knock as Ted Koppel cogently argues in an interview on CNN [1] with polemic encroaching on investigative journalism but scientific journalism has always been fairly terrible as any Tomorrow's World retrospective shows only too well. There is still excellent journalism out there and I do agree that the BBC's TV news really has slipped - but it is probably reaching more people now than it did back in the 1960s. The Sun, Fox News and other outlets have shown that there is money in story chasing, especially of the emotional kind - "think of the children" is another topic that's great for selling copy and talking heads but this has always gone on.


    3. copsewood
      Dead Vulture

      economic arguments and tilting at windmills

      Andrew's last article on the energy subject: was to do with the extent of the subsidy to wind energy. To correct the appearance of a pro-nuclear bias, we need a proper cost calculation of the nuclear insurance, cleanup, cost of evacuating a population within a 20km radius and long term waste management if we are to make a sensible comparison. These nuclear predictable and accidental costs are actual and someone has to pay for them, regardless of the safety hype which sells newsprint and TV advertising.

      In practice we can't put all our energy eggs in one basket anyway. It is equally silly looking at the economics of wind without compatible uprated or pumped hydro energy storage to cover low wind periods, as it would be to look at the economics of nuclear electricity for peak demand purposes as an argument against nuclear.

  10. heyrick Silver badge

    OMG, Orlowski and comments?? ;-)

    I think perhaps a more telling thing would be to ask if anybody has learned, either to distrust the media or to scream when ever somebody mentions radiation... Sadly I wonder if the nuances of this will be missed on the majority.

    Example? I buy HiChu sweets (Japanese import). I offered one to a friend, who asked "it isn't radioactive, is it?". Gah!

    1. John G Imrie

      Tell your friend

      No, it's Ready Break that makes you glow. I remember those TV ads ;-)

    2. spencer

      No comments!?

      Think Mr Orlowski only turns them off when he writes pro record label pieces.

  11. Steven Jones

    Not a stupid question

    'Instead we heard from a Green who wondered why the reactor hadn't been built "above tsunami level"'

    That's actually quite a reasonable question. The US has several nuclear facilities built on bluffs by the coastline. That way they can be above tsunami level yet still use seawater cooling. Of course there is an increase in energy usage for pumping the cooling water, but it's relatively modest. Also, the local geology has to be taken into account and it is undoubtedly more expensive to carve a platform into a cliff side, but it's far from a silly idea. Of course a higher tsunami wall could have done the job too as would properly protecting the auxiliary generators in waterproof buiuldings (as the EPR did).

    These are perfectly sensible points, and what can definitely be said (at the least) is that the tsunami danger was underestimated or, as some of us might think, compromised for cost reasons. Following the 2004 tsunami it was evident just what tsunamis could do (and the US has done a safety review). Did the Japanese review those too? The Japanese nuclear regulatory authorities have had notoriously cosy relationship with the generating companies.

    1. Vulch

      Such as?

      Japan is basically a mountain range sticking out of the sea. It's either pick a site on a relatively flat coastal strip, or carve out a huge ledge from a 45 degree slope. Pick your aftereffect, tidal wave coming over a barrier or the whole plant coming second in a "survive a landslide" competition.

      1. Steven Jones


        I have seen no signs of landslides following the tsunami. Indeed there were some who filmed from hillsides not that much above the level of the tsunami It's certainly expensive to carve out a ledge 30 metres up a cliff, but subject to checks on local geology, it shouldn't be subject to landslides. It's not like China where the hillsides are so often made of loose soil.

        If it turns out that the geology isn't suitable, then fine - but it's still not a stupid question to ask.

        As for an afterthought, then that's simply not true. They just built to an inadequate standard. You don't design plants like this to one-in-a-hundred year standards, but to much higher ones - perhaps one in ten thousand.

        Quite simply they got it wrong.

        1. Liam Johnson

          @Steven Jones

          "You don't design plants like this to one-in-a-hundred year standards, but to much higher ones - perhaps one in ten thousand."

          Sure, if you have the data, go ahead.

          Quite simply they got it wrong. But next time they will be more cautious - on the scale of things, adding an extra 10m of wall around the plant would not have been an impossible expense. In the meantime we shouldn't be overstating the problem of that miscalculation.

          Engineering accidents do happen, and sometimes people die and sometimes whole regions are contaminated, with health effects for years to come. This is not one of those accidents.

          Look at a list of industrial disasters on Wikipedia. You have the likes of Three Mile Island which caused 0 deaths and 0 injuries alongside the Bhopal disaster will killed thousands, injured 100s thousands and is still not cleaned up. Without the word “nuclear” in there, would anybody sensibly think of lumping these two together?

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Stupid questions

      "above tsunami level"

      Please tell us what a tsunami level is (It is a Reg unit of measure?). The whole complex was built to withstand "tsunami level" waves, but unfortunately someone came along with a "bigger than tsunami level" wave! (Caused by a bigger Earthquake than anyone knew Japan could have; and they have lots of experience)

      "waterproof buiuldings"

      That's fine, but don't the generators need air to operate? Does that mean that there needs to be an air-intake? What height should that be? Perhaps "above tsunami level"? How about the air-intakes for the control systems and motors? Also "above tsunami level"?

      I'll get me coat. It's the one with the copy of "Hindsight" in the pocket.

      1. Steven Jones

        The EPR design

        You can waterproof buildings and still provide an air inlet above the water level (via a snorkel). Also, it might not be necessary for the generators to operate during the actual period of the tsunami - there are battery backup systems which apparently lasted for about 8 hours. Enough time for the water to recede. What you don't want is flood water so damaging the secondary cooling. In any case, it's relatively trivial to mount the secondary generators out of harms way.

        This is the specification for the UK EPR diesel generators, and two of them are installed on the roof of the diesel room, 30 metres above ground level.

        It's just an engineering problem - perfectly viable, but at a cost. If a design for the UK, in a non-seismologically active area can have diesel generators 30 metres above ground level, then why were the Japanese facilities, in a much more at-risk position, not designed to at least these levels? This is hardly hindsight - the EPR design has been around for a while.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Tsunami Level

        This was far far from the largest historically recorded, let alone in Japan. Remember that the Japanese have had a highly structured society keeping detailed written history for far over a thousand years, and a lot of the records are still in good shape. (The first earthquake and tsunami recorded in detail in Japanese history was in AD 684.) You don't actually need the most modern oceanographic instruments to tell how tall a tsunami is - all the people at the time needed was something left standing with water marks on it, and how far inland the water goes is pretty damn obvious too.

        The Keicho-Nankaido quake (1605 AD) might be the one I was looking for. From the NOAA database: "An enormous tsunami with a maximum known rise of water of 30 m was observed on the coast from the Boso Peninsula to the eastern part of Kyushu Island. The eastern part of the Boso Peninsula, the coast of Tokyo Bay, the coast of the prefectures of Kanagawa and Shizouka, and the southeastern coast of Kochi Precture suffered especially heavily." That's roughly twice the height of this one. I think this might be the one where one village recorded the tsunami as rising above the top of the cliff they were on overlooking the bay.

        1707 Hoei quake: "Tsunami 25.7 m high at Kure, Kochi Prefecture. More than 29,000 houses in total wrecked and washed away and about 30,000 deaths. In Tosa, 11,170 houses washed away and 18,441 persons drowned. About 700 drowned and 603 houses washed away in Osaka. 20 m high at Tanezaki, Tosa, 6.58 at Muroto."

        And so on

    3. Andydaws

      some truth in that,

      but, even the 2004 Tsunami produced only 35-40 metre waves. This seems to have (in some places) been in the 60-70 metre range.

      1. Steven Jones

        Coastal geometry

        There were some exceptionally high tsunami levels, but those were caused because the local coastal geometry amplified the wave height (as, indeed, happened in some pasts of Japan). It ought to be possible to avoid the worst locations in placing plant.

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      A more salient point might be...

      Why did they decide to place the facility on the Eastern coast of Japan, facing the China Sea, where there is considerably less risk of Tsunami? Admitted, they would still need to harden the plant against earthquakes, but siting the plant directly facing one of the world's largest and most active subduction zones strikes me as bold.

      Of course, I am sure that there are perfectly good reasons for the plant's location, I just think it would be interesting to know them.

      1. elderlybloke

        A more salient point might be... (29 March 15.38 GMT)

        Um , Loyal Commander , I think the ocean on the East side of Japan is called the Pacific.

        There is a Tung Hai (East China Sea) down south of Japan.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


          yeah, sorry, I appear to have missed a clause out of the middle of that sentence. What I meant to ask was; why was it placed on the Eastern coast of Japan, facing the massive subduction zone on the plate boundary, rather than on the relatively sheltered Western coast? Admitted, undersea earthquakes can still happen on that side of the island, but presumably would be less frequent and less severe.

      2. Robert Sneddon

        In fact

        There already are a bunch of reactors stitched along the NW coast of Honshu on the Sea of Japan coast, facing Russia. Some of them were taken out of commission by, guess what, an earthquake in 2007. As for why they built reactor plants at Fukushima facing a giant subduction zone out in the Pacific, when they planned them back in the 1960s the idea of plate tectonics was just gaining legitimacy and nobody had mapped the crustal plates and understood that the coast there was prone to rare very powerful offshore earthquakes and tsunamis -- everywhere in Japan gets earthquakes after all. There was also a bit of local/national politics, vote-buying and pork-barreling going on, Japan same old same old.

        The Fukushima Daini (number 2) reactor plant is only a few kilometres south of the Daiichi (number 1, gotta give the Japanese full marks for imaginative labelling of things...) and it rode out the tsunami OK with all four reactors there shutting down almost without incident. The three reactors further south at Okagawa ditto and even the last remaining reactor in commission at Tokai Daini shut down properly and safely too.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      You sir are an idiot.

      The wall there IIRC was 5.8m tall.

      The wave was in places 15m tall.

      There was a town that had massive 10m tall walls that everyone thought were overdone except that they didnt help.

      Parts of Japan sunk 1.5m during the quake

      1. Steven Jones


        I'm not quite sure how the designers of the plant having got their design criteria wrong makes me an idiot, but if it makes you happy.

        Incidentally, it's not unusual for coastal areas to slump after a rupture of this type in a subduction zone. There's an interesting bit in Aubrey Manning's superb "Earth Story" series. It showed how, following the Great Alaska "megathrust" earthquake of 1964 (magnitude 9.2), that some parts of the coastal region rose, and some slumped. Some parts dropped by 2.4 metres. That earthquake also caused a tsunami which was measured at 9.1m at one village it destroyed over 200 miles from the epicentre. Given how sparsely populated the Alaskan coast is, then it might well have been higher elsewhere.

        So the possibility of coastal zones slumping following a mega thrust quake was known quite a long time before Fukishama was built. The circumstances of the two earthquakes are fairly similar, although there will always be local variations of course.

  12. cnapan

    Tv news isn't losing its grip - it's just losing its identity

    TV news is simply a form of entertainment.

    In the same way that people tune in to watch serial killers plot their next murder, or watch a programme recreating nasty accidents, the news is about trawling the world's stories for shock value.

    When you finally wean yourself off a diet of tabloid drama, be it via the tv, the newspapers, then look into the circus months later, you wonder why you were ever hooked in the first place.

  13. Andy Farley


    the mass of public opinion is formed by these people.

    If I worked for the nuclear industry, I'd take a couple of large media corporations to court for wilful misrepresentation.

  14. Quxy

    Never thought I'd say this, but...

    Thanks, Andrew!

  15. cnapan

    is it because if you say it enough times, it may come true?

    "...does not detract from the fact [sic] that the whole area around the plant is despoiled for generations."

    This isn't true now. Is it just ignorance, or have you just got something against the Japanese and wish them particular ill-will?

    1. Hermes Conran


      The plant managers have admitted that they have found plutonium in the soil around the reactors, the only place this could have come from is from inside fuel rods. Given that they don't even look close to making the reactor buildings safe to work in it is going to be some time before they frind the broken rods and make them safe. Plutonium in the soil will mean it is too dangerous to do any large scale groundwork based remediation, which means a small scale enclosed operation that will take years, decades, generations.

      1. Mad Mike

        @Hermes Conran

        Well, unless I have been woefully negligent, I have not heard of the level of Plutonium found yet. Yes, Plustonium would have come from one of the reactors and would indicate a rupture of primary containment. Certainly the plant operators were negligent and stupid to allow the secondary containment to blow off so spectacularly. However, there's plenty of places in the UK with Plutonium (or other radioactive heavy elements) in the soil (in tiny quantities) and we don't worry about these. When we know how much, we'll get some idea. Worst case, they'll use remote control machinery to decontaminate these places as has been done before elsewhere. The area around the plant will be cleaned up in a few years at most. Nothing to see here, move on please.

      2. Svantevid

        Radioactive residue

        "Plutonium in the soil will mean it is too dangerous to do any large scale groundwork based remediation, which means a small scale enclosed operation that will take years, decades, generations"


        Well, to quote Wiki (good enough for the purpose of this conversation):

        "1,000 MW coal-burning power plant could have an uncontrolled release of as much as 5.2 metric tons per year of uranium (containing 74 pounds (34 kg) of uranium-235)"

        Also: "the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy" (Scientific American, 13.12.2007.)

        U-235 has a half-life of 700 million years. If you'd rather live next to a thermal plant...

        1. Hermes Conran

          @ Madmike & Svanevid

          Agreed trace amounts of uranium (all isotopes) are present in coal (and some soil) but plutonium isn't. Plutonium does not occur in nature and is widely argued to be the most poisonous substance known. I'm glad you're so confident that the incompetants who are in charge of Japan's NP to dig up and dispose of thousands (millions?) of tons of dangerously radioactive topsoil but I'm not.

          I wouldn't like to live next to a coal powered plant either but I don't believe that coal and NP are the only two choices.

          1. Svantevid

            And yet...

            "Plutonium does not occur in nature and is widely argued to be the most poisonous substance known."


            "Exact amounts are uncertain, but the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has found plutonium in two of five soil samples, and the Japanese authorities have said that it probably got there as a result of the nuclear accident rather than from other sources

            Traces of plutonium are not uncommon in soil because they were deposited worldwide during the atmospheric nuclear testing era," said a statement on the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "However, the isotopic composition of the plutonium found at Fukushima Daiichi suggests the material came from the reactor site"

            Basically, if nor for the fact that it was Pu-239 they wouldn't be certain was the plutonium there as a result of Bikini Atol testings, Nagasaki A-bomb or Fukushima power plant. And the plutonium is all over the Japan for decades, as you can see form IAEAs statement.

            Regarding the toxicity:

  16. John G Imrie

    The death of broadcast news.

    When I was younger I got most if not all my news from the BBC. Now it's less than 10%. And I'm an old fogie how doesn't twitter, face book or what ever the latest social network fad is.

    The problem all the news agencies are facing is that of relevance. What point is there of a Journalist when I can get the raw footage of the unfolding disaster over the net?

    Journalists have to do more than report the news, they have to explain the reasons behind it, they have to add value. Just giving a slot to someone with an ax to grind isn't Journalism, it's not even lazy Journalism, it's a waist of my and every one else's time.

    I don't often agree with Lester, but where the First Iraq invasion was the making of 24 hour news, the Fukushima disaster, may well prove to be the breaking of it.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    I don't know which I am more amazed by

    1) that I agree with Andrew Orlowski, or

    2) that he's allowing comments!

  18. hplasm

    Chris Busby

    That's the fearmongering twat-in-a-hat that claims all n-plants emit plutonium; but it's undetectable!!

  19. James Pickett


    Well said, Mr O. The sense of disappointment in the MSM that there wasn’t another mushroom cloud over Japan was almost palpable. They’re a bit schizophrenic though, aren’t they? They love talking up disasters, but can’t actually bring themselves to show the results, when the dead bodies are piling up. Not that I particularly want to see them, but then I don’t look forward to Armageddon either.

  20. Bronek Kozicki

    I'm sick of TV presenters ...

    ... speaking these words in the same breath: "nuclear disaster" and "over ten thousands deaths". Someone should bring these jurno-idiots to account, really.

  21. Estariel

    Orlowski beams down to planet Lewis

    Andrew "Lewis" Orlowski says : The ageing plant was never going to explode or meltdown ("like a dirty bomb" we were told); the containment vessels held firm.

    Japanese government says : "that levels of radioactivity in water leaking from a reactor at the facility resulted from a partial meltdown of fuel rods, amid growing fears that radiation may also have seeped into seawater and soil. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said readings of plutoinium-238, 239 and 240 were similar to those recorded in other parts of Japan after nuclear tests conducted overseas."

    Google for "Fukushima Explosion" and you can watch the explosion that Andrew says can never happen.

    It's not funny anymore.

    1. Bilgepipe

      Clarify, please

      >>> Google for "Fukushima Explosion" and you can watch the explosion that Andrew says can never happen.

      Was that the explosion caused by a build up of pressure from deliberately released hydrogen? The one where the flimsy shell of the building exploded outwards as it was designed to do?

      Hyperbole works both ways, you know.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Yes, you can watch a hydrogen explosion outside the reactor on YouTube. You can also watch kittens jumping into mirrors. Neither of these are the Chernobyl-style reactor explosion and breach which is the type of explosion in question. Your type of wilfully-ignorant fearmongering is the kind of idiocy which the Red-tops have been espousing since this started, and this article is decrying.

    3. Liam Johnson


      Good god, you actually didn't understand a single word you wrote!

      Well appart from the last bit - "It's not funny anymore."

    4. Stoneshop

      Estariel == unscientific scaremonger

      "Google for "Fukushima Explosion" and you can watch the explosion that Andrew says can never happen."

      So, did the reactor explode, spewing radioactive stuff everywhere? No.

      Accumulated hydrogen did its entropy thing with its worldwide partner oxygen, which did not do the reactor building and most of its contents much good. But it wasnt the reactor exploding as you're suggesting. That would have looked a bit different too, both the direct "explosion" and its aftereffects.

      So kindly shut your trap.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      radiation readings

      "Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said readings of plutoinium-238, 239 and 240 were similar to those recorded in other parts of Japan after nuclear tests conducted overseas."

      Which means, of course, that Fukushima didn't add anything significant.

    6. John G Imrie

      Defending Orlowski

      Google for "Fukushima Explosion" and you can watch the explosion that Andrew says can never happen.

      Ye Gods I thought I would never actually have to defend Andrew from my fellow Commutards, but that apocalyptic explosion, was not, repeat not, a *nuclear* explosion. Demolishing a house in Aberdeen probably releases more radioactivity and for a longer time than the explosion at Fukushima.

      Japanese government says : "that levels of radioactivity in water leaking from a reactor at the facility resulted from a partial meltdown of fuel rods, amid growing fears that radiation may also have seeped into seawater and soil. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said readings of plutoinium-238, 239 and 240 were similar to those recorded in other parts of Japan after nuclear tests conducted overseas."

      I doubt that the Japanese government said everything you put in quotes their as well. If you can supply a link I'll gladly retract, however I expect you should have closed your quotes before the first comma.

      "Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said readings of plutoinium-238, 239 and 240 were similar to those recorded in other parts of Japan after nuclear tests conducted overseas."

      So not very high then as the radioactivity from a nuclear test conducted overseas would have

      a) Disperced


      b) Be being reduced due radioactive decay.

  22. Gulfie
    Dead Vulture

    Too true...

    The most depressing part for me was that I was off sick for two days the week after the quake. Listening to BBC 5 Live I heard expert after expert interviewed across the two days, all expressing the common view that the scale of the problem was being overblown, that meltdown was highly unlikely. It was painfully obvious that because these experts had nothing to give the interviewer to stoke the story, the interviewer would move on to another aspect of the story, or another story altogether, a bit too quickly.

    However when they were able to interview other people who could do nothing but offer baseless speculation from a non-scientific basis, they got plenty more airtime.

    Stepping back from this specific discussion, El Reg falls into the same trap on a regular basis - not least the recent "all Android code must be open sourced" disinformation. Sad.

    1. Steve X
      Thumb Up

      Printed press was as bad

      Every time the Telegraph mentioned calming information it was credited to a named expert from a reputable organization. Every doom & gloom piece was credited simply as "experts say", which says a lot for the relative credibility of their "sources".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree.

      How many times did the announcer segue from 'possible radiation leak' to '10,000 dead' without pause, and without adding 'due to the 30+ feet of water' washing away everying in its path?

      I watched one video of the flooding (don't remember where) and couldn't help but think that Noah would have felt right at home.

  23. Ross 7

    Oh dear lord - safety != cheap

    "Fukushima came to represent man's hubris and his folly in "defying nature". "

    Technically true - nature has shown the advantage of the negative feedback loop. From stellar fusion, to homeostatis, negative feedback keeps things nicely in order. This reactor design relies on positive feedback with the feedback being actively tempered. It can run perfectly well for many years, but if something goes awry you've got problems.

    Personally I'm not entirely clear what the Reg's argument on nuclear power is. There's been an awful lot of wailing about how it's safer than wind power, and various other forms of electricity generation, but then there's some weird argument that this then results in nuclear being a panacea for cheap electricity.

    If that's the argument (nuclear = cheap bills) then you are way off. There are a variety of ways to show this, however I'll stick with two.

    1) Electricty generation in the UK is privatised and subject to market forces. If nuclear were the cheapest option why are massive companies like E-ON not using more nuclear to drive profits as they have a legal obligation to their shareholders to do?

    2) Why is the nuclear MW/hr bid-in price set at 0p on the National Grid? Does nuclear make electricity for free?! Or is the true price of nuclear hidden by subsidies? (you been to a powerstation control room yet Mr Orlowski as I advised?)

    Nuclear is as safe as any other industry (although the theorising about how new reactor designs are guaranteed to be 100% safe is a joke - dosimeters are safe by design; it doesn't stop some 'tard ignoring the warning and standing in contaminated water without boots on because someone told him it shouldn't be contaminated. In other words, nothing is foolproof - fools are ingenious and will always find new ways to make your life a misery). It ain't cheap though. Fission never will be.

    Guess why we have carbon taxes? It;s the only thing that can make nuclear long-term viable against fossil fuels. We can dream about cheap electricity all we like, and nuclear may be the only thing that currently looks like it could ever come close to providing it, but that doesn't mean it does or can.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "It;s[sic] the only thing that can make nuclear long-term viable against fossil fuels"

      Other than the passing of peak oil and the diminishing supplies of useable fossil fuel sources coupled with the reliance on unstable regimes to make sure we can have our precious oil, then yes you are absolutely right. Or not.

    2. TheOldBear

      some negative feedback

      [quote]Technically true - nature has shown the advantage of the negative feedback loop. From stellar fusion, to homeostatis, negative feedback keeps things nicely in order. This reactor design relies on positive feedback with the feedback being actively tempered. It can run perfectly well for many years, but if something goes awry you've got problems.[/quote]

      Actually, all water moderated reactors [Boiling water, pressurized, CANDU....] have a strong negative feedback component. If the working fluid [water] inside the reactor core boils neutrons are no longer slowed to where they can be captured efficiently, halting the fission chain reaction.

      Graphite moderated reactors [e.g. Chernobyl] can continue fissioning after the coolant boils away - one of their many disadvantages.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Only some graphite reactors

        Gas-cooled reactors don't have void coefficients; in fact the AGR won't melt in the event of a total loss of coolant. What made the RBMK so dangerous is that in normal operations the light water coolant absorbed neutrons so the operators had to keep the control rods way out of the reactor in order to keep enough fissions going on. At Chernobyl, as the coolant boiled away, absorption fell, the number of neutrons in the system increased - causing more reactivity and the reactor ran away.

        1. Andydaws

          Strictly true, but.....

          "Gas-cooled reactors don't have void coefficients; in fact the AGR won't melt in the event of a total loss of coolant."

          True enough there's no void coefficient (generally a bad thing - you've still got full moderation, even with coolant loss, albeit not as bad as the RBMK...).

          But the AGR safety case certainly wasn't based on the idea that you could run depressurised (the nearest equivalent to an LOCA), or without gas circulators, in anything other than shutdown mode.

          That safety case hung on a number of things. One was the incredibility of a significant scale breach of the pressure vessel - not a bad assumption, given the bastard was made of 5 metre thick prestressed concrete, and only ran at 40 bar. The second was massive overcapacity/redundancy amongst the gas circulators. There were eight of them, independently supplied with power, and one was sufficient to keep post shutdown cooling running. Third was that everything just happened very slowly, because of the sheer thermal inertia of a couple of thousand tonnes of graphite, and another thousand tonnes of steel in the gas baffle. That gave lots of time to sort matters. It also killed the idea of load following stone dead.

          But, even with all of that, the AGR was totally dependent on shutting down the reaction. That's why, uniquely, it had four layers of shutdown system. One, the conventional control rods. Two, a second set of control rods held on electromagnetic clutches that dropped automatically on loss of power. Third, a system to sparge nitrogen (a neutron absorber) into the gas flow. And fourth, the s**t or bust system, a few tonnes of boron-glass beads in hoppers kept closed by a fusible link. If things got very hot, the link would fail, and dump the beads into the gasflow. The only problem was, once in, there was no way they were ever coming out again!

          On the upside, stainless steel fuel cans meant no hydrogen production. However, combine a good scale boiler failure you could in theory get enough water into the core to get a reaction with the core graphite.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      0 pence....

      Is because they get paid the point value anyway, but they really really want to be running at 100% capacity at all times.

      It's a little while since I've had to do the calculations on how much they actually get paid though...

    4. Richard 12 Silver badge

      @Ross - Go on then

      1) They want to, but until very recently the Government wouldn't let them.

      If public opinion lets them, then there will be several new nuclear power plants builts with ZERO subsidy, selling power at the market rate. Several companies bid for them, EDF won the contract.

      If they weren't economic, nobody would have bid - it was part of the tender process that no subsidy would be paid, and that the operator would also have to foot the bill for decommissioning at the end of the useful life.

      2) Where did you get that figure? I can only find interconnector auctions on the National Grid website.

      As for "carbon taxes" - I'm afraid you're talking utter bollocks there.

      Those exist because things like Solar and Wind require massive subsidies to break even. Look at the feed-in tariffs - 3 to 4 times what you're paying for your electricity, with a payback period of approx. 10 years at that massively subsidised rate. Without that subsidy Solar and Wind power dies on its arse.

      - Hydro is great for surge demand as it'll turn on really fast, so justifiable at a high price. Solar and Wind simply don't do that.

      (The old Nuclear subsidies were because the MoD wanted particular types of reactor to be built to produce the 'interesting' material needed for nuclear weapons. Whether you think that was a good idea probably depends on whether you think we should have got Trident in the first place.)

      1. Nigel 11

        Not true about solar

        "Those exist because things like Solar and Wind require massive subsidies to break even. Look at the feed-in tariffs - 3 to 4 times what you're paying for your electricity, with a payback period of approx. 10 years at that massively subsidised rate. Without that subsidy Solar and Wind power dies on its arse."

        Maybe true for solar in the UK at present, but certainly not globally. Solar PV is market-competitive today in Arizona. As the technology advances, it'll come to dominate in all places with high insolation and low cloud cover. In Europe, it'll start in Spain, or we'll put our solar power stations in the Sahara and build VHVDC transmission lines. (If the natives can ever attain political stability, that is! )

        BTW nuclear electricity is also 3-4 times more expensive than burning coal, if you ignore or deny the cost of global warming caused by CO2 emissions. So, solar is competitive with nuclear even in the UK. However, before the world can approach 100% solar, there's also a big overnight energy storage problem to be solved.

        The holy grail of Solar power is a high-efficiency panel material that can be produced in a continuous process, like paper or plastic sheet, rather than by laboriously slicing up ingots of crystalline semiconductor. At that point vast economies of scale kick in on the production and deployment fronts. Such panels do already exist, but so far require very scarce elements (notably Tellurium) so cannot scale up to square miles . Better ones in the labs.

        Wind power probably is a dead end.

        1. Veldan

          Please do some reading!

          This is one of many articles addressing the issue you mentioned.

          Isn't it fantastic that they still include the subsidies granted to them to do so?

          They also claim that the subsidies for NP were left in tact however (and don't take this as gospel as it has been months since i looked at the actual figures) the difference in subsidies was BIG.

          We're talking 2 million for NP versus 200mil-1bil for SP.

          Also if even half the money directed into SP research found its way into NPs lap i could confidently predict an imbalance in their "parity without subsidies in 9 years" theory.

          SP is just not viable at this moment. Maybe in the future, maybe in 9 years (though i doubt it) probably 20+. In the mean time a very real and historically safe power source is staring us in the face and just because of a couple of relatively low key events (Chernobyl was low key compared to many hydro dam events) and the relation to quite possibly the deadliest weapon known to man we totally shun it.

          That's insanity.

        2. Mad Mike

          Hello Nigel 11

          Unfortunately, solar PV also has a big problem, very similar to wind power. It's not very suitable to base load. Yes, there is always some light, but the amount varies enormously with atmospheric conditions and therefore the output will vary greatly as well. So, it's certainly better than wind power and could be used for a minimal level of base load, but again is suitable for most base load. The theory of placing it in places like the Sahara is good apart from the issues with transmission. No matter how good the technology, there will always be significant losses in transmission, especially when over a long distance, such as Sahara to Norway for instance. You also point out the issue with nigthfall as well. That could be fixed if we transmitted it over even longer distances (Arizona could supply Norway during European/African night), but then the losses get even bigger. It also requires a degree of political will, co-operation and stability that is pie in the sky at the moment.

    5. Andydaws

      Ross, I'm not sure where you get your ideas about the generating market

      Yes, nuclear is more expensive that CCGT - or at least, it is while the gas price stays low. It's, however, cheaper even at the capital level than CCS coal, and probably on a par with CCS gas (I've worked on a plant in New Zealand converting natural gas to hydrogen - they use it to make synthetic petrol - it's a big, expensive bastard).

      As to a comparison with renewables, well, we know what EDF will be paying for Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. About £5-6Bn per plant, so call it £3Bn for each of the two 1600MW EPRs. I make that about £1.875Bn per gigawatt.

      We also know what the consortium building the near-shore wind farm called the "London Array". They're paying €1.9Bn (plus NGC is spending about £300M for the onshore grid connection). That's for a nameplate capacity of 650MW. At current exchange rates, I make that about £3Bn per GW.

      But, the probable capacity factor (based on performance of offshore wind - and they're guaranteed a sale for all they produce) is about 30-35%. So, that's actually equivalent to about 225MW average production. Adjust for that, and it's about £8.5Bn per equivalent GW.

      And where do you get the idea of a "bid in price to National Grid"? The old "pool" arrangement went in about 2001, under the "NETA" reforms. No one's been bidding anything to Grid - all that Grid buys nowadays is balancing load, and they source 99.98% of that from pumped storage plants and OCGT/CCGT gas.

      Even when the pool operated, your bid in price didn't reflect what you were paid, or expected to be paid - everyone who was called on to generate got the System Marginal Price (the price per megawatt-hour of the most expensive unit called on to run). Bidding in at zero was the standard tactic for all forms of baseload generation - it maximises your plant utilisation. If you'd got a unit that had low marginal cost of generation, you'd have been a fool to play any other game.

      There's something about discussion on energy that makes people people grasp onto one aspect of a half-understood fact, and then trot it out without bothering to understand the context.

    6. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear lord - safety != cheap

      "1) Electricty generation in the UK is privatised and subject to market forces. If nuclear were the cheapest option why are massive companies like E-ON not using more nuclear to drive profits as they have a legal obligation to their shareholders to do?"

      Where's Tim Worstall when you need him? The generators are quite content to build out generating capacity and pass those costs and the cost of generation on to the customer, and when they can do that without big up-front expense, which would require raising money from investors and/or big price hikes, then that's what they'll continue to do. Over time, prices may well increase, but it's not as if anyone can conveniently and cheaply switch to other reliable sources of power, at least not yet.

      And if the largest generating corporations can't be bothered to do the investment, the utopian market forces dream of some little guy coming in and building nuclear power plants, for example, remains a mere dream. "Free-market" economists may scoff at the role of governments, but they are there to moderate the interests of business and those who occupy powerful roles in society.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Strangely enough...

    ..environmental activist George Monbiot seems to have reached the same conclusions about nuclear power:

    (The article also gives an interesting historical perspective on energy production and shows why small scale local power production is a hopeless proposition.)

  25. Paul Smith

    Lewis taking a day off?

    I assume that everything is continueing to go well in Fuxs Ville, allowing Lewis to take a well earned rest. There was no plutonium in the soil samples, when the looked more closely, it was the day-glo from the firemans boots, and the dirty water just has a bit of scum on the top. Nothing to worry your pretty little heads about.

    Never the less and just to give this a bit of context, ten thousand dead and rising, fifteen thousand missing and rising. There are decent sized towns where no one can remember the dead, let alone bury them.

    1. Ian Stephenson

      Won't somebody think of the...

      "Never the less and just to give this a bit of context, ten thousand dead and rising, fifteen thousand missing and rising. There are decent sized towns where no one can remember the dead, let alone bury them."

      Yes it is tragic but it has the cube root of fuck all to do with the Fukushima (non)issue.

      Nobody has died or is even moderately ill as a result of the nuclear "disaster".

      Stop frothing and go back to reading the Daily Fail or the Scum.

    2. Steve X


      "...ten thousand dead and rising, fifteen thousand missing and rising."

      And not a single one attributable to the Fukushima nuclear incident.

      Just to give this a bit of context.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      stop misinforming people

      "to give this a bit of context, ten thousand dead and rising, fifteen thousand missing and rising."

      You are quoting totally OUT of context. These deaths, while tragic, are nothing to do with the nuclear plant at Fukushima and well you know it.

  26. Annihilator
    Thumb Up

    Windmill tilting

    It's unfortunate that only a few people/outlets have been tilting at this particular windmill regarding the death and destruction caused by the nuclear plant(s) instead of focusing more on the more important story of the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

    It's been mentioned on another story, the book "Flat Earth News" by Nick Davies investigates why news journalism has changed, and pretty much brings it down to following political allegiances, reducing staff and increasing their filing targets (churnalism as he refers to it as) and avoiding lawsuits - nowadays every article has to be "balanced" meaning that each article has to give equal weight to both sides of the stories. This means that even the looniest of angles is given equal stature to the sane.

    Ironically, I happened to read a Mail On Sunday "rant page" (no other description) by Peter Hitchen. He agreed with the shocking coverage of the nuclear angle, saying it wasn't anywhere near what the mainstream (and his paper) were saying. He then failed massively by suggesting that all 50 key workers at Fukushima would certainly die as a result. But then he also had an article above it saying that we should step out of Libya, let them kick the shit out of each other and make friends with the winner. Ho hum.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice piece, Andrew! Thanks.

    I see Busby has already been at work poisoning the well on his own account:

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Aha, Busby...

      Adding the name to my list of trusted scientific sources, right after Lous "Strangelet" Sanches... Here, done.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Get out of here, Stalker!

        "But the IAEA themselves, not known for their independence from the nuclear industry, report that contamination levels out to 78km were between 200 and 900kBq/sq metre. And Wade has been rather selective with his data, to put it kindly. The UN definition of radioactively contaminated land is 37kBq/sq metre just as he writes, but actually, in all the maps published, the inner 30km Chernobyl contamination exclusion zone is defined as 555kBq/sq metre and above. This is just a fact. Why has he misled us? In passing, this means that there are 555,000 radioactive disintegrations per second on one square metre of surface. Can you believe this is not harmful? No. And you would be correct. And another calculation can be made. Since the IAEA data show that these levels of contamination, from 200,000 to 900,000 disintegrations per second per square metre, exist up to 78km from Fukushima, we can already calculate that the contamination is actually worse than Chernobyl, not 1% of Chernobyl as Wade states. For the area defined by a 78km radius is 19113 sq km compared to the Chernobyl exclusion zone of 2827 sq km. About seven times greater."

        Apart from the fact that the has to halve the km² due to the sea, I would really see the reference that says 20% of Honshu is now "The Zone".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I stopped reading at:

      Chris Busby... He was Science and Technology Speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The BBC amazingly carried the following article:

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    reason we don't today enjoy cheap electricity from these even safer reactors?

    Because the green party argues that we should not build new nuclear reactors!?

  30. Dave Rickmers

    Perhaps we use too much

    The author is correct on two points. Electricity makes life better and television is designed to confuse you.

    A huge amount of power is wasted making nuclear fuel. Another huge amount of power is wasted transmitting power from the atomic pile to the end users.

    Nuclear energy is the last gasp of an obsolete model where you have to buy electricity from a pipe, like natural gas. Centralization concentrates power and puts the consumer in a subservient role; we should seize any opportunity to move public opinion away from it.

    1. Aaron Em

      Waterwheels? 15%-efficient solar? Mules? Slaves?

      How do you suggest we implement this adorable little decentralized-power scheme of yours, in a way that's even remotely consistent with maintaining the standard of living on which we in the developed world have come to rely?

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Decentralization is all nice but...

      Isn't having lots of little producers economically wasteful?

      I also would like to know whether people would accept a Pu pile in the basement of their apartment.

  31. The Original Ash

    Don't anthropomorphise nature;

    It hates it.

    1. Swoop

      Don't you mean...

      ...SHE hates it?

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I nominate this

      as 'Comment of the Week'

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    News is Entertainment

    All news sources (including the Register) are primarily geared to entertain, not to inform, for the simple reason that you would otherwise have very few readers (and go out of business). That isn't to say that information is absent or that a great deal is outright lies - it just takes a great deal of thought to distinguish fact from fiction. Often, only an expert would know. For that reason, I largely ignore all articles about diet and health - you'd go mad if you took them all seriously.

    Ironically, the media can even make money sensationalising their own foibles, as this article illustrates. It isn't much better than the articles it criticises, merely swinging the pendulum to the opposite extreme (which is also entertaining). If you want facts, don't look to the media. That isn't in its job description.

  33. PolicyWatcher

    Mind, there's also the other problem...

    While indeed, much of the press has been guilty of a large amount of irresponsible scaremongering, it also has to be said that much of The Reg's coverage, particularly the "Just shut the fuck up and drink the tapwater" reporting of Lewis Page has been equally irresponsible in at all times claiming that all concern is WRONG, and trying, frankly, to spin the entire incident into some kind of advert for nuclear energy.

    I can only assume that we will read shortly of Rik Myslewski's summary dismissal and ritual disembowelment for having dared to suggest that the plants may currently have been marginally outside their optimal on-going operational parameters - the one and only time that I've seen you report this incident in any way other than total dismissal of any risk.

    I have no truck with those who have used this incident as an excuse for arguing for the end of nuclear power; I do have some sympathy with those who suggest that the industry needs some degree of kicking.

    Let's face it - you build a nuclear power plant, on the coast, in a tectonically active area, facing a fault-line. It's a fair bet, therefore, that there will be some risk of Tsunami, and consequential flooding.

    As such, the idea that the switchgear and controls for the pumping should be in the basement has to count as an extremely basic failure of simple risk assessment.

    It's not hard to feel that whoever failed to specify at least one duplicate set ON THE ROOF, may have missed a fairly trivial trick or two - and yes, I do understand that such ideas are easier with the benefit of hindsight.

    The nuclear industry however, is one with (despite the appearance that your coverage has seemed to seek) a number of risks that need to be properly managed, and as such, they are expected to deal with at least the fairly easy ones with a bit of foresight!

    Now you may feel that your coverage is merely a counterbalance to some of the more alarmist reporting; sadly I disagree, feeling that you have actively cooperated with a defensive and embarrassed nuclear energy industry that has (as always) decided that attacking its critics and denying the reality of risk, is a better tactic than admitting its mistakes and learning from them.

    1. Highlander

      demonstrate the wrongness of their reporting if you can

      Pull together half a dozen factual inaccuracies from Lewis' stories if you can, I don't think you'll find them. You may find a few things that have developed as the situation developed, but I don't believe that any factual mis-statements have been made by Lewis. Broadly speaking he has been correct, and certainly more level headed than 90% of the world's media have been. I've been following this pretty closely at various information sources and news outlets and Lewis has come as close as anyone has to reporting the actual factual information and giving a dispassionate analysis of the meaning of some of it. If you can't see that, it's because you made up your mind already, and no amount of fact will change it.

      Also, I really wish that commentards would cease invoking their 20-20 hindsight to throw the designers of Fukushima under the bus - so to speak. the plant design is based on a specific worst case scenario. At the time the plat was built, that was felt to be the likely worst case, and so that's what was built. 40 years later after the 4th largest earthquake ever recorded (estimated to be the biggest quake to have hit Japan in approximately 1200 years) happens, and despite being two orders of magnitude (remember the scale is logarithmic) more than the plant was designed to cope with, it coped with it. The Tsunami was estimated to be 10 meters at Fukushima, the walls there were designed for something like a 5.5 meter Tsunami.

      Now, it's easy *now* to smugly sit there and say, well, those silly buggers should have built 15m walls, had water tight generators, additional backups to the backup for the backups, put generators on the roof of some building somewhere and been prepared for a 9.0 quake. But before all of this, most people would have scoffed at the chances of a 9.0 earthquake and 10+ meter Tsunami since they go way beyond the 100 year event magnitudes. This is why it's actually a heroic triumph by the engineers that designed and built the place and the operators and crews that have been working since the earthquake hit. The designers and builders put the plant together well enough to survive a catastrophic disaster far, far stronger than the design requirements. That is a major triumph. Had they not done that, we would easily have been looking at a situation where there was a primary containment failure and we'd have three smoking holes in the ground where Fukushima Daiichi once was. triumph number 2 is the incredible work done by the on-duty crew at Fukushima to survive a very long, sustained station black out. These facilities are *not* designed to survive extended station black outs. The external power, backup generators, backup pumps and battery backups are designed to give the plant sufficient emergency cooling to survive until external assistance arrives. The Tsunami took everything but the batteries and some backup pumps away from them. So once those batteries died, they had nothing left but their own ingenuity. Based on he reports from the IAEA, TEPCO and other sources it seems that the station blackout lasted at least 72 hours, and because of the extensive damage to the pumps, generators and lack of external power, even when external help arrived, the plant was still effectively operating in a complete station blackout. yet because the crews on site had the creativity to rig fire pumps and seawater for cooling, they were able to continue manually cooling the reactors. If that is not an incredible triumph of humans and their engineering know how, I don't know what is.

      The truth now is that the reactors are cooling, and the decay heat is diminishing, and we're getting to the point where the nuclear crisis may have passed and it's time to pick up the pieces, figure out the extent and nature of the damage and contamination and move forward with dealing with the challenges of removing the contamination and fixing the damage. None of that makes the site any less hazardous to work though, so of course they have to remain vigilant, just as you would clearing up after a major chemical plant fire.

      But....let's not let reality get in the way of scare stories and criticizing a writer for being level headed and factual.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Seeing as you ask...

        ...why should I look further than one of the concluding statements from his first masterpiece over two weeks ago:

        "All reactors' temperature is now under control and the residual heat reactions inside them continue to die away; soon, no further cooling will be required."

        Note the absolute nature of this statement. You may criticize others for their hysterical reporting, but at least they had the decency to label their speculation as such rather then presenting it as fact.

        1. Highlander

          But, where is the innaccuracy Mr AC?

          You selected this particular quote;

          "All reactors' temperature is now under control and the residual heat reactions inside them continue to die away; soon, no further cooling will be required."

          All the reactors are under control, they successfully scram'd are are in the decay heat phase of shutdown. Unless someone acts to withdraw the control rods (which is probably impossible now due to heat related warping in the core, these reactors will continue to cool down as the amount of heat generated by decay products diminishes. That is a physical inevitability that cannot be altered by your arguments to the contrary. So, in actual fact no further cooling will be required 'soon' - whatever 'soon' means - because the reactors will lose more heat through natural processes of heat transfer into the structure than they can generate due to decay heat.

          I fail to see how anything in that statement is either factually or logically incorrect. Thanks for trying though.

      2. bill 36

        well said sir!

        But Gullibility is a human failing and don't the marketeers, news editors, mullahs, priests, vicars, politicians just know it. Once we accept something as fact, very little can shift our mind set.

        Thats true on both sides of this argument.

        What surprises me most is that people get so vociferous about their own position when the facts are staring them in the face.

        As for BBC News etc, ever since the invention of 24 hour news channels we have been subjected to the same bullshit every time a big story kicks off. They have to sell themselves and try to keep viewers interested 24x7. Thats where it all went wrong.

        So, thanks to El Reg for reporting the facts and thanks to the gullible for a good laugh!

  34. Dibbles

    Well, it's progress, at least the Reg's reporting, that is. I did wonder whether perhaps Lewis has been sent on a much-needed holiday; one had the impression that if he wrote anything more on Fukushima without a breather, he would "literally" explode... sorry, I mean "sustain minor damage to his containment, causing no damage or ill-effects to anyone or anything (plutonium in the surrounding vicinity is practically a nutritional supplement in this context)".

    The wonder that is modern media reporting is always worth marvelling at; a function of the need to fill 24 hour news channels, combined with the culture of needless editorialising and merging of fact and opinion; and it really comes into its own with events of this magnitude. It's unfortunate that nobody outside a few counter-prevailing outlets really delves into it with any commitment; doubly so that in the Reg's readership (and the overlapping viewership of Charlie Brooker's Newswipe), you're really preaching to the converted - or the never-to-be convinced denialists.

    [As a footnote, can we have an icon halfway between thumbs up and thumbs down - a palm-down hand-waggle, if you like? I feel it would be most appropriate here; I'm still not convinced by the vehement "nuclear leak, what nuclear leak?" argument, but the analysis of the news media's reporting is always interesting]

  35. Alan Johnson

    Anti-science mythology is pervasive and powerful

    The mythology caught Andrew as well, a dirty bombs if built would be little more dangerous than an ordinary bomb with the same explosive power.

    I do not have the confidence that the public is immune to this doom mongering. Power supply policy in the UK encourages wind power which has almost every conceivable disadvantage for a power source; uneconomic, unreliable, low capacity. The only advantage is that in the current mythology it is a safe 'comfortable' option. Cynically the politicians are buying green votes at the expense of the overall economy, energy security and to an extent safety

  36. Anonymous Hero

    BBC News 24 morons

    On the day of the earthquake, just before they got word that the Tsunami was going to hit, one of the simpering idiots that present News 24 referred to the recent Christchurch earthquake and asked some expert who was in the studio "why are we seeing so much seismic activity now?".

    I no longer watch News 24 for the purposes of gaining facts or news.

    1. Jolyon

      More on that

      Well, that's okay in itself - it's not unreasonable for the presenter to ask the sort of question the average uninformed person-in-the-street might ask as long as their expert then gives a proper answer.

  37. Some Beggar
    Thumb Down

    Praying for hysteria: Andrew Orlowski and the media.

    You're being more than a little disingenuous here, Andrew. You've cherry picked a small handful of egregious examples of over-reporting and pisspoor talking head selection. Fair enough - these are all ripe for criticism. But if you look honestly at the BBC and most of the UK broadsheets then they have all published responses from more qualified and less prejudiced experts and their overall editorial stance is that there is an ongoing situation that is nothing to panic about and will most likely be brought under control without major harm to the local population.

    To characterise this as "praying for meltdown" and to tout it as the death knell of the traditional media is hogwash. You are as guilty of overstatement there as any of the OMG NUKES! examples you have given. Your basic point boils down to not much more than "Daily Mail In Hysterical Headline Shocker".

    Well duh.

    1. Quxy


      Can you cite a SINGLE objective online article on the subject from one of the big news organisations -- the Beeb, say? One that, for instance, doesn't feel obliged to mention the tsunami-caused death toll in the same breath as the situation at Fukushima? I've pretty well given up on seeing a single piece of coverage in the mainstream media that isn't egregiously mis-reported.

      1. Some Beggar

        @Quxy: yes really.

        "Can you cite a SINGLE objective online article"

        Certainly. I can cite dozens.

        Here's a piece from Wade Allison on the beeb:

        Here's the main page for the Japan earthquake from the beeb:

        Here's Monbiot at the Guardian:

        Here's the main page for the Japan earthquake at the Guardian:

        Here's a relatively upbeat article at the Indie:

        The majority of articles on Japan at the Independent are on the broader disaster and not the nuclear plant.

        The Telegraph _is_ pretty doomdriven:

        and I'm not even going to bother looking at the Mail or the Times.

        (for whatever reason Andrew has more of a beef with Auntie Beeb and the librul press)

        You might want to contact your ISP as your internet is clearly fubared if you're struggling to browse a handful of websites or type a simple query into Google.

      2. Jolyon


        "the media concentrate on nuclear radiation from which no-one has died - and is unlikely to." (as suggested by an earlier poster)

        "All energy generation entails risk, but nuclear is the least polluting, most dependable source."

        "The problems in Japan "could never have been a Chernobyl - that could not have happened," "

  38. 5.antiago
    Thumb Up

    Great article

    Great article

    Reminded me of Charlie Brooker and Newswipe. It makes you laugh first, but then it makes you sad for our society

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    easy answer

    "if these other designs are so safe, why aren't we using them already?" and "if you were sure of this old design, and you're sure of this new design, what's the difference in actual safety?"

    make it simple, think of that item we all tend to have - a car.

    answer to first question - because we have invested in the car we already have, it does the job , its not worn out yet, its safe enougth until we can afford/justify a better one. Unfortunately we can't afford to buy a new one every time a new/better model comes out even though we'd like the latest thing to keep us as safe as possible.

    answer to 2nd question, well the newer model has more safety features eg lots more air bags, collision sensors to apply brakes, collapsable stearing wheel and pedals etc. Designers have used there understanding of the old model to make the new model safer and ensure we are more likely to survive an accident.

    1. Dagg Silver badge

      Answer is not so simple

      The reactor design wasn't that safe, the main reason it was used was it was cheap! Most of the existing US versions have all had upgrades that had not been done to the Fukushima reactors, again because it would cost money.

      To use your car example - the car wasn't maintained and it had bald tyres because maintenance and new tyres cost money.

      This was built and run to a budget and safety wasn't as important as cost.

  40. fantamic

    Glass house stone-throwers?

    I agree with the sentiments expressed in this article about the way the mainstream media report nuclear power; but can someone please explain exactly how that differs from the way that the Register reports climate change research, i.e., when it gives prominence to the small minority of journal papers which suggest that things might not be so bad after all? Surely objective reporting of mainstream scientific opinion is equally applicable to nuclear power and climate change, even if you don't happen to believe in the latter?

    Still, I suppose that both editorial lines are consistent with the notion of reviving the spirit of optimism about scientific progress...

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      A good point well made

      These articles relating to Fukushima have been, on the whole, well balanced (with the odd exception of evangelising a little too much at times). On the other hand, any article about AWG on the Register appears to be very heavily skewed in favour of naysayers, despite large volumes of what is, in truth, completely uncontroversial data (any controversy being entirely manufactured by irresponsible journos like the berk from the Torygraph who coined the phrase 'Climategate').

      The little cynical voice in me is whispering that this might have something to do with large, powerful political and commercial interests related to pushing the status-quo as regards the sources of greenhouse gases. Bad little cynic!

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. cloudberry
      Thumb Up

      re: Glass house stone-throwers?

      Exactly. It's funny how the Register has completely made up its mind that climate change is some kind of a massive fraud by scientists hungry for more research funding (a standard lie perpetuated by the oil-industry funded "research" groups), despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real, and that the globe's real average temperature curve has been following, or even exceeding, the worst-case scenario predicted by climate scientists. Extreme weather effects are increasing, consistent with the climate change predictions. And 2010 broke the record for the hottest year on record (see

      What's sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, no?

      I write this as a supporter of using nuclear power as an interim measure while renewable power sources are perfected and brought on line to replace both fossil and nuclear energy.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'The reactors endured a Force 9 earthquake'

    No they didn't.

    Magnitude 9 was the force at the epicentre of the 'quake. The reactors survived about 100th as much energy.

    1. Charles 9


      ...but 100km is not a lot of distance earthquake-wise. Plus the Richter scale is logarithmic (base 10 or common log, IIRC). A 9.0 (10x stronger than an 8.0) is a hell of a shake, and even 100km away you're going to get a serious dose of it. Getting a 15-meter-or-so wall of water on your doorstep soon after doesn't help matters, either.

  42. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Imagine a Future where Everyone is Born Filthy Rich rather than Dirt Poor. Heaven or Hell?

    "They wouldn't fit the script." ..... Be careful now, Andrew. You wouldn't want to find yourself on a watch list for being so bold and accurate, would you? Or even more exciting, the crazy knocking down of the Orlowski mansion front door at dawn, with a gaggle of goons charging in, in fancy para-military dress.

    And talking of idiots, is it idiotic to imagine that you can control CyberSpace with the denial of freely shared thoughts in the browser portal, for is that what traditional forces would be considering in an irregular and unconventional theatre of virtual operations ..... to keep the masses on the failing and corrupted catastrophic message, rather than changing the Message to generate NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT Power?

    "All news sources (including the Register) are primarily geared to entertain, not to inform, for the simple reason that you would otherwise have very few readers (and go out of business)." .... Ralph 5 Posted Tuesday 29th March 2011 14:11 GMT

    I disagree with the primarily not to inform bit in all news sources, Ralph 5, and would suggest that you are misinformed and mistaken to think it is not a primary function, even in entertainment. And I would further posit that all the best news sources do both inform and entertain, both sublimely and directly/overtly, and ideally introduce everyone to future realities with novel experiences which they can enjoy and build upon easily, without any unnecessary destructive hardship or crass conflict.

  43. lp15

    More news and less propaganda, please

    For pity's sake, I can form my own opinions.

  44. moonface
    IT Angle

    Radon gas

    I must admit I am pretty ignorant when it comes to radiation risks and the natural background level.

    So now I have a question. If Radon gas is often the single largest contributor to an individual's background radiation dose and if it's possibe that Radon releases can potentially predict earthquakes. I presume it's feasible that noticeable quantities may have been released across a widespread area, following on from the 9.0 earthquake and it's many aftershocks.

    Could this have any bearing on some of the higher background radiation levels measured in the air around Tokyo, etc, as opposed to the more obvious radioactive contamination immediately around the nuclear plant?

    IT?: because it has a question mark in it.

    1. LaeMing

      The radiological sources can be traced fairly accurately,

      so yes, this is being accounted for. In fact three of the "high" radiation sites near the reactor quickly turned out to be radiation from decades-past atmospheric nuclear testing. The other two are quite clearly from the reactor itself. Keep in mind "high" here is still not very, though I wouldn't build a house on it, it isn't at this stage considered anywhere near a risk to those passing-by.

    2. Peter Galbavy

      re radon

      I got to page 4 of the comments, so excuse me if this is a repeat of someone else...

      In the UK, the HSE site has a good page:

      I like this quote: "Radon is now recognised to be the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK after smoking. Lung cancer is also the biggest cause of cancer related death in the UK and only 5% of all lung cancers are curable."

      Ban granite now.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Shock Horror!!!

    Orlowski allowing comments?

    Next thing you know he'll be letting us comment on articles where he defends the freetards... er... cultural leeches... er... sorry, major record labels! ;p


  46. unitron
    Paris Hilton

    There's a reason they call it "news" and not "olds"...

    The earthquake has already occured, we know what happened.

    The tsunami has already occured, we know what happened.

    The damaged nuclear reactors story is still ongoing, and we don't yet know all that has happened or how it's going to turn out, or how it's going to affect who.

    It's scarcely a surprise which is getting the most ongoing coverage.

    I can't claim to have been doing statistically valid random sampling of media offerings throughout this, but much of the best calm and rational explanation of what's going on and the nuclear stuff involved which I have seen so far has been on the Rachel Maddow show.

    Paris, because she knows that the media are more likely to cover the fresh and recent.

  47. Kurt Guntheroth

    which is worse?

    Which is worse, media jackels capitalizing on our fears, or fact deniers self-importantly spouting opinions as truth?

    Safety systems failed because the reactors were under-designed and obsolete. Recovery procedures failed. Reactor pressure vessels, which may or may not have survived the initial quake, subsequently failed decisively from hydrogen explosions. Workers suffered prompt injuries from radiation burns during the cleanup. The ultimate toll among the workers remains uncounted. Radiation leaked into the soil and seawater. That's just so far.

    An earthquake or tsunami is news on the day that it happens. But if you survive the shaking and the wave, it's over. The nuclear incident at fukushima #1 is news because it is still happening. The extent of the radiation leakage is worse each day than it was the day before. The extent of the mechanical damage is still increasing each day due both to discovery of previous damage and to new damage caused by fires and explosions. The number of people affected is still growing. The situation remains out of control, though a china syndrome event appears to have been averted by last-ditch efforts. We don't yet know how bad it will get, though we know it almost got really, really bad several times.

    Denying that the fukushima #1 disaster is news because it is not currently the biggest disaster is just silly. The significance of news can only be observed (let alone judged) in the rear-view mirror of history. The attempts by Messrs Orlovski and Page to label the disaster a non-even when it isn't even over are doomed to embarrass them. Not that they'll notice or care from their comfy isolation half a planet and a whole magical worldview away.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Stop making up stuff.

      "Safety systems failed because the reactors were under-designed and obsolete."

      Safety systems worked as designed.

      "Reactor pressure vessels, which may or may not have survived the initial quake, subsequently failed decisively from hydrogen explosions."

      Number 2 *may* be damaged.

      "Workers suffered prompt injuries from radiation burns during the cleanup."

      No they didn't.

      "The ultimate toll among the workers remains uncounted."

      Currently at 0.

      "We don't yet know how bad it will get,"


      "though we know it almost got really, really bad several times."

      Do we?

      1. Beanzy

        "Stop making up stuff. → #" ---- indeed.

        " "The ultimate toll among the workers remains uncounted."

        Currently at 0."

        You dispose of the inconvenient dead very quickly, or you're just ignorant & making stuff up yourself.

        A worker died in his crane cab during the first explosion. The writer of the original statement did not claim the death toll, just the toll. Are you as observant in all your reading?

    2. Liam Johnson

      re: which is worse

      Previous poster covered most issues, but I will add the following.

      "An earthquake or tsunami is news on the day that it happens. But if you survive the shaking and the wave, it's over."

      Complete and utter bollocks. Did you miss the bit where whole towns were washed away and people are living in makeshift accommodation? Perhaps you were blinded by all the radiation?

  48. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Enough of this dangerous self-sustaining fission reactions...

    Can I have a Tokomak please? There's a stack of land half a mile away at Buncefield that still isn't available for access, six years after all those nice safe petrochemicals went bang; it'd be nice to make some use of it.

    It'll probably be too cheap to meter...

    1. Aaron Em

      "Too cheap to meter"

      Fusion has a positive energy budget now? When did that happen?

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        @Aaron Em

        IIRC (which I may not), researchers have run a fusion torus at a positive energy budget, I think for several seconds. Unfortunately, the superheated plasma and neutron flux have a tendency to screw up the materials of which the torus is built. This is the primary reason for building the massive ITER reactor at Cadarache in France, to do the relevant materials research in the run up to being able to build a demonstration plant. This all promises to be very expensive. The pay-off in the long run may make it worth it.

        1. Steve X

          fusion torus at a positive energy budget,

          But didn't they have to use deuterium, which poisoned the reactor so badly that it was only viable because they were about to decomission it (JET@Culham, IIRC)?

          Agreed that, if they can make it work, it would be excellent news.

  49. Tom 35


    They want news!

    Earth quake? Na, they just had one someplace not long ago, and there have been lots of them anyway, boaring.

    Tsunami? Didn't we just beat that one to death? Only 20k dead Zzzzzzz

    Reactor melt down? This is only the third problem that people know about, and the last one was a big deal... lets big this up, it's real NEWS. It will sell lots of ads, it could be the best thing since the TEA PARTY!

  50. AdamWill


    "As the Institute of Physics pointed out:"...

    "and, in my view, his actions must be seen in this light"

    unless the Institute of Physics regularly refers to itself in the first person, you would appear to be quoting the _personal_ opinion of one of its members, yet claiming that it is the official opinion of the institute itself. Which would be...exactly the kind of journalistic sharp practice you claim to be bemoaning.

    Pot, kettle...

  51. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Always keep in mind the *first* objective of the media.

    To stay in *business*.

    You feeling you've been "informed" is a side effect.

    And when it comes to staying in business and (in the words of mega-media-mogul-not-based-on-Rupert-Murdoch Elliot Carver) "Nothing sells like *bad* news"

    The flood waters have subsided, the aftershocks have gone so no real chance of anyone *not* in Japan being affected. But a radioactive cloud *potentially* cover the *whole* globe...

    That'll keep the viewers watching. That'll keep them tuned in for the *slightest* change in wind direction or radiation level. No one's actually *died* of radiation exposure (unlike the current death toll of about 20 000 due to drowning and being hit by bits of assorted buildings, but they're Japanese) but it could *always* get worse.

    I note that the Channel 4 News in the UK has tried to be quite balanced by using people from the Dalton Institute of Manchester University (nuclear engineering) for opinions and when they stated a sensor in Edinburgh had measured 300 micro Bequrels of Iodine they put that in context by pointing out that Radon gas in houses exposes people to 20 000 000 micro Beqs (IE 20 Bequrels) which I think would give most people the idea this ain't much.

  52. Nigel 11

    All this discussion is premature

    Still think all this discussion is way premature. I doubt that the people on the ground at Fukushima know the degree to which containment has been breached, let alone anyone else. Let's have a sane discussion about it in about a year's time.

    About the only sensible thing that can be said is that it's not as bad as Chernobyl, and now can't get that bad. But I don't think that we can rule out a very significant release of reactor fuel (plutonium and other fission byproducts) to the environment. It's not a "4" or "5", it's a "6".

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Pool's closed due to Iodine

      The IAEA running dog lackey of the Nuclear Industry conference will be "before summer"

      "On 28 March 2011 at a special briefing on the Fukshima nuclear accident held for IAEA Member States, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano announced a high-level IAEA Conference on Nuclear Safety should take place in Vienna before the summer.

      Noting that the Fukushima crisis has confronted the Agency and the international community with a major challenge, Director General Amano said that it was "vitally important that we learn the right lessons from what happened on 11 March and afterwards, in order to strengthen nuclear safety throughout the world." He recalled that following the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in the previous week, "many countries joined my call for robust follow-up action."

  53. Nexox Enigma

    Yuuup, nothing to see here

    I used to work with chemical radioactive sources on a daily basis, and I'm pretty sure (I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit rusty on the multitude of units which are used to measure radiation and exposure) that in an average month on the job I (and most of my co-workers) would receive a larger dosage of Gamma and Neutron radiation than most of the plant workers are reported to have received.

    And that was usually something like 1/10th of the level considered to be safe by my company, and they use lower limits than the government recommends.

    Radiation isn't some big mystery (Had to sit in a waiting room while CNN told me over and over that nobody anywhere really understands something as exotic as radioactivity, followed by brief video interviews of plebeians on the street who claimed to have researched the topic, and still thought it was time to grab the canned goods and the cat and head to the basement,) with a bit of equipment and some relatively simple guidelines, dealing with radioactivity becomes about as dangerous as dealing sewage. It's not always pleasant, but there's not really much risk involved.

    1. Nigel 11

      A big difference

      There's a big difference between retrieving a properly sealed radioactive source, and trying to tame a huge radioactive mess of unknown proportions and composition.

      You'd know what to do if one of your sources was dropped, and there's no realistic scenario in which you'd end up accidentally ingesting it. You're not going "off the map". Whereas for those brave Fukushima workers, treading on a submerged sharp object or getting trapped by shifting submerged debris could be fatal. (There have already been radiation burns inflicted by "hot" water on the *outside* of their protection suits, one doesn't want to think about a wound getting bathed in it).

      Hmmm ... about as dangerous as dealing with sewage? If you mean dealing with sewage down a partially-collapsed sewer, that may be a fair-ish comparison. You've heard of antibiotic-resistant septicaemia, Weill's disease, cornered rats, and working under tons of crumbling masonry? Even so, I think I'd choose the sewer over Fukushima at present.

  54. Carl W

    BBC experts

    "This Week" managed to roll out Katherine Hamnett (fashion designer) as their nuclear 'expert'.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      No Anna Chapman?

      I am disappoint.

  55. Trojan Horus

    The containment vessels held firm.

    ...except they almost certainly didn't - the readings of 45usv/h 30K NW of the site speak to that, the readings at sea over 1,000 times legal limits, the plutonium found in 5 spots nearby speak to that. The clean up will cost countless billions and if the 2009 health report about Chernobyl which estimated the deaths to be nearer 1,000,000 million is to be believed, the building of the eventual sarcophagus will cost a lot more people their health. That 80% of the kids in Berarus have health problems speak to this. To continue to perversely defend this absurd and dangerous energy source is like the student gambler who writes home to his Dad saying, I now have proof the system works, please send more money. Have you no shame? Words have consequences... it's time the Register said sorry and stopped this charade.

    1. Nigel 11

      absurd and dangerous?

      Actually I'm glad that "The Reg" decided to stir things up a bit, because the dangers of the fossil-fuelled and even renewable energy sources are usually completely ignored.

      As someone pointed out above, a dam failure in China killed 170,000 people. That's comparable, probably worse than Chernobyl. It's not the only fatal dam failure, merely the worst. So much for safe hydro-power.

      As for oil, how many will die of cancer as a result of the carcinogens spewed by Japan's burning oil refineries? More or less than arising from Fukushima? That's ignoring the omnipresent everyday poisoning: benzene in petrol, carcinogenic combustion products and particulates and SO2 and NOx from vehicle exhaust pipes. That's also ignoring the possibility of global ecological catastrophe arising from raising atmospheric CO2 levels (and of local ecological catastrophe from oil-well blow-outs). Society accepts these risks.

      I believe that we do need nuclear power. Modern designs have passive emergency cooling, unlike Fukushima which has proved why passive cooling must be mandatory. The other lesson is not to under-estimate the worst that nature can do. I'd suggest any nuke plant on any ocean coastline should be built atop a bluff or cliff, or perhaps tunnelled a few hundred yards into a cliff behind tsunami-proof doors.

  56. Anonymous Coward

    Post-2004, the IAEA said the earthquake risks were too high

    Someone (possibly several people) asked earlier whether the earthquake/tsunami resistance was reviewed after 2004.

    Courtesy of Wikileaks, we know the answer is yes. The IAEA did a review and they, well known anti nuclear organisation that they are, concluded that precautions were inadequate.

    It would seem that nothing worthwhile was done (or planned) to mitigate those risks.

    But Lewis and Andrew presumably don't consider that relevant here?

    Fortunately we can rely on e.g. the Torygraph to give us the facts: "cost reduction competition through heightened efficiency jeopardizing safety." Well who would possibly have expected that?

  57. Highlander

    Many in the media have permanently lost any credibility

    CNN in particular (and the BBC) spent the first week of reporting on Japan being utterly distracted by Fukushima to the point where you heard little to nothing of the earthquake relief efforts or Tsunami relief efforts. Both CNN and the BBC were pushing especially doom laden stories that week, battering on about chernobyl style fall out, and speculating about whether there could be a "china syndrome" meltdown. Their tone and reporting changed very little in week two.

    However many times both networks reported events at Fukushima hours after they happened as if they just now happened. Something like "There's a fire at rector 4!! We're dooomed!" when the fire had been extinguished 6-8 hours earlier, and had already been reported as such on the IAEA's site. That's just complete bullshit. Then almost all the mass media has been guilty of mentioning various levels of radiation, but giving the viewer no context to go on, and conflating the actual measured radiation with medical consequences of far, far higher dose rates. I already avoid the US network news and Faux News like the plague. Now I have to skip the lot of them. The daily mail in the UK has been one of the worst print offenders. i saw headlines from them that would have looked appropriate in the national enquirer. The Sun also manage d afew new lows from what I saw.

    But the trouble is that news is entertainment now. It's not enough to be objective and factual. That doesn't sell advertizing space. You have to be a hard hitting news resource to gain higher viewership and make more money. this results in sensationalized news, sexy headlines, and broad brush reporting by reported with deep voices who use emotionally charged language. How do you think any story which involves subtle and specific detail will work out in that environment?

    I also have no faith that people will some how get the real news elsewhere through some kind of osmosis. I'm pretty well educated, and fortunately had enough nuclear physics knowledge running around my head to smell the BS and start researching other sources of information. but I doubt more than 1% of the general population could do that because most have no science education past the basics required at secondary education. So most are not well equipped to see the BS.

    We need some news organizations to be independent of politics and economics so that they can stick to fact and objectivity instead of compromising heir integrity to gain favor or make money. Until that happens, I fear we might all just as well tune into Faux News.

  58. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Its not

    the lack of an sciencey type qualification in the media( apart from a few) that annoys me

    Its the fact that these 'journalists' boast about how crap they were at maths/science while at school.

    Which more than likely explains their current career.

  59. Tripwire
    Thumb Up

    On the other hand

    Please have a look at this post:

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Here's one that is far better

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        And the Germans have reused this

  60. interested_reader

    Escaping disaster ≠ safe.

    Yes, the news media have been guilty of hype. In the US, at least, the lead story prior to the tsunami disaster was all-you-can-read about how some actor wasn't getting paid enough to keep his porn stars in the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. And yes, it appears the Tokyo authorities are erring on the side of caution with announcements regarding babies vs. radioactivity; we should expect no less from the nation that gave us manga exploring such topics as super-sized radioactive babies rampaging through Tokyo hellbent on destruction.

    At the same time, I can't help but feel that Mr. Orlowski (and by extension El Reg) is playing the same hype game as the rest of the media, merely in reverse... instead of trolling the public that apocalyptic doom is at hand, Mr. O. would have us believe that exposure to radioactivity is just fine so long as it doesn't singe your skin off within minutes... and cancer risk? Mere fractions of a percentage point higher than what you already endure, lads, so have another swig of radioactive milk as you munch down your radioactive spinach.

    While I am a huge fan of El Reg's tongue-in-cheek irreverence, in this case I can't help but feel an unpleasant overtone of intellectual snobbery ("Fools! Had you passed your Physics A-levels you'd know that this is all totally fine, pay no mind to the reactor buildings blowing up left and right, they are *designed* to do that, you imbeciles!") and plain old trollery ("Fukushima is totally safe I would so move there tomorrow LOL").

    This accident could have been horribly worse, and thankfully it appears (appears!) to be more or less coming under control... but that doesn't mean that nuclear power is fine and dandy and we can all go back to worrying feverishly about whether the latest smartphone has poor reception or the latest actor to go batshit insane will be able to secure his coke supply over the coming year.

    People might fall off a windmill generator from time to time, but you don't need to build four levels of super-reinforced stainless steel and concrete containment around one, and you don't have to bury the windmill rotor in a salt mine for thousands of years when you're done with the thing.

  61. Anonymous Coward

    @comments on John Large

    Hey Andrew, what's with the snide remarks about John Large?

    "John Large is a Chartered Engineer, .. a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, ... Member of the British Nuclear Engineering Society-Institution of Nuclear Engineers"

    So, unlike the vast majority of commenters on here, and unlike Lewis, and (probably) unlike Andrew, John Large does actually probably know what he's talking about wrt nuclear power generation stuff.

    Now obviously Andrew and others are allowed to explain why Mr Large's statements are incorrect, but it seems very unlikely that Andrew (or any other pro-nuclear lobbyist) can credibly explain that.

    Unless contributors here can show otherwise.

    Put another way: attacking the messenger is a bad sign. It's usually better to address the message. But when folks are desperate because they can't do that, some folks attack the messenger instead.

    1. Andydaws

      John Large is rather well known

      to those in the nuclear industry. His firm, Large and Associates, has made probably 3/4ths of it's income over the years from groups like Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups. He's the sort of "rent an engineer" who's gone to whenever the green groups want to put a respectable face on far as I'm aware, he's never worked in the industry itself.

      He may be a member of insitutions like the IMechE, but his opinions are at radical variance from their actual positons.

  62. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    Anyone care to comment on why

    "At Unit 1, there has been an increase in temperature at the feed-water nozzle of the RPV from

    273.8 °C to 299 °C. The temperature at the bottom of the RPV [Reactor Pressure Vessel] remained stable at 135 °C."

    Do these guys still manage to have an active core with drooping fuel rods or something?

    1. Andydaws

      no, they have to balance a rate of heat removal

      With not building up any more activated water in the containment than is necessary. So, they put in as little as they can get away with.

      keeping the RV the hotter end of the acceptable scale means that there's the maximum heat transfer into the containment through radiative and convective transfer. That means less water needs to be put in, to be flashed off, and subsequently managed.

      I wish people would think, before engaging mouth....

  63. Mr. Chuck

    Epic fail nuclear

    Why does this mag love nuclear fission so much? It's an old hat 40's technology looking for a question. Unless you want blow something up fast, it's expensive, complicated, unreliable and inefficient.

    With any luck no-one in school now will be insane enough to want to go into the nuclear industry anyway (any problems? Then YOU'RE DEAD), and the whole sector wil just dry up and blow away--like fallout.

    Now if we were clever enough to get fusion working, that'd be another story, but we're not, so get off it.

  64. indulis

    The irony of The Register questioning scientific credentials

    How ironic- after all its promotion of climate change denier "un-science", most of which is self-published or published without scientific review in economic/oil journals- to see The Register promoting the idea "to distinguish between the reliability ... placed upon the results given in self-published documents and those appearing in scientific journals". Apparently all climate change denier science is science no matter where it is published, but anti-nuclear science will be subject to a different set of criteria.

    As the disaster in Japan shows, the real problem is not nuclear technology, but an economic system that rewards companies who "sail close to the wind" when it comes to safety, and a political system bent by industry lobby groups that dismantles regulation in order to feed profits. Finally, the lack of a proper "end to end" way of enforcing costs and ongoing liability on the producers of pollution, so the costs don't land in the public's lap when the company that produced the problem folds. 73B pounds for windscale. That's a lot of solar panels/solar heaters/wind turbines which could have been built instead of "cheap" nuclear power.

    You know the catch-cry of big industry "privatise the profits, socialise the losses", "fund research to help us increase our profits because we are poor poor POOR", "fund tax breaks and incentives for us please!", "those other startup industries should live or die without subsidies, all hail THE MARKET", and "run away! run away!".

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Companies' incentives for safety are not that bad...

      Mythical "we must regulate them for safety" is mythical.

      "so the costs don't land in the public's lap when the company that produced the problem folds. 73B pounds for windscale."

      Because Windscale wasn't a 100% government dirty project, oh no...

  65. eric144


    The problem with the nuclear industry is that they tell lies and they always have. No matter how right wing you are, no matter how much you would love to nuke Iran, dole scroungers or your neighbours, you have been lied to for 50 years.

  66. Anonymous Coward


    Lewis Page has been discredited; and If another Journalist wishes to display his disdain for his entire profession on an anti Nuclear slant on this story, he should go to reactor 2 in Fukushima and do some live reporting.

    I am sure he will get a warm, tingly welcome with effects which will last for the rest his shortened life.

  67. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    BBC Breaking News!

    "Japan to scrap stricken reactors - breaking news - New "

    No sh*t!

    But how on Earth is this new???

    ANd is it "breaking" in the sense that the reactors are broken or is the whole news service broke?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Maybe that's why aliens won't talk to us?

      Deutschlandfunk has some Greenpeace Dude calmly speaking of the "ongoing renewed core meltdown" and building a Chernobyl Sarcophagus around the whole stricken plant just now..

      1. Highlander

        *sigh* The BBC continues it's misdeeds and don't get me started on Germany

        From all of the information I have read, these reactors (1-3) are scrap and will more than likely never run actively again. The reactor buildings - including reactor 4 - have suffered a lot of damage. So, it's entirely possible that 1-3 and perhaps even 4 will be scrapped, but 5 and 6 which are newer, relatively unscathed by the events and physically further away from 1-4 will probably re-enter service at some point in the future.

        Even with the contaminated water in the basements, there is no need to bury this problem and leave it for future generations of engineer to deal with. Where do these so-called experts get this nonsense? The site needs to be cleaned up and decontaminated. units 1-3 will have to be decommissioned and removed from the site - with care. Since 4 was not even fueled at the time, it remains to be seen what will have to be done with it because it's not clear how the extensive damage to the reactor building will come into play.

        Too many people in political positions are abusing this crisis for their own political gain. The lies they tell are just as bad as the crap the media are shoveling, but no one challenges them. It was interesting on the news last night. The tone regarding nuclear power changed utterly as safety inspections and reviews at some US reactor sites shows some major failures such as emergency systems not working, untrained crews withdrawing control rods from fueled reactors and all manner of other maintenance and operational failures. yet the report sought ot reassure us that America's Nuclear energy was the safest and not dangerous at all. Mid way through the report I turned to my wife and said "What how they'll totally change their tune on nuclear now it's American nuclear energy under the microscope..." Sure enough, no doom laden predictions of terror - even when talking of an untrained maintenance crew incorrectly withdrawing control rods in a reactor. In fact, it was portrayed as everything being A-OK, and nothing to worry about because they're safe as houses and can survive earthquakes just fine (so long as they;re no bigger than about 6.5 on the Richter scale... I guess it's only the over engineered Japanese nuclear reactors that survive cataclysmic damage with relative grace that are a threat to humanity. Love that double standard.

        ::rolls eyes::

  68. Steve Farr

    Dear TheRegister,

    Re media bang wagon, etc., etc. The old saying goes "if you can't beat them join them". Democracy is a funny thing especially when it becomes the enemy of truth and reality. But anyway, i say more power to your elbow and may the earth never be flat.

    Now, about those other, you know, "conspiracy theories". Eg., Japanese human nuclear-lab-rats first to get ground breaking stem-cell treatment; And, Tokyo University knew about scale 9 quake 48 hours beforehand. All these things are true, but exactly where DO you draw the line in reporting it all?

    I find these comment forums curious. Just what are people prepared to believe, and why? Maybe we should all go an examine ourselves a bit here. Is it really all about the moral high ground of truth vs fear? The right of free speech vs. obsession? What's the deal here?

    How far can you go? I mean if i just mention "HAARP" for a moment. I mean there is plenty of evidence to suggest ELF waves produce earthquakes. Astonishingly, i can't find any evidence to say that they can't. So what's to do? Where do you draw the line? At what point does anyone decide they can't deal with being branded a conspiracy-loon and stop bothering to look for hard evidence? Or is it a case of "HAARP is for loons" just work backwards from that. Is that any different to "Nuclear is evil" just work back from that? So just what are we doing?

    Conspiracy sites seem to have all the fun. You know, being right out there on the edge of reason, unafraid of even their own ignorance, let alone "The Feds" or whoever, whatever. Another thing which marks out these sites is the constant repetition of everything. Never letting go of the beloved axe to grind. I find this recent train of counter-intuitive pro-nuclear (apparently to some) stuff coming out of The Register quite curious also.

    Just sayin.

    1. Andydaws

      " I mean there is plenty of evidence to suggest ELF waves produce earthquakes"

      Is there? From credible sources, I mean.....

      1. Steve Farr

        Explain this away....

        Check out 2.5Hz ELF starting 0530 March 8th continuing through to the 11th.

        Well in advance of the big one says a credible Magnetometer source, courtesy of Tokyo University...

        Any takers? Check the dates for other major earthquakes and you get a similar pattern. Some of these quakes can be predicted days in advance. AND there is correlation with the frequencies 1.8, 2.5, 2.8Hz, and roughly the region the quakes occur in. Quite frankly i'm bored with people telling me you can't predict earthquakes. And i'm getting just a little worn down by media-scientist types who refuse to look at any evidence outside of their comfort boundaries.

        Despite the failure of Parkfield experiment governments still seem hell bent on statistical analyzing of actual seismic events. This is not a poker game or lottery where you can predict the numbers from the results. Scientific advance happens when scientists think out of the box. I'm no expert, but i reckon some of these guys need a holiday from day job.

        1. Steve X


          > Check the dates for other major earthquakes and you get a similar pattern.

          Check the dates when there *weren't* eathquakes, I bet you get the same pattern. Correlation != cause.

          1. Steve Farr

            Try looking at the damned data. No you're not!

            @Steve X

            I take it you didn't check then. What are you, astroturfing for the feds now? Sorry.

            It's not like i'm trying to get you to believe in Super Man or Tooth Fairy. Just look at the data! Check Jap 2.5Hz, Christchurch 1.8Hz (September coz March was aftershock), Chili 2.8Hz , its all there the on the mark in the days/hours BEFORE. Don't check the noise and assume there is nothing to see, honestly, i may be no expert, but i'm not bl**dy stupid!

            >*weren't* earthquakes

            If ur talking broadly seismic activity thats pretty much like never. But i'm not comparing to just the noise on the graph.

            Honestly i could spell it all out you in detail. But what would be the point, it would be just my word against the fearful majority. Thats why i'm saying go check the data properly yourself.

            1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

              @Steve Farr

              I am not quite sure - are you saying that human-made ELF emissions cause earthquakes or is it that major earthquakes are preceded by natural ELF emissions?

              1. Steve Farr

                You decide!

                @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

                Short answer: I don't know.

                All i do know, is this stuff correlates and it's there for all to see.

                It's weird i know, because its Tokyo Universities magnetometer kit putting plots up on apparently a research site run by BAE (as far as i can tell) on behalf of the US military. Doesn't come weirder than that.

                You figure it out. Definitely gotta hook some conspiracy theories this one. On the other hand predicting earthquakes is one hell of a card trick - if thats what it's doing. But i keep thinking, could this data be used to at least save tens of thousands of lives?

                I mean even if there was a slightest chance here, why do people scoff just cos it's HAARP? I guess people only ever believe what they want to believe and work backwards from there. The point this article makes, it's how the whole media works.

                As far as i'm concerned the evidence here is compelling enough to make any reasonable person, or journalist, want to go check the evidence themselves.

                1. Anonymous Coward

                  Just for the record....

                  It's credible.

                  There is real science going on for earthquake prediction using ULF waves. Yes HAARP did confirm the hypothesis. There is strong evidence that 20,000 people died needlessly given at least 48 hours notice. So please do not scoff at this. Really wish that some journos around here would begin to take this stuff seriously. Genocide is not some big laugh for packing ad revenue. Seriously throwing down the gauntlet here guys.


         Remember last time?

                  "An attempt to measure ultra low frequency (ULF) magnetic signals prior to further earthquakes was made in Parkfield, California. Independent ULF measurement systems have been installed at the Varian and Haliburton ranches near Parkfield and at Piñon Flat and Table Mountain in Southern California."

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      ELF waves produce earthquakes...

      "Astonishingly, i can't find any evidence to say that they can't."

      What are you trying to say? Your "intuition-based" causal reasoning processes seem ass-backwards.

      Also, Tesla could rip the Earth in half from his New York basement lab and the US army has secret UFO tech etc..

      Where is the facepalm icon when you need it.

    3. Steve X

      You're easily astonished

      > Astonishingly, i can't find any evidence to say that they can't.

      If this astonishes you then you clearly have no scientific background or knowledge whatsover. That is known as the 'argument from ignorance", which says "I can't prove it's false, so it must be true". It's been known for at least 400 years, since John Locke at least. It's a favourite tool of propagandists who can't marshall real arguments.

      So far no-one has ever been able to produce proof that earthquakes can be created by man, and certainly not by HAARP. There are hundreds of quakes every week, and no correlations with other events that could count as proof.

  69. Anonymous Coward

    John Large's career history

    "he's never worked in the industry itself."

    He's been subcontracted by UKAEA, back in the day.

    Does that count?

    Obviously it's unlikely that anyone directly employed in the nuclear industry will say anything against the organisations that pay their wages (and/or pensions).

    And whatever Orlowski may think, Walt Patterson knows a thing or too as well.

    So where does that leave us? It leaves us, I suspect, with the pro-nuclear lobby unable to refute these folks' messages and therefore attacking the messengers.

  70. Andydaws

    Re John Large

    "Obviously it's unlikely that anyone directly employed in the nuclear industry will say anything against the organisations that pay their wages (and/or pensions)."

    And similarly, you'd no expect anyone who makes their income from commissions from green groups to cast nuclear technologies in anything but the worst light.

    I'd suggest it leaves us best served by listening to the independent academics, people like Richard Wakeford, David King, and John Beddington.

  71. TheOtherHobbbes

    Hey - how about some facts?

    Firstly, the reactor - like reactors in the US and Europe - was built to withstand "historical events."

    Unfortunately they didn't think to ask earth scientists about what a "historical event" actually meant, because if they had done, they'd have found there was a similar event in the 9th century.

    Basically the design was done to cut costs and apply a bit of CYA engineering.

    FAIL is the result.

    Secondly, the rabid hippy haters on here might want to consider the fact that fanatically biased news sources like NHK and TEPCO's own reports are telling us that the reactor + turbine system is so fucked it's going to be buried, Chernobyl-style.

    Since it's not usual to bury reactors unless they're fucked, I think we can assume that means that something may perhaps have gone a little bit wrong here.

    What's disturbing - and I mean *seriously* disturbing - is how many Reg readers and Reg journalists seem to want to disbelieve that the situation at Fukushima is anything other than rosy and sweet for purely ideological reasons.

    When did this turn into the Soviet Union, exactly? You're either reality-based or you're not. Shouting about it, ranting about it, or attacking dirty fucking hippies won't change the facts on the ground - and in the ground, and around the ground.

    And the facts on the ground are that Fukushima is leaking radioactivity like a colander, the area around the plant is already poisoned and is going to need decontamination before it becomes liveable - if it's ever inhabitable again - and some workers have already been hospitalised.

    So for Orlowski to pretend that this is business as usual, no one has been hurt, and we should all clap louder because only long-haired dope-smoking sheep breeders could possibly have an issue with what's happening, is dayglo Lindsay Lohan bonkers.

    You know - facts is facts. If you don't like the facts - tough. Facts aren't a democracy, and they don't go away just because you don't like them and can't be arsed to research them properly and you'd rather replace them with rhetoric or magical thinking.

    As for comparing hydro to nukes - a giant dam failure is a tragedy, but permanently losing 10-20% of a country's inhabitable area isn't such a great thing to happen either.

    That hasn't happened yet, but we've already gone from "no risk to public health" to "exclusion zone" to "sarcophagus."

    The omens are - let's say - not looking good on this one.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Facts demanded, nontasty sandwich delivered

      We are forced to read:

      "That hasn't happened yet, but we've already gone from "no risk to public health" to "exclusion zone" to "sarcophagus.""

      It depends on whom you listen to. Who exactly is talking about "exclusion zone" and "sarcophagus"? Zerohedge doesn't count.

  72. JeeBee

    Meltdown = Go.

    From The Guardian: "The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say"

    Yeah, the vessels held firm certainly. I looked back at your article from earlier this month about how this could never happen, and then yesterday you're still saying it.

    Still, there'll be a neat elephant's foot to look at soon, eh?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel"

      Alternate realities?

      As of 15:00 on the 30th, no such occurence is being described in the updates.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        His excellency clarifies

        In an article in The Guardian on Tuesday, Richard T. Lahey, former chair of nuclear engineering at Rensellaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y., was quoted as saying that the evidence he had seen indicated that fuel melted through the pressure vessel of reactor No. 2 at some point after the crisis began. He told The Guardian:

        "The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell."

        This morning, Lahey elaborated on his analysis for IEEE Spectrum, which he said had been accurately reported by The Guardian, but misinterpreted by some. (A careless read of the article suggests a new meltdown at the plant, rather an analysis of what probably occurred early on in the crisis.)

        Lahey says his analysis was based on the data sources seen by him and colleagues around the world, but that the information has been inconsistent and changes hourly. “It’s really hard to read the tea leaves,” Lahey says. “They keep blowing around… I may be wrong. I hope I’m wrong.”

        However, his best take is that “all cores have melted, and it appears as though Unit 2 has melted through.”

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AndyDaws: "independent academics ... David King,"

    Excuse me? David King? Independent? The David King who was until recently the Government Chief Scientific Adviser? As heard on Radio4's Today programme on Monday or Tuesday talking some sense and some utter bollocks, with so many logic fails (never mind science fails) that even the presenter saw some of them? Yes I know that's attacking the messenger not the message, so Listen Again to the interview and form your own impression.

    John Large is an independent consultant. Yes the Greens like him, his facts suit their nuclear agenda much of the time. You should check them out and then **address the facts** not the messenger.

    The Russians thought Large was the right man for the job when it came to sorting out their downed nuclear submarine. What Green agenda does that align with, or does it tell us he's a free agent with no ties, and knows what he's talking about?

    1. Andydaws

      well, apart from in

      tinfoil hat land, how is David King in the pay of the nuclear industry?

      And what were the "logic fails" in the Today interview?

      "Yes the Greens like him, his facts suit their nuclear agenda much of the time."

      and pay his wages....

  74. Anonymous Coward

    @AndyDaws: "independent academics"? Irony, surely?

    Richard Wakeford? Independent academic?

    "Richard Wakeford is Principal Research Scientist at the BNFL Head Office in Risley, Warrington. After carrying out postgraduate research on sub-nuclear physics he was awarded a PhD from the University of Liverpool in 1978 and after a short period of postdoctoral research joined BNFL, initially at Capenhurst before moving to Risley in 1981. He has been involved in a number of statistically related projects within BNFL, but since the mid-1980s has concentrated upon radiation risks, particularly at low doses."

    John Beddington is of course the current Government Chief Scientific Adviser (not that I'd seen enough of his output to notice, I had to go check).

    If I want "independent", these two names aren't top of the list.

  75. Mad Mike

    Real Facts

    @JeeBee and TheOtherHobbes

    One of the things I have consistently said here is that the nuclear industry has an issue with the truth. Because people are so scared of radiation (due to 'the bomb'), they always try to keep everything quite because everything gets blown out of all proportion by the press, green groups etc. Most people genuinely believe they get no natural radiation at all and therefore panic when the word is mentioned. You then get the papers (almost all, not just the normal culprits) blow everything out of proportion citing people with vested interests or using people with not a clue what they're talking about. The result of all this is mistrust and bad decisions being made by people.

    Let's take a for instance. The operators held the hydrogen in the containment building for some time to allow the small amount of radiation present (radioactive Nitrogen) to decay and then could release it without having to admit to a radiation leak. Unfortunately, the hydrogen detonated rather spectacularly releasing the gas and also giving the media a field day. They then said the building didn't really matter etc. to play down the incident. All this is a massive fail. The desire to not say a small radiation leak of short lived isotopes caused the destruction of the containment building which is very bad. If the core in reactor 2 has melted through it's containment vessel, this would be unfortunate, but not a major issue IF the containment building was still in place. Because, that would contain it!!

    So, if this is an issue (and I haven't seen it anywhere myself yet) and the core is outside its containment vessel leaking radiation, this is the fault of the operators and also those panicing stupidly about any radiation leak. The papers and people in general are also to blame for making the operators and staff feel they had to hold the gas inside.

    Both those extremely pro nuclear and also those extremely anti are as bad as each other and stop any sensible discussion and actions being had. They actually cause the problem sometimes. The widespread fear of the word radiation needs to be countered. Yes, radiation is bad in the same sense that fire or water or viruses can be bad. But, it needs to be looked at from a fact based and sensible angle.

    To date, I have yet to see much in the way of facts coming out of this event. This is because of the extreme fear reaction from people and the media and the natural reluctance then of the operators and government etc. to put them out. Unfortunately, this doesn't really work as the media then simply make them up, thinking of things that 'could' happen; which are normally all 'disasters'. We need to get balance and nobody on either side is allowing that at the moment.

    We also need to get a dose of reality. None of the current renewable technologies is capable of providing the power we as a planet need and this won't change for some considerable period of time, if ever. So, we either have to accept using more carbon based generation (whether coal or gas or whatever) or we have to use nuclear. Simple choice. Wishing for all renewables is the worst form of delusion. So, what are people most scared of..........climate change or radiation?

    1. Jolyon

      Blam e

      "The papers and people in general are also to blame for making the operators and staff feel they had to hold the gas inside."

      If they allowed that sort of concern over-ride their training and procedures then they themselves are to blame.

      1. Liam Johnson


        "training and procedures"

        Where does that come from? I don't think they have a page in the manual about what to do if all the other stuff which should have worked suddenly doesn't work.

        1. Jolyon


          So in the absence of anything in the manual they turn immediately to the press and decide what to do based on how much journalists seem to be encouraging people to panic?

          If they haven't run disaster drill they should have. If they come to the last page of the manual and have no idea what to do they should have.

          And I rather suspect they do - the idea that they let media hype pressure them into making unsafe decisions is absurd. If they have then they are idiots.

      2. Mad Mike


        I don't disagree in theory, but in practice it's somewhat different and not so clear cut. Should they have held the gas inside? Absolutely not, regardless of the issues. However, they probably didn't realise at that point exactly how bad a position they were in and they knew if a radiation release (albeit an insignificant one) occured, the media would crucify them. People would go into headless chicken mode etc.etc. Therefore, they tried to manage the publicity in a way they thought they could control and got it badly wrong. There's no excuse for that.

        However, at the same time, the general populous and media must also take responsbility for their part in all this. If they go off the deep end all the time and this impacts future planning and company profitability, it is hardly surprising companies do this. People are generally pretty irrational and stupid. As my last paragraph says, there are people out there in large numbers who believe a completely carbon neutral, non-nuclear option for total electricity production exists!! Windmills and solar PV etc. will provide everything. They need to stop burying their head in the sand and realise this is rubbish. It's carbon based production or nuclear and will be for some considerable time.

        Unless they want to seriously compromise their living standards, there is no alternative and crucifying any technology that occasionally goes wrong is just plain stupid. People are so ill educated (even in places like Japan), a huge number still believe a nuclear power station can explode like an atomic bomb. This is absoltuely impossible as the fissile material isn't at the required concentration level!! People who know nothing about the technology need to stop commenting and simply trust the system. Only those who have the faintest idea what they're talking about should comment and hopefully this will lead to a more balanced debate with less scaremongering and whitewashing. If you want to join the debate, instead of just chpping in, get educated first and then get involved.

        If people do that, companies will be less fearful of making decisions like releasing the gas immediately because the people involved will be more knowledgeable and will understand. There's nothing more unpredictable and more damaging than an ill educated person.

    2. Horizon3

      Re: Real Facts

      First off, you need to get your facts straight before you detract others.

      A melt through in this case is physically impossible, the maximum temperature this fuel mix can generate is 3,000C (Ideal Circumstances) the melting point of the reactor vessel 5,000C.

      Ideal Conditions would be no water, full air circulation, and no control rods or boron anywhere in the system.

      The "China Syndrome" only exists in the minds of those that wrote the script, and those silly enough to believe it as fact.

      The Plutonium they have found "buried 3 inches in the soil", is per IAEA and other sources is not in the least bit hazardous, they are currently analyzing it to attempt to find out where it came from, it could well have come from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events or from the 1,000s of French, UK and US nuke tests done in the Pacific or Chinese and Russian nuke tests done before the Test Ban Treaty.

      The fact that they have found some I-131 in Scotland? There's not a snow balls chance in hell it came from Japan! I-131 has a half life of 8hrs, so unless someone had the money to resurrect a Concord, or use a supersonic military jet and fly the stuff nonstop from Fukushima to Scotland it came from somewhere else. Given the present wind patterns I would suggest it came from one of the plants they are shutting down in Germany or maybe one of your own plants or nuke subs in the UK burped some out, or from a drilling operation in the North Sea (Yes they use I-131 as a tracer, primarily because it has a very short half life, and unless you inject it by hypodermic or eat it it's harmless).

      And Yes the metal buildings being demolished is not a big deal, they are there primarily to protect the rest of the containment from the elements. The biggest problem from the explosions is accessing the reactor building because of debris. The explosions could not have damaged the primary or secondary containment, it would be like shooting a BB gun at a brick wall.

      I would be more concerned that the debris has interfered with the fuel cell racks in the spent fuel pools. In any case, the reactors and ancillary equipment where they have used seawater as emergency coolant are toast, they will not be brought back on line, ever. They are now junk iron.

      Mostly I am sick and tired of the outright sensationalist bullshite spewed by the media, both broadcast and print. Real journalism is officially dead.

  76. CalDre


    "Busby's chief notoriety is his modelling work on natural background radiation, which is highly controversial. It's often self-published, and the Journal of Radiological Protection put out a paper (PDF/45KB) debunking his work".

    Hmm, this is a completely non-peer reviewed diatribe consisting of ad hominem attacks and gross, unsubstantiated allegations, written by an admitted paid consultant to the nuclear industry. It's not scientific in the last - not one sentence of it.

    If that's the best you have to "debunk" Busby's research, his credibility has just ballooned.

    BTW, being that you are so "scientific" and "objective", I was shocked, yes, shocked! not to read about Busby's responses to the allegations you have made against him in your "sensationalist" diatribe. For your readers, you can find a brief explanation at .

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      "Hmm, this is a completely non-peer reviewed diatribe consisting of ad hominem attacks and gross, unsubstantiated allegations"

      This is personal opinion piece and there aren't "ad hominem" attacks in there. I have never heard of personal opinion pieces being peer reviewed, except in Marxist journals.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Its dripping with ad hominems

        "Busby, it must be remembered, is also a scientific advisor to the Green Party"

        "Chris Busby is essentially an aspiring politician who happens to have scientific qualifications"

        "But Busby's chief notoriety is his modelling work on natural background radiation, which is highly controversial"

        "Meanwhile Channel 4 found a Professor Walt Patterson, from think-tank Chatham House, who also talked up the disaster. An advocate of global governance and a critic of nuclear power (and more recently fossil fuels) for 40 years, his reaction was predictable"

        "Another anti-nuclear activist, John Large, also passed himself off as an unbiased pundit on the news channels. He's Greenpeace's favourite "hired gun"."

        Whether fallacious or not is another matter, but you can't seriously deny their existance.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          If that's an "ad hominem" ...

          So the author should take M. Busby as a pure, virgin, disinterested, above-it-all and socially disconnected person laboring off pure, unadulterated data?

          Pull the other one.

          Contrary to the people who hold up the "ad hominem" defense as a get out of jail free card, where a person stands on an issue is often highly relevant. Especially if we are talking about a problem that is only partially subject to positivist enquiry, as here.

          Apart from that, you should read the Busby. The above are nothing compared to what HE says. Actual swearwords.

        2. Liam Johnson

          re ad hominem

          I am always impressed with the people who come out with shit like "ad hominem".

          The never read down to the bit about "appeal to authority"

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The perfect GCSE scenario

    Over recent weeks I've been complaining to anyone who'd listen about the lamentable state of the GCSE physics syllabus after seeing some of the past papers my son had been doing. However, in retrospect I see that the seeming total concentration in units 1,2 and 3 on nuclear power, earthquakes and the way press reports of science are a remarkably prescient preparation for the current situation. As it appears there's been no reference to the solar system bit then I can only assume that we're due a meteorite stike any time soon.

    1. Nigel 11

      You think you're kidding?

      Some "fun" research.

      1. Find out how many multi-megatonne meteorite events occur per century.

      2. Extrapolate the events' energy spectrum and the fatal blast radii.

      3. Work out the probability of your point on the Earth's surface being within the devastated area (which last century was always somewhere remote and almost uninhabited ... as is most of the Earth's surface). Do you feel lucky?

      4. Work out the probability of your life being ended by meteorite.

      It's higher than most would guess, even if you exclude the extinction-level events that happen every 100 Myears or so.

      (The extinction-level bit: ~10^10 deaths every ~10^8 years, = 100 deaths/year and a completely pointless calculation. The calculation for city-busters is less so).

  78. N00

    Durpa durpa

    I couldn't care less whether he used ad hominems or not. But he did and you are and idiot for denying it. Anything you say from now on has no credibility.

  79. Geoff Stevens
    Paris Hilton

    six sigma != negligible

    "Now, it's easy *now* to smugly sit there and say, well, those silly buggers should have built 15m walls, had water tight generators, additional backups to the backup for the backups, put generators on the roof of some building somewhere and been prepared for a 9.0 quake. But before all of this, most people would have scoffed at the chances of a 9.0 earthquake and 10+ meter Tsunami since they go way beyond the 100 year event magnitudes."

    Recently, some people may have noticed the world financial system blowing up because of inappropriate application of Gaussian models.

    I suggest saying "model shows a six sigma probability of event in 100 years" is the wrong thinking, given the high cost consequences. More severe events are well documented in Japan. Whether it's likely in the 100 year span of your model seems academic the day after it's happened.

    Paris, because she's got an eye for the main chance.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      That's just wrong

      "Recently, some people may have noticed the world financial system blowing up because of inappropriate application of Gaussian models."

      Well, no. That would mean "Gaussian models" have some amazing power. They don't.

      Please start in this general area:

  80. Monkeywrench

    Many made the 'Journaist Wall of Shame' on this one

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Andrew must feel like a fool

    With the nuke situation in Japan continuing to escalate daily, Andrew must feel like a real fool.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Oh look, a story about Lindsay Lohan

      I dont know but you may be one of the people taking increasing media disinterest for a "conspiracy of silence" and proof that things are getting worse.

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You know you have problems when you downvote a comment based on science and reality and upvote a comment based on stupid, groundless optimism.

    Many people are unfit to make public comments because they just display their utter and breathtaking stupidity when they do.

    The situation at the Japanese Nuclear plant is extremely serious and has been downplayed in the media.

    Anyone who tells you "it's not as bad as you think" is a liar and an ignorant fool.

    1. Gerardo Korndorffer

      RE: Ignorance

      "You know you have problems when you downvote a comment based on science and reality and upvote a comment based on stupid, groundless optimism.(...)"

      Not only those based on science, but those based on sheer common sense.

      Known facts are that the tsunami was to be expected, (plant tsunami protection was not up even to past japanese earthquakes), and that the plant was not ready for it, but it could have been. Merely stating this gets you a deluge of down votes....and it is ridiculous, if not puerile.

      So it is a FAIL and the articles provided by Mr. Page are diverting attention from the important questions:

      "How are we going to keep people from saving money where they shouldn't, specially when building & maintaining nuclear power plants?" (Closing down nuclear plants is not a viable option for now)

      "Why has the situation come to talks about encasing the reactors?" Certainly things are not as Mr. Page indicates.

      "What are the economic consequences of not properly preparing the plant?"

      "Are we for once going to measure statistically measure up the impact of the radioactive leak?"

      This is seldom done, and would require to accept unexplained death rates increases over the next 10 years on areas close to the nuclear plant, or affected by fallout (however minimal/short lived it may seem to be).

      Of course, these analysis should be also done on chemical spills, and I bet there lots of them after the tsunami.

  83. JohnG

    Hitchhiker's Guide

    Could we take a leaf from Hitchhiker's Guide and persuade all the doom sayers that the Earth is irrevocably contaminated and that, as the important and useful folk, they all need to restart civilisation on Mars?

  84. Anonymous Coward

    If i were lewis page...

    ... i would try to avoid having anyone point out the obvious flaws in my arguments by disabling the comments feature.

    Oh, I see after the mauling he's got, he's figured it out for himself on his latest effort:

    Great work reg.... so much for open debate etc. That should keep all them nuclear scaremongers at bay eh?

    Speaks volumes about the strength of your position when you decide to disable comments....

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: If i were lewis page...

      Sorry to disappoint, but it's a site glitch - Lewis is always happy for people to yell at him on the internet. You can use another comments section, like this one, or email him. Or enjoy the angry feeling of not being able to say stuff where you want to. Up to you.

  85. rciafardone

    Disaster or not nuclear is a waste of time.

    Nuclear energy is a waste of time, it uses a limited resource and therefore will be short lived, even less so than oil. Even if oil reserves last another 100 years the total time humanity used it massively would be just 200 years, that may seam much to shortsighted idiots, but is nothing but a drop in the ocean.

    Is strongly subsidized with means it cant carry its own weight.

    It produces waste material we don't yet know how to get rid of.

    Have Japan plants been termo or hydro they would already caused all the damage they could, but this nuclear bad boys still have the potential to screw us royally.

    The media is an attention whore, disaster calls attention, so their stupid reaction is to be expected, that the same reason greeny idiots are talking global warming all the time.

    1. Robert Sneddon

      Damn dams

      A dam forming a water reservoir failed during the recent earthquake up in the hills behind Fukushima. The resulting flood killed at least four people and at last reports another few folks were missing from the washed-out houses devastated by the wall of water, but since it wasn't radioactivity from damaged reactors that killed these people, just benign and safe H2O from a renewable resource this particular lethal disaster hasn't been big news on the world stage. Then again death and destruction from dam failures is so common it's rarely worth commenting on unless the number of people killed gets into the thousands.

  86. Anonymous Coward

    "trust the system"

    "People who know nothing about the technology need to stop commenting and simply trust the system."

    I'm a physics graduate, but I've ended up in engineering jobs.

    For two decades or more I've worked with technology suppliers to people in safety critical control applications, including (but not only) the nuclear industry.

    I've seen what the nuclear industry managers get up to (some of it has come to public attention, some of it hasn't).

    There's no way that anyone should "trust the system" wrt nuclear power until the profit motive is out of the picture, and until there are no bonuses for cutting corners and lying about it (hello BNFL, Tepco, and others).

    But once the profit motive is out of the picture, and safety is the primary goal, nuclear will fail, because it will be uneconomic. So Lewis and Andrew and their fans might as well give up sooner rather than later. It'll save everyone a lot of typing now. It might save something more valuable later.

    Maybe the nuclear industry needs an AAIB and an FAA/CAA, or something along those lines. Even with profit as a goal, the aircraft and air travel industries seem to understand how to manage public perception of risk (most of the time). The public "trust the system".

    1. Charles 9

      Nuclear plants in the USA ALREADY have a bureau.

      It's called the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and even this hasn't helped nuclear's image much. No, nothing's going to erase the nightmare images of mushroom clouds and nuclear winter from our heads because it's a doomsday scenario. Furthermore, it's a MANMADE one, which makes the horror even worse because it is by our own hand. People fear nuclear because people associate it with "The End Of The World". That goes to the most basic primal fears, and since our most basic fears are also the reason we're still around, they're hard to shake. No other human technology apart from biotech (which BTW is under increasing scrutiny itself as they creep ever closer to the creep-out line of "engineered diseases") draws so much primal fear for that reason.

  87. mr sarkozy


    Why is nuclear scary? Because as we know people in economic or poitical power will swear blind that the risk is zero, for short term gain,only for next generations to reap the rewards : here in france we ilke nuclear, but they forgot to plan what to do with the waste (now leaking in to the water). When I arrived here in the 90s they were only just starting to decontaminate buidings of asbestos, 20 years behind the UK program. Something to do with the massive asbestos producing industry? One lesson : don't trust the bastards.

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