back to article Fukushima fearmongers are stealing our Jetsons future

As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down, the salient facts remain the same as they have been throughout: nobody has suffered or will suffer any radiological health consequences. Economic damage and inconvenience resulting from the quake's effects on nuclear power have been significant, …


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  1. TheOtherHobbbes

    No consequences?

    TEPCO press release:

    "On March 24th, it was confirmed that 3 workers from cooperative companies who were in charge of cable laying work in the 1st floor and the underground floor of turbine building were exposed to the radiation dose of more than 170 mSv.

    2 of them were confirmed that their skins on legs were contaminated. Although they were decontaminated, since there was a possibility of beta ray burn injury, they were transferred to Fukushima Medical University Hospital. The third worker was also transferred to Fukushima Medical University Hospital on March 25th.

    After that, the 3 workers were transferred to National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture."

    I suppose in the world Lewis Page lives in possible beta burns and a transfer to a specialised hospital for monitoring don't count as "radiological consequences."

    Sounds like an interesting place to live, LewisWorld does. But I'm not sure I'd want to visit.

    Does it need to be said that if even if someone is irradiated with a fatal dose, they don't drop dead immediately unless the dose is extreme?

    It can up to a month to die. And there's a fake "recovery" period during which it looks like there are no lasting consequences.

    Never mind the other lasting consequences that only show up over the years in increased cancer clusters, and the like.

    Tell you what, Lewis - let's see how this looks a month from now, shall we?

    Then we can be sure what "no consequences" actually means to the people on the ground there.

    1. Highlander

      OFFS! Do some research!

      All the workers affected by contaminated water have been released from hospital - as reported in the daily update on events by the IAEA.

      Before you blast Lewis with your pointless diatribe, perhaps you could bother your arse to research the matter first?

      1. James Gibbons

        According to the New York Times...

        the exposure to their feet was 2000 to 6000 mSv, a much higher dose than initially reported by their upper body monitors. This level is high enough to cause skin to slough off after a few weeks. Meanwhile, they may not have any symptoms. Perhaps you are the one who needs to read up on things.

      2. J 3

        @OFFS! Do some research!

        That coming from someone who does not do any either. I think that word does not mean what you think it means.

    2. Mad Hacker

      Have you ever had a sunburn?

      So if you've had a sunburn you've had the same type of suffering they've had. From what I've read they have been released home unharmed. Go back to watching Fox News and stay off news sites for intelligent people.

      1. vitalhealth

        Lumping all types of radiation together is MISLEADING - and is comparing apples to oranges!

        Naturally-Occurring Radiation-

        There are, of course, naturally occurring radioactive materials.

        But lumping all types of radiation together is misleading ... and is comparing apples to oranges.

        As the National Research Council's Committee to Assess the Scientific Information for the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program explains:

        Radioactivity generates radiation by emitting particles. Radioactive materials outside the the body are called external emitters, and radioactive materials located within the body are called internal emitters.

        Internal emitters are much more dangerous than external emitters. Specifically, one is only exposed to radiation as long as he or she is near the external emitter.

        For example, when you get an x-ray, an external emitter is turned on for an instant, and then switched back off.

        But internal emitters steadily and continuously emit radiation for as long as the particle remains radioactive, or until the person dies - whichever occurs first. As such, they are much more dangerous.

      2. Dagg Silver badge

        Sunburn -> Skin cancer

        In places like Australia and New Zealand with a lot of sun (compared to the UK) the skin cancer rates are very high. To to equate the exposure as harmless sunburn is being extremely stupid!

        In Australia the school uniforms are especially desigined to limit sun exposure for children and after an incident with a women in her mid 20s dying from skin cancer all sun beds are regulated. The government has public service adverts warning people about sun exposure and skin cancer and how it can appear years / decades after the initial exposure. To quote one of the ads "There is never a safe level of sun exposure!"

        Ok, these workers may have have some discomfort for a few days because of the burn, but what is there chance of skin cancer in the future.

    3. Joe Cooper


      Actually he did mention exactly that - do you even know what a beta burn is?

    4. Not That Andrew


      I suffer worse radiation burns every summer, but I've never had to be hospitalised for them.

    5. Jim Morrow


      Is that anywhere near PC World?

      Decide for yourself which of the two has more credibility.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No damage done

      If you receive routine radiotherapy for cancer, you may well experience burning and reddening of the skin similar to sunburn. It is caused by the radiation. It has no important health consequences (except, of course that the treatment may cure your cancer).

      These nuclear workers *didn't* receive any burns, it seems, so they're even safer than a cancer patient who hasn't got cancer. The only "radiological consequences" they received were the unnecessary inconvenience of being checked out in hospital to confirm they were unharmed.

      Just how safe does one need to be?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "If you receive routine radiotherapy for cancer, you may well experience burning and reddening of the skin similar to sunburn. It is caused by the radiation. It has no important health consequences (except, of course that the treatment may cure your cancer)."

        Or, on the other hand, it might kill you. In fact, in many cases it does kill the patient. But if the chance of the treatment killing you is less than the chance of the disease killing you then you're ahead of the game and even if, for example, CAT scans kill 14,000 people per year they probably save many more than that. So the treatment is "effective" but not "safe" and certainly not "harmless".

        The problem here is that these guys' alternative to risking death was not some higher risk but to stay at home and not be irradiated at all.

        To start a story with "As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down" while at the same time radiation levels are rising is flying in the face of reality even if the risks are being massively exaggerated by the mainstream media. They have at least now found the (probable) cause in the form of an 8" gap in a containment wall, so it may be possible tomorrow to say that things are winding down. It was not reasonable to say that on the 31st of March.

    7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Radiation == Hitler in a box, with a side order of delayed death.

      "Sounds like an interesting place to live, LewisWorld does. But I'm not sure I'd want to visit. Does it need to be said that if even if someone is irradiated with a fatal dose, they don't drop dead immediately unless the dose is extreme?"

      I hate to tell you this, but you have a good chance of not immediately dying of cancer due to accumulated chemical crap and various food-borne toxins in _your_ world. Looks like these diesel particulates in your lung might give you a nasty problem, too. What about the heavy metal on your dinnerplate? Or how about those inflamed arteries lightly coated in fat and calcium? One does not drop dead immediately, but eventually...

  2. FourCandles

    Testing testing

    One, Two, Three

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      It's up

      Flypaper works.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      @ Fork 'andles

      Ah - a pair of testees?

    3. Raving
      Dead Vulture

      One, Two, Three, ... Seven

      Is a 10% emission *rate* relative to Chornobyl insignificant?

      "Japan has raised the severity rating for its tsunami-stricken nuclear reactor from Level 5 to Level 7, the highest grade, ... the radiation emission rate at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is about 10 per cent of that at Chornobyl, the crippled Japanese facility has emitted a huge amount of radioactive substances that pose a risk over a large area."

  3. Mystic Megabyte

    Don't agree?

    This man doesn't

    Neither does this guy:

    "If there are significant areas of caesium-137 soil concentration of the order of 100,000 Bq kg−1, evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent," says Smith.

    In event of a nuclear disaster in the UK just stand next to Mr.Page. He has a reality shield that will protect you.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      But has a nice map

    2. Mad Hacker

      Did you actually read those articles?

      They didn't sound like they were written by an engineer or anyone with any knowledge, they just regurgitated some numbers and drew their own conclusions.

      It's laughable that one of the biggest concerns was that there were more than 1 reactor at a power generation site.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        But he's right: "If SHTF, make sure that you don't need 4 arms"

        He has a 100% well-founded engineering concern:

        If one of the machines blows plumes, that will seriously hamper you pampering the others.

    3. Ammaross Danan


      ""If there are significant areas of caesium-137 soil concentration of the order of 100,000 Bq kg−1, evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent," says Smith."

      If you actually read the article, they did not find 100,000 Bq/kg of caesium-137. This statement would be similar to "if Chernobyl had contaminated the area with 100,000 Bq/kg of caesium-137" or if we found that amount under your front porch. It's not saying they are likely to find such, nor had found such. It's giving you a rough figure to know where the "permanent evac" level is.

      "In short, irrational fear of nuclear technology is what has stolen away the brilliant Jetsons-style future that was envisioned for us 50 years ago – and may yet steal it from our children."

      I remember hearing about a period of time where irrational thought prevented technological improvement....oh yeah, it's called the Dark Ages. Perhaps some of these fearmongers (such as the OP) should come out of their quasi-religious delirium and actually learn something about the situation.

    4. Stephen Sherry

      Hindsight is great... statistically

      Hindsight... that's all we have to prove the effects of any given nuclear anything. While I understand in most instances, no known long term effects of radiation exposure due to contamination (due to reactor failures) exist (in the power generating, non-military, sector), and the dangers of the past statistics are lower than other "power sources," it is still true that it is impossible to predict with 100% certainty the results of a "disaster" that has never happened before. What is likely to be true, does not automatically make it true, until it becomes part of the past and can be looked at or studied. And just because an individual's speculation turns out to be right, because it was only speculation, it does not provide the justification to be able to honestly (honestly) say I told you so.

      Not to mention, the long time usage of what "radiation exposure" means, lumps in the statistics of all sources of radiation. My theory is that no 2 sources of radiation are equal. Some sources should be avoided at all cost (like particles of plutonium in the body at one extreme, which we keep learning something new about that changes our knowledge of its nature), and some actually have health benefits (like UV at appropriate doses to help create vitamin D). The statistics I hear used all the time to prove the safety of radiation lump data from both extremes, which seems to sound very 19th to mid 20th century thinking (my biggest pet peeve of modern science is much of it is not modern, and takes a long time to update). Not to mention most common meters used to measure radiation levels cover a very broad range of radiation sources without being able to differentiate them. Separate tests are used to find radioactive isotopes, and the majority seem to just detect higher than normal levels of radio energy (which is the cheaper test, and usually the first test).

      An antenna is technically "radio-active", and at high enough energy can be deadly. A chunk of plutonium a few atoms in size, while theoretically less fatal, will cause constant damage in the body, even though the damage is (statistically) low, most human bodies are (statistically) malnourished, so therefore cannot regenerate at optimal rates. The rate at which one can regenerate (statistically) drops with age.

      I believe the reason most people have become anxious about nuclear power, is that industry tends to play down all dangers in their respective industries, unless forced to do otherwise. And since most people don't realize that they are resistant to harms potentially caused by industry, many of those people tend to try to err on the side of caution, and often feel sympathy towards those who are easily harmed by the actions of industry, because (statistically) it could be they who are harmed. While not likely to be harmed over one's life span (statistically), most people try not to say, "screw the minority who could be harmed, I want my cheap toys!"

      So, yeah, there are going to be differing opinions on things that are still (statistically) unknown due to their lack of having happened. And these days people are sensitive to anxiety because so many things that used to be certain, are now back in theory-town. So when the same people who used to say ducking and covering can save you, are now saying everything is fine, people start to lose trust in anything said by experts. And i feel the need to remind people, the fear mongering media are NOT experts in anything other than looking good, and sounding good, for their fans. And many of them are people (GASP!), and most people who have been misinformed by industry experts do not find it easy to know the difference between real experts, and the ones used by industry. Not very many individuals are science nerds who have the ability to differentiate between what is true and what is just an assumption, and therefore have the ability to calm their own nerves. And the people they try to rely on to help them know the difference seem to be very bitter and do not do well at educating them. So that leaves them with the pretty media, and their fear mongering.

      Congratulations, condescending nerds, you failed.

      Showing some true empathy to your audience, that isn't obviously forced or condescending, is the only way to help people feel comfortable in the things that are out of their control, and that they know little to nothing about. People are already anxious about the the unpredictability of the; moving poles, changing weather (on every planet in the solar system), actions of the sun, natural disasters, diseases, war, politics, life, love, and other people (I'm sure I've left something out :P). How they are reacting to nuclear based "disasters" seems perfectly normal. Just because we don't like how people react, does not mean they won't react that way, and using a condescending tone will not help them to stop reacting the way they do. Without the right approach, you actually need the generations of anxious and misinformed people to die off for people as a whole to change. But as long as those people are still the ones teaching the next generation, they will teach their fears and misinformation to the next generation, even though it isn't part of the curriculum.

      I believe there is a bigger picture here than just the debate over the safety of radiation in all of its forms. Of course, this is just my opinion of my observations, which may or may not be related at all to reality. Correlation does not equal causation. Statistics show what is possible using past experience, they do not prove the facts, or predict the future with any definable accuracy, unless you use more statistics to create a percentage of accuracy, which then has its own statistical error. Observation, and recording of what is observed, is the closest thing to reliable science. Statistics, while a useful tool, can often keep scientists from allowing the odd things observed from making their way into the published information, especially when it is finally filtered down to the laypeople. GOD forbid they let their own experiments prove their hypothesis wrong. These days people are generally resistant to conceding. I was taught in primary school to stand by my opinion, even if I was unsure of it, which to me is not being honest. And this, I believe, is the reason the laypeople have a hard time trusting anyone trying to push their truth on others. Because so many informers are taught to insult others intelligence through condescension, or at the very least, are never taught not to.

      I'll grab my coat...

      1. 42

        Brilliant post !

        The best bit about all this though is the very same tactic used by climate deniers to discredit expert scientists can now be used as a response to the nuke fans, who mainly seem to be in the sceptic camp.

        Hosted by their own petards methinks!

    5. mmiied


      "If there are significant areas of caesium-137 soil concentration of the order of 100,000 Bq kg−1, evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent,"

      IF that amount is founf anywhere

      I could equley say "IF we contamnate the soil with mircury or oil it will be usless and evacuation of these areas could be effectively permanent"

      dose not mean it has or is going to happen

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More of the same...

    "nuclear power is far and away the safest form of energy generation.."

    Is it..! is it REALLY!!

    In what sense is it safer than solar, wind, wave, geothermal, coal and gas?

    Because to be fair I have never heard of any of these plant failing and resulting in mass evacuation..

    But hey, maybe the nuclear lobby know more about the evil *insert other energy production group here* cover ups more than we do.

    1. DavCrav

      This way:

      "Is it..! is it REALLY!!

      In what sense is it safer than solar, wind, wave, geothermal, coal and gas?"

      In what way is it safer than coal or gas? If you ignore the hundreds of miners killed every year, ignore the pollution caused by oil spills (e.g., Gulf of Mexico), and so on, it still contributes to pollution in the atmosphere leading to asthma and shortening people's lives.

      As for solar, I'm pretty sure you have to mine metals to make these, and people die doing that. However, that happens a lot in poor places like Africa and South America, so people don't care.

      Wind, wave and geothermal aren't reasonably going to produce significant quantities of energy. If you are going to include those, then the safest way of generating electricity is using an exercise bike, I guess.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Fuel-rods just grow on trees do they?

        No extraction or refining processes needed?

        Nuclear is so good I think I have just come!

      2. slhilly

        Mining metals...

        Thanks for pointing out that you need to mine metals to produce solar power. Here's a really tricky question for you: does building and operation of a nuclear plant involve mining any metals, do you think?

      3. Someone Else Silver badge


        "As for solar, I'm pretty sure you have to mine metals to make these, and people die doing that. However, that happens a lot in poor places like Africa and South America, so people don't care."

        "As for nuclear, I'm pretty sure you have to mine metals (like Uranium) to make these, and people die doing that. However, that happens a lot in poor places like the Indian reservations of New Mexico, so people don't care."

        There, fixed.

      4. Anonymous Coward

        You're argument is flawed

        What powers nuclear power plants? Thin air? Uranium has to be mined as well.

    2. Alexander 3

      Yes, really.

      Coal is a massive killer; directly, through the mining process which kills miners every day, and indirectly through the particulate pollution on a population. Gas extraction is not without hazards also; explosions and blowouts can and do occur. Geothermal I don't know about. If wind was scaled up to the power of a nuclear output, it would certainly kill more people (simply from maintenance workers falling off the turbines if nothing else). Wave is too small to have sensible fatality statistics. But I'll grant you that solar is possibly safer...

      The point is... of all the major power sources, nuclear is, accidents (past and future) included, the safest...

      1. Dagg Silver badge

        Coking coal or thermal coal

        >Coal is a massive killer; directly, through the mining process which kills miners every day

        Which type of Coal mining are you talking about? Mining for thermal power production or mining for coking for steel production! It is the low quality lignite coal that is used for power and it is normally mined by open cut which is very safe. To use underground mining for lignite means it is expensive and not economic for power production.

        Coking coal on the other hand is valuable and will be extracted using dangerous underground mining. The vast majority of the deaths in coal mining are from underground mining which means the large majority of deaths are for coking not thermal. A good example was the Pike river mining disaster in New Zealand, that coal was not for power production.

        So moving completely away from coal fired generation to nuclear will NOT save many lives. A lot of the pro-nuclear comments all mention "getting your facts right", well check out the differences between the uses of coal and while you are at it look up the numbers of people killed mining and processing uranium.

        One other thing to remember about exposure to radioactivity, it is like cancer, you are never cured you are just in remission.

      2. Derek Clarke

        And wave power is lethal!

        If one were to treat the substance necessary for wave power with the same respect as those necessary for nuclear power, a 20 mile evacuation zone would be set up at all coasts!

        So many people have died over the years thanks to the sea, this horrendously dangerous substance should be banned forthwith!

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Yes. Yes it is

      ..when you consider the *full lifecycle* of the product, compared to coal or gas or oil. And don't forget - photovolt needs a lot of precious metal mining - well known for it's safety record.

      You don't need to be a pro-nuker (which I'm not btw), to notice recent events in the Gulf of Mexico to for one. I suppose that's nice and safe? Which would you rather have - neglegible traces of shortish half-life in the water causing *zero* issues, or thousands of tons of oil, killing off an entire ecosystem for years to come?

      The only one on your list that's ok is Geothermal, but you also forgot tidal. These are the closest things "green" can come up with which is low impact, and reliable enough to feed the baseline power requirements. The rest simply aren't practical or reliable enough.

      Until then, you greenies need to suck it up, and accept that to supply our increasing baseline and reduce CO2 output at the same time, nuke is the solution for our future baseline needs.

      1. Tipjip

        Full Lifecycle?

        Talking about full lifecycle, there is just no way to compare coal to nuclear yet. The life cycle of nuclear plants has barely begun, if you consider the waste will stay problematic for a few thousand years...

    4. Highlander

      Other risks....

      Solar - panels are manufactured using many techniques borrowed from the rest of the semiconductor industry, there are a lot of relatively toxic and dangerous substances used, and workers are at risk at all times.

      Wind - already documented deaths thanks to this benign technology.

      Coal - miners die every week, the pollution produced by burning coal includes not only the usual green house gasses but also fine particulates, heavy metals and .....shock horror... radioactive materials. In fact if you dont have clean burn technology and filters/scrubbers cleaning the smoke, a coal fired power station can emit some extremely nasty substances and you dont want to live down wind. then we get to the whole coal ash waste disposal issue, this stuff is very nasty, and it doesn't have a half life. My personal favorite element of environmental damage done by coal mining is the 'capping' of mountains in the Appalachian chain in states like Kentucky, West Virgina, Tennessee and North/south Carolina. The recipe is simple, take a mountain, find a massive coal seam, blow up the mountain - literally cutting the top of the mountain off to reveal the coal, strip mine the coal, put the rubble back on the 'mountain' The result is a mountain that is no longer a mountain, but a large rock pile that looks like it was hit by a road grader

      Oil - well apart from the deaths involved in drilling and production, there's the whole oil-spill catastrophe thing, then there's all the wars fought over oil - although to be fair I guess we can exclude those deaths since they are indirectly related to the oil extraction process. Then there's the processing of the oil - refineries burn readily and produce large quantities of extremely toxic waste.

      Gas - well like oil there are problems with production, every now and again there is rather a large bang somewhere and people die (gasometers, pipelines, etc). We have a new way to screw things up in the US called gas fracking. Basically we drill a well, pump water down into the gas bearing strata to intentionally fracture huge areas of rock, and then extract the gas forced out of the formation. The result is rather a huge increase in localized earthquakes - some relatively significant in scale.

      No one is ignoring or forgetting the dangers of environmental damage of uranium mining, but considering the relatively small quantity of fuel required by Nuclear energy, that scale and damage is limited when compared to coal, oil and gas extraction.

      The truth is that watt for watt, Nuclear energy is by far one of the cleaner and safer forms of energy generation. But let's not let truth get in the way of emotion and irrational fear.

      1. Chris Miller

        If you're really that young

        "I have never heard of any of these plant failing and resulting in mass evacuation"

        Google "Aberfan 1966" - but surely even a ten-year-old has heard of Buncefield.

      2. Sebmel

        You underplay uranium mining issues

        I agree with the balance of you post but if you research it only briefly you will find that the issues surrounding uranium mining are substantial. It results in a very large volume of toxic tailing and large areas of contamination. Early mines had poor safety... just as the early coal mines did.

        This article gives some idea of some issues:

        Note that the problems aren't restricted to the US. There has been poor practise worldwide:

        1. Highlander

          I wasn't suggesting that unarnium mmining isn't dangerous

          All mining is dangerous. What I was getting at is the difference in scale between total global coal mining vs uranium mining. I'd never suggest that any form of mining was not dangerous, but when you are totaling up the deaths per watt of the various forms of energy, including the deaths associated with obtaining the fuel, the impact of uranium mining is dwarfed by that of coal.

          1. Sebmel

            I think my point wasn't clear enough

            I suggest that you underplayed the problems associated with uranium mines, not that you suggested it was safe.

            Coal mines are larger scale but do not leave a legacy of toxic tailings. Coal's most widespread consequence is mercury raised levels in the oceans. Other than that it leaves a hole in the ground (which has occasionally caused subsidence) and large tailings heaps (that once buried a Welsh school).

            Uranium mining's legacy is no go areas: millions of tons of radioactive tailings because of the low grade of the ore compared to relatively pure coal. These crushed rocks have been left lying around on the surface, leaching contaminants into ground water.

            I suggest that comparisons are rather difficult and simply saying that coal mining produces a greater volume of pollutants, or is responsible for bigger holes, doesn't really add up to a satisfactory assessment of the environmental impact of the two processes.

            Incidentally, the quantity of tailings, size of holes, cost of mineral and clean-up operations are all growing fast for uranium as the industry has failed to find ore of the grade of the Canadian mines which are coming to the end of their life.

            The most hopeful source I've read of is suggested by Japanese research using algal bioabsorption to extract it from seawater. A nice process that cleans our planet a little. I'm not anti-nuclear power.

            1. Black Betty

              Coal tailing ARE TOXIC. Virtually ALL mine tailings are toxic.

              The toxicity of most mine tailings (uranium included) is in the heavy metals made mobile by the extraction processes. And even though coal might produce only a minimal amount of overburden per ton of coal extracted, the sheer volume of coal removed from the ground is so large that the total quantity of tailings is very significant. Furthermore, once burnt, the mineral ash which remains contains considerable quantities of heavy metals.

              Nor are coal's effects limited to those of mining, and it's solid wastes. Atmospheric pollution remains the real killer at an estimated 80,000 lives per year worldwide.

              Total cycle, including Chernobyl as a datapoint, coal kills at least 1000 times as many people per year as uranium. Excluding Chernobyl (since it's like is never likely to happen again) the "true nuclear casualty rate" lies comfortably below that of idiots killing themselve falling off swivel chairs whilst changing light bulbs.

              No go zones? I believe that the US federal standards for the cleanup of any site disturbed by human activity for "radiological purposes", mandate that background readings be reduced below an arbitrary nationally defined figure before the site can be declared fit for human use. Local norm be damned. Natural background radiation condemns much of that land simply because it once fell within the bounds of a Uranium mine lease which was worked.

              The amount of radioactivity present, even in uranium tailings, really is a complete non issue. Take a look at the Soviet waste dump near the Mayak reactor and places like Faluja and to a lesser extent the Balkans where significant quantities of depleted uranium munitions were deployed? The symptomology in these locations is quite consistent with heavy metal poisoning. It is not particularly consistent with radiation poisoning.

              Some Navaho (I think) indians WERE badly affected by drinking water which had accumulated in uranium mine pits. In these cases it was absolutely determined that the culprit was heavy metals and had little or nothing to do with any elevated levels of radiation.

              This suggests to me, that it's only circumstances like the current Fukushima crisis, where volatile (and potentially bioactive) radioactives such as iodine and caesium are concentrated by a process akin to fractional distilation in the overheated reactors, that they present an appreciable radiolgical threat.

              At other times, chemical/heavy metal toxicity would appear to be the primary biological issue, long before radiotoxicity reaches a worrisome level.

        2. Aaron Em

          Well, then, what the hell do you want?

          No matter how we produce energy, no matter whether it's a filthy monstrous Satan-subsidized nuclear plant or a nice safe tree- and child-friendly array of solar panels or wind turbines -- we're going to have to rip *something* out of the ground, *somewhere*, in order to build the frigging thing.

          So what do you prefer? Do we go back to a purely agrarian society which can't sustain one in ten thousand of the humans currently alive on the planet -- or do we look to the future and try to come up with a way of ripping necessary things out of the ground that's not quite so awful to the people who have to do the work?

          Your call.

          1. Gary Bickford

            Even better - hunting & gathering

            ... or just gathering. Wouldn't want to kill critters just to feed ourselves! ;) And even subsistence farming does tremendous damage to the local ecology. Better just pick berries, and not too many!

            The only problem with these plans is the need for 99.9995% of us to disappear, and the inclination of nearly all of us to say, "OK, you first!" :D

        3. Captain Thyratron

          Welcome to mining in general.

          Accumulation of toxic tailings is a problem for the mining industry at large, and uranium tailings constitute only a small fraction of a widespread environmental problem that seems only to receive attention when uranium is involved--oh, but those other toxic tailings aren't radioactive*, so it's totally cool.

          *Except that they are. Good luck digging something out of the ground that isn't. Mind you, that isn't what makes these tailings piles hazardous.

    5. darwin

      mainly insignificant power sources

      solar, wind, wave and geothermal are supplementary energy solutions, not primary solutions, and they will not be for decades. Have you honestly seen any videos from coal mines in unindustrialized countries? did you know that living within 50 miles from a coal plant subjects you to three times more ionized radiation that living in the same distance from a nuclear power plant? Gas plants are very ineffective and releases huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. With the current way of life and the current energy needs, you can dislike nuclear powerplants as much as you like, but we need them.

    6. Black Betty

      Hmm let me count the ways.

      Solar = Huge quanties of extremely, and I mean Bhopal extremely, toxic solvents used in manufacture. Manageable when making Pentiums by the square metre. How manageable when manufacturing is to be measured in hundreds and thousands of square kilometres?

      Also most solar implementations are roughly the equivalent of paving over a like area of ground in several ways. They are highly destructive to the ecosystem of the land they occupy, and they allow for virtually no other use of that land but power generation.

      Wind = A very strong possibility that infrasound from turbines can have a measurable effect on the health of nearby inhabitants. The audible sounds of turbines isn't all that pleasant either. Aircraft warning lights are also very intrusive at night.

      Wave = We have yet to successfully build something that the ocean can't smash economically. This problem may well manifest itself rather expensively when rogue waves start taking out offshore wind turbines too.

      Geothermal = Fracking the ground. And moving the wells to different locations every decade or so.

      None at this stage ubiquitous enough to determine a true cost.

      Coal = An estimated 80,000 deaths per annum from respiratory illnessess. And a couple of thousand dead miners per year.

      Gas = About the best all round "conventional" choice. Although I believe a more distributed delivery system is better than straight up replacing GW for GW. By delivering piped natural gas to all towns of a given size or above, the possibility of local power generation becomes more attractive. It is unfortunately still a greenhouse gas emmitter.

      Nuke = Allowing Chernobyl (using figures from the pesimistic end of the casualty spectrum) and this incident, the civilian butcher's bill can be demonstrated to be approximately 1% of Coal's. Matched GW for GW that figure might climb as high as 5%. Now take Chernobyl out of the mix. Nothing about that event was typical and the number of such reactors remaining is small and will soon be zero.

      WITH CHERNOBYL as a statistical data point. Nuclear power generation is far safer than air travel.

      WITHOUT CHERNOBYL the civilan casualty rate that can be attributed to nuclear power generation is so small that it is litterally impossible to discern it from background noise. Nuclear workers on average are healthier, and suffer fewer cancers over their entire lifetimes than the general population. And the rate of non-nuclear industrial accidents is also well below that of any remotely comparable industry. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the reverse, the rate of radiological incidents in general industry far exceeds that of similar incidents in the nuclear industry.

      IN THE WINGS: Thorium cycle liquid fuel reactors. Meltdown proof. Self regulating. No need for active control. Low waste and proliferation resistant. Can also "incinerate" existing waste and surplus bomb materials. Can't quite zero the waste, but can reduce it to something which only needs to remain canned for a couple of centuries or so.

      AND Free Neutron beam sources. Can be used to build reactors with outputs as low as a few kilowatts, and physically small enough for like scale applications. Can burn any potential fuel, and what it can't burn it can "incinerate" with nothing more than an electrical input.

      1. Hermes Conran

        @ Black betty

        Infrasound aqffecting health? Aircraft waring light intrusive? You are really reaching there...

    7. Rob Moir

      oh dear

      If you really can't recall Buncefield or the environmental chaos of Deepwater Horizon, both fairly recent events, that says far more about your ignorance and inability to comment usefully on this subject than any amount of sarcastic flaming anyone else could possibly generate in reply to you.

  5. JCB.Photorf

    I am guessing you don't have children

    As you state that 15 children probably died from the radioactive effects of Chernobyl and I infer from that your would argue that that is the price to pay for nuclear energy, I guess you could argue that more get run over every day, however that is not the point - No deaths are acceptable, try arguing otherwise to grieving parents and you will soon see the full emotional force of your arguments.

    1. DavCrav

      I think what he meant was...

      "As you state that 15 children probably died from the radioactive effects of Chernobyl and I infer from that your would argue that that is the price to pay for nuclear energy"

      I think the point is that *only* 15 children have died from nuclear energy. The number of people who die because of coal is far higher, per week. We could of course not generate energy at all, but then lots of children would die of hypothermia. People will die, the point is trying to minimize the number.

    2. DWLR
      Thumb Down

      I'm guessing you think adult lifes are worth nothing

      All those coal miners were someone's children but fuck them right? They deserve to die for working underground.

      You tit.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Belvedere Mulholland

          Good in what way?

          Annoying people by being utterly irrational? Is that good? Perhaps you favour smug ignorance?

    3. Aaron Em

      'No deaths are acceptable'

      But highways and electrical power in general, these get a pass?

    4. Jaap stoel

      Lets divide the work

      So 15 people died... Big whoop.

      Compared to those 15 about tens of thousands of people died to produce the same amount of energy from coal. And hundreds more died for the same amount of energy from oil.

      I agree that every death is a tragedy. But looking at the bigger picture I'd say those 15 people are a much better deal compared to the amount of deaths caused by oil and coal plants.

      In other words. I'd rather talk to 30 grieving parents (assuming each dead person has 2) then to the hundreds or thousands I'd have to talk to if I had to console every household who had lost someone to working in power production from oil or coal.

      Just try to put things in perspective.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not forgetting...

        The hundreds of thousands who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a direct result of nuclear energy?

        1. MeRp

          Not forgetting...

          "The hundreds of thousands who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a direct result of nuclear energy?"

          If we don't forget those, then we also mustn’t forget all the people who have died to weapons created using non-nuclear forms of energy as well, right? I'm sure that, even if we restrict ourselves to only fuel-air type bombs, we'd find that petrochemical munitions have a far higher death toll than nuclear...

        2. It wasnt me
          Thumb Down

          @AC: Not forgetting...

          You sir, are an absolute fucking arse. It is becasue of dispiccable people like you, who cannot disassociate nuclear weapons from nuclear power (two completely different technologies) that we do not have cheap safe electricity. The crying shame is that it is willful ignorance with most people. They are capable of understanding the arguments but chose not do. What I don't understand is how you _can_ disassociate conventional carbon based weapons from coal and oil energy generation.

          Why not open your eyes, put aside prejudices and examine the evidence? How hard can it be?

    5. HW de Haan

      JCB.Photorf => I am guessing you don't have children

      According to your argument we should have stopped using fossil fuels long long ago. Remember Aberfan in 1966 for instance? Or San Martin Texmeluca in 2010? And what about the tsunami in Japan that shoved large parts of the Japanese petrochemical (read carcinogenic) industry over the land?

      Beer, because of the lack of something stronger

    6. vitalhealth

      Chernobyl: A Million Casualties

      A million people have died so far as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, explains Janette Sherman, M.D., toxicologist and contributing editor of the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. Published by the New York Academy of Sciences, the book, authored by Dr. Alexey Yablokov, Dr. Vassily Nesterenko and Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, examined medical records now available--which expose as a lie the claim of the International Atomic Energy Commission that perhaps 4,000 people may die as a result of Chernobyl. Enviro Close-Up # 610 (29 minutes)

      1. AndyC

        I assume you're joking

        I certainly took that as a joke.

        A million people?


        Oh, yes, that's just the normal death toll over the last 20-odd years in Russia isn't it?

        Directly attributable to Chernobyl? Give me a break.

    7. xperroni

      Think of the children!

      Of course, the fact that nuclear power posits a far smaller risk to children (as well as anyone else) than what we currently employ is not the point.

      The point is that we should abandon all semblance of rational thought and behave as rabid luddites at the remotest prospect of harm to "the children".

      Sigh... I think I'm never going to be a good father. Somehow I can't picture myself standing against something because I have children and somewhere, thirty years ago, more due to gross mismanagement than to any inherent danger, 15 children died.

    8. IMVHO

      Nothing is acceptable

      "No deaths are acceptable". That is the most empty argument that one could possibly make. To then move that into an ad hominem bit of blabbing erodes whatever point that you were trying to make. I mean, really; why do you find it necessary to invoke sobbing parents? How do you manage to infer that anyone would argue that this is "the price to pay"? Do you really think that a bunch of engineers sit around with slide rules and figure "Fifteen kids? Yeah, okay, let's go ahead with this one, I'll go line them up and we'll get the sacrifice started". You must live in a terrible world with a population that will never approach your level of morality.

      Ugh, I feel as though I'm responding to a political troll. "I propose that we ban funerals, as they are obviously correlated with death".

    9. Captain Thyratron

      Do you let your kids go outside?

      The sun's out there, you know, and that gives people skin cancer all the time. If you're going to be scared of things that are highly unlikely to kill you, then get your priorities straight.

      "No deaths are acceptable"? Why is atomic power held to a vastly higher standard than any other industry? A kid gets plowed over by a drunk driver and we blame the driver, even though it happens regularly. A bunch of coal miners die in a cave-in and we call it a freak accident, even though it happens regularly. A worker falls off a wind turbine and dies and we call it a freak accident, even though it happens regularly. A kid dies of thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine and we blame atomic power in general, even if occurrences of such are exceedingly rare. What is wrong with this picture?

      If we thought about traffic fatalities the same way we think about trifling quantities of radiation, most of the world would still be using horse-drawn carriages.

      1. Wibble

        Horses are bloody dangerous

        We couldn't possibly use horses as they're dangerous and unpredictable creatures.

        We'd have to walk everywhere. Ah, but no running as children get hurt. Actually walking is dangerous - people die walking; no ambulances, so they'd have to walk to hospital. Fleck, no hospitals either as this uses technology to build the place. Argh, no food to feed the 6billion. You bastards, you mean we'd have to turn to cannibalism and eat the 5billion superfluous people. All because we have to think of the 15 children?

        Why can't greenies think through the consequences of their beliefs? On the face of it there's little difference between environmentalism and religious beliefs in some deity or other - "greenimentalists"?

      2. Oninoshiko

        Horse-drawn carriages? My god, you're a MADMAN!

        We can't use horses, sometimes they get startled and trample a child!! What are you, some kinda heartless bastard? THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

        I propose everyone get of those giant plastic ball things, that way we can't run over each other, and the ball will keep of from getting hurt.

      3. jimmy

        @captain thyratron

        "If we thought about traffic fatalities the same way we think about trifling quantities of radiation...."

        we do.

        statistically it is safer to drive home drunk than it is to walk home drunk. that's a fact.

        the difference is that driving drunk harms someone else whereas walking home drunk does not (even if one stumbles into a cars path it's generally the car drivers fault - in the UK anyway).

        much like nuclear accidents. if it harms an innocent person even if they spend their whole life smoking and sunbathing they're going to be mighty pissed off. lawyers will be rubbing their hands together with glee.

        that's the only difference i can see. it's got very little to do with greenies and paranoid people. more to do with money and law suits than anything else. hence the regulation.

    10. Stephen Sherry

      How dare you! (sarcasm)

      So the deaths of blah blah blah are acceptable?

      Oh wait, you did say no deaths are acceptable...

      Behold the power of angry nerds...

    11. Rob Moir

      No deaths are "acceptable"

      Then why wasn't coal banned after Aberfan? (

      Just look at all those children. 116 of them. As much as I despise your shouting about numbers of children, I have to remind you that 116 is rather more than 15.

      If you want to tell me that is 131 deaths too many I'd absolutely agree with you - clearly we should be looking to improve the safety of all our industrial and power generating processes.

      But 116 kids dead from one coal mine incident puts the 15 at chernobyl into context. And I'm willing to bet that the people who lost family at Aberfan are not going to be comforted by the thought that at least their dead died of "nice safe" coal instead of "evil nasty" radiation. Dead too soon from either cause is still dead too soon.

    12. wim

      at last someone said it ...


      The problem is not that difficult to understand

      1 we use nuclear power and keep a certain level of living

      2 we only use carbon based fuels and run out of fuel sooner than later, polluting the world in the process

      3 we start using candles again and accept sex as the only entertainment after sundown.

      i am with option 1

  6. Martin 19

    But.. but.. but.. it's DANGEROUS I tell you!

    SEVERAL people have received minor injuries! There is a small area of land next to the plant that might not be suitable for farming for several years!

    ALL of this is down to these "atoms" that these nuclear people are playing with! The consequences are much worse than from any other source of power! The pollution from this incident is unprecendented I tell you, unprecedented! There is now possibly an immensely small risk of cancer for some people! ITS SERIOUS DAMNIT!

    We must abandon nuclear power NOW, and use coal/gas which emit no pollution whatsoever, or wind which can definitely supply all of our power needs!

    SCARY RADIATION! Think about THAT.

  7. Hermes Conran

    "experts" - often anti-nuclear campaigners, suggest the evacuation zone be extended.

    Like those anti nuclear IAEA guys huh Lewis?

    1. Highlander

      The IAEA has very, very strict guidelines which are as Lewis pointed out...

      ...far stricter than required by any rational or factual assessment of the actual risks involved. An evacuation is advised at levels far below those that represent any actual harm. The IAEA and other nuclear regulatory bodies are extremely cautious because of the irrational fear and utter lack of understanding of the risks that accompany nuclear energy in general.

      And before anyone conflates this with Chernobyl, that was a different circumstance with a vastly different set of parameters and vastly different release of nuclear material, both in terms of scale and activity.

      1. mmiied

        told by a person working in the indursty

        that it says in a goverment safty case for new nuke plants "the leval of safty on new plants must be twice as hi as for other types of plants due to public fears" so they have to be at least twice as safe because pepol do not trust them and pepol do not trust them because they have to be twice as safe

    2. Belvedere Mulholland

      "often" not "always", you see?

      Do I need to speak slower?

  8. Hermes Conran

    reprocessing would cut the amount of waste that had to be managed

    Actually while cutting high level waste reprocessing greatly increase the amount of low level waste, which still has to be managed. But seeing as Mr Page seems happy to have it in his house it looks like that problem's solved!

    1. Martin 19

      Oh no!

      So, it reduces the amount of "shit don't get that near me" waste, but increases the amount of "probably unsafe to insert rectally" waste.

      Yeah, sounds like a real bad deal to me.

      The vast vast majority of 'low level waste' is just general waste that has a sticker that says "from Sellafield" on it, and is about as radioactive as a pile of banana skins. It's normally just landfilled the same as household waste is.

      I doubt that Mr Page would be happy to have any kind of waste disposed of in his house, even piles of common-or-garden builder's rubble. Mr Page probably wouldn't want you in his house either, but that doesn't mean you're dangerously radioactive. Just dangerously full of shit.

      1. AndyC

        Not in normal landfill...

        Wrong, Low Level Waste gets sent to Drigg and stored in ISO containers at great expense.

        It reminds me of the bottled water that can't be poured down a power station's non-active drains system because it will put them over their discharge limits.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          There's places where low level nuclear waste stored IN THE OPEN

          Actually, its just because it isn't on a nuke site, the coal tip at Eggborough power station isn't classified as nuclear waste.

          If it WAS on a nuclear site, the coal tip is (naturally) radioactive enough to be classified as low - or possibly even intermediate level - nuke waste.

      2. jimmy

        you fail

        may i point you in the direction of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. And mr page for that matter too.

        unless you input energy then reprocessing will produce more waste than it deals with.

        1. Captain Thyratron

          Where'd you learn thermodynamics?

          Of course you input energy. Nominally, it comes from that gigawatt-class power source whose existence the waste fairly implies, and reprocessing requires only a tiny fraction of that power. Not a big deal, and certainly nothing Boltzmann would find offensive. FYI, his tombstone displays the law you're talking about. Go read it yourself before posting about it next time.

          1. jimmy

            noddy school i guess

            fair point. i guess extra mining/waste storing takes a lot more energy and creates more mess than reprocessing and then dealing with the waste from reprocessing and spent 2nd cycle fuel.

            i've switched sides......

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Well, yeah that's just, like, you opinion dude.

          "may i point you in the direction of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. And mr page for that matter too. unless you input energy then reprocessing will produce more waste than it deals with."

          2nd law of thermodynamics don't deal with the amount of waste, dude.

          It's to do with "disorder" and stuff. In closed systems. It's like, totally unapplicable. Especially when you can pull E=mc² on your waste.

    2. IMVHO

      oil sands

      Have a google of the tailings ponds that are the result of synthetic crude production in Alberta, Canada. Now that's a massive waste management problem. The current 'management' involves sticking it in huge ponds, and encouraging government and the population to not ask too many questions. After the truly nasty stuff settles-out, they pump it into deep mines. The water that's left, well, it's, erm, left.

      "Current tailings ponds waste water is equal to 220,000 Olympic swimming pools, according to Pembina. By 2020, the oilsands will create enough tailings ponds to fill 400,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools"

  9. Roo

    The realities of the cost of

    Sadly many of the pro-nuclear commentards seem to be wilfully blind to the cost of the long term storage of nuclear waste. That bomb-grade stuff is not just an expense because wimpy politicians don't like the idea of loonies building a homebrew nuclear bomb. It is also expensive to store because It actively destroys the containment vessels it sits in, it generates heat, and you need a fair bit of space to store it (to reduce the chance of it attaining critical mass).

    Add into the equation that it has a very long half-life and you have a very expensive storage problem for a very large number of years. If you know of a solution for dealing with these by-products of nuclear power in an inexpensive manner please write an article about it and set us sceptics straight. :)

    Nuclear powered aircraft of Jetson's vintage were very heavy, needed long runway, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that it might be a bit iffy to throttle back a gas-turbine with an air-cooled nuclear reactor in it. God help you if it takes as long to cool off as those much talked about BWRs - you would be overshooting the runway by a couple of days, not yards.

    1. Daren Nestor

      Yes but

      In a sensible world, we would continue burning that fuel, or reprocess that fuel which is erronously referred to as waste in your post.

      Or, we would have moved on and done the research so we weren't using uranium and instead were using something like thorium. The point is that anti-nuclear hysteria as well as the weapons angle has almost completely killed research into nuclear energy, and better and safer ways of doing things.

      You've managed to miss the point of the article entirely. The fear generated by the word nuclear is such that the "acceptable limits" for exposure or safety advisories for emissions are absurdly low, and that no other industry has to deal with the same level of scrutiny.

      There have been over 2,000 nuclear weapons detonated, nearly half by the US in Nevada, the bulk of the rest by the USSR, with France, China, Britian, India and Pakistan making up the rest, in order of number of weapons detonated.In the 50's and 60's that amounted to hundreds a year yet we're all still here.

      1. Roo

        Daren Nestor, Yes but... No, you fail too.

        1) The current pile of bomb grade stuff keeping Cumbria warm is the output of reprocessing.

        2) Sure, try different fuel cycles. First make them work, then tell me what you're going to do with the bits that you can't burn, and how long that stuff needs to be actively managed.

        3) I didn't miss the point of the article, in fact I get the point of the article. I chose to highlight that Lewis (and many fellow commentards) have consistently failed to address how to make nuclear waste management economically viable. In fact even your reply seemed to dodge this particular bullet as well.

        4) Historically detonating a pile of plutonium has not been cheap, and it has some undesirable side-effects. The pile of material being accumulated in Cumbria as a by-product of reprocessing a fraction of the world's fuel is in excess of 100t. That is a metric-shed-load of megatonnage. If that is the best option that the Nuclear Industry can come up with I think they are SOL convincing anyone that it is economically viable.

        5) I am not dead set against nuclear power. I am dead set against piles of nuclear waste cluttering up our farmland in the not-to-distant future.

        1. Adam Foxton

          You're kidding, right?

          100 tonnes of Nuclear waste was accumulated over how long? If it's more than a decade, I'd laugh at the person who told you that- 100 tonnes of pure Plutonium (let's just assume it's all horrendous nuclear burny stuff) would be approximately bugger all. About 5 cubic meters.

          It'd still be only ~10 if it had decayed to 100 tonnes of Lead.

          Now compare that figure to the daily volume of waste produced by a coal plant (go on, I'll even let you drop the volume of gas, so it's only particulate matter). How long would it have to burn before it produced 5 cubic meters of soot? A day? A week, perhaps?

          Now I'll admit that nuclear fuel has to be kept in relatively small, shielded containers and has to have special handling facilities, etc- so the overall volume dedicated to the waste will increase. But it's still a lower volume of waste matter than 'conventional' power plants produce. And vastly more useful; coal dust can't be reprocessed (well, not efficiently anyway), but Nuclear 'waste' can.

          And when we start re-processing it, it'll allow us to get vastly more electrical energy from the same lump of fuel (and massively drop the deaths/kWh and £/kWh and figure), the volume of waste produced per unit time will drop.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          keeping Cumbria warm

          Bloody hell, when were you there? I must have missed that day.

        3. smylar


          The reason why we have a pile of Plutonium, is that we haven't got a single commercial reactor in the UK capable of using it - We could have but don't - Why? because people are scared of the words "Bomb Grade" and "Commercial" in the same sentence and thinking the omnipotent terrorists will get it!

          If nuclear research hadn't been killed off in the early 90s, we could be well on the way to fast breeder reactors by now, a lot of them are passively safe and can use the the minor actinides as fuel - suddenly the waste problem gets a whole lot easier to deal with and we don't need to dig up more Uranium

        4. Andydaws
          Thumb Down

          Roo, re Sellafield and Plutonium

          Your mixing up two different things....

          Plutonium isn't waste - it's fuel. As is the "unburned" uranium to be recovered from fuel rods (about 95% of the original fissionable content). And it doesn't need constant cooling. The only precaution you need to take with plutonium from a radioloigical/safety perspective is to store it under oil, as it can be hypergolic (self ingniting...).

          Now, I'm no great fan of recycling for the sake of fuel recovery. The economics stink, and will do for many years to come. But then, there's no great hurry, as recycling gets easier the longer the fuel's been out of the reactor.

          There's a very different reason why recycling's a good idea, and that's because of the constiuents of spent fuel. Spent fuel isn't radiologically hot because of the uranium235//plutonium content. The fact that both have half-lives in the tens of thousands of years range or more should tell you that. And as they're both alpha emitters, the fuel cans themselves give pretty much all the shielding you need.

          They're hot (physically as well as radiologically) because of the decay of fission products. Mostly beta decay of caesium, strontium etc. There's a very small contribution from actinides other than uranium and plutonium, mostly americium, but that's sub 0.1% of the total heat content.

          But there's an upside to that. They're hot, because they've got short half-lives, so lots of decay. But that means, compared to the uraniums, plutonium etc, they're short lived. So, instead of taking tens or hundreds of thousands of years to decay to backgroung level, they take hundreds.

          If you want to be able to dispose of the overwhelming majority of the radioactive content of nuclear waste, in a way that doesn't involve making forecasts about very long term behaviour of cladding materials, ground water and so on, you should be arguing to extract those materials, and dispose of them in geological stores. We can do that, and use materials who's behaviours are well know over the timescales involved.

          WE know about cast iron lasting for hundreds of years - go to Ironbridge if you want to see a dramatic demonstration of that. We know that materials are immobilised in glass over a couple of millenia - we know that because we can find Roman glass coloured with uranium that's still kept it's content.

          So, reprocessing is very smart indeed - because it makes the nasty, really radioactive parts of waste very manageable indeed. And yes, it's economically viable. Reprocessing costs about 1-3% of the value of the electricity produced from a single cycle of the fuel - and if you assign no value at all to the recovered uranium and plutonium. Assign the U and Pu a value of about $100/lb, and it's profitable.

          Even leaving that aside, the difference it'd make to both the size, and the engineering costs of a waste repository, reprocessing would be self funding. At an informed guess, the repository that's currently planned to cost £10-15Bn would be 1/10th the size, and a fraction of the complexity if only having to deal with vitrified fission product waste. It'd cost perhaps £2-3Bn. The saving would pay for a complete thermal oxide reprocessing plant, and a couple of MOX fuel fabrication plants., and leave cash to spare.

        5. Feralmonkey

          HHHMMMMMM I wonder how france handles that

          Think about this, the thing that France has done the best at besides eating rich food drinking lots of wine and surrendering at the drop of a hat is handle and reprocess nuclear fuel how do they do it 80% of their juice is from........wait for it.........NUCLEAR wow so do you think that they have piles of waste in the farmland or maybe they just figured out a good way of dealing with it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      still good!

      It's supposed to generate heat. That's how you boil water with it. If it's still radioactive, it's still possible to use it as fuel in the future when we figure out how. Try doing that with coal smoke in the atmosphere.

    3. Joe Cooper


      The waste from oil and gas just magically vanishes into the air!

      1. Charles Manning

        And turns into...

        Plant food.

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "Nuclear powered aircraft of Jetson's vintage were very heavy, needed long runway, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that it might be a bit iffy to throttle back a gas-turbine with an air-cooled nuclear reactor in it."

      You forgot 1 other adjective for nuclear powered aircraft.


      Unless you count the Fireflash featured in the pilot episode of Thunderbirds.

      The Nuclear powered bomber was thought up by the deception department of the KGB as a hare for the US gov to chase and spunk lots of dollars over. It worked a treat. The US returned the favor some decades later with the Strategic Defense Initiative. 1-0 to the USA.

      However *no* conventional design (including both PWR and BWR) of the time was up to the NPB requirement but the design developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory solved handled the key problem (a gas called Xe135) by using molten salts for the fuel. Like a central heating system the gas went to the highest point in the reactor where it could be extracted.

      As it happens modernized versions of *this* reactor using molten Thorium or Uranium *can* dispose of that nuclear waste. Neutrons irradiate the long lived isotope waste and can move them onto shorter lived isotopes, leaving a much smaller volume of waste to fix. Unlike PWR (c140atm) or BWR (c70Atm. No it doesn't boil at 100c at that pressure) is basically a tank with some carefully shaped (but not interlocking) carbon blocks running at near atmospheric pressure. Home pressure cooker or central heating furnace (c2atm absolute) rather than industrial plant level.

      However nuclear reactors are like razors. Companies make their profit on the replacement fuel elements (AFAIK the market in replacement reactor fuel elements is slightly less competitive than that in mainframe memory upgrades). In contrast this design can be refueled by a mix of powders and a guy with a shovel (obviously in an airtight suit.

      Handy if your concerned that a core disruption (like an earthquake or internal explosion) might disrupt the core enough to prevent a controlled shut down by inserting some of those very close machined control rods into it for example.

      Google for Molten Thorium or Salt Reactor (YouTube also has a number of videos).

      "If you know of a solution for dealing with these by-products of nuclear power in an inexpensive manner "

      You've just read about it.

      "and set us sceptics straight. "

      There *are* good reasons to be skeptical that nuclear power down by the existing suppliers will be cheaper/safer/delivered on time/easier to de-commission than their existing plants.

      Failure to re-process is a *policy* and/or *cost* problem, not a technology issue.

      1. Andydaws
        Thumb Down


        You're missing a good few of the complexities of a molten salt design. And no, the Xenon doesn't "rise the the highest point" - it needs to be actively removed.

        And the way that that's done gives an illustration of a few of the design challenges involved.

        It's trapped in solution (not bubbles) in the salt; to get it out, the salt needs to be sprayed, at pressure (and at 700C or so) through a chamber with an inert atmosphere. The salt then needs to be de-gassed to remove the helium (or whatever other intert gas is used). All, again, at 700C, dealing with a radioactive halide salt. Not impossible, but hardly trivial.

        And, that's only the start. Getting iodine out involves something similar. Removing the Caesiums and Strontiums is harder - most likely involving vacuum distillation of the fuel. again, not fun.

        That's only half of it. for the sake of neutron economy, it's necessary to remove protactinium (the U233 precursor). That means something like bubbling fuel through a column of liquid bismuth. And getting out U233 itself (and other uranium bred) means forcing gaseous flourine (nice stuff!) through our already amusing, 700C, radioactively hot fuel.

        There's a lot of overselling of a basically good concept going on around MSBR/LFTR, radically understating the engineering challenges of moving form a small scale, non-breeding prototype to a commercially viable system.

    5. NoneSuch Silver badge

      Heavy cost of nuclear reactors

      It costs the same amount to build a nuclear reactor that is does to build a coal fired power plant. It was shown on one of those US late night news programs many years ago (I am thinking 20/20, but it could have been 60 Minutes) that over 80% of the cost of setting up a new nuclear reactor is because of legal expenses. Sierra Club, Greenpeace and the like suing to force environmental impact studies, wildlife surveys, geology and materials studies before ground is even broken. Of the 104 reactors now operating in the U.S., ground was broken on all of them in 1974 or earlier.

      On another one of these news shows they had a Doctor of nuclear engineering interviewed who said that he had a proven method of eliminating 99.97% of all nuclear waste in the reaction process, converting it to extra electricity instead. All that would be necessary would be modifications to existing reactors and the way they pack fuel rods. He never got his project off the ground because he was sued out of business by guess who...

      No technology is perfect. However, having nay-sayers bury their heads in the sand and scream "no-no-no-no-no-no-no" endlessly will not improve things.

      I predict when fusion technology is perfected to the point where power generation is possible their legal costs will be astronomical as well. I just wonder what "danger" the lawyers will find in that technology.

    6. Captain Thyratron

      This again?

      Seems like the waste argument is every anti-nuclear activist's favorite last line of defense.

      Wouldn't be much of a problem if the greenies would quit pushing legislation to restrict fuel reprocessing. As you know, France is a radioactive wasteland these days and nothing can live there.

      In fact, it still isn't much of a problem. Fuel reprocessing is thorougly discouraged in the US, and what do we do? Vitrify it for safe handling, then put the stuff under a mountain in the middle of nowhere in reinforced concrete cylinders lined with lead. By the way, we make these cylinders durable enough to withstand being hit by a train--and this has been tested. Oh, and if they do break open somehow, what do you get? Oh. Bunch of boring, vitrified stuff that isn't even radioactive enough to kill you if you just pick it up with your bare hands and toss it into another cylinder. Damn killjoys.

      Want another place to put it? Send me one of those cylinders and I'll use it as a TV stand. Be less of a radiological hazard to me than the supermarket, in all likelihood.

      By the way, I'm also pretty tired of hearing the rant about long half-lives. Ever hear of conservation of energy? The longer the half-life is, the less radioactive something is, pound for pound. Think about that for a moment. The stuff that really ruins somebody's day is the stuff with short half-lives, like iodine-131, caesium-137, and strontium-90. The iodine's the worst of the aforementioned, as the latter two have much longer half-lives (about 30 years for each, versus about eight days for iodine-131). For a radioactive substance to render some place uninhabitable for "several generations" (to borrow a phrase I hear too much) would require a gigantic quantity of material.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Sadly plenty of idiots refuse to understand that if we used fast breed reactors and fuel reprocessing the amount of left over fuel would be significantly smaller and easier too manage.

      Nuclear is an essential component to a balanced energy policy.

      Also something that's commonly forgotten is Japan has almost no natural resources and is pretty rubbish for renewable power except maybe geothermal power, however the whole high geological activity in the region likely makes that difficult.

      Japan has 53 nuclear reactors.

      A large coal plant needs 10,000 tonnes of coal a day (there about)

      In 2007 to run the coal plants it had, it needed to import 186 million tonnes of coal.

      Japan currently imports 7,310,000 tonnes a year, the largest gas importer , 2,630,000 tonnes of that from Indonesia who have stated they intend on reducing that figure to less than a fourth.

      They import the 3rd largest amount of oil after China and America.

      So simply put Japan doesn't have very many choices.

      Sadly people are generally stupid and go out of their way to make nuclear less efficient by spreading weird paranoia about weapons grade material falling into "the wrong hands", which is retarded as it isn't hard to track weapons grade material. So people are stuck having to store tonnes of nuclear material that could be used instead.

    8. 42

      Sorry Mate

      Your wasting your time. This is Lewis Page's one stop pro nuke shop, drowning in pro nuke, anti green shills.

      If you want common sense you're in the wrong place.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        No U

        10 points for using "pro nuke" as a cussword

        50 points for using "pro nuke" as a cussword twice, in the same sentence

        100 points for using "anti green" (is this quantum chromodynamics?)

        1000 points for using "shills"

        5000 points for suggesting that "common sense" is where anti-nuke, pro-green, non-shills reside

  10. Hermes Conran

    Lewis' analysis

    is sounding more and more like the scruffy guy in the high street with the can of diamond white. He still makes more sense than Orlowski though....

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Remember the documentaries from the 1950s?

    I'm remembering the "Godzilla" and "Them" documentaries. Also the Disney "Mr. Atom Is Your Friend" text book and similar.

    Is Lewis the anti-Daily Mail? It's all too one-sided.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Enough is enough

    As a clinical (radiation) oncologist, I understand a fair bit about the risks associated with radiation. Can I ask you to please stop saying a burn from ionising radiation is a minor event. It isn't. The dose of radiation needed to cause an acute skin reaction can vary, but would never be "small" or "minor". Sustained in an incontrolled way, with unknown or mixed radioactive sources, this event could have been fatal. Thankfully, they didn't trip over. We don't know what the increased cancer risk to these people is, but it is going to be significant.

    As for your main "nuclear power is safe" argument - I actually agree. This was a freak event, and the outcome has not been a disaster, but please stop playing down the risk the workers in the plant are taking, and the harm some of them have come to.

    1. jimmy
      Thumb Up

      page and highlander please read the above

      at last a sane opinion. and now shut up and please stop your ridiculous arguments about how no one will die from this. no one knows and quite possibly no one will ever know. what we do know is anyone that says they do know (ie you two gibbons) are talking complete tripe!

      1. Captain Thyratron

        You sure showed them!

        And yet you have nothing to say about the guy who fell off a crane and died at Fukushima Daini. The point here isn't that nothing bad happened to any workers at Fukushima Daiichi--and I thought this was pretty obvious in the article. It's that what has happened to those workers--and only a few of them--barely amounts to squat as far as industrial accidents go. Apply some perspective and knock it off with the exclamation points.

      2. Highlander

        I read above

        I simply pointed out that the three gentlemen who'd been exposed to contaminated water (including the burns on their lower legs, had been discharged. Whether or not they subsequently develop cancer, I can't tell you, and nor can anyone else - until they do. But then I can't tell you how many people exposed to dust in a mine today will die as a direct result of that dust, but I know they exist.

        They're not going to be discharged from hospital if they are in any immediate danger of anything, especially considering the level of focus currently on Japan's nuclear energy and the affects on those at Fukushima. I'm certain that they will be followed - medically - for a long time to come, and if in the fullness of time one or more of them develop cancer, I'm sure that someone will try to determine whether it is as a result of working at Fukushima or not. That will be difficult to show since the contamination was external.

        At no time, Jimmy, have I ever sought to diminish the courage and sacrifice that is implicit in working the site of a nuclear incident. The men working there are enduring higher risks than any of us, and I think about that every day, just as my heart literally aches over the 10's of thousands dead and injured and the 100's of thousands still displaced from their homes, many without homes to go back to. I've never lost sight of any of that. nor will I lose sight of the risks that the workers at Fukushima take. What I will not do is overstate the risks or make worst case assumptions every time something happens. That doesn't mean everything's rosey and wonderful, far from it. But instead of believing that we're all doomed I decided to use my head, my education and my ability to research to learn and understand and keep up to date on the matter since the media was doing such a shite job in general.

        How dare you even imply that I or Lewis or anyone else doesn't care about the men and women working to recover things in Japan, especially those at the Fukushima daiichi Facility. How dare you demean the deaths of the thousands who have perished by focusing your attentions on the potential, but not actual death of some unknown number of people who may, or may not have been exposed to elevated (but not lethal) doses of radiation while working to prevent further loss of life. did it ever cross your mind that the reason the people working at Fukushima are doing so is to protect all those vulnerable people in the earthquake and Tsunami disaster zone?

        Now, if it's reported that the men who were contaminated and subsequently released do have lasting consequences that can be quantified, it will of course mean that at least three people would have suffered a consequence of the radiation. But at this time, as this is written, that is not the case, here we are three weeks after the original event and still we have not had any reported cases of radiation sickness or any other significant radiation related injury - bar these three men who have been discharged from hospital. So, please stop YOUR ridiculous arguments and start paying attention to fact instead of ignoring fact by assuming the worst. What's more ridiculous Jimmy, pointing out the factual information that no one has yet suffered a significant injury as a result of Fukushima Daiichi; or constantly whining that even though no one has been hurt they may all potentially DIE from radiation...? I'm basing everything I write and think about this in fact, science and reason. You appear to be basing everything on presumption, assumption, supposition and emotion.

        As you your self say "no one knows and quite possibly no one will ever know". That is a fundamental truth about everything we do in life. If that's the most damning thing you can say about this, then the word ridiculous appears to apply more to you, than me.

        1. jimmy
          Thumb Up


          Highlander, I actually agree with everything you say. I also think it's tragic that this issue has overshadowed the real disaster in Japan.

          What i disagree with is the polar opposite opinion this article takes and to some extent your defence of that. you appear to be 'antiscaremongerers'. As bad as the press but the complete opposite.

          The article states there will be NO adverse health effects from this (implied for eternity too). This is simply untrue. Granted the numbers will most likely be insignificant in relation to coal mining accidents, tsunamis, back ground radiation levels, starvation etc etc.

          Physics dictates that there is a chance a particle from one of these reactors could be taken on global wind currents and be breathed in by an unsuspecting person many miles away. The chance is tiny and probably unmeasurable but certainly not zero. As there are 6 billion pairs of lungs on this planet it effectively increases that chance. And yes i know more people die from background radiation or crossing the road or whatever than this will ever cause.

          i was trying to point out that radiation is not an on off thing. it doesn't suddenly start causing cancer at a certain level. a low level exposed to a huge number of people will cause more ill health than a higher level to a small number of people. that's just the way it works.

          so yes i agree with what you say and the press has acted irresponsibly by scaremongering but there is no need to go and do the same but the complete opposite. Balance is what i'm after i guess.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Dead Vulture

            Re: agreed

            "Highlander, I actually agree with everything you say. I also think it's tragic that this issue has overshadowed the real disaster in Japan."

            Has it? Just because the most vocal contributors to these forums keep saying this doesn't make it true. I mean, do any of you people coming out with "It's distracting! Stop it!" actually read or watch the rest of the news? This attitude that "the MSM [for Christ's sake stop using this term, people] is only telling us what they want us to think, but I can't stop watching" is simply the whining of the lazy which I notice is then projected onto everyone else with the sentiment that "it's not me I'm worried about, it's the stupid people!"

            Like the way people emulate their role models, leading to people braying at each other Clarkson-style because they saw it on Top Gear, it's fascinating to watch people adopt the Page-style hyping of the notion that "everyone else is so stupid, they ruin it for us [supposedly] smart people", so that Page gets to trot out the "people hate nuclear spaceships" fallacy again when he's mostly referring to radioisotope generators which only the hardcore Greenpeace people really have a problem with, and then everyone apes him with their "stupid little people afraid of progress" bullshit as if they're somewhat smarter or better.

            Some of you seem so intent on projecting supposedly errant behaviour onto everyone else that it's tempting to think that you actually behave that way yourself and that this is some kind of absolution ritual. And Page trotting out the same tired assertions is just like that irritating kid at school who finished the test before everyone else and spent the rest of it irritating people, ultimately failing the test himself because he thought he was smarter than everyone else and could afford to show off about it.

            1. Highlander

              Well, that'll explain why everyone I work with...

              ...regurgitates the same fictional doom laden headlines that the mass media and news organizations are pushing. People in general - the ones around me every day - believe every word that news organizations like Fox spew forth. The fact that those organizations sensationalize, mis-report, lie, and spin the news is the reason people still think that these reactors will go into some kind of China Syndrome meltdown. Some balance is required, and I'm glad at least one news organization (which in essence The Register is) has the courage to buck the trend and actually report fact with intelligent analysis.

    2. Andydaws

      Point taken, but....define "significant"

      What's the arising from the radiology treaments you presumably prescribe - involving doses to non-tumourous tissue an order of magnitude higher than those that these chaps have undergone? I've not seen much to suggest it's over 1-2% incremental risk compared to the general population.

      1. Dagg Silver badge

        @Andydaws - "significant" is much higher

        Just compare the increased level of skin cancers caused by sun exposure in Australia compared to the US, UK and Canada. Australia has 4 TIMES the level (

        If you consider that the rate of irradiation that the plant workers have under gone I would suggest that the rate is considerably higher than that from sunburn.

        So, if you consider the "general population rate" to be like the UK and the plant worker rate like australia the significant rate is 25%!

  13. Munchausen's proxy

    Solar safe?

    Solar is 'safe'? Are you kidding? The whole point behind the solar energy movement is to

    collect and concentrate as much THERMONUCLEAR RADIATION as possible! How can anyone

    call this safe?

    How many people will die of melanoma in the coming years, sacrificed to the insatiable greed of

    the solar companies, with their armies of unwitting dupes posting their marketing points in every forum they can reach and ignoring (or covering up) the consequences?

    1. vlc

      Misleading comparison

      You imply that we should shun exposure to the sun. But the fact is if you have low exposure to the sun, the lack of vitamin D alone would kill you. As anyone who keeps pet reptiles will know, no sunlight equals death; same applies to humans. Lack of sufficient sunlight may have killed off the dinosaurs too. You should not compare solar radiation which comes with beneficial properties, with the radiation from a nuclear plant, which is a very un-natural form of radiation. I'm certain you can't make Vitamin D from that.

      I'm pro solar and pro nuclear. What has happened the power-plants in Japan is a very serious tragedy that could impact negatively on the whole planet. Those who try to play down the impact are in denial of the fact that it could be extremely serious. But that does not mean that we should not pursue that energy source; we just need to get better at it.

      Nuclear can deliver the the shear volume of power we need, but solar makes it feasible for individuals and small groups to be energy producers; democratising and diversifying the supply of energy.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Please carefully re-read the posting you are commenting on and then re-read it imagining someone is taking the piss. Then, as a final step face-palm yourself.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Anyone against nuclear should...

    Anyone genuinely against nuclear power should stop driving their cars or heating their houses with gas as production / use / emissions from those kill far more and do more damage.

    Everyone should own a horse / bike and plant trees to harvest to heat their homes.

    1. The Grinning Duck

      No, no, no

      Not horses. I'm scared of horses. I reckon a horse could eat a man in less than a minute, if it were so inclined. And given that we've been jumping on their backs for centuries, I'm pretty sure an equine revolution isn't far off. Once they get on facebook, it's all over.

      I'm ok with bikes though.

      1. Bob H


        LMAO! "Once they get on facebook, it's all over"

  15. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


    ...much? :P

    While needless and witless scaremongering is unwise, some caution is obviously wise in a situation like this. Lives are at stake here. Both, the people in the midst of this disaster and people who live near nuclear plants to come.

    There is a lot to be learnt from this disaster, and I believe we have only begun the first steps in comprehending it.

    Demagoguery on either side should be avoided for now, I would think.

    From the tone of the article, unfortunately you come across as.... well... I leave it to the readers.

  16. Forget It
    Dead Vulture

    throw an anagram into the mix

    nuclear option === unclear potion

  17. Glenn 4

    Page's paystub ?

    Way too much nuclear apologist here, yaya coal is dirty and nuculer is misunderstood. I understand this facts are hard to come by this early on, TMI was not fully understood five years after the meltdown when they cut the damaged vessel open.

    Bottom line for me is any failure to cool results in a dangerous situation, ie human failure, ie business as usual, shit happens. Unfortunately when shit happens nuclear it can happen for a very long time.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really? Another 3 pages of the same old......

    Why not write something interesting/different about Fukushima, You have already informed us time and time again that this is a total non story, totally uniteresting, 100% sure no possible deaths or even minor sun burns can ever occur. Do we really need another 3 pages of your rehashed ranting and raving?

    How about a look at how much this is all going to cost and if nuclear really adds up.

    1. Belvedere Mulholland

      You only need to read the post below... see why Lewis Page's sober tripagulous reiteration is necessary.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    El Reg used to have a reputation for facts, not propaganda

    1/ Plutonium is coming from Reactor #3 which used MOX for fuel (mix of plutonium and uranium, with 2-8% plutonium), so PLEASE check for the facts before writing articles..... The fact that it leaked out, is bad news, as leaks do not seal on their own, they only get worst, and plutonium is highly toxic to humans and all forms of life.

    2/ It looks like at least 4 reactors in Japan need to be permanently sealed in concrete, and a large area will be lost for human habitation in Japan for at least a couple of generations to come. Latest reports on the issue state that by now, Japan's nuclear problem is worst then Chernobil, with a big part of the blame going to the power plant management who decided to store a lot more spend fuel on site then the plant's designs called for (25x the amount of nuclear fuel available in Chernobil). This is something not even mentioned in the article.

    3/ The story is not done yet - when (looks we may be past the "if" stage) melted fuel hits water you can expect a big steam explosion, and a lot will depend on which way the wind blows at the time. If anything, the media is NOT reporting the full extent of the problem (and for good reason, as people already leave Tokyo and you do not want Japan's economy to slow even more).

    4/ One of the much talked about terror scenarios is an attack on the spent fuel storage facilities, and a "radiologic weapon". This is exactly what is going on in Japan, at a huge scale, with spent fuel rods exposed to the elements, and some of them converted to dust and blown away (look at the photos of the damaged buildings), plus contaminated water going into the sea and water tables. The breach of the containment pressure vessel in at least one of the reactors makes the situation even more "interesting", specially for the teams fighting the issue. I am not aware of any other kind of power plant which may create so much mayhem for the population in the area, except for broken dams for the guys living downstream, but a 30+Km radius probably beats the area affected by any dam by a large margin.

    5/ I have friends who were expats in Japan and left the country with their families and are not going back. They talk about food and water shortages, and rolling blackouts in Tokyo (no heat, no elevators, no light for the stairways). There is a significant flux of people who are getting out of Japan, and they are the ones needed to keep operations going for the trans-national companies they work for. I have yet to see in El Reg a real analysis of the impact of the events in Japan on the rest of the world - the link below is a good start: What it all means is a severe hit to the worldwide recovery, maybe (some say likely) a push into a new down cycle. A lot of people seem to be ignorant of how many products Japan used to make and is no longer making, due to the tsunami and energy shortages. You cannot run a fab with rolling blackouts, and there are some parts which are only made in Japan (high temp lytics, some kinds of mold compound / epoxy and chip packages, specific ASICs and chips used in automotive controllers for Toyota, Honda, Subaru, etc.). For some electronic parts, Japan is not sole source, but has a significant volume (flash, opto-electronics, tantalum caps, ceramic caps and crystals for automotive applications, etc.), so prices will go up and shortages are already impacting operations worldwide (SSD and DRAM prices are also likely to go up). In US, GM already closed a plant due to Japan related shortages, and so did Honda US, Toyota, Subaru, and I understand that the list is going longer, not shorter. Real issue is the domino effect - for one part you cannot get from Japan, you cannot make a car, and the suppliers for all other parts have to stop production as well, idle their workers, their sub-suppliers, and nobody makes any money in the process. I have not seen yet an US automotive engine controller without at least one part made in Japan.

    To say the events in Japan have been overplayed by the media is idiotic, to put it mildly.

    Yes, it could have been worst, but at the very minimum, Japan will have to reconsider its emergency procedures for nuke plants - things went wrong, and no, a nuke plant in an earthquake prone area is NOT a good idea, no matter what. People may also look a lot closer at having second sources for pretty much all their raw materials (reversing the trend toward single sourcing to maximize volume and beat down the price).

    1. Alan Johnson

      hysterical nonsense

      Your whole post simply reinforce sthe point that nucelar fears are exagerrated past th epoint at which they ar irrational to hysterical levels:

      1. Oneof teh safest things about nuclear energy is that radio isotopes can be tracked and identified in tiny quantities. Tiny quantities of plutonium are not toxic in any normal sense.

      2. There is no t reason except irrational hysteria why any land need be lost from human habitation except the site of the power plant itself and this shoudl continue to be used as a power plant.

      3. There is absolutely no chance of a catastrophic explosion at this point

      4. A radiologic or dirty bomb is a fantasy. Analysis has been performed which suggest it would be no more fatal than an ordinary bomb using the same explosives. This is why the major powers do not have them they are completely pointless while being difficult to make and easy to detect.

      5. Yes the tsunami has been a catstrophic event to Japan which rather proves the point that the tsunami is the story and nuclear power is not.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        more nonsense

        "Tiny quantities of plutonium are not toxic in any normal sense." WTF are you smoking?

        Plutonium is one of the deadliest heavy metals. And that's before we get into its radilogical hazards.

        1. Captain Thyratron

          Read it again: "tiny"

          Yes, it's toxic as all hell. So are lots of things that we only worry about when they become concentrated enough for their toxicity to become apparent. Why don't you start worrying about selenium, while you're at it?

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          It's the inverse, I hear

          "Plutonium is one of the deadliest heavy metals. And that's before we get into its radilogical hazards."

          The dangers from getting a good dose from inhaled Pu alpha emitter are way larger than chemical toxy.

        3. Anonymous Coward

          Not so fast....

          Plutonium's toxicity is much less than commonly stated. Long term studies of people who have been exposed to plutonium either in weapons manufacturing, fuel reprocessing and bomb detonations have found no excess deaths due to its toxicity. It is most certainly not the poisonous substance on Earth as Ralph Nader hyped it, it may in fact be less toxic than caffeine.

          Plutonium is an alpha emitter, and in theory can produce a wide range of cancers if ingested or inhaled; but once again, long term studies of people exposed to plutonium particles have failed to show a significant risk.

          However, plutonium in the environment is a sign that other nasties which are biologically active and have much higher radioactivities are probably also slopping around in the outside world.

          The Pu-238 found at two locations at Fukushima is almost certain to have come from the reactor rather than a bomb test because Pu-238 is only likely to have been made in a reactor by one of two processes:

          U-235 + n + n -> U-237

          U-237 beta decays to Np-237 over a period of days

          Np-237 + n -> Np-238

          Np-238 beta decays to Pu-238

          There is no time in a bomb explosion for significant numbers of intermediate neptunium to be created and to undergo beta decay so Pu-238 is a good indicator of reactor plutonium.

          The second method for making Pu-238 is for Pu-239 to be hit by a fast neutron that rather than fissioning the nucleus ejects a second neutron. This can happen in bomb detonations, but it will not create significant amounts of Pu-238 to affect the isotope ratio.

          Clearly there is a leak either in the reactor itself or in the spent fuel pond.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Charles Thornton

        Mr Happy Juice

        1. Tiny quantities of plutonium are not toxic in any normal sense.

        Well you breathe some in then. Second thoughts, you and Ann Coulter breathe some

        2. The Japanese are going to entomb it; that's why they are buying a Putzmeister SRS concrete pump from Ashmore concrete in Georgia. As for a permanent exclusion zone, I'm sure you're right about that, I hope the Japanese government listens to you - see also 4.

        3. Agreed, but there is the probability of unpredictable criticality from the corium dumped in the drywell - and releases will only be direct into the water table if, as is likely, one or more drywells are cracked.

        4. Of course radioactive dust is not a problem - tell that to the 5100 smallholders in Wales who are still not allowed to sell their sheep because of Chernobyl. And tell those namby-pamby Japanese to man up and collect the dead from the tsumami in the 20 km radiological exclusion zone. While you're at it tell the Americans to allow their troops closer than 90 km from Fukushima, do they want to live forever?

        You might like to tell the Chinese that the contamination on those ships they turned away is good for them

        5. The tsumami is a catastrophe and the only thing keeping keeping it from being worse are the people dealing with a partial meltown and at least 1 containment that is releasing contaminated water into the ground.

        1. Andydaws

          Charles Thornton - You've obviously missed the

          fact that they've been using long-reach concrete pumps to deliver water to the fuel ponds.

          "Agreed, but there is the probability of unpredictable criticality from the corium dumped in the drywell "

          Maybe you could explain how that comes about? Given that any fuel that made it as far as the drywell would be in the thousands of centrigrade temperature range - and that thermal fuel can go critical without moderation. If you can think of a way to have molten fuel with sufficient water mixed in to provide sufficient moderation to get enough neutron flux into the thermal range, I'm all ears.

          Because, unless you do, I'll be forced to conclude you've been reading the "Mail".

          Also, what's your evidence that drywells are cracked? The only containment damage there's any reason to consider likely is in the R2 suppression chamber, not the drywell.

          Incidentally, DEFRA last surveyed the remaining Welsh "restricted" sites in 2008. It found no sheep at all at the contamination limit. BUt oddly, the civil servants who administer the restrictions decided the restictions needed to be continued....

        2. Chris Miller

          Where to start with Charles?

          1 & 4. The toxicity of Arsenic is well known. 1g is about (dependent on body weight) enough to kill someone - it will definitely make them seriously ill. So, would I be prepared to ingest a milligram of Arsenic? Well, if there were sufficient benefit (someone wanted to pay me enough or a doctor prescribed it to treat some ailment) - yes. What about a nanogram? Well, I probably ingest that much every day, coal power stations chuck fairly significant amounts into the atmosphere.

          Plutonium's chemical toxicity is similar to Arsenic or Lead - it's a heavy metal - but of course it's radioactive too. In theory a single alpha particle from a single Pu atom could (if you were extremely unlucky) give you cancer and kill you. But so could 10 seconds of sunlight or a day-trip to Cornwall or an airline flight or a chest X-ray. We normally undertake such activities without a care, because we perceive them as delivering sufficient benefits. But nuclear power has benefits too. It allows us to turn on the lights and post nonsense on elReg. This is particularly true for countries like Japan that have limited access to fossil fuels.

          If you can supply it, I'd be very happy to eat Welsh lamb - the limits that make its sale illegal were set for political not medical reasons.

          2. The 70m boom of the concrete pump is going to be used to deliver water more accurately and safely onto the spent fuel pools. If the Japanese merely wanted to entomb the reactor, I'm sure they have plenty of concrete pumps of their own.

    2. Highlander

      Now that you've regurgitated the mass media reports, do you feel better?

      The four reactors will be decommissioned, not buried. Burying the reactors would simply stall the process of dealing with them, and in the event of another large quake, probably be rather pointless in any case. It's far safer to actually decommission the reactors and remove them.

      The levels of plutonium found are below background, and may or may not represent fuel since the reactions inside the reactor can produce extremely small quantities of Plutonium as a fission product. If the fuel was exposed and the Plutonium was from the reactor's fuel, where is the corresponding Uranium? There ought to be a whole lot more of that than Plutonium if this material came from the reactor fuel - and as far as I can tell from all the reports from the IAEA, TEPCO et al, that hasn't happened.

      The story isn't done yet, but the reactors themselves are not in a state that allows them to act as you describe. The cores are still hot - physically and radiologically, but not hot enough to flash water to steam. Look up the concept of decay heat.

      Regarding the spent fuel rods, they can't actually get hot enough to melt, even if completely exposed to air. The casings would become damaged, but you wouldn't have a molten soup of radioactive material as a result.

      People abandoning Japan at the time of it's greatest need should be utterly ashamed of themselves. No one has said thta the events of the earthquake or Tsunami or resulting rolling power outages and other aspects of the aftermath have been overstates. Lewis and others are suggesting that the events at Fukushima Daiichi have been overstated, and they have been, many, many times in many ways. The resulting public apprehension, fear, panic and paranoia is a major issue, and results not from the actual risks and effects of what is happening at Fukushima but from the scare stories and outright untruths being pushed through the mass media, and furthered by folks like you.

    3. Daren Nestor


      How much of this is due to, y'know, one of the largest earthquake/tsunami combos on record?

      And using the daily mail as a source? Really?

      Two power plant sites were shut down due to the aforementioned natural disaster, this has led to power shortages - hence the blackouts. There will be more impact from the evacuation than from the radiation and hysteria means that the cleanup will be immeasureably longer. Body recovery is already slowed, and the levels of radiation deemed unsafe are very low.

      It's a serious situation, requiring careful management. It should not be the cause for what is rapidly becoming global hysteria.

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Gloom and Doom Reloaded

      "melted fuel hits water you can expect a big steam explosion"

      If Saudis drop a plane on it you can also expect a big steam explosion but it ain't gonna happen.

      "a large area will be lost for human habitation in Japan for at least a couple of generations to come. Latest reports on the issue state that by now, Japan's nuclear problem is worst then Chernobil"

      No. Just no.

      "They talk about food and water shortages, and rolling blackouts in Tokyo. There is a significant flux of people who are getting out of Japan, and they are the ones needed to keep operations going for the trans-national companies they work for. "

      A little discomfort due to an Earthquake and people take the highway, And where are they going and why?

      "radiologic weapon This is exactly what is going on in Japan, at a huge scale, with spent fuel rods exposed to the elements, and some of them converted to dust and blown away (look at the photos of the damaged buildings)"

      Please advise about the physical process that would make such a thing happen and any indication that this did indeed happen. Looking at photos is not sufficient. Wouldn't a large area be MOX covered?

      "What it all means is a severe hit to the worldwide recovery, maybe (some say likely) a push into a new down cycle."

      We have been out of the down cycle? I think we are just at the start of the real one. No, really.

    5. Shane Orahilly

      I'm not surprised you want to remain anonymous.

      Citing the Mail as a source could cost you the respect of the free-thinking world.

    6. AndyC


      1) maybe correct, but did you actually read how much they'd detected? The same level as normal background plutonium. So nothing much to get excited about.

      2) Bigger than Chernobyl? What rubbish have you been reading? Oh yes, you included a couple of blog posts and a link to the Daily Mail (that considers EVERYTHING to be bad for you!) Large area lost to human habitation? Nope, wrong again. Rainfall will disperse that activity until you won't be able to detect it in a year or two's time.

      3) "When melted fuel hits water", oh don't make me laugh even more! The fuel is IN the water now. Why do you think they are pouring 7 tonnes of water per hour in there?

      4) What fuel elements converted to dust and blown away? When? do you not think that other country's would be able to detect all of this supposed failed fuel? Nope, what they are detecting now is not the fuel elements.

      5) This is wrong on so many levels it isn't true. At least try and look for facts not fairy tales when writing comments.

      1. Andydaws

        "Melted Fuel"

        there's worth making a point about "melted fuel" and "meltdowns".

        It's "what constitutes melted fuel"

        The fuel for 95% of commercial power reactors is all broadly made the same way. It's a stack of small pellets (usually with a hole up the middle) . The pellets are made of a ceramic form of uranium oxide. It's deliberately made porous so gasous fission products like Xenon can escape, and not crack the pellet.

        These are then put into a zirconium alloy tube, and sealed. The pellets are small - about 1 cm diameter, mostly so there's no significant temperature differential.

        The melting point of zirconium is 1800C, and the melting point of uranium dioxide is about 2800C. And, of course, as soon as the zirconium tube melts, the fuel pellets fall out (as at TMI). In fact, the probability is the integrity of the zirconium will go much earlier, as it's subject to gas pressure inside.

        Now, it's not quite as simple as that - the temperature at the middle of the fuel pellet can be higher, depending on a function of the power density. But, not that much higher - and it's particularly the the case when not running at power, but only with decay heat generation. For example, the fuel reactors 2&3 at Fukushima are now making about 1/3rd of 1% of the heatthey produce when running at full power. And it's been below 1% of full power production since about 6 hours after the initial scram.

        And, of course, in there's any water at all in the vessel, once the pellets have fallen out they're being cooled directly. It means fission products, or at least the volatile ones get into the water, but not the heavier stuff.

        So, let's be clear - if there's "melted fuel" in Fukushima, it almost certainly means fuel where the cladding has failed, not fuel where the uranoim dioxide has melted.

        That's consistent with what's been observed - the gaseous fission products seem to be getting out (mostly the Iodine), and to a lesser degree stuff like Caesium, but not actinides in any significant degree.

        1. Highlander

          Great analysis Andy

          Now, would you be kind enough to explain to people that even in the absence of their "China Syndrome" meltdown (that so many people apparently wish for) at unit 3, plutonium produced through the fission reactions could conceivably enter the cooling water if the fuel rod's casing is in any way damaged - say through warping at a high enough temperature to crack the casing and allow water to come into contact with the ceramic fuel chips- as you more or less described.

          See, people are all over themselves about the trace amounts of Plutonium found - right next to the reactor buildings. It seems as though the trace amounts of Plutonium are sufficient in their minds to imagine a total meltdown of the MOX fuel inside unit 3. Now, personally I've heard nothing about any actual fuel (trace amounts or otherwise) being found outside the reactors, which would indicate that whatever the state of the fuel rod casing, the fuel is (as you would expect) completely intact.

          Since we know that there was at least some level of cooling going on in all three reactors that scram'd during the initial earthquake and that they had backup cooling for a while and then the battery controlled steam driven cooling until the batteries failed, it would appear highly likely that sufficient cooling had occurred to avoid any significant melting of fuel. Based on everything we've seen thus far, that would appear to be the case.

          Thank you, by the way, for bringing much more in depth science to this discussion, you're doing a far better job than I ever could.

          1. Andydaws

            thanks, Highlander

            (it's more a matter of engineering than science, btw)

            As I've posted before, I've got my doubts about the Pu238 detection. At these low levels (I make it about 1*10^-12 grammes/kg of soil) we're at the ragged edge of detectability. When it's further dependent on determining an isotopic ratio by looking for differences in the energy of the alpha particles emitted (a difference in the third or fourth significant figure) it's not something to bet the farm on. Especially so when we're not seeing elevated levels of other actinides, or seeing plutonium 238 detection elsewhere.

            We know Tepco's lab is under strain. First there was the I134 error in the R2 water, now they've recognised they've code errors in the lab systems assaying minor fission products. I'd not be amazed to here retest failed to produce a Pu238 trace.

    7. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      A small aside, that tells you all you need to know about the "Mail"

      "entombed in concrete" eh?

      Now, think on this. At the moment, Reactors 2&3 at Fukushima are producing about 7-8MW of heat each. R1 will be making 4-5.

      If you pour concrete on them, it won't stop that heat being produced. It can't, the heat is coming from fission product decay. It'll drop over time, but it'll be a fw years before it can be ignored.

      So, pour the concrete. What happens to the heat? The concrete will act as a heat sink, but sooner or later, it'll warm up. And, in the middle, there'll be those fuel rods. getting hotter, and hotter, because they can't shed heat. In other words, exactly the situation that is supposed to be the worst case.

      And concrete doesn't respond well to high temperatures. It's water content, if boiled, will cause cracking and spalling. Precisely ythe sort of thing that would allow groundwater to penetrate.

      There's a good working rule, on this. See anyone arguing to dump concrete on any of these reactors before they've had 3 or 4 years of cooling, and you're talking to someone who hasn't thought beyond tabloid headlines. Or is "hard of thinking".

    8. Horizon3

      "El Reg used to have a reputation"

      1/ Exactly how many people have ever died from plutonium poisoning? A: 0 zip, nada none.

      2/ I and many others doubt they will bury any reactors, that would just be kicking the rock down the road for someone else to deal with, the Japanese aren't very well known for this characteristic.

      The plants will be cooled, decon'd and then scrapped out, they will prep the site for new Mark3 reactors and get back to generating. (Plant #1 was due to be shutdown permanently, 3 days ago any way), Add to that these units have had hot seawater in them, they are now junk anyway.

      3/ Maybe you can explain to the class how a molten anything submerged in water can drip from air into a full vessel of water? Which would be needed to cause a steam explosion you try to make sound scary. Leave out the fact that the reactors are now at or below 100c and pressured up to 70 atmosphere, and unit 4 reactor which has no fuel in it whatsoever is of zero concern.

      4/ That's just plain BS. NONE of the radiation detected in the sea or on the land poses any threat to humans it is not a problem. What is a problem is millions of acres of previously productive farmland is going to have to be scraped off for 1-3 feet in depth due to seawater contamination (read stuff won't grow in it) and re top soiled with millions of tons of good soil, peat and fertilizers to bring it back.

      5/ There are many folks looking at the aftermath and economic situation, they are the ones not running around like headless chickens, squawking about nonexistent meltdown calamities.

      The result of the quake and tsunami and the shutdown power infrastructure are having a major impact on other economies, this is a result of concentrating too much of your manufacturing base in on place. We should be making those products in our own countries, but unfortunately we have let the squeaky wheel get too much grease and allowed the litigators, unions and runaway government regulation drive the manufacturing companies to a friendlier place to do business, ie. They bugged out so they could make a legally required profit, without pricing themselves out of business.

  20. Charles Thornton

    I hope Mr Page is well paid

    For he is making a complete fool of himself

    At least 2 of the plutonium samples were specifically identifiable as coming from Fukushima reactors.

    Those well known fearmongers the IAEA identified the village of Iitate 40 km from Fukushima Number 1 as exceeding the criterion for evacuation.

    Radioactive iodine in the seawater near the plant now exceeds background levels by 4,000


    Exposed bodies in within the 20 km exclusion zone are still lying uncollected because of excessive radiation.

    Those scaredypants of the US forces bar personnel from going within 80 km of the plant.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The media isn't about facts

      The media is in the entertainment business. One side of the media alternately thrills and horrifies us with one-eyed takes on the most sensational events of the day, while the other side mocks and pooh-poohs itself. This series of articles has been as silly as any tabloid paper can produce, but look at the reaction it produces. Keeps the Register in business. Just take it all with a pinch of salt.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Sebmel

        RTFA again

        I think you'll find that permitted levels are NOT lower than background levels. As a result the parent post, while it miss quotes, is not wrong but actually understates the level of contamination.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      "Those scaredypants of the US forces bar personnel from going within 80 km of the plant."

      God forbid that anyone who joins the army might be put in danger while they're helping someone else. No wonder Iraq is such a shambles.

    4. indulis

      Lewis Page and the pro-nuclear crowd can volunteer for the cleanup!

      If there is no danger, then I think Lewis Page can "walk the talk" and go in to start helping with the cleanup, because apparently the evacuations are just fearmongering and there are no serious consequences to being near the vicinity of the plant- the levels used to trigger an evacuation are stupidly low.

      So Lewis and his All-Nuke Band, off you go! Looking forward to seeing your videos of you proving that you believe in what you say, and that you are not just acting as a paid mouthpiece for the nuclear industry.

      Or will you just stay where you are, nice and safe and snug, writing out unproven opinion pieces?

      Perhaps you can fly via Chernobyl and go eat some nice local berries and vegetables?

      As there have been no fatalities caused by Chernobyl's radiation, it should all be fine! (Lets forget that the science says otherwise, see previous post referencing an actual scientific paper saying millions have dies from Chernobyl's insidious and long-lasting effects)

      1. mmiied

        I would volintear

        but I do not think I have the skillset for nuclear work as I bleave it is hightley skilled work and you need to be a fit and heathy indervidual to be a radiation worker and I am a lardbucket

      2. 42

        you cant trust nuclear scientists!

        They get their funding from the nuclear industry, so they are biased, just like climate scientists!

    5. HW de Haan

      US forces scaredypants?

      "Those scaredypants of the US forces bar personnel from going within 80 km of the plant."

      Funny to read this and at the same time on NHK-World see US marines delivering a barge of fresh (cooling)water to the plant.

      Beer, what else on a friday?

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Really Lewis...

    Don't you think you might be over-egging the pudding just a bit?

  22. Dibbles

    Just.... wtf?

    First up, kudos for keeping the comments going when you already know about 80% of what will be posted.

    Secondly, this: "The levels in three of the five samples are so low, and of such isotopes, that it is quite possible they result from long-ago nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific. "

    I understand that you have you view, and by god you've taken such a firm stand that you can't back down now. But REALLY, this is getting ridiculous, and unfortunately damaging the credibility of the rest of what you write.

    "Yes, there is plutonium; yes it may have leaked from the reactors; yes it is, let's face it, undesirable and will have repercussions - but let's try to get it in perspective" is surely a better approach than "nothing has happened, people, there is no nuclear leak, la la-la la, it's all a giant conspiracy"?

    But I guess I'm not a reporter. The unfortunate thing is that this is starting to colour my view of the Reg, formerly my beacon of truth and sober analysis in a world of meeja hype. Can we have Andrew O back please?

    1. Highlander

      Regsarding the Plutonium

      The levels of Plutonium found are - in fact - so low as to be indistinguishable from background radiation. The Plutonium found is in such miniscule quantities that it's not clear where it came from. Reactor 3 uses some plutonium in it's fuel. However, the fuel is ceramic pellets of Uranium and Plutonium, if the fuel became hot enough to eat through the fuel rod casing and vaporize there would be a large quantity of uranium associated with the plutonium. As yet there has been no report of any such finding. Additionally, fission reactors can produce very small quantities of Plutonium as a fission product. Very small quantities. Since the source of the Plutonium is not yet clear, and the quantity found is so miniscule at this point, you're making quite a large leap to conclude that the fuel in unit 3 became uncovered sufficiently, and for long enough to melt completely. Since the reactor had scram'd and cooling had been active for a few hours before the total loss of cooling, it's not really clear whether there would have been sufficient heat remaining in the system to cause that level of damage.

      So, in the absence of further information, I prefer not to jump to a catastrophic conclusion. But hey, perhaps that makes me a rational human being instead of a fear-monger?

      1. Hermes Conran

        Jumping to conclusions...

        a controlled substance that does not exist in nature is found very close to an exploded plant that uses it. But lets not make assumptions Highlander.....

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Jumping indeed

          "a controlled substance that does not exist in nature is found very close to an exploded plant that uses it."

          An obvious question, before coming to a conclusion, would be - had anyone looked for it there before the said plant exploded?

        2. Highlander

          Who's jumping to conclusions Hermes?

          Re-read my post.

          The Plutonium could have come from multiple sources. If the specific analysis says that it came specifically from reactor 3 and is not a fission product, then the question becomes a) why is there such a miniscule amount, b) where is the uranium, and c) how did it get there? Is it possible, for example, that when the upper structure of the unit 3 containment building blew apart during the hydrogen explosion that infinitesimal quantities of plutonium dust that were already contained within the structure were released into the environment? The reason the building exploded was that the operators had to vent the steam from the reactor to reduce pressure inside so that they could inject more water. The steam contain a quantity of hydrogen which exploded. Since the steam and hydrogen came directly from the reactor it contained iodine, cesium and other isotopes produced as a result of the fission reactions during normal operation. It's not impossible that a small amount of Plutonium was included in that matter and was locally distributed during the explosion and subsequent steam venting (the so called white smoke) seen many times over. It could also be as a result of all the water dumping operations to ensure the spent fuel pond is full.

          All I am saying is that there are several vectors for the trace amounts of Plutonium found to be there. But the one immediately suggested is that the nuclear fuel inside reactor 3 became hot enough to melt and the resulting steam that was vented therefore included some nuclear fuel. Fine, except, the reactor does not appear to have become that hot, the damage to the core is undeniable, but damage could range from slight warping of fuel and control rods all the way to total melt down. It's one of those phrases that is not very precise, and if you say reactor core damage to most people they imagine a pool of glowing radiative material attempting to eat it's way through the containment vessel, where the actual damage could be anything ranging from warped fuel rods to the total melt own.

          If the reactor had suffered a significant melt that allowed the Plutonium in the MOX fuel to escape with the steam, then why only the Plutonium? and why in such small quantities? If this was the result of a core melting and vaporizing fuel, then there should be more uranium than plutonium found, and the quantity right nest to the reactor should not be barely detectible trace amounts.

          Now, I'm not jumping to any conclusion, but in the absence of anything suggesting the worst case of an actual release of fuel, I have to consider that there are other more likely reasons for the release.

        3. Aaron Em

          "does not exist in nature"

          False -- where in the hell do you think we get it from, the magic nuclear pixies of Elfland?

          Not only that, but the US and Soviet governments, during their shared mid-century mania for blasting whole tribes of aborigines right out of their ancestral atolls, scattered a reasonable quantity of plutonium dust into the upper atmosphere of the planet, from whence it descended...well, pretty much everywhere, really.

          So the first question is: Did the plutonium found at Fukushima even originate at Fukushima? Or was it instead deposited there over the last few decades, from an origin rather more southerly in latitude than where it's ended up?

          Nobody's sure of the answer yet, so it's a little premature at the very least to start shrieking about how the Fukushima reactor vessels must be horribly smashed to tiny flinders and shedding a thick plume of magically vaporized plutonium from their exposed cores into the jet stream, thence to flutter down onto North America and Europe like invisible evil nuclear death snow.

          1. Hermes Conran

            @ Aaron Em

            Plutonium is not found in nature, it is created in fission reactors. If you are going to comment on this forum you really should do a little research first.....

            1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

              @Hermes Conran

              Would be nice if you'd followed your own advice and did a bit of research:

              a) Plutonium can be made by spontaneous fission in U ore.

              b) There were natural fission reactors on Earth, which produced Pu and other transuranics also naturally.

              c) Pu is considered a primordial element as it has at least 1 isotope with half-life of about 80 million years.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          What exploded plant?

          Finding trace levels of plutonium that corresponds to nuclear weapons testing levels. In the only country that's ever had A-bombs dropped on it? Well, fuck me, there's a surprise.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear power THE FACTS

    Looking at what happened in Japan it is clear that all nuclear power must be abandoned. That a relative small plant like that can cause an earthquake and a tsunami like that is a clear indicator that these atoms are evil. We MUST make a earthwide ban on atoms and make sure that none are ever produced again.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Not enough

      All evil is in electrons - if it was not for the addictive effects of fast moving electrons we would not have succumbed to the shameful dependance on oil, gas and abominable atoms.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "We MUST make a earthwide ban on atoms and make sure that none are ever produced again."

      Neatly played.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        To explain

        I was going to call troll till I saw that line and realized I was in "Yes men" territory.

        Recall their campaign against that most *insidious* industrial pollutant DiHydrogen Monoxide (or DHM)?

    3. Abremms

      and scientists to!

      its them educated bastards that made all the atoms in the first place! burn them!

      1. Highlander

        Year Zero anyone?

        Time to bang the rocks together guys, with the level of superstition and irrationality around right now, anyone with a scientific or technical education may find themselves on the wrong end of a pitchfork before long.

        Personally, I'm moving to my compound in panels, wind turbines and a small atomic pile for overcast and calm days.

    4. c0rruptd

      Ban atoms!

      I second this ban on the production of atoms! Please, won't somebody think of the neutrons?

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. DWLR


      "...the mother of one of the men tells Fox News." Ooo, what a source! And her son does what? Sweep the floors? Serve coffee? Oh it doesn't say, I wonder why.

      Beachrider, please include a sarcasm tag next time as it's kind of hard to tell from just text.

    2. Aaron Em

      Yeah, that's a reliable source

      Yep, when I need factual, up-to-the-minute science news, I *always* turn first to the United States' answer to the Daily Mail!

    3. Chris Miller
      Thumb Down


      The inevitable fate of anyone who relies on Fox News* as a source.

      * Quoting an anonymous parent of one of the workers, who has been understandably terrified by the loony reporting of mass media, a charge being led by Fox News.

      Off to wash my hands, I feel dirty having visited the Fox News site.

    4. Abremms

      and yet

      not a single number posted in regards to how much radiation the works have actually received. that information is readily available, by the way, and so far none of the workers have reached the 250msv limit at which point they must be withdrawn from the plant. and that 250msv limit is very low, its not a limit set because "at 251msv YOU WILL DIE" its a limit set because its the lowest reasonably possible.

      that article is EXACTLY the kind of fact-free fear mongering that these El Reg articles are seeking to counter.

      also, the comments on the fox article? they made my brain explode.

  25. min

    horray for Lewis.

    not to react to some of the bile that has been spewed his direction since he began his nuclear crusade..that is admirable.

    as to the Fukushima situation. there has been a lot of nonsense in the press, but this is normal. a huge salute to everyone involved in making *sure* Fukushima did not (and will not) escalate into something truly horrible.

    whether he is right or not, i am glad that Lewis had the balls to stick to his original agenda without toning it down at all. right or wrong, it shows principle.

  26. Mr Young

    Nuclear meltdown - omg!

    I guess that would be somewhere between an aspie meltdown and a banker meltdown? It might be worse than a banker meltdown, I don't know? Maybe a new unit is required - a meltdown unit?

  27. John Deeb

    Gods of High-tech-Mountain

    As far as the news is concerned all the worst fear mongering is becoming reality, despite invocations by Lewis and friends to appeal to the Gods of High-tech-Mountain.

    They're finding high radioactivity in tunnels outside the turbine building, 10000x normal values. The fbeef around Dai'ichi (die itchy?) has been reported to contain 'abnormal' radioactivity. The IAEA is calling for doubling the area of evacuation - this could easily affect one million people considering it's quite a densely populated area.

    But lets all keep saying no serious long term consequences come out of this incident, and that they are dwarfed by the other damage from the quake. But so far it's looking more and more like the story will be different and many have sold the bear skin too early perhaps.

    I only wish the Reg science writers and cheer leaders will come back in a few weeks to eat their shorts and flog themselves before the world. But they'll be probably busy elsewhere saving the world from fear mongering. They must really hate fear.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Dai'ichi (die itchy?)

      The final i is generally not voiced.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        reporting failure?

        I find it funny that all these news reports insist on saying Dai'ichi and not number 1 yet the call Japan japan and not nihon.

        I'm guessing the blame is laid on whoever reported first is clueless and the rest are sheeps.

    2. Knochen Brittle

      Fighting Fear with Offensive Optimism, Pre-emptively for Profit

      Lewis Page needs must maintain wood in his war-on, so now invents the War on Fear, since the wheels came off his last bandwagon, the glorious War on Terror. Next up will be the War on Mild Angst, using Space-Lazors to zap any dissenters. Coincidentally, his scheme to power this HappyWorld™ platform using a head of journaillistic hot-air is also shaping up nicely.

      As you were, SeaLord Page [with minions bowed afore ye]

    3. Brutus


      you'd really like a full-scale nuclear disaster (i.e. not what's going on now) just so Lewis et al have to eat crow? you're a lovely person!

  28. RollinPowell

    People die sometimes to maintain my living standards?!!!

    I thought power was made only from happy thoughts and rainbows! Who could have possible imagined that generating enough power for a large population could be dangerous and there would be risks?

    We obviously must stop using any type of power generation with any amount of risk. That leaves.... oh wait, nothing.

  29. Janko Hrasko


    Preaching to the wrong crowd.

    Wish there was less bitterness in the delivery.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Fact Deniers Folly

    What health consequences are enough to sway the fact deniers? Not rad burns. Will someone have to die on the site from prompt exposure before Page will cite a health consequence? Will more people have to die from radiation than from the tsunami? Will it have to become the #1 cause of death for 100 years?

    What economic consequences are enough to sway the fact deniers? Not the loss of economic value from the rolling blackouts currently sweeping Japan. Not the cost of scrapping the reactors. How much loss of livlihood from irradiated fish and crops (even if it's just a scare) is enough?

    Now Page blames the failure of the bright future of personal hovercars and cities in the clouds on acceptance of the facts evident at fukushima. No, it couldn't be that flying cars are inherently too dangerous to have falling out of the sky in your city, or that cities in the clouds use up power that might otherwise be put to use solving poverty.

    Reprocessing spent fuel is notoriously expensive. Nobody does it any more except France, and their industry has to be subsidized. Where does Page get this stuff?

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


      "No, it couldn't be that flying cars are inherently too dangerous to have falling out of the sky in your city, or that cities in the clouds use up power that might otherwise be put to use solving poverty"

      You are absolutely right - it couldn't. Otherwise motorcars would have been banned everywhere except in enclosed tunnels and aeroplanes would have onlyt been allowed above the Arctic Circle.

      I'm afraid life is too dangerous for you - it will lead to your death with 100% probability. Life should be banned forthwith.

      1. Charles 9


        Airplanes are flown by well-trained pilots with significant amounts of schooling, simulation, and mentoring. In other words, they're pros. Perhaps that's why the airliner fatality rate per passenger is so low. To contrast, of all the on-the-road fatalities we have every year, how many are from people in ordinary passenger cars rather than public conveyances driven by licensed drivers?

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      Do not feed.

  31. Sebmel

    Polemic adds to hysteria: honest reflection needed

    Lewis, I've enjoyed the substance of all your articles but could we perhaps have less of the military style absolutism? The articles are rightly full of criticism of hysteria and sensationalism, but the correct response to that is calm consideration of the facts, and neither distain, nor contrarianism.

    Your article throws up a number or questions I wonder if you'd be kind enough to address:

    You report that the three workers burnt by radiation are fine: an oncologist commenting here says it's too soon to say such a thing and that the dose they received was localised, raising risk. What's the basis for your prognosis and (you having a physics/military background) which oncologists are you quoting?

    You state that: "Elsewhere, emissions of radioisotopes into the sea are well above normal regulatory limits, though not such as to cause any health concerns", followed by: "According to Japan's nuclear safety authorities, the seaborne levels of radio-iodine near Fukushima Daiichi are not such as to necessitate any bans on fish or similar", and yet the BBC today say: "radioactive iodine levels in seawater near the plant reached a new record - 4,385 times the legal limit" and Nature published the following contradiction: ""We don't have enough data yet, and what we have are still patchy," says Jim Smith, an environmental physicist at the University of Portsmouth, UK. In the meantime, the Japanese authorities are taking many of the right precautions, such as quickly implementing an evacuation zone, and banning farming and fishing in the areas worst affected, he says.". So what is the case with this sea borne iodine? To understand the risk one needs to know what biomass uptake of this radioactive iodine will be over the 80 days it is extant. We also need to know what caesium uptake is, since it decays over a period of 300 years. Marine fauna, such as brine shrimp, are known to accumulate certain toxins many hundreds of times ambient levels. In stating that there are no risks which marine biologists/toxicologists are you quoting?

    When you state: "Some bans on produce from the area around the plant have already been instituted, though these are likely to be of brief duration as iodine-131 has a half-life of only eight days – it will all be gone within weeks no matter where it has reached" would it not be more explicit to say that the radioactive iodine will have decayed in three months since you are writing for non-physicists? To use the half-life figure may give the impression that you are underplaying risk and, in so doing, are guilty of the reverse of the hysteria. The last thing we need is more misrepresentation, I'm sure you'd agree.

    In mentioning the risk of farmland having to be abandoned due to radioactive caesium you do the same thing: "it has a lengthy half-life". What you mean is that the caesium would radiate for three centuries, isn't it? May I suggest that explicit declarations of this sort of fact would serve to strengthen the integrity of your reports.

    "In one spot 25 miles from the plant an IAEA team has reportedly measured activity as high as 3.7 megabecquerels from caesium"… you state. While nature reports levels 50 times higher: "Soil samples taken on 20 March from a location 40 km northwest of the plant showed caesium-137 levels of 163,000 becquerels per kilogram (Bq kg−1) and iodine-131 levels of 1,170,000 Bq kg−1, according to Japan's science ministry." Does this not suggest that one cannot allay all concerns over land contamination as we appear not to have an accurate final picture of this issue?

    A regular refrain in your articles is that the nuclear industry is safe: "nuclear power is far and away the safest form of energy generation and remains so in the wake of Fukushima". May I suggest that this over-simplifies the issue? Each technology has various issues: geothermal energy raises the issue of heavy metal contamination of ground water, earthquakes and cooling over time: wind power raises irregular supply, bird and bat kills, land/sea area use: solar power requires expensive components, large surface area and offers irregular supply and inconvenient hours: wave energy will suffer and incredibly hostile environment with consequent reliability problems. One cannot simplify nuclear generation down to: it hasn't killed anyone. Even that statement was misleading: it referred to this current incident and not all nuclear generation. I also note that people commenting in favour of nuclear generation vs. coal have regularly pointed out the danger of coal mining while ignoring the very real problems associated with uranium mining. Polemical simplifications do not do these subjects justice.

    Here you misrepresent the toxicology: "Thus such things as radiation dose limits or permissible levels of iodine-131 are not set rationally, they are set to be as low as they can possibly be. For instance, absolutely no measurable health consequences at all result from radiation doses of 100 millisievert a year: if everyone in the UK were subjected to such doses for ever, nothing – no extra cases of cancer, nothing – would happen." No, Lewis, that isn't correct, it's polemical. You misrepresent a probability as an absolute. In consistently taking this approach you undermine your otherwise interesting article.

    Finally, you state: "We here at the Reg are still glad we linked to his assessment in the first days of the crisis, and that we early on reported the truth about Fukushima – that on the facts of the case it has been a triumph for nuclear power, not a disaster" but I could not find your reasoning to support that. Power generation is a business, so your reasoning must be commercial. The nuclear industry has a reputation for asking for government subsidy: pricing guarantees, cost over-run subsidies, loans, policing, decommissioning costs, the right to ignore mining clean-up and no implemented longterm storage costing. Now some of that is not their fault (longterm storage has been inhibited though in-vitrification technology doesn't appear to have matured) but much of it is, and it doesn't suggest commercial viability… far less triumphant viability. For this disaster to be a triumph for the nuclear industry it is not simply a case that TEPCO should not have killed anyone, or contaminated a significant area, it would be necessary to show that the generation of nuclear power remains highly profitable WITHOUT taxpayer subsidies and yet I see no calculation for clean-up costs in your articles. Please offer us your reasoning and explain why this accident makes nuclear power significantly more commercially viable.

    Without this reasoning some of these statements could be dismissed as baiting for hits and that lets the side down. Thanks again for your valuable alternative perspective on the issues.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      But I fear a concentration on the health non issue of this event suits both ends of the spectrum and we will never have a sensible discussion on the real issue of commercial viability and no one seems happier to talk health than Lewis Page.

      1. Highlander

        The reason Lweis consistently mentions the health effects is... the constant supply os scare stories that the media pushes convincing everyone and their neighbor that were all either doomed to die horribly or grow an extra tail. Poster after Poster here bangs on at him about how he shouldn't say anything balanced because people are "dying right now". So Lewis feels he must rebut those critics, and I kind of understand that point of view. Once the crisis has completely passed, it will be time for a more sober discussion of the future of nuclear power, but I don't think that time has come. However the constant cries of irrational criticism aimed at nuclear energy fed by a constant diet of lies and un-truths does need to be combated, if merely for the sake of balance.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          No better time than now.

          "Once the crisis has completely passed, it will be time for a more sober discussion of the future of nuclear power."

          Ah yes when interest has died away and no one is listening we can talk about the real issue.

          He's made his point, what does he hope to gain from making it over and over? Those that heard have heard those that haven't will never listen.

    2. Another Ben

      Chernobyl: 4000 "unmeasurable" deaths

      Maybe I am using the wrong news sources, but I have not seen any coverage that is as hysterically anti-nuclear as Lewis Page's is hysterically pro-nuclear. I find his dismissal of the consequences of Chernobyl rather glib.

      If radioactive caesium from Chernobyl "didn't cause any measurable health consequences" this is largely due to the difficulty in making such measurements. It is difficult to count additional deaths resulting from a relatively small increase in risk across a large population, but that doesn't mean they are not real. The Chernobyl Forum's 2005 report estimated 4000 additional deaths as a long-term consequence of the Chernobyl accident. They deliberately looked only at the most exposed population, in which the radiation doses are in a range that is better understood than the low doses experienced farther afield.

      1. Andydaws

        You need to check your logic...

        The assumption that there are additional deaths comes from applying the "Linear no threshold" concept, which says that you draw a straight line from the mortality rates at high dosage down to the origin of the graph. You then assume that you can divide the total radiation exposure by the numbers in the exposed population, then plot the exposure and say "X deaths will result".

        Which sounds fine, until you find out that NO-ONE's been able to demonstrate a statistically reliable correlation between low dose exposure and increased mortality. It's simply another assumption, taken since it's conservative.

        However, the Chernobyl exposure should have been the first real chance to look for effects in a large population, with low-dose exposure. And, guess what - the epidemiologists haven't been able to pick out an actual signal that shows an increase in mortality (we'll leave aside the loons who apparently attribute the whole of the post-soviet increase in mortality to the Chernobyl effects, despite the same increases being apparent in areas where there was no exposure).

        So, there's a circular argument here.

        Worse, most of the "linear" studies that follow exposed groups (like those post Windscale) don't show an increase. In fact, studies like those following up cancer rates from increased radon exposure show no excess mortality.

        Making claims of extra deaths that are based on extrapolations from a model that's been adopted, not because of strong supporting evidence, but instead on a precautionary principle, is a very shaky approach - especially when there's to statistically detectable signal to support it.

        1. Another Ben

          Logic and uncertainty

          My point is that there is inevitably a large degree of uncertainty in the numbers of additional deaths, and the fact that epidemiologists have not picked out an actual signal puts only a rather loose upper bound on the size of the effect.

          1. Andydaws

            Don't you see the circularity of the argument, Ben?

            The assumption that there was a low dose effect was made in the absence of any evidence - to whit, a large population exposed to low doses. The original model had data from hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, who were mostly high dose victims.

            So in the absence of that, the focus was on linear studies of low dose groups, like those exposed as a result of the windscale fire. Those mostly show no detectable effect. Similarly with most studies with groups like those exposed to radon in the home.

            So, then we get a large group exposed, and again the epidemiologists can't pick out a signal.

            So, yes. There are two assumptions you can make. One, there's no detectable relationship between low doses and mortailty. That's the view now taken by bodies like the professional body for US Health Physicists, and the French National Academy of the Sciences. Or that there is an association, it's just too small to measure.

            I'm not sure, other than inertia, why the latter's being argued. It's (IMHO) inherently unscientific, as it's an unfalsifiable hypothesis.

            1. Another Ben


              I can see the circularity of the argument you seem to assume I am making, but I'm not sure why you feel the need to choose one assumption or the other. An open mind is quite acceptable in some circumstances. It would seem an amazing coincidence if the effect of low radiation doses were precisely zero. It might even have a net beneficial effect in some cases. My point is that quite significant (in the life-or-death sense) effects do not necessarily result in significant (in the statistical sense) signals, and that glossing over such issues for the sake of a rhetorical point is not a prerogative of the antinuclear fearmongers.

              1. Andydaws

                The choice of hypotheses

                Even heard of Ocam's Razor, Ben?

                Basically, you choose the hypothesis that has evidence to support it. In the absence of supporting evidence, you reject it.

                Now, we seem to be in agreement that at low doses there's basically no evidence to support a correlation with mortality (in fact, there are studies which puport to see a beneifical effect, so called Hormesis, for which the evidence is at least as good as for the lower ond of the LNT model).

                To me, that leads to rejecting the idea of a low-dose relationship. Certainly not to claiming that you can forecast numbers of casualties.

                1. Another Ben

                  Occam's razor

                  Occam's razor is the principle that one should prefer the simplest hypothesis that agrees with the available data. Its subjectivity is illustrated by the fact that you regard "there is no effect at low doses" as the simplest hypothesis, while I would probably pick "the effect is linear" as simpler given that we know there is an effect at higher doses. Neither is true, of course, and Occam doesn't really help much when it comes to uncovering the real picture, although advances in biology might even if epidemiology can't.

        2. Highlander

          I was under the impressiong that deaths/ill-health from radiation...

          ...occur in a non linear fashion with the incidence of health issues and death increasing in likelihood as the radiation levels increase.

          In other words, the chances of ill health or death increase on something like a geometric scale as radiation dosage increases.

  32. Mad Hacker
    Thumb Up

    What about the zombies!

    I read reports of the undead within the 20km exclusion zone. Zombies are a real threat.

    Seriously keep the good stuff coming. I check in here to get rational after reading something hysterical on Had to check in here when I read that plutonium was found in a trench.

  33. This post has been deleted by its author

  34. Anonymous Coward

    The optimistic "press releases" continue...

    Any other fuel and the story would, literally, have fizzled out in a day or two.

  35. SoaG

    Remember two weeks ago?

    When Tokyo was going to be wiped out by a radioactive cloud within a few hours?

    Hippies and televangelists are the same. Prediction of the end of the world fails to materialize? Just re-misinterpret the carefully selected fragment of data/scripture and reissue the same prediction with a new expiry date and/or cause.

    I'm still waiting for Them and Godzilla.

  36. Shane Kent

    "nuclear power is far and away the safest form of energy generation.."

    I grew up between Pickering and Darlington (Ontario, Canada) and I was taught this (safe, etc.) growing up. And I was very pro Nuclear Power. But then I watched a documentary that points out what is driving the power plants (other side of the coin). The mining is nasty nasty nasty. Watch "Uranium" at it is an eye opener, the videos are free to watch.

    1. ennui

      Ontario Nuclear Power might be the safest but still expensive.

      Gravity Control is the most economical and safest way to produce power.

      It can be used all over the world and does not need fuel.

      I discovered it when I found the technology of the Flying Saucer, (yes, they do exist!).

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    You could blame Andrei Sakharov

    Only I think it was he who ran studies of the mutation level Vs levels of radiation exposure.

    The graph goes through the origin. There is *no* minimum exposure level that *guarantees* no mutations will result. Finite level of radiation -> finite *probability* of a mutation in some members of the population at some time

    What did you think powers evolution?

    Scary stuff, except that humans are complex and do self repair. So the *real* question might be what level *disrupts* self repair to the point where you can't recover?

    BTW both Plutonium and Uranium are toxic metals even if *not* radioactive.

  38. Jay Clericus

    excellent reporting :)

    Using this site to post to friends in japan and kids who should know better than to read the Sun or the Sport and think everything in it is really true :)

    Keep up the good work :)

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Simply amazing

    Despite evidence to the contrary Lewis continues to claim the nuke disaster in Japan is a minor incident. He must think if he ignores reality everything will just be fine? Day by day the radiation levels continue to rise as far as 25 miles from the reactors but according to Lewis this is just a minor incident. Perhaps Lewis is on drugs?

    1. Captain Thyratron

      Minor incident indeed.

      Nobody died from it. Repeat that to yourself a couple of times.

      Meanwhile, the JSDF is plucking thousands of corpses out of the rubble, and the Touhoku region's corpse-disposal infrastructure is swamped with bodies because the tsunami killed so many people that they simply can't bury or burn them fast enough. Rikuzentakata, Minamisanriku, and a few other cities were all but wiped off the map. The airport in Sendai was closed because it was covered in what used to be people's houses. Many tons of human flesh are rotting beneath the remains of destroyed neighborhoods, and that's to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of Japanese who don't have homes anymore.

      Yes, three partial meltdowns that have yet to kill a single human being do indeed count as a minor incident.

      1. Sebmel

        I see another bailout coming

        This kind of post is common here: a pro-nuclear stance blinding someone to the cost to tax payers of this kind of disaster.

        Myself, I'm pro-nuclear power, but I demand it gets it's act together commercially.

        I'm not going to join this cheerleading: Ra Ra, Nobody Died! Down with the pansies who're scared of radiation! Only to get hoodwinked again as a large industry heads to government with a begging bowl because they screwed up.

        A nuclear clean-up is a very big bill. I don't want to pay it monthly for an industry that once promised: "Too cheap to meter!"

        "Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, 1954:

        "Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter... It is not too much to expect that our children will know of great periodic regional famines in the world only as matters of history, will travel effortlessly over the seas and under them and through the air with a minimum of danger and at great speeds, and will experience a lifespan far longer than ours, as disease yields and man comes to understand what causes him to age." "

        So, let me suggest:

        Four reactors dripping radionuclides is not a triumph, it's a bill. It's a bill to clean up. It's a bill in higher insurance premiums for nuclear plants, worldwide. It's a compensation bill to landowners. It's a bill from people evacuated from homes.

        Forget the chorus of: Nobody died.

        Let's see how big the bill is and voice the concern that there be: No more welfare for corporations.

        I hope that isn't going provoke more examples of that other pseudo-logic Lewis has been offering these past few weeks: the COMPARISON.

        This nuclear accident has killed no one compared to the tsunami. Even CHERNOBYL killed no one compared to this tsunami!

        It's nonsense: a comparison between a commercial utility and a natural disaster. It's a red herring. The issue here is public safety in the short term and cost per kilowatt in the longterm.

        1. DWLR

          What's wrong with making comparisons?

          What else are you supposed to do, just quote figures that by themselves mean nothing?

          But ok, you don't want to compare the death count to the tsunami, so compare it to the massive oil spills we seem to have every few years. I wouldn't mind seeing a safety and cost comparison between the two industries. And that's what you're focused on, right?

          Or if that isn't close enough for you, go to the old favourite of the coal industry.

          I kind of agree with your "No more welfare for corporations." but I'm not entirely sure how the system is supposed to work otherwise. The government has to supply its people with power (even the poor ones!), so how is it supposed to do that without subsidies?

          1. Sebmel

            Comparisons are a smoke screen

            This nuclear accident killed this many: but the tsunami killed THIS many: oh but coal dust and soot has killed THIIISSSS many... ad nauseam.

            The issue is price per kilowatt. Our very civilisation depends on cheap energy. For nuclear energy to be cheap it needs no clean-ups, because they're expensive.

            Lewis has clouded the issue with this red herring 'who killed more'.

            I'm pro-nuclear power generation: I am anti high energy costs though incompetence.

            It is now being suggested that the evacuation around the plant may have to be long term... that means one thing to me: another bill... and either the nuclear industry will ask for the taxpayer to foot the bill, or they will ask for electricity price guarantees to pass it on to consumers and industry.

            That's what's wrong with comparisons: they are the smoke screen that hides the begging bowl antics.

            I'm a capitalist: welfare for corporations breeds incompetence and high prices.

        2. mmiied

          goverments fult

          it is the goverments fualt that nuclear is so expencive to clean up it they did not insist that it's saftey standards where vastly safer than others it would be much more competive

          for example a nuke plant must acount for every attom of wast they produce and must contain it all but a coal plant can dump it's waste up a chimly or in a pit even when it is more raido active than some of the stuff a nuclear plant produces

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Moving on now ...

    I expect the organisations of Japan involved will be able to cascade experience, insight and good practice to other nuclear powered nations. And I'd guess we can expect reactor design and working practices to have reasonable amendments and improvements in the light of ...

    (Rapidly losing the will to live on this thread :-) )

    But, you know, ... maybe the world needed this worse^3 case event to take nuclear power forwards anyway?

    I mean, what country in the world could have completed a better job than Japan?

    Of course, better it had not happened but then ... tsunami ...

    Yep, nuclear is the way to go.

  41. jimmy

    just read the first sentence

    'As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down, the salient facts remain the same as they have been throughout: nobody has suffered or will suffer any radiological health consequences.'

    There's no need to read anymore. This sentence demonstrates this article is not worth reading and contains very poor journalism. Let me explain:

    'Radiation' is best described by the use of quantum mechanics. This model relies entirely on statistics. That's why we use half lives, there is no other way of modeling radioactive processes. An inhaled atom of plutonium, uranium or whatever may decay in a minute or a million years. The gamma ray/neutron/alpha or beta particle may interact and damage your DNA or it may not.

    This process is entirely random. yes the more there is the more likely it is to happen but anyone that claims NOBODY WILL come to any harm when radiation has been measured is talking absolute bollocks.

    So Mr Page, please stop you have made yourself look like a real fool. you are no scientist and no medic that's for sure.

    just to add: i'm actually pronuclear and this idiot is ruining our case!

  42. interested_reader

    Several points made in this debate are a bit specious to say the least

    1) The currently mandated levels of safe exposure for nuclear power plant workers are apparently ridiculously low. Proof being that the government-mandated safe tolerances are far less than what you would get eating a banana every hour for a year straight, or racking up your frequent flyer miles as a traveling wholesaler for perfectly safe cesium-137 vitamin supplements.

    It seems "mad, fear-driven, irrationally-low safety levels" are to blame for a) mankind failing to explore the stars in a timely fashion and b) our current flawed reality not matching up to the prophetic vision for the future as envisioned by the sage animators at Hanna-Barbera studios and the wise executives of ABC television circa 1962.

    I don't know about the fearless hacks at El Radioactive Reg, but if I was working in an industry where safety regulations are required, you can bet your ass I would want the safe limits for exposure to toxin X to be 100% driven by fear and set as irrationally low as fucking possible. Permissible ill health effects five times lower than what you would get from attending the average Celine Dion concert? Count me the fuck in, gentlemen.

    2) Weaselly phrasing along the lines of "nobody has ever been able to show that this isotope has any health consequences at all" when discussing exposure to various radioactive isotopes. This is a nice way of dancing around the fact that a lot is still not understood about radiation exposure. It also sidesteps discussion of the issue of long-term contamination of food supply. Cesium-137 takes hundreds of years to decay completely away, and in the meantime it is already showing up in plants and animals intended for human consumption. What happens if you keep eating and re-eating the stuff because it is in the ground, in the water supply, in the food chain? Nothing we need worry our pretty little heads about, according to Messrs. Orlowski and Page.

    3) Misleading industry safety comparisons to coal, oil, wind, hamster wheels, etc. as other forms of power generation.

    E.G.:" 'Not one person has died from radiation,' Sir David King told the Guardian. 'Let me put that in context – in the same week, 30 coal miners died. Generating electricity from coal is far more dangerous.' "

    Yes, but 30 coal miners didn't die from exposure to unshielded, highly-refined coal. More likely they suffered from the statistics of working in an industry not subject to "irrationally low" safety levels. Coal, oil, and so on are industries where cutting corners on safety and putting workers in harm's way are (unfortunately) tolerated... precisely *because* these are much less risky endeavors than generating nuclear power.

    4) Complete omission of discussion of the hazards of nuclear waste and (going back to point 2) the wider health issues of long-term fallout contamination. What do we do about the waste products from nuclear power, which require extreme isolation from the rest of the environment for thousands of years? What about the fact that, thanks to Chernobyl and nuclear testing, we can now tell apart wine vintages via cesium-137 testing? These are somehow good things?

    It's nice that El Reg was quick to let the air out of the mass-media hype bubble, but blaming the dirty hippies and their "irrationally low" safety levels for keeping us from taking vacations to Mars is a wee bit far-fetched, in my opinion. El Reg is sounding like the mouthpiece for the nuclear industry lately, and I miss its characteristic jaundiced "they're all mad" view when it comes to reporting on the clusterfuck at Fukushima.

    *(BTW: "Orlowski and Page" has a nice ring to it... could pass equally well for a venerable law firm or a retro-indie-rock duo.)

    1. Liam Johnson


      "Permissible ill health effects five times lower than what you would get..."

      But if we went that course, nothing would ever get done. Everything has some risk. You would just end up with all the whole population in bed quivering in fear. Of course, some meat-head who doesn't believe in all this would be kicking your door down and your calls to 999/911 would go unanswered because policing is just too risky for any sensible person to do.

      "but 30 coal miners didn't die from exposure to unshielded..."

      No, but they still died. So will you eventually - get used to it.

  43. Russ Williams

    Rule of thumb

    1Sv (1000mSv) => 1% increase in cancer risk.

    So, 100 workers getting 4x the dose at which they'd be immediately withdrawn from the site, will give one of them a tumor... in addition to the 30 or so that they'd get without any radiation exposure whatsoever. I'd take that risk as one of them. Hell, I take more of a risk crossing the street on my way to work: white vans are a lot more hazardous than trace quantities of plutonium.

    Much as I love to disagree with Mr Page, he's spot on with this one. People generally have no concept of risk or understanding of low-probability events, so their opinions are worth nothing at all in the 'debate' against reality. More people died in car crashes avoiding flying after 9/11 than died in the WTC; more people will die in mining accidents as a result of panic over Fukushima than will die of radiation poisoning from it; and a bunch of sanctimonious morons will pat themselves on the back for their wise counsel to avoid some movie plot threat.

  44. Stuart Duel

    slowly winds down??

    What alternative universe are you getting your information from Lewis???

  45. Jon Axtell
    Thumb Up


    You just have to look at the thumbs up and thumbs down counts to come to a very straightforward conclusion - many believe that nuclear power is safe.

    All those getting thumbs down are the scaremongers, nutters, green party members and those who don't read articles properly. They probably skim read and insert their own opinions into the article for the bits that they didn't read or understand.

    1. Jim Morrow
      Paris Hilton

      belief, not rationality

      for fuck's sake. just because many people believe something doesn't make it true.

      millions of people believe in the existence of a deity that looks over them and runs the universe. some commentards here believe in the existence of the flying spaghetti monster. praise be upon his noodly appendages.

      it was only a few hundred years ago that people would burn people to death because they believed they were witches or the sun revolved around the earth.

      paris icon because i believe she is talented.

      1. Highlander

        Jim...sadly in some parts of the world

        some people still kill each other because they can't agree on things that are about as significant as what color of tie their particular version of the flying spaghetti monster wears - so to speak.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Re-read the article


    Lewis can probably reply himself, but I can answer some of your points just by reading the article properly.

    The radition burns and oncologist. Read the article and other news items, you'll find that the three workers have been released from hospital. The reason he said that it was a inconsequential as a minor case of sunburn was because the workers didn't realise that they had been contaminated. It was only afterwards when they were tested that they were found to have been in contact with the water. The hospitalisation was just precautionary - because of they hyped up fears about atomic power. The oncologist was also right but he isn't reading the facts from the source, he's only stating his opinion based on general facts that radiation burns are dangerous but only when they are visible and noticable.

    Radioisotopes in the sea. Read the article. Then re-read it again. The limits are deliberatly set low. Any the authorities publish even the smallest figures above these low limits as "URGENT" because if they didn't and it was found out the public would say that they are being secretative. And when they do they are told that they are scaremongering. The authorities can't win. The BBC report (not reliable source if you read the article) says that they level is 4000 time legal limit. The legal limit is a figure set that if you were exposed to it for a whole year it would affect you slightly by increasing your chance of getting cancer by a small amount. Since no one is going to be exposed to these levels no one is being affected. Re-read the article and understand the way the limits are set. The reason the japanese authorities are banning and evacuating is because of the media storm. Precisely because the whole point of selling newspapers is to talk up the story to sell more newspapers - not to tell boring facts.

    Nuclear industry is safe. Re-read the article. It takes into account the amount of energy produced via the various methods. Coal is dangerous because it produces a lot of power and a lot of people mine it. Wind is safer, but only because the levels of energy produced are miniscule compared to coal. Mining uraniam is dangerous in itself, but when the level of power generated via nuclear is taken into account it's still safer than coal mining and it's power levels.

    Subsidies. Have you checked out the calls for subsidies and such like from the eco fanstists for wind power and photovoltaics?

    The whole point of the article is to counter the extremely bad scaremongering from the MSM. If sometimes Lewis resorts to polemical statements, it's only to show how much the MSM are in hysteria.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If anyone needs to re-read

      then its you.

      "the three workers have been released from hospital"

      Totally meaningless I'm afraid.

      "the workers didn't realise that they had been contaminated"

      Seeing as we have been comparing it to sunburn. Why is sunburn so common? Its a delayed reaction.

      "Radioisotopes in the sea"

      "Marine fauna, such as brine shrimp, are known to accumulate certain toxins many hundreds of times ambient levels." The point being no one knows for certain yet what the consequences will be, hence ""We don't have enough data yet, and what we have are still patchy," Dispite what you or Mr Page might claim.

      "Subsidies. Have you checked out the calls for subsidies and such like from the eco fanstists for wind power and photovoltaics?"

      Yes lets do that, would be more interesting than this drivel.

      "The whole point of the article is to counter the extremely bad scaremongering from the MSM. If sometimes Lewis resorts to polemical statements, it's only to show how much the MSM are in hysteria."

      How exactly is that helpful? Why would you want to sink to the level of the Daily Mail? Keep the moral high ground and have a sensible honest and interesting discussion.

    2. Sebmel

      I do believe I did understand the article

      "Lewis can probably reply himself, but I can answer some of your points just by reading the article properly."

      OK, the suggestion is that I didn't read the article correctly, I'm primed for the example:

      "Read the article and other news items, you'll find that the three workers have been released from hospital."

      Ah... I see you slipped in there: 'and other news items'... because it isn't in the article, is it? Lewis made a claim about the worker's health:

      "Three workers who suffered noticeable but not dangerous radiation doses from standing ankle-deep in radioactive water – and possible minor burns equivalent to a mild case of sunburn – have been confirmed to have suffered no ill effects."

      Having left hospital is an indication of no short term serious burns... but Lewis made a longterm claim: cancer does not appear immediately. So I asked: from whom had he heard that prognosis? Since he isn't an oncologist, and didn't examine the workers. I hope that's clear.

      Now you make a claim:

      "The hospitalisation was just precautionary - because of they hyped up fears about atomic power."

      Based on what? Back this up, please. Or is it speculation founded on your own particular persuasions?

      "Radioisotopes in the sea. Read the article. Then re-read it again."

      No, that's not necessary. As someone with a background in marine toxicology I did understand it.

      "The limits are deliberatly [sic] set low. Any the authorities publish even the smallest figures above these low limits as "URGENT" because if they didn't and it was found out the public would say that they are being secretative [sic]."

      You may find it interesting to read up on another Japanese disaster: the Minamata Bay poisoning incident. It will give you an insight into bioabsorption, unexpected metabolic transformation, and accumulation. It will also throw light on the Japanese culture of management secrecy and cover-up.

      Lewis made claims about the insignificance of this contamination of seawater. I asked him what research he has read that backs that up. Simple dilution and supposed biological inertness are no guarantees of safety... as the Minamata Bay incident will explain to you.

      "Nuclear industry is safe. Re-read the article."

      Reading this must make Lewis very proud!

      "Subsidies. Have you checked out the calls for subsidies and such like from the eco fanstists for wind power and photovoltaics?"

      This is a non sequitur. Let me be clearer: I am against large subsidies to any energy generation company. Funding research is one thing... even small scale funding to examine feasibility can be argued as reasonable... but constant, longterm funding to a 50-year-old industry is an unacceptable distortion of the market.

      What is worse is that the subsidising of the nuclear industry has not been done with any reasonable goal in mind. It can't be argued as having been resource management. It hasn't been pilot studies. It has caused the industry to hobble along, lame, instead of evolving a profitable, clean business model... and it has been underhand: insurance guarantees, price fixing, cost overrun payouts, free clean-up, waste disposal subsidy, decommissioning costs borne by the taxpayer, a blind eye turned to environmental contamination by mining, the cover-up of indigenous people's health problems due to mining.

      A salient example is Trawsfynydd nuclear power station.

      Construction 1959 : Fully operational 1965 : Shut down 1991

      Currently 620 people are at work on the site in 2011. That's more than when it was generating electricity (600 workers). It's due to be increased to 800 to speed up the current phase of decommissioning, to be completed in 2016.

      Towers currently due to be lowered: 2025. Nuclear waste to be removed: 2065

      Full operational: 25 years. Decommissioning will take: 74 years (if current predictions turn out to be more accurate than past ones).

      All vastly over nuclear industry claimed cost and time.

      1. Chris D Rogers
        Thumb Up

        I too understood the article

        I'm pleased to report, like many others, that I understand the gist of the authors article and that it is indeed 'Pro Nuclear'.

        Further, and in reference to your points, I'm happy that the decommissioning process in Wales is sustaining so many future jobs - well done nuclear industry.

        Indeed, I'm happy to go on record and request that the UK build all its proposed nuclear reactors and a heck of a lot more at the two sites mentioned and any other suitable sites.

        Further, I'd welcome the nuclear waste depository centre also built in Wales.

        This adds up to a lot of investment, a lot of skilled jobs and work for many for a century or so - ALL THIS I'D WELCOME.

        Not only would I welcome all this construction and full-time jobs, I'd also welcome the construction of the 'Severn Barrage' and numerous jobs that would create - not to mention the fact that this alone could generate in the region of 5-10% of the UK's energy requirements depending on its siting, construction method and turbines utilised to maximise power efficiency.

        Now, all this construction will cost X amount of lives lost - a fact of life, it will supply work and it will supply investment - hopefully, as a nuclear powerhouse and hydro-powerhouse, the knock on effects would be great.

        Now obviously, living in Wales I may glow a little at night and grow two heads - the growing of two heads evidently would increase my IQ no end, as that of my offspring.

        Now, if you also wish to install wind turbines, offshore turbines and wave powered infrastructure, I'm confident Wales could supply 100% of the UK's energy requirements if the transmission infrastructure were in place.

        Stop moaning, and face the facts, you want energy, this energy production costs people their lives, leaves a mess and costs money.

        Rather than being a nimby, I'd welcome all this, if only to make up for the fact that having extracted most coal at considerable loss of life, my country was effectively abandoned to the winds.

        So please, do call me a nuclear nut, also call me a green - facts are facts and to-date one person has died at Fukushima, obviously not of radiation contamination, others have been contaminated and the place is a bit of a mess with loads of radioactive water all over the show - whether this is a significant health hazard has yet to be determined - and if it is, this is the price we pay for our cozy lifestyles.

        Also, in the time it took me to write this, how many individuals have died on the roads, met a violent death, or basically just dropped dead - quite a few I bet.

        So, well done Lewis, you have been factual, not downplayed the risks and clearly indicated all along that all sectors of industry are dangerous - and that means catching the underground to go to work in London - indeed, its estimated that during Winter a large number of 'he men' drop dead of a heart attack from not protecting themselves against the cold - my suggestion, close the underground and save these poor souls who needlessly die on their way to the office - a health hazard in its own right.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ah good a mug.

          I have some rechargable AA batteries you can have, £500 for 4.


        2. Sebmel

          Lewis's triumphalism demonstrates low personal standards

          I am pro-nuclear power but I consider this current accident at Fukushima a demonstration of more incompetence by the nuclear industry. It is an industry with a long record of saying:

          "We didn't realise..."

          ... an earthquake of that size might occur here (Japan has 20% of the world's large earthquakes)

          ... a wave that big might occur (They can't have noticed the Aceh tsunami)

          ... the plant might take longer and cost more (constant begging to governments)

          ... the decommissioning would take so long and cost so much

          ... that we might lose nuclear material (Sellafield accounts show over 10 tons of nuclear material unaccounted for over the lifetime of the plant... this from Prof of toxicology, Heriot Watt Uni, Edinburgh back in 1988)

          Chris D Rogers, you take the view that this all ads up to investment:

          "This adds up to a lot of investment, a lot of skilled jobs and work for many for a century or so - ALL THIS I'D WELCOME."

          While I might be happy to see those jobs, were I living in the Welsh ex-mining village of my Grandmother, I'd still not consider cost overruns and 75 year clean ups investment. Investment is spending with the intention of creating wealth... while that spending is taxpayers subsidisind the mistakes of the nuclear industry.

          In my view it would not have taken so long to get its act together were it not being constantly bailed out by the taxpayer. I assume you are in the UK, or know what it currently happening there. I am surprised that your comment shows no recognition of the consequences of such carelessness with UK taxpayers money.

      2. Andydaws
        Thumb Down

        There's not the slightest way that the subsidies currently

        on offer to the renewables sector can be described as

        "I am against large subsidies to any energy generation company. Funding research is one thing... even small scale funding to examine feasibility can be argued as reasonable"

        WE're now at a situation where gigawatt scale depolyments of wind are subsidised (through the Renewables Obligation) scheme at more than twice the market value of the power produced. Note that - the developers of schemes like the London Array refused to to ahead until Darling and Milliband upped the RO entitlement of wind to 2 ROCs per MWh. And a ROC (including the buyout premium) is worth about £49.

        So, when one of these units staggers into life, it doens't sell it's power aat £40-50/MWh, like anyone else in the market - it gets the market price (boosted slightly by CCL), plus £98. And better yet, it's got a guaranteed sale of it's power.

        Oh, and things like the London Array are easy in terms of build and maintenance compared to the far-offhsore pases that we'll have to go to next.

        Does that sound bad - a mile away from "funding research" or "establishing feasibility"? DAmned right. But, it's not the worst.

        The "Feed in tariffs" scheme - it pays a householder 41p/Kwh generated. And, note, that's not to export it to the grid. That's if they use it themselves! That's £410/Mwh....

        Germany spends about £5Bn a year subsidising solar - and generates around 1% of it's power that way.

        Better yet, those subsidies not only go to householders - until a few weeks ago, people building 100KW - 5MW installations were going to get 30.7p/KWh. Or £307/MWh. Or six -seven times the average wholesale price of power.

        That got cut to a mere £150/MWh for installations of 150KW to 250KW, and £85/MWh for 250KW to 5MW.

        And even at those inflated prices, it's brought the market to a crashing halt.

        Are those justified by "establishing feasibility" or "R&D"?

  47. nickpaton

    XKCD Radiation Card

    There's an Interesting and useful-looking chart showing comparative levels of radiation in the XKCD webcomic:

    Apologies if this has already been posted here.

  48. Crash!

    A few bits.

    You're taking quite a courageous stance there, Lewis. Firstly the thing is still on-going and secondly you're gambling your reputation on less information from Japan than any of us would like. Worse still, the dice is loaded. Perception is key and public misconception is likely.

    Hats of to you for your bravery.

    Talking of our Jetsons future, do you think that given the energy density of uranium and plutonium, it might in future be necessary to use it for something more interesting than powering fondle slabs or street signs? If so, given that coal, gas and oil is renewable in comparison, should we not be saving it?

    1. Highlander

      Not really an issue - Fast Breeder Reactors...

      Create more fuel than they consume...

      1. Crash!

        Breeder reactors?

        Anti entropy, perpetual motion machines? I like it.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    The usual pro nuclear drivel

    How much do you guys get paid for writing this stuff?

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Lewis Page is Your Sugar Daddy!

    Lewis is going to buy us all Unicorn Ponies that fart Rainbows and Lollies!

    hurry up and get on the train!

  51. ennui

    Power Generation is better, using Gravity Control

    Gravity Control, as used by the Flying Saucers would be the answer to any other power source.

    Originally offered to Nasa, so that it could be used for the Shuttles, it was rejected.

    So, now it is available for the generation of power..

    The structures would cost a fraction of a Nuclear Reactor, do not need any fuel or water and can be built anywhere in the world.

    The technology would allow a weight of one thousand tons to be lifted 1000 feet with a very moderate amount of power.

    When that comes down again, even engineers could believe that it could be used to generate power.

    It would be two silos, side by side. Inside the weights would be able to slide up and down.

    The Gravity Control Units (GCU's) in a Flying Saucer are these big spheres, emitting pulses.

    An adaptation of it would be mounted under the big weights and push it up to maximum height

    First in Silo # 1 it would be activated and push the weight to maximum height,.

    Then it would come down activate the generators and the GCU in Silo #2m

    When almost at bottom, the works in Silo #2 would start and take over hte generation of power and lifting the weight in Silo #1

    No pollution, power at the lowest cost.

    Would you like to pay 1 cent per Kilowatt or less?

    No other source can even try it.

    Look at the origin of the invention at< One Terminal Capacitor Joseph Hiddink>

    The Patent was evaluated by the Hudson Institute at $600 Billion, if the USA would have it before Russia. This was mainly the Space use, which Nasa flubbed, as it would make the Rocket Industry obsolete.

    1. mmiied

      let me gess

      dose it run on elerium 115?

  52. Bilby


    Wow - They found Plutonium 238 in Japan!

    This would be the stuff with the half-life of around 88 years, that is a by-product of Plutonium 239 production from Uranium 238, right? It must be coming from the leaking reactors, because no-one would have let a big lump of Plutonium, (presumably still mixed with fairly large quantities of various impurities) explode in an air-burst above a Japanese city at any time in the past 88 years, spreading bits of itself far and wide would they?

    Oh, hang on, what is the name of that place that begins with a 'N'?


    1. ThomB
      Gates Horns

      "This would be the stuff with the half-life of around 88 years..."

      So, your reasoning is that since the soil is already contaminated (read: still contaminated after 66 years, with 22 more years to go - statistically speaking of course), it's alright to dump more of the same substances in the same places? That way pushing half-life to what, 176 years?

      Sounds like an idea from a Monty Python script. Only expected to be taken seriously.

      1. Andydaws

        Have you worked out how much of this stuff there actually is, before getting excited?

        From world Nuclear News"

        "Tepco yesterday revealed results of sampling for plutonium on site. Samples were taken in five locations with all five showing levels of plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 at in the range of 0.19-1.2 becquerels per kilogram of dry soil. This is typical of the range resulting from historic tests of nuclear weapons.

        In three of the samples there was no detection of plutonium-238, which is normal thanks to its low ratio of only 0.026:1 to the other isotopes. However, two of the samples showed plutonium-238 at 2.0:1 and 0.94:1. "They could possibly come from the accident," said Tepco, although it noted that all the levels were below what could be harmful to health."

        Now, first, it's obviuously not widespread - there's been no detection of PU at the monitoring stations at the plant boundary, or further afield, and the Pu238 that COULD indicate that it comes from fuel is only found in 2 of five samples.

        The half-life of Pu 238, as you've noted is 88 years. I make it that that means in that Kilogramme of soil there's a whole 1 * 20^-12 grammes of Plutonium.

      2. TakeTheSkyRoad

        I wouldn't add to this but...

        ... I think it is quite clear that his point was that they could easily have found what was already there.

        The plutonium found could have been there 66 years and in fact how you tell the difference between plutonium deposited in the last few weeks and plutonium depoisited when the US nuked Japan (twice). I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure you can't like you can't tell when any other element was depositied in the soil.

        Sigh.... also "half life" doesn't work like that..... I thought reg readers were educated, obviously a fail

        1. ThomB

          Let's see...

          As far as I recall, the original post said the plutonium they found may be a leftover from the nuclear bombings that took place at the end of WW II.

          Fine and dandy, but that would suggest there currently is no way of finding that out, unless -- amateurishly spoken -- by comparing contamination before and after, which of course requires that data from before the accident exist -- which I don't know. But what I do know is that the probability of more plutonium being added doesn't seem like something to look forward to. And please note that the OP did not contest that probability, for very obvious reasons.

          As far as "you can't tell when any other element was deposited in the soil" is concerned, I don't know how experts in geology and astrophysics think about it. Anyone here who can clue us in?

          1. Highlander

            To be sure that it's from the reactor, they'd have to...

   see the right mix of materials that match the fuel, and they haven't seen that. the amount of Plutonium is a) extremely small, and b) Pu238 is one of the potential fission products of these reactors (not just something that might be present in the MOX fuel. So, without the other fuel materials and in such a small concentration, the source of the PU238 is as yet unknown, although it's possible that it was a) produced during the various atmospheric detonations of nuclear weapons, b) as a fission product inside one (or all) of these reactors and carried out in miniscule quantity in the steam being vented, or c) from the MOX fuel - although without any other material evident at the scene this seems extremely improbable.

            I'm leaning towards the same mechanism that has released the iodine and cesium myself. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Talk is cheap..

    To all those instant nuclear and radiology experts that write articles such as this one (are we still actually reading them to the bottom?), and people that comment to support nuclear fission like it's their mission in life (and down vote anyone that has a different opinion).


    I ask you, how many of you are from Japan ? ..right, I thought so.


    This is the kind of issue that you have to feel on your own skin to really decide if it's not all that bad after all.

    It's ridiculous to see people saying "nobody died". Well, sorry.. should people be blowing up for things to be bad for your taste?

    This is avery big crisis which is causing a lot of pain and suffering for many many people.


    Japan is a great country, it needs tourists now more than ever.. so, you should really look into going right now to pay a visit.. how about just 40 Km from the power plant ?


    Mr. Lewis Page should go first, as a special envoy for The Register. Bring us the truth, put your money where your pen is.


    In the meantime a few hundreds of thousands of people are displaced or are being told to stay indoor (but still have to step out to get uncontaminated food rations).

    Yeah, the tsunami was much worse, but let's not mix things up.. whole towns untouched by the tsunami are being affected now because of the power plant. It's in a rural area where some farmers are losing everything.


    ..oh yeah, I forgot, it's all a sham, because if you listen to the kool-aid drinkers, the poor Fukushima bastards should probably just go over to the beach and get some tan.

    After all, you can step into a pool of highly radioactive water and only get away with a sunburn. Right?


    If you don't like the news reports in the west (because we IT people know the real truth..), then simply follow the Japanese news.

    Believe me, you don't need sensationalistic news to realize that this is a horrible event that is destroying the life of many people.


    And, no, nuclear fission is not the only solution.. if you believe so much in science, then be a scientist and do your own research.

    1. mmiied


      "I ask you, how many of you are from Japan ? ..right, I thought so."

      I suspect the pepol in japan have a distanct lack of internet at the moment and thouse that do are a bit bissy to comment on a uk publication but I am sure they will get back to you

      I was goiong to comment on the rest of your post but I realy could not understand what you where getting at

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        mmiied said: "I suspect the pepol in japan have a distanct lack of internet at the moment and thouse that do are a bit bissy to comment on a uk publication but I am sure they will get back to you"

        Exactly. UK publications isn't where you find "pepol in japan" (sic). Otherwise I doubt we'd be reading all these apologies for the nuclear industry and the dismissal of the gravity of the situation.

        My point is that it's silly to counter UK and US media scaremongering with the excess of positivism that I've been reading from these articles and some of the comments. Two excesses don't make a balanced result.

        It's just too easy to dismiss the gravity of such events when it's not your livelihood (or life) at stake.

        Japanese seem to take some things calmly because of their culture, but it doesn't mean that most of them aren't very worried.

        There are hundreds of thousands that have been displaced.. they are not a minor issue, it's a tragic event. No one should dare to tell them "well you're not dead (yet), so it's not that bad."

        We can't keep believing that the displacement is only cautionary and that everyone is just fine. If you don't trust your own media outlets, then simply follow the news on NHK and the conferences from Tepco and the government.

        I can assure you that they are not very positive at all. Even though they seem to be very careful with what they say (in fact you can hear the unusually strong tone of the frustrated Japanese journalists questioning the officials).

        The displacement is very real.. and also dismissing the potential effect of radioactivity is as dumb as saying that smoking cigarettes doesn't kill because it doesn't kill instantly. Or as dumb as saying that "we all have to die anyway, so I'll just go on and have a cig."

        Believe what you will, but I dare you to go anywhere near the Fukushima plant right now.. I said before: talk is cheap.

  54. Lockstep Technologies

    April Fool?

    If this article is not an April Fools joke, then it is another example of fighting scaremongering with nuclear anaesthesia. How on earth is the Fukushima situation 'slowly winding down'? Radiation levels climb by the day, with the exposure of the source appears worsening as the core melts. Richard Lahey, ex director of boiling water reactor safety at GE, predicts that the fuel will start to come out "like lava". Nobody knows what's happening inside the borken structures. There is real pressure to extend the exclusion zone. And the government has no idea what to do next. I am no hysteric but this situation is farcical, and for some people to sit back and say soothingly, well, nobody is actually dead yet, is utterly incredible.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  55. BozNZ


    My Hampster "Mr Piddles" died 3 days after the fukoshima event.. What do you say to that!

  56. Andydaws


    Another good article overall – but Lewis is wrong about one thing, and for two reasons.

    Lack of reprocessing certainly isn’t why nuclear power isn’t cheaper. As a good rule of thumb, reprocessing is competitive at a uranium price of about $100/lb of yellowcake (that’s the unit in which uranium is traded). Even if we assume half of that cost is down to extra safety that’s $50/lb. And there’s been no time in the last 30-odd years when uranium prices have been above $30/lb for even a matter of weeks.

    As an aside, I don’t think safety costs are that large a proportion of reprocessing cost. Reprocessing is a difficult job, dealing with corrosive chemicals, and it’s radiologically very hot indeed. Shielding isn’t the same thing as multi-layered redundant safety systems.

    And even if reprocessing had been competitive, the impact on the actual price of electricity produced would be very small indeed. Nuclear economics are driven by capital costs (including financing costs), not by fuel costs. For British Energy, fuel is about 7-10% of the cost/MWh of it’s output. But even that overestimates the impact of the raw uranium price, since most of the cost isn’t in the raw material, it’s in the processing. Raw uranium has to be enriched (the most expensive bit), then coverted to oxide, granulated, sintered into precisely shaped pellets, canned and sealed. I’ve never seen a formal analysis, but I’d be amazed if the basic raw material costs were as high as 25% of the cost of fuel element delivered to a station.

    1. Sebmel

      Another informed post by Andydaws

      I find myself scanning contributors names now looking for what this guy has to say. Thank you.

      By the way, have you read anything recent on future uranium resources? The last time I searched there seemed to be quite a lot of speculation and propaganda, both positive (seawater's full of uranium - no commercial use of bioaccumulation yet) and negative (no new high grade mines, the price is going to soar with all the new nuclear plants in the pipeline).

      Do you have a view on the next 20 years?

      1. Andydaws

        Uranium Resources

        As with so many things, it depends on starting assumptions....

        We've already seen major rises in proven reserves over a year or two ago, simply on the back of expectations of rising demand from China, India etc. So, even at the conventional level I don't see an issue - plus with the relative insensitivity of the cost of nuclear generated electricity to uranium cost, there's lots of currently uneconomic stuff that can be exploited. Things like uranium phosphate reserves.

        Plus, there are the four game-changers. Reprocessing, breeders, sea-water extraction, and thorium. Plus a lesser, but significant one in the shape of recycling of enrichment tailings.

        I've posted elsewhere on this thread that although I'm not a fan of recycling on economic grounds, it's probably worth doing for the sake of its impact on the waste problem alone. But, once you're doing it, it increases viable reserves by a factor of 20 or so.

        Breeders are too complex a topic to deal with here, similarly thorium. But just say, crack either challenge, and there are literally thousands of years of reserves, even at consumption rates orders of magnitude greater than todays.

        Sea water extraction is the real wild card. There are Japanese firms claiming to have technologies capable of recovering uranium at $100/lb. If that's true, the reserves can be treated as to all intents unlimited. It means billions of tonnes recoverable.

        Tailings recycling is smaller scale, but interesting. Early enrichment plants weren't very efficient. Natural uranium is 0.7% u235. The waste stream from early plant was perhaps 0.5%. Nowadays it's half that or less. So, there are literally thousands of tonnes of "waste" yellowcake sitting around with extractable fissionable U235 in it.

        I did some rough numbers, a few months ago. Between that source, Magnox and AGR fuel awaiting reprocessing, and already extracted plutonium we've sufficient fissionable material already in the UK to power a fleet of "generation III" reactors equivalent to our current entire electricity production for a couple of centuries.

        So, no. I'm not stressed, one way or another, about uranium reserves.

        1. Sebmel

          Thanks for the reply

          To put the real world position then:


          Japanese firms claim $100/lb but this isn't market tested (it's above current market price)

          Reprocessing is commercially viable at around $100/lb and has public acceptance issues

          Thorium: this isn't fully mature tech yet


          Tailings enrichment: this is happening at current prices?

          New reserves: what I'd read about other reserves was that ore grades were substantially poorer than the Canadian mines that are close to end of term (Canadian ores 20% pure... the best of the rest 2%).

          Correct me if I'm wrong with any details. Does this add up to uranium hitting $100/lb fairly soon? One must bear in mind that a lot of new nuclear plants are due to be built worldwide.

          Today's price is $62.50/lb... highest recent price was $73/lb.

          "Doubling the uranium price (say from $25 to $50 per lb U3O8) takes the fuel cost up from 0.50 to 0.62 US cents per kWh, an increase of one quarter, and the expected cost of generation of the best US plants from 1.3 US cents per kWh to 1.42 cents per kWh (an increase of almost 10%). So while there is some impact, it is comparatively minor, especially by comparison with the impact of gas prices on the economics of gas generating plants. In these, 90% of the marginal costs can be fuel. Only if uranium prices rise to above $100 per lb U3O8 ($260 /kgU) and stay there for a prolonged period (which seems very unlikely) will the impact on nuclear generating costs be considerable."

          Well it seems to me that the World Nuclear Org. is saying that nuclear generation may well shortly be uneconomic. Don't you think?

          So, I looked up what the US Gov. calculations are on energy production costs:

          US Energy Information Administration: Updated Capital Cost Estimates for Electricity Generation Plants

          Table 2. Comparison of Updated Plant Costs to AEO2010 Plant Costs

          Overnight Capital Cost ($/kW) (year: 2011)


          Advanced PC w/o CCS $2,844

          IGCC w/o CCS $3,221

          IGCC CCS $5,348

          Natural Gas

          Conventional NGCC $978

          Advanced NGCC $1,003

          Advanced NGCC with CCS $2,060

          Conventional CT $974

          Advanced CT $665

          Fuel Cells $6,835

          Nuclear $5,339


          Biomass $3,860

          Geothermal $4,141

          MSW - Landfill Gas $8,232

          Conventional Hydropower $3,078

          Wind $2,438

          Wind Offshore $5,975

          Solar Thermal $4,692

          Photovoltaic $4,755

          1. Andydaws

            You're mixing two very different things

            "Overnight prices" aren't power prices - they're a measures (IMHO a sometimes dodgy one) of the capital intensity of plant.

            Can you stand a dose of "power economics 101"?

            The cost of output of a plant is made of a mix of "fixed costs" and "variable costs". The fixed costs are mostly (but not entirely) to do with the initial capital costs and the financing cost. It's in that latter that the discussion about "overnight cost" lies. Overnight cost assumes that all financing is at overnight market rates. It doesn't take account of the fact that financing arrangements for long-term projects are usually lower, if long term cash-flows are reasonably assured. For example, water firms can borrow at about 1 point above base rates. Nuclear plants are increasingly financed on that basis - for example, the EPR at Olilkuoto (sp?) is about half-financed by heavy energy users who get rights to 50% of the output at long term fixed prices.

            "Variable costs" are the ones that change with output. So, a gas-fired plant's purchases of gas are variable costs, and as noted in the quote, they're 90% of a gas plant's cost of output.

            Somewhere between the two sit costs like operation and maintenance. For nuclear plant, they mostly behave like fixed cost, because, like it or not, the plants come down for a two-yearly inspection and maintenance cycle, even if they've not run much. For a gas plant they need a periodic overhaul, but for major components, like the gas turbine it's based on running hours.

            The most striking thing is, there's almost no variable element to a nuclear plant, under current arrangements. You refuel every couple of years - and irrespective of whether the plant's run at 50% of capacity, and you've taken the fuel to (say) 3% burn up - that's the proportion of the fissionable material in the fuel actually used, or you've run it flat out every minute and taken the fuel to 6 or 7% burn up, you still refuel.

            Onto the fuel cost impact. I can't speak for US prices/costs, but UK and european electricity wholesale prices are moslty in the £40-50MWh range (at so-called "station gate"). The market's made mostly by long term contracts for gas and coal-fired output. It's dodgy to make direct comparisons, but $1.42/Kwh translates to about £10/Mwh.

            That figure's flattered by being mainly output from old plants where capital costs have long since been recovered. New build nuclear costs look different - mainly because capital/financing costs are higher, nearer to current European electricity market prices. But, with oil prices high, and coal prices rising, those market prices are rising too. But, note something - if as capital and financing costs rise, sensitivity to fuel costs fall, as a proportion of the cost of output.

            Think of it this way - if gas prices double, the cost of a unit of gas-fired output goes up by 90%. If (as commented there) if uranium prices double, the cost of a unit of output goes up by 10% - and that's on a plant where capital costs have been recovered.

            1. Hermes Conran

              Insurance costs

              Is anyone still underwriting public liability insurance on fusion plants? Or is this something (like our banking system) that is picked up by governments because they're too big to fail...

            2. Sebmel

              Interesting as usual Andy, thanks

              To simplify greatly you are saying that the nuclear industry can get a better price than the overnight one... because they know their needs and can order a sizeable amount. I understand that. But the overnight price must reflect the trend... and that is up.

              That the price is trending up suggests that there is speculation that demand will become restricted. Knowing what we do about the number of plants that have been ordered worldwide, and that the industry itself still publishes 80 years supply 'at current rate of consumption', that speculation seems, at the very least, a reasonable bet.

              Then there is the issue with ore quality. Canadian ore quality (20%) has never been found again. The next best is 2%. That's an enormous fall in quality and energy needed to crush ore. Not only that but that's not the whole picture. From what I've read the lower grades are often in harder rock... requiring even more energy to extract it.

              Overall, I'd say that if the Japanese really can bioaccumulate it for $100/lb, I see that as an upper limit that may well soon be reached. Remember that demand is about to double... unless there are a lot of cancelations.

              Add to this that the cost of solar power is falling every year... and that the US calculations already suggest that, there at least, it's cheaper than nuclear generation... and I see some serious issues for the nuclear industry... purely financial ones.

              One aspect of public solar generation that is often ignored is the losses associated with the transmission of electricity and the value to the market. About 8% of electricity is lost on it's way to the consumer... so you have to add that to the centralised generation cost. Also add that the consumer pays the market price, not the generation price. Solar energy becomes commercially viable for the consumer long before it becomes commercially viable for industry.

              Then there is the immense redundancy of small scale solar generation compared to 6 generators producing 3% of Japan's electricity in one spot.

              Much as I am happy to see nuclear technology used competently when I see bills like the Fukushima hitting the market... and cost over-runs like the tardy decommissioning in Wales and the Finnish Olkiluoto plant that's over 3 years late and 50% over cost, in a market in which solar power is already outcompeting nuclear generation on price, really make the industry look like an investment not worth making... IF POSSIBLE.

              Now consumer solar power generation obviously isn't popular with the energy industry so they'll play the, perfectly reasonable, 'what about nighttime use'... but shale gas exploitation has just knocked gas prices on the head for perhaps as long as 100 years... and that leaves nuclear power playing the CO2 card during a time of world recession.

              I wouldn't bet on it winning more than a few bids... just for access to weapon grade plutonium.

              Had the industry shown a better track record than 1 bad accident a decade, and much better ability to come in on time and on budget , the story would be different. The Germans are already betting on a nuclear free future. Now we Anglo-Saxons have always liked having a laugh at German staid conservatism... right up until the US and UK economies bombed. No one's feeling quite so smug about our choices now.

              1. Andydaws

                A few piints misunderstood there, Sebmel

                "To simplify greatly you are saying that the nuclear industry can get a better price than the overnight one... because they know their needs and can order a sizeable amount. I understand that. But the overnight price must reflect the trend... and that is up."

                No, nothing to do with quantity of orders. It's basically a matter of allowing heavy energy users to use investments in nuclear as a hedging strategy - because the one things that's certainly the case is that nuclear cost are predictable, especially once pas thte approval stage, and when using series build for plants.

                And note, since fuel costs are low as a proporiton of the overall, it's not exactly a problem to hedge at the time of construction, at least for the first 30 years or so of life. Remember, too, storage of unused fuel is non-problematic.

                "That the price is trending up suggests that there is speculation that demand will become restricted"

                Well, that depends from how low. Fuel cost per KWh is in the order (even on the NRC numbers you quote) in the order of 0.1C/KWh. You could argue the historically low prices reflect a situation of oversupply - most mines were started back in the 1960s and 1970s when the expectation was of growing demand. That's why nations like the UK and France stared FBR programmes back then!

                "80 years supply 'at current rate of consumption'"

                And assuming no new discoveries, expansions of exploration, or new technologies. I'd argue we're in a rathe different position - if anything, the emergent technologies place an effective cap on future prices, at about that $100/lb level.

                Incidentally, there's another game-changer I forgot, although it's effect is indirect. That's the first pilot plants are under construction for tuned-laser enrichment, which offers potential for huge savings and increased rates of recovery of fissionable materials.

                "Then there is the issue with ore quality. Canadian ore quality (20%) "

                No, I don't think there is a particular trend. Some more recently developed mines, like Canada's "Cigar Lake" - which has been a pig to develop, down to entirely conventional reasons - are not notably poorer grade material than the old Great Slave Lake deposits.

                Remeber two things - prospecting virtually stopped between the 1970s and the last few years. And both detection and extraction technology advances, just like as in any other area.

                "has never been found again. The next best is 2%."

                Well, that's simply not true - the Macarthur river deposit in Canada, which only went into production in 1999 has an average grade of over 15%.

                "That's an enormous fall in quality and energy needed to crush ore. Not only that but that's not the whole picture. From what I've read the lower grades are often in harder rock... requiring even more energy to extract it."

                So what? The energy return on investment remains orders of magnitude higher than that for other extractable energy sources - compare it to coal, or heavy oils.

                "Overall, I'd say that if the Japanese really can bioaccumulate it for $100/lb,

                Nothing to do with bioaccumulation, although that's also a line of research - it's selective absorbtion onto specialised polymers, in ocean currents.

              2. Andydaws

                "part 2"

                "I see that as an upper limit that may well soon be reached. Remember that demand is about to double... unless there are a lot of cancelations."

                Again, so? In the context of energy prices set by generation from fossil fuel sources in the £40-50/MWh range, the uranium price would have to increase by more than an order of magnitude.

                One small note - there's a technology change from Generation II to Generation III plants that will largely offset something like a doubling. One of the clever tricks is the use of "burnable poisons" to manage fuel reactivity. It means you start with a higher enrichment ([perhaps 4% insterad of 3%) but with the fuel doped with neutron absorbers. They "burn" and the net result is, it's possible to maintain reactivity with fuel burn-ups in the 8% region, instead of <5%.

                "Add to this that the cost of solar power is falling every year... and that the US calculations already suggest that, there at least, it's cheaper than nuclear generation

                Well, no. Because you've, as I explained, misunderstood what that "overnight cost number is.

                The error this time isn't on the financial side - it's on the fact (check back) it's based on "nameplate" capacity. I.e the MAXIMUM rated output.

                You've then got to include the effect of things like capacity factors. for example, with a wind plant, alhthough the nameplate cost may be (using real numbers from the London Array) about £2.5Bn/GW, the capital cost still needs to be recovered from actual output sales. So, if that plant will then run at 30% capacity factor, the actual figure needs to be adjusted - to what I make as £8.7Bn/GW.

                You have to size a solar array to make "x" kw at noon, on a clear day. But it's not going to do that - allowing for darkness, oblique solar incidence, clouds, etc. you'd be hard-pushed to see a capacity factor of over 2--25% - so as judged against saleable output, you need to increase that cost by a factor of 4 or 5 to get a representative number.

                And, if anything, I'd argue for further loading - because the generation isn't "dispatchable", i.e available when needed as opposed to availability being determined by time of the day, weather, etc.

                ".. and I see some serious issues for the nuclear industry... purely financial ones."

                As opposed to those facing competing forms, frankly it's a better bet. We're currently, in the UK, suubsidising offshore wind to the tune of double the market value of the power it generates. We're paying householders 10X the market price of power to use PV. And so on.

                "One aspect of public solar generation that is often ignored is the losses associated with the transmission of electricity and the value to the market. About 8% of electricity "

                Not here in the UK - transmission losses (as opposed to local distribution and what's politely termed "abstraction and losses" - theft and billing errors to the rest of us) are about 3%.

                And you forget something - renewables, almost by definition require long transmission lines. Much more so that conventional or nuclear plant. for example (again in the UK) scottish generated wind power - about half our total potential - has to be transmitted over 400 miles to the heavier areas of demand in the South East. By contrast, Sizewell and Hinkley both have about 60 miles until they're taken off at heavily loaded GSPs, into local networks.

                "is lost on it's way to the consumer... so you have to add that to the centralised generation cost."

                And it's still a cheaper answer than local, distributed generation. This is a business where economies of scale matter.

                I've a small standby genny at home. Running that costs me £0.30-0.50 per KWh - depending on assumptions about how long I run it for (and how I write of the capital). Compare that to British Energy's average contract price at station gate of £0.025.

                "Also add that the consumer pays the market price, not the generation price. Solar energy becomes commercially viable for the consumer long before it becomes commercially viable for industry."

                That rather depends if the customer wants to stay connected to the grid. See the comments above - solar power doesn't generate a lot at night, and unless you assume a local battery pack - not a cheap, or especially reliable solution, of course - you still need a grid connection.

                And, since grids largely are a "fixed cost" business, if you cut the amount of power moving over them, you don't cut the cost to operate - you just increase the cost per unit transmitted/distributed.

                "Then there is the immense redundancy of small scale solar generation compared to 6 generators producing 3% of Japan's electricity in one spot."

                For redundancy, read surplus capacity - which takes us back to the capacity factor point.

                You've missed something, too - distributed generation makes maintenance of stabiulity even on a local distribution grid a big of a problem. One ultra basic example. Say I connect 10KW of solar capacity on the roof of Dawson Towers. And it generates sometimes at that. I've immediately created a power-factor problem (one of the three phases carrying more power than the others), unless by some strange coincidence all my neighbours have done the same.

                That way lies serious local instability, and worse, losses on the system. the 3% we see on the UK Transmision grid would look trivial. There's work been done by the 14 PES distributors here, which analysse the impact - they've used it as a case to OFGEM to increase their investment allowances. Even 10-15% of households connecting microgen requires a fundamental rebuilding of the local grid, requiring intelligent substations able to manage frequencies at just about stree level - as opposed to one every 5-10,000 households as at present. It'd cost literally in the 10s of billions.

                "Now consumer solar power generation obviously isn't popular with the energy industry"

                Well, a couple of my clients are subsidising customers to put it in, and to split the Feed in Tariff benefit, so they don't seem over reluctant - and they're UK "big six" retailers.

                I get the idea, you're something of an enthusiast, as opposed to an analyst, btw....

                "so they'll play the, perfectly reasonable, 'what about nighttime use'... but shale gas exploitation has just knocked gas prices on the head for perhaps as long as 100 years""

                And compare the options - using gas for baseload, as opposed to using it for peaking. Gas and nuclear actually mesh rather well, perhaps better than gas an intermittent renewables.

                As it is, I'm a great enthusiast for shale gas development - not necessarily for power generation, instead because it'll have to largely displace oil in transport fuels (either direct, or via "gas to liquids" technology. The implication there, of course is that oil and gas prices will gradually become coupled at the "per KWh" level, as substitution increases. I sepnd about 4-5 weeks a year in India, and it's already usual there for buses and autorickshaws to be CNG fuelled.

                Then think - gas usage is about half of oil usage (on a megajoule level). Even subsititing for half of oil production implies a doubling of demand. And the difference is, for a gas plant, fuel cost is 80-90% of the cost of a unit of output.

                "I wouldn't bet on it winning more than a few bids... just for access to weapon grade plutonium."

                Well, you'd be on to a loser there. Commercial reactors are lousy makers of eweapons grade plutonium.

                Recall the way by which it's claimed to be known that the Pu finds at Fukushima are not from atmospheric bomb tests? The isotpe ratios, with a large Pu 238 content? Pu 238 isn't a good idea when you're making bombs. It makes the Pu extremely hard to handle in the production process - it's about 300 times as radioactive as the "useful" Pus.

                That arises from fuel having a long dwell time in the reactor - it arises from a gradual build-up of neptunium, itself a result of running fuel to high burn-ups.

                If you want bomb plute, it has to be on a very short refuelling cycle - the precise opposite of what you design for on a power reactor.

                "better ability to come in on time and on budget"

                French experience, and Japanese tells a different story. First build of a new model - Like Olilkuoto - tend to come in badlly late and over budget. By unit 5 or six, they're pretty much to time and cost (as set for the original).

                Now it's true that we in the UK liked to build every plant as a prototype - never more than two identical. But that's not the way sensible programmes do it. Curiously, the Germans were nearly as bad as we were.....

    2. HW de Haan

      Re: Reprocessing

      "And there’s been no time in the last 30-odd years when uranium prices have been above $30/lb for even a matter of weeks."

      According to this document by the IMF the price of yellowcake hasn't been below $40/lb since 2008.

  57. Michael Overton

    You know...

    There is no denying that Japan and other nuclear-industry folks have been steadily downplaying the severity of the problem, and then having to backpedal and admit that it's worse than they'd previously thought. After several rounds of this, there starts to develop a real "credibility gap" that makes it alot harder to have any kind of reasonable plan. Even The Reg's coverage has fallen victim to some of this: initially you trumpeted how the safety procedures mostly worked and most of the reactors were shut down and completely safe. Only to watch two of those gradually become problematic as well. I think both sides need to set aside their agendas and focus on solving this problem, and THEN we can argue about the pros and cons of nuclear energy, alright?

    1. 42


      I have to admit to a brief grin when the safely shutdown reastors went BOOM and blew their buildings apart.

      Lets start a fund to send Lewis to Fukushima to fix the problem by himself, he wont need any protective clothing or anything.

      All the ranting wont for a moment convince ordinary people as they have been taught you cant trust scientists by climate deniers.

      Fun times!

  58. Andydaws

    On the plutonium

    Oh, one thought from the "must have come from MOX fuel" brigade. Pu238's half life is 80 years or so. Anyone who knows anything about the nuclear fuel cycle will tell you that fuel spends a LONG time between leaving the reactor, and being refabricated into fuel. A minimum of 25 years wouldn't be a bad bet, and most likely 40. So, there's likely to have been a lot of decay., perhaps 35% of the original PU

    Now, any used fuel contains a percent or so of plutonium. MOX fuel, for an LWR is at an equivalent enrichment to non MOX fuel, at 2 to 2 1/2%, of which perhaps half will be Pu (there are technical reasons why it's not all Pu fissionable content).

    So, do the sums yourself. The Pu content of new, MOX fuel (and r3's relatively recently refuelled) is only perhaps 50-60% higher than spent conventional fuel. But, compared to that same spent fuel, the Pu content is relatively depleted of Pu238.

    Jumping to a conclusion that because Pu is found, and it's high in Pu238 MOX fuel is involved is a leap onto very dodgy ground indeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Get your facts right

      "Concentrations reported for both, plutonium-238 and plutonium-239/240 are similar to those deposited in Japan as a result of the testing of nuclear weapons. The ratio of the concentrations of plutonium-238 and plutonium-239/240 in two of the samples indicate that very small amounts of plutonium might have been released during the Fukushima accident, but this requires to be further clarified."

      1. Andydaws

        I don't see your issue

        You seem to be talking about something at best indirectly associatd with the point I made.

        Assuming the Pu238 detection stands up (and. I've posted elsewhere on the thread about how challenging that is), I'm making the point that if the Pu238 does come from compromised fuel, there's no particular reason to assume it's from. mOX fuel, as opposed to ordinary fuel.

  59. James Gibbons
    Paris Hilton

    Go help them Lewis...

    "As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down"

    Meanwhile, Russia is sending an Antonov 225 cargo airplane to pick up a 190,000-pound concrete pump from the US Savannah River Site MOX plant so it can be flown to Fukushima. They don't plan to return it as it will be too hot when they are done with it.

    I also understand TEPCO is hiring nuclear workers/engineers from the US at high rates of pay to work on the problem. Perhaps Lewis Page would like to donate his services to the effort to help bring it under control. He could act as a cheerleader to all the men as they pull on their suits to go put out the nuclear fires. His cheery attitude should boost their mood and make them want to work two shifts in a row.

    Paris because she would know how to motivate the workers.

  60. Zolko Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    bis repetita

    on the 25th March 2011 16:22 GMT, Lewis Page wrote: "The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan was brought under control days ago"

    on the 31st March 2011 11:35 GMT, Lewis Page wrote: "As the situation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant slowly winds down"

    If it was "under control" days ago on the 25th, how can it "slowly wind" down on the 31st ? Looking like an idiot now, Mr Page, don't you ?

    1. PatientOne


      I would have thought they would want to control the situation so they could then wind it down in a controlled and *safe* manner. So if they gained control around the 25th, then yes, they could be winding it down slowly, safely and in a controlled manner around the 31st.

    2. DriveByReason

      Grasping at straws much?

      "If it was "under control" days ago on the 25th, how can it "slowly wind" down on the 31st ? Looking like an idiot now, Mr Page, don't you ?"

      Winning semantic argument that one... Really...

      Here's an amazing factoid for you, when firefighters get a blaze "under control," IT DOESN'T MEAN THE FIRE IS OUT. It means the fire is now contained, it is unlikely to spread to its surroundings, and, it is in the process of being put out for good. Through their actions it is getting better, it is not getting worse, therefore it is under control.

      Thats right, an emergency situation can be "under control" while at the same time not being completely over.

      Looking like an idiot now, Mr. Zolko, aren't you?

      1. Zolko Silver badge

        an idiot ?

        "under control", huh ? And now, radioactive water is spilling into the ocean, how is that "slowly winding down" ? Facts don't seem to get in your way.

        The whole situation is getting worse every day, and some wannabee scientist think they're smarter then the rest. I bet you believe the Yankees are winning in Irak ("mission accomplished") ?

        1. Andydaws

          Zolko, let's get a few basics right....

          OK, let's look at what's going on.

          1 - all three reactors are at stable temperatures, with the water input gradually winding down, as the amount of decay head production drops. In all three cases, they're now being cooled by electric pumps with diesel generator back-up (and diesel-powered mechancial pumps available if needed). So not only has a stable cooling regime been established, but it's not got redundancy against failure.

          2 - there has been no further radiation releases to the atmosphere since that cooling regime was established. It allows cooling to be maintained by allowing steam to vent from the reactors into the containments, where it condenses. Sooner or later, those will need to be drained down, but there's no great hurry (there's enough volume in the containment to take several months condensate.

          3 - succesful cooling has been established for the spent fuel ponds. In at least two cases, that's now by the plant's own circulation system, rather than the firepumps and concrete pumps used earlier. Again, temperatures are stable, and there's redundancy available. However, that also needs to be moved onto propoer residual heat removal systems, since the concrete pumps being used at two units tend to cause spillage of coolingwater.

          4 - there's condensate/cooling water around in turbine hall basements - in the cases of R1 and R3, that's not especially radioactive (not least since the main contaminant is iodine 131, and that's now had three half-lives worth of decay. In R2 it's hotter, which makes it appear there's leakage from the supression system. In all cases, it's in the process of being drained down into the turbine condensors, and hence to a treatment plant, which will hold it until iodine as decayed to low levels, and the water can be treated conventionally (ion-exchange etc.) to remove the other contaminants like Caesium.

          Pending that getting drained down, there's a leakage problem - but again, since it's predominatly iodine, it's non-persistent over anything more than a few months.

          5 - contrary to what you claim, radiation levels are behaving exactly as the "wannabee scientists" on here told you they would - they're showing an utterly predictable exponential decline.

          In what sense - other thn in your head, and that of the tabloids, are matters getting worse. It's going to be a bugger of a job to clean up, but that's where we are, now - the clean up phase.

          1. Andydaws

            I know it's bad form to respond to your own posts, but...

            One oddment, following on from the comment on declining atmospheric radiation levels.

            NISA publish the daily readings from the monitoring stations around the exclusion zone.. They're all in the single figure microsieverts'hour range now. And, as I said, they're declining. Similarly, Tepco publish the readings from the plant boundary monitoring stations.

            They're both showing (on average) a similar pattern - a decline of a about 8% a day. Translate that to a half-life and it's about 8 days.

            That's significant. It suggests that Iodine is very much the dominant contaminant (as the direct readings had suggested). You'd expect the decay curve to depart from that of Iodine when the contirbution from longer lived contaminants becomes a significant proportion - it's not yet showing much sign of that. It implies in turn that any caesium contamination is fairly localised.

            I suspect what will emerge is that there will be "hot-spots" of caesium contamination, analogous to those after the Windscale fire, but the overwhelming majority of agricultural land will be entirely usable after a year or so.

  61. Anonymous Coward

    All these arguments are rubbish.

    The pure fact that there after all the past nuclear accidents, safety level and the reliability of the backup systems are still inefficient warrants cries to stop further nuclear fission power plant production until safety and backups gets knocked up a notch or two and to seriously rethink whether it is worth using nuclear fission plants or simply stop and wait for the fusion plant development to complete.

    And I agree with post above that El Reg really sounds like a mouth piece of the nuclear industry lately. I wonder if this article is paid for. The article has gone too far the other way imo.

    I also wonder how many comments agreeing that nuclear is safe are made by paid spammers. It seriously won't surprise me if at least half of them are.

    1. Liam Johnson

      @Anonymous twat

      >>made by paid spammers

      Yet you haven't even got the balls to use your own name.

      1. Knochen Brittle
        Thumb Up

        From the man whose nick obviously means 'Limp Dick'

        "Yet you haven't even got the balls to use your own name"

        ... rich parody and a cunning April Fools stunt ~ well done!

        1. Liam Johnson

          @the man whose nick obviously means 'Limp Dick'

          You will have to explain that one.

    2. Chris Miller

      Lewis is a shill! (x25)

      Someone posts an article/comment with which I disagree. I am unable to find a rational argument against it, but clearly the author must be in the pocket of Microsoft/Apple/Google/'the nuclear industry' (delete whichever is inapplicable).

      Oddly enough, I haven't seen many responses to anti-nuclear postings claiming that the author is clearly in the pay of the oil and gas industries.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    "i'm actually pronuclear and this idiot is ruining our case!"

    Quite so. At least one other post pointed this out after the third or fourth piece of this series came out. Lewis isn't doing himself or the industry any favours; it's hard to imagine why he's doing this at all. I hope potential advertisers will realise that the page view figures for the last few days are entirely unrepresentative.

  63. David Gale

    Jetson's Future?

    Irrespective of the debate on nuclear plant safety, there is perhaps a more practical consideration that doesn;t seem to have made it through to this debate:

    When ALL of the long-term costs are taken into account, nuclear power doesn't even get to the start line.

    1. Andydaws


      Do you have any idea what - for example - decommissioning actually costs? A clue. It's actually being done, on light water reactors, as we speak, and completed in several cases. It's a small fraction - <3% - of the value of the electricity produced over life.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        No I don't, and until someone actually builds a permanent repository for medium/high level nuclear waste niether do you!

        I also think that some of the decomssioning has been politically motivated, in many cases it would make more sense economically to let the reactor stand for a 50-60 years and then decommision the building when it is less "hot". However that would prevent the taking of the pretty "after" pictures showing a nice green field (and maybe a row of conifers screening the spent fuel storage- at least in the states).

        Anyhow until you get the waste in permanent storage then saying you have decomissioned a reactor is like me kicking my dirty smalls under the bed and then telling my wife that I have "tidied up hte bedroom". Its kinda true, but also at the end of the day a lie.

        1. Andydaws

          OK,what's so special about a repository?

          It's a civil engineering programme, after all - the ones that the Swedes and Finns are working on aren't especially exotic - it's conventional hard-rock tunnelling, and a developed form of just what goes on in to line and secure underground structures.

          And the other aspects of the programme - vitrification, and canning techniques - aren't overly novel, anyhow. We've been vitirfying waste at Sellafield for three decades.

          The issue with repositories is political, not technical.

          And yes, you're right - some decommissioning programmes have indeed been done earlier than they otherwise would have been. Which makes them more expensive. Shippingport is an example, done mainly as a demo project.

          And guess what - those acelerated, early decomms are the ones that are expensive - and form the basis of that 3% number. Allow another 50 years, and it'd have been massively cheaper. I think you need to think throuh your own argument - if waiting reduces the lifecycle cost, and decommissioning is already cheap in those terms, you've just argued that it can be even cheaper.

          One final thought on waste. 98% of the radioactivity in spent fuel isn't from Uranium or Plutonium. It's from the lighter fission products like Strontium and Caesium. They're hot because they have relatively short half-lives - usually in the tens of years.

          Which makes for an interesting argument. you want permanent disposal of the "hot waste" - the easy thing to do is to separate it from the reusable stuff - the unburned fuel - and bury it. You can't do it in large blocks (it has to be able to lose heat), or in concentrated form, but when you do dispose of it, it doesn't need 100,000 year isolation. It needs perhaps 500 years.

          Which makes the repository design challenges, and the issues of selection of a suitable site much, much smaller.

          1. Hermes Conran

            "what's so special about a repository?"

            It has to last for tens of thousands of years, that's what.

            No structure every built by man has every done that. Do you know what happens to concrete that is a thousand years old? I don't and no other humans do.

            MIBTF to welcome our alien building contractors......

            1. Chris Miller

              1,900 year old concrete

              Forms the roof of the Pantheon in Rome. Last time I checked, it was holding together quite well.

            2. Andydaws

              Read the post, Hermes

              Why would it have to last tens of thousands of years, if the material in it had half-lives in tens of years? Do the sums.

              "Do you know what happens to concrete that is a thousand years old? I don't and no other humans do."

              Largely, we do. Because, of course, the Romans used it as a building material (at least in a crude form). We also know what happens to materials like iron over hundreds of years, and glass for thousands (those Romans again).

  64. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    For Whom the Bell Tolls

    You do realise, Lewis, that y'all at El Reg are perfectly placed, and are absolutely fabulously supported by Legions of the Anonymous, to Launch and Master Pilot a Virtual Crusade Leader Ship with AI Life and NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT Fuel Cells Generating Power and Control for Command of Brave New World Orders with SMARTer Machine Operating Systems.

    It is not as if one needs to ask Permission of SMART Machines, is it, although I can imagine that one does occasionally encounter the odd live embodiments of old yokel and local village idiot types, stuck in crazy worlds of their own warped minds, pulling out the plugs of communications ....That "Bootnote .... Some of you aren't going to believe this, but the comments on this story are not disabled intentionally - we are working to get them turned back on but are having technical difficulties. " ... is the sum of all that that particular and peculiar status quo has to offer in the face of a Novel Future and Virtual Realities beyond their Limiting Ken and Parochial Savvy. But they are easily cared for and taken care of, as to their individual needs as determined by analysis of their catalogue of deeds and history of feeds.

    Command the Feed of Words, Control the Need of Worlds is IT in a Nutshell in AI Circles ..... and so easily delivered via Virtual Means with Artificial Memes. Although quite how the MechanIQs of IT works in Live Operational Virtual Environments, is a Valuable Tool and Smashing Weapon and therefore probably prioritised in any Cosmic Classification as Top Proprietary ZerodDay Trade Information ....... and even then would it only be just an inkling as to what has been discovered IT can do, effortlessly and instantly in Command of Feed with Control of Need.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Jesus H. Christ

    Is Lewis becoming Clarkson? I think we should be told.

  66. mhenriday

    «If humanity can't rid itself of its primitive, hysterical fears –

    if people can't learn to cope mentally with actual powerful modern technologies more capable than fire and windmills and social networking – then we face a bleak, troublesome, mundane future indeed, one which will probably mean an end to human civilisation down the road rather than its long-term survival.»

    Wow ! Talk about fearmongering ! If we don't believe Lewis Page's ignorant comments about how the Fukushima disaster - not perhaps for Mr Page himself, but, at a minimum, for those residing near the nuclear power station - was/is not a disaster at all, but rather a blessing in disguise, than its out with humanity ! Perhaps Mr Page could be enticed to re-enlist in the Royal Navy, there his capacity to make a fool of himself would not be noticed....


  67. Andy Watt
    Dead Vulture

    Oo! Can I have a time machine as well please?

    Any absolutism, especially when presented in the same hysterical style (now with added ranting!) as the media it seeks to disparage (note - I do agree with any assertions that the Media are acting like gleeful teenagers about Fukushima), is painful to read, especially when it goes on this long.

    Let is go Lewis, unless this whole sequence of features is designed to create page views and Forum postings, in which case, do please continue, and we'll stop reading (which is the only logical thing to do).

  68. Anonymous Coward

    Others may have mentioned it but.....

    'The Jetsons' were a cartoon family and, as such, would be immune to adverse radiological effects if the script required it.

  69. Anonymous Coward

    Carbon cost?

    What would be the true / full cost of electricity generated from gas / oil / coal if they were made to repay their carbon cost in replanting trees and the damage by all the CO2 and other emissions?

  70. Homer 1

    Agrarian or nuclear?

    The solution is simple. Cover the planet with potential Chernobyls and suck as much energy from them as possible before they go boom. Then revert to an agrarian society, which will by that point be entirely sustainable, because the world's population will have been drastically reduced by the aforementioned nuclear disaster.

    Of course, we may need to grow our crops hydroponically in underground labs, but that's a minor point. Sunlight and fresh air are grossly overrated anyway.

    Problem solved.

  71. cnapan

    Armageddon has been cancelled... till next time

    We know this because all the signs are in place:

    "If it saves a single child" argument: Check

    "Talk about nuclear waste rather than Japan": Check

    "Talk about nuclear bombs to dig up some deaths via nuclear": Check

    Ad-hominem arguments grow to 50% of all anti-nuclear posts: Check

    In fact, it's business as usual again in that debate between reason and hysteria when it comes to nuclear.

    Who would have believed that just a few days ago the world was falling into a 'bottomless pit'.

    Who will be suprised when, the next time nuclear accidents fail to live up to the hysteria, the same people ignore the facts and repeat their cry of "RUN TO THE HILLS!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If your post proves anything,

      its that reason seems to be totally lacking on both sides.

  72. cnapan

    I think the problem has been dramatically overplayed not underplayed

    "There is no denying that Japan and other nuclear-industry folks have been steadily downplaying the severity of the problem"

    1) The exclusion zone has caused people to be moved out of their houses without there being any significant risk.

    2) The 'safe' levels are pitched far lower than radiation levels which most of us are quite happy to yield to when it comes from a B&B in Devon, a trip to New York or a nice banana, the consequence being that when something is described as 'thousands of times above the limit', it elicits concern and panic which have their own consequences

    3) Even when the authorities have communicated that an earlier concern has eased, such reports generally don't make it to the headlines - this isn't their fault of course, but the overall effect is that we don't hear a balanced view of what the people at the scene are reporting.

    The reasons for this are clear:

    1) The media know they can cause shock and fear with nuclear stories. Mushroom clouds, endless nuclear winter and double headed mutants are, for many, what nuclear equates to, and that's that.

    2) Those who are too ignorant to furnish themselves with the facts about nuclear then go on a religious mission to convert the planet to forms of energy which are proven to kill large numbers of people on a continual basis, or alternatives which either kill vast numbers of people when they go wrong (e.g. dams) or are hopeless at providing modern nations with the power they need when they need it.

  73. ARaybould


    I take it that the "hysteria now completely disconnected from reality" would be Mr. Page's belief in a global media conspiracy to spread panic. There is no shortage of responsible, informed articles for those who are looking for them.

  74. Anonymous Coward

    Will somebody please think of the staw men.

    Those poor guys are the ones to suffer in all this. Hundreds have been created due to Fukushima with their only purpose in life being their own destruction.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    regardless of the blurb

    I still can't stop feeling mistrust of the reporter. Too many contradictions, too one sided.

    1. Andydaws

      who do you mistrust more?

      Lewis, or the people who produced this?

      "Fukushima 50 "deaths imminent""

  76. Killing Time

    The balanced view

    It's been refreshing to read Lewis Page's commentary on the Fukushima issue's, pitched with the typical El Reg's sense of irreverence. The perfect antidote to the guff that's been broadcast since the tsunami.

    Whatever you believe, from my career experience, ranging from working within the controlled areas at a nuclear plant on the south coast to IT work for the DOE on tracking systems initiated in the aftermath of Chernobyl, the commentary on this site is closest to the truth.

  77. ThomB

    Measurements and dosimeters.

    Given TEPCO's double failure in reporting correct radiation data, I would venture the guess that this organization is simply out of its depth when it comes to dealing with the damage. It's a piss-poor performance, even if you're all for building more nuclear power plants. And those responsible deserve to be fired and sent to jail.

    Regarding dosimeters, yes, the majority was lost in the tsunami. But it couldn't have hurt to pick up a few in addition to the 320 or so that were left by official accounts.

    1. Andydaws

      Double dealing?

      So far as I can tell, both times they've been found to be giving out incorrect data, they've erred on the high side, not the low. In the latest one, it looks as though they've been using code that overestimates exposures from some of the lesser fission products.

      They may be making cock-ups, but how's that "double dealing"

      Rather, what's more likely is you've got a firm that's scared s**tless of being accused of holding back data, so is ruching stuff out before applying checks.

      1. ThomB

        Double failure vs. double dealing

        All I stated was that they failed twice to give the correct data. That doesn't have anything to do with accusing them of actively falsifying the results, as you seem to think. And if they are scared in the way you assume, they have enough reason to, given their track record of past cover-ups.

        Essence: nobody said anything to suggest that TEPCO was or could be double dealing -- but thanks for making the point.

  78. Peter Rowan

    Lewis has got them going today

    I have to say Lewis it is a Friday and you are doing yourself proud, 6 pages of a flame war. I can't wait for your next article try and get it to ten pages, that would be good. Now what subject can we talk about.... hummmm.

  79. TakeTheSkyRoad

    A few things aparently sent to Japan...

    I'm suprised there's space for the reports but a bored trawl through google spawned this list of things that have been/will be sent to Japan. Some genuine, some bizzare !!

    The US and Germany are sending robots to help repair and explore the site.

    US sending 450 Rad specialists in to Fukushima

    QinetiQ North America, a Virginia-based technology company, has deployed robots controlled by Xbox 360 pads to assist relief efforts at the plant.

    GE sending gas turbine generators to Fukushima

    IAEA to send experts to Fukushima-1

    France to send nuclear experts to Japan

    iRobot Sending Packbots and Warriors to Fukushima Dai-1 Nuclear Plant

    S. Korea to send boric acid to Japan

    France to send boric acid to Japan

    America send “elite” robots to Fukushima nuclear plants

    Ann Coulter ????

  80. TakeTheSkyRoad

    The comments are getting old now

    I've been a regular reader of the reg for years and since this is a specialist technical site had assumed a level of basic education and integrity from both writers and readers.

    Now the writers are writers.... you read an article and then judge for yourself how for feel about it's accuracy be it here, NYT or a "red top" paper. Ideally researching if you see suspicious statements which you think look dodgy. I've been fine with the acticles personally, no issue and while some elements have looked questionable I've ended up using the reg & Lewis's acticles as my primary news source on Japan (plus gizmodo, slashdot & others).

    The comments on here though have been very disappointing, think it's getting over taken now by extreme anti nuke campainers who are seeing a site not "towing the line".... wild speculation ? Sure but nothing compared to what I've seen here. One comment talked about workers putting out the "nuclear fires" when there are no such thing (88 degrees is hardly a fire).

    Anyway thanks for the acticles Lewis... I'm happy to keep reading though I think I'll be avoiding the comments section in future. You seem to be attracting all the wrong opinionated sort

    A pint cos it's Friday, my common as muck mates down the pub have more sense than some of you lot

    1. James Gibbons

      That was a joke

      "nuclear fires"

      As Lewis appears to like to downplay the seriousness of the situation at Fukushima, I was simply joking when I suggested he act as a cheerleader for the workers. I do have a physics degree and had a chance to intern at Hanford but declined. There *WERE* likely zirconium fires that caused the hydrogen explosions in the early days, so there.

      My main problem is with plant operators and pro-nuke industry people who don't look at the full range of issues, such as forgetting to pour water on the spent fuel rods and placing the emergency generators on a lower elevation where the tsunami could wipe them out. I've even heard they delayed the cooling water pumping at the start because the PM paid a visit and they didn't want radiation steaming around while he was there. Had someone been thinking of these two simple to fix problems, perhaps this mess wouldn't be so bad.

      If the reports yesterday about shipping concrete pumps are true (and I believe the one I read) then TEPCO is going to simply bury the problem if they can't get it under control soon.

    2. 42

      Towing the line where?

      It toeing the line. The views of anyone who cant even spell......

      1. Hermes Conran

        It's it's

        You should proof read your post if you're going to criticise.....

      2. Abremms

        not misspelled

        its not misspelled. did a quick google search and while "toeing the line" does seem to be the more popular form of the phrase, i saw nothing saying outright that "towing the line" is wrong. to my mind they both represent similar ideas.

        besides, there are far better things to comment here than people's word choice. how about the actual post content?

  81. The Grinning Duck

    that's a bit harsh

    Dissapointing? I have no idea what you mean!

    I'm a forecast analyst for an energy risk management consultancy. We like to try and keep vaguely clued up on the business of nuclear generation (obviously not too clued up, where's the fun in that), and as such we've been playing Crazy Argument Bingo in the office since this article was posted. I tell ye, it's been full houses all round.

    I, for one, would like to thank the commenters for their sterling work, so far I've won a packet of sweets and a bottle of wine. Keep 'em coming guys, there's still the grand prize of 'next Tuesday off' to be won.

  82. Highlander

    As if any further confirmation of media stupidity were required....

    Feast your eyes on this my friends.

    First up is a scare piece from MSN that regurgitates a story from Fox, that reported an interview with the mother of a worker at Fukushima and conflated it with the whole 50 nuclear samurai thing. MSN reframes the story saying that deaths are certain and then further conflates the doom by talking of a huge concrete pump being set to pump water t first, and then entomb the reactors in concrete.

    Now, read the report at the next link. It turns out that TEPCO is going to build a water treatment plant on site to deal with the water from the cooling operations. That indicates a continued pumping operation to keep the reactors cool, and a major clean up of contaminated water that remains contained on site. Secondly, the report also makes it clear that no worker so far at Fukushima Daiichi has been exposed to anything more than about 200millisieverts, which is below the threshold set when they increased the permissible level from 100 to 250 milli-sieverts.

    I also noted that the World Health Organization has an excellent website for those interested.

  83. hrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm

    no danger no lives lost all is well

    I had impression that the register is a source of reasonable factual if not always balanced information yet t he article and discussion force me to state that the ignorant bunch here is just unbearable. I am still ready to read the posts of ignorants with patience if at least one of the 'hurra nuclear is safe' camp volunteers to clean up the shit in Fukushima. I donot even care what you are going to do but show us how safe that really is by own example. Let us judge on results.

    OTOH no not really the nonsense about 15 (or less) dead children in Chernobyl did it for me.

    By by register.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "if at least one of the 'hurra nuclear is safe' camp volunteers to clean up the shit in Fukushima"

      I am sooo tired of people who in their infinite retardation think they have a killer argument against nuclear power and push a variation of the "then why don't you go live there" tirade.

      Well, why dontcha work in a plant that produces solar cells? Why don't you?

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Moving along now (part 2?)

    The discussion is fine. Most discussions are.

    In this one we debated observable and speculative interpretation of those.

    And while that was going on quite a lot of people were still in evacuation centres some 3 weeks after mega-quake. And not a lot of discussion has looked at the real plight of those human beings rather than the speculative fantasist harm or non-harm that may or may not come about.

    I suppose quite a few geeks might not have had a wash, bath or shower for 3 weeks or so but survivors ... well you know.

    Plus containing elderly (or the young or the infirm) in a confined space for quite a while with a "settling in to doing nothing" routine is going to produce real harm?

    As an additional stress survivors in at least some evacuation centres have to endure seeing list of missing or confirmed dead in their (the survivors that is) collective lounge/bedroom/dining room/ ... possibly further compounding survivor guilt or preventing them from moving on.

    El reg: an equally worthy topic for discussion?

  85. Anonymous Coward



    Ok, so I slipped in some other news items. Are you going to not look around at the big picture yourself or are you being pedantic about Lewis's article in isolation. Lewis made a claim, it was expanded on by others.

    Neither are you an oncologist. If you read any of Lewis' articles and those of many others about radiation and cancer you will find that the levels involved increase the "risk" of getting cancer by very small levels, typicall something like .1% above the normal level of 25%. So it can appear much later but it's just about impossible to attribute the cancer to a particular radiation exposure indicident of such low levels as at the Fukushima.

    The hospitalisation was precautionary because the of the hyped up fears about anything nuclear means that the authorities, including IAEA, bend over backwards to check everything and make all expsoure levels extremely low. Again Lewis mentions this in other articles.

    You might have background in marine toxicology, but not in nuclear radiation. Posions like lead will stay and build up in marine life. Radiation will disappear over time. The Iodine found will disappear to miniscule amounts within about 3 months.

    So giving subsidies to wind turbine companies is just funding research? As for subsidings, have you looked at the regulatory costs of doing anything nuclear. The decommisioning is still a cheap part of the overall cost of running a nuclear power plant for over 30 years. At least the UK government is stating that there won't be any more subsidies for nuclear.

    The size of the earthquake. Aceh was around 7.8. Fukushima was 9. Read, and re-read the way the magnitudes are calculated. 9 is not just a little bit bigger than Aceh's 7.8. It was hundreds of times more powerful. Possibly incaccurate, but to give a sense of the scale, if Aceh was a ton of TNT, Fukushima was a nuclear bomb. Do you plan for something that might happen once in 500 years or something that happens every other year. The plants were designed for the scale of a magnitude 7 earthquake. They survived a 9 quake. What broke them was the tsunami which breached the walls that were designed for waves around 6m, but the actual height was 14. These knocked out the cooling systems which caused the damage.

    Nuclear would not have taken so long if the regulations weren't so onerous and the green lobby didn't delay through legal processes the build of new nuclear power plants.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Sorry 7.8?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @eh 11:22 GMT

        What I cannot quite understand is a limitation.

        It may be a limitation in my understanding or a limitation in calculating earthquake magnitude.

        The rupture zone does not seem to be factored in.

        For example, is a magnitude 9 over a 5 kilometre front the same as a magnitude 9 over a 400 or 500 kilometre front?

        To the physicists/geologists out there: does magnitude calculation consider the spread of the active earthquake as hinted at above? (Magnitude and rupture zone?)

    2. Sebmel

      Listen to the experts on their subject

      Yes, I am not an oncologist. They should be consulted on cancer risk: not me, and not an engineer such as Lewis.

      I suggested you read about the Minamata Bay poisoning to understand that the movement of toxins through the ecosystem throws up surprises that not even experts on the scene always anticipate. Lewis' articles demonstrate the type of dismissive attitude that caused the Minamata Bay poisonings. I trust that the Japanese scientists on the scene have learnt the lessons and aren't being as cavalier as Lewis suggests they ought to be.

      I think I was clear that I am pro research grants and anti industry subsidies. Do current green electricity payments add up to subsidising an industry? That's an arguable point. A decade of help to get a new industry up to scale can be argued as justifiable. Public subsidies for a 50-year-old industry clearly can't. My view of green energy help is that I would not support it were it not for concern over global warming. Since that is an issue I take a cautionary view and support a higher price for all electricity that doesn't produce CO2... until we have a solution. The nuclear industry should be offered the same price, since it's competitive in this regard.

      As it is we are on the cusp of local solar generation taking off. Southern European panels on houses take just 5 years to pay for themselves at current prices. All they need is a grid-feed credit system.

      The nuclear industry has been regulated as it has because it has constantly misrepresented its competence. It now rightly has a reputation as being untrustworthy. That's a shame. They have a stunning potential technology in their hands and they have let us and themselves down with their accidents, poor design, cover-ups and begging bowl antics.

      Apologists for incompetence, and ideologues, breed more incompetence. That's my issue with Lewis. Calling a serious accident a triumph celebrates incompetence.

      Having said that, Lewis could well be posturing. I suspect he thinks that TheReg could find a greater audience through importing some American 'Shock Jock' posturing... especially since about 50% of the site's traffic comes from the US.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Listen to the experts on their subject

        About 25 per cent of Reg traffic comes from the US - and about 45 per cent from the UK; Canada and Australia about 3 per cent each; and Germany about 2.5 per cent.

  86. Bilby

    How dangerous is it?

    If the very low levels of radiation exposure above background currently seen in Tokyo were as dangerous as some media outlets and pressure groups are suggesting, then Belarus, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden and the north and west of the British Isles would be a derelict wasteland piled with corpses. This is not the case (apart from Liverpool), so observational evidence in the 30 odd years since Chernobyl tells us that the effects of low level exposure to radio-caesium or radio-iodine are just not that big a deal.

  87. Anonymous Coward

    Cost Benefit Analysis Anyone?

    Mr Page is absolutely right. Over the last century or so it is the availability of affordable electrical power that has actually made the developed world 'developed'.

    If we accept that everything has a cost and a risk associated with it, overall the many demonstrated benefits of electricity have, to date at least, far outweighed any of the actual downsides arising from its generation. Given the current feasibility and status of the other power generation methods (fossil or otherwise) this cost/benefit balance can only realistically be maintained (or even improved?) in the foreseeable future through the introduction of the latest nuclear technologies.

    So we need to be prepared to sensibly and realistically assess the possible risks of nuclear power and plan accordingly for them (as best we can). Perhaps most importantly though we need to get away from the almost irrational 'Nuclear? Nuclear is BAD so NO! NO! NEVER!' knee-jerk reactions which seem prevalent whenever it's mentioned. In return we can hopefully continue to enjoy clean(er) & cheap(ish) power which will allow us to go on improving our standard of living and generally making things better for our children than they were for our great-grandparents (although we might be struggling to even maintain the status quo if some of the UK's generator capacity/demand forecasts are to be believed).

  88. Mr. Ed

    Please don't start a fear campaign...

    ... against coal. :-)

    "Not one person has died from radiation," Sir David King told the Guardian. "Let me put that in context – in the same week, 30 coal miners died. Generating electricity from coal is far more dangerous."

    Coal is cheaper, safer and more abundant. Let's figure out how to get the C out of it and burn it for the next thousand or so years.

  89. Andy Watt

    Ground water...?

    So is this more lies? More spin? I hope you have some salt for your hat Lewis, in the event this whole event turns out not to conform to your particular crystal ball.

    Note - I watch things unfold here, I don't take sides. I'm pro nuclear because I believe there are no credible alternatives at the moment. Renewables are a farce, compounded by political vanities, which require backup for peak loads. Only nuclear can give us the baseline supply without burning shit up.

    I'll get me lead lined jacket.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  90. Jarmes

    Comparing to Chernobyl

    Aside from the actual incident itself, a lot of the discussion is about comparing nuclear to other sources of energy. The other main thread i find intersting is about comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl.

    When it comes to comparing nuclear, i don't get the impression anyone really has a clue what the facts are. There are many costs involved (i'm not claiming to be an expert by the way), from sourcing raw materials through loss of land, production, decommissioning, clean up etc. These costs apply to all forms of energy production, including solar and its virtually impossible i would say, to accurately compare true total cost. When it comes to the cost of life for each, its much easier to accept a dribble of single person incidents than it is a major one involving the potential or real loss of lots of lives - even if the long term impact of nuclear might be a lot lower.

    That leads on to the other point about Chernobyl. The author refers to 46 official deaths, and the supposedly miniscule increase in cancer. From the whole article, which i find overall has a detrimental effect on the nuclear cause because of its virtiolic bias, the Chernobyl aspects do the most damage. It's widely known that the official deaths are meaningless. Numerous respected documentaries have been made and there are thousands of articles online about the liquidators - one aspect of the cost of life which is deliberately hidden for political reasons. Depending on what article you read, between 600,000 and 1m people were tasked with cleaning up and preventing a much worse disaster immediately after the initial incident. Many of them suffered huge radiation doses, and most reports say that either tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of the have died as a result. Many of their children have been born with disfigurements or disabilities, and the mean and women continue to die. The liquidators prevented the most catastrophic incident, a thermal explosion that would have been hundreds of times more powerful than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The true number of liquidator deaths are impossible to obtain because of the break up of the soviet union, lack of official medical reports etc. This is completely aside from the whole issue of cancer incidence, which again the author seems to hugely downplay.

    I dont want to rurn off my tv any more than anyone else, but nuclear accidents can be enormous. Although the technology is no doubt safer than it was, who feels comfortable as more and countries build more and more reactors. Solar has enormous potential now the costs are coming down, of course its not without its problems, but personally id rather have solar parcs and panels oneveryones roofs than nuclear plants dotted around the landscape. If the economics become viable (which they increasingly are),then who would disagree?

    1. Highlander

      Chernobyl is a false comparison.

      The levels of radiation and amounts of radioactive material released at Chernobyl were something like 1000 times the levels and quantity here - actually, much more than 1000 since the actual core at Chernobyl caught fire, the building that served as the only containment exploded and the nuclear fuel was released as vapor in the smoke from the graphite fire. There has been *no* confirmed or suspected release of fuel at Fukushima. A trace amount of a plutonium isotope that is normally a fission product (not a fuel) was found in 3 of 5 soil samples taken at the plat itself. The amount and activity was so low as to be at the threshold of detection. Were that plutonium from the MOX fuel, there would be other elements present in larger quantities, and there are not.

      No one at Fukushima (remember we are three full weeks after the fact of the initial scram now) has yet been reported to have received a dose above 250 millisieverts. The firefighters that died at chernobyl were exposed to hundreds of sieverts of radiation directly from the core as well as the deposition of radioactive material. That is why many of the men who entered the building to fight the fire at Chernobyl never came out.

      For perspective, a simple CT scan will result in exposure to about 20 millisieverts, and that's a modern scanner. Older Xray machines and older CT scan systems used much higher exposures, but the technology has improved and the dose required for the scan has reduced. That doesn't even begin to look at the kind of dose rates common with Radiotherapy.

      But the point is that in terms of direct radiation exposure, the release of fission products or the release of the nuclear fuel itself, Chernobyl is orders of magnitude worse than anything that has happened at Fukushima. It is a false comparison to make, and all it does is serve to confuse people by conflating the huge release of material at Chernobyl with what is happening at Fukushima, despite the *fact* that the events at Fukushima really bear no resemblance to Chernobyl at all. None.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Smell an expert...

        "a thermal explosion that would have been hundreds of times more powerful than Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

        You mean 1.5 to 2.1 megatons or multiple thereof? *Thermal* explosion? What have you been smoking?

        Obviously, just because you managed to put together a couple of scientifically-sounding words that does not mean you have a slightest clue...

        1. Jarmes

          Correct, I am not an expert.

          I said I wasn't an expert, what is your problem? It was referred to as a thermal explosion in a BBC documentary. And yes, it was claimed to be potentially 3 to 5 mega tons.

          Why do people have to get rude? It doesn't really help the debate. What's the average age on this forum? It's not much different to the comments on YouTube sometimes.

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Sorry, I did not want to be particularly rude

            A thermal explosion is a common type of chemical explosion where the heat is generated by a chemical transformation inside a body of explosive material which cannot be effectively transferred out of the explosive. As the result, the temperature inside the explosive rapidly increases, which in turn accelerates the chemical transformation and intensifies the explosion.

            To achieve 3 to 5 megatons thermal explosion you, by definition, must explode 3 to 5 million tons of TNT - a high explosive. If you use lesser explosive, you will need even more of it.

            Not only you have to somehow store all that conventional explosive material inside or around a power station but you also have to somehow ensure that it holds together until all of the material explosively reacted (practically impossible as the force of the explosion will scatter most of the piled up explosives without them detonating).

            Therefore, the thought of a *conventional* explosion of that size, occurring *accidentally* even *without* the use of high-explosives by dipping a piece of molten metal in a small volume of ground water is plainly ridiculous, I'm sure you would agree.

            1. Jarmes

              It doesn't strike me as conventional

              When it involves rather hot nuclear fuel just after a massive explosion. This is obviously an unknown source but it Explains the theory:


              This article has eye witness extracts from Chernobyl, taken from a book. Very moving, some of it. There is one of the nuclear physicists from Chernobyl talking about the risk of the 3 megatonl explosion (referred to as a nuclear explosion here), I only referred to it as a thermal explosion from the documentary)


              1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

                Conventional alright

                "This is obviously an unknown source but it Explains the theory"

                He is *trying* to explain the theory (probably to himself) but not very successfully. The explanations about neutrons being "propelled" from the reactor by the explosion or them being "attracted" to moderator are as scientific and correct as the "mutating neutrinos" in the movie "2012". You cannot really go lower than that :-)

                There probably was a thermal explosion at Chernobyl (during the criticality excursion caused by the destruction of the control and cooling systems of the reactor after the first steam explosion) because the heat was generated inside the reactor assembly far faster than it could be transferred out of it - so it just burst itself apart. The estimates are that it was equivalent to about 10 tons TNT.

                As far as his idea that the remnants of the reactor could go supercritical if they'd touched water, and the explanation he attempts to make about the mechanics of that are simply ludicrous.

                Conceivably, all that could happen was that the molten fuel mixed with chunks of moderator could remain critical (patchy and intermittently) and could burn through the bottom of the reactor pit and into the ground. Any water encountered would have been vaporised instantly, so would not have affected the nuclear reactions.

                Anyway, water *around* the fuel cannot become moderator because it has to be *between* the fissile atoms to work. Even it some neutrons were reflected and caused fission in the outer layer of the molten fuel, the new neutrons produced by that fission would have been fast and incapable of causing further fission in low-enriched fuel, so no chain reaction would have been possible.

      2. jimmy

        30 millisieverts

        hey Highlander have you read this:

        probably as it's one of the first things that comes up in google. i have not checked the provenence.

        CT scan radiation doses depend on what you're scanning, chest low dose as you're scanning mostly air. But then there's hi-res CT for chests, i digress. Anyway pelvis and abdomen = dense = high dose. 30millisieverts this article says, lifetime additional fatal cancer risk = 1:1000.

        200milisieverts doesn't sound so nice now. you only need to expose 100 people to this and on average you've definately killed someone via lovely safe nuclear power. it's not just radiation levels that matter it's the number of people exposed as well.

        still much safer than mining coal though.................maybe - depends how many people are mining compared to the number of deaths.

        ps CT scans aren't 'simple' and aren't safe that's why you need a doctor to order them.

      3. Jarmes

        That's a good reason to compare

        Not a false one. Comparing things that are the same is much more pointless. And anyway, my point was that Chernobyl was a lot lot worse, I was pointing out evidence about how severe Chernobyl was, and how Page belittled it's impact.

    2. MNB

      Re: Comparing to Chernobyl

      "... Depending on what article you read, between 600,000 and 1m people were tasked with cleaning up and preventing a much worse disaster immediately after the initial incident. Many of them suffered huge radiation doses..."

      so a *million* people were involved in clearing up Chernobyl? This doesn't quite sound credible to me.

      Correct me if I make a mistake or an incorrect assumption but my thought process goes like this:- Chernobyl is in Ukraine (and I know it was Soviet Republic at the time, but bear with me) which has 32 million people aged 16-64 (I'm making an assumption that it's population hasn't changed in twenty years... it's currently slowly declining, like much of western europe). Belorus the other nearby country (ex Soviet Repulic) is approximately one third the size and has a working age population of 6.9 million. I'm assuming that the elderly and children would not be involved and that people would not be bought in from further afield (and therefore the population of the Ukraine itself can be used a reasonable estimate of the population of a similarly sized area centred on Chernobyl/Prypiat).

      This means that what you are trying to tell me is that 3.1% of the working population of the country was involved in the clean up. If you assume that only men of working age are involved then it rises to 6.5% of men in the entire Ukraine (that's just less than one in fifteen). If you notice that the population density of Belorus is actually lower than Ukraine, you require even higher proportions of working age men to be involved (as our guess at the population of a Ukraine sized chunk of the USSR goes down as we include chunks of Belorus instead of the furthest parts of Ukraine).

      Sorry, I don't buy it. If you'd put it at a hundred thousand I might have beleived you without thinking about it much, but a million? That number would count as an Extraordinary Claim.

      1. Jarmes

        It's easy to find, like I said

        Seems like a reputable source, which mentions 600,000:

  91. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cracked reactor leaking radioactive water (AFP) NOW!

    Cracked reactor leaking radioactive water

    [OY.. WOT's THIS THEN??]

    Japanese workers struggling to contain a crisis at a crippled nuclear plant discovered a crack in a pit leaking highly radioactive water straight into the sea, the firm operating the facility said

    Lying Japanese and the Lying Corrupt Companies that feed them

    1. Highlander

      Contaminated water that has accumulated in...

      ...the reactor building has found it's way out via a crack, that will be patched. The crack is in the building, not the reactor, not the pressure vessel, not the primary containment at all. Each of the reactor buildings has a large quantity of water sloshing around that was used for cooling the reactor and has collected in the basements. It's actually good news that they found this because it means it can be a) patched and b) the water can be pumped to a holding tank to prevent further release.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "leaking highly radioactive water straight into the sea"


      Who cares? No seriously, I would think leaking the "highly radioactive water" (so what exactly does it carry?) straight into the sea is preferable to leaking it straight into the countryside.

      1. Abremms


        the solution to polution is dilution!

        and what better way to dilute radioactive water from fukushima down to completely harmless quantities than the worlds largest ocean? the redioactive iodine will be inert in another couple weeks anyways, getting rid of a good bit of the bad stuff.

  92. cnapan

    Google Earth: Take a trip over the disaster zone

    See for yourself what is causing the suffering in Japan:

    This is the location of the fukushima nuclear plant.

    Now take a trip north up the coast towards Sendai Airport. What can you see?

    That's right:

    -Countless towns and villages simply washed away or seriously damaged. Massive damage to industrial sites in many places.

    -Large expanses of farmland despoiled by seawater and the materials - some of it undoubtedly toxic - from the destroyed infrastructure.

    The region around Fukushima is already devastated. Tens of thousands of people are already dead. Hundreds of thousands of people already have their lives wrecked, and will be suffering for a long time to come.

    It seems a common theme on here by those who are unable to meet reason to say "why don't you go and live there?"

    A quick trip there courtesy of google earth demonstrates why it is a bad idea right now. The place is utterly shattered.

    I certainly wouldn't be afraid of the radiation there, but I would be afraid of picking up a nasty sewage-borne infection or having to deal with the stench of rotting bodies which are sitll being extracted from the mud and debris for literally miles on end.

    So, no. I'm not going there. Not because of trivial increases in my exposure to background radiation, but because it happens to be the site of one of the most deadly natural disasters in living memory.

  93. cnapan

    In answer to 'hhhrrrrrmmmm'

    I'd like to respond to your post:

    "I had impression that the register is a source of reasonable factual if not always balanced information"

    Fair enough...

    "yet t he article and discussion force me to state that the ignorant bunch here is just unbearable."

    So rather than respond with reason to what you don't agree with, instead you just shout names. Do you know how unlikely that is to win people round to your view?

    "I am still ready to read the posts of ignorants with patience if at least one of the 'hurra nuclear is safe' camp volunteers to clean up the shit in Fukushima."

    But you already have read them, because you are commenting on their 'ignorance'. Now you're telling us that you won't read them until someone decides to 'clean up the Shit in Fukushima'. Do you know how unlikely that is to win people round to your view?

    (Oh, and if you want to see the 'shit' that needs clearing up, fire up Google Earth and see for yourself the towns and villages washed away. There's plenty of shit to clear up alright.)

    "I donot even care what you are going to do but show us how safe that really is by own example. Let us judge on results."

    But people *have* travelled from Europe to help 'clean up the shit' (both at Fukushima and elsewhere). Yet you're *still* claiming it isn't safe.

    "OTOH no not really the nonsense about 15 (or less) dead children in Chernobyl did it for me.

    By by register."

    Gosh well goodbye to you too. I guess that'll give you more time to concentrate on your IT job, which, judging by your reasoning abilities is possibly not going as well as it might...

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Denial has never changed reality

    Lewis can stay in denial forever but it won't change reality. Yes some in the media can and do exaggerate disasters but more often than not the scientific community gets it right. Lewis' beliefs are simply not supported by hard scientific data. Lewis is on a campaign if mis-information that simple does not pass muster. Time for Lewis to get in touch with reality.

  95. David Gale


    Since there are quite so many who insist on the economic viability of nuclear power, will they agree that ALL government subsidies can be dropped, to include long-term waste storage and decommissioning? No? I thought not.

  96. Steve Murphy

    Josef Oehnen : Some minor details turned out to be mistaken,

    The whole point of the Oehnen blog was to suggest the nuclear reactors are massively over engineered with so many levels of containment that there would no be a radioactive release outside of the fence and it would not be a another Chernobyl.

    Now we have Lewis telling us that is is safe to take a bath in radioactive isotopes and Chernobyl was not that bad.

    The plant is still leaking, TEPCO are unable to read radiation monitors and the system is not under control.

  97. Anonymous Coward


    33% core meltdown in reactors 1 - 3 with reactors in 2 & 3 with compromised housing.



    in this article sources are named with notable scientists confirming findings based on the data released and compared to three mile island.





    The workers do not know their individual dosage unlike the prior claims by Mr Page, only team leaders have radiation monitors. I hope they are holding hands. They were stored outside the main complex when the Tsunami struck.


    Matters are bad it is three 3 mile islands or more in one, it is of course bad design, awful planning and decision making which made it so, of course this would also have been a disaster if it had been a toxic chemical plant. The problem here is not that we are wise after the event, humans are part of the design which is often why it fails, it is people that have created the disasters by design which have discredited the Nuclear industry.



    Still think this 'accident waiting to happen' was not like Chernobyl ?.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      This accident was not like Gengis Khan!

      "Matters are bad it is three 3 mile islands or more in one,"

      Judging by the hot air and panic generated so far, I will say.

      "Still think this 'accident waiting to happen' was not like Chernobyl?"

      Uh.. yes, actually?

  98. interested_reader
    Dead Vulture

    These articles will serve as an epitaph for the credibility of El Reg on nuke issues

    Downplaying Chernobyl is risky business, journalistically speaking. It's nice that Orlowski & Page think they have the figures to back up their absurd claims that cesium-137 is the healthiest thing since momma's milk, a li'l ol' radioactive iodine never hurt nobody, and the number of fatalities from a nuclear power plant explosion that showered radioactive isotopes all over Western Europe can be easily counted on two mutated hands. I searched the intardweb for "TORCH Chernobyl report" and found a somewhat different set of conclusions, however. Said conclusions did not appear to be sourced from a nefarious cabal of stinky long-haired hippies feverishly hacking away at their (all-manual) Underwood typewriters whilst high out of their anti-Jetsons minds on ganja.

    El Reg has always won my admiration and respect with its inimitable style. This style includes brilliance on the order of referring to Google as "the world's largest ad broker", effectively characterizing Larry Ellison as an evil being from outer space, the creation of the Paris commenticon, the PARIS project, and on and on and on... this is genius that the world would be hard-pressed to do without.

    The recent series of articles relentlessly trolling the El Reg readership on the issue of nuclear power safety, in the wake of one of the worst earthquakes to be witnessed by man in recent memory no less, is not the kind of brilliance I associate with Le Vautour Rouge. Thumbs up to sticking it to the mass media for going into hysterics and blathering disinformation... but that's not what El Reg is doing at this point with these articles stirring the pot about the Fukushima incident. And it really comes off as unconscionably crass (though normally I am a huge fan of a certain amount of crassness, judiciously applied) to do so well before the final reports on the total exposure are in, even before the decision has officially been made whether or not to just shit-can the whole operation and bury it under concrete. Which is what I think the Register should do with this whole series of articles fellating the nuclear power industry.

  99. Annakan

    All those are "human resources"

    Barely people.

    Let's tuck them in an abstract column in a report filled under "acceptable losses".

    Perspective is everything you are right indeed.

  100. Annakan

    Mr Lewis

    Mr Lewis, you are right on every account, it is just the rest of the world who disagree with you.

    You can't be wrong, no fact can contradict you, no logic can impede you.

    You define truth.

    You are a god.

    Can you please disappear in a puff of smoke now ?

    thanks you.

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Perceptions and/or misperceptions?

    Or even conceptions and/or misconceptions?

    1 - does calculation of earthquake magnitude factor in the spread of a rupture zone (eg: is a magnitude 9 over a 5 km rupture zone reported the same as a magnitude 9 over a 400 km rupture zone?)

    2 - concept/perception (or misconcept/misperception) of an electricity power plant

    perhaps tightly managing and accounting for a nuclear plant with loosely managing and accounting for alternative power plant make for improper comparisons?

    And if so should other power generation plants conform to the rigour of nuclear ones?

    And the saddest thing of all?

    Is this focus on speculative harm or not harm really doing an active injustice to those survivors really living in the middle and angst of survival?

    For example, why debate at great lengths potential theoretical risk when a sizable bunch of people are at present at risk?

    Does it not undermine things?

  102. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    After weeks of watching the comments

    I am still surprised at how desperately some people want the Fukushima event to turn absolutely deadly and apocalyptic, with huge loss of life and unimaginable destruction, against any and all evidence that it just isn't going to happen.

    "It will blow up, really, I promise, just wait... any minute now... a-a-any minute..."

    "Radiation is rising, not falling. Wait, wait, any second now people will start to die in droves, just wait..."

    "Well, OK noone's died yet - but I can explain! They are dying but they don't know it yet! And those who know are not telling us! And when they die they will still pretend that they didn't 'cause they all work for the nuclear industry, you know! They will just walk and talk, undead, and people will think that they are still alive but they are all dead!"

    "OMG, it's happening, we are sso-o-o going to die, like, now! We are sso-o-o doomed! Isn't that cool or what!?"

    I am trying to figure out why is that?

    - Longing for an "I told you so" moment?

    - Bitter at the world at large and wishing revenge upon everyone for not taking you seriously?

    - Hoping that some calamity will come and take you out of your miserable, boring existence and put you into an exciting brave new world?

    - Clinging to that bitter-sweet feeling of unfathomable, unknowable, unimaginable danger of mysterious *atoms*, which would be lost if you break the spell by learning some simple facts about them?

    1. Gerardo Korndorffer

      RE: After weeks of watching the comments → #

      Have we been reading the same? Obviously not, because I could not read so many posts anticipating an apocalyptic disaster. There were a few, that much I concede, but there are many more who are pro-nuclear, but totally against how this plant, (like many others), was built, managed and maintained.

      Let's face the facts, this could have been much worse, partial meltdown could have been avoided if only they had properly protected the diesel engines and reservoirs. Was it that expensive? :(

      This kind of disaster, (quake & tsunami) is to be expected in Japan, as there have been other quakes of magnitude larger than 8.0, so much for not even using historical series!.

      Still we get the article's author living in an alternate reality and he even has a crowd of followers!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am trying to figure out why is that?

      Er, perhaps it has something to do with decades of deliberate misinformation and outright lies by scientists, Government and the media?

      Perhaps it's because for some of us - the shrill mockery in the "this is just a small mishap and there's nothing to worry about" is so like the bullying, sneering tactics that the pro Global Warming brigade use, copied from Israel and their tendency to flood the media with rabid "anti-semite" accusing posts every time Israel accidentally on purpose kill a couple of dozen Palestinians.

      Mr Page's tone is lamentable. It is mocking, sneering and holier than thou. It is repugnant and cheap.

      Maybe he's right, but even if he is, his tone should be educational not mocking.

      And if he's wrong I look forward to the groveling apology he'll be writing.

      1. Highlander

        @AC 11:45 GMT

        Er, perhaps it has something to do with decades of deliberate misinformation and outright lies by environmentalists, anti-nuclear activists and the media?

        There, fixed it for you. Sorry though, I can't do anything for your superstitious belief system.

    3. Sebmel

      Straw man tactics

      This is the standard apologist tactic, and Lewis' modus operandi. Attack a few hysterical responses to divert attention from the incompetence demonstrated by this accident.

      Let's look at the basic commercial facts:

      6 old reactors in close proximity out of action

      4 old reactors unrecoverable

      A lack of radiation gauges for workers

      Tens of thousands of people evacuated from their homes

      Contamination preventing search and rescue in the area

      Probable caesium contamination of a sizeable area requiring permanent closure of some land

      Contamination of some crops requiring monitoring of food

      Damage to the reputation of the industry

      Contamination of the sea requiring research/monitoring and fishing restrictions

      All of these things will cause very considerable bills. These will have to be passed on to the consumer by an industry which is already on the brink of being commercially unviable.

      Lewis would be doing a valiant PR job is it weren't for the fact that he writes for a small IT site in which his triumphalism adds up to no more than baiting for hits. But even if he had a more significant platform his Crimean War management style is doomed to failure by the unrelenting demands of the profit motive. This accident has holed the ship, and while Lewis stands on deck shouting: 'Rubbish: be man or I'll have you shot for mutiny', it's sinking.

      The only result this type of apology can have is the ship limping into harbour to demand a publicly funded refit. If that happens I suspect apologists will not feel quite so clever... but then most of them don't pay Japanese electricity prices, nor resident compensation/relocation.

      1. Veldan

        Taking a closer look

        While i can admit that this was a failing of NP on one level, it was also a very real trial by fire on the other. A trial it has for all intents and purposes passed. Not as well as we'd hope, maybe it got a "C" instead of an "A" but it was a far cry from an "F".

        It should also not push us away from NP but closer to it, so that we can continue to make these safer. The thought also occurs that the actual construction cost of one of these plants is not much higher than a coal plant. It is all the additional leg work that is required by a NP plant that adds cost most of it rather useless (studies of local impact, and other such expensive and generally fruitless and feel good tests) and taking away from money that could be spent "building a bigger tsunami wall" and other safety features.

        @Sembel - On to your point however:

        "6 old reactors in close proximity out of action"

        2 Newer ones and 4 older ones. It is common in the industry to keep multiple reactors at one site as despite what the anti-nukers like to whine about, it means services to keep them safe can be kept within one location and be more readily available to all of them.

        "4 old reactors unrecoverable"

        4 old reactors that were past their "use by" date anyway. They had an extended lease on life, but they were flawed and old designs that needed to be replaced. So a hidden blessing there, even if it is a costly one. Not to mention that even on of the two reactors which successfully and uneventfully shut down generate more power than than the other four combined. (roughly)

        "A lack of radiation gauges for workers"

        Don't know where you got that gem from. However the workers had two forms of radiation gauge, both a digital counter and a rather old school badge which changes colour as their exposure increases.

        "Tens of thousands of people evacuated from their homes"

        Which is mostly due to rather strict (possibly overblown) guidelines on how to handle these situations. Though most of these people would probably lucky if their houses were even intact.

        "Contamination preventing search and rescue in the area"

        I highly doubt this as being anywhere outside of the plant grounds itself poses very low radiological risks and when weighed against the potential loss of human life not searching poses they'd be allowed the 250mSv limit to perform rescue operations (which is well beyond what they would be exposed to)

        "Probable caesium contamination of a sizeable area requiring permanent closure of some land"

        Bulls droppings. While caesium contamination is correct, it is only temporary and is of such a low level it won't be harming anyone in any noticeable way. Permanent closure, no... just, no... This isn't a coal power plant, the land isn't covered in coal ash (including mercury) THAT stuff lasts forever, even then it gets spread out to harmless levels given enough time.

        "Contamination of some crops requiring monitoring of food"

        Yes, that is correct. There is monitoring. Though so far that monitoring has shown there is nothing to fear and no real harm to be had unless you eat a years worth of the stuff in a day.

        "Damage to the reputation of the industry"

        Yes, because of people like you spreading lies and misinformation.

        "Contamination of the sea requiring research/monitoring and fishing restrictions"

        Last post i heard was declaring that the fish were fine to eat. Just like the food, of course they're monitoring it. Though the monitoring is showing nothing of notable harm to be found.

        Please just get the facts straight and stop blowing this out of proportion.

        This was a disaster. A country is in ruins because of a tsunami and earthquake double whammy. The nuclear plant is the least of their concern right now.

        It was a concern before, though never as large as everyone made out.

        As long as we keep treating NP as this evil boogeyman we will never be able to relax the strict guidelines put in place that take funding away from building them better and take money away from researching plants that are safer by their very nature like Thorium reactors.

  103. jgb

    Humans behaving like ..... humans

    Unfortunately, we are products of our own evolution and can only (so far, unfortunately) behave as such. (That's assuming we can agree that evolution happens!) Our 'belief system' includes many irrational things: Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden, 'fate', telepathy, optimism about the future WITHOUT taking any responsibility for it......

    There are countless examples of human behaviours that may (or definitely will!) compromise our own futures and those of our children, let alone the more general prospects of Planet Earth. It's like an addiction: we convince ourselves that we can't help <insert name of damaging behaviour> and carry on doing it.

    Excessive breeding is the key example, unfortunately. If we could overcome this instinctive behaviour (maybe by the power of rational thought), we'd be some way towards solving other problems, including those from obtaining energy, using it and disposing of the consequences. But stopping population growth, even long term, seems impossible, given the monumental arrogance of the primitive savages that seem to comprise most of the planet's human population.

    So we NEED large energy sources - NOW. We clearly can't afford to carry on ripping the guts out of large areas of the Earth just so as to burn the result and then contaminate still further large areas with the resultant waste. Nuclear energy is the ONLY practical short-term solution available. The nuclear waste problem CAN be solved and MUST be. Fusion is a possibility but not any time soon, in quantity. Renewables ARE NOT, in practice and anyway cannot possibly provide the teraWatts of power that are needed.

    Get over it.

    And, by the way, I resent the comparison between nuclear waste and cancer, based on the assertion that 'remission' implies you HAVE cancer. As someone 'in remission', I can tell you that 'remission' is when the oncologists and surgeons CANNOT TELL whether you have (still) have cancer or not OR that you do indeed have cancer but it won't kill you for a while (and maybe they're trying not to worry you with bad news), OR some intermediate position between the two. Definitely not a valid comparison with anything to do with nuclear energy.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Dr Breen, I presume.

      I had goosebumps while I was reading the beginning of your post. Let me quote from the relevant authority:


      I find it helpful at times like these to remind myself that our true enemy is Instinct.

      Instinct was our mother when we were an infant species.

      Instinct coddled us and kept us safe in those hardscrabble years when we hardened our sticks and cooked our first meals above a meager fire and started at the shadows that leapt upon the cavern's walls.

      But inseparable from Instinct is its dark twin, Superstition.

      Instinct is inextricably bound to unreasoning impulses, and today we clearly see its true nature. Instinct has just become aware of its irrelevance, and like a cornered beast, it will not go down without a bloody fight.

      Instinct would inflict a fatal injury on our species.

      Instinct creates its own oppressors, and bids us rise up against them.

      Instinct tells us that the unknown is a threat, rather than an opportunity.

      Instinct slyly and covertly compels us away from change and progress.

      Instinct, therefore, must be expunged.

      It must be fought tooth and nail, beginning with the basest of human urges: The urge to reproduce.


      I completely agree with your paragraph 4, though...

  104. penguin slapper

    Why don't you get it?

    Some of the substances they've found have half lives measured in hours.

    Wow, you say - this proves I'm right and everything has been overblown.

    Did you consider this - if substances with half lives measured in hours are still being found then it means that somewhere in the plant fission is still occurring?

    1. Andydaws

      no, no particular reason to assume ongoing fission - just to understand a few basics

      "Did you consider this - if substances with half lives measured in hours are still being found then it means that somewhere in the plant fission is still occurring?"

      At the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious....

      It depends in what concentration they might originally have been released, and the concentration found. And how good the detection process is.

      For example, I've no the slightest doubt there are still quantities of Xenon-135 detectable around the plant - it has a high fission yield (which means there's a lot of it made - it's equilibrium level in a running reactor is many times that of iodine, for example. And detection equipment can be pehnomenally accurate.

      For example, if the claims of detection of about 0.2 bequerels of Pu238 in 1cc of soil are true, you should understand just how tiny an amount of Pu is involved - I'll even tell you the formula.

      Take the half-life, expressed in seconds. Divide ln2 by it. Mutliply by the number of bequerels. Then multiply by the atomic weights, and divide it by 6 * 20^23.

      I made it about 1*20^-12 grammes, in the plutonium case.

      Now, that's at the lower end of detectability. But, it gives you an idea of just how sensitive detection equipment is.

      And then recall, if you can pick up a 0.2 bequerel signal from a given isotope, that's e a proportionately smaller amount in a material with a shorter half-life - in fact, if you were to do that with Xenon-135, you could detect quantities of about 7-10,000 atoms. Or, if you prefer, 10^-18 grammes.

  105. bill 36

    just buy a hamster

    If all 7 billion people had one...........

    Probably save one nuclear power station/year.

    This would scale linearly!

  106. Corp-Rat

    @ Penguin Slapper

    Dictionary definition of Half Life: The time required for half the nuclei in a sample of a specific isotopic species to undergo radioactive decay.

    basically, within that time period half of the radioactive isotope has decayed into the next element in that particular chain, leaving half behind.

    so after those "hours " are up, there will still be some left to be found, Thats why the iodine with a half life of 8 days will take weeks to decay, not just 1 week and a day.

    1. Charles 9

      Just to clarify...

      ...radioactive element decay is exponential, not linear. The more there is, the more that decays at a time; and the opposite is also true. That's why the half-life measurement is used--because it's logarithmic and can therefore describe radioactive decay properly.

  107. Scott Broukell

    Another interesting perspective here

    Especially the numerous studies that have shown renewables can actually provide enough juice to power the (human) part of the planet.

    It's that balance argument between apparent calculated risk factors and real-world safety that keeps going around and around, until we stop it somewhere and make a decision that is. But the main drivers behind our thirst for energy are, imho, population and financial profit, uurgh!

    1. Andydaws


      Maybe it's just me, but I'm damned if I can see anything in there doing the numbers on how you could power the world with renewables....

      1. Scott Broukell


        Andy - the author suggests that numerous reports have concluded that renewables alone could do the job. There are no specific numbers, up to us to dig them out.

        I should also clarify that my position about "drivers" being financial is really to suggest that without the investment, neither nuclear or renewables will happen. If the investment pendulum swings towards "green" generation, then this will ultimately be the deciding factor. Existing investment in mining, extraction and refining of uranium oars exists however and peeps won't like to see that diminish.

        Investing in the nuclear route would only bring potential benefit to the developed economies. Whilst at the same time posing a risk to everybody. Investing in "green" tech can benefit all of the peeps all of the time because it is generally a lot easier to achieve financially. So it would also widen the market place of potential customers and investors like that.

        It is down to "humans behaving like humans", as has been said. With greed and an increasing ability to populate ourselves into a corner. We are the sheeple being led to market every day, ain't it.

        1. Andydaws

          The problem is

          I've seen such analyses - they invariably assume one or more of:

          - massive reductions in per-capita energy usage in developed countries; and, anyone who spends time in places like India will know that there's only one way where energy use is going in those economies;

          - A hopelessly optimistic evaluation of the issues of intermittency, and the implications for redundancy / storage or supply reliability.

          - following on from the above, an even more hopelessly naive evaluation of the capital cost implications of achieving anything like a reliable supply. To give a UK example, it's true that you can partly offset wind intermittency by also having tidal stream plant. But both area expensive, and you'd end up with one (or other) not running at the time that it could generate, but the other is available. And it still wouldn't be enough - so you end up adding layer after layer, each called on to generate less of the time, but still needing to recover capital costs over it's limited operational output..

          - an understanding of the physical implications of deploying renewables at scale - driven mainly by their low energy density per unit area. We've seen one small example with biofuels. Another would be the use of molten-salt solar. Yes it's true that the heat can be captured, but running a steam cycle to turn the heat into electricity means you've got to have somewhere to dump the heat - which basically means water (air-air heat exchanges are massively less efficient per unit area). And by definition, most areas with high insolation tend to be water-stressed.

          It's one thing a highly developed economy considering large scale redundant investment - it's a fundamentally different problem for somewhere like India.

        2. Charles 9

          Here's a puzzle for you.

          How would green tech be used to operate, say, an alumin(i)um smelting plant? These plants requires lots of electricity to break the metal from its common oxide form (it's still the only practical way to get the stuff from ore). And there are other heavy industries that require power--lots of CONCENTRATED power--to operate. If green tech really can run the world, I'd like to see the nitty-gritty details of what techs would be needed, where they would be deployed, how long they would take to raise and at what cost, and how it might account for surging demands, unfavorable conditions, and the occasional acts of higher beings.

  108. Andy Watt
    Dead Vulture

    Not a good news day. Help us, Lewis! I need a drink, Lewis! (etc)

    Crack patch... fail.

    "Bath salts" leak trace... fail.

    Release 11500 tons of radioactive water into the pacific... fail.

    Lewis, can you post another prognosis please? I'm getting terribly worried that there may be some kind of problem in Japan. Can you reassure us again? Please?



    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Silence, you say?


    2. arkhangelsk

      I'm looking forward to another article myself

      I've said previously these posts are great tonics. In the meantime, consider how the attention had downshifted from the REACTOR itself, then to the SPENT FUEL RODS, and now it is about leftover water. It is hardly a shock that if the earthquake was larger than the design was meant for, some secondary part might develop a crack and the cooling water inside getting some radioactivity is hardly NEWS. The fact we can now actually see or care about these cracks is the improvement.

      The mess is taking longer than we hope to clean it, but it isn't a complete disaster.

  109. Andydaws

    worth a watch - takes a while, but the best analysis I've seen yet

    of the sequence of events at Fukishima. Warning, takes about 1 1/4 hours.

  110. cnapan

    Herd of elephants still in the room: ad hominem attackers pay attention!

    a) This isn't another Chernobyl (Apostasy!)

    b) Even Chernobyl didn't kill very many people. (Blasphemy!)

    c) Even in its worst year, Nuclear is significantly less deadly to both workers and the general population than any mainstream fossil fuel. (Satanic Worshipper!)

    d) The world's energy requirement is dramatically rising and is set to continue to do so for the next few decades. (But we recycle our carrier bags!)

    e) Fossil reserves are becoming ever more costly and dangerous to extract, and extraction is coming at an ever more significant environmental cost (tar shales, deep sea wells, resource wars).

    These are the arguments which will drive the politicians of India, China and developed nations to pay lipservice initially to the nuclear hysteria, but then go back to planning large scale rollouts of nuclear power.

    It makes sense in the end, no matter how many names you throw around.

  111. Maury Markowitz

    OMG, we can't go to Mars now?

    A mission that's at least two generations in the future is impacted by this week's already fading news?


  112. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Sometimes, The Reg, you blow my mind.

  113. jgb

    Dr Breen, I presume. - Not in fact

    If the title above refers to Dr Wallace Breen (a fictional character in 'Half-Life' ), then no - NOT derivative. Believe it or not, I've never played (or even seen a screenshot from) Half-Life and was until today unaware of Dr Breen. All ideas expressed here are what I believe personally. Any quotes would appear as such.

    Having looked him up and traced the (supposed) author of the plot-lines and scripts (Marc Laidlaw), I was a bit disappointed to find that Mr Laidlaw's philosophies seem to be limited to Half-Life and similar. A pity: the more people prepared to put thoughts such as these into the meme-sphere, the better. The only way superstition and supid instinct-basd behaviours will ever be exposed for what they are and the damage they can do isto make people THINK. Sometimes I wonder whether some people can actually put one thought in front of another! Which brings us back (eventually) to irrational fears and bullshit aroused by Fukushima.

    My other current on-topic thought is that if people were NOT so stupidly irrational, irresponsible, Nimby-ist, dishonest, greedy, completely insane, ... there's be less need to site nuclear facilities in groups behind human-proof security perimeters. As things stand, it's easy to see why they exist in clumps, although logically every town should have (a small) one.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Our stupidity is our blessing

      I was not implying that you borrowed from Dr Breen's speech at all - just that your post reminded me strongly about it :-)

      "My other current on-topic thought is that if people were NOT so stupidly irrational, irresponsible, Nimby-ist, dishonest, greedy, completely insane, ..."

      That's why we survived so far... We are too stupid, impulsive and disorganised for someone to successfully plan and execute something that looks good in theory but would have killed us in practice.

      As it happens now, lots of us are trying to do different small things which fail in different small ways, leaving enough of us alive to learn in the process and not putting all balls in the same vice, so to say.

      Those who think they are clever enough to take advantage of the rest, invariably fail, thanks to the human weaknesses you mention. Enough of their plans get leaked, mismanaged and mutate soon enough for others to intervene and help them to completely screw up.

  114. jgb

    A Useful Lightning Rod?

    To reduce the level of uninformed comment immediately followed by patient corrections here, maybe readers should look at and other items on that site before posting here.

    Rod Adams has been around for a long time, and amongst other things is a qualified nuclear plant operator. He also must have broad shoulders by now and will hopefully forgive me for inadvertently sending over members of the Tinfoil Helmet Fraternity who will of course try to spread alarm and despondency ever more widely.

  115. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    coal v nuclear

    "The number of people who die because of coal is far higher, per week"

    Firstly, I am slightly dubious. The deaths of coal miners are quoted as being attributable to coal, which is fair enough. But I never see any figures quoted of the deaths that result from uranium mining. Are we to assume that uranium mining has no fatalities? I find it hard to believe. Most heavy operations like that would have some fatalities. It seems rather selective plucking of figures therefore.

    But more importantly, quoting the number of deaths alone takes no account of whether the person who died was actively involved in the industry or not. Because those who are involved in the industry make a conscious decision to expose themselves to the risks. While all deaths are regrettable, coal miners or nuclear power station workers are free to choose their professions and assume the risk that results in return for the money on offer.

    But the rest of the population does not. So what is critical is not the number of deaths per se, but the number of deaths caused to innocent people among the general population who have no control over the risks they are exposed to by various forms of power generation.

    For example, I am guessing the 15 children referred to were completely innocent and had no involvement or choice in assuming the risk that nuclear power posed to them.

    The WHO estimates around 4000 people will die as a result of Chernobyl. It's a lot smaller than some estimates, but I would imaging that the majority of those 4000 would also not be actively involved in the nuclear industry.

    View it in the same way as smoking. I don't have any problem with smokers choosing to kill themselves - they know the risks, they pay their money, it's up to them. It's all the innocent people who choose not to smoke but are forced to breathe polluted air that are the issue. Yes they might be your kids and you might choose to smoke, but do you have the right to enforce that choice on your kids or other people who just happen to be in your vicinity? I'd argue no.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Andydaws


      "The deaths of coal miners are quoted as being attributable to coal, which is fair enough. But I never see any figures quoted of the deaths that result from uranium mining. "

      Two reasons for that - first, the majority - not all, but the great majority - of uranium mining is open cast. Open cast is safer than deep mining, probably by a couple of orders of magnitude (on a risk/worker/year).

      Second, although extracting uranium involves moving a lot of spoil per tonne of ore extracted, the energy value of a tonne of uranium is greater than the energy value of a tonne of coal by many orders of magnitude - therefore, on a per TWh measure, uranium mining comes out well ahead.

      " So what is critical is not the number of deaths per se, but the number of deaths caused to innocent people among the general population who have no control over the risks they are exposed to by various forms of power generation."

      I could dispute that logic, but even letting it stand, you miss a key point. Coal kills people other than miners. Best estimates for respiratory disease in the US, as a result of particulate pollution from coal are around 30,000 per year. That's from 200TWh of generation.

      To that (if radioactivity is an issue for you, and you believe there's a relationship between low radiation doses and cancer) you should add a figure for radiation release from coal-burning. Most coal contains about 200 Bq/tonne of a mix of radioisotopes. In the UK we burn about 60 million tonnes/year in power stations - so that's a release of 12 billion Bq of radioactives. Every year. Most is longish half-life stuff like Thorium, Uranium, Radon and Radium

      Then there's chemical contamination. Mercury's the nastiest contaminant released by coal. Again, 0.2 grammes/tonne is a fairly typical number - that's about 12 tonnes/year. The fatal dose for mercury for an adult is 1-4 grammes.

  116. Zolko Silver badge

    @ Andydaws

    "OK, let's look at what's going on."

    yes, let's: mildly-radioactive water (water contaminated by radioactive material) is released into the see, to make place for very-radioactive water that will be contained in tanks where the mildly-radioactive water was previously. And this very-radioactive water, when it will have filled the tank that contained mildly-radioactive water that is now in the see, what will we do with it ? And that's not some liters, but thousands of tons.

    In what universe is the leaking of thousands of tons of radio-active water into the open see "under control" or "slowly winding down" ? Since 3 weeks now, there is no end in sight !

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  117. Andydaws

    Do the sums yourself, Zolko...

    11,000 tonnes of low-activation water will released; the whole tank is about 24,000 tonnes.

    The water going into the reactors is about 7 tonnes/hour in the case of Rs 2 & 3, less in the case of R1. It's coming down by about 10% a week.

    I make that roughly that there's 8 weeks to get the residual heat removal systems going, once the turbine hall basements are pumped out. Even if the RHRSs require complete rewiring and installation of replacement pumps, that's a couple of weeks work, once there's access, not months.

    The RHRS's are out of action because of water damage (from the Tsunami) to their pumps and switchgear. They're already being worked on to replace the pumps. Once running, the RHRSs circulate water in a separate closed circuit to remove heat from the reactors and drywells - they're what keeps the system cool during refuelling. As an aside, I suspect they'll keep the drywells on R1 and R3 flooded - it's done during refuelling, and it adds a useful extra bit of shielding while operations are going on.

    Of course, after 8 weeks the iodine activity will have reduced to about one half of one percent of what it is today. The tank that the water will be moved to is part of on on-site treatment plant which also has ability to take out materials like caesium.

  118. Anonymous Coward

    Thanks Lewis

    I made a killing on this, could not for the life of me figure out why people could not see how disastrous this was going to be for Tepco and the re-insurers from the first post-hydrogen explosion pictures. Then I found your "gosh, no radiation could ever ever ever leak out of the containment vessels" post. This you posted *after* it was reported by officials that initial attempts to pump in seawater were having difficulties because the water level refused to rise inside. No one official would state that the containment vessels were leaking, even though that was bloody obvious. Either you were too busy to actually read up on what you were posting at the time or you were ignoring unfavorable news.

    But thanks for helping out my shorts. I hope you made the same bet, because if I were your employer I'd be scheduling you for a performance review.

    BTW, proving yet again that pro-nuclear can't cool-headedly deal with evaluating real risks on the ground and that public concerns should be met with vicious mockery isn't doing your cheerleading any good. Relax, relax, nuclear is going to be around no matter what; the petulant child routine isn't necessary to your cause.

  119. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Is "5 million times the safe level" serious enough for you?

    1. arkhangelsk


      "5 million times the safe level" (or "100,000x") is a pretty clear sign of danger. Unfortunately, when it comes to nuclear industry, this is not necessarily true because the safety margins are simply insanely great plus these "millions" tend to be localized peak values that go down very quickly.

      This excessive safety standard not only makes nuclear plants more expensive than they should be, but it deprives us, the normal masses, a relatively easy way of determining whether we are in real danger.

      They should re-define standards based on what is truly dangerous, and call the current standards (if they are to be maintained) "goals". So when a nuclear plant starts leaking, they can say "The radiation level has increased from 1/1,000,000th (or whatever) the safety level to 1/1,000th!" instead of saying "The radiation level is now 1000x safe".

  120. Andydaws

    "5 million times the safe level"

    Actually, legal limit, of about 40 Bq/litre.

    Which, interestingly is LOWER than the limit for drinking water for Japanese babies.

    We can already get an idea of the dispersion factors involved in putting this stuff into seawater. The levels are being monitored down-current at 35KM off shore:

    (from the IAEA's daily update)

    "Seawater is collected daily close to the discharge areas of Units 1 - 4 and of Units 5 and 6 at the Dai-ichi NPP. The data show a decreasing trend from 1 to 3 April from about 66 kBq/l to 24 kBq/l for I-131 and 21 kBq/l to 10 kBq/l for both Cs-134 and Cs-137 at Units 1-4. The concentrations at Units 5 and 6 also showed a decreasing trend until 3 April. These values were measured before the discharge of low level contaminated water authorised by the Japanese Government on the 4th April.

    New data were provided for the off-shore survey on 8 sampling points about 30 km east of the NPPs. Concentrations are between 5 and 18 Bq/l for I-131 and between roughly 1 and 11 Bq/l for Cs-137. For the new coverage of the coastal transect in the south, about 35 km south of Fukushima Daiini, the highest concentrations were detected at the sampling point closest to the coast in the south with about 38 Bq/l for I-131 and 4.5 Bq/l for Cs-137. The concentrations at all sampling points have decreased over time."

    There's a dispersion factor of 1000 or more even in that short distance. And FWIW, by that 35KM point, the Iodine level is below the Japanese Government drinking water standard for babies - 100Bq/litre.

    Incidentally, the stuff that's being fussed about for release, the low-activated water that's being released to make space - that's conatminated at about 2kBq/litre. Which suggests itll be single figure Bq/litre by reaching the 35Km point.

    1. Highlander

      Thanks again Andy,

      I'm sure you already know that no amount of reason, fact or reality will make a difference to some. I decided long ago to stop trying to fight a numbers game on this because like most things involving both numbers and emotion, numbers can be made to mean just a bout anything, and someone always has an exception to prove their point regardless of the rationality or truth of the matter.

      However, thank you again for the solid information and reasoning. I only wish more people would approach this matter with as level a head as you.

  121. Highlander

    Some intersting information from Fukushima Daiichi

    I collected the reactor temperature readings for units 1, 2 and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi since March 28th as reported to the IAEA;

    (temps are measured in degrees C and are in pairs - temp at the water inlet/temp at the bottom of the reactor vessel)

    Unit 1












    For those interested, that is a decreasing trend.

    Unit 2










    Apparently there is a fault with the second sensor in unit 2, or the number is missing from the IAEA report, either way, the temperature at the water inlet is showing a decreasing trend.

    Unit 3









    Once again a decreasing trend. There is some doubt over the validity of the reading of the temp at the water inlet in Unit 3, but not the temperature at the base of reactor vessel.

    In each case, these three reactors all show significant cooling over the last week as the ability to cool the reactor has increased with first a reliable pumping source for the seawater, then the re-introduction of fresh water, the application of external AC power and finally the complete switch over to electrical pumps supplied by off site power. No one will want to say things are under control, and the IAEA continues to describe the situation as very serious - although how else one could describe it I don't know, clearly it is very serious, but certainly not out of control.

    It appears that Units 2 and 3 are approaching what might be called a cold shutdown, based on the temperature readings, and unit 1 also appears to be headed in the same direction. Considering everything that has happened at Fukushima, the destruction wrought by the earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent urgent and improvised cooling efforts with the reactors, considering all of that, I am extremely impressed by the work that the engineers there have accomplished to bring these reactors more or less under control in the complete absence of their normal cooling and control systems. Part of the credit has to go the the designers and engineers who put Fukushima Daiichi together, and part must go to the brave workers there now. The reactors there survived pretty much the worst that we humans have seen nature throw at anything. That is a testament to the technology used.

    1. Andydaws


      Pretty much true that the reactor temperatures are coming down - heat generation should be declining, at this stage by perhaps 10-15% per week.

      However, the plant staff will have to be trying to strike a difficult balance. The more water they pump through, the cooler the system, but the more contaminated water will ultimately have to be dealt with. On the other hand, the hotter they allow the reactor ro run at, the more heat-loss they can look to via other means - convection to ambient from the containment, and in conduction to heat-sinks like the biological shield. But, if there's a glitch with the pumps, the less margin for error before causing problems (and the harder it gets to get water in against internal pressure).

      It'd be really interesting to see a thermogram of the reactor buildings - on some rough numbers, I think they're losing at least 1/3rd of the heat generated by the fuel through the means I've listed above.

      1. Highlander

        Indeed, what about recovering the use of the RCIC?

        I wanted to make sure that the readers here knew that the reactors are being successfully cooled, and are cooling over time as the decay heat slowly diminishes. It's not often mentioned anywhere that the reactors themselves are in fact getting cooler over time.

        Right now they are simply pumping cold water in and getting hot (in both senses of the word) water out.

        Ordinarily, don't BWRs have isolation condensers that are designed to almost passively provide decay heat cooling through the action of steam passing through a heat exchanger/condenser and then passing back to the reactor under the force of gravity (the Reactor Core Isolation Cooling System)? Even then if that is not available, establishing some kind of closed loop circulation with a heat exchanger has to be a major priority does it not?

        Until they can achieve that they are just creating more and more 'hot' water.

        Regarding the difficulty injecting water. I believe that they are now using electrical pumps with offsite AC power and diesel backup generators and have diesel backup pumps too. So the situation in that regard is better. It just looks like the top priority now is to somehow re-establish coolant circulation, instead of pumping ever more through the reactor only to have to collect and deal with the water. Of course, if they have on-site storage for the water, I guess they can continue pumping as long as they need to and have storage capacity for the used water.

        1. Andydaws

          At this stage, Highlander

          tbh, getting back the residual heat removal system is more use. The RCIC still vents steam, and relies on condensation into the suppression pool, which is probably compromised at least on R2.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes but

      Yes, the situation is under control and yes it could have been worse.

      It's probably been proved that it will be very difficult/ impossible to repeat a Chernobyl type disaster.

      The fact remains however that the plant seems to not have been designed for a power failure lasting more than 8 hours. The back up diesel generators (the only protection against loss of power from the grid) were not adequately protected.

      This resulted in a) loss of cooling and control leading to fuel damage and b) hydrogen explosions (apparently due to the lack of ventillation) leading to loss of containment and equipment damage, hindering the plant rescue efforts and delaying the restoration of power.

      So it could have been worse, but it also could have been much better: the reactors having automatically shut down, power could have been maintained - no incident.

      I don't think that the designers and engineers who put Fukushima Daiichi together deserve much credit for bringing the situation under control.

      I don't understand why we can't agree that the basic design is robust but safety could be improved and just get on with it.

      1. Highlander

        @AC - Yes But...

        YEs, you are correct that the plant was not designed for a station blackout lasting more than 8 hours. Very few, if any nuclear powerplants are. The majority of BWR/PWR stations in teh us are not capable of surviving even an 8 hour station blackout.

        In fact the 8 hour duration of the battery systems at Fukushima was pretty good compared to many plants in the US and elsewhere, so although we'd all prefer them to have had more, it wasn't under-spec'd compared to the industry standard.

        That said, It looks rather like they'd have had to survive more than 72 hours in a station blackout, and that's not going to happen on batteries. So if your generators are destroyed, and all you have left are batteries, what are you going to do?

        Who said we can't agree? I can completely agree that we can do better. There are new reactor designs and new reactor fuels that are much safer regardless of anything else, and the BWRs at Fukushima were old designs and did not have the benefit of more recent advances in their design. Although I completely agree we can do better, what I will not do is indulge in 20-20 hindsight and castigate TEPCO or the Japanese for not doing more. They already did more than any other nation has in their preparedness for disaster, which is why we're looking at a bit of a mess and not three smoking holes in the ground.

        The reason I think the designers who put it together deserve credit is that the design is 40 years old. Those designers with the rather more limited knowledge and experience at their disposal put together a system that was capable of performing as well as it has. Not ideal, no, but given the circumstances, pretty good for reactors scheduled to be retired.

        My problem with the whole reaction to Fukushima is that it relies on generating irrational fears based on poor information and lack of understanding on the part of the public.Instead of seeing the positive, every possible negative is grasped and embraced with glee. Instead of seeing that even this rather old and flawed (by modern standards) design was able to withstand the worst geological disaster in human recorded history and realizing that this means modern designs based on lower temperatures, much safer fuels and much safer, and more failure resistant, multi-redundant safety systems could be used to generate really quite inexpensive energy without the usual feared dangers. Instead of that realization, we instead have an orgy of superstitious fear.

        Can you and I agree? Probably.

      2. Andydaws

        And in 40-odd years, the design has already improved radically

        "I don't understand why we can't agree that the basic design is robust but safety could be improved and just get on with it"

        You seem to be assuming that a reactor built today would be of the same design - it wouldn't.

        Fukushima R1 is a design called a BWR3. Units 2 & 3 are BWR4s. There were two further generations of the basic BWR design, (unsurprisingly, BWR5 and BWR6), then a design called the ABWR (advanced BWR). ABWRs continue to be built, but the successor design is currently under regulatory review - the ESBWR.

        To summarise the changes that might have been relevant:

        Later BWR4s moved to a different containment design, large in volume, and without the pipework connecting the suppression system to the drywell. The containment in steel lined reinforced concrete. Reactors 4,5 7 6 at Fukushima have this design.

        BWR5 brought in a larger volume containment, (50% bigger) and greater overpressure resistance. It changed the design of the core cooling system to more directly spray onto the fuel. It added passive hydrogen recombination within the containment, and the "hardened vent" to release overpressure via a filtered system.

        BWR6 further increased containment volume. It went from 2 to 3 back-up generators.

        ABWRs were the biggest change. That did away with external pumps (they're now in the reactor vessel, and much more robust as a result). It doubled the number and capacoity of emergency pumps.

        ESBWR goes further. It does away both with normal recirculation pumps, and emergency pumps (both are entirely passive, driven by natural circulation). It introduces a gravity driven flooding system for emergency heat removal from the core, and ability to lose sufficient heat to survive three days most-scram by allowing boil-off from the outside of the containment.

        It's also got a design change for spent fuel storage - it holds 10 years spent fuel in a pond (so, smaller than the Fukushima spent fuel ponds), and a seperate air-cooled spent fuel storage for older fuel (ironically, the UK HSE has asked for changes to this, if the ESBWR is to get a UK license - it wants a bigger fuel pond).

        I suspect that's one aspect that will change - fuel ponds are now going to end up having to have full contanment standard protection, hydrogen suppression etc.

  122. Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile, over at the markets

    the Japanese government are talking about nationalising Tepco to "maintain confidence in the markets".

    Hold on guys, that's not the way things are supposed to work is it? The companies are supposed to be making profits to keep their investors happy; those profits are not supposed to be directly supported by the taxpayer are they? Because if "the markets" don't see any future for nuclear power, maybe there really isn't one. Same as there's no future in the UK for the NHS, or libraries, or whatever, because they're not deserving of taxpayer's money.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Apart from that...

      Nationalization means there's some guys from State who run those machines. Yep, that's gonna work for sure....

      But then again, expectations would be lower, so, overall, things would be subjectively better.

    2. Highlander

      The trouble is that the 'market' is inherently

      short sighted and stupid. The 'market' has become self destructive because of ever shortening horizons making it difficult, if not impossible, for any long term investments to pay off because the 'market' doesn't like the lack of short term returns.

      The effect of this is that the 'market' group mind acts with great stupidity because it is inherently biased against long term anything.

      Nationalization means that the company is effectively bought by the government because it represents a strategic need (energy) for the country, and the company simply cannot be allowed to fail because of one incident. Personally, I'm not a fan of nationalization, but on the other hand, strategic resources, infrastructure and services that are nationally important are not always best served by the commercial world. the city I live in demonstrates that perfectly. the city's infrastructure is falling to bits, but the lowest bidder method of selecting vendors to repair/replace that crumbling infrastructure simply results in even more shoddy work that falls to bits less than a decade later. This is true of roads, sewers, water supply, gas and power. power is supplied via overhead cables strung on wooden poles. every time there is a strong wind, thousands lose power, and a big storm costs 10's of thousands their power, sometimes for days. I've had more power outages in a single year here than I ever experienced in my decades of living in the UK. This area is susceptible to bad storms, and underground cabling would help tremendously with the problem, but that costs more, so it's not done. That is the 'market' at work.

      1. Andydaws


        Now here, we part company.

        My career's spanned pre- and post-privatisation days in the energy and utilities sector. And TBH, the quality of investment (for want of a better term) bears no resemblance over that change.

        I first worked with the old CEGB back in the late 1970s. At that time, the main investment programmes were the building of the AGRs - and what a staggeringly good technology choice that turned out to be - and oil-fired plants like Ince B and (in Scotland) Inverkip. Neither was a good use of limited investment funds, and worse, it meant the industry was bedevilled by a "famine and feast" cycle, depending just how deep the Treasury was in the s**t for money in any given year. Decisions were far more driven by political expediency than commercial or technical factors.

        We had idiocies like propping up both NEI Parsons and GEC's turbogenerator business, basically (in one case) to protect a safe seat, and in the other to curry favour in a marginal. The end result was that we ended up with two turbogenerator businesses to small, and undercapitalised to compete worldwide.

        The "short termism" argument is misplaced. What tends to happen when an infrastructure business is in state hands isn't greater focus on the long term (of course, not, the electoral cycle is 5 years), rather waste in delivery just goes up.

        There's a lovely example in the water sector. You'd assume, having no shortage of (state) funds, and low local costs that Northern Ireland Water would be more efficient at delivering high quality capital programmes than any of the English firms - but the opposite is the case. In fact, comparing "like for like" schemes NIW has to spend nearly twice as much, even according to the regulator appointed by the NI government.

        What you've missed is who tends to buy infrastrucutre firms. It's mostly bodies like pension funds - who treat them as a financial asset. And, of course, their value as a financial asset is based on their ability to generate .long term, but reliable cashflows.

        1. Highlander

          Andy, you're right - in the UK, at least...

 least in my experience. However having lived on the other side of the pond for a decade now, I have seen the other extreme which is where the lowest bidder is selected to minimize costs, and short-termism is literally the prevalent thought process regarding any investment. the example I used is a personal one, but it's very unfortunately true.

          I don't blame the market for the original, now crumbling infrastructure, but when my local utility pays more attention to the short term profit cycle for Wall Street than it does replacing the dilapidated overhead wires and poles, it starts to have a negative impact on me as a customer. I don't have any choice of electrical supply, I dare say that's true for 95+% of the Us residential population. In that situation, the market (supply/demand) fails to operate because there is a captive customer base with no way to influence the supplier since they are sole supplier. They are solely responsible for the upkeep of the infrastructure as well, and there is precious little regulation and so I and all my fellow consumers simply have to wait and hope that the utility does it's work.

          It's in that scenario where the market simply doesn't operate that - to me - some level f government intervention is warranted to ensure minimum levels of service. After all, electricity is a vital strategic need, and if the utility has no competition what is their incentive to do better if the government does not take some kind of action to regulate them?

          I understand your point and suspect that we are actually closer in view than you may suspect, it's just that right now my personal experience is somewhat differenet because of the somewhat different market and regulatory environment.

  123. Andydaws

    Interesting where this discussion leads..

    I posted earlier, noting that the legal lmit for Fukushima discharges was apparently 40Bq/litre of water. Now, a litre of water weighs 1KG, so that's 40Bq/KG.

    Then, I was doing a little reading on the radiation releases inherent in the use of coal - and found this.

    "UNSCEAR (1993) gives 3645 Bq/kg average in flyash. The above US data at 15% ash give 1200 Bq/kg in flyash. Dale (1996) quotes CSIRO figures of 2630 and 3200 Bq/kg from a high-ash NSW coal. Cooper (2003) gives up to 1500 Bq/kg for flyash and up to 570 Bq/kg for bottom ash in NSW. "

    An interesting comparison. Fukushima is allowed to put 40Bq/Kg material into the environment in limited quantities (and very little per GWh generated).

    Coal plants routinely dump 2600BQ/Kg material in very large quantities - flyash production is in the order of 50 tonnes GWh. So a station like Eggborough, in the UK produces about 100 tonnes/hour.

  124. Andydaws

    One thought that occurs is....

    is there a better alternative to the use of zirconium in fuel cladding?

    Zirconium was originally picked because it had a number of desireable characterisitcs - it's absorbs ver few neutrons, it's not reasonable mechanical strength, and it's thermal conductivity is good. It's also got a reasonable melting poit.

    But it's got the nasty issue of generating hydrogen when it's hot in the presence of steam/water.

    However, it's not the only option. The British AGRs used stainless steel fuel cans. It's as good or better than zirconium from the thermal perspective, it's quite a lot stronger, and holds it's strength to higher temperatures. The downside is, it absrobs more neutrons - as a result, the AGRs ended up running about the same level of enrichment as a PWR or BWR (2-3%), rather than the unenriched uranium that was used in their Magnox predecessors.

    The good news is it behaves very well in water - it doesn't produce hydrogen in reaction.

    I haven't got time to do the number-crunching to work out how enriched LWR fuel would have to be is stainless clad, but I'd be surprised if it ran over 4-5%. It'd maybe worth a thought....or perhaps there are better ways to passivate zirconium - perhaps an electroplated layer?

  125. tom 24


    I noticed that Mr. Page's series of articles defending nuclear power stopped. When is there going to be another followup?

    I actually was influenced positively by the previous articles, but I'm curious what takeaways *he* will have in light of new developments. Most of his points are still valid, but the current situation highlights how his analysis sidesteps the negative consequences of failure. Risk management involves both 1) risk, and 2) consequences. Considering that we are a long way from the worst place scenario, the consequences still look, how can I say this, yucky?

    We need another update on the situation from a Page perspective. Don't wuss out; follow through!

    1. Gerardo Korndorffer

      RE: Followup

      I'd rather have an article facing facts like:

      - We need nuclear power.

      - How mistakes are going to be corrected.

  126. Highlander

    And the moronic fear mongering continues - NYT...

    The New York Times put up an article based on their interpretation of an 11 day old report, but posted it as news today as if the content of the (unpublished and therefore unverifiable report) were current.

    It's truly sickening to watch the scale of xenophobia in action and the tone of the comments on the article should be enough to give any thinking person cause to pause.

    The gist here is that a very pessimistic assessment was performed and a written report was given 11 days ago, and the NYT decided to print a story based on a pessimistic reading of an already pessimistic report to make some baseless and scary claims about the actual events at Fukushima Daiichi. It's utterly reprehensible that they'd run this story in this way, it's so far removed from the actual situation, but it creates an impression among NYT readers and those reading it second had elsewhere or hearing about it on the news that things are going from bad to worse. Talk of re-criticality and molten fuel melting through the containment. Yet in reality the temperature in each of the three scram'd reactors is stable or decreasing. pressure inside the drywells is stable and sensors in the reactors themselves are functioning and registering temperatures a far cry fro those necessary for anything inside to be molten.

    The NYT ought to be thoroughly ashamed of itself for pandering to superstitious, xenophobic fear-mongers.

    Also I constantly see people bitching that TEPCO and the Japanese government are silent. They are not. Go look at TEPCOs website, you can radiation data from the monitoring sites in and around the powerplant. Much data is available via the IAEA as well, and you can find statements and reports all over the website for TEPCO. The silence I see is the silence of any competent analysis of what is happening at Fukushima. That's one of the best things about these articles of Lewis' they bring in a lot of knowledgeable commenters who do their research and don't simply speak from a position of ignorance and fear. Once again my thanks to AndyDaws for his continued highly competent information and analysis, it's not just andy of course, there are others, but Andy has perhaps been most vociferous. Either way, I hope that people continue to look at the real information rather than the scare stories elsewhere.

    1. Andydaws

      For what it's worth

      I've managed to lay my hands on a copy of the NRC report that the NYT seems to think it's got exclusive access to.

      I'll have a read and summarise this evening.

      Also, highlander, there's a good bit to say about the impact of regulatory models, and why the US and UK end up in different places re investment, but this isn't the right place.

      1. Highlander

        I'll look forward to that summary

        Regarding regulatory models, you're right. My only excuse is that just this week a line of fast moving thunderstorms knocked out power to major parts of my city for the 4th of 5th time this year alone. It is extremely frustrating. My apologies.

        1. Andydaws

          The irony is

          contrary to what you might expect, the US regulatory model has far more direct intervention tah the UK one, even for the T&D area.

          Under the model run by most states (excepting TExas and one or two others), individual investment cases have to be approaved by the regulator (rather than just setting a target and an overall 5-year plan) - and most regulators seem to work on the assumption that any investment is just a way to rip-off the consumer.

          I've done work with National Grid in the UK and for their US subsidiaries. In the UK, Grid agrees an overall investment programme every 5 years, as part of it'ss pricing cycle. In the US, it has to go to the (individual) state regulators with details of each individual investment programme, and ask for prices to be asdjusted - and politicians love to intervene. There's no better campaiging platform for (say) a State Senator than blocking a rate rise.

          Where it gets especially silly is where schemes affect more than one state - then, agreement's needed from all the regulators, who have no cooperative framework. I've seen cases where NG (US) put forward proposal to reinforce distribution in the parts of New York State which it serves, only to see the feeder lines blocked by New Jersey, on the grounds they don't benefit NJ customers.

          It's a barking system.

          1. Highlander

            Very barking indeed

            I live in TN and as I said, I live in a city, and we have had more power outages - on average - per year during each and every year, than I can remember in my entire lifetime in the UK. I lived in the UK 3 times longer than the US. Whatever the reason, local infrastructure here is decidedly sub-par.

            You summarized the issue nicely, that local politician intervention sounds like it's the source of the problem, much like many of the slightly crackpot things that go on here - thanks local politics and a system that has us electing everyone bar the local school janitors...

  127. Andydaws


    As expected, the NYT spin isn't even mildly representative.

    Basically, the report concludes that although there's fuel "slumping" - i.e the situation I talked about a few days ago, where cladding has failed, but the fuell pellets remain unmelted and whole, in all three reactors. That's not news.

    They conclude that in all cases temperatures and the cooling regimes are stable, and will improve as decay heat drops, and as fresh-water cooling is used (recall this is from the 26th of last month).

    They note that fuel temperatures are hard to assess - again, not news - and are likely to be hotter than the readings at the vessel wall. But, the vessel wall temperatures are a function of the fuel temp, and follow (lag) it.

    Now, one bit to explain. A BWR is built with an internal wall within the RPV - water flows in from between this "shroud" and the RPV wall, flowing downward, then up the inside of the shroud, over the fuel. They suspect this flow is limited due to the build-up of salt inside the shroud. They also note that any fuel pellets that have fallen to the bottom of the vessel will be trapped inside this salt layer.

    As I'd though, they're gradually flooding the inside of the primary containment, venting flow from the RPV into the wetwell which connects to the drywell. They note that this is likely to contain hydrogen, and may have oxygen present which has come out of solution in the seawater coolant.

    So, they suggest purging the primary containment with nitrogen, to ensure there's no explosive potential. Which is what TEPCO have been doing for the last couple of days.

    The comment about seismic risk is that they need to check the safety case assessment done for having a flooded primary containment (which is a good heat remover from the RPV walls). Since it's routine for the Primary Containment to be flooded in refuelling and shutdowns, it's likely to have been qualified for this, but it needs to be confirmed.

    The only part that I'm even mildly edgy about is they suggest some further containment venting may be needed as the nitrogen purge goes in, but suggest that it's vented through a water spray to remove any iodine o9r other fission products.

    If anyone wants a copy, give me a mail address.

  128. Andydaws

    Oh, and one thing about the NRC report.

    They seem to think that it'll be necessary to flood the containment to fully submerge the fuel - they think (what I presume to be) the shaft seals on the recirculation pumps will have failed - they don't say why - and that's the path of leakage from the RPV

    1. Highlander

      Great summary, thanks

      Is there any indication of the basis for their believe that the shaft seals have failed? I mean is this a judgement based on expected damage in the event of a major earthquake or some other predicted loss of integrity? Or do they use onsite information as the basis for that belief?

      From what you're saying, flooding the containment appears to be a stop-gap for the ability to run recirculation pumps. I wonder then, if the containment is fully flooded, will that prevent the local engineers from accessing equipment needed to re-establish recirculation for the residual heat removal system?

      The NYT does indeed seem to have done quite a number with this report,

      Regarding the fuel slumping, is that - again - based on actual observation, or an assumption based on the design and expected failure modes? Would that - for example, actually involve the cladding melting, or is it a case of the cladding losing integrity due to warping in the heat, and corrosion due to the heat and use of salt-water? Obviously you're not in any better position to know the actual situation either, but I'm interested in whether the report is making an assumption or if there is actual information? The reason I ask is that it kind of sounds like it's an assessment made by experts in BWR design based on the same facts that you and I, and the world + dog, have access to, but an assessment that assumes certain events inside the reactor that have yet to be confirmed by observation.

      I'm not trying to deny the possibility of any such damage, but I am trying to understand whether the assessment of such damage is based on more than the kind of guess work we can indulge in ourselves.

      1. Andydaws

        the NRC analysis

        "Is there any indication of the basis for their believe that the shaft seals have failed? I mean is this a judgement based on expected damage in the event of a major earthquake or some other predicted loss of integrity? Or do they use onsite information as the basis for that belief?"

        certainly no onsite data - or any obvious argument as to why the seals would have failed. There's no obvious overpressure that could have damaged them (these are plants that run normally at 80 bar so you'd expect design capacity of 160 or so). I think they're making an inference from the level of water in the reactor annuli (annuluses?), which is at about the same height.

        "From what you're saying, flooding the containment appears to be a stop-gap for the ability to run recirculation pumps. I wonder then, if the containment is fully flooded, will that prevent the local engineers from accessing equipment needed to re-establish recirculation for the residual heat removal system?"

        no, it's a long term, and quite attractive alternative. Oddly, it's the same basic solution that lets an ESBWR run on passive cooling, post scram.

        "Regarding the fuel slumping, is that - again - based on actual observation, or an assumption based on the design and expected failure modes?"

        i think it's inference. Largely from TMI experience, and some modelling about heat transfer.

        "Would that - for example, actually involve the cladding melting, or is it a case of the cladding losing integrity due to warping in the heat, and corrosion due to the heat and use of salt-water?"

        tbh, a moot point. Once the fuel pellets are out, they're out. The lighter fission products will be in the water, the heavy stuff still in the fuel. The interesting point is that the salt. may well be helping isolate them from cooling water!

        "Obviously you're not in any better position to know the actual situation either, but I'm interested in whether the report is making an assumption or if there is actual information? The reason I ask is that it kind of sounds like it's an assessment made by experts in BWR design based on the same facts that you and I, and the world + dog, have access to, but an assessment that assumes certain events inside the reactor that have yet to be confirmed by observation."

        no-ones got observations - one design flaw seems to have been that all the instrumentation was reliant on battery power, or was routed through basement distribution boards, and is therefore out of action. They've got people who know BWRs infintitely better than I do, though, so take their estimates seriously.

        I'm not trying to deny the possibility of any such damage, but I am trying to understand whether the assessment of such damage is based on more than the kind of guess work we can indulge in ourselves.

        1. Highlander

          Great information and perspective.

          Thanks Andy, I really appreciate the time you're taking to follow up on this. It's extremely gratifying to see that the Register still attracts a number of high quality posters.

  129. Andydaws

    I'd be doing it anyway....

    so no problem.

  130. Andydaws

    I've been reading Wase Allison's "Radiation and Reason"

    and have come across something really surprising.

    You recall the controversy at various points upthread about the "Linear No Threshold" model, and whether there was a lower dose limit below which radiation exposure does or doesn't increase mortality from cancer or other causes?

    It rhearses the arguments from Chernobyl, hiroshima, etc, as you'd expect. They suggest no statistically reliable relationship at low dose, as we all by now know. But, it also introduces something of which I wasn't aware.

    It transpires large scale lab tests on the impact of low doses on animals HAVE in fact been done. And they don't show a linear response. They show a classic sigmoid - nil effect below a threshold dose, then a broadly linear response, then a flattening out as mortality approaches 100%.

    Allison references a standard text in the area by Henrikson and Maillie. Unfortunately, it's £40 a copy, so I'll be taking his word, not checking it directly.

    What's surprising is just how high the threshold is - adjusting for body mass, etc, it's in the hundreds of sieverts/year.

  131. Andydaws


    that should be "hundreds of millisieverts", of course

  132. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hundreds of sieverts/year?

    But what about the gonads?

    Sure death is something but sometimes non-death can be pretty nasty (A-bomb survivors with (I seem to recall) 100% of children developing cancer?)

    1. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      You're either imagining that.

      or have read something remarkably ill-informed.

      The heritable effects, including second generation cancers, appear to carry risk at a couple of orders of magnitude lower than direct exposure. Cancer rates amongst Hiroshima survivors children are statistically indistinguishable from the general population

  133. Highlander

    Although it's not all over yet (nor will it be for a long while)....

    ...I'm wondering whether it's time for a factual review of the disaster from start to finish, along with the context of the contemporaneous media reporting. I wonder if Lewis would care to put his head above the parapet again?

  134. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Highlander

      Even more data - WOW!

  135. paradoxewan

    Soooooo where is lewis now?

    Seeing as Japan officially raises Fukushima to