back to article Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster!

The total non-story of the Fukushima nuclear powerplant "disaster" – which has seen and will see no deaths or measurable health consequences for anyone anywhere – has received a shot in the arm today with the news that Japanese authorities have upgraded the incident to a Level 7 on the nuclear accident scale. This was reported …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    The title is required, and must not contain ionizing radiation.

    "which has seen and will see no deaths or measurable health consequences for anyone anywhere"....

    Apart from these ones I guess:

    Seriously El Reg, it seems this author does have a bit of an agenda to push.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      I just read that article you linked to, and it says pretty much exactly what Lewis was saying; some people working at the plant received low level exposure which was assessed as not being a risk to their health, or who are being assessed to ensure that it isn't. No word of dangerous levels of exposure or any radiation sickness, the symptoms of which, after all, are rather obvious. Remind me again, who has an agenda to push?

    2. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down

      Did you read the ***** article?

      He mentioned those.

      To re-iterate: Not a single person has died or is likely to as the result of the worst conceivable disaster (category 7) at a nuclear power plant. Some people died cos of an earthquake. And a Tsunami. Yet the health effects from radiation are nil. Zilch. Absolutely nothing.

      Its morons like you who have the agenda to push. Because of luddite, nimby cretins like yourself the rest of the world has to live with the far more serious consequences of powering our lives by burning fossil fuels.

      Lewis is quite right. Nuclear power is already the only viable solution. If we apply the same safety requirements as other power generation industries then it would be incredibly cheap as well.

      Just wake up.

    3. Marky W

      @AC - Did you even read that link?


      25 people injured (no deaths) in non-radiological incidents. Not a surprise considering they're working stupid numbers of hours, round-the-clock, in a devastated area, under huge amounts of time pressure and often in restrictive safety gear.

      20 people with radiological contamination (plus some firemen who were 'decontaminated'), of whom 17 weren't even taken to hospital as the level was so low, 2 were decontaminated, leaving ONE with 'significant exposure'. Given how insignificant 'significant' seems to be in these cases, I'd say you've backed Lewis's assertion up pretty well.

      D- must try harder.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      17 people suffered from deposition of radioactive material to their faces...

      "..but were not taken to the hospital because of low levels of exposure"

      Thanks for the link, it's a great resource to battle the "myths" that it's "the end of the world".

    5. Willington

      Re: AC 14:08 GMT

      I read the article you linked to and I can't see any deaths. Any speculation about the "One worker [who] suffered from significant exposure during 'vent work,' and was transported to an offsite center" would be just that - speculation. The 17 people who were exposed to radioactive material to their faces weren't even taken to hospital because there was no need. 2 policemen exposed were decontaminated, again no mention of hospital. Firemen who were exposed are under investigation, no mention of hospital or any subsequent health risk again.

      The only measurable health consequences I can see are a couple of months sitting down for the guy with broken legs which can hardly be attributable to radiation (unless the particles were especially large). The 2 people who were suddenly 'taken ill' were more likely to have been suffering from shock due to all the scaremongering rather than anything radiation-linked.

      So who was it you were saying had the agenda?

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


        The radiation was so strong it broke one guy's legs!

        1. horse of a different colour


          Radiation is like a swan, perhaps?

          1. Luther Blissett


            You have in mind the Swan of Tuonela, the Island of the Dead?

            If so, you would be under the spell of both Sibelius (Op.22) and Rachmaninoff (Op.29) - as entrancingly lethal a combination as you could wish for in the musical spheres (not to mention the dialectical/historical/face/offs).

            In the elemental spheres, as Vlad (the Semantic Impaler) has brilliantly observed, the Fear of Nuclear is the fear of _not_ dying naturally, i.e. the fear of not dying by air or water or earth or fire (i.e. from an insufficiency or preponderance of one or other). The eco-fear of radiation is just the fear of dying from light - the Fear of Light.

            Or, as amanfromMars might put it - the fear of NUclear. (Or did you never manage to parse that, even tho IT shows you on the face of IT how to do IT?)

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. Rob Moir

      speaking of agendas

      it seems you read the headline of the article you linked to then raced to post it here, probably wetting yourself in excitement. Because if you had actually stopped to read it you would have noticed it doesn't do your point of view any favours.

      You've shown yourself to have an agenda of pushing fear and you've helped Lewis make his point. I bet you were a real tiger on the debating team at school eh?

    7. Alphageek

      pertinent facts only please

      Non-nuclear casualties DON'T COUNT you muppet, there were a few minor injuries... did you forget the mega-quake that had just happened? It strikes me that the nuclear power plant seems to be a fairly safe place to weather an earthquake and a tsunami in!

  2. Cameron Colley

    You make a good point about pollutants.

    Does anyone know how much Mercury, Cadmium and other pollutants have been released?

    As an aside though -- I'd love to hear from the author why people haven't gone back to Pripyat and why people in the surrounding areas of Chernobyl are finding that there are more instances of children with congenital deformities. Are we being lied to about this or something?

    If not, then I suggest that suggesting Chernobyl wasn't a large-scale disaster is a little stupid.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      A friend of mine went to Pripyat on holiday a few years ago, he has some nice piccies of the deserted town on Facebook.

    2. Andrew Norton


      "I'd love to hear from the author why people haven't gone back to Pripyat"

      Because instead of the nasty ratty 1970's houses of a 'government city', they got to live in the nicer, newer houses in Slavutych built in the public eye, in another government city, where the jobs that were in Pripyat are now.

      Possibly because the houses haven't been maintained for 25 years and are in a terrible state (and have been vandalised). Perhaps because it's officially in the 'zone of alienation' and no-one is allowed to live there, there are armed guards all around, and visitors (tourists)have to have a guide to ensure no-one takes anything away.

      Do that answer things?

    3. Anonymous Coward


      I know that a sea survey about to be done in the area because the NERC staff involved didn't fancy having to clear wrecked houses (potentially with bodies in) out of the way in their deep-sea survey area. There also was a good amount of concern that all the pollutants washed off the land would make the survey pointless.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. brake

        Siemens quits, says enough. The party is over :-)

        Siemens AG (SI: 134.71 -2.73 -1.99%) has sold its stake in a joint venture to build nuclear power plants with Areva for €1.62 billion ($2.3 billion). The company sold its 34% stake on March 18 to Areva SA, which owns the remaining 66%.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Siemens needs the cash..

          Siemens doesn't have a viable answer to the pebble reactor plants that are now very much coming up as the safe way to use nuclear energy (the "pebbles" are self- regulating so you could even remove cooling altogether without getting into trouble)..

          Ergo, getting out when the excuses are so much better than the reality is IMHO a sensible idea.

    5. Andydaws

      Mercury, cadmium etc.

      Do you mean from Fukushima, or as a result of Tsunami damage overall?

      If it's the former, I can tell you - none.

      One thing that's striking about this accident is how little radioactive material other than Iodine and Caesium has been released - something which suggests that contrary to the exaggerated fears of the earlier days, it's unlikely actual uranium fuel (as opposed to fuel rod cladding) melted.

      However, and awful lot will have been released through othertsunami-related incidents. You'd better hope no fly-ash tips from coal stations have been washed away, because they'll have put a few hundred tonnes of uranium, thorium and radon into the envoronment.

      It's also fascinating the way the myths cling on. According to UNSCEAR, there's no increase in deformitiesaround Chernobyl.

    6. Andy Farley

      This is from a journalist friend of mine

      Called Stefan Korshak who lives and works in Kiev. Bear in mind, he's a journalist, not a scientist :

      Well if that's not a lead in I don't know what is. As it just happens, I just recently was in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, as periodic (get it?) visits to that place fall into my job description.

      Yes the area underneath the Sarcophagus is incredibly irradiated, and will be so for some ridiculous time frame like thousands or millions of years, I forget exactly. True if you find moss or mushrooms somewhere you can get a Geiger counter to click right merrily. But it's not like the surface of Venus, the Zone's atmosphere isn't poisonous, and in most locations the radiation levels are the same as 200 km. to the south, opposite where the radioactive cloud blew. I'm told that you get more dangerous radiation lying on a beach in Turkey on a sunny day, than standing next to the Sarcophagus - again, and assuming you don't go inside of it.

      There are without question some nasty half-lives on some of the isotopes in there, but as the scientists explained it to me, when thinking about how dangerous it is in the Zone you have to take Mother Nature into account. Basically, and generally speaking, a quarter-century of rain and erosion has washed a great deal of the worst hot elements into the water drainage system, where it has to a substantial extent settled and/or been silted over. I'm told the water itself in most places won't get a peep out of a Geiger counter, although it's a big territory and a lot of swamp, who can say for sure?

      A simple indicator of how drainage helps control radiation are the Rad levels on the roads vs. the forest edges on either side of them. It's sort of a given the radiation on the roads is absolutely normal, while on the sides in the forest it can be five time higher and already dangerous in the same way as a tooth X-Ray is dangerous, a short exposure is no big deal but constantly over months or years and you're asking for cancer. Which makes the Zone a fairly safe place to visit, while keeping it basically uninhabitable.

      The terrain is forest and fields and most of the time, if you aren't looking at abandoned villages, it's quite pretty. Very thick underbrush, lots of water, waist- and even chest-high grass in the old farm fields.

      The scientists (unfortunately, because wouldn't be cool if there were) have found almost no mutants over the years as pretty much whatever the radiation mutated died at birth or shortly thereafter - this is Nature, after all. There is tons of wildlife and since only plant engineers and security and the odd thrill seeker actually goes into the Zone, and of them only a tiny percentage ever leaves the roads, the whole place is pretty much a huge nature refuge. Wolves, foxes, eagles, bison, etc. etc. I heard a rumor that even bears are coming back, they're already in Belarus. There used to be looters going into regularly, but it sort of tailed off after the new century, pretty much everything that could be stolen is long gone now.

      The cooling ponds near the Sarcophagus - you know, where the spent fuel rods get parked like at Fukushima - are just filled with goldfish/carp, and big ones, I'm talking the size of your arm some of them. There is always the joke the radiation made them that way, but to hear the biologists explain it, it's just Nature doing its thing, the cooling ponds are big and flat and shallow and open and they're pretty much perfect conditions for bug larvae and whatever else carp like to eat, no natural predators and no humans either, the station crews don't fish for them because you can't eat them, see above on radiation in the sediment.

      The problem with repopulating a place like Chernobyl is, I am told, not that the whole place is irradiated and hot, but rather that some spots are and some of the spots move with time, and change in degree, and keeping track of it is a major main and get it wrong and people really and truly could get hurt. Further, the place is really swampy and wet, this is the Pripet Marsh basically, so even if you cleaned up the buildings and the land, there is still the problem of the water table - again, within the realm of human capacity but not cheap or easy.

      One of the engineers explained it to me this way "It's not like we couldn't decontaminate the place and repopulate the abandoned villages, it's technically possible. But our country is poor and we have plenty of land outside the Zone that isn't developed, so unless you're trying to prove something there's really no point in trying to make the Zone inhabitable. Doesn't make sense financially."

      Another thing to remember is, at any given time something like 1,000 people are in the Zone living there 24/7, they're either engineers or scientists or guards or whatever, and they spend two weeks in and two weeks out. They say it's safe work, but they get paid pretty well by Ukrainian standards.

    7. Cameron Colley

      Thanks for dispelling the myth, seems I was wrong.

      Thanks for letting me know about the mutations -- I had read that somewhere, but I'll accept the fact it was a myth.

      As for Pripyat, as far as I can see the areas of the exclusion zone are still thought to be contaminated, so while I'm sure not everywhere in the zone is "OMG Deadly!!" it is still an exclusion zone -- so that's a pretty major impact. The reason I mentioned the town was that it must have cost a pretty penny to abandon, which would make it pretty disastrous financially if nothing else.

      I was referring to the pollutants released by other industry -- like battery makers and the like. I would expect pollutants other than those from the plants to be of far more concern.

      This "disaster" does seem to be a good advert for the potential safety of nuclear power.

    8. Anton Ivanov

      Sod the mercury

      Sod the mercury. Rare earths, organo-silicon compounds and all kinds of exotic stuff which is used in semiconductor, LCD, etc manufacturing is way more dangerous.

      As far as Pripiat and Chernobyl itself it is a different story. There the reactor burned and spread other fission products with considerably longer half-life than Iodine in very large concentration in the surrounding area. An example is the Ru-106 which is also known as "nightmare of the radioactive waste treatment engineer". No matter what separation technique you apply the bloody thing always ends up being present in most fractions so no way to clean it. You can only wait until it decays and it has a halflife of about a year so you have to wait decades for that. Fukushima has managed to avoid most of this.

      1. Andydaws

        To be fair, Anton,

        Ruthenium's a fairly minor fission product at the best of times, and no-one in their right mind is about to be reprocessing fuel until a decade or two after it's come out of the reactor.

        But the main point's valid (and seems to reinforce TMI experience). It's actually quite hard to get fuel hot enough such that you get the truly difficult stuff out if there's any cooling at all. Iodine and caesium are the buggers.

  3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Duck and Cover!

    The commentards are coming!

    1. Raving

      Japanese tsunami debris to reach West Coast in 2014


  4. Will 28

    So why do the numbers keep on changing?

    I'm not saying you're right or wrong, I just don't know enough about it. However I think Tepco and the various bodies regulating this could have done a little better in actually predicting these numbers. It's bound to be unsettling when every week the numbers are getting bigger, even if the biggyness doesn't directly equate to nastyness. Could they at least put a ceiling on it? The worst it could get to is... ... and for that reason you don't need to worry.

    Also, there is clearly a large difference in opinion; I'm glad that Auntie is printing them all, rather than just yours. They may be wrong, but so may you be (as I said, I don't know).

    1. Highlander

      Excuse me, but What the Hell are you talking about?

      What numbers are you accusing of continual change?

      If you can be bothered, go research the actual data, it's all right there. Even with the best will in the world, it's practically impossible to do more than assess the damage and estimate the possible release of fission products *after* the fact. those estimates include a pretty large fudge factor to ensure there is no under estimation, and they will change as more information becomes available to those performing the assessment.

      What is it that you do not understand ab out damage assessment?

      1. Will 28

        You're not excused, I told you I don't know what I'm talking about

        You can't be bothered to read the post you're replying to, so I don't know why you expect me to be able to research a nuclear leak. The most obvious number that has changed is the one that has gone 4, 5, 6, 7. Going from a 4 to a 7 is more than a fudge factor, and the scale isn't just linear. Now you will probably say that the scale is only applicable once the material has leaked, and it can't be a 7 till it's leaked enough. Maybe, but reports have suggested that this is more of a subjective assessment of the state of the leak. The steady raising of the level indicates to a layman that it is getting worse, perhps not, I really don't know. That's why I asked the question.

        What do I understand about damage assessment? About the same as you seem to understand of English - very little.

        1. Jon 37

          The ceiling is 7

          The INES scale goes from 0 to 7. It can't get any higher. If you Google for "INES" you can find out about it.

          The purpose of the INES scale is "to enable prompt communication of safety significance information in case of nuclear accidents". I.e. it's to figure out how much help / co-ordination / communication is needed. E.g., if one of the regulators gets a bulletin about a level 1 incident, they can ignore it for a while (or even forever) without even reading the rest of it. If they get a bulletin about a level 4 incident then it only matters if it's nearby. If they get a bulletin about a new level 7 incident, they need to read it RIGHT NOW even if that means waking people up at 3am.

          You may have noticed that people have already provided a lot of help to TEPCO. And TEPCO, NISA and the Japanese government have already been providing a lot of information to everyone (e.g. on the NISA website). So the change in the INES rating is probably not going to make any practical difference. Except to scare people.

  5. Andrew Norton
    Thumb Up

    Don't even bother Lewis

    Rational arguments only work on the educated.

    Any retard can be afraid.

    I've been educated in all this Nuclear malarkey, and even I was surprised when QI told of 'the luckiest man ever', or when I read about some of the early nuclear experiments (like the demon core that went critical in labs twice, before it was eventually used in a weapon at Bikini Atol, presumably to get rid of the curded thing)

    But, what you won't do is convince people it's safe. Even when you point out that the Queen was handed a big chunk of Uranium in the 1950's just in a plastic bag ("see how it's warm, your Majesty") and she's not exactly dead yet. Or point out that there's still 500 people living in Chernobyl (the town) and you can take guided tours there, and you'd get treated like you've put your pants on your head.

    This is what has happened with the dumbing down of education, 'to be fair to the laz-er I mean 'disadvantaged pupil''

    1. Cheapster
      Thumb Down

      Gosh the god squad are out in force today

      Educated, i don't think so, sure that means understanding how little you know.

      Yes there is some data that suggests that radiation may be good for you, part of the problem is that it's not so easily controlled and we just don't know.

      Do you really think the exclusion zone is not a problem, might it make the fixing of the huge problems they have take a little longer.

      And make these blighted peoples lives a little harder.

      Lewis is really becoming an embarrasment on this one, yes we need much more research into nuclear but these things are only for making nukes - never a serious attempt to make energy.

      There, you are now educated.

    2. Raving

      Rational arguments don't work for unforseen or irrational eventualities

      Don't exclude irrational absurdities.

      Famous last engineering words - "The problem was misconstrued. It was an unforeseen eventuality."

    3. veskebjorn

      Ignorance is not the same as stupidity; ignorance is curable

      For those of you who have tired of the largely fact-free editorials and posts about Fukushima Daiichi which have blemished The Register for the past month, I suggest the following:

      1.) An article in the IEEE Spectrum, the leading publication of electrical engineers in the U.S., which both explains the INES rating system and the reasons, in the publication's opinion, that the new rating is correct.

      2.) The extensive coverage in the Spectrum of every aspect of the Daiichi failure. This coverage is fully the equal of the work the journal did with respect to Three Mile Island, which was stellar. Among the articles is an explanation of why Japan's electrical grid design makes sending power from underutilized generators to the Tokyo area problematic. The home page for this coverage is

      3) The 26 Mar NRC "threat assessment" of Daiichi, which may be found on many sites.

      4.) The early April (dated 7 Apr on page 2) Areva "The Fukushima Daiichi Incident" Powerpoint which gives Areva's assessment. Areva has been heavily involved with servicing Daiichi long before the "incident."

      While you're at the Fairewind site, you might profit from a look at the narrations of the missing water in fuel pond 4 and the demonstration of the effects of overheating on fuel rods.

      5.) Nature, the most prestigious science journal in the world, has a special section on Daiichi which includes information not found in Spectrum. Well worth reading.

      A few hours spent with this rigorously scientific material will make you far better informed than all of The Register's Daiichi articles and posts. The same material should also lead, if you are rational, to a far more nuanced set of opinions than have been displayed, for the most part, in The Register.

      Finally, two current and significant quotes from well-informed and highly-placed nuclear energy authorities which should prove enlightening or at least thought-provoking.

      1.) 11 MAR 11 from the Associated Press (WASHINGTON) The top U.S. nuclear regulator said Monday he will not change a recommendation that U.S. citizens stay at least 50 miles away from Japan's crippled nuclear power plant, even as he declared that the crisis in that country remains "static."

      Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that the month-old crisis in Japan has not yet stabilized. But he said conditions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant have not changed significantly for several days.

      "We describe the situation as static but not yet stable," Jaczko said.

      "It hasn't really changed too much in the last few days," he added, but it will be weeks or even months before the plant is stabilized.Jaczko said the most important job at the plant still is keeping water in the spent fuel pools to cool the highly radioactive fuel rods, reducing the threat of a meltdown and a catastrophic release of radiation.

      Jaczko, who traveled to Japan last month, said the NRC has begun a two-pronged approach to review the safety of the 104 commercial U.S. nuclear reactors in the wake of the Japanese crisis.

      2.) 12 Apr 11 from The Mainichi Daily News (TOKYO) The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that it is concerned that radiation leakage at the plant could eventually exceed that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

      "The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that the amount of leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it," an official from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    "It has caused less human consequences than a moderate road-traffic accident."

    Odd... I've not seen any road-traffic accidents that resulted in the mandatory evacuation of every human within a 20 kilometre radius, nor caused the ban on sale of a wide variety of agricultural produce, nor that resulted in damage that'll cost tens of billions of pounds (that could otherwise be spent on more worthy projects) to clean up.

    Or is the author perhaps equating 'human consequences' to 'immediate deaths' and therefore blindly ignoring the incredible disruption and economic impact of the accident.

    1. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down


      He's saying that less people have been killed than in a moderate RTA. The "human consequences" that you mention are, in a rational world quite unnecessary. They are only imposed so that the government can be seen to be pandering to the most fearmongering sections of the media, so that they may appease fact ignoring sensationalists like yourself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        In a rational world I wouldn't have had to wait for my school bus to be checked for bombs or leave a hospital ward because of a bomb scare. After all, the IRA never bombed any school buses or hospitals. But "the government" still went ahead and did it because there was elevated risk. It's nothing to do with fear-mongering media.

        The poster was right. In his zeal to counter fear-mongering Lewis went too far with that statement. It's a serious problem and the cautionary measures are highly disruptive.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          try again

          > After all, the IRA never bombed any school buses or hospitals

          Yes,they have. They bombed Musgrave park hospital 10 years or so ago (the link corridor between teh civilian and military bits).

          They've also bombed at least one school bus, where the driver was in the army.

    2. Abremms


      it wasn't the nuclear problems that caused the evacuation or the food bans, it was widespread misinformation and fearmongering coupled with a heavy dose of "play it safe and cover your ass".

      as far as the cleanup costs, I don't know what it is in pounds, but 3 mile island cost around $1billion to clean up (0.6billion pounds? something like that, if google is to be believed.) so for cleanup of all 4 reactors (probably only 3 are beyond repair, but they are at the end of thier life cycle anyways), thats $4billion (2.4billion pounds, again according to google). compare that to the earthquake and tsunami cleanup which is estimated to be well over $100 billion, and fukushima really would never have been anything more than a footnote in the larger disaster, were it not for the unfounded abject terror caused by the radiation monster.

      1. Andydaws

        clean-up costs - yes, and no

        One thing that's happened in the intervening years between TMI and today is that a LOT of work has been done to develop techniques for decommissioning reactors at "end of life" - several have been completely dismantled and removed from site - the working assumption from most industry professionals is in the region of $350-500/KW. That'd be about $375million for Reactors 2 & 3 at Fukushima, less for R1.

        Toshiba seem to be well up for it:

        Obviously, it's a lot easier to dismantle a plant that's been closed down in an orderly manner, as opposed to one that's as thoroughly buggered as R1-R3. I'd double it, then throw in a bit more. Call it £1.5Bn, and you'll be in the right neck of the woods.

        BTW, the Tsunami damage estimates are now closer to $2-300Bn.

        All in all, I'd be surprised if the costs of decommissioning Fukushima were more than 1-2% of the total damage.

        1. Abremms


          ah, your info is more current than mine was, thanks for the articles, interesting stuff there!

          still not cheap, but a very far cry from the "hundereds of billions" some of the more anti-nuclear folks would have us believe. and downright insignifigant compared to the tsunami and earthquake.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      @ AC 'idiot'

      You may not see mandatory evacuations (well....maybe after tanker spills....), but you do see similar knee-jerk reactions by ill-informed morons - usually politicians, journalists (BBC - I too am looking at YOU) or bureaucrats - often leveraging the situation to there own advantage.

      Sticking to the car accident analogy, speed cameras are a good example - great revenue earners, while a great excuse to cut the number of police officers on traffic duty, not to mention a great little empire (the so-called 'road safety partnerships') to maintain.

      With this little situation, the old nuclear paranoia makes for great press and a great way of milking for sympathy (and more cash for whatever empire building Mr. Bureaucrat wants to do).

      Wasn't it one of Blair's people who tried using 9/11 as a great day to bury bad news? Opportunists gather around every corner, looking an angle to rally the easily lead, the ignorant and the impressionable behind their cause with misdirection, half-truths or occasional downright lies.

    4. Rob Moir

      speaking of idocy

      You're equating the consequences of panic and careful precautions in the middle of a massive natural disaster on top of the power station issue with the consequences of the actual nuclear power station issues themselves.

    5. peter 45

      Don't get confused

      between 'evacuate cos it is dangerous' and 'evacuate just in case'.

  7. Emilio Desalvo

    A note on numbers:

    Ichi = 1

    Ni = 2


    Fukushima Daichi = Fukushima Dai 1

    Fukushima Dani = Fukushima Dai 2

    1. K.o.R


      Indeed, and the "dai" part stands for "number" in this context. Imaginatively named, aren't they?

    2. Robert Sneddon

      Numbers not hiragana letters

      "Dai" in this case is a counter, like "number" so Daiichi is "number 1", the same as a popular businessman hotel chain in Japan which is probably getting fewer bookings these days for some reason. Since the Japs do like operator overloading in their language "dai" also means "big" although the kanji character for "big" is different to the one for "number".

      Paris, because of her Daiichis.

      1. Highlander

        Just a small point, but one that needs to be made

        Watch NHK's English broadcasts. They refer to Fukushima Daiichi, not Fukushima Big 1, or Fukushima Number 1.

        If we're going to get all pedantic, should we not first listen to how the name is used in context in the country of origin?

    3. Mostor Astrakan

      Since we seem to be numbering...

      I've heard that Japanese has different numbers for big things and small things, as in "mitsu" being 3 (small). Hence Mitsubishi being "three (small) diamonds".

      Groan moment: In the Metro, nice big fat letters: "Fukushima now seven, like Chernobyl!!!!" It's a bit like priorities on support calls, where lusers keep bleating at you to ESCALATE!!!! SO NOW YOU SODDING BASTARDS WILL FINALLY GET IT THAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING WHAT YOU CAN!!!"

      Never mind that you were *already* doing what you could, only now, because of all this escalation crap, you've lost just a little more time.

  8. Smelly Socks

    Rolling blackouts

    I'm trying to figure out how this correlates with the rolling blackouts that some colleagues in Tokyo were talking to me about a couple of days ago.

    I'm sure you're right, though - and they're wrong. After all, what would they know about electricity?


    1. Anonymous Coward

      Try this:

      "...rolling blackouts mostly didn't occur..."

      Not DIDN'T occur, MOSTLY didn't, which you can read as "some happened, but nowhere near as many as we originally planned"

      "...and ended altogether yesterday"

      Your information would appear to be out of date.

    2. Andydaws

      Well, here's one example of why there are rolling blackouts

      It's an oil-fired plant just up the coast from Fukushima getting totalled by the tsunami.

    3. koncordski

      @ smelly socks

      Eh, what, are you even reading the same article? The article is about scaremongering and needless media fed panic. I'm not surprised there are rolling blackouts, do you think that the Japanese electricity grid has been unaffected by the MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE followed by an VERY DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI?? Remember this is what actually happened and caused massive loss of life, you would think from news reports that Japan suffered a predictable nuclear meltdown about the same time as an unseasonably high tide. The blackouts are because the reactors have been shut down and the transmission grid is also in a less than optimal state. Have a go at lewis, god knows he's got his faults (would F-18's have helped here lewis?? :P ), but make your comments relevant to the article. Prat.

    4. Highlander

      *IF* you could be bothered to look....

      ...for the information rather than talking to your friend, you would know that the rolling blackouts program that was in place has been suspended because conservation efforts and decreased economic activity - due to quake damage and recovery efforts - have reduced overall demand in the TEPCO area by some 20%. So for now, the blackouts are suspended. Their generating capacity is still very compromised, and if demand peaks in the hot summer months, they may have to re-institute blackouts unless they can quickly bring on additional generating capacity.

  9. Dani Eder

    Engineering does not stand still

    Another facet of the nuclear issue that is glossed over by the media is that engineering does not stand still. The Chernobyl plant did not have a containment building. Nobody does that any more. The Daiichi reactors are fairly old (35-40 years), and many improvements in newer plants are not present in that one. Designs for future nuclear plants (Generation III and IV) are even safer.

    The media treats the risks from nuclear power as if they will stay the same forever. That is just not so, we learn from experience, come up with better ideas, do much better simulations today than 1971,etc. Sure, go back and shore up the safety systems of old plants. Try not to place new ones near earthquake and tsunami hazard areas (obvious in retrospect). Use the best new designs with passive safety systems. And report the risks in a factual manner, neither being overly panicy, or try to minimize it.

    1. Highlander

      Not only that but there are three layers of containment at Fukushima

      The reactor vessel, the drywell and the reactor building itself.

      Even though Fukushima is an older design, it's several times safer - from a design point of view, than the reactor that exploded in Chernobyl.

      The thing about the obvious in retrospect aspect of not building nuclear power plants near earthquake and tsunami zones is that the whole of Japan is an earthquake zone. They have no choice what so ever in that respect. That's why a rational assessment of what happened at Fukushima is important, it's also why the constant media harping on about the crisis and conflating the destruction and danger at Chernobyl with Fukushima is so damned destructive. That media coverage destroys any attempt at a rational analysis making it near impossible to look at the real events and lessons of Fukushima.

      Rationally looking at Fukushima Daiichi and Dainii one has to conclude that despite their rather old, and by modern standards in some ways flawed designs, these plants withstood a monstrous earthquake that could not have reasonably been anticipated based on the record history. They were designed for two orders of magnitude less shaking than they received, Even *after* the original quake there have been 5 or 6 major aftershocks of Magnitude 7 or above that exceed the original design limitations of the plant. Yet despite the considerable damage already wrought at Fuykushima Daiichi, these very large earthquakes (in their own right) have not caused any further damage. I think that is an incredible testament to the resilience of the reactors based on their design and construction.

      Looking further though, as Lewis has, a rational assessment of Fukushima cannot in any way say that the crisis at Fukushima is even remotely close to being as dangerous or destructive as that at Chernobyl. Yet many in the media and many commenters here will continue to say that Fukushima is now on par with Chernobyl, when in truth that is absolutely untrue.

      I will now prepare to be downvoted into oblivion...

    2. TheOtherHobbbes


      "The Chernobyl plant did not have a containment building. "

      Some of the reactors at Fukushima don't have containment buildings either - although they did once.

      Meanwhile, away from Planet Denial - which seems like a popular holiday destination on El Reg - here are the latest official cumulative radiation measurements for the area.

      Numbers in the box at the bottom are in mSV, and including a trailing decimal point - so the not so thin blue line is 100mSV.

      Numbers from the spot ground measurements in the box at the left are in Bq/kg.

      Since Lewis and so many other people here seem to think 100msV is a perfectly reasonable zero-health-consequences dose to shower on a population, I wonder how many Reg readers and staff would volunteer to have a beta source placed near their thyroid, or some other sensitive glands, until they'd accumulated an equivalent.

      When all the shouting and melodrama are done - not many, I'd guess.

      Fact is there are reasons why there are dose limits in public health policy. And those reasons are *good* reasons - based on proven effects.

      Meanwhile implying that Chernobyl was a bit of a speed bump but no one was really hurt or killed is utter raving nonsense.

      The Zone may be less dangerous now - after 25 years, you'd hope it would be - but the medical effects are very thoroughly documented. is a reasonable introduction, with further links for those capable of reality-based thinking - and a picture or two for those who aren't.

      1. Ed Deckard


        "I wonder how many Reg readers and staff would volunteer to have a beta source placed near their thyroid, or some other sensitive glands, until they'd accumulated an equivalent."

        Set it up, man. Bring the press, some greenies, maybe The Amazing Randi to make sure I'm not palming some potassium iodide. Whatever you want.

        How much will you pay me to do it?

        I'm serious, btw. You just have to make it worth my time.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Crane operator killed by gravity waves

    The crane operator was killed by dangerous gravity waves radiating from the Earth's centre of mass! Unprotected humans (those without a solid surface, like a floor, between them and the gravity-radiation source) often absorb fatal levels of kinetic energy!

    Governments shouldn't ignore this threat any longer!!!

    1. MeRp

      Note to mention...

      The possibility of a critical failure in the strong force within our bodies; if it failed at the wrong moment (any moment), the result would be instant death! Precautions MUST be taken!

  11. Khephren

    I'm surprised it did so well....

    A shitty forty year old reactor design, that was criticized early in it's life, survives two extreme acts of god, and numerous aftershocks. Not bad. I'm sure more modern design's are even better.

    Anyway LFTR for the win.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon


      "numerous aftershocks"

      hundreds...someone put a web site together with a little timeline video of the shocks, their depth and their area of effect - I'm actually amazed Japan didn't just disappear under the ocean!

      I'll try and dig out the link

  12. Roger Varley

    Airline Crews?

    >>For context, you could live permanently under radiation levels of 0.0016 mS/hr and you would >>never achieve even half the annual dose levels permitted by airline crew.

    Is that because air-crew spend a significant portion of their working lives closer to space-borne radiation than the rest of use, because they are "photographed" by airport scanners more that the rest of us, both or neither?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re. Airline Crews?

      It's because they're slightly less protected by the atmosphere from sources of radiation in space; I seem to recall that Concorde crews (flying at almost twice the altitude of normal aircraft) carried dosimeters as part of tests to ensure crew safety.

    2. Highlander

      Cosmis radiation from being higher in the protective atmosphere, hence a higher relative dosage.

      Subject says it all.

  13. rmast70

    Radiation Under-Reported by Factor of 100

    I don't know where they are coming up with a maximum exposure figure of 0.0016 mSv/hr. Amateurs took a car trip this week to close to the Daiici plant and measured up to 0.108 mSv/hr (100 times more than cited in this article).

    The video is on Youtube, just search for "yp9iJ3pPuL8"

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lewis, you seem strangely fixated on Iodine levels. What about the radioactive caesium-137, which is considered to be more dangerous to human health over the long term due to its half-life of 30 years and solubility in water? It will be years before the exclusions zone will be fully habitable again, hardly as inconsequential as a minor fender bender.

    1. Andydaws

      Iodine and caesium

      Because caesium has been released in much, much smaller quantities - typically two orders of magnitude less, and is less prone to travel over any distance.

      So far, only two sites, both in the town of Iitate have been found with caesium contamination higher than the low (1/5th of the Chernobyl evacuation level) limits on contamination set by the Japanese government - and that's not a lmitation on human habitation, it's on rice-growing.

      That's 5KBq/Kg of soil. It'd give rise about 500Bq/Kg, which is about the same as the legal limit here in the UK for water contamination.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Except that isn't true

        From the New Scientist article,

        "Since 18 March, MEXT has repeatedly found caesium levels above 550 kBq/m2 in an area some 45 kilometres wide lying 30 to 50 kilometres north-west of the plant. The highest was 6400 kBq/m2, about 35 kilometres away, while caesium reached 1816 kBq/m2 in Nihonmatsu City and 1752 kBq/m2 in the town of Kawamata, where iodine-131 levels of up to 12,560 kBq/m2 have also been measured."

        1. Andydaws

          And the odd thing is..

          The only references I can find via Google are blogs quoting that New Scientist article - nothing from MEXT themselves, or from the IAEA or any other monitoring body.

          New Scientist isn't what it was

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Try here

            The data itself is in the link in the NS article. If New Scientist isn't good enough for you, how about Nature:


        2. David Dawson

          Using a a very non scientific method

          I went looking for their data. (from MEXT, that is)

          This is the reading from a helicopter flying around (as in, outside) the zone.

          These are readings taken while driving through the exclusion zone.

          New Scientist is a red top, no matter their subject matter. If they can't scream that everything is about global warming or bash some creationists, they often seem to just not bother.

          I read it for the pictures :-D

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: Caesium

      Lewis is "fixated" on iodine levels because iodine is what's producing the current relatively high levels of radiation around the plant. Caesium was released in very small amounts, well below any dangerous levels: even leafed vegetables grown in the area had amounts of caesium below legal limits for human consumptions, and that's plants on which the stuff fell directly on; caesium in plants which merely grew on the soil would be completely irrelevant. The exclusion zone will be habitable again pretty much as soon as the crisis is solved.

    3. elderlybloke


      Dear Anon Coward, Posted Tuesday 12th April 2011 14:43 GMT

      Caesium 137 is something my wife is very familiar with.

      Following a Hysterectomy for Overian and Uterine Cancer ,she had 6 months of Chemotherapy , 5 weeks of Radiation by a machine blasting her with "External Beam Radiation Therapy" .

      Then as a final treatment she had three days of Internal Radiation by an insertion of Caesium 137.

      An impressive sign on the entrance to her room warned not to enter because of this dangerous radiation.

      I ignored it as it seemed completely stupid to me.

      The point about all this , is that eleven (11) years later her (and I ) and not showing any ill effects of the radiation.

      If their is any life reduction because of it , it needs to happen soon as she is now 75

      Get your dose of Caesium 137 , it can save your liffe.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Fail at statistics

        I'm not even sure where to begin here, elderlybloke, expect that the final sentence of "Get your dose of Caesium 137 , it can save your liffe" marks you out as either a parodist or extremely dim.

        If the latter, is your lesson in statistics that because you and your wife are both still alive, despite being in contact with Caesium 137, that the health risks are therefore 0%?

        You know what, I've been sun burnt a couple of times in my life, and I don't have skin cancer yet. Therefore the risk of contracting skin cancer due to over-exposure to the sun are 0%!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    where's "investigative reporting" when it's time to "follow the money"?

    a little more pressure from the same "international community" that makes billions per year selling petrochemicals and the Scare Machine gets another boost. For less than a single distant Saudi by-blow spends on his private jet maintenance for a year, the Media can be bought and manipulated to make sure fossil fuels remain King for another century.

    Fukishima is NOT Chernobyl. NOT EVEN CLOSE. But is this the same "international agency" that ignored the shuffling of bio and chem weapons from the Middle Eastern nations that bribed their inspectors in order to score a few political "gotcha" points, yet refused to issue any sort of retraction when the proof was in their face or killing civilians in the Sudan?

    Nuclear power NOW! All the fearmongers (many of the same folk who believe in "carbon credits", "cap and trade", and Algoreanism not surprisingly) can become the energy-less serfs they seem to want everyone *else* to become.

    Energy is the key to societal survival-regardless of what source it is, the culture that has abundant energy will dominate the ones that do not. Any politician suppressing his own nations' energy production is either a pawn of his enemies or a traitor, because he is killing his own nation with the same effect as the Allies' bombing campaign destroyed the economy and with it the nation of Nazi Germany.

    But passive-aggressive wankers love media propaganda because they might be personally at risk in an honest stand-up fight. If they had to dedicate a nation to war to earn dominance, they might find their opinions and plans can't get enough support to even attempt a war. Propaganda allows small minorities to succeed (apartheid) where open debate or hostility requires some measure of support by the people.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let reasoned arguments get throw through the window :)

    I've read both of the articles from Lewis and thought them well written, cogent and well researched. I haven't read anything refuting them from anybody else that appears to be as well put together.

    I know zilch about the nuclear industry, so am the uninformed ignoramus on the Clapham bus.I have no axe to grind either way. What is interesting is the abuse being hurled at Lewis from people though. e.g.

    >>"It has caused less human consequences than a moderate road-traffic accident."

    >Odd... I've not seen any road-traffic accidents that resulted in the mandatory evacuation of >every human within a 20 kilometre radius, nor caused the ban on sale of a wide variety of >agricultural produce, nor that resulted in damage that'll cost tens of billions of pounds (that >could otherwise be spent on more worthy projects) to clean up.

    Well the point Lewis was making was that these consequences are because people/organisations/countries are going over the top in their response. If we refer to the first posters link, it appears that nobody died, some people were slightly hurt but on the whole it wasn't too bad. Too bad would be having a Tsuami on your doorstep and 10,000+ people dying. Now that is a catastrophe.

    The other quotes stating that there are congenital deformities need to back this up. Claims need evidence, extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. Hear say from the bloke in the pub simply doesn't work here. Lewis has made claims that nobody has yet refuted in either article (and yes I read most of the 300 or so comments in the last article). So if you disagree with him over the levels of radiation received, about whether dumping the contaminated water back in the sea poses a problem, or the number of people who haven't died, then put your evidence forward and lets test it, Otherwise we simply won't believe you and assume you're a sandal wearing, lentil eating Guardian reader (which is fairly close to me).

    So put up or shut up.


    1. Highlander

      Reason and fact have no place in this debate over faith and superstition

      Sadly, the discussions about Fukushima both in the public sphere, the news media and the political sphere have degenerated into little more than superstition or faith. Reason and fact would require people to look in the mirror and face reality, which it seems we humans are loathe to do. If one looks at the radiation monitoring stations throughout Japan, with the notable exception of localized values in three locations (other than the powerplant itself) in Fukushima prefecture, the radiation levels are near normal background radiation for that area, and within the normal background radiation you might experience in some parts of the US, Europe and other parts of the world, especially those with large amounts of granite bedrock and granite used in construction. Even so, thanks to the western media's mad conspiracy theories, superstitions and constant conflation of Chernobyl and Fukushima, people are so scared in Japan (politicians especially), that rather than tell the truth and tell people to stop worrying, they are pandering to the fears by considering a wider evacuation zone. This is despite the fact that the radiation levels have been falling for weeks, in fact they have fallen by orders of magnitude since the initial evacuation zones were established. However it'd be political suicide to step forward and point this out, so no one does.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Maybe all this is false but...

      You should check the documentary "The Battle of Chernobyl"

      Maybe it's all a manipulative attempt of the anti nuke crowd, but somehow I at least give some credibility to the testimonials, the pictures apparently made by some of the "liquidators" and other materials presented.

      And yes, I know of someone that managed to do a completely fake documentary proving that men never actually set foot in the moon. But this....

      They look pretty authentic. So do the pictures of the deformed children. Ah yes, nobody can actually prove that those were due to exposure to radiation. After all, it happened decades ago.

      There are lots of reasons to support nuclear power, mostly purely economical. The weakest one is that is safer than the alternatives. If only we could agree that we agree with the economical reasons, but the people cheering how safe it is are the ones living closer to the reactors....

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @smelly socks

    Ok, lets put a coal or gas-fired station right where the defunct reactors are now.

    And let's pretend that they survived the earthquake an tsunami - unlikely because they wouldn't have been over-engineered to the same extent. But lets pretend

    Then how the heck are you going to get the fuel to the powerstation to keep it going? The ports are wrecked. The roads unpassable. The trains washed away. The truth is that =only= a nuclear reactor that has to be fueled every other decade could possibly provide power in the immediate aftermath of something like this... if only those tsunami defences had been a little higher.

    1. Andydaws

      gas storage plants didn't do too well

      I've seen the safety assessments for Exxon's (relatively small) storage facilities at FAwley. There's a small but significant risk of a blast in the hundreds of tonnes of TNT range.

    2. Filippo Silver badge

      let's put a *** station instead

      It's worth noting that a dam of equivalent power, subjected to the same earthquake, would have likely burst, instantly killing everyone below. But yeah, hydroelectric good, nuclear bad.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Give it a rest already

    We get it. Nuclear power is just super duper fab! In the event of a catastrophic failure the worst that can happen is a release of fluffy bunnies in a similar manner to what happened at the end of each level of sonic the original hedgehog. Renewable energy on the other hand is the devils business. It will kill all wildlife within 100 miles, make you sterile and pee in your pint when you turn your back.

    We give in. You are right in every way, and everyone else is so so wrong.

    Now please shut the f**k up hand your keyboard over to an adult.

    1. James Hughes 1


      For that well thought out and brilliantly well expounded refutation of Mr Page's article.

      Thanks god people like you exist to blow these calm-mongers away.

      Or, perhaps you should STFU as well.

    2. Andydaws

      That's rich....

      the problem with renewables isn't that they kill sildlife - they just cost an utter fortune, and make very little electricity.

    3. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: Give it a rest already

      Ah, a well-reasoned response! I find your argument compelling, especially the final bit suggesting that Lewis should not be allowed to write. Although I'm not exactly sure whether the idea is that the people who should "hand their keyboard over" are those who disagree with you, or those who are able to provide verified facts to back their positions, or both.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        I don't disagree... in fact I said as much

        This is (was?) an IT site ('Biting the hand that feeds IT') so I come here for IT news. If I cared deeply about nuclear power I would go to a nuclear industry blog (I don't and I don't). It's nice to occasionally liven up my coffee break with a Lester Haines piece about Bulgarian airbags or swedish lesbians raiding spermbanks. I also like to read the occasional inflammatory opinion piece, but do we really need to hear the same opinion on the same topic, again and again, day in day out. Is there really nothing else in the world you want to write about?

        Get a room, or take it outside. Either way <as title> <as icon>

    4. Aaron Em

      "Now please shut the f**k up hand your keyboard over to an adult."

      Ah, irony, every time with you is like the first time all over again.

    5. M Gale

      Fukushima releasing bunnies in a multi-sprite animated explosion.

      I don't care if everyone's downvoting you. You get an upvote purely for that mental image.

      Better hand me a new keyboard though. Tell you what, give me the one you just nicked from Lewis and we'll call it even.

    6. galbak

      pee in your pint when you turn your back.

      Given modern lager, could this be a bad thing?

      mines the one with the CAMRA badge.

  19. Filippo Silver badge


    Thanks Lewis for providing a much-needed fact-based opinion. Unfortunately, you're in a small minority. Most mainstream media is fanning the flames of hysteria, and nuclear seems to be doomed. I've given up trying to make people reason: I'm tired of getting called names, of having to debate people who confuse milli with micro, of getting told that the solution to the energy problem is "simply" to build a hundred thousand square kilometers of solar panels in Sahara or getting everyone to renounce cars and aircon. At least you get paid for this torment; good for you.

    I'm done, I give up - the world clearly deserves to choke in the smoke from coal, dead miners, and wasted subsidies for the next 20 years, or as long as it takes before the need for nuclear power will so blindingly, desperately obvious that it cannot be denied. It will be a meager consolation to be able to say "you know, if only we did this back in the 2000s, we'd have saved millions of lives and billions of money". I just hope I don't die of lung cancer from airborne particulates before that time.

    1. Highlander

      Don't give up, you'll hate yourself for it.

      It's not easy paddling against the tide, but I've thought long and hard about this over the last few weeks myself. I realized that if I gave in to the nut jobs and stopped trying to use fact and reason, I might as well join in the orgy of superstition and fear. I realized that if I did that, I would really not like myself. Despite the accusations of being a heartless bastard for having the temerity to look at the facts and try to use reason instead of immediately jumping on the emotion bandwagon, I am certain that facing any situation with fact and reason is a preferable course to the path that the media and panic driven public and politicians are taking.

  20. Richard Cartledge

    Well written

    Very interesting and well written.

  21. Andrew Jones 2

    a title

    Oh I see...... the only possible downside to a nuclear accident is death??

    So you don't consider the fact that hundreds of thousands have been evacuated and many more are due to be when the exclusion zone is extended over the next month to be any sort of a problem at all?

    You do realise that if this had happened at Doonray nuclear power station in Scotland - the proposed new exclusion zone would mean all of Edinburgh and quite a substantial area of Fife would have to be evacuated? According to Wikipedia the population of Edinburgh is 477,660 people.

    I am sorry - I guess I just wasn't aware that "experts" measure the scale of a problem in deaths. In that case 9/11 in America obviously wasn't that big a deal - sure some people died - but many millions of people did not - phew!

    1. Andrew Norton

      I need to update my figures a bit, but here goes

      9/11 wasn't THAT big a deal in and of itself. Here's some interesting statistics. (Note, some of these figures were computed in september 2010, others Jan 2010.

      The aircraft that were used in NYC, took off from Boston. Both cities were major supporters of the IRA. (that's just coincidence though)

      In September 2001, more than 3,000 people died on US roads, as they had the month before, the month after, or indeed on average every month for the past 15 years.

      You are 155x more likely to die on US roads, than in a terrorist incident anywhere in the world where US civilians were injured or killed, or US millitary 'outposts' were targetted, over the last 15 years.

      You are 74x more likely to be murdered in the US, than be killed in a US targeting terrorist attack, over the last 15 years.

      You are twice as likely to be killed by the weather in the US, than by a terrorist action targeting the US.

      As of Jan 2010, the odds of being on a flight in the US that was involved in a terrorist action, was 10,000,000-1 over the previous 10 years. That's lottery jackpot odds.

      So, while there has been millions and billions spent on 'anti-terrorism', the US National Weather Service has had it's funding cut; police forces have had their funding cut, while also being told to spend time 'hunting terrorists'; and absolutely nothing has been done to increase driver safety through training (coupled with reduced cops, again).

      Hysteria, it gets people elected.

      1. dr2chase

        It's a good deal worse than that.

        All that driving -- because "everybody knows" how unsafe it is to walk or bike -- means very many people don't get enough exercise. That risk is large -- probably an order of magnitude larger than the risk from car crashes. One study showed a 39% higher mortality rate for people who did not ride a bicycle to work.

        (I eagerly await the Lewis Page jihad against the killer car culture; the numbers are pretty damning, and he goes by the numbers, right?)

    2. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      That'd be the "Doonray" at the northern tip of Scotland,

      183 miles from Edinburgh....About ten times the size of the exclusion zone.

      and usually spelled Dounreay.

      Always good to discuss these things with well informed opponents.....are you sure you'd not mixed it up with "Doonesbury"? The latter sounds more your sort of thing.

    3. Sir Sham Cad

      @Andrew Jones 2

      Well, yes, you've basically highlighted the main negative human effect of the damage caused to the Fukushima Daiichi plant (I don't think calling it a nuclear accident is fair as the accident was not caused by anything at all to do with the activities of the nuclear plant) has been the evacuation and exclusion zones and, of course, the disruption and suffering to human life caused by that is not to be handwaved away by saying "nobody died so no harm done".

      However, a look at the facts as presented tells us that this exclusion zone was not mandated due to actual radiological risk to human health. It was mandated because, in the face of the same fears of the radiation bogeyman that Lewis' article is actually about, it was a political impossibility for the authorities to do anything else. I, certainly, would not be telling people "no, stay put, don't worry about it, it won't hurt you" even though the facts as we know them know say that they could happily have stayed put.

      This is no different to, say, a large poison cloud from a chemical plant explosion. Compare and contrast, for example, Bhopal and Jilin to Chernobyl and Fukushima, in terms of evacuations, death toll and lasting environmental damage. Drawing your own conclusions is encouraged.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Operation CYA (cover your ass)

        its all about covering thier own ass for the officials in this. better safe that sorry, and all. is a 20km evacuation strictly necessary? doubtfull. but its better to evacuate and be safe than let people stay put and have the Worst Case Scenario Of The Day come to pass. they make it a level 7 incident because its better to overestimate it than to underestimate and get burned. they ban local produce so that if someone gets cancer in 50 years they can't blame it on some sushi they had back in 2011. it is 100% about self preservation or, more importantly, position preservation for most politicos.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Fed up of over-reactions to over-reactions.

    Seemingly there is now only one thing worse than nuclear scaremongers, and that is imbalanced rantings of nuclear accident denying plonkers like yourself.

    Perhaps you could use the considerably insignificant fortune you've amounted writing these articles to relocate yourself and your family (although I sincerely hope you have none) to a nice empty house within the 1km exclusion zone around Fukushima. From there you can write us a daily blog on how quiet the roads are.

    Whilst there perhaps you can help knock up a papier mache entombment chamber for the reactors and perfectly safe byproducts of the Fukushima controlled shutdown, and keep the unseasonably warm sea water they've been keeping for a rainy day in your outdoor swimming pool.

    Let's not worry to much whether a plume of plutonium dust happened to land in your back garden as the total amount of radiation emitted when multiplied out by X square metres of the 1km exclusion zone is well within the amount my airline pilot friend was exposed to before he happened to contract non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

    Finally when this scare story finally runs out you can get back to your day job of ranting about second hand cigarette smoke, global warming conspiracies and writing your wikipedia page that proves the earth really is flat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Dont' mistake cause and effect

      @AC 15:26GMT

      Whilst I'm sorry to hear of your friends illness, I would like to point out that one of my friends also developed (and died of) non-Hodgkins Lymphoma; he was driving a milk tanker in rural Staffordshire though. Maybe milk cases cancer?

      1. Andrew Norton


        My step-daughters cousin got it when she was 22, and had just had a baby (he's now 11). Maybe babies cause it!

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Cause == overreaction, effect == overreaction in opposite direction

        Sorry to hear about your friend, ours seems to have beaten it for the time being.

        You mistake my reasons for mentioning it which were simply to highlight the meaninglessness of invoking "dose levels" for aircrew. Who knows whether my friend was unlucky or it was related to his work, perhaps it was radiation, perhaps it was jet fumes, who knows.

        What matters is that Mr Page seeks to condemn overreactions and in doing so it guilty of a similar overreaction. The truth is of course somewhere inbetween the two.

  23. M Gale

    Wind? Low tech?

    Just because it doesn't involve smashing atoms into their component particles, doesn't mean modern computerised windfarms are anything short of mind-bogglingly complex. Yes, the basic operation is "wind makes a set of blades turn around", but that's a little like saying "stuff enough uranium in one place and it gets very hot".

    That and aerogeneration as we know it hasn't been around for much longer than nuclear power. It's a modern technology. Oh, there's some small scale electrical generation going back to the late 19th century, and people have been filling sails with wind for millennia. The heavy duty stuff however, only really started appearing in the 30s and 40s, possibly due to revolutions (har har) in aerofoil design.

    Now if you can put a big metal and chicken-wire frame around the things and make them look like giant desk fans, you could probably get rid of the one real environmental impact of wind farms which is the exploding pink feather clouds that tend to result from flocks of birds flying through the blades.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      re: birds

      I suppose we should all replace our windows with bird friendly ones too?

      1. M Gale

        I didn't say "should".

        I said "could."

        And yes, you could. If you were concerned by that sort of thing.

      2. dr2chase

        Rubber windows


    2. Andydaws

      And, with all of that high tech...

      Wind still as to obey a basic physical law - the energy impinging on the blade discs varies with the thrid power of the wind speed.

      The implications of which are huge.

      Say you design for twice the average windspeed in an area - i.e. when you get your maximum output. When the wind's blowing at the average speed, then you get 1/8th of your design capacity.

      Which matters, of course, since it's the peak output that determines the cost of the plant, in terms of size and complexity of components, erection cost and so on. That's why costs get quoted in £/KW.

      Alternatively, if you design for average speed, you still only produce a fraction of your (lower) output - because half the time the blades are feathered, and the available energy below the average speed still varies with that third power.

      Keep making the plants higher tech, they just get more expensive - and do bugger-all to affect that fundamental lmitation.

      Next, Betz's law, and why there's a thermodynamic limitation of 56% in terms of a wind turbine's ability to extract the energy from incident wind.

      1. MrBilious

        And, with all of that high tech...


        Initially I thought wind power was a complete waste too but reducing the cost of said components, materials and general mass saving will then lead to cheaper foundations and erection. Secondly (as I've read in prior Reg articles), having optimised aero elastic surfaces on the blades like on helicopters and laser monitoring of oncoming wind will give a good efficiency increase too. I really think that in 10-20 years current turbines will look like museum pieces. Cost/KW is just going to go down and down and become more and more financially viable.. Especially when you consider the vastly increasing fuel costs in the future.

        1. Andydaws


          I think you've misunderstood the nature of windfarm costs...

          First, costs are rising, not falling - historically, they've gone up ahead of inflation. There's a glut on the market at the moment, but that's maintly reflecting cancellations.

          Second, if anything capacity factors, etc. are likely to fall - inevitably, in the main more favourable sites get developed first, and then more expensive/less favourable sites later. THat's certainly been the experience as shown to date

          Third, the empirical evidence is, developers are demanding higher, not lower subsidies with time, in order to get projects launced. The original (onshore) schemes could make money at 1 RO/Mwh. Then, in 2009 or 2010, that had to be upped to 1.5RO, and subsequently 2 RO/MWh, for HMG to be able to claim that it was maintaining progress. That's due to drop back to 1.5 sometime in the next 12 months - my bet is, it'll end up being maintained at 2 RO.

          However, there's a more fundamental reason why you're not about to see step change - all the things you mention increase capital cost, while (potentially) improving performance. however, there are good reasons to doubt that increasing performance can make a step change in economics.

          Have you heard of "Betz's law"?


          It's a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics - which places a limit on the maximum proportion of the energy incipient in the blade disc that can be recovered. It's a bit under 60%. Further, there are limits on how close that can in reality be approached, and that varies with the wind/blade speed.

          Current generation turbines already do fairly well - they'll remove 40% plus of the available energy. But note that - that means at best they could do half as well again.

          Then, there's the matter of how much energy's actually available. it varies with the CUBE of wind-speed. So, if I design a turbine to make 1MW in a 50 kph wind (at maximum output), it means two things - anything more than that, I'll have to waste energy (because it's the maximum my plant is built for), or worse, trip to avoid overspeeding the blades. Second, it means if the wind's 20kph, I'm not going to get 400Kw of the design maximum ouput - I'm going to get 64Kw.

          In reality, I'll get less, because of that efficiency relationship.

          Also, as to costs. If you look at where the cost is in a turbine build, it's dominated by site-erection costs, and by a few major components - the blades, hub and pylon. The generator itself, and the gearbox probably account for no more than 10-15% of the cost of an erected turbine.

          Why's that important? None of them are likely to be impacted greatly by economies of scale in production. Blades are basically aircraft wings (especially so if you make them more complex, as you suggest). Despite having an aircraft industry operating for a century, we've never managed to apply mass production/assembly line techniques to wing construction, especially larger ones. Go to any Airbus or Boeing factory, and you'll see it's dominated by hand-assembly processes - right down to the rivetting of wing-skins onto the underlying structure. Most turbine blades are made from fibreglass - hand-laid, and subject to multi-day curing times. An even worse prospect...Similarly, we're never automated propellor or rotor hub construction, for reasons of complexity.

          The same applies to the pylon, and pretty much by definition to the erection activities.

          You've completely lost me as to why foundation costs should come down - the experience to date is very much the opposite, that rigidity, etc. will have to increase from earlier designs - many of which are suffering from grouting failures, etc. And the desing of foundations will always be dominated by the local geology/soil mechanics. No economies of scale there.

    3. galbak
      Thumb Up

      Flying macnuggets

      On that note, is there anyway we can use one problem, (bird-unfriendly slice and dice windmills) to solve another problem, airborne vermin like seagulls, and feral pidgeons that crap all over the place and cost thousands of tax payers pounds to clean up after?

      We could even put the wind generators near landfill sites, and on top of local govement buildings in town, bonus points for sending the worst civil servants out to clean them, without head gear.....


  24. Jolyon


    "As for the INES nuclear incident scale and Fukushima's new 7 rating – the highest possible – you could draw various lessons from that.

    But the only rational conclusion to draw is that an industry which can have an accident at the extreme top of its possible internationally agreed accident scale without killing a single person is already so safe that it probably deserves to relax its costly precautions quite a lot"

    This may be true but it's not a conclusion you can draw at all yet (as you half acknowledge with your 'probably) and it certainly isn't the *only* conclusion that can be drawn - that the rating system is flawed being one other.

    We may be able to provide nuclear power more cheaply with relaxed safety regulation but we've not established this for certain yet.

    This sort of jumping to hoped-for conclusions together with the sneering tone does not result in articles which give me a lot of hope that the argument will be swung in the right direction for the right reasons.

    Is there any chance of a bland, unsensationalist Reg article by an expert plainly summarising the facts?

  25. HP Cynic

    I can't take them seriously NOW

    If the top rating on that scale is 7 and they've decided this non-event is a 7 then what happens if there is one day a true nuclear disaster somewhere - a meltdown, a massive explosion wiping out a town or similar or similar "Disaster Movie" fare?

    Will the scale be revised up to 11?

    Truly pathetic.

    1. Highlander

      That's precisely why the INES level is a poor measure...

      This is exactly the point. the INES level is not a measure of the harm done, rather like the scale for hurricanes if has a maximum category, and once you hit that maximum, it doesn't matter how far you go past the max, it's just maximum. But there's a world of difference between a minimal category 5 hurricane and a 200MPH cat 5 storm. Actually, there's several orders of magnitude difference in the destructive capacity, but the scale doesn't adequately reflect that.

      Even that comparison is a poor one because the INES level is not an indicator for the number of fatalities or the number of people who's health is definitely affected. It relates to the amount of material released and they types of response required. Since a large quantity of very short lived isotopes were released, the amount of material probably qualifies it as INES 7 despite the fact that in the case of the Iodine released approximately 6% of it remains active, so the original release was large, but the lasting consequence - of the Iodine - is not. Because some cesium was also released (longer half life) and there are hotspots that will require cleanup, evacuations and planned countermeasures are required. the counter measures will include topsoil removal at a reasonable distance from Fukushima, which also is a qualifier for INES level 7. so according to the scale itself, level 7 is probably right. But as can be seen, level 7 doesn't mean scores of deaths and many hundreds of injuries, just that there was a messy accident that needs clean-up.

      Of course now I'll be accused of downplaying it when all I'm doing is offering some perspective on what INES level 7 actually means in this context.

  26. Alex Walsh

    MIT made me laugh

    "However, what is of interest today in Japan are dose-rates more like 10, 30, or 100 times background. What about these dose rates? ... low doses and low dose rates led to increased longevity rather than the decreased lifespan seen at higher doses and dose rates."

    So basically a load of Japanese people are going to live longer.

  27. frank ly

    Thyroid Cancer Is Curable - but .....

    "Fortunately, thyroid cancer – unusually among cancers – is almost always curable without ill effects...."

    Not so. It is curable, in some cases by surgical operation (very tricky given the location of the thyroid gland) or more usually by zappng the cancer cells (and the rest of the thyroid gland) with a high dose of radioactive iodine. Either way, the end result is the destruction of the thyroid gland. This has the consequence (obviously) that the thyroid gland no longer functions to produce essential thyroid hormones, which are required for every aspect of body cell metabolism.

    The 'solution' to this problem is to take a daily dose of thyroid hormone (in simple tablet form) for the rest of your life. Getting the dosage right takes ages and the absorption via the upper intestine is variable, depending on individual factors as well as the day to day 'quality' of the gut, i.e. it is subject to variations due to 'tummy troubles' etc. If you don't take this hormone replacement treatment, you slowly die over a period of months. While you're messing about getting the dosage right ( 7- day half life in the body, dosage changes take over a month to stabilise), your body metabolism gets royally screwed up and has consequences for the liver and other organs which take years to recover, if they ever do.

    Just check out any web-forum for people who suffer from this condition. Removal/destruction of the thyroid gland gives you problems for the rest of your life. I should know because I have to take thyroid hormones every day and I am quite well 'managed' compared to some people in a similar situation.

    Thyroid cancer is curable, but it gives you a lifetime of ill effects and inconvenience.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Inconvenient yes, but not quite on the same level as dying of radiation sickness which is what the mainstream media seem to want people to believe will happen if you drink contaminated water in Japan. I believe Lewis was just trying to make clear that rather than suffer radiation sickness you're only increasing your risk of thyroid cancer (an illness that is curable in most cases and the long term effects are - in your own words - only 'inconvenient') by a measly 0.02%.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. maclovinz


    ACHTUNG!!! Flaming post ahead!

    Nobody writing "articles" (more like blog posts) knows what they are talking about at all, since NONE of them are Atomic Scientists, nor have you been on the ground there, have ye? (Just making a guess, maybe I'm wrong....but I doubt it.)

    It's a fucking disaster! Will it spread the world over, NO, but it HAS BEEN (already) bad for the immediate area.

    So, just shut the fuck up and let these good people work to save their own asses.

    Look at the way these people in Japan handle themselves just to make a phone call or get food. They don't knock each other over madly, or get into fights, like we would is most western nations. When the cards are down, western nations, with all their religious beliefs of "peace" and "love thy neighbor" say, "FUCK everyone else, I'm FIRST."

    I have an agenda to push: A person CAN be smart, but most people are fucking stupid and annoying, and ruin the Earth for everyone else.

    Flame on.

  29. caffeine addict

    Oh the cowards...

    Dear god these comment pages would be boring if the Anonymous option was taken away.

    1. maclovinz


      i get annoyed sometimes (as above) but, I don't mind the screen name being there. I get annoyed, I'm human ( far as you know, muahhahaahaa!!!!).

      Unfortunately, even 'i' can get a little irrational every once in a while. But, my point above isn't all wrong, because things on this earth ARE being ruined by humans. If they used a newer technology in their reactor or updated it, like to an LFTR, then this would never have happened, as they are practically meltdown-proof, as there is no pressurized components like in the 40-year-old technologies (even still) currently being implemented in new construction today.

      But still, most commentards don't have a clue HOW the technology behind it works, NOR have they been there to survey the reactors themselves. Nor WOULD they go given the opportunity, as they'd be scared shitless of the radiation consequences even though they purport that there are NO consequences from it.

      Ah well. I'll have anuther beer...

  30. Andrew Jones 2

    re: a title

    Sorry - by Doonray (Dounreay) I obviously meant Torness - I am forever getting those two mixed up....

    1. defiler

      Torness, in East Lothian

      It's an AGR - the cooling's a lot cleverer than these boiling-water reactors. I'll not suggest that it's faultless, but the steam explosions (Chernobyl) and hydrogen explosions (Fukushima) are avoided by using a gas as your coolant. (Carbon dioxide off the top of my head - oh no, my carbon footprint!) But that's the difference between a 25-year-old reactor and a 40-year-old reactor. I dread to think how hard it is to break a new design...

      I've already said it to people I work with. If Torness starts to go awry, I'll be driving over and camping by the gates just to prove a point. Still, it's not in an earthquake zone, nor a tsunami / tidal-wave zone, it's at the top of a cliff, and one of the most significant safety events since it was built was an RAF Tornado breaking down in the sky above it, and the pilot had to turn away from the plant before ejecting.

      I guess, as Lewis says, we should have got rid of those pesky Tornados!

      1. Andydaws

        as someone who worked on..

        the design for Torness and it's sister station, Heysham II, you're a bit off on a few points...

        First, Torness and Heysham II vare both based on a lightly tweaked version of the design from Hinkley Point B and Hunterston. Which were ordered in about 1968. It's definitely 40 year old tech - they were the first two stations with fully digital control systems!

        Steam/hydrogen reactions inside the core are a possibility - they're one of the design basis events. It's because the boilers sit inside the pressure vessel with the core (there's a seriously big steel gas baffle between them, but coolant flow would carry water round). Bursting pipes on a boiler are a scram event.

        The reason the AGR is safe for that event is simple. A f**k off big 5 meter thick reinforced concrete pressure vessel. And, since the core's inside the gas baffle, any blast effect has to find it's way round the bottom of it before it can impact anything load bearing.

        It's a bastard to build, though (along with some other bits). And you do have to have more shutdown redundancy than other designs, since you can lose coolant circulation, while still having moderation. That's why they were a bit of a dead end.

        They're designed to be slightly leaky, though. I can't recall the exact number, but it's either 5 tonnes of CO2 a day, or a week. It was fun sitting at the gates during the miners strike, watching the pickets wave through the CO2 tankers and waiting to stop fuel deliveries to Heysham I.

        1. maclovinz


          So, since you seem to have a grasp on the technology, am I correct that an LFTR has lees possibility (to nil) of a meltdown?

          1. Andydaws

            well, at one level....

            you might argue that an LFTR is in a state of continual meltdown, in that the fuel's in liquid form - but that's being slightly flippant.

            The real answer is "perhaps". The usual argument made by LFTR/MSR proponents is that the fuel can me drained down into cooling tanks. I'm less than entirely convinced. There's still a lot of heat to get rid of (not as much as a conventional reactor, as a lot of the fission products are continually removed). The claim is that that can be done by air cooling - my reaction is, that's viable with a small unit (up to perhaps 100MW thermal, at a guess), but when dealing with the several hundred tonnes core inventory of something economically sized, that's unlikely to be feasible. Losing tens of megawatts to air needs a lot of surface area! I'm sure there are passive systems that could work, using water, but that's not the best mix with hot salts....

            The MSR's safety challenges are rather different (and are heavily tied to the challenges of making it viable economically and technically). At least in thorium fuelled form, they are marginal on neutron economy. To work the fission products that act as neutron absorbers ("poisons") need to be removed aggressively, and that's not easy to do. Taking out the worst - Xenon - involves spraying the 700-800C fuel at pressure through an inert atmosphere, and then isolating the gas while it decays. Taking out protactinium (a precursor of u233 in the breeding cycle) involves bubbling fuel through liquid bismuth. Getting out any surplus uranium involves forcing flourine through the fuel, and taking off the resultant uranium hexaflouride (nasty stuff, too). Removing the other stuff is no less challenging - and although you've extracting things like iodine and caesium, the inventory is still stored on site.

            The net result is, although the main circuit may have advantages, a lot of the ancillary plant is pretty high hazard, and hard to do things like earthquake protection.

            TBH, I don't know that the overall result is likely to be net safer than a conventional approach. The one things that's for certain is that these beasts will be a lot more complicated and harder to run than the enthusiasts would have you believe.

        2. Andydaws

          Apologies, one thing I should have made clear re Torness.

          Any hydrogen production would be from a graphite-water reaction, not zirconium-water as in TMI and Fukushima. that's because there's no zircalloy - AGR fuel pins are stainless steel clad. It's better mechanically than zircalloy, about the same thermally, but not as good for neutron economy.

          I'm developing a bee in my bonnet that a moved to stainless stell cladding across the board might be no bad thing - it'd mean higher-enrichment fuel, but in an LWR would remove the possibility of hydrogen generation.

  31. sisk


    #1) Officials don't raise warning levels in response to public fear. Doing so would be counter productive. Nor do they do so because they're being 'badgered'.

    #2) I dare say that the officials on site know more about both the current situation and the long term consequences of radioactive pollution than a reporter sitting in Britan.

    #3) Would you feed your child food from that area? Yeah, I thought not.

    Ok, so the quake and the tsunami were worse. That doesn't mean that this isn't a disaster.

    As for Chernoble

    1. Andydaws

      You've an odd idea of how the official mind works....

      "#1) Officials don't raise warning levels in response to public fear. Doing so would be counter productive. Nor do they do so because they're being 'badgered'."

      Officials respond to the agenda set by their political masters.

      "#2) I dare say that the officials on site know more about both the current situation and the long term consequences of radioactive pollution than a reporter sitting in Britan."

      So far as I'm aware, the INES scale has nothing to say about long term consequences - note, it was in place as far back as the 1970s, before we derived a large proportion of our knowledge.

      "#3) Would you feed your child food from that area? Yeah, I thought not."


      Given that I've lived in parts of the country where radon exposures would be a multiple of the exposures you'd get even from eating stuff with heavy iodine contamination for a year - which is impossible for obvious reasons - and expose the lungs, a far more sensitive organ.

      1. ThomB

        "Officials respond to the agenda set by their political masters...."

        @ Andydaws

        They often do. However, I suppose that in this case the term "masters" would apply to the Japanese government. If you agree on that, please explain to me what these people hope to gain from constantly pushing up the incident's INES level -- billions in foreign aid?

        1. Andydaws


          Simple. The one thing politicians always have to do, in a democracy when something over which they have no control is going on.

          They need to look like they're "doing something". Especially something that'll be popular, or reassuring.

          Let's be honest, Kan can do fuck-all to impact the outcome of what's happening in the station (at least, in a positive way). And he (and his government) have looked pretty inept so far. So, it's time to look like "we're getting a grip"

          1. ThomB

            "Let's be honest, Kan can do fuck-all..."

            "And he (and his government) have looked pretty inept so far."

            Yup. Agreed. As have the TEPCO management and the majority of people concerned with this case, explicitly excluding the rescue/safety teams on site, even if they sometimes were helpless as well.

            Problem is, anyone who's not totally blind could notice that ineptitude (or those respective ineptitudes) early on. And that impression doesn't go away just because suddenly someone attempts to 'look better'. Which likely explains why TEPCO's former president fell off the face of the earth -- health conditions aside.

            So the gain, if it exists, is minimal at best. You have any other ideas?

            1. Andydaws

              I didn't say it would work,

              Just that it's what politicians tend to do!

              Incidentally, I'm not quite so condemnatory of TEPCO - The main thing I'd fault is that they're being hyper conscious of not being seen to be holding back data, and if anything are tending to rush stuff out into the public domain too fast - e.g. the various radiation and radioisotope assay errors. Plus, perhaps too much raw data and not enough context.

              As far as the handling of the plant is concerned, they've done pretty well, in the circumstances. Especially allowing for the critical early period when they pulled back manning to just 50 people on site. I've a feeling that in retrospect, that'll be seen as entirely well-intentioned, but a mistake.

              1. ThomB

                *LOL* okay...

                ...point taken. You didn't, and it is.

                Regarding TEPCO, my being condemnatory results from the company's track record of cover-ups in previous years, cover-ups they themselves have admitted to on several occasions. In my eyes that takes away a big chunk of their credibility.

                As for "too much raw data and not enough context", that's a problem indeed, and not just for TEPCO. It's been an issue in the ongoing discussion about LP's articles as well, what with pointing people to databases and IAEA logs that provide 'more of the first and less of the latter' -- at least from the perspective of a non-engineer. And that is exactly where part of the trouble comes from: roughly 99 percent of all people don't have a degree in nuclear physics etc., so they *need* context, which is exactly what the expert sources don't give them enough of. As a result, there's growing mistrust -- and quite naturally so, considering that the technology at hand is permanently linked with Hiroshima and Chernobyl. Maybe not technically, but symbolically, in people's minds.

                But that's psychology, not physics.

                1. Andydaws

                  TBH though, Tom

                  You DON'T need a degree in nuclear physics to follow this stuff. I've explained most of it to my other half, and she's an accountant., and to my mother, who's in her middle 70s....

                  The problem is, the people who could explain it really well - like this lady:


                  don't get media bandwidth because they're not saying the exciting stuff. Instead, they're explaining calmly and reasonably what's going on, what's know and not known.

                  And, tbh, a large proportion of the public isn't interested in listening. It's stuff that's not conceptually hard, but still requires some effort.

    2. Donn Bly
      Thumb Down

      @sisk re: Officials don't raise waning levels in response to public fear

      you said: "#1) Officials don't raise warning levels in response to public fear. Doing so would be counter productive. Nor do they do so because they're being 'badgered'."

      Uh, I hate to burst your bubble, but yes, they do. A "warning level" - is often a political device used by governments to get people to do things that they wouldn't normally do, or to fund things that they wouldn't normally fund.

      It goes along with the old adage about "How do you know a politician is lying? Because his lips are moving."

      If "conventional wisdom" says that there is a threat, government officials must react to the perceived threat whether it exists or not, otherwise they face being replaced in the next election.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fact deniers return

    The fukushima situation has been raised to a level 7 because the amount of radiation expected to be emitted has risen to a (predefined) level comparable to Chernobyl. Now Mr Page says that hey, thyroid cancer is practically always treatable, so there are still no health effects.

    So over here on one side we have the professionals who spend their life thinking about and dealing with nuclear incidents, and they say fukushima is the most serious kind of incident for which they have a measurement scale. On the other side we have the fact deniers led by Mr Page, who has devoted his life to denying facts including global warming and now nuclear disaster.

    Who you gonna believe?

    It's that simple.

    1. Highlander

      INES level 7....

      Chernobyl released 1000's of times more radiation and radioactive material, much of it with extremely long half lives compared to Fukushima. If both are INES level 7, what does that say about the scale? Either it's not measuring the thing you think it is, or it's in desperate need of recalibration.

    2. Luther Blissett

      I'd be very very careful

      if you're thinking of having babies, as Lewis Page might come along and eat them.

    3. Steve Crook

      Suggested reading...

  33. laird cummings


    The Japanese government should be having a major case of ass with the US Government - By advising and supporting different clearance zones than the Japanese government, my country has basically discredited the Japanese government in the eyes of its citizens. Fear mongers say "scary, scary," and the US says, in effect, "everything is worse than you were told by the Japanese!" Naturally, scared citizens immediately lose (more) faith in their government and distrust all it says.

    The Japanese government has plenty enough credibility issues of their own, without US making it worse - I'd seriously consider expelling a diplomat or two over this, were I Japan.

  34. Daniel Evans

    Never understood it.

    I don't get why the default response to any "it's not a big deal" article/interview/other, on El Reg or elsewhere, is some frothy response along the lines of "Yeah, well? Why don't you go do it/live there/try it?". I dunno about you, but I wouldn't be against going to live there/eat their food/etc - if it weren't for the fact the entire place had been smashed to little bits by an earthquake, of course, which probably means that accomodation and food are a bit difficult to come by.

    1. Highlander

      I don't understand it either.

      And, I would be happy to go to Fukushima prefecture and help with the recovery operations there - were that an option available to me.

  35. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Is this a good time to mention...

    Once again, that the major cause of death and destruction of infrastructure, crops, etc was that old favourite dihydrogen monoxide? (

    More seriously - I do hope the greens will be happy when we have rolling blackouts the world over because some idiot made it impossible to use a vitally necessary and safe power generation method at a time when we really really need it.

    Of course, we'll never get a Tokomak or similar system, not for mechanical reasons, but because there's *atomic fusion* involved, and that's like, a bomb, kinda, innit? Will nobody think of the children? (and perhaps make it possible for them to enjoy a technological future?)

    Keep up the good work, Lewis.

    1. Andydaws

      I'll give the greens their anti-fusion lines already

      1 - the reactor structure will get activated because there's an intense neutron flux at the tokomak wall - and where's that waste going to go, eh?

      2 - it involves manufacturing deuterium, and or tritium which can be used in hydrogen bombs - so what about proliferation, eh?

      3 - it'll be very expensive, so therefore it competes for funds against renewables - so what about the windfarms, eh?

  36. Pat Volk

    FUD and the antithesis

    My take on increasing the Fukushima disaster to level 7 isn't on the amount of radiation put out exactly. I think their reasoning for going to declaring it level 7 is partly because they are taking responsibility in the face of the rest of the world (face being a key word), and also that they feel they do not have a firm control of the situation yet.

    There has been some impacts. That said, I appreciate Mr. Page's take on the media frenzy (uSv isn't media-sexy, but stating that it's x times the normal exposure is. Becquerels, especially when couple with SI prefixes from Mega to Exa make people wonder where all the fallout shelters went). I loved when CNN had an expert and a journo and the journo said how alpha rays penetrate, and the expert said nothing. My wife got an earful.

    There are some serious hot zones at the plant. They don't have the dosimeters for individuals. Even around Chernobyl today, people can go around, and find some lichens which will excite the geiger counters. It will have some consequences, for some time. It will probably be a decade before they can get close enough to the reactors to get the fuel out (Not done at Chernobyl, took a decade at TMI).


    Health Risks from exposure to low levels of Ionizing Radiation

    National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII report:

    "A comprehensive review of available biological and biophysical data supports a "linear-no-threshold" (LNT) risk model—that the risk of cancer proceeds in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans."

    Free summary here:

    "On average assuming a sex and age distribution similar to that of the entire U.S. population, the BEIR VII lifetime risk model predicts that approximately 1 person in 100 would be expected to develop cancer (solid cancer or leukemia) from a dose of 0.1 Sv above background, while approximately 42 of the 100 individuals would be expected to develop solid cancer or leukemia from other causes. Lower doses would produce proportionally lower risks. For example, the committee predicts that approximately one individual per thousand would develop cancer from an exposure to 0.01 Sv. As another example, approximately one individual per hundred would be expected to develop cancer from a lifetime (70-year) exposure to low-LET, natural background radiation (excluding radon and other high-LET radiation). Because of limitations in the data used to develop risk models, risk estimates are uncertain, and estimates that are a factor of two or three larger or smaller cannot be excluded."

    1. Liam Johnson


      Just as a bit of food for thought...

      As you will see, there is some debate over whether the LNT model is correct for low doses.

  38. AdamWill

    Non-story, eh?

    "The total non-story of the Fukushima nuclear powerplant "disaster" – which has seen and will see no deaths or measurable health consequences for anyone anywhere"

    It *has* seen a mass evacuation of major cities within a 60km radius, though. Which is...y'know...a story?

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      You are right, AdamWill ...

      ... but not for the reason you seem to imply. The mass evacuation of at least some of those cities some of them was probably unnecessary, and may well have caused more death and injury than has actually occurred due to the reactors' problems. The real story is the willingness of the government to add to the misery of people already affected by a real catastrophe - y'know, the earthquake and tsunami that caused lots of death and destruction.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nuclear power?

    No thanks! :-)

    1. mmiied

      hot water and lights

      yes pls

  40. Anonymous Coward

    For the record:

    1,000 mm = 1m

    1,000 ml = 1L

    1,000 millisievert = 1 Sievert

    What's with this obsession to quoting everything in millisieverts?

    1. John Robson Silver badge


  41. Mike 125

    macho men of "science"

    What I find most scary in the debate on here is how people with such a supposedly solid grasp of the science have such utter contempt for those expressing natural human fears.

    This contempt seems to be a macho thing: Hey, I understand everything, and therefore fear nothing. Oh, and look at my huge dick.

    Those who do dangerous things know it’s often fear which keeps them alive. Brave people finding leaks in reactors fear. But they also know more about the job in hand than anyone spouting their macho garbage on here.

    1. Highlander

      What's more scary....

      Fanning the flames of fear and panic, or trying to spread some calm and level headed assessment of risk?

      Which does more harm? Which does more good?

      For me, the only contempt I hold is for fear mongering panic merchants who don't know one jot about the science, but feel free to repeat the most ludicrous fearful doom laden stories as absolute fact, or the ones that buy into the fear mongering and get offended by someone trying to be calmer and more level headed.

      Fear is an important part of self preservation, but when you allow fear to drive you and your decisions, you are no longer exercising sound judgement. You'll also find that those with the most knowledge of things tend to have a healthy respect for the things that cause fear. Their fear threshold, though, is based on knowledge, and not the Daily Mail's reporting.

      I've seen no one contemptuous of those expressing normal human fears. But I have seen some people trying in the face of the shrill anti-nuclear fear mongers to calm fears, dispense perspective and knowledge, and offer factual and science/engineering based assessments. I've also seen people reacting with anger because their apparently dearly held fears are being challenged by fact.

      So, what's more scary, the fear monger driving panic, or the one trying to calm people's fears with reason and fact?

    2. Andrew Norton

      Not quite

      I think it's more along the lines of dealing with the 'I don't understand how it works, and i've a feeling it's bad, so it must be bad, and if it wasn't bad, why else are there all these limits, and so it's so bad, we have to ban it because it's clearly a disaster."

      I understand now, what it must have been like 100 years ago, when aircraft were new. "that can't work, I'm not going in one of them, you'll get half way up and then it'll stop and kill us all, you'll see"

      Same reaction, just differnt technology.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really.. more of this...

    More propaganda form the nuclear lobby..

    Seriously its getting funny now, the way that some of this BS is being put across (other than that of a child who simply resorts to name calling) is almost like there saying "nuclear radiation is GOOD for you" and very loud voices all of a sudden appearing that we need to build MORE nuclear plants as if its the ONLY logical step.

    Its just like the fracking bankers, they totally screw up and what do we do, I know lets give them more opportunity to frack us over some more.. And this is exactly what they are saying..

    Hey I know we used weapons grade material in our power plants (a gram of which is usually enough to kill anyone in a matter of minutes - why do you think it was used in weapons?) and that this happened to get damaged in an earth quake (not to meantion that alot of these types of plants are bulit on fault lines) and then it leaked. But can we build some more? I'm sure all of you are just dying to move in next to your nearest nuclear power plant being that radiation is suddenly 'good' for you. Here gargle some fukushima seawater. hmmm tasty!

    1. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      Oh, dear....

      "(a gram of which is usually enough to kill anyone in a matter of minutes - why do you think it was used in weapons?) "

      I'm not sure plutonium was used in bombs for it's toxic effect.

      Or even, if you're thinking of DU, in that case either....

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just stop ...

    Lewis, you're going through the motions of flogging a dead horse.

    They themselves have admitted this is a very serious situation. It has always been a serious situation but they've been covering themselves since the start and they have been falsifying safety records there for decades. And all this without even getting into the whole loss of face thing on top.

    Just give up, in the name of reason. And stop pretending to be any kind of a nuclear expert.

    Better still, go there. I'm sure the Reg will be happy to fly you there first class (they seem happy enough to give you all this exposure after all) -- where you can then give us the total benefit of an on-the-spot story with quotes from the industry's experts. You know, the people who actually are putting their lives at clear and present risk trying to contain, in their words, the seepage of highly irradiated cooling water into the environment? I'm sure they'll tell you there nothing to worry about.

    At least I *have* a degree in physics but I never have claimed to be any kind of an expert on nuclear power or the assured statistical safety record. And I'm not in favour of wind farms, either.

    The world needs more annoying skeptics, not less.

    1. Andydaws


      Don't you think, though, that "containing seepage" isn't quite in the same league as the dangers suggested by the majority of the reporting on this? There are honourable exceptions - the BBC's Richard Black, for example - but there are plenty of examples who are still trying to imply the plants are on the ragged edge of a full scale core melt.

      I suspect most of the engineers on the plant would largely support Lewis - they're professionals, thoroughly grounded types, who'd be furious about the hyperbole. I know most of my former colleagues are.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    There must be lawyers in this down the road and...

    What about the nitrogen or, is that a dihydro oxide type thing too. Juust a half pint tonight.

  45. dlapine
    Thumb Down

    Some More information and less opinion, please

    Well, given that it's been a week since we heard anything from Lewis on this, I thought he was in hiding. It's not like the news has been any kinder to the situation.

    First off, let's start with published data:

    These are readings around Fukushima, out to 40km. They have daily updates on the dosage levels.

    Please note that the hightest rating is over 50 microsieverts/hr, not 1.6 as noted by the MIT guys. There's another site at 25, and several over 10, and many reading above 3.

    Is 10 microsieverts/hr going to kill you? No, I'm not saying that is. 240uS/day is about 85 milisieverts a year, which is much higher than the background rate, but not immediately threatening, but the point here is that reporting the measured rates at only 1.6uS/hr is misinformation. Took me all of about a minute to find that data, too.

    Lewis concentrates too much on iodine, as other have noted. Cesium-137 levels 1600x the normal rate have been found in Iitate village. This is the stuff with a 30 year half-life. This is what drives the creation of an evacuation zone.

    Article here:

    Also, I notice that Lewis is completely ignoring the spent fuel pools, and the status of the "open to the atmosphere" fuel rods in them. In this case, we don't have to have a reactor breach to release serious sources of radiation, as the water in the fuel pools was gone at one point. I'd note that the spent fuel rods in 4 were active enough to:

    1) boil off the water

    2) react with the water vapor to generate H2

    3) and blow the roof off of a unit where the reactor was even in operation.

    That's with only 0.37% of the power (as Lewis notes) that the rods in the other 3 cores have going for them.

    So where is the fuel from the spent fuel ponds? Unit 3 looks to be where it's supposed to, but Unit 4's fuel from the spent pool seem to be missing. The analysis here is interesting:

    followup here:

    If you want some real inside information, look at these numbers from NISA:

    These are the operating numbers from the 3 reactors for temperature, pressure and radiation, probably from the normal monitoring units. I've pointed you at unit 1, because it's the most troubling. Yes, those units are Sieverts/hr, no mili or micro, full up, "put hair on your chest" sieverts. You know, the 1S that Lewis described as, "...probably won't kill you". Given that these reading are from just outside the reactor core and from the suppression ring (the torus), I would expect them to be high. But 100 Sieverts/hr near the core? 12 S/hr in the torus? Look at the numbers for the other active units. Neither unit's 2 nor 3 are anywhere near those levels.

    What's telling is that NISA hasn't released any new data for the last 3 days.

    This speaks of a core breach in unit 1. Perhaps not the concrete containment structure (fully 40 feet thick at the bottom), but it appears that the reactor in unit 1 has been breached. If that's the case, then prospects for further release of radiation have increased. Perhaps this is what is driving the higher classification.

    I think the Reg might be better off putting Lewis' unending admiration for the nuclear industry aside, and let someone do some actual reporting. Just because I support the idea of nuclear power, doesn't mean that I need to be a cheerleader for the power companies, and the way things are run now.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Highlander

      Sorry, but you're cherry picking

      Right at the start of your post you started the cherry picking.

      I've looked at the radiation data and with about three exceptions the radiation levels in Fukushima prefecture are far lower than the 50 microsieverts you mentioned. I know that you said that was the maximum, but the thrust of your post was that the levels were far higher than advertized - so to speak. The truth is rather more bland because of the listed radiation monitoring locations only the three hotspots in Fukushima prefecture and the plat itself (of course) show significant levels, and the highest, outside the plant itself, is the one you mentioned.

      Yet the way you phrase it, it sounds like it's all a big coverup and the entire place is actually drenched in 50 micro-sieverts/hour of radiation. That is precisely the problem with even the better reporting in the press. they latch onto the large numbers and talk exclusively about them making it see as if that level of radiation is common, when it's not.

      Regarding unit 1 at Fukushima Daiichi. The radiation sensor for the drywell has actually failed, it's readings became unreliable and it is no longer offering data. the monitor in the supression chamger though continues to operate and shows a continuing and gradual decrease in dose rates.

      You noted that these readings which are in full sieverts are for the drywell and suppression chamber. These areas have been flooded with the water and steam coming out of the reactor so that new fresh water can be pumped in - pump and dump. It's not exactly surprising therefore that they contain high levels of radiation at this time. I'm not entirely sure that the conclusions you are drawing from radiation inside the drywell and suppression chamber are valid. You'll also note that prior to the malfunction in the sensor, unit 1's radiation dose rates were declining inline with the other two reactors. A trend that continues in the data from the radiation sensor in the suppression chamber.

      Your data series that you are drawing a conclusion from (an errant conclusion) ends on 4/9. the faulty sensor in the drywell of unit 1 failed on 4/9 after reading incorrectly for a day or so. The continuing readings from the suppression chamber bear out the picture of a reactor declining in activity.

      The data at the link I provided is current - it extends past 4/9 through today.

      1. dlapine

        Interesting information

        I didn't know that the sensor in Unit 1's drywell had failed. The wordpress site is run by a Dr. Daniel Garcia, a Spanish Ph.D posted at JAEA. Thanks for another source of information and the link to current data- there was no mention on the other NISA site as why they hadn't updated anything for 3 days.

        Looking at your spreadsheet, especially on the CAMS_DOSE sheet:

        I notice that the levels that the drywell sensor in unit 1 (the dark blue line) have been reporting have been anything but a smooth descending curve, compared to either of the other units' drywell sensors or unit 1's own sensor in the suppression chamber. I'd disagree with your assessment that unit 1's drywell readings were declining, unless the sensor failed on 3/27. But that would be cherry-picking a data point , wouldn't it? In fact, it appears that all units are flattening out at their current levels of emission. The curves are not suggesting a further decline of significance.

        I will note that the working suppression chamber sensor in unit 1 is still a good 10 S/hr higher than the same reading at the other 2 units. Interesting to see a 50% spike in that reading on 4/7, just proceeding the "errant" reading from the drywell sensor. From the notes, this corresponds with the start of the N2 injection.

        Could the N2 injection have caused the sensor to fail?

        Why are the radiation levels (as we know them) still so high in unit 1?

        Given the updated information you pointed me at, it's hard to interpret the recent readings in unit 1 as a reactor breach. I'm happy to have data that conflicts with that possibility. I should not have suggested that conclusion without more corroborating evidence. I still think that unit 1 has severe issues, but I'm not sure what might be causing them.

        As for cherry-picking data points, don't you know that it's bad form (when cherry picking) to point out both the high and low points of the plot, note where the median lies, and only use the median in your examples. And then to mention that high spot only once and that only when describing the range, well that's just inexcusable for narrative building. To actually provide a direct link to the full information defeats the while purpose. I guess that I'm not very good at it. :)

        To sum up, I believe that you mentioned the figure "50 uS/hr" in your response more often than the single time I did in my original post. Perhaps I didn't say what you think I did.

        I was noting that the figure of 1.6 uS/hr was inaccurate for the entire area when used to measure human safety, not claiming that 50 uS/hr was a more accurate number.

        1. Highlander

          Thanks for the reply.

          I mentioned the 50uS/hr figure multiple times because I was relating it to an annual dose based on that rate, as well as the lower 17uS/hr rates observed at two other hotspots in Fukushima. The point I made in my original post, and was trying (badly) to make in my reply to you is that the general level in the Fukushima prefecture is far lower than the hotspots at 17 uS/hr and 50 uS/hr, and that even at the lower 17uS/hr rate, the annual dose will would be below the point at which medical concern is normally warranted (I say that based on the information I have researched on medical use of radiation and what is/is not safe for professionals in fields such as the airline industry).

          The data from the drywell sensor in unit 1 has been a little flaky, but the suppression chamber sensor does show more consistent data with a pattern of declining readings inline with the other units. Unit 1 is, and has been the hottest of the three units since the data series began. The injection of the nitrogen has certainly raised pressure inside the drywell, the flooding of the drywell with steam and water in addition to all the other things going on could have caused the sensor to fail, but obviously, I don't know.

          The increasing pressure in the reactor pressure vessel of unit 1 is due to the injection of Nitrogen. and it's temperatures are on a declining path again. There was a significant spike in temperatures in unit one on the 28/29th of March not long after the switch to fresh water. Some of the better analysis I've read suggested that the use of saltwater may have resulted in salt being deposited inside the reactor possibly hampering the flow of cooling water. Switching to fresh water would allow that salt to gradually dissolve away, and once the cooling water could flow properly again, it may have encountered elements within the core that were not being as well cooled, raising the temperatures and pressures accordingly. I'd love for some analysis of that spike to be done, but I suspect we'll have to wait for a post accident inquiry for that kind of detail. The more recent spike in pressure and temporary increase in temperature inside unit 1 seems to coincide with the injection of nitrogen gas, If you look at the data today, there is still a cooling trend at unit 1, and radiation does seem to be continuing to decline in line with the other units (although at a higher level)

  46. a_mu

    trust is the point

    to me, trust is the point.

    the reactors were built in an area that has earthquakes and tsunamies.

    reactors can be dangerous things,

    we all know that,

    so if there was a chance of a level 9 earth quake, why wasn't it built to with stand that ?

    I'd have assumed the had built in a safty margine, like design for a 10 or 11.

    as for the tsunami,

    they new one would happen, an built a wall to protect them,.

    they obviously got that wrong, and lost the backup generators on site.

    so why were there not back up generators available, ready to be rolled in to site, if the other generators failed.

    I guess they assumed if one gen failed, then the others could cope,

    but what about the 1001 other reasons that all the gens could have failed,

    The safety engineers should be thinking what could go wrong and how to handle that problem,

    not how to handle a size X quake or a size tsunami.

    I bet they are going to run out of safety suits or such like soon.

  47. Andydaws


    In no particular order...

    On the thermograph, I see one hotspot, of 56C. Somewhere around where you'd expect the containment top to be - which seems entirely consistent with the reported containment temperatures.

    If there were a breach, you'd expect temperatures in the hundreds of C.

    Here's todays reactor status report. I'm not sure why NISA's not publishing them - they seem to have got a bit sidetracked reporting on the later seismic issues, but these are still coming out every few hours from JAIF and the other sources.

    Note that the "breached" reactor 1 is somehow miraculously maintaining about 3 atmospheres gauge, and the containment about 0.7. That's hard to do when there's a hole.....

    As to the supression chamber levels, we know that R1 suffered more fuel damage, and earlier than the other reactors - and there's nothing inconsistent there. It's also a smaller volume containment.

    As to the drywell levels, that's also unsurprising, since the tactic being run at the moment is to vent steam into the drywell (plus, since the dominant contaminant, iodine, is a gas, it's not likely to remain in the supression pool, but migrate upward). I'll bet you like reading horror stories...

    Oh, one thing to think of. As noted, heat production has declined by a very large factor since the early days. And to cause a breach, you're reliant on molten fuel hitting the bottom head of the vessel while having enough heat alreacy contained, plus heat production, to melt into the steel.

    Broadly, it's a phenomenon that's going to happen in the first few minutes/hours after shutdown, not some weeks later.

    1. dlapine

      Some good points

      Thanks for taking the time to bring up these points and do some research.

      I'm not sure what about you're referring to in the thermograph- it's a picture of reactors 3 & 4, not unit 1. The hot spot you see is in unit 3, on the right, which corresponds to the location of the spent fuel pool in unit 3, which is visible through the debris of the roof.

      My point (and the poster's) is that there is no corresponding "hotspot" for unit 4. Where is that spent fuel?

      As for the suggested breach in unit 1, I was going by the release of radiation on the 8th, not the containment pressure. You bring up a good point in noting that the unit is still holding pressure, so any breach of the steel walls of the reactor is unlikely. If the current tactic to vent steam into drywells has been going on since the beginning of April, I'm willing to listen to any explanation of why the radiation levels more than doubled on the 8th.

      I do note that the NISA data shows a steady increase in pressure for the reactor vessel in unit 1 and that at 904 kPA, that unit is currently at 10x the pressure of the other 2 units. The unit is smaller, with about 2/3 the generating capacity of units 2-6. That might expand some pressure difference, but not an order of magnitude, and not a 50% increase since the initial event.

      Please note that the information provided in your link is not the same as the NISA status page, as this information does not have the specific radiation/temp/pressure readings per reactor, just a summary of the beliefs of the JAIF. They are an industry body, not a regulatory agency. Let's stipulate that I trust NISA information more than JAIF.

      And no, I don't read horror novels, and I don't secretly long for the status at Fukushima to become any worse than it is. I do, however, have a degree in engineering, and I run supercomputers for a living. When something breaks, we try to discover the cause of the failure. We don't run around waving our arms in the air crying "The sky is falling!", nor do we stick our heads in the sand and proclaim, "nothing to see hear, move along".

      I'd like some explanation as to why the pressure and released radiation for that unit keep climbing, weeks after the event. Increased pressure alone would seem to imply increased heat production in that reactor.

      I'd also like to see the data updates restart from NISA.

      1. Andydaws

        A thermograph is

        the picture (on flikr) that you linked to - one that's photographed in infra red, and uses false colour to shoe temperatues.

        The reason there's no hot spor over the containment at r4 is simple. R4 was defuelled at the time of the accident.

        "hot spot you see is in unit 3, on the right, which corresponds to the location of the spent fuel pool in unit 3, "

        Not according to what I understand of the layout.

        I don't see a "doubling" - i see a transient spike, which is that you'd see if the reading happened to coincide with a vent into the containment.

        "I do note that the NISA data shows a steady increase in pressure for the reactor vessel in unit 1 and that at 904 kPA, that unit is currently at 10x the pressure of the other 2 units. The unit is smaller, with about 2/3 the generating capacity of units 2-6. That might expand some pressure difference, but not an order of magnitude, and not a 50% increase since the initial event."

        R1's been running consistently hotter than the others - the NRC analysis that emerged last week suggests that it's more likely have problems with flow restrictions, from salt build-up (it's to do with the clearance below the core plate and the "shroud"). No great suprise, and also worth recalling 8 bar gauge is about 1/10th of normal operating pressure.

        "They are an industry body, not a regulatory agency. Let's stipulate that I trust NISA information more than JAIF."

        they're the source of the NISA data (or more strictly, both are supplied by TEPCO).

        "I'd like some explanation as to why the pressure and released radiation for that unit keep climbing, weeks after the event. Increased pressure alone would seem to imply increased heat production in that reactor."

        The plant operators are playing a balancing game - they can reduce temperatures by increasing coolant flow and pressure, but that means that they will eventually have to deal with greater quantities of contaminated water. Add to that the flow restriction issue, and you'll have a greater challenge. So, it's simplistic to assume that pressure/temperature are solely a function of heat production - they reflect heat production and removal.

        It's also rather questionable to portray the pressures/temperatures as "consistently" climbing. They've varied, with the R1 temperature running as high as 300C+.

        Looking at NRC document, the strategy is to vent steam to the containment, and allow the condensate to gradually flood the drywell. Part of the reason for that is that it appears that the shaft seals on the recirculation pumps (located in the containment) have failed. That imposes a limit on the water levels maintainable in the RPVs, until the containment is flooded to that level (the drywells are designed to be flooded, btw - that's how the system is shielded/cooled during shutdown and refuelling)

        As and when those levels are reached, water levels will rise in the reactors, and we'll be at cold-shutdown. My expectation would be, at that point, the levels will just be held steady for some months, to allow iodine decay, and then the water will be circulated for treatment to remove caesium, etc.

  48. ThomB

    Let's quote the IAEA on this...

    "The re-evaluation of the Fukushima Daiichi provisional INES rating resulted from an estimate of the total amount of radioactivity released to the environment from the nuclear plant. NISA estimates that the amount of radioactive material released to the atmosphere is approximately 10% of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, which is the only other nuclear accident to have been rated a Level 7 event.

    Earlier ratings of the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi were assessed as follows:

    On 18 March, Japanese authorities rated the core damage at the Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2 and 3 reactor Units caused by loss of all cooling function to have been at Level 5 on the INES scale. They further assessed that the loss of cooling and water supplying functions in the spent fuel pool of the Unit 4 reactor to have been rated at Level 3.

    Japanese authorities may revise the INES rating at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as further information becomes available."


    So the first thing the IAEA states in this small paragraph is that the accident at Fukushima has been re-evaluated by NISA. I won't speculate on the reasons; however it appears as though they are now offering a 'combined' rating for all damages and their effects instead of 'split' ones for every single reactor. Seems somewhat odd, because a. it makes one wonder why that wasn't done earlier and b. why it should be more convenient now that some of the countermeasures appear to have worked. And yeah, I know, there have been more earthquakes, but they haven't made the situation a lot worse, or did they?

    Secondly, again according to NISA estimates, the "amount of radioactive material released to the environment is approximately 10% of [...] Chernobyl". Still, it gets a level 7 rating. That could either mean the whole INES concept is sh**, as it allows you to lump Chernobyl and Fukushima into one category, despite obvious differences. The trouble with that is twofold: number one, neither the pro- nor the no-nukers get sufficient, reliable data/ratings to back up their respective position -- they do not seem to exist. Number two, the INES was put together/initiated by the IAEA and the OECD/NEA; so the question arises whether the scientific work that allegedly went into it was worth a whole lot. In the context of this discussion, I find it a little strange that doubts about the rating are often expressed by members of the pro-nuclear faction, who are otherwise referring to the IAEA as a central authority on the subject at hand. -- Alternatively, it's also possible to consider the INES ratings the best we have; but in that case, one might ask if Chernobyl was probably underrated.

    Thirdly, it is stated that NISA's INES rating may be revised "as further information becomes available". That seems to indicate that these ratings are performed on a provisional or interim basis; more bluntly put, they're made up as the authorities and TEPCO go along. That doesn't look particularly trustworthy, and it likely will not inspire confidence among those who have been evacuated -- even if you accept the fact that it's far too early to make any final judgments from a scientific angle.

    1. Highlander

      The INES level is *not* a measuring stick

      The INES level is not a rating or measuring stick for comparing the relative severity of two accidents. If you try to use it in that manner, it fails utterly - because it's not intended to be used that way.

      1. ThomB

        "The INES level is not a rating or measuring stick...."


        "The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) was developed in 1990 by international experts convened by the IAEA and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA) with the aim of communicating the safety significance of events at nuclear installations."


        INES -- The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale: User's Manual, 2008 Edition. Co-sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency. Vienna 2009. Available online under: (4-13-2011)

        That might suggest the scale is indeed a measuring stick, even if it only covers the "safety significance of events at nuclear installations" (relative to what?) and not the "relative severity of two accidents", as you call it.

        Another quote:

        "Scope of the Scale

        INES applies to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, whether or not the event occurs at a facility. It covers a wide spectrum of practices, including industrial use such as radiography, use of radiation sources in hospitals, activity at nuclear facilities, and transport of radioactive material.

        It also includes the loss or theft of radioactive sources or packages and the discovery of orphan sources, such as sources inadvertently transferred into the scrap metal trade. When a device is used for medical purposes (e.g., radiodiagnosis or radiotherapy), INES is used for the rating of events resulting in actual

        exposure of workers and the public, or involving degradation of the device or deficiencies in the safety provisions. Currently, the scale does not cover the actual or potential consequences for patients exposed as part of a medical procedure.

        The scale is only intended for use in civil (non-military) applications and only relates to the safety aspects of an event. INES is not intended for use in rating security-related events or malicious acts to deliberately expose people to radiation.

        What the Scale is Not For

        It is not appropriate to use INES to compare safety performance between facilities, organizations or countries. The statistically small numbers of events at Level 2 and above and the differences between countries for reporting more minor events to the public make it inappropriate to draw international comparisons."


        INES -- The International Nuclear and Radiological event Scale: Fact Sheet, published by the IAEA and the OECD/NEA. Available online under: (04-13-2011)

        So the last chapter from the fact sheet says the scale is not fit "to compare safety performance between facilities, organizations or countries." Okay, let's accept that. The question remains why IAEA, NISA and others have recently used it for the exact purpose of comparison. First to underscore that the accident wasn't as bad as Chernobyl, now to say 'it's still not as severe, but much worse than we initially thought'. And next to say what?

        Just to get this out of the way: pressure from the public and the media exists, no question. So the PR guys at those organizations as well as those from the Japanese government have to respond to it. Still you'd expect them not to dish out safety significance ratings that seem to be of limited value at best, considering how they've been going up over the past month and how they may be going down again in a few weeks from now. This strategy is actually the worst you can apply here; it's been used after Chernobyl as well and has cost politicians and the nuclear industry more credibility than the disaster itself. Of course, that was a "Soviet" reactor, so much of the downplaying that happened back then can be attributed to an information policy created at the Kremlin. The problem is that lately we had to learn that the information policy in Western/G7 countries isn't so different after all.

        One last thing: I do understand that the Fukushima accident was triggered by a giant earthquake, an ensuing tsunami, and a number of severe aftershocks. I also understand that these aren't regular operating conditions, and that the facility has done better than you would expect under these circumstances (and please note that this argument was first introduced by the pros). I even understand that in a relatively small country like Japan you'd built the facilities 'on the coastline', in hopes that *if* an accident occurs most of the waste gets washed away by the sea. Just as I understand the logic of 'it can't happen here' (simply because I trust my fellow countrymen more than some 'bloody Ivan') and that -- statistically speaking -- accidents that deserve an INES Level 4 rating and above are only likely to happen every few thousand years. But I also know that by official IAEA accounts six of those accidents have occurred since 1957. And they have a tendency to happen 'here and now', to an unsuspecting public and to politicians, scientists, engineers and journalists that seem largely unprepared.

        Not that you could/would do much to prepare for an accident deemed so unlikely to happen. Or could you? If so, what?

        1. Highlander

          The INES scale is not a measuring stick

          The rather easy demonstration of this is the comparison of Fukushima and Chernobyl which are both classified as level 7 events and yet are very different from each other both in terms of the events that have occurred and the consequences, environmentally, in terms of lives and health effects and to the reactors themselves. I say that the scale is not a measuring stick because it clearly fails to offer any differentiation between Fukushima dna Chernobyl despite glaring differences in the events. Even the IAEA have stated that raising the INES level to 7 does not indicate that Fukushima is by any means on par with Chernobyl.

          1. ThomB

            "not a measuring stick"

            Okay, so far I can detect nothing I didn't say in an earlier post -- we seem to agree that the scale is of lamentable value. Still, it's something we (the public) are constantly referred to. Bit strange, if you ask me.

            1. Highlander

              Indeed it is strange

              I rather suspect that part of the problem is that the INES levels are designed for professionals in the nuclear energy field as a shorthand method of assessing the scale of an accident in purely technical and radiological terms. the 'scale' was never designed or meant for consumption by the general media or public because it doesn't really communicate the kind of information they want. the media and public want a measuring stick of danger, but what they get is a fairly abstract measure of scale.

              However in the absence of decent analysis and another scale, as well as the atmosphere of fear and panic , people will cling to nice, easy labels for things they don't really understand. So INES Level 7 suddenly get's latched onto, and used as a scale to measure danger, rather than a scale to measure scale.

              It's rather like the Richter scale. Clearly everyone knows that a 9 is worse than an 8, which is worse than a 7 and so on. Far fewer people are aware though of the actual difference the scale represents - though more are aware of that now than once were.... Of course you may know that a magnitude 9 quake is 1000 times stronger than a magnitude 7.

              What I did not know until just now researching this quake is how much energy was involved with this earthquake.

              Apparently the total energy release by the quake has been calculated by the USGS to be 3.9×10^22 joules, slightly less than the 2004 Indian Ocean quake. This is equivalent to 9,320 gigatons of TNT, or approximately 600 million times the energy of the first Atomic bomb.

              Holy crap! Anyone who says this earthquake was predictable, simply isn't playing with a full deck.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same shit, different day

    Anyone who quanitifies the damage of a nuclear accident by how many people die immediately of exposure, is in deep denial. Lewis lost all credibility long ago with his clueless rants. More rants by Lewis does not change reality.

    1. Liam Johnson

      deep denial

      Google any major industrial accident and tell me what they usually use as a top of the page giving an idea how serious and accident was?

      "Three killed, 21 poisoned in chemical plant accident"

      "One killed in sand mining accident"

      "Factory Accident Killed Two"

      "5 Romanian coal miners killed in explosion"

      “Over 15000 persons killed in Bhopal gas tragedy”

      Is that enough?

  50. brake

    Hold your breath...

    Educated? It was plutonium, not uranium. Please open this plastic bag and inhale the dust. The alfa emitters won't harm you, mr. know all?

  51. Jacqui

    geiger counter

    will not detect alpha beta and gamma in the same manner.

    First alpha will not reach the detector if it is more than 1cm away-ish :-)

    Beta and Gamma will be detected differently and will certainly not read the same.

    The danger is consumption of alpha and beta and close porximity to beta and (possibly) gamma.

    Its apples and oranges and banana's :-)

    1. Highlander

      Banana's - with or without radioactive Potassium?

      ...subject says it all...

  52. John Deeb

    what would Lewis say

    if another quake / flood would strike at the same location soon? Statistically... unlikely? But why gamble on it at all?

    Anyway, the usual nonsense in the article. They're still at least 5GW short for the summer demands, meaning they're barely winging it now, and the financial burden for the nuclear accident alone consists of trillions of yen which is way higher than other energy plants would have cost in repair and clean-up in whatever scenario.

    Lewis arguments read like the Black Knight scene in Monty Python's Holy Grail (also radiating!) : "it's just a scratch"!

  53. Acme Fixer


    The following paragraph (I quote) has some discrepancies, it's misleading at least:

    "Almost all other infrastructure hit by the natural disaster failed catastrophically. Housing, transport and industry across the region collapsed with deadly consequences, killing people by the tens of thousands."

    The housing, etc., didn't collapse, it was washed away by the tsunami.

    This incident did the most damage to peoples' perception of nuclear power. It showed that even though the Japanese knew historically about tsunamis as bad as this one (in 869 and 1896), they failed to design the barriers to block waves the height of those historic tsunamis. They chose to save money and as a consequence the plant was damaged by their cost cutting measures, instead of by mother nature.

    After that, can you convince anyone in their right mind, especially insurance companies, to allow or insure a design that is potentially flawed? I think not.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      You are really splitting hair here

      "The housing, etc., didn't collapse, it was washed away by the tsunami."

      How about "it [housing] collapsed while it was being washed away by the tsunami"? And it really did kill people by the tens of thousands, so what was your point exactly?

  54. allo-allo
    Thumb Up

    Radiophobia abounds!

    Well done AGAIN, Lewis! Of course Japan has to comply with externally 'enforced,' outdated, alarmist protection policies, exacerbated by Media, Greenies and Environmentalist misinformation paranoia. Sadly, no-one worries about the radiation problem already introduced by the use of, "Classified-"SAFE,"" depleted uranium ammo, do they?

    1. kissingthecarpet

      I thought

      the issue with DU is its toxicity not its radioactivity. e.g. Fallujah & other places where the uniformed scum have had their fun

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        A worrying development

        High concentrations of protium oxide detected in Fukushima area and in the ocean nearby, apparently. Clearly, this is getting serious...

        1. Highlander

          OMG! Not....protium!

          Next you'll be saying that crystalline di-hydrogen monoxide is breaking down and there's a danger of more protium being released! Run for the hills.

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            That and more...

            Well, we know that protium oxide is found in very high concentrations in reactor cores. We also know that gaseous protium from the cores strongly contributed to the hydrogen explosions in the reactor buildings. So this can only mean one thing - it's leaking from the reactors! Must be!

            Protium oxide is highly toxic - if inhaled in large enough doses it will stop your respiratory system from functioning in seconds. If ingested, it will affect the electrolyte balance with stroke and heart failure being the likely result. In smaller doses it causes drowsiness, confusion, weakness, disorientation, fatigue, cramps in the muscles, assorted aches and pains in the body, and numbness in the limbs.

            We also know that radiolysis inside the reactor vessels would also produce protium peroxide and that's the really nasty staff - it will make your blood congeal!

  55. There's a bee in my bot net

    Insignificant in what context?

    "This is the problem that everyone faces, who describes nuclear incidents as they really are – that is, insignificant. You are accused of being heartless, of failing to care about or empathise with people who are terribly frightened. You have committed the same sin as bracingly telling a toddler that there is no monster under his bed and that he should go back to sleep."

    Perhaps it's the way you present your argument. I would argue that you don't just describe things the way they are, but go too far in trying to show how little impact there has been.

    If you could stick to the facts and explain their meaning without adding opinion then you could probably produce a decent article on the subject. Granted that would be difficult to fit into one article.

    Telling a toddler that there is no monster can be done a number of ways, not all of which will reinforce the argument that there is no monster. "Bracingly telling a toddler that there is no monster under his bed" isn't the best way to go about it...

  56. Robert Sneddon

    Head Desk Moment

    Here's someone reporting his efforts to protect his garden and compost heap from radioactive fallout from Fukushima:

    After the expected snowfall, his hand burned when he wiped some water off the plastic sheeting but soap and water dealt with the contamination and he's now wearing rubber gloves when handling the polluted water.

    He lives in northern Arizona. In the USA.

    If anything Lewis is understating the amount of crazy stupid that is running around screaming "The world is ending! The world is ending!"

    1. Andydaws

      Oh, christ....

      I was hoping you were joking....

  57. AlexS


    RADIATION IS GOOD! I should feed it to my children. In fact why bother sealing the reactors in the first place.

    In fact why don't we open these reactors as health spars?

  58. earplugs

    TEPCO high energy sports drink -now with Strontium90!

    --- Powered by TEPCO ---

    TheReg's talent for understatement is really being stretched on this Fukushima story.

    The cost to Japan's economy is only one or two trillion bucks, its nothing really.

    -- insert TEPCO ad here --

    1. Andydaws

      "The cost to Japan's economy is only one or two trillion bucks, its nothing really."

      The highest estmate I've seen for a Fukushima clean-up is $12Bn - comparing with established costs for decommissioning, they might run as low as a $2-3Bn. There are even competing bidders for the work!

      By contrast Japanese insurers are estimating the total cost of the Tsunami and quake in the $250-320Bn range.

      You do know the problems at Fukushima were caused by the quake and tsunami, rather than vice-versa, don't you?

      I think you've just rather made Lewis' point.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Tokyo Electric Power Co could face compensation claims topping $130 billion if Japan's worst nuclear crisis drags on, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch estimated

        1. Mayhem

          Well duh.

          Thats because they are having problems supplying power to the eastern half of the country because half their powerplants are not operating. If they can't get roughly an additional roughly 20% of normal supply onstream in the next two months before summer kicks in, half of Japan will be back into rolling blackouts, including Tokyo. Hence the lawyers will have a field day with compensation claims.

          This has nothing to do with the raidiation leaks at one plant by the way. Its the other dozen affected reactors and coal/gas plants that are causing the issue.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Talking out you're arse

            Of course it has something to do with radiation leaks, moving 70,000 people and numerous businesses is bloody expensive.

            You didn't even read the article did you?

            All well and good attacking the fearmongers and defending the safetey aspects, but if you blindly defend the huge costs this has imposed on the Japanese you look very silly indeed. Best to just ignore it like Mr Page hey.

        2. Andydaws

          The link doesn't work - apparently,

          pulled by Reuters....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            Link works fine.

            1. Andydaws

              to quote

              Page Not FoundOur apologies, the content you requested cannot be located.

              Please double-check the URL for proper spelling, browse our site index, or search below…

              Now, I can find references to the BoA report through other routes, but, frankly they seem pretty unlikely - $130 billion is about half the currently estimated cost of the tsunami and earthquake. No word on how they've arrived at the number.

              And no, there's no power firm on the world that has contracts that mean it can be sued for failure to supply.

              As to the 70,000 people moved, you could pay them nearly $40,000 apiece for the next 50 years, and just about get through $130Bn.

              1. N00

                Either way

                concentrating only on the clean up ignores the far higher wider costs and seems to be a deliberate bit of deception especially when in your response you once again concentrate on the smaller cost, this time the forcefully displaced 70,000 and ignore the cost to business.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward


                seems a little stingy to me, property prices are pretty high in Japan and what of the farmers, fishermen, other businesses, the 130000 in the voluntary evacuation zone? $130 billion seems easily surpassable to me.

                1. This post has been deleted by its author

                2. Andydaws

                  $40K is aout 20% higher than the

                  per capita GDP of Japan, and abut 1/3rd higher than the average income.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward


                    And what are the average property prices? What losses have farmers and business incurred?

                    You do like your straw men.

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Oh look

                    Tokaimura compensation

                    "Ibaraki Prefecture announced that direct damages from this accident have reached a total of 15.3 billion yen (U.S. $125 million) for 7000 cases (Table 2). Direct damages, for example, include compensation for the forced closure of businesses, and suspension of agricultural activities and fisheries. Perceived damage is not included in what is called "direct damages." In addition, real estate prices have not been evaluated and are still falling as are the prices of agricultural products.


                    The amount of damages(million yen)

                    Commercial Industry


                    Agricultural, Livestock ,Fishing Industry


                    Tourist Industry


                    Transportation Industry


                    Other Industries


                    Reduction of Tax Revenue (expected)




                    1. Liam Johnson


                      I think the original post was talking about $130 BILLION.

                      1. Anonymous Coward
                        Paris Hilton

                        You clearly missed the point.

                        Tokaimura resulted in 161 people evacuated for 2 days with a 350 meter exclusion zone. Yet it still cost over $125 million and resulted in over 7000 claims

                        Fukushima with over 70,000 people evacuated for over a month and counting with a 20km exclusion zone.

                        It also highlights the costs that Andydaws seems to be deliberatly overlooking.

                        1. Liam Johnson

                          re: You clearly missed the point

                          Indeed, you didn't make it very well. If you had supplied that information with the original post, it might have been a little clearer.

                    2. Andydaws

                      Not strong on orders of magnitude, are you?

                      That's 0.1% of the BoA estimate. In other words, you've got 99.9% to go.

                      1. Anonymous Coward

                        Sorry, who's not strong on orders of magnitude?

                        Your derogatory and condescending attitude makes you look more than just a little silly when you have managed to overlook the the order of magnitude larger Fukushima is than Tokaimura.

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Sorry, Anonymous Coward

                          If you insist on posting as Anonymous Coward then people are going to assume you are stupid. Live with it. After all, look at all the pointless drivel which "Anonymous Coward" usually posts.

  59. Charles Thornton

    Does Lewis Page take happy juice

    Quote from the article - "An official of Fukushima nuclear power plant operator TEPCO concedes that “the amount of (radioactive) leakage could eventually reach that of Chernobyl or exceed it.”

    But of course these are the usual scaremongers in the happy happy joy joy world of Lewis Paige

    1. Andydaws

      Ah, Charles is back...

      I gather that comment was a response to a sort of "what's the worse case" question - as the press is so fond of asking at press conferences, then reporting them without the qualification.

      What's notable, in that context is this

      Which makes the point that, of the total site inventory, about 1% of the iodine 131 existing at the moment of the scram was vented.

      Now, it's true that that remaining will have decayed anyhow now by 94% - but, even so it leaves a signficant further inventory. Which, could, in theory be released, but it's growing increasingly unlikely.

  60. The Grime

    you've got to be kidding right?

    Once again Lewis observes that the earthquake/tsunami were catastrophies; yes they were, but potentially Daiichi (or more likely Hamaoka, cf. Katsuhiko Ishibashi) could make large parts of Japan uninhabitable. It isn't helpful to compare Daiichi to Chernobyl or an earthquake, it just muddies the issues- can we just concentrate on the Daiichi disaster and its consequences for health?

    As for Lewis's analysis of the situation- I don't know where he gets the idea that only "miniscule amounts" of radioactive material have been deposited around the area, and that danger beyond the plant fence is effectively nil. Radiation has been detected in milk and vegetables in the prefecture- this is a Level 7 event meaning "a major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended counter measures." Like the BBC, you could play that down by saying its only 10% of the Chernobyl release. 10% of the Chernobyl release is still a massive amount! And then we come to the clincher... "Chernobyl actually killed fewer than 60 people". What will I read next in The Register, an assertion that the Jews didn't do too badly under the Nazis? Estimates range from 4,000 to 500,000 deaths attributable to Chernobyl. The Russian academy of sciences says there have been 60,000 deaths in Russia so far and an estimated 140,000 in Ukraine and Belarus. Perhaps I could point Lewis and the rest of you in the direction of this work if you'd like to know more about the health effects of Chernobyl?

    Ignoring the content, the overall tone and language used by Lewis shouts that this isn't serious, impartial journalism. If he wants to be taken seriously, perhaps he could look at the wider issues- especially as they relate to Britain. How about the fact that Japan has now cancelled all MOX orders with Thorpe/Sellafield, a plant built specifically to supply Japan at the cost of billions to the taxpayer, and almost £100 million a year to keep going? Perhaps nuclear industry PR mouthpieces would like us to ignore such a massive recent failure, both technically and financially, in the UK nuclear industry. Perhaps Lewis could analyse the data coming from Daichii a little more comprehensively and truthfully in order to salvage his professional standing as a journalist. He could learn a lot from Arnie Gunderson, who has been deeply involved in the nuclear power industry since the early 70s, and has held licenses to operate nucler reactors. I'm not aware of Lewis's credentials, but I think Arnie might have a little bit more of a realistic perspective. He's the only commentator I've come across who has pointed out that the neutron beams detected around the plant indicate that chain reactions are still occurring in the fuel. You can watch him and decide here:

    I'm starting to suspect these Lewis articles are just stuck in here to create controversy, that sort of thing seems to work wonders for the Daily Mail's circulation figures. Perhaps Lewis could follow up Arnie's mention of the recent US study that found that a spent fuel pond boiling dry would lead to 100,000 deaths from lung cancer? I mean, that would actually be what a real journalist does, right?

    1. Andydaws

      BTW, I love the story you linked...

      "When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater

      March 27, 2011

      By Dr. Tom Burnett "

      Note the date - the plan't on the coast, which rather implies groundwater's within a few feet of ground level, of course....

      So, written about a fortnight after the earthquake, and another fortnight ago since. Which would make it the slowest meltdown concieveable.

      I'd take a look at the output of the loon you're quoting as some sort of informed source...

      Apparently, he's a regular poster on Rense.

      I wonder what his doctorate is in?

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Quoting the good Doctor

        "At Fukushima, the reactor cores are still melting down. The ONLY way to stop that is to detonate a ~10 kiloton fission device inside each reactor containment vessel and hope to vaporize the cores."

        "A nuclear meltdown is a self-sustaining reaction. Nothing can stop it except stopping the reaction. And that would require a nuclear weapon. In fact, it would require one in each containment vessel to merely stop what is going on now."

        He likes his fireworks, doesn't he?

        1. Andydaws
          Thumb Up

          I like the "self-sustaining reaction".

          Presumably, he means that the process of melting makes the bolus of fuel critical.

          Which is interesting, as it's still only 3% enriched - less than 1/10th of even the theoretical minimum to be critical on fast neutrons.

          Which means it's got to be critical on thermal neutrons. Which means moderator. Which, in an LWR is water.

          So, this 1800C plus bolus of melted fuel is apparently meant to have liquid water mixed in with it!

          It's good to see the quality of analysts that some of our fellow posters like to quote.

        2. Andydaws

          Oh, and given Three Mile island also had a partial core melt

          I wonder what stopped that? I have to say, I missed the atom-bombing of the plant.

          1. Highlander

            LOL! You're bad Andy...

            I have to admit, the crazies really went to town with the re-criticality, self sustaining criticality and continuing meltdown theories didn't they. Why, it's almost as if they didn't bother to look at the data coming out of Fukushima before writing their works of fiction.

            Still, detonating a bomb inside or right next to a scram'd reactor seems like an incredibly stupid idea, on par with shooting oneself in the head I'd think. It's hard to believe that anyone would seriously suggest such a course of action.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Andydaws

      And, on criticality...

      "He's the only commentator I've come across who has pointed out that the neutron beams detected around the plant indicate that chain reactions are still occurring in the fuel."

      That's because it proved to be an utter red herring - a mistranslation of the Japanese for "ray" as "beam", and ommitted the fact that the actual frequency and energy of emissions was in line with natural background - your esteemed Mr Gunderson apparently having forgotten that there are a few neutron emitters in the environment. And quite a few fission products can be neutron emitters.

      To quote the BBC's Richard Black

      "The neutron flux outlined by Kyodo - 0.02 microsieverts per hour - is within levels that are observed naturally in some locations - which raises the question of why it became an issue in conversations between reporters and Tepco representatives in Tokyo"

      You'll notice the claims of ongoing criticality events seem to have gone rather quiet - that being because the other stuff that would go with it, like intense neutron fluxes closer to the plant, temperature and pressure spikes, and detection in volume of short-lived isotopes and so on have been notable by their absence (other, it seems, than in various more "entertaining" blogs").

      the bit I liked most was the gross error where it was decided that (a subsequently found to be wrong) detection of Tellurium was held to be proof positive of ongoing fission - apparently, without realising that it's nothing of the sort (from the Nuclear Eningeering isntitute)

      "The detection of tellurium-129 is not proof of recriticality. Even though it has a half-life of just 69 minutes it is still one of the most prevalent fission products in used nuclear fuel several months after fuel is removed from the reactor core or last criticality. This is due to the fact that tellurium-129 also exists in a higher energy state (Te-129m, where “m” stands for metastable) with a half-life of 34.1 days prior to transforming into lower energy tellurium-129. Given the high initial abundance of both forms of tellurium-129 among fission products, it is reasonable that some would still be present months after the reactor was last critical."

      The one I particularly liked was the claim that trace presense of Chlorine-38 in cooling water was also proof. Mr G seems to have forgotten there's (a) rather a lot of salt in the reactors, and (b) still plenty a lot of neutron-emitting products in the reactor, even if fluxes are much lower than in operation.

  61. Andydaws

    isn't that rather what Lewis has been doing?

    "can we just concentrate on the Daiichi disaster and its consequences for health?"

    I mean...

    "Radiation has been detected in milk and vegetables in the prefecture"

    It has indeed - at levels well below that likely to cause a health problem to even the most exposed individual. To quote from yesterday's IAEA update (samples on the 8th and 11th, link below)

    "Various vegetables, spinach and other leafy vegetables, fruit (strawberry), various meats, seafood and unprocessed raw milk

    I-131, Cs-134, Cs-137 either not detected or below the regulation values set by Japanese Authorities"

    "What will I read next in The Register, an assertion that the Jews didn't do too badly under the Nazis? "


  62. zooooooom
    Thumb Down


    Another unimpartial opininionated bit of shite 'journalism', with occasional wrong bits.

    El Reg do better

  63. John 62


    Nuclear can be dangerous, like flight, but it's heavily regulated so that for the vast majority of the time it is very safe. A bit like the millennium bug. The world didn't end with DARPA's computers turning on the ICBMs on 1st January 2000, not because there was no risk of problems (to banks, if not the ICBMs), but because a lot of people did a lot of work to minimise the problems.

    A road traffic incident might not be anywhere near the disruption of Fukushima, but after the suicide of a man jumping off a flyover in Belfast, much of the city ground to a halt for most of the day when the police closed the vitally important stretch of road where the man had jumped. Or someone leaves a 'device' somewhere, viable or not, and vast areas are cordoned off and evacuated, just because the risk is small, but the public services have to cover their backs.

  64. Anonymous Coward

    The problem isn't the reactors

    The reason that people are "panicking" has little to do with the technical aspects of the problem and a lot to do with cynicism about the truthfulness of the various authorities pontificating on the subject.

    TEPCO and the Japanese government have a long and honorable history of lying to the public on nuclear matters. Both the EU and US governments have quietly increased the acceptable limits of cesium 134 and cesium 137 in food some 20-fold "to prevent food shortages" in recent weeks, and recent publicity about DU, which is held to be causing all sorts of cancers in squaddies, birth defects in Iraqi women and squaddies wives, and reduction of sperm counts in Israeli soldiers to the point that they are projected to not be viable parents within about 20 years, if you believe the doubters, whilst the US, UK, and Israeli governments continue to insist that DU is harmless except when fired from the barrel of a gun, and then only because of its kinetic energy.

    It's just a case of fool me once...

    It's also interesting to note how many people here appear to have paid even less attention during their nuclear chemistry lectures than I did, which I had previously thought impossible.

    1. Andydaws

      This seems to be a current interweb fantasy.

      "Both the EU and US governments have quietly increased the acceptable limits of cesium 134 and cesium 137 in food some 20-fold "to prevent food shortages" in recent weeks"

      I mean.

      Here's the EU regulation in force:

      Here's the relevant clause re radiation limits:

      "in case the product is originating from the prefectures Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niigata, Nagano, Yamanashi, Saitama, Tokyo and Chiba, the product does not contain levels of the radionuclides iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137 above the maximum levels provided for in Council Regulation (Euratom) No 3954/87 of 22 December 1987, Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 944/89 of 12 April 1989 and Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 770/90 of 29 March 1990."

      Note the dates of those. They're the post Chernobyl limits applied across Europe.

      I'm at a slight loss to see where this supposed increase has come from -

      here's the three instruments

      It's the first two that matter, since they're for direct consumption.

      The claim is that

      "Until now, a maximum of 600 becquerels of radioactivity (cesium 134 and cesium 137) per kilogram allowed, but since last weekend for example oil or herbal suddenly 12,500 becquerels per kilogram,

      Read more:"

      but note: From the first the table on the back page gives "other foodstuffs" for Caesium at 1250Bq/Kg; and the second for minor foodstuffs (and check out the list, it includes herbs, spices and essential oils, the claimed area of change) and says:

      "For the minor foodstuffs given in the Annex, the

      maximum permitted levels to be applied are 10 times

      those applicable to ‘other foodstuffs except minor"

      I make 1250*10 as 12,500.

      So, where does this come from?

      There's a separate limit for "milk and foodstuffs for infants" of 600Bq - that still applies.

      So, in other words, it's yet more internet mentery, prompted by some lazy bastard who can't be bothered to research something - despite having the most powerful research tool in hsitory accessible from their desktop.

    2. Highlander

      Yes, and who have been the primary drivers of that fear, panic and cynicism?

      Western media, western governments.

      The western media has claimed superior knowledge and analysis over the Japanese media since this started. they've rolled out doubtful 'expert' after doubtful 'expert' to make claims ranging from total meltdown (of scram'd reactors), to Chernobyl style explosions and all sorts of wild claims about the extent, severity and duration of the contamination of the surrounding area. Western governments have reacted to such media reports and the ill-educated panic of their own populations by acting with an overabundance of caution, urging their nationals to leave Japan, and reacting to trace amounts of contaminants - possibly from Fukushima - that are well below background radiation, as if they were signs of the apocalypse. Even the US navy, which bloody well knows better, has been seen responding to extremely low levels of radiation as if it were a mushroom cloud event.

      Given that background, it's no wonder that the air of suspicion and cynicism that surrounds government and nuclear power has simply intensified continually in Japan to the point where irrational doubts and fears trump actuality. I'm not being critical of the people in Japan, this is normal human nature, and the product of a month of total non-sense from the news media.

      The fact is that the situation at Fukushima is/was a) unprecedented, b) chaotic during the first week or so and c) extremely difficult to quantify because of the huge damage to local infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture and the damage at the plant itself caused by the earthquake and Tsunami. No one could have got great information out of Fukushima during that first week, the people were too damn busy trying to assess what was going on and how to deal with it with out any backup. Since that time, the amount of information flowing out of Fukushima has increased continually. But to hear the media talk of it (and many commenters here) the japanese authorities, government and TEPCO are somehow silent and withholding the truth. Truthfully, they are *not* doing this. the information is *all* there for you - and journalists - to read. Expert analysis is available, but it's being plowed under by a juggernaut of self confirming fear and panic.

      You raise depleted uranium, but in the discussion of Fukushima and what is happening in Japan, that is a total red herring.

  65. petur
    Dead Vulture


    Just read the announcement that the evacuation area will probably remain that way for 20 years minimum. And that is an official announcement from Japan.

    So much for Lewis and knowing it all better, I guess....

    1. Andydaws

      It's now two hours later, and nothing about that

      on NHK, Kyodo, or the IAEA sites.

      Nor does a search of <fukushima evacuation area> show up anything.

      Do you have a source?

      1. Highlander

        I believe this is the 'source'

        It's neither an official, not an authoritative statement, nor is it particularly precise, or detailed, nor is it backed up by relevant facts.

        1. Andydaws

          And yet another example

          "But the 65-year-old academic, who has written many books on wide-ranging subjects including modern history and philosophy"

          The press appears to have decided that an historian is a qualified source of information of radiological protection....

    2. Highlander

      Better go re-read. No such announcement has been made

      The report stems from unofficial comments made to an author who then related them onwards and they amount to little more than an opinion on the wisdom of putting new homes in the area immediately around the nuclear powerplant.

      Considering that the primary long term contaminant of concern is the cesium with a half life of 37 years, 10-20 years would not even cover a single half life period, so whatever the two gentlemen were discussing, it was not an informed discussion.

      If you've bothered to follow this story, and read the reports and look at the data concerning radiation levels and deposition of radioactive materials, you'd know that the higher levels of contamination are patchy, and not so severe that people have to avoid the area even now. Precautions have to be taken, of course, but they are not the kind of precautions one would take to handle nuclear fuel - for example. There will be some topsoil removal and processing to remove contamination. There will be some removal of buildings that have contamination, and possibly simply field decontamination practices about as sophisticated as washing the surface and collecting the water used. The area immediately around Fukushima Daiichi itself is clearly much more severely contaminated, but even so, the technology exists to remove the contamination and restore the area to 'normal' without having to declare a decades long exclusion zone.

      More speculation, more mis-reporting, more people confirming their beliefs and fears based on the speculation and mis-reporting. The self confirmed beliefs then carry the weight of fact in the minds of those people - regardless of the actual facts.

      I am honestly beginning to think that human kind needs a major kick in the pants to restore it's brain to activity.

  66. Tom Reg

    There is a LOT of money in Fear. Profit for big industry rests on Fear.

    Lower allowable levels of radioactive materials, along with plenty of fear lead to huge cleanup contracts for the Haliburtons of this world. They also lead to more expensive electricity, which makes the usually monopolistic electrical generators happy.

    Wind, Solar, Biomass, nat gas, coal scrubbing, nuclear over safety. With all these bases covered, electrical rates can soar. Essentially the WORSE an idea is for making electricity the MORE the big industrial giants like it. For example shutting down Germany's nukes, which will cost $$$ is great for the pocketbook of your average industrialist.

  67. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)

    World Health Organisation & UNSCEAR vs Lewis Page

    "It is impossible to assess reliably, with any precision, numbers of fatal cancers caused by radiation exposure due to the Chernobyl accident — or indeed the impact of the stress and anxiety induced by the accident and the response to it.

    Small differences in the assumptions concerning radiation risks can lead to large differences in the predicted health consequences, which are therefore highly uncertain.

    An international expert group has made projections to provide a rough estimate of the possible health impacts of the accident and to help plan the future allocation of public health resources. The projections indicate that, among the most exposed populations (liquidators, evacuees and residents of the so-called ‘strict control zones’), total cancer mortality might increase by up to a few per cent owing to Chernobyl related radiation exposure.

    Such an increase could mean eventually up to several thousand fatal cancers in addition to perhaps one hundred thousand cancer deaths expected in these populations from all other causes. An increase of this magnitude would be very difficult to detect, even with long term epidemiological studies."

    - quoted from the 2005 WHO document, 'Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts')

    "Actually as we have seen the consequences of a "catastrophic" nuclear accident are either zero (Fukushima, Three Mile Island) or minuscule (Chernobyl actually killed fewer than 60 people)."

    - quoted from some noises heard emanating from Lewis Page. Further analysis will be needed to discover the orifice that discharged them.


    Yes, the other effects of the earthquake are a much larger scale disaster than Fukushima.

    Yes, the press are being crap and scaremongering.

    Yes, the overall health risks will probably be relatively low when compared to other risks.

    But this is still a major, albeit localised, nuclear disaster that will, in all probability, have profound effects on local marine life and it still has the potential for serious health concerns due to the concentrating effects of the food chain. If Lewis wants to preach to the converted and play at tabloid journalism, then that is fair enough, it is his column. However he is in no way some shining beacon of truth on this subject.

    1. Highlander

      "in all probability"

      Care to quantify that? Or are you basing that on the fears of local fisherman (who are rightly concerned since their fishery is being used to dilute nastiness), or on the ludicrous fears of countries thousands of miles and goodness knows how many cubic miles of water away?

      1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)

        oh, go on then..

        “Given that the Fukushima nuclear power plant is on the ocean, and with leaks and runoff directly to the ocean, the impacts on the ocean will exceed those of Chernobyl, which was hundreds of miles from any sea," - Ken Buesseler, senior scientist in marine chemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

        “Cesium behaves like potassium, so would end up in all marine life, it certainly will have an effect.” - Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland.

        "Depending on its chemical form and by what organisms it is taken up, radiation can also concentrate when it moves through the food chain. A 1999 study found that seals and porpoises in the Irish Sea concentrated radioactive cesium by a factor of 300 relative to its concentration in seawater, and a factor of 3 to 4 compared to the fish they ate." - Elizabeth Grossman, science author and journalist.

    2. Liam Johnson


      Is that the same UNSCEAR report which says "there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident."???

      1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)
        Paris Hilton

        no liam.

        it isn't.. I just searched the text. besides, it is a WHO report, as I stated. It just happens to be co-authored by UNSCEAR.

        1. Liam Johnson

          @A.T. Tappman

          The quote actually comes from the summary to the report on their webpage.

          Latest update here, "2008" annex published in 2011.

          The main observerd affect is some 6000 extra cases of Thyroid cancer, which would have been avoided if iodine tablets were available and precautions had been taken. I believe there were 15 deaths from this, again sadly, avoidable.

          1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)

            hi liam.. you might want to read that report properly then.

            At every stage it states that the predicted increases of a few percent extra cancer deaths would be unlikely to be detected using the available data and statistical methods.

            It then goes on to say that, as it had originally thought, it was unable to detect solid evidence in the data.

            This is not UNSCEAR saying that it thinks there were no more than 60 or so deaths due to radiation, but rather that if the overall increase in cancer deaths is only a few thousand, then it won't show up as a statistically significant result in the data of a few hundred thousand cancer deaths.

            1. Liam Johnson

              statistical methods

              >>then it won't show up as a statistically

              Which begs the question why anyone could come up with a figure of 4000. The answer is; it is just a guess, based on extrapolation of figures from much higher doses. If you can't detect an increase against the background noise then you cannot claim there is an increase. If you can’t detect it, then there is also little point worrying about it.

              Remember they are closely monitoring the people who went in there and cleaned the mess up, those who got much larger doses than the public, and still nothing but noise.

              Life is full of risks. Making an absurd effort to reduce just one of those risks even went you can’t detect it anymore will just deflect your energy from reducing other risks which are more important.

              The problem of cataracts will need dealing with, but perhaps just better eye protection will help.

              So I will quote UNSCEAR again.

              "there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident."

              1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)

                so, if you can't detect it in your current data set, don't worry about it as it doesn't exist.

                I see the light now...

                I shall inform CERN immediately.

                1. Liam Johnson

                  if you can't detect it in your current data set

                  No, if you can't reliably detect it in ANY data set, and your model tells you it is likely to be way smaller than the background noise, then you might as well ignore it.

                  CERN are looking for particles with very low probabilities, but when the do find one, they will know 100% what it is and it will stand out against the noise.

                  I cannot comment on your lifestyle, but I am pretty sure there is something that you do which has a known but insignificant cancer risk. Eating bacon or ham, going out in the sun (even with sunscreen), drinking, barbeque or any number of other things. You do these things anyway because the risk is very, very small.

                  Of course, some people see these small risks and try and avoid all of them, but that does not guarantee they won’t get cancer. It definitely will not stop them dying.

          2. Andydaws

            And, of course

            Iodine tablets have been issued in Japan....

            1. Dr Andrew A. Adams

              Only to and by the panicked and panic-mongers

              Only by panicking foreign governments like the US (and even their website says don't take them unless things change). People have been demanding them and so pharmaceutical companies and doctors have been supplying them, if only to stop people buying and swallowing the (slightly poisonous if swallowed in sufficient quantities) idoine mouthwash.

    3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      @Mr Tapman

      You are defeating your own argument:

      "An increase of this magnitude would be very difficult to detect, even with long term epidemiological studies."

      This is exactly what LP has been saying - the consequences so minuscule that they are impossible to measure. So the question begs what hole you have been talking out of?

      1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)

        o rly?

        they are only difficult to measure, because several thousand extra deaths across a wide range of conditions is very difficult to measure unless you have a really good idea of how many deaths you are expecting. According to UNSCEAR and the WHO, the deaths are still estimated to be several thousand and not 60, however the direct evidence is hard to glean and so the estimates are based on epidemiological studies instead, which can never give direct causal results by their very nature.

        1. Andydaws

          A T Tappman

          No, they MAY BE as high as 4,000 - but as things stand there's no epidemiological evidence whatsoever of excess deaths.

          You're getting confused between estimates that derive from applying population dose estimates to assumed mortality rates derived from the so called "LNT" model. However, most authorities, including UNSCEAR advise specifically against doing that. And increasingly, many bodies working in the field are deciding that the LNT model itself is flawed - the American Society of Health Physicists and the French National Academy amongst them.

          I'm trained as an engineer / applied scientist. If an effect's not measurable, then as a rule, it's best not to assume it exists. I can see why in your profession you might feel differently....

          1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)

            hi andy..

            loving the dig - "If an effect's not measurable, then as a rule, it's best not to assume it exists. I can see why in your profession you might feel differently...."

            my profession is in software and electromechanical engineering, A. T. Tappman is the chaplain Yossarian falls in love with at the start of Catch22 ;]

            If an effect is not statistically measurable in a given sample population, and you have already calculated that the signal you are looking for is smaller than the noise in that sample, but for another sample population the effect by the same mechanism is statistically measurable, then it would not be a good idea to assume that there is no effect.

            To put it another way, if you are looking at respiratory illness among a sample of smokers who do a long commute daily in a polluted city, then you are unlikely to be able to get good statistical evidence for illness caused from tobacco inhalation just from their public health data. That does not mean that there have been no deaths from tobacco within that sample population, but to estimate how many there are in that sample, we have to rely on other population studies as well.

            1. Andydaws

              you're logic is more than a little flawed:

              "If an effect is not statistically measurable in a given sample population, and you have already calculated that the signal you are looking for is smaller than the noise in that sample, but for another sample population the effect by the same mechanism is statistically measurable, then it would not be a good idea to assume that there is no effect."

              Rather, it's not a good idea to assume there is an effect - disprovable hypothesis, recall?

              "That does not mean that there have been no deaths from tobacco within that sample population, but to estimate how many there are in that sample, we have to rely on other population studies as well."

              It means that any contribution is very small indeed compared to other effects, if it exists at all. It certainly doesn't give you any evidence to claim that the effect exists.

              And there we hit the challenge - the evidence for the LNT hypothesis. No-one argues an effect at 100mSv or above - but the evidence for exposures below that points all over the place. It varies from studies suggesting mild hormesis effects (notably, the post-code based radon exposure studies in both the US and UK), to those that show no effect (surprisingly, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivor studies, and UK and US radiation worker studies, UK Windscale fire follow-up of exposed individuals) to those that DO show a weak assocation (Canadian radiation workers).

              That's led to the various authorities being ,frankly, all over the place. Some (BEIR in the US) hang onto LNT. Others (the French National Academy, the US Health Physics Society) state explicitly that the LNT model should NOT be used to estimate mortality from low doses. To quote the French:

              "LNT concept can be a useful pragmatic tool for assessing rules in radioprotection for doses above 10 mSv; however since it is not based on biological concepts of our current knowledge, it should not be used without precaution for assessing by extrapolation the risks associated with low and even more so, with very low doses (< 10 mSv), especially for benefit-risk assessments imposed on radiologists by the European directive 97-43."

              And the Health Physics society

              "There is substantial and convincing scientific evidence for health risks at high dose. Below 10 rem (which includes occupational and environmental exposures) risks of health effects are either too small to be observed or are non-existent"

        2. Andydaws


          "they are only difficult to measure, because several thousand extra deaths across a wide range of conditions is very difficult to measure unless you have a really good idea of how many deaths you are expecting. "

          Statistics isn't a major part of theological training, I'm guessing...

          It's bugger-all to do with "how many you're expecting" - it's to do, instead, as to whether there's a detectable increase, or whether the increase is so small it's masked by natural variations.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @A. T. Tappman

    Point well made.

    It's also important to consider the pathology of the nucleotide(s) in question. Iodine concentrates in the thyroid, as previously mentioned, uranium in testes amongst others, polonium famously collects in bone marrow, and so on. The risk isn't uniform, so generalizations are both unwise and misleading. When you're getting them via an animal, of course, it's worth considering which bit you're eating.

    It's kind of like the RAF advice to downed pilots in the Arctic: Never eat a polar bear's liver - the vitamin A concentrated there from the bear's diet of seals which have already concentrated the vit A from their diet of fish will give you hypervitaminosis which will likely kill you, assuming the bear doesn't. (Not unlikely if they still issue .22LR folding rifles in the survival kit)

  69. Highlander

    US Navy - Pacific Commander sees improvement at Fukushima

    OK, now this is interesting. The US Navy's commander in the Pacific, Admiral Willard says that things are improving at Fukushima - "incrementally better". He also comments on the INES levels 7 rating...

    Pertinent quotes...

    “I monitor reactor status -- minute-by-minute,” Willard said. Japan’s rating increase for what the disaster represented “against the international standard is of much less consequence to me than understanding the actual status of the reactors at any given time,” he said.

    “Though that status has changed to 7, we continue to see incremental improvement in the overall stability of the situation,” he said. “We are conducting very close monitoring of all the bases.”

    Can we end the doom mongering now?

  70. interested_reader

    Not this again

    "That is serious radiation: after an hour exposed to it you'd be likely to suffer actual radiation sickness, though you'd be just about certain to recover. Two hours, and you might die: four hours, a fatal result would become likely."

    A fatal result would become likely? What would Mr. Page's description of getting shot with an Uzi be like?

    "That is serious firepower: after being exposed to a few rounds you'd be likely to suffer actual gunshot wounds, though you'd be just about certain to recover. Ten rounds, and you might die: twenty rounds, a fatal result would become likely."

    But not to worry:

    "But these were in fact very brief spikes right next to a damaged core, resulting mostly from very short-lived isotopes that were decaying before they could drift beyond the plant fence. Nobody at all has been exposed to such levels."

    Really? Because the one constant theme to this story has been how much more fucked up everything is in reality, compared to the official press releases. Nobody really knows what isotopes got out into the wind, water, and ground. In contrast to Mr. Page's assurances that nothing leaked but "mostly very short-lived isotopes", we have Reuters reporting that

    "TEPCO appears to be no closer to restoring cooling systems at the reactors, critical to lowering the temperature of overheated nuclear fuel rods. On Tuesday, Japan's science ministry said small amounts of strontium, one of the most harmful radioactive elements, had been found in soil near Fukushima Daiichi."

    Mr. Page studiously avoids any extended discussion of the effects of ingesting radioactive isotopes, which is the real health risk that will be the legacy of Fukushima (as it was with Chernobyl).

    No mention of radioactive cesium at all in Mr. Page's article this time around. Though doubtless if it was mentioned, it would be something along the lines of "if you ate nothing but sushi fished from the waters off the coast and salad made from lettuce harvested just outside the reactor core building for a year, the most you could expect would be a 0.0000000001% chance of hair, which is readily curable by having your hair cut on a regular basis, which 90% of the population does already, so there! Plus, billions of people died for your windmills and solar panels, hippies. So get a fucking haircut and a shave."

    And: saying x people die per terawatt of energy source X blah blah blah is a false comparison.

    Accidents that occur during the process of mining coal, refining oil, etc. are not directly attributable to the properties of coal and oil themselves. If you spill oil all over yourself, you wash it off with soap and water. You can pick up a lump of coal, then wash your hand and have a sandwich. Falling off a windmill doesn't contaminate the ground for centuries. When you're done with a solar panel, you don't have to stick it in a salt mine for a few millennia and hope no one digs it up.

    These two flaws in Mr. Page's reasoning-- A) that we don't have to worry about what happens if we eat radioactive isotopes and B) deaths per energy form is a valid statistical measure of the safety of that energy form-- irk the shit out of me. That, and his condescending, sneering tone. It ill-serves the Register; and these trolls of his and Mr. Orlowski's masquerading as articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster (yes! it is a disaster!) do not inform, they only inflame.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If I understand it correctly, what they've done is invoke 3954/87 incorporating the amendments listed in the annex of 2218/89 (in what appears to be the ancient text substitution format to be applied to the former). I didn't bother to work it out though - Perhaps you'd oblige?

    These aren't post Chernobyl limits, they're emergency regulations "laying down maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs and of feedingstuffs (sic) following a nuclear accident or any other case of radiological emergency" in EU argot. Whereas it's true to say that these limits are not new, they certainly aren't obvious either, assuming these are what was being referred to.

    The US changes seem to be based on the word of a whistleblower, "confirmed" (ha ha) by an email exchange you can read on The whisleblower information appears to be supplied by PEER (

    You say:

    "So, in other words, it's yet more internet mentery, prompted by some lazy bastard who can't be bothered to research something - despite having the most powerful research tool in hsitory accessible from their desktop."

    That's a bit strong, given that you appear to have looked at the wrong thing. It's the Internet, FFS - Of course it's bollocks. :)

    "News is what someone wants to suppress. Everything else is just advertising."

    Reuven Frank

    1. Andydaws

      In fact, from what I see

      The only change is that radiological inspections of food imports from Japan will be enforced - it's not routine to test imports otherwise.

      And the point re the dates was that these were the limits imposed on the back of the Chernobyl experience. As I said, check the dates, and particularly the press release I listed.

      "Whereas it's true to say that these limits are not new, they certainly aren't obvious either, assuming these are what was being referred to."

      I rather suspect they're obvious to those involved in food inspections and radiological protection, who are the audience that matters.

      "The US changes seem to be based on the word of a whistleblower, "

      You have looked at "collapsenet", have you?

      A short extract from one of the items on there from the owner/founder

      "...A book cannot be an ultimate authority. The earth is. It is possible, however, to direct you to an indigenous elder named Red Elk who conveys, as clearly and as eloquently as I have ever seen, what I understand to be earth-based spirituality. I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to watch this short and poignant video which well-summarizes earth-based spiritual philosophies (video below) as I know them and what we ascribe to here at CollapseNet...."

      And you're the one who claims that others are being naive by litening to the output from NISA, etc..... and if that doesn't tick the "internet mentery" box, I'm buggered if I know what will!

      "The whisleblower information appears to be supplied by PEER ("

      The funny thing is, PEER themselves don't seem to think it worthy of having listed as "news"

  72. Andydaws
    Thumb Down

    @ Interested reader

    "Really? Because the one constant theme to this story has been how much more fucked up everything is in reality, compared to the official press releases"

    If anything, the opposite - TEPCO's shot itself in the foot several times by rushing out data that overstates releases, rather than the opposite.

    " Nobody really knows what isotopes got out into the wind, water, and ground. "

    you mean apart from the several hundred people sampling and monitoring radiation and isotope releases at multiple points around the areas, and those tracking the various aerial surveys

    "Mr. Page studiously avoids any extended discussion of the effects of ingesting radioactive isotopes, which is the real health risk that will be the legacy of Fukushima (as it was with Chernobyl)."

    you mean, apart from the iodine tablets issue, and the fact that (as UNSCEAR has it) ""there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident."

    "Accidents that occur during the process of mining coal, refining oil, etc. are not directly attributable to the properties of coal and oil themselves"

    You mean apart from the buring of coal and oil releasing particulates which are a major cause of respiratory disease - epidemiological experts reckon about 30,000 cases per year in the US alone.

    Or the radation releases from radon inherent in coal buring.

    Or the fact that fly-ash from coal always contains uranium, thorium and their various decay products. The proportions are small, parts per million, but the quantities produced are huge. Depending on ash content a thousand megawatt coal plant will produce 50-100 tonnes of fly ash per HOUR. Over it's life, that plant will put between 300 and 500 TONNES of uranium into the environment, and about half as much Thorium. Oh, and a range of potassium isotopes, which behave much like the caesium and strontium you mention. Oil's somewhat better, but still shares some of these delightful properties.

    That sounds pretty "attributable to the properties of coal itself". FWIW, I used to live about 5 miles from Drax power station. It's probable that I got more radiation exposure in the three years I lived there than in three years working on Heysham II nuclear plant. Including isotope ingestion.

    1. Highlander

      WOW - just wow...

      Andy, I applaud your efforts, you have demolished so many mis-informed arguments, I think I have lost count. Thank you for continuing to cut through the crap like a laser with your expertise and insight.

    2. interested_reader

      Nice try, but you are trolling, Mr. Daws

      The story out of Fukushima is constantly being revised; first we heard that the reactor core containments were intact... then we heard they were compromised... then we heard of radioactive water being dumped into the sea. Now it seems the evacuation zone has been widened-- but this is all merely needless overreaction in your and Mr. Page's book. We can be certain more unpleasant facts will continue to leak out about the Fukushima crisis and the contamination there is real, not imaginary.

      On the subject of coal, I am afraid you have completely missed my point... and inadvertently proved it at the same time. My point is that energy from sources other than nuclear may or may not be safe... but that safety is largely dependent upon how well-constructed and well-run the energy plants are. You can dump fly ash into the atmosphere or recycle it into concrete. You can build a gasoline engine with high or low emissions. There is a degree of control over the pollution involved.

      There is no cleaning up nuclear waste. It only accumulates. And the risk associated with exposure is enormous. You can't make nuclear waste less hazardous, or recycle it into bricks, or anything else. You're stuck with it.

      There is simply no getting around the fact that nuclear power creates nuclear waste, which is highly toxic and has to be kept contained and isolated from the environment for thousands of years.

      On a side note, your statistics are rather slapdash and spurious. Burning coal is not a nuclear reaction and produces no radioactive isotopes beyond what existed in the coal to begin with. So saying a coal plant will put tons of uranium into the environment is false... sort of overlooks the fact that the uranium contained within the coal was already in the environment in the first place. Coal burning does not create uranium. It does not create nuclear waste. More importantly, if a coal-fired power plant blows up, there is no risk of widespread radiation poisoning.

      Your claim of experiencing more (negligible) radiation exposure from a coal-fired plant than from a nuclear one is a red herring. Radiation exposure from fly ash produced by a coal-fired plant is negligible nearby the plant (on the order of 2 millirems a year) because there is no nuclear reaction going on.

      Radiation exposure from a nuclear power plant is only negligible so long as containment procedures are in place and do not fail. If they fail (see Chernobyl), they failure is by definition catastrophic and extremely dangerous.

      For an objective report on Chernobyl, see:

      Of course, if you worked at a nuclear power plant, you doubtless would have heard of the TORCH report... interesting you fail to mention it as a credible source. Apparently you would rather make false claims that the UNSCEAR reports found no health impact.

      Here are some quotes from the UNSCEAR reports:

      "For the last two decades, attention has been focused on investigating the association between exposure caused by radionuclides released in the Chernobyl accident and late effects, in particular thyroid cancer in children. Doses to the thyroid received in the first few months after the accident were particularly high in those who were children and adolescents at the time in Belarus, Ukraine and the most affected Russian regions and drank milk with high levels of radioactive iodine. By 2005, more than 6,000 thyroid cancer cases had been diagnosed in this group, and it is most likely that a large fraction of these thyroid cancers is attributable to radioiodine intake. It is expected that the increase in thyroid cancer incidence due to the Chernobyl accident will continue for many more years, although the long-term increase is difficult to quantify precisely."


      "The present understanding of the late effects of protracted exposure to ionizing radiation is limited, since the dose-response assessments rely heavily on studies of exposure to high doses and animal experiments. Studies of the Chernobyl accident exposure might shed light on the late effects of protracted exposure, but given the low doses received by the majority of exposed individuals, any increase in cancer incidence or mortality will be difficult to detect in epidemiological studies."

      My point remains: nuclear power is extremely risky, with no way to minimize that risk. No one engineered Fukushima to fail-- on the contrary, it was built with multiple failsafes and it was built to survive a major earthquake by people living in one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. And yet, it failed. Reactor buildings blew up, radiation leaked and continues to leak into the air and water and ground, and with widespread effect.

      Saying "well it only leaked a little, the tap water in Tokyo is fine for babies so long as the contamination doesn't last for a year" etc. etc. misses the point. A petroleum processing facility caught fire in Chiba after the earthquake-- we aren't reading of efforts to continue to get the plant under control weeks and weeks later, and we aren't hearing reports of petroleum showing up in small quantities in the water in Osaka as a result, or seeing people evacuated for miles around. And this is the difference between nuclear accidents and accidents with other forms of power.

  73. Michael Karnerfors
    Thumb Up

    Excellent article - I recognize all of it

    As a proponent of nuclear power, this article was a joy to read. I recognize the sentiments exactly. And I know many others share this view when it comes to all kinds of scare-mongers out there... for things such as....

    - cellphone radiation

    - electromagnetism

    - pitbulls and other dog breeds

    - the supposed health effects of wind power

    - food additives

    - artificial sweeteners

    - vaccines

    - modern medicine...

    My tribute to this article:


  74. Liam Johnson


    Sorry, but you still haven't explained why "x people die per terawatt of energy" is false reasoning.

    Your flawed logic lies in some sort of weird belief that dying from falling off a windmill is some how better than dying from radiation poising (remembering that nobody has yet died at Fukoshima, they have fallen off windmills).

    Or that being evacuated because of an accident at a nuclear plant is somehow different from being evacuated from and accident at a chemical plant or refinery.

    Or having to move to build a nuclear plant is worse than having your land compulsory purchased to build a hydro dam.

    Or the long term effects of radiation are somehow much more dangerous than the long term effects of an oil or chemical spill. You do realise that radioactive elements decay, whereas none radioactive elements stay there until the end of the universe? If the ground were contaminated with mercury, it would be contaminated for trillions of years, not centuries. Of course, you could clean it up as you would after any chemical spill.

    Your fears are irrational and your condescending, sneering uneducated tone irks the shit out of me too.

  75. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Oh, this... again.

    "Accidents that occur during the process of mining coal, refining oil, etc. are not directly attributable to the properties of coal and oil themselves. If you spill oil all over yourself, you wash it off with soap and water. You can pick up a lump of coal, then wash your hand and have a sandwich. Falling off a windmill doesn't contaminate the ground for centuries. When you're done with a solar panel, you don't have to stick it in a salt mine for a few millennia and hope no one digs it up."

    As I mentioned elsewhere, it all comes down to the superstitious belief that somehow if you die from a mountain falling upon you head or drown or get blown up by a methane explosion it is a "pure" death which is OK, but if radiation is involved it's "unnatural" and your death will be unholy, unpure and Gaia will reject you or something... Nothing more sophisticated than this - just that radiation is scary (can't see it) and coal isn't (can be seen).

    You just confirm that with your irrational arguments. I won't even bother discussing with you the concept of your imaginary cleanliness but just consider living near a lead mine or in Bhopal or working in a sulfur mine somewhere...

    And FYI, accidents in coal mines happen because of methane (invisible, by the way), which is an integral part of coal deposits. And, of course, if you spill oil all over yourself, soap and water won't help - you'll have to use a solvent of some sort (gasoline or acetone or vegetable oil will do).

  76. This post has been deleted by its author

  77. Andydaws

    Brace yourself for the next wave of hysteria

    From NHK

    "It is feared the number of victims will increase further as police on Thursday launch their first intensive search since the quake in the 10 kilometer area around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. An evacuation order is in place for a 20 kilometer area."

    What's the betting we'll get at least one paper (and poster) presenting any discoveries of Tsunami casualties as though they're a result of the accident at the plant.

    Oh, and it's obviously not instantly fatal, or even especially risky to enter the 10k zone, then. The police teams are just wearing paper overalls, and a cheap dust mask. About what they'd wear for handling corpses normally.

    1. A.T. Tappman (Chaplain)
      Black Helicopters

      and what's the betting..

      ..that we won't.

      if you were to have "a paper presenting any discoveries of tsunami casualties as though they're a result of the accident at the plant." , then it would have to include people who died before the nuclear incident.

      I suspect that this would probably not pass peer review. Although given the Sokal text affair, you never know.

      1. Andydaws

        The NYT is already most of the way there, old son - I think you've missed the idea of "papers"

        "Search for Bodies Edges Closer to Crippled Nuclear Plant"

        "The Japanese police moved their search for bodies closer to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Thursday as workers continued to remove radioactive water from the facility"

        halfway into the second paragraph, before the word "tsunami" is mentioned....

        The Vancouver sun has - "Japan police find 10 bodies in nuclear zone" - "Police search for bodies near Japan nuclear plant, as operator runs into fresh glitches"

        Beaumont Enterprise - "Fresh nuke plant woes as police search for bodies"

        Not at all slanted, are they?

        Any bets on how tomorrows "Sun" and "Mirror" will headline it? I'm more looking forward to the "Mail" - after all, on it's website it's giving us

        "Fires STILL raging at stricken Fukushima nuclear reactor one month after it was destroyed by tsunami"

        Apparently, there was a small fire in a battery housing - utterly routine stuff, put out in just seven minutes.

    2. Highlander

      The media has been doing this for weeks now already

      How many papers and news articles online have started out talking about the events at Fukushima and then right at the end, almost as a throw away line, without *any* context they will mention the death toll from the earthquake/Tsunami subtly linking the death toll to the nuclear accident, despite them being utterly unrelated.

      I'm certain that someone somewhere will find a way to mis-report it.

  78. Andydaws

    The problem is, it doesn't show up in multiple datasets...

    large or small. Or, more strictly, it's in some, and not in others, and is flatly contradicted in others still.

    Which begs the obvious questions - what makes you think it's a real effect at all? You seem to be holding those who argue for a lack of effect to satisfy the burden of truth - surely occams razor, consepts like the need for hypotheses to be disporvable, etc. places the burden of proof on those saying there IS an effect?

    One of the better and notable even handed summaries I've come across is the US GAO report, done to evaluate the implications of differing models operated by the two US regulatory bodies that would have been in charge of Yucca Mountain - the EPA and the NRC.

    "Epidemiological research has been part of the scientific basis for the linear

    model and radiation standards. However, epidemiology may not soon fully

    verify or disprove low-level radiation effects. Specific epidemiological

    research correlating natural background levels in the United States and

    around the world with cancer rates has been generally inconclusive,

    showing mixed results. Much of this research has used methodologies that

    have been widely considered too limited for the research to be influential in

    setting radiation standards....

    "...For example, historically DOE has funded over 40 epidemiological studies of radiation effects on workers at sites in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. According to DOE, the results

    have shown elevated cancer levels from chronic exposure at some sites, among the most highly exposed workers, although the results have been inconsistent and, looking complex-wide, DOE has not found a clear pattern of excess risk for any specific cancer type...."

    (So, evidence at hih dose, no consistent evidence at low dose)

    "For this review, we hired a consultant, Dr. Thomas Gesell, Professor of

    Health Physics, Idaho State University, a recognized expert in the field of

    environmental radiation, to identify and summarize worldwide ecologic

    and analytic studies of natural background radiation or radon. Through his

    work, we found that many ecologic and analytic studies have been done in

    the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America. Some focused mainly

    on radon effects, and others focused more broadly on overall natural

    background radiation effects. The results of such studies differ and are

    inconclusive overall. Most showed no evidence of elevated cancer risk, but

    a minority did show slightly elevated cancer risks. Taken together, the

    studies may suggest that low-level radiation effects are either very small, or


    (so, more show no effect than suggest there is one)

    "..With the help of our expert consultant, we examined 82 ecologic and

    analytic studies of natural background radiation or radon, in the United

    States and around the world. Of these studies, 45 were directly radon

    Appendix IV

    Overview of Epidemiological Research on

    Low-Level Radiation Effects

    Page 39 GAO/RCED-00-152 Radiation Standards

    related. The studies examined a variety of different types of cancer, and

    some examined cancer effects on children, while others examined genetic

    effects. Results of the studies varied, and we did not independently assess

    their quality. Some reported statistically significant results—elevated

    cancer rates, no elevation in rates, or a negative correlation—and others

    reported inconclusive results. (Some lacked basic information for

    assessing their quality.) Of 67 radon-related cancer studies, 22 reported

    results indicating a statistically significant correlation between natural

    background radiation or radon and cancer rates, while 45 found no such

    correlation (including 8 that found a negative correlation), and 4 were


    (so a few positive, most no correlation, and some showing a negative correlation).

    Now, that may just be me, but that sound awfully like what you'd see when there was in fact, no effect, rather studies were trying to extract a non-existent signal from background noise.

    Wade Allison goes rather further - he references not only animal studies that show a clear cut-off, but digs further into some of the "classic" studies. He points out that within the Japanese bomb survivors, the incidence shows no increase in leukemia risk at under 200msv, and for solid cancers, no statistical significance under 100mSv. For those tracked for exposure post Chernobyl (i.e. where longditifnal studies were done), the mortality rates almost perfectly track the sigmoid curve that's shown up in the animal studies.

    I'm just wondering what makes you so certain there's an effect to be claimed - to the effect that you can say "4000 deaths caused by chernobyl". Especially when UNSCEAR themselves say

    "The Committee has decided not to use models to project absolute numbers of effects in populations exposed to low radiation doses from the Chernobyl accident, because of unacceptable uncertainties in the predictions. It should be stressed that the approach outlined in no way contradicts the application of the LNT model for the purposes of radiation protection, where a cautious approach is conventionally and consciously applied [F11, I37]."

    Curiously, they are willing to make very specific statements on observations of non-human populations:

    "For acute exposures, studies of the Chernobyl accident experience had confirmed

    that significant effects on populations of non-human biota were unlikely at doses

    below about 1 gray."

    That's 1000 millisieverts (for beta and gamma exposures, which are primarily what's relevant here).

    1. kissingthecarpet

      How does

      it beg any questions?

  79. Charles Thornton

    What? Lewis Page, Worry?

    Quote: "According to TEPCO, radioactive iodine-131 amounting to 220 becquerels per cubic centimeter, cesium-134 of 88 becquerels and cesium-137 of 93 becquerels were detected in the pool water. Those substances are generated by nuclear fission."

    Or to put it another way Fukushima Daichi reactor 4 fuel pool is now an open air reactor.

    1. Robert Sneddon

      It's not rocket science, it's *ATOMIC* science !!

      If there was any amount of moderated fission going on in the pool then the Bequerel count ratio of iodine to cesium would be massive as iodine-131 is much more active than either of the cesium isotopes, and Bequerel levels are tied in to activity. What those numbers show is that most of the iodine has died away because of its short half-life. There's still a lot of it in the sample because there was a massive amount (atomically speaking) to start with in the spent fuel rods. If any substantial amount of fission was going on in the pool then the amount of iodine-131 leaking out of the damaged fuel rods would result in counts in the kilo- or even mega-bequerel level per cubic centimetre.

      The fission the report refers to happened months ago when about half of the rods now in the pool were in the operating reactor core which was defuelled in November last year. The other half of the rods are from the last time this reactor was defuelled, probably three years or so ago. Those older rods were probably scheduled to be removed to the off-reactor common pool storage or prepped for dry-cask storage when the tsunami hit.

  80. Anonymous Coward

    Lewis gets his information from a PR agency and did not warn us. Journalistic standards my foot.

    Hey. Remember this, from way back in Lewis' first article?

    >"Spread the word. And if you doubt us on any of this, please read this excellent early description [2] of the events, or follow the reports from the IAEA [3] and World Nuclear News [4]. Very few other channels of information are much use at the moment. ®"

    Now, I may be wrong, but I don't think "journalistic standards" are about telling people to go and accept any one party's word as gospel, I think they're about critically evaluating the evidence and reporting (remember that word?) it to your readers. So I was a bit perturbed at what, on the face of it, was a bald-faced instruction to just accept one source at face value. In connection with the whole notion of journalistic standards, aren't multiple independent sources really important?

    Anyway, I tried to find out who WNN actually is and what they are about. After all, from the name, you might easily assume this is some small independent press-wire operation that focuses on nuclear industry issues. So when I looked at their "About us" page, what stood out to me was that they don't tell you anything about who they actually are.

    You might have expected a mission statement. You might have expected full disclosure about what kind of organisation they are, and what they exist to do. But you would have been disappointed. The "About WNN" page is remarkably devoid of any organisational details. It says that the WNN is there to provide news. It says that they get admin and tech support from something called the "World Nuclear Association".

    But it doesn't say anything about who or what they are. You can read that page and you still don't know if WNN is a press agency, a private business, a charity or non-profit or co-op or whatever. It omits all the salient details about the nature and purpose of the organisation; you read the whole thing and you still don't know anything about what WNN actually is.

    So, you go to the WNA's site to find out what it says about WNN, and suddenly you realise what's going on.

    Because if you check WNN's "Contact us" page, you see that they list one "Jeremy Gordon" as the editor.

    And if you go to WNA's "Contact us" page, you see "Jeremy Gordon" listed as their first "Media Contact".

    In short, WNN is a wholly-owned subsidiary PR operation belonging to the nuclear industry's trade body.

    You might think that if they had an obvious axe to grind, Lewis would have warned us. But he didn't. I think that was a serious omission. I think a journalist would have still pointed us at this source of information, but labelled it with an appropriate health warning.

    I don't think anyone who tells us to go and unquestioningly listen to what a PR outfit has to say and purports it to be some kind of unambiguous even-handed truth has any right to lecture anyone else about "journalistic standards". As I said before, Lewis, in seeking to destroy, has become what he despises.

    1. Andydaws

      I think you misunderstand what WNN's about.

      It's hardly a PR channel - it's basically a house magazine for people in the energy and nuclear industry. I'd suspect that 90% of it's usual readership are engineering professionals of one form or another.

      Which is why it's probably been several notches above the mass media in the quality of it's analysis - it has to be, since its readership know there stuff. For example, most of the mainstream media have struggled with understanding the differences between the primary and secondary containments, and the reactor vessels. WNN's not prone to that sort of simplistic error, simply because maitaining its own credibility with its core readership depends on it.

      On the same sort of basis, so far as I know WNN was the first media source that set out the details of the detection of plutonium on the plant site, and the isotopic analysys that suggested that a couple of the five samples weren't likely to be bomb fallout. The media in general steered well clear of that, not least because 99% of journalists wouldn't understand the significance.

    2. Mike Flex

      AC & the WNN

      > Anyway, I tried to find out who WNN actually is and what they are about. After all, from the name, you might easily assume this is some small independent press-wire operation that focuses on nuclear industry issues. So when I looked at their "About us" page, what stood out to me was that they don't tell you anything about who they actually are.

      > In short, WNN is a wholly-owned subsidiary PR operation belonging to the nuclear industry's trade body.

      Er, yes. That's what the About Us page told me. That, and the sidebar entry proclaiming

      "This information service is supported by World Nuclear Association". Bit of a hint, I thought.

      And they still manage better coverage than the mass-market media.

  81. Andydaws

    there's a few other clues, too

    Like the lack of an intense neutron flux (probably tens of thousands of sieverts) .

    Or the production of a few megawatts of heat per metre length of fuel assembly.

    (as an aside, if as little as 10 metres of assemblies, of the 3,000 metres or so of assemblies in the pool were producing criticality levels of heat, it'd be enough to boil it dry in a matter of a few hours).

    FWIW the fuel management policy at Fukushima seems to be that in normal circumstances, one reactor's worth of spent fuel is held in the individual reactor ponds (which is three refuelling cycles worth). After that, the fuel is moved to a common storage pond for a decade or so, then into dry casks.

    Finally, those contaminant levels suggest a couple of things. One, it's only a few rods/assemblies damaged, not the majority. Those levels would be MUCH higher if the lot had been bust. Second, as seems to be consistent across this story, there's little or no release of actinides or the less volatile fission products. Which suggests can damage, but no burning/melting of fuel per se.

  82. Andydaws

    I've just run across the best bit of self-panicking yet

    leaving aside the amusing use of units - instead of of using Bequerels (1 decay event per second), they use "microbequerels" - 1 decay event per 1,000,000 seconds, or one event per 278 hours, the levels are striking. They report an initial reading of just over 1Bq/m3, falling to 0.05Bq/M3 five days later. Or, to put it another way, were they'll (on a typical sample of 1 litre), they'll see a single beta ray every 5 1/2 hours or so.

    Which, even were there no dispersal, would have now fallen to one every 45 years.

  83. John Deeb

    go with the flow

    Yet a pointless article on this topic from The Register as well as many pointless comments on an ongoing event with so many variables turning most analysis into nothing more than guess work and prayer. Really there's no reason to thinkPage has more grip on the subject than a Kaku, and both an equal possible motive to posture.

    Just some latest development which do not mean anything beyond written reports but it's there to indicate that there might still be a nuclear monster to fight:

    "The level of radioactive iodine-131 spiked to 6,500 times the legal limit, according to samples taken Friday, up from 1,100 times the limit in samples taken the day before." Sat Apr 16, Yahoo news.

    "Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) : groundwater by Unit 2 is 17-times higher than it was just one week ago. The problem is thought to be caused by an unknown leak or leaks in the basement of the unit’s turbine building or in the tunnel itself. On Friday, workers dumped more sandbags of zeolite, a radiation absorbing material, into the sea by Unit 3." NHK Sat Apr. 16

    "The analysis of the health impact of radioactive land contamination by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, made by Professor Chris Busby (the European Committee of Radiation Risk) based on official Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology data, has shown that over the next 50 years it would be possible to have around 400,000 additional cancer patients within a 200-kilometer radius of the plant."

    1. Andydaws

      This Chris Busby?

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    This is the most biased article I've seen on El Reg

    for a more balanced view.....

    1. Andydaws
      Black Helicopters

      Well, at least the plan's starting to emerge

      I'll take a read at the "Alexander Higgins" blog later, when I'm not posting via a phone. For the moment, though, it's 29 years this year since I graduated in Nuclear Engineering, and, although I haven't worked in the industry itself for 20-odd years, I've followed it and the discussions on radiological risk pretty intensively. And that's a name I've never once come across.

      So, I've no great expectation of it being other than yet more half-informed speculation.

      Onto the TEPCO plan (although, to all accounts, there's a good deal of Toshiba and Hitachi input too).

      The graphics being shown show a system where "feed and bleed" runs on for the next couple of months. The RPVs will be vented to the containment and/or wetwell. The water appears then to be allowed to drain into the secondary containment where it'll be picked up by a scavenge pump, and circulated to a treatment (presumably ion exchange and filtration) system, and be cooled before being re-used as coolant. What's not clear is if this applies to all three reactors, or only to R2 where there's a significant leak to the secondary containment. It'd perhaps make more sense to fully flood the R1 and R3 primary containments and circulate water from there - it'd almost certainly get to cold shutdown faster, as it'd raise water levels above the (apparently) leaking recirculation pump levels, and allow flooding of the RPVs.

      There's also apparently a plan to patch wherever the damage is - which will be at interesting challenge to the robotics types. If the recirc pump damage is confirmed, they'll have to do that to allow eventual flooding of R2 anyhow.

      As an aside, it's looking very much that R2 is the dominant cause of contaminated water leakage into the secondary containments -and turbine hall basements, especially as it now seems there's an interconnection between R1 and R2 turbine halls.

      It looks a sensible plan. Not overly ambitious in terms of needing access into the secondary containments/reactor buildings themselves (although, on the numbers now beginning to emerge from robotic surveys, the radiation levels aren't as bad as might have been feared - with some fairly basic decontamination, they ought to be accessible for short periods of working).

      Given that the iodine decay is now well advanced (and most of the volatiles that were going to come out of the damaged fuel are probably out already), the chemical removal of caesium and other contaminants should bring down radiation levels in the circuit reasonably effectively. I'd guess at a factor of 10-100 over three months or so. It also prevents build up of further volumes of water needing treatment. If they can get to a situation where at least some of the venting is of liquid water, as opposed to steam, flow conditions in the RPVs will improve, as salt is brought out in solution.

      As to the fuel ponds, we'll know over the next few days if it's only the R4 pond where there's been fuel damage - again, those are the indiccations, but until it's confirmed by sampling the pond water, we won't know. In those ponds where there is damage, there's probably still some iodine coming off to atmosphere (not much, it'll be nearly all decayed, but it's volatile. Unless the pond(s) get to boiling, although there's caesium and other contamination, that's likely to stay put. It's a solid, not a gas, and unless there's enough heat to loft particulates, it'll just accumulate in the ponds.

      They're proposing some sort of cover over the reactor halls. Interesting to see what form that takes.

      1. Andydaws

        full details here

        Do the three downloads, and you'll get chapeter and verse.

        Mostly, I wasn't far out - the only thing I'd missed was they plan to seal the breach in the R2 suppression chamber by grouting into the space between it and the biological shield, rather than welding in a patch. Easier to do, certainly, although it will depend how big the hole is - there appears to be a tacit assumption that it's a crack, rather than a significant hole.

        1. Highlander

          Thinking about how they'd patch that nwith robotics

          Since they will undoubtedly use robots to do that work, grouting would appear to be the more forgiving solution since welding requires a greater level of precision and control. Also with grouting there is little to no chance that the operation could make it worse, where as a welding operation would present higher chances of creating a larger problem that the one being patched in the event of a mistake or failure during the weld.

          You know, so far I think that the TEPCO folks on the ground and in general have handled this pretty well. There's been no evidence of panic, and a great deal of very practical, and educated creative thinking going on there. IAEA and other bodies with people on the ground there appear to have no issues with how things are proceeding, and apart from the politically motivated decisions coming out of the government this appears to be going about as well as could be expected given the nature of the damage at Fukushima Daiichi.

          It never ceases to amaze me how many people have a blind distrust of he very people who know the facility and situation best, and yet at the same time exercise blind trust in organizations far removed from the situation simply because the take an extremely pessimistic view that contradicts the rather more level headed and entirely factual picture emerging via TEPCO, NISA, IAEA and others there on the ground. Give that there is really no one better qualified or experienced with the specific reactors, site, equipment and situation than the people there, why on earth would anyone want to bring in external interference with the efforts to recover the plant?

          A well, I guess it's a function of the combination the blind mistrust and blind trust. I can't help but feel that there is a rather large dose of xenophobia involved in lot of those reactions as well, because I constantly hear an undertone that suggests that some simply don't think that the Japanese are capable of dealing with it, despite the fact that the Japanese have perhaps more experience than any one else in Nuclear energy, earthquake damage and recovery, and the effects of radiation on human beings and the land. The Japanese people are an extremely industrious people and it should be immediately evident to any casual observer that Japan have some of the best engineered infrastructure and construction in the world, their manufacturing prowess and density of construction also testifies to their excellence in engineering as a nation.

          Personally, I suspect that when all is said an done, in 10 years time when the history of these events is written, we will be surprised at how quickly Japan was able to recover. I think many will be surprised at the disparity between the actuality of Fukushima and the fiction spun but media and politicians over the last month and a bit.

          A final thought for this post. The IAEA as covered Fukushima daily since March 11th. The most recent update of their information page was on April 15th. Although the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is still described as "remaining very serious", the IAEA is not providing a new information update until April 18th. If the situation remained critical or there was a risk of rapid change in the condition at the reactors I feel certain that the IAEA would continue their daily reporting. So while it remains very serious, it's also clear that the IAEA considers the situation to be stable enough to cease the daily updates. That suggests greater stability and control over the situation, if not a decline in the seriousness of the situation there.

        2. Highlander

          That's a lot of work that TEPCO has laid out

          I'm actually quite impressed by their plans. There is a lot of work laid out there for them to do, on a site that still remains significantly damaged and active.

          Considering that there really isn't a playbook for this kind of thing, nor is there really any one with specific expertise of the situation, I find their approach or stabilizing first along with a growing program of sober damage assessment and calm planning to be far more reassuring than the various calls to bury the site under concrete, or sand or some of the other more whacky proposals we've seen. I'd rather the calm sober approach be used than the more emotional and irrational ones.

      2. Robert Sneddon


        I saw the proposal to flood the primary containment of one or more of the reactors on a Japanese news website. My worry about doing something like that would be the effects of the extra mass in the reactor building if another major earthquake came along, with several hundred extra tonnes of water sloshing around and damaging the pressure vessel support structures and even the secondary containment.

        I think the idea of flooding was to passively cool the cores by circulation and conduction through the water to the much larger surface of the primary containment vessel. This might effectively bring the whole thing to cold shutdown without requiring actively circulating water to remove decay heat as they are doing to Daiichi reactors 5 and 6 at the moment as well as the Daini, Tokai and Onagawa plant reactors.

        1. Andydaws
          Thumb Up

          reasonable points

          Remember the containments are routinely flooded for refuelling and maintenance operations which can last for three months or more. I'd be surprised if they're not seismically qualified.

  85. Andydaws

    there's a few other clues, too

    A lot of work certainly, and some of it not easy, but nothing that's obviously infeasible. The key factor will be the condition of the drain-down pipework systems for the containments (especially on R1 and R3). If they're intact - and there's no obvious reason to assume them to be damaged - it should be viable to get closed-loop cooling running.

    Even if the on-site heat exchangers from systems like the rhrs aren't usable, it's only 5MW or so that needs to be dumped. Heat exchangers for that sort or capacity should be available "off the shelf".

    I assume they intend to set up an isotope removal system for each reactor individually. That will probably require some "bespoke" kit, but again, nothing scarily unusual. I assume they'll build it up as a module, then crane it in, or something similar, to minimise exposures.

    As to R2, having thought a bit more, there's an option that's likely to work irrespective of the size of the breach, and that's to grout directly into the suppression torus itself. I assume that the area around the breach will be far too hot to be approached by people, but the challenege for the robots should be limited to getting a concrete pipe into the breach. The concrete can be pumped remotely (and they've a lot of concrete pumps on site). Still some questions about how good a seal can be expectec, though.

  86. Dr Andrew A. Adams

    Great Story. One Minor Correction

    Great story. However, one correction. The rolling blackouts. The announcements by TEPCo were quite correctly forecasts of what they would do if the people in Tokyo (and surrouding regions) did not conserve power. Most people did and so MOST 8but not all) of the predicted backouts were not put into practice. Some were. The only reson they have stopped now is the change in the weather. When the earthquake hit and the power plants went off-line (not just Fukiushima but a number of others went offline from power production but were not scrammed) it was still the tail end of winter and quite cold, plus businesses took some time to figure out power saving optins -like reducing the number of fluorescent lights and large TV screens in use. Now that the weather has warmed up, the power cuts have stopped. Even though most of the power plants will be back online within a few months, before then the weather in Tokyo will start getting deadly hot (literally - in a hot summer here there can be many deaths from heat stroke, particularly among the elderly). Without air conditioning people WILL suffer significant health effects. The rolling balckouts are expected to have to be put into practice during the summer months, gradually reducing as the rest of the plants (including the Fukushima Daini reactors) come back ons-stream. If the nuclear scary monster crowd get their way and have Fukushima Daini closed down (as they're calling for in some places) then they will be likely killing (and certainly shortening the life spans) of elderly people in and around Tokyo due to rolling blackouts leaving them without air conditioning.

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