back to article Japanese gov makes Fukushima evac zone compulsory

Japanese authorities have elected to make a recommended evacuation zone around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant compulsory and ordered residents of some communities beyond the zone to evacuate, despite the fact that radiation levels beyond the plant fence are dropping steadily and are nowhere such as to cause …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Big_Boomer
    Thumb Up

    What,.. nobody bashing Lewis?

    I guess they have all decided to go bury their heads in the sand again Lewis. <LOL>

    Thanks again for your perspective.

    So much more informative than the usual mob of panic mongers!

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      I'll have a go...


      Britannia rules the waves and all that, eh?

      Well guess what, India got its independence quite some time ago, and Madras is now called Chennai. What's more, it's not a state, it's a city in the state of Andra Pradesh.

      Consider him bashed.

      1. Deckchair

        is required

        Isn't Chennai the capital of the state Tamil Nadu?

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: I'll have a go...

        It's still a bloody Madras in the curry house down the road. I can vouch for the fact that it is indeed capable of converting anything it contaminates into a "hot zone" and the "fallout" can be terribly unpleasant.

        Mmm. I know what I'm doing later now......

        1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

          (actual) curry on the keyboard..

          F#$cker... you owe me a new one...

      3. Anonymous Coward

        yer geography sux

        "Madras" is now lovingly called "Chennai" and it is *NOT* in the state of Andra Pradesh, it is in the state of Tamil Nadu.

        full marks on the Lewis bashing though. the attempt brought a smile to me face.

        Fail and Epic Fail for geography.

    2. Aaron Em

      "...they have all decided to go bury their heads in the sand again..."

      Well, no -- they're just sick of getting thumped like a kettle drum in actual arguments, so they've retreated and now seek to maintain their untenable position solely through the use of the downvote button. You know, because "I don't like you!" is exactly equivalent to "You're wrong!"

    3. Morzel

      Don't feed the troll... (especially not an article-writing one)

      Perhaps people have just given up on reading opinionated and condescending articles. Treating the subject like he does, Lewis has probably ticked off way more reasonable and knowledgeable people that are actually in favor of nuclear energy than convincing people the other way around.

      It is true that in a lot of mainstream media, the coverage about Fukushima isn't as balanced as it could/should be. People have a tendency to be scared of things that they don't understand, and media have a tendency to exaggerate the scariness of any given situation -- not just the nuclear ones. If you have a good understanding of the topic at hand, then those in your environment that know about it will value your opinion and perhaps feel a bit more at ease to adapt the picture that has been painted in their heads by the news outlets.

      If you look purely at the facts in the past articles, I like that there is already more 'objective' information available than in most other articles on the subject although it's not even close to being balanced -- there should be more attention for sources that don't have a vested intrest in everything nuclear. On top of that, the not-too-subtle tone of nearly all the articles until today is that anyone with a different opinion than the one portreyed by Lewis is a bleedin' idiot.

      There is a point where people stop debating and figure that the other guy is just being an ass who isn't willing to consider a different point of view.

      The worst part of it all is that Lewis is actually capable of writing a proper article, as long as he keeps to the facts; once he starts having an opnion it all goes pear-shaped vewwwy quickly.

    4. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      Here's one (Lewis basher)....

      Lewis, I think you are needlessly being too premature in your judgement of the situation there. It is better to slowly watch and wait for the experts to determine what exactly the risks are.

      Do remember, it's not just the radiation you're dealing with by and large. God knows what byproducts are lingering around, and certain elements as you well know have very long half lives, and more importantly, something you may not have appreciated is some of these elements may actually be preferentially taken up by life, proving to be more of a long term hazard in the long run, even though their overall radioactivity may be 'low'.

      You do realise iodine gets preferentially taken up in the thyroid, strontium in bones, lots of other examples. How would you like to carry a huge proportion of 'background radiation' in you?

      You don't know all the ramifications of this. Nobody really does - I'll bet you ask any expert involved, they'll probably say 'we're not completely sure, but this is life we're dealing with, human life we're trying to save and protect from long term harm, so perhaps this margin of safety is warranted'

      Lewis, if you think it's that safe, I challenge you to go live there.

      Not that I am slating nuclear power. I believe work on it has to go on. We will continue to need fission plants for now. This I agree with you. If we just wash our hands off anything vaguely 'hot' we may very possibly deny ourselves something potentially ground breaking down the line, like perhaps the holy grail of a clean-ish fusion plant. But we also need to learn from this 'lesson'.

      Just don't downplay the potential long term danger this accident actually presents.

      And don't downplay the fact that there is a lot to be learnt from it, consequences and outcomes which we still won't know for years.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nope, if you bash him your posted is blocked

      Why bother, he's a troll

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Nope, if you bash him your posted is blocked

        Hardly. I let pretty much everything through on Lewis's threads, except for the really nasty "I hope your family dies" stuff.

        Er, I mean, YEAH, IT'S A CONSPIRACY etc etc.

  2. Dr. Ellen

    Shrieking Fits

    Long years ago, when the Greens were still worried about the coming Ice Age, I thought nuclear power made sense. When it became clear that large segments of society were willing to throw a shrieking fit about it, I reconsidered.

    Now that large segments of society throw shrieking fits about EVERY source of energy, I'm willing to reconsider my reconsideration. If everything has to fight its way past opposition, let's settle on the one that creates the least CO2 and environmental devastation: nuclear

  3. ian 22

    I am become TEPCO, destroyer of worlds!

    That is all.

    1. Aaron Em

      Oh, for God's sake, grow up.

      Oppenheimer was being histrionic too, but at least he had an excuse.

      1. ian 22

        Yet another pitiful sufferer from the dread...

        ... Irony deficiency syndrome.

        Yank are you?

        1. Aaron Em

          Afraid so

          Worse, one who's only just realizing that he has spent far too many years following the gospel of a bunch of latter-day Puritans who wouldn't know a good joke if it hit them in the face with a pie. By this point I've probably been damaged for life. However glad you are to have got properly rid of those people, you cannot possibly be glad enough.

  4. Si 1

    Arse covering?

    I wonder if the evacuation is less about safety and more about ensuring that 50 years from now anyone who gets cancer doesn't automatically sue the government and Tepco for billions of yen?

    Or maybe it's just so the politicians can look like they're doing something...?

    1. Veldan

      You won the prize!

      You hit it on the head.

      Basically from start to finish every action the government has taken was to make itself look useful and like it was doing something. Regardless of whether they were fanning the flames of fear or otherwise.

      Regardless of whether fanning these fears ruins Japans only real shot at power in generations to come. Right now they need to look like they're doing something!

      50 years from now, they're still liable for damages so I'm sure arse covering has a lot to do with it too.

      Pint - That's your prize.

  5. ravenviz Silver badge

    Nanny state?

    Japan is post-apocalyptic and has seen the effects of radiation on life, people, children, etc. so naturally they are cautious.

    Iran is not post-apocalyptic (yet).

    1. Highlander

      Why don't you check on the actual...

      ...dangers of the dose levels being experienced before you shoot your mouth off?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Japan is over run by conservative crack pots who believe that all that happened in ww2 was the evil Americans flew along and dropped bombs on them.

      Currently arguably the most powerful man in Japan (Governor of Tokyo) is a man who doesn't believe the rape of Nanjing happened, believes that the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea was a glorious period and nothing bad was ever done and, he also thinks woman that can't have children are a sin.

      He also thinks that the tsunami was retribution for Japanese greed.

      And he got re-elected the other week.

      And comparing the aftermath of the atomic bombs (where most of the radiation damage post initial damage was caused by people drinking the black rain) to the current situation is stupid.

    3. bigiain

      The compulsory evacuation is to stop looting

      It said on PM on Radio 4 this evening that the reason for the compulsory evacuation was to prevent looting rather than because of any increased radiation risk. Mind you, they didn't say that until after 5 mins of scaremongering crap.

    4. ArmanX

      I disagree

      Japan is post-apocalyptic and has seen the *minimal* [read: less than everyone seems to think] effects of radiation on life, people, children, etc. - *so why are they over-reacting*?

    5. Aaron Em

      "Japan is post-apocalyptic"

      Where do I even start?

  6. fridaynightsmoke

    Wait for it...

    Now various people will scream that this 'proves' how immeasurably dangerous it is there, and those screams will prompt the government to implement ever more cautious rules.

    Rinse, repeat.

  7. Ben Liddicott

    Just a standard governement money-grab.

    "All I can say is that Tepco will be held liable and they will be made to make full compensation to sufferers of this incident," stated Edano.

    In other words, Edano will use this as an excuse to grab loads of money from Tepco, and dish it out to favoured parties, meanwhile getting kudos for being a strong and decisive leader, and (he hopes) thanks from the people he is doling Tepco's money out to.

    Much like the 1 Billion extorted from BP after Deepwater Horizon went to glorify BHO, and give massively overdone compensation to fishermen and hotelliers, and of course, all the middlemen who evaluated claims, campaigned etc...

    Drink. It's the only solution.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Really you are comparing this to BP?

      You say: Much like the 1 Billion extorted from BP after Deepwater Horizon went to glorify BHO, and give massively overdone compensation to fishermen and hotelliers, and of course, all the middlemen who evaluated claims, campaigned etc.

      This disaster isn't due to some negligence by some company being greedy. There was an earthquake and then a tsunami. I might have had sympathy for BP had their rig been exposed to those extreme conditions.

      To say they were extorted is ridiculous. In fact for the 11 who died due to BP's negligence we should've executed the top 11 executives of BP as well as taken over all BP operations and given it to the US government as payment. I cannot believe you would compare two incidents, one where the people were directly responsible for the catastrophe and one in which a natural disaster brought the catastrophe on.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Who is this "we" we are talking about?

        "We should've executed the top 11 executives of BP as well as taken over all BP operations and given it to the US government as payment."

        Because oil flows better and more securely if the means of production have been nationalized and top executives are shot whenever sabotage/snafus/fishkill occurs?

        Your political commissar coat, m'lord.

      2. elderlybloke

        It was NOT BP

        Dear Anonymous, Thursday 21st April 2011 20:54 GMT,

        BP employed a company witch is a specialist in deep water drilling.

        They were the owners and operators of the rig that exploded.

        Why blame BP just because the Americans do?

        1. Phil 54


          Company witch?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Correlation does not imply causation

    People living for generations in regions with high background radiation can simply have experienced increased selection pressure due to higher rate of damage to the DNA (which in most cases is fixed, but sometimes results in a new mutation) for more efficient repair mechanisms. Comparison of people who migrated into and out of such regions with the populations at their place of birth would be more convincing.

    1. Chris 244


      Wrong wrong wrong. I think you are confusing science fiction with science.

      Germ cell line mutations are usually bad (often fatal), especially when said mutations occur to DNA repair sequences. DNA repair mechanisms are highly conserved, indicating the code is already optimized and further changes are highly likely to be deleterious (with emphasis on "delete"). You would need to apply "selection pressure" (i.e. kill off or sterilize before reproducing) to billions if not trillions of organisms in order to have any chance of a single significantly beneficial mutation occurring. Fine if you are a bacterium, not so much if you are a human.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        also wrong.

        Most mutations are actually harmless

        (The bad ones tend to spontaneously abort, which is probably the ultimate DNA repair mechanism in humans).

        Also you don't need to kill or sterilise to get selection pressure, all it needs is for one variant to be more successful at breeding than the other, and it only has to be a few percentage points more succesful too. So eventually the world will be full of good-looking milkmen, and there will be no spotty-nerds left to read "the register" from their parents basements :P

        1. Chris 244
          Thumb Down

          "More efficient repair mechanisms"

          I suggest you re-read the original post I was replying to. The poster was suggesting that letting a few thousand humans breed in a high-radiation environment for a few generations would lead to mutant super-humans with improved DNA repair mechanisms. The odds of this happening are vanishingly small.

          We have been living in a radioactive environment since the dawn of time. The optimization of DNA repair mechanisms occurred long ago over a billion+ year time-frame. Any new germ cell mutation to DNA coding for DNA repair is overwhelmingly likely to be negative, especially to humans living in a higher-radiation location.

          DNA is not homogenous. Highly-conserved regions of the genome are highly-conserved for a reason: errors in these regions cause a complete system crash requiring a hard reset.

  9. copsewood

    New Scientist confirms Japanese government aren't stupid

    Based upon New Scientist data It seems the radio Ceasium emissions from Fukushima are comparable with those at Chernobyl:

    "Similarly, says Wotawa, caesium-137 emissions are on the same order of magnitude as at Chernobyl. The Sacramento readings suggest it has emitted 5 × 10**15 becquerels of caesium-137 per day; Chernobyl put out 8.5 × 10**16 in total – around 70 per cent more per day."

    I'm well aware of the short half life of radioactive iodine. This article states the caesium 137 as volatile, so presumably it's being blown or washed out in large quantities as well due to the emergency cooling measures needed for many months to come. This stuff has a half life of 30 years.

    Which source of information to trust ? The New Scientist data confirming as rational the basis of a massively expensive decision made on behalf of its citizens by the government of one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet, or the best spin which can be put on this disaster by a self-confessed nuclear enthusiast - who won't let all the evidence allow him to abandon his dreams of a Jetson's future and nuclear electricity so abundant and cheap it doesn't have to be metered - so he quotes the bits which best suit his case ?

    1. David Cherry

      New Scientist confirms Japanese government are stupid


      "In the 10 days it burned, Chernobyl put out 1.76 × 1018 becquerels of iodine-131, which amounts to only 50 per cent more per day than has been calculated for Fukushima Daiichi." So Chernobly was worse so far than Fukushima by about 50% so far (and is for iodine which has a half life of 8 days)

      So far so good

      now to the caesium-137 "The Sacramento readings suggest it has emitted 5 × 1015 becquerels of caesium-137 per day; Chernobyl put out 8.5 × 1016 in total – around 70 per cent more per day."

      So it's less for the Iodine and left for the ceasium, so Less must equal the same!

    2. Aaron Em

      You just can't expect some people to think, can you?

      I mean, sure, a month-old article in the New Scientist which doesn't say what either you or it claims it does and has in any case been contradicted by many articles based on newer information from both within and without the nucleonics community -- yeah, *that's* the source to trust! My God, man, you've cracked it! We must turn to outdated distortions from the scientific gutter press for *everything* from now on!

    3. wim
      Thumb Down

      come to Japan and open your eyes.

      "one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet"

      Did you ever visit Japan ? I guess not. I live here now for 7 years. The only way to describe Japan is a industrialized developing country.

      Every time some one starts spouting this "technologically advanced" I have a one reply.

      single glazing. Most buildings have single glazing and no insulation. That is what stops every discussion. Yes there are technologically wonders here but everyday life is on the standards of what life in the 50's must have been in Europe.

      another good one: No central heating. If you really believe that Japan is that highly developed you have fallen for the Japan PR. Look up at how well the Hayabusa space probe went and then they still call it a success because that is what you have to do in Japan. Everything is a success and nothing ever fails.

      1. Yag

        Most buildings have single glazing?

        Wow. And it probably also apply to all european countries.

        And the US too, those trailers and subprimes wood shacks don't seems that well insulated to me

        In fact, this whole world is primitive.

  10. Anomalous Cowlard


    ... against what might still happen I suppose: the reactor(s) are hardly in a normal, safe state; the cooling is still jury-rigged, the shape of the fuel rods / cores essentially unknown, except that there must have been damage to the cladding as I-131 and Cs-137 is out in generous amounts, "unknown" applies to the integrity of containment structures and/or the RPVs of units 2 and 3.

    Still, that it has not gotten worse than this is encouraging: with each passing day the decay heat drops and with that the change of sudden, (more) substantial leak(s) is diminishing. Assuming that all goes reasonably well, the most substantial impact - realistically - is that plans for building more nuclear power have been derailed for the foreseeable future as well as - paradoxically - implementing a long term solution to the nuclear waste problem (instead of letting it pile up in temporary storage) such as reprocessing and getting rid of plutonium as mox-fuel, not to mention research into breeder reactors or even improving current designs.

  11. Filippo Silver badge

    Definitely arse-covering

    Here's what happens if they don't make the evac mandatory: 30 years from now, a bunch of guys who lived 15km from the plant get cancer. There *will* be some, because people sometimes get cancer, radiation or not. They make a class action suite against TEPCO and the Japanese government. Statistics on local cancer cases can easily prove that their cancer was not caused by the plant accident, but this is not the point.

    The point is that TEPCO and the Japanese government now have to either pay megabucks, or they have to declare that these poor cancer victims are wrong, the megacorp and the goverment are right, and therefore the poor cancer victims won't see a dime. True it may be, but how's that for a PR disaster? Do you think the media will sympathize with the megacorp and the government, unfairly accused of giving cancer to people? No, I don't think so either. They'll sympathize with the poor dying kid, and accuse TEPCO and the government to be lying. They're *already* being accused of lying, and in reality nobody even got seriously hurt yet!

    Forcing a bunch of people to evac is much, MUCH lighter as PR damage goes.

    1. Yag

      mmmh... Wrong calculation

      Probably cheaper to pay for those cancers than to evacuate the whole frikkin' zone.

      However, even paid in full, they will be a lot of bad PR.

  12. Pat Volk


    I don't think they're looking too hard in the area for radiation. It's probably rained a few times since the event, and the surface stuff has decayed a bit, but also has been concentrated into low-lying areas. Also, the exclusion represents confidence in the containment at the site.

    Safe for 99.99% of people, maybe 99.9 depending on how many basements are present.

    In order words, you're downplaying, but you're mostly right. The chicken-little press only uses 3-inch headlines for things that are 99.99% safe however.

  13. ratfox

    In before...

    Comments that the government is banning people from entering the zone in order to hide that the radioactivity level is far higher than they report.

    1. Aaron Em

      No you bloody weren't

      If you want to get in before *that*, you're going to need an RSS reader plugged straight into your frontal lobe.

  14. Highlander

    This is little more than a power grab by Edano

    This quote says it all

    "All I can say is that Tepco will be held liable and they will be made to make full compensation to sufferers of this incident," stated Edano.

    Because of his decision to make evacuation from areas compulsory not because of actual radiation danger but as a government driven 'precaution', Edano effectively kills TEPCO as a going concern and virtually guarantees government ownership of TEPCO now. Apart fro all the fear and anxiety and personal hardship his government is needlessly inflicting on people living in perfectly tolerable and safe conditions, he has with a single statement destroyed one of Japan's significant power companies.

    It's an exercise in power, not sense or reason.

    1. wim
      Thumb Up


      The DPJ was hurthing bad before the quake/tsunami disaster. Now they can look in control and try to turn around the general opinion that was going to murder them in the upcoming elections.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    "renowned US nuclear engineer Ted Rockwell"

    "He was Technical Director of Admiral Hyman Rickover’s program to build the nuclear Navy and the first commercial atomic power station. "

    So he's not at all biased then. Meanwhile, in a different part of the planet:

    "Father and son Trebor and Emlyn Roberts recall hearing on the radio how a radioactive cloud would pass over their farm. They were told their sheep and land would be affected for 3 weeks, 3 months at the most. A quarter of a century on, they cannot move any animal from their land without testing it for radiation."

    Not Fukushima, just a fucked-up food chain, 25 years after an incident a couple of thousand km away. Good job there's no chance whatsoever of any unpleasant debris getting into the food chain ever again, by air or by land or by sea, eh?

    1. Francis Boyle

      Well that's him outed, then

      A "renowned" nuclear engineer worked as a nuclear engineer, on major nuclear engineering projects. Who'd have thought it.

  16. NoneSuch Silver badge


    Well, North Korea is not being used for anything important right now. Lets just evacuate the entire country of Japan there and they will have that part of the peninsula sorted out in a few months. :)

    Plus, the US military can move into Japan, pave everything and use it as an airbase in the war to protect Taiwan from China in 2024. Now that's thinking ahead.

  17. Andrew the Invertebrate

    Hmm, who to believe?

    In the blue corner, a journo who spent the week after the tsunami saying the situation couldn't possibly get worse. And every time he said it, things got worse.

    In the red corner the people who are having to deal with it on the ground

    Tricky one that.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      It got worse?

    2. HW de Haan

      not much choice

      Since the journo is basing his story on the facts delivered by the people on the ground, you're not leaving us with much of a choice is it?

  18. Anonymous Coward


    Ok on one hand we have reports that not all of the reactors have been stabilised (one with large cracks in the casing) with potential remaining for meltdown, leading the government to escalate the severity of the incident ...

    ... and on the other hand we have Lewis telling us its all fine and they're scaremongers because the current reported radiation levels *outside* of the plant are low.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Large cracks in the casing? Yet can still hold pressure...

    2. HW de Haan

      They're melting down the cores

      If you had bothered to look at facts before you started ranting, you would've seen that the temperatures of all three cores have been hovering somewhere between 100 and 200°C for the past weeks. Hardly a temperature at which your beloved meltdown would be possible.

      Same goes for the 'leaky' #2 containment. The spilling has been dammed off and They're planning to close the leak in the coming weeks.

      You know, it's not for nothing that the govt send recovery-crews into the evacuation zone a while ago. They would've never risk the lives of people to recover dead bodies. That's a basic fact of all rescue/recovery work.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Ahhhh, good. Lewis is back


    with his hard-hitting Fair and Balanced(TM) factual reporting.


    Sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute, I presume?

    Or perhaps the UK Nuclear Industry Association:

    1. Skubas

      @ Anonymous Coward - Sponsored by Czech radon spa & wellness Jachymov

  20. BatCat
    Thumb Up

    BP Gulf of Mexico Accident

    How does this measure up against the oil drilling accident last year?

    11 people killed during the accident

    countless animals and sea organisms killed by the oil pollution

    livelihoods wrecked

    continuing human and wildlife ill-effects from the lingering pollution.

    Measured on the same scale as a nuclear accident, that's got to be a 10 surely??

    And, it was caused by cost cutting / incompetence not an almost unprecedented natural disaster...

    1. Aaron Em


      Be quiet! They're sleeping the sleep of the righteous. They don't want to be reminded of last year's disasters, especially not in the context of pleading for a bit of perspective on the part of the fearmongers, most especially not when last year's disasters weren't made out of nuclear demons, which every God-fearing righteous person knows are the satraps of Satan. How dare you seek to snatch the torches and pitchforks from their hands?

  21. Chris_Maresca

    Personal experience re: radiation casualties

    My family in Eastern France was heavily affected by the Chernobyl fallout.

    One of my cousins died of leukemia as a result of the fallout. Doctors determined that the source of radiation was a rainstorm when he was outside.

    My aunt, who works a small farm, was similarly affected and had to have her thyroid removed. So where thousands of other people in the region.

    The point is, it's not just about the radiation levels measured, but also the risk of localized high exposure due to atmospheric transport. The later is much worse and rather unpredictable. Eastern France was heavily impacted by highly localized concentrations of fallout, some of which was higher than the Ukraine evacuation zone. There are still places where you can't use the milk or grass to this day.

    And, before you say "this isn't Chernobyl - it's not a burning reactor" - sure, but it's stuff that has a nasty tendency to evaporate (e.g. h2o). It may not be quite as bad, but if it takes 9 months to clean, how much is going to evaporate, esp with a ready heat source (never mind the weather).

    Of course, Lewis believes it's perfectly safe, which is easy to preach when you're 6000 miles from the danger. IMHO, it's much better for the locals to play it safe, even overly safe, rather than be sorry after the fact.

    Not bashing Lewis or even nuclear power, but I also think that a dose of reality is required and nothing is more real than death.

    1. Captain Thyratron

      Just FYI...

      H[2]O isn't radioactive. It doesn't matter how much water evaporates, because the evaporating water isn't the problem--it's the stuff that's floating around in that water, which is not especially inclined just to bugger off into the air whenever it likes. The vapor pressure of heavy ions in water is not very impressive.

      The Chernobyl fire, I wish to add, was no ordinary graphite fire. The RBMK-1000 is a very large reactor, and contains hundreds of tons of graphite. When graphite burns, it burns extremely hot, and when hundreds of tons of it are on fire, all full of molten reactor parts, it's not a pretty picture. Evaporating water vapor is no good at carrying relatively dense radioactive materials into the air, but a plume of graphite-powered hellfire that burns for nine or ten days is quite adept at sending particles of soot and dust, contaminated with radioactive substances because that soot came directly from the same flaming heap that contains the remains of the fuel rods, high into the atmosphere. You will never find a fan that's as good at moving air as that fire was, nor a better way of dispersing dust laden with little bits of radioactive materials than a big, hot column of fire.

      The end result is that a nontrivial fraction of the mass of the fuel went straight into the atmosphere--It actually produced about four hundred times more fallout than the Hiroshima bombing! For Fukushima Daiichi to reproduce this effect would require the construction of quite an impressive bonfire.

      Your closing line, by the way, is kind of ironic since the only deaths recorded at either of the Fukushima sites have been from blunt force trauma of one sort or another.

    2. Aaron Em

      This isn't Chernobyl.

      ...but not entirely because it isn't a burning reactor, though it also isn't Chernobyl because of that. This isn't Chernobyl because the wind swept the fallout plume straight out over the planet's widest ocean, which diluted the fallout so thoroughly by the time it reached North American shores that even the New Scientist didn't try to pretend it was anything other than barely detectable with the most sensitive instruments available. I don't pretend it is remotely desirable to contaminate even the planet's largest ocean with radioactive debris; on the other hand, I also don't imagine the problem to be more than the large-scale, though low-mortality, industrial accident that it is.

      It's also not Chernobyl because evaporation of water is not going to produce radioactive steam: water contains fallout but, absent direct neutron activation which is not happening here, does not become fallout. Since the radioactive particles in the water, mostly isotopes of cesium and iodine, are heavier than the water molecules themselves, the water won't carry the fallout with it as it evaporates. (Evaporative purification also lies at the heart of most processes used in the desalination of seawater. Also, I'm not any kind of chemist, but I'm pretty sure a chemist wouldn't slap me for describing it the way I just have.)

      I don't believe Mr. Page is arguing that it's "perfectly safe" or that people in the vicinity of the Fukushima plant should behave exactly as they ordinarily would; any large-scale industrial accident is likely to contaminate the surrounding countryside, and Fukushima is no different. As far as I can tell, Mr. Page has been arguing around two major points: first, that this accident has at no point approached the scale of the Chernobyl disaster; and, second, that as with every nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster, this is a large-scale industrial accident which, for no good or sensible reason whatsoever and to great human and economic cost, is being treated as though it portends the very wrath of God.

      That may sound like a sarcastic and cynical exaggeration, but it is nothing of the sort; as Mr. Page and many others have, over the last month, been at great and lengthy pains to illustrate, when an oil rig blows up and dumps enough oil into the water to all but slaughter an entire sea, it's old hat to anyone not directly affected before the headlines have even had time to die down. But when it comes to a nuclear incident -- *every* nuclear incident, no matter the details -- the gloves come off, the forebrains are shut down, and people behave exactly as did Middle Ages peasants when confronted with the terrible specter of Satan walking up and down in the land.

      Compared to that, what's a brand-new dead and toxic sea? Compared to that, what's a mere ten thousand or so people killed and as many over again left unaccounted for in a completely forgettable natural disaster on an utterly disinteresting scale equalled by only a very few such totally banal events in recorded human history?

      But there's a bigger problem. One way or another, whether the peak oil theorists turn out right or the AGW folks get their way, we're almost certainly going to be burning less oil fifty years from now than we are right now, and the decline will continue as time grinds on -- and natural gas is finite, too, even if there is a fair bit more of it left to dig up. (And even if the oil'll never run out and global warming isn't and ice cream rains from the skies, it's still not like exhaust fumes are *good* for anybody.)

      We obviously can't wait fifty years to start bringing new generation capacity online, whichever mix of technologies we turn out to use. Wind and solar might be to a point in fifty years where they can sustain a significant amount of baseload power generation, or they might not; I'm not knowledgeable enough even to pretend I have a guess one way or another. But I do know they aren't there right now and aren't going to be ten or twenty years from now, either.

      Right now, solar and wind put together don't even supply three percent of the world's actual energy consumption, and they still haven't gotten over the problems of the sun going down every night and the wind going this way and that: wind and solar are *interruptible*, which is a pretty big problem (especially for forests, and also for cities) when it means you can't run your space heater at the coldest time of the night, and a very big problem when it means a hospital can't run the extremely power-hungry equipment it uses to keep people not dead, and a goddamned enormous problem when it starts telling on our capacity to keep people fed.

      So, because wind and solar are interruptible and because there are many processes, some immediately or eventually critical to human life, which aren't, we can't implement those technologies without putting a separate, conventional technology in place to supply power when the clean'n'green plants are forced offline by utterly ordinary environmental conditions. (Or, at any rate, we can't do that unless we *want* a lot of people to die pretty damn quick, and a lot more to die a lot sooner than they otherwise would.)

      Right now, natural gas is often used to backstop wind and solar, because natural gas can be made to work much more reliably; on the other hand, if we're talking about a future in which carbon emissions are radically curtailed -- and, one way or another, it seems that we are -- then we can't assume natural gas or any other petrochemical fuel will be available or acceptable as a backstop technology. That leaves dams, needing rare (and mostly already populated) favorable geography, and tending to kill far more people than any reactor when they fail; geothermal, needing favorable geography and just not up to much in terms of raw output; wave power, which I'm still convinced is nothing more than some engineer's perverse joke that got far too far out of hand; and nuclear, which is reliable and renewable and can be made to be quite clean -- but only, I'm convinced, once we start coming up with governments with brains and backbone enough to say, and make stick, that some things are too damned important and too damned dangerous to be used for making money on.

      Because that, I remain firmly convinced, is the root of the problem. A company like TEPCO isn't doing nuclear; they're doing money, and nuclear is just a tool with which they've chosen to do it. If that tool isn't fit for purpose, it'll be ground down until it does the job -- which, again, lest we forget, as with any for-profit corporation, is money. That's why they fucked it up, both in Japan and at TMI. (Windscale and Chernobyl do not figure into this particular evaluation; graphite piles without meaningful secondary containment -- even a mope like me can say those people did not start to know what the fuck they were doing.) If we can replace the private nuclear industry we have now with people who are just doing nuclear, who are very good at nuclear and absolutely unshakeable on the point of maximum possible safety, and who don't have to worry about money at all, we almost certainly won't have these problems.

      Of course I didn't come up with all that myself; unless I'm very much mistaken, it is another point lately made in these Pages, with the suggestion that the people required be drawn from the engineering departments of the various nuclear navies, and employed by a tax-funded agency with absolute, unquestioned, and *sovereign* responsibility over every reactor and every significant mass of active material in a jurisdiction coterminous with the boundaries of the nation in which it's organized. (In the US, this might be a third civilian uniformed service, but one I think without precedent in the breadth of its authority and responsibility -- if done right, at least.)

      Not that I'm well equipped to evaluate such a proposal on the merits, of course; I'm basically nobody, but I'm a reasonably clever nobody, and in light of the problems with zero-emissions generation technology, it sounded like a damn good idea to me.

      I don't want to seem unsympathetic about the harm the Chernobyl disaster did your family and many others. I don't know, of course, but I like to hope I'd say the same thing if I lived downwind from a nuclear plant, or if I lived downwind of Fukushima. (Though admittedly I'd have to be living on an anchored ship or a stationary houseboat or something.)

      And I agree that a dose of reality is required. Here's hoping my attempt at same has been helpful.

      1. Dr. Ellen

        Who, then, shall do it?

        "If we can replace the private nuclear industry we have now with people who are just doing nuclear, who are very good at nuclear and absolutely unshakeable on the point of maximum possible safety, and who don't have to worry about money at all, we almost certainly won't have these problems."

        I agree with your comments, and am in sympathy with them, except for the part about replacing what we have now. Because if it isn't a business making energy, it's either a government or a priesthood of some sort. Neither governments nor priesthoods have a good record of staying on-mission.

        1. Aaron Em

          I'm open to a better suggestion

          I would sure as hell rather entrust the responsibility to a government agency than to a for-profit corporation with a powerful incentive against maximal safety built into its very nature. I certainly do not want a nuclear priesthood. I don't like any of those options particularly, but government is the one of them I dislike least, and this is far from a perfect world. But I'd love to hear about any plausible fourth alternative you've come up with.

          And, to clarify, I'm not talking about handing over the entire generation industry to the Nucleonics Service or whatever it'd end up being called; to vaguely paraphrase whoever I ripped off the idea from, everything from the turbine hall out can belong to a company and be run for profit, but the reactors themselves *must* be operated and maintained by an agency which, all the way up the line, is made out of people who are there to do nuclear, instead of using nuclear to do money.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hand it over to the scientists and the prices become uncompetitive

            Hand it over to the scientists and the industry dies because the prices become uncompetitive, because the prices are determined by construction and operation costs, not by fuel costs.

            Dead in the water (so to speak) either way. Might as well accept it sooner rather than later.

            1. Aaron Em


              I'm talking about handing it over to the engineers.

              David Pollard's point, on the other hand, I find compelling.

          2. David Pollard

            @ Aaron Em - the fourth alternative

            The problem is perhaps not so much who should be entrusted with responsibility to run the nuclear industry but who is available to staff it and how many people have any real understanding of the science behind it.

            While the UK had been up with the world leaders in the early days of the nuclear engineering,.in the decades since North Sea Oil and the Dash for Gas the industry has been in serious decline. Other than a small number of graduates who see a career in weaponry, there has been hardly any new blood going into the industry.

            As in other areas, rigorous democratic accountability would provide appropriate safeguards. But this requires both that processes and procedures should be open to inspection by the 'thousand eyes' of the general public and also that people as a whole have sufficient comprehension of the issues and the technology to make sense of what they see.

            Now that nuclear weapons are somewhat outdated there is no longer any great need for secrecy. The problem then comes down to how to teach the basics of nuclear science to the general public and to encourage a new generation of engineers and scientists. If comments on El Reg are a guide, this is likely to be a long haul.

          3. Yag

            "I certainly do not want a nuclear priesthood"

            But... "Church of the Children of Atom" sounds nice...

            1. Aaron Em


              Got better things to do than worship a lump of two-hundred-year-old unexploded ordnance, thanks.

  22. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Time to consider just building the reactors on large floating platforms

    Easy Cooling, easy failsafety, lots of shielding around, easily defended against terros and greens.

    Rogue waves, electricty transport, damage due to sea environment and fuel rod logistics would be a problem though.

    1. Aaron Em



  23. Tom Samplonius

    The scary thing about cancer...

    @Si 1 "...anyone who gets cancer doesn't automatically sue the government and Tepco for billions of yen?"

    The scary thing about cancer, is that at least 30% of the population is going to come down with cancer anyways.

  24. E 2

    The fat lady has not sung yet.

    What I said in the title.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    "oil drilling accident last year?"

    That oil drilling accident was rather messy wasn't it. Still, at least till the Yanks and their hangers-on cut down on their gas guzzlers so that there's enough affordable oil left for petrochemical feedstocks for them and maybe a bit left over for the rest of the world, the world has little option but to continue drilling for oil. No cheap oil, no cheap petrochemicals, no cheap transport. No cheap petrochemicals, no agribusiness. No cheap petrochemicals, no cheap plastic. No cheap transport, no globalization. No globalization, no global finance business. Think about it for a nanosecond or two.

    Meanwhile, are there any alternatives to nuclear electricity? Starting with nice low tech low cost options like basic energy efficiency measures in commercial and industrial premises in the West? No, you're quite right, it can't possibly be done, it would probably involve creating local jobs for local people.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      And then

      after the wind mills are installed , we have weather like we've had in the past 2 months

      Nothing like a nice blocking high pressure system to generate electricity from wind

      perhaps if we put green party supporters in hamster wheels we could generate power

      1. Aaron Em

        Not without precedent

        "perhaps if we put green party supporters in hamster wheels we could generate power"

        Well, they were building treadmills in prisons as far back as two centuries ago. Obviously far ahead of their time!

  26. interested_reader

    WTF does this have to do with radioactive hot springs in Iran or background radiation in Madras?

    So Mr. Page dug up the places on Earth where people are exposed to the highest known levels of naturally occurring background radiation, then proceeded to conclude that everything is fine in Fukushima?

    More false parallels. The radiation in Fukushima isn't coming from hot springs in the ground or any other naturally occuring, steady, low-level emissions source. It's coming from a fucking man-made nuclear power plant that suffered multiple explosions, contaminated tap water as far as Tokyo, spewed radioactive cesium all over the ground, and is still not under control. Periodic massive spikes in radiation exposure have occurred, uncontrolled leakage of radation into the ocean has occurred, and the plant lies in ruins, shattered concrete and twisted rebar all over, containment bolts blasted loose, etc.

    Like it or not, any part of that plant could suffer an unforeseen malfunction at any time.

    Mr. Page's argument is tantamount to standing in a wildfire evacuation zone saying "the smoke exposure here is less than what someone gets who smokes a 2 packs a day of unfiltered cigarettes in Iran every day for a year, and I don't see the government of Iran banning cigarettes. Therefore this evacuation zone is bullshit. Pay no mind to the negligible soot in the air or the houses burnt to the ground a few miles down the road."

    Am I glad that things in Fukushima appear to be gradually coming under control, and radiation doses are (thankfully) not catastrophically high to the surrounding population? Most certainly. It is my most fervent hope that Fukushima comes under control soon and the whole thing is either shitcanned under concrete or safely rebuilt and run under even higher safety standards in future. Japan has little choice but to use nuclear power on a large scale. And once things come under control, no doubt we will be treated to more self-congratulatory crowing and preening from the likes of Messrs. Orlowski and Page.

    But dodging a bullet doesn't mean getting shot at is safe. And long-term, nuclear power is not less dangerous than coal, oil, wind, solar, etc. It is immeasurably more risky and dangerous. The argument is not about how many people have or have not died or gotten ill due to nuclear accidents, or how effective safety precautions have been thus far over the brief period of time that humanity has used nuclear power. The argument is about looking at the ramifications of the worst-case scenario. Chernobyl gave us a good long look at that, and now Fukushima has given us another glimpse.

    1. Gerald

      Eh... So, what *is* the worse that can happen?

      Quoted: "And long-term, nuclear power is not less dangerous than coal, oil, wind, solar, etc. It is immeasurably more risky and dangerous."

      But based upon what? Quantify it for me. In what way is nuclear *more* dangerous long term? Or, because it's immeasurable, that it can't be measured, but surely -- nod, nod, wink, wink -- it's more. It.. it's just GOT to be!

      As far as I can tell, the question about "What's the worst that could happen"? Is not answered, especially not from the people who are fretting about the worst that can happen, but being scared about the answer to that question is already worse than what has happened.

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Can we get a missed-the-point icon please?

      WTF does this have to do with radioactive hot springs in Iran or background radiation in Madras?

      Simple: the naturally occurring radiation exposure in those locations is higher than at Fukushima but no one is being evacuated from there. Oh, I forgot that's "natural" radiation so it's alright.[/SARCASM]

      1. interested_reader

        Missed the point?

        Cpt Blue Bear: "Simple: the naturally occurring radiation exposure in those locations is higher than at Fukushima but no one is being evacuated from there. Oh, I forgot that's "natural" radiation so it's alright.[/SARCASM]"

        No, it's not that simple. It is unlikely that the hot springs in Iran will suddenly display a temporary spike in radiation thousands of times normal or start spewing radioactive cesium all over the ground. My point, which you clearly missed in your blind haste to triumphantly thump your chest, was not that naturally occurring radiation in the two locales Mr. Page dug up on Wikipedia was any the less harmful for being naturally occurring. My point was and is that the Fukushima plant is not under control and has blown up several containment buildings (but not to worry, says Mr. Page, that's a design feature) and has spewed tons of radioactive water into the sea (but not to worry, says Mr. Page, if you pee in a large enough swimming pool no-one will notice) and has in general exhibited no signs of stability just yet (but not to worry, says Mr. Page, we should look for our guidance on radiation safety levels to countries where stoning adulterers and pooping in the street are still the norm). The reason there is an evacuation zone in Fukushima and not Madras is there is a nuclear plant that just blew up and puked radiation all over the place in Fukushima, and not Madras. As to whether the Iranians or Indians should evacuate areas where the populace is exposed to higher than normal levels of radation, that is another question entirely. It is a question of resources, policy, governance, etc. for those countries, and has fuck-all to do with whether or not it is safe to go scarfing down the cesium-tainted produce outside the gates of a nuclear power plant with three reactors suffering compromised fuel integrity and unknown containment integrity. I hope that makes it "simple" enough for you, Captain.

        1. HW de Haan


          It is on the other hand highly unlikely that the background radiation in those places will ever subside. This in contrary to Fukushima....

  27. Geoffrey Swenson

    More Axe Grinding by Mr. Lewis

    The evacuations are probably not so much for the current levels of radiation, but to reduce the loss of life if any one of many possible catastrophic situations releases far higher amounts of radiation.

    But it is more convenient for Mr. Lewis axe grinding arguments if he simply ignores this possibility.

    We are several weeks into the disaster and they have barely made any progress towards getting this actually under control. The entire plant is too radioactive for the workers to actually do much to fix the problem. Robots had to be used recently just to make a survey, and they found lethal levels of radiation in large areas of the plant.

    We still risk a huge steam explosion spraying huge amounts of lethal radiation if molten material ever contacts ground water.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      "We still risk a huge steam explosion spraying huge amounts of lethal radiation if molten material ever contacts ground water."

      [Citation needed]

      1. Geoffrey Swenson

        As long as things are out of full control, there are catastrophic consequences possibile

        If the pile continues to melt and/or oxidize, the nuclear materials can concentrate below the control rods and thus the reactor can reach critical levels and get so hot it melts through the concrete / steel enclosure. This could happen in a fairly catastrophic way.

        It would then hit ground water and make a huge explosion.

        1. Cpt Blue Bear

          Oh for feck's sake

          Why don't you try learning about how this reactor works instead of spouting nonsense?

        2. Andydaws

          Geoffrey Swenson - simply not so


          No, that's simply not the case.

          even were the remaining fuel to slump to the bottom of the RPV, it's now simply not generating enough heat to cause significant damage - as I said, in the order of 5MW.

          Even some very basic heat transfer calculations would tell you that the rate of heat removal (conduction and subsequent convection) into the containment would easily remove that, with even interior temperatures got getting much over the normal operating temperatures (in the order of 300C).

          I'll point out that Three Mile Island saw worse conditions, including slumped fuel, without significant penetration into the RPV wall - something of the order of 10mm in a 200mm wall thickness. A BWR is less prone to this than a PWR, simply because the bottom head of the RPV has multiple penetration spigots (for control rods etc), which prevent the formation of a single mass, even were there to be a full-scale melting of the core.

          1. Geoffrey Swenson

            I hope you're right about this

            While I have a long disused degree in mechanical engineering I don't know the specifics of this particular plant in a way that I could make accurate-enough heat transfer estimates. I was only quoting the concerns of one of the scientists interviewed on the Rachel Maddow show during her coverage of the early unfolding disaster.

            I did know that TMI was way worse, in some ways, than what we were originally led to believe. The reactor reached a state that was predicted o be at risk of a melt down. The only thing that saved us from that consequence was these calculations about how the pile would melt and go back to criticality were too conservative, so the melting and the concentration of nuclear material in the resulting unplanned experiment was considerably less than the predictions.

            I don't know for sure if we would get as lucky for this ongoing unplanned experiment into new modes of nuclear-related heat transfer and degradation. I also wonder what is going on with all of the corrosive salt from the desperation seawater cooling used right after the disaster, which is something that we have no experience of whatsoever.

          2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            A question to Andydaws

            Every now and again somebody raises the fear that if the fuel melts it can lead to a criticality excursion.

            I just don't see how it could possibly happen in a LWR with low-enriched fuel (even if it will all melts and pools down at the bottom - where will the moderator be?) but would appreciate if Andy could opine on that. Thanks.

            1. Andydaws


              Quite right.

              Recall, there are two forms of criticality - on fast (unmoderated) neutrons, and "thermal" neutrons. The capture cross sections of uranium and plutonium for fast neutrons are much smaller than those for thermal neutrons -in the order of 500-1000 barns for thermal neutrons (dependent on the exact energy), and 1 barn for fast neutrons.

              Which means that you need much higher enrichment for fast criticality than thermal. For a fast reactor you need around 40% enrichment, for a typical typical thermal plant 2-3% (and there are some designs will run on unenriched uranium, 0.7% u235).

              It's very hard to see how you'd still have moderation in a bolus of melted fuel, so if it were to be critical, it'd have to be on fast neutrons - and since the fuel is only 3% enriched, that's not about to happen.

              Ideas of ongoing criticality depend on the idea that the fuel is still in a configuration that allows adequate moderation - again, it's hard to see how that would be the case where the fuel is uncovered (there'd be too much neutron leakage above the core, and probably inadequate moderation due to boiling around the parts of the elements still covered.

              The other argument was that there was criticality within the spent-fuel ponds - again, hard to imagine how, given that the fuel there would be heavily contaminated with absorbent poisons (that's why it would have been taken out as spent).

              1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

                Thanks, Andy

                That is quite clear now.

                I wonder, what the downvoter on your post meant - does he disagree with the theory or numbers (in that case why not explain what the problem is) or is he just cross that you have taken his mental scary toy away...

                1. Andydaws

                  You're welcome.

                  As to the downvoter, God knows....

    2. Andydaws
      Thumb Down

      And how do you imagine that steam explosion is to come about...

      five weeks or more post shutdown?

      Take ten minutes and think about how much heat's actually being generated now - and how much was generated in the hours immediately following shutdown, when fuel rods failed, but (from the isotopes found) little or no actual fuel melted.

      Then think how, if there wasn't enough heat to penetrated reactor vessels then, quite how you'd produce enough now.

  28. mhenriday

    Given that Mr Page always knows -

    to his own satisfaction at least - what is safe and what is not, and that he has deemed the region within a radius of 20 km from the Fukushima Daiichi plant to be quite safe, I suggest that he be issued a white coverall and put to work in the teams attempting to deal with the disaster in situ. And do please put a stamp in his passport preventing him from visiting Chennai !...


    1. David Pollard

      @ mhenriday

      As I've said before, if Reg readers will be so good as to organise a fund for airfares and subsistence, and assuming he is also willing, I'd be happy to join Lewis Page in a trip for a couple of weeks in the 20 km zone.

      Perhaps those with political/diplomatic connections might also do a bit of groundwork so that we could be allowed to deliver water and feed to those of the farm animals that have been abandoned and aren't yet dead.

      1. Blah Blah

        Stating the obvious

        I don't understand.. perhaps I am too "illogical"....why there is so much self righteousness from the pro- nuclear side. OK yes, the world will recover from this, yes, other forms of power also have risks, etc, balance of risks and gains in energy policy...

        But to be honest it wasn't very good was it? It's kind of amusing watching people falling over themselves to avoid saying this!

      2. Geoffrey Swenson

        There's plenty of surplus food for him to find

        Why should we bother with his substinence, he can hunt for his own food, or eat the crops that are not being harvested if he really thinks they are that safe.

      3. Andydaws

        I'm up for that, too

        Can we have an allowance to drink sake under the cherry trees in Fukushima province?

  29. gmciver
    Thumb Down


    With regard to this article, surely the reason for the evacuation isn't because of the current levels of radiation, but because there's a possibility of a large sudden increase in radiation if something goes rapidly very wrong at one of the reactors. Or as the Japanese government put it - it's "precautionary".

  30. Keith T

    Why doesn't TEPCO rotate its workers with workers at its other plants every 2 weeks?

    Why doesn't TEPCO rotate its workers with workers at its other similar plants every 2 weeks?

    It is an outrage that they've got these guys there, making them sleep in their contaminated suits, lying next to one another on a gymnasium floor, no proper food, no proper sleep.

    1. Andydaws

      it is,

      and has been for some weeks.

  31. Keith T

    Japanese Govt Solution To Bad Press On Staving Dogs -- Ban Press

    Making the exclusion zone stricter is merely the Japanese government's solution to the bad press they've been getting for not evacuating the dogs and cat people left behind in what was supposed to be a temporary short term precaution.

    If human safety was really the concern, they'd be regulating admission, restricting how many total hours people were allowed inside, and instructing them not to eat or drink.

    Total shame on the Japanese government and anyone who votes for Kan Naoto's party again.

    1. David Pollard

      It's not just pet dogs and cats

      There are large numbers of farm animals: pigs, cows, sheep, chickens... Part of the problem seems to have been that delivery drivers were too scared, so no feed could be delivered, But clearly the authorities haven't been too concerned about this aspect of the disaster.

      From the little I've read, farmers who have stayed with or visited their animals simply can't feed them. As the 'authorities' won't kill them humanely or allow the farmers to do this they are being left to starve.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Internal vs background radiation

    Most interesting. I'd very much like to know the sources for this article to help counter the hysteria prevalent here in Japan.

    The shrillest doomsayers flog theories that ingesting or inhaling the radioactive particles will somehow increase localised effect by an insane amount. To cite an example, one guy on TV pontificated that a speck lodged inside a lung would give neighbouring cells located a micron away from it an exposure1,000,000,000,000 times greater than it would if it were a metre away. This is of course patently ridiculous.

    Where does the radioactivity in Kerala and Madras come from? I hope it is somewhat similar to caesium or plutonium. Otherwise these guys will just claim that the difference in conditions will make a difference where results are concerned. Since all radiation is the same this is also poppycock, but it's rather hard to convince people when they're scared...

    1. Paul 195

      Radioactive particles are safe?

      Anyonymous coward - radioactive particles of caesium, strontium or plutonium are astonishingly dangerous. and the 10^12 figure you quote is presumably straight from an application of the inverse square law - radiation dose falls off with the square of the distance.

      Remember Alexander Litvinchenko? He died after ingesting 10 micro grams of polonium 210 (which is actually about 200 times the estimated lethal dose). Radioactive dust particles are therefore incredibly dangerous, and far more dangerous than the easily measured overall background radiation which may well be very low quite near the Fukushima point.

      It might even be possible that the Japanese authorities on the ground in Fukushima, responsible for the safety of the population have a better idea of what is going on then clever second guessing journalists like Mr Page who like to patronize us all with their O-level in physics...

      BTW, I don't think Fukushima fatally undermines the case for nuclear power. But it does strengthen the hand of those who say we had better be damn careful who we let run the plants...

    2. HW de Haan

      um yes, a title...

      "The shrillest doomsayers flog theories that ingesting or inhaling the radioactive particles will somehow increase localised effect by an insane amount. To cite an example, one guy on TV pontificated that a speck lodged inside a lung would give neighbouring cells located a micron away from it an exposure1,000,000,000,000 times greater than it would if it were a metre away. This is of course patently ridiculous."

      Well, to be honest they aren't, at least in theory, very much off...

      A single decaying particle( The moment of decay is the dangerous bit when radiation emitted) will not be powerful enough to do much damage when it is a few feet away from the body. But when it's inside the body chances a pretty great it will kill or do damage to one or more cells. So reasoning like that the chance is ridiculously larger when that particle is inside the body. (still, 1,000,000,000,000 times just about nill is still not much)

      Having said that, it's important to take note of the halflife of a particle. As I said before the risk is in the moment of decay. So when you take a glass of water with a single radioactive isotope with a halflife of only days, changes are pretty great that it will decay inside you. On the other hand if the same glass contains a particle like caesium with a halflife of twenty odd years you will probably pee it out without it doing any harm. Otoh there is some trouble regarding certain long halflife isotopes that might be stored inside the body. Luckily for the Japanese people hardly any of those have been released and most of what got out of the plant is still largely contained within the now dammed harbour of the plant.

      And this brings us to the point that Lewis is making. Now that most of the I-131 has decayed (This was the really dangerous stuff with both a short halflife and being stored within the body for a prolonged period of time) the risk of anything happening to you while walking around in the exclusion-zone isn't really that great anymore.

    3. Andydaws

      Iran and Kerala exposure

      The great majority of the exposure is from radon (a decay product of uranium and thorium).

      Which is, of course primarily exposure to the lungs - the very same organ that's usually cited as the problem with particulate exposures from actinides. And since the exposure is measured in Sv, it's already adjusted for deposited energy. Radon's a beta emitter just like stronium and caesium.

      The strontiums and caesiums tend to behave as calcium analogues and deposit out in bone, as opposed to soft tissue, which is markedly less sensitive.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Great - so the case is settled.

        The lungs are made to absorb gas. Thus, when inhaled, radon would be absorbed, obviously causing much more damage than caesium or strontium particles, which will not stay inside the lungs, but will be cleared out of the system with a cough or a sneeze.

        In any case to be inhaled the particles would have to float in the air - and since solids are heavier than air they won't. Thus, as long as the residents wash what they eat the Fukushima evacuation area is much safer than Kerala.

        In any case, it's easy to see even from the numbers that the whole danger is overblown. According to the latest information from the Japanese government, the amount of radioactivity released per day has dropped to just 154 terabecquerels. (Japanese article = )

        Assuming that the rule of thumb conversion rate of 45,450,000 becquerels per sievert given by a local news program is accurate, the daily release would thus amount to only about 3.38 megaSv. Even if every last bit was absorbed by humans, averaged throughout the world population it would amount to 0.49 mSv per person per day, or just 178 mSv annually, which is still a third less than what the residents of Ramsar get. A tempest in a teapot.

  33. Andydaws

    I'm genuinely torn on this one:

    As a starting point, the idea that there's still a "meltdown risk" is pretty stupid - we're now at perhaps 5-6MW of power production even in the larger reactors (2&3). that's not going to melt anything beyond a bit more fuel cladding, and certainly not through the bottoms of the RPVs. To be honest, that danger passed after the first few hours.

    And whichever idiot made a reference to the "casing" of a reactor needs to understand the difference between the pressure vessel and the containment. No pressure vessels have failed. The suppression chamber of R2 is damaged, but that's it.

    Having said that, there's still the possibility of minor venting until the reactors are at cold-shutdown. That'll be a couple of months for R1 and R3, up to 6 months for R2, because of the need to plug the damage to the suppression chamber before the containment's flooded. So, I can see why the Japanese government is inclined to err on the side of caution.

    A delay also allows for something else important - the detailed survey of the exclusion zone that TEPCO and NISA are undertaking, and (if necessary) local decontamination. It also allows time for a general clean-up around the site itself, and suppression of any dust contamination.

    I suspect, and the end of this time, 95% + of the exclusion zone will end up with a clean bill of health, and there's be a few areas with ongoing clean-up work, mostly in the areas to the north-west of the plant.

    Most of the area could be reoccupied now, with minimal risk, but tbh, I'd rather see the time taken now to do the survey work systematically, and ensure there's no potential for anything wind-blown from the plant, minor as that risk is.

    1. Highlander

      The cautious approach

      Indeed, however, once the risk of wind-blown contaminants is controlled, does it actually make sense to exclude people from their homes when their homes are in an area where the level of radiation is not significantly different than ordinary background radiation (for example) in Aberdeen? What I am getting at is that the systematic survey of the region ton determine the extent and location of any contamination that requires a clean-up will undoubtedly reveal large areas that are no danger to humans at all. Is there any sense in keeping people from their homes at that time because survey work continues?

      Would you advocate keeping residents away until the temporary structures are built around the units with damage from the hydrogen explosions?

      I'm all for caution, but considering the reported levels in many of the areas are actually well within safety is seems on the surface like a bit of an over reaction when the radiation levels are still falling. Not to mention the statement from Edano really does come off as utterly scapegoating TEPCO and essentially paving the way for a cheap government buyout of the company.

      1. HW de Haan

        Re: The cautious approach

        There is one good reason to keep people out. It's easier to clean up a hotspot when noone is around to trod through it and so spread the problem.

      2. Andydaws

        The argument for caution...

        "Indeed, however, once the risk of wind-blown contaminants is controlled, does it actually make sense to exclude people from their homes when their homes are in an area where the level of radiation is not significantly different than ordinary background radiation (for example) in Aberdeen?"

        Indeed not, but until remediation and clean up at the plant is a good bit further advanced than it is at the moment, there is still likely to be some loss.

        "What I am getting at is that the systematic survey of the region ton determine the extent and location of any contamination that requires a clean-up will undoubtedly reveal large areas that are no danger to humans at all. Is there any sense in keeping people from their homes at that time because survey work continues?"

        That's going to depend very much on the "granularity" of the survey - it needs to be demonstrably thorough, if it's going to do anything to establish confidence.

        "Would you advocate keeping residents away until the temporary structures are built around the units with damage from the hydrogen explosions?"

        Yes, pretty much, along with the immobilisation of dust around the plant. There seems to have been remarkably little emission of more difficult, heavier fission products (things are dominated by iodine and caesium). Any that have been emitted are more likely to have been deposited near the plant, and hence I'd like to see any risk from those removed - if only to avoid "plutonium found in exclusion zone" headlines.

        Plus, 6 months doesn't seem an unreasonable period, in that it reduces iodine-related exposures by a factor of about 10^-7 compared to the immediate period after venting.

  34. Svein Skogen

    For comparison

    Modern X-Ray equipment yields 1mGy/S (milligray/second). I'll leave looking up Gray -> Sievert calculations for ionizing radiation to those skilled in googlefoo.


  35. Martin Usher

    BP isn't TEPCO

    The Japanese did everything right -- they built their buildings to the appropriate earthquake standards, built their sea walls to deflect tsunamis and so on. They got screwed over by being hit by a disaster that was much larger than their best estimate of a worst case scenario. If you put 7 meter sea walls around things and then get hit by a 10 meter tsunami you're going to suffer damage.

    BP was 100% man made. We had a similar accident in the Gulf some 30 years ago and it took a similar amount of fiddling around to stop it so we knew the risks and the likely outcomes. The problem was that doing things right cost money, and money spent like this eats into profits. They gambled, we lost. The "extortion" that Obama got from them was a promise to make things whole (World Trade Center style -- a way of short circuiting the tort process). So far the Gulf has rebounded quite well but many people have not.

    We should be thankful that we don't get 9.0 earthquakes and 10 meter tsunamis in the gulf. (Just hurricanes....)

    1. Geoffrey Swenson

      There was already evidence that tsunami could go way above 7 meters.

      TEPCO shopped around for the science it wanted to believe, rather than doing a truly independent estimate of potential devastation of a tsunami, in a way not completely unlike the Bush-era conclusion of WMD's that were the excuse for the Iraq War.

      Its also inexcusable that the backup generators depended on their inadequate seawalls for protection.

      1. Andydaws


        It's not the plant builder's job to determine the "design basis accident" criteria - it's the job of the licensing and regulatory body.

        For example, when I worked on Heysham, we designed to a 1/1000 probability of losing the seal on a refuelling machine attached to a reactor in a 1 in 1,000 year storm.

        It was the NII's job to state what the windspeed etc. criteria were for that 1 in 1000 year storm - it was our job to show that the refuelling machine was built to withstand them.

        It'll have been the same foe TEPCO and the Japanese government body NISA.

  36. John Savard

    In Fairness...

    In fairness to the Japanese authorities, both Madras, India and Denver, Colorado will remain only as radioactive as they are, and there is no reason to anticipate that the levels of natural background radiation in either local could suddenly increase.

    The reactor in Japan, on the other hand, is still the subject of efforts to seal it and prevent further release of radioactive materials from it. Problems could arise during those efforts, resulting in a sudden release of radioactive materials, causing a higher level of radiation.

    If, after the reactor is sealed, the people aren't allowed to all return to their safe homes, then one can lay charges of irrational panic.

  37. CJ Hinke

    Glow in the dark

    Although I really do like therapeutic radium hotsprings, I'm not sure what the Reg's agenda is over this issue.

    Here at Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT), we rely on the Reg for some news about free expression. They do a great job.

    However, they are out to lunch on the nuclear issue. Fukushima is an unprecedented global disaster. It doesn't need apologists. The folks at the Reg may wish to glow in the dark but they have no right to force the rest of us into fallout shelters.

    1. Aaron Em


      that you should be working for an organization called FACT.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The lower the stakes, the louder the voice

    Easy to claim that radiation is completely harmless when you live 12,000 miles from the evac zone.

    Harder when it's your *job* to keep people safe *inside* the zone, where they will blame you if the area turns out to harbor even isolated spots of actually-dangerous fallout. Remember, there was evidence of core melting, and there was evidence of a containment breach. And workers can't even inspect the site due to extremely high levels of completely harmless radiation that would harmlessly cook you in 24 hours if you camped out in the reactor buildings. These authorities need to ensure that the evac zone is actually safe, not maybe safe or safe for an hour if you stay in your car with the windows rolled up, or statistically mostly safe.

    Pencil me in with the no-nukers boys. You deniers are scarier than radiation.

    1. Gerald

      Perspective, please?

      Evidence of core melting = what to you? To mean it means that fuel ... melted. Nothing to see, here.

      Water is completely harmless in small amounts. Being in the bottom of a swimming pool=dangerous. You could die in less than 10 minutes. Perspective: The evacuation zone is not the same as inside the reactor buildings. The authorities have already told us that the radiation levels are below what's considered normal, most everywhere, including most of the exclusion zone and even if they find a hot spot, they incredibly increase their radius from the plant, not the hotspot.

      You scared-of-nukes are more scared of people than radiation? Point taken. Frankly, so are we.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    "the particles would have to float in the air"

    "In any case to be inhaled the particles would have to float in the air - and since solids are heavier than air they won't"

    So there can't possibly be a problem with (e.g.) particulate emissions from vehicle exhausts getting into lungs then, can there, because particles (PM10 etc) are heavier than air. And therefore the smog/PM10 alerts across much of the UK at the moment must be brought to us by David Icke's shapeshifters, right?

    Convinced yet?

    Or maybe that was just a daft statement, and heavier than air particles do from time to time get carried along on air currents?

    Particles from volcanos like Mount St Helens? Remeber the battle between the Icelandic volcano vs European air travel, when suddenly Mr Ryanair knew more about aircraft engine combustors than Mr Rolls Royce? Were those particles lighter than air?

    Or the radioactive particles that got carried from Chernobyl to North Wales, two thousand kilometres away? 25 years ago, yet the sheep still have to be checked for radioactivity before they're allowed into the food chain.

    Heavier than air particles can go a little way with not much help, and a very long way with Chernobyl-style help. Where does Fukushima fit?

    1. Andydaws

      However, AC

      what you've not set out is a process at Fukushima, capable of generating particulates of the order of 10 microns or less in diameter. At Chernobyl, there was burning within an exposed core, and melted UO2 fuel - at Fukushima, not only have cores not been exposed to atmosphere (we'll come back to spent fuel ponds), but the evidence points to a rather different regime for the fuel.

      We have to be precise about what's meant by "melting". There's no argument that some fuel cans have failed - that is the zirconium cladding has melted or cracked, causing the UO2 pellets contained within to fall to the bottoms of the reactor vessels, as at TMI. However, the mix of isotopes released is dominated by volatiles - Xenon (at the very earliest days), Iodine and Caesium. There's much less evidence that anything less volatile has been released in anything other than very small quantities - strontiums, actinides, etc. That suggests few, if any of the actual fuel pellets have melted.

      So, we lack the conditions to make particulates, and the conditions to lift them in quantity.

      The reason there was particular concern about the R4 fuel pond was concern that there were potential conditions that could have caused a fire amongst exposed rods - however, that appears not to be the case. Again, there's some (not massive, looking at the isotope assays of the spent fuel pond water) cladding damage, but no gross damage to fuel per se. There may even have been some hydrogen generation from overheated fuel (questionable - the damage to the secondary building seems mainly to be the result of the R3 hydrogen explosion), but that's an underwater phenomenon, so again, not conducive to particulate generation.

  40. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Looting? In Japan??

    Perhaps there are serious social issues in the land of the rising sun which the authorities don't like to speak about.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How could anyone conclude a nuclear accident is minor?

    It amazes me that Lewis and others perceive a nuclear accident as minor. The impact of this "minor incident" will impact people's lives forever. The area around the reactors are a dead zone for a long, long time. Increased radiation in the food and water supplies is certainly unacceptable. This sure doesn't seem minor to me.

  42. bugalugs

    One more time

    is a handy guide all radiation_panic_merchants should at least try to comprehend.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    particulates are half way round the world already. But in what quantity?

    "we lack the conditions to make particulates, and the conditions to lift them in quantity."

    I like the analysis, I'm not quite sure about the conclusions (there are seemingly reliable reports of noticeably increased airborne radiation a long way from Fukushima, sadly I have no time to find/cite/re-analyse right now), and as someone said earlier, "the fat lady ain't sung yet".

    1. Andydaws

      I've seen no claims about anything but iodine and caesium being

      detected (even in trace quantities) other than close to the plant, so far.

      Remember, iodine in particular has weird qualities - although it needs a couple of hundred degrees C to boil in bulk, it also sublimes straight from solid to gas to room temperature (good old vapour pressure effects...).

      Caesium tends to get moved in association with water - it reacts, as an alkali metal.

  44. Geoffrey Swenson

    Problems with hot spots in the average

    I worked on a dispersion study for the DOE as a grunt worker many years ago, and one of our surprising findings is that there were areas of high contamination quite a distance from the source, even though the average contamination did decline in the expected inverse square ways. We used a refrigerant gas as our analogue to radon, but fine smoky particles may also have this effect as well.

    1. Andydaws

      You surprise me,

      if you expected an inverse square relationship on dispersion of a gas - have a think, for a moment.

      For that to apply, you'd have to have perfectly non-turbulent mixing (i.e diffusion), and your dispersing gas would have to be of exactly the same density as your substrate gas.

      Which really doesn't wound like real-world conditions to me - and I'm surprised it does to a fellow engineer. Patchy deposition is exactly what anyone would have expected, anytime in the last century or more - understanding of that goes back to the planning models for gas use in WW1. And it was sure as hell understood post-Windscale '56. And, more crudely, anyone who's lived within a few miles of the fly-ash dump of a coal-fired plant knows it changes by the day.

      I'm gobsmacked at your "surprise"

      1. Geoffrey Swenson

        C'mon now, I'm not picking on you.

        This may not have been part of my curriuculum (I wasn't majoring in nuclear engineering after all)but in any case I don't think it is exactly intuitive that a gas would disperse so unevenly, especially over such large distances.

        But this fact makes the cleanup more dangerous, right?

        1. Andydaws

          You've got the wrong end of the stick

          My comment was that I was surprised that you claimed to have been surprised that the distribution was uneven - it's not an assumption I'd have expected anyone with an engineering training to have made. I did "major" - i.e. that was my Bachelor's course - in Nuclear Engineering, btw.

          As to the impact on the clean-up, it cuts both ways. You can anticipate large proportions of the evacuation zone to have suffered no deposition at all - and others more heavy deposition than averaging would suggest.

          In fact, that's exactly what we seem to be seeing - little contamination on anything but a strip running north-east from the plant (reflecting prevailing weather conditions. Which, in terms of things like removing contaminated topsoil (which will be the major remediation approach, I suspect) is probably easier - better to do it on a restricted area than a large one.

          It's not a process I expect to be "risky", btw, at least outwith the plant boundaries - long-winded, perhaps, but not somehting that's likely to rack-up much in the way of exposure.

          The challenge, in those terms, is likely to be removal of debris from the tops of the remaining secondary containment structures, especially in R4 - there is debris that's likely to be quite strongly activated, and the low level of water that's being maintained in the spent-fuel pond causes a problem of gamma "shine" to anyone who gets in line-of-sight of the fuel. That work's going to have to be done primarily by remote handling.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @andydaws re particulates

    I still can't find the maps which I'm sure I saw with details of radioactivity "downwind" (a long way downwind, e.g. North America, or was it Australia, or...) of Fukushima. Sorry; if anyone else knows something along those lines...

    Meanwhile, the UK Health Protection Agency does a weekly update on the UK effects of Fukushima. There's nothing medically significant, but there are detectable effects of airborne materials from Fukushima. E.g.

    1. Andydaws

      AC, my previous reply seems to have got lost....

      Oh, well...

      I think I can see where we're misunderstanding each other. It seems you are assuming that any radiation release is necessarily indicative of particulate formation?

      That's not the case - Iodine and caesium don't tend to come out as particulates. Iodine tends to come out in gaseous form (it sublimes at room temperature, and boils at under 200C), and caesium usually comes out in solution in water/steam - it's horribly reactive stuff. It's mostly heavier stuff (or less volatile stuff) that would be of concern as particulates - actinides, strontium etc.

      If you look at the report you linked, you'll see it only lists iodine and caesium as being detectable.

  46. Andydaws

    The first decent analysis on "lessons learned"

    including some especially erudite commentary...;-)

  47. cnapan

    More fantasy...

    "The area around the reactors are a dead zone for a long, long time"

    The only places in Japan which have become 'dead zones' recently (at least temporarily) are the places where the tsunami ripped across fields and towns, smashing homes, killing thousands, stripping the vegetation from the ground and poisoning the soil with salt.

    Nature is always better off when people leave an area. For a short while at least, those areas near the plant not affected by the tsunami are enjoying slightly improved conditions, 100% because of the removal of people.

    The problem for you is that you have to make up 'dead zones' because it's the only way you can cling to the nuclear myths which the truth might puncture.


  48. Andydaws

    Apparently, MEXT has issued a contour map of projected radiation exposure

    for a year's residence in and around the evacuation zone. I'm trying to get my hands on a copy, but at first glance (based on what little I can see in the NHK news story), it largely confirms what we thought - that the contamination is primarily in a strip running north-west from the plant, with relatively little elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, here are the latest monitoring results -

    Natural background in the UK averages about 0.25 microsieverts/hour, for comparison.

This topic is closed for new posts.