back to article Fukushima radioactivity a complete non-issue on West Coast: Also for Fukushima locals, in fact

A new study carried out in the "radiation zone" areas just outside the Fukushima nuclear powerplant in Japan has confirmed that the lifetime health risk to people living there from the damaged powerplant is so small as to be undetectable. Naturally, Californians almost 5,000 miles away are still terrified for their own safety …


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  1. hplasm


    Carry a warning label in California.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facts-

      On the other hand, in Texas and Whitehall they are actively discouraged.

    2. Nuno

      Forget about the facts

      Can you spot a Lewis Page article just by reading the headline?

      it's like a 100/100 ratio here...

      1. Domeyhead

        Re: Forget about the facts

        What's your point, or was that it?

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Facts-

      Have you ever noticed that just about everything (in the USA, not sure about other places) carries a warning label to the effect: "This product contains an ingredient known to the State of California to cause cancer."...??? They have perfected fear mongering.

      1. Acme Fixer

        Re: Facts-

        It's not fear mongering, it's insurance companies covering their a$$.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Facts-

          > It's not fear mongering, it's insurance companies covering their a$$.


          > Panicked group of "concerned citizens" take to the bullhorn.

          > They declare being somehow mortally endangered by orgones/coffeine/aspartame/morgellons/toothpaste detergent/wifi hotspot/radioactive cesium/aether waves/HAARP/fluorine in the water/aspirine/chemtrails/microwaves/hot coffee (The latest things is apparently these super-magnetic toy balls which are "harmful to children", the producer is being shut down via governmental lawfare)

          > Parliamentarians sheep up and declare to be "take their concerns seriously"

          > Labeling legislation is passed

          > "It's the insurance companies"

          1. Alan_Peery

            Re: Facts- about magnetic beads like TetraMag

            > The latest things is apparently these super-magnetic toy balls

            > which are "harmful to children", the producer is being shut down

            > via governmental lawfare

            They are potentially life threatening -- and it's not that big of a surprise, once you hear about the mechanism. If magnetic bearing are swallowed, they can get on opposite sides of bits of tissue in the intestines. With the strength of the magnetic attraction they pinch the tissue, and with normal gastric movements added in you can end up with perforated intestines. Keep them away from young children and pets.

            Doesn't mean they should be banned, of course.


      2. Jaybus

        Re: Facts-

        Yes. It's actually quite nice for those of us living in Tennessee. Our energy producers have nuclear and coal plants and sell excess production to those, like California, who have forced the shutdown of their nuclear and other scary power stations and can no longer produce enough energy. As a result, energy cost in Tennessee is 9.84 cents per kWh, whereas in California it is 16.47 cents per kWh. If their fear makes them willing to pay far too much for electricity so that I pay less, then who am I to complain? All I can say is....thank you!

  2. Chris Miller

    There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.

    Edward Abbey (1927-89)

  3. Swarthy Silver badge

    No wonder Americans are scared

    That "plume" graphic is bloody terrifying, and most of us 'septics' are afraid of reading, or at least have been strongly discouraged from doing so.

    On a side note, I propose that the El Reg Standards Soviet adopt the BED (Banana Equivalent Dose) as their unit of radioactive exposure.

    1. Major N

      Re: No wonder Americans are scared

      Since it is now obligitory to link this when referring to Fukushima here..

      1. James 51

        Re: No wonder Americans are scared

        xkcd, is there anything they can't do?

      2. Goro

        Re: No wonder Americans are scared

        my friend likes to measure florescent lights , funny how people react when they hear the Geiger sound

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: No wonder Americans are scared

      On a side note, I propose that the El Reg Standards Soviet adopt the BED (Banana Equivalent Dose) as their unit of radioactive exposure.


      A banana a day keeps the doctor away.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No wonder Americans are scared

        "A banana a day keeps the doctor away."

        An onion a day keeps everyone else away. :-)

    3. Irongut

      Re: No wonder Americans are scared

      The BED is a nice unit but I prefer the CCED - Coffee Cup Equivalent Dose. There's a hell of a lot of background radiation in a cup of coffee.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: No wonder Americans are scared

        Typical, I read this after my mid-afternoon snack break of a cup of coffee and a banana.

        This is also starting to look like we may need a whole new measurement scale of scientific scaremongering, ranging from a Reg all the way up to a Daily Mail by way of a BBC and an al-Jazeera?

        By the way, according to the BBC the Fukushima town hall received ~1000 BED's worth of radiation in the two weeks following the accident (about 1/4 of the dose from a mammogram and 1/70th of the dose from a CT scan, from the table in the article).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No wonder Americans are scared

        And the BNED - Brazil Nut Equivalent Dose.

        Bananas, coffee, "low sodium" salt and brazil nuts are all excellent Geoger counter demonstrators.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Suggestion. The FEAR

        "The BED is a nice unit but I prefer the CCED - Coffee Cup Equivalent Dose. There's a hell of a lot of background radiation in a cup of coffee."

        I propose the Fukushima Enhanced Annual Radiation (FEAR) for describiing additional exposure. So 1.51 milliSieverts per year means we're at milliFEAR levels. I realise this may cause some sleepless nights for some people with FEAR and BED comparisons, but may allow risks to be more easily quantified. If contamination progresses to microFEAR, we may need to be a little more concerned. If it progresses to mega or teraFEAR levels, it would be time to invoke Protective Anti-Nuclear Intervention Controls.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Danger may be inflated, but not *quite* as bananas an exaggeration as it sounds

      "I propose that the El Reg Standards Soviet adopt the BED (Banana Equivalent Dose)"

      I agree that the "threat" from Fukushima is- in reality- still probably negligible to those paranoid Californians. However, the "BED" is flawed as a comparison here because the amount of Potassium from bananas et al (and hence radiactive Potassium-40) is fairly constant in healthy individuals, i.e. if you have more than your body needs, it will get rid of the excess, so it's not going to "build up" or be retained beyond a certain amount, regardless of how many bananas you eat:-

      By contrast, my understanding is that (e.g.) the Strontium-90 released from Fukushima mimics calcium, and *accumulates* in the bones, i.e. ingesting more radioactive Strontium *adds* to the (still radioactive and emitting) Strontium in your body, so the danger grows over time.

      AFAIK, the caesium-mimicking-iodine problem is a similar issue. There are also issues with different types of radiation being more dangerous internally than externally. (*)

      I'm not an expert, and don't claim to be (do *not* quote me on any of the above, and feel free to correct or clarify any mistakes), but I've heard enough to know that- regardless of how much the Yanks are overreacting- the dosage *isn't* as clear-cut or ludicrously low as the BED implies.

      (*) This is an article I came across when attempting to confirm what little I remembered on the matter:-

      1. Marshalltown

        Sr 90

        Strontium (Sr) 90 has a half life of a little less than 29 years. If figure that Sr 90 generated by Fukushima has a point origin in time, then each since the Fukushima media disaster there has in fact been LESS Sr 90 around that can be attributed to the reactor. There's also the matter to dilution to consider. As Lewis Page pointed out, the actual amount of radio decay is only measurable in terms of decays per tonne of sea water. So, in California, where I live an breath, the only manner in which I could be exposed to Sr 90 would be through ingesting it, i.e. via sea food. And, given the extreme dilution provided by the Pacific Ocean, significant biological amplification would only occur via a route that included critters preying on or scavenging large filter feeders - whales, in other words. So frankly, speaking as a Californian, I am not concerned about radiation from Fukushima in any form. At the time of the earthquake, I explained why I was so relaxed to several acquaintances, pointing out that you pick up a bigger dose walking past the banana display in the market. A couple of them DID stop eating bananas, but the rest went on with their lives. No one was willing to give up sea food. The truth is that an article in the SF Chronicle is comparable to one in the Grauniad. For some peculiar reason the writers seem to believe that their audience consists of folks from the same small pool of worriers that spits out folks convinced that the mathematical sign of any human contribution to climate change is settled science as well. There is a reason news paper circulation is in trouble.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sr 90

          The Chron is so far left it's amazing they don't all drown. As far as Fukushima and sea food, I think the Chron's writers have all gone fission....

          1. Kriilin

            Re: Sr 90

            I'd go fission too, if I woke up to a new clear day..

    5. Charles Manning

      NOOA: shame on you!

      Surely, as a federal body, it is NOOA's job to disseminate information and not alarmism?

      If I lived in the USA I would be far more concerned about the remnants of testing in Nevada - less than 100 miles from Vegas and 300 miles from LA.

      Perhaps NOOA should draw a map with flames coming out of the desert. That would at least show the people what the true risks are and would actually be informative: ie : "You were subject to this much, now you're subject to this much." That would at least give people a point of reference.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: NOOA: shame on you!

        Yeah, what's up with that NOOA?

        This particular image came from the NOAA, though, and I see nothing wrong with it. Of course, I don't make decisions based on the colors in a map.

    6. Kamirose

      Re: No wonder Americans are scared

      The graphic would be terrifying if, like many fear-mongerers try to claim, it was actually meant to measure radiation. In fact, it depicts the estimated wave heights after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The key in the corner reads "cm."

      1. Uffish

        Re: wave height

        Can any Californians say whether Crescent City has good surfing or is the 'horizontal' spur breaking off the main flow just a one-off.

  4. James 51

    Nice to see you're out there fighting the scare mongering but nuclear power isn't save by 'accident'. A lot of money and oversight needs to go into the design and running of nuclear power plants. Thanks to dithereing by out political overlards (typo intended) we're going to need at least another generation, probably two) of them before renewables/fusion can take up the slack (some wishful thinking in that time scale I know but I can dream).

    BTW, how much radiation is released by coal burning plants in the ash they release into the atmosphere? Purely for the sake of placing these figures in context.

    Forgot to say that for all the stick they've been getting, the workers at the plant, particular since the accident deserve some recognition for helping to contain the situation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Coal ash

      According to a study by the NRPB yearly exposure due to fly ash for an average person living near a coal fired plant is 0.1uS/y so _much_ less than the figures here. A lot of ash gets used in building materials though, and if your house is made of those the estimate is 0.9mS/y which isn't far off the Haramachi extra dose.

      IIRC adding up the numbers from that paper you find tonnes of Thorium and kilos of Uranium leaving Drax every year.

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Given that coal is somewhere in the region of one part per million uranium, and that a big coal station will get through 35million tons per year, that's a lot of uranium going up the chimney every year. The guide didn't appreciate me pointing that out when as a school kid aged 9 I went on a tour of Didcot coal fired power station, at the high point in CND's popularity. I must have been a horrible kid. I asked about CFC leakage at Oldbury Nuclear power station under similar circumstances (it was used in the chiller that quickened the cooling of the core following shut down for maintenance).

      I imagine that the introduction of electrostatic precipitators has reduced the output somewhat, and concentrated it into thermalite building bricks instead.

      There's some controversy over the matter. Scientific American have this article:

      Given that you have to get pretty close to your average nuclear accident before the count becomes worse than what you get from, say, granite I don't think anyone on the other side of the Pacific need worry. Anyone living in a granite built house, or anywhere with a faint whiff of natural radon in the air? No one worries about those, so its not rational to worry about something far off whose effect is much diminished by distance.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Perhaps we can ask the residents of New Hampshire or Cornwall. Both are situated on significant granite deposits.

      2. DaddyHoggy

        Oddly enough I worked at the Rutherford Appleton Labs in the early 90s. When some Gov't agency came to test the radiation 'escaping' from ISIS (where I worked) - they were a 'bit worried' about the dose - until, apparently, one of the guys cut out a square of turf and got them to test the soil underneath - which showed absolutely minimal radiation - the turf however continued to display higher than expected doses - all of course, as proved later, from the coal ash/dust from Didcot Power Station...)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sort of

    From the beginning some naive folks have been claiming that there is no risk to locals or others from the Fukushima melt down but it simply is untrue. There are a lot of radiation issues that have been documented with ground water and the still leaking remains. Naturally authorities don't want a panic but the situation is far more lethal than many folks want to admit. Down playing the issue to prevent panic is fine but assertions that there is no danger is just ignorance.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Sort of

      Naturally authorities don't want a panic but the situation is far more lethal than many folks want to admit.

      And yet, impossible for you to cite any sources - obviously a conspiracy eh!

      PS: For things to be "lethal", in the traditional sense of the word, there have to be deaths.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sort of

        In the radio-contaminant sense of "lethal" there have to be deaths within a few decades.

        1. hugo tyson

          Re: Sort of

 statistically-significant excess of those which would have occurred anyhow. (Agreeing with you though)

        2. plrndl

          Re: Sort of

          "In the radio-contaminant sense of "lethal" there have to be deaths within a few decades."

          And what is the half-life of contaminants in the water?

      2. itzman

        Re: Sort of (only for people who Do Sums)

      3. C 2

        Re: Sort of

        >PS: For things to be "lethal", in the traditional sense of the word, there have to be deaths.

        LOL, you have a talent for words.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Sort of

      I can see the that "The Authorities" would want to down-play issues and avoid panic, but do you have anything other than Anonymous Assertions to back your claim?

      I put a lot more faith in official documents (not complete trust -Oh, Gods No!) than I do people saying "You can't trust them" with no other information. "The Authorities" have to at least make it look like they are playing fair. The results of independent verification have to be able to come close to the official line.

      The anonymous coward does not even have their own name to add credibility.

      If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, then ordinary claims require ordinary evidence.

      1. ragnar

        Re: Sort of

        I wasn't the poster, but a quick google pulls up the following article which has some numbers in it.

        I'm not qualified to judge who's right, but there are clearly instances here of radiation levels well above normal or routine levels. There's already 360,000 tonnes of radioactive water being held on site.


        "From the coastline, through the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Namie, are huge patches of ground where the additional annual dose of radiation is more than 50 millisieverts. Natural background radiation, from cosmic rays and sources in the air and rock, reaches 2 to 3 millisieverts per year."

        "A preliminary IAEA report in October on efforts to clean up the contaminated land was full of praise for the remediation work so far, and made a handful of gentle suggestions for improvement. Yet the work is far behind schedule in seven of 11 selected towns and villages; the deadline of March 2014 is now unachievable. This month, officials in Japan admitted for the first time that thousands of evacuees from the worst affected areas may never return home."

        "In August, workers discovered that 300 tonnes of radioactive water had leaked from one of the tanks. The radiation emanating from the puddle left on the ground was enough to give a bystander the industry's five-year maximum permissible dose in just one hour. In October, half a tonne of contaminated water spilled on to the ground and may have drained to the sea, when tanks overflowed with rainwater."

        "Radiation levels surged in seawater after the tsunami struck, with concentrations of caesium-137 recorded at 60 million becquerels per cubic metre near the plant. "

        "We're not talking about levels that cause direct harm when I'm one kilometre offshore," says Buesseler. "But through the uptake into the seafood and fisheries, you end up having to keep those closed, and that's a billion dollar industry and a cultural loss for Japan."

  6. Andrew Jones 2


    So all those YouTube videos showing people on the beaches in California with Radiation detectors that are going into Alert mode are just imaginary then are they?

    They might not be in "danger" as such, but the detectors sound an alarm for a reason - it's probably healthier to stay indoors than go to the beach until the detectors stop sounding the alarm.

    1. rakdver

      Detectors at beaches

      The detectors sound alarm at beaches because they always did, even before Fukushima. The reason is that material from areas with naturally high background radiation (Rocky Mountains, in this case) gets carried into sea by rivers and deposited at beaches.

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: Detectors at beaches - Rocky Mountains????

        Ah, that would be the Sierra Nevada,Klamath and Cascade mountains. The Rockies don't contribute any sediment to California beaches. On the other hand we have the Sierra Nevada which are largely granitic and thus embarrassingly radioactive. The Klamath Mountains are geologically similar and the Cascades are volcanic, and as everyone knows, or should, the energy that drives vulcanism is radioactivity.

        1. Mpeler

          Re: Detectors at beaches - Rocky Mountains????

          Of course in California you've got granola - assorted fruits and nuts, but mostly flakes, with Governor Moonbeam at the helm. The Chron &co. are typical sensationalist worry-warts...but most folks just take this (supposed threat) for granite.....

    2. llodge

      So all those YouTube videos showing people on the beaches in California with Radiation detectors that are going into Alert mode are just imaginary then are they?

      I'm guessing it really depends what the radiation detectors are measuring?

      I wouldn't be at all surprised if the measurement was of the battery or whatever else's is powering the devices voltage. Proper radiation detectors are probably prohibitively expensive as beach accessories.

      1. Mtech25


        I would not be surprised if it was measuring the run off from an organic fruit smoothie factory

    3. JoshOvki

      Report Abuse

      Can I report this as abuse? I believe you are abusing my mind by coming out with such tosh.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Andrew Jones 2

      A simple radiation detector is basically only going to be useful for gammas. To detect alpha and beta sources you need something which draws in air through a filter and puts any resulting particles close to a thin-window or semiconductor detector. Tritium has problems of its own, as it has a low beta energy and is hard to concentrate. If you want to measure radiation from water or substrate, it's a bit easier but you have to know what you are measuring, especially if you are on fractured granite.

      I don't know what the people in the videos are using, but there is really no such thing as a "radiation detector"; it's a matter of what kind of particles in what kind of environment.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: @Andrew Jones 2

        Tritium gas is used in some watches as well as glow in the dark tags. Very cool.

    5. Neil B

      @Andrew Jones 2 -- you cannot *possibly* be serious?

      1. squigbobble


        The phosphor coating on the inner capsule that provides the gas seal is far in excess of what's necessary to shield the beta radiation it emits.

        There's also beta batteries for ultra low power applications-

        Beta radiation's totally safe as long as the emitter is outside your body and it isn't intense enough to ablate the outer layer off your skin and reach the layers that are still alive. You'd need a rather stronger emitter than tritium for that.

  7. Jones

    Controlled nuclear fission is a demanding mistress

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Controlled nuclear fission is a demanding mistress"

      I briefly had a demanding mistress who went off like controlled nuclear fission [sigh].

      She was a lot nicer to look at than Hinckley Point, too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Controlled nuclear fission is a demanding mistress"

        hey hey hey! we're trying to have a serious, unbiased, scientific discussion here

        you can't make pronouncements like that... unless you're prepared to back them up with hard(*) photographic evidence

        * no, not that kind!!!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Controlled nuclear fission is a demanding mistress"

          In those days you had to get photos developed by Boots. This prevented the flooding of the country by disgusting filth generated by people who didn't have access to a darkroom. So just treat my post as complete fiction. After all, the article is about scares which are not backed up by any scientific evidence.

          [still sigh though]

  8. jai

    IF nuclear power is so safe...

    ...then how do you explain Godzilla then, eh? eh?

    1. Mtech25

      Re: IF nuclear power is so safe...

      oh but mothra is a friend to children...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

    Actually, I have no problem with Nuclear Power per se - we just need to sort out the waste. It is true, of course, that coal fired power station releases more radioactive waste than a nuclear power station. That trope is so old that it's grown up, got drunk, had an ill-advised shag, made little new tropes, and would very much like to retire now, please. The reason of this, of course, should be self evident to even the most rabid nuclear dimwit - coal power stations have no containment, and no particular precautions are taken with their waste. Here's the thing, given the choice of living next to a pile of ash from a coal power station and the choice of living next to the waste from a nuclear power station, which would you prefer? And no, you aren't allowed any expensive containment - in this example, waste is waste and must be treated the same way. And it ain't a little amount of waste either - I believe that there are about 270,000 tonnes of high level waste currently waiting to be disposed of (worldwide) and, this is the clincher, no way of disposing of it. Green? Sustainable?

    If we can build nuclear power stations that are fuelled by this waste (PRISM reactor, for example) then I'm pro-nuclear - we should be reducing this vast mass of highly dangerous rubbish, and if we can get energy from it at the same time then so much the better. Theoretically, this is possible - and demonstrations of the technology have been made - but no commercial power stations use this technology right now, and no government is seriously investing in it.

    As to Lewis Page's assertion that no harm will come of Fukushima (and, doubtless, Chernobyl, Hanford, Sellafield, Mayak…), utter balls. Governments and pro-nuclear lobbies would very much like you to believe this nonsense, but there's enough evidence now that a) there have been, and will continue to be, many deaths directly attributable to these plants and b) that there have been many 'accidents' and cover-ups that they would prefer you not to know about. As a starter, you might want to read Plutopia by Kate Brown. It's a book, I'm afraid, and there aren't many pictures.

    The problem is that Lewis is a link baiting troll. He annoys people who are brighter than he is and jumps up his pro-nuclear, anti-green shilling with bad science, half arsed opinion and shouting. I'm sure he gets lots of clicks for El Reg but, when it comes down to it, he's a creationist pretending to be a scientist by talking about intelligent design. I'd love to see intelligence in his articles but, by design, I don't think that's ever going to happen - there ain't enough money in it.

    By the way, I'm not advocating coal either. I really am pro-clean nuclear - but not pro-current dirty nuclear. We should invest in Fusion. We should also invest in renewables (wind, wave, solar, geothermal, tidal, there's a whole lot of energy out there). Renewables deliver more watts per dollar than nuclear does - with the added benefit that there is very little waste to dispose of when the plant reaches the end of its useful life. They have a far lower carbon footprint too.

    You may also want to read the following sites (some of these refer to weapons testing - but it's worth remembering that the only thing preventing weapons scale leakage from commercial plants is containment - and containment has been known to fail):

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

      Which would I rather live beside? Probably the nuclear waste. They could bury it under the road and stop it icing up in winter!

      Seriously, though, 270,000 tonnes of waste? Okay, let's assume that 'High Level waste' means it's all reactor fuel. Let's also assume to start with that it's all decayed to lead. That gives us a density of 11.34kg/m^3- that'd mean the entire world's supply of high level waste would fit in a cube about 288m each side. If it was all Uranium, the cube would be only 241m each side. That's all of the world's high level nuclear waste from 60 years of nuclear power.

      Drax puts out 1.2 million tonnes of ash per year. Let's assume it's solid carbon. That puts its density between about 1.5 and 3.5kg/m^3, so the waste-cube would be between ~700m and 1km each side. And another one would be added each year. And it's still radioactive, it's choking if you're next to a pile of it and wind blows over it. So living next door to it, as in your scenario, my house and lungs would end up black and radioactive.

      Now in practice, nuclear waste is contained in concrete, with the really dangerous stuff encased in steel, water and more concrete. Crash a train into a flask of waste and the train comes off worse- the waste loses some of it's protective water and the train operators lose the train. So an actual radioactive waste dump would be pretty safe to live next door to. Lack of sleep caused by noise from rumbling waste-transport vehicles would be more of a hazard.

      And in practice, most of the (also radioactive) waste from Drax gets sold too- it goes into the walls of your buildings (INCLUDING YOUR KID'S BEDROOM AND SCHOOLS!!!OMG!!!!), leaving only enough waste to make a cube 46m each side. Every year. Spread evenly over an acre of land, that'd mean the pile would get some 24 meters higher each year. And that's from a single power station.

      Nuclear power produces tiny volumes of waste to produce enormous amounts of electricity. This waste is then stored safely. The dangerous stuff will burn itself out quickly- that's why it's dangerous, it rids itself of all this pesky extra energy really quickly.

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.


        Amazing that a post with a fundamental and obvious mistake in the units chosen gets 19 upvotes. It just rather proves that people vote on the sentiment, not the content. Here is the extract in question :-

        "Drax puts out 1.2 million tonnes of ash per year. Let's assume it's solid carbon. That puts its density between about 1.5 and 3.5kg/m^3, so the waste-cube would be between ~700m and 1km each side."

        Leaving aside the highly questionable assumption that Drax ash is essentially carbon (its actually largely made up of incombustible minerals, like aluminium silicates, calcium oxide etc.), the the volume of waste is over-stated by 3 orders of magnitude. That's simply because the density of carbon is more like 1.5-3.5 tonnes, not Kg per cubic metre. In fact, the composition of coal ash will be reasonably to the higher of these figures, giving a cube of about 70 metres on each side. Still very large of course, but 0.1% of the volume above.

        Of course, to anybody with any real sense of scale and numbers would have thought something was wrong in the first place. If the ash alone was 1 cubic kilometre, then for heaven's sake, how big was the hole in the ground from where the coal came as it would surely be many times larger? Of course, if you are somebody hopped up on the excitement of finding a "fact" which overwhelmingly supports your particular preconception without bothering to wonder about its credibility, then you end up posting this howler (or upvoting it).

        That's not to say that furnace ash isn't rather nasty stuff, but it is reused in some building materials where it's pretty well trapped. Indeed, using it in place of some portland cement reduces the CO2 impact of producing the latter. Radiation hazards of such materials are tiny. Yes, there will be the leaching out of some radon from the very low concentrations of uranium, thorium and the like, but the actual amounts are minute when spread out over where it's deployed.

        1. Brenda McViking

          Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

          You'll note he also made the same problem with the density of lead. so whilst he was wearing his 1000x binoculars, his comparison was valid. The volume of 270,000 tonnes of lead (via wolfram alpha) comes with the helpful volume comparison of 1/8th of a hindenburg airship or 1/44th of an empire state building. The same applied to 1.2m tonnes of carbon-graphite (which I've assumed to be similar density to ash) is 3 hindenburgs, or 1/2 an empire state building.

          Was it a howler, really? yes, he was out by 3 orders of magnitude, on a subject which very few people can actually visualise. What does the UK national debt (~£1.3tr) look like in terms of volume of pound coins? how about £50 notes? is it the size of a warehouse? canary wharf? or of heathrow?

          Coal stations burn a lot of coal. We definitely dig square kilometers of the stuff out the ground every year. The point still stands, that the entirety of all man made nuclear waste to date is pathetically small compared to a single years worth of ash from 1 single coal station. Fair play on you for calling the units, but at least from my point of view, it doesn't invalidate their argument as they applied the same error to both sides.

        2. Steven Jones

          Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

          I see I got a thumbs down on this post, although I'm not quite sure what's wrong about pointing out innumeracy. Perhaps it's considered bad manners.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh fsck. Not AC again.

      I managed to stick with your post, all the way to the end. Now, having removed all mini-rants, tangential arguments, renewables bollocks and weasel words, it appears to me that your only comment in any way directly related to the article is as follows:

      "As to Lewis Page's assertion that no harm will come of Fukushima (and, doubtless, Chernobyl, Hanford, Sellafield, Mayak…), utter balls. Governments and pro-nuclear lobbies would very much like you to believe this nonsense, but there's enough evidence now that a) there have been, and will continue to be, many deaths directly attributable to these plants"

      Would you therefore be so kind as to provide me with references or links to peer reviewed science that demonstrates evidence of deaths, directly attributed to radiation from the Fukushima disaster, within the local population.

      Thank you.

    4. Someone Else Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

      It's a book, I'm afraid, and there aren't many pictures.

      This works in so many places. Can I use it?

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. wikkity

        Re: obvious link between people who don't believe in AGW, and religion.

        No there isn't. One thing you could say may be true is that someone who believes in religion is more likely to accept things put to them by popular opinion as fact, so maybe there is a correlation between people who believe both are true.

        I don't believe in either BTW

      2. peter_dtm

        Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.


        who don't believe in AGW,

        un quote

        there you go; Science & Engineering do not have room for 'believe in' - they both use demonstrable empiracle FACTS. And models != fact.

        I don't not believe in AGW ( and you forgot the all important 'C' for CATASTROPHIC btw; 'cos if it ain't catastrophic what the heck is all the fuss about anyway ?). cAGW just has no facts backing it up; well apart from (sneer) model outputs; 100s of bloody model outputs; so many damn model outputs they can show a model which gives that result which demonstrates that cold/hot; snow/rain/drought; you name it it must be cAGW in action (/sneer)

        It's the same with Fukishima & Nuclear power; no factual evidence to support the belief that it must be bad for us.

        Belief != Science

        Belef != Engineering

        Climate changes; politicans tell lies and theft is illegal only because the government hates competition

      3. James 51

        Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

        " Alternatively, are they based on the idea that no matter what human beings do God, or the Earth, or the Sun, or some other agent, will have the ultimate say in determining the outcome?"

        At some point a redding sun is going to turn Earth into a barren rock. Does that count?

    6. madmalc

      Re: Oh fsck. Not Lewis Page again.

      Downvoted for waffle :-)

  10. 45RPM Silver badge

    Isn't it sad?

    Isn't it sad that, whenever Lewis dribbles onto his keyboard, dissenters feel that they have to hide behind the Anonymous Coward curtain rather than face the (often, but not always) ill-informed pack drubbing that they'd get from his drooling supporters?

    The Register comment threads are rather like a bus full of Millwall fans - so keep your head down or face a kicking.

    And yes, I know that I'm about to avail myself of said kicking. I just feel that this pack mentality is rather sad - we're supposed to be geeks, and therefore a little bit too intellectually discerning to bay for blood.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Isn't it sad?

      I prefer to stick behind the 45RPM curtain

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It just needs re-branding

    "in an entire tonne of it, just one lonely atom of caesium from Fukushima is decaying each second"

    It's not nuclear waste, it's a homeopathic remedy.

    1. billat29

      Re: It just needs re-branding

      No. I think it's too concentrated for that!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It just needs re-branding

      However, as I'm far too lazy to get down my book with the table of half lives and do the calculation, how many actual caesium atoms is that per tonne?

      For all I know the water concerned is dangerously alkaline (caesium hydroxide is a pretty strong alkali and yes, I have actually worked with it.)

      Actually, stuff that, I've done the calculation and it's about 3 * 10^-10 g/cubic metre. Not very alkaline at all then. All the caesium atoms are lonely, even the ones that aren't turning into barium.

      1. Mpeler

        Re: It just needs re-branding

        I take it you calls them as you caesium?

        (Gets me coat....turns and runs...)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It just needs re-branding

      Nah, considering this and the videographically inclined youth (youf?) from Nancy, it's probably just a homopathic remedy....

  12. Adrian Taylor

    Please remove the graphic, or at least get your facts straight

    I can't believe that the Register is just spreading more hoax data.

    the map shown is the wave pattern distribution from the earthquake and nothing to do with radiation whatsoever

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: Please remove the graphic, or at least get your facts straight

      Well spotted Adrian.

      I hadn't looked at the graphic in detail, expecting to see it at better resolution when I read the linked PDF report later. To find it's from something else entirely was disappointing.

  13. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

    Ooooh, look at the pretty FUD art.

    1. Mpeler
      Big Brother

      Was wondering when you'd turnip....

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Sad to say that I know a couple people who are worried about the plume...

    People who are otherwise pretty reasonable.... I myself would be concerned about living near Fukushima, but the chances of even a worst-case meltdown genuinely impacting the West Coast is probably infinitesimal. The Pacific Ocean is pretty damn big and dilutes things pretty quckly.

    1. Tel

      Re: Sad to say that I know a couple people who are worried about the plume...

      When you think about the numbers of nuclear bombs that were exploded in the Pacific on various (poor defenceless!) atolls, Fukushima pales into insignificance. If the alarmists were to be believed, the Pacific would be utterly dead through irradiation by now.

  15. Steven Jones

    How about a financial disaster

    The economic cost of the Fukishima failures are estimaed at between 250 and 500 billion dollars. If it had been fossil fuel plants that had been inundated, then the costs would have been a fraction of this.

    So, whilst this may not have been a human disaster, it's an awful long way from being a triumph. It also came dangerously close to a much worse problem. The chief failure, is the abysmal underestimation of the risks of tsunamis from off-shore earthquakes. Despite what some people claim, this is not in retrospect. There was ample historical evidence of tsunamis of this size hitting the Japanese coast (and, of course, tsunami is, appropriately, a Japanese word).

    The Fukishima reactor design had known vulnerabilities, especially where the cooling system fails. There was a clear common-mode failure scenario as was proven when the tsunami disabled the backup cooling system.

    The fact is, that if the facility had been protected properly, or placed in a less vulnerable location, the vast majority of the economic costs would have been avoided. Indeed, the plant could probably have been restored to operation.

    It's simply a case where short cuts were made in the placement and construction of the plant in what is one of the most seismically active areas on the planet.

    It's far, far from a triumph.

    nb. I'd fully agree those worried Californians are just neurotic, but that's a different issue.

    1. FutureShock999

      Re: How about a financial disaster

      I beg to differ. Japan's nuclear program has OVERWHELMINGLY been a massive financial benefit to Japan, even after taking out the cost of accidents. The simple fact is, Japan could never have become the industrial powerhouse it has over the past 5 decades without their plethora of nuclear plants. They are too limited in coal, oil, natural gas, etc. to have powered their industrial plants in any other financially viable way. Show me a variation of Japan's history without their web of nuclear plants, and I will show you a Japan without Toyota, Honda, Nippon Steel, etc. I will show you a smaller, dimmer Tokyo. I will show you...well, a very different past and present.

      Simply put, the energy from those nuclear plants enabled decades of industrial growth in Japan, at a price for energy they could afford. So the financial cost of Fukishima must be balanced against those decades of growth and prosperity created by the entire network of atomic power plants - and that can only be measured in the TRILLIONS of dollars. Maybe tens of trillions over 5 decades. In terms of cost versus benefits, it is a clear win for nuclear power, at least in the case of Japan (and France, and Germany, get the idea).

      It is always tempting to go look at outdated design work and say "Gee, they should have known better". But they didn't - in the same way an Airbus A380 is a bit better than a DC-9, we've learned a lot over 4 decades of technology and science. Those plants were slated for replacement several years ago, but politics and environmentalist actions delayed their replacement - leaving 40+ year old plants soldiering on with known deficiencies - and lacking the safety features of modern plants. That should not be a signal to stop building plants - that should be a signal to redouble our efforts to build new ones, to replace the many that are near their end of life and/or are of such old designs that a newer plant would be MUCH safer.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge

        Financial disasaters..

        Maybe, just maybe, the "financial disaster" is caused more by "'Elf and Safety" parasites (and the hysterical individuals who they brainwash in the name of profit) than the disaster itself?

        Other examples include Asbestos, Electricity, Whiplash and PPI.

        The nuclear industry is especially vulnerable to these kinds of parasites, because nobody understands it, lots of people are scared of it, and nobody can see it except for the 'Elf & Safety brigade with their geiger counters and smear tests for whom it is highly profitable to inflate its risks.

        Especially when you have concepts like ALARA - that is, the whole UK nuclear industry is LEGALLY BOUND to keeping radiation emissions "As Low As Reasonably Achievable" (despite what the safe or background levels may be..) That gives a massive bonus to the ambulance chasers, because all they have to do is present some new (and very expensive) way to reduce exposure to a new, even more hilarious low.

        I work for an experimental fusion facility, and the rules there are that any area where there is more than 1 Bq/cm^2 Tritium (beta emission, one measly electron per second) detected on any surface then that area must be designated as a controlled area that nobody is allowed to enter without a pile of paperwork and five days of brainw^H^H^H^H^H^Htraining courses. (To put that into perspective, a Tritium-filled luminescent keyring that you can buy in high street shops for £10 contains about 1 Giga-Bequerel of Tritium) Anyone who comes out of these areas then has to dispose of their overalls, mask, and three layers of gloves straight into the contaminated bin which then becomes.. Nuclear Waste!

        Yes - most of that zillion tonnes of low-level nuclear waste that you hear about is just gloves and overalls that "might" be contaminated.

        They had to evacuate the whole site at Sellafield recently, until they found the cause of their "radiation leak" - As I understand it someone dug a hole for some roadworks and released some radon from the granite bedrock. For your "financial disaster", Imagine how much that little incident must have cost. Then think about the Nuclear Decomissioning Authority as a whole, and how much money it must be plowing into parasite industries for no good reason..

        In reality, there is far more cancer caused by the chemical and OMG Nanoparticles!! emissions from cars, than nuclear war never mind nuclear power, ever caused.

        And if we could have nuclear power, maybe we could have enough of it to charge everyone's electric car!

        By the way, anyone who mentions Chernobyl should be reminded of Bhopal.

        1. Steven Jones

          Re: Financial disasaters..

          Nuclear cleanups are inherently horribly expensive, although some might argue that these are overdone. However, for good or ill, nuclear power is intimately associated with nuclear weapons, and those of us who lived through the most dangerous parts of the cold war know well why standards have to be so high. Indeed early civilian reactors were deliberately designed with producing materials for nuclear weapons.

          It's also worth noting that Britain's AWR and Magnox reactors are particularly expensive to clear up, even if they would not have suffered the particular problems of the Fukishima plants. However, they have very large cores, full of irradiated graphite.

          It is also not helped that Sellafield was found to have consistently faked safety records in the past, and early attitudes to dumping radioactive waste into the sea were hardly great examples. There's also an estimated bill of £70bn to come for the decommissioning of Sellafield. Not exactly loose change,

          I'd like to emphasise, that I'm not against nuclear power as such, but that it presents particular challenges and dangers which will always require enormous care.

    2. Mpeler

      Re: How about a financial disaster

      IIRC, wasn't this really OLD (General Electric first generation?) kit that due for a renovation or replacement in the very near term? Would be a catastrophic occurrence of Murphy*s law in that case (and I'll bet a box of donuts and a beer (yuck, what a combo...all that CO2)) that the delay was an "environmental impact report" or some such...

      Flames....just, because (although Paris would do too, I suppose)

  16. Tromos

    Simple solution

    If Maggy Hohle is concerned about radiation affecting her kids swimming in the Pacific, might I suggest kitting them out with lead suits. What could possibly go wrong?

  17. Daniel B.

    I blame quack science

    Mostly the reason for many people believing that Fukushima is a grave Chernobyl-style eternal danger and government coverups may be because many of them are now gullible in believing the zillion urban legends out there. I've been finding out that more and more people KNOW that margarine is plastic and was conceived as a turkey fattening paste (it's not), they KNOW that McDonald's has mutant cows for beef, they KNOW that Velociraptors went into space and are spying on us from deep space… the list goes on and on. When the word "nuclear" is mentioned, everyone thinks green glowing stuff, Chernobyl and atomic bombs. Greenpeace even goes "full retard" with this ignorance and has been trying to stop ITER … which is a fusion reactor, not fission and thus impervious to fission reactor woes. Yet they treat them the same as fission and atomic bombs. Most people THINK they know how "nuclear" works, but most don't. And instead of hearing actual scientists, they listen to any quack who says stuff that sounds good, or doom-mongering. Maybe that's why miracle quack products still sell? People just believe anything shoved into their faces?

    1. Stevie

      Re: I blame quack science

      Maybe if there hadn't been such a history in every single nation that possesses nuclear technology of covering up the leaks, spills and plumes released into the living space of the citizens of those same countries, the people would give more credence to the idea that nuclear power can be a safe thing.

      So *I* blame quack science too, but the quacks got their feet in the door thanks to venal self-serving politicians who "know best" and who wish to "prevent panic".

      And I speak as someone who remembers the seemingly yearly admission from Windscale of a spill or venting after some newspaper discovered yet another flock of radioactive sheep grazing near the place.

    2. squigbobble

      Re: I blame quack science

      Actually ITER (and all the other tokamaks and neutron-producing fusion reactors) will create radioactive waste. The reactor itself gets irradiated and, through neutron capture, becomes radioactive. I think the coolant does as well but I'm not 100% sure about that.

      Probably still not as a bad as a spent fuel rod, though.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I blame quack science

        I think the BIG big thing Greenpeace has against fusion is that it won't advance their "renewables" agenda. In their mind, if it doesn't come directly form the sun, the wind, or the sea, it's taboo and must be avoided.

        As for not being capable of supporting civilisation as it is now, some extreme environmentalists look at that and say, "Good!" because they feel the world is overpopulated and beyond the viability limit. IOW, they figure a human population reduction of say...75%...would be good for the planet in general.

  18. RW

    That's not a map of the radioactive plume

    It's a map of the March 2013 tsunami, quite a different thing. As can be verified by simply moving your cursor over it.

    1. Alan_Peery

      Re: That's not a map of the radioactive plume

      Of course, the mouse-over doesn't work if

      1) You're using tablet to read the web page OR

      2) You're using Pocket to read the article offline on the train OR

      3) You don't happen to mouse-over the picture OR

      4) You're using the Readability mode of Safari (that's a guess)

      This attempt at humor is a FAIL on the Reg's part.

  19. fortran

    Cs-137 plume

    I have gone through the calculations in 2 different ways, and get the same answer, so perhaps it is close. :-)

    Fishermen on the BC coast are also concerned, and this link at least at one time had an image of what the plume looked like a couple of weeks ago or so.

    As Lewis said the rough order of magnitude is one the order of 1 Bq per cubic meter. Most people do not have a clue as to what is dangerous and what is not dangerous. For that matter, lots of technical people don't know either.

    The latest figure I seen for total event release of Cs-137 is 360,000 TBq. How much of that partitioned into the ocean, I don't know. Cesium metal has a sg of about 2, and cesium chloride has a sg of about 4. The total mass of Cs-137 released is about 110 kg. The large bags of concrete I believe are 50 kg. So we are talking about an object the size of 2 large cement bags.

    If that was a single concentrated mass, it would be an awesome radiation hazard. But it isn't all in one place. Some fraction of that is measurable across something like 25-40% of the surface of the Pacific ocean. I have seen nothing about its distribution with depth. But as an aerial gamma survey result, that signal is only comping from about the top 1 meter of the ocean.

    Telling people that the current level is such and such a fraction of values specified in regulations doesn't help. There are places where Brazil Nuts would be considered low level waste, if they weren't food. The regulations are an educated guess, and they completely ignore experience with places like Ramsar, in northern Iran.

    We really don't know if 1 Bq/m^3 is bad, good, or indifferent. I believe studies are underway at WIPP (Carlsbad, New Mexico) and Gran Sasso (Italy) looking into radiation effects at very low levels of radiation. I think it would be nice if Snolab (bottom of the Creighton Mine, Sudbury, Canada) was also doing studies. As near as I can tell, there is no biology type stuff going on at Snolab.

    But for people asking the question, can we clean the cesium-137 out of the Pacific Ocean, it is unlikely we have the technology to extract 100 kg of anything dissolved in that much water.

    1. Mark Pawelek

      Re: Cs-137 plume

      If we take the water in only the top 1 metre of only a tenth of the Pacific ocean and assume 110 kg of caesium-137 diffused into it the concentration would be about 7 nano grams per cubic metre, with an activity of 22.5 becquerel (Bq). If we assumed the caesium-137 diffused to a depth of 10 metres, the activity in a cubic metre would be 2.25 becquerel.

      Radiation is a lot more dangerous inside one's body than outside. Alpha and beta radiation won't get past your skin. Only gamma- can harm you but it has to get past the water first. I reckon about 8 cm of water will take half of the gammas out (pure guess)

      Note 1: 1 becquerel (Bq) = 1 disintegration per second.

      Note 2: To reduce typical gamma rays by a factor of a billion, thicknesses of shield needs to be 4.2 meters of water.

      To conclude, I wouldn't care a jot about swimming in the Pacific, unless I was afraid of sharks.

      1. Robert Sneddon


        The folks tracking fallout from Fukushima in the Pacific take samples at various depths, not just the surface. There's a gradient due to upwelling and mixing between layers being somewhat limited but a lot of the Cs-134 (halflife 2 years) that's obviously from Fukushima is in very deep water (hundreds of metres down). Fukushima-derived Cs-137 (halflife 30 years) measurement is more difficult as there's still a lot of it hanging around from the 150MT total of US thermonuclear test explosions carried out in the 1950s mid-Pacific and it's well-mixed by now after sixty years or so.

        As for swimming in seawater naturally-occurring potassium-40 produces about 10,000 Bq/m3, 90% beta particles and the rest quite energetic gammas. The 2Bq/m3 resulting from Cs-134 and -137 measured a few kilometres offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi plant is barely noticeable in that regard.

    2. Mpeler

      Re: Cs-137 plume

      Maybe the (infintesimal) radiation would cancel out the effects of mercury? :)

      Self-cooking fish, anyone? (sorry)....

      This continuous fear-mongering (not you, FORTRAN, of the ancient and noble programming languages) (and still in use, no less) is really irritating....I say, Caesium and desist!!!

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. Stevie


    "But the radioactivity which is to "hit" California will be utterly, completely minuscule. The water in the "plume" which scientists are "tracking" is so radiologically inert that in an entire tonne of it, just one lonely atom of caesium from Fukushima is decaying each second. For context, healthy human body tissues are around 50,000 times more radioactive than that."


    Does no-one at this benighted excuse for a digital newspaper understand the first thing about homeopathy and the Laws of Dilution?

    1. Midnight

      Re: Bah!

      "Does no-one at this benighted excuse for a digital newspaper understand the first thing about homeopathy and the Laws of Dilution?"

      As I understand the process of dynamisation, all it would take is a little bit of shaking and the entire Pacific ocean would become a homeopathic nuclear reactor with a mass of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 times that of the original Daiichi NPP and, as such, capable of producing about 29 billion times more power than we receive from the Sun.

      I don't see a problem with that.

      1. Mpeler
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Bah!

        But what would the equivalent in Hilton Heat™ be? I demand a new Register Unit (of Measure)....

    2. TheRealRoland

      Re: Bah!

      Are you referring to the Memory Effect of homeopathic solutions?

  21. Rob Isrob

    Fits the Narrative

    ... and makes the nightly news as Brian Williams intones about the cesium plume approaching California. Narrative? Nuclear = Bad. Bald Eagle killing Wind power generation = Good. Oh the ecological gordian knots the greenies twist themselves into.

  22. Demosthenese


    A few people have referred to Drax as a coal-fired counter-example. I believe Drax is now a wood-pellet biomass power station, and so its radioactive output will have been reduced.

    1. peter_dtm

      Re: Drax

      not yet

      iirc Drax now has one unit doing biomas fuel the other 5 are undergoing conversion one at a time.

      What sort of idiot makes a power station replace high energy concentrate fuel with low energy concentrate fuel that uses a massive amount of fuel to ship it in from the USA ?

      what a stupid waste of money; time and energy that is - I wonder whuch politician (or their chums) have their sticky little fingers in that money making scam ?

      1. Chris Miller

        What sort of idiot?

        A green idiot.

        1. Mpeler

          Re: What sort of idiot?

          Ahh. another (SMALL) unit of measure......Millibrain?

  23. Vociferous

    As someone who's been censored by Lewis about a dozen times...

    ... I have to say that I agree with him 100% when it comes to nuclear power. The hysteria surrounding nuclear power is baffling.

    Someone asked what one would rather live close to: a coal power or a nuclear power plant? I'd pick the nuclear power plant every time.

  24. Herby

    Just remember...

    US Law requires distilled spirits (and wine/beer) to be radioactive. Sure it is a bit indirect, but the law DOES require it.

    Yes, it is a small amount, and that is the point. We live in a radioactive world!

    Here in sunny California, we have this "Proposition 65" thing that requires lots of people to say "This contains items that the state of California says make cancer" (or words to that effect). Of course, life makes cancer and most of the doses are minuscule. No matter, having ANY amount of said substance is enough to get lawyers to descend upon you lawsuits in hand bleeding you dry of any $$$ you might have. What a wonderful place we live in.

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Just remember...

      Wow, that reminds me of when I was in Uni (70s) and Busch had a beer "survey" going which claimed that Miller was "beechwood aged" by floating beechwood logs on the fermenting must. Not sure if it was true or not, but we were persuaded to, er, favor Busch with lots of free beer, etc.

      Ahh, marketing (fear-mongering, whatever)...some things never change...

      My favorite....

      There's a heavenly body sitting next to you in Astronomy 101.....You Owe Yourself an Oly...

      (OK, maybe two, one to increase the, er, gravitic attraction) (bad brewer/astronomy joke...sorry)....

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Just remember...

      US Law requires distilled spirits (and wine/beer) to be radioactive. Sure it is a bit indirect, but the law DOES require it.

      Let's talk context. The reason for this requirement is that they want to make sure the ethanol used in the drink came from plant products rather than petroleum. They do this by testing for the presence of radioactive Carbon-14 (which would be pretty fresh in plant-based alcohols in contrast to petroleum-based ones).

  25. meanioni

    Deary me what a load of cobblers some of the posters make here.

    We live in a world bathed in radiation - solar, cosmic rays, background radiation from the earth itself and food you eat, by the way (helped by those lovely atom bomb tests from the 50s through to the 80s) and Chernobyl. Add to that flights, x-rays, etc and most people get a healthy dose by doing nothing. And amazingly, were not all flaking out from radiation sickness.

    It matters also what sort of radiation is being emitted - alpha can be stopped by a sheet of paper, beta has a short range and gamma is the sort with the most "staying power" is more dangerous to living things.

    The radiation from Fukushima has dispersed over a huge area. Many of the isotopes concerned have short half-lives so although the initial risk was high, over time it has decreased. Yes, there are more dangerous isotopes, but again - they are heavily dispersed and if they emit alpha/beta unless you eat it or rub it on and leave it on your skin, you are unlikely to suffer any consequences.

    Soot particles and dioxins from coal and waste burning plants produce far more carcinogens over a much longer time period, in addition to other toxic gases such as Nitrogen Dioxide,etc.

    So relax California - the risk to your health is infinitely higher from the burgers you may eat, going on a sunbed without proper sunscreen and stress from your job!

    And as for the poster who said anti-global warming people treat it as a religion - look in the mirror buddy! I have seen considerably more evidence of religious fervour from pro-GW supporters - preaching to others, faith without any rational, objective scientific view, taking text/views literally and getting aggressive and feeling threatened by anti global warming views.

    1. Stevie

      Deary me what a load of cobblers

      Agreed, but if you turn your irony detector *on* you'll find the number of true dimwits is small compared to those mocking them.

      1. Mpeler

        Re: Deary me what a load of cobblers

        And the dimmest wits are using CFLs..... (sorry...)

  26. fortran

    Re: Cs-137 plume

    Well, if you looked at the aerial gamma survey image from the fishing article, you would see it is significantly more than 1/10 of the Pacific which is generating signal. The highest concentrations are I believe on the order of 15 Bq/m^3, and that is still close to Japan. What is currently at the BC coast, is I believe about 0.1 Bq/m^3. But, from what you are saying, it looks like the cesium is not diffusing down in the water column. I don't know where the upwelling and down draft currents are, but maybe it takes one of those down drafts to push cesium to the deep ocean.

    In terms of hazard to a person in a boat or airplane, nearly all of the hazard is from gamma, but that will only be about the top meter of water due to self-shielding by the water. The radiation field will be almost independent of height above the ocean, as it approximates a planar source.

    In terms of hazard to life in the ocean, it is the beta emitted by cesium which is potentially the problem. If a fish, plankton, or what have you ingests Cs-137 atoms, they will tend to follow potassium in the body. If most of the ocean is like a desert with respect to potassium, it is possible that the cesium will have a longer biological half life. But because it is nominally a kind of salt, I would guess its biological half life is probably on the order of a day. So, because some life form takes in a radioactive Cs-137 atom, doesn't mean that the atom is going to decay, and in so doing, possibly have a single beta decay possibly do some damage. And really, a single atom decaying, and in a location not close to DNA, isn't likely to do significant damage to even one cell. The gamma emitted from that kind of scenario will exit the life form in all likelihood without depositing significant energy in any given cell along the path.

    It isn't fair to say alpha and beta are of minimal risk (there is no alpha involved with Cs-137). What many have pointed out is typical, and yes the beta from Cs-137 is typical. Having worked at a research reactor, I have made Cl-38 (35 minute half life), and it has a monster of a beta (5 MeV). That thing has a range of 60 feet in air. I the the end of the Th-232 decay chain has a couple of monster particles: a 5 MeV beta and a 10 MeV alpha. An alpha that energetic will penetrate all of the dead skin and make its way into live tissue. I think the rule of thumb cut off on alphas not getting through the dead skin is about 7 MeV. But as I didn't spend much time working with alpha emitters, I didn't memorize much about them. But for most alpha emitters the casual person may be exposed to, 7 MeV is still pretty hard and unlikely. I think the most likely pathway to damage is inhalation, where the alpha emitter is deposited on live lung tissue.

    But, whether we are talking Cs-137 or Th-232, it is only in the few nanoseconds when the decay happens, that there is any hazard to living processes in the vicinity of that atom.

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Cs-137 plume

      Maybe a little Bisoprolol or Atenolol would help? (Beta-blockers)


  27. Shannon Jacobs

    Brave words from a chickenshit coward who doesn't have to wonder which way the wind is blowing. Yeah, I live within a few hours of the mess should the #4 building collapse (which is still possible and which is still packed with nuclear fuel rods). Yeah, it does depend on the wind direction, but unlike this moron Paige or Page or whatever, I'd actually have to live with it. Or maybe die.

    I have a feature request for the Register. There are certain authors who write nothing but tripe. There should be a filter to render their blather invisible.

    P.S. Actually, I'm not sure his blather had any pretense of bravery to it. I only saw about 7 of his words. That was all it took to confirm it was the usual tripe.

    1. Mpeler

      You don't like it? Don't read it....filter yourself...

      Make noise with your local authorities (OK, I know, governments move slowly, if at all, but at least TRY).

      Note that

      1) the facility in question was quite old

      2) said facilitiy withstood a quake beyond its design specs

      3) said facility almost withstood a tsunami beyond its design specs

      4) questionable fuel storage methods were a result of GREEN REGULATIONS....go figure....

      Fine, griping at those in charge is about as useful as pi$$...g in the wind, but yapping at Lewis won't help...

      Have a look at the US...infrastructure there is horrendous....but they won't spend money on it...maybe the folks in charge of road/bridge/etc. repair should invoke the holy mantra of climate change...then they'd have the money to fix what REALLY needs fixing....

      By the way, I went over the Silver River bridge between West Virginia and Ohio that collapsed in the mid-1960s...SPOOKY feeling...folks DIED in that disaster....could have been prevented with some infrastructure maintenance for a problem that DID exist and they DID know about....just sayin'

      (Photos and info:

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Yeah, I live within a few hours of the mess should the #4 building collapse (which is still possible and which is still packed with nuclear fuel rods).

        So what would the effects be, exactly?

        Metal rods falling all over themselves??

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...why don't you fucking move? Are you that lazy or are you simply broke or what? Are you that tired of living? Please answer because I would like to get the bottom of your boggle.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Planning on Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics?

    The yakuza will have some radioactive sushi waiting, just for you :)

  29. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Perfectly safe?

    Which of these statements is true?

    "the second worst nuclear power disaster that has ever happened anywhere."

    "absolutely nobody's health has been or will be measurably harmed. That's a pretty impressive safety performance."

    I might be semantic but if one is erroneous what else is true?

    What is the study concentrating on caesium for?

    The fuels used were plutonium and uranium.

    These are heavy chemicals and their drift across the ocean is going to take a long time. Maybe it will all stay in the deepest depths where they might concentrate but some is going to become fish food sooner or later.

    The longer that takes the worse the effect is likely to be as the spread will be much further.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Perfectly safe?

      AFAIK, the plutonium and uranium are still more or less where they were in the first place.

      Only the volatile elements resulting from nucleus splittings went AWOL.

  30. pacman7de

    Fukushima radiation undetectable?

    'radiation levels in its groundwater .. had reached 310 becquerels per liter for cesium-134 and 650 becquerels per liter for cesium-137 .. Drinking water at 300 becquerels per liter would be approximately equivalent to one year’s exposure to natural background radiation, or 10 to 15 chest X-rays, according to the World Health Organization` .. nationalgeographic

    1. Ken Y-N

      Re: Fukushima radiation undetectable?

      That's water levels on site, as would have been obvious if you hadn't used "..." to omit that information, and of course, who would be drinking on-site water anyway? Japan's standards for drinking water is 10 becquerels per litre of cesium, lower than most of the rest of the world.

  31. Schultz

    Lewis Page: Active spreading of ignorance

    This article is a major fail. Yes, Lewis page, the radiation effects on the public health in Japan are small. But this is due to timely evacuation. The central claim of your story, namely that there is no radiation risk, was no radiation risk, and will never be a radiation risk due to Fukushima is just 100 % made up and has no connection to the scientific study at all!

    The study investigated the radiation in 3 regions, 20-50 km away from the Fukushima plant, which were never evacuated, due to relatively low radiation doses. I cite: "The Kawauchi and Haramachi areas are located in former evacuation prepared areas in case of emergency and the Tamano area has never been designated in any evacuation category. Whereas these areas neighbor the restricted areas and the deliberate-evacuation area (red and yellow areas in Fig. 1, Left), residents generally live as they did before the nuclear accident."

    --> these areas were little affected by fallout, whereas other (evacuated) areas were quite heavily affected. Indeed, the paper shows a map with areas out to >30km where "where it is expected that the residents have difficulties in returning for a long time (>50 mSv/y)"

    The study investigated the radiation levels one year after the accident So the irradiation due to short-lived radionuclides (e.g., Iodine) is not accounted for. the study is quite clear about it: "This assessment was derived from short-term observation with uncertainties and did not evaluate the first year dose and radioiodine exposure. Would it be so hard to refer to those things when you report on the study, Lewis? I guess it would distract from your agenda. Can't have that, so better write a piece of biased sh*** that doesn't contribute a penny to the discussion of atomic plant safety.

    Lewis Page: trying to spread scientific ignorance to the IT professional. FAIL

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Lewis Page: Active spreading of ignorance

      I know in Sgt. Schultz....

      Another promulgator of GREENmail, or perhaps watermelon warrior (green on the outside, red on the inside).

      Please look at the FACTs, not the Grauniad, NatGeo, (Un)scientific Amerikun, or (horrors) the Chron...

      There are more people killed by "renewable" energy each year (construction, mining [those rare earths have to come from somewhere, and it's the poor sods in China who are bearing the brunt], maintenance, etc.) than in the history of nuclear energy. Yes, you could say there have been lots of deaths due to coal mining, etc., but then, take a look at what the industrial revolution has done for us...

      Back to horse and buggy, wood fires, no telephones, PCs, internets, smartphones, etc,, etc., etc,....

      Nahhh,,,didn't think so....

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Lewis Page: Active spreading of ignorance

        You are not helping, Mister Peler.

  32. muk kum

    ha ha ha

    You do realise that the map at the top of page 1 shows the results of a model of maximum wave amplitude resulting from the earthquake causing the tsunami -- noting to do with radiation spread. In fact you should realise that instead of putting 'scary innit' under the diagram, since you link to the site that is the source of the map

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: ha ha ha

      This is actually true.

  33. All names Taken

    Storage opportunity

    Do you have spare room in your garage or outbuildings?

    Would you like to earn xxx per year storing a tonne of water on your property?

    Please contact …. for this excellent opportunity to store or buy water from Fukishima Diaichi nuclear power.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Right or Wrong,,,,

    Lewis is completely predictable. Saw the headline, didn't really need to read the article. Bored enough to stick with it : only surprise was that he didn't mention the 'Jetsons' this time. For the record, he's probably largely right on this one.... however I find his opinions gratingly 'black or white'. I've always found the world to be nowhere near so simple. But I guess I wouldn't get many gigs freelancing.

  35. mfritz0

    Cancer from radiation

    In five years when people start dropping from cancer produced from nuclear radiation, I'll reference them to this article to the expert who decided that the Fukashima radiation is insignificant. Then if this person hasn't dropped from the cancer by then, maybe it can be explained better then. Time will tell, but do not expect miracles! Radiation kills.

    1. Steven Jones

      Re: Cancer from radiation

      You clearly don't understand what you are talking about. One of the reasons that the subject of radiation-induced fatalities from accidents like Fukishima is so open to argument, is that any excess cancers will not be measurable. In 10, 20 or 30 years' time, there will not be a sudden spike in cancers cause by this incident as even the worst case numbers are so small they will be man orders of magnitude below natural rates of cancer. How you expect at detect an excess cancer rate of even a few hundred (much higher than any model predicts) spread over 10s of years in a population where the natural rate will be in the millions escapes me.

      There are more measurable spikes caused by radioactive iodine (which has a short half life). The excess cancers (of the thyroid) were very clear in Chernobyl, although it was made much worse by the lack of action my the authorities in that case. As far as I'm aware, nobody has seen such a spike in Japan.

      Fortunately, thyroid cancer treatment has a very high success rate or the death toll from Chernobyl would have been a lot higher.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Cancer from radiation

      Cancer levels in the only 2 cities on the planet which were nuked (Horoshima and Nagasakai) are between 2 and 4% above normal (depending on whose reaearch you look at) and have been that way since the 1960s.

      Compare and contrast to the levels in Minamata Bay (large mercury poisoning issues in the 1950s and 60s) where it's quite a bit higher than that, thanks to environmental chemical carcinogens and ongoing heavy metal pollution issues.

      FWIW it's government sensitivity over failure to address Minamata Disease right up to the 1970s (and the subsequent court cases, etc) which leads them to be overcautious to extremes these days. Minamata stands as a national example of what happens if you cover things up.

  36. fortran

    Re: Perfectly safe?

    I believe the only fuel is U-235. I don't think that particular kind of reactor breed significant Pu-239.

    There are a few nuclei which are described as fissile. If a fissile nucleus absorbs a neutron (being uncharged, it has no barrier to tunnel through), there is a reasonable chance that daughter nucleus will under go fission. U-235 will absorb a neutron to form U-236, and I believe most of the time, U-236 undergoes fission.

    Fission literally mean to split into large parts. With the fission of U-235 (the original fuel), the split is into two large chunks, with some leftovers. There are 2 peaks in the atomic mass, 94-95 and about 136. If we add 95 to 136 we get 231. The peak at 136 is wider than the lower mass peak. So, we may find the most common sum for the 2 large fragments is in the 233 to 234 range. With U-235 we typically get some fast neutron production from the fission event, so that is where the that missing 1.x goes to. Where the cesium-137 comes from, is the 137 mass line is right near the higher mass peak. 6.19% of fissions from U-235 result in a 137 mass fragment. My chart of the Nuclides has Te-137 (2.5 s) as the furthest off stability. Te-137 normally decays by beta minus (to I-137), but it sometimes gives rise to a delayed neutron instead (Te-136). I-137 (24.5 s) usually decays by beta minus, but it can sometimes give rise to a delayed neutron (to I-136). And things branch from there, with some of the isotopes produced having measurable fractions of decays giving rise to delayed neutrons, but all the isotopes produced on the neutron rich side tending to decay by beta minus. Some of the 137 line will undergo successive beta minus decays, and end up at Cs-137. Ba-137 and Ba-137m look to be the two most proton rich fission products on that mass line. Cs-137 eventually decays into Ba-137. Some of the larger fission products could end up on the 138, 139, and so on lines, and some of the isotopes along those lines have delayed neutron emission as a decay process. Cs-137 just happens a longish half life, and consequently it gets produced at a reasonable rate in fission, and due to the half life, even over the course of the lifetime of a reactor, maybe a little over half of all Cs-137 produced in a fuel rod may decay to Ba-137.

    It really would have been nice, if Lewis (or someone) would have replaced the tsunami wave height image with an image about the gamma aerial surveying of the Pacific and Arctic oceans, such as I had pointed to.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Perfectly safe?

      Reactors 3 housed about 40 MOX tubes (Mixsture of oxides of U-238 and Pu-239). There was some concern about how this metallurgic material would be behave in case of a meltdown and whether things might become hot enough to release Pu vapors. Nothing happened though.

      an image about the gamma aerial surveying of the Pacific and Arctic oceans, such as I had pointed to

      I do not think that such an image exists, or would make much sense.

  37. fortran

    Re: Perfectly safe?

    The image exists, I seen it in multiple news reports. There is no explanation for how the image was generated. Gamma aerial surveying seems the most likely explanation. My brain fuzzied a number. USGS says on land the signal is nominally from the top 20-25cm. Water is a bit less than half as dense, so 50-60 cm?

    There are lots of ways to turn measurements of some kind at a set of positions into a map. To sample enough locations by taking water samples for the image that I pointed to, would have taken quite a while. To fly a plane (or set of planes) over that area is much more feasible.

    Everybody knows inverse square law for the point source and point detector. For a point detector and a line source, it is just inverse distance. For a plane source, intensity is independent of distance. (infinite line and infinite plane). If the source extends over more than 120 degrees of angle (2D), the line source effectively is of infinite extent. A similar argument follows for a planar source of large extent.

    Sure, the measurement is saying on the order of 1 decay per second per cubic meter of water, and we are guessing that a 661 keV gamma can likely escape from something like 0.63m of water. If the plane is at 1000m altitude, a 90 degree arc defines a surface of Pi million square meters. How many of those 1 meter square surface regions have a gamma being emitted in the direction of the aircraft? The aircraft could easily have a very large NaI(Tl) detector on board. Time to go to sleep. I can't find any study that would have produced such a map, hopefully someone else can.

    A 2012 Homeland Security survey in the Bay area, was seeing gross count rates of 3000 and 3500 CPM flying at 300 feet and 70 knots above Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz with twelve 2 litre NaI detectors. This survey treated over-water as being indicative of just cosmic ray signals.

    A survey of Los Alamos county (presented 2013) showed that the only man-made sources of radioactivity found in the county, were on the Los Alamos Nuclear Reservation. Three of those sites were cesium spills.

    700 PBq of Cs-137 were in the 3 damaged cores originally. A particular report says 14-17 PBq were released by the accident into the atmosphere, of which 12-15 have since entered the ocean. 3.6 +/- 0.7 went directly to the ocean. And there was 140 PBq in stagnant water (on site?). The first number I reported here was 360 PBq was total release, which is about half of the 700 that were in the cores to begin with. But I guess this paragraph says that most likely nearly all the Cs-137 that was released is in the ocean now. One slide I see shows 5 ships (1 appears to be a container ship) collecting samples from about 200 sites between 20 N and 55N, between Japan and the west coast of North America up until Oct 2012. In Oct 2011, the surface level of Cs-134 (the shorter lived) was about 25 Bq/M^3, there is a peak of about 3 Bq/m^3 at 140m depth, and a peak of about 3 Bq/m^3 at 300m depth. By June of 2012, this changed to a peak of 4 Bq/m^3 at 50m depth, and a peak of 9 Bq/m^3 at 320m depth. From previous studies of weapons test Cs-137 in the water column, the expectation was surface transport east from Japan towards North America to about the half way point, and then there was a diving current (subtropical gyre?) which was expected to take the Cs-137 down and to the south and west, ultimately towards Indonesia. The Wikipedia article on the North Pacific Gyre shows a different circulation than the IAEA document.

    Apparently the total inventory of Cs-137 from weapons tests remaining in the environment in 1970, was about 290 PBq. By 2011 (pre accident) this was down to 69 PBq, of which 3% was from Chernobyl.

    IAEA Scientific Forum 17-18 September 2013 Vienna, Austria

    I can understand the emotion in both sides. It is disappointing to see the twisting that both sides seem to be doing to data. I just want to find truth.

    Good night.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Real greens...

    ...are for nuclear power.

  39. Mike Wilson

    "If there's one lesson to learn from it, it's that nuclear power is very safe indeed"

    Thank you. Now, can we please have a new nuclear power plant or three in the UK? They're a lot safer than the alternatives.

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