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Fukushima Commentary (blog)
What Japanese decisions border on the irrational? Is the Fukushima accident ongoing? Does Fukushima have the potential for world-wide apocalyptic disaster? Are the Fukushima radiation levels health-threatening?
"Fukushima : The First Five Days"...a book taken from the records kept by the operating staff at Fukushima Daiichi during the first crucial days of the crisis. It is now available at all E-book outlets. For the PDF and bundle... (click here)
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October 3, 2015
Japan’s Press accentuates the bad and intentionally ignores the good
The past few weeks have been a relatively “slow” period relative to Fukushima Daiichi news. To be blunt, there have been no new problems for Japan’s Press to exploit since a typhoon skirted the Tohoku coast and overflowed a drainage ditch and sent an innocuous amount of radioactivity into the ocean a month ago. Since then, some widely-reported problems of the past have been resolved. Unfortunately, these problem solutions have been conspicuously ignored by the Japanese News media.
For example, the recent completion of the impervious sea-wall along the shoreline at F. Daiichi that should end speculations of hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater flowing into the sea every day. This was reported to the Press more than a week ago by Tepco, but not a single news outlet has made mention of it. It seems that Japan’s Press wants to keep the appearance of continual pollution into the Pacific Ocean alive.
Another example is the successful completion of the “ice wall” technology surrounding three sides of the four damaged units at F. Daiichi. Tepco shared this information with the Press more than two weeks ago, and an ensuing press handout announced start of the freezing process by filling the bore-holes with brine for insulation. For the last year, every minor glitch in the system’s construction made headlines. Speculations by critics, both inside and outside Japan, were regularly posted. But, when ice wall construction has a major success, there is not even a whimper about it.
Here’s one more case-in-point - when Japanese antinuclear activists make public statements about radiation risks specific to women and children, headlines always ensue. But when a panel of women makes a public presentation to the contrary, an informational black hole develops. Just such a panel held a meeting in Tokyo last week, and said accurate nuclear information is not circulated in Japan, but what gets spread is “improper information intentionally disseminated by anti-nuclear groups.” (emphasis added)
Then there’s the ploy of making a notional connection between nuclear energy and other publically-unpopular issues. Japan's Press has been unmercifully bashing PM Abe's new security law and last year's secrecy law. The secrecy law of December, 2014, was vehemently attacked by antinuclear zealots and Japan's most-antinuclear news outlets (Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Japan Times, etc.) due to the fear of incarceration from anti-nuclear energy activity. That furor has died down, but the Mainichi Shimbun has tried to make the national secrecy-nuclear energy connection once again (10/3/15). The Mainichi alleges a "leaked" Nuclear Regulation Authority training program for new employees. The "confidential" materials include BWR and PWR diagrams and explanations on how they both work, the steps between activating a reactor and getting it up to the status of normal operation, as well as water temperature and pressure data related to starting one of these reactors. None of this material is actually secret or has anything to do with national policy, but that makes no difference. Much, if not most of the Japanese public believes everything with nuclear energy is hush-hush stuff because the government wants the Plutonium to make bombs. There is a sufficient audience that believes in this secrecy myth, so it sees the light of day under juicy headlines.
Publishing news concerning nuclear energy problems, whether real or merely speculative, is always the case in Japan. But, when something happens of a positive nature, little or no mention is to be found anywhere. This has been the modus operandi of international prophets of nuclear energy doom for more than three decades. Antinuclear voices want to promote fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD), but don’t have the human decency to admit when something goes right.
Japan’s news media has seemed to take the global agenda to heart. Japanese news outlets unmercifully blast Tepco, Tokyo, and the Japanese nuclear community at-large, for every actual or perceived problem that emerges. In addition, when nothing worthy of a negative nuclear headline occurs over a period of time, they keep the adverse article flow alive with fallback topics such as re-hashing old stories with a “new” spin, expanded coverage of the largely ineffectual wave of Fukushima-based lawsuits, human interest stories concerning the “plight” of Fukushima evacuees, and editorials calling for the end of nuclear power plants in Japan. We are currently in the midst of just such a lull, and what we find coming out of Japan is mostly fallback material.
Japan’s public deserves to hear the positive, and not just the negative. But, Japan’s Press has become so decidedly antinuclear that it seems its one-sided reporting will continue unabated.
September 20, 2015
279th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week, we have postings by Dan Yurman, Dr. Gail Marcus, Stephen Alpin, Meredith Angwin, Rod Adams (guest post) and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… The first American reactor licensed for operation was Shippingport Atomic Power Station, located on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… the challenges facing the development advanced nuclear reactors, a realistic look at the resource limitations and environmental costs of all energy options, how to avoid leaping off the renewable energy cliff, beating the end of Vermont’s solar energy tax credit, and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is nuclear-averse because of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
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From Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes –
The Chicken & Egg Conundrum of Forging a Future for Advanced Nuclear Reactors
Dan says, “The bad news is that anyone who is paying attention to the barriers to market entry for advanced nuclear reactors knows what they are. The good news is that more people are paying attention.” He looks at the RAND study which addresses overcoming the barriers. Dan also lists links to several related sources of information on the subject. http://neutronbytes.com/2015/09/12/the-chicken-egg-conundrum-of-forging-a-future-for-advanced-nuclear-reactors/
From Dr. Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk –
Resource Issues and Energy Supply: What it Means for Our Energy Future
Gail stresses that ALL energy sources consume resources and impact the environment. She takes equal issue with those who say "renewables good, nuclear bad" and those who say "nuclear good, renewables bad." We need to view all resources realistically, and that means to recognize any real resource limitations and environmental impacts and try to find ways to address them. http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.com/2015/09/resource-issues-and-energy-supply.html
From Stephen Alpin’s Canadian Energy Issues –
Book sales, iTunes, and a renewable energy-powered Internet: Leaping into the future, and over a cliff
This week, a group of prominent Canadian luminaries issued a manifesto calling for a radical shift in energy policy in order to fight climate change. Steve Aplin wonders what life would be like for one of them—a jet-setting best-selling author whose books sell on iTunes—if such a shift to actually occur. http://canadianenergyissues.com/2015/09/15/book-sales-itunes-and-a-renewable-energy-powered-internet-how-to-avoid-leaping-off-a-cliff/
From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee –
The Solar View from Vermont: The Gold Rush and the Panels
There’s a solar "Gold Rush" in Vermont. A crucial solar tax credit expires at the end of 2016, and developers are racing to install acres of solar panels before it expires. While developers are not required to defer to town planning boards, some towns balking. Meanwhile, a solar developer calls local Vermont solar opponents "NIMBY." He attempted to block the Cape Wind project because it would spoil the view from his fifteen million dollar Martha's Vineyard home. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-solar-view-from-vermont-gold-rush.html#.Vf6mnelmTR8
From Rod Adam’s Atomic Insights; a guest post by Paul Lorenzini –
Saving the Environment from Environmentalism
Part I - Must we destroy the environment to save it?
Most would agree on the major goals of environmentalism: first, reduce carbon emissions, and second, minimize our environmental footprint as we pursue growing human needs. Current thinking on how to achieve these goals is informed by two basic premises: first, environmental solutions must “harmonize with nature”, hence the emphasis on so-called “green” renewable resources; and second, nuclear power must be opposed at all costs. Fossil fuels are to be displaced over the long term, but they take a back seat to nuclear power, like way back. There is now good reason to believe those premises are fundamentally flawed. http://atomicinsights.com/saving-the-environment-from-environmentalism-2/
From Les Corrice’s Fukushima Commentary –
Bill Nye’s nuclear aversion results from the Hiroshima Syndrome
Bill Nye has the hubris to communicate his aversion concerning nuclear energy, which he appears to know very little about. Since they are both nuclear, what is correct for bombs is necessarily correct for nuclear energy. His aversion is the result of the Hiroshima Syndrome. Like the majority of those so-afflicted, he has no idea that his nuclear paradigms are as empty as space-itself. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html
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Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) answer for this week… Fiction.
The first licensed American reactor was in Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t Shippingport. It was the Breazeale research reactor at Penn State University, in College Park, licensed in 1955. Shippingport was the first American nuclear power plant licensed. Breazeale’s 60th anniversary was celebrated on July 22nd. After TMI, the facility was included as part of a Penn State program to educate teachers about nuclear energy. I was involved in sending teachers from the Cleveland area during several summers in the mid-80s, and had the honor of attending the summer program commencement as a trustee in 1987. Here a link to the Breazeale info page for the anniversary fete… http://news.psu.edu/story/363703/2015/07/22/public-events/breazeale-nuclear-reactor-host-60th-anniversary-open-house
September 15, 2015
Bill Nye’s nuclear aversion results from the Hiroshima Syndrome
On April 8, 2015, Bill Nye (The Science Guy) presented a keynote speech on the screening of Pandora’s Promise for Columbia University Coalition for Sustainable Development.1. Nye obviously doesn’t think nuclear energy should be part of the solution for climate change. In fact, he makes it clear he doesn’t like nuclear energy at all. His 30-plus minute speech explains why he has such a deep aversion - his nuclear objection results from a severe case of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
The Hiroshima Syndrome is psychological distress which results in a mortal fear of nuclear energy. It is caused by one or more of three not-uncommon misunderstandings: (1) Uranium is an explosive, thus a worst-case nuclear power plant reactor accident could conceivably result in a nuclear detonation, (2) nuclear power plant atmospheric releases are the same as bomb fallout, and/or (3) there is no safe level of radiation exposure. All three confusions can be traced back to the August, 1945, bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To those infected by the Hiroshima Syndrome, reactors are little more than bombs that haven’t exploded yet. Of the three predicating misconceptions, Bill Nye’s aversion appears to be most influenced by confusion #1.
Nye spends the first half of his speech talking about nuclear weapons, with a noticeable number of incorrect statements. (see Rod Adams’ Why doesn’t “The Science Guy” like nuclear power – yet? 2.) As we reach the 17 minute mark, Nye begins to demonstrate his confusion between reactors and bombs. He has just completed a rather convoluted explanation of Uranium enrichment during the WWII Manhattan Project, when he says, “Secrecy was required to develop the processes that allowed the United States to develop the first nuclear weapon – this stuff is still with the nuclear industry – this secrecy.”
I was part of the so-called “nuclear industry” for 15 years, and there was never any sort of secrecy involved. Never! Colleagues with much longer “industry” association say the same thing.
So…is Bill Nye lying? He’s confusing reactors with bombs. The Manhattan Project was cloaked in secrecy, so the nuclear industry must also be under the dark veil of concealment; they are both nuclear, so what is true for one must be true for both. Nye would be better-served to do his historical homework, which it seems he has not. Bill Nye has not lied; he just didn’t know what he was talking about.
He then explains what he believes as the Achilles Heel of nuclear energy; nuclear waste. He starts by saying he doesn’t know how many reactors the US Navy has, and asserts, “If they told me they may have to kill me,” clearly another appeal to his notion of nuclear secrecy. He seems to be trying to make a joke, but there wasn’t a hint of a chuckle from the standing-room-only audience. Regardless, all he should have “Googled it”. The number of US Navy nuclear-powered ships and subs, with the number of reactors on each, is not a secret.
He then asserts that the Navy takes the old reactors and buries them, “Usually in Idaho…but there are a lot fewer people there than in other parts of the world, so leaving it there is OK.” This quickly shifts to his aversion with the nuclear waste issues at Hanford, Washington…a nuclear weapon’s facility that was critical to producing plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. Hanford was entirely a nuclear weapon’s development facility. The Columbia nuke station happens to be a few miles from Hanford, but they literally have nothing to do with each other. The problems with cleaning up Hanford are used by Nye to argue that the same issues exist for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, which is to be used for power plant wastes. He says he has been to Yucca, saw a small stream burbling nearby, to which he shouts, “Dude!!” This is his way of saying that what was true for the Manhattan Project is necessarily going to be true for Yucca Mountain. Again, Nye confuses reactors with bombs.
Nye next shifts to nuclear accidents. He says, “Three Mile Island…almost blew up. Then Chernobyl did blow up. And Fukushima is still trouble…the nuclear mass of molten metal goo… remains in the containment… and they’re trying to set up this muon detector, and it’s just not working.” The implication of nuclear explosions is clear. If he knew what he was talking about, he would never imply such a thing. Reactor fuel is way, way too dilute in the fissionable isotope, U-235, for a nuclear detonation. It’s the wrong kind of uranium! Again, a simple “Googling” by Nye could have corrected his misconception, but either he didn’t feel the need to do it or feared that secrecy would keep the truth from being published.
It is important to point out that the Muon detection of Fukushima Daiichi unit #1 worked very, very well, and will be used for at least one of the other two units with damaged cores. The Muon imaging for unit #1 showed that it experienced a full, core-relocating meltdown. It did exactly what it was supposed to do…find out if any of the core remained in its original location.
Nye subsequently asks the question “Is this (nuclear energy) worth the risk?” He spends nearly 25 minutes confounding reactors and bombs, makes an implied assertion of a near nuclear explosion at TMI, and an actual one at Chernobyl, and then pops his question. To those in the audience who have the same reactor/bomb confusions as Nye, this is powerful rhetoric. He believes, and wants everyone to believe, that reactors are bombs waiting to happen.
Bill Nye is a star when it comes to the TV screen. Why…he’s the “Science Guy”! He has a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell, and more than a handful of honorary Doctorates. But, this does not mean he has sufficient expertise to make a realistic presentation concerning nuclear energy.
I have a diverse education…I could have declared any of five majors on my Bachelor’s degree: history, environmental biology, nuclear science & technology, philosophy, and art (photography). I also have a considerable experiential background in radio-chemistry, environmental biology, nuclear plant operations, and health physics. But, none of this means I should be spouting my opinion on anything outside my academic or experiential purview. I would never allow myself to be posed as an expert on paleontology, if you will.
Yet, Bill Nye has the hubris to voice his Hiroshima Syndrome-based aversion concerning nuclear energy, about which he appears to know very little. He believes intertwining nuclear weapons with reactors is perfectly acceptable and correct. His aversion is the result of the Hiroshima Syndrome. Like the majority of those so-afflicted, he has no idea that his nuclear paradigms are as empty as space-itself.
September 5, 2015
People of Japan: Please Consider This Seriously …
Millions of people in Japan are deeply troubled about the possibility of future cancers caused by the radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Conclusions of no discernible future cancers made by the International Atomic Energy Agency, United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, or the World Health Organization, have been largely ignored by this apprehensive demographic. The reason behind their rejection seems to be that the IAEA is a “promoter” of nuclear energy, and UNSCEAR and WHO are directly connected to the international watchdog. Japan’s government was a promoter of nukes before Fukushima, and a terrible accident ensued. This caused the public to lose trust in Tokyo, and by proxy distrust any international organization also assumed to promote nuclear energy.
Late in August, a prestigious expert organization not connected to the IAEA completed its assessment of the potential for cancers due to nuke accidents, including Fukushima. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has concluded that there will be no evident increase in cancer for most of the population from radiation released in a worst-case nuclear accident. Their Study of Consequences of a Hypothetical Severe Nuclear Accident and Effectiveness of Mitigation Measures is the result of a collaborative effort to address concerns raised during public hearings on the environmental assessment for the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington nuclear power plant. Their hypothetical accident at Darlington included all four units at the site, making their conclusion directly applicable to the radiological aftermath of Fukushima’s four damaged units.
The study applied protective actions such as evacuation, sheltering indoors, and administration of potassium iodide pills that would be taken in the emergency situation. The exposures following protective actions were then used as inputs for a human health risk assessment. The CNSC said some evacuations would be needed in close proximity to Darlington, but evacuations beyond a 12 km zone from the station would not be required, even under the most extreme worst-case scenario.
The CNSC concluded that it would be nigh-impossible to distinguish radiation-induced cancers from those that would be expected to occur in the population. The worst case estimates revealed the increased risk of developing all cancers, leukemia, and adult thyroid cancer, from released contaminants would result in an additional 0.0004 % chance of development on top of the 49% baseline risk of developing such cancers. The only radiation-induced cancer that might be distinguished from baseline cancers was childhood thyroid cancer, with a slightly increased risk predicted for all scenarios. The estimated excess of future childhood thyroid cancers in close proximity to the plant was 0.3% above a baseline of about 1%.
Specific to Fukushima, the report says, "The overestimation resulting from [the government’s] preliminary modelling has been demonstrated following the Fukushima accident where doses estimated based on post release measurements were shown to be two to five times less than the preliminary estimated modelled doses. For additional perspective, the measured doses at Fukushima are comparable to the estimated doses in this [Darlington station] study, and international authorities have indicated an increased incidence in cancer (e.g. thyroid cancer) is unlikely to be observed in the future in Japan." In other words, the estimated exposures used by Tokyo’s then-antinuclear Prime Minister and his cronies to justify their evacuation orders, were grossly exaggerated. In addition, claims of future cancer epidemics are not justifiable.
The CNSC notes that the lessons learned from Fukushima, including all mandated safety upgrades now being enforced by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, would further ease the worst-case predicted outcome of a four-unit accident at Darlington. The report states, "Had all of the plant-specific safety design features, operator actions and other Fukushima enhancements…been fully credited/realized, the likelihood of a severe accident would have been practically eliminated to the point where the release of radioactive material considered in this study and its impact on human health and the environment would have been significantly reduced." The implication here is that all the safety upgrades required before restarting any nukes in Japan makes a future Fukushima-level accident very, very unlikely, if not just about impossible.
People of Japan…here are the bottom lines. An expert panel on nuclear safety, entirely independent of the IAEA, says that there will be no statistically-evident change in cancer incidence and death rates in Japan due to Fukushima Daiichi. In addition, much, if not most of the evacuated population of Fukushima Prefecture should not have been evacuated, in the first place. Finally, when all legally-required safety upgrades are made to Japanese nukes, there is no rational reason to expect another Fukushima-level accident to happen.
(Unfortunately the report itself will not be available for computer download until later this month. It will be posted on the CSNC website.)
August 30, 2015
276th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week, we have postings by Dr. Jim Conca, Meredith Angwin, Gail Marcus, Rod Adams, Brian Wang, and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Sendai unit #1 is the first nuke in Japan to operate since 2013, marking the end of the Japanese moratorium. The Sendai unit is similar to the damaged units at Fukushima Daiichi.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… small modular reactors can supplement the irregular output of wind turbines, two posts on petitioning the NRC to discontinue using LNT and ALARA for standard-setting, whether or not global warming is real, a possible setback with the AP-1000 coolant pumps, the latest out of Pakistan, and the Hiroshima Syndrome at work with Japan’s Press.
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From Dr. Jim Conca at Forbes Magazine –
Who Says Nuclear Can’t Smooth Out An Erratic Wind?
From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee (2) -
Linear No Threshold; Comment to the NRC
My Comment to the NRC in favor of abandoning LNT and ALARA for rule making
From Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk –
Global Warming: Is it Real?
From Rod Adam’s Atomic Insights -
Reactor Coolant Pumps for AP1000 are Still a Problem
From Brian Wang’s Next Big Future (3) –
Pakistan starts construction of two 1100 MWe nuclear reactors
Tri-alpha Energy targets 1-second plasma duration at 100 million degrees in the one- four years
LPP Fusion closes last of $2 million stock offering and slogs away on Tungsten electrode work
From Leslie Corrice’s Fukushima FUD –
Ian Fairlie on Fukushima: Errors and Omissions
From Leslie Corrice’s Fukushima Commentary –
Japan’s Press Remains Infected by the Hiroshima Syndrome
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Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) answer for this week… Fiction. Sendai station’s units are all Pressurized Water Reactors. All units at Fukushima Daiichi are Boiling Water Reactor systems. In PWRs, water under extreme pressure is pumped through the reactor’s fuel core, but it does not boil. The boiling takes place in separate waiter within a device called a steam generator. The steam in a PWR is not radioactive. However, in a BWR the boiling takes place inside the fuel core of the reactor and becomes radioactive.
August 29, 2015
Japan’s Press Remains Infected by the Hiroshima Syndrome
On August 26th, Japan’s Kyodo News reported on the Nuclear Regulation Authority revising its guidelines on medical preparedness during a nuclear accident. Based on this reporter’s professional experience in Health Physics, the report appears terribly confused. If it is objectively reporting what is being posted by the NRA (it’s in Japanese only), then the NRA is also confused. For our purposes, let’s assume that the NRA’s new guidelines are correct, but being incorrectly reported. Regardless, we have yet another example of the pervasive infection of the Hiroshima Syndrome in the Japanese Press.
To begin, it should be noted that I’m not alone in taking professional umbrage with this misreporting. Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information colleague Jaffrey Mahn, retired from Sandia National Laboratories, cites three statements in the Kyodo report; "Japan's nuclear regulator has designated 5 medical institutions as treatment centers for people exposed to heavy doses of radiation in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant." And "...5 institutions were chosen to take charge of serious radiation exposure cases..." followed by, "Many evacuees potentially exposed to radiation in the Fukushima Daiichi disaster did not receive adequate medical attention through the system." Mahn correctly states that no Fukushima evacuees received any significant radiation exposure from the accident. But, it seems the Press wants people to believe quite the opposite occurred. He adds his opinion - with the Press “uninformed fear always overwhelms truth”.
Now for my view…I was a nuclear operations engineer, specializing in Health Physics, for more than two decades. For eight of those years, I worked with local communities that fell within the Emergency Planning Zone around the Perry Plant, in Northeast Ohio, including hospitals within a 10 mile (~15 kilometer) radius. I gained a familiarity with the modifications made to hospital emergency facilities to safely handle patients contaminated by a nuclear accident.
The operative term here is “contaminated”. If a patient comes to a hospital with a physical trauma in need of medical attention, the trauma will have been caused by something other than radiation exposure. The serious concern is whether or not the individual is contaminated, especially the physical injury. Thorough cleansing – e.g. given a shower – and washing of clothes removes the contamination, keeping it from being spread or ingested. If the trauma is life-threatening, medical staff can wear full-body suits, masks, and gloves to save the life to keep from getting contaminated themselves. If a contaminated individual is in critical condition due to injury, the saving of the life takes precedence over donning of protective gear.
Here in the United States, local hospitals have modified emergency facilities so medical staff can attend to contaminated patients. This is what I firmly believe the NRA guidelines in Japan are focusing on; injuries that are contaminated (worst case) and/or decontaminating individuals who come in for other emergency reasons…but, not “serious radiation exposures” to the public.
Injuries to the public caused by radiation exposure are not possible due to contamination from power plant accidents. Actual radiation injuries, requiring immediate medical attention, are almost entirely internal; neurological dysfunctions and/or critical organ failures. Such medical/physical insults, requiring immediate medical treatment, can only occur through enormous exposures inflicted over a relatively short period of time. Injury-inflicting exposures to the public are literally unthinkable with respect to nuclear power plant accidents. The only realistic way for such enormous, physically injurious exposures to occur is with a nuclear weapon’s detonation. In the case of Japan, there were the detonations at Hiroshima/Nagasaki.
I firmly believe that the NRA guidelines refer to contamination, its removal from otherwise sick or injured patients, and prevention of the medical staff from becoming contaminated while treating these individuals. It makes no sense for the NRA to be creating guidelines for “emergency treatment for radiation exposure”. The Japanese Press is confusing contamination with injurious levels of exposure itself, which is terribly incorrect. The Press seems to be assuming bomb-caused injury, and that’s the Hiroshima Syndrome at work.
It is estimated that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (H/N) killed 170,000 due to the explosions themselves. Another 25,000 died within days and (in some cases) weeks after the bombings due to massive heat burns and terrible physical traumas caused by flying debris and/or falling objects. As it turns out, most of the after-detonation fatalities were similar to those experienced due to the fire-bombing of Tokyo in March, 1945, which killed at least 100,000. Nonetheless, with H/N another ~5,000 died within five years of the bombings as a result of high radiation exposures. It is widely believed across Japan that everyone who died from the H/N bombings was due to radiation exposure. (Aside - This is also a not-uncommon misconception outside Japan. – end aside) Further, it is assumed every one of the Hibakusha (H/N survivors) who died of cancer since 1950 has been due to their bomb exposures. Belief that a reactor is a bomb-waiting-to-happen, combined with the morbid misconceptions concerning H/N’s death toll and decades of secrecy relative to the truth, is certainly more than enough for us to understand the rationale behind the huge impact of the Hiroshima Syndrome on Japan.
The Hiroshima Syndrome is a mortal aversion to nuclear energy due to confusion between reactors and bombs – literally believing reactors are merely bombs that have not-yet detonated. This is an entirely fictitious assumption. Reactors use the wrong type of uranium for a detonation of any kind. (see… http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/the-uranium-explosive-myth.html) However, decades of literally no public education explaining the differences, and the ever-lasting national trauma caused by the memory of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and its attendant rumors, makes Japan the singular place in the world where the Hiroshima Syndrome has its greatest impact.
Japan’s Press is not immune. In fact, four-and-a-half years of Japanese Press reports concerning F. Daiichi literally drip with Hiroshima Syndrome infection. While we can understand the error, and even feel at least a modicum of sympathy, we should not say “Oh well. It’s something we just have to live with.” It imperative that Japan’s government, as well as the entire Japanese nuclear community, educate the people of Japan… especially Japan’s Press! Yes, it will cost an enormous amount of money to overcome the false paradigms that have emerged and proliferated since 1945. However, this should be weighed against the trillions upon trillions of Japanese yen which has already been spent to assuage the damage that has been done by not educating the people…and Press…of Japan.
While this blog seems to continually lambaste Japan’s Press for their antinuclear-skewed reporting, I must make one thing clear – I do not blame the Press for the problem! The time for educating Japan’s Press and public may seem to be long-past, but it is never too late to start all over again. Japan’s government and nuclear community must take these realities to heart, get back on the horse, effect a determined effort to educate, and try to stop needlessly throwing away trillions in the future to satisfy false paradigms. The Hiroshima Syndrome is real! The Hiroshima Syndrome is costing unnecessarily huge outlays of money. Ignoring it and hoping it will eventually get better, is not the answer. Education is!
August 7, 2015
PBS Fukushima Documentary was based on False Premises
On July 29, PBS’s NOVA aired the documentary “Nuclear Meltdown Disaster”, concerning the Fukushima accident of mid-March, 2011. Early on, the narrator asked, “What will it take to save the country (Japan) from radiation?” The narration said that while the accident itself was bad, it could have been much, much worse – so bad, in fact, that the Tokyo metropolis would have had to be evacuated.
What could be worse than three meltdowns and three hydrogen explosions releasing enough radioactive material to force evacuations for more than 75,000 people? The answer came in the first spot with former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Kan said that during the first days of the crisis he had been told that if the worst possible scenario developed, he would have to consider evacuation of Japan’s capital city. The thought of such a monumental evacuation became Kan’s nightmare.
The documentary neglected to explain the reason behind Kan’s fear. On March 12th, the day of the first hydrogen explosion at F. Daiichi, Kan and his cronies concocted an utterly fantastic scenario. In a Japan Times interview posted on 8/31/13, Kan said, “Fukushima had six reactors at the No. 1 site, and four at the second [Daini] site. It [both sites] had 11 pools for storing used nuclear fuel. If all those had become uncontrollable, then there could have been many times more nuclear fallout than from Chernobyl. Radiation would have fallen over a very large area, including Tokyo — possibly requiring the evacuation of 50 million people. That would have dealt a massive blow to the country.”
The NOVA video literally bent over backwards to make it seem that Kan’s nightmare was justified. Unfortunately, it was not.
Of the six units at Fukushima Daiichi, only three were operating at the time of the earthquake. The first shaking by the massive temblor caused automatic “trips” with all three units, sending the control rods into the cores, stopping the chain-reaction. In nuclear jargon, there were three immediate SCRAMs. Although the quake caused the northern half of Honshu to experience an electrical black out within minutes, all emergency systems and power supplies kicked in, placing all three units at F. Daiichi in a safe condition.
The other three units were already shut down. Unit #4 was in the middle of a refueling outage, and there was no fuel in the reactor. Units five and six were near the end of extended refueling and maintenance periods, and their cores had been recently reloaded. When the subsequent tsunami caused the full station blackout for units #1 through #4, one of the emergency diesels for units 5 & 6 survived, powering their emergency systems. Thus, F. Daiichi units 4, 5, and 6 were in no danger of meltdowns.
Ten kilometers to the south, the four units at Fukushima Daini were at full power when the quake hit, and all four instantly SCRAMed. The quake’s blackout caused all emergency systems and power supplies to kick in, and all four reactors were in a safe condition. After the tsunami hit, there happened to be barely enough power coming into the F. Daini to keep a full station blackout from happening through a 500kv connection. While F. Daiichi had a very limited supply of fresh water to cool the three overheated cores, F. Daini had a fresh water stream nearby that kept them from running out. For these and other reasons, F. Daini was in no immediate danger of any meltdowns.
So, where did Kan get the idea that it was possible for all ten Fukushima units to become “uncontrollable”? He said he could not trust the information he was getting from Tepco and the government’s nuclear watchdog NISA. Further, he believed that Tepco was planning on abandoning F. Daiichi and just let the accident run its course…all by itself. Moreover, he believed that the abandonment would eventually result in all six spent fuel pools drying out, causing cataclysmic fires that would spew many times more radioactive material in the air than had come out of Chernobyl. The hypothetical toxic cloud would spread and soon engulf F. Daini, forcing its complete abandonment. Eventually, the radioactivity would engulf the Tokai station 150km to the south of F. Daiichi, forcing its abandonment. Without operator control, all five units at F. Daini and Tokai would melt down and their fuel pools would inevitably burst into flames, greatly exacerbating what was coming from already-evacuated F. Daiichi. The combined radioactive releases would descend on the Tokyo megalopolis and force Kan to have every man, woman, and child evacuated.
Kan’s nightmare would make a great apocalyptic science fiction movie, but nothing of th sort was even remotely possible.
Kan’s nightmare was based on…well…no-one’s sure where he and his underlings came up with the notion. Kan admitted it was a hunch on his part. The Times report said, “…a hunch [Kan] says was given scientific backing on March 25 when Japan Atomic Energy Commission chairman Shunsuke Kondo presented him with a similar scenario.” Kan said his hunch “informed” him that he should invade Tepco’s Tokyo headquarters on March 15th in response to reports the company intended to pull all their staff out of the Fukushima facility.
However, Tepco never considered abandonment of F. Daiichi. The post-accident record compiled by the government’s in-depth accident investigation (NAIIC) showed that Tepco never had any idea of the sort! After the unit #4 hydrogen explosion at daybreak on March 15th, F. Daiichi plant Manager Masao Yoshida realized that the situation with the four damaged units had peaked. The worst that could happen, had already happened. Low pressure fire pumps were injecting water into the damaged reactors. A kilometer-long cable was being planned to connect station with a functional transmission line inland. Until that connection was made, there was no reason to keep the majority of workers at the station. They sorely needed rest and recovery time after five days of frantic activity. Plus, any radiation exposure over the next few days would be unwarranted since most of the on-site staff literally had nothing to do. Yoshida told Tepco in Tokyo they he wanted to have them go to low-radiation exposure locations. A total of seventy qualified operators would remain in control of all six units. Unfortunately, the retreat of the majority of the staff was called an evacuation by Tepco and understood as abandonment by one of Kan’s officers.
Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told Kan of F. Daiichi’s alleged abandonment, and said it would initiate a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns that could result in the evacuation of Tokyo, 250 kilometers to the south. He explained, “We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai. If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.” Edano told the NAIIC that he got his information from a Tepco official in Tokyo. If he did, he misunderstood what he had heard. As a result, Kan stormed into the Tepco offices later that day and ordered them to not do something they did not plan on doing. Kan’s fear of F. Daiichi being evacuated, causing a domino-like sequence of abandonments at F. Daini and Tokai, was entirely unfounded.
But, what about the spent fuel pools and the possibility of them bursting into flames? 10,000 spent fuel bundles were stored in relatively unprotected pools near the damaged reactors. On March 15th, Japan’s Self Defense Force helicopters tried to drop large volumes of water into the pools. It was essentially a failure because the released waters quickly spread into ineffective sprays as they fell. However, the pilots reported that none of the pools were boiling and there were no uncovered fuel bundles.
This ought to been the point at which the soothing words of relief “Tokyo is saved” should have been in the narration…but it wasn’t. The documentary continued the gripping scenario of a Tokyo evacuation possibility using some questionable reporting.
On March 16th an irresponsible report came out of the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission saying the exposed pools were boiling and one actually had spent fuel bundles partially uncovered. It seems they didn’t believe the SDF helicopter pilots. It was not until March 17th, and the influx of water from mobile high-pressure concrete pumper trucks began, that the documentary sounded the “all clear”. The documentary purports that then, and only then, was the possibility of spent fuel fires eliminated. Tokyo was saved! The fatal flaw is that there is absolutely no way that dried-out spent fuel bundles could heat up enough to burst into flames.
The fictional notion of spent fuel fires was first postulated in WASH-1400, published by the NRC in 1975. Within its voluminous pages we find risk estimates caused by the hypothetical over-filling of SPFs with used fuel bundles, the pool being somehow drained, the stored fuel bundles dried out for a period of many days, resulting in the dried fuel bursting into flames that spawn a toxic cloud of massive proportions. But, there was no realistic explanation in WASH-1400 as to how temperatures in a dried-out pool would get high enough for the spent fuel inside to burn. It was assumed the decay heat from the stored bundles could cause the support grid for the bundles to fail, causing the fuel bundles to fall into a pile, and get hot enough to burn deep within the disarray, spread to the whole mass, and release huge volumes of contained fission products into the atmosphere.
It is critical to note that WASH-1400 was categorized as “obsolete” and replaced with NUREG-1150 in 1991. The NRC literally realized it was wrong. Since WASH-1400 was created with government funds it could not be expunged from the system. It technically remains on the books and its erroneous contents are often used to support many frightening reports conjured up by professional antinuclear pundits, although it is no longer worth the paper it was printed on.
In theory, Zircalloy tubes might ignite if they reach 900o Celsius. However, this theory has been tested by expert researchers. A chunk of the metal was heated up to 1,200o C, and it did not burst into flames. With this in mind, how hot could a large number of spent fuel bundles get if they are all dried out and were allowed to heat up for an extended period of time? A few hundred degrees C, in isolated locations, at most. What is never taken into account by believers in the SFP fire scenario is that natural convection of the heat to the surrounding atmosphere would be so great that reaching the theoretical ignition point of 900oC, even in the most severely compacted locations, is virtually impossible!
At this point, we might ask where Kan’s “hunch” concerning SFP fires came from? We find a possible answer in his Japan Times interview. After graduating from college in 1970, Kan cut his political eye teeth as a social activist. In 1980, he was elected to Japan’s lower house in the Diet (congress), which is equivalent to the US House of Representatives. He was, at the time, a member of Japan’s Socialist Democratic Party which staunchly refrained from support of Japan’s nuclear energy program. He remained in the party until 1996, when he and Prime Minister Hatoyama, also of the SDP, both left and created the Democratic Party of Japan. Kan told the Times, “When I first stood for election I was quite critical of nuclear power.” In other words, he was an anti-nuke when first elected, and was a member of the antinuclear SDP for more than 15 years. It is not unlikely that he became familiar with many antinuclear dogma’s during that period of his life, one of which was (and still is) a belief that an SFP fire is a real, nigh-apocalyptic possibility. To the contrary, it is a decades-old fiction perpetrated by steadfast antinuclear organizations.
Yes…Tokyo was saved, but not from a toxic cloud of radioactive material. It was saved from the specter of a chaotic, life-threatening, completely unnecessary evacuation. Records show that dozens of people died in the frenzied evacuation of 75,000 Fukushima residents in 2011. How many needless deaths would there have been if Tokyo’s multi-millions had been told by their government to flee?
NOVA’s documentary seems to be little more than a determined attempt to vindicate Naoto Kan’s paranoiac, antinuclear Fukushima nightmare. The documentary’s “Tokyo-at-risk” scenario is based on vacuous premises; Tokyo was never in danger of a toxic radioactive cloud, and SFP fires are nothing more than a false, antiquated assumption.
1. Naoto Kan Speaks Out; Japan Times, August 31, 2013. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1256987_6844.html
2. Japan Considered Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis; NY Times Asia-Pacific; February 27, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/world/asia/japan-considered-tokyo-evacuation-during-the-nuclear-crisis-report-says.html?_r=1