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Fukushima Commentary (blog)

Is the Fukushima accident ongoing? Does Fukushima have the potential for world-wide apocalyptic disaster? Are the Fukushima radiation levels health-threatening? What Press reports border on the irrational?

"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)

"Kimin: Japan's Forgotten People" - A book about the untold story of Japan's 300,000 tsunami refugees, ignored by the world's news media. For availability... (click here)

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November 4, 2015

Lack of Press coverage on antinuclear death threats is intolerable

On Sunday, Nov. 1, Canada’s Globe and Mail reported on a Vancouver researcher receiving death threats for publishing his findings on Fukushima contamination along the British Columbia coastline. (1) The following Wednesday, Nov. 4, Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum reported that a Japanese non-profit group had been threatened because of allowing teens to take part in a Fukushima highway cleanup event. (2)  No other Press outlets have reported on these reprehensible antinuclear actions.

While most bullying of this nature is classified as “idle threats”, intentional disregard by the mainstream western and Japanese Press is shocking. Why would they let something so obviously newsworthy go unreported?

The Globe is Canada’s largest national newspaper, and must be commended for bringing the inexcusable threats aimed at Dr. Jay Cullen to light. Dr. Cullen has been falsely accused of being a “shill for the nuclear industry” and a “sham scientist”. One blogger even said antinukes were in combat with scientists like Cullen, calling it “a cold war, against the highest, and most powerful of the elites in this world.” Another message said Cullen and other researchers deserved to be executed for reporting that Fukushima contamination in the sea wasn’t dangerous. I can find no mention of this in any other Western Press outlet.

Over the past two years, most western news media has been regularly reporting about the slowly approaching “plume” of Fukushima contamination. It’s been good for business. However, research results posted by highly reputable scientists showing there is really nothing to worry about, get summarily ignored. Why aren’t western Press outlets telling their audiences that an innocent, dedicated scientist is getting death threats for doing his job? I believe it is because it would harm the marketability of “Fukushima radiation is COMING” headlines. Reporting on the death threats would spur the Press’ audience to go to Dr. Cullen’s Fukushima InFORM site and find out the truth. That would be bad for business.  

It is even worse in Japan. The besieged NPO has been getting about 30 hate messages a day since they held the Route 6 cleanup in Fukushima Prefecture on October 10th. There were 1400 volunteers, which included 200 teen-age students. The teens picked up trash at schools along the highway using tongs. The NPO monitored their exposures, which turned out to be undetectable. None of this mattered. Messages began pouring in, which included “This is child abuse in the name of a good deed” and “We will kill you”. Not one popular Japanese Press outlet has mentioned the threatening mail sent to the Japanese NPO.

In Japan, the reason for the news media’s silence is insidious. Since the nuke accident, the Japanese Press has routinely emphasized the no-safe-level of radiation exposure notion, and in every case stressed that children are supposedly at greater risk than adults. Hardly a Fukushima report goes by without the child-risk assumption being mentioned. In my opinion, Japan’s Press is responsible for the disgusting death threats inflicted on the NPO. Reporting on these threats could make th Japanese press seem responsible, and they don’t want to go there.

Intentionally ignoring good news about Fukushima, and only posting the negative stuff, is bad enough. But, disregarding outlandish death threats inflicted on innocents in the interest of making some advertising money is intolerable.


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October 25, 2015

284th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the latest edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week, we have postings by Meredith Angwin, Dr. Jim Conca, Dr. Gail Marcus, and Leslie Corrice

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… The Michelson-Morley experimental failure in 1887 was critical to the eventual acceptance of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… NY Governor Mario Cuomo’s disturbing attitude towards Fitzpatrick Nuclear Plant, nuclear science week celebrated in the state of Washington, China moves to the forefront in nuclear plant construction, whether fusion is really right around the corner, and the Western Press gets it wrong (again) about Fukushima radiation and cancer.

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From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee

Governor Cuomo, Fitzpatrick, and Money: James A. Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant

Entergy announced that the Fitzpatrick plant was losing money and the company must decide whether to continue its operation. The people in the Oswego area do not want Fitzpatrick to close. Hundreds have rallied in favor the plant. However, Governor Cuomo is treating the issue as something personal between him and Entergy. He can shell out nearly $2 billion to get a new industrial facility owned by Abu Dhabi, but balks at spending money to keep a safe, reliable, non-polluting nuclear plant from being shut down.


At Northwest Clean Energy

Energy Northwest celebrates nuclear science week

Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation of Nuclear Science Week in Washington state.  Energy Northwest (EN) is celebrating the week with presentations about nuclear energy, given at a local middle school.  EN is also proud of Columbia Generating Station's (CGS) recent 683 day run, the longest continuous run in CGS history. Looking toward the future, EN is pleased to be on a team with NuScale and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems: this team will operate NuScale's first SMR. School presentations, a well-operated power plant, and SMR plans for the future: it is truly Nuclear Science Week in Washington.

From Dr. Jim Conca of Forbes Magazine

China Shows How to Build Nuclear Reactors Fast and Cheap

In a strategy outlined in China’s draft 13th Five-Year Plan, more than 100 nuclear power reactors will start up in China over the next decade. The government will invest over US$100 billion to construct about seven new reactors annually between now and 2030. By 2050, nuclear power should exceed 350 GW in that country, include about 400 new nuclear reactors, and have resulted in over a trillion dollars in nuclear investment.

From Dr. Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk

Is Fusion Getting Closer? And What if it Is?

Recent reports of breakthroughs in fusion technology make it seem like fusion is just around the corner, but that such optimism is a common phenomenon for new technologies of all types.  Going from a technological advance in any area to a practical and economical operational system is usually fraught with unexpected hurdles.  Admiral Rickover's caution about "paper reactors” truly applies to any new technological area. 

From Leslie Corrice’s Fukushima Commentary -

The Western Press spins Japan’s workman’s comp into a medical diagnosis

The Western Press is calling a workman’s comp award an admission of cancer due to an extremely low radiation exposure! In reality, no such concession has been issued by anyone… and correctly so. It is a monetary award granted through a forty-year-old statute. There has been no medical connection made between the cancer and the individual’s exposure. But, the Western Press has “spun” a totally different story.

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Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) answer for this week… Fact.

On July 12, 1887 Albert A. Michelson and Edward W Morley made the final measurements in an experiment that inadvertently changed the way scientists viewed the workings of the universe. They hoped to prove the existence of ether—the invisible substance Isaac Newton theorized as the medium through which light waves travel. Michelson modified the interfërometer—a device that split a single beam of light into two and then recombined them into one so that their wave patterns can be examined. The beams traveled perpendicular to each other. The two scientists hoped to see signs that one beam had slowed due to the ether. But, there was absolutely no difference. Their findings eventually led to the realization that the speed of light is constant, unchangeable, and the same everywhere in the universe. This experimental failure was critical in paving the way for Einstein’s theories.

PS – While an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, my first date with my future wife was a party at the house where Michelson and Morley lived when they worked together. Many years later, I was honored to be a trustee at the 1987 international fête at CWRU celebrating the 100th anniversary of what was perhaps the most important scientific failure of all time...the Michelson-Morley experiment. L.

October 23, 2015

The Western Press spins Japan’s workman’s comp into a medical diagnosis

On October 20th, a news report out of Japan concerned a former Fukushima Daiichi welder who had been diagnosed with cancer. There was a considerable disparity between Japanese and western Press coverage. In Japan, the situation was reported as a “Fukushima Worker to get cancer compensation”. (NHK World headline) Outside Japan, the Press treated it as the first possible casualty of Fukushima’s low level radiation. Perhaps the most provocative of the numerous international headlines was “Man who worked at Fukushima nuclear plant after 2011 disaster is first to develop cancer from radiation exposure”. (NY Daily News) The world’s news outlets decided to put the Japanese news report on “spin cycle” and confabulate to the extreme.

The western reports were unabashed in the attempt to prove that low level radiation exposure caused the welder’s cancer. The prestigious Wall Street Journal was perhaps the least provocative in the headline “Construction worker’s leukemia could have been caused by radiation exposure.” However, other western news sources were more incendiary. The Washington Post headline read, “For the first time, Fukushima recovery worker diagnosed with cancer.” CNN reported it was the “first case of cancer linked to Fukushima cleanup work diagnosed.” The New York Times said, “[This amounts]to the first official acknowledgment that exposure to radiation at the disaster site may have caused cancer.” The BBC reported, “Japan's government has acknowledged that a worker involved in clean-up work at the Fukushima nuclear plant may have developed cancer as a result.” And, the list goes on…

The problem is that they were all wrong!

The Japanese welder received a workman’s comp benefit package because he satisfied the statutory criteria stipulated in the 1976 Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act. The Act was a revision to the original worker’s accident insurance law of 1968, which seems to have been patterned after prior government unemployment and disability laws developed by other Asian countries. Regardless, the Act provides that workers who are injured, or become ill due to their job or commuting to and from work, can receive government financial aid and medical coverage.

To be certified as an “industrial accident” associated with radiation, a claimant must have been exposed to at least 5 millisieverts per year, times the number of years of such exposure, and have developed the illness more than a year after first being exposed. No requirement for a medical diagnosis relating the exposure to the contracted disease is needed! This important point - which all foreign news outlets failed to uncover – was stressed by a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry official, who said, "Based on the spirit of workers’ compensation insurance, we gave consideration to his case from a standpoint that he should not miss compensation (he might be eligible for). We also took into account that the maximum permissible radiation dose for ordinary people was 5 millisieverts annually when it was introduced in 1976.” (Asahi Shimbun) During the news conference on Oct. 20th, the Health Ministry stressed that the granting of compensation did not mean there is a link between radiation exposure and effects on the claimant’s health had been proved. In other words, there was no “acknowledgement” of a causative link.

Here’s how the welder qualified. He had spent 14 months at F. Daiichi from October 2012 until December 2013. During that time, he received 15.7 mSv of exposure. The worker explained that he felt too ill to work in late December of 2013, so he went to a doctor. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia in January of 2014. During his stint at F. Daiichi he had more than 5 mSv of exposure over a period of little more than a year, and had been diagnosed with cancer more than a year after the exposure period began. He was awarded workman’s comp because he met the statutory criteria. Period! There was no doctor’s diagnostic link made between his occupational exposure and his cancer.

As it turned out, the worker tried to clear things up the next day, but it seems the international Press missed this, too. It should first be noted that the only Japanese press outlet referenced by the Western Press as a source of the radiation-caused cancer claim, albeit incorrectly, was the Asahi Shimbun. The worker’s personal interview was also posted by the Asahi on October 21st, but has been inappropriately ignored.

In the interview, the welder said, “I decided to go to Fukushima hoping that I could make some contribution to the recovery of the disaster-stricken communities, and I have no regret over my decision.” He then added, “Initially, I did not think the illness was caused by radiation exposure.” He was very ill and his immune system had been deteriorated by the cancer drugs he was taking in 2014. He worried about his family’s finances. When he heard that another nuke welder had applied for the compensation, he decided to file for it, too. He had nothing to lose. On October 20th, he was told his application had been accepted. The welder said, “I was relieved to hear the decision.”

It must be acknowledged that the Asahi interview was posted on October 21st, the day after the initial Western Press onslaught; however there has been no attempt to correct the matter since! How appropriate! We have posted previously that the Western Press has a prolonged and pronounced penchant for posting negative reports about nuclear energy and/or radiation exposure in the low level region; but when something emerges that might disprove the negative, it is summarily disregarded!

However, the Western Press didn’t stop with merely confabulating the news out of Japan. Adding insult to injury, they went to the most biased sources on nuclear energy they could find for some juicy quotes. The Telegraph UK cites Greenpeace (which is routinely predisposed to substantial elaboration with respect to anything even loosely connected to nuclear energy), "This is a massive blow to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], which stated in September this year that no discernible health effects are to be expected due to the exposure of radiation released by the accident." The Guardian US subsidiary of Guardian UK) cites Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace Belgium, who said, “The statement from the IAEA that there would be no discernible health effects from the Fukushima disaster was clearly premature… Greenpeace calls on the IAEA and the Japanese authorities to retract their unsubstantiated and unscientific statement.” The Guardian also dredged up a quote from Japan’s Shinzo Kimura of Dokko University, who said, “This is a landmark decision from the viewpoint of workers’ rights, and it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.” It is probably right; we can expect numerous phony Western News reports concerning this sort of concurrence in the future

In each of the above cases, the antinuclear quotes entirely miss the fact that we are dealing with a non-medical, entirely-statutory awarding of a workman’s comp claim. But, then again, groups like Greenpeace always take full agenda-fulfilling advantage of every chance they get to make radioactive mountains out of whatever molehills chance to occur. Despite the Western Press claims, the fact remains; no discernible negative health effects have occurred due to Fukushima Daiichi radiation exposures, and it is highly unlikely that any ever will.

It should be mentioned that the welder says he hopes other Fukushima workers might qualify for workmen’s comp in the future. I agree. Japan’s 1976 Act provides funds and medical expenses for those who meet the statutory criteria. There have been more than 25,000 people who have worked at F. Daiichi since the accident began on March 11, 2011. There will surely be many who, unfortunately, will be subsequently diagnosed with cancer. How many? Japan’s cancer rate is the largest in Asia, with nearly 40% of all deaths due to the disease. Thus, there will surely be a huge number of former Fukushima workers who will get cancer and be granted the same sort of compensation as the welder. We can fully expect that every time this happens, the Western Press will report that the cancer was caused by Fukushima radiation…it’s good for business.

Ironically, we might assume that the workman’s comp blue law is an unforeseen benefit to those who work at F. Daiichi; i.e. a benefit for those unfortunate enough to subsequently contract cancer. But to reiterate; we can be very sure that these future cancers will not have been caused by occupational radiation exposure a tenth of that experienced by the healthy populations of the black sand beach communities in Brazil and India, where annual exposures are in the 50mSv/yr range.

The Western Press is calling the enforcement of a Japanese blue law an acknowledgement of cancer caused by an extremely low level of radiation exposure. In reality, no such admission has been issued by Japan’s government, and correctly so. It is a monetary award granted through a forty-year-old statute. No medical connection has been made between the cancer and the individual’s exposure. The Western Press reports to the contrary are nothing more than deliberate deception.

Update 10/26/15 - A colleague sent me an Email and suggested I look into the latency period between radiation exposure and the onset of leukemia. I did. It is 5-7 years between exposure and onset of the disease. ( ) Both the Western and Japanese Press failed to report this one! It takes the entire issue out of the ridiculous category, and into the absurd.


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October 10, 2015 

The News Media’s penchant for only reporting the nuclear negative

In 1987, I was near the end of my stint as News Media representative for the Perry nuclear plant in Ohio. I was frustrated because it seemed like the major news outlets bent over backwards to broadcast negative nuke reports while seemingly ignoring anything positive. A former Press manager with a major news outlet in Cleveland, Ohio, took me aside and gave me the facts of life, if you will. 

He said he appreciated my frustration, but I needed to understand why nuclear reporting had become so one-sided. He first explained that the Press is a money-making venture. The ratings determine advertising income; the lifeblood of the business. There were (and still are) a handful of topics that are sure-fire money-makers, including war, presidential elections, natural disasters, and airline crashes. 

Then, he turned to Three Mile Island, which happened in 1979. He said the ratings literally sky-rocketed, and stayed that way for the better part of two weeks. In the years that followed, the news media found that negative nuclear reports continually caused a positive up-turn in ratings, and positive stuff didn’t. This trend dwindled away by the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 (which was, back then, the year before). Chernobyl not only re-ignited the ratings impact of nuclear accident reporting, but demonstrated that broadcasting the negative was better for business, without balancing the commentary, rather than with some sort of opposing viewpoint. The Press had found a new topic to add to the sure-fire money-maker; negative nuclear reporting. 

My friend said the Press would continue to make the appearance of a balanced effort, but the negative side would always get the emphasis. He added that it might someday come to the point where the news media would entirely ignore the positive and only report the negative when it came to nuclear energy. He speculated that all it would take was one more accident. 

Unfortunately, he was right. 

Fukushima has pushed the world’s Press into the journalistic dark side. My Fukushima Updates blog has lashed the Japanese Press, and the world’s news media outside Japan, severely for only reporting the negative. OK…not only the negative. There is the rare case that something positive works its way in, but it is usually found deeply buried at the end of a negative story. But, the exception is never the rule. The Press’ penchant for accentuation of the nuclear negative, and elimination of the nuclear positive, is too obvious to ignore.

The most recent case in point concerns the child thyroid study that has been taking place in Fukushima Prefecture for the past four years. On October 5,2015, a team of four PhDs in Japan published a report alleging that the Fukushima accident had spawned a thyroid cancer epidemic among the prefecture’s children. (1) (Here-in, the Tsuda Report) The conclusion contradicted the Fukushima University Medical School, Japanese Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening, and National Cancer Center, which all found that the detected child thyroid pre-cancerous anomalies in Fukushima Prefecture cannot be realistically linked to the accident. Regardless, the Tsuda Report’s claim made major headlines in Japan. At the time of this writing, it has spread to numerous mainstream news media outlets outside Japan, including UPI and AP.

Here’s the problem. In December of 2013, a scientific report was published on a comparison of the rate of child thyroid, pre-cancerous anomalies in Fukushima Prefecture with the rates in three prefecture hundreds of kilometers distant: Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki. (2)  For background…theFukushima University medical team studying the issue had discovered that there was no prior data on child thyroid cancer rates in Japan. There was nothing to compare the 2012 results to. Was it typical or not? Because of the initial furor caused by the original release of their findings in 2012, the team decided to take matters into their own hands and offer free testing to volunteer families in the three (above) prefectures. Nearly 5,000 parents took advantage of the opportunity and had their children screened. 

What was found was completely unexpected. The thyroid abnormality rates in Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki Prefectures were actually higher than that discovered in Fukushima Prefecture! This conclusively indicated that the radioactive releases from the Fukushima accident had absolutely no negative impact on the health of the thyroid glands in Fukushima’s children. One Japanese Press outlet – just one – mentioned the 2013 discovery at the very end of an article about a few more children being found to have the anomalies in Fukushima. No other Japanese Press gave it a cursory glance. To date, I have found but one news outlet outside Japan that covered the positive news. (3) 

On the other hand, when one maverick team of four Japanese with PhDs publish a highly questionable report - full of so many holes that it should be tossed into the trash – alleging a severe cancer problem caused by the Fukushima accident, it gets major coverage inside Japan and significant coverage by the world’s mainstream Press! At this point, it is important to emphasize that the Tsuda Report fails to acknowledge the fact that Prefectures unaffected by the Fukushima accident had the higher anomaly rates. (Which is why I say the Tsuda Report is worthy of the trash heap) 

I’m so mad about this that I can’t find the words suitable for a mixed audience! The news media might not make money off sharing the good news about Fukushima, but they are committing a moral crime against humanity by not doing it. 

To be sure, the omission of the truth about Fukushima’s child thyroid condition isn’t the only instance of this ethically repugnant practice by the Press inside and outside Japan. Other good news that has not seen the news media’s light of day includes: the completion of the ice wall around the four damaged units at Fukushima Daiichi, finishing the impermeable sea wall along the shoreline of the four damaged units, all 700,000 tons of stored Fukushima wastewaters having been purified, and the fact that no Fukushima Cesium has been found in Pacific Ocean Salmon or Steelhead Trout off the North American Coast. There’s more, but this should be enough to get the point across. 

It’s past-time for the Press around the world to perform a public service – if the negative (albeit often questionable) reportage must continue in the interest of promoting profits, then the positive stuff should be also reported as a matter of human ethics. Anything less is a crime against humanity! 


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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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…

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.



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