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Fukushima Commentary (blog)
These postings address four questions. 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)
NEW E-BOOK - "Kimin: Japan's Forgotten People" - 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 19, 2014
Fukushima Wastewater; Some Good News
The Japanese Press routinely reports on sudden increases in wastewater radioactivity at F. Daiichi. However, they fail to report on what is going right. Tepco has posted a small mountain of wastewater and atmospheric radiation data since early in 2012. (1) One person has written and said it’s all “gibberish” because there is so much of it. It takes someone with a radio-chemistry background, and a considerable amount of patience, to sort it all out. From time to time, I try to do just that for everyone.
One wastewater topic I follow concerns the radioactive concentrations in the four turbine building basements at F. Daiichi of most concern (units 1-4). Un-reported by the Press is the fact that the levels of Cs-134, Cs-137, and Beta radiation emitters in the basements is steadily dropping for more than a year. While it is a slow process, it seems that Tepco’s effort to lower these concentrations is working. Here’s a data breakdown (with specific page links)…
A. Units #1 & #2 –
May 22, 2013… … http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2013/images/tb_water_130531-e.pdf (Beta activity was not posted until November of 2013) -
unit #1 - Cs-134 at 1,700 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 3,700 Bq/ml
unit #2 - Cs-134 at 17,000 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 36,000 Bq/ml
January 15, 2014… http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2014/images/tb_water_140124-e.pdf (this is the most recent posting by Tepco I can find) -
unit #1 - Cs-134 at 1,000 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 2,700 Bq/ml, and Beta at 3,900 Bq/ml
unit #2 – Cs-134 at 6,800 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 17,000 Bq/ml, and Beta at 69,000 Bq/ml
B. Units 3 & 4 –
Unit #3 - Cs-134 at 7,500 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 19,000 Bq/ml, and Beta activity at 58,000 Bq/ml
Unit #4 – Cs-134 at 1,900 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 4,500 Bq/ml, and Beta at 9,200 Bq/ml
Unit #3 – Cs-134 at 6,100 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 20,000 Bq/ml, and Beta at 40,000 Bq/ml
Unit #4 – Cs-134 at 120 Bq/ml, Cs-137 at 360 Bq/ml, and Beta at 590 Bq/ml
For the 8 month period depicted for units 1&2; the unit #1 levels have dropped over 40% for Cs-134 and 27% for Cs-137. For unit #2, Cs-134 dropped 54% and Cs-137 by 53%. For the 8 month period relative to units 3&4; unit #3’s Cs-134 diminished by about 25% and Beta activity by 45% The numbers with unit #4 are literally eye-popping; Cs-134 activity dropped nearly 94%, Cs-137 by 92%, and Beta activity by more than 94%! Of course, unit #4 did not have a meltdown and does not need to cool the damaged fuel (or corium) we have in the other three units. Regardless, all decreases are much greater than can be attributed to radioactive decay. Tepco should be commended for their wastewater decontamination effort.
Does this equate to a significant success story? Without a doubt! Does the Japanese Press consider it newsworthy? I guess not.
1- the Tepco radiological data and archives are entitled Handouts at Press Conference can be found here… http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/index-e.html
November 16, 2014
235th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 235th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by John Dobken, Meredith Angwin, Dan Yurman, Rod Adams, Will Davis, Brian Wang, Robert Hayes, and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction(?) quiz for this week… Wilhelm Roentgen’s picture of the bones in his wife’s hand was the first x-ray photograph ever taken. Fact or fiction?
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… A congresswoman endorses small nuclear reactors, energy’s role in Vermont’s gubernatorial election, the story of the Fukushima accident is now in print, energy deals between China and the USA, nuclear safety should be based on science, and an important podcast by radiation experts.
From Northwest Clean Energy (2) by John Dobken -
State Senator Sharon Brown Endorses SMRs for a Clean Energy Future
Washington State Senator Sharon Brown toured NuScale Power's headquarters in Corvallis OR. Brown urged that the Governor of Washington and others encourage siting SMRs on the Washington Nuclear Power Plant #1 site at Hanford. “If we don’t act now other states and countries are poised to take the lead in SMR development and Washington will lose out on all of those good paying jobs,” said Brown. http://northwestcleanenergy.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/state-sen-sharon-brown-endorses-smrs-for-a-clean-energy-future/
Columbia Generating Station sets personal best for longest generation run
Columbia Generating Station passed the mark of 506 days of continuous generation, thereby beating its previous record (2011) of 505 days. The plant also marked five years without an unplanned shutdown. http://northwestcleanenergy.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/columbia-generating-station-sets-personal-best-for-longest-generation-run/
From Yes Vermont Yankee –
Energy and the Vermont Election
Meredith Angwin writes about the surprisingly narrow victory (less than 2% margin) of Vermont's incumbent governor, Peter Shumlin. She does not feel that Shumlin's opposition to Vermont Yankee was a major factor in his near-defeat. However, his support of the controversial gas pipeline expansion may have alienated many of his followers. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2014/11/energy-and-vermont-election.html#.VGiteyhCrA4
From Neutron Bytes by Dan Yurman (2) –
On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi
An English translation of a Japanese best seller which tells the true story of the role of the late Masao Yoshida who led his men in the stabilization of the Fukushima reactors in the first days following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the power station. In print at last, this is the inside story of what the Fukushima staff faced, what resources and information they had to work with, and why they made the decisions they did. http://neutronbytes.com/2014/11/15/on-the-brink-the-inside-story-of-fukushima-daiichi/
How one of Japan’s leading newspapers came to grief getting the story wrong
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper used its distorted reports as the basis for editorial campaigns against restart of the nation’s nuclear reactors. Since then the President of the Asahi Shimbun and several top editors have resigned over the distorted news reports. (same Link as above – scroll down)
From ANS Nuclear Café (2) –
Root Cause of Vogtle and VC Summer Delays
The schedule delays which have been publicized for the new nuclear plants under construction in the United States have not received much detailed analysis as to the root cause of those delays, as it is early in the process. However, Rod Adams has found something that might well be the major driver in the delays at both sites - and it might not be what you'd think. http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/11/12/root-cause-of-vogtle-and-vc-summer-delays/
Thorium Shines Brightly at ANS Winter Meeting
While Will Davis has been known as a skeptic of thorium fueled, molten salt reactors, he's always wondered when or if anyone would take back up where thorium left off in light water reactors (LWR's.) He got his answers at the 2014 ANS Winter Meeting, and is excited about the real progress that's been made on reintroducing this fuel source to the mainstream of LWR technology. http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/11/14/thorium-shines-brightly-at-ans-winter-meeting/
From Next Big Future by Brian Wang (3) –
Big Climate Deal Between US and China Would Require China to Build 1000 Gigawatts of Nuclear or other zero emission energy by 2030
The outline of a big climate deal (not yet ratified) between the USA and China was announced by Presidents Obama and Xi. Under the agreement, the United States would cut between 26-28% of the level of its carbon emissions set in 2005 by 2025, and China would do the same by 2030. The announcement marks the first time China has agreed to cut its carbon emissions. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/11/big-climate-deal-between-us-and-china.html
Supercritical Water-Cooled Reactor
Review of the Supercritical water cooled reactor projects and technology. Supercritical-Water-Cooled Reactor (SCWR) are high temperature, high-pressure, light-water-cooled reactors that operate above the thermodynamic critical point of water (374°C, 22.1 MPa). http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/11/supercritical-water-cooled-reactor.html
Russia will build eight more nuclear reactors in Iran
Plus a roundup of other nuclear news, including a joint venture between China and Canada, a fourth AREVA EPR construction milestone, and another unit at China’s Fangjiastan station supplies the grid. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/11/russia-will-build-eight-more-nuclear.html
From NewsOK Contributor Robert Hayes –
Scientifically safe 101
There should be an empirical, testable basis for worker, the public and environmental protection. This also means that risk should be evaluated for what it is in that it is both quantifiable and nonzero. http://newsok.com/article/5367634/?no_cache=1&no_edit=1
From The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary by Leslie Corrice –
Podcast on radiological protection makes perfect sense
A World Nuclear Association podcast provides an important insight into resolution of radiation fears. The experts on radiation need to become pro-active and bring their message to the world’s public. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html
* * *
Fact or Fiction(?) quiz answer – Fiction.
The x-ray picture of Bertha Roentgen’s hand was certainly one of the first, but probably not THE first x-ray picture taken by Wilhelm Roentgen. It seems that he had taken an x-ray photograph of his own hand more than a month before making the famous picture of his wife’s hand. The picture of his wife’s hand was shared with colleagues and became the popular “first x-ray” image found in most historical sources. It is not known what happened to Roentgen’s picture of his own hand. http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/30693/title/The-First-X-ray--1895/
November 14, 2014
Podcast on radiological protection makes perfect sense
On October 14th, the World Nuclear Association posted a podcast concerning the issue of radiological protection. (1) Or rather… a collaborative statement on what has happened in the recent past that sent the wrong message to the public – specifically, the unfortunate message sent to the Japanese people due to their government’s mandated evacuation following the Fukushima accident. WNA assembled four of the world’s most prestigious experts on the subject and literally turned them loose on each other. But remarkably, they were clearly all on the same page and sent out a powerful message – reactive philosophy relative to radiation issues is a disaster, and those who really know what the truth need to become pro-active.
The link is at the end of this commentary, but I feel it is important to summarize what I believe are the most critical of the ideas presented in the podcast. Why? Because most people don’t think they have time for a 46 minute devotion of their life for this. I strongly urge that everyone…EVERYONE…reading this MAKE the time. This is incredible stuff. Hey, I had an epiphany or two along the way. Give yourself the opportunity to do the same.
We have met the enemy, and it is us. With official groups reacting to radiological incidents/accidents by saying “we’ll make it safer”, the public rationally believes the subject of the problem must necessarily be unsafe. This is not only the fault of government regulatory bodies, but also the fault of the so-called “industry” involved. We should be asking - are we really making things safer, or are we merely making it seem that way? IF something is already inordinately safe, it makes no sense to say that it can be made safer! Thus, being reactive and cowering in a state of mea culpa is NOT the way to go.
There WILL always be radiological incidents made to seem significant by the press and vote-hungry politicians. They WILL receive Press coverage. Instead of waiting for the foreseeable to happen and reacting to it, become pro-active and educate the public on the realities of radioactive exposures before the inevitable manifests. (aside – antinuclear groups around the world are always in preparation for the next “big one”, and they are immediately ready to preach their fear-mongering gospel as soon as “it” happens. Radiological experts should learn from this and follow the similar preparatory path.)
A severe lack of professional radiation-expert voices in Japan after 3/11/11 resulted in socio-political disaster. Scientists are generally rather timid souls who do not seek the limelight of Press coverage. As a result, the prophets of doom get their gutter-tripe broadcast, and it seems that there is no other opinion existent. What is needed is a professional source (or sources) available to the Press 24/7, always on the ready to get the news media correctly informed as soon as any radiological incident occurs.
The best-possible resolution to this situation is education of the public. How can the education of the public on the real properties and biological effects of radiation happen? Governments won’t do it because making the public feel “safer” wins votes. The “industries” won’t do it because spending money on education never yields a positive return on investment. It’s up to people like me, Dr. Jerry Cuttler (2), Rod Adams (3), and the membership of SARI (4) (Scientists for Accurate Radiation Information) to do it! And we are trying. Tell your friends about us. Tell your local news outlets about us. We are all available.
It is long-past time for the world to find out the truth about the most common phenomena in the universe – radiation!
Now… listen to the podcast (1) and become informed…
November 8, 2014
Cancel the apocalypse – all used fuel is out of F. Daiichi unit #4
On November 5th, Tepco announced that all used (spent) fuel bundles had been safely removed from the Fukushima Daiichi unit #4 spent fuel pool. All are now safely nestled in their racks inside the ground-level common facility. Several Japanese Press outlets, including a handful of the more antinuclear newspapers, have covered the milestone. On the other hand, I have been diligently searching the western Press and have seen nothing, although the report has been released through World Nuclear news service. It seems speculations of radiological disaster are more newsworthy than what actually happens. None of the widely-reported prophecies of apocalyptic cataclysm made a year ago came close to fruition. Despite these claims of catastrophe, 1331 used bundles were transferred without incident.
It’s time to review the numerous unrequited prognostications of doom, many of which were guaranteed to be inevitable. What follows are the most extreme of last year’s false Fukushima prophecies.
1 – Arnie Gundersen… On November 15, 2013, Gundersen released his video “Remove TEPCO Before Removing Fuel” in which he virtually guaranteed that disaster would happen unless Tepco was removed from the entire recovery process. Gundersen asserted that the used fuel bundles in the pool were brittle and the racks holding them deformed to the point that many could not be removed without breaking. He said, “I assure you there are not many surfaces that are vertical and horizontal anymore,” and that there must be rack deformities due to the debris that fell on them from the explosion of 3/15/11. He also said, “And we know that after the accident they [the fuel pools] boiled violently,” warping the plates. (emphasis added) Finally, he said small pieces of rubble must have worked their way between the fuel bundles and the rack side-walls, thus the removal would create so much friction that the bundles would “likely snap” and release enough radiation to force the staff to abandon the operation.
Although none of his guaranteed problems occurred, one prophecy stands head and shoulders above the rest… saying that the unit #4 spent fuel pool boiled violently. That never happened. While much of Arnie’s unit #4 fuel transfer sooth-saying held a tiny kernel of truth, the boiling fuel pool statement was a complete fabrication.
2 – Harvey Wasserman… On September 20th, 2013, Wasserman posted on his Global Research website concerning the impending movement of unit #4’s used fuel, saying, “We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” He asserted that the building holding the bundles was “…tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.” However, there were numerous earthquakes and post-3/11/11 aftershocks during the year of the fuel removal, and the building didn’t move one bit. Wasserman also said it was all right to be afraid because the pool’s bundles contained 15,000 Hiroshima bombs-worth of fallout. Using this gross exaggeration as proof, he asserted, “Spent fuel rods are the most lethal items our species has ever created.” He also evoked Gundersen’s confabulated prophecies (above) as further “proof” of his doomsday claim. Wasserman also cited Australian antinuclear fanatic Helen Caldicott, who said, “The cooling water would dissipate, the fuel rods would spontaneously ignite releasing 10 times more cesium than that released at Chernobyl contaminating much of the Northern Hemisphere and more than 50 million Japanese people would need evacuating.” Evoking the openly nuclear-bigoted Caldicott was a desperate move. Regardless, I predicted that neither Wasserman nor Caldicott would say anything after the fuel bundles were smoothly transferred, and it seems I hit the nail on the head.
3 - Christina Consolo… Consolo is a self-proclaimed nuclear expert with no nuclear credentials. She is a former research supervisor with NIH “credentialing”, a former Member-at-Large for the Board of Directors of the Ophthalmic Photographers’ Society, and a peer reviewer for the Journal of Ophthalmic Photography. She has an internet show called “Nuked Radio”. Because of her utter lack of relevant “credentialing”, I am loathe to mention her. But, Russia’s major news outlet, RT, posted a lengthy Q&A session with her on August 17, 2013. In it, she says, “What could potentially happen is the contents of the pool could burn and/or explode, and the entire structure sustain further damage or collapse. This chain reaction process could be self-sustaining and go on for a long time. This is the apocalyptic scenario in a nutshell.” How fuel bundles that have been decaying for several years, producing so little heat they might not even boil the water in their storage pool, could burn or explode is not explained. It shows she hasn’t a clue concerning radioactive decay and the perpetually-falling nature of heat generated by used fuel bundles. Further, she is unaware that possibility of a chain reaction was nearly zero, even with the worst-case structural collapse. Even if it did happen, the amount of additional heat produced would not be detectible. Lastly, her confabulated and confused notion of a self-sustaining chain reaction and a possible explosion, literally in the same breath, clearly appealed to Hiroshima Syndrome sufferers around the world who hold the false fear of reactor fuel exploding like a nuclear weapon.
4 – Kevin Kamps – In another RT report, we have Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, an obsessive antinuclear group originally founded by Helen Caldicott. Kamps says, “…they have to get them [the fuel bundles] out before a bigger earthquake takes the building down, the cooling water would drain away, and the waste with them will catch on fire. There is no radiological containment around the pool and if this waste would catch fire it could be 10 times worse than Chernobyl.” Exaggerations compounded by speculation without reputable evidence, designed to keep the Beyond Nuclear membership full of apocalyptic angst.
5 – Lastly, we come to an anonymous “foreign nuclear expert” cited by Britain’s The Telegraph on November 6, 2013. "Did you ever play pick up sticks? You had 50 sticks, you heaved them into the air and then had to take one off the pile at a time. If the pile collapsed when you were picking up a stick, you lost. There are 1,534 pick-up sticks in a jumble in top of an unsteady reactor 4. What do you think can happen?” The utter vacuity of his analogy defies adequate refutation. He obviously had no idea what he was talking about. All fuel bundles were in their racks and not jumbled in a pile. Undaunted, he went on, “At the very least, if there was a catastrophic collapse, I assume there will be a major airborne release of radiation. Because of the radiation at the site, the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years." Huh? He had suddenly shifted from unit #4 pool to the ground-level common facility in an attempt to make the situation sound too dire to face! Regardless, this was probably the most overt prophecy of apocalypse of the bunch.
Have any of the above said they were wrong? Absolutely not! The ministers of antinuclear propaganda never admit their mistakes. I speculated that at least one would say, “Whew! That was a close one”? But, even that sort of comment is lacking. They are predators of the nuclear naïve, the radiophobic, and those mortally afraid of all things nuclear. They are little more than common street-corner prophets spouting “The End is Near!” Perpetrators of propaganda never admit to being wrong.
November 1, 2014
Tsunami refugees continue to be treated differently than Fukushima evacuees
Fukushima evacuees are given considerable sympathetic coverage by the Press while tsunami refugees are essentially ignored. The tsunami of 3/11/11 made more than 250,000 Japanese instantly itinerant with no hope of ever returning to their homes…because their domiciles were either swept away or utterly destroyed. In the 3.5 years since that horrible day, precious little has been done to assuage their suffering. A few Japanese Press outlets cover the issue in their March quake/tsunami anniversary articles, but I have seen nothing of any substance about this in the western news media…until now. (1)
Tokyo has provided more than $50 billion in recovery and reconstruction funds to the Tohoku region, but more than $30 billion languishes in local banks. Why? Because of political indifference at the local level to skyrocketing construction costs, greedy landowners trying to get rich, and the siphoning-off of local workers to build facilities for the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. Of the 29,000 housing units planned by the government in 2011, only 2,700 have been completed. The average cost of building a Tohoku home before the black wall of water hit was $158,000, but it has ballooned to more than $217,000. "We are struggling to keep up with the rise in costs," Michio Oka, a section chief in Ishinomaki's reconstruction office, told Reuters. "Because of the sharp rise in material and labor costs we have failed to attract contractors."
The money to effect recovery exists, but it lays dormant in local lending institutions. One bank, 77 Bank in Sendai, has been flooded with about $17 billion from Tokyo since 2011. But, because the money has not been used, the institution has invested the funds in short-term government bonds. The investments are now worth ~$20 billion. All of the Tohoku banks in this situation are doing the same thing. By buying government bonds, the banks' investments are essentially helping to fund the borrowing that the government undertook to make the allocations in the first place. The Tokyo has issued $130 billion worth of reconstruction bonds over the last three years, but most of it is untouched and collecting interest. Bank officials say the money will not be withdrawn soon because building projects face on-going delays. Ryutaro Katsube, a spokesman for the Bank of Iwate, said, "It's almost certain reconstruction efforts will not be completed within the national government's five-year period. Municipalities are already asking for extensions." Meanwhile, Makoto Kitamura, the deputy director general of the Reconstruction Agency which hands out nearly $1 billion per month for Fukushima evacuee compensation, says reconstruction "is a time-consuming process” and is a “result of going through the necessary process.”
Tell that to the people who suffer! Mitsue Sasaki has been living in a flimsy, prefabricated “temporary” home for three years, and says, "We feel abandoned and forgotten. They think they can keep us here forever.” Mitsuko Muramatsu 67, an ex-tax office official, said, "I was allocated a flat, but so what? Right now it's a cloud, it's an empty space." Ishinomaki Mayor Kameyama says, "I'm worried that many people are becoming weak and depressed. If they don't stay healthy and lose the will to move to a new place, it will be a huge problem."
If the Tohoku refugee situation was the case with Fukushima evacuees, the Press would be screaming bloody murder and media-hungry politicians would be calling for investigations. More than $43 billion has been dispersed to the 75,000 Fukushima evacuees, and tens of thousands of temporary dwellings have been built for them at government expense while they allegedly await permission to return home…if they want to go home. Surveys show that more than half do not plan on going home because they are afraid, but continue to reap the financial benefits of their politically-imposed estrangement. Tens of thousands of others live in rental apartments, also paid for by the Government and Tepco. Tokyo recently approved the continuation of these pay-outs for up to another ten years. Meanwhile, the 90,000 tsunami refugees who have not given up and moved away, all want to go home. Plus their measly $400 per month per person is set to expire in March of 2015.
The overt duality of the situation cannot be stated strongly enough. Those politically ordered to leave their perfectly in-tact homes based on purely hypothetical health risks are given far more support and assistance than those who actually lost everything – forever – to a massive tsunami. It is a socio-political obscenity. Until the world’s other governments and Press place the plight of the tsunami victims under the same microscope as with Fukushima evacuees, this moral and ethical outrage will continue to fester.
October 26, 2014
232th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 232nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Robert Hayes, Dr. Jim Conca, Dr. Gail Marcus, Brian Wang, and Rod Adams.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction(?) quiz for this week… New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has been in the news because of minor leakage in one of the storage rooms. WIPP is used for underground storage of high level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… A lifetime of living with bomb fallout, why we are not reducing our use of fossil fuels, how solar panels supply the most power when it is needed the least, China slashes its offshore wind power planning, and a tour of the NuScale test facility.
From NewsOK contributor Robert Hayes –
Nuclear fallout and modern life
From Forbes magazine’s Dr. Jim Conca –
So You Think We’re Reducing the Use of Coal? – Think Again
From Nuke Power Talk –
The Grid and Solar Power: Getting the Incentives Right
From Next Big Future (3) –
China Cuts 2020 Target for Offshore Wind Power by 20%
Turkey will build a third nuclear reactor and Japan continues to slow process to approve restarts
Lockheed has built its first Compact Fusion Test Machine and fired 200 test shots
From Atomic Insights –
Tour of NuScale control room and test facility
* * *
Fact or Fiction(?) quiz answer – Fiction.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, safely disposes of the nation's defense-related transuranic radioactive waste. Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, outside Carlsbad, N.M., WIPP began defense department disposal operations in March 1999. WIPP is a U.S. Department of Energy facility. There is no nuclear power plant used (spent) fuel at WIPP. http://www.wipp.energy.gov/index.htm [All power plant used fuel bundles are currently stored at each nuclear power station, awaiting the American government to stop playing at politics and utilize the most scientifically appropriate method of handling the stuff. This writer is a confirmed advocate of recycling (reprocessing) used fuel bundles and handling the fission products separately.]
October 15, 2014
Volcanoes and nukes – Japan’s latest Press-driven phobia
On September 27, volcano Mount Ontake suddenly erupted with deadly consequence. As of this writing, roughly 60 people, mostly mountain-climbing sight-seers, have been found dead. The eruption was “phreatic” (1) – caused by water deep beneath the surface of the mountain flashing to steam. It was literally a massive naturally-occurring steam explosion. The risks of such an eruption are flying rocks, the massive flow of choking ash and steam, and the concussive force of the blast itself. There is no lava streaming with a phreatic eruption.
As luck would have it, a large antinuclear demonstration was planned for the next day, protesting the impending restarts of the two nuclear units at Sendai Station. More than half of the speakers included the Ontake eruption in their entreaties against the restarts. I blasted these inconsiderate nuclear-paranoiacs in my Commentary of 9/30, Earthquake fears supplanted by volcano fears with Japanese nukes. (2) Soon there-after, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Shunichi Tanakasaid it is unscientific to compare Ontake to the kind of eruptions possible for any of the volcanos within 160 km of Sendai. This seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Tanaka makes a very good point. The types of eruptions possible for Sendai’s region would probably produce lava flows and “lava bombs”, in addition to the releases found with phreatic eruptions. The worst of the many lava-producing types is called “Plinian”. The Lava bombs could conceivably land as far as a few kilometers away, in a worst-case scenario. Lava flows don’t go very far either, and are not a realistic threat to Sendai. However, a few maverick Japanese volcanologists have said lava flows could stretch 100 kilometers, but actual streams from erupting volcanoes in Hawaii and other locations show this has never been the case. The real threat to Sendai Station is ash falling from the sky, if the winds happen to be blowing in that direction at the time of the eruption. If a projected ash build-up could reach a few tens of centimeters in depth, the station will be shut down, all nuclear fuel removed and shipped far away. Regardless, evoking Mount Ontake relative to Sendai makes no sense.
But, that doesn’t stop the Press from making volcanoes a new nuclear-critical issue. On Sunday, Tokyo’s widely-read Diplomat magazine took up the volcano issue in earnest. (3) The magazine says the eruption of a volcano near Sendai might be many times worse than what has been scientifically considered. Why? Because the 3/11/11 Tohoku quake and tsunami was worse than anyone predicted for the region. The Diplomat says, “Several media and scientific outlets have challenged the reactivation of Japan’s nuclear industry in light of Ontake’s eruption, which Japan’s scientific community failed to predict.” Kyushu Electric Company says they will remove all nuke fuel from Sendai if scientists say a large eruption is possibly imminent, but the Diplomat says “very little oversight” has been built into the planning. Further, “There is so far no mention of how the utility might be forced to reconcile itself with independent research, nor mention of the government’s ability to shut down the facility if it is deemed at risk.”
What the report fails to mention is that the type of eruptions possible from volcanoes in the region pose little or no risk of a Fukushima-type accident at Sendai. In addition, the NRA has fully considered the data submitted by Kyushu Electric, and found it to meet the agency’s regulations.
Mount Ontake is about 125 kilometers from the nearest nuke (Hamaoka Station), and more than 150 km from the next-nearest (Tsuruga Station). It is about 1,000 km from the Sendai Station. The Ontake eruption is in no way, shape, or form a threat to any nukes. Its type of eruption is not a realistic threat to any of Japan’s nukes. The possibility of any of Japan’s stations having a Fukushima-type accident due to any type of volcanic eruption is essentially nil. But, Japan’s Press ignores all of this, evoking the main rhetorical tools of the international antinuclear prophets of doom – uncertainty and doubt. The Diplomat asserts that “The remaining issue is the level of unpredictability still inherent in monitoring volcanic activity” and “Determining what Kyushu Electric deems an acceptably low level of risk consequently remains unclear as well.” The statements drip with appeals to uncertainty and doubt.
Since Three Mile Island in 1979, the world’s Press has bent over backwards to keep nuclear energy-based angst alive in the public mind. After 3/11/11, it was fear of earthquakes. If anything, the temblor of 3/11/11 demonstrated that massive quakes are not a realistic threat to nuke safety. Now, its fear of volcanoes, built entirely on uncertainty and doubt. Let realism and logic be damned. It’s good for business.
1 – Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis; National Science Teachers Association. http://enviroliteracy.org/nsfmod/NaturesFury.pdf
2 – Earthquake fears supplanted by volcano fears with Japanese nukes. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html
3 - Predicting Volcanoes a Risky Game for Japan’s Reactors; The Diplomat; 10/10/14. http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/predicting-volcanoes-a-risky-game-for-japans-reactors/
October 8, 2014
Radiophobia increasing in Japan’s markets (again)
It wasn’t long after the nuclear accident before Tokyo stopped the production and sale of foods from Fukushima Prefecture. Strict limits on radioactive content were mandated, and nothing would reach the marketplace that didn’t meet these standards. The rigidity of Tokyo’s rules was quite extreme. For example, if one bag of rice was found to exceed the limit, the entire harvest would barred from shipment and sale. Over the next two years, the safety of Fukushima foods found in Japan’s markets became beyond scientific question.
However, public rumors, as well as misinformation circulated through the internet, persuaded a significant fraction of the nation’s consumers to shun any and all foods produced in Fukushima Prefecture. The negative impact became so severe that in February, 2013, Tokyo’s Consumer Affairs Agency began surveying consumers and issuing biannual reports on what they found. In February of 2013, the Agency said 19.4% were cautious about Fukushima-produced foods. The dissidence dropped to 17.9% by August, and was down to 15.3% in February of this year. It seemed the government’s effort to counter the impact of public gossip in the marketplace was working.
However, the Agency’s report for August shows that radiophobic concerns have swelled to new heights. Fully 19.6% of Japan’s consumers are concerned about the safety of Fukushima’s foods. Further, 70% now say they "do care" or "tend to care" where their food is produced, a 4-point increase from February…the same percentage increase as with those shunning Fukushima foods. What’s more, nearly 25% of those who “care” say it is because they want to buy foods that do not contain radioactive substances, which is (again) a four point upsurge from February. In addition, 22.5% said the government limits are too high and the limits on the radioactive content of Fukushima foods should be lowered. Finally, many said they would avoid foods that have detectible radioactive isotopic levels below the existing standards. Meanwhile, only 21% of the total number of respondents knew that Japan’s safety standards were stricter than those in Europe or the United States.
Why has this sudden shift in opinion occurred? The Agency says there is no single reason, but point to two possibilities. The first is the increase in media reports of health effects being associated with low-level radiation, and the repeated broadcasting that even the tiniest level of exposure can cause cancer. The second reason concerns a specific graphic novel. Kumiko Bando, the agency's secretary-general, said, "We haven't been able to sufficiently analyze the results, but there were debates and media coverage on an incident involving the manga 'Oishinbo' just a few months ago. This may have affected the results." In the April 28 and May 12 installments of the comic, the main characters were shown developing nosebleeds after visiting the Fukushima plant.
But, I would suggest a deeper, more significant source of the problem. Historical records show that the subject of radiation has been shunned by Japan’s educational system for more than 40 years. For three decades after WWII, the bombings, and aftermath, of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were taught in schools, spawning the Hiroshima Syndrome and skewing more than a generation’s understanding of radiation. But, even this ended about 40 years ago. It has been estimated that only 1-2% of the public has visited nuclear power plant information centers and learned some facts about radiation. In addition, some basic education on radiation has been generated since 3/11/11 with elementary school pamphlets. But the vast majority of the public in Japan only knows about radiation by word of mouth, based on the stories passed along concerning Hiroshima/Nagasaki. As with most persistent gossip-chains, exaggerations of health effects continually increased. Most Japanese do not know the important differences between Beta, Gamma and Alpha radiation. They are virtually unaware that we exist in a naturally radioactive universe, and all foods and water contain natural radioactive isotopes.
The Consumer Affairs Agency’s intent is admirable. But, statistics show their efforts have been in vain. The issue can only be resolved through science-based education. Teach the teachers so that they can teach the students. Anything less will do nothing more than maintain an unacceptable status quo.
October 5, 2014
Harvey Wasserman takes his conspiracy theories to Russia
Professional antinuclear writer Harvey Wasserman has a long history of accusing the world’s nuclear community of all sorts of dastardly deeds. He proclaims cancer epidemics where none exist and openly assures everyone that there is an international conspiracy between the nuclear community, all national governments and the popular Press to cover up what he calls the truth. He’s a slick rhetorical con artist who preys on the world demographic that suffers from radiophobia and the Hiroshima Syndrome. Now, he’s taken his fantasy-based claims to Russia, and one of their news outlets is sucking it up like a thirsty sponge.
Last Sunday, Wasserman was interviewed on RIA Novosti (RIA) (1), a Russian Press outlet under the egis of Russia’s Ministry of Communications and Mass Media. Before we get into the meat of the matter, it is important to note that Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas. Japan is the world’s biggest importer. Currently, Japan gets a bit over 10% of its gas from Russia, but as long as the Japanese nuclear moratorium remains in place, its gas imports will continue to grow. Russia wants as much of Japan’s natural gas business as possible. Japan’s gas imports have swelled from about 95 billion cubic meters in 2010, to currently more than 140 billion m3 due to keepingits nukes shuttered. Russia’s government-backed gas industry will do what it can to try and keep Japan from restarting nukes. The Wasserman interview on RIA seems pointed directly at the millions of Japanese who fear nuclear energy, hoping they will keep pressure on Tokyo to refrain from restarting nuclear plants. It’s good for the Russian economy.
Now for the Wasserman rebuttal…
As has been his modus operandi for decades, Wasserman cherry-picks evidence, twists the out-of-context factoids, and uses his contrived “evidence” to try and convince naïve minds that his paranoiac fantasies are real. He knows how to make his appeal as emotionally-inciteful as possible…in this case irresponsibly alleging that Fukushima has caused 50% of the children from near the accident site to contract thyroid cancer. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As we have shown in our reports, Fukushima Child Thyroid Issue and Fukushima Children are NOT Dying (2), the data from Fukushima’s medical survey has nothing to do with the nuclear accident. In fact, the children of Fukushima have the lowest frequency of thyroid anomalies of the four prefectures taking part in what has become a nation-wide study. The study itself is unprecedented. There had never been a child thyroid study anywhere in Japan before. The consensus of actual researchers in Fukushima says the number of anomalies found is shocking because of the survey itself. It seems the rate of anomalies is typical of all children in Japan, but until the Fukushima accident no-one had studied it before. Dr. Choi Kin of Hong Kong Medical Association says no one can scientifically prove the increase in cancer incidence was from Fukushima, and that other causes are most likely the root-cause.
But, Wasserman doesn’t merely allege that the confirmed cases have been discovered, but he says they have all died, “We’ve had a 40 times the normal thyroid cancer death rate”. This is a bold-faced lie! None of the children with confirmed cancerous growths have died. In fact all of them have had the growths surgically removed and are completely free of cancer. The RIA report also makes the following confabulated statement in support of Wasserman, “48 per cent of some 360,000 young people have recently been identified as suffering from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities.” This is also a fabrication. 48% have detectible anomalous thyroid growths, but they cannot be honestly called “pre-cancerous”.
Regardless, Wasserman immediately begins to weave his irresponsible conspiracy theory. He states, “It is actually the corporate press that is refusing to cover this. There has been some coverage among the websites, like the one I edit – nukefree.org, and especially now, after net neutrality goes away, this coverage won’t get anywhere. The reality is that the corporate media has clamped down [entirely] on this.”
Why? Wasserman claims several reasons, all of which have no foundation in truth. First, “The very pro-nuclear Shinzo Abe regime has passed a State Secrets Act, where you are actually in jeopardy for your health and safety if you publish facts about the damage from Fukushima.” In actuality, the only part of the Act that has anything to do with nuclear energy is specific to the security measures taken at nuke sites. But, Wasserman wants everyone to think the Act has put an end to all Press coverage on Fukushima. Anyone following my Fukushima Accident Updates blog knows that there has been no such clamp-down.
Wasserman extends his conspiracy notion to Russia itself, saying, “the Soviet Union and the old Soviet Union states – Belarus and Ukraine – have not been particularly forthcoming about what was happening [at Chernobyl] either.” Then, he relates his conspiracy notion in earnest, “The corporate nuclear industry with its power within the corporate media does a very good job of suppressing the health data that shows the damage and, of course, the denials are automatic and extremely well-funded.” Then he says the UN, IAEA, and World Health Organization are all in on the monumental, albeit fictitious, cover-up! In other words, the world can trust Harvey Wasserman, but cannot trust anyone who disagrees with him.
Harvey Wasserman is little more than a street corner prophet of nuclear energy doom. But, his longevity as voice of mortal nuclear energy danger makes him appear to an expert to sympathetic Press outlets, such as RIA. As long as he is proffered as a voice of reason, Wasserman will continue to infect the naïve masses of the world that suffer from radiophobia and the Hiroshima Syndrome.