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The nuclear energy industry in Japan is so powerful it demonstrably doesn’t even feel an obligation to accurately inform Japan’s Head of State, or anyone on earth, of the events unfolding at their exploding and burning nuclear reactors, as Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s response, reported by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency: “What in the world is going on here?” reveals.

This industry, working with General Electric and others, designed built and and operated this at-risk nuclear facility on one of the most at-risk locations on the globe. Their risk calculation failed because it didn't evaluate "major earthquake plus tsunami", but only one or the other alone -- cutting down construction costs. Due to go off line this month, the plant’s operator, TEPCO, lobbied successfully for an operating extension for another 10 years. Last Friday just happened to be the day their card came up. The same faulty logic and vulnerability can be found in the design, construction, and licensing of numerous other nuclear reactors, including many in our own country, all waiting for their card to come up.

Though Japan has the technology and the engineering capacity to be a world class pioneer in developing solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal energy technologies, the nuclear industry and the capital behind it has roadblocked such efforts. Ironically, Japan’s old rival, China, unencumbered by an entrenched nuclear lobby, has taken over the role of Asian pioneer in renewable energy, creating huge wind and solar production capacities in just a few short years. Instead, Japan’s nuclear industry claimed the need to build even more nuclear plants.

One of the major subsidies to the nuclear industry coming due, but not paid for, is the gigantic cost of secure storage of nuclear waste over many thousands of years until it has decayed to safe levels. One resulting element of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is the fire(s) occurring in nuclear waste pools (old fuel rods) stored irresponsibly and insecurely on-site. In fact, despite tons of nuclear waste accumulating for decades now at hundreds of nuclear plants worldwide, not a single long-term storage facility for nuclear waste exists anywhere on earth.

And why are the costs of inevitable disasters never calculated into the equation? Of course they are not assumed by the corporations or CEOs of the nuclear industry, just as they shirk all responsibility, and all civil and criminal liability, for disasters unfolding on their watch which are a direct result of their decisions. These disasters have of course also not been insured against -- no insurer would ever accept such risks! Rather, these costs too will be shouldered by governments, i.e., the taxpayers, and by entire national economies which have become hostages to the nuclear energy industry, as we are now again witnessing in Japan. The Ukraine, a country short on investment capital, must even today spend 5% of its entire GDP just on the costs of keeping control over the Chernobyl disaster site, billions of dollars in capital that for the past 25 years, and for decades to come, will not be available to invest in their country's future.

We must yet again witness the incalculable cost in suffering from dislocations, mass evacuations, and resettlements of tens of thousands of people, refugees in their own country. The evacuation zone at Fukushima started at 20 miles, it's now at 50 miles, and the zone may well need to be expanded further. The nuclides spewing out of these failed reactors and contaminating the region are, among others, Iodine-131 (a beta-ray emitter with a half-life of 8 days, responsible for causing thyroid cancer in its victims), Caesium-137 (a gamma-ray emitter ingested via contaminated agricultural products with a biological half-life of 1-4 months and a radioactive half-life of 30 years), and several Plutonium isotopes (deadly alpha-emitters that once incorporated stay in the body with a biological half-life of 200 years; among the isotopes to be expected are Plutonium 238, Pu-239, Pu-240 - the isotope used in the MOX fuel rods in Fukushima reactor number 3, and Pu-242, with radioactive half-lives of 87 years, 24,100 years, 6,564 years, and 376,000 years, respectively. Think in that regard, among others, "New York", "San Francisco", and "Los Angeles”, all easily in the evacuation zone of old, at-risk nuclear reactors.

Finally, contrary to popular myths promoted by the nuclear and fossil fuel lobbies, renewable energy can work, and is already working. As we converse, geothermal energy is providing all the electricity in Iceland, wind energy more than 20% of the electrical energy in Denmark, and a mix primarily of solar and wind 17% of the electrical energy of engineering powerhouse Germany. Harnessing the energy of the sun-drenched Southwest of the USA and the "wind belt" from Texas to the Dakotas, combined with a smart grid, could cover U.S. energy needs easily. It’s time we got busy building our renewable energy future.

Ike Solem
Let's consider some of the steps the Soviets took to avoid the worst possible effects at Chernobyl (April 26 1986), both during and after the immediate crisis (quotes from Richard Rhodes, Arsenals of Folly, c.2007)

1) "By Sunday May 4 Soviet Army engineer units had brought in oil-drilling equipment and had begun drilling into the soil below the reactor. Through these channels they pumped liquid nitrogen at the rate of 1,000 cubic feet per day to freeze the soil against a possible core meltdown."

2) ". . . the engineers pumped five million gallons of water out of the bubbler pool. In the coming days they used shaped-charge explosives to blow holes through the concrete foundation, laid pipe into the empty pool, and pumped in enough concrete to fill it to a solid block."

3) "'Liquidators' by the hundreds of thousands, perhaps half a million in all - 340,000 soldiers, many of them recently returned from service in Afghanistan, new draftees, minor government officials such as teachers and inspectors - were pressed into service and took their brief turn scraping away topsoil, paving over roads. . ."

4) "In November 1986, after a heroic effort, workers finished entombing Reactor Number Four within a sarcophagus made of half a million cubic yards of reinforced concrete, and only then did it cease releasing radiation into the environment."

Does Japan have these resources? Chernobyl's graphite fire was very bad, but consider that Fukushima has multiple reactors in meltdown, hot fuel rods on fire - it seems to be bigger if somewhat less intense, but even Chernobyl did not suffer a full "China syndrome" meltdown.

Furthermore, now that everyone has seen the terrible fate of all the Chernobyl first responders and liquidators - cancers, early deaths, etc. - how many will willingly volunteer for the same? The Soviet command just ordered people into action - but who will be willing to risk exposure at Fukushima on the scale needed? GE and its contractors evacuated their people immediately, didn't they?

Consider George Schultz discussing a 1988 dinner with Gorbachev in a memo: "He commented that it was a great tragedy which cost the Soviet Union billions of rubles and had only been barely overcome through the tireless efforts of an enormous number of people."

Bear in mind, each reactor contains some 150 tons of hot radioactive fuel, and steam explosions will eject that material into the atmosphere. There is also the question of all the spent fuel stored adjacent to the reactors - how many tons are there?

Refusing to prepare for the worst case scenario doesn't make it less likely.

Jeremy Horne, Ph.D.
Alamogordo, NM
How many of these disasters must occur before people realize that a part and major part of the problem is with capitalism and the private ownership of a peoples' resource - energy production and distribution. The persistent bobbing and weaving of GE and Tokyo Electric in this emergency is the same type experienced with BP and all these corporatists. Their SOLE interest is protecting their "bottom line". The fact that the design of these reactors was flawed from the start and the refusal to do anything about (because it was "too expensive") it even after scientists stated the problems is more evidence that it is profits before people. The only answer to all this is socialism or cooperatively-owned major means of production and distribution. When will people get it? Is the capitalist/corporatist ideology so unquestioned that humanity is willing to risk the survival of the species over it?

It's really interesting reading the blog posts from the bloggers employed by the nuclear power industry. For the last few days there has been a steady stream of comments to the effect that the Japanese crisis is little more than Three Mile Island Part Two and in no way another Chernobyl. Now as things appear to be genuinely getting worse, the spin is shifting to "Well, we can't live without nuclear power and there are risks to other forms of electric generation, so let's just chill and not get too upset."

This is an interesting defense since it seems to defy any connection with the objectivity reality that will ensue if the Japanese situations ends up being equal to or (God forbid) worse than the Chernobyl one. I can't escape the overpowering sense that those who are paid to manipulate public opinion in the furtherance of the economic agendas of their corporate masters no longer have even the slightest sense of what the truth really is. And this is a problem that extends well beyond the nuclear power industry to other areas like the financial services industry.

These are scary times indeed.

John Hrvatska
Let's ban nuclear reactors because obsolete forty year old designs failed. Let's ban air travel because there are occasional accidents that kill hundreds. Let's ban chemical plants because they occasionally have catastrophic accidents. Remember Bhopal! Seriously though, how many well sited, modern nuclear power plants have failed in the last 30 years? None, that's how many. I'm a big believer in energy conservation, wind and solar. And I believe that those should be given first priority in our national energy strategy. But I also believe that nuclear energy is a valid alternative in the right situation. I'll take the remote risk associated with modern well sited nuclear plants over the death by a thousand cuts that we're suffering from a dependence on fossil fuel.

So. Fla
The ignorance and fear mongering by the anti-nuclear block is stunning. What would you replace nuclear with? Nuclear power is incredibly safe, reliable and clean in comparison to the other energy producing technologies we currently utilize. Some facts: in the 20th century over 100,000 coal miners lost their lives, and that was just in the USA. China has been averaging 6,000 coal mining deaths per year for the past couple of years. The environmental damage of strip mining and the airborne pollutants that are by products of coal based energy far outweigh the damage caused by industrial nuclear accidents. Oil isn't that much better, as everyone knows one of the most dangerous jobs on earth is on an oil rig. The extraction process for natural gas is incredibly dirty and pollutes local water tables while releasing huge quantities of benzene and other carcinogens into the atmosphere.

I work in the alternative energy industry, and to be honest it is not a valid alternative to our current energy sources yet. Solar, wind and hydrokinetics are all in their early stages of development and are not ready or capable of being scaled up to replace nuclear or carbon based energy systems.

When talking about our energy needs one has to weigh the relative costs of each technology in terms of environmental degradation, human health and welfare costs, actual energy prices and a host of other factors. Until we conquer fusion (and that's still an iffy proposition) we are stuck with the technologies we have. To call for abandoning nuclear reactors ignores the relative costs of the technologies that would replace it.

Thanks for all Americans and other country supporting us.
Im japanese, living at far from tohoku but still having worried about our countrys future.

Now, I dont know which i should believe, our goverment saying or other countrys specilist saying. Our government and most of professional say "there are no risk to live ordinary days on outside 30km area from Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant".
I can understand they try to make citizens calm down. Many people in tokyo are buying too much food, gasoline or something what they need in daily life, and one part of truck driver drop their resposibility to transport supplies for evacuation area outside 20km area(they are non-government worker), because of fear of radiation.
Yes, I understand we should calm down even if the radiation is risk for us. we have trouble not only power plant, but also so many people in stricken area. they can not move freely even if they want. We need keep transporting supplies, food and water. people at evacuation area are still starving.

Now, most of professor on TV are saying optimistic comment, even professor saying little bit pessimistic comment yesterday also become optimist. I expect government ask professor not to comment bad thing , or there are consensus among them.
I think their decision is one of right way, because we have so many enormous problem to solve.

But on the other hand, i think we have a right that we can make decision which action we should do next. but it need correct information. We highly depend on TV to get information about radiation risks , and if professor on TV tell us an underestimate comment, Im afraid people near around Fukushima-1 lost their right to make decision by themselves, im afraid they get harmed by radiation while they don't know anything.
(i think we still can get information "what happened at Fukushima-1" on TV, but we don't know "what will happen next?", citizens always dont have special knowledge)

Now we really hope toden's worker at Fukushima-1 do well. They keep trying to stop this crisis. They are real hero for Japanese.

(Sorry if difficult to read my english)

I was too small to remember the catastrophe in the Ukraine, but I do remember that I was forbidden to leave the house for almost a year, waiting, as my mother told me, for the "cloud to pass" even in the brighter days.
I cannot explain the horror and amazement towards the hubris of those people who dared to build such a dangerous plant in an exposed location. And as someone said earlier, FOR THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF BOILING WATER!! ARE THEY INSANE?
My deeper question is about trust. I really did trust a nation like Japan that developed such high technology that they knew what they were doing, first when the build so many plants, now equivalent for everybody with time bombs, and second, when they operated them! I trusted that when they said they can shut it down, they will be able to do so.
And I also trusted US and other European countries, who dared to build those death-plants, near people's houses, children and into their lives, that they knew what they were doing and that they were able, in case of a crisis, to stop them and take care that innocent people don't take the fall, while other cash on their misery!
As we can see, it is not the TEPCO manager, the guy in suit who received immense bonuses over the time, who fights the fires and radiation, but workers of the plant and volunteers, police and firefighters.
This is beyond irresponsibility, this is insane! And all this, all this disaster, for a stupid attempt to boil water, which already exists in many natural forms??
I never learnt more about nuclear technology as in the last days, but for a sane mind, when presented the risks and the benefits, the building of atomic plants is out of question!
Let's put it this way: Japanese people accepted, trusting their government and the atomic lobby, that this is THE ONLY WAY to produce energy on their island. However, their 55 reactors (read, bombs in waiting), produce about 30%. The idea of boiling water by producing tons of poison doesn't even cover their needs. Then, they were told it is SAFE, but they only did 3 checks in 40 years. They also told that they can stop the plants at any time. They forgot to tell it is not enough and that they CANNOT STOP the reaction in absence of water. A simple shortcut would have led to the same problems.
Second, that is CLEAN....no comment.
Third, that its CHEAPER....is it??? Looking back, at the death toll, at the fall out of atomic waste, at the tons and tons of atomic garbage, active for million of years, damaging our children and generations to come, changing our DNA structure and poisoning our planet....IS THIS CHEAP???

Healdsburg, CA
The scariest part of this situation might not be the tsunami. Or the earthquake. Or the fire. These are all occurrences of nature over which man has little control. It is the hubris of man himself that's the scariest part of this disaster. Men have built something over which they seem to have no control. How can major "incidents" continue to occur and nobody has a clue as to what is occurring inside the reactors? As Fred Rogers might be saying, "Can you all say Deepwater Horizon?" Many of the folks working in Antarctica - the front line - have an excellent and realistic take on homo sapiens. We're the next dinosaur.

montauk, ny
Remember the junk shot with the BP oil well? And now we're trying to put out a nuclear disaster with a fire hose? This is the best the international community can come up with? Are you kidding?????????

Who is in charge of this planet? Aliens???

World Citizen
To the people who say that this is no Chernobyl:
1) When these types of catastrophic events happen, the first casualty is truth (the U.S. government is saying that the radiation levels are extremely high, something that the Japanese haven't acknowledged).
2) These two plants deal with the same thing: nuclear power, one of the most dangerous technologies that mankind has ever devised and manipulated.
3) Accidents happen.
Mother Nature is sending us all kinds of-increasingly alarming-signals and warnings. Will we change our ways before it's too late? Is it already too late? People and societies need to make some very deep structural changes at all levels: the way we live, consume, work, treat each other and nature, distribute resources, assign responsibilities and demand accountability, what our values and priorities are. We haven't done much so far (why do we still believe that gold is the most important resource?? why is the acquisition of gold still worth destroying entire ecosystems and communities?? things haven't changed much in 500 years). Time is running out.
sad day


Anonymous said...

Svetlana Alexievich: ... I was in Minsk, in hospital, visiting my sister who was dying of cancer. The doctors had just told us that there was no hope, then came the clouds, the black rain. The next day a journalist from Sweden rang me and said: Do you know what has happened to you over there? A Belarussian friend was sitting next to me and played it down: Come on, that's just Western provocation.

I soon went to the zone, in the Gomel district, to bury my sister. Men had already been fetched in to work, the first evacuations were under way. Everybody knew about it.

Michail Gorbachev did not make a public appearance until nine days after the accident. Was this embittering?

You know, journalists always ask the same thing. Were you lied to? The Soviet power never told the truth. That was nothing new! What interests me is something else. The pause.

The pause?

In the zone helicopters were taking off, technicians were running about in their thousands, but no one had any explanations. It was a new reality. It was forbidden to sit on the ground. It was forbidden to stand under a tree for any length of time. Fishermen said they couldn't find any worms, that the worms had bored a meter and a half down into the earth. Nature had obviously received signals. I find this fascinating. People reported they'd not only seen a fire, but also a raspberry-coloured glow and that they'd never thought death could be so beautiful. Former Afghanistan fighters were flown in with helicopters and machine guns and were asking: What good are our helicopters here? An entire culture collapsed, the familiar culture of war.

And yet, the blockade on information, the hubris of unbounded technology euphoria – was Chernobyl not a Soviet catastrophe?

But people didn't say all there was to say in France and Germany either. No one could imagine that the peaceful and the military atom was one and the same. Of course Chernobyl brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union – together with the war in Afghanistan. People in the zone were throwing away Party books and Komosol (Communist Union of Youth) insignia. They had been told: Either you stay or you leave the party. Were they supposed to save their children or stay true to the Party? What a choice!

There were no boundaries after Chernobyl. Spaces dissolved.

I continue to be amazed that people have failed to understand Chernobyl as a new way of seeing the world. Chernobyl changed space, but politicians still talk about things in terms of today, there, nearby, foreign. It's so strange. What does near or far mean when the cloud was hanging over Europe on the second day and over China on the fourth? Even a country that doesn't build reactors will be hit by the fallout from another country.

The catastrophe as negative globalisation...

Chernobyl also changed time. Radionuclides take hundreds of thousands of years to degrade. This is too much for the human imagination. And yet the politicians are deliberately calculating the victim numbers lower than they are. In Belarus alone, two liquidators die every day. They have dozens of diseases: kidney failure, infarcts. Children have radioactive levels that are way above the norm. Chernobyl has only just begun.

Anonymous said...

If Chernobyl is the future, how are we supposed to live with it?

Two catastrophes have taken place in Belarus: the catastrophe of capitalism and the cosmic catastrophe. People can understand the former - poverty, misery, the new way of life - but they cannot grasp the cosmic catastrophe. Ukraine and Belarus are a sort of laboratory, you could collect the evidence, evaluate it and share it with humanity. But the Belarussian government is committing an assault on its own people and on humanity at large. One scientist who proved that even low doses of radiation can lead to illness was thrown into prison and only released after international protests. Instead there is much talk of optimism. Belarus is a closed-off, abject country. My book has appeared in 21 states but is banned in Belarussian. Otherwise people would ask: Where is the medicine? Where are the church masses? Where are the uncontaminated provisions? A totalitarian regime saves itself first.

Is Chernobyl aiding the regime?

I don't know. On the other hand, Lukashenko is shouting to the world: We need humanitarian help! Money! Technology! And to his own people he says: Everything's alright. The people in the zone get kopeks, nothing else.

Villages, streets, forests have been buried – as if man could free himself from a world turned hostile.

We are used to earth, water and air being safe. Most of the people in the zone are farmers, they stored milk, tomatoes, it was crazy. They said: An apple is an apple, an egg is an egg, the water is so clean, the milk so white. This was a new face of evil. In one village an old woman asked me: Is this supposed to be war? The sun is shining, the birds are singing. Suddenly it became clear that the entire culture of terror was a culture of war. Bombs, grenades, we knew about them. But this was different.

Yet the rhetoric, the analogies, the heroism all came from the war. There were no robots but the liquidators shovelled radioactive waste out of the reactor and later raised the Soviet flag – like forty years ago on top of the Reichstag.

To a certain extent they all committed suicide. They gave their lives to save Europe. I asked them later: Would you do it again? Almost all of them said: Yes, we had to do it. There were 800,000 liquidators. In France, someone said he doubted whether you could find so many people prepared to give their lives in the West. The people didn't know what was lying in wait for them, this terrible death, that strong men would fall apart in one or two years. They even threw away their face masks: too hot. And yet they saved the world. But then when I saw women who were washing the liquidators' contaminated clothes with their bare hands – that was a crime. They should have been given washing machines. Nobody said anything to them.

You see, they were Soviet people. I'm not sure if you would find so many volunteers in Belarus today. Today the people know that their life is unique, that it belongs to them alone.

Has man learnt from Chernobyl?

As a race? Primo Levi said that after Auschwitz man is the same as before Auschwitz. Seen this way, you have to say that after Chernobyl man is the same as before Chernobyl.

We are changing - from a civilisation of fear to a civilisation of catastrophes. Progress has become dangerous, for both humankind and nature. Hurricanes and floods are causing losses almost as great as those caused by wars. Belarus lost a quarter of its population in the Second World War. Today, however, one in five Belarussians is suffering from the after effects of Chernobyl, and a third of the country is contaminated.

We cannot read the sign of Chernobyl - it's a foreign text. None of the great writers has dealt with this subject, nor has any philosopher. Chernobyl lies beyond the boundaries of culture.

Stranger than fiction Connecticut said...

The situation on the ground in Japan is wholesale chaos. It's easy for us to judge and speculate, and it seems irresistible to criticize. - Which is what I'm doing too.

But think about this for one moment.

The reactors are "massed" - meaning that a single piece of engineering work was mass produced. Now they sit side by side, difficult to work on and live through.

They are located out of sight of the wealthy (they have planning & zoning too), down near the lower class, within a stones throw of approaching tidal waves in an industrial park.

The reactors cooling systems run on electricity, provided by the reactors - the same reactors that need to be cooled when they are not operating - and don't generate power - and so the pumps can't run...

They have back-up generators, but those were located below water the level reached by the waves. They got wet.

The fearsome specter of nuclear dump sites has been solved by the operators, by the "Non" method. Spent fuel rods are simply taken out of the armored reactors (where they are safe) and stored en-mass in a "pool", with a roof system that can be blown off by a comparatively mild burp. It's a "Non-solution". If disposal is problem - don't do it at all.

Sounds unbelievable. Nobody could possibly be that reckless. Think again.

Closer to home, the electric motors, that ran the pumps, that used to de-water the lower than sea level areas hurricane Katrina flooded, were bolted in place...below the flood elevation. Wet motors - no pumps - more water.

Lastly, the people that design and construct these facilities are usually sober, which one of the strangest aspects of all this.

Freeway Georgia said...

It is rather silly for people, from six or seven thousand miles away, to suggest what the Japanese "should" do to control this problem. None of us have a clue if we are not on scene with the appropriate technical background and understanding of government disaster management. Likewise it is silly to jump to conclusions about the future of the nuke industry based on this situation. You cannot "plan" for a 9.0 earthquake and it is foolish to make policy based on that possibility. The universe is not risk free and if we only do things with zero risk then we will be living in caves eating grass. This is a terrible situation and we have no idea how it will be resolved or how many people may become sick or die as a result of it. However we should not be jumping to policy conclusions based on a atypical event like a magnitude 9 earthquake. It is like making policy based on whether a large asteroid might hit the planet and damage nuke stations.

Physicist Marseille, France said...

An article mentioned that around 50 tons of water per day are needed to keep one of the Fukushima reactors cooled when shut down. While this is well within the capacity of water cannons or fire truck-like pumps, the figure seems too low.

My understanding from news reports is that when these reactors are off (control rods in) there is residual heating to a level of a few per cent of the reactor normal load caused by the radioactive decay of isotopes in the mixed oxide fuel rods.
The largest of the reactors at the site has a nominal operating power of 1100 Megawatts. If when shut down it was only emitting 2% of the usual heat(for example) it would be generating 22 Megawatts of heat. Each kilogram of water delivered per second to the reactor core at 20 degrees centigrade (water temperature) will absorb 0.3 Megawatts of this heat by being raised to the boiling temperature of 100 degrees centigrade AND a further 0.4 Megawatts by being evaporated into steam. With each kilogram of water per second delivered removing 0.7 Megawatts of heat, a total flow of around 30 kilograms per second (about 66 pounds)could remove the heat of a 1100 Megawatt reactor that was shut down and emitting 2% of its normal heat through radioactive decay.

The figure of fifty tons per day, however, would be only around 0.6 kilograms of water per second, which would seem to be a very low figure.

In addition if the fuel has dried out there is likely to be violent flash evaporation when the water hits it until all the extra heat in the fuel can be brought out by dropping the fuel temperature back to 100 degrees Centigrade, where normal evaporation of the water would take over. Either way a higher water flow rate is indicated.

I wonder however whether an armored vehicle like a tank (perhaps with additional shielding) equipped with a pump could be used to advance closer to the reactor, or even better a vehicle under remote control rather than desperate ad-hoc methods like inaccurate helicopter water drops which seriously endanger the flight crews.

akiwak RI said...

I wish people would stop pointing the finger at "greedy energy magnates" who they blame for creating nuclear energy as a get-rich scheme. The only reason there are nuclear power plants is because you, and I, and everyone in the developed and developing nations have created the demand for energy through every facet of the way we live. It's ignorant and hypocritical to blame anyone other than us for the existence of nuclear power plants and their concomitant risks and dangers. And I'm not saying this as a preface to a call for changing our lifestyles, because I know that is not going to happen. You and I may be willing to turn lights off in rooms we are not using, or keep the heat a few degrees lower in winter, or use CFL bulbs, etc.; but what you and I are not going to accept is living the kind of life that would result if we gave up the more than 20% of our power that comes from nuclear energy. If we lost 20% of the electricity we are currently using, how would we make it up? Where would we take it from? Agriculture? Hospitals? Schools? Industrial installations? Defense? Government? No, private citizens would have to absorb that 20% share to keep all of those vital institutions working as they are now, meaning that our hit would amount to much more than 20%. What's worse, if there were a worldwide decision to stop using nuclear energy, those countries that export fossil fuels would surely keep more of it for themselves to make up for the loss of nuclear energy, meaning they'd sell less to other countries like us. This would effect us especially because we consume so much more energy than we can produce. How would you like to live with half (or less) of the electricity you have now? Rolling blackouts, gas-rationing, food and medical shortages--all of these things and more would be necessary consequences.
This isn't, for once, about corporations hungering for profits; it's about our own hunger for energy. I neither intend to condemn or applaud that--I merely state the fact. We need to learn our lessons and make the changes necessary to progress to the next level of development and understanding. Risk-free, carbon-neutral energy is, at present, a myth. What we should be talking about is a constant attempt to improve the risk-benefit equation.

Ayako Hamada Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan said...

It's an E-mail from a victim.

Do you understand the words from Government?
"Any airplane can't flight all of altitude within the range of 30KM from Fukushima Genpatsu"
I see, because it will be exposed to radiation.-------------------------No.
Airplane will not coming.
It's mean.
"Jaopanese goverment decided to DO NOT RESCUE, SUPPORT"
How do they sopport us without airplane?
Someone are hospitalized.
Can they to give material aid from Car?
There are nothing fuel. Road was broken.
How long do they need?
Do Japanese Goverment leave us?
Do they want to hidden there that soil contaminated by radioactivity?
Everyone wanna live. Even if we were contamineted with radiation.
I left my father for Tsunami. So I can't say any justice.

But why Goverment and reporter do not project for them?

This E-mail from my friend of a friend. His name Yamauki. He was living in Minamisouma city. He left him father and went to selter himself.
There were attacted Tsunami. And close to Fukushima Genpastu.
People who live in town were said from Goverment "Don't go out, please still in house".
But Government also said people "Airplane can't go there".
So they can't give help.
I wrote it because I wanna understand to many people .
I want to Japanese Government response has changed. But I could only write here.
Now, his town "Minamisouma city" people could go to other shelter by myself.
Government didn't do anything.


Ike Solem CA said...

One basic information problem is that the "nuclear academic experts" in the U.S. are mostly tied to nuclear industry interests and cannot be relied on to give unbiased scientific assessments of the situation. This isn't just a problem of industry-funded think tanks and associations (like the Nuclear Energy Institute) but extends to the leading research universities (like MIT) and national labs (like Lawrence Livermore). Many of these outfits are dependent on the nuclear industry for funding, and don't want to upset their sponsors.

What it really amounts to is a breakdown of scientific integrity within the U.S. science establishment - a widespread phenomenon wherever corporate conglomerates have financial interests that might be disrupted by accurate scientific assessments. This certainly applies to the Department of Energy, which has been boosting nuclear power and fossil fuels for years while essentially ignoring solar- and wind-based technologies. This, for example, is why you will find many Nuclear Engineering departments financed by the government at public universities, but no Solar Engineering departments. Studies into the health effects of nuclear contamination are also discouraged, as are studies into fossil fuel-linked contamination.

Russian citizens experienced the same thing during the Chernobyl disaster - Soviet academic scientists went around reassuring people that there was nothing to fear, while in reality the people were ingesting and inhaling all manner of radioactive fission products that led to cancers and early deaths. These apparatchik scientists were simply doing what the Soviet leadership wanted them to do, of course - but make no mistake, a similar phenomenon exists in the US today. You can be certain than nuclear industry lobbyists have lists of "approved scientific experts" that they are handing out to reporters and media outlets in an effort to spin down the severity of this crisis.

The result of this kind of behavior is conflicting information, which leads the public to stop believing what officials are saying. That's the standard Russian public response, isn't it?

For example, even though the U.S. government claims that dangerous levels of radioactive particles will not reach the U.S. from Japan, a great many people believe that's nonsense, even without any scientific training.

A basic scientific assessment would look at the size of the plume being emitted (on which data is poor, or not being released) - that is, the volume of material being ejected into the atmosphere. Once it goes into the atmosphere, it will be carried off by the winds, which have been blowing out over the Pacific. That material will eventually be deposited somewhere - it will fall out over the Pacific, it will rain out over Canada and the U.S. West Coast, it might even make it to the Midwest. Detecting it, however, requires a scientific sampling program. Is this being carried out or not?

Ike Solem CA said...

Please note, the U.S. nuclear test monitoring system was capable of detecting even a low-yield Soviet nuclear test in 1950. Chernobyl emitted as much fallout as a gigantic 12-megaton nuclear explosion.

The concern here is that nuclear corporate interests and their government partners will not set up a good monitoring system, and will not release the information to the public - the specific information, such as the concentration of radionuclides like plutonium, cesium, iodine, strontium, tritium - which are taken up and accumulated by the human body.

In the case of the BP spill, similar problems arose - water and air sampling was minimal at best, as was seafood sampling - leading to condemnation of the U.S. scientific monitoring program by many scientists. The fact that BP's chief scientist, Steve Koonin, was #2 person at the DOE might have had something to do with that.

Note also that GE's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, was recently appointed the head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, and that Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu is a long-time booster of "safe clean nuclear energy". Immelt is a big advocate of PR campaigns aimed at greenwashing everything from tar sand oil production to nuclear power plants (he was just lecturing the Canadians on how to sell tar sands as "clean" - see google).

Given this situation, it certainly makes sense to be highly skeptical of any "official pronouncements" that are not backed up by real data measurements.

For example - the U.S. Navy said its ships encountered 'radioactivity' but gave no breakdown in terms of what was encountered - tritium, cesium, plutonium - or what the concentrations were, or how far offshore the plume had spread. This information should be collected and dispersed to the public - and remotely operated drones and fighter jets are already equipped for such sampling, right?

joyce new brunswick, canada said...

Modern societies in 2010 have become unbelievably complex in nature. This web of complexity has evolved slowly over the lifetime of the society; each technological and structural leap has been a reaction to a perceived need in the society to accommodate to a growing problem. We fix, or have thought we fixed our problems of growth, energy, scarcity of resources, food shortage, etc., by these leaps that seem to solve the problem by outsourcing the problem . These leaps also tended to concentrate the wealth and the resources in the hands of fewer and fewer people. This complexity is globally interrelated.
I am worried that we are at the mercy of our overengineered and inflexible institutions, our complexity and our diminishing resources. Any sudden drop in our ability to maintain the level of function to which we are accustomed ie: health care, supply chains, schools, safety, hospitals, transportation, pensions, jobs, etc. will certainly cause great unrest and refusal of many people to go along with the rules of the society .This can lead to chaos and may certainly cause collapse. Or collapse can come from a basic structure that is simply not viable any more.
Any sudden negative change in our ability , politically or otherwise, to maintain or even to revise this complexity that is so crucial to our societal structure may result in the equally sudden collapse of our society -a reverting of the society to a previous level that is simpler and hopefully more easily maintained. Where this level is anybody’s guess.

Ike Solem CA said...

I'm ashamed of our government's response to this crisis. Public relations efforts on behalf of the nuclear industry seem to be the top priority. I've never seen a more deadpan unemotional response than what I just saw. It's ludicrous.

Regardless, there is now little doubt that a full-scale Chernobyl type response is needed. Water is out - it flashes into steam and hydrogen at these temperatures. We need to smother the cores and the spent fuel rod ponds with materials like:

Tin and lead - low melting point, will absorb lots of heat and particles.
Clay - absorbs hot particles and heat.
Boron carbide and boric acid - absorbs neutrons reducing any residual fission reactions.
Crushed dolomite - releases CO2 when heated, will smother fires.
Sand and concrete - smothers fires.

Likewise, there needs to be a subsurface evaluation - at Chernobyl, thousands of gallons of liquid nitrogen were pumped into the soil to freeze it and reduce the likelihood of a core meltdown. If there's a lot of water around the core, melting will produce massive steam explosions.

If these resources aren't prepped and put into play, then the worst-case scenario seems highly likely.

Even the Soviets weren't this inept. I'd also be reluctant to take Obama's "team of experts" at face value when it comes to the ultimate distribution of the fallout. That line was probably written by a PR lobbyist for the industry, in any case. Don't forget, Obama appointed GE's CEO to head his council of economic advisors - which probably accounts for much of his silence on the nuclear issue, after previously claiming that no radiation was going to leak from the plant. His current statement may not be any more reliable.

Ayako Hamada Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan said...

It's an E-mail from a courageous victim.

I wanna told many people unreported "Iwaki city".
The end of the city is now like a solitary island in the distant sea.
It's 7 days later after Earthquake and Tsunami. There are driven into a tight situation.
To put it concretely,
1.Run out of provisions, fuel and many goods for life. But material assistance are not coming yet.
2. There is a little water and no electricity. At first Government help people who live in big city, we have to wait long time. It's snow today. We are proof against all weathers.
3. Hospital have only slight medicine. Almost hospital can not treatment.
4.Everyone wanna go other place, but we have no gasoline. We can't go the town next door there are too far to walk.
5.There are many great age people are live. They have some accident them-body. And now is not good situation. So some great age people have to at home all time everyday.

People live in Iwaki are help each other. When situation is difficult.

It's from my friend. His name "Yamauki". He is great and brave victim.
He knew Japanese government wanted to leave a person who are live in Minsmisoumacity. There are near to
Fukushima Genpatsu. So government did not touch. Material assist was drop by plane where are 80 kilometers away from city.
He is never give up and say people the situation now in Fukushima and Miyagi.

Please give help him and many victims. If you have high social position. Please seek support from someone.

Im only a student. I can do only write here.


Lewis B Sckolnick Leverett MA USA said...

There are only 12,000 rods!

OK so it is on the biggest fault line in Japan wanna make something outta it?

Way beyond the abilities of the gov of Japan.

Lewis B Sckolnick Leverett MA USA said...

The Japanese gov could have had diesel generators, water pumps and hoses on the scene within two hours if they had wanted to.

Face always comes first in some parts of the world.

Dr W New York NY said...

I guess I don't understand why effort is not being made to contain the damage and emission of debris at the reactors by simply smothering the whole reactor site with something like tons of sand, which has to be available in huge quantities for just such use.

The use of sand has several advantages; I offer a number of them here from the top of my mind. If others can add to this list, that would be helpful.

1. Sand is easily transported and packaged; it can be loaded in military cargo planes and repeatedly dumped in planned locations.

2. The presence of sand blocks access to oxygen in the air for burning. By the same token it also significantly contains radioactive gases that are being vented.

3. Sand several meters or more thick will provide adequate radiation sheilding and explosion buffering.

4. Sand in contact with hot core material will, if the temperature is high enough, turn to molten glass and flow into and around the core area, thus trapping much of the radioactive debris that would otherwise leach out, and containing it. Melting also removes thermal energy from the debris and cools it.

5. Sand does not run off and take debris into the environment like water does.

I would invite knowledgeable people to consider these features and respond.

We do not have time for the luxury of attempting to repair or salvage anything at the reactor sites. The prime consideration must be containment above all, and I feel that sand will do the job now. Later we can consider augmenting the sand with injections of hardeners and sealants.

In case anyone should ask, I've worked in nuclear physics at university accelerator installations and national laboratories.


In Fukushima the two back-up generators to replace power failure in the cooling system were swallowed by the tsunami.
This was the source of the problem in the reactors.
But a startling fact has emerged in this nuclear accident in Japan. The fact is that all nuclear plants in the world contains a basic error in design, which is just using ONLY ONE hydraulic cooling circuit.As in Fukushima.
The most modern plants use the so-called external circuit of COOLING, which is an improvement over the old mills.
But this is only ONE external circuit, and in case of failure would cause the same phenomenon of Fukushima.
The principle is basic in engineering: if you have one, IN FACT you have none. The aeronautical engineering widely used this principle, using two engines on airplanes, instead of just one.
In addition of two independent cooling hidraulic circuit, would be needed: two or more electric stand-by generators to move them.
And two fuel tanks, diesel, independent to ensure supply.
All confined in a screened room and waterproof.
Recent expert analysis indicate that the generators for cooling can not be at the same level of the sea, to prevent flooding or invasion of the sea on the generators. Should be built on the highest level. Most nuclear power PLANTS in the world have generators on the same level of the reactor, and are not shielded and not waterproof.

Marian White Plains, NY said...

A few facts might be helpful. The spent fuel is normally placed in a deep spent fuel pool with as much as 20-25 feet of water above the top of the spent fuel. The purposes of this very large block of water above the spent fuel is two-fold. Water decreases the radiation level above the fuel, making it safe for people to work at the pool top elevation. Second, unless there is a leak it takes one or more days to overheat the pool water if the normal pool heat removal system is not working, giving a fair amount of time to take corrective actions, provided plant workers can get close enough to add small amounts of water to the pool.

Unless the fuel has overheated because of a drained pool leading to a fire from burning zirconium fuel rod cladding, the amount of water needed to cool the spent fuel is very small. Flows like one gets from a simple garden hose would be sufficient.

The major danger from releases of radioactive material from a spent fuel fire is radioactive cesuim. This is a long term issue because cesium has a long half life, about 30 years, and it would be the dominant cause of land contamination and could cause long term health effects if people continue to live on contaminated land. It is not a major issue in terms of emergency evacuations which are largely used to limit exposure to radioactive iodine. Usually there is very little radioactive iodine in spent fuel because it decays away rather rapidly. Therefore evacuations out to 50 miles has no technical basis.

Although there is a considerable amount of cesium in a spent fuel pool not all of it will escape into the environment even with a zirconium fire. Cesium is very active chemically and will likely form compounds that may not escape the nuclear site. Time will tell how much cesium actually gets out into the environment.

Burkeman111 Boston said...

You know- no one is charge. The media is treating this like just another story- a big story- but not 24/7 coverage. It's quite insane and extremely unnerving. We get info one day that proves to be wrong time and again- like how first- no radiation is gonna reach us- but ooops- yeah- it is - but don't worry about it! I don't trust the information I am seeing. Simple as that. When you see nuke industry flaks on the tube talk about the "insignificant" loss of life at Chernobyl- where there is currently 1133 square exclusion zone still around it- you have to conclude that these people don't care about us- or anyone but their industry and their futures and justifying and protecting their careers.

And Obama is going on a tour of South America! Why not? He's just a prop for the murky people who really run this country. The people who rule us- think this can be media managed away. Half of Japan is going up in a radiation cloud and The West is doing nothing.

Gudrun Independence, NY said...

the cleanest energy is the one you did not use.

When Tokyo was notified that brownouts would be used to make more electricity avaiable for fighting the reactors, the people were cutting down so much that a brownout was not necessary.

How about it everybody-- lets promote energy conservation--- but no we cannot do that because the energy companies ( nuke, coal, natural gas ) promote the most energy consumption -- they advertise with the tax dollars that our politicians give them via the surplus meney which then goes back via a kick back into a campaign fund for the same politicians.

Elect persons with real committment to the environment by their record not by what they say 5 minutes before the polls open.

Too many voters cannot be bothered to learn who is running for office.

As they say at 9-11 --- lets roll -- meaning lets get serious about who gets elected and also lets roll and US right now pitch in max to help put out the fire at the nuke plants IMMEDIATELY---our government could do more that testing the air over there 6 days after it got started.

Call up your elected officials and tell them to stop bickering who is running in 2012 and make that date even oocurs! NO more bickering--
LET's ROLL -- let the emergency include all talents from all countries and even invite Gatafi to stop the fighting and give resources for that rather than killing his own people.

Use brainpower and use all those who have a short time to live to volunteer to work for a day in the mess along with robot and ingenuity.

Gorbachev at Chernobyl used 34 billion dollars and 500,000 workers , many of them still living but much older than their 50 or so years -- that effort stopped a full blown explosion polluting all of Europe . Thank you Mr Gorbachev, you not only broke down that wall with Regan, you were a leader at a crucial time-- please help the Japanese who are in such a bad situation with chaos of the Tsunami surrounding this....

rabbi k buffalo, ny said...

as any homeowner knows....[or learns, to their sorrow]....

1. don't keep things you don't want to get wet in the basement [pumps, generators, switching equipment, electronics, for example]

2. and don't keep things that could burn / ignite in the attic [fuel rods, "spent" or not]

likewise, as any camper / hiker knows.....[or learns, to their sorrow]....

1. don't light a fire unless you know how you'll put it out [that's the basic problem with nukes -- no way to turn them off...]

Anonymous said...

L. Sckolnick is right -- lot of things don't add up, assuming one listens to reports.

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