Power Corrupts, Nuclear Power Corrupts Absolutely

Michael Collins
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The Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory Jaczko, told a US House of Representatives subcommittee that: "There is no water in the spent fuel pool [at the Fukushia I plant] and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures." A "utility spokesman" for Tokyo Electric responded quickly claiming that the "condition is stable." AP, March 17.

The >New York Times, China's Peoples Daily, and other outlets covered this extraordinary asymmetrical exchange between the highest nuclear regulatory official in the US government and a "utility spokesman."

The public disagreement between two close allies in the midst of a severe crisis is highly instructive on a number of levels. If chair Jaczko wrong, it is a terrible embarrassment for the US. If he's right, we can conclude that much of the information from Tokyo Electric is questionable.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima I is a complex event. Logical progressions are difficult to grasp and follow, particularly when the United States and Japan disagree so fundamentally at the highest levels.

Concerns about human loss and suffering are paramount. Information on that is also challenging. One theme from the start has been, this is not another Chernobyl. As failures continue and risks become apparent, the comparison to Chernobyl is less important than the risks to the 103 million Japanese on Honshu Island and those in surrounding nations. The best scenario advanced for a major release of toxic elements from the Fukushima I plant involves winds taking the danger west to the Pacific Ocean.

Guenther Oettinger, Commissioner of Energy for the European Union (EU) issued an ominous statement just hours ago:

"The site is effectively out of control," Guenther Oettinger, commissioner for energy, told a European Parliament committee. "In the coming hours there could be further catastrophic events which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island."

Ottinger went on to say that information from Japanese government sources was contradictory and that he had an information network beyond just official statements from Tokyo.

When the top US nuclear official and the commissioner of energy for the EU make major hedges on the worsening events in Japan, it's time to take notice.

The Larger Issue

In the midst of all this, it is important to pose the question that may have prevented this disaster and changed the world's energy future. Is nuclear energy an acceptable source of power?

The issue of fuel rod storage combined with the initial regulatory approach to the dangers of nuclear power plants can help answer the question.

The spent fuel pool consists of spent nuclear fuel rods that are stored in the Fukushima reactors (and other GE reactors with a similar design) after they have outlived their usefulness. They're placed in the pool of water designed to maintain the rods in a safe state. The storage needs will exceed capacity in the US by 2015.

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Take a look at the image above of the reactor design at Fukushima (and 23 nuclear reactors in the US) and ask this question. Does this make any sense? The spent fuel rods, pilled up in the fuel pool, are above the reactor vessel and active fuel rods. If there is a meltdown or an explosion of sufficient quantity, toxic elements from both the reactor and the fuel pools may breach the containment structure and enter the atmosphere. Why create a design that compounds the most serious problem, the meltdown, with additional toxic emissions? Don't nuclear regulators understand the concept of a reasonableness test?

Market Drive Regulation

Robert Gillette wrote a classic investigative report for the Los Angeles Times 1979. He described the acceleration of nuclear plant sales and installations and the parallel retreat of regulators. There were no sales of nuclear plants in 1964. By 1966, 63% of new power generation came from nuclear plants. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was swamped with new proposals and short of staff. As larger, more complex reactors were designed, the AEC's budget suffered a series of cuts. Gillette summed it up nicely:

"Larger reactors would … build up larger amounts of radioactive wastes, which if dispersed in an accident, which if dispersed in an accident would amplify the consequences." Robert Gillette, Rapid nuclear growth at root of accident. Los Angeles Times , April 9, 1979

Despite budget cuts, there were farsighted regulators. One of them, Stephen Hanauer, wrote an internal AEC memo in which he suggested that GE was less than serious about it's reported tests of reactors like those at Fukushima I:

"Recently we have reevaluated the GE test results and decided on a more conservative interpretation than has been used by GE all these years (and accepted by us). We now believe that the former interpretation was incorrect, using data from tests not applicable to accident conditions." Stephen J. Hanauer, Atomic Energy Commission New York Times pdf September 20, 1972 Article)

GE's use of "data from tests not applicable to accident conditions" is the height of reckless cynicism taken to an extreme.

After praising the logic of Hanauer's the suggestion to discontinue the GE reactors with the Mark I design, nuclear energy chief Joseph M. Hendrie suggested that adopting the plan, "could well be the end of nuclear power." He concluded that such an act would generally create more turmoil than I can stand thinking about." Joseph M. Hendrie, 1972 from the New York Times pdf, March 17 (Article)

Myopic Testing - The Past and Right Now

A flawed approach to testing compounded the problems of US nuclear regulators. A 1962 AEC regulation defined testing as the analysis of all credible accidents. Robert van de Poel's analysis showed the following: "What counted as an unacceptable credible accident was defined by a postulated maximum credible accident (MCA) which was laid down in official regulations in 1962. Changing Technologies 1998 van de Poel p.248 If industry scientists and regulators decided that an event couldn't take place, no matter how arbitrary the decision, the nuclear plant's requirement to withstand that event was forgiven.

Safety testing for Fukushima I by Tokyo Electric and Japanese nuclear regulators followed the exclusionary tradition of maximum credible accidents and its successor, probabilistic risk assessment. The credible level of stress on the plant, based on probability analysis, resulted in tests for a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake.

Why? Because that's what the plant could withstand, if you're a bit skeptical and presume that they tested the maximum stress tolerance prior to performing the official test. Why not test it for higher magnitudes on the Richter scale? It is not as though regulators and energy companies had to create a real earthquake for testing. This testing is done with software. Why not extend the effort to a 9.0 on the Richter scale? How hard is that?

They knew that there was a problem in 1972 and did nothing. They know now there are serious problems and they do nothing.

The US government recommended that the Japanese government adopt a 50-mile evacuation radius to around the distressed Fukushima reactors.

That same US government approved nuclear facilities with the similar designs, GE Mark I boiling water reactors. Each reactor or cluster of reactors is within 50 miles of a the population area listed in the chart below.

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That same US government recommends boldly pushing forward with more nuclear installations. It says nothing about the obvious dangers based on a history of flawed assumptions, testing, and performance review for the GE reactor type and the entire array of reactors in place.

Is this technology safe? Is it acceptable? Can we trust those in charge to tell us the truth? The answer to each of those questions looks more like no every day.

END

N.B. Nuclear energy firms in the United States

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Comments

Dacians founded Rome

Only igonrants would disregard nuclear power at this stage.
The fact is that the nuclear fuel behaved as nuclear engineers predicted.
they, the nuclear engineers did their job. Not so for the architects, MBAs, those economists and managers who decided (in order to minimize management costs...) to build the reactors very close to each other, etc, etc.

P.S.: We just received a proposal for the Romanian Government to invite at least 100000 Japanese citizens who lost their homes last week to come and settle in Romania.
We believe this is an excellent idea, that it is a humanitarian action that should be replicated worldwide. This could also help our communities overcome the economic crisis.
Kind regards,

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Only igonrants would not disregard

A concern troll comment like yours. You have no facts, no information and ignoring the half life of the radioactive material. Of course the engineers did their job and of course it was corrupted by those out for profit....hello, must be missing 4,000 years of human history here.

Gee, 100,000 people must flee their homes and move to an alien nation and you think that's just great to have a forced migration of the Japanese people.

I guess the phrase there for the Grace of God Go I is meaningless to you.

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Clever - This is such an epic fail, Reuters had to pull a story

Here's a story that Reuters carried earlier today. It demonstrates clearly that accidents can't be controlled. In the case of Fukushima I, the suggestion is to bury the problem. All the snazy engineering solutions (which never were, apparently), failed. Plan B is to just do another cover up. But something interesting happened.

This is a current Google search for this text, in quotation marks. "TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese engineers conceded on Friday that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be a last resort to prevent a catastrophic radiation release, the method used to seal huge leakages from Chernobyl in 1986." This is the Google result that I received at around 12:30am ET:

I found what I was looking for.  Is that ever a perfect description of epic failure. 

But when I clicked each of the links and the "Cached" link on  #3, that story had disappeared.  Somebody has it and Google, bless their hearts, still shows the search results.  But the failure was too hot too handle and Reuters pulled the story.

Link 1      Link 2       Link 3   Cached Link 2      Cached Link 3

Here's the lede at those links:

March 18 (Reuters) - Exhausted engineers attached a power cable to the outside of Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear plant on Saturday in a race to prevent deadly radiation from an accident now rated at least as bad as America's Three Mile Island incident in 1979.

It looks like Reuters got ahead of the timeline.  They presented the denoument out of order.

If there's nothing to hide, tell the truth. If there's something to hid, the nuclear industry must be forced to tell the truth.

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Japan Nuclear Industry, Faked Reports, Accidents

Bloomberg has a piece on Japan's Nuclear Industry faking reports, not reporting accidents.

The unfolding disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant follows decades of falsified safety reports, fatal accidents and underestimated earthquake risk in Japan’s atomic power industry.

The destruction caused by last week’s 9.0 earthquake and tsunami comes less than four years after a 6.8 quake shut the world’s biggest atomic plant, also run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. In 2002 and 2007, revelations the utility had faked repair records forced the resignation of the company’s chairman and president, and a three-week shutdown of all 17 of its reactors.

With almost no oil or gas reserves of its own, nuclear power has been a national priority for Japan since the end of World War II, a conflict the country fought partly to secure oil supplies. Japan has 54 operating nuclear reactors -- more than any other country except the U.S. and France -- to power its industries, pitting economic demands against safety concerns in the world’s most earthquake-prone country.

Nuclear engineers and academics who have worked in Japan’s atomic power industry spoke in interviews of a history of accidents, faked reports and inaction by a succession of Liberal Democratic Party governments that ran Japan for nearly all of the postwar period.

Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismology professor at Kobe University, has said Japan’s history of nuclear accidents stems from an overconfidence in plant engineering. In 2006, he resigned from a government panel on reactor safety, saying the review process was rigged and “unscientific.”

And they wonder why no one believes them anymore.

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Daciens

Ionry is in the igonrants...

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Oettinger is a lawyer by

Oettinger is a lawyer by training and a career politician by vocation.

He has zero credibility; in fact his original comments were accompanied by his official spokesperson saying that Mr. Oettinger had no private sources of extra information.

As for Jaczko - again - another career politician.

He at least has a technical degree, but has never actually worked in any function even remotely related to nuclear power - other than advising politicians. In fact his degree came in 1999 - and his career in politics started soon after.

His statement furthermore was notably lacking in facts, and coupled with his public fight against Yucca, it is quite likely he is against nuclear power in principle.

So while the situation in Japan is definitely of concern, on the other hand statements by 2 politicians don't lend any facts to the affair.

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I'm pro-nuke but Yucca was a

I'm pro-nuke but Yucca was a terrible idea and had it coming. Why build a facility essentially to store depleted fuel in a central location located the furthest distance from most of the plants thereby insuring that fuel is transported on the open roads for the longest period of time.

Yucca makes even less sense when you consider waste reduction will be increased by Gen IV designs like Bill Gates' TerraReactor project. You need smaller more localized permanent storage, reprocessing, and simply better reactors that reduce the amount of waste produced.

When we get fusion-fission hybrid that work well enough to destroy all of the waste then Yucca will really be seen as a waste. Hell fusion processes don't even have to produce net energy to be able to break down wastes. Why aren't we researching that?

If we learned anything from this incident is that we should decentralize and reduce the the size of nuclear plants so we don't have to as much too clean up and decentralize the grid so we don't have power down for as long period of time thereby worsening crises. The most important lesson is that we should be more careful about where we put stuff.

Yucca is stupid.

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They both spoke in behalf of their governments

I'm not a fan of the political class in any of the industrialized nations. They're like a wrecking crew. However, these are top nuclear officials making categorical statements that were cleared before they were made, you can be sure. They were not acting on their own. I didn't mention it, but the Emperor of Japan's statement was a remarkable one, as well. It contradicted the "we'll get it under control" party line from Tokyo Electric. They were given facts and prepared statements in behalf of the government. While they may not be engineers, they are certainly capable of presenting facts gained by those qualified to make the assessments.

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Oh, and if you want some

Oh, and if you want some facts - here's what the actual radiation monitoring around Fukushima looks like:

http://www.mext.go.jp/component/a_menu/other/detail/__icsFiles/afieldfil...

Units are in microsieverts - the numbers are extremely low; background radiation is 1.6 microsieverts/hour.

Tokyo radiation monitoring:

http://www.denphone.com/denphone-tokyo-office-geiger-counter

Indeed, the numbers from both of these links contradict the alarmist crap from both Oettinger and Jaczko.

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these are 30km, 50km away

not exactly 12km. Also, the readings are double the normal. Even more odious the International Nuclear Agency wasn't even MEASURING radiation levels at the site or around the surrounding area.

Radiation just hit California, that's 4500 miles away. They won't give the actual reading of course, but that's 4500 miles of travel.

So, it would be nice here to have accurate information, which is one of the main points of this post.

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Are you predicting a steady state?

"...Chernobyl on steroids." Washington Post, March 13

"Although Tokyo Electric said it also continued to deal with cooling system failures and high pressures at half a dozen of its 10 reactors in the two Fukushima complexes, fears mounted about the threat posed by the pools of water where years of spent fuel rods are stored.

"At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with "General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.

“That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1.

"People familiar with the plant said there are seven spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi, many of them densely packed.

"Gundersen said the unit 1 pool could have as much as 20 years of spent fuel rods, which are still radioactive.

See discussion at FireDogLake by Kirk James Murphy, MD

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This blog is so far off the

This blog is so far off the mark, they aren't even in the same firing range. For those wanting to know, the plants stood up to the earthquake just fine. It didn't even phase the safety systems in place at the power plant. The reactors were automatically shut down by the earthquake just as they should. Then the emergency diesel generators started up and powered the emergency cooling systems. It was the tsunami that really did the damage, taking out the generators.

For those that don't know how the nuclear process works, fissions happens as a result of a uranium or plutonium particle absorbing a neutron and then splitting into two or three other particles called fission products along with several other neutrons. These neutrons go on to induce fission in other atoms thus creating a chain reaction. When the safety rods are inserted, they absorb all the free neutrons thus stopping the reaction. The fission products are extremely high energy which is where the majority of the heat comes from in the plant. This heat is used to make water boil and turn into high pressure steam and then turns a turbine.

However, these fission products are also unstable and undergo a process called beta minus or beta plus decay. This also releases heat. This is called decay heat and continues to be produced after shutdown. This is also the same process that releases radiation in the air if these fission products reach the atmosphere. And this is why cooling is needed in spent fuel rods and shut down reactors.

When the diesel generators were knocked out, the battery back ups kicked in. These batteries are designed to last 8 hours to provide cooling water flow to the plant. And they did. Once the batteries were dead, there was no way to add cool water to plant and it began to heat the water that was in there. As the water heated, it expanded thus raising pressure in the plant. Now, keep in mind, the 8 hours of battery life is long enough to let enough fission products decay to stability to the point where the reactor is producing about 1,000,000,000th the amount of heat output as when it was running. But once all circulation was lost, the water in the core continued to heat and expand and build pressure. Ultimately, to ensure the containment vessel does not rupture, they had to vent steam from the vessel. This steam is filtered as it exits to minimize the release of fission products to the environment.

The containment vessel is housed inside an air tight building called the primary containment building. This building is inside another building called the secondary containment building. It is also air tight. These are to provide extra boundaries of protection to the environment. The secondary containment building is actually inside a third building used only to protect against the weather. This one, unlike the other two isn't designed to keep stuff in, its designed to keep the weather out. This is actually where the vented steam goes as it is released.

Once the reactor reached about 1200C, the fuel pellet outer protective shell starts to break down by a chemical process. This process releases large amounts of hydrogen. This hydrogen is what built up in the weather shed and ultimate caused the explosions in several reactors. There was minimal release of contaminant to environment. And the secondary building was not damaged.

The radiation coming from inside the plants were caused by the build up of fission products released through the steam and caught in the filters. Each time they had to vent, more fission products where built up in the filters. As more fission products build up in the filters, the radiation levels in the plant will continue to climb. This is what is actually driving any workers radiation levels up, not the spent fuel rods or the reactor itself. They need to restore power to the plant so they can run the water pumps and introduce colder water to the plant and maintain the temperature of the core at a safe level, no longer needing to vent steam.

The spent fuel rods are stored up high for a reason. When they sit long enough, the fission products decay to a stable condition. When they have reached a low enough thermal output, they can be transported to a permanent storage location. The are up high near the roof because they will be removed by crane when the plant is shutdown and cooled down. The hatches in the building rooves above it can be opened once pressure in the plant is low enough that a containment breech is improbable. If they were stored lower in the plant, this would greatly complicate the removal process and increase the chance of damaging the plant while trying to remove spent fuel.

There is extremely little chance of a meltdown in the plant at this point. Even if the plant was vacated for a week, it would not be enough time for temperatures to reach the 2600C+ required to begin a meltdown process.

There is an extremely large amount of miss information about this situation floating around the news media. Even the IAEA is putting out misinformation received from bad sources. Don't believe everything you hear and read. Instead, investigate the truth and ask someone who knows.

And for those that don't know whether this is true or not, I am a trained nuclear reactor operator and sat behind the panel of a reactor for 6 years. I do have some basis for my statements. This blog is full of fallacies, find better information to base your opinion of nuclear power upon. Not the rhetoric of someone who is antinuclear simply because he doesn't understand it.

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Ah, you must work for GE then

This site tries very hard to be accurate. That said, it's pretty clear, even from the U.S. information, Japan is a real problem. Japan themselves just elevated the risk....so you're doing your own kind of insults, I'll assume for job protection.

That doesn't help get accurate information out there for you're in complete denial it appears from what is going on right at this moment, the poor design and the risk.

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You ignored the evidence presented - GE testing was not valid

The deliberately contrived, invalid testing is why Fukushima I is failinig and why the 23 reactors of the same type should be shut down now.

The memos from 1972 form Hanauer and X are a gift to us right now.  Let me repeat Hanauer's statement:

"Recently we have reevaluated the GE test results and decided on a more conservative interpretation than has been used by GE all these years (and accepted by us). We now believe that the former interpretation was incorrect, using data from tests not applicable to accident conditions." Stephen J. Hanauer, Atomic Energy Commission New York Times pdf September 20, 1972 (Article)

The reactors involved are made by GE, the same GE that Hanauer points out provided safety information with "tests" that didn't factor in "accident conditions."  If you don't get the implications of that, you wouldn't make it far on the show, "Are you smarter than a fifth grader?"  Anyone who reads the follow up from the future head of the NRC, Hendrie sees what happened.  He knew that the enormity of GE's handling of testing meant that nothing further from them could ever be trusted.  It's really a monstrous dishonesty.   But he didn't want to stand in front of a firing squad to make the move he knew should be made.  

You can recite this and that from nuclear power text books all day long.  But you can't deny that catastrophic accidents occur at a rate greater than zero. This design lead to one because those involved failed to set the testing software to simulate anything greater than a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake.

Deal with reality, not the dead science of nuclear fission and money driven nuclear engineering.  It's a dead letter not worth opening.  The people of the world will speak and make their voices heard.  This industry is finished.

 

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Robert Oak said: "This site

Robert Oak said: "This site tries very hard to be accurate. That said, it's pretty clear, even from the U.S. information, Japan is a real problem."

The problem is, the actual information is 100% at odds with the headlines.

Yes, there is a very serious problem. The radiation on site is high - but far lower than lethal doses. Further away the radiation detected - with 1 exception - was literally single digit microsieverts over background radiation.

And if you think double background radiation is bad - you get many times that does by: flying to an trans-Pacific/trans-Atlantic destination from the US; from a CAT scan; from an X-ray; from eating bananas; from many kitchen top granite counters, etc etc.

Let's also keep in mind what's happening in Fukushima #1 nuclear reactor vs. what's happening in a 300 km radius around it: entire shoreline cities and villages wiped out. The entire region without reliable power, with thousands of dead bodies both found and unfound, with food, fuel, and medicine deliveries being delayed both by infrastructure damage from earthquake+tsunami as well as by radiation fears.

I personally don't have a stake in nuclear power, but there is no power source which is without its risks.

Were Japan to completely go cold turkey away from nuclear generated electricity, they would have to import massive amounts of coal and/or natural gas and/or oil.

Japan's total annual electricity use is about 950 billion kwh - the 30% generated by nuclear equates to 285 billion kwh.

1 to 2 lbs of coal is needed to generated 1 kwh of electricity, ditto 7 cubic meters of natural gas.

So replacing nuclear with coal would require Japan to import 142.5 to 285 million tons of coal per year, or 1,995 billion cubic feet/56.6 bcm of natural gas.

The cost of this would be $18.4 billion to $36.7 billion per year for coal, and $225 billion per year for natural gas (even at today's relatively depressed natural gas prices).

All this excludes the cost of building new electrical generation plants.

Contrast this with Japan's present nuclear fuel expenses: 8000 tons of uranium costing $960 million.

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no one is suggesting you buy a tin foil hat here

the facts are being checked. But costs is not the issue, the issue is the time of radioactive decay, which the half-life is something like 50,000 years.
No one is saying go dig out a bomb shelter in the backyard and move in on this site.

What is the cost of human life and of destroying their land, making it uninhabitable?

That said, the oil spills, what damage does that do for how long? Radioactivity trumps destruction of the environment by time.

So, while you may try to claim "oh the tsunami destroyed the land", that is temporary, radiation is permanent.

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A long half life means a

A long half life means a lower level of radiation and higher safety. If you do understand this basic fact about radiation then you should stop using these uneducated statements about the "dangers" of 50k half lives. Dangerous Compared to What? A person in Colorado gets higher exposure.

If the half life is short then it means the rate at which neutrons are being giving off is high and therefore most dangerous. The most dangerous radioactive release mention so far is iodine 131 which has a half life of 8 days. I believe Cesium 127 is 9 days. These particles are dangerous because they are similar to bio-active isotopes and thus can gather in the body.

All models of increased cancer rate from low level radiation from radioisotopes of long half life is based on a linear no theshold model which inflates the cancer rate much like the birth death model inflates jobs.

Mercury and other heavy metals coal have no half life but you don't seem to care about the everlasting pollution from that source. The Uranium and Thorium and many other types of radiation is released by coal are rates much greater than any exposure created by the meltdown.

Slag from Coal literally has no dumping standards and sometimes is even used in making fertilizers.

You cited the firedoglake post which cited Arnie Gundersen a antinuke hack known for padding his resume and is hardly unbiased.

See this post http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2011/02/arnie-gundersen-has-inflated-...

If you want me go into the Coal and Natural Gas back front groups that form the backbone of the antinuclear movement and I provide further details.

The fact are that hydroelectric and the oil refinery fire killed more people in Japan than will ever be shown to be killed by the meltdown at Fukushima. Claims will made that million will have developed cancer based on various statistical model created by greens to prove that assumption.

There where lots of mistakes made at Fukushima but they are no where near as deadly as the increased reliance on fossil fuels will prove to be. If you doubt that I suggest you google "Libya and Oil" and then tell me about how temporary "destruction of the land" and how cheap fossils are compared to the that dangerous "permanent radiation."

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Worked out well for them hasn't it?

This is a tragedy!

Japan’s damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl. New Scientist, March 24

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I found a good post about radiation.

I found more information about the radiation releases. see here : http://online.itp.ucsb.edu/online/plecture/bmonreal11/

The half lives of the dangerous ones are 8 days for iodine 131 meaning more people will be hurt by overdosing with potassium iodine out of fear than will be hurt by the radioactive iodine.

Shall we start taking tolls of the dangers of listening to greens?

The others are Cesium 137 for 30 years, Strontium 90 for 30 years and Plutonium 241 for 9 years.

So this idea of contamination for 50,000 years is nonsense. Maybe a 150 years and you could make a good economic argument but you have to consider the fact that this is a once in every 500 years kind of natural disaster.

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don't mess with the Zoran

Septeus, you should know that I have extensive education in Engineering, Science and....drum roll please, Physics.

Now this denial about the basic concept of half life does not fly on EP, I'm sorry.

Wikipedia half life radiation.

This is Phys 101 info. Trying to cherry pick iodine 131 as if that's the main source of radiative material in a nuclear reactor is beyond misleading.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioactive_waste

Currently the only isotopes used as nuclear fuel are uranium-235 (U-235), uranium-238 (U-238) and plutonium-239,

U-235, half-life 700 million years
U-238, half-life 4.468 billion years
Plutonium-239, half life 24,200 years

spent nuclear fuel (the rods they are trying to throw water on)

Long-lived radioactive waste from the back end of the fuel cycle is especially relevant when designing a complete waste management plan for SNF. When looking at long-term radioactive decay, the actinides in the SNF have a significant influence due to their characteristically long half-lives. Depending on what a nuclear reactor is fueled with, the actinide composition in the SNF will be different.

An example of this effect is the use of nuclear fuels with thorium. Th-232 is a fertile material that can undergo a neutron capture reaction and two beta minus decays, resulting in the production of fissile U-233. The SNF of a cycle with thorium will contain U-233, an isotope with a half-life of 160,000 years. Its radioactive decay will strongly influence the long-term activity curve of the SNF around 1,000,000 years. A comparison of the activity associated to U-233 for three different SNF types can be seen in the figure on the top right.

The burnt fuels are Thorium with Reactor-Grade Plutonium (RGPu), Thorium with Weapons-Grade Plutonium (WGPu) and Mixed Oxide fuel (MOX). For RGPu and WGPu, the initial amount of U-233 and its decay around 10E5 years can be seen. This has an effect in the total activity curve of the three fuel types. The absence of U-233 and its daughter products in the MOX fuel results in a lower activity in region 3 of the figure on the bottom right, whereas for RGPu and WGPu the curve is maintained higher due to the presence of U-233 that has not fully decayed.

The use of different fuels in nuclear reactors results in different SNF composition, with varying activity curves.

Now this is Science and I am not amused in any way with someone trying to spin fact.

EP rules are no economic fiction and that expands to no fiction period. We're deviating from the site's main focus, which we do when there is a major crisis happening from time to time, but regardless, trying to just state some belief in some attempt to repress real information and spin to some desired goal is absolutely unacceptable on this site.

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Heading for the Hall of Shame

You have stated no new information about how dangerous exposure to longer half lives versus shorter half lives. I no were did I state the only radiation of is from iodine. I said "dangerous radiation."

The danger has to with bio-accumulation and the intensity of decay. The more energetic the shorter the half life not the longer.

You haven't addressed the issues of radiation releases from that occur from coal on a daily basis or the release of permanent toxins.

And apparently, you feel wikipedia is better source on radiation the UCSB's Department of Physics. I don't know what to say about that.

The article on radioactive is a simplification and I suggest you watch this 40 minute lecture on nuclear waste http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv-mFSoZOkE&feature=player_embedded.

Now please tell me exactly what errors are made in the lecture from the video above. Perhaps the information is totally wrong but I haven't seen the evidence against it and I have looked.

The so-called "waste" is mostly because it too expensive to chemically separate and reprocess and because this government made the political decision not to deal with the problem not because there is nothing we can do with the materials.

The simple fact is that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed using fission bombs and exposed to huge levels of radiation and today they are not ghost towns where nothing can live.

You are expect us to react to the words "half life" and "radiation" like its something unnatural rather than dealing concrete numbers about exposure and the intensity of decay and absorption. I don't blame you because it the media's job to report the facts and they haven't cared about that for some time.

Headlines like "Local area around nuclear plant reported to have higher than background radiation" don't sell well as headlines like "Nuclear crisis: Australians stranded in Japan as lethal rain loom"(Actual Headline).

If you keep it up you are going to end of the Media Wall of Shame (http://jpquake.wikispaces.com/Journalist+Wall+of+Shame) along with claims about "Nuclear Winter" and other such nonsense.

I really like this site and you folks really understand the economic issues well but the whole "post civilization" doom because of unsolvable environmental problems unless we embrace energy austerity is just another form of oligarchical austerity program that isn't helpful much like the left cover given to driving down wages via high levels immigration isn't helpful.

We have technological options but our political system doesn't want to spend any money on improved and safer infrastructure and until we deal with the political class all of these technical issues of how to improve the energy situation will be pointless.

The folks who run the media are enjoying the run ups on coal and natural and only give lip service to things like winds and solar because they know those kinds of technology will do nothing. The problem is the Oligarchy not energy technology. It is the Oligarchy that have made us live with unsafe conditions not the technology.

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bye bye

Sorry, misinformation as well as insults against the site rules. If you don't know what's wrong, it's even worse, seems you are just interested in spamming the site trying to claim nuclear waste, radioactivity is "safe and harmless". That is completely untrue, and obscene misinformation campaign.

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See this

Japan’s damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl. New Scientist, March 24

 

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Robert Oak said: "What is the

Robert Oak said: "What is the cost of human life and of destroying their land, making it uninhabitable?

That said, the oil spills, what damage does that do for how long? Radioactivity trumps destruction of the environment by time.

So, while you may try to claim "oh the tsunami destroyed the land", that is temporary, radiation is permanent. "

The reality is this that a full containment breach did not occur. Much as with Three Mile Island, there was no glowing ball of radioactive waste burning its way to the center of the earth.

Given this - I'd like to see where your sources of information are in which plutonium and uranium were released into the atmosphere or land around Fukushima.

This isn't a Chernobyl situation - no explosion scattering the inner contents of a fission reactor.

Secondly to say that radiation is permanent but the tsunami only did temporary damage ignores the toxic chemicals and metals spilled in the course of wrecking towns, cities, and their infrastructure in a modern industrial nation.

What is the half life of mercury?

What about the hundreds, thousands, or millions of tons of dioxins?

Lead?

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anonymous drive by

There is no reason to write "Robert Oak said", we know who said it by the name on a comment. Secondly, we deviated from economics during the BP oil spill so clearly we do not discount other toxins, disasters including mercury and dioxins.

So far Japan is not Chernobyl, as pointed out previously, it's an ongoing event. I don't think anyone claimed it is Chernobyl or worse, compares to an atom bomb or nuclear bomb.

This is a faux paus argument. That said, people trying to dismiss nuclear waste or radiation as "harmless", well, I must wonder if the nuclear industry hiring a bunch of paid commenters and bloggers to spam websites at this point.

Radiation as "harmless" is patently false and trying to deny the half-life of radioactive materials is also absurd. But then we have people wanting to teach creationism so, I guess it all figures.

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Group think

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." 
Quote by Upton Sinclair
I offer that there is a group think process. The "we can do it" minds have that belief system in play. Bias prevents some nuclear "believers" from achieving clarity of mind. Opponent suffer the same. Watch as soon the politicians will realign based on the way the wind blows.
For myself, risk in nuclear far outweigh consequences. Reality does not lie. Apologies after the fact don't mitigate the disasters that await.
Japan's outcome is nothing compared to what would happen at a landlocked plant in USA given in japan the winds were toward the ocean primarily. Also, in USA we might not have an ocean to dump into.
The NRC should be questioned and held accountable to provide the services expected. They are operating in virtual secrecy since after 911 the pertinent safety analyses are now classified. Battery backup capability is inadequate.
Written procedures are expected to be performed when needed to compensate for hardware that is inadequate
Well meaning people at nuclear plants have been sold a lie.

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