As I tune in to NHK live TV, and see the piece on using Twitter to aid in disaster relief being shown for the 20th time over the last 48 hours, I wonder about what appears to be a sudden and dramatic drop in the level of coverage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Over the last several days, the IAEA has stopped bothering to note that cooling systems are still not working and have shifted their attention to monitoring the rising radiation levels outside the plant on both land and sea. Meanwhile, TEPCO engineers are speaking of covering the reactor plant with a big blanket of some kind while reasonably credible sources (i.e., those involved in building the plant) seem increasingly convinced that one reactor’s core has breached its containment vessel.

We have mainly been simply reporting what the Internet has been saying, what the Japanese news has been saying, and what the International Atomic Energy Agency has been saying. This is interesting because Ana’s feed is live and catches with its currency and all the quirks and foibles along with the news, the Internet is a diversity of reaction delayed by hours, and the IAEA response is at least a day behind, measured, and we presume most accurate.

And, of course, we have been told to quiet down in a number of ways by a number of people. First we were told to quiet down because there really could not be a disaster here. Radiation could not really escape at serious levels. The buildings that exploded were not really needed. They are supposed to explode, so it is no big deal. The containment vessel is so solid that nothing can get out of it. Anyway, the Tsunami is the real disaster. Automobile deaths are the real problem. Food poisoning is where we should be focusing our attention. And, most recently, asking questions about what is happening during a very current and very real nuclear power plant disaster is offensive to the hard working people who are in danger at the plant.

We are not amused with the screeching monkeys.

Here’s what we’ve got:

Ana’s Feed:

Monday, March 28th, 5:30 AM

As of 16:00 March 28, 2011 – some very high readings outside the evac. zone.

Monday, March 28th, 5:30 PM

TEPCO analysis of soil samples:

  • “Density of detected Pu-238, Pu-239 and Pu-240 are within the same level of the fallout observed in Japan after the atmospheric nuclear test in the past. Activity ratio of Pu-238 detected in site field and solid waste storage against Pu-239 and Pu-240 are 2.0 and 0.94 respectively. They exceed activity ratio of 0.026 which resulted from the atmospheric nuclear test in the past, thus those Pus are considered to come from the recent incident.”
  • PDF

TEPCO says the measured amounts of plutonium will have no impact on human health, but they’d like to increase monitoring “just in case.” (NHK)

11:00 PM

TEPCO plans to sandbag around the plant to keep the reactor water out of the sea. (NHK)

SDF, and fire, and police have to clean up TEPCO’s mess? Send in the engineers and managers and lobbyists!: Kitazawa hints at bigger SDF role in Fukushima: link

Tuesday, March 29, 10 AM

(Ana approved comment by Greg filling in some details: Reactors heating to over spec, still mucking around with water, have not drained condensers yet. Tunnels on verge (10 cm) of overflowing. Water, including that in tunnels, believed to be from reactor. Fuel rods prob. melted, fission likely to have been occurring (indicated by Pu), fuel rod melting has advanced to “serious” situation Cooling equipment still off. You need to stop this sleeping thing, love, missing all the good stuff.)

Tuesday, March 29, 5PM

Lights have been turned on in the control room of reactor no. 4. That makes all 6, now, lit – but many of the instruments remain out of service. (NHK)

At no.1 – water is being pumped into the condenser for the third day. TEPCO says the level of radioactivity has dropped, but can’t say by how much. (NHK)

No major progress has been reported in the work to drain the contaminated water from the turbine rooms at reactors 2 and 3. This is hampering efforts to cool the reactors. (NHK)

  • Surge tanks, several hundred meters away and normally used to drain water off of suppression chambers, will be used to hold the water presently in external storage tanks so that water from the condensers of reactors 2 and 3 can be emptied into the storage tanks, so that water in the turbine rooms can be pumped into the condensers. Then, it might be possible to get back to doing the electrical work needed for restarting the cooling systems. (NHK)
  • It is not certain that the condenser tank’s volume will be sufficient, given the full trenches and deep pools in big turbine rooms – TEPCO is looking into acquiring some external tanks. (NHK)
  • Despite the growing danger of highly contaminated water spilling out of these nearly full trenches and into the sea (150 ft. away), priority must be given to cooling down the reactors. There is no alternative – it seems that the meltdown has advanced – the surface temps. of the reactors have increased. (NHK)

Chubu Electric Power is running earthquake preparedness drills to confirm and revise emergency procedures. (NHK)

  • A nuke plant in S. Japan will not restart 2 reactors until new safety guidelines are published and changes are made. (NHK)
  • At another plant, one reactor that was shut down earlier for mechanical problems and a 2nd for maintenance, will not be restarted without the support of the local people and gov. (NHK)
  • A previously planned transport of MOX fuel will not take place until forces can be pulled off the disaster and the gov. can provide adequate security. (NHK)
  • Plants referenced above are: Kyūshū Electric Power Company, in Saga Prefecture (2 reactors down) and Hokuriku Electric Power Company, in Ishikawa Prefecture (2 down). (NHK)

There are 500 dairy farms in Ibaraki Prefecture, out of business. (NHK)
At Fuku. City market, no local vegetables. Some farmers in the area have dug up their plots, and are planting varieties of crops that haven’t been added to the list of the prohibited. Others have simply given up. (NHK)
The mayor of Itate Town, in Fuku. Pref.: We were not informed (of soil contamination) – we learned on TV, and by questions from media – we are overcome by anxiety – soil is extremely critical for their livelihoods – this is the time of year for planting – they are at a loss as to what to do. (NHK)

8 local municipalities in the zone have been evacuated. The mayors met and asked the Pref. gov. to arrange for them to attend schools, find homes and jobs. The Fuku. gov. says the central gov. will shoulder restoration and recovery. Edano says a team has been established, within the task force, to help the people in the effected areas. (NHK)

Edano: Use of clean energy key feature of quake reconstruction plan. -kyodo news

The US has provided an aircraft carrier, 20 vessels and 20,000 troops – an unprecedented scale of assistance for a disaster. (NHK)

  • “This girl says she is very happy with the help.” (NHK interview)
  • At the plant, the US has provided expertise, protective gear, massive barges full of freshwater, and boron. (NHK)

“The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” Lahey said. “I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards.” (link)

TEPCO thinks the water in the trench at no.1 has come from tsunami, and not from the reactor. They may just empty it into the sea. (NHK)

  • TEPCO’s analysis of that water: … http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu11_e/images/110330e2.pdf … I did not realize that Cesium and Iodine were components of tsunami.

The governmental standard for radioactive cesium in food may be eased. (NHK)

Sea samples taken yesterday, 330 meters south of the southernmost discharge pipe contain Iodine-131 at 3,355 times the legal limit. (NHK)

  • “Through some route,” radioactive water is being discharged out into the sea. That is what we believe is happening. – NHK analyst
  • “Radioactive substances are removed from fish in several weeks.” -some expert

A grad school professor thinks these reactors can’t be salvaged, given how the debris is “scattered around”, and all… (NHK)

Edano says they are looking at covering the reactors with “a special cloth” to minimize the effect on environment and health. They are looking at every possibility and every option – this is uncharted territory, no one has ever had to deal with this before. (NHK)

Women are giving birth in their homes without water, but Shimizu gets into the hospital. (link)

(Ana’s Feed is a collection of Analiese Miller’s facebook status entries posted as she takes in the news live in Japan.)

Links to news stories and updates:

International Atomic Energy Agency update edited for brevity. This is the update for March 29th.

1. Current Situation

The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious.

Accumulated contaminated water was found in trenches located close to the turbine buildings of Units 1 to 3. Dose rates at the surface of this water were 0.4 millisieverts/hour for Unit 1 and over 1 000 millisieverts/hour for Unit 2 as of 18:30 UTC on 26 March. The Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan suggests that higher activity in the water discovered in the Unit 2 turbine building is supposed to be caused by the water, which has been in contact with molten fuel rods for a time and directly released into the turbine building via some, as yet unidentified path. An investigation is underway as to how the water accumulated in the trenches. Measurements could not be carried out at Unit 3 because of the presence of debris.

Fresh water has been continuously injected into the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) of Units 1, 2 and 3. From today at Unit 1, the pumping of fresh water through the feed-water line will no longer be performed by fire trucks but by electrical pumps with a diesel generator. The switch to the use of such pumps has already been made in Units 2 and 3. At Unit 3, the fresh water is being injected through the fire extinguisher line.

At Unit 1, there has been an increase in temperature at the feed-water nozzle of the RPV from 273.8 °C to 299 °C. The temperature at the bottom of the RPV remained stable at 135 °C. Temperatures at Unit 2 appear relatively stable at the same measurement points. At Unit 3, the temperature at the feed-water nozzle of the RPV is about 61.5 °C and 120.9 °C at the bottom of the RPV. The validity of the RPV temperature measurement at the feed water nozzle is still under investigation.

With the increase in temperature at Unit 1, there has been a corresponding increase in Drywell pressure. In the Drywell of Unit 2, the indicated pressure dropped slightly and is just above atmospheric.

It is planned to begin pumping fresh water into the spent fuel pool of Unit 4 today, on 29 March.

Units 5 and 6 remain in cold shutdown.

2. Radiation Monitoring

On 28 March, deposition of iodine-131 was detected in 12 prefectures, and deposition of cesium-137 in 9 prefectures. The highest values were observed in the prefecture of Fukushima with 23 000 becquerel per square metre for iodine-131 and 790 becquerel per square metre for caesium-137. In the other prefectures where deposition of iodine-131 was reported, the range was from 1.8 to 280 becquerel per square metre. For caesium-137, the range was from 5.5 to 52 becquerel per square metre. In the Shinjyuku district of Tokyo, the daily deposition of both iodine-131 and cesium-137 was below 50 becquerel per square metre. No significant changes were reported in the 45 prefectures in gamma dose rates compared to yesterday.

As of 28 March information on radioactivity in drinking water collected mainly from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare indicates that recommendations for restrictions based on I-131 concentration remain in place only in four locations in the prefecture of Fukushima. To date, no recommendations for restrictions have been made based on Cs-137. The Japanese limits for the ingestion of drinking water by infants is 100 becquerel per litre.

Five soil samples, collected at distances between 500 and 1 000 metres from the exhaust stack of Unit 1 and 2 of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on 21 and 22 March, were analysed for plutonium-238 and for the sum of plutonium-239 and plutonium-240. (Due to analytical reasons, the isotopes plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 cannot be measured separately). Plutonium-238 was detected in 2 of the 5 samples, while plutonium-239/240 was detected in all samples as expected.

Concentrations reported for both, plutonium-238 and plutonium-239/240 are similar to those deposited in Japan as a result of the testing of nuclear weapons. The ratio of the concentrations of plutonium-238 and plutonium-239/240 in two of the samples indicate that very small amounts of plutonium might have been released during the Fukushima accident, but this requires to be further clarified.

As far as food contamination is concerned, 63 samples taken from 24 – 29 March, and reported on from 27 – 29 March, for various vegetables, fruit (strawberries), mushrooms, eggs, seafood and pasteurized milk in eight prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Niigata, Tochigi and Yamagata), stated that results for iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137 were either not detected or were below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Food Safety Assessment Team met with local government authorities in Ibaraki prefecture on Monday and provided advice related to contamination of food and the environment, including the mechanisms and persistence of such contamination, examples of remediation strategies, international standards and sampling plan designs and radionuclide transfer from soil to plants, particularly as related to rice production in the area.

Local government authorities briefed the FAO/IAEA Team on the extent of contamination in Ibaraki, the principle agricultural products affected, the main production areas and production methods (greenhouse, open-air) and levels of contamination found.

The FAO/IAEA team is also meeting with the local authorities in Tochigi prefecture today, and will meet with local government officials in Gunma tomorrow.

Sea Water Samples

No new results from the marine monitoring stations 30 km off-shore were reported for 27 or 28 March. However, new analyses in seawater 330 m east to the discharges point of NPP Units 1 – 4 were made available for 27 March. These concentrations show a significant decrease from 74 000 Becquerel per litre of iodine-131, 12 000 Becquerel per litre of cesium-137, and 12 000 Becquerel per litre of cesium-134 on 26 March to 11 000 Becquerel per litre of iodine-131 and 1 900 Becquerel per litre of cesium-137 on 27 March.

Sea water samples were also collected daily at a location 30 m from the common discharge point for Units 5 – 6. These results also show an increase in the radionuclide concentrations on 26 March. The sea water samples collected on March 27 show as well a decrease of the radionuclide concentration.

i-812f12e87211d62232f6950c1f0b0b55-_figs1and2_seawater-900-thumb-500x292-63253.gif
Fig. 1 and 2

It can be expected that the data will be quite variable in the near future depending on the discharge levels. In general, dilutions by ocean currents and into deeper waters as well decay of short lived radionuclides e.g. I-131 or I-132 will soon lead to lower values.

Marine Organisms

First analyses were reported in fish carried out by the National Research Institute of Fishery Research. 5 samples of fish were collected from the port of Choshi (Chiba prefecture) and 4 of 5 samples showed Cs-137 concentrations below limit of detection. In one sample Cs-137 was found with 3 Bq/kg (fresh weight) and it was reported that it was slightly above the limit of detection. This concentration is far below any concern for fish consumption.

It is still too early to draw conclusions for expected concentrations on marine food, because the situation may change rapidly, however, it is expected that the detected initial concentrations of seawater will soon drop to lower values by dilution and the levels in marine food will most likely not reach levels above given limits for consumption, (presuming that discharges of contaminated seawater from the reactor will not continue). It is not expected that fish or other marine food will be collected in a close area to the NPP Fukushima at the present situation. Some marine algae are known to accumulate in particular I-131 and Tc-99m. However, these values will soon be of no concern due to the short half-lives of the radionuclides mentioned.

Modelling Marine Dispersion

The Group SIROCCO of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenées of the University of Toulouse, CNRS, is continuing to carry out model calculations. The model is based on an ocean circulation and current weather conditions and they results showed an initial north-eastern transport of liquid releases from the damaged reactors and the contaminated water would reach the northern monitored stations between 1 and 2 weeks later.

A model with tracer release directly in the sea show an along shore propagation in the southern direction and a northeast propagation moving away from the coast.

i-d3818d03bf34e825b7540684f1b98ed3-_figs3and4_dispersion-900-thumb-500x351-63256.gif
Fig. 3 and 4

With tracer release from atmospheric deposition, the propagation stretch offshore entering the Kuro-Shivo current in few days.

The first results are shown in Fig. 3 and 4. The data are converted into Bq/L by assuming arbitrary discharge or aerial release activities, respectively. The results should just be taken as indication of the dilution capacity and transport route of sea water.

For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.

Comments

  1. #1 Equisetum
    March 30, 2011

    “The governmental standard for radioactive cesium in food may be eased.”

    They did the same early on with the allowable exposures levels at the plant. It is well known that raising allowable exposure levels on paper increases the body’s resistance to radiation. Same thing with food.

  2. #2 Alex Besogonov
    March 30, 2011

    Equisetum:

    Temporarily (for a few months) raising exposure limits is OK. The normal limits are very conservative.

  3. #3 daedalus2u
    March 30, 2011

    Covering it with cloth would tend to prevent the wind from picking up any dust.

  4. #4 Giliell
    March 30, 2011

    Well, the European Union has just put limits into effect for food from Japan that arent’s only higher than those in Japan itself (so they can just ship off the food not deemed to be safe enough for Japanese consumption to Europe, we can still eat it), the limits are also twice the allowance of food from the the vicinity of Chernobyl, so somewhat Japanese radiation seems to be less harmful than bad Ukranian radiation.
    Makes you really trust in those people, since there’s obviously nothing arbitrary about those limits.

    Do I have to mention that we have still problems with too high radiation levels in mushrooms and wild boars in the south of Germany 25 years after Chernobyl?

  5. #5 Adela
    March 30, 2011

    Giliell, the numbers for what Chernobyl released are extreme; high enough to use kilobecquerels per square meter for the cesium137.
    IAEA has the numbers in archive.
    http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1239_web.pdf
    Measurements start on pg 18.

  6. #6 Adela
    March 30, 2011

    Ah, I knew if I hunted around I would find something that would do the math for me.
    Online units converter.
    http://www.asknumbers.com/RadiationConversion.aspx

  7. #7 bks
    March 30, 2011

    Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.

    The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

    This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.

    Thus, it is now abundantly clear that Japanese authorities were negligent in restricting the emergency evacuation zone to only 20 kilometers from the release site.

    http://allthingsnuclear.org/post/4213197648/iaea-confirms-very-high-levels-of-contamination-far

    –bks

  8. #8 daedalus2u
    March 30, 2011

    This is a gigantic screwup and unacceptable. They should have continuous mapping of the radiation field on the ground.

  9. #9 Maureen Lycaon
    March 31, 2011

    TEPCO ignored a report by its senior safety engineer that a tsunami could top the defenses of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2007.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_japa_nuclear_risks

  10. #10 Giliell
    March 31, 2011

    @Adela
    I’m aware of that. Fukushima luckily isn’t burning like Chernobyl was, but becquerel of anything per kg from Japan is just as dangerous as the same amount from the Ukraine. It would be like saying that 9 %vol of alcohol in German wine is more acceptable than 9 %vol in French wine because France produces much more wine than Germany.

  11. #11 Nina
    March 31, 2011

    I liked this piece: “First we were told to quiet down because there really could not be a disaster here. Radiation could not really escape at serious levels. The buildings that exploded were not really needed. They are supposed to explode, so it is no big deal. The containment vessel is so solid that nothing can get out of it. Anyway, the Tsunami is the real disaster. Automobile deaths are the real problem. Food poisoning is where we should be focusing our attention.”

    And I would add: “If something gets out it is not anywhere near dangerous levels. And if it is, the workers were able to escape before taking accurate readings, and besides, it’s in the trench, and even if it leaks it’s just a few meters from the huge pacific ocean that will dilute just about any amount of radiation…”

    Yep, it’s all just fine..

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2011

    Giliell: Nicely put. Imma steal that.

  13. #13 Scishark
    March 31, 2011

    Included some of this information from there on my review article for the Japan nuclear crisis on scishark

    http://scishark.com/2011/03/japan-nuclear-threat-radioactive-future/

  14. #14 daedalus2u
    March 31, 2011

    The sentiment that is at the root of this problem, the problem with the BP oil spill disaster, the problem with AGW, the problem with the levy in Katrina, the Iraq war disaster, the financial crisis.

    “But Japan, arguably the country with the most advanced robotics industry, stopped them from arriving in Fukishima, saying such help could only come through government channels, said the expert who asked not to be identified so as not to appear critical of Japan in a moment of crisis.”

    The problem is the deference to the “authority” in the social power hierarchy even when that authority doesn’t know what they are doing. After the disaster the “leaders” always say “no one could have predicted this disaster”, when people did predict it, but the “leaders” refused to listen.

  15. #15 Stephanie Z
    March 31, 2011

    daedalus2u, there’s an extra problem related to that as well. All or nearly all of the authority here is concentrated in the hands of the industry. Definitely in the U.S., and everywhere else I’ve seen it discussed, the regulators who are supposed to have some kind of independent authority over the industry actually come from within the industry on which they’re supposed to cast a critical eye.

  16. #16 healthphysicist
    March 31, 2011

    daedalus2u-

    No one predicted this event, they assigned a risk of it happening during a certain time frame.

    You can’t say in hindsight, now that an event has happened that the risk assessment was right, because the event happened. The assessment is also wrong, because it only gave a 10% chance instead of 100%.

    Likewise, it’s easy to demonize someone weighing risks and costs, who gets it wrong ONCE an event has happened. It’s a lot toughter predicting the future accurately.

    I predict more demonizing than accurate future predicting for years to come.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2011

    I don’t think that there is any question now, as there was no question before this event, that failing to prepare for a significant tsunami on the east coast of Japan was utterly moronic.

  18. #18 phillydoug
    March 31, 2011

    Daedulus:

    “This is a gigantic screwup and unacceptable. They should have continuous mapping of the radiation field on the ground.”

    His eyes begin to open. Now, how far he will open them, and what he will be willing to see…

    So, is this screwup entirely incompetence? Maybe poor leadership? Or is there room in your judgement for the possibility that people don’t go looking under rocks when they don’t want to see what might be there?

    Do you find it interesting that Greenpeace is ahead of IAEA in providing more comprehensive and reliable data, and more sensible recommendations for what people on the ground should be concerned about, what steps they should take? Who woulda thunk it?

    “The problem is the deference to the “authority” in the social power hierarchy even when that authority doesn’t know what they are doing. After the disaster the “leaders” always say “no one could have predicted this disaster”, when people did predict it, but the “leaders” refused to listen.”

    One might say this applies to the nuclear power industry as a whole, and its advocates, not just the government, or even just the leaders of the industry.

    Ignoring inherent problems in something we hold dear allows us to justify our continuing to hold onto it.

    In this instance, everything unfolding at Daiichi was warned about, over and over again, since the earliest days of civilian nuclear power. After every catastrophic acccident, the industry, their captive academics, captive government agencies, and true believing nuclear advocates, have always written off the catastrophe as ‘unpredictable’, and never fail to express the certainty any such catastrophe can be prevented in the future by ‘learning from the incident’, and engineering away any remaining hazards. (Like higher tsunami walls, and more back-up generators, right?)

    Until the next catastrophic accident.

    In this sense, the earthquake and tsunami serve as specific examples of routes to catastrophic failure that nuclear opponents have warned about for decades. Examples, but nuclear opponents have been voicing concerns about multiple routes to meltdown, containment loss, and massive release of radioactive materials for more than half a century; it’s actually an endless list of possible routes to this outcome.

    But of course their concerns are uninformed, fear based hysteria, so they can be discounted.

  19. #19 healthphysicist
    March 31, 2011

    See? So far, I’m right.

    Japan did prepare for a significant event. They had seismic monitoring equipment, they had tsunami walls in front of the plant, they had backup power equipment, they had emergency procedures, etc.

    They didn’t predict the occurrence of this extraordinary size tsunami to occur in a 50 year time frame with 100% probability.

    Kumbaya!

  20. #20 Adela
    March 31, 2011

    Giliell, One of those wines is 9% and the other is 900%. There is a difference in danger to the consumer there. One is more recoverable than the other.

  21. #21 healthphysicist
    March 31, 2011

    Adela –

    It’s not even that.

    Both wines can have the same alcohol %. But if no one consumes German wine, than it poses no danger.

    And this is why food limits are raised. The risk assessment makes certain assumptions, like 10% of the imported food is contaminated. But if only 5% actually is, than the limit may be doubled.

  22. #22 Giliell
    March 31, 2011

    Adela, may it be that we are arguing a missunderstanding?
    Because I’m talking about the different limits imposed by the EU for food from Japan and food from the Ukraine. We’re not talking about how big the fallout was as such, but about the levels of radioactive contamination of food today. An amount X of radiation is an amount X of radiation and until anybody can explain to me why the isotopes and the radiation are less dangerous if they’re from Japan than if they’re from the Ukraine I’ll go on doubting that the politicians don’t just set those limits pretty arbitrarily.

  23. #23 daedalus2u
    March 31, 2011

    phillydoug I am a skeptic. The only way I can think about things is with facts and logic. If someone is not using facts and logic to understand something, they do not understand it.

    The problem I mention is that people get to the top of a social power hierarchy because of social considerations, not because they have the most facts and the best logic. Those “leaders” then use their social skills to solve problems because social skills is what they do best, not facts and logic.

    Many of the anti-nuclear activists do not use facts and logic to make their arguments. Such arguments hold no weight with me. They don’t add evidence to the debate or detract evidence from the debate, they are just “noise” that makes the debate more difficult because the noise drowns out the facts and logic.

    I think that the socially skilled leaders see anti-activists who base their activism on non-facts and non-logic as “useful idiots”. Their non-factual arguments are easy to dismiss, and the noise they create drown out the factual arguments that are not easily dismissed.

    When “their concerns are uninformed, fear based hysteria” those fears do need to be analyzed using facts and logic, and if unfounded they do need to be dismissed.

    My argument applies to everything.

    When leaders are selected for their social skills, only people with social skills will be leaders. The person making decisions about nuclear power doesn’t really need social skills, what they need are nuclear power skills. Unfortunately someone with nuclear power skills can never rise to be the leader of the nuclear power industry because all leaders are chosen for their social skills.

    This is the problem of democracy. The average voter doesn’t have the technical ability to judge the technical skill of any “leader” in any field. The average voter can only judge that “leader’s” social skills. Democracy will select leaders based on social skills and not on technical skills. To the extent that we allow leaders in a democracy to set policy and pick leaders of specific fields, that policy (and those leaders) will be set based on social criteria and not on technical criteria.

    One of the most important social criteria is tribal affiliation. In politics in the US right now, that is dominating all other considerations.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2011

    daedalus2u, and everybody

    I believe, based on raw observation and this is subset to revision (with evidence) that many people who consider themselves pro-nuclear react to almost any statement that can be interpreted as anti nuclear power as an illogical and irrational statement because they believe that anti-nuclear = critical of nuclear = irrational anti-nuclear fearmongering trehugging hippies of the 1970s.

    In this way the nuclear debate is similar to the gun debate. Pro gun often means ant any criticism of anything having to do with guns.

    Those of us who are in positions that are neither blindly pro nuke/gun or irrationally anti nuke/gun find ourselves a) in the minority (astonishingly) and b) unfairly shoehorned into a position we don’t hold.

    (By the way, daedalus2u, I don’t think you are a shoe-horning nuke-head. I accept that you are a skeptic, sensu lato, who happens to be in to the relevant physics so knows a lot about it.)

    I further assert, and this will annoy some people, that there are those who consider themselves skeptics who bust a chakra just by being pro-nuke, because they have somehow become convinced that pro-nuke AND anti-questioniong-of-nuclear power is THE skeptical position.

    But skeptical nirvana is not so easily obtained, I’m afraid.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2011

    subset=subject

  26. #26 daedalus2u
    March 31, 2011

    Thank you Greg.

    There is an excellent comment by titmouse over at ERV that I want to link to.

    http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2010/12/xmrv_erv.php#comment-3033939

    “A conclusion based upon available evidence isn’t the same thing as “bias.” New evidence will lead to revisions of previous conclusions. No big whoop.”

    “In science you don’t get gold stars for being “right all along” like in the movies. You only get points for weighing the *available* evidence appropriately.”

    “If you bet against the available evidence and it turns out you’re right, that’s just dumb luck. It’s not impressive.”

    This is how we need to address the problems that humans face, with the latest and best facts and with the latest and best logic. The biggest problem that humans face is AGW. I think it dwarfs all others put together.

    Being “right” for the wrong reasons isn’t helping. Neither is being wrong for the right reasons, or wrong for the wrong reasons. We need to be right for the right reasons. To do that we need transparency. So everyone can check everyone else’s work.

  27. #27 phillydoug
    March 31, 2011

    Daedalus: “The only way I can think about things is with facts and logic. If someone is not using facts and logic to understand something, they do not understand it.”

    There’s the rub Daedalus– whatever else you contend, you’re still a human being FIRST. You are subject to all the foibles the rest of us schlubs are, including your emotions, and the very same need to maintain a positive view of yourself that we all have.

    You ain’t Spock, dude.

    From how you’ve been expressing yourself, and the very words I just quoted, your positive view of youself is strongly predicated on the notion that your views, your beliefs, your judgements are based only on ‘facts and logic’. It follows that if someone disagrees, they are wrong on the facts, and their logic is faulty.

    This would be an example: “Many of the anti-nuclear activists do not use facts and logic to make their arguments. Such arguments hold no weight with me.”

    Not liking what someone has to say, is not the same as saying it is false, or the logic doesn’t hold– what your statement makes clear is, you won’t be troubled to consider something that doesn’t already fit in the pre-existing categories you’ve assigned to the realm of ‘truth according to Daedalus’. That last thing that represents is skeptical inquiry.

    Everyone who has written word one here wants to be a good skeptic, wants to base their decisions on facts and logic. And we reach very different understandings of the world.

    How do we try not to fall into to gross error? One place to start is to say that maybe, just maybe, we’re all subject to confirmation bias. You too, Daedalus. Information that supports your pre-existing views, your cognitive schemas of ‘how the world just is’, you absorb readily. Anything that challeneges this, or more importantly, information that might disconfirm a deeply held belief, you find much harder to process– just like every one of us.

    Maybe you would find your skepticism sharpened a bit, if you first applied a little of it to some of the beliefs about the world, nuclear power in particular, and yourself as a paladin of truth and empiricism.

    “One of the most important social criteria is tribal affiliation. In politics in the US right now, that is dominating all other considerations.”

    And your tribe has very stringent criterion for membership. A tribe member must swear allegiance to the tenets that 1)nuclear power is safe, reliable, and necessary, and 2) the foregoing is beyond questioning and criticism.

    Here’s why I focus on this so much. In everything I’ve read here (not just from you), and heard about Daiichi from the beginning– questions about just how bad Daiichi has been from day one, and how bad it is going to get over a very long time, are viewed immediately as stemming from ignorance, or poor understanding, rather than simply reaching different conclusions.

    You are as guilty of this as anyone when you insist that your views represent only facts and logic. And because you view yourself this way, it seems like that view is so intertwined with your basic sense of yourself as a person who would not knowingly tolerate harm to others, certainly not invest a lifetime involved in any such thing, your emotional response to any suggestion that nuclear power in fact causes harm, is like a threat directed against you personally. It’s not threat to you, by the way, if someone says ‘Daedalus, I think you’ve looked at this wrong for a very long time’.

    Another thing that might diminish the credibility of the claim that you are only a ‘facts and logic’ guy, is the recurring mantra (not just yours, but of nuclear advocates pretty generally): ‘but it’s not as bad as you think it must be, because you just don’t get nuclear reactions, reactors, and the effects of radiation'; saying, in effect–to quote the sage Groucho Marx– ‘Who you gonna believe, me or you own eyes?’

    Another indicator that someone’s ability to consider information that contradicts previously held views is limited: a conviction that they’re got it all figured out, their heuristic of understanding is operative, in fact superior, in all circumstances:

    “My argument applies to everything.”

    Might want to dial down that confidence in the ‘universal Daedalus truth’.

    “The person making decisions about nuclear power doesn’t really need social skills, what they need are nuclear power skills.”

    They need to know first they are a human being, and the same threats to objectivity that apply to other human beings apply to them.

    Lastly, your conclusions, your judgements, aren’t simply the product of facts (much as you would have it be otherwise)– those conclusions and judgements, and the theoretical models that you adhere to so unswervingly, serve as a framework for what you will view as a ‘fact’at all.

    And Daedalus, the facts on the ground at Daiichi have been running roughshod over your assumptions, estimates, assurances, and theories of ‘what should be happening’ for two weeks now.

    I forget if it was Lobachevsky– maybe Riemann, dunno– one of ‘em said (paraphrasing) “When theory runs into conflict with reality, theory must go to the wall”.

    That applies not just to your theories about what’s unfolded, and is still unfolding at Daiichi, but your theory that you a being who acts only on ‘facts and logic’.

    Not seeing the evidence for that.

  28. #28 Stephanie Z
    March 31, 2011

    phillydoug, stand down. You’re making your own assumptions about what daedalus2u is doing and cementing them with selection and confirmation bias. They’re wrong. I won’t tell you what information you’re reading incorrectly, but if you hang around, you’ll probably find out on your own.

    Beyond that, daedalus2u has added quite a bit of information to the discussions about what has happened in Japan. He’s clarified a number of points. Disagree with him where you think he’s wrong, but don’t jump to conclusions about what his point is and argue against that instead. We’ve already got one person doing that in these threads. That’s quite enough.

  29. #29 daedalus2u
    March 31, 2011

    I have a comment held up in moderation.

    I think that when people apply logic to the same facts, they will come to the same conclusions. People of good will (which I think of myself as one) will try to understand when there is disagreement as to whether the disagreement comes from different “facts”, or different “logic”. People of not good will will consider than the only source of difference must be because “the other” is evil and a pernicious liar or a troll.

    There has been a great shortage of “facts”, with many mutually inconsistent statements being claimed to be “facts”. There has been a great deal of imprecision in the reporting, so it isn’t clear what the “facts” are, and the “facts” matter.

    For example: there is fuel damage. It is not known if there is fuel melting. There is a big difference between fuel damage and fuel melting. I appreciate that some do not appreciate the difference between fuel damage and fuel melting.

    I happen to have worked a lot in the coal industry, so I know how bad coal is. I have worked a lot on the science of global warming, so I know how bad that is going to be; probably worse than everything else put together. When Greenland melts, and it will do so catastrophically, the damage will make the Japan earthquake and tsunami look like chump change. I hope I am wrong.

    One of the things I am working on now is the physiology of stress. That happens to be highly involved with nitric oxide. Stress, all by itself causes health problems. Stress makes essentially every other health problem worse. The health problems that stress makes worse are all health problems that are caused by low nitric oxide. Putting people under stress makes them desperate. Desperate people do desperate things.

    Orac has a good post on radiation. He cites the Position Statement of the Health Physics Society. They state:

    “In view of the above, the Society has concluded that estimates of risk should be limited to individuals receiving a dose of 5 rem in one year or a lifetime dose of 10 rem in addition to natural background. In making risk estimates, specific organ doses and age-adjusted and gender-adjusted organ risk factors should be used. Below these doses, risk estimates should not be used. Expressions of risk should only be qualitative, that is, a range based on the uncertainties in estimating risk (NCRP 1997) emphasizing the inability to detect any increased health detriment (that is, zero health effects is a probable outcome).”

    “Stress” is much more difficult to measure and quantify than radiation. In some ways it is like the above view of radiation. Stress below a certain level and below a certain rate likely doesn’t have measurable risks. Some kinds of stress are beneficial, exercise for example. Too much stress for too long does cause irreversible damage. People who fan the flames of hysteria are not helping.

  30. #30 Stephanie Z
    March 31, 2011

    Of course, it doesn’t help either to treat the information coming from a heavily invested source like TEPCO as straightforward “facts.”

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    March 31, 2011

    Well, I know people who are in the stress business who would want us to use properly defined terms. Medically, stress is an endocrine function, and is very easily measured (like radiation is easily measured). Knowing its effects is as you say rather difficult! Anyway, you should look at Robert Sapolsky’s writing on that.

  32. #32 arkham
    April 1, 2011

    So you are a stupid git Dr. Laden. Good for you.
    How far above the baseline is the rad count? What is the difference between the exposure from the meltdown as opposed to that which one receives at higher altitudes from the sun.
    What is the exposure level that is harmful? I think that xkcd has already put you in your place, but then, you went to Harvard…for anthropology. Perhaps now would be the time to back off and allow the experts to have their say? Of course not, you went to Hahvahd for anthropology so you know everything, my bad. Alarmism bumps up the viewcount, amirite?

  33. #33 arkham
    April 1, 2011

    Afraid to post my comments Greg? I thought you may be interested in rational discourse (I apologize if I’ve been dickish, but I feel that like deserves like). Auto ban is a coward’s way out, you don’t have to answer at all. Just pretend it never happened…it’s all good.

  34. #34 Giliell
    April 1, 2011

    I think that when people apply logic to the same facts, they will come to the same conclusions. People of good will (which I think of myself as one) will try to understand when there is disagreement as to whether the disagreement comes from different “facts”, or different “logic”.

    So, is one logic right and the other wrong?
    That’s the problem.
    Let’s assume that apart from a few people who are really cluesless we can agree on that:
    -a bad nuclear accident has happened in Japan after an earthquake and a tsunami.
    -a lot of things have happened that were deemed to be “impossible” or “so improbable that we don’t need to worry about those”.
    Now, person A says: As a result of this, we must build our nuclear power plants differently and should take care that in the case of a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami the power plant is safe.
    Person B says: No, they didn’t see this coming. They will include the scenario now, but there are surely other scenarions that could lead to a likewise scenario that they’re unaware of now, therefore I don’t think it’s worth the risk building new nukes.
    Are they disagreeing on the facts?
    Does one use bad logic?

  35. #35 daedalus2u
    April 1, 2011

    Greg, yes, I have seen some of his work and it is pretty good. The NO stuff I am doing is up stream of the stuff he is doing, but there is lots of feedback. Oxidative stress is caused by low NO and causes low NO. Oxidative stress is (mostly) confined to the inside of vesicles because superoxide is an anion and is blocked by lipid membranes. The superoxide inside of mitochondria and microsomes does have effects, it lowers the NO level because lipid membranes are transparent to NO. Low NO is the signal (mostly) by which oxidative stress inside lipid vesicles it conveyed outside of those vesicles to the rest of physiology.

    Glucocorticoid synthesis is regulated by NO (NO inhibits the rate limiting P450 enzymes) and when the P450 enzymes are activated they produce superoxide which lowers the local NO level and disinhibits them. If you lower NO levels by any means, you trigger those stress response pathways.

    Low NO is the trigger for essentially all stress responses because it was the archetypal stress response a couple billion years ago. More modern stress responses evolved as elaborations of the archetypal stress response.

    Every disorder that is made worse by stress is made worse because stress causes low NO. All of those disorders are low NO mediated disorders.

  36. #36 phillydoug
    April 1, 2011

    Daedalus: “I think that when people apply logic to the same facts, they will come to the same conclusions.”

    Ideally. People applying logic, if all facts are known and agreed to, *might* reach the same conclusions.

    How are scientific debates ever possible, if what you say is correct? Yet they are the very heart of the scientific process. So is weighing all evidence, even that which challenges existing models and assumptions.

    Assuming infallibility of our own logic, and ascribing certainty to what we consider facts, is fatal to a scientific approach. You’ve been explicit in suggesting both characteristics– infallible logic, factual certainty– are reserved for you. The evidence from Daiichi, when compared to your assertions, suggest otherwise.

  37. #37 phillydoug
    April 1, 2011

    Stephanie Z.: “phillydoug, stand down. You’re making your own assumptions about what daedalus2u is doing and cementing them with selection and confirmation bias.”

    I’m calling it like I see it. As I’ve said before, I think Daedalus appears bright and well informed, but rigid in adhereing to what appear to be pre-conceived notions of ‘what should be happening’ at Daiichi. He seems unwilling to consider alternative scenarios.

    “Of course, it doesn’t help either to treat the information coming from a heavily invested source like TEPCO as straightforward “facts.””

    If you look back at what I’ve been saying, this is the issue I’ve been trying to elucidate– everyone who has built a career in nuclear engineering, especially in some part of the nuclear industry (and a good bit of the regulatory oversight agencies), are ‘heavily invested’.

    I’ve suggested that this is true not simply in professional and financial terms, but in psychological terms as well– the worldview that allows someone to be a nuclear advocate, and their view of themselves as a ‘person of goodwill’, would be resistant to information that suggests that nuclear reactors can’t be made inherently safe through any amount of engineering, they’re never been inherently safe (if the historical record is actually taken into account), and there is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation, only how much exposure we keep permitting from unnecessary sources.

    So I don’t think I’ve been out of bounds in my statements, we are talking about a life and death issue affecting all of us, and I’m deeply concerned that the same thinking that brought us here would go unchallenged. It’s neither reasonable or scientific to suggest otherwise.

    So, unless Mr. Laden requests it (it’s his blog), I’m not inclined to stand down.

  38. #38 phillydoug
    April 1, 2011

    Daedalus: “In some ways it is like the above view of radiation. Stress below a certain level and below a certain rate likely doesn’t have measurable risks.”

    And if can’t measure it, it must not cause damage.

    It takes precisely one ion to damage DNA.

    Really, what do you make of the National Academy of the Sciences statement, surveying the available research, that there is no level of ionoizing radiation that can be considered safe (whether you can measure it in the field or not)?

  39. #39 daedalus2u
    April 1, 2011

    phillydoug What is your goal? Do you want to solve the problem? Or do you want to beat up and punish people you perceive to be the cause of the problem or associated with the problem or who simply disagree with you as to what the problem is?

    There is data and there is interpretation of data. All theory is only interpretation of data. The adoption of the LNT by the NAS is an interpretation. It is not data.

    There is such a thing as natural background radiation, something you appear to want to neglect and ignore. Is there a difference between “natural” radiation such as from potassium 40 (1.35 MeV beta) and “unnatural” radiation as from cesium 137 (1.18 MeV beta)?

    The average person has about 4400 Bk of K40 inside them.

    http://rerowland.com/K40.html

    Is that 4400 Bk of K40 a hazard? According to the LNT idea it must be. Does the NAS treat the 4400 Bk of K40 that people have inside them as a hazard? The RDA for potassium is 4.7 grams per day. That is ~150 Bk per day. Is ingestion of 150 Bk of K40 a hazard? How does the hazard of ingesting 150 Bk of K40 compare with ingesting 15 Bk of Cs137?

    If the LNT is correct, why doesn’t the FDA require that food be labeled so that people can know how many Bk of K40 they are ingesting?

  40. #40 Stephanie Z
    April 1, 2011

    Hey, phillydoug, you want to keep writing multi-paragraph screeds about why daedalus2u is on the wrong side of an argument he’s not even having, have at it. Your time is yours to waste.

  41. #41 phillydoug
    April 1, 2011

    Daedalus: “What is your goal? Do you want to solve the problem?”

    Before we can solve the problem, we have to identify the nature of it:

    (from:http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2011/04/fukushima_update_did_nuclear_c.html)

    “There is growing evidence that uranium and plutonium fuel at the Fukushima nuclear plant may have continued nuclear fission chain reactions long after the reactors were shut down almost three weeks ago. This worrying development may explain the continued release of some shorter-lived radioisotopes from the stricken site.

    Tepco, the plant operator, said earlier this week that it had – on 13 occasions – detected beams of neutrons near the reactors. Neutrons are produced during fission of nuclear fuel, and are the key driver of the chain reaction that sustains continuous fission reactions in a reactor.
    Japan Today reports that “the neutron beam was measured about 1.5 kilometers southwest of the plant’s No. 1 and 2 reactors over three days from March 13.”

    The neutron beam didn’t pack much of a punch – if anyone got in its way, it would likely deliver a dose of just 0.01 to 0.02 microsieverts per hour. But the finding tallies with a recent analysis of other isotopes found at the plant, published in the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
    Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, hones in on the significance of a very short-lived radioisotope, chlorine-38, in the water in the turbine building of reactor 1.
    In an introduction to the analysis, Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, an energy and environment information-provider based in Takoma Park, Maryland, explains:

    Chlorine-38, which has a half-life of only 37 minutes, is created when stable chlorine-37, which is about one-fourth of the chlorine in salt, absorbs a neutron. Since seawater has been used to cool [the reactors], there is now a large amount of salt – thousands of kilograms – in all three reactors. Now, if a reactor is truly shut down, there is only one source of neutrons – spontaneous fission of some heavy metals that are created when the reactor is working that are present in the reactor fuel. The most important ones are two isotopes of plutonium and two of curium.

    But if accidental chain reactions are occurring, it means that the efforts to completely shut down the reactor by mixing boron with the seawater have not completely succeeded. Periodic criticalities, or even a single accidental one, would mean that highly radioactive fission and activation products are being (or have been) created at least in Unit 1 since it was shut down. It would also mean that one or more intense bursts of neutrons, which cause heavy radiation damage to people, have occurred and possibly could occur again, unless the mechanism is understood and measures taken to prevent it. Measures would also need to be taken to protect workers and to measure potential neutron and gamma radiation exposure.”

    (http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2011/04/fukushima_update_more_radiatio.html)

    “Yesterday, Kyodo News reported that the first groundwater contamination at the Fukushima power plant had been detected, and cited levels 10,000 times the legal limits. The number came from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the plant operator.

    Today, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that Tepco’s data was wrong, although there is little doubt that groundwater has been contaminated. According to Kyodo News:

    Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the governmental nuclear regulatory body, said it was ”extremely regrettable” that TEPCO had given incorrect radiation data at the plant for the second time. The agency has strongly warned the operator over the matter and urged it to take steps not to do so again, he added.”

    Here’s the first problem, as I see it. Material from the core of at least one, maybe two or three Daiichi reactors, has entered the soil directly, because of full meltdown, and damage to the containment structures caused by the direct effects of the 9.0M earthquake. This has been happening probably for the last two weeks. Surface runoff from the spraying operations are compounding the problem, but not the primary source of groundwater contamination.

    Those materials have begun percolating through the soil, entering the aquifer. The contaminated water is therefore spreading, and will continue to do so. Since there is no effective containment of the affected reactors at this point, contamination will continue to increase.

    If you know the best way to access those exposed cores, which may be periodically undergoing fission, and to re-establish containment, given the present conditions on the site, I’m all ears.

    The second problem is how severe the health effects will be, both on Honshu, and globally.

    (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20285-fukushima-radioactive-fallout-nears-chernobyl-levels.html)

    “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.

    In the 10 days it burned, Chernobyl put out 1.76 × 1018 becquerels of iodine-131, which amounts to only 50 per cent more per day than has been calculated for Fukushima Daiichi. It is not yet clear how long emissions from the Japanese plant will continue.

    Similarly, says Wotawa, caesium-137 emissions are on the same order of magnitude as at Chernobyl. The Sacramento readings suggest it has emitted 5 × 1015 becquerels of caesium-137 per day; Chernobyl put out 8.5 × 1016 in total – around 70 per cent more per day.

    “This is not surprising,” says Wotawa. “When the fuel is damaged there is no reason for the volatile elements not to escape,” and the measured caesium and iodine are in the right ratios for the fuel used by the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Also, the Fukushima plant has around 1760 tonnes of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site, and an unknown amount has been damaged. The Chernobyl reactor had only 180 tonnes.

    The Chernobyl accident emitted much more radioactivity and a wider diversity of radioactive elements than Fukushima Daiichi has so far, but it was iodine and caesium that caused most of the health risk – especially outside the immediate area of the Chernobyl plant, says Malcolm Crick, secretary of a United Nations body that has just reviewed the health effects of Chernobyl. Unlike other elements, he says, they were carried far and wide by the wind.

    Moreover the human body absorbs iodine and caesium readily. “Essentially all the iodine or caesium inhaled or swallowed crosses into the blood,” says Keith Baverstock, former head of radiation protection for the World Health Organization’s European office, who has studied Chernobyl’s health effects.

    Iodine is rapidly absorbed by the thyroid, and leaves only as it decays radioactively, with a half-life of eight days. Caesium is absorbed by muscles, where its half-life of 30 years means that it remains until it is excreted by the body. It takes between 10 and 100 days to excrete half of what has been consumed.

    While in the body the isotopes’ radioactive emissions can do significant damage, mainly to DNA. Children who ingest iodine-131 can develop thyroid cancer 10 or more years later; adults seem relatively resistant. A study published in the US last week found that iodine-131 from Chernobyl is still causing new cases of thyroid cancer to appear at an undiminished rate in the most heavily affected regions of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

    Caesium-137 lingers in the environment because of its long half-life. Researchers are divided over how much damage environmental exposure to low doses has done since Chernobyl. Some researchers think it could still cause thousands of new cases of cancer across Europe.”

    Are you prepared to stop downplaying the seriousness of the health effects? We’re talking thousands of cases of cancer, hundreds if not thousands of deaths, hundreds or thousands of miscarriages, and thousands of birth defects. That’s the record from Chernobyl, and those numbers are still going up.

    As we sit here today, with all the information you have, are your prepared still to say Daiichi’s health effects won’t be as bad? Based on what?

  42. #42 Stephanie Z
    April 1, 2011

    phillydoug, who’s saying that (aside from healthphysicist)?

  43. #43 phillydoug
    April 1, 2011

    Daedalus,

    I did note that you posed the question the way a good engineer would– how do we solve the problem?

    The thing is, the way the problems appear to me, there’s a good chance that they simply won’t be solved.

    Certainly there is nothing to be done about the health effects that are already going to occur for the next several decades. They are simply going to happen, even as people move away from the immediate vicinity of the plant.

    The problem of downplaying the seriousness of the health effects is addressed simply enough– stop downplaying them. There will need to be monitoring for years, and if I were running Japan, Tokyo Electric would set up a fund, and will pay into it in perpetuity (multiple generations) to meet all the healthcare needs of affected individuals.

    The environmental disaster will be worsening for years. The reason, a few comments back, I posted the link to research on wetlands on the Irish coast (following an accident with substantial radiation release), is because the presence of radioactive materials was not only two orders of magnitude over legal limits– 40 years after the fact– weather conditions locally would stir up silt, and there can be periodic spikes in levels; the biologists were indicating the population declines of some birds seemed to be associated with this.

    We can expect this along the east coast of Honshu, in the estuaries, and immediately offshore; nobody should be relying on dilution to cause a gradual decline. Because the release from Daiichi is continuing unabated, the total amount dispersed in the groundwater, soil, and sea is going to be on the order of tons.

    The problem of the smoldering reactor cores?

    The only solution that ever made sense– they need to be buried. But even that is only a partial solution, because some leaching of materials through the rock and soil will continue for hundreds of years, at least(you might not have read when I mentioned the effects of fracking on rock, and how easily toxic fluids travel miles, without seeming to be impeded by surface elevation variations).

    If you have any better solutions, as I said, I’m all ears.

  44. #44 daedalus2u
    April 1, 2011

    I looked into that “neutron beam” account and I don’t think it is credible. Neutrons scatter when they pass through things, including air. There was no indication how they measured the “neutron beam” or what kind of equipment they used. Neutrons could not travel 1.5 km through air without being scattered.

    So far, all we have are estimates and very spotty measurements. I think that is unconscionable that better measurements are not available. I am sure the US military has such equipment. I am sure the French have such equipment, and the French have offered to help. Why it isn’t being used to map the radiation field is not something I understand.

    The Japanese diet is higher in iodine than the Russian and Ukrainian diet, they did get KI to many of the exposed individuals quickly. Without knowing actual doses any estimates of health problems are pure guess work. Some people guess low, some people guess high. Guesses are not helping.

    There is lots that can be done right now to mitigate health effects. The population was evacuated. The evacuated people have greatly reduced exposure compared to what they would have received had they not evacuated. They have received KI. That will tend to suppress absorption of I131. There are drugs that can be used to increase excretion of cesium. Those should be considered too, but as I remember they have side effects that need to be considered too.

    All you need to do to avoid adverse health effects from radiation is avoid being exposed. Radiation is easy to measure. They should greatly increase the number of radiation monitoring stations.

    What this does show is the danger in leaving spent fuel at utility power plants. That spent fuel should be moved off site as soon as possible to someplace where it is more secure. That is something that could be done quickly and should be done quickly at this plant and at other power plants, including power plants in the US. That is there are few if any technical issues to moving that spent fuel off site. There are many political and social issues. All the technical issues can be dealt with. The social and political issues are much more difficult.

    What they should be doing is putting down lots of clinoptilite. Clinoptilite is a zeolite that adsorbs cesium. Not so well from sea water, but very well from fresh water. That would suppress the migration of cesium into the soil, into the water, and into the air.

    They need to get shielded places near the facility where workers can be and still work. They need to get shielding in the plant to absorb some of the radiation so that workers can get in there and remove the radioactive materials, put shielding around them and move them to another place.

    They need some portable tanks to put the contaminated water in. They need water treatment facilities to start removing radioactivity from that water.

    What they need to do is not rocket science, but they need to have been doing it for weeks now. They can’t wait for the “leader” at the top of the social hierarchy to decide what to do. That is the problem with top-down hierarchies. If you want to find the bottle neck, look at the top of the bottle.

  45. #45 dzd
    April 1, 2011

    “While in the body the isotopes’ radioactive emissions can do significant damage, mainly to DNA. Children who ingest iodine-131 can develop thyroid cancer 10 or more years later; adults seem relatively resistant.”

    Oh, don’t worry about that. As a pro-nuclear libertarian informed me today, thyroid cancer is actually no more serious than a case of the flu. Really.

  46. #46 phillydoug
    April 1, 2011

    DZD: “As a pro-nuclear libertarian informed me today, thyroid cancer is actually no more serious than a case of the flu. Really.”

    Can’t say I’m surprised. Of course, I never cease to be appalled. When it’s someone else’s child or spouse, suffering and death is much more tolerable.

    Don’t let me suggest that nuclear power advocates avoid such concerns by either dismissing them (like your libertarian acquaintance), or by blurring the nature and scope of the horror we’re witnessing with irrelevancies and abstractions. Because to suggest that would portray them as easing their consciences by callously wishing away the pain of others.

    It’s not polite to suggest that kind of thing.

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