Fukushima radiation skyrockets

Written By: - Date published: 11:16 pm, March 27th, 2011 - 46 comments
Categories: disaster, energy, health - Tags: ,

Normally, we get 3.65 millisieverts of radiation a year. Increased cancer risk is associated with 100 millisieverts per year. Nuclear workers are only meant to get 100 millisieverts even in an emergency with protective clothing.

Previously, radiation at Fukushima has hit 100 millisieverts per hour. A few days ago, three workers were hospitalised after exposure to water emitting 750 millisievert water.

Today, water in No 2 reactor was detected emitting 1 sievert per hour, ten million times the normal level – and they’re not sure of the source.

There’s been no explosions, there’s no more smoke or steam, the electricity is reconnected, yet the situation seems to be worsening.

No 2 reactor, you’ll remember, had that mysterious internal explosion, that they feared had created a leak in the suppression chamber and possibly damaged the core reactor chamber. The new radiation may be a sign that the chamber is breached, possibly due to damage from that explosion and/or the corrosive seawater that they’re using to cool the fuel rods with the normal fresh water pumping system still broken.

A lot of ‘possibly’s and ‘maybe’s. And a hell of a lot of radiation. Exposure to 1 sievert carries a small risk of death, 8 sieverts or more has a 100% fatality rate.

Of course, these radiation intensities drop off rapidly the further away you get from the Fukushima plant but radioactive iodine has been distributed over a wide area, including Tokyo. The quantities are very small but the danger of radioactive iodine is that it gets absorbed by the thyroid gland, which potentially causes thyroid cancer . It’s particularly dangerous babies.

It’s important to realise this when some dismiss the low radiation levels further away from the Fukushima plant. The immediate dose that is not the danger to the broader public as it is for the workers, the threat to the public is the absorption of minute quantities radioactive materials through the air, food, and water. Fortunately, the current levels of radiation over the wider area, while breaching safety regulations probably aren’t going to hurt anyone.

Funnily enough, I’m still a supporter of nuclear energy for countries where the scale works and where the alternative is coal – neither of which apply to New Zealand. Like George Monbiot says: “On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power”. Nuclear kills when it goes wrong, coal kills when it goes right.

But make no mistake, the situation in Fukushima is extremely serious and the fact that it’s still not under control is very worrying.

And let us not forget the real human toll of the Tohoku Earthquake disaster, thus far, has not been from radiation but the tsunami. Nearly 11,000 bodies have been recovered and a further 17,000 are missing. Many will never be recovered, swept out to sea with the retreating waters. Entire towns are destroyed. With and aging, declining population (and an ailing economy as a result) those communities may never be rebuilt.

(*cheers to Lanth for corrections to iodine paragraphs)

46 comments on “Fukushima radiation skyrockets ”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    The immediate dose that is not the danger to the broader public as it is for the workers, the threat to the public is the absorption of minute quantities radioactive materials through the air, food, and water, which then lodge in the body and irradiate bodily tissues for years, causing cancers.

    Which is also the problem with uranium 238 (otherwise misnamed as Depleted Uranium) used in weapons.

  2. weka 2

    Marty, if we had just discovered coal and figured out we could use it as a source of power generation, would you oppose that?

    I don’t buy the coal vs nuclear safety line – it’s like saying oh we’re ok with killing people and the environment by ‘accident’ but not on purpose, but either way dead people don’t count next to this lovely new plasma tv.

    Thanks for the informative post though.

    What do people mean when they say that nuclear power is “safe” when compared to planes, trains and automobiles? What they mean is that the nuclear power industry has so far killed many fewer people per unit time. They have no data on how many people it will kill eventually, although by now they know that, unlike planes, trains and automobiles, which do crash and burn with some regularity, but cause limited damage, nuclear disasters do not have any definable upper bound on their destructive potential. I am pretty sure that there is enough above-ground radioactive material sitting in spent fuel pools and inside reactors to kill just about everyone. It will stay dangerous for over a million years, which is a lot longer than the expected lifetime of the nuclear power industry, or any industry, or any human civilization, or perhaps even the human race.

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2011/03/nuclear-meltdowns-101.html

    “Nuclear Energy Advocates Insist U.S. Reactors Completely Safe Unless Something Bad Happens”

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/nuclear-energy-advocates-insist-us-reactors-comple,19740/

    😉

    • Marty G 2.1

      “Marty, if we had just discovered coal and figured out we could use it as a source of power generation, would you oppose that?”

      we don’t live in that world. I’m not sure what the point of engaging in such a hypothetical is.

      “I don’t buy the coal vs nuclear safety line – it’s like saying oh we’re ok with killing people and the environment by ‘accident’ but not on purpose, but either way dead people don’t count next to this lovely new plasma tv.”

      If you can get the world to reduce its energy demand enough to not need coal or nuclear, I’ll be the first to congratulate you.

      • weka 2.1.1

        “I’m not sure what the point of engaging in such a hypothetical is”

        I was just curious to know if you are really comfortable with the loss/benefit equations that lead to the idea that one kind of killer is preferable to another.

        Besides, it’s not hypothetical in Southland currently.

        “If you can get the world to reduce its energy demand enough to not need coal or nuclear, I’ll be the first to congratulate you.”

        I don’t have to get the (human) world to do that, the limits inherent in nature will take care of that for us. It’s not a matter of should we reduce consumption, it’s a matter of how we are going to cope when the energy becomes less available irrespective of what you or I might want or do.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    “radioactive iodine is that it gets absorbed by the thyroid gland, where it continues to emit low levels of radiation for years”

    This (and many following sentences) are factually wrong.

    Iodine 131 has a half life of 8 days. After a couple of months, it’s all but entirely gone. Here’s the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iodine-131.

    One interesting tidbit on there is “Due to its mode of beta decay, iodine-131 is notable for causing mutation and death in cells which it penetrates, and other cells up to several millimeters away. For this reason, high doses of the isotope are sometimes paradoxically less dangerous than low doses, since they tend to kill thyroid tissues which would otherwise become cancerous as a result of the radiation.[citation needed] Thus, iodine-131 is increasingly not employed in small doses in medical use, but increasingly used only in large and maximal treatment doses, as a way of killing targeted tissues. This is known as “therapeutic use.”[citation needed]”

    The health-threatening dose for infants is 1/3 the dose for adults. Presumably children would be somewhere in between. Thankfully there exist iodine pills, which super-saturate the body with clean, non-radioactive iodine. These can be administered to affected areas, and once you’ve taken a pill, the body will let any radioactive iodine it comes across through the body without absorbing it, greatly reducing the damage that the iodine can cause.

    The other isotope that has been widely distributed is caesium 137, which has a half life of 30 years. This is the primary contaminant around the Chernobyl area, which still hasn’t undergone a full half life for caesium. Caesium isn’t picked up by the body like iodine, so it is of less immediate concern, but the considerably longer half life makes it difficult to clean up.

    Iodine and caesium are two of the most easily distributed isotopes from nuclear reactors, as they readily dissolve in water and can be carried in vapour and steam. Elements such as plutonium and uranium are much heavier metals and don’t become airborne, unless there’s a fire propelling them into the atmosphere (as happened as Chernobyl, but even so the main contaminant there remains caesium).

    Incidentally, it’s likely that more people will be killed by lack of power due to the plants (and others) being off line, from lack of heating and water/sewerage issues, than will be killed by radiation. This greatly depends on levels of radiation that get spread around the countryside in the coming weeks though; hopefully it won’t get too much worse than it already is.

    • Marty G 3.1

      my bad, re the half-life. i had read that the problem was picking up the iodine causes thyroid cancer, and didn’t check the half-life

  4. tsmithfield 4

    I agree that the potential consequences of failure of a nuclear reactor is very high.

    However, it should be remembered that the Fukushima plant is quite old, and uses relatively old technology. Despite these factors, it has taken the extreme events of a force nine earthquake and a huge tsunami to cause the current problems.

    This does not mean we should be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are a number of intrinsically safe nuclear reactors under development that could be very viable and extremely safe sources of energy.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    Further to my post above, this article also makes for interesting reading.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      There should only have been a fraction of the spent fuel stored on site in pools that there actually is. Except regulators and the power company wanted to save money and inconvenience so approved ever increasing density of fuel rod storage in those pools.

      Which is fine as long as you have a continuously uninterrupted circulation of cold water.

      With low density rod storage it would take many many months (or never) to bring the pools to a boil. With the way it is organised now it only takes days.

  6. vidiot 6

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/japan-officials-apologize-radioactivity-scare/story?id=13233199

    “Japanese officials have apologized after an inaccurate reading of a massive increase in radioactivity at the Fukushima Dai-ichi today caused a panic that led to workers to flee the facility. The inaccurate reading at Unit 2 showed levels 10 million times higher than normal in the reactor’s cooling system. “

    • Bright Red 6.1

      hmm. still those 3 workers were exposed to 750 millisievert water, which is in the same ballpark as 1 sievert and a tenth of a deadly dose.

  7. Afewknowthetruth 7

    The seawater that has been used to cool various parts of the facility has returned to the ocean carrying an unknown qunatity of radioactive isotopes with it.

    The east coast of Japan is likely to be a no go zone for fishing and collection of shellfish for decades.

    If there have in fact been breaches of containment vessels (we are constantly lied to) there could well be particulate unranuim or even plutonium incorporated into the food chain and effectively contaminating the oceans for centuries.

    Irrrespective of that, there are masive quantites of spent nuclear material all over the world which has to be kept cool for hundreds of years. How will that be achieved after peak oil demolishes civilisation over the next 20 years?

    There is no such thing as safe nuclear or safe coal or safe oil All should have been left in the ground where nature had carefully sequestered them out of harms way in order to provide a habitable planet. If humans hadn’t been so ‘smart’ we would not have the huge population overshoot we are now suffering from.

    Humans have already severly disrupted the chemical balance of this planet and seem determined to complete the job, thereby rendering the Earth largely uninhabitable. There seems to be no way of halting the suicidal trends -based on greed, stupidity and flawed economic theories- inherent in western civilisation, which are held firmly in place by the culture of denial.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      Actually most of the seawater has been evaporating into steam, taking some radiation with it into the atmosphere.

      But yes, a lot of it has gone back into the ocean as well.

      Uranium and plutonium contamination of water is possible, but less likely, as those elements do not readily dissolve in water the way that iodine and caesium do.

      Given a potential large ramping down of civilisation in the next few decades, spent nuclear fuel rods are a big concern. I reckon they need to bite the bullet and bury them somewhere that no one is going to go anyway, like the middle of the desert in Oz.

      • D-D-D-Damn ! 7.1.1

        “I reckon they need to bite the bullet and bury them (spent nuclear fuel rods) somewhere that no one is going to go anyway, like the middle of the desert in Oz.”

        Or maybe Wanganui ?

  8. tsmithfield 8

    “There is no such thing as safe nuclear or safe coal or safe oil All should have been left in the ground where nature had carefully sequestered them out of harms way in order to provide a habitable planet.”

    Quite agree. We should have been happy with living in caves and using stone implements.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      Actually in pre-agricultural societies most people lived long, peaceful and relatively happy lives… on about 10-20hrs work per week.

      Which goes a long way towards explaining why I the first thought I have most mornings is, “This can’t be right”.

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        Yeah, read you loud and clear.

      • Lanthanide 8.1.2

        In the 60’s and 70’s, with incoming computerisation, there was real concern/hope that in the future people would only need to work 20-25 hours a week and that there would be so much leisure time we wouldn’t know what to do with.

        Is it a surprise that this was also the same time period where neo-liberalism took off and the wealthy glommed on to this technology shift and reaped almost all the benefit for themselves?

        We now do have people who work 20-25 hours a week, or less. Many don’t work at all. Others work 2-3 hours a week being a board member on 5 different companies, getting paid the annual average salary for each one.

        Nice work if you can get it.

      • higherstandard 8.1.3

        “Actually in pre-agricultural societies most people lived long, peaceful and relatively happy lives… on about 10-20hrs work per week.”

        What fantasyland do you live in ? Try being a hunter gatherer and see if you can survive on 10-20 hours per week without society and all its benefits and ills to look after you – you’d be lucky to last a month.

        A long life span pre-agricultural society would’ve been 40 upwards if that.

        • RedLogix 8.1.3.1

          Try being a hunter gatherer and see if you can survive on 10-20 hours per week without society

          In the degraded environments of today’s world, yes I agree with you.

          But for much of the 3m odd years of human evolution our population was fewer than a few million individuals on a planet that teemed with life, resources and food.

          Agriculture (and subsequent sciences and technologies) are from an evolutionary point of view an incredibly recent innovation… and it’s not at all clear that we will survive it.

          • higherstandard 8.1.3.1.1

            Red your comment was “Actually in pre-agricultural societies most people lived long, peaceful and relatively happy lives… on about 10-20hrs work per week.”

            This is patently BS.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.3.1.1.1

              If you were well off and living amongst the Chinese, the Persians or the Greeks >1000 years ago, living to 60 and 70 was easy

              Of course if you were an indentured peasant you usually died earlier, exactly like today’s working class and under class

            • RedLogix 8.1.3.1.1.2

              Well that’s pretty much the standard Hobbesian narrative, that pre-historic life must have been necessarily ‘nasty, brutish and short’… but more modern interpretations suggest otherwise. Jared Diamond goes on to describe agriculture as the worst mistake humans have ever made.

              A spot of googling on the topic reveals a rich and wide range of views on the lifestyles of our neolithic ancestors… certainly a far more interesting depth of material that justifies your rather narrow “BS’ response.

              • higherstandard

                Red if you were lucky enough to survive childbirth (child and mother) life was unlikely to have been some edenesque fantasyland – even for those in CVs relatively modern agricultural societies at the very top end of society life was hardly a bed of roses.

                Life expectancy in recent times is the highest in all of recorded history, albeit dipping now due to poor lifestyles and the concomitant diseases of sloth and greed.

                On that note check out this link – not relevant to our current concentration but very sexy stats and presentation.

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

                • RedLogix

                  No-one was suggesting that neolithic life was some kind of ‘edenesque fantasyland’… that was Rousseau’s opposite but equal mistake to Hobbes.

                  But what most of us underestimate is however the enormous impact these two philosopher’s had in shaping the discourse of modern life…whereas science has in more recent times suggested far more subtle and interesting interpretations of human evolution over the 3m odd years prior to the invention of agriculture. It is a genuinely interesting and developing field of thought; it turns out most of what we were brought up to believe decades ago is probably wrong.

                  If nothing else I do recommend actually reading the Jared Diamond citation above.

                  • higherstandard

                    “No-one was suggesting that neolithic life was some kind of ‘edenesque fantasyland’”

                    Ummm what you came up with was

                    “Actually in pre-agricultural societies most people lived long, peaceful and relatively happy lives… on about 10-20hrs work per week.”

                    • RedLogix

                      Well yes..and what I initially stated is pretty much the conclusion being drawn by many people working in the modern field. Your failure to read the material is not reason for me to have to explain to you.

                      The simple point is that while modern life accrues specific advantages in terms of the sciences and the arts… they have also come at a great cost. A cost best appreciated when we consider what we have lost over the last 10,000 yrs.

                      What would be a ‘edenesque fantasyland’ would be to assert that you could have both the benefits of a neolithic lifestyle AND the benefits of science/technology at the same time. Such a nirvana is clearly beyond our practical reach at present…. but perhaps not beyond the power of our imagination.

                      Unless of course you think that modern life as we know it is as good as it ever gets.

                    • higherstandard

                      No red your links are from a couple of thoughtful discussion papers written by persons with a bent towards population control.

                      Even they admit there is no data to back up their assertions and what we do know for certain is that before the advent of modern medicine mortality rates from things as diverse as child birth, infection and even innocuous issues like toothache were far greater than they are in modern society.

                      Perhaps you’d like to list what you perceive as we have lost over the last 10,000 years and we could agree on certain things that would be useful/possible to recreate.

                    • Lanthanide

                      Here’s a joke that might give you some idea what Red is actually talking about:

                      Indian Chief ‘Two Eagles’ was asked by a white government official; “You have observed the white man for 90 years. You’ve seen his wars and his technological advances. You’ve seen his progress, and the damage he’s done.”

                      The Chief nodded in agreement.

                      The official continued; “Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?”

                      The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute and then calmly replied.. “When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine Man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex.”

                      Then the chief leaned back and smiled; “Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that.”

                    • RedLogix

                      Even they admit there is no data to back up their assertions

                      Prone to misrepresenting things aren’t we. Direct evidence from millions of years ago is clearly sparse if not impossible.. but all manner of sciences successfully derive useful conclusions from indirect evidence.

                      For example there are no direct measurements of global temperature prior to about the middle of the 1800’s, but from indirect evidence paleo-climatologists do successfully derive useful information going back millions of years. Indeed if you think about it, that is pretty much what most of science does; derive meaningful data and ideas from incomplete, noisy and indirect information. Direct, clear and unambiguous data is rare.

                      Besides, you are making the common mistake of projecting what we know about the modern world, backwards onto conditions prior. Most people for instance imagine how dangerous common illnesses would be. But it’s highly unlikely that prior to agriculture that most of the diseases we currently know would have been a widespread threat. With agriculture comes dense, settled populations exposed in close proximity to livestock, along with their excrement and waste… a danger that nomadic hunter-gatherers never have to contend with.

                      We also assume that childbirth was always hugely dangerous, while ignoring that fact that many modern indigenous, hunter-gatherer societies rarely experience much trouble with it at all.

                      My point is simply that agriculture, science and technology (and most recently a hugely amplified dependency on these things due to our massive exploitation of fossil fuels) has created conditions for the human race that did not necessarily exist prior. This does not mean that neolithic life was free of challenges and hazards… objectively there must have been… but it is very easy to make the mistake Hobbes made of looking at the horrors of the world he lived in.. and assuming that this was the way it always was.

                      PS. Thanks Lanth… that is pretty much exactly what I’m getting at.

                    • higherstandard

                      Red from your cited study’s authors

                      http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/gurven/papers/GurvenKaplan2007pdr.pdf

                      “On average, 57%, 64%, and 67% of children make it to 15 years among “untouched” hunter-gatherers, forager-horticulturalists, and acculturated hunter-gatherers, respectively. That makes perfect sense, given what we know about child mortality rates in HG populations. The “wildest” groups, the HGs, who rely on hunted and gathered food also experience the most childhood deaths, while the hunter-gatherers with similar diets but presumable access to certain modern trappings enjoy the best childhood survival. It’s important to note that the acculturated groups in this study were characterized by increased access to immunization and medical care, especially for children; acculturation of traditional peoples hasn’t always had such a beneficial effect on their health and longevity (consider the health of Native Americans relegated to reservations, white flour, sugar, and vegetable oil). In fact, first contact with industrial or “civilized” cultures usually resulted in a massive initial increase in childhood mortality (diseases, mainly; the Ache lost about 40% of their population to foreign disease), but post-contact was characterized by lower childhood mortality, even compared to pre-contact rates. Mortality reductions in contacted hunter-gatherers were greatest in childhood and declined as populations aged.”

                      If you accept that existent examples of pre agricultural societies offer an insight into prehistory that doesn’t reflect your original position that “Actually in pre-agricultural societies most people lived long, peaceful and relatively happy lives… on about 10-20hrs work per week.”

                      “My point is simply that agriculture, science and technology (and most recently a hugely amplified dependency on these things due to our massive exploitation of fossil fuels) has created conditions for the human race that did not necessarily exist prior. This does not mean that neolithic life was free of challenges and hazards… objectively there must have been.”

                      I agree.

                    • RedLogix

                      Yes I wondered if you would cherry pick those few paras. Of course what they are speaking to is the essential trade-off that agriculture forced upon us, the choice between quality of life and and quantity of it.

                      The modern world clearly reduces infant mortality and allows populations to grow very rapidly. That much is obvious… but the question remains, does this actually improve the quality of life for most individuals?

                      Pre-agricultural societies maintained very stable populations. Most women probably reached menarchy aged about 16yrs and because they breast-fed infants for at least 3-4 yrs probably only had 7-8 live births by the time they reached menopause. Given that probably only 50% of these survived the first year of life (yes infant mortality was high, although probably much lower than for most other species on earth) this resulted in 3-4 children reaching puberty. Of these only 1 or 2 would be female and given the natural hazards of accident and predation probably only 1 of these would have children … thus maintaining population at close to replacement for very long periods.

                      But the point is that those who did survive to adulthood lived probably lived around 60-70yrs. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that life expectancy at birth is the same thing as how long someone who reaches a healthy adulthood might expect to live. They are quite different things.

                      And in the absence of modern diseases and the conditions to propagate them, the main causes of death would have been accident and predation. And there is no particular reason to think that these human ancestors of ours were any less intelligent than us, and in functional, tightly knit bands were most capable of looking after themselves…highly adapted to, observant of and knowledgeable of the world they lived in.

                      As for warfare… well this too is highly unlikely. For a start humans were very scattered .. for a second with food and resources so readily available there was simply nothing worth fighting about that you couldn’t get just by moving on to another unoccupied spot. Warfare and tyranny are pretty much a byproduct of so-called civilisation.

                      And we also know from direct observation that the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies left in the modern world, even those like the Kalahari Bushmen who live in some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth.. never work more than 20 hrs per week to sustain themselves very well thank you very much.

                      The point is.. there may well be 7 billion humans on earth now… but for the vast majority of them as inidividuals… this teeming, modern life is far shorter, brutish and nastier than their neolithic ancestors every likely suffered.

                    • Drakula

                      Whether the hunter gathers lived a long life or a short one is neither here nor there; the main point we can all agree on is that they were happy.

                      Ammunsden the Norwegian explorer wintering over in the North Pole said that the eskimo people were the happiest he ever met and that he hoped they would never discover civilization.

                      They may get radiated!!

                      Tellers gang were going to blow out a new harbour on the coast of Alaska; the Inuit eskimo’s were not amused!

  9. For those of you interested in following the developments with regards to radiation this might be an interesting alternative to the official sites which basically keep telling us that the radiation issue is being monitored without giving us any real data.

    These are links to the Crowd sourcing data site Pachuba.
    Here in µSv/h
    And here in 3D
    The data is on average updated every 10 minutes and clearly shows that a 100 km from the nuclear power plant the radio activity is elevated and the first link shows how much that is in the correct µSv/h count. The area were the count is the highest is about a 100 km away from the Fukushima plant.
    This is an interesting site which compiles data compiled from Geiger counters from private individuals.

    You might also want to read the reports from Zero hedge writer Tyler Durden.

    I leave it to you as to how to interpret the data but I personally don’t trust the official BS and like the idea that there are hundreds of people with their Geiger counters around the world connected to the internet giving us measurable data in real time.

  10. Benjamin B. 10

    A number of things have been overlooked here.

    The construction of a nuclear power station costs billions of dollars / Euros / whatever. This cost is carried by a utility company. The company, being a company, is interested in one thing, and only one thing: quarterly profits. I.e. making a quick buck.

    The huge investment, and the importance of the infrastructure, means that the industry is always closely intertwined with the government.

    This means that there are a number of well-known issues around the whole thing:
    * Stations are being built in unsafe places (one is mentioned in the post’s title).
    * Corners are being cut. They are being cut where it’s easiest: safety. Stations are being designed to be (relatively) cheap. Redundancy is reduced. Storage facilities are placed outside containments. Incidents are swept under the carpet. Stations are run years or decades longer that designed (think of radiation damaging steel, e.g.).
    * Transparency therefore doesn’t exist. Members of the public have no viable way of knowing about e.g. incidents they don’t hear about. Members of the public have no viable way of measuring radiation.
    * Secrecy around issues — the public can’t protest against what it doesn’t know about, so it’s not being told.
    * The waste issue. There is no safe place for stuff with half life times of millions of years. What will future history books say?
    * Nuclear power has historically been intertwined with the military, for obvious reasons.
    * As usual in capitalism, profits are privatised while risks are carried by all of society (except those who have profited and can afford the bottled water and the first flights to safety).
    * Ever wondered where the industry gets those numbers for meltdown probabilities from? Every 100000 years? Well now we’ve had 25 years between two.

    Next big issue. An investment this big into electricity infrastructure means there’s nothing left for research into alternative energy. All the money has been spent already. Combine that with the fact that a pro nuke government is required and it becomes clear that nuclear power and alternative energy production exclude each other. So nuclear power is never a transition technology. It stands in the way of other developments.

    Re better efficiency. Now all the capital bound in the station has to pay off. There’s an easy way: Sell power. How would the utilities do that if customers suddenly started using power efficiently? The quarterly profits would go away. So the government, in bed with the utilities, will never ever start efficiency initiatives.

    Also insurance companies do not insure nuclear power stations. They’ve done the numbers and I think in this case they can be trusted.

    Add to that the immense harm done through accidents. Deaths, disabilities, cancer, the loss of food sources etc.

    And don’t even get me started on coal.

    This is from someone who walked the hills in central Europe, after the rain, end of April 1986, then had an unusually strong headache. Obviously I can’t prove a connection but it’s something I remember.

    • Benjamin B. 10.1

      Also: uranium mining and fuel production. As with a lot of minerals it’s preferably done in the 3rd world where workers have no alternative, aren’t paid appropriately, have no knowledge of radiation, and no way to get justice.

      Captcha: safely

    • Benjamin B. 10.2

      Is the post too long?

      [There’s nothing in moderation. What’s the concern? …. RL]

  11. Drakula 11

    Ben; You are so right, the capitalist governments are inbed with the big energy corporations and if nuclear power is cost effective then that’s where they are going to drive the big dirty bus, and to hell with any other alternatives.

    In New Zealand we havn’t gone down the nuclear road luckily, but there is still large investments in large corporate wind farms that will monopolize the energy market.

    Such monopolies will benifit the shareholders rather than us consumers; and hence strangle the struggling industry that could go a long way to solving the energy/polution problem.

    I an talking about the domestic suppliers of solar cells and wind turbines the very industry that turns the consumer into a producer, providing the greatest incentive to conserve power is being deliberately marginalised.

    It’s a bloody outrage and a scandal and we really ought to get very angry about it!!!!!!!

    • Benjamin B. 11.1

      Hmmm yes. Cutting out the middle man. It’s generally a good idea, just with our lifestyle it’s not possible in a lot of areas. Sure, one person can install solar cells; the same person may not have the resources to, say, grow their own vegetables too. It should be something to think about — but as you say the wind farms have to pay off. Anyway, at least it’s wind and not nukes!

  12. randal 12

    the fact of the matter is that japanese society has become sclerotic and fixated on how they are supposed to act rather than how to act.
    now they are in this sisyphisyan trap they dont seem to have any answers.
    neither the shareholders, the techinicians or the management seem to have any clue or whats worse developed any sort of scenario to cope with this tragic event.
    wake up japan.
    you are not the empire of the sun and all your prosperity has been bought with engaging the rest of the world with a surfeit of things.
    now your thing is busted and no amout of praying to the gods is going to fix it.

  13. Colonial Viper 13

    Full meltdown and containment breach already likely to have occurred.

    I read somewhere else that high levels of caesium 137 have been detected tens of kilometres from the plant in a northerly direction.

    Basically its a development of the worst possible kind, with a minor bonus from the fact that even containment failure did not mean that the nuclear fuel would be exploded high into the atmosphere. There’s something good there that can be said for US engineering in the 60’s.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/29/japan-lost-race-save-nuclear-reactor

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