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Old 03-13-2011, 07:36 AM
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Post Japan nuclear

American Nuclear Society Backgrounder:
Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami; Problems with Nuclear Reactors

3/12/2011 5:22 PM EST

To begin, a sense of perspective is needed… right now, the Japanese earthquake/tsunami is clearly a
catastrophe; the situation at impacted nuclear reactors is, in the words of IAEA, an "Accident with
Local Consequences."

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami are natural catastrophes of historic proportions. The death toll is likely to be in the thousands. While the information is still not complete at this time, the tragic loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami will likely dwarf the damage caused by the problems associated with the impacted Japanese nuclear plants.
What happened?

Recognizing that information is still not complete due to the destruction of the communication infrastructure, producing reports that are conflicting, here is our best understanding of the sequence of events at the Fukushima I
1 power station.

The plant was immediately shut down (scrammed) when the earthquake first hit. The automatic power system worked.

All external power to the station was lost when the sea water swept away the power lines.

Diesel generators started to provide backup electrical power to the plant’s backup cooling system. The backup worked.

The diesel generators ceased functioning after approximately one hour due to tsunami induced damage, reportedly to their fuel supply.

An Isolation condenser was used to remove the decay heat from the shutdown reactor.

Apparently the plant then experienced a small loss of coolant from the reactor.

Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (RCIC) pumps, which operate on steam from the reactor, were used to replace reactor core water inventory, however, the batterysupplied control valves lost DC power after the prolonged use.

DC power from batteries was consumed after approximately 8 hours.

At that point, the plant experienced a complete blackout (no electric power at all).

Hours passed as primary water inventory was lost and core degradation occurred (through some combination of zirconium oxidation and clad failure).

Portable diesel generators were delivered to the plant site.

AC power was restored allowing for a different backup pumping system to replace inventory in reactor pressure vessel (RPV).

Pressure in the containment drywell rose as wetwell became hotter.

The Drywell containment was vented to outside reactor building which surrounds the containment.

Hydrogen produced from zirconium oxidation was vented from the containment into the reactor building.

Hydrogen in reactor building exploded causing it to collapse around the containment.

The containment around the reactor and RPV were reported to be intact.

The decision was made to inject seawater into the RPV to continue to the cooling process, another backup system that was designed into the plant from inception.

Radioactivity releases from operator initiated venting appear to be decreasing.

Can it happen here in the US?

While there are risks associated with operating nuclear plants and other industrial facilities, the chances of an adverse event similar to what happened in Japan occurring in the US is small.

Since September 11, 2001, additional safeguards and training have been put in place at US nuclear reactors which allow plant operators to cool the reactor core during an extended power outage and/or failure of backup generators – “blackout conditions.”

Is a nuclear reactor "meltdown" a catastrophic event?

Not necessarily. Nuclear reactors are built with redundant safety systems. Even if the fuel in the reactor melts, the reactor's containment systems are designed to prevent the spread of radioactivity into the environment. Should an event like this occur, containing the radioactive
materials could actually be considered a "success" given the scale of this natural disaster that had not been considered in the original design. The nuclear power industry will learn from this event, and redesign our facilities as needed to make them safer in the future.

What is the ANS doing?

ANS has reached out to The Atomic Energy Society of Japan (AESJ) to offer technical assistance.

ANS has established an incident communications response team.

This team has compiling relevant news reports and other publicly available information on the ANS blog, which can be found at

The team is also fielding media inquiries and providing reporters with background information and technical perspective as the events unfold.

Finally, the ANS is collecting information from publicly available sources, our sources in government agencies, and our sources on the ground in Japan, to better understand the extent and impact of the incident.

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Old 03-14-2011, 05:59 AM
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Yeah, I think so. There are a couple of errors in there, but they're picky kinds of things that don't make any real difference. The links are good, the explanation of the basic design is good, the sequence of events is good although a little incomplete, and the language is readable despite its length. The bottom line is that the public is highly unlikely to be harmed by what has happened to the nuclear plants, and the author gets that across quite well.

Thanks for running it by me.


In a message dated 3/13/2011 10:44:26 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,

Is this good to pass on?


Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors.

Posted on March 13, 2011 by morgsatlarge


Thanks for your interest. 200 000 hits and counting, number 2 on Twitter as of 8pm EST.

Follow Josef on Twitter:!/josefoehmen

Short link to this page:>>

There exists a copy of this post on Barry Brooks excellent blog, where you can still use the discussion function:

This article refers mainly to the events of the Daiichi-1 reactor. The developments at Daiichi-3 seem to take a parallel course today. The explanations in this document will help you understand what is going on there as well. Stay informed at

It is also save. “Nuclear meltdown” sells papers. It is the same quality of agitative journalism that far right wing parties resort to when they try to tell you that all immigrants are lazy criminals.


If you wish to share this information, please link to this article. This is the place where Josef will (if he does) post any updates or direct you to the latest version.


I have to stop moderating the comments as my parents in law have come over to stay with us due to the fear of aftershocks, so I am sorry if that causes any inconvenience, or stifles any debate. I honestly didn’t expect this level of interest (its over 32,000 views as of 11:12pm Japan time)

Just a few comments. I do not work for the nuclear industry. I am an English teacher, from Australia, living in Kawasaki, Japan. My friend Dr J. Oehmen is a family member, and by far and away the most intelligent person I know. Feel free to believe/disbelieve whatever we have written. There are no conspiracies, however if you need to, feel free to make some up. They are quite entertaining.

Japanese readers, I hope your family and loved ones are safe, everyone else, no matter what you believe stay safe.


**original post below**

I know this is a fairly full on statement from someone posting his very first blog. It will also be far and away the most well written, intelligent post I ever make (I hope!) It also means I am not responsible for its content.

This post is by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT, in Boston.

He is a PhD Scientist, whose father has extensive experience in Germany’s nuclear industry. I asked him to write this information to my family in Australia, who were being made sick with worry by the media reports coming from Japan. I am republishing it with his permission.

It is a few hours old, so if any information is out of date, blame me for the delay in getting it published.

This is his text in full and unedited. It is very long, so get comfy.

I am writing this text (Mar 12) to give you some peace of mind regarding some of the troubles in Japan, that is the safety of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Up front, the situation is serious, but under control.

And this text is long! But you will know more about nuclear power plants after reading it than all journalists on this planet put together.

There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity.

By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation.

I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake. There has not been one single (!) report that was accurate and free of errors (and part of that problem is also a weakness in the Japanese crisis communication). By “not free of errors” I do not refer to tendentious anti-nuclear journalism – that is quite normal these days. By “not free of errors” I mean blatant errors regarding physics and natural law, as well as gross misinterpretation of facts, due to an obvious lack of fundamental and basic understanding of the way nuclear reactors are build and operated. I have read a 3 page report on CNN where every single paragraph contained an error.

We will have to cover some fundamentals, before we get into what is going on.

Construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants

The plants at Fukushima are so called Boiling Water Reactors, or BWR for short. Boiling Water Reactors are similar to a pressure cooker. The nuclear fuel heats water, the water boils and creates steam, the steam then drives turbines that create the electricity, and the steam is then cooled and condensed back to water, and the water send back to be heated by the nuclear fuel. The pressure cooker operates at about 250 °C.

The nuclear fuel is uranium oxide. Uranium oxide is a ceramic with a very high melting point of about 3000 °C. The fuel is manufactured in pellets (think little cylinders the size of Lego bricks). Those pieces are then put into a long tube made of Zircaloy with a melting point of 2200 °C, and sealed tight. The assembly is called a fuel rod.

These fuel rods are then put together to form larger packages, and a number of these packages are then put into the reactor. All these packages together are referred to as “the core”.

The Zircaloy casing is the first containment. It separates the radioactive fuel from the rest of the world.

The core is then placed in the “pressure vessels”. That is the pressure cooker we talked about before. The pressure vessels is the second containment. This is one sturdy piece of a pot, designed to safely contain the core for temperatures several hundred °C. That covers the scenarios where cooling can be restored at some point.

The entire “hardware” of the nuclear reactor – the pressure vessel and all pipes, pumps, coolant (water) reserves, are then encased in the third containment. The third containment is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick bubble of the strongest steel and concrete. The third containment is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown. For that purpose, a large and thick concrete basin is cast under the pressure vessel (the second containment), all inside the third containment. This is the so-called “core catcher”. If the core melts and the pressure vessel bursts (and eventually melts), it will catch the molten fuel and everything else. It is typically built in such a way that the nuclear fuel will be spread out, so it can cool down.

This third containment is then surrounded by the reactor building. The reactor building is an outer shell that is supposed to keep the weather out, but nothing in. (this is the part that was damaged in the explosion, but more to that later).

Fundamentals of nuclear reactions

The uranium fuel generates heat by nuclear fission. Big uranium atoms are split into smaller atoms. That generates heat plus neutrons (one of the particles that forms an atom). When the neutron hits another uranium atom, that splits, generating more neutrons and so on. That is called the nuclear chain reaction.

Now, just packing a lot of fuel rods next to each other would quickly lead to overheating and after about 45 minutes to a melting of the fuel rods. It is worth mentioning at this point that the nuclear fuel in a reactor can *never* cause a nuclear explosion the type of a nuclear bomb. Building a nuclear bomb is actually quite difficult (ask Iran).

In Chernobyl, the explosion was caused by excessive pressure buildup, hydrogen explosion and rupture of all containments, propelling molten core material into the environment (a “dirty bomb”). Why that did not and will not happen in Japan, further below.

In order to control the nuclear chain reaction, the reactor operators use so-called “control rods”. The control rods absorb the neutrons and kill the chain reaction instantaneously. A nuclear reactor is built in such a way, that when operating normally, you take out all the control rods. The coolant water then takes away the heat (and converts it into steam and electricity) at the same rate as the core produces it. And you have a lot of leeway around the standard operating point of 250°C.

The challenge is that after inserting the rods and stopping the chain reaction, the core still keeps producing heat. The uranium “stopped” the chain reaction. But a number of intermediate radioactive elements are created by the uranium during its fission process, most notably Cesium and Iodine isotopes, i.e. radioactive versions of these elements that will eventually split up into smaller atoms and not be radioactive anymore. Those elements keep decaying and producing heat. Because they are not regenerated any longer from the uranium (the uranium stopped decaying after the control rods were put in), they get less and less, and so the core cools down over a matter of days, until those intermediate radioactive elements are used up.

This residual heat is causing the headaches right now.

So the first “type” of radioactive material is the uranium in the fuel rods, plus the intermediate radioactive elements that the uranium splits into, also inside the fuel rod (Cesium and Iodine).

There is a second type of radioactive material created, outside the fuel rods. The big main difference up front: Those radioactive materials have a very short half-life, that means that they decay very fast and split into non-radioactive materials. By fast I mean seconds. So if these radioactive materials are released into the environment, yes, radioactivity was released, but no, it is not dangerous, at all. Why? By the time you spelled “R-A-D-I-O-N-U-C-L-I-D-E”, they will be harmless, because they will have split up into non radioactive elements. Those radioactive elements are N-16, the radioactive isotope (or version) of nitrogen (air). The others are noble gases such as Argon. But where do they come from? When the uranium splits, it generates a neutron (see above). Most of these neutrons will hit other uranium atoms and keep the nuclear chain reaction going. But some will leave the fuel rod and hit the water molecules, or the air that is in the water. Then, a non-radioactive element can “capture” the neutron. It becomes radioactive. As described above, it will quickly (seconds) get rid again of the neutron to return to its former beautiful self.

This second “type” of radiation is very important when we talk about the radioactivity being released into the environment later on.

What happened at Fukushima

I will try to summarize the main facts. The earthquake that hit Japan was 5 times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; the difference between the 8.2 that the plants were built for and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7). So the first hooray for Japanese engineering, everything held up.

When the earthquake hit with 8.9, the nuclear reactors all went into automatic shutdown. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had been inserted into the core and nuclear chain reaction of the uranium stopped. Now, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat. The residual heat load is about 3% of the heat load under normal operating conditions.

The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. That is one of the most serious accidents for a nuclear power plant, and accordingly, a “plant black out” receives a lot of attention when designing backup systems. The power is needed to keep the coolant pumps working. Since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself any more.

Things were going well for an hour. One set of multiple sets of emergency Diesel power generators kicked in and provided the electricity that was needed. Then the Tsunami came, much bigger than people had expected when building the power plant (see above, factor 7). The tsunami took out all multiple sets of backup Diesel generators.

When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure (that you thought could never happen) after the other. A tsunami taking out all backup power in one swift strike is such a scenario. The last line of defense is putting everything into the third containment (see above), that will keep everything, whatever the mess, control rods in our out, core molten or not, inside the reactor.

When the diesel generators were gone, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backups to the backups, to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did.

Within the 8 hours, another power source had to be found and connected to the power plant. The power grid was down due to the earthquake. The diesel generators were destroyed by the tsunami. So mobile diesel generators were trucked in.

This is where things started to go seriously wrong. The external power generators could not be connected to the power plant (the plugs did not fit). So after the batteries ran out, the residual heat could not be carried away any more.

At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a “loss of cooling event”. It is again a step along the “Depth of Defense” lines. The power to the cooling systems should never have failed completely, but it did, so they “retreat” to the next line of defense. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the day-to-day training you go through as an operator, right through to managing a core meltdown.

It was at this stage that people started to talk about core meltdown. Because at the end of the day, if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after hours or days), and the last line of defense, the core catcher and third containment, would come into play.

But the goal at this stage was to manage the core while it was heating up, and ensure that the first containment (the Zircaloy tubes that contains the nuclear fuel), as well as the second containment (our pressure cooker) remain intact and operational for as long as possible, to give the engineers time to fix the cooling systems.

Because cooling the core is such a big deal, the reactor has a number of cooling systems, each in multiple versions (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and the emergency core cooling system). Which one failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time.

So imagine our pressure cooker on the stove, heat on low, but on. The operators use whatever cooling system capacity they have to get rid of as much heat as possible, but the pressure starts building up. The priority now is to maintain integrity of the first containment (keep temperature of the fuel rods below 2200°C), as well as the second containment, the pressure cooker. In order to maintain integrity of the pressure cooker (the second containment), the pressure has to be released from time to time. Because the ability to do that in an emergency is so important, the reactor has 11 pressure release valves. The operators now started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure. The temperature at this stage was about 550°C.

This is when the reports about “radiation leakage” starting coming in. I believe I explained above why venting the steam is theoretically the same as releasing radiation into the environment, but why it was and is not dangerous. The radioactive nitrogen as well as the noble gases do not pose a threat to human health.

At some stage during this venting, the explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the third containment (our “last line of defense”), and the reactor building. Remember that the reactor building has no function in keeping the radioactivity contained. It is not entirely clear yet what has happened, but this is the likely scenario:

The operators decided to vent the steam from the pressure vessel not directly into the environment, but into the space between the third containment and the reactor building (to give the radioactivity in the steam more time to subside). The problem is that at the high temperatures that the core had reached at this stage, water molecules can “disassociate” into oxygen and hydrogen – an explosive mixture.

And it did explode, outside the third containment, damaging the reactor building around.

It was that sort of explosion, but inside the pressure vessel (because it was badly designed and not managed properly by the operators) that lead to the explosion of Chernobyl. This was never a risk at Fukushima. The problem of hydrogen-oxygen formation is one of the biggies when you design a power plant (if you are not Soviet, that is), so the reactor is build and operated in a way it cannot happen inside the containment. It happened outside, which was not intended but a possible scenario and OK, because it did not pose a risk for the containment.

So the pressure was under control, as steam was vented. Now, if you keep boiling your pot, the problem is that the water level will keep falling and falling. The core is covered by several meters of water in order to allow for some time to pass (hours, days) before it gets exposed. Once the rods start to be exposed at the top, the exposed parts will reach the critical temperature of 2200 °C after about 45 minutes. This is when the first containment, the Zircaloy tube, would fail.

And this started to happen. The cooling could not be restored before there was some (very limited, but still) damage to the casing of some of the fuel. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started melting. What happened now is that some of the byproducts of the uranium decay – radioactive Cesium and Iodine – started to mix with the steam. The big problem, uranium, was still under control, because the uranium oxide rods were good until 3000 °C. It is confirmed that a very small amount of Cesium and Iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere.

It seems this was the “go signal” for a major plan B. The small amounts of Cesium that were measured told the operators that the first containment on one of the rods somewhere was about to give. The Plan A had been to restore one of the regular cooling systems to the core. Why that failed is unclear. One plausible explanation is that the tsunami also took away / polluted all the clean water needed for the regular cooling systems.

The water used in the cooling system is very clean, demineralized (like distilled) water. The reason to use pure water is the above mentioned activation by the neutrons from the Uranium: Pure water does not get activated much, so stays practically radioactive-free. Dirt or salt in the water will absorb the neutrons quicker, becoming more radioactive.

This has no effect whatsoever on the core – it does not care what it is cooled by. But it makes life more difficult for the operators and mechanics when they have to deal with activated (i.e. slightly radioactive) water.

But Plan A had failed – cooling systems down or additional clean water unavailable – so Plan B came into effect. This is what it looks like happened:

In order to prevent a core meltdown, the operators started to use sea water to cool the core. I am not quite sure if they flooded our pressure cooker with it (the second containment), or if they flooded the third containment, immersing the pressure cooker. But that is not relevant for us.

The point is that the nuclear fuel has now been cooled down. Because the chain reaction has been stopped a long time ago, there is only very little residual heat being produced now. The large amount of cooling water that has been used is sufficient to take up that heat. Because it is a lot of water, the core does not produce sufficient heat any more to produce any significant pressure. Also, boric acid has been added to the seawater. Boric acid is “liquid control rod”. Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons and further speed up the cooling down of the core.

The plant came close to a core meltdown. Here is the worst-case scenario that was avoided: If the seawater could not have been used for treatment, the operators would have continued to vent the water steam to avoid pressure buildup. The third containment would then have been completely sealed to allow the core meltdown to happen without releasing radioactive material. After the meltdown, there would have been a waiting period for the intermediate radioactive materials to decay inside the reactor, and all radioactive particles to settle on a surface inside the containment. The cooling system would have been restored eventually, and the molten core cooled to a manageable temperature. The containment would have been cleaned up on the inside. Then a messy job of removing the molten core from the containment would have begun, packing the (now solid again) fuel bit by bit into transportation containers to be shipped to processing plants. Depending on the damage, the block of the plant would then either be repaired or dismantled.

Now, where does that leave us? My assessment:

§The plant is safe now and will stay safe.

§Japan is looking at an INES Level 4 Accident: Nuclear accident with local consequences. That is bad for the company that owns the plant, but not for anyone else.

§Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented.
All radioactive isotopes from the activated steam have gone (decayed). A very small amount of Cesium was released, as well as Iodine. If you were sitting on top of the plants’ chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy. The Cesium and Iodine isotopes were carried out to the sea and will never be seen again.

§There was some limited damage to the first containment. That means that some amounts of radioactive Cesium and Iodine will also be released into the cooling water, but no Uranium or other nasty stuff (the Uranium oxide does not “dissolve” in the water). There are facilities for treating the cooling water inside the third containment.

The radioactive Cesium and Iodine will be removed there and eventually stored as radioactive waste in terminal storage.

§The seawater used as cooling water will be activated to some degree. Because the control rods are fully inserted, the Uranium chain reaction is not happening. That means the “main” nuclear reaction is not happening, thus not contributing to the activation. The intermediate radioactive materials (Cesium and Iodine) are also almost gone at this stage, because the Uranium decay was stopped a long time ago. This further reduces the activation. The bottom line is that there will be some low level of activation of the seawater, which will also be removed by the treatment facilities.

§The seawater will then be replaced over time with the “normal” cooling water

§The reactor core will then be dismantled and transported to a processing facility, just like during a regular fuel change.

§Fuel rods and the entire plant will be checked for potential damage. This will take about 4-5 years.

§The safety systems on all Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)

§(Updated) I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. 11 of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors in different plants were shut down and will have to be inspected, directly reducing the nation’s nuclear power generating capacity by 20%, with nuclear power accounting for about 30% of the national total power generation capacity. I have not looked into possible consequences for other nuclear plants not directly affected. This will probably be covered by running gas power plants that are usually only used for peak loads to cover some of the base load as well. I am not familiar with Japan’s energy supply chain for oil, gas and coal, and what damage the harbors, refinery, storage and transportation networks have suffered, as well as damage to the national distribution grid. All of that will increase your electricity bill, as well as lead to power shortages during peak demand and reconstruction efforts, in Japan.

§This all is only part of a much bigger picture. Emergency response has to deal with shelter, drinking water, food and medical care, transportation and communication infrastructure, as well as electricity supply. In a world of lean supply chains, we are looking at some major challenges in all of these areas.

If you want to stay informed, please forget the usual media outlets and consult the following websites:

§ .html




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Old 03-14-2011, 03:03 PM
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FYI - Probably the best, uncluttered information that will continue to be current and reliable, you may want to bookmark No plots, no conjecture, no wires.



wim is a nuclear engineer with an international reputation and a very good friend of mine for more than 20 years.


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Old 03-15-2011, 01:26 AM
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Japan Earthquake Update (15 March 2011, 06:15 CET)

Japanese authorities informed the IAEA that there has been an explosion at the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The explosion occurred at around 06:20 on 15 March local Japan time.

Japanese authorities also today informed the IAEA at 04:50 CET that the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is on fire and radioactivity is being released directly into the atmosphere.

Dose rates of up to 400 millisievert per hour have been reported at the site. The Japanese authorities are saying that there is a possibility that the fire was caused by a hydrogen explosion.

The IAEA is seeking further information on these developments.

The IAEA continues to liaise with the Japanese authorities and is monitoring the situation as it evolves.

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Old 03-15-2011, 12:23 PM
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Lightbulb Navy

Yes, they're being extremely cautious at this juncture, and I haven't seen anything in the official reports that makes me think "particulate" is involved. The readings that are being reported on the bases are likely from the fire at the storage pool of #4, which lasted a couple of hours, but the last reactor hydrogen excursion could be involved too. Even though, from my perspective, the military directive right now is overly protective, discretion is always the better part of valor, and it's a wise move to make, as my guess is that the levels will get higher for a few days before they drift back down to normal.

Media reports continue to be muddled and often inaccurate. The reactors near Sendai (and most of the rest of northern Japan) are in cold shutdown mode and being well maintained. In the case at Sendai, they're cooled now with seawater -- which means, of course, that they will never operate again, but are not building steam pressure and are continuing to cool. The same is true of #2 there, but the condition of the primary safety system after the most recent hydrogen explosion hasn't been verified.

The loss of life, disaster, and catastrophe from the unprecedented earthquake and tsunami will continue to be the long, heartbreaking reality for the Japanese people; the big story and what people discuss will be the much less damaging reactor struggle.

Will let you know as solid information is confirmed in the technical world.


In a message dated 3/15/2011 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, gunnercarvo writes:

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Old 03-15-2011, 05:39 PM
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Is radiation from Japan heading to the U.S.?

By Jeff Schogol
Published: March 15, 2011

This map is a fraud. So far, all radiation releases have been localized to Japan.

Japan is facing the very real possibility of a massive release of radiation following three explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where workers are frantically trying to cool the overheating reactors before they completely melt.

Perhaps more alarming to our readers in the United States is a map circulating on the Internet that purportedly shows the fallout from the ongoing disaster will expose the U.S. West Coast to 750 rads of radiation.

The map, allegedly from the Australian Radiation Services, doesn’t say what exactly that means, but it sure sounds bad.

Fortunately, the map is a hoax, according to the real Australian Radiation Services, which has put a disclaimer on its website letting readers know it had nothing to do with the map.

One of the giveaways is that the “rad” is an outdated unit of measurement and is no longer widely used, said Joe Young, managing director for the service.

Young doesn’t know who came up with the map.

"They’re just scaremongering for no real benefit to the community,” he said. “They should be trying to assess the situation, not make matters worse."

Other versions of the map attribute the information to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said NRC spokesman David McIntyre. No matter where it allegedly comes from, there is no truth to it.

“Apparently, the doses listed there are rather sensational and would result in most of the population of the western United States being killed,” McIntyre told The Rumor Doctor.

However, the releases of radiation so far have been localized to Japan because the containment vessels that keep the molten radioactive material from reaching the outside world have remained intact — at least so far, McIntyre said.

“To talk about any radiation reaching the United States at all is highly speculative at this point,” he said.

After McIntyre spoke to The Rumor Doctor, media reports indicated that one of the containment vessels may have been damaged.

Still, the United States is so far from Japan that any radiation would dissipate significantly on its way to the West Coast, McIntyre said.

Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear energy expert at Princeton University, echoed that sentiment.

"As they say, ‘The solution to pollution is dilution,’ and [there] would be plenty of dilution in the 6,000 miles between Japan and the West Coast,” von Hippel said in an e-mail.

THE RUMOR DOCTOR’S DIAGNOSIS: This map is a fake, but the situation at Fukushima is real. Still, U.S. citizens — like those in Japan — should remain calm.

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Old 03-16-2011, 01:03 PM
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Unhappy It's the 3-Strike Addage

1. Earthquake
2. Tsunami
3. Loosing Nukes

They are shell shocked and dismayed to say the least. I do regret their situation and don't envey their future prospects. The rebuilding cost, the loss of life and the loss of their power supply will bankrupt them.

I want to take my hat off to those folks working in those busted Nuke during this disruption. It takes a special man to risk his life - or shorten it quite dramatically - by staying in there. But who else could do it? The average man or woman wouldn't know what to do - so in order to save their people and sacrafice their remainin life to save another shows real heart and character and to do a selfless act like this is heroism to me. Their familes should be taken care of should the short comings result (like we know it will).

Chilling was word I used when I watched all these events come down on them. I was really surprised their large high rises stood all that motion. The tsunami was frigthening and for sure had to feel like the end of days (and was to many) to these folks on the ground. I think they only had a 15 min. warning before the tsunami came rolling in. The old ones I feel for as they did not have the strength or endurance to make the trek to high ground.

40 year old Nuke's I was surprised they were that old. More suprised that they were taken
out so quickly from the earthquake and the loss of their coolant pumps. They normally have more redundancy - I think there is a 3-tier back system on most Nuke plants. To have them all fail surely had to be horrifying for sure.

The Christian in me feels bad for them as the road ahead will be long and hard. Recovery will be difficult and many will have far less than they did before this event. God help them if another comes sooner than later -

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Old 03-17-2011, 05:25 PM
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Putting Chernobyl in Perspective

By Josh Gilder

With the world gripped by fear that the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants may turn into “another Chernobyl,” perhaps it’s worth examining just how bad Chernobyl actually was.

There’s no doubt that the scale of the accident was unequalled, either before, or so far in Japan, since. The Soviet-style nuclear reactor had been built without a containment structure, and when the graphite moderator components caught fire, they spewed more than 400 times more radioactivity into the environment than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Some 5 million people lived in the immediately affected area of the Ukraine, but all Europe became paralyzed by fear as hourly news reports tracked the radioactive cloud across the continent. Estimates at the time were of “tens of thousands” of lives lost, and pregnant mothers from Sweden to Italy underwent abortions for fear that their babies would be born with radiation-induced abnormalities.

This, indeed, remains the persistent image of Chernobyl to this day, as newscasts warn that winds may carry the Fukushima radioactivity as far as the West Coast of the United States. But before we start duct-tapping our windows again, we can get some perspective from those who have actually studied the effects of the Chernobyl fallout.

In 2006, 20 years after the accident, a group of eight UN agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization, assessed the damage in a study incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists and health experts from around the world.

It turns out that two decades after the fact, the death toll had not reached the tens of thousands that were predicted. In fact, fewer than 50 deaths could be directly attributable to radiation from the disaster, almost all of them among rescue workers who had been exposed to massive amounts of radiation on the disaster site at the time of the fire and its immediate aftermath. In addition, nine children in the area died of thyroid cancer that is thought to have been caused by radioactive contamination, but even among the nearby population, there was neither evidence of decreased fertility nor of congenital malformations that could be attributed to radiation exposure.

Any loss of life, particularly among children, is tragic. But clearly the mass causalities that were almost universally predicted – not just by the newshounds, but by the many “experts” who commented at the time – have not materialized. “By and large,” the report concludes, “we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas, nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health…”

It is worth putting even the UN’s low casualty figures in perspective. As the report notes, over 1,000 onsite reactor staff and emergency workers received heavy exposure to high levels of radiation on the first day of the accident, and some 200,000 workers were exposed in recovery operations from 1986-1987. But only 50 had died of cancer 20 years later.

Exposed children are more at risk from thyroid cancer, but the recovery rate – even in the Soviet Ukraine – was 99 percent. The health experts could find no evidence of increased rates of leukemia or other cancers among the affected residents.

All this encouraging news does come with one caveat. Scientists are divided over how many increased cancer deaths might be expected over the following 20 years – that is, three to four decades after the accident.
Based on a statistical model that assumes all radiation exposure is cumulative and that there is no threshold under which radiation produces no adverse affects on the human body, the report concludes that an additional 4,000 people will die of cancer. As about 1,000 of these would have died from cancer anyway, this represents only a 3 percent increase which the report admits “will be difficult to observe.”

Many question whether it will happen at all. The no-threshold hypothesis, while it forms the basis of U.S. regulatory law, is consistently refuted by real-world evidence. The residents of the Rocky Mountains receive some three times the natural background radiation as people living on the Gulf Coast, for instance, but the incidence of cancer is actually lower in the Rockies.

One might also expect that if the no-threshold theory were correct, at least some of the 200,000 workers exposed on-site at Chernobyl after the initial emergency would have developed cancers, but the UN scientists found none. The no-threshold theory, in fact, seems to have an increasingly tenuous scientific rationale, which is why the French Academy of Science and National Academy of Medicine issued a report a few years ago blasting the theory as “not based on biological concepts of our current knowledge.”

None of this takes away from the heroism of the emergency workers at the Fukushima plants who are taking real risks to bring the reactors there under control, nor the need to take reasonable precautions for the surrounding population, especially children. But it is worth keeping in mind the other startling conclusion of the UN study, which was that alongside the radiological effects, the crippling “mental health impact” caused by widespread misinformation was “the largest public health problem created by the accident.” In other words, the most dangerous fallout form the accident is fear. The way to prevent it is for the media to present more balance in the reporting and “expert” commentary the public is currently receiving in massive doses.

Josh Gilder is a Senior Director of the White House Writers Group.

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Old 03-17-2011, 05:41 PM
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Cool A glowing report on radiation

A glowing report on radiation

Posted: March 16, 2011
6:05 pm Eastern

© 2011
With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

This only seems counterintuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

As the New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level – much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government – radiation is good for you. "They theorize," the Times said, that "these doses protect against cancer by activating cells' natural defense mechanisms."

Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population.

And there are lots more!

A $10 million Department of Energy study from 1991 examined 10 years of epidemiological research by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on 700,000 shipyard workers, some of whom had been exposed to 10 times more radiation than the others from their work on the ships' nuclear reactors. The workers exposed to excess radiation had a 24 percent lower death rate and a 25 percent lower cancer mortality than the non-irradiated workers.

Isn't that just incredible? I mean, that the Department of Energy spent $10 million doing something useful? Amazing, right?

In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings' 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum "safe" level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

Bernard L. Cohen, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compared radon exposure and lung cancer rates in 1,729 counties covering 90 percent of the U.S. population. His study in the 1990s found far fewer cases of lung cancer in those counties with the highest amounts of radon – a correlation that could not be explained by smoking rates.

Tom Bethell, author of the "Politically Incorrect Guide to Science," has been writing for years about the beneficial effects of some radiation, or "hormesis." A few years ago, he reported on a group of scientists who concluded their conference on hormesis at the University of Massachusetts by repairing to a spa in Boulder, Mont., specifically in order to expose themselves to excess radiation.

At the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder, people pay $5 to descend 85 feet into an old mining pit to be irradiated with more than 400 times the EPA-recommended level of radon. In the summer, 50 people a day visit the mine hoping for relief from chronic pain and autoimmune disorders.

Amazingly, even the Soviet-engineered disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 can be directly blamed for the deaths of no more than the 31 people inside the plant who died in the explosion. Although news reports generally claimed a few thousand people died as a result of Chernobyl – far fewer than the tens of thousands initially predicted – that hasn't been confirmed by studies.

Indeed, after endless investigations, including by the United Nations, Manhattan Project veteran Theodore Rockwell summarized the reports to Bethell in 2002, saying, "They have not yet reported any deaths outside of the 30 who died in the plant."

Even the thyroid cancers in people who lived near the reactor were attributed to low iodine in the Russian diet – and consequently had no effect on the cancer rate.

Meanwhile, the animals around the Chernobyl reactor, who were not evacuated, are "thriving," according to scientists quoted in the April 28, 2002 Sunday Times (U.K.).

Dr. Dade W. Moeller, a radiation expert and professor emeritus at Harvard, told the Times that it's been hard to find excess cancers even from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, particularly because one-third of the population will get cancer anyway. There were about 90,000 survivors of the atomic bombs in 1945 and, more than 50 years later, half of them were still alive. (Other scientists say there were 700 excess cancer deaths among the 90,000.)

Although it is hardly a settled scientific fact that excess radiation is a health benefit, there's certainly evidence that it decreases the risk of some cancers – and there are plenty of scientists willing to say so. But Jenny McCarthy's vaccine theories get more press than Harvard physics professors' studies on the potential benefits of radiation. (And they say conservatives are anti-science!)

I guess good radiation stories are not as exciting as news anchors warning of mutant humans and scary nuclear power plants – news anchors who, by the way, have injected small amounts of poison into their foreheads to stave off wrinkles. Which is to say: The general theory that small amounts of toxins can be healthy is widely accepted –except in the case of radiation.

Every day Americans pop multivitamins containing trace amount of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, boron – all poisons.

They get flu shots. They'll drink copious amounts of coffee to ingest a poison: caffeine. (Back in the '70s, professor Cohen offered to eat as much plutonium as Ralph Nader would eat caffeine – an offer Nader never accepted.)

But in the case of radiation, the media have Americans convinced that the minutest amount is always deadly.

Although reporters love to issue sensationalized reports about the danger from Japan's nuclear reactors, remember that, so far, thousands have died only because of Mother Nature. And the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America.

Read more: A glowing report on radiation

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Old 03-24-2011, 08:11 PM
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With reports like that floating around the net, it's no wonder that 'researchers are divided'.

The actual news is getting dull, isn't it? But if you want a way to completely keep yourself occupied for a few days, Dade Moeller is putting their basic radiation training guide on their site to be accessed by anyone who wants to get themselves 'up to date' in how to assess radiation levels and better interpret what the reports are actually reporting. Their web site is, and you'll see the link there in the middle of the page if you so choose. Have fun.


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