Friday, November 18, 2011

More Deaths at Fukushima Than Chernobyl?

[Hu's on First | Nuclear]

originally published May 13, 2011 AsianWeek

Update: Nov 18, 2011:  I am more firmly convinced that Fukushima has already killed more than Chernobyl. They can only prove that in the first year only a dozen or so people died quickly from radiation exposure, and only a dozen or so from thyroid cancer from I-131.

But while authorities continue to state no one at Fukushima has died from radiation, this is very misleading. We had 3 people die outright from the tsunami and earthquake, which isn't supposed to happen at any industrial site. We had the worker who died evidently from exhaustion, but no research was done to see if it was related to radiation, then there was the acute lukemia fellow worker, with symptoms that are a dead ringer for radiation sickness, but that wasn't investigated either because they didn't measure enough radiation exposure to even consider it, and there was the third guy who died suddenly for NO REASONS AT ALL, who may have been the guy in the photo standing next to the cesium stained pipe that was releasing radiation like crazy.  Now there's unconfirmed stories of a rescue worker / fireman who was coughing up blood and died of renal failure, which just doesn't happen to healthy people. Then we have medical evacuees who were neglected, there are at least 25 more than they had the last year, and the largest number may be people who committed suicide because they lost their homes or livelihoods or farms. Nobody has tried to come up with an accurate estimate, but since there at least a dozen ancedotes out there, it must be another dozen to small hundreds out there out of the 100,000 affected evacuees and surrounding areas, not counting animals who have been destroyed or neglected. I don't buy the estimates of 100,000 or so excess deaths from the conspiracy theorists like Leuren Moret who is a Cheerleader for Palestine and says the earthquake was a CIA/Mossad plot.

Right now the biggest problem is panic over radiation levels. Honestly, I'm with the Khalili BBC professor who says the biggest harm is from the evacuation, not relatively low radiation levels, or at least levels low enough they won't kill you for a long time, and even then they can't come up with anybody who actually died from cesium contamination at Chernobyl. The radiation level is bad enough that it will sooner or later cover all of Japan bad enough to exceed some government limit, and the only way to completely get away from it  is to abandon the entire island and put up a big stay away sign, and I really don't think that is a good idea for something that isn't going to kill more than a handful of people working at the plant site, worst case.

 How many people died / will die at Chernobyl or Fukushima?

Well if you believe a website put up by people who make a living making nuclear power, two Chernobyl plant workers died on the night of the accident, and a further 28 people died within a few weeks as a result of acute radiation poisoning. "UNSCEAR says that apart from increased thyroid cancers, there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure 20 years after the accident."
*** Disclaimer - links provided to characters of dubious intentions are purposes of exposing rather than promoting their agendas. Follow at your own risk with your skeptic glasses firmly in place ***
If you ask the anti-nuclear left, Greenpeace figures a quarter of a million cancer cases and 100,000 fatal cancers, plus another 60,000 deaths in russia and 140,000 in the Ukraine and Belarus because of the accident. A russian publication "Chernobyl" calculates nearly a million excess deaths occurred to 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination. Chris Busby is a scientist who shows up on 9-11 "truth" conspiracy sites like Veterans Today and Alex Jones's Infowars, and was interviewed by Al-Jazeera Arabic (you know, the network where everybody left comments cursing our president, and wishing that Bin Laden meet his maker as a lion and a blessed martyr) on his study of the good people of Falluja (the town that gave ourMarines such an explosive welcome) concluding that ""Falluja is Worse Than Hiroshima". He told Russian Today (another 9-11 truth outlet making a killing on the Japan disasters) that hydrogen explosion at unit 1 was nuclear blast. He figures Chernobyl had killed 1.5 million people and predicts Fukushima's will be as bad or worse.
The Wikipedia page on the accident records 0 fatalities, while a NY Times reader asked "And how many people has the calamity at Fukushima killed so far? A million? Ten million? How about a big fat zero?"
Reactor 3 roof
Reactor 3 roof
Now here's how I figure a death toll based on the few reports I've seen. This isn't based on radiation, but on reports say of wind power where yo u count ALL deaths due to research, building and operating the plant, including the poor lady who parachuted into one of the giant props. One guy in the Daini #2 plant died after being injured in the earthquake in the overhead crane. Two guys who were missing were found dead in turbine building #4. The Telegraph had a report that six Self-Defence radiation team members were killed under concrete when unit 3 blew up, but I could never find a confirmation and it seems to have vanished from even that article. Other reports are that 11 were "injured" or missing and TEPCO won't confirm any other deaths. Two were also missing when #4 exploded, but they have not been found. Worse case, that's crane guy, 2 tsunami victims, 6 #3 explosion deaths, and the 2 missing #4 explosion people, or 11 people, or 3 confirmed, none from radiation.
BUT if you consider the fourty-five hospitalized people who died "mysteriously" when they were abandoned by hospital staff who got out of Dodge, you'd have to say their deaths were pretty much directly caused by the panic from the radiation, if not radiation itself. That's the problem when you try to implement something that sounds fine on paper, but then "90 patients were temporarily left behind at Futaba Hospital in Okuma". On early morning March 14, after Unit 1 was blowing up and the day that Unit 3 blew sky high and Unit 2 was trashing its basement and containment, their National Guard delivered 130 patients and workers to a welfare office, screened them for radiation, and sent them on to a shelter only a 40 minute drive away. But it took 6 hours to detour around the stricken nuclear plant. By the time they arrived at the school, the principal who was in charge found at his doorstep a bus with two persons who had died, suffered from incontinence, or had IV lines disconnected. The school had no medical supplies, and the patients not only had no medical files, but no identification is some cases. Nurses resorted to making diapers out of curtains. A desperate principal appealed for help on an FM radio station but by early next day they had lost two more patients. After news of explosions of the plants, there were 100 left at the hospital, but police came at 1AM to tell people who could to leave.  I could summarize the next 8 paragraphs, but all told, the tally that this newspaper came up with was 45 dead. My impression is that the Japanese are so sick of having been told that the plants are safe that they think it's Hiroshima when they aren't. Actually Hiroshima is more like what just plain water did to scrape away all those coastal towns. There is no doubt in my mind that if they told the medical staff to stay put and deal with water and power problems, most of those people would be alive, as nobody, even the people running around treating the flooded basement as a wading pool with radiation detectors going off-scale has died from radiation. They were too scared to even ask a Japanese OR American P-3 to overfly the site and take some decent pictures closer than space. Either way, whether it's 3 confirmed or 11 maybe directly killed trying to operate a plant through an earthquake and tsunami, it's 50 or 60 dead because of the panic, which is .... MORE THAN CHERNOBYL, and I'm assuming any similar cases would have been publicized by the anti-nuclear left long ago.
I have problems with two groups of people. The first are the idiot Dilbert managers in the nuclear industry who say that NOTHING really bad happened. It's in their interest that nobody panics even if people do get killed. Hey what's a blown roof or walls or a few billion units of radiation release in to the air and sea. At least "we don't think the reactor is busted". TEPCO is finally saying they're pretty sure now that just about all the water is gone from #1, and the fuel has probably melted down through the bottom of the "kettle" pressure cooker part, but not the thick concrete containment part. Oh that's good news, that's like the bottom of the pot melted so you just have a bunch of molten uranium on top of your burner, but the kitchen isn't blasted to smithereens yet, it's just leaking radiation all over the house. Oh, and all the cooling systems are inoperable unless you count a concrete pump truck.
The Packbot robots came from the US (to the displeasure of Japanese who wonder why Japanese robots weren't used) made by, yes, the Roomba people that can open doors (usually) but can't drive over debris on the floor of unit 3 (NOT a good sign). Instead of hiring the Youtube guy with the $5000 rc helicopter they got a i-hawk drone used by the Army to scout for IEDS ahead of people. They also have a remote controlled dump truck and loader like something my kids used to play with. Boy they look cool, but can you actually fix anything with them?
They finally got a camera into fuel pool #4 where they had the fire, most of the bundles look fine (which makes you wonder what in the blazes did blow up in there), and #3 where all they can see are rods broken out of reinforced concrete but they're sure the fuel rods must be fine (riiiiight). It's a miracle the pools still hold water at considering that looking at the side of building 3, pillars the size of the wall in the pentagon are sheared off as if hit by an airliner (ok you 9-11 truthers, don't say I said they got hit by an invisible airliner that got through the 9-11 portal). The entire north corner of building 3 is collapsed to BELOW the top refueling floor, which is inconsistent with the biggest boom coming from the pool acting as a mortar. I think you can see the crane on 3 across the middle of the building which explains why that part of the roof is still there, while the green refueling platform is on the north side shattered. The big square opening in the SW corner is the vertical shaft where fuel casks are moved from the truck to the top floor by the overhead crane. I've seen a youtube comment (hell, that's more reliable than what we get from TEPCO) report that the concrete reactor top plugs (like a big manhole cover) are blown out like coins. Keep in mind, TEPCO didn't have any of this stuff because the GE manual said they'll NEVER have to worry about working around radiation or blown up buildings. I'll bet dollars to donuts the American plants with BWRs don't have any toys like this either or contingency plans otherwise they could go over there and say "just use our plans we figure out years ago" instead of looking across the pond with a gaping OMG and then signing off on a NRC study saying we're fine instead of acting like the kids before the test that got ahold of bootleg copy of the test questions and adjusting accordingly. Somebody is going to dig up the old pro-nuclear editorials I did at the Tech when they were trying to put up Seabrook. I do remember somebody responding to "split wood, not atoms" with "5 billion people burning wood for energy would end life as we know it on this planet".
All General Electic has to say, the guys who built the thing and the instruction book is that "it's their reactor now, we built that thing a LoNNNNNG time ago" and "oh, that's wayyyyyy beyond design basis, we're proud it held up as well as it did" never mind that their design study still says in Wikipedia that it's not supposed to melt down in a bazillion reactor years, and every safety cooling system either failed, blew up or both spilling enough radioactivity to be measured in milk and rainwater across the planet, and huge chunks up to 2 miles away.
The other group of people that scare the hell out of me is the conspiracy / "alternative-media" left (Democracy NowRussia Today, Destroy Israel/ World Jihad Now and worse) and loony white-nationalist right (Alex JonesRense and worse) who are pushing people like Busby. I don't think they are crazy or stupid. They make a living trying to make as many people panic as possible and rise up in a revolution to smash capitalism or who/whatever is currently in power be it Republicans or Gaddafi.
Even scarier is that I'm finding through following the links that such people graciously volunteer on their youtube channels and even spam sent by Ron Paulbots that people like our old friend Grand Wizard David Duke and Ron Paul supporters at Stormfront link the Muslims, Arabs and Christian Arabs Who Hate Zionists(tm) with the Nazis and White Nationalists Who Hate Zionists(tm) even while you'd think they'd hate each other. I don't think there's a correct answer when I actually like SOME of what Alex Jones has to say about education reform and CPS child-snatching, and the Arab Spring people have even John McCain and Joe Lieberman calling for bombing the crap out of Gadaffi.
Even that Arnie Gunderson nuclear executive guy I was quoting about "prompt critical" explosions on further investigation is buddies with Vermont protesters. He interviewed with the good folks at Democracy Now who were arrested for rioting at the Republican convention, and the Sharif Abdel Kouddous who interviewed Gunderson has since returned back to Egypt. That's where the Muslim Brotherhood is now #1 in power now that Mubarak isn't around to harass to brutally repress and jail Al Queda types, and the "Democracy Spring" is about to abrogate the treaty with the Zionist Occupation Government, and just had huge protest of the Catastrophe 1948 / al-Nakba (jihad for the founding of Israel)
I can't believe that even when we're trying to talk fixing or patching-up or at least try to make sure the Fukushima plant doesn't kill anybody it still all boils down to who you think the good guys are. And I'm completely amazed that these people have NO trouble at all finding people who need to be persuaded as to whether the "real terrorists" or the "real patriots" are the ones who are fighting or defending either Bush and Israel or Bin Laden's buddies at Hamas or Hezbollah. But this Asian American conservative is truly worried when the only conservatives raising real questions about the nuclear screw up are anti-Israel ones like David Duke and Pat Buchanan.
Apollo 13 or the good sailors of Taffy 3 in the Battle Off Samar / Leyte are models of how this needs to be handled.  You lose the service module, and follow the manual, and you won't get home. Taffy 3 found themselves armed with spit wads against the mighty battleship Yamato, but fought on and won. The Japanese followed the book, but Americans know when the book says "end of game" but figure out how to keep playing. At least the Japanese were inventive enough to survive as well as they did without really killing many people at all. Fukushima is still a ticking bomb, and we're downwind. Never mind the moms in the rest of Asia next door rinsing out their spinach to get the radioactive particles out. The president needs to call up GE and apologize at least as much to the Japanese for selling them such a dangerous piece of equipment as for US crimes against Islam. Then call up their experts (assuming they haven't died, been laid-off or retired by now) or call back the retirees, put all the broken parts on a table, and tell them FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION. None of this "we offer help". We do whatever it takes to secure the place if it takes sending in the Marines. If we can go into Pakistan whether they like it or not, isn't this at least as important? Dr. Michio Kaku had it right in that once the cooling system fails, THERE IS NO SAFE WAY TO OPERATE THE PLANT. You look at all the specs and it's never supposed to leak any radioactive anything, let alone blow up with the same effect as an airliner crash or a small nuke. It doesn't matter that we're getting radiation in "safe levels", we're all on the same planet and we can't just sit back and look at pictures of TEPCO playing with the robots, remote controlled dumper and crane or T-Hawk drone like executive toys on Christmas day. Everybody in US plants, this is like the day the gave out the answer to the test. In the 80s they used computers to discovered a gob of cases they never thought of in the 1950s and came up with fixes like explosion proof exhaust vents to prevent hydrogen explosions. STILL  don't know if the Japanese ever installed those (heck somebody outthere ought to be able to look at the shattered vent hanging in the air next to #3 and see if that's a hard one), or if they failed because the fans had no power.
The first BWRs were operational in 19-freaking-57, about when they were studying reactors grafted into B-36 bombers followed around by paratroopers in case they had to bury the thing in a crash (I kid you not, look up NB-36), and the Army's Jeep-mounted Davy Crockett nuclear bazooka which was withdrawn when they figured out it couldn't fire the thing far enough away to not kill the people that launched the thing. What ever happened to the good old days? We need to figure out what the hell happened out there, how broken things are, and how to figure out to make sure they don't kill anybody before they have to seal off a Fukushima  wilderness refuge like Chernobyl where the animals that have adapted to wierd genetic defects are taking over because all the people have left, and nobody will ever bother the fish.
update 5/14: Ugh, it's worse. Measured radiation levels are worse than the levels that mandated evacuation around Chernobyl, which never had an explosion that scattered radioactive debris miles away horizontally. Nothing to worry about, it's just a harmless hydrogen explosion my arse: "levels of radioactive cesium137 (30 year half-life) registering between 3 million and 30 million Becquerel per square meter (Bq/m2)....populations in Ukraine were ordered out of areas contaminated at 550,000 Bq/m"
US/Japan release radiological readings around Fukushima: Hot zones higher than those prompting 1986 Chernobyl evacuations
New radiological monitoring data jointly collected and published on May 6, 2011 by Japanese and US authorities reveal ground level radioactive cesium contamination beyond Japan's declared twelve (12) mile no entry zone higher than radiation levels that prompted the mandatory evacuation of populations from around the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986. Radiation readings taken by helicopter and plane found levels of radioactive cesium137 (30 year half-life) registering between 3 million and 30 million Becquerel per square meter (Bq/m2). Following the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, populations in Ukraine were ordered out of areas contaminated at 550,000 Bq/m2. Those areas are still officially declared to be an uninhabitable zone now more than twenty five years later.

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