Friday, January 6, 2012

Fukushima Event: Fujinuma Dam Failure Killed 8

swinging voter :

06 Jan 2012 6:54:16pm

So even when Tepco and the Japanese authorities failed to adequately prepare, and failed to adequately respond to the emergency, the death toll is zero. Just a lot of media hype founded on decades of scaremongering about the dangers of the nuclear power stations.

Here is something much more concerning. The Tsunami also caused the subsequent failure of the Fujinuma dam. at least 8 deaths, 5 homes lost. Yet the international media ignored this.

Hydroelectric dams are far more likely to fail than nuclear power stations, and when they do, they cause many more deaths. For example:

- Worst nuclear accident: Chernobyl: 50 deaths (some assertions of a higher number, but statistically undetectable).

- Worst Hydro accident: 1975 Banquo dam failure: 171,000 deaths, 11 million homes lost.

- if (just for example) the Aswan High Dam fails, Cairo (a city of over 6 million) will be underwater within hours.

- according to BBC today, another dam failed in Brazil.

There are statistics to show that every other form of electricity generation is statistically more dangerous than nuclear power. (Someone recently demonstrated from available statistics in USA, that even domestic solar energy is more dangerous than nuclear per GW produced, based on the risk of death, falling off a single storey roof during installation.)

Sure, we need to be concerned about safety at nuclear power stations, but how about some perspective?

followed by lots of Australians for Nukes

    • Richard Gillies :

      06 Jan 2012 9:08:01pm
      I couldn't have said it better myself, Swinging Voter. Well done. I have no problem with legitimate questions being asked about nuclear safety, but the same should also be asked about wind turbines (the Greens don't seem to have a problem with these things killing native birds), solar panels, etc.

      This report didn't exactly fill me with confidence either:

  • Michael Dixon :

    06 Jan 2012 4:57:57pm
    Nuclear power is one of the safest large-scale industrial processes in the world.

    More people died in Canberra from eating the wrong mushrooms this week than have died from Fukushima. (Japanese deaths from radiation had escalated to zero when I last looked).

    The numbers of people that have ever been killed by nuclear power in the entire Western world since the first commercial reactor is exceeded by the number of rock stars that have choked on their own vomit. Peter Garrett's old job is more hazardous than nuclear power.

    The annual traffic accident death toll just in Australia is 1,500 a year.

    Everything's more dangerous and causes more death than nuclear power: bee stings, cooking in your kitchen, accepting a lift from a P-plater, going out for a meal in a restaurant, walking to the shops, holidays in Bali, installing pink batts.

    But we can't have nuclear power in Australia because it's unsafe. And Bob Brown is very intelligent.
      • unbiased comment :

        06 Jan 2012 6:47:16pm
        you clearly are misrepresenting the harm from radiation, it can take years for the health effects to be recognised. what is your bias? greed?
          • Michael Dixon :

            06 Jan 2012 8:32:09pm
            Chernobyl was 25 years ago, and was far, far worse than Fukushima, and yet we can't detect the substantial long-term adverse effects predicted. Where are all the dead people?

            The most painful symptom is the constant wittering of Helen Caldicott and others, which, while annoying, has not actually killed anyone. Yet.

            You are right, there have been and will be deaths in the long term from Chernobyl, but Chernobyl is not Fukushima and has zero relevance to the western world's nuclear industry.

            I'm motivated by facts and rationality, I don't have any link to the nuclear industry.

    • Gavin :

      06 Jan 2012 4:54:34pm
      More people have died in accidents related to wind farms this year than have died in all nuclear related accidents including Fukushima.

      • e36m3 :

        06 Jan 2012 3:05:44pm
        There certainly is a range of misinformation here. Not only in the article where we clearly have an author asserting their opinion based on the linear no-threshold theory of radioactive exposure mortality. There is building evidence that this is patently wrong. There is also a commentor here that truly believes the cores at Daiichi did not melt. This is patently wrong - Units 1-3 have extremely damaged cores and it will be decades before we really know where they ended up. That assumes conditions do not change that cause a recriticality. Next we have assertions of a massive Japanese government coverup. Let me tell you, these are honorable, industrious and very responsible people. Their culture is different than ours and their communications tend to be channeled and bound by heirarchy. Can you imagine having to deal with a national crisis such as what happened and to manage the communications that were sporadic, exaggerated, understated, unclear, etc.? Which ones to believe, how to communicate a clear and accurate message to the world. I am not just talking about the nuclear crisis - many folks just don't get how devastating this event was in all aspects. To assert that Japan is not protecting their citizens is condescending, insensitive and wrong. They are doing amazing things and teaching the world once again how smart, innovative and resilient they are. My deepest respects are with them. Now we turn to nuclear power. My dear passion. I believe in the industry whole-heartedly but as with my attitude towards fuel efficiency & emissions from cars, we can do better. I pray that this event galvanizes our best scientists and engineers to develop a more cost effective and safer alternative. Until this happens, nuclear is the technology that MUST be used if we want to protect the environment. Beware the new and unproven designs. Passive designs like the AP1000 are highly susceptible to gas intrusion that tends to disrupt natural circulation. In my opinion, the South Texas Nuclear Plant is clearly the best designed and safest plant in the world and it has many years of operation to speak to this. My credentials include a 22 year tenure in the industry as an engineer and a Senior Reactor Operator. Its neat to operate a reactor but I will have to admit I am not in favor of continued development unless this is the best we have. We need to support the world nuclear operators, stop the irresponsible accusations and get to work on a better alternative.
          • JoeBloggs :

            06 Jan 2012 3:56:24pm
            "....and get to work on a better alternative"

            Yeah the 'better alternative(s)' has already been developed.....It's called solar, wind and water power.

            Germany is shutting down all it's nuke reactors and will run its massive industrialised economy from only renewable sources within 40 years.

            Now that is smart.... and simple.
              • Greig :

                06 Jan 2012 5:00:21pm

                Germany has had policies to shutdown its nukes previously. And it hasn't happened, becuase it would devastate their economy.

                And just because some German politician declares that they are going 100% renewable doesn't mean it is going to happen.

                "No Australian child will live in poverty".

                Need I say more?
                • PaulM :

                  06 Jan 2012 5:02:23pm
                  No, Germany will emit an extra 300m tons of CO2 by 2020 by shutting down their nuclear reactors- more CO2 than the whole EU Energy Efficiency initiative.

                  On top of that, they're renewables will be supported by gas, coal and nuclear from neighbouring countries, with their own gas generation increasing.

                  They don't know how to go 100% renewable. Every single 100% renewable plan around the world has been shot down as too expensive or technically impossible, with Scotland being the most recent example.
              • Vince Whirlwind :

                06 Jan 2012 4:25:44pm
                " author asserting their opinion based on the linear no-threshold theory of radioactive exposure mortality. There is building evidence that this is patently wrong. "

                No, there has been a decades-long campaign of misinformation by the Nuclear industry to muddy the waters on this issue. There is much evidence to support a no-threshold approach to radioactive exposure and overwhelming evidence that the Nuclear industry's contentions are overstated and based on lies, propaganda and conflicts of interest.
                  • Greig :

                    06 Jan 2012 6:04:32pm
                    Actually, Vince, you are in denial, and searching for a ridiculous conspircay theory to bolster your preconceived notions.

                    In fact, the linear, no threshold model has been invalidated by robust, peer reviewed science. Search Google scholar for "linear no threshold". Note the many studies and papers by people who are not involved in the nuclear industry. Educate yourself.
                      • Su :

                        06 Jan 2012 6:35:00pm
                        That is utter disinformation from yet another Nuclear proponent keen to misrepresent the science. The ICRP recently reaffirmed that the LNT is still the best model. The epidemiology from studies of radon exposure conforms closely to the LNT model. A large metaanalysis conducted by the world's foremost epidemiologists including Elizabeth Cardis, examinining cancers in workers exposed to radiation (at low doses obvioiusly as this is occupational exposure) also demonstrated that the LNT is the best fit to the observed health effects. In fact the rates of disease seen in that study were slightly in excess of those predicted by LNT but not significantly so.
                        • Greig :

                          06 Jan 2012 8:23:42pm

                          At least a dozen studies that I found in a few seconds searching on Google scholar disagree with you. I think you are another anti-nuclear nut keen to misrepresent the science.

              • Greig :

                06 Jan 2012 3:01:02pm
                One of the greatest tragedies of Chernobyl was the many 1000s of "panic" abortions that were unnecesarily performed. It was by far the greatest toll in life from the accident. And it was caused by misinformation.

                Is this happening in Japan?

                It is articles like the above that cause these unnecessary deaths, that (couched in emotive language) deliberately give rise to needless concern.
                  • JoeBloggs :

                    06 Jan 2012 3:57:14pm
                    I thought the greatest tragedy of Chernobyl was the appox 1,000,000 unnecessary deaths.

                    But hey everyone to their own Greig.......
                      • PaulM :

                        06 Jan 2012 5:25:37pm
                        1 million deaths JoeBloggs?

                        That's funny, WHO, UN, Russia, the EU and other independent studies place the figure around 6000 eventual deaths.

                        Helen Caldicott tried to place a 1 million figure on it and has been repeatedly discredited.

                        She is a full time anti-nuclear campaigner, and fudges figures more than TEPCO.

                        Enough scare-mongering please- listen to the science.
                          • Su :

                            06 Jan 2012 7:19:15pm
                            The WHO 2005 study actually predicted a figure of approx 16,000 deaths from Cancer, for some reason this is continually misreported as 6000. BEIR predicted a much higher number, the truth is we may never know. Long term cohorts established in the early nineties are about to be wound up - this is an extraordinary move, when you consider that the cohorts established in Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to be monitored until this day and that some health effects, including significant increases in cardiovascular disease, have only emerged in those cohorts in the last decade or two, more than fifty years after the atomic bombs were dropped on those cities.

                            As has been repeatedly stated but is always ignored, the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima are completely different to the bombing of Japanese citizens, resulting in less gamma radiation exposure and more exposure to radionucleides in the environment. The failure to adequately study the populations after Chernobyl is a tragedy for science and for the people of those regions. This failure is largely political in origin, scientists in the worst affected region, present day Belarus, the last European dictatorship, have been jailed, harasssed and impeded in every possible way for daring to study the health of populations in the exposed regions.

                            Lukashenko, who has made his country the target of international sanctions for his antidemocratic behaviour and human rights abuses declared in 1996 that Chernobyl was over and jailed the Director of Medical Institute at Gomel, Dr Bandhazhevsky for 8 years for criticizing the government's response to Chernobyl. In 2005 the US Ambasssador to Belarus advised his government to treat the WHO report on the effects of Chernobyl with some skepticism as it was known that the Belarussian government had not provided the Chernobyl Forum with reliable information.

                            Given this, those who continue to quote the deeply flawed and politically skewed WHO Chernobyl Health studies as if they represent a realistic picture of the Chernobyl accident are unwittingly helping to perpetuate a great injustice against the populations of this region.
                            • Greig :

                              06 Jan 2012 8:19:33pm
                              The WHO study is only "flawed and politically skewed" because it fails to arrive at the really scary number that fits with your personal prejudice.

                  • bobb :

                    06 Jan 2012 2:50:50pm
                    One thing we can be sure of and that is that the Japanese government and the owners of the Fukushima plant will not reveal the truth and will lie as long as possible.

                    • Anders :

                      06 Jan 2012 1:16:40pm
                      Total deaths and environmental impact from coal and natural gas mining, processing and power generation v deaths and impact from mining, processing and generation using nuclear power?

                      I'd say that even factoring in total lifetime generation capacity, nuclear is still the safer option.

                      And let's not forget that Fukushima didn't occur in isolation, there was one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded and a massively damaging tsunami which seriously hampered efforts. So, TEPCO ineptitude and CYAing aside, there were mitigating factors to this clean up.
                        • cb :

                          06 Jan 2012 1:48:45pm
                          Japan is prone to larger scale earthquakes and tsunamis. Any other nuclear reactory in Japan is equally at risk. Does that mean we in the rest of the world ignore the risk?

                          The difference between deaths from other forms of electricity generation and nuclear is that nuclear deaths can take longer to identify. In 5 or 10 years time once a count is taken and a spike is demonstrated from cancer deaths, particularly thyroid, we can start to count the death toll. In the meantime there could be a walking time bomb inside many Japanese people already.

                          Post earthquake and tsuanmi, about 100 workers "volunteered" to remain to get the reactor under control. Those 100 workers were kept isolate and from the report of one journo, were be housed in a moored ship. Later reports show there was inadequate equipment and clothing provided to recovery workers. How about we get an account of where these 100 workers are and the state of their health before we start calling the Japan crisis as death free
                            • Anders :

                              06 Jan 2012 2:35:12pm
                              What about the hundreds of thousands (probably millions) with respiratory issues from coal fired electricity generation? And global issues to do with not just global warming, but earlier struggles with acid rain, smogs and soot and ecological damaged sustained from this?

                              And cb, you'll note I never claimed it was death free. Just that it has a better safety record. Nuclear attracts greater regulatory controls, safety measures and press coverage than any other form of power generation. 100 workers might have volunteered for the job and those brave folks will probably face health consequences later in life. In 2006, in China alone nearly 5000 coal miners died in mining accidents. More than 100,000 coal miners died in the United states in the past century in accidents.

                              The point is not that nuclear isn't dangerous, but that other forms of energy generation have been and continue to be dangerous at levels far and away above nuclear.
                              • Greig :

                                06 Jan 2012 2:49:54pm
                                What about we apply some balance here?

                                Hundreds of Japanese people were killed by explosions and toxic leaks in the petrochemical industry, from accidents initiated by the earthquake and tsunami. Some died quickly, many died slow and painful deaths. Some remain hospitalised, with no chance of recovery.

                                Yet nobody has died as a result of radiation exposure form the Fukushima reactor failures.

                                Whilst Chernobyl showed us that nuclear power can be very poorly handled (eg using demonstrably unsafe technology like Chernobyl's Soviet RBMK graphite moderated design), in Japan nuclear technology has now proven that even in the most extraordinary circumstances, and even including human fallibility, nuclear power is safe.
                                • PaulM :

                                  06 Jan 2012 3:31:26pm
                                  "...cancer deaths, particularly thyroid, we can start to count the death toll."

                                  All properly treated cases of Thyroid Cancer from Chernobyl survived.


                                  Of course, any kind of disease is not desirable to begin with however.
                              • Paul :

                                06 Jan 2012 2:19:06pm
                                That is surely the best argument I have heard for shutting down coal and natural gas power generation. It's way too dangerous!
                                • David Ferstat :

                                  06 Jan 2012 3:22:11pm
                                  "... nuclear is still the safer option ..."

                                  Only if you have no catastrophe.

                                  If you subject a coal-fired power-plant, or a gas one, to the earthquake and tsunami combination that hit the Fukushima nuclear plant, what would be released into the environment?

                                  Almost all undesirable/harmful output from coal- and gas-fuelled power generation is only released upon the use of the fuel. In nuclear plants, on the other hand, the fuel itself is intrinsically harmful, and the only way to stop it causing harm is to physically seperate it from the environment.

                                  Unfortunately, in the event of structural damage to the plant, this containment fails.

                                  When it fails, the damage caused can last for decades, or centuries.
                                    • Michael Dixon :

                                      06 Jan 2012 5:15:59pm
                                      A catastrophe struck Fukushima. Nobody died. Nuclear is by far the safest option, even if you stuck with old nuclear technology. New designs are even safer.
                                        • David Ferstat :

                                          06 Jan 2012 8:38:46pm
                                          "Nobody died."

                                          Correction: nobody has died yet. A report in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists predicts that between 100 and 1000 people from the area near the plant will die from accumulated radiotaion exposure. In addition, at least six workers have exceeded their safe lifetime radiation exposure limits, and 300 have received significant exposure. I think it's a bit early to write this off as a "safe disaster".

                                          And you don't have to have deaths for a nuclear failure to be bad news. By all accounts the Fukushima incident has contaminated more than 150 square km, with all food grown in the area declared unsafe, and all inhabitants required to evacuate. The Japanese government has even publicly raised the possibility that parts of the evacuation zone could "could stay for some decades a forbidden zone".

                                          There's simply no way that a coal- or gas-fuelled plant could produce this amount of long-term damage and cost.

                              • Robert Merkel :

                                06 Jan 2012 12:26:29pm
                                Yes, Japanese authorities, for all their mistakes, did infinitely better than the Soviet authorities did back in 1986.

                                The only detectable health effect of Chernobyl to date in the broader population is the raised levels of childhood thyroid cancer.

                                This was caused by children consuming food products - mostly milk - that were contaminated with radioactive iodine.

                                This did not happen in Japan.
                                  • cb :

                                    06 Jan 2012 1:49:06pm
                                      • Greig :

                                        06 Jan 2012 2:53:18pm
                                        cb, the exposure levels of iodine-131 in Japan are nowhere near high enough to cause thyroid cancer. If high levels of I-131 were released, the population could have been easily and quickly protected by distribution of iodine tablets.

                                        The tragedy of Chernobyl is that if the Soviets knew of high levels of I-131 exposure, but were ill-prepared and did not disperse iodine tablets.
                                          • cb :

                                            06 Jan 2012 4:03:18pm
                                            Where did you get your figures from?

                                            From what I understand a one off low dose may not be a health issue, but low doses over a period of time, ingested either airbourne, or from food or water, is a different thing.

                                            Iodine tablets may only assist with iodine-131 but what about the other toxins released, especially those that have a far longer shelf life?
                                            • Greig :

                                              06 Jan 2012 5:06:53pm

                                              We are talking about thyroid cancer in children. In the case of Chernobyl, this was caused by I-131 exposure.

                                              If you are taling about other radioactive contaminants (eg Cs, Sr etc) then we are not talking about thyroid cancer in children.
                                          • Robert Merkel :

                                            06 Jan 2012 4:04:47pm
                                            Radioactive iodine has a half-life of eight days.

                                            It is now about 300 days since the Fukushima nuclear plants were operating and producing i-131.

                                            A very simple calculation suggests that 99.999999999% of the iodine released during the accident has turned itself into harmless xenon gas. This radioactive decay occurs at a very precisely predictable rate.

                                            If it ever represented a danger, it assuredly does not do so now.

                                            The ongoing potential danger from Fukushima's fallout - such as it is - comes from radioactive cesium-137 rather than i-131.

                                    • jessie :

                                      06 Jan 2012 12:02:47pm
                                      Japan is clearly doing much worse than Chernobyl in terms of public health if has increased the "safe" allowable limits for radiation exposure from 1 mSv to 20 mSv a year (resulting in 1 in 30 children developing cancer after 5 years of exposure).

                                      I'm not sure that we have any right to criticise Japan's public health policy - the cavalier way we routinely irradiate ourselves must surely induce cancer, too - but the leakage of "120,000 tonnes of highly radioactive water underneath the plant ... into the ocean" is surely an international public health issue.

                                      Also, these incidents must surely convince us that nuclear energy is not worth the risks it entails.

                                      • sinbad :

                                        06 Jan 2012 11:44:52am
                                        What about looking at the core issue of reactor design.
                                        Alvin Weinberg the guy who designed most of the reactors in use today realized shortly after he completed the first reactor that they were inherently unsafe. Weinberg designed and built a new failsafe reactor using Thorium and lobbied to have the new safe reactors used. The Uranium industry took exception to the efforts of Weinberg and got President Nixon to fire him and bury his work.

                                        Would you let your children play with TNT, Politicians and business are like children and are only interested in the here and now.
                                        Incompetence as seen in the Fukushima disaster is the natural result of the profit motivation behind most large corporations and human nature.

                                        India is the only country working on failsafe reactors and that is motivated by the availability of Thorium in India. Since Australia has agreed to sell Uranium to India I imagine the research into safe reactors will be abandoned.

                                        Why did Australia change its nuclear policy, well as I said before politicians are only into instant grat and a photo op with POTUS is like a lolly to a child, simply irresistible.

                                        • Billy Bob Hall :

                                          06 Jan 2012 11:34:46am
                                          "Can Japan do better than Chernobyl? We shall see."

                                          So far so good. Noone has been killed, surely that is way better than Chernobyl.
                                            • Jenny :

                                              06 Jan 2012 12:09:03pm
                                              An estimated 14,000 deaths in the United States alone are linked to radiation from Fukushima, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services. This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima using Centers for Disease Control data.
                                                • Michael Dixon :

                                                  06 Jan 2012 5:32:10pm
                                                  Sadly, if you read the "major new article", it does no such thing. The work suggests that there was an increase in US deaths some time after Fukushima, but there is no link. As we rational, scientific people are fond of saying, correlation is not causation. Here, there isn't even correlation. The "study" is a request for research funding, not a scientific analysis.

                                                  Naturally, journalists immediately go for the headline, but the headline is wrong.
                                              • David :

                                                06 Jan 2012 12:37:31pm
                                                Some have been killed.

                                                The differences between Chernobyl and Japan are still distinct
                                                The total number of deaths is vastly lower.
                                                The complications caused by an environmental disaster actually exist.
                                                The hysteria is higher.
                                                The lack of military secrets in Japans nucleur plant is helping

                                                Comparing Chernobyl and Japan is like comparing the bubonic plauge with the flu. They are vastly different and only fear mongerers try to put them together.
                                                • SG Warren :

                                                  06 Jan 2012 1:22:13pm
                                                  Well there is a massive debate over what the death toll of Chernobyl actually was.

                                                  The nuclear lobby will tell you it was 50 people, but completely discount any deaths caused by cancer in people exposed to radiation (millions of people).

                                                  It will be the same here. The nuclear lobby will completely ignore any of the secondary deaths and start parades in front of "Mission Accomplished" flags any day now.

                                              • Ravensclaw :

                                                06 Jan 2012 11:12:13am


                                                This is an odd title for an opinion essay.

                                                Japan's nuclear reactors did do better than Chernobyl from just about every angle you can think of.

                                                1. The fuel rods at Fukushima (all the reactors) didn't melt. After the earthquake and before the Tsunami, control rods were inserted next to the fuel rods to passify the reactor(s). While it's true that temperatures rose enough in the reactor to effectively write off the reactor, the temperature in the reactor did not get high enough to melt the rods to cause an actual meltdown.

                                                At Chernobyl the control rods were not installed properly and thus did not work properly. Chernobyl experienced an actual meltdown of the fuel rods.

                                                2. The containment facility at Fukushima was not breached. Chernobyl had no containment facility, thus the explosion that sent large amounts of radioactive ash into the atmoshphere.

                                                3. Quite a lot of people died at Chernobyl including some heroes who died trying to contain the massive radiation leak, and knowing in advance they were going to die. No-one died as a result of the nuclear accidents in Japan. Only 2 people possibly got ill when they entered cooling ponds without proper protective gear. Those that did die around the nuclear facilities died from the Tsunami.

                                                4. Radiation released from coolant (mainly water) from Fukushima was very low. Levels were so low that they weren't much higher than what flight crews experience on international flights. The half lives for most if not all this radiation ranged from seconds to a few weeks. Radiation levels around the site of Chernobyl were much higher. To keep things in perspective after the Chernobyl disaster workers at other reactors/industries around the disaster site continued to work there as normal.

                                                Once again standards remain very low from the ABC when it comes to their pet dislikes.

                                                  • VoR :

                                                    06 Jan 2012 12:41:55pm
                                                    There WAS meltdown at several of the Fukushima reactors.
                                                    Also, containment WAS breached, but deliberately and in a controlled way. They had no option but to vent radioactive steam more than once in order to lower the temperature.
                                                      • Ravensclaw :

                                                        06 Jan 2012 2:02:30pm

                                                        Hi VoR

                                                        The term "Meltdown" has a very dubious definition. Just about anything can melt in a nuclear reactor for it to be called a "meltdown".

                                                        The fuel rods themselves did not melt. The casings did, but not the fuel rods. The control rods did their job. Temperatures need to get to 1200 degrees to melt the fuel rods. This did not happen. An important fact the ABC consistently forgets.

                                                        The reactor pressure vessel and the containment structure are designed with several pressure relief valves to control pressure in the reactor. On several occasions radioactive steam was released from these valves to reduce pressure and temperature. So on this you are indeed correct.

                                                          • Ravensclaw :

                                                            06 Jan 2012 2:38:13pm


                                                            "Temperatures need to get to 1200 degrees to melt the fuel rods." - Error, please ignore.

                                                            • VoR :

                                                              06 Jan 2012 3:46:28pm
                                                              Not meaning to beat you into the ground over this, Ravensclaw, but a number of reputable sites have reported that Tepco admitted the fuel rods did indeed melt.
                                                              • cb :

                                                                06 Jan 2012 4:04:52pm
                                                                Other sources say it will be years before anyone can actually, safety do the essential inspections to determine exactly what has and what has not melted.
                                                                • Vince Whirlwind :

                                                                  06 Jan 2012 4:31:20pm
                                                                  Tepco are no longer trying to pretend that the fuel rods in 3 reactors didn't melt....and that the fuel itself then escaped containment, that hydrogen produced by the fuel rods exploded into the atmosphere, that one nuclear explosion probably occurred, and that fuel is now in contact with groundwater.

                                                                  Ravensclaw is in full denial.
                                                          • R. Ambrose Raven :

                                                            06 Jan 2012 1:34:56pm
                                                            Breathtaking denialism. But then, to the denialists, truth is whatever serves the needs of the moment.

                                                            TEPCO Fukushima Dai-ichi 2011 has demonstrated that nuclear energy a quarter of a century after Chernobyl 1986 is not fundamentally any safer, especially in that just one incident can require a large area to be evacuated and an enormous investment of time and money invested to stabilise and attempt to decontaminate and dismantle.

                                                            Recent developments:
                                                            * estimated cost of scrapping the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi plant is ¥1.5 trillion (currently $A18.5b) yen, with the additional fuel costs of running thermal power generators at about ¥1 trillion (currently $A12.2b) a year;
                                                            * Then Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan noted that government advice was that, at worst, 30 million residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would have to be evacuated. Kan said “…I wasn't sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state.”
                                                            * Three of the four active reactors suffered melt-throughs.
                                                            * The total amount of radiation released from the reactors is still unknown, but the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety found 30 times more cesium-137 was released into the Pacific than the plant’s owner has acknowledged.
                                                            * As at August '11, Chris Busby, (visiting professor at the University of Ulster’s school of biomedical sciences and scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk) said the disaster would result in more than 1 million deaths: 'Fukushima is still boiling its radionuclides all over Japan [...] the release is at least 72,000 times worse than Hiroshima ... Chernobyl went up in one go. So Fukushima is worse.’
                                                            • Evacuee :

                                                              06 Jan 2012 1:40:36pm
                                                              Hi Ravensclaw,

                                                              I'm sorry but completely disagree on your assertions. I'm a self-evacuee from Ibaraki-ken, about 165 Kmts from the plant. My home registers 3 microSV/hr, that's about 25+ milliSV/year, measured with 2 different geigers. And still, the government minimizes the impact saying that "there is not immediate risk to health" so we can still live there. Having 3 small children the best option was to leave.
                                                              • cb :

                                                                06 Jan 2012 1:53:41pm
                                                                There was a core meltdown in 2 reactors. Core meaning the bottom concrete shell. Oops, contaminated water leaking into soild and possibly ground water.

                                                                The containment shells on 2 reactors were significantly damaged after hydrogen explosions.

                                                                what about the huge quantities of contaminated water still stored with alternatives for its storage. What about contaminated water leaking into the ocean.

                                                                What about the plumes that travelled as far as the east coast of the US, parts of China and Russia?

                                                            • rob alan :

                                                              06 Jan 2012 10:48:28am
                                                              On topic:

                                                              TEPCO Believes Mission Accomplished & Regulators Allow Radioactive Dumping in Tokyo Bay


                                                              • R.Ambrose Raven :

                                                                06 Jan 2012 10:24:43am
                                                                A more fundamental issue is the lack of leadership, not just relating to specifics like rebuilding, but the best or at least a good course for Japan as a nation.

                                                                To an outsider, the culture of incestuous old-boy networks, managerial impunity, a strong class structure with feudal remnants seems to have created a ruling class (of decisionmakers, certainly not of workers) not just unwilling but incapable of endorsing any structure that allows at least a steady-state and egalitarian lifestyle with good social services for the population.

                                                                Japan’s thirty years of stagnation and past and current financial crises (the previous one due to speculation, the current one due to a debt of 200% of GDP) emphasises (as the equally severe problems and equally severe denial of the American ruling class demonstrates) what should be an obvious truth – those focussed on the looting of society for their own financial and ideological ends are hardly likely to change even when the logical consequence – bankruptcy – looms increasingly clearly.

                                                                Japan is facing both the Limits to Growth! and the What Then? issues. Unless the ruling class prefers social and economic stagnation and collapse, a higher form of development – socialism being one – will need to be officially acknowledged.
                                                                  • cb :

                                                                    06 Jan 2012 1:55:39pm
                                                                    On a lesser scale we have the same type of issues with contaminants in Aus. Self regulation or reporting leads to failure to report at all.

                                                                    Even when reported how often do state or federal governments prosecute or fine the companies with leakage?

                                                                    Is it safe to say the old boy's network is a strong link before the corporate world and governments?
                                                                      • R. Ambrose Raven :

                                                                        06 Jan 2012 4:30:25pm
                                                                        Yes, but it is also because managers as a group have a community of interest in covering up for other managers' mistakes even if they have no connection with them or expectations from them. Managers can make very big mistakes, so - like with the police - it pays to close your eyes to another manager's mistakes because creating such a culture allows you to be confident that they'll cover up for you when you stuff up.

                                                                • David Nicholas :

                                                                  06 Jan 2012 9:57:56am
                                                                  Dr. Beavis' article must give us pause.

                                                                  Since the Three Mile Accident (TMI) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia in 1979 . Nuclear safety has always been predicated by public assurances that all is well. That the fail safe back-ups built into the operations at the facility are more than sufficient to prevent any accidents, incidents and events.

                                                                  Nobody really knew whether these claims were true or not until the emergencies began to happen. TMI was the first official nearly "China Syndrome" meltdown, but it effectively put the kaibosh on any further construction in the US.

                                                                  The explosion at Chernobyl came as a reminder that nuclear energy no matter how well contained can be catastrophic. Apart from the tragic loss of life, workers sent in to bury the core and exposure to radiation to many, there was a saving grace. This was that apart from the service cities for the reactor complex, Chernobyl occurred in a relative isolated area of the Urals.

                                                                  Fukushima is an example of officials drinking their own Kool-aid believing in their own technical superiority that despite the examples of TMI and Chernobyl they were prepared.

                                                                  The problem as I see it is that the Japanese with so many nuclear power plants as their main source in providing electricity, energy officals have to lie and deceive in order to prevent public panic and further loss of faith in the nuclear power industry. So in order to propagate the lie they must do a minimum of clean-up within the safety cordon, and to bury the Fukishima reactor complex, all six reactors, to be carried out as much under the radar as possible.

                                                                  The question then is where do you put the rubble and contaminated top soil? It cannot be Japan because there really is no space to set up a nuclear dump without being close to other built up areas. Dumping at sea is not an option because of the contamination to the Japanese fishing industry at some point, no matter how far out in the Pacific they would dump it.

                                                                  Australia is a likely candidate and that must be watched for any sign that the Japanese are thinking along those lines. But more likely it would be a cash poor Pacific island nations who get the offer. $100 billion is a wonderful addition to the balance of payments.

                                                                  It doesn't promote warm fuzzy feelings about the future of nuclear energy. Fukishima is a problem which we could be drawn into to help resolve Japan's dilemma and we should be wary. Very wary when Japan comes calling as I am sure they will.
                                                                    • Aquila :

                                                                      06 Jan 2012 11:46:54am
                                                                      "Fukishima is a problem which we could be drawn into to help resolve Japan's dilemma and we should be wary. Very wary when Japan comes calling as I am sure they will".

                                                                      Ah, yes. We should always be wary about helping our friends, or those with problems.

                                                                      I doubt the Japanese will have any need to export their waste but, were they to need to do so, what would be wrong with us helping them by constructing a stable, safe, long term repository?
                                                                        • Vince Whirlwind :

                                                                          06 Jan 2012 4:33:48pm
                                                                          What would be wrong with it?

                                                                          Two things:
                                                                          - Australia doesn't want to be the world's garbage dump for intractable and terrorist-attracting waste
                                                                          - Who's going to pay us up-front to cover 300,000 years of storage costs including security and insurance?
                                                                            • PaulM :

                                                                              06 Jan 2012 5:18:08pm
                                                                              Believe it or not, nuclear waste will likely be a highly valuable commodity in the near future:

                                                                          • David Nicholas :

                                                                            06 Jan 2012 5:34:58pm
                                                                            Ahh, Aquila
                                                                            Thank you for your comment. But to answer your question as to why not a repository?

                                                                            This begats the question as to where and why there?

                                                                            Early in my time in the states I toured the war weapons plant on the Savannah River reservation where some of the waste from the on-site nuclear reactors was stored. At this facility there were buildings one mile in length made out of solid concrete and about four storeys high from memory. The waste had been stored in steel lead-lined 44 gallon drums and larger steel capsules.

                                                                            One of the myths of storing nuclear fuel is that the reaction of the spent fuel stops once it is removed from reactor. Not so. The reaction continues for as long as it takes the specified grade of uranium or plutonium to cool. This can be anything from 49 years to 50,000 years.

                                                                            So, storing spent fuel and other radioactive material is a hazard. So you would want a solid, radioactive proof storage facility.

                                                                            Those concrete buildings at Savannah River reservation which were considered a solid waste storage repository cannot be entered. The concrete floors are now rubble caused by the bombardment from the nuclear reaction. The walls of the buildings are continually reinforced by more and more concrete, which for 40,000 years is a lot of concrete. Above ground storage doesn't really satisfy fears that they can be satisfactorily protected.

                                                                            Then we have below ground storage. Well yes, that might work. BUT then you have work out where you might put one in Australia?

                                                                            A place which is deep enough that any subsidence or natural crust movement and that any damage to nuclear fuel storage inccured would never reach the surface and contaminate the land or us. Therein lies a discussion for another time.
                                                                        • R. Ambrose Raven :

                                                                          06 Jan 2012 12:39:51pm
                                                                          Note that the Chernobyl accident occurred in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; the Urals mark the boundary between Europe and Asia and are in the Russian Federation.

                                                                          Chernobyl is about 56 miles from Kiev, the capital and the largest city of the then Ukrainian SSR, now the Ukraine.

                                                                          None of that affects the merits of the other points raised - though I gather the contaminated soil is being dumped in Tokyo Bay! Reminds me of the cholera outbreak in Haiti that has so far killed 7,000 people - all because UN peacekeepers got a Haitian contractor to get rid of their shit, who naturally being a contractor in Haiti, dumped it in a pit next to the river. Cheap, out of sight, out of mind.

                                                                            • David Nicholas :

                                                                              06 Jan 2012 4:26:26pm
                                                                              R. Ambrose Raven

                                                                              First, thanks for the correction, yes it is in the Ukraine but still isolated. Whenever I recall the satellite images I think mountainous but more like hilly and heavily wooded. Ah, memory.

                                                                              Kool-aid is a reference to the mass suicide of the 900+ followers of the Rev Jim Jones in Guiana in November 1978. Kool-aid was the flavored drink mix that had cyanide added to it and was drunk by the congregation in blind obediance. So drinking the Kool-aid....

                                                                      • SmithW :

                                                                        06 Jan 2012 9:57:40am
                                                                        I seriously doubt that anyone in Australia knows the full extent of the situation at Fukishima as the media has avoided focusing too hard on this disaster and it's ongoing consequences.

                                                                        For months sea water was being pumped onto the exposed core to try and keep it from total meltdown and most of that sea water ended up back in the Pacific Ocean. Any steam rising from the core was irradiated and any wind that blew across the plant picked up radioactive particles in the process.

                                                                        Increasing the maximum safe dosage is a criminal act carried out by a desperate government to try to calm those who have been exposed to many times the safe radiation dosage.

                                                                        The question you pose is odd to say the least. Can Japan do better than Chernobyl how? Can they poison more water, soil, food and air than Chernobyl? Can they kill more of the population with radiation than Chernobyl? Can they obfuscate, deny and cover up the truth better than the Kremlin after Chernobyl?

                                                                        If this is what you are asking, then I would have to say yes they can.
                                                                          • David :

                                                                            06 Jan 2012 12:40:33pm
                                                                            Pity total deaths have not been mentioned again in an ABC article about a nucleur plant which has malfunctioned.

                                                                            The deaths could be compared against the natural disasters of the Earthquake and Tidal wave which took tens of thousands of more lives.

                                                                            Still lets look at the minor detail and become hysterical over this whilst school buildings and hospitals still have not been redeveloped.
                                                                              • SmithW :

                                                                                06 Jan 2012 3:27:03pm
                                                                                Deaths from a natural disaster are immediate and visible to everyone. Radiation poisoning may not show for many months or years and may present as various forms of cancer or leukemia or life shortening birth defects. (which can be blamed on other causes because the event has long since passed)

                                                                                Deaths from a natural disaster are tragic but given the magnitude of the earthquake and the size of the tsunami, almost entirely unavoidable. Death from radiation poisoning however is 100% avoidable. Just don't build nuclear reactors, simple.
                                                                            • cb :

                                                                              06 Jan 2012 1:58:12pm
                                                                              try following the allthingsnuclear web-site.

                                                                              The difference between Chenobyl and Fukishima is that Chenobyl was so far away from Aus that we bore no effect. Air bourne and water borne contaminants from Fukishima must be heading our way
                                                                                • Aquila :

                                                                                  06 Jan 2012 5:30:07pm
                                                                                  cb. Pardon if I don't don the lead suit when you say "Air bourne and water borne contaminants from Fukishima must be heading our way".

                                                                                  Chernobyl, with its massive release, spread radioactivity across Europe, and it was detectable with sensitive equipment further afield than that, but nobody more than 1,000km away received a dose the equivalent of a year's natural background radiation and most Europeans would receive higher doses from taking a return flight to Australia for a holiday.

                                                                                  Since the nearest point in Australia to Fukushima is nearly 6,000km away, and given that prevailing ocean currents and wind patterns would tend to carry stuff away from, rather than towards, Australia I think you'll be unlucky to get a dose attributable to Fukushima much greater than you're currently getting from my luminous wristwatch.

                                                                                  What is it about radiation that makes people suspend their thought processes and try to generate a panic?

                                                                          • R.Ambrose Raven :

                                                                            06 Jan 2012 9:23:49am
                                                                            Amusing, isn’t it, how Western commentators gave arrogant and sanctimonious lectures on the secrecy of the Soviet system (which was true enough) versus the openness of ours (which wasn’t). It also reflects the pre- and post-Wall evaluations of Eastern European economic performance, the actual situation being that political freedoms are better but economic performance remains worse than in 1989 under Comecon.

                                                                            Indeed, notwithstanding their early position of blaming reckless operators (later acknowledging the importance of design shortcomings), the Soviet authorities appear to had done considerably more for Chernobyl evacuees than the Japanese government is doing for Fukushima residents and evacuees.

                                                                            Granted, even though neither it nor the Queensland Government was willing to make the plentiful long-term vacant dwellings available to meet urgent need, the Japanese Government has built tens of thousands of new homes for the evacuees, whereas the Queensland Government has quite deliberately built virtually none.

                                                                            While at every stage, Japanese officials appear to have denied, covered up, or minimised the problems, the reality appears to be that TEPCO can have no real idea whether “cold shutdown” has actually been achieved, and the evacuation zone will not only remain for decades but should be increased, both because of existing contamination and because radiation leaks continue.
                                                                              • Shane 2 :

                                                                                06 Jan 2012 10:07:13am
                                                                                "Western commentators gave arrogant and sanctimonious lectures on the secrecy of the Soviet system (which was true enough) versus the openness of ours"

                                                                                Pathetic. Japan is not a western society. Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are economically advanced confucian societies. A society can be non-western and economially advanced!
                                                                                  • R. Ambrose Raven :

                                                                                    06 Jan 2012 12:17:51pm
                                                                                    Pathetic attempt to avoid the issue.

                                                                                    Are we supposed to take Shane 2's nonsensical claim seriously?

                                                                                    In the days of "Japan in the Passing Lane", it was held up as a developmental model. Singapore receives much (undeserved) praise today. Japan is under the American nuclear umbrella.

                                                                                    But for the legacy of the Japanese militarists' Pacific War, it would be an active participant in at least some American imperial adventures. Only vassal states like Australia take part in every American imperial adventure; most NATO states refused to participate in the Iraq invasion, though some ex-Soviet bloc nations were stupid enough to do so.

                                                                                    I invite Shane 2 to explain to us:
                                                                                    * why there has been virtually no significant debate about the huge cost and the utter disaster of the Iraq invasion and occupation?
                                                                                    * why none of the some 400 scandals of G.W. Bush's administration have been significantly mentioned by a media perfectly happy to devote a full front page to a boy drowning in a dam?
                                                                                    * how Japan is not a mixed capitalist economy?
                                                                                    * how, given the above, any notion of "Confucianism" has any relevance?

                                                                                    Shane 2 should be a climate change denialist.

                                                                            • Doug Quixote :

                                                                              06 Jan 2012 9:15:04am
                                                                              Nuclear power plants need to be near large bodies of water; if near the sea in earthquake prone areas we see the results in Fukushima. Or should I say start to see the results, as so-called cold shutdown (below 95 degrees C !) has been apparently fudged, and so have almost all the other figures they have quoted.

                                                                              This is a tragedy which will keep on giving.

                                                                              • Miowarra :

                                                                                06 Jan 2012 8:59:34am
                                                                                Well, that's a summary of the history.

                                                                                It also discounts or fails to consider the Japanese cultural imperative not to make a fuss, cause trouble or be disruptive in society. That's a large part of the explanation for the ignored warnings & the re-definition of exposure levels.

                                                                                Without forcing a masive cultural shift in a centuries-old stability, not much is going to change. Remember one of their proverbs "It's that nail that protrudes which gets hammered".

                                                                                What does that mean in practical terms?
                                                                                That women and children ARE going to experience increased cancer rates. Recall that Japan has had experience with widespread radiation sickness and its longterm effects.

                                                                                I expect that they'll accept the increased cancer rates in order to preserve their culture and its stability.

                                                                                What else were you recommending, Dr Beavis? Some form of enforcement of your values to achieve your medical and social aims?
                                                                                  • Jesmond05 :

                                                                                    06 Jan 2012 9:44:39am
                                                                                    This post seems full of unhelpful ethnic stereotypes. Japan has experienced incredible change over the last four hundred years so it is not appropriate to talk of 'centuries-old stability'. Don't Australians have a similar proverb in the 'tall poppy' syndrome. I think the problems the Japanese government had in dealing with this issue have little to do with culture and more to do with the systemic corruption that developed in the post-WWII period between the LDP, the bureaucracy and big business.
                                                                                      • bakayarou :

                                                                                        06 Jan 2012 1:45:17pm
                                                                                        There's talk of 'tall poppy syndrome' because it's partly true! It might be an unreasonable bogan behaviour, but it happens. And let me tell you, as someone who lived in Japan for five years, the cultural imperative in Japan to not make waves is strong. Some people really have no capacity to express themselves forcefully, they can't help but be polite. Others will bend over backwards making sure they don't tread on any toes when trying to get their way. It's an exhausting way to live and it drains your will to protest and fight... So much easier to go with the flow.

                                                                                        I agree that Japan can change dramatically when the motivation or need is there, but it's also a country run by stubborn old men. Many young people there have a sense of resignation and apathy about the future, coupled with increasing powerlessness and emasculation partly arising through a poor job market. Many people now work part-time or on short contracts and are subject to awfully fragile economic circumstances. This isn't conducive to the kind of changes we saw when Japan's closed-country period came to an end with the arrival of American ships.

                                                                                        You highlight a big problem yourself - corruption and too-cosy ties in business. Those are precisely the sort of things that require a courage and resources to fight against, and that's why it isn't happening.

                                                                                        There were some hopes that Japan would really use this crisis as a catalyst for change, but Japanese aren't big on protesting and other public methods of resisting authority. What's needed now is for young blood to toss out the old leeches stubbornly steering the country into slow decline and make some new, innovative business operations to get Japan Inc back in the spotlight as a good choice.

                                                                                • AC :

                                                                                  06 Jan 2012 8:57:57am
                                                                                  without doubt jpn has done better than chenobyl. Full stop.
                                                                                    • Facts please :

                                                                                      06 Jan 2012 9:42:26am
                                                                                      Excellent use of facts and data to support your arguement there. That "Full stop" just clinched it.
                                                                                      • JohnK :

                                                                                        06 Jan 2012 10:11:21am
                                                                                        One thing Japan HAS done, see for example NHK-Japan's website, is to raise the "safe levels" of radiation exposure! In Japan these are now higher than the UN recommended levels! Isn't that called "papering
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