Tag Archives: earthquake

The radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant failure in Japan has turned out to be less of a problem than predicted.

The radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant failure in Japan has turned out to be less of a problem than predicted.

[O]utside the immediate area of Fukushima, this is hardly a problem at all. Although the crippled nuclear reactors themselves still pose a danger, no one, including personnel who worked in the buildings, died from radiation exposure. Most experts agree that future health risks from the released radiation, notably radioactive iodine-131 and cesiums-134 and – 137, are extremely small and likely to be undetectable. Even considering the upper boundary of estimated effects, there is unlikely to be any detectable increase in cancers in Japan, Asia or the world except close to the facility, according to a World Health Organization report. There will almost certainly be no increase in birth defects or genetic abnormalities from radiation.

Even in the most contaminated areas, any increase in cancer risk will be small. For example, a male exposed at age 1 has his lifetime cancer risk increase from 43 percent to 44 percent. Those exposed at 10 or 20 face even smaller increases in risk — similar to what comes from having a whole-body computer tomography scan or living for 12 to 25 years in Denver amid background radiation in the Rocky Mountains.

The entire article is worth reading, as it outlines in detail the less than deadly consequences of both Fukushima and Chernobyl. This is the kind of information we should use to rationally decide whether we want to build more nuclear power planets.

An Italian court has convicted seven earthquake scientists of manslaughter for their failure to properly warn the public prior to the L’Aquila earthquake.

An Italian court has convicted seven earthquake scientists of manslaughter for their failure to properly warn the public prior to the L’Aquila earthquake.

The court also sentenced the men to six years in prison, which is two years more than the prosecutor recommended.

The more I have read about this case, the less I have been in sympathy with the scientists. While it is absurd to expect any scientist to be able to precise predict the occurrence of an earthquake, in this case some of the individuals convicted had issued statements that actually go against basic earthquake science in order to give the public a false sense of safety. They claimed that the increased level of seismic activity suggested a reduction in the risk of an earthquake, when all research actually indicates the exact opposite.

Some additional details here.

The prosecutor in the Italian trial of seven earthquake experts has requested four year jail sentences for their failure to properly warn the public about the possibility of an earthquake

The prosecutor in the Italian trial of seven earthquake experts has requested four year jail sentences for their failure to properly warn the public in advance about the April 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.

While thousands protest the restarting of any nuclear power plants in Japan following last year’s earthquake, some scientists have questions about one particular plant.

While thousands protest the restarting of any nuclear power plants in Japan following last year’s earthquake, some scientists have questions about one particular plant.

The article’s headline falsely suggests that the scientists oppose all nuclear power plants, which is not the case. If anything, the overall manner in which the Fukushima power plant withstood the biggest earthquake in history demonstrated that most of Japan’s nuclear power plants are probably safe from future earthquakes. For scientists to have concerns about one particular plant seems reasonable, however, and is not the same thing as opposing all nuclear power.

The radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear power meltdown in Japan last year will cause almost no cases of cancer according to two separate reports.

The radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear power meltdown in Japan last year will cause almost no cases of cancer according to two separate reports.

This story is almost a week old. I missed it initially because Nature buried the results, headlining the story in the most boring way possible: “Fukushima’s doses tallied”.

These results however illustrate again the success of the engineering at the nuclear power plant. Certainly they did things wrong, and certainly there were engineering failures there. Nonetheless, the safety features allowed them to contain the power plant even after it experienced the most powerful earthquake in recorded history followed by the most powerful tsunami in a thousand years.

It appears that the floating debris from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year is reaching North America sooner than expected.

It appears that the floating debris from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year is reaching North America sooner than expected.

I got a laugh from the last two sentences of this story. The early arrival of “more than 200 bottles, cans, buoys and floats” from Japan was immediately turned into a crisis that required government intervention.

With debris making landfall sooner than predicted, U.S. lawmakers have started to question whether the government is truly prepared. “Many people said we wouldn’t see any of this impact until 2013 or 2014, and now ships and motorcycles and this various debris is showing up and people want answers,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said.

And if the debris was taking longer to get here? Cantwell would then argue we need to spend more money to track it more precisely. By her standards, no matter what happens, government has got to get bigger.

A Thank You From Japan

One year ago today Japan was hit with one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history, followed almost immediately by one of the most powerful tsunamis in recorded history. Since then, that nation and its people have done an incredible job recovering from that disaster, proving once again that there really is no limit to what humans can do.

The video below is their thank you to the rest of the world for the help and support brought to Japan by people everywhere. As they say, “Arigato.”

I say, bless you all for never giving up.

The manslaughter trial of six scientists and one government official continued yesterday in Italy over their reassurances to the public prior to a deadly earthquake in 2009.

The manslaughter trial of six scientists and one government official continued yesterday in Italy over their reassurances to the public prior to a deadly earthquake in 2009.

Guido Bertolaso, former head of the Department of Civil Protection and De Bernardinis’s direct superior, had not been indicted and was originally expected to appear as a witness. But a few weeks ago a wiretap revealed that he had apparently set up the meeting to convey a reassuring message, regardless of the scientists’ opinion. He also seemed to be the source of the “discharge of energy” statement. He thus found himself under investigation and, at the beginning of the hearing, he was officially notified that he too may soon be formally indicted for manslaughter.

Bertolaso was asked by the prosecutor to explain that telephone conversation. He defended himself by saying that by defining the meeting as a “media move”, he was not trying to downplay risks but rather to put some order into the contradictory information that was reaching the citizens in those days. In particular, he referred to Giampaolo Giuliani — a laboratory technician and amateur seismologist who was alarming the population with claims that a major shock was coming — and to a newspaper article that had misquoted some Civil Protection experts and stated that the shocks would soon be over. The meeting, he said, was meant to make clear that both were wrong and that no deterministic prediction could be made. [emphasis mine]

This increasingly appears to be another case of science being corrupted by politics.

A wiretap could exonerate the six seismologists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for not properly warning the public of an earthquake.

Scientists on trial: A wiretap conversation might exonerate the six seismologists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for not properly warning the public of an earthquake.

Scientists last week published a paper claiming that the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown caused 14,000 U.S. deaths.

Junk science: Scientists last week published a paper claiming that the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown caused 14,000 U.S. deaths. You can download the paper here [pdf].

I expect the mainstream television press to push this story in the coming days. The story however is crap. I’ve read the paper, and all it shows is a small statistical increase in deaths in the fourteen weeks after the earthquake/meltdown, compared to the previous year. The scientists provided no context with other years, nor did they factor in changes in total population or a host of innumerable other variables that would influence these numbers. Worse, they presented no direct evidence linking the fallout from the meltdown with the deaths.

In other words, this is agenda-driven science, designed mainly to attack nuclear energy. We should not give it much credence.

One more point: the lead author of the paper is the executive director of Radiation and Public Health Project, an organization whose only purpose appears to be to prove that low level radiation has a negative effect on human health. From a science perspective, this is not a good way to do science. The only way the scientists in this organization can justify their fund-raising and research is to find evidence to prove their theory.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor has reached the state of cold shutdown

Good news: The Fukushima nuclear reactor has reached the state of cold shutdown.

This means that the reactor core has cooled enough that there is no need to recirculate the water to keep the fuel cool. However, because the reactor continues to leak that water recirculation is still necessary, and will be for years.

As is typical of many modern journalists, the article above is also an unstated editorial both hostile to nuclear energy as well as private enterprise, best shown by the article’s concluding paragraph:

Meanwhile, the Japanese public and many of its politicians remained deeply mistrustful of the situation at Fukushima. In this week’s issue of Nature, two members of the Japanese parliament call for nationalization of the Fukushima Plant, to allow scientists and engineers to investigate exactly what happened inside the reactors, and to reassure the public that the decommissioning will be done with their interests at heart. Regardless of whether you agree with the authors, nationalization seems almost inevitable. The lengthy decommissioning process that will follow this cold shutdown, and the enormous cost involved, make it a job for a government, not a corporation. [emphasis mine]

First, he has no idea what the Japanese public thinks of this situation. Second, there is no evidence that the government could do this job better than the company that runs the reactor. Both conclusions are mere opinion, inserted inappropriately in a news article without any supporting proofs.

The story behind the Italian prosecution of six scientists and one government official over an earthquake prediction

The story behind the Italian prosecution of six scientists and one government official over their failure to make an earthquake prediction.

As is usual in these kinds of stories, things are more complicated than they appear at first glance.

Earthquake in Virginia

Quake map

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit Virginia at about 1:51 pm (Eastern).

I am in Maryland, just outside the beltway, and felt something like an earthquake about five minutes ago. The house started to shake, then settled, then shook again. Quite startling. I opened the front door the same time a neighbor did. She had felt the same thing.

The above quake was more than 90 miles away. I wonder how bad it is there, considering the eastern U.S. rarely experiences quakes and has made no preparations for such a thing.

For updates:
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Atmosphere Above Japan Heated Rapidly Before M9 Earthquake

New satellite data shows that the atmosphere above Japan heated rapidly in the days before the March earthquake.

The [researchers] say that before the M9 earthquake, the total electron content of the ionosphere increased dramatically over the epicentre, reaching a maximum three days before the quake struck. At the same time, satellite observations showed a big increase in infrared emissions from above the epicentre, which peaked in the hours before the quake. In other words, the atmosphere was heating up.

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