Tag Archives: Fukushima

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.

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.

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.

New York Metropolitan Opera stars, fearing radiation, skip Japan tour

Cowards: Two New York Metropolitan Opera stars, fearing radiation, have backed out of a Japanese tour in the cities of Tokyo and Nagoya. This, despite the documented lack of radiation:

Tokyo briefly registered nominally higher radiation levels in its air and water, but they have subsided to pre-tsunami levels. There was never any scientific concern of a radiation impact on Nagoya, which is much farther away.

Meanwhile, the efforts to stabilize the reactors in Fukushima are proceeding.

A detailed explanation of what has happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant

Check out this detailed engineering explanation of what has happened, is happening, and will happen at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Key quote:

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