Tag Archives: tsunami

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.

New simulations suggest that the magnitude of tsunamis predicted to hit Japan have previously been underestimated.

New simulations suggest that the magnitude of tsunamis predicted to hit Japan have been significantly underestimated.

The difficulty here is that these predicted giant tsunamis are still expected to be very rare events. It is thus unclear what is more practical, to build things at great cost so that they can survive these rare events, or to live with the risk and rebuild each time after disaster strikes.

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.

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.

Japan’s tsunami waves top historic heights

Japan’s tsunami in March produced the largest waves in history.

Some waves grew to more than 100 feet high, breaking historic records, as they squeezed between fingers of land surrounding port towns.

To me, however, this is the biggest takeaway:

Although terrible, the preliminary estimate also finds a better-than 92% survival rate for people living in coastal towns hit by the waves, Bourgeois says. “In that sense, given the magnitude of the unexpectedly large earthquake, things could have been even worse,” she says.

The real disaster in Japan

Getting control of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima is going to be a challenging job, no doubt. Nonetheless, it remains a minor and comparatively trivial problem for Japan after the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the country’s northeastern coast, and it saddens me that so much of the American press and public seems unable to absorb this simple fact.

This footage of the tsunami hitting a small coastal town in Japan gives us a clear and unvarnished look of the real disaster there. Near the end you can see people fleeing for their lives, and throughout the video the voices of the watchers can only express horrified gasps at what they are seeing.

Hideaki Akaiwa: Badass of the week

What heroes do.

Surrounded by incredible hazards on all sides, ranging from obscene currents capable of dislodging houses from their moorings, sharp twisted metal that could easily have punctured his oxygen line (at best) or impaled him (at worst), and with giant fucking cars careening through the water like toys, he pressed on. Past broken glass, past destroyed houses, past downed power lines arcing with electrical current, through undertow that could have dragged him out to sea never to be heard from again, he searched.

Hideaki maintained his composure and navigated his way through the submerged city, finally tracking down his old house. He quickly swam through to find his totally-freaked-out wife, alone and stranded on the upper level of their house, barely keeping her head above water. He grabbed her tight, and presumably sharing his rebreather with her, dragged her out of the wreckage to safety. She survived.

And that’s only the beginning. Read the whole thing.

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