Posts Tagged BNC

Fukushima, IFRs and an MIT debate « BraveNewClimate

I think the lesson of Fukushima is that natural disasters cause deaths that we can’t always avoid.

via Fukushima, IFRs and an MIT debate « BraveNewClimate.

Some good sense being talked in this article at Brave New Climate science blog. What else has been learned?

4) We learned that 40 years ago, people didn’t design reactors as safely as we do today.

5) We learned that if the reactor closest to the epicenter sustains no damage, the press and public will completely ignore it when they should be telling people that this proves that the technology itself is inherently safe even in disasters beyond the design specification.

6) We’ve always known that having a reactor shutdown process that is dependent upon electricity is a bad idea. Having waste lying around is a bad idea. Not being able to reprocess that waste is a bad idea. Cancelling the IFR project that could have reprocessed the waste was a bad idea.

8) We’ve learned, once again, that people are irrational. When 8 members of the public died in a natural gas explosion in a town near where I live (San Bruno), there was not a single editorial or protest calling for the end of natural gas. When any single plane crash kills more people than nuclear has in its entire 50 year history, do we hear about anyone calling for banning air travel and shutting down the travel by air? Absolutely not! When 115 people die in car crashes every day, do we hear cries for banning automobiles? Nope. Yet when no member of the public dies due to the disaster in Japan, instead of people talking about how, even in the roughest cases, nobody in the public was killed, we talk about the end of nuclear power in countries around the world. If a 40 year old car exploded, killing its occupant, do you think there would calls to end the manufacture of cars worldwide? Or do we learn what we did wrong and not repeat that mistake next time?

[ED: Add the Chinese fast rail accident to the list — do we give up on high-speed rail now, a favoured tech of BZE?]

9) No member of the public died from nuclear radiation in the Japan quake. Unsafe buildings caused untold thousands of deaths in the same disaster. Why isn’t the priority on making safer buildings that can withstand tsunamis? Why aren’t countries closing down all buildings because building technology has proven time and time again to kill people when an accident occurs? Buildings are an unsafe technology.

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Fukushima rated at INES Level 7 – what does this mean? « BraveNewClimate

I saw this yesterday and promptly faxed it to my parents, before they call me up and ask if we are glowing in the dark yet or why we have not fled the country. I have not read any mainstream press articles on this subject, and won’t be any time soon.

The BNC blog includes a moderated discussion which is always informative and stimulating. Check it out. I also recommend the World Nuclear News and the IAEA sites (links in the sidebar, and also referenced in the BNC blog entry itself), and the Nuclear Energy Institute website.

Hot in the news is that the Fukushima Nuclear crisis has been upgraded from INES 5 to INES 7. Note that this is not due to some sudden escalation of events today aftershocks etc., but rather it is based on an assessment of the cumulative magnitude of the events that have occurred at the site over the past month my most recent update on that is here.Below I look briefly at what this INES 7 rating means, why it has happened…

However, what about when you hit the top of the INES? Does a rating of 7 mean that Fukushima is as bad as Chernobyl? Well, since you can’t get higher than 7 on the scale, it’s impossible to use this numerically to answer such a question on the basis of their categorical INES rating alone. It just tells you that both events are in the ‘major league’. There is simply no event rating 8, or 10, or whatever, or indeed any capacity within the INES system to rank or discriminate events within categories (this is especially telling for 7). For that, you need to look for other diagnostics.

So headlines likeFukushima is now on a par with Chernobyl‘ can be classified as semantically correct and yet also (potentially) downright misleading. Still, it sells newspapers.

via Fukushima rated at INES Level 7 – what does this mean? « BraveNewClimate.

The whole thing is long. It’s “boring” (unless you’re personally interested, like me). It will not sell newspapers. But it will give you a clearer idea of what is going on, and what the “level 7” means.

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BNC, one of my regular stops for solid news and perspective on the Fukushima nuclear crisis (tho most posters and commenters are pro-nuclear power, so that should be borne in mind), hosts Guest Post by Dr. William Sacks. His article contains some sobering reminders of how we can be misled by the very media which is supposed to be the antidote, the “fourth estate” which is keeping government and the authorities honest. Ha!

Bill is a highly experienced physicist and radiologist. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Rice University in 1959, a PhD in Harvard in 1966 (cosmology and general relativity), then did a medical degree and  two-year postgraduate training at Connecticut Medical School, finishing in 1979. He followed this up with a residency in nuclear medicine and radiology at George Washington University through to 1985. He subsequently worked for 10 years as a general radiologist at Kaiser Permanente and later as a medical officer in the Office of Device Evaluation in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health for more than 7 years. In that time he worked with statisticians, physicists, other physicians, and many other specialties. He later worked as a clinical radiologist in Tuscon, and recently retired to spend time researching and writing on energy, climate change, evolutionary biology, economics, history, and physics/astronomy/cosmology.

Early media concentration on the nuclear plant at Fukushima Daiichi created a great sense of fear in people around the world.  Reporting was distorted by both exaggeration and omission, focusing more on the reactors than on the quake and tsunami that killed over 20,000 people according to recent Japanese government estimates.  Media reports still contain phrases like “222 times higher than the legal limit,” “higher than normal,” “radiation found in the water,” all of which are meaningless without comparisons that permit us to evaluate their significance.  The patchwork of “experts” who were interviewed to explain the events, each with her/his own particular knowledge and set of interests, added to the confusion instead of replacing it with a sense of proportion.

An example of omission is the absence of follow-up on the oil refinery fire at Chiba, about 20-30 miles east of Tokyo and over 100 miles south of Fukushima. In fact, it killed 12 workers and required 10 days to put out the fire, which spewed toxic smoke and chemicals far and wide, as well as CO2 into the atmosphere that adds to global warming, and resulted in unknown numbers of latent cancers, heart attacks, asthma, and deaths. Yet once TV images of the flames, falsely linked through association with the nuclear reactors, lost their usefulness, they disappeared from sight.

Nor did the media report widely, if at all, on a hydroelectric dam in Fukushima prefecture, burst by the quake, that flooded 1800 homes, with unknown numbers of deaths.  In addition to the estimated 20,000+ tsunami deaths, homelessness and ongoing lack of water and electricity affect hundreds of thousands of people.

via BraveNewClimate.

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More from the BNC on the Fukushima crisis. Not a blow-by-blow update of news, but of interest all the same. It includes a link to a video of US radiology expert Robert Gale, whose opinion I value (click the links to see earlier posts that mention Gale).

Apart from getting on with my life (e.g., building a new computer, catching up with my backlog at work, spending time with the family, etc.), I’ve been spending the last few days reading widely on what other people have had to say, in reflection, on the Fukushima crisis. Here are some highlights:

via BraveNewClimate.

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The BNC blog is one I visit daily to get informative interpretations of what is going on at Fukushima.  Here is an excerpt from their latest update, April 1st. The first item on the agenda, you will notice, is, not surprisingly, plutonium. Barry Brooks offers some new interpretations, which while I di not take as gospel, I take as “grist to the mill”:

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has moved off the front page of most newspapers, but a lot continues to happen, and the situation remains unresolved. Below I offer some personal perspectives on some of the things that have been widely reported over the last few days, and then I conclude with some official updates.

Disclaimer: What follows is my interpretation of the sparse and often confusing information being made available by TEPCO, NHK etc. Take or leave at your discretion.

1. Plutonium detected in the soil around the plant. A few isotopes of plutonium (Pu) have been found in soil at various test sites at the FD plant. This has sent some folks on Twitter apoplectic. So where does it come from?

One theory, and quite a reasonable one, is that it is the global residual left over from the extensive atmospheric atomic weapons testing of the 1950s — 1970s. That would help explain the presence of Pu-238, for instance — an isotope not readily created in a power reactor.

Another thought is that there was a local source, either from volatilisation of sloughed material in the drying spent fuel ponds, or perhaps from the reactor cores (that was then carried away in minute traces via the vented steam). Being a heavy metal, however, the Pu would not mobilse readily and would deposit very locally. Remember, Pu is present in all spent fuel, via the U-238 –> Pu-239 transmutation pathway. All reactor fuel elements that have been fissioning will contain plutonium. It is not something peculiar to mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel (which was being used in FD unit 3), as some have implied — there has been a lot of nonsense written about this during the past few weeks

Go read the whole thing, via BraveNewClimate.

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