Parallels between Troofers and Fookooshimars

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You may have noticed recent stories about ex-PM Yukio Hatoyama co-authoring a report in Nature; it may be found here, with an editorial on it here. Note that Mr Hatoyama has a PhD in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University.

The curious passage is this:

And a hydrogen explosion should not have generated enough heat to melt steel. Initially, TEPCO claimed that the explosion in unit 3 generated white smoke; on re-examination, the smoke was black, and therefore unlikely to have been caused by a pure hydrogen explosion. So a nuclear explosion is a possibility.

The first sentence reminds me of the "airline fuel cannot melt steel!" line beloved of the 9/11ers, along with the smoke colour issue of the thermite conspiracists, and there’s the difficult to refute "unlikely to have been [...] pure hydrogen" as of course they’d be a lot of other stuff floating about to explode along with any hydrogen.

I am not a nuclear scientist, but what would be the characteristics of a sub-critical nuclear explosion be? Wouldn’t there be better evidence than smoke colour, melted steel and isotopes that might be too heavy to be carried by a hydrogen blast alone? I’m also mindful that Hatoyama has previously associated himself with people in the Troofer movement.

I’d be willing to accept that a hydrogen explosion also caused stuff in the spent fuel pool to go boom and release particles of shattered fuel rods, or alternatively there was re-criticality ongoing in the melted-down core and the explosion sucked the characteristic isotopes into the atmosphere, but as I associate nuclear explosions with huge mushroom clouds and intense bursts of gamma radiation, I view saying a nuclear blast was a possibility without enumerating the alternatives is an attempt at headline grabbing, not the measured output of scientific research.

By the way, here’s someone saying on the day of the explosions that the zirconium cladding on the fuel rods would be a good candidate for first producing the hydrogen, then second exploding along with the hydrogen.

There’s a few scientists here – am I barking up the wrong tree or is Hatopopo just barking?

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46 Comments.

  1. At first glance, it does not seem analogous.

    Hatoyama is putting up theories based on the generally known info and what limited (disturbingly limited) information he has been able to get from TEPCO.
    When independent investigators can inspect the reactors and the disgraceful obstructions by TEPCO are ended, theories will evolve to fit facts.

    9/11 Troofers put up wild theories (starting on 9/12) that have all since been disproven through multiple avenues and by multiple sources, but refuse to believe the evidence, video, photos, thousands of eyewitnesses, expert opinion, some very basic science and even common sense. Most of claims themselves just flawed in principle or based on lies.

    i.e. “Duh steel couldn’t ‘a dun melted, so it’s musta been duh bombs by the ATF/FBI/Zionists!”
    The steel didn’t have to melt for the building collapse, the temperature of burning jet fuel is more than enough to reduce the steel’s strength by 50%, add in the structural damage of the impact, cascade failure, pancaking, and the towers collapsed. As everyone saw. :headdesk:

    Researching subcritical vs. critical nuclear events now.

    Just off memory from a course on nuke reactors and nuke accidents way back in college as a MechE, Hatoyama’s idea is quite plausible.

    Just keep in mind that we’re not talking about atom bomb type mushroom cloud explosions (where chemical explosives compresses the nuclear material to such a density that it reacts very, very fast for a big boom… IIRC, that was a major challenge of the whole Manhattan project, as just lumping together a critical mass in a bowl or something would maybe yield a small (relative to an A-bomb anyway) explosion (or at least a deadly pulse of radiation to anyone in the room, as happened in the M project) that would blow apart the critical mass before it could do much reacting, and then the the scattered pieces would no longer be critical)

    Kind of like trying to mix TNT in a blender, your first little batch will blow up you, the blender, and all the remaining ingredients, thus preventing the destruction of your entire city block if all the TNT could have been prepared.

  2. Just a quick read for everyone on the important part of the topic, the difference between the “good” kind of critical needed in a nuclear reactor, and the bad “runaway” type, known as “prompt critical”. Even Fukushima is mentioned, but the source is Arnie Gunderson, so big grain of salt (though just being an anti-nuke advocate doesn’t mean he’s wrong).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prompt_critical

  3. The journal Nature has two types of peer-reviewed articles: Letters and Articles.

    The former are 4 page manuscripts that are similar to a “Report” in the journal Science, though they lack an abstract per se and have a specially formatted first paragraph (PDF).

    The latter are more traditionally formatted, longer, and analogous to “Research Articles” in science.

    What Hatoyama co-authored is a Comment, which is not peer reviewed, but would have been solicited by an editor, indicating that it reflects the journal’s editorial views.

  4. Thanks guys for clearing that up – I thought it was Hatoyama trying to push an agenda (other than his nationalisation one) onto the scientific results, but it would appear from what you say that the subcritical/prompt critical whatever is a “likely” or “highly likely” outcome, but I read the use of “possibility” as “unlikely” or “less likely than other outcomes”.

  5. Fukushima was bad, but it was not a sub-critical nuclear explosion. Outside of cesium, none of the radioactive isotopes were/are present in amounts characteristic of a nuclear explosion.

  6. Are you going to write something about Debito’s latest “piece” Ken?

  7. btw, I’ll try to get something up this evening. Quoting National Geographical on its economic analysis was quite a :facepalm:

  8. Skytree,
    Genuine questions.
    What ar your sources for this info and your judgment, and what is your definition of “nuclear explosion”?
    If I have my basic nuke physics right, “sub-critical nuclear explosion” is an oxymoron, unless we’re talking about heat generated by a sub-critical mass leading to some sort of high-pressure/high-temperature gas/steam explosion, basically a boiler explosion or a hydrogen explosion?

  9. Ken

    Doug here, the guy that was ripped on this blog for writing the piece regarding reactor cooling on Debito’s site (even the quantity of radiation released)

    http://www.meti.go.jp/english/earthquake/nuclear/roadmap/pdf/111117_nps_02.pdf

    Regarding the explosions, I believe they were entirely a result of hydrogen gas being vented from the reactor pressure vessel to prevent a catastrophic explosion of the RPV. Yes – hydrogen gas is released when zirconium melts (which was a red flag indicating a meltdown was underway). I believe the black smoke is from other material in the building burning.

    Now regarding the “troofers”, it is interesting that several members of the 9/11 commission believe there should be a re-investigation and the issue regarding Building 7 (never addressed in the “official” report) remains unresolved. I do not know if I would call myself a “troofer” but there are many holes in the U.S. governments official version of events.

    Merry Christmas

  10. Chain reactions can take place in sub-critical masses of radioactive material. Physicists at Los Alamos played “tickling the dragon’s tail” with uranium on a tabletop.

    But there was no huge radioactive explosion at Fukushima. The buildings are proof. The buildings are still there.

    Energies released in the explosion fell far short of nuclear origin.

  11. Yes, but tickling the tail of the sleeping dragon, as Feynman called it, was doing experiments just near criticality, to figure out what the exact amounts for critical mass were. Sometimes accidents happened, and scientists died from lethal doses as their subjects went prompt critical.

    Again, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing here. What do you mean by “nuclear explosion”? A Hiroshima style mushroom cloud? Nobody is saying that, because clearly, as we have all noticed, the buildings are still there (though I’m sure somewhere, some super loons are claiming the buildings AREN’T there, and what we see on TV is all stock footage and FX, and that’s why there’s the 20km exclusion zone..to cover up The Trooooth!) :roll:

    But the main point is, if a critical mass of nuclear material formed in the melting fuel, then it may have yielded a sudden release of energy, the heat causing the nuclear material to expand and become subcritical again (preventing an atomic fireball). Such a sudden release of energy maybe caused some sort of explosion, but more akin to a boiler explosion, not the atomic fireball, but still filled with some nasty isotopes.
    Or is the leading theory right, that it was just the hydrogen? And the claims about the smoke not being white as “proof” that it wasn’t just hydrogen are a bit off, as it seems to me the hydrogen explosion must have carried some other crap into the air? (Such as all the crap on the upper floors and gangways in the buildings, as well as maybe other by-products of the melting/burning fuel assembly?)

    Anyway, not enough info yet. But it’s seeming like recently there’s a lot of new semi-documentaries, interviews with Kan and his cabinet and TEPCO execs, etc. of “what happened” on the TV every weekend. Info much of hate-Japan-sphere has little access to: not being in Japan, being limited to English language sources, and choosing to rely on the English-language conspiracy theory sites.

    Well, keep eyes on reliable sources, and remember which sources aren’t (hint: the ones that have been putting up conspiracy theories since 3/12, closed their minds by the end of March having decided on their story, and no amount of new information will cause them to adjust their views).
    Of course, we include sources that have just a bit :wink: of a bias against any and all things Japanese (or corporate, or technological, or scientific, or using basic arithmetic) and have the gall to demand that scientists commenters apologize and admit they are 100% “wrong” and that debito is 100% “right” regarding all debito’s rants about Fukushima?). :headdesk:

  12. Level3 December 26, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Again, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing here. What do you mean by “nuclear explosion”?

    Nuclear explosion, as in release of neutrons in a chain reaction, aborted or not. Nothing of the sort happened.

    Isotope dispersal patterns show irradiation and/or vaporization of anything other cesium in fuel rods JUST DID NOT HAPPEN. No beryllium, no carbon, no anything.

    >But the main point is, if a critical mass of nuclear material formed in the melting fuel, then it may have yielded a sudden release of energy, the heat causing the nuclear material to expand and become subcritical again (preventing an atomic fireball).

    But such an explosion would have spread uranium from the core into the entire compound.

    >Such a sudden release of energy maybe caused some sort of explosion, but more akin to a boiler explosion, not the atomic fireball, but still filled with some nasty isotopes.

    Yes, and the nasty isotopes haven’t shown up anywhere.

    Or is the leading theory right, that it was just the hydrogen? And the claims about the smoke not being white as “proof” that it wasn’t just hydrogen are a bit off, as it seems to me the hydrogen explosion must have carried some other crap into the air? (Such as all the crap on the upper floors and gangways in the buildings, as well as maybe other by-products of the melting/burning fuel assembly?)

    >Of course, we include sources that have just a bit :wink: of a bias against any and all things Japanese (or corporate, or technological, or scientific, or using basic arithmetic) and have the gall to demand that scientists commenters apologize and admit they are 100% “wrong” and that debito is 100% “right” regarding all debito’s rants about Fukushima?).

    Madness has no purpose, but it may have a goal.

  13. Umm, it seems to be saying “the models we hacked together with open source software aren’t even in the same order of magnitude as officially-funded analysis.” Their About page suggests that their data may actually be more accurate as the official figures might be fiddled with, but they make no such claims in the Conclusion section of each post.

  14. Princess and Dragon

    So.. the “officially-funded” analysis is correct?

  15. I think we’re on the same side here, Skytree.

    What info we have seems to show there was no detection of all the stuff that should have been the result of some sort of prompt-critical nuclear explosion. The stories we’ve all seen pretty much seem to show it was the burning fuel rods, releasing hydrogen and cesium etc.

    Back at the start of all this, such facts helped us detect the bullshit from the official channels at the time, when the Kan govt was saying there was no meltdown, yet the US Navy had moved the disaster aid fleet away from Fukushima because they had detected cesium isotopes on returning aircraft, which must have come from somewhere.

    So, I am as mystified as you as to why our “loopy” ex-PM is making these claims. But it is possible he has better access to info than us. (and it’s possible he doesn’t) I’m just trying to figure out what the chances are his little theory is right, and how many grains of salt are needed, while making sure we are all talking about the same thing, keeping our definitions straight. It helps in figuring out who the wackos are – as their standards of evidence tend to be quite flexible, their terminology deliberately vague, and their goalposts always moving.

    I haven’t seen many close up photos of the plant, but is the steel really “melted” as Hatoyama is claiming, or merely bent?

  16. I don’t really “get” what datapoke is about. The alarm bells ring for me when it’s not obvious who these people are (or indeed what, if any, expertise they have), how they are funded (any potential conflict of interests?), or just what their agenda is.

    In contrast to most original scientific studies, the aim of this project does not focus on publishing the consensus of a handful of scientists. Rather, We aim to present the technical data, to a worldwide community, for the purpose of encouraging open commentary.

    So they seem to favour the idea of as much crowd sourced data as possible, rather than trusting expert opinion – this appears to be a common feeling these days. Their conclusions are weak, so I’m left wondering why they bothered. Also interesting that they have access counts on their wiki pages, and their reference lists have only been looked a few hundred times and more worryingly they have upload copyrighted PDF manuscripts to google.docs for everyone to access – which doesn’t do much for their credibility.

    They have used FLEXPART, which appears to be an open access computer model of atmospheric dispersal of particles – it’s seems a well accepted model – but the problem with modelling (as I’ve found in my own field) is using the software can be a bit of an arcane art as you have to make a lot of assumptions and guesses (although according to our resident science expert, Mr/Mrs James Grey apparently scientists don’t make assumptions), which give very strange results if you don’t really know what you are doing. Their assumptions are based on a paper from a collective of Japanese groups that published preliminary findings using this model shortly after March. The major problem with datapoke’s findings is that this Japanese collaborative have now published completed modelling data in PNAS (an actual proper direct PNAS submission no less, which was submitted well before this datapoke site appeared). They’ve even paid for open access http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22084074 I haven’t read it properly, but in their hands the numbers the model calculates from dispersal over Japan and the official numbers of radiation release are of the same order of magnitude. It’s interesting to see how the mountains give protection to certain areas.

    One of the things that is different about datapoke – is they appear to have used the model for the whole world, rather than just Japan, maybe this gives a clue to differences in results.

  17. I’m not a nuclear engineer, or a physicist or some sort of materials chemist, but if Fukushima has taught us anything then it is that it’s perfectly acceptable for people with no knowledge or expertise to assert their ideas as fact – here’s mine:
    Completely agree about the smoke colour meaning nothing – it’s not the Sistine Chapel, but an explosion in a building full of all sorts of stuff – paint, lubricants, insulation etc, no doubt there was plenty to burn in a hydrogen explosion, which could explain the black smoke.
    Not convinced the idea of the zirconium exploding – it is explosive in powered form, but as zircaloy in the rods it’s unlikely. There’s a video of our friendly nuclear mentalist Arnie Gundersen exposing a rod to extreme heat in the presence of water and it shattered and sparked a bit, releasing gas, rather than exploded. For some reason this video reminds me of Professor Denzil Dexter – http://youtu.be/0FEZ6WN4DMU
    In terms of the explosion in the fuel pool in building 4, I think I read somewhere that the hydrogen there was unlikely to come from the spent rods, but was instead mistakenly piped in from venting reactor 3, although I haven’t seen this confirmed recently.
    In my naive view, I thought that the damage to the buildings indicates an explosion in the pipes or air space above the reactors, and not a nuclear explosion within the reactor. And whilst I’m sure the vented gases contained plenty of radioactive particles, can’t believe that these in themselves could explode. Though maybe, I’m barking up the wrong tree with this idea.

  18. I hadn’t come across this until recently, although it seems to have been around for a while. Not sure if it’s been mentioned here, but the best conspiracy theory has to be that the Fukushima disaster was caused by an Israeli bomb in order to excuse the radioactive isotopes in the sea that really came from the atomic bombs they used to cause the tsunami
    http://www.jimstonefreelance.com/fukushima.htm

    Apparently it is all a punishment for Japan secretly providing Iran with nuclear material or something.

  19. Princess and Dragon

    Nogbad,

    you make several interesting points about the datapoke site.

    Your bit about the copyrighted material brings to mind the saying “all’s fair in love and war”. I believe copyrights shouldn’t stand in the way of a deeper understanding of this catastrophe – particularly when dissemination of information may and probably have saved lives. It looks like Datapoke feels the same perhaps their prepared to face the same.

    I don’t see where you draw a parallel between the Chino et al. paper and the Yasunari et al paper mentioned in your post. The two studies have no authors in common and the Chino paper represents source terms derived from publicly discolsed Tepco and MEXT measurements whereas the study by Yasunari et al includes estimations of emission based on FLEXPART modelling results.

    The significance of any errors in the Chino paper indicates a high probability that the numbers reported by these Japanese Organizations are also incorrect…

  20. P&D – you’re right of course – sorry, no idea what I was thinking, I didn’t initially realise that I could access the original paper via the datapoke (more about this later). The only connection between the two groups is that the senior authors both come from the same department. In my haste to understand this, I made some naughty assumptions, so thanks for pointing this out. However, both studies do seem to rely on the Chino data for some of the assumptions they put into the model. I do think the PNAS paper is directly comparable to the datapoke study – though they clearly differ in scale, but the result are quite different.

    On the copyright thing – understand that money should not stand in the way of information flow, however the journals have to make money (and often their profits go back into science) – else proper peer review couldn’t happen and not sure a system of publication costs being paid by the author is currently a better system. Who holds the copyright does vary by journal and I guess as generally authors usually issue reprints if you ask, it is not that heinous a crime. I just thought it said something about the website as I”m not sure many scientists I know would be comfortable with making other people’s work available without permission.

  21. Oops, wrong reply location, anyway…

    Interesting link greg2,

    At least they’re being very honest. They say their errors are “an order of magnitude” (10 times off) or “orders of magnitude” (100x or 1000x off), then it’s pretty clear they are doing something very wrong, probably in their initial assumptions, or in the software settings, etc.

    I only do building-scale CFD simulations, not weather/global sims, but when I get that kind of result I recheck all my inputs and settings until I find that little mistake that must be there.

    But this has lead me to take all CFD simulations with a huge grain of salt, as things are so complex, and there are so many assumptions, fudge-factors and computational short-cuts taken, that when there’s a “reasonable” result, some people might be tempted to NOT check everything so rigorously, even though there’s a chance you got there by accident, and your results do not match reality.

    But at least I have the luxury (and burden) of confirming or refuting my sim results through experiment, unlike some other fields that rely heavily on CFD.

  22. That reminds me, I don’t think anyone has claimed that the reactor vessels themselves exploded. Cracked/leaking? Obviously. But have holes been blown through the vessel walls as chunks of core flew out? I don’t think anyone is claiming that. To me, that seems to put a big dent in the “nuclear explosion” theory.

  23. The reactor vessels exploded. All of them. My aunt told me.

  24. Good point, but aren’t we talking about the used fuel pool?

  25. Anyone interested in Fukushima might find this web site interesting. It is a blog by a Japanese civil engineer in Yokohama. There is alot of factual information (from the Japanese press and TEPCO) on this site. For example I had no clue that temperatures and hydrogen concentration were increasing in unit 2 until I came across this blog (with link to TEPCO news release).

    I believe the blogger is against nuclear power. I am a supporter of the responsible and safe use of nuclear power.

    The amount of radiation released from the sites has been enormous. I still think the long term effects are unknown.

    For those interested and who have an open mind on this issue and can see beyond the analogy expressed in the title of this post (Ken’s)…enjoy.

    http://fukushima-diary.com/

  26. @Doug:

    This guy is like the debito of Fukushima. Post any report about Fukushima in a shotgun approach. Some of it is true. Some of it is bullshit. I suppose if you stick to the factual stories from reputable sources, avoid the opinions (It’s hopeless! Evacuate Japan! You’re all going to die! etc) , and glance through the comments to see how silly his fans are, the effect is largely the same as debito.org.

  27. @Level3: Yup, pretty much mad as a brush. Lots of plus points for gathering information, but millions of minuses for being bonkers.

  28. I agree there is some over the top statements, however I have been able to access a quite a bit of data that I otherwise would not have found. There is alot of factual information he has posted that many Japanese technical folks are unaware of.

    That is why I read both Debito’s site and this one. Both have their good and bad points….as does Mochizuki-san’s.

    I think most thinking people can get beyond some of his over-reactions and dig out the small gems in Mochizuki’s site.

    I think he has done a good job of gathering data so I will continue to read and enjoy.

  29. @Doug:

    Out of curiosity, as “You will die if you are in Japan” is for you merely an “over-reaction” what would qualify as crossing the line into being a genuine crank?

    You may feel confident in distinguishing between the nonsense and the accuracies, but for a lot of people this is difficult. What do various bits of data mean? If you relied on Mochizuki for interpretations you’d end up fleeing to the moon or slitting your wrists.

  30. VK and all

    Below are a few more articles from what you may consider more reliable sources. Of course, “You will die if you are in Japan is an over-reaction.”

    Also it is obvious that the entirety of Japan will not need to be evacuated (as Mochizuki-san suggests elsewhere) but the situation is far from under control and the government has plans tucked a way for a worst case scenario evacuation of Tokyo (as mentioned in the Mainichi article).

    Whether you consider Mochizuki a “crank” or not does not discount some of the factual data that can be found on his site.

    I hope the situation is resolved satisfactorily as the environmental and economic fallout (pun intended) would be disastrous for Japan if the worst case scenario played out in Unit 4. Most Japanese I have talked to have lost all faith in both TEPCO and the government.

    I have come to love Japan and I also am a proponent of nuclear energy but I think at this point Japan as a country is at a critical juncture and any further major issues at Fukushima would further damage the morale of the people in Japan and wreak havoc on the already very fragile economic situation.

    Cheers

    FROM MAINICHI NEWS – APRIL 2
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/news/20120402p2a00m0na002000c.html

    MAINICHI JAPANESE LINK
    http://mainichi.jp/select/seiji/fuchisou/news/20120402ddm002070119000c.html

    ENE NEWS REGARDING COOLING WATER LEVEL
    http://enenews.com/nhk-water-level-far-lower-than-previously-thought-at-reactor-no-2-just-two-feet-deep-anticipated-it-was-5-times-higher-decommissioning-reactor-could-be-much-more-difficult-photo/comment-page-1

    EXTENT OF OCEAN CONTAMINATION
    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/radioactive-material-from-fukushima-nuclear-reactor-tracked-600-km-away/articleshow/12520648.cms

  31. @Doug:

    I would agree that cranks will (by random chance) post useful info. But you have to be cautious. And take care to distinguish neutral media sources (if that even exists anymore) from activists, NGO sites, and nice blogs, like enenews.

    But then, when they are citing reliable sources, you can use them in the same manner.

    Even then, fewer and fewer of the respectable news organizations are funding dedicated science writers. Instead they are handing the science story assignments to non-specialist journos, yielding a drop in quality, and a rise in sensationalism and embarrassingly bad errors due to scientific illiteracy (such as helped fuel the flyjin phenomena).

  32. “Most Japanese I have talked to have lost all faith in both TEPCO and the government.”

    Most Japanese you talked might be critical of TEPCO and the government just as I am but it is closer to the truth to say, as Donald Keene observed, most Japanese are acting as if nothing had happened.

     震災後の日本について、キーンさんは「率直に言って、がっかりしている」という。直後は東京からあかりが消えエレベーターも止まり「力を合わせて東北の人を助けている」と感じたが、「いまは明るく、必要のない(電光)看板がたくさんある。東京だけではない。もう忘れているのではないか」と辛口だった。

    http://www.asahi.com/national/update/0308/TKY201203080224.html

    Of course we need to check what TEPCO and the government are doing, but for ever we can’t be free from risk 100% .

    Keep in mind that pessimists on nuclear Energy are worried that any nuclear plant, not just in Japan but also in any country in the world, is be so risky that the worst case scenario might play out any time.

    With or without the nuclear plant crisis, people all over the world are worried about possible economic fallout of their own country.

    Let’s prepare for the worst and pray for the best, without becoming too pessimistic.

  33. @Level 3 – This is an issue I have some interest in as I have worked in the industry and continue to do so on occasion, although it is not my primary focus now. You are correct that there were many knee jerk reactions based on emotions (or unfamiliarity with the issue itself) rather than logic right after March 11, 2011 however now I think we are past the emotional stage. At this point I am willing to look at all sources just to get more information. You are right about news organizations being unwilling to fund scientifically literate writers…that is quite a shame. Also, based on what I see on his site I do not necessarily consider Mochizuki-san scientifically literate on the safety of nuclear power plants but he has put some good information on his site.

    @ 空 – Thanks for the observation (Many Japanese acting as if nothing happened) however I work in a technical field and many people I come across are just frustrated with TEPCO as they remember what happened in 2002 with the issue of the falsified maintenance reports. I had one of my engineers read the Japanese comment and article for me(Kanji is something I have not been able to master) and I find it an interesting observation.

    Years ago I was involved in risk assessments for critical safety systems at two nuclear plants. We tried to quantify the level of risk based on probability, severity, and likelihood of avoidance but still some assumptions are involved (due to a lack of empirical data). That said, I am fairly sure no one (regardless of if they are Japanese engineers, American engineers, French engineers, etc.) imagined an earthquake of that magnitude and tsunami of that size during the risk assessment years and years ago. I am certain that this is considered now (and it appears it may have been at the newer Onagawa units).

    Finally I agree we should not be too pessimistic, however it is important to look at the reality of the situation. From a technical standpoint it is still quite bad and I hope it does not get any worse.

    Life has risks and all technological advances involve some level or risk. Nuclear power is a high risk activity but I think the benefits are worth the risk as long as people are willing to subject the facilities and operators of the facilities to the highest level of scrutiny. In addition to scrutiny the absolute worst case scenarios need to be examined. It is interesting the Mainichi article mentioned the evacuation of the Tokyo metro area as something that was on the table. Maybe the government dug further into this than many believe. I would love to have access to the minutes of the meetings where that was proposed and see what scenarios were being examined to come to put the evacuation option on the table.

  34. @Doug:

    I’m sorry to harp on about this, but “I do not necessarily consider Mochizuki-san scientifically literate on the safety of nuclear power plants” is putting it mildly. He is NOT scientifically literate regarding radiological safety. It takes the kind of physics I did aged 14 to tell this. I find it hard to believe tht someone who has been in charge of safety inspections at nuclear plants can equivocate over Mochizuki’s lack of expertise. He’s not over-reacting; he’s simply wrong.

    Why bother with Mochizuki’s spin? Why not just google stories yourself rather than let him do it for you? You’d end up with a far, far better picture.

    Similarly, ENEnews is a very dodgy site to rely on. It takes genuine news stories and spins them for fearmongering effect. Like the Daily Mail, it takes burrowing to find the real story beneath the headline. As far as I know, no one has publicly come forward to admit that they run the site, and no one has been able to find out who they are. I have lingering suspicions that it is being given at least a certain degree of help by fossil fuel interests as it has a similar feel to astroturfed climate change denial “aggregation” sites. It’s run by “a lawyer”, not a specialist. He also claims not to be an anti-nuclear activist, but that’s clearly hogwash given how the site behaves, and really stinks of astroturfing.

    You think I’m being too hard on them? For both these supposedly good aggregation sites, ENENews and Fukushima Diary, there appears to be very little from the various health experts who have been saying for months that all scientific research and evidence points to minimal (ie close to zero) health impacts from radiation among the population. Unarguably, this *should* be major news. Instead, these two sites are jam full of stories about how thousands if not millions of people are going to get cancer and lots of babies will have birth defects. These stories have no basis in respectable science whatsoever. Seriously. They’re simply bullshit. (You’ve enough science: go and look up the literature in medical and radiological journals.)

    Frankly, the person who runs the ENE site is a scaremongering little shit who will encourage what we know is the far bigger health threat, which is fear. He’ll probably be responsible for more deaths than the radiation ever will be. Mochizuki on the other hand appears not to be entirely mentally stable – I just wish he would stop causing all this unnecessary fear and stress for others.

    What’s important is not to confuse fear and suspicion with the objects of fear and suspicion. A whole lot of journalism smoothly blends the two. A classic example is the one you raise: “People don’t trust the government” becomes effortlessly “the government cannot be trusted” becomes “government data on radiation cannot be trusted” becomes “If you live in Japan you will die.”

    People need proper experts, not public opinion aggregators or media whores. Is food in Tokyo supermarkets safe to eat? A responsible journalist really should say “Yes, because there really is no credible reason to suppose otherwise; independent tests confirm what the government agency says.” Instead the question is answered like this: “Despite reassurances from government officials and scientific experts, many people still fear that they are poisoning their children with radioctive produce.” That’s “true”, but in the circumstances, it is fearmongering. It is making the fear the central part of the story in order to boost readership, rather than working to inform.

    Of course TEPCO has been incredibly negligent. So we need a proper discussion of how we regulate companies dealing in hazardous materials, rather than the weird implication that nuclear power can only ever be regulated badly, and that it is unique amongst all energy sources in this respect. Or that because TEPCO is negligent, no government agency will ever tell the truth about anything like ever.

    The events last year revealed how modern journalists studiously avoid taking responsibility for their actions. “I’m only reporting what people are saying” and “you need to hear boths sides” have become defensive cover for spinning the news into marketable chunks of fear. “Truth” (and the idea that you should try to get at it honestly and with integrity) has been smuggled out of the back door, tied up in a sack and been weighed down with heavy postmodern rocks and drowned in a lake. It doesn’t make journalistic careers any more. A good story does, as does a good brass neck.

    As for the evacuation story – this is being spun to death by people who almost seem disappointed that things were not as bad as the wild predictions they broadcast. Yes, the government made secret evacuation plans. I’d have been shocked if they hadn’t. But one needs to understand how this comes about. Scientific modellers were not projecting that Tokyo was at serious risk of being affected and then warning politicians. Instead, politicians (quite reasonably given their lack of knowledge about power stations) asked scientists under what circumstances might an evacuation be necessary. So the scientists explained what would need to happen for that to be the case – and the bit at the end where they say “this is, however, extremely unlikely, and we’re only talking about this scenario because you asked us to” doesn’t sink in to the journalists reporting the story. The British-modelled scenario, for example, involved all six reactors exploding simultaneously combined with three days straight of gale force winds all blowing constantly in the direction of Tokyo. The end result (danger to Tokyo) was a given; it was not a probabilistic conjecture.

    What’s happened to the people who lived in the surrounding area of Fukushima Daichi is awful, and this should be the focus of the discussion regarding nuclear safety. But it isn’t. One has to suspect the motives and/or ethics of those commentaters who try to bid up the possible death count way, way up beyond what genuine experts say.

  35. @VK: Small correction as I misremembered – ENEnews guy isn’t a lawyer. He’s just a concerned citizen who’s definitely not getting any money for the site.

  36. @VK – You certainly have strong opinions on this issue, but it is a good discussion

    1. It is fun to read some of Mochizuki-san’s spin. I am a proponent of nuclear power so I am quite interested what those against the technology are thinking. In the end reading some of the “spin” actually helps me formulate arguments for nuclear power. As Ken YA pointed out he (Mochizuki-san) did do a good job of gathering information and putting it in one place. Actually one of the better sites as far as that aspect is concerned. It is up to the reader to extract the information they want to. I think the guy is doing what he is doing with a pure heart and no ill intentions, even if I do not agree with his conclusions.

    2. Regarding your claim of fearmongering. Maybe, maybe not. In a free, open, and transparent society (hard to find anywhere in this day and age) I believe the authorities and test data should be questioned. TEPCO does have a history of falsifying data (and their CEO resigned in 2002 because of this). Having 3rd Parties test food is a good thing. I believe some of what happened right after 3/11 was fearmongering. I do not think the article I wrote discussing the technicalities of a Loss of Cooling Accident (which was put on Debito’s site and for which I was ripped a new ass for) is not fearmongering. What I saw happening at that time was that people were totally polarized and anyone critical of TEPCO or the Government and questioning their conclusions was called a “fearmongerer”.

    3. I do not think I ever said “that nuclear power can only ever be regulated badly” so I am assuming this is a critique of Michizuki-san. I do think nuclear power can be regulated well and there are many examples of this but I do not find it weird that some people disagree with me (and disagree with you as well) about this. For the many people that believe this I think the bigger challenge is to convince them of the safety of this technology, with proper regulation in place. I have been able to convince a few (not many) radical anti nuclear folks with technical discussions and examples but never have been able to do so by calling them names or completely discounting them.

    4. I have to disagree with you about the evacuation issue. Neither you nor I know the whole story behind the evacuation issue (unless you were sitting in on the discussions with the Japanese Government). Yes it is extremely unlikely but it is possible. A PRELIMINARY risk assessment (using the ANSI methodology) would have assigned a severity level of “Catastrophic” and a probability of “Unlikely” resulting in a “Medium” risk worthy of further assessment.

    If you have a link to the British modelled scenario I am interested in reading it.

    5. Right about the ENE guy.

    FINALLY – If Japan chooses to shut all nuclear plants in the country it is FINANCIAL SUICIDE for Japan….no ifs, ands, or buts. That I feel very strongly about. I do hope that TEPCO and the Government can;

    A) Admit things could have been handled better
    B) Allow for 3rd Party scrutinization of all of the operational plants in Japan and openly publish the assessment reports (this should include international engineers and inspectors)
    C) Provide the public with a Corrective Action plan and timeline for corrective actions (some plants may need to be shut down)
    D) Provide a forum for public feedback and open discussion.

    This model was used at two major stations on the Ontario Hydro system after a leak of cooling water and it seemed to work well. My opinion is part of the reason this worked well for Ontario Hydro is everyone had a voice (including folks like Mochizuki-san) and Ontario Hydro and the government were very open about what was happening.

    Cheers

  37. @Justin Thyme:

    Debito doesn’t seem to read the local press to any significant degree

    I agree.

    @Justin Thyme:

    You appear to scan this site avidly ,you responded to VK quickly.

    It is great that you came up with the real article we can check.

    Isshiki, in case you don’t recall, is ex-coastguard who released video footage of the Chinese trawler collision incident.

    It is written on the right beginning of the article.

     東日本大震災の被災地に今月初め、中国漁船衝突事件をめぐる映像流出事件で起訴猶予処分となった一色正春元海上保安官が同志とともに緊急物資支援に出かけていたことが分かった。津波がすべてを破壊し尽くした被災地で、支援団一行は、得体の知れないアジア人に遭遇したという。

    One group touring the zone claimed to have encountered groups of foreigners hanging around. After speaking with them, the group said they were parked near destroyed buildings which they were claiming as their own

    Not exactly.

    がれきの山の前で車を止めて、外に出たところ、支援団の1人が得体の知れない中年女性に会ったという。坂東氏は語る。

    A member of one group touring the zone claimed to have encountered one middle aged woman.

     「メンバーの1人が声をかけると、中年女性はたどたどしい日本語で『ココからココまで、ワタシの家だったのに、みんな壊れたよ!』と訴えたというのです。アジア人なのは間違いない。

    She claimed that her house was destroyed. From the way she spoke Japanese, it was certain that she was an Asian. She didn’t sound sad and her car had the car license with Tama, insinuating that she was not a resident of the affected area.

    一行が連想したのは、戦後の混乱期、一部のアジア人が持ち主がよく分からない土地を不法占拠したこと

    That reminded them of the incident where in the period of confusion after the war, some Asians illegally occupied the land whose owner was not certain.

    その後、支援団は岩手県大船渡市と石巻市にある避難所を回ったが、途中、銀座を闊歩するような高級な服を着て、被災地にたたずむ老夫婦と会った。メンバーが「どちらからお越しですか?」と声をかけると、無視して立ち去ろうとする。重ねて聞き返すと、「カナガワ!」とだけ答えた。発音は明らかに日本人ではなかったという。

    And on the way to another evacuation center at ishinomaki, the support group met elderly couple in classy clothes standing at the affected area.  Asked if where they came from, they just replied “Kanagawa”. Clearly, the pronunciation was not the one of the native Japanese, it is said.

    国籍に関係なく、犯罪は許されない。被災者らが自警団が結成しているというが、新たな苦難を背負わせるのは忍びない。政府主導で対応してほしい」と話している。

    The article ends up with saying that regardless of the nationality, crimes are unforgivable, it is said that people formed a neighborhood watch group but it is unbeatable to see the afflicted people suffer more, the government should act.

    there’s good reason to believe the description of the whole encounter was a fabrication from start to finish

    It is not entirely clear that the whole encounter was a fabrication from the start to finish.
    It is not verifiable whether the allegation that some foreigners tried to illegally occupy the land of the affected area is true but it is not entirely impossible that they met the middle aged woman and elderly couple who sounded like non-Japanese.

    Justin, let’s distinguish between what you heard and read and what you imagined from it, your subjective interpretation of it.

    Did you interview the members of the group?

    Or coupled with another comment of yours, I wonder if you might be trying to mislead the reader who can’t read Japanese.

    By the way, in this morning, I talked with an elderly woman who has a grandson. She said her son-in-law has a grandfather. meaning that his grandfather has a great grandson like you. She said he was over 90 years old. She and the parents of the son-in-law are in their 70′s. They don’t belong to the generation when an international child was called “haafu” when they were children.

  38. @Doug:

    What I have strong opinions about is the way in which various groups and people are effectively crowding out good quality information and analysis about what is happening and what might happen. These are people who for various reasons are interested in promulgating a highly exaggerated and fear-ridden version, with only an interest in the science if it fits that narrative. If it doesn’t, they hide it, distort it, rubbish it, ridicule it. It’s fashionable to talk of “balance” and hearing all sides, but these people are making it incredibly difficult for people feeling uninformed to establish what is actually happening.

    In particular, they’ve been very successful at creating the impression that anyone who contradicts them must therefore be an apologist for TEPCO and who naively believes everything the government says.

    For example: of course we want third party testing. I specifically mentioned it as a way of assessing the accuracy of government information. And I stated myself that TEPCO have been appallingly negligent. But these propagandists have done their work, and your reply suggests you’re a little nervous about whether I’m trying to give the government and TEPCO a free pass, and I’m not.

    As I’ve stated before, I don’t think Mochizuki himself is a bad person (unlike, say, Busby). I think he’s clearly a bit messed up. The real culprits are the media organisations who have abdicated responsibility for what they put out, and some professional anti-nuclear campaigners who don’t care what is said so long as it is scary. I remember exactly how hard it was to find out what the levels of radiation in Tokyo and elsewhere in the days after the hydrogen explosions actually meant for human health. The English-language media didn’t want to say. It was almost a state secret. Instead, lots of articles about acute radiation sickness… :facepalm: The issue continues today with radioactive “hotspots” and radioactive particles discovered in food and the meaning of the new government limits.

    I agree that name-calling doesn’t work when you’re trying to change someone’s mind. (I don’t think anyone will ever change Mochizuki’s mind.) I want to see a more rigorous defence of proper scientific opinions when people are deciding whether or not to believe what someone like Mochizuki says. As you have found, it’s the technical information, put well, put comprehensibly, put in a way that they can check with independent sources, that will persuade people. Sometimes that does involve explaining that some commentators hold very fringe views in the view of scientists, or that some people are demonstrably unreliable or even just corrupt. And sometimes it does involve a tasteful show of passion as to why you think it’s important to get the science right.

    I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that you yourself felt nuclear power could never be properly regulated – apologies for giving that impression. Rather that this is one element of the narrative being pushed by large part of the blog-informed news media. Because of this, we are still nowhere near a decent public debate on how nuclear facilities should be run in Japan. There are serious governance issues that need to be addressed.

    The financial impact of returning to fossil fuels had not occurred to me until the trade deficit went into red. I’ve been more concerned about the environmental impact of boosting fossil fuel use – but I take your point.

    What has been lacking in this debate is a clear explanation of choices. What is the alternative to using nuclear power, what are the comparable impacts, and do we think these or those are better? The irony of Fukushima for me was that I did something of a Monbiot: In trying to find out what might happened, I learnt about the potential health and environmental impacts of a (what I have subsequently been convinced was preventable) mess like Fukushima compared to the use of coal with no accidents at all, and realised that we should think very hard before we switch back to coal. And then not switch back.

    As requested: this was the information that came from the British Chief Scientific Advisor during the early days of the crisis, based on their own modelling (btw it was ten days of gales, not three). Given everything that has happened, these talks seem to have been the most accurate (leaks into the ocean aside, which caught a lot of people out). The health risk assessments tally with everything I have found in the science literature on Chernobyl, so I really don’t think there’s a fix going on here: 15 March and 19 March

  39. Mochizuki: “You will die if you are in Japan.”

    To which I will borrow a reply from Yossarian: and if I’m not in Japan, I won’t die?

  40. Doug

    I am not an expert, I am just an amateur on the nuclear problem. I forgot almost everything I learned at school. In terms of science, I am on the elementary school level.

    1)As I look at it, based upon reliable documents, , there won’t be any significant increase of the cancer and other deceases due to this fukushima incident if the things goes as they are going.

    2) I don’t know how to calculate risks and I don’t know how much we can rationally trust the calculations and I don’t know what is the rational level of the risk on which people should allow the nuclear energy system to continue but I believe that there is no risk free nuclear plants in the world.

    3) The cost of keeping health risk as low as possible, once the incident happened, is enormous.

    4)The climate of Japanese people now is that they want to abandon the nuclear plants as early as possible .

    5)And yet in my opinion, the nuclear plants are necessary economically. In terms energy security, it is vital to keep as various forms of energy as possible; nuclear energy is one of them. If kept in safe, the nuclear energy is environmentally valuable and the technology is potentially useful militarily.

    Thus though I have no objection to encourage renewable energy and build up other system of electricity using natural gas and such, in my opinion, it is not practical to give up all the plants.: it is necessary to keep the newest and safest nuclear plants. If necessary and democratically possible, I even think it is more rational for Japan to build the newer and safer nuclear plants. ( I probably belong to the minority on this matter )

    But to keep daiichi fukushima plants and other plants as safe as possible, the radical transformation of not just TEPCO but the whole electric power companies and the thorough transparency of the government are necessary. I think Pro and Anti nuclear power can agree on this point.

    So as long as you don’t sensationalize the problem of the nuclear plants and you don’t fall prey to “Japan-is-unique” syndrome as seen on Debito org, being critical with Japanese government and Tepco is perfectly okay with me.

    Juts my two cents.

    .

  41. VK

    Travelling so sorry took me so long to get back to you. Thanks for the links and comments. I will give the links a look. Also thanks for your clarification. It seemed the debate initially was too polarized and there were (and still are) alot of unanswered questions.

    Thanks for your comments. One point I disagree is that I do think there will be an increase risk of cancer due to this incident in the long term. I do not think it will be huge nor will it encompass a wide geographic area, but I think there will be an increase.

    It sounds like we all agree that a much better explanation and more transparancy is necessary. For me it is more than a “Japan thing”. Of course I care about Japan and what happens, but this was, from a nuclear power point a view, a monumental event which I have tried to follow and get as much information as I possibly can.

    Anyway thanks to all for an interesting discussion

    Cheers

  42. @Doug:

    On what basis do you think the cancer experts are wrong in saying that there will be no detectable increase in cancer? They seem to all be saying the same thing.

  43. @Doug:


    Fukushima Fallout
    Cancer Fears and Depression Plague Japanese Refugees

    By Cinthia Briseño and Heike Sonnberger

    Just how many cancer cases will the increased radiation trigger? Like most radiation experts, US radiologist Fred Mettler expects that Fukushima won’t raise general cancer rates in Japan. If it did, the increase would be too small to measure, Mettler, a member of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), recently told the news agency AP

    What is known is what happened after the catastrophe at Chernobyl. There is a clear connection between the reactor accident in 1986 and the increase in thyroid cancer diagnoses. Thyroid cancer can be traced primarily back to the consumption of milk and leafy vegetables contaminated by iodine-131. Radiation expert Weiss suspects that a similar causal link won’t be found in Fukushima. A mass screening of the thyroids of Japanese children after the accident showed very low levels of radiation, said Weiss. Besides, he notes, thyroid cancer appears more commonly in adults over the age of 40.

    The experts agree on one main point: The psychological consequences of the nuclear catastrophe are a greater risk to the population than radiation. There was a similar conclusion after the Chernobyl disaster, when many of those evacuated suffered from stress and depression. They ate fewer healthy foods, and smoked and drank more, all of which can increase the risk of cancer.
    Nurse Matsumoto agrees. The biggest problem for the Katsurao refugees right now is not radiation, but too little physical activity. Most of the townspeople are farmers who worked hard before the catastrophe. Now they sit in their emergency accommodations, and eat fatty pre-packaged foods instead of homegrown vegetables, which could put them at risk for increased cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

    “Some are already suffering from depression,” Matsumoto says, adding that the refugees have the dual burden of having lost their jobs, and their homes. “And they don’t know how things are going to turn out.”

    As an armature, I rely on the document like this to evaluate the situation.

    If you can explain why this kind of document is not trustworthy so that an armature can understand, I’d appreciate it.

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