Why, all we need to toss in to make this a blockbuster column would be Godzilla….but to preserve some semblance of respectability, we’ll eventually get to the point here: I got to wondering about the comparison between Fukushima and the loss of life that happened in World War II. Our consulting (real life) reactor engineer is about as good a source as you’ll find:
I know that radiophobia plays well and I acknowledge the Fukushima meltdowns as catastrophes of colossal proportions, but you had what I assume was a throw-away sentence in the update that just isn’t borne out by the facts. You stated in your blurb on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing that the Fukushima disaster “[s]eems destined to outdo the wartime use of nukes in terms of impacts including long-term loss of life.”
Even in the most fevered dreams of the anti-nukes (at least the ones that acknowledge science and historical data) that is a gross overstatement. I have no doubts I’ll spend the rest of my life having to hear it, but that still won’t make it true. The same thing was said about Chernobyl – that the death toll would be in the hundreds of thousands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_due_to_the_Chernobyl_disaster). The real death toll is somewhere in the range of 6000 (less than 100 for the accident and immediate response, the rest on estimated cancers) or so and much of that from the Soviets forcing gulag inmates to work in a very high radiation environment, along with some soldiers and engineers who risked their lives to get that situation under control.
In some ways Fukushima was worse than Chernobyl – more plants at the site, a breached spent fuel pool building, no site power for many days, flooded reactor with seawater, etc. So let’s look at that. First off, no one died at the Fukushima complex as a result of radiation exposure during the meltdown phase. A recent attempt at estimating deaths/reduction in life expectancy (http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2012/ee/c2ee22019a) gave a figure that ranges from hundreds to nearly 2000 that is based on theoretical reductions in life expectancy due to cancer and uses the LNT (linear damage theory – no threshold model, a very conservative way of calculating radiation health effects). Time will have to tell, but this will be the most studied cohort of accident victims ever produced, in my opinion.
As bad as the Japanese response has been in some ways (especially in terms of transparency of data) this population will be followed their entire lives, so one way or the other, we will get an answer to your statement, but just like in the early days post-Chernobyl, we are going to see that the real death toll will be much, much lower than feared. Also, because more coal fired plants are being ramped up now to offset the reduction in nuclear, more fatalities and illnesses from respiratory problems will kick in, possibly swamping the theoretical deaths that might be caused by the Fukushima releases (http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es3051197).
I know we are also not allowed to talk about it in polite company, but there was an absolutely massive exposure event in Taiwan where around 10,000 people were exposed to low-level radiation for around 9 years and the results were not a devastating cancer epidemic (http://dose-response.metapress.com/link.asp?id=u570v06p72857877), but the total population actually showed a reduction in cancer incidence. This is why you don’t hear about this massive exposure incident in the mainstream press or from radiophobes.
I’m not saying go out and buy a Co-60 source to hug on at night, and there were complications noted for some subsets of that population (kids, pregnant women), but the cancer/death figures one expects using LNT are not seen, even several decades on. Let’s just say rad effects on people are a complicated topic and not amenable to sound bites.
Much of the problem as I see it today is that TEPCO has no credibility left. The Japanese government has no credibility left. Regarding the leaks into the groundwater, they should be providing constant information on test well readings all around the area. This is very straightforward stuff. Dig the well. Take a sample. Place it in a standard counter. Report the results of the test along with all metadata (detector type, calibration date, any calibration factors necessary to compensate for geometry, etc.) on a publicly available website and then allow audits. We would then know for sure if/when levels begin to exceed regulatory limits and if/when they begin to approach concerns to health (a much higher number).
As for the reactor facility and spent fuel pools, fuel removal is ahead of schedule. There was never a zirc fire in the spent fuel pools. The fuel is the potential source for a potential new disaster there. Contaminated water is a real problem, but we know how to deal with it – collection in resin beds, prevent use of contaminated wells, monitor the coast and fisheries. The dose levels we are talking about that have made it into the food supply are still in the single digit Becquerel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becquerel) range. Remember that a banana averages around 15 Bq. That is a nice value to compare to. Again, I am not saying don’t worry. I am saying be vigilant, but don’t panic yet. Save the energy, there may be a need to panic later and you don’t want to be wore out by then from needless worrying.
People evolved in a much higher radiation environment than we have today on earth. In reasonable doses, we can tolerate it – though I don’t disagree that some people are more sensitive to rad exposure than others, just like some people are more sensitive to peanuts than others.
Another quick hit for you – the Great East Japan Earthquake killed almost 16,000 people, with over 2,600 people missing/dead. Recall also that the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 killed at least 230,000 people. Where are the calls to permanently evacuate all coastal cities and towns along the Pacific Rim?
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.
It’s always an honor to here from the front-line pros who actually run reactors…
Speaking of radiation fears, I have three wireless routers in my office plus a lifetime of messing in high RF environments and so far I’m not even medium-rare. But it may have an unstudied side effect: typos.
Scenar ala WuJo
We have a reader report this morning that relates to a “Scenar” which some people swear by and others, like this site over here, label as a complete scam.
The reason I mention this is that not one person in 1 thousand on the street have any clue what a scenar is….so in an effort to set up this WuJo Report you need to understand what they are. So here’s the report:
I think I just had a woo experience today.
I have a scenar (cosmodic) that I purchased a few years ago, from following the bots.
My son was using it at a summer club basketball tournament (July 26). Teammate had stepped on his hand in practice earlier in the week, so we brought it to the tournament for last minute control of his injury. After the tournament, drove home, remember taking it out of the car, throwing some trash away outside and then going inside the house. An hour after we got home, I was looking for the scenar for use on my neck. Couldn’t find it. Look in the outside trash can, dumped out the contents, in case I accidently
dropped it in the trash. Looked in the car, still couldn’t find it. Looked all over the house, no luck. Have not seen it since July 26. I was bit upset, since this scenar was from the Ukraine and was expensive. Oh well…
Today, son and I are in living room and I go upstairs to get laundry. Coming down the stairs I look down into the living room and there it is lying on floor about 2 feet from the couch. I asked my son, and he said he saw it there about 30 minutes earlier, but did not notice it earlier in the day. I asked my son if he had touched it or moved something that was covering it and he indicated that he had not touched it or moved anything that might have been covering it.
I was almost convinced that I had never taken it out of the car, and that it was stolen at the basketball tournament. Looks like a cell phone in a case. But I still clung to the notion that I had taken it out of the car.
In any event, I was happy to see my scenar and I told it, I was glad it was back and hoped it had a good trip. There is no way it was lying on my living room floor for 15 days in plain site. I know it took a trip,
You can leave my name out of the woo report.
No problem, reader Bill Smith, of UrbanTown, Illinois…(which is better than John Doe, I figured…).
Here’s an interesting thread of a thought revealed in this case. Do you think it’s possible that the disappearance and reappearance of items has to do with people’s mental/emotional attachment to the objects involved?
In other words, in our recent WuJo cases, we’ve had car keys, sandals, and now a scenar. In each one of these cases there’s a high emotive content. Maybe the car represented by the keys is super important to that reader. Perhaps the sandals have deep emotional meaning about the son growing up…or the scenar because of a deep emotional connection to the device as a health improvement tool…perhaps wujo – even those wrong numbers/dead phone line calls – are about some “hole in the soul” – we just can’t be sure.
So keep the wujo reports coming in to firstname.lastname@example.org and put the word wujo in the subject line so Mr. Distracted doesn’t miss it.
Monday in the Mailbag
On Sunday (since my new writing tools are so easy to use) I put up the Aggregate Index Chart and a short discussion of it. The chart was semi-interesting, so I also included a bad shaggy dog story at the end of it to keep things interesting. So much so that reader Michael R dashed off an email warning me about my feeble attempt at humor explaining how I was “…outstanding in my field…”
That is great but you should be careful.
Here in Winchester yesterday there were two peanuts outstanding in their field, gazing at the productivity of nature.
However, one was a salted.
Boom-dash (or rim-shot). Yes sir, in a crazy world, I reckon the only way to cope is to be crazier still…And success in this regard seems to come easier by the day…maybe I should buy another Wi-Fi router…
But Seriously, Then…
“Do we have to?” Yes. This from another reader named Michael (is this Michael Monday?) is a very good read:
Read your website this morning about a “universal substrate” of consciousness.
This is old news. I have termed it the non-dualistic, 2-dimensional ‘flat’ space “observing consciousness” (Created ‘by and in the image of God’), out of which the entire 3-dimensional ‘curved’ space consciousness/reality emerges,
in an article that was published about 2 1/2 years ago: I just don’t use the kitchy wuwuwuwu terminology of the ‘New Age’ charlatans…
While relying, instead, upon Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and the Gospel of Thomas.
Which is why you will never hear about my research on the ‘alternative’ media….
Hmmm…let me ponder this one and get back to you…
Mass Media WuJo?
Reader Rita writes:
Don’t remember exactly which posting it was on, but a week or so ago you told a “story” about if Joe get a phone call from Sam(you used a middle eastern name) and Sam was a suspected bad guy, then Joe’s phone calls could all be monitored also, and then those that Joe called could also have their phones monitored etc. On Friday’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” just this issue was discussed! It was about a White Paper that had been issued from the Justice Dept. —
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/#52719246 The part about the White Paper starts at about 13:26
Well, another Monday…and it’s back on the treadmill of capitalism us worthless tax chattels,
We’ll slack off tomorrow morning again with another dose of free-thinking when Da Man isn’t expecting you in the conference room, on patrol, making rounds, or begging for work three places or whatevering… Tell him “Hi!” for me…