Tuesday, 29 July 2014
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Fukushima alarmism is a bigger risk than radiation

It’s been almost two and a half years since the Tohoku earthquake, which triggered the tsunami that swept across Japan, causing massive loss of life and destroying towns and villages. The best-known, but perhaps least serious, consequence of the tsunami is back in the news: the continuing efforts to contain radioactivity from the nuclear reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power station.

Some readers might be wondering how I could describe what’s officially the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl as the least serious consequence of the tsunami. I’m not implying that the incident wasn’t serious. But the way it was — and continues to be — covered is out of all proportion. Over 18,500 people lost their lives as a result of the tsunami. Of those, the number attributable to Fukushima is zero, despite the meltdowns continually being described as ‘deadly’ and radiation levels as ‘lethal’. It all adds to the continuing demonisation of nuclear power, which is — to say the least — unhelpful.

The latest developments concern the containment of water which has been used to cool the molten remains of the plant’s affected reactors. This is being stored in tanks by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), which maintains the plant. Some of these tanks have been discovered to be leaking, leading to radioactive elements reaching the ocean. The latest attempt to contain these leaks, led by the Japanese government rather than TEPCO, is a proposal to create a ‘freeze-wall’ by burying coolant pipes in the soil surrounding the plant to a depth of around 30m, then pumping in salted water at -40°C to freeze the groundwater. This effectively creates a permafrost zone which, the engineers claim, will be able to stop contaminated water from leaking out of the protected zone, and equally stop clean water from leaching in and becoming contaminated.

Despite breathless coverage descibing this as a ‘desperate attempt’ and a ‘crazy plan’ this is actually a well-established technique, used to stabilise loose ground for excavations, for example. It’s been used in London (on the excavation of the new Jubilee Line stations) and at CERN, in the construction of the huge caverns that house the Large Hadron Collider’s detectors. It also has a pedigree in the nuclear sector: it’s used in uranium mining, and has been used to contain nuclear waste at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US. Ice is an effective radiation shield against alpha and beta radiation, and it’s the latter which is believed to be the major problem with the Fukushima water.

It’s certainly ambitious — the Fukushima freeze wall will be the largest ever created, and will have to last for much longer than they are generally used for — and expensive, because the coolant needs to keep flowing to keep the ground frozen; costs are estimated at over £300m, which includes equipment to remove contaminants from the water. But ‘desperate’? ‘Crazy’? Hardly.

As Neil Hyatt, professor of nuclear waste management at Sheffield University points out, the major challenge at Fukushima is to decontaminate the water by removing the radioactive isotopes and stabilising them into a form suitable for long-term storage and disposal — there is significant expertise in this in the UK, based around vitrification techniques developed at Sellafield. The ice-wall will have to be thoroughly tested to minimise porosity; it’s unlikely to be a completely impervious barrier, but should be able to keep the flow of isotopes down to a level which will not lead to dangerous radiation dosages.

As for the effect on the nuclear sector outside Japan, the lessons seem to be the same ones drawn from the Fukushima incident itself. Ensure that regulators are not too close to the companies maintaining and operating nuclear facilities; use the best possible techniques for containing radioactivity (if TEPCO’s storage tanks had been welded, rather than riveted and sealed with rubber, it’s likely that the leaks would have been much less severe, or might not have occurred at all). Overall, it’s a salutory lesson in planning for the worst, because if you don’t, it’ll cost you more to clean up the mess than it would have cost to put the safeguards in originally.

But it shouldn’t be an argument against the deployment of nuclear. Once again, the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi were old, scheduled for shutdown; their newer neighbours at Fukushima Daiini worked perfectly. The nuclear incident was never more than a sideshow to the natural disaster of the tsunami. It was a tragedy of the intersection of human settlements and plate tectonics, not of the nuclear industry.

Readers' comments (35)

  • This is a great comment article - and I hope it does help stop the demonisation of nuclear which has often cynically been used by those who forget the real tragedy of the tsunami on those who died.

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  • Alarmism worse than radiation? No, Stuart, you are entirely wrong. This is a full-scale real disaster whose effects will be felt for many years. It is entirely normal to see delayed effects from exposure to radiation. The plan to replace the rust & duct-tape tanks and freeze the ground will take at least 2 years and has not yet started. Let's not add more complacency to the tragedy of Fukushima

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  • World Health Organisation is still saying that predicted health effects are minimal to none. Hopefully they're correct.

  • Joe - I don't understand your comment 'It is entirely normal to see delayed effects from exposure to radiation.' in the context of this incident. The WHO doesn't expect this. Could you please provide references?

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  • I've said it before but I'll say it again. If the Design is done Properly i the First Place there should NOT be a problem.
    Of the THREE MAJOR accidents to date, namely, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and
    Fukushima ALL of them were PWR's which are Smaller and Cheaper than AGR's. In this country, UK, we only use AGR's for Power Stations PWR's are only used for Naval Vessels for obvious reasons.
    You CANNOT get a Hydrogen Bubble in am AGR!! and that is what went wrong with ALL THREE PWR's. Enough Said?

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  • Oooh Joe Serious, are you entirely sure you read the article? Full scale real disasters normally involve loss of life of more than none. Rational people look sideways at emotive phrases like your "rust & duct tape" effort. It usually means there are no facts involved.
    Fukushima was old, and hit by an earthquake then a tsunami. Nobody dead?
    A small miracle, likely to stay that way according to the W.H.O.

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  • How to get rid of 1000s of tons of contaminated water? I have an idea which sounds odd at the beginning. If one would enrich the water with salt, cool it down to +4° and pump it through a long pipe into the deep ocean at 3 or 4km water depth it would stay there for hundreds if not thousends of years. It would be extremely thinned out if it ever comes back to the surface.

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  • I was distraught, like many millions of people at the scale of devastation after the tsunami disaster. Not a day goes by without me thinking of the poor lost souls. However the side issue then was the forthcoming tragedy of Fukushima and what death and mayhem it could/would also bring. Whilst we cannot be complacent it seems the effect on both humans and the environment could be very small. I think this is one positive out of the disaster. The world will need increasing amounts of energy in the coming years and nuclear can deliver in larger quantities than most current options.

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  • Yes Paul. There are a large number of fuel rods on the site, of which only about one quarter are accessible with current technology. That leaves 3,000+ rods to dissolve in the sea-water being deliberately pumped into the complex plus the new, uncontrolled ground water exposure. A few miles to the North of this site is Sendai Bay, one of Japan's biggest fishing areas & with a predominantly clockwise tidal flow, it is fairly obvious where contamination will go. This fishing area has now been reopened after a period of closure after the tsunami. Can you say the WHO is correct?

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  • The WHO issued a report in MAY 2012 based on data as of SEP 2011, concluding no discernible increase in health risks OUTSIDE Japan, but an increased lifetime risk for some cancers in certain age & sex groups in the areas most affected. This was before the radioactive water leaks were discovered. They highlight the importance of continued monitoring of food & the environment to allow their risk assessment to be refined. For anyone who does eventually develop a cancer as a result of this disaster, the fact that it was an extremely small risk will be of no comfort.

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  • Freezing the leakage appears to be a reasonable approach to stem the tide of contaminated water at Fuku. These are the types of steps that should have been in place shortly after the incident. Unfortunately, the seeking of a consensus opinion in the middle of an immerging disaster, wastes valuable time and permits the situation to worsen along a log scale. Early on, the most experienced from the world-wide nuclear industry should have been brought into the Frey and what they got were too MBA's and accountants determining financial impacts and incompetent national politicians looking for a CYA. This combined with ingrained social and institutional indecision exacerbated the problem into a crisis. I am glad to see that efforts are now coming forth to address the underlying causes and to mitigate the impact. This event needs to be viewed as a great opportunity to learn what not to do and used to address future events. Nuclear power is the only technology that makes sense for long term high volume power production. The bright light of knowledge needs to be brought to bear on the fears some people and Fuku can be an excellent training ground.

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  • Just to be accurate, it isn't the waste that will be frozen: it's the ground in an area surrounding the waste.

  • Freezing the leakage appears to be a reasonable approach to stem the tide of contaminated water at Fuku. These are the types of steps that should have been in place shortly after the incident. Unfortunately, the seeking of a consensus opinion in the middle of an immerging disaster, wastes valuable time and permits the situation to worsen along a log scale. Early on, the most experienced from the world-wide nuclear industry should have been brought into the Frey and what they got were too MBA's and accountants determining financial impacts and incompetent national politicians looking for a CYA. This combined with ingrained social and institutional indecision exacerbated the problem into a crisis. I am glad to see that efforts are now coming forth to address the underlying causes and to mitigate the impact. This event needs to be viewed as a great opportunity to learn what not to do and used to address future events. Nuclear power is the only technology that makes sense for long term high volume power production. The bright light of knowledge needs to be brought to bear on the fears some people and Fuku can be an excellent training ground.

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  • Dear Stuart,
    Your comment seems to come from a salesman of the nuclear industry.

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  • Not at all, just from someone who's concerned that the deaths of 18,500 people in a natural disaster seem to be overshadowed by a manageable engineering challenge.

  • "the number attributable to Fukushima is zero,"

    Assuming an actual situation to imply a future one is an old (Very old) retorical technique, but, as other tragedies of this tipe teach us, the deaths, unfortunately, will come.

    "But it shouldn’t be an argument against the deployment of nuclear"

    What? Risk of human lives or food chain contamination shouldn't be an argument against the deplyment of nuclear? So what should be? Poor aestetics of the nuclear sites?

    "the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi were old"

    About 70% of current active reactors are old....

    "It was a tragedy of the intersection of human settlements and plate tectonics, not of the nuclear industry"

    Wow! So placing a nuclear site in a high-risk area isn't a human error, it's just that nature had put danger phenomena where humans would have build a reactor!

    Really not a great article Mr Stuart...

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  • -yup, no problem, all is ok

    Fukushima Radioactive Iodine Emergency
    Posted by STAFF - Matheus on September 4, 2013

    U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials calculated an annual thyroid dose of 40,000 microsieverts (or 4 REM) for infants under one year of age in California. Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services division of Radiation Emergency Medical Management division (REMM), a child’s dose of 5 REM is immediate grounds for evacuation and prophylactic measures. (REM does not specifically reference an infant dose) Thus, the projected government dose of 4 REM was 80% of the suggested evacuation rate.

    Iodine-131, a radioactive isotope, is primarily taken up by the thyroid gland. It is a bio-mimicker. The thyroid gland requires iodine to function. In a nuclear accident large amounts of radioactive iodine-131 are released and this was certainly the case for Fukushima, especially in the early days. The thyroid gland is unable to differentiate between regular iodine and radioactive iodine and will uptake whatever chemical form it is presented with especially when one is already iodine deficient.

    The negative health consequences of iodine-131 target the sensitive populations of the pregnant, unborn, babies and children up to 10 years of age most aggressively. ..

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  • In the interests of accuracy, Joe Serious (ly) you should provide references. Tut Tut.

    Nasty longer term effects HAVE been noted around Chernobyl. .... "The National report of Belarus shows contaminated regions suffering elevated levels in children of anaemia, lung disease, hypertension, stomach and duodenal ulcers, ischaemic heart disease and immune disorders. By 1992 infant mortality in Gomel a heavily contaminated area, compared with relatively clean Grodno showed more than double the infant mortality despite almost identical provision of health care. Between 1988-1996 across Belarus child cancers have multiplied 2.4 times, malignant tumours 13 times, endocrine system diseases 4.5, nervous and sense organs 3.5, blood circulation 4. Mortality under the age of 14 from respiratory disease multiplied by 2.5." (1)

    Some (alarmist?) statisticians have correlated large numbers of excess mortality in the US after Chernobyl (2), but like the clusters of leukaemia around Sellafield,other UK facilities etc etc ad nauseum, correlation does not prove causation.

    The same source cites Weapons Testing as having big effects on mortality in the US and Germany.

    A summary of the the mortality stats for the UK 1901 to 2000 is online (3), and there is a slight rise in age adjusted mortality from Endocrine system problems when testing was happening and arguably a loss in the rate of decline in overall mortality in the same period. But NO big dramatic effects in the UK from Chernobyl in 1987. (though there was a bit of a bump in 1981 - 1991 explanation?)

    (1) CHERNOBYL ACCIDENT: RADIATION PROTECTION OF POPULATION. Nesterenko V B. Limited Liability Publishing Company "Pravo i economika" Minsk 1997 ISBN 985-442-011-6


    (3) https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fons.gov.uk%2Fons%2Frel%2Fhsq%2Fhealth-statistics-quarterly%2Fno--18--summer-2003%2Ftwentieth-century-mortality-trends-in-england-and-wales.pdf&ei=D54nUsnUEamO0AXjnYD4Dw&usg=AFQjCNGgqKQQn_sxrON94efs9TWsVABAdQ&sig2=sHbXzXHQ55ruhpgtn433Bg&bvm=bv.51495398,d.d2k

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  • Stuart Nathan is so wrong.
    The people in the station trying to control the disaster are dying. The first one died just the other day. Expect to hear more.
    On an engineering front it was a disaster.
    On an environmental view point it is a disaster.
    Ask those that got moved out of the area and it is a humanitarian disaster.
    The whole station is out of action and that means it is now a generating disaster
    And lastly it is now a financial disaster. Billions are being pumped in to what is widely perceived to be a bottomless money pit. And who is paying.... The people not the company. The people paid the generating company for the diligent production of energy and they got this nightmare.
    The conclusion. The same as other countries have already concluded. New nuclear generation is to be avoided at all cost on every level. I just hope Britain has the guts to say no to nuclear even if the government pushes it down the throats of its people.

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  • Joe Serious, what do you mean by “It is entirely normal to see delayed effects from exposure to radiation”?
    There is a statistically significant increase of the risk of cancer from a short term dose of more than 100 mSv. For lower doses and dose rates no increase in risk has been confirmed.


    “That leaves 3,000+ rods to dissolve in the sea-water being deliberately pumped into the complex” Simply not true. Although sea water was used for cooling in the early stages all the systems are now being cooled using recycled fresh water. There is an influx of groundwater into certain areas of the complex and this excess water is being stored in the above ground storage tanks until it can be treated.

    Best regards


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  • It's interesting reading the comments on this article, it is not so interesting listening to 5Live radio's Energy Day this morning - they keep talking about generating energy when they mean generating electricity. The whole broadcast is a complete fiasco.

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  • This is like to say getting a suntan is not harmful since after a day exposure the number of deaths on the beach is zero.

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  • This is an incredibly ignorant article re biology written by an engineer. These radionuclides produced by fissioning uranium to boil water to produce steam to turn a turbine to produce electricity, are very long-lived and will produce many cancers and deaths over their half lives and 'hazardous lives' which equal 10-20 half lives. You know that cesium-137 has a half life of 30 years and a hazardous life of 300-600 years. The body takes it in as if it were potassium so it gets into all our cells, where potassium is the most abundant electrolyte, but now we have radioactive cesium there. You may know this, but do you know that if you ingest food that is contaminated with 10 becquerels of cesium per kg and you take in 10 becquerels per day, as in contaminated areas of Russia, Ukraine, Byelorus, studies have shown that this contaminated daily ingestion adds up so that after 3 years or less the body now has a level of 1400 becquerels/kg. If you are a child who weighs 30 kg this will put you up near 50 bq/kg, which has been found to produce IRREVERSIBLE cardiac pathology; and 10-30 bq/kg also can cause cardiac pathology. The cesium also affects and damages the kidney and bladder, impairing function and filtration, further impeding the main avenue of its excretion. It has also been found to cause neural tube damage. This is the tube that develops as the spinal cord and brain in the developing fetus, resulting in multiple deformities in newborn infants from anencephaly (no brain inside the skull) to microcephaly (small brain) which is correlated with mental retardation and lower intelligence, to spina bifida, which is gaps forming in the spinal column, often affecting ability to walk, control urine, etc. Studies were done in Polossia, a special area west of Chernobyl, where the radiation pollution/contamination is worse than it is in Chernobyl in many areas, due to soil, water ecology, isolation, etc. Dr. Vladimir Wertelecki did these studies. Strontium you know is also produced and this is taken into the body as if it were Calcium, then collecting in the bones of our children where it can then radiate the marrow and the developing blood cells causing leukemia and bone cancer. The list goes on and on as there are actually 100's of radionuclides produced by fissioning uranium. 300 tons of water is running under the plant every day, as Harvey Wasserman reports that the plant was built on an aquifer. This water is contaminated by the vast leakage, contaminating the surrounding groundwaters which run into the rivers which run into the Pacific Ocean. Fish around northeast Japan are being found to contain 1000 bq/kg of cesium as an average and this is not dropping, so the Japanese ban these from being sold or eaten, as Japan's limit for radiation in food is 100 bq/kg. The 2012 WHO report you mention is based on the fatally flawed Hiroshima/Nagasaki lifespan studies which did not START until 1950, after the a-bombs were dropped in 1945, and did not start counting cancers until 1958. The WHO did admit there will be a 70% increase in thyroid cancers in children, if you didn't notice that. But, of course, it is understated due to basing their risk estimates on the Hiroshima/Nagasaki lifespan studies. Remember, according to Alexey Yablokov et al approximately one MILLION people have died prematurely from the Chernobyl accident so far. Many more than the media understands due to fallacious reporting, will die from the Fukushima accident as the years go by, similar to what happened from the one steam exploded reactor and graphite fire that occurred at Chernobyl in 1986. Fukushima has three melted down reactors that are leaking vast amounts of contaminated water, that, yes, is running into the Pacific Ocean, adding up in the food chain as each day goes by.
    The reporting is not alarmist, it is under reported as the truth trickles out. I have posted several videos condensing the facts and studies presented at the NYC March 2013 Fukushima Disaster, Symposium, which are available at youtube on the conradmillermd channel. Also, to see the complete videos of each lecture, you can go to cinemaforumfukushima.org
    Please inform yourself so you don't look like one of the TEPCO apologists or the lying Japanese politicians who minimize this growing poisoning toxic tragedy that you are erroneously ignorantly minimizing. One last question: how many biology courses did you take in your educational years en route to receiving your engineering degree? Just curious.
    Hopefully helping,
    Conrad Miller M.D.

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  • Mark Thomas - On a point of accuracy the Sizewell B reactor is a PWR and the planned new build stations will also be PWRs.

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  • Dr Miller,
    Are you trained in radio chemistry? What you have said above makes no sense. I assume that you mean a whole body burden of 1400 Becquerels of Cesium 137 rather than 1400 Becquerels/kg. As your body already contains more than 4000 Becquerels of naturally occurring Potassium 40, some of which will be displaced by the Cesium the impact at this level is not that great.

    Best regards


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  • This is a comment concerning the ice wall idea from a civil engineering student who uses the monikker pol ka, from the NYTimes article yesterday on the doubts that TEPCO and the Japanese can handle this nuclear engineering leakage Pacific Ocean poisoning mess: 'Studying on my master degree in soil mechanics as civil engineer, I learned about the serious problems created by freezing grounds. It may seem attractive but freezing grounds increases lateral groundwater flow (it sucks all the surroundings water) leaving empty spaces between soil grains. This increases soil stress and settling. Settling of fundations will produce large cracks and eventually collapse of the building. This is basic 1-year of master class in soil mechanics, but with Tepco doing quick fixes without thinking, I wonder if they just thought about it, and even care.'

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  • Yes, whole body burden of 1400 becquerels. Typing up and sending out without the third eye of the editor/proofreader. Thank You, Roger.

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  • Clearly, "what we have here is a “failure to communicate".
    I suggest that those interested in radiation and the effects on the body consider Paracelus who said the "Dose makes the poison" while high doses of a substance can threaten the life of the organism, Low doses of the same substance can help the organism. This is called Hormesis. The work of Dr. Luckey determined that doses of radiation below 50 Rem produced no harmful effect. This is because the human organism needs the stressor of radiation to kick the immune system into functioning properly.
    The teaching and beliefs of the past that any radiation is harmful are in error and are part of the 1950’s “On The Beach” generation. The Fuku personnel are permitted to reach a total accumulated dose limit set at 50Rem before having to leave the site. The 50Rem has a basis and is not just pulled out thin air.
    We need to open our minds to the possibility that this disaster will generate new views of old beliefs and thus the beliefs will likely be changed. I suggest that if you are interested enough to comment that you look up on the web the following article. I am sure it will generate fruitful debate.
    Radiation: The No-Safe-Level Myth
    Leslie Corrice - "Assuming the worst can be hazardous to your health"

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  • Mark Thomas. - Point of clarity. The new UK reactors will be ABWR built by GE/Hitachi and B&W in concert with Rolls Royce.

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  • Thank you for an excellent article and fascinating feedback. I am a layman regarding nuclear and health issues, but the correspondence does show how the emotive people tend to dominate the arguments.
    The problem we have as engineers is to get the voice of reason listened to and this article and discussion could help.
    The fanatical advocates seems to be dominating decision-making in all matters of nuclear, environmental and health science: anti-fracking and global warming alarmism are becoming religious beliefs despite all the facts, we need more articles like this and to get them into the popular media.

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  • For some reason I don't think a civil engineer (and a student at that!) would know a single thing about nuclear energy or even the principles of heat transfer. He or she could be the best civil engineering student in the world but his or her major really doesn't cover either of those concepts in the detail needed to fully understand them. In fact, most engineers don't know a thing about nuclear energy (and only certain kinds of engineers will understand heat transfer - chemical engineering curriculums cover this in the most detail but some other engineering disciplines, civil not being one of them, also look at it).

    It is erroneous to assume that engineers know what they're talking about because they are studying engineering and therefore must be smart. Just as erroneous as it is to blindly trust an MD who specializes in pediatrics on the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (or even something non-medical), for example.

    As I'm sure you know, Dr. Miller, lots of engineers make off-the-wall claims about diet and health and use their status to claim they are scientifically-minded enough to make those claims. They are also a profession notorious for harassing math departments claiming that they've found a proof for a long-unsolved problem (when their proof is actually incorrect for reasons they don't have the education to understand).

    The engineer's area of study and competencies (gained through experience) must be considered before taking his or her remarks on a subject seriously...and I'm saying this as a chemical engineer from personal experience.

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  • Dear Anonymous, but what about the substance of what he said about the soil and the ice wall? Just because he is 'only' a civil engineer doesn't mean he is not making a very valid point. You didn't address this, just his status as a non-nuclear engineer. And his point actually is not about nuclear energy, but soil and water movement. A big problem today is many 'educated' people do not respect the insight and wisdom of intelligent people who can see what a 'specialist' cannot always see in his/her monopia. Like "I am a nuclear engineer. You are just a layman. What do you know about anything pertaining to nuclear power or cancer or nuclear radionuclides causing cancer, when I am a nuclear engineer and I say that there will be no deaths from Fukushima from radiation, and that a 'little' [up to 50 rems] radiation is GOOD for you! [Hormesis]" when the practical person knows that is sick hogwash. The latest is that the Guardian reported 2 days ago that 'On Wednesday the country's [Japan's] nuclear regulation authority said radiation readings near water storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have increased to a new high, with emissions above the ground near one group of tanks were as high as 2,200 millisieverts [mSv] per hour – a rise of 20% from the previous high.' [10 msv = 1 rem so 2200 msv = 220 rems] [500 rems is a fatal dose causing radiation sickness and death within 2 weeks]. We know that radiation exposure is cumulative in its effect on our bodies, our cells, our DNA, causing mutations that often cause birth defects in newborns, and cancers too. There is no safe dose, as affirmed in BEIR VII and the committee that created that document. The dose is essentially linear, as the dose goes up, the likelihood of ill effects and cancers increases in basically a straight ~45 degree diagonal ascending line. Also according to both the EPA and the National Academy of Sciences, exposure to 100 millirems of radiation or 0.1 rems per year for a lifetime would result in 1 out of every 123 people exposed to this dose of radiation getting cancer above their 'normal' risk for cancer. And lifetime exposure to 2000 millirems per year or 2 rems would result in ONE out of every 6 people exposed, getting a cancer above and beyond their normal cancer risk. Sometimes a specialist medical doctor sees a patient and focuses so much on his specialty that he misses the forest for the trees. He finds a kidney infection when the patient is sick and weak from a lung cancer. And I hope you all know that amongst the dead so far from the Fukushima accident is 'the chief manager of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Masao Yoshida, who died of cancer on July 9th aged 58. Yoshida [is the man who] disobeyed Tepco's orders and inundated the three reactors with sea water to provide cooling. Tepco hesitated, as doing so would guarantee the reactors would never be usable again due to salt water corrosion. Yoshida even affirmed the carrying out of Tepco's orders to NOT use sea water, verbally over the phone, while hand writing a note to his assistant to go right ahead and order sea water cooling. Tepco only learned of this at a later date.' Some will deny he contracted his cancer from performing his dangerous heroic duties amidst all the radiation he was exposed to, but what is the obvious answer? Other workers have also been exposed, as have other citizens, but a real death toll from the radiation does not seem to be available yet. But you can bet that it is not zero, and will be much much higher as the years roll by due to the severe long-lived radioactive environmental contamination, and the cancers induced by the radionuclides spewed about the countryside and in the precious water.

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  • Well done Stuart
    The Luddites and anti-nuclear fanatics seem to want to take us back to living in a medieval slum.

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  • Robert Freer,

    Society was hardly living in a medieval slum before the first nuclear power station was commissioned. It sems it takes a fanatic to know a fanatic.

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  • To any pro Nuclear fanatics who may have read this far Re the rather sad comment about Luddites:

    Luddites were reacting to the effects of new technology on their economic roles in the only way they could. It was a perfectly understandable and popular attempt to retain the only livelihood they knew.

    Arguments about the positive Nuclear PR fanaticism in the Engineer of late come from very different angles.

    Nobody's livelihood is being threatened here (Engineers are guaranteed employment in decommissioning, something that cannot be ignored) but several posters do argue that the Nuclear Industry has a long way to go to justify itself economically and there are very reasonable long term concerns about health.

    That's a bit different to Luddism. I'm sorry, I'm not sure what to make of the comment about the Middle Ages. In the middle ages they did not have the bacterial management skills we have today. Soap manufacturers and Plumbers have done more for human progress than the Nuclear Industry can ever reasonably expect to in the future.

    The Luddites were not against the use of soap or the provision of clean water. They were against machines being used unintelligently. If they were around today they may well be objecting to Robotics but it is very hard to imagine a Luddite argument against Nuclear energy or antibiotics.

    My personal feeling is the the Nuclear Industry have behaved and continue to behave without regard for the wider interests of society. An ongoing blind obsession with the over-powering of mostly unnecessary electrical appliances is not a completely healthy response to the social/biological/ecological problems we all face, it has an aura of denial. Electrical energy for all its wonderful advantages does not resolve all problems facing mankind and in fact makes many of them worse.

    The Nuclear Industry has so far been brilliant in terms of economic sustainability - they have by default designed Jobs for 10,000 Generations to come by conducting their ingenious experiments. Unfortunately they completely forgot to ask society for informed consent. In wartime that was understandable, but terms of social sustainability since 1945 that was a teeny mistake. In other words, how can I as a subject of this ongoing experiment ever trust the Nuclear Industry in view of its history of covering up lying and obvious mistakes? Why on earth should I wish to allow an anonymous scientist to decide how much radiation I should to be exposed to ? If I want to be part of your experiment I will volunteer. Please close down your poison plant and remain at your posts until your thousand tonnes of Plutonium has decayed away to near zero. I and my descendants will have to feed and cloth you and your descendants for time takes.

    Thanks for the electricity by the way, but i'd have preferred to turn the heating down if you'd told me the real price.

    Just suppose for example I say I want NO anthropogenic radiation increment from the Nuclear or Coal Industries at all, and that I am prepared to trade my energy consumption off against the consequences.

    Where do you stand on that ethically?

    Do you even understand the question, or are you stuck in some kind of Ethical Middle Age, like a morality Luddite smashing any kind of advance in thinking about the social role of technology as soon as it appears on the scene?

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  • This article is what's dangerous. Who are you fooling with this? We might as well talk about bananas, yup 78,000,000 bananas was the last figure about a year ago that this incident equates to. I am so sorry that anybody actually listens to this stuff. The fact is bananas is radioactive, with k40 (potassium), it's part of us it's part of the ocean. The difference between man made isotopes and a banana is our bodies are able to deal with natural potassium. It will excrete fast then you are able to eat to many banana's to harm you. Although I guess like the Isotopes are dropped on us through fall out and entering the ocean to contaminate the foundation of the Bio-pyramid and the very ecosystem, we can say cs-137, sr-90, 3h, and so on has been thrown at us. So how do you think you will do with 78,000,000 bananas thrown at you. Stop with the down playing of the incident. If the nuclear industry really cared about the people over money they would all jump in to solve the issues at #Fukushima. It would only make sense as the industry is taking a toll and hurting future profits. It would make sense to protect the nature of nuclear power plants by showing the industry is actually the to try and preserve the environment and provide power to the people. That is what would be worth paying for. Not worth paying for is allowing the incident to continue while degrading the environment and future generations...... The Effects of Fukushima on Hawaii is real, check it out.

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  • "Just suppose for example I say I want NO anthropogenic radiation increment from the Nuclear or Coal Industries at all, and that I am prepared to trade my energy consumption off against the consequences.

    Where do you stand on that ethically?"

    Nuclear power kills less people per unit of electricity produced and produces less greenhouse gasses than any other electricity source, therefore building anything but nuclear is unethical.

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  • Its great that the situation is under control we can now get on with our lives, what about those sailors from the uss reagan , and all the other issues in the pacific were they really affected.

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The Engineer July Digi Issue


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