What You Need to Know About Fukushima

  • submit to reddit
Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits one of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) facilities at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. Abe's visit Saturday to the plant comes amid pledges from his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to review the country's plans to phase out nuclear power. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, Pool)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits one of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) facilities at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, Dec. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

All eyes are on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as major cleanup efforts are set to begin later this month, in the most significant test of the operator’s ability to manage the threats resulting from one of the biggest nuclear disasters ever. For two years now, the plant’s operator and the Japanese government have struggled to contain an ongoing series of crises at the devastated facility. But the situation has the potential to get worse. Here’s what you need to know.

The Problems

The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant has come under severe criticism from nuclear energy experts for its handling of the cleanup at the crippled facility, decimated after the March 2011 tsunami.

Many say Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the Japanese utility company that operates the plant, has been grossly incompetent, deceptive and guilty of downplaying the health impacts resulting from the meltdown.

Naomi Hirose, president of Tepco, didn’t renew faith in the firm’s handling of the crisis when he first denied and later admitted that the radioactive water used to cool the plant’s nuclear cores had leaked into the ocean. Tepco had suspected the water might be leaking since mid-June 2013, but waited until July 22 to reveal the problem. The leaks continued throughout the summer — at one point, a tank leaked 300 tons of radioactive water. It was nearly a month until the leak was discovered on August 19.

‘‘From what we’ve seen, it’s more of what I’d call incompetence instead of any cover-up,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission who Tepco hired as an adviser. The Associated Press and Japan Today reported this week that tanks containing radioactive water were leaking or otherwise failing because they were hurriedly erected by inexperienced workers — including one auto mechanic who expressed his concern about the quality of his own work.

Researchers are concerned about the effects of the radioactive water on sea life and those who eat it. Last year, scientists reported that Pacific bluefin tuna migrating from coastal Japan to the waters off Southern California contained radioactive cesium isotopes from the Fukushima plant. The safety of Pacific fish following the disaster is up for debate.

Nuclear facilities in Japan lie near 14 active fault lines; Tepco’s Fukushima facilities are along five. The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) says the utilities are capable of withstanding another earthquake. But last month, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki expressed his fears that further damage to the Fukushima facility could prove catastrophic. “Three out of the four plants were destroyed in the earthquake and in the tsunami. The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is, if there’s another earthquake of a seven or above, that building will go and then all hell breaks loose.”

The Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo said earlier this year that there’s a 70 percent chance a 7.0-magnitude or higher quake will strike Tokyo, near Fukushima, by 2016. Should the fourth reactor collapse, Suzuki said, it would be “bye bye Japan,” and “everybody on the west coast of North America should evacuate. Now if that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.”

Not all researchers agree with Suzuki’s dire assessment. “As scientists talking around the lunchroom, we are more or less of a unanimous opinion that the hysteria around Fukushima is grossly overblown,” University of British Columbia physicist Marcello Pavan told Vice.

The Clean Up

Later this month, Tepco is expected to begin the delicate task of removing over 1,500 spent fuel rods from reactor number 4, which was heavily damaged by the March 2011 explosion. The rods contain radiation at levels 14,000 times greater than what was released when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It’s a highly dangerous operation that has never been attempted on such a scale before, and a key part of decommissioning the facility, which could cost $50 billion and take 40 years.

The fuel rod removal effort is expected to take 13 months to complete, but experts warn that putting the radioactive rods into safe storage won’t be easy. If any of the 15-foot, 660-pound rods break or are exposed to air, huge amounts of radioactive gasses could be released. Should there be another natural disaster like the earthquake Suzuki warned of, those rods could set off a catastrophic reaction that would be more dangerous than the meltdowns the plant has already experienced.

Tepco said they are sure the operation will go off without a hitch, though the company’s struggle to contain radioactive water, a power failure at the plant caused by a rat chewing through a cable and a second power failure accidentally caused by workers who were attempting to rat-proof the power cables, have some experts worried that the company’s not up to the task.

Former nuclear engineer Michael Friedlander says Tepco may be playing down the dangers of the operation. “The thing that keeps me up late at night is that they’re getting ready to unload the spent fuel in unit four,” said Friedlander, who spent 13 years operating US nuclear plants. “It has the potential if it doesn’t go well to create a very, very serious accident,” he told Bloomberg News.

The Politics

Both Tepco and the Japanese government have come under criticism for how they handled the disaster. “You have a government that is in total collusion with Tepco, the energy company. They’re lying through their teeth,” said Suzuki.

Of the attempts to stop the water from leaking, Suzuki said, “They don’t know what to do. And the thing we need is to get an international group of experts to go in with complete freedom to do what they suggest. And right now the Japanese government has too much pride to admit that.”

Fact checking Suzuki for Vice, David P. Ball contacted University of British Columbia physicist Marcello Pavan. Asked whether Tepco was indeed “lying through their teeth,” Pavan said, “That is absolutely correct, at least from what I see. Tepco has been minimizing the effects of what is happening. But here we have a large industrial concern lying to the government about an accident related to its business — is that news?”

After this summer’s leaks, the Japanese government announced it would take a more direct role in the cleanup. Since the disaster, all 50 of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been shut down for inspection. Earlier this week, former Japanese Liberal Democratic Party Premier Junichiro Koizumi spoke out against plans to restart plants that had been declared safe. “I think we should go to zero now,” Koizumi said. “If we restart the reactors, all that will result is more nuclear waste.”

The People

The catastrophe at Fukushima — first caused by natural disaster, then exacerbated by human mistakes — has had a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of Japanese and may also have negative implications for North Americans.

The Guardian recently reported that the 160,000 evacuees who lived in the area may never be able to go home. And the radioactive water leaking from the plant into the ocean has led the local fishing industry in the Fukushima region to completely shut down.

A study conducted by Australia’s University of New South Wales says radiactive waters will reach the US sometime in early 2014 — and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported earlier this month that radioactive waters from Fukushima had already arrived in Alaska.

Meanwhile, many of the 50,000 workers employed by subcontractors in the cleanup effort are being exposed to dangerous radiation levels while facing low wages and wage theft, reports Reuters. For some, the cost of speaking up was getting fired.

John Light blogs and works on multimedia projects for Moyers & Company. Before joining the Moyers team, he was a public radio producer. His work has been supported by grants from The Nation Institute Investigative Fund and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards, and has been included in ProPublica's #MuckReads collection. A New Jersey native, John studied history and film at Oberlin College and holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. Follow John on Twitter @lighttweeting.
Karin Kamp is a multimedia journalist and producer. Before joining billmoyers.com she helped launch The Story Exchange, a site dedicated to women's entrepreneurship. She previously produced for NOW on PBS and WNYC public radio and worked as a reporter for Swiss Radio International.
  • submit to reddit
  • Anonymous

    Nancy M Roca We may just be voted off the earth as a species.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this report. We need very serious reporting of this on going threat. The nuclear industry has been down playing this risk all along. How can we trust any of them to do the right thing if they are not willing to be honest about how dangerous this is for humanity. This is a triple meltdown, with the added danger of fuel pool #4. Those reactors are out of control. Where is the fuel? How many more makeshift tanks will they need to build for the radioactive water and where will they put them? If it can ever be “cleaned up” how much will that cost?

  • Anonymous

    Im not understanding the bad mouthing of Tepco and japan. NO ONE has a solution for 3 melted down cores. The USA has been there since day 1… if any one had a plan to contain the Corium, then they would done it. They are trying not to make the same mistakes made at chynobl. and just entomb it in concrete, which they know isnt working and will have to be dealt with in the future. They admit that they havnt seen the cores since the meltdown, If that can be contained to the buildings, then it will be a localized problem, if it gets into the ground soil under the plants that would indeed be bad news. ATM theres a 80% probablity they are in the soil.

    Unit 4 is a different problem. The reactor unit takes up the first 5 floors of the building, and storage pools are on the 6th thru 10th floors. The reactor was not in use when the accident happened, but got destroyed by the explosions afterwards. If they catch fire, in short order the northern hemisphere would be irradiated. Look at the air/cloud maps. They go to the north pole, which spins in a circle and will deposit the particles all over, not just the north coast of america, which looks like canada is ground zero, not really the usa, they are on the tail of the direct hit.

  • nnyl

    We’re taking ourselves out.

  • JonThomas

    It’s a shame that many of us weren’t loudly warning of these exact, unforeseeable problems 40 years ago… Oh Wait… We WERE!

    Every time I hear some blowhard proclaiming the safety, and efficacy of their latest and greatest, my mind immediately goes to examples such as this one.

    It never ceases to amaze me how forgetful and easily placated the public can be…

  • Joan Tvedt

    who said Nuclear was a good idea?

  • Rad Guard

    The conversation now needs to shift to how we, and especially the people in Japan, protect ourselves and our loved ones from this new reality. Please visit me on twitter @Rad_Guard. I’m posting solutions everyday. Stay safe my friends.

  • Chris

    “a power failure at the plant caused by a rat chewing through a cable”

    The rat wasn’t wearing a Radiation Hazmat suit.
    Maybe Rats like cockroaches are almost impervious to ionizing radiation…

  • Terris Linenbach

    We’ll put you down for “totally under control.” Let’s catch up in a few months.

  • JonThomas

    Perhaps for those few months Robert would enjoy an extended stay at one of the fantastic Japanese ocean side resorts, where he could feast on a steady diet of locally sourced, Fukushima area sea food (including the wonderful Pacific bluefin tuna, which seems to be getting glowing (in the dark) reviews.)

  • Kate Rhoades

    I live in the bay area, and I don’t really feel like i’ve felt any effects. What effects?

  • John Young

    as Walt Kelly wrote in Pogo many years ago.
    “We have met the enemy and he is us”

  • Erin Kathleen Sands

    Sounds good, lets make that happen.

  • Anonymous

    Another interesting fact to make a HUGE note of, is how this is not making ANY of the news headlines in the United States. Our government and corporate owners have decided we don’t need to know, and look at how effective they are at manipulating the media. We really are already controlled by tyrants and criminals and we’re sedated by the illusion of being able to vote.

    We’re in serious trouble on so many fronts and about half of the population is so stupid they defend these people.

  • Anonymous

    What are you waiting for Kate? Breast cancer? Thyroid cancer? Radiation doesn’t “feel” like anything, that is the problem.

  • Anonymous

    The international community has many ideas, you must not be reading the same papers I am. The Japanese won’t let them into the country, that is beyond criminal and history (if we have one) will slam the Japanese for allowing their giant EGOS prevent the international community in to fix the problem.

  • Russell Scott Day

    “-low wages and wage theft, reports Reuters.” It is common over time to steal from people before you murder them. The USA eventually was able to beat the Japanese who wanted to slaughter Chinese and got pissed about Roosevelt’s attitude about it, what with holding back some oil. Letting them build nuclear reactors was letting them get at an energy technology now said to be the last hope of mankind. With tidal pools and wind and all even geothermal, the Big Lies may add the one about how desperately we must march on towards poisoning ourselves.

  • JonThomas
  • Anonymous

    why is this not front page news everywhere? what have we become that we cannot talk about this openly and as adults?

  • David B

    Why is this article repeating misleading information being shared on the web? The thought of glowing tune a scary but from a quick web search I found:

    “Fukushima tuna study finds minuscule health risks”

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/03/us/fukushima-tuna/

  • Anonymous

    So, what am I supposed to do about any of this?

  • Anonymous

    Run for office and vote against nuclear power plants? Stop eating fish? Go solar? Boulder, CO was fighting the local power company and going green. Not sure of the status after the floods. In any case, there are alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuels. Problem is, our dirty bought politicians are not going to do anything about it. TPP may prevent countries from keeping fracking oil companies out.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the risk is minuscule like the risk of chemicals in our foods. The average person can handle the poisons with no problem. Problem is that not everyone is average. For some the risk may not be so minuscule.

  • Kat Stewart

    And of course we can all believe whatever CNN reports.

  • Maria Moreno Nossa

    Why is this a Japanese problem when it clearly affects many nations.. So what is going to happen? Are they seriously thinking on maintaining this plant? They should be dismantling it a well as all the other nuclear plants around the globe. We are all at risk and we are all aware that we can get safe power from other resources. Again this is a matter of big companies who just do thing for profit and of incompetent governments that should be remove from power…

  • Anonymous

    Great insight JonThomas, thanks for sharing that it really drives home exactly what I was saying. Based on the number of ‘likes’ people seem to be catching on to what is happening which is good to see.

    Keep informed people!

  • Mark Goldes

    Fuel rods at Fukushima are scheduled to soon begin being removed. “Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. There is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl. Source: Global Research “We are now (approaching) what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Harvey Wasserman.

    During recent weeks Extreme solar flares released Coronal Mass Emissions.
    Fortunately, they struck only glancing blows to our geomagnetic field. Had any
    scored a direct hit, many if not most of the planet’s power grids would have
    failed for months. After two weeks a nuclear plant without grid power is a
    meltdown candidate. Hundreds of Fukushimas become possible.

    Nuclear power is capable of ending human life on earth much faster than Global
    Warming.

    There is a new, much better, alternative: “The thermal energy content of the
    atmosphere, ocean, and upper crust is estimated to be more than 10,000 times
    that of the world’s fossil fuel reserves, making it a potentially inexhaustible
    reservoir of green energy.” Daniel P. Sheehan University of San Diego

    AESOP Institute is prototyping THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COOLS. This will be the
    first engine designed to run on atmospheric heat, a form of solar energy.

    See the AESOP Institute website to learn more about this NO FUEL ENGINE.

    Once validated by independent labs it will provide a 24/7, inexpensive, power
    producing alternative to radioactive and fossil fuels.

  • Anonymous

    Good story overall. One dot they failed to connect: the plant was built over 14 active earthquake faults. Japanese and American officials (the plant is based on General Electric designs, so the American government and companies are complicit) knew this area was earthquake/tsunami/typhoon prone, and went ahead and built this plant in this location anyway.

    Whether by greed, hubris, myopia, or some combination of the above, the root of this mess is awful, awful decision-making by some of the same parties now doing a piss-poor, mendacious job of cleaning up.

  • Todd

    The article says researchers are concerned about the impact of radioactivity released by Fukushima; there’s nothing about glowing tuna.

    The point is that the cesium isotopes traveled as far as they did (both in terms of distance and up the food chain), which suggests that if things go badly in the next stage of clean-up, then it could be very, very bad indeed.

  • Todd

    All I can say to your post is that is one very unbalanced equation you’ve got there.

  • Markus Unread

    Just like Diablo Canyon in California.

  • Owen Johnson

    Could it be that the corporate owned and directed media don’t want to report on mistakes made in the name of greed by a big corporation?

  • Owen Johnson

    Someone in Congress, the FDA or something will find a way to make sure we never know about radiation levels in the fish we eat. Very similar to the natural salmon runs in BC being wiped out by diseases escaping from salmon pens and the Canadian government doing everything they can to keep the public from knowing anything about it. Gotta protect that business!

  • douglas black

    It is minimal. I agree that it has been exaggerated. But the reason to mention that the radiation can be detected at all in fish that far away does have meaning, since the discovered levels of radiation leaking at the plant is still peaking, with literally no end in sight, and with some chance that it could get far worse. It is something to think about, not something to not think about.

  • Enkidu

    Bill Moyers and team, please try harder at this…

    And then there are fears that Fukushima is extremely vulnerable to a second earthquake as the plant lies near 14 active fault lines.”

    The article you linked to did not say this. The article says fourteen faults have been found near Fukushima “and other nuclear facilities” in Japan. This does not mean that all fourteen are near the Fukushima plant. Please read your sources thoroughly.

    Last month, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki expressed his fears that further damage to the Fukushima facility could prove catastrophic. “Three out of the four plants were destroyed in the earthquake and in the tsunami. The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is, if there’s another earthquake of a seven or above, that building will go and then all hell breaks loose.”

    So you take your seismic and engineering advice from David Suzuki, a guy with a Ph.D. in Zoology? Does that not strike you as odd? You really need to review your sources and ask yourselves if they have they applicable expertise.

    The rods are capable of producing radiation at levels 14,000 times
    greater than what was released when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

    Again, please go back and read the article you’ve sourced. The rods contain Cs-137 equivalent to the 14,000 times the Hiroshima bomb. There is no mechanism for them to “produce radiation at levels 14,000 times greater than” the Hiroshima bomb as you have written.

    Rather than writing an article entitled “What you need to know about Fukushima”, you should probably first read an article about what you need to know or at least talk to someone who has an inkling about what is going on. This is amateurish at best.

  • Anonymous

    Ah – CNN – Corrected News for Numbskulls. If they said it, I’m definitely suspicious……

  • Anonymous

    Shall we all go back to our televisions and pretend it didn’t happen then?

  • Crystal Durham

    I thought the same thing, harleyman. I also amazes me that anyone believes anything that TEPCO, the world-wide nuclear industry or the Japanese government says about this.

  • brac

    Let’s just hope this can be contained and that we’ll finally abandon this dinosaur technology in favor of proven, cheaper, safer, cleaner alternatives like CSP.

  • Cathy Nolan Vincevic

    What is extraordinary–beyond the sheer incompetence of the Tepco and the Japanese government (it was just a short time ago when everyone lauded the Japanese on these same abilities!), is the denial of so many of the people writing on this page.
    When did it become reasonable to say someone with a Ph.D. in zoology is incompetent to speak on environmental issues? Is the premise that he earned his degree in one field and then lost all intellectual curiousity and couldn’t possibly become expert in another field? I am amazed at such an idea.
    Then, the “I haven’t felt any effects” brigade…(huge sigh) well you won’t straight away, unless the worst happens (earthquakes). The other effects are cumulative.
    Finally, how is is possible that it has become acceptable to accept being slowly poisoned? How many people need to die in our cancer epidemic before we change?
    Wake up.

  • Anonymous

    You’ll need to stand very close to the “contaminated water” to get a reading. Beta radiation dissipates in about one foot; and the Tritium in that “bad” water is also known by the name “heavy water” – which has been around for millennia in the oceans already (ALL water is slightly radioactive – as is common dirt and everything we eat!). The public, especially in Japan, is too radio-phobic to deal with the truth: the results of a costly industrial cock-up has been contained within the reactor buildings. Everything else in the F-D media coverage is hype.

    If anyone thinks Pacific life is about to die off, please explain to me how all the nuclear testing in the 1950′s (beginning with Bikini Atoll) didn’t kill off ocean life decades ago?

  • thoughtstorms

    if you mean Concentrated Solar Power. (CSP is a mighty vague string of letters.)

  • Anonymous

    The human body, on average, already contains 3.7 Billion Bq of radiation. As did many generations of our forebears. You really needn’t obsess over such infinitesimal amounts.

  • David B

    It’s always been acceptable being slowly poisoned. For example, most of the mercury and other heavy metals that accumulate in the food chain are from coal powered power plants. Blame Tepco if you like, but we in the developed world are all to blame because of our insatiable need for energy. On the other had cheap abundant energy drives our economy and enables us for the most part to live longer healthier lives. The real danger is what this is doing to the environment, aka global warming.

  • Queenslandchris

    What they are not telling us is what has happened to reactors 1-3…as they have completely melted down…Latest reports is that the reactor cores have entered the earth and they have no idea where they are??? The US are saying they could be 300meters into the earth while another is saying they could be up to 2km’s and about to enter the aquifer? Any time they sent a robot in to try and get a look it never returns as it is fried before even getting close?

  • useless eater

    How much radioactivity does it take to make local tuna (for example) toxic to consume? Tuna are migratory, they end up being caught off the West coast of the US.

  • useless eater

    I’m not sure what this means. Is this saying that the human body stores that much radiation which will eventually be released over the lifetime of a person? If so, that’s alot different than saying a person will be irradiated with that dose over a very short time period. (i suspect this is the case) But even so- it is the ADDITIONAL dose a person receives which appears to be the hazard.

  • Paul Val

    yea right, Like CNN is credible? CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC etc etc, no matter which one you watch they all read from the same script. None of them report accurate News, none of them report any news that conflicts with Corporate mandates. None of them report freely or honestly. Good luck obeying and believing the man on the tube, the fact you even used CNN as your source clearly demonstrates your complete lack of reality, your willingness to be directed and informed by a media controlled and corrupted by corporatism. LOL you’re their perfect cheerleader, a sheeple.

  • GG

    Wow, bad reporting at it’s best! 300 tons of contaminated water is not enough to try and alarm everyone, just enough to send someone and fix the leak, nothing more. And that thing about bluefin tuna carrying cesium isotopes to California, you fail to inform that the radiation levels on this tuna is below the amount of radiation a typical north american receives daily. The “best part” is the one that says “The rods are capable of producing radiation at levels 14,000 times greater than what was released when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima”. Lol lol it’s not that easy you know? If it was that easy nuclear power plants would be the size of a small sedan!
    Ignorant reporters trying to alarm the public, typical.

  • Robert Thomas

    Thanks! I like thinking of myself to be incredible.

  • Robert Thomas

    Yes, but regard: Beggar who sit in marketplace are COMPLETELY DEAF in as much as song of nightingale is concerned.

  • Robert Thomas

    How about a book? I can recommend _Madame Bovary_.

  • Anonymous

    Some of the commenters below are in denial as to the gravity of the situation. 38 million people in California alone to relocate, as well as 127 million Japanese without a home country. This is a bit more serious than the already dire situation of the fisheries and the radioactive currents reaching the U.S.

  • Anonymous

    I prefer Flaubert’s Parrot – he always finds le mot juste…..

  • Robert Thomas

    Why should this be particularly notable? After all, inspection of this very thread won’t result in finding any mention of the hundreds of thousands of adults and children cruelly devastated, injured, disabled, traumatized, impoverished, deprived and depressed not only by mere property disaster but by the profound loss of 15,000-plus neighbors and loved ones who were ACTUALLY KILLED by the March 11 mega-quake and tsunami. Either unluckily or luckily for the survivors, the bones of their dead – their really, truly dead – serve to grind no axes.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it’s like you don’t understand the difference between ‘famous’, and ‘infamous’, either.

  • Anonymous

    Japan has a long history of hiding information about nuclear “accidents & incidents”, as does the US. Do some research by Googling “Nuclear accidents & incidents” to see the horror story I’m talking about.

    Also, for those who expressed concerns about radioactivity in fish I suggest eating smaller fish since there is less time for it to accumulate in them. Sorry Sushi eaters, this excludes large fish like tuna, and even swordfish & marlin, too.

  • http://www.mendeley.com/profiles/brian-p-hanley/ Brian Hanley

    This article is ignorant, fear-mongering, hype. Neither writer has the slightest qualifications for writing an article on this subject. Let’s clarify some things. Using the ridiculous over-estimate cited by RT of 15 quadrillion Bq released in the water, do the math. 1 mole of something is 6×10^23, a hugely greater number. How big would 15 quadrillion molecules of sugar be? 1/10,000th of 1 grain of table sugar. Do you still think that will matter, dissolved in the ocean? There is no danger even right off shore.

    Seawater has 5 tons of uranium per cubic mile from nature. Uranium yellowcake has been mined from seawater. Tokyo Bay is 465 square miles, with an average depth of 66 feet. Do the math. Tokyo Bay has 5.8 cubic miles of seawater, and 29 tons of uranium. Raw uranium has 0.71% U-235. 29 tons x 0.0071 = 206 kilograms. That is more than enough for 3 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs. That’s what is in Tokyo Bay.

    So if you believe sea-salt is superior to regular salt, you can’t at the same time think that the tiny amount of radionuclides escaping Fukushima are a problem. Or can you?

    Everyone needs to learn how to use a calculator and do arithmetic so that they can appreciate how big the ocean is right next to the coastline.

    Here’s a fact. Nobody has died from Fukushima’s nuke plant. Nobody. The amounts of radioactivity are so low that when a blue ribbon panel of health physicists was asked to set up a long-term study, (Harvard, etc MDs/PhDs) they refused. Why? Because we know too much. We know the levels found have no detectable effect.

    Here’s another fact. The stress of the evacuation that wasn’t necessary has killed over 1600 people.

    It is true that the bureaucrats running Tepco have made incompetent decisions. The first one was when they allowed emergency generators to be put below ground, out of sight, so everything would look nice. Note that this is the same decision that caused patients in hospitals in New Orleans to lose their lives during Katrina. The second big mistake was refusal to vent the containment vessels for the plant at the because they didn’t want to cause a screaming fit in the press about radiation. The result of that decision was the hydrogen-oxygen explosions that wrecked the reactors. If those explosions had not happened, they could be running the reactor today.

    The other big incompetent decision was to try to keep a little cesium and iodine from running into the ocean. The ocean is exactly where you want it, because the ocean dilutes it so well. That decision is still with us, because the Tepco executives refuse to tell the public the truth and the press is full of people who are ignorant and can’t do arithmetic.

    Even so! The Fukushima facility did not cause a disaster. That reactor design was sound enough that in the worst case, with executives who are complete and utter dolts, there has been no loss of life, none.

  • http://www.mendeley.com/profiles/brian-p-hanley/ Brian Hanley

    Also – those radioactive gases are xenon and krypton. When released, they disappear in the atmosphere in seconds. They are not absorbed biologically – ever. They are inert, non-reactive chemically. And they break down into non-radioactive elements very fast. They just don’t matter. If anyone ever tells you that they matter to the biosphere, they are ignorant. It means they don’t have the foggiest idea what they are talking about.

    Seriously, you two. This article is ridiculous, irresponsible nonsense. Cut it out. I would be more than happy to write an article that was accurate about Fukushima. Please contact me to do so.

  • Robert Thomas

    David, I think we can agree that a repeat of Ivy Mike or Castle Yankee or Castle Bravo would be a very, very bad idea. Here on the west coast of the U.S., I wouldn’t be imperiled by such a reckless act but what a persistent, dirty mess those shots made!

    Removing the R4 spent fuel will be a tough and dangerous job, requiring careful engineering. As a matter of professional discipline, I try to make engineering decisions as though lives depended on them, even though luckily, it’s rarely or never been the case that there were. I salute the folks who have to do this. I wish them well.

  • http://www.mendeley.com/profiles/brian-p-hanley/ Brian Hanley

    No. That’s not how it works.

  • Robert Thomas

    This is a surprisingly accurate summary.

  • Robert Thomas

    What’s interesting here is the fact that though an assertion in the article that has little meaning or value to begin with is also revealed – by very casual inspection of the cited report – to be wrong (as pointed out by Enkidu elsewhere in this thread) by a factor of 280%, the exposure of such grotesque, breathtakingly incompetent reporting is unlikely to result in even the most gentle reconsideration of any of its other claims.

  • Rick Hantz

    There is a bit of ocean between Japan and the W coast of the US. It’s not a small, contained body of water. If the W coast of the US becomes uninhabitable, that means the Pacific Ocean becomes uninhabitable. Areas very close to the leaking reactors are bad. It will spread a little over time, but not enough to cause any mainland US problems. It does need to be tracked, in case something happens that we don’t expect, but its not an end of the world scale problem.

  • Rick Hantz

    Nuclear reactors built on the highest profit/lowest bidder/no responsibility paradigm are the problem. Until safe, sustainable power ramps up, which will take many decades, we have the choice of nuclear or fossil fuels to meet the demands. Fossil fuels are causing world wide problems that are much worst than the nuclear power issues. Not a good selection of choices.

  • Rick Hantz

    You’d have to monitor 24/7/365 with sensitive instruments over a wide area to detect the small amount above background radiation on the US mainland coast that has started to hit only Alaska so far. The problem is waters close to the leaking reactor, and any long distance migrating sea animals that might ingest any radiation.
    I’d like to see sound generators to scare away larger sea life from the contaminated areas.

  • Robert Thomas

    Great catch, Enkidu. “Five fault lines … found near .. FD plant 2″ seems perilous enough!

    I’ve come to understand that the education of journalists is so poor that even one level of removal (one level of “re-reporting”) more often than not results in complete vacation of any kind of useful scientific or technical or quantitative information from the resulting copy. Even if the writer speaks directly to a sober authority who consents to speak slowly and use words with few syllables, half of the information reported is likely to be wrong.

  • Don McManman

    Here’s a quote from a radioecologist at Oregon State University: “I’ve
    eaten albacore caught side-by-side with those we’ve analyzed and will continue
    to do so. Worrying about these traces are like worrying you’ll get sunburned by
    the stars at night. Distance and dilution are massive.”

    See the complete story at http://www.pacificfishing.com/PF_Nuke-Story.pdf

  • MaryfromKelowna

    Thank you Bill Moyers team for covering this. The nearly total silence of mainstream media on it (regardless of the degree of seriousness of the potential outcomes…and there is no arguing that there is a good case for very serious concern) is what frightens me the most. That, and the unwillingness of any politician who is asked about it to respond (here in Canada). Absolute control over the media…where in the world does this lead us?

  • Anonymous

    they’ll kill us all before they admit to any corporate wrongdoing.

  • ARedthorn

    Not one person has died because of the reactor, or radiation poisoning. The highest dose received to date is 180 mSv. It takes 250 mSv/day to show rad poisoning symptoms, and the cleanup crew is legally limited to 250 mSv/year (so, 1/365th of the dose necessary to cause treatable illness).
    Of the 50 people who stayed in the plant immediately following the ‘disaster’, only 3 had exposures sufficient to get checked out by a doctor (180 mSv), and none received a dose that is even threatening for someone their age (they’re likely to die of natural causes before they ever develop cancer as a result of their exposure).

    By comparison, 16000 people have died due to the tsunami, ~1600 of them in the province in question.
    By comparison, the evacuation (mandated by the government in response to public demand, despite the US Nuclear Regulatory Committee’s assurances that everything was safe) has killed at least 1600 people… more than the reactor (0) and tsunami (1599) have combined. Oops.

    Oh, and the other provinces? The ones where 14000 people died, and thousands more were injured or displaced? Not getting the aid they need, because it’s all going to the evacuation of the reactor area.

  • ARedthorn

    Um… when did this happen? Cause… I think I’d have noticed.

  • Anonymous

    It already hit Alaska when we first heard about this disaster two yrs ago or so. The contamination is already on The West Coast here in America as I understand. Let’s stop playing with the dates here controlled media. I’m really concerned about this Salmon they say is from China whether that is contaminated as well or if this wave went East of Japan. Though, the practices in China I have heard is that they throw this contaminated stuff they feed they have to get rid of into the sea that they call Wild Caught and it’s shipped here and then I also hear Wild Caught Salmon from Alaska is being packaged in China and shipped back here. Not good at all and their are no safe levels of mercury or radiation despite what the gov. may have set as safe perimeters. We are doomed unless we use techology to combat ths now and stop selling this to people as many of us are going to die or a whole mass of the world’s pop. and The U.S. is going to die of cancer and very soon. The media is not covering this and in total denial and if they do they will lie. Dolphins and sea lions washed up on shores and are fisheris contaminated. Stop eating sea food now! Especially any from any part of The Pacific. Please have experts on your show as on a weekly basis to talk about all of this is detail and what to do as I have mentioned. We already know Fukishimi has to be dealt with immediately by the international community real scientists that won’t be controlled I hope. It’s the proliferation and the already existing fishery processes that are so bad as well that has to be addressed and added radiation makes it much more profound and even 1,0000 times more deadly apparently. There are no safe levels!

  • Robert Thomas

    Also, avoid bananas. And brazil nuts.

    Oh, and beer.

  • Anonymous

    My daughter lives in Tokyo. I’ve read many articles but not one that spells out exactly what failure could mean in real terms for the people of Tokyo a few hundred miles away? Can anyone with real knowledge answer this for me…please? =’(

  • BrianPaulAllison

    Decimated is the wrong word to use here. Devastated is much more like it.

  • A Qui Tam Relator

    On the Internet ! Cheap……

  • A Qui Tam Relator
  • jennifer E NYC

    please make some suggestions as to what we can do, as ordinary citizens.

  • http://www.dailykos.com/user/shpilk shpilk

    There are damaged rods in the no.4 pool – damaged as far back as 1982, and only now it’s revealed to the public.

    The problems of fallibility of the technology, incompetence and arrogance of management and regulators, and willful withholding of information are endemic to the entire nuclear power industry, in every country.

    Meanwhile, investors are protected, as the public at large is left to both take the risks and foot the bills when things go wrong.

    All of this combines to make a situation that was, is, and will be unacceptable for many decades to come.

  • Anonymous

    “it’s more of what I’d call incompetence instead of any cover-up,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission who Tepco hired as an adviser.”

    Agreed. And since incompetence is an integral part of the Peter Principle, and since Tepco has shown by it’s actions to be the embodiment of the Peter Principle in action — what are the rest of Japan and the World going to do to get this mess straightened out ASAP?

    It’s only the future of Japan and the Western US we’re talking about. That’s a couple hundred million people who have to flee or die if this mess isn’t cleaned up soon.

    This is one of those crises where “lead, follow or get out of the way” is the right-now imperative, and Tepco’s multi-year dithering doesn’t fit into that paradigm. It would be nice if some powerful people would start taking actions
    which will clean up the mess — starting with replacing Tepco top
    bureaucracy with an action team who are qualified to deal with this
    crisis.

  • Robert Thomas

    Buy American!

  • Anonymous

    IF the numbers available are correct and IF there was equal and homogeneous dilution, your point might be valid. However: 1) We DON’T know what the actual levels of Cesium, Iodine, Thorium, Berylium, etc ARE and, 2) Oceanic dilution is subject to currents and upwellings which tend to collocate contaminants in more distinct patterns.
    As for loss of life, I think this is similar to smoking – you don’t die after one puff – but get progressively sicker, rapidly.

  • Anonymous

    I have been called a liar for stating this before, but as a former resident of Fukushima I hear from locals as to what is going on … “Meanwhile, many of the 50,000 workers employed by subcontractors in the
    cleanup effort are being exposed to dangerous radiation levels while
    facing low wages and wage theft, reports Reuters. For some, the cost of speaking up was getting fired.” These workers employed by subcontractors are by and large petty criminals and ne’er-do’-wells who have flocked from all over Japan to participate in the cleanup efforts. This fact has been ignored by the foreign media … author Pico Iyer went as far in an article in Vanity Fair to portray the workers as heroes without even once mentioning the workers’ backgrounds nor did he mention the influx of crime these workers have brought with them. Until TEPCO/Japanese government gets some qualified workers to do the cleanup it is unlikely the things will go well …

  • douglas black

    That is right. I was just commenting on the trace amounts detected in the tuna caught off CA.

  • douglas black

    I am aware. I am not a supporter of nuclear power. No leaking isotopes are acceptable.

    I live here in Fukushima’s backyard.
    The people who think it is nothing should come to live close by and bring their children & grandchildren to eat it daily. It would sure help relieve some stress with the locals…

  • David B

    Not crazy nor do I have any connections with the nuclear industry. I just don’t think unsubstantiated comments during a q&a session from David Suzuki constitutes evidence the west coast is in harms way and is an example of bad journalism. Also a 5% increase in radioactive cesium over what is normally found in tuna does not mean the entire blue fin tuna species is seriously contaminated.

  • http://mobius.org/artist/cathy-nolan arabylilac

    That doesn’t even make sense. It isn’t acceptable to be slowly poisoned–this is all part of the same issue.
    I can’t even fathom how you thought this was even a rational reply.

  • David B

    Sorry, I meant this with a bit of sarcasm — of course it isn’t acceptable to be slowly poisoned. My point is pollution from traditional power plants have always caused health problems. I think we should all conserve power and close aging nuclear and coal fired power plants while at the same time build up renewable sources such as wind and solar.

  • Sam Gilman

    What you’ve just done is, instead of addressing the perfectly well-sourced point that David B made, you’ve accused him of being either insane or a corrupt liar.

    Basically, you’re not tackling what he says, but trying to comfort yourself that whatever he says can’t be true.

    Can you not see that you’re engaging in managing your emotions rather than your ideas?

  • Anonymous

    GE, the company that made those failed reactors at Fukushima, owns NBC. Westinghouse, they are trying to sell new reactors, owns CBS, and you can forget about any responsible reporting coming from the Fox. Here is a local story from ABC in LA http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news%2Fworld_news&id=9317789

  • Anonymous

    You should know this about the GE Mark I reactor that failed at Fukushima:

    “Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing — the Mark 1 — was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.” http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/fukushima-mark-nuclear-reactor-design-caused-ge-scientist/story?id=13141287

    Also notice that the video has been removed.

    But lets see how long this one from CNN will remain

  • Anonymous

    Here is an American company http://medcom.com/

  • http://www.billmoyers.com/ John Light

    Continue to stay informed on the story. Reuters has continuing coverage of it — you can find their latest piece here:

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/11/18/uk-bc-japan-nuclear-removal-idUKBRE9AH0EX20131118

  • http://www.billmoyers.com/ John Light

    Ms. Kitty, below, is right. Suzuki was referring to concerns about what would happen if another natural disaster hit the facility before the 1,500 fuel rods had been moved into safe storage. There is disagreement around how dangerous this would actually be. Reuters described one scenario earlier this year:

    “And if another strong earthquake strikes before the fuel is fully removed that topples the building or punctures the pool and allow the water to drain, a spent fuel fire releasing more radiation than during the initial disaster is possible, threatening about Tokyo 200 kilometers (125 miles) away.”

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/08/15/us-japan-fukushima-insight-idUKBRE97D00M20130815

  • http://www.billmoyers.com/ John Light

    We stand by our reporting and can assure you that this post has been thoroughly fact-checked. We have, however, revised a few sentences for clarity in response to some of the comments below. Thanks everyone for your comments.

  • Anonymous

    Learn about radiation.
    Learn about how the world is naturally radioactive.
    Try and source information that contains measurements and numbers as opposed to emotion-filled scary yet vague articles.
    Learn what the numbers mean and how they show that there is no danger to the general public.

  • JonThomas

    Jennifer,

    One thing you can do, is make sure you check your sources.

    For example, the person whose comment I am quoting… a certain “greenthinker2012,” has 527 comments… As far as I could see, from checking that profile history, EVERY SINGLE ONE of those comments is pro-nuclear, and on this issue.

    Warning bells… Danger Will Robinson!

    More than likely that profile is a paid-by-nuclear-industry troll. Everything that profile says… do the opposite lol.

    Half kidding… but you aren’t going to get impartial advice or info from them.

    Use a good search engine and look for ways you can help. Educate yourself and others, make a stand, speak your mind.

    Maybe the authors can provide some help, but in other comments there were some good suggestions.

    Personally, I think using nuclear energy is akin to using a newly invented gun. This incredibly new weapon will shoot your present, and EVEN FUTURE enemies efficiently and automatically. You just pull the trigger and it finds and destroys your enemies. You only have to pull the trigger once. As soon as a new enemy pops up…dead!

    The problem is that WE are our own worst enemy… dead!

    Eventually, something is going to happen. The whole concept is hubris and the short term gains are not worth the enterprise. The Japanese citizens, along with much of Europe, are now looking ahead and realizing they made mistakes. They are learning, maturing, and bravely moving away from nuclear energy…. Time for the U.S. citizenry to demand the same.

    One thing to realize is that the people who push for nuclear are not the ones who live in the immediate areas, and they often have the means to move away… fast… very fast!

  • Anonymous

    You are correct that I am pro nuclear.
    That does not mean that I am a shill or that what I say is wrong.
    It is important that we find out what objective reality is even if the answer is not what we want to hear.
    That is why I advocate the use of measurements and numbers and for people to learn what those numbers mean.

  • Scott Haas

    For those who say this isn’t possible keep this in mind. The typical nuclear bomb has several POUNDS of fissionable material and causes widespread destruction. TEPCO, at Fukushima Diaichi, has HUNDREDS OF TONS of fissionable material stored. TONS! Beyond that, if this goes critical it could cause spontaneous criticality at other nearby nuclear plants with their own TONS and TONS of spent nuclear fuel in storage. Do the research before you scoff. Check out the potential for ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) that can cause all of the electronics to stop working and can potentially bring down the local power grid thus ending the ability of these plants to keep the fuel cool if a large enough criticallity happens. This fuel is not dry casked. It must be kept cool in water or it goes critical…all at once. Chain reaction. The boron wafers that prevents criticality in the spent pools is damaged. Every lift is a gamble. For the next nine or ten weeks they are moving unspent fuel. When they get to the spent fuel…lots of trouble. Don’t fall asleep in the interim. Keep your eyes on TEPCO. Mankind is playing with nature’s fire and this has every potential to end or severely reduce the human race. All because of our lust for cheap power. Oh…and we are trusting this job to the same people that somehow bent a fuel assembly into a boomerang twenty five years ago and didn’t bother to ever mention it. Oh…and what about those other three reactors that are puddling into the groundwater right now poisoning the Pacific because TEPCO diverted a river that used to flow through the plant. Do the research. The answers are out there but don’t wear socks because it will just scare them off of you.

  • Anonymous

    If anything it is an accurate summary of the untrue fear mongering that passes as fact. The reality is that…

    -The fuel pool structure has been thoroughly examined by an international team of structural engineers. It was found to be in ok condition and was further reinforced and is still safe.

    -The rods can be exposed to air and nothing will happen. They have had 2+ years to cool down and are no longer putting out much heat. Heat output = approx 2kW per tonne. (Think hair dryer)

    -A nuclear reaction is hard to produce. Engineers spend a lot of time and effort to make the nuclear reactions happen in a reactor core. The Uranium is not enriched enough to go critical without being in the proper geometry surrounded by a moderator without neutron poisons present.

  • Anonymous

    See my reply below

  • Anonymous

    It would require the laws of physics to be changed. If the fundemantal rules of how matter behaves start to change, then Fukushima will be the least of our worries.
    Seriously, it is hard to make Uranium of this enrichment level go critical. You have to engineer it not just assemble a jumble of fuel rods.

  • Anonymous

    You would be wrong that Fukushima will have any effect on our species.
    What is more likely is that we will continue to fry our planet with fossil fuels because we are too afraid to deploy nuclear power.

  • Anonymous

    Just to be clear Jon Thomas is also consistent with his nuclear related comments. He is 100% against nuclear but doesn’t reference facts when he makes his statements.

  • Gina

    Apparently beer flushes radiation out of your body at quicker levels. This is what my ex was told when he worked at the Pickering power plant!

  • Martin Laun

    Take a geiger counter to the supermarket with you. GMO farmed fish are suddenly sounding appealing

  • JonThomas

    It’s true that I am against nuclear energy. However, nuclear energy is not my only concern. I am an equal opportunity againster.

    It’s not true to say I did not “reference facts.” I clearly outed your agenda with extremely pertinent facts as to your 1 issue shill. I even stated the numbers – as they were true at the time.

    However, my argument against nuclear energy is not based on numerical facts. Instead, I have based my comments on wisdom and foresight.

    The fact is – humans make mistakes. There is no guarantee that any person can give that makes nuclear fission safe.

    It is ALWAYS a gamble with lives. No being has the right to gamble with another’s life. That too is a fact!

    The facts I offer are not numerical, they are not hidden behind obfuscations, they are not complicated by agenda driven interests. Well, I take that back… they are supported by 3, yet very simple, interests… the preservation and sanctification of life, of liberty, and of the freedom from the excesses of others.

  • Victoria L Gonzalez DeHaan

    it already effects the US – and the Pacific – Don’t eat anything caught there – or in Alaska

  • aishwarya

    Why main-stream media isn’t talking about it? Why they are hiding this? Because of the 2020 Olympics?

  • Sam Gilman

    That Reuters article is wrong. It relies on the opinion of a collection of scientifically unqualified anti-nuclear activists posing as independent experts. You can google the other names, but I’ll highlight Arnie Gundersen as he’s been mentioned several times in the comments: he pretends to be a world expert in nuclear engineering, but he is actually a crank. He’s a retired high school teacher who was previously fired from his *office job* at a nuclear power company in mysterious circumstances (it ended up with him paying them an undisclosed sum of money in an out of court settlement). He is often described as “Chief Engineer” of an organisation called Fairewinds Associates, but the truth is, there are only two people in Fairewinds, Arnie and his wife Marge, and it’s an educational/religious charity not an engineering business, rendering him legally non-liable for the truth of anything he says. By the by, he claims to be able to detect radioactive “hot” particles that professional scientists cannot. Sound suspicious? And having dressed himself up as an expert, he collects good money from anti-nuclear groups appearing as their expert witness in court cases (which is how we get to read his real CV and know that he is not the expert people claim he is.)

    I know this because as a Japan resident raising a family, I have spent the past couple of years having to sift the nonsense in the media from the actual expertise. Gundersen is a serial offender.

    People like him get into the media because journalists like to tell stories of scandal, disaster and/or impending death and to hell with checking the credibility. Is that how you want to be?

  • Anonymous

    Stating I am a “shill” is not a fact. It is your opinion only. Facts are things that can be verified. For example, the amount of naturally occurring Uranium in the oceans is approx 17 billion tonnes. The amount of Potassium 40 in the oceans is aroung 70 billion tonnes. The amount of isotopes that have escaped from Fukushima is measured in kilograms.
    From these verifiable facts we can draw conclusions.

  • Cináed Mac Fhearghuis

    How much naturally ocurring (primordial or cosmogenic) Caesium 137 and Strontium 90 are found in the oceans? None? That’s what I thought…From this verifiable fact we can draw conclusions.

  • Cináed Mac Fhearghuis

    The radioisotope Iodine 131 (and 129) can be incorporated by the thyroid gland in place of potassium iodide (Iodine 127) so ingestion of Iodine prevents this accumulation from ocurring but does not rid the body of radioactive material, it just prevents radioactive iodine (one form of radioactive material) from accumulating in that specific gland. Strontium 90, another beta emitter, is similar to calcium and is a “bone seeker” which may be prevented from depositing in bones and teeth by maintaining healthy calcium levels and bone density. Cesium 137 is unavoidable and deposits in muscle and nerve tissue creating damage and burns from gamma exposure. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/iodine.html
    http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/strontium.html

    http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/cesium.html

  • Enkidu

    John, I wanted to thank you for making these corrections. There are so many pseudo-news outlets reporting misinformation on Fukushima that this is a welcome relief.

    I do, however, still have a few comments:

    The rods contain radiation at levels 14,000 times greater than what was released when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.”

    You’ve updated this text, but it is still incorrect. Saying that the rods “contain” radiation is like saying that my stereo “contains” sound. It doesn’t. It “emits” sound, as the rods “emit” radiation. The rods do, however, “contain” radioisotopes. As such, the statement only makes sense to say that the rods contain an amount of Cs-137 equivalent to 14,000 times the Hiroshima bomb.

    By the way, the Reuters article where this quote originally came from was full of errors. I would be surprised if the authors ever made it into, let alone out of, a basic high school chemistry class.

    As for the correction to the fault lines, you should insert “two” before the first “Fukushima facilities” (for both Fukushima Daiichi and Daini) in that paragraph. This is because you use “the Fukushima Facility” in the very next sentence, confusing which facility you’re talking about.

    I was disappointed to see the following quote from David Suzuki remain.

    “Three out of the four plants were destroyed in the earthquake and in the tsunami. The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is,
    if there’s another earthquake of a seven or above, that building will go and then all hell breaks loose.”

    First of all, there are six “units” at Fukushima Daiichi. The bigger point, though, is that David Suzuki has no applicable expertise on these issues, and I have not heard of a single structural engineer who has arrived at the same conclusion. In particular, David’s over-the-top “bye bye Japan” statement in the following paragraph should tell you that he is prone to exaggeration. If you were writing an article on zoology, then by all means, David Suzuki would be a great resource. Here, though, it just doesn’t make sense. If you were writing an article on the susceptibility of the Golden Gate Bridge to earthquakes, would you still consult him?

    By the way, go Oberlin.

  • Anonymous

    You are indulging in what is called the “Naturalistic Fallacy” argument.
    In reality, man-made is not evil and natural is not necessarily good.
    Radiation is the same whether man-made or natural.
    I was comparing the relative amounts of radioactive isotopes that we have lived with on earth since live began vs the extra amount added due to Fukushima..
    Tens of Billions of Tonnes vs Kilograms.
    The conclusion is that the effect will not be catastrophic.
    What conclusion were you trying to draw?

  • Robert Thomas

    JonThomas, my dear, whether greenthinker2012 is some kind of compensated advocate or just a vehement person (and as you’ll agree, there are plenty of them), I have no idea. But you’ve provided no evidence to support your characterization, so that’s just name calling. You may of course toss unsubstantiated pejorative labels around, if you wish, if you’re the sort of person who does this in mixed company. It isn’t very sporting.

    On the other hand, admitting that one’s “argument[s are] not based on … facts” is a spiritual step in the right direction – and I, for one, perceive – toward atonement.

  • Anonymous

    The radioactive form of Iodine that was released during Fukushima has a very short half life. It has all decayed away since the accident.
    During the short time it did exist, some people took Potassium Iodide tablets so that their Thyroid glands were full of Iodine and thus would not want to absorb any of the radioactive Iodine.

  • Robert Thomas

    Sam Gilman, this was a great exercise! I noticed that you mentioned the Famous and Formidable Arnie Gunderson, so I scanned through the citations. For me, this was a startling revelation of abject inadequacy on the part of Reuters, an institution for which I have generally had provisional respect. Very sad.

  • Anonymous

    The amount of Cs has been small and has been diluted in the ocean to such a tremendous degree that it poses no danger.
    The effects described by the above poster would require a much higher dose than anyone did or will receive from Fukushima.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. The amount of Cs in tuna was so miniscule that adding 5% or even 50% would pose no danger. What most people don’t understand is how incredibly sensitive our radiation detectors are. They can detect the decay of a single atom.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate your thorough reply. Tokyo is my favorite city on the planet and I hope to be able to visit my daughter there for many years to come.

  • Robert Thomas

    greenthinker2012, your points are fairly well taken. My response to Ms Kitty was in view of what I judged to be her [?] unusually level-headed comments.

    Chiefly, I agree with Ms Kitty that 1) “the vulnerability of the rods at #4 that is causing a lot of concern”; 2) while the R4 structure is not “collapsing”, it’s not in exactly the sort of condition in which anyone would like to store these materials; 3) no one asserts that the spent fuel rods should not remain immersed during these operations, whether or not exposure would be catastrophic; 4) the activities being undertaken “are … dangerous and difficult”.

    While it seems clear that the R4 structure is in “ok condition”, and has been well reinforced as you note, there is no little imperative that the spent fuel stored there be removed, you’ll agree – this why after much careful planning, this very deliberate and delicate task is commencing.

    It’s incorrect to say that if the spent fuel rods are exposed to air that nothing will happen. Exactly what would happen is unsure, resulting in the careful measures underway to guard against this. However, you’re right to assert that especially after two years, further physical calamity (cladding fire etc.) is unlikely, in any case. More likely would be extra complication and delay in proceeding with the task. Nuclear criticality is indeed hard to produce (especially in spent fuel!) and design of fuel bundles takes into account many kinds of inadvertent handling accidents. My lay understanding however, is that in a case where the Waste Management System has been so severely compromised, an unusual amount of concern for maintaining wide safety margins is appropriate. Right?

  • Anonymous

    I hope what I say can help ease your concerns.
    There is no plausible release mechanism from the spent fuel. If you have access to a university physics department you can ask them to verify what I am claiming below.
    The fuel rods have had almost 3 years for the decay heat to dissipate. Calculations based on the laws of physics show they are now putting out about 2 kilowatts per tonne U.
    That is about what a hair dryer puts out. The fuel rods cannot melt or burn with this low amount of heat. Another claim is
    that the fuel assemblies can somehow go critical. The laws of physics show that this is is also not possible. Criticality requires specific geometry, a moderator and the absence of any neutron poisons. Engineers spend a lot of time and thought to make the fuel capable of cushioning in a reactor core. It it’s not easy and it won’t “just happen” by accident.

  • Robert Thomas

    Enkidu, congratulations for eliciting a response of any kind.

    I realize it’s a bit flippant, but a measure of general public capacity for apprehending reality that I’ve used from time to time is the proportion of high school graduates having attempted a course in chemistry. I’m both happy and sad to note that (the last time I researched this) the percentage had increased, during the ten-year period (ending 2010, I think), from sixteen to twenty. So, one in five high school seniors can probably write the stoichiometry equation for the combustion of pentane. How many of these do you suppose matriculate at Schools of Communications?

  • Robert Thomas

    Sigh of relief!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Robert, I hope my comments did not come across as critisizing you.
    You are right that being prudent and extra cautious is a good thing.
    My response is coloured by the widespread fear mongering we see in almost very news article on this subject.
    Most claim that the slightest miscalculation will basically end all life on earth or some such nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    I would love to believe you are right. It’s a somewhat daunting subject and trying to glean fact from fiction is making it ever more so. Appreciate your reply.

  • Glen Davis

    The Japanese Government and TEPCO aren’t the only ones lying here…OUR media and OUR Government have NOT been forthcoming with information for the US Public. There are aspects of this that will impact the US and we need to know about them NOW

  • Robert Thomas

    greenthinker2012, I’m an engineer, but neither a structural nor a nuclear engineer. I’m often at sea about the facts of situations such as this one, so it’s tiresome to imagine how difficult it is for concerned people with no technical background at all to navigate the advocacy journalism from all sides that saturates the internet and generates so much proverbial heat with such little light. I VERY MUCH want sources such as BMJ to make better effort at balanced and sober consideration of these subjects, because I have little hope that such moderation will be available at the other end of the political spectrum.

    In the 1980s, I was in the position to interview a number of excellent candidates for technical positions who had emigrated from the Soviet bloc and who had worked in the nuclear power sector and related areas there. I became (and remain) convinced that the Chernobyl accident was a significant (perhaps even the primary) event in precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pointedly, the comments I heard from these guys were unanimous that while the ultimate consequences of the accident may have been exaggerated and that the subsequent mitigations were nothing short of heroic, that the sheer incompetence of the technical management of the civilian nuclear sector in the USSR and the negligence of regulatory imperatives and so on lead a critical population of the very dedicated and well educated technocracy to just throw up its hands and admit that the socio-political structure couldn’t operate *anything* without imperiling the entire European population.

    So I take the criticisms of skeptical anti-nuclear advocates seriously – when they speak seriously and refrain from making stupid claims. That kind of sobriety is in short supply, I’m sure you’re aware.

  • JonThomas

    Please read closer. I did indeed present a characterization. However, in stark contrast to your assertion, that characterization was very much based on facts!

    I researched that person’s Disqus profile history (which anyone can do) and drew my own conclusions. I then presented the numbers and a summation of his comments along with my conclusions. It’s actually a very scientific method.

    Now, you can disagree with my conclusions, but since every person can do the research, the comment history speaks for itself.

    What I find interesting, knowing the un-’green’ nature of nuclear energy, is how up in arms the pro-nuke commenters are in this case.

    I can imagine such people worrying about public opinion, and see them spinning every potentially anti-nuke comment they can.

    Especially so on a site like this one. The audience found here leans ‘green,’ and sustainable. This is the very crowd that pro-nuke advocates are trying to sway with the fossil fuel vs. pro-nuclear argument.

    The problem is that those are both dangerous sources of energy. Those 2 options present, for ‘green’ advocates, a false choice. It is better to see energy prices skyrocket than to support either presented choice. Neither fossil fuels, nor nuclear are safe, sustainable sources of energy. Especially is this an important consideration when true ‘green,’ and sustainable technologies currently exist.

    So, when it comes to keeping the world and all of it’s inhabitants, including the minuscule lifeforms, and their corresponding environments, that are affected by much less radiation than your quoted numbers of radioactive gases and particles, you can take your ‘mixed company’ statement and…well…

    Speaking the truth is more than using numbers. The pro-nuke – ‘let’s not get carried away with exaggerations’ – numbers are based on large ecosystems and current human knowledge.

    The effects on the real world are much more than what effects the ocean at large, the migratory species, or inhabitants of N. America!

    If even one slug dies because of your pro-nuke stance it is too many! If one micro-organism dies it is too many! Your numbers and facts which you, and others are quoting, and claiming that are being misrepresented, reflect much more than the effects you are sloughing off as acceptable risks.

    I for one will not stand-by, nor be intimidated by your death-dealing reasoning. Every person, regardless of gender, age, lifestyle, or anything else that may make them ‘mixed company,’ should be made aware of the death-dealing practices which you are trying to obfuscate! Is that “sporting” enough for you?

  • JonThomas

    The facts that i used were the actual, verifiable numbers and content of your Disqus profile history. The characterization I made or you being a ‘shill’ (which was originally your term, not mine) was the conclusion drawn from those facts!

    You can keep trying to twist the discussion, but the numbers you, and others are using obfuscate the real world situation… the environment, regardless of whether macro or micro, is being affected. My comments were not directed to any numbers or quotes related to the article as a whole.

    My comments are based on my reply to Jennifer’s comment.

    Life, and the environment is sacred to me. My comments are reflections of my own viewpoint. To even damage just one iota of the living world, to satisfy the excesses of humans, especially at a time where much ‘greener’ and sustainable technology exists, is not acceptable.

    To gamble with life and ecosystems is a morally criminal act. You may have a different ethical mindset, but morals based on principles are not so selective.

  • Jing Yagunazie

    Westinghouse builds a new corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh PA. Soon after opening the mega building Japan has a nuclear disaster. Westinghouse lays off half its workforce. Yea. Clean energy ! Strike 2.

  • Robert Thomas

    JonThomas, since there is no shortage of people who concentrate their attention on a single subject (or who, in a forum such as this one, segregate their comments using multiple user names), the correlation you report constitutes neither clear nor convincing evidence for your claim of compensated advocacy.

    If name-calling works for you, then by all means, indulge yourself.

    By the end of your post, I understand that your view is that alarming assertions that are free from the support of any facts, measurements or reason may retain validity due to their purity of ideological content.

    Though I’m impressed and encouraged by the engineering and emerging economics of modern wind turbine technology, the peril presented to the raptor and bat population is sadly not yet zero ["The trouble with turbines: An ill wind" Nature, Volume 486, Issue 7403, pp. 310-311 (2012)]. Your absolutist tone suggests that this condemns this energy source as also unacceptable. I haven’t updated my knowledge about Chinese polycrystalline silicon production in a while, but when I did, the consequences for wildlife in the vicinity was decidedly dicey. Not to mention the still lengthy payback statistics of their utility, measured in moles of CO(2) / joule of collected energy.

    Out of curiosity, do you also recommend the abandonment of all hydroelectric generation? I understand that while it is often not the most desirable non-fossil generation source, it is of course generally renewable. It’s also responsible for the premature death of countless organisms – which is to say, countless more than is nuclear generation today, anywhere.

  • Anonymous

    IF IF IF, if they screw up the cleanup. Which is incredibly easy to screw up. Spent fuel rods are too dangerous to let TEPCO handle them alone.

  • Anonymous

    I encourage you to contact your local university and confirm what I wrote.
    I agree it is difficult to glean fact from fiction especially on a topic so charged with emotion and most people lacking the general knowledge needed for people to evaluate the claims made.

  • Anonymous

    The reality is that the majority billions of the world are striving for a higher standard of living. The projected use of energy is expected to double or triple by the end of the century. This energy will come from burning coal unless there is an alternative.
    Our challenge is to minimize the damage that is going to happen from this increased energy use. I am guessing minimizing damage is consistent with your philosophy.
    Nuclear energy is not perfect but it is the best option available.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you. We need rational discussion to find a solution to what is the very complex problem of future increased energy use.
    The inputs of nuclear critics can help with this discussion so that the nuclear designs we choose and the regulatory oversight we put in place are the best possible.

  • Anonymous

    Yay for math!
    Thanks for posting those numbers.
    It helps put things into perspective.

  • http://www.mendeley.com/profiles/brian-p-hanley/ Brian Hanley

    Thanks. I have written to rileyt requesting to do an article about Fukushima and its impact, but no response. It appears that competence is a disqualifier when it comes to matters nuclear.

  • Anonymous

    A relatively simple calculation shows that the spent fuel rods are putting out approx 2 kilowatts per tonne of U. A little more than a hair dryer and far too little to cause any sort of catastrophe. The fuel rods are intact. The zirconium cladding is designed to withstand years of heat inside a reactor core.
    Ignorant people are spreading fear and stopping us from deploying one of the best tools we have to transition off of fossil fuels.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct that the low level of enrichment used in the Japanese reactors prevents criticality.

  • Anonymous

    You must not be reading the news. Theres quite a few americans in japan. Some of the ones that have been at chynobln, but they are there as consultants and not as americans. The goverment dosnt want to you to know they have no cure, and who would take on the responsiblity when it wasnt there problems. Only if they can be superman and save the world will they do that, otherwise all they have is excuses why they arnt involved.

  • Jacob Devaney

    Thanks covering this important story! Heres some more info: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-devaney/fukishima-humanitys-defin_b_4256364.html

  • JonThomas

    It is NOT in any way “the best option available.” It is, at best, a short term solution with extremely dangerous, long term consequences!

  • JonThomas

    Ok, I now have to thank you for something… You just compared hydroelectric with nuclear power.

    Thank you for reminding me of the mindset with which I am presented.

  • Sam Gilman

    I don’t doubt that everything written here is true in the sense that people certainly said the things you claim they do. However, that’s not good enough. That’s barely better than Fox News.

    The fundamental error you’re made is not realising you’re engaged in science journalism, not political journalism. Look at the comments: look at how people are not interested in the political impact of his comments, in Suzuki’s personal emotions or what his organisation plans to do next or anything where opinions of key actors are the main issue. Instead, your readers want to understand the health dangers they face. They want to know the science. In that case, it is your duty as journalists to identify the most reliable sources of information so that you don’t misinform them.

    Alas, the path you’ve taken is to “teach the controversy”. As I’m sure you are aware, this is a tendency in journalism that is openly exploited by creationists and climate change deniers in order to give credibility to their pseudo-experts in the public eye, and which is also behind the undermining of vaccination programmes in various English-speaking countries. Basically, teaching the controversy means you’re opening the door to pseudoscience and saying “come on in, I need a story”. A little correction or rebalancing here or there doesn’t address the underlying problem with your story.

    Look at the information you have. A prominent environmentalist with no qualifications in the area of radiation and health or nuclear physics but a lot of public trust stands up and makes some very public and scary remarks about Fukushima. His apocalyptic ideas are, according to uninvolved, disinterested, proper experts, “implausible” and “crazy”. That’s incredibly strong language for a scientist to use in public. As a science journalist, you’ve got to give greater weight to actual bona fide scientists working in the right area. You don’t get to say “well, I’ve represented all shades of opinion”. That’s just laziness, and it leads to the politicisation of science.

    Actually, you’ve chosen to give Suzuki’s views greater weight than the actual experts who do research and publish. Based on what? His fame? That’s not how science works! Isn’t the real story that a prominent figure like Suzuki is saying “crazy” and “implausible” things?

    This really matters. Radiation literally scares people beyond reason. I took time to specifically address the fears one of your readers had for his daughter’s health, fears which you, John and Karin, stoked by giving a good deal of credence to someone who, as you knew when you wrote the original article, was talking nonsense.

    If the problem is that you don’t understand the science, that’s not a problem. Pick up your phone and call a decent university and ask for expert advice. That’s what the people at Vice did. In particular, before repeating Big Scary Numbers, make sure you understand what they mean. (The “equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshimas” meme has gone up since I first heard it 2 years ago, when it was a mere 1,000. It has recently become 15,000 as someone has helpfully rounded that Reuters story up in the re-telling, ensuring an even faster memetic transmission across the alternative news net.)

    I think the point of this site is to overcome the flaws of the mainstream media. Isn’t it? They’ve been pretty awful over Fukushima: here’s your big chance.

  • Robert Thomas

    Curses! I’m failing to sway you – you, with your stalwart and noble fact-ignoring, knowledge-eschewing, bravely insult-hurling, perplexingly reasoned, morally indignant aspect! Gosh darn!

    JT: “If even one slug dies because of your pro-nuke stance it is too many! If one micro-organism dies it is too many!”

    However, a salmon that croaks after failing to climb a crummy fish ladder can apparently go to hell.

  • Anonymous

    Then what is the best option? It is easy to naysay and find fault with other’s ideas. What is your solution?

  • Anonymous

    Well said!

  • Robert Thomas

    “Inflammable means flammable?! What a country!”

    -Dr. Nick

  • Cináed Mac Fhearghuis

    Look between the parentheses and you will see that I am not indulging in any fallacious argument. I used the the word “naturally” because you did, and attempted to clarify that what I meant was primordial and/or cosmogenic isotopes of Cesium and Strontium. You are committing an over-generalization when you speak of “radiation” without referring to specific forms of ionizing radiation (Alpha particles? Beta decay? Gamma radiation?) and the biological effects of uptake and retention of certain isotopes on living cells, whether they may be in plankton, algae, seaweeds, or fish. I’m sure you understand that bioaccumulation of Cs 137 and Sr 90 over the next few decades will result in a concentration of these man-made pollutants in living tissue, quite possibly at levels that may produce damage or death to the organism in question, particularly carnivores located at or near the top of the food chain. This is the threat posed by the releases at Fukushima, not an immediate catastrophe (unless the spent fuel rods ignite), but a silent killer lurking on the horizon. The conclusion that can be drawn is that kilograms of deadly persistent pollutants released into the ambient environment, oceans, atmosphere and the food chain is a disaster for living creatures. If you didn’t reason in generalities such as “the world is naturally radioactive,” which is meaningless for the puposes of this discussion, you would see what a slow-motion tragedy has been unleashed at Fukushima and threatens to be at all other nuclear sites around the world. The closest to me is Hanford, where a plume of Sr 90 slowly seeps through the groundwater toward the Columbia River. Solution? Sequestration by Apatite (made with super-heated cow bones) infiltration and barrier construction. Fission is dirty and deadly indeed!

  • Robert Thomas

    I haven’t done the arithmetic but I presume the “xx,000 times radiation level” language is derived from the estimated Bq count represented by the Little Boy fallout compared to the current number of Bq in the spent fuel pool? Or perhaps the Bq of the undetonated Little Boy bomb compared to the latter? The difference could be a couple of orders of magnitude, so it’s not surprising that the number seems randomly chosen.

    Although you’re quite right in pointing out that in this context these ratios (if they’re what’s meant) have utterly no meaning, I understand that lay people (including myself) have a difficult time navigating the SI’s history with respect to material count (Bq, Ci) on the one hand and the various weighted and unweighted, archaic and modern dosimetry units on the other.

    Unfortunately for even careful journalists, the SI and other concerned entities such as the U.S. Navy haven’t developed and adjusted these units over time for fun, but to try to improve measurement, handling and safety with respect to these materials. Science and engineering (and physiology) aren’t always simple. Unfortunately also for the rest of us, when the journalism is less than careful, we can expect to read and hear all kinds of nonsense.

  • Sam Gilman

    No, I don’t believe in “absolute” science, and I specifically
    referred to the importance of scientists being disinterested (ie not
    financially invested in any one particular answer.)

    First of all,
    let’s deal with what science is. There are disputes in science. For
    example, In radiation and health in particular there is disagreement
    between proper scientists over whether or not there are levels below
    which there is actually no net harm at all from radiation (ie is there a
    “threshold” or not), or even whether very low levels are beneficial.

    However,
    the fact that there is, within a very narrow range, a degree of
    disagreement, does not mean that any and all opinion is valid. To extend
    the analogies others have produced here, although there may be
    differences of opinion between architects, who would you rather have
    build you a house, an architect who has designed and built 50 other
    houses all of sound quality, or someone without any kind of
    architectural qualification who has never built a house in his/her life,
    and who thinks “mainstream” (ie trained and qualified) architects are a
    bunch of corrupt fools? This is what scientific peer review is. It’s
    not perfect, it can be subject to corruption and error, but it is far,
    far better than no peer review at all. Someone may get a couple of bad
    papers into print, but fifty or sixty is incredibly unlikely.

    Secondly,
    let’s look at finance. As some background: I am very familiar with
    (fascinated by) the climate change denial movement. These are people,
    frequently with only tangential specialisms, who set up fancy sounding
    front organisations and funnel money from fossil fuel corporations,
    often associating themselves with (aka leeching off) right-wing free
    market think tanks, and who earn their keep producing utterly bogus
    “scientific” reports for consumption by the media. They generally do not
    operate through the peer reviewed literature, but instead spend their
    time constructing the appearance of expertise and exploiting
    journalists’ love of false balance. There is a tight network of websites
    bouncing memes one off the other. I used to laugh at how bad the right
    was at science.

    What was depressing for me to discover as I tried
    to gather information about Fukushima is that the anti-nuclear movement
    is set up in very much the same way, albeit without the same extent of
    corporate financing, and also saying and writing things which are
    contradicted not only by the peer-reviewed literature, but on occasion
    by basic high school science. There are fancy sounding groups like
    “Physicians for Social Responsibility” or the “European Committee for
    Radiation Research”. There is money to be made, too, with positions in
    left-wing policy research units as “energy specialists”, or becoming
    “advisors to the government” whenever a green party gets into coalition
    in Europe – and all most typically without even a proper science degree,
    let alone a science degree in the right area. There is a tight network
    of websites bouncing memes off each other. A few of the most prominent
    talking heads get appearance fees in court as “experts” in cases brought
    by the anti-nuclear movement, just as the tobacco companies had their
    own experts for hire who would swear under oath that smoking was
    harmless, or more slimily, that the jury was still out.

    To be
    blunt: they earn money doing this. Their popularity as “experts” does
    not rest on any normally recognised form of expertise, as they do not
    publish their work through proper academic channels, just like the
    climate change deniers. Instead, it rests on them saying what certain
    groups of people want to hear. That is, if they stopped being
    anti-nuclear, they’d be out of a career and out of their support
    network. It’s not for nothing that the issue of nuclear power is causing
    very nasty splits within the environmental movement, and these are
    people who are all meant to be on the same side in the fight against
    global warming.

    So if you want to give me an expert to consider,
    show me that they are qualified. Show me that they publish in the
    relevant peer-reviewed literature. Show me that once published, their
    work is favourably received (through multiple citations, absence of
    criticism). Then I’ll listen to them.

    After all, it’s these
    criteria that enable us to reject the nonsense that is climate change
    denial as the facade of BS that it is. Why shouldn’t that also apply in
    the case of radiation and health? A crank is a crank, no matter what
    your politics are.

  • Anonymous

    The Geiger count will show no measurable increase.

  • Anonymous

    You are claiming that the used fuel has been stored in the pool for over 30 years? Or are you saying that 30 years ago done fuel rods were damaged?
    The first claim doesn’t sound credible and the second claim would be irrelevant.

  • Anonymous

    Your argument that we must do something immediately is premised on the false assumption that there is done sort of impending crisis. This is not the case. If they take 50 years that would be fine and nobody would be harmed by the delay.

  • Anonymous

    Your view that “It is better to see energy prices skyrocket than to support either presented choice.”
    In reality means that the billions of people who are striving to raise their standard of living will end up burning coal to satisfy their energy needs.
    Your goal to save a single slug will result in the widespread devastation of the earth’s ecosystems through climate change and ocean acidification.
    How noble.

  • Anonymous

    If what you meant to say originally was what you just typed then you should have said it the first time. My use of the word “natural” was to make sure people did not think that the tens of billions of tonnes of isotopes in the ocean were from the accident.
    At the concentrations of Sr and Cs found in fish you would need to eat inconceivably many tonnes of fish to pose a hazard. If you are worried about bioaccumulation then you should be worried about the Mercury, Cadmium and other heavy poisonous metals released by the tonnes every year by the fossil fuel industry.

  • Anonymous

    It is disingenuous to try and link problems with nuclear weapons production facilities to civilian nuclear power. Civilian nuclear power has one of the best safety records of any power production method.
    The fuel rods can’t “ignite”. Stop engaging in fantasy.
    Also unlike the tonnes of lead mercury and cadmium released into the environment every year by fossil fuel burning that will persist forever, the few kilograms of isotopes from nuclear power that have escaped are decaying away every year and will eventually disappear.

  • Star

    There have been over 2500 nuclear explosions around the planet to date, some planned, some not. This is Beyond Fracking. The planet can withstand only so much. Now we are pouring radioactivity into both atmospheres: water and air. It’s not looking good for us, or any life. We really don’t know what will happen…that’s the worst part. All these reactors, but no long term planning.

  • Star

    This is really hard to believe. I am not a scientist. I am a mother. How could there not be contamination in the waters? It’s common sense.

  • Grant

    They already said the companies in charge of the cleanup and completely untruthful, so would you trust their answer on how risky the operation is anyways? This article draws attention to an issue that NEEDS attention, and I feel like you’re asking for a specific answer to a question no one can answer.

  • Anonymous

    I will tackle your post in point form due to the number of errors being so high.
    -What is so scary about a damaged fuel rod? The fuel inside them is a high temperature ceramic oxide of Uranium. Most of the fission products are trapped within the ceramic pellet. A small amount may escape depending on the nature of the damage. The most likely escapees would be the noble gasses krypton and xenon which are biologically inert.
    -300000 people were evacuated because of panic. The radiation levels never got high enough to cause injury or danger.
    -SFP 4 has been examined by an international team of structural engineers and was found to be stable. It was further reinforced for extra safety. It survived the biggest earthquake in recorded history for Japan. Even if it did collapse nothing would happen. The spent fuel has had almost 3 years to cool down. The fuel is putting out around 2 kilowatts per tonne of U. That is a little more than a hair dryer. Try melting a tonne of zirconium and ceramic with a hair dryer.
    -It is impossible for the fuel to go critical due to its low level of enrichment. Further, if the pool somehow collapsed, the water would disappear. Without water the neutrons would be unmoderated and thus criticality would also not occur.
    It is actually difficult to get criticality to occur in a reactor. Engineers spend a lot of time to get it to work. It won’t just happen by accident.
    -Since we don’t have criticality the rest of your points are meaningless.
    -Your point comparing the total radioactivity of the spent fuel to Chernobyl is like the true statement that an Olympic swimming pool has enough water in it to drown everyone on earth. This is technically true but meaningless without a plausible method of distributing the water.
    The fuel is encased in zirconium tubes that are tough enough to withstand the heat of a reactor core for years. The fuel is in the form of ceramic pellets.
    How is it going to get out and hurt people?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comment. There has been tremendous advancement in computer modelling, materials science and engineering since those early generation plants like Fukushima were built so I would love it if we started building the latest designs and then learning from them developed even better designs. I am a fan of the Molten Salt Thorium Reactors. The fuel cycle produces far less waste and the final fission product waste only needs to be stored for 500 years before it is safe.
    You are right about the dilution in seawater. The amount of isotopes released has been small especially compared to the size of the oceans.
    As for Suzuki, he should stick to biology. He is correct that 7.0 quakes happen. It must be remembered that all of Japan’s reactors and their fuel pools survived a magnitude 9+ earthquake without damage. That is over 100 times as strong as a level 7 quake. It was the tsunami and the bad planning of not putting the generators up high enough to avoid the water that was the problem at Fukushima. And even after these meltdowns not a single person has been killed by Fukushima and the WHO and UNSCEAR both say that nobody will be in the future.
    If an earthquake hits, the safest place to be would be a nuclear plant.
    Thank you for pointing out the crisis we face due to climate change.
    Some people want perfect safety before they will support nuclear power and yet accept the avoidable fossil fuel induced climate change catastrophe where hundreds of millions of people are projected to die along with countless species of wildlife.
    We are truly a strange illogical species.

  • Mike

    The ocean is very big. These particles are very small. Any radiation you or any animal may possibly take in from that cooling water is a small amount compared to what you get from the Sun everyday. Radiation is not a boogy man. People need to get out of this 1950s mindset.

  • Mike

    What is this the Simpsons? The US government was never worried about dirty bombs. That was a load of nonsense the Bush people cooked up to scare people like you.

  • Mike

    A meltdown is not the same thing as an atomic bomb, there is no EMP. And how, pray tell, would a meltdown in Fukushima set off other reactors in the region? Stop making the left look stupid.

  • Mike

    The radiation levels they are being exposed to aren’t even very high.

  • David B

    David Suzuki started his sentence quoted in this article about “bye bye japan” with “I have seen a paper which says”. Using the quote adds to it’s credibility by associating it with the good name of Bill Moyer, but it’s hearsay, because Dr. Suzuki didn’t give any reference information about the paper he saw. Fact checking that someone said something is not really checking the facts of the statement. From The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 linked to in one of the comments below: “The worst-case scenario, as depicted by the Chairman of the Japan Atomic
    Energy Commission in the middle of the crisis in March 2011, remains
    the collapse of the spent fuel pool of unit 4
    and a subsequent fuel fire, potentially requiring evacuation of up to
    10 million people in a 250 km radius of Fukushima, including a
    significant part of Tokyo.” Isn’t this bad enough? Why are you adding to fears of people in the US when those fears aren’t warranted?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Farmerjim…rereading my post to you I am concerned about my tone to you.
    I did not intend for it to sound negative. Text is hard to convey tone…sigh.

  • Scott Haas

    Well, Mike, unless you can cite previous experience with the releasing of the equivalent energy of thousands of nuclear bombs in a mass criticality all at once we don’t really know exactly what would happen do we? However EMP happens as a result of the release of Gamma Rays not an explosion and I would say an OPEN AIR meltdown of that many tons of material would doubtless produce lots of Gamma Rays. It has been widely theorized that a criticality at Fukushima would make the electronics inoperable. Not my words…TEPCO engineers stated that as well as many others in the know.

    As to setting off other reactors you have misquoted me. Check the map. There is another reactor complex just seven and one-half miles down the beach from Fukushima. What I said is this could cause the SPENT FUEL at the nearby reactors to also go critical NOT THE REACTORS. Spent fuel sits in a pool of water in a state of being about 95% critical and it does not take much to push it to a critical state. These are unshielded pools and sit very close to Fukushima. Very fragile state of affairs with these pools but dry casking is expensive and TEPCO exists not for safety but for profit.

    Sorry Mike. I don’t feel stupid.

  • Mike

    Good rebuttal, I stand corrected. There are a lot of people posting ignorant nonsense about radiation here and you hadn’t qualified all your statements. That was informative. It wouldn’t really be an EMP then and more like a solar storm.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry I can’t understand your first sentence.
    As for your second point, I tell people to avoid relying on any type of “authority” for their information. A degree would not necessarily stop someone from misleading you. I would rely on the person explaining themselves clearly and simply with as many verifiable facts as possible.
    I don’t know what you are trying to explain with the last part of your comment.
    Are you talking about nuclear reactions or chemical reactions?

  • Anonymous

    I did some research on the 1982 damaged fuel rods. It looks like 3 assemblies are bent and some of the zirconium tubes have pinholes in them that are leaking a small amount of noble gasses. It doesn’t seem too scary. They should just remove the rest of the fuel rods and then after the pool is empty, remove the last 3 bent ones. After 30 years these rods are in no danger of overheating.

  • Scott Haas

    I keep hearing this argument about radiation being everywhere therefore the particles being dumped into the ocean (and into the air through off-gassing from the damaged spent fuel pools and through the incinerating of irradiated materials) and working it’s way up through the food chain should not be a concern because radiation is everywhere. Radiation is indeed everywhere and we are bombarded with it everyday…yes from the sun too. But the sun does not dump particles of cesium, strontium, plutonium, Iodine 131 etc. into the environment. Nuclear facilities do this. The sun emits rays. Step out of the sun you step out of the radiation. On the other hand, ingested or inhaled radioactive particles (not rays which are not particles but are wavelength energy) are subject to potential uptake into the muscles, bone, lungs,thyroid etc. Here they can embed and stay and radiate continuously 24/7/365 causing cell mutations. You cannot step away from this radiation and this creates a situation of long term exposure to particles like Cesium and Plutonium with long half lives.Cesium can take 300 years to become non-toxic and one ingested particle is enough to create mutations. The particle stays with you without proper chelation as the body does not flush these unless forced to do so through chelation. This is because these elements mimic natural beneficial elements like calcium, iron, etc and the body pulls them in and uses them like natural elements. Eventually these mutations can cause cancers and other genetic disorders through a breakdown of the immune system. It takes time (years, decades) as there needs to be a number of mutations before the cancer or illness forms. This is why the pro-nuclear people keep writing that “no one died” from Fukushima. They omit the word “yet”. “Chernobyl heart”, for example, is caused by ingestion of cesium which embeds in the heart muscle and creates holes. This was from rain which fell on the food supply and was taken up into plants, berries, etc. Another example–a peer-reviewed journal Open Journal of Pediatrics is publishing a report soon that there was a significant uptick in hypothyroidism in California post Fukushima. This was ingested by the mothers through water and milk. These particles drifted over on the winds and evaporated into the air from the ocean and fell on our lands. Nuclear particles and background wavelength radiation are not the same and to equate them as such is a fallacy and does not demonstrate good science.

  • Mike

    I know the difference I was refering to the dilution level in the water.

  • Sam Gilman

    The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is not a reliable source of information on science aspects of nuclear power. It’s joint written by lifelong anti-nuclear activist Mycle Snyder, someone who is part of the pseudo-expert network. He doesn’t appear to have any scientific qualifications (his educational history does not get listed anywhere I can find), and appears to have done very little his entire career except campaign against nuclear power and get onto government committees as a representative of the anti-nuclear lobby. The other permanent author is Antony Froggatt, who was Greenpeace International nuclear policy advisor for ten years. While Greenpeace do good things in other areas, they have been responsible for some of the most wildly (and I mean truly unbelievably) unscientific and fearmongering documents on Chernobyl produced in English (they helped get the million already dead from Chernobyl nonsense published in the US – compare that to he mainstream estimates of possibly 6,000 in the future). They simply can’t be trusted to provide accurate, science-based information on the issue. Froggatt also does not have any qualifications in either nuclear engineering or radiological protection, lecturing instead on business studies in the energy sector.

    It really is striking how all of these talking heads saying scary things are not actually qualified to speak on the science. And also how media organisations rarely seem to do basic checks on who they actually are.

    I have not seen a single relevantly qualified scientist say that there is now any meaningful risk of a fire or some widespread radiological disaster in connection with the fuel pools or spent fuel removal. Only – and I really mean only – people who are professional anti-nuclear activists, or people relying on them for their “facts”.

  • David B

    Thanks for the info. I was wondering if the report was legit, but couldn’t find another web source debunking it. Still even this report isn’t propagating the same level of gloom and doom as what is implied by the article above. People need to wake up to the fact that it’s the developed world’s over consumption of energy which is polluting our planet. I just wish my neighbors would turn off their yard lights during the day. That at least would be a start.

  • Sam Gilman

    I agree that we need to reduce energy consumption, but we also need to increase electricity production (converting all those oil and coal-burning machines like transport and manufacturing.)

    It’s really important to me that we have a science-based discussion over nuclear power because it may be a necessary constituent of moving to a low carbon electricity system. Those environmentalists who are not afraid of looking at the numbers (ie actually modelling low carbon electricity systems rather than saying “we just need to put up x number of solar panels and y number of wind turbines that can produce z MWs and we’ll be fine” or “if everyone had their own panels and wind turbine we’ll be fine”) tend to believe nuclear is necessary if sufficient hydro is unavailable.

    As for the possibility that ten million people in Japan may be under threat: as a resident here, to me that’s still a really scary idea. Thankfully, it’s nonsense.

  • Cináed Mac Fhearghuis

    Nice to see you’re on board with the opposition to coal and other fossil fuel cartels :-) The Nuclear Industrial Complex is its equally ugly twin. Have you ever heard of “Atoms for Peace”? Civilian nuclear power is inextricably linked to weapons facilities, In fact, #3 at Fukushima has some MOX fuel in the pool, defense industry waste. Hanford has a commercial reactor on site as well, and there have been proposals to introduce a MOX fuel there as well and create a worldwide distribution and reprocessing infrastructure to serve the commercial industry with defense wastes in the name of non-proliferation. So yes, there are already several linkages, one of them being the origin of commercial reactors. How disingenuous of you to claim that the two don’t share common problems. And yes, the rods can “ignite” or “burn,” those are synonyms for high-temperature oxidation, which could occur if another earthquake causes the spent fuel basin to fail (lose water) and produce enough decay heat to melt the zirconium cladding on any of the other 11,000 or so rods. Many of the rod’s claddings are damaged and lack the first line of containment defense, which is why TEPCO and the Japanese government are concerned about the difficulty and risk of casking these rods from a damaged reactor and pool in a seismically active area. This is what TEPCO and Japan have stated. Are you saying that they should relax, it’s really not that dangerous?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe in your country “civilian nuclear power is inextricably linked to weapons facilities” but it is certainly not the case in many other countries.
    Your previous comment attempted to link radioactive leaks at a cold war military facility to leaks from civilian nuclear power. I will stand by my assertion that you doing so was unfair.
    For you to now say that there are perhaps social or monetary links is changing the discussion. If your new argument is now that we should not use technology with any social or monetary links to the military, then we must reject almost all of our technologies.
    I think it is foolish to reject a valuable tool that could help us avoid the world wide environmental catastrophe of climate change, ocean acidification and the resulting mega species extinctions that may occur.
    Also I don’t see how destroying Plutonium from the cold war and turning it into clean emissions-free energy is evil. It seems like a sensible positive thing to do.
    Regarding your next point, you are exaggerating when you say that “many” of the fuel rod’s have damaged cladding. The pool never lost water and the fuel rods have never overheated. By what process did these fuel rods become damaged?
    As for the danger of fire or melting, now that almost 3 years have passed they are no longer putting out enough heat to melt.
    Finally regarding your last point, I am saying that TEPCO and the Gov’t are showing proper prudent concern to make sure that the rods stay under water so as to minimize the workers’ exposure to radiation.
    I think it is the fear mongers and hysterical types who should relax and get some perspective on the level of danger.

  • Scott Haas

    We can go back and forth on the merits or horrors of the nuclear industry all we want but one only need walk the streets of Belarus post Chernobyl to know that a nuclear plant explosions and meltdown (let alone three in a row and a fourth with a severely unstable fuel pool) is not a good thing and there will be health ramifications from Fukushima in the decades to come…even if all goes well with the # 4 fuel pool clean up. The half life of some of these radioisotopes is longer than man has even existed on the earth. The isotopes are carried by the winds, by the water, in the ballast of ships, by birds, by fish…they get around…globally. The waste left behind from eighteen months of normal activity at a reactor site must be segregated from humanity for thousands of years. I am not anti-nuke per se…I am against leaving these horrible messes behind for generation upon generation to watch over and protect and fear. We have no right to steal that security from future generations. Add to that the fact that technology does not even yet exist to begin cleaning up one, two and three at Fukushima. What if we fail to create the technology? What then? We just let radiated water flow into the Pacific for all of eternity? The attitude seems to be “oh well, just add a little more to the ever increasing background radiation. No big deal. A little more cancer here and there but not much. Modern medicine will fix it. No big deal.” There is a tipping point when the earth can no longer sustain this onslaught.

  • Physics Police

    Please. This miniscule increased radioactivity in fish does not pose a serious health risk to the people of Hawaii.

  • Anonymous

    Amen brother, It is an industry from another time. A time when the citizens saw themselves as the reason the world existed as opposed to a small part of that world. What scares me is of course the fallout from the nuclear industry, but what scares me more is not just all the people who could die but the planet itself if we could no longer look after all the thousands and thousands of rods all over the world. Its insanity to sustain a wasteful lifestyle by possibly dooming the whole planet if we met our own end due to our selfishness.
    The people never had a chance to say yes to nukes, it was forced upon us by industry. We shouldn’t have to say no to nukes, we should say who are you to even ask? Its a question that just cannot be justified.

  • Anonymous

    I am so tired of the tyranny of science and so called rational thought. Its not up to us non scientists to prove nuclear energy is safe its up to scientists to prove it is and they are failing at this miserably. Please remember that it took science decades to prove smoking caused cancer. How many died believing it had to proved before quitting? Why is science such a sacred cow that it cant be criticised? When it is in collusion with industry just as we have seen it was on so many occasions from global warming to cigarettes to etc. etc. etc.

  • Ronald Bushnell

    This article should be titled “What we want you know about Fukushima,” and addresses none of the serious ongoing concerns; such as high volumes of ground and added water pouring into the Pacific. The big secret is that the meltdown includes the contents of the spent fuel pools in at least three reactors. NRC documents show there has already been fuel fires in building four. Most of the stories are simple misdirection from this existential threat to the United States, that is far more serious than the public is being informed. A reasonable person may wish to consider if this is an ongoing act of war. Each of the many traps that have been set within the United States; that are equal to or greater in danger than Fukushima, are capable of making large swaths of our country uninhabitable, and bringing it down as a viable country. I knew nuclear power was dangerous, but until studying Fukushima, I had no idea how really insanely dangerous this technology is, as well as how precariously we stand.

  • Anonymous

    Since Potassium 40 is naturally radioactive, I took this amazing supplement that removed all the Potassium from my body! Shortly thereafter my nervous system stopped working and my heart stopped beating. Other than that I feel great!

  • Anonymous

    A reasonable person would make sure what they posted for millions to see would not be crack-pot crazy.
    They would try and learn about the subject instead of spreading nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    What scares me is that irrational fear of nuclear power will cause humanity to reject the single most promising tool we have to stop using fossil fuels.
    The majority of the soon to be 10 billion people on earth

  • Anonymous

    The “tyranny of science”?!??
    If you are so tired of it stop using your computer to post on the internet.
    Rational thought has brought you clean water, medicine, technology and many many other things that you take for granted to such a degree that they are invisible to you and so you belly ache that it is all so oppressive.
    You ignore science when it tells us about how the radiation from Fukushima will cause no harm and instead hang out here where there is a distinct lack of science and rationality.

  • Anonymous

    The cult of Rationality is what has brought us to this point. If we have the ability, then great, but where is it? A nuclear answer without waste? No one is against that. But it just doesn’t exist. What does exist is the arrogant belief that science will somehow save us all from the things it has created. Well i am sorry for having lost faith. I guess I am just marred by experience. And what sounds rational to me is to not make a deadly mess that we are incapable of cleaning up.

  • Anonymous

    The idea that if one doesnt agree one hundred percent with science and technology that we should go live in a cave without it and that we should be so thankful all the time for it, without being able to criticize it sounds positively religious. I live in Canada we had nothing but clean water till technology messed it up, we could stick a bucket in the water in some places and a fish would literally jump in… no its true. There were that many, until technology invented a really efficient way to trawl the ocean. Why cant we criticize science? Why cant we hold it accountable for its mess? Why cant we say “hey millions of combustion machines pumping out CO2 was a failure of technology? I am a catholic, you wanna critique us? Heck, I will join in the chorus,,, but why cant we say no to science? Say “hey you are accountable!” I know why… because science is a religion and a rather intolerant one. So stop telling us how rational you all are and prove it.

  • Anonymous

    It is illustrative to note that you choose to focus on the minority of negative aspects that rationality brings while ignoring the vast majority.
    However, to address your specific point that there is no solution to nuclear waste…
    Rationality and science does in fact have such an answer. It is irrationality in the form of politics and ignorance that prevents its implementation. We have the technical ability to build reactors that do not produce long lived waste. They have been built as prototypes and functioned well. We have the technical ability to deal with the long lived waste as well.
    Vitrification of waste into glass logs followed by geological entombment is one option. Another option is to recycle the waste by burning it in fast reactors.
    Our problems do not stem from rationality and science but rather from humanity following the impulses of our primitive reptilian cortex.

  • Anonymous

    Science did not cause overfishing. If you are going to call sticking a giant rake on the end of a rope and dragging it across the ocean floor “Science and Rationality” then your definition is so broad that it would be impossible to argue against you.
    In fact it was the scientists at the department of fisheries and oceans that predicted the collapse of the Atlantic fish stocks.
    They were ignored by politicians and business interests.
    Science is neutral.
    It is a method of ordering reality objectively.
    What we choose to do with the knowledge, or whether we admit the knowledge exists, is up to us.

  • Anonymous

    Science is not neutral, it’s opinions are for sale. All you have to do is watch reruns of George Bush and his crew discussing global warming to know that. The idea that science and technology is not responsible for its orphaned children is similar to saying “guns don’t kill people… etc.” trawling fracking, oil sands deep sea oil drilling… all the outcomes of science for sale. Technology without a conscious. Mercenaries who supply TECHNOLOGY at a price to further careers. And by the way trawling at one time was considered a great wonder that would help feed the world.. sound familiar?

  • Anonymous

    Look, It seems to me that you are rather well meaning, so dont take it to personally when I tell you that the problem with falling for rationalism as an ideal is that we as people are just not very good at it. Have you noticed that crazy people think they are rational and that everyone else isn’t? Thats because its hard to really see things as they are at the best of times and harder as a person to know the right answer in a world of constant change and new unseen variables. And I am sorry, but rationalism really has not panned out.

    So I will give you a chance to dismiss me out right and throw my opinions right in the dustbin as most people would outright after hearing what I am about to say.. Because when I was younger and more rational I thought it was total nonsense, but now I know its true.

    Love is the only thing that will save this planet and the life on it. Only when people love the planet and life itself more than themselves will things start to work out. If we had cared more about the ocean and the life in it than we did 40 years ago, no one would ever have built a technology that made a mess that had to be shepherded over for year and years to come when we as humans may not even be here to do the job.

    There now, you can drop me in the bin

  • Ronald Bushnell

    Your worse than an a DF; you are being paid to support a failed industry, that is only justified by the weapons it is intrinsically linked to, and that makes you complacent in the coming damage – shame on you. You also may be stupid, as your selection of an icon makes it quite obvious that you are a paid Skippy Boy that is probably to intelligent to believe the nonsense you are spewing, that few are willing to swallow anymore. Please consider switching sides for free, and you will feel better.

  • Birther 2.0

    You are paid to write these posts in support of nuclear power. Discuss…

  • Birther 2.0

    Ted Kaczynski would like a word with you. His manifesto was dead on. You’d do well to review what he’s written although I doubt you would be able to understand what he is telling you.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree.
    Science and objective reality are neutral.
    Reality is just reality.
    If someone has been paid to tell you that 2+2=5 then using the methods of science it is possible to show that they are wrong.
    Science can tell us what is possible ands what is impossible.
    It is up to us to decide what we do with reality.
    Before science we still had the same evils as now.
    We had witch burnings and human sacrifices to appease the gods for good harvests.
    I prefer knowing what is possible using objective reality instead of relying on witchdoctors and priests to tell me what their dreams are.
    Whether humans will ever overcome their primitive urges and viewpoints is a question to be answered in the future.
    To get back to the topic of Fukushima, science can tell us that the levels of radioactivity in Japan and in the ocean pose no substantial threat. Science can tell us that the hysteria of this article is unfounded.
    Science can also tell us how to best deal with the situation. How to move forward in a manner that will be successful without having to consult tea leaves and chicken bones.

  • Anonymous

    I would rather listen to respected scientists.
    You can listen to whomever you wish.

  • Anonymous

    It is a common but incorrect meme that long lived isotopes are dangerous. An isotope that has a half live longer than human existence is barely radioactive. The earth contains unimaginably huge amounts of these isotopes. Their decay keeps the planet’s core molten and drives plate tectonics and produces earth’s protective magnetic field.
    The short lived isotopes are dangerous for a short period of time.
    The main isotopes of concern are the medium half life isotopes like Cs and Sr.
    The amount of these isotopes that has been released will not cause significant harm.
    Spent nuclear fuel should be recycled to produce more electricity. The small amount of fission products should be encapsulated in molten glass and buried in stable bedrock for the 500 years it takes for them to decay.
    All this fear is unwarranted.
    The onslaught that we need to stop is our current use of fossil fuels and the dumping of fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that love is very important.
    It is crucial in helping us navigate through the myriad of choices life presents us with.
    I also embrace what rationality can offer in helping choose the future. I want to make choices based on what is actually possible.
    My heart is easily swayed and my desire for a prosperous, peaceful future can be manipulated by people who want to sell me fairy tales.
    I use rationality and science to help judge which avenues into the future I should pursue and which ones are emotionally appealing but impossible.

  • Anonymous

    You lack even a basic understanding of science.
    Discuss…

  • Scott Haas

    Let us take plutonium for an example. It has a very long half life…24,100 years! It will therefore disintegrate slowly and stick around for at least 250,000 years and is one of the most deadly substances on earth if ingested or inhaled. It is true that plutonium (PU 239) is an alpha emitter and this radiation can be blocked by skin but if ingested or inhaled the alpha rays can cause up to 10,000 times more chromosomal damage than external beta or gamma rays do. Plutonium can be ingested through plant matter or inhaled out of the air. It is reported and verified (UC Davis study) that plutonium and other radioisotopes are joining with salt water to form buckyballs and ending up on California beaches where they can then be inhaled or ingested. Plutonium also traveled in the plume in a gaseous form as well and deposited in the ocean and on the land. Your statement “It is a common but incorrect meme that long lived isotopes are dangerous. An isotope that has a half live longer than human existence is barely radioactive” is essentially a junk science statement that omits some of the facts. Simply standing in a room of cigarette smoke without inhaling will do nothing to me but once the tobacco or tobacco smoke is inhaled or ingested it certainly will affect my overall health But then, a shill is a shill is a shill even if it hides behind a green name. How much are the nuclear guys paying you for this service? Many are ignorant of the facts but are not stupid and eventually they will catch on and your half stated word ploys will be useless

    Oh…molten glass…Hanford…check out the details of that story. Not going very well and may not happen. Cost overruns…engineering issues…potential hydrogen explosions in the process.

    Any industry that leaves behind as much dangerous debris that is deadly for thousands of years and can spontaneously go critical if not kept under ideal conditions is NOT green…period.

  • Anonymous

    Your statement is the one full of junk science.
    You trot out the old “Plutonium is the deadliest substance” meme and yet there are real world cases of Plutonium ingestion that prove otherwise.
    On May 14, 1945, Albert Stevens was injected with 131 kBq (3.55 µCi) of plutonium.
    Plutonium remained present in his body for the remainder of his life, the amount decaying slowly through radioactive decay and biological elimination.
    Stevens died of heart disease some 20 years later at the age of 79, having accumulated an effective radiation dose of 64 Sv (6400 rem) over that time.
    Then you end your junk science comment with the oldest ad hominem attack on the internet…the old “you are a shill.”
    Then you end with the usual litany of anti nuclear complaints.
    What a boring predictable posting.
    I hope people do learn more facts so they can see your fact-free fear-mongering for what it is.

  • Anonymous

    The japanese are completely incompetent in every possible way, they should be removed completely and the leading experts from the world over need to take over.

    Letting organized criminal stupidity reign supreme is insanity at its definition.

  • Anonymous

    email and call your congressclown, if enough people bug them they will be woken from their stupor.

  • Anonymous

    More evidence we do not need to help Iran get nuclear technologies for their supposed peaceful use of nuclear power.

  • Qiman

    Dear people please HELP inform the public about the Hermiston nuclear waste facility in the state of Wash. that is about 1-3 miles from the Columbia river the site has around 56,000,000,000 gal. ( thats MILLIONS ) of wast that is leaking NOW !!!!!! NOW !!!!……..where do we start ?? Please Help!! Blessings !!

  • Anonymous

    Hermiston is in Oregon. Hanford is in Washington and the clean up crew has been hurt by sequester.

  • Anonymous

    Not just in Japan. Check out US plants that were built by the same company.

  • Anonymous

    Maine Yankee has been the most incompetently run nuclear facility in the country. Many people did not want it, so for the year before it was approved, there were a lot of blackouts and brownouts of power. Consequently the voters approved it. They all leak. Accidents are covered up. No more should be built and those in existence should be phased out. Solyndra was no mistake. The US gov’t bought computer chips for decades to get the computer industry going. It is now past time for investment in serious alternatives.

  • Gyre54

    There’s something wrong with a country when there are no meaningful regulatory/monitoring schemes in place regarding the siting/construction and operation of nuclear plants. Is Fukushima what happens (as we all suspect) when a government becomes too close to it’s corporations?

  • SpHawks
  • shea

    The radiation from Fukushima is something like 1/10,000th of that of the Bikini Atoll tests. Now, Bikini is still dangerous (you don’t want to eat the coconuts or shellfish there!), but even that massive does of radiation had little if any effect on the US coastline. Radiation itself dissipates according to the inverse square law. Add to that the fact that most radioactive elements are very heavy (cesium has an atomic weight of 134 to 137 for the radioactive isotopes), meaning that radioactive silt settles out locally and does not get carried more than a few miles by ocean currents. Uptake in animals is very low and is generally excreted in short order, meaning that biological transport even in contaminated species results in radioactive falloff of an order of several magnitudes within a few tens of miles. Put bluntly, Fukushima is not capable of contributing harmful doses of radiation to our coasts, or even Hawaii.

  • Darlene Murdock

    There is nothing they can do to stop the quadrupel meltdown. That is why the government’s are not doing anything.It is impossible and it would just create mass hysteria. What is done is done. We have not even begun to see the effects of this disaster. It is growing exponentially. Pray for a miracle.We need one.

  • Anonymous

    You would think GE would be held responsible for that and every plant they touched needs a full inspection.

  • Anonymous

    How dangerous is wind and solar?

  • Anonymous

    It killed many WW2 vets including my Dad. Not to mention it is still killing Japanese citizens.

  • shea

    Radiation from Fukushima is not killing anyone and the Fukushima accident is recent hon; it didn’t happen in WW2

  • Anonymous

    Compared on a “Deaths Per TerraWatt Hour” basis:

    Solar (rooftop) 0.44 deaths per TerraWatt Hour
    (0.2% of world energy for all solar)

    Wind 0.15 deaths per TerraWatt Hour
    (1.6% of world energy)

    Compared to Nuclear

    Nuclear 0.04 deaths per TerraWatt Hour
    (5.9% of world energy)

  • Anonymous

    I think you are correct.

  • Anonymous

    Many years ago Gerling More found microwaves neutralize nuclear waste but couldn’t get funding.

  • Anonymous

    I can think of two things. Join tribal committees fighting nuclear plants and find funding to build microwave ovens that neutralize nuclear waste. The technology exists. Check out http://www.stoneenvironmentalservices.com/newwaste.htm?gclid=CPjM6PeGrrwCFUSSfgodSBUAZg

  • Anonymous

    I am on the other side of the planet from Australia, but thanks for the link to the article. It is refreshing to see some positive and accurate press regarding nuclear power.

  • Anonymous

    I thought au was Australia.

  • Anonymous

    How have you arrived at the conclusion that radiation is still killing Japanese citizens?
    The levels in Japan are lower than many parts of the world where people live happy, healthy lives with no elevated levels of cancer or other radiation related illnesses.

  • Anonymous

    Thinking without having any facts.
    Classic.

  • Anonymous

    It took forty years to kill my father. He was only involved with the tests. You can make light and fun of that all you want.

  • Anonymous

    I never mentioned your father.
    I have not made light or fun of you or him.
    My question was…
    How have you arrived at the conclusion that radiation is still killing Japanese citizens?

  • Anonymous

    My reply is still being looked at because I used a site.

  • Anonymous

    In case my earlier reply doesn’t show up ask Japan.

  • Anonymous

    I am going to give you a site, it is long and depressing so you might not read it. And of course it may never make it here.
    Columbia River Basin Fish Contaminant Survey. The salmon take this crap to the ocean.

  • Anonymous

    Nixon offered Iran help in developing nuclear power not for bombs.Then fear made the US just drop it without talking to Iran. This as you can understand pissed off Iran. Iran wants the US to splain Lucy. So far the US response is we will just bomb you out of existence. So where do we go from there? I think we need one hell of a good ambassador to Iran and congress to shut up.

  • Anonymous

    You are full.

  • Anonymous

    Yes you have. Your entire dialogue is how wonderful nuke is and how stupid everyone else is.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    What is wrong with you and the people that approved? None of you read the article did you?

  • Anonymous

    You are blinded by hmmm money?

  • Anonymous

    Hi…The link came through and I read it.
    I agree that nuclear war is a terrible thing.
    I hope we never use nuclear weapons again.
    I also hope we don’t ever firebomb cities like what happened in Dresden where the asphalt roads turned into sticky burning pits that trapped people trying to flee and held them as they burned to death.

    I thought the topic we were discussing was production of clean electrical power using civilian nuclear power plants.
    Conflating nuclear weapons and civilian nuclear power is just as illogical as calling for the abolishment of fossil fuels because of their use in the Dresden fire bombings.

    Radiation is a very weak carcinogen.
    Other things in life are far more dangerous.
    Eating red meat, BBQing our food and drinking beer are examples of risks that are far more potent carcinogens.
    The sad fact of life is that 30-40% of us will get cancer in our lifetimes.
    The effects of the Fukushima radiation are so small that they (unlike the meat, beer and BBQ) are lost in the statistical noise.

  • Anonymous

    I firmly believe you live in La La land. Even the kitchen microwave oven is a big danger. You can find every kind of yes and no on whether it is dangerous. I worked in design of these ovens. They are dangerous and so far the only really good thing they can do is naturalize nuclear waste. Why is that not funded?

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t you just haunt Drudge or Huffingtonpost? They would love you.

  • Anonymous

    So….you believe that anyone who holds a different belief than you is making fun of your father’s death.
    You have some pretty twisted logic.

  • Anonymous

    I am not “blinded” by anything. Again your lack of logic astounds me.

  • moderator

    Greenthinker2012 and Spahettimonsterfan,

    I think you have both made your points and you are now going off topic and close to breaking the comment policy. Please move on.

    Thanks
    Sean @ Moyers

  • moderator

    Spahettimonsterfan and Greenthinker2012:

    I think you have both made your points and you are now going off topic and close to breaking the comment policy. Please move on.

    Thanks

    Sean @ Moyers

  • Anonymous

    OK. :)

  • Anonymous

    The mod has asked us to quit this conversation so I am following his request. Have a good day.

  • r

    An article by an y expert on radioactivityis needed. I have yet to see any accounts addressing the specific releases, levels and adequacy of air soil and water monitoring and whether its dangerous. Instead there are unhelpful, unverified and generalized conclusory statements that there are releases that are a risk or dangerous or whatever.

  • WilsonOsmo

    Long term, we are doubly or triply screwed. All that heat trapping CO2 we’re putting into the atmosphere, with gigatons more to come, is NOT going away. It will remain in the atmosphere for at least 1000 years after emissions stop, incrementally, progressively heating up the earth with NO END IN SIGHT. By 2200 humans will be extinct and take most of life on this planet with them.