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← The world has forgotten the real victims of Fukushima

The world has forgotten the real victims of Fukushima - Comments

Quetzalcoatlus's Avatar Comment 1 by Quetzalcoatlus

The media forgot about the real victims, but my understanding is that a lot of people donated for the Japan's tsunami victims.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:23:20 UTC | #920339

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 2 by Jos Gibbons

However little I think of the Telegraph, occasionally they let sensible people write for them, so on this occasion some sound science has come forth. (Does anyone know of any other pieces by Michael Hanlon?) It was interesting to hear from Prof Allison, my former senior tutor. Having retired, he focuses on getting people to realise nuclear power is far safer than The Simpsons would have us believe. He's written a book about it, Radiation and Reason (here's a Kindle edition).

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:29:08 UTC | #920343

Hariseldonsays's Avatar Comment 3 by Hariseldonsays

I have no immediate issue with this article but readers need to aware that Michael Hanlon was the Science Editor of the Daily Mail and produced some pretty shoddy stuff during his time there.

He may well be batting for the nuclear industry. Nothing wrong with that if it's openly declared but please be wary of this man's political motives.

HSS

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:44:29 UTC | #920350

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 4 by drumdaddy

The author seems to dismiss the sprawling nuclear industry as a benign entity and the exposure of it's dangers as 'panic'. The magnitude of suffering from the tsunami was horrific, but that fact does not eliminate the valid subject of worldwide nuclear threats.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 13:18:19 UTC | #920363

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 5 by potteryshard

but that fact does not eliminate the valid subject of worldwide nuclear threats.

But it does pretty effectively establish the extremely low level for those worldwide nuclear threats. In this instance, pretty much everything possible went wrong, including washing much of the plant's infrastructure away, but still, no one has been killed. The resultant clean-up will be expensive and inconvenient, but industrial accidents are always so, whether or not the n-word is involved.

Modern civilizationi cannot survive without concentrated energy sources. Electricity cannot be stored in industrial quantities; everytime someone turns on a light bulb, someone at a power plant has to shovel a bit more coal; with pollution from China's coal plants darkening skies over California, that may not be the best idea.

Unless society adpots a convention that power needn't be available at all times, then part-time power sources like wind and solar will always be a wet dream. Despite years of dogma asserting otherwise, rational assessment of the available evidence suggests that no practical alternatives to nuclear exist at this point in time.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 13:56:19 UTC | #920377

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 6 by Alan4discussion

Comment 5 by potteryshard

Unless society adopts a convention that power needn't be available at all times, then part-time power sources like wind and solar will always be a wet dream. Despite years of dogma asserting otherwise, rational assessment of the available evidence suggests that no practical alternatives to nuclear exist at this point in time.

There are however better options than water-cooled reactors, as we discussed here!

http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/643310-water-cooled-nuclear-power-plants-aren-t-the-only-option

Tidal power can give continuous coverage and other nuclear systems are safer.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 14:16:44 UTC | #920383

AW's Avatar Comment 7 by AW

As a long-term resident of Japan, I have to concur with the main thrust of the article. The real tragedy was forgotten and the dangers of Fukushima largely overblown.

That being said, there was a level of incompetence on a nearly incomprehensible level, starting with the initial design of the plant. Unfortunately, the Japanese nuclear industry has a long history of such incompetence. As a result, the economic damage to Japan became far, far higher than it had to be, and we will continue to pay the price for quite some time to come.

While nuclear energy may well be a safe method of power generation, if you have a bunch of clowns running it, it becomes dangerous. That is the current energy quandary in Japan.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 15:31:27 UTC | #920403

bubbub's Avatar Comment 8 by bubbub

He did use to be science editor for the Mail, but when I read his articles (I hasten to add, not in my own copy of the Mail), he did generally side with mainstream science and gently rebel against the paper's official line on climate change etc. He's a better man than the Mail deserved. Maybe the Telegraph is another stepping stone for him to somewhere with a greater abundance of sanity.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 16:54:15 UTC | #920432

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 9 by Zeuglodon

Comment 7 by AW

As a long-term resident of Japan, I have to concur with the main thrust of the article. The real tragedy was forgotten and the dangers of Fukushima largely overblown.

From the way the media went on about it, you'd think the power plant killed more people than the tsunami.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 16:59:09 UTC | #920435

olo's Avatar Comment 10 by olo

What about the hundreds of thousands of people that had to leave their homeland because of this event? What about the thousands of Japanese that are leaving their country to make sure that their children grow up in an environment where they don't need to be afraid of what they eat, of whether the rain is safe or whether the next earthquake could trigger another melt down?

The tsunami was an incredible tragedy. What happened in consequence to the earth quake and the tsunami to nuclear power plants is not less tragic. The number of death victims might be higher. And don't give me the "no one has died yet" nonsense. No one really knows for sure what consequence the melt downs will have.

Be it as it may. The fear induced by these events is not only felt by stupid people, as the article obnoxiously suggests. Those who think that after Mayak, Chernobyl, and Fukushima only stupid people are critical about nuclear energy should reexamine their logic. And if that doesn't work, they should maybe but their physics books down and get some historical, biological, medical, political, or philosophical education. It is an incredible matter and knowing a fraction of the science required to understand the matter does not suffice.

Whether the fear of alpha, beta, gamma, internal or external radiation is rational or not is one side of the equation. The fear of radiation after a tripple nuclear meltdown is real and far from baseless.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 19:37:44 UTC | #920478

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 11 by Alan4discussion

Comment 10 by olo - And if that doesn't work, they should maybe put their physics books down and get some historical, biological, medical, political, or philosophical education. It is an incredible matter and knowing a fraction of the science required to understand the matter does not suffice.

These were old reactors of a poor design, in a bad vulnerable site, and poorly managed. Why not have a look at my link @6 to see what could have been done, and what should be done in the future.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 19:57:40 UTC | #920488

TeraBrat's Avatar Comment 12 by TeraBrat

The public's fascination with radiation is quite fascinating. I agree that it's not baseless for the people living in Japan to be worried about the radiaition. The mass hysteria that spread over the US was quite comical.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 20:16:18 UTC | #920496

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 12 by TeraBrat

The public's fascination with radiation is quite fascinating. I agree that it's not baseless for the people living in Japan to be worried about the radiation

While radiation is dangerous and a SMALL % of people near contaminated areas will suffer radiation related illnesses, it is possible to accept risks and live in contaminated areas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone, which is sometimes referred to as the Chernobyl Zone, the 30 Kilometer Zone,
Thousands of residents refused to be evacuated from the zone or illegally returned there later. Over the decades this primarily elderly population has dwindled, falling below 400 in 2009. Approximately half of these resettlers live in the town of Chernobyl; others are spread in villages across the zone. After recurrent attempts at expulsion, the authorities became reconciled to their presence and even allowed limited supporting services for them. The population also includes some vagabonds and other marginalized persons from the outside world. These squatters (Uk. samosely, literally “self-settlers”) declare their strong commitment to the surrounding nature and rural lifestyle.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 20:40:37 UTC | #920507

TeraBrat's Avatar Comment 14 by TeraBrat

@Alan4discussion,

Most of the people who stayed did not die of radiation poisoning, but they died 10-20 years later from the long term affects of the radiation. It's a real issue for those living in Japan. Especially those in close proximity to the reactors.

I'm not ignorant. I know how much nuclear scientists and nuclear power proponents want to try and sell it as being very safe. It's not very safe when you have these kinds of incidents. I agree with you that the reactor was very poorly placed, designed etc. Until we can rule out these kinds of human errors, greed etc. it is not safe for us to use nuclear power.

A bigger problem with nuclear power is the pollution from mining. Tax payers will be paying billions to clean up the Grants Mineral Belt contamination from the 1920's to 1980's that has been abandoned. Waste disposal is another huge problem. I took a radioactive waste management class last semester and heard all the propaganda from the industry and I still think it's a big problem.

The biggest problem is that fissionable elements are a scarce resource and what do you do after you've used it all up? Isn't it time to think really long term instead of patching with band-aides?

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 21:31:41 UTC | #920536

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 15 by Reckless Monkey

Nobody, to date, has died as a result of radiation leaks at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Zero – a number you will have read even less about than the 20,000 dead.

Yes this is true, and I have no doubt that nuclear reactors can be made that are safe. However his point about kind of misses the point that everyone around it had been washed away already. Those going to the plant after the Tsunami did so prepared for the potential radiation hazard and took reasonable steps. The engineers didn't plan the explosions that happened and they were lucky it wasn't worse or some other incident didn't cause the event when people where around or we'd be having a very different debate. Also worth noting is that much of the danger and therefore fear associated with radiation is not just the immediate risk but in the possibility of long term radiation for decades after the event which is hard to measure with certainty.

Also, exposure in the this case and in Chernobyl are not just short term consequences but also long term cancers which need a alarming number before they peak above the background level in Europe's case over the next 20 years it is supposed to be something like 900 000 additional deaths before they can be statistically certain it is due to that event. That's an awful lot of wriggle room.

The long term care is also an issue with nuclear power you build one and you are leaving it to many generations of politicians to come to all do the right thing, to not cut costs, to not ignore the need for good security and sensible policies. Until the fuel cycle can be dealt with in a reasonable amount of time (a decade or two) then I for one will not be comfortable. Fukushima is a classic case in point, to say it survived better than it has been designed to only tells me that humans cannot be trusted to judge in a seaside Earthquake zone that a Tsunami might exceed their expectations. That the cooling system require power that could be taken out by the same Tsunami makes the point also. This was not an engineering failure or a failure to understand the physics of nuclear energy it was a failure to understand that systems that are designed by, maintained by, regulated by humans are only as reliable as those humans involved.

Now how long does it take for the fuel to be safe? And how long has any human civilization lasted without war, massive corruption or massive incompetence? After the nuclear fuels are safe after the nuclear warheads made alongside the nuclear power programs in many nations are made safe then I'lll accept an analysis in terms of risk I hear in comparison to say coal accidents (most in the third world note. while proponents of nuclear power always defend the Chernobyl incident in terms that it was an outdated product of a backward nation). By the way I have never had a supporter of nuclear power give me a reasonable answer to this human factor - always the assumption is that humans will be sensible. So I would be interested in particular to see is there is an answer to this. Please I'd love to be proven wrong.

I recognise the need for a nuclear industry in terms of medicine, research and hopefully someday fusion power. But please, don't pretend there is no risk or nothing to be concerned with, Fukushima was a tragedy, but long after the damage to the tidal wave has been cleared up there will be legitimate concerns over the sense in building a nuclear power plant in this area. We can do nothing to control plate tectonics we can control where we build power stations and what types. And quite rightly other nations should be wondering what risks they haven't considered and wondering in an age when safer alternatives are quickly developing and getting cheaper what might in the long term be cheapest of all.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 21:58:59 UTC | #920551

TeraBrat's Avatar Comment 16 by TeraBrat

Blockquote and hopefully someday fusion power

Fusion requires tritium that is highly radioactive with a half life of 12.4 years. It is also highly volatile and difficult to contain. Fusion is not the answer.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 22:39:35 UTC | #920563

TeraBrat's Avatar Comment 17 by TeraBrat

One last comment about Chernobyl this primarily elderly population

Children are much more susceptible than adults.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 23:39:36 UTC | #920582

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 18 by Alan4discussion

Comment 14 by TeraBrat

The biggest problem is that fissionable elements are a scarce resource and what do you do after you've used it all up? Isn't it time to think really long term instead of patching with band-aides?

I certainly think that we need renewables for the long term, but the delays caused by carbonaceous Luddites, probably mean we need something nuclear in the short term to bridge the gap.

There are suggestions for safer nuclear systems and renewables (Solar voltaic, solar thermal, solar power-towers, tidal turbines, wave power, hydro, etc) on my link @6.

While the long half-life of spent fuels and potential human error are problems and risks, there are also plenty of problems and many deaths from mining and pollution in conventional power generation.

There are no easy answers in supporting a huge human population.

Tue, 21 Feb 2012 23:46:39 UTC | #920583

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 19 by Reckless Monkey

Comment 16 by TeraBrat

Blockquote and hopefully someday fusion power

Fusion requires tritium that is highly radioactive with a half life of 12.4 years. It is also highly volatile and difficult to contain. Fusion is not the answer.

Point taken, I could live with 12.5 years (although it is a few election cycles) but better than 10 000 years. I suspect fusion may in the end be not necessary. One science podcast I was listening to was citing China as being on track to produce solar panels (they have all our - Australia's best solar technology now) for same price per kilowatt hour as coal. If they can do this the argument is over and the need for fusion will be gone. It will also be the point at which the coal mining industry in Australia crashes and we will realise that perhaps we should have backed ourselves. But all this remains to be seen. As electric car become more popular there will be a ready made storage solution available as well.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 06:00:48 UTC | #920639

mmurray's Avatar Comment 20 by mmurray

Comment 19 by Reckless Monkey :

One science podcast I was listening to was citing China as being on track to produce solar panels (they have all our - Australia's best solar technology now) for same price per kilowatt hour as coal. If they can do this the argument is over and the need for fusion will be gone.

This is excellent news but solar is not a perfect replacement because you can't generated solar energy at night.

If they can do this the argument is over and the need for fusion will be gone. It will also be the point at which the coal mining industry in Australia crashes and we will realise that perhaps we should have backed ourselves.

Nah. Why bother developing industry when you can just shear a sheep or dig something out of the ground and sell it off cheap mate!

Michael

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 06:25:44 UTC | #920643

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 21 by Premiseless

Comment 20 by mmurray :

Comment 19 by Reckless Monkey :

One science podcast I was listening to was citing China as being on track to produce solar panels (they have all our - Australia's best solar technology now) for same price per kilowatt hour as coal. If they can do this the argument is over and the need for fusion will be gone.

This is excellent news but solar is not a perfect replacement because you can't generated solar energy at night.

Michael

According to chemists, 1hr per day solar power, if stored somehow, fulfills human needs for that day, globally. Apparently storage is the new chemistry assignment. Having nano technology to collect solar is already with us.

This radio interview highlights how vast a subject of interest chemistry is in our futures.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 08:22:51 UTC | #920662

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 22 by Reckless Monkey

Comment 20 by mmurray Nah. Why bother developing industry when you can just shear a sheep or dig something out of the ground and sell it off cheap mate!

Exactly.

As for storage, there are a few options solar thermal plants using pressure vessels. But as electric cars become more popular one of the solutions is to use the batteries as a bank. In this situation the proposal is you lease the car batteries off the power company. In doing so the company uses an agreed upon amount of those to even out the fluctuations from other power sources. You use your phone/computer to program how much power you want and when. So if you are driving to work and you need 40% charge for that it makes sure you have enough and utilises the other 60% overnight or when you are at work. Its based upon the fact that our cars sit idle for 99% of the time so provided you have some idea of when you will need a charge and how much this can even out spikes in power production from different sources. Apparently you only need about 15 - 20% of the population to have electric cars before the storage problems are sorted from a mixed model of wind/solar/gas. There are already neighbourhoods around me that can't have any more photovoltaic cells because hooked up to the grid they can't be turned off at will and the power companies don't have anything to do with excess power.

Another issue with traditional coal or nuclear in Australia is water. We don't have enough of it and power station throw a lot of it away in the form of clouds over cooling towers. In the last big drought I heard for the first time that the major concern was not running out of drinking water but running out of cooling water for the local coal power plants.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 09:17:22 UTC | #920676

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Comment 22 by Reckless Monkey :

As for storage, there are a few options solar thermal plants using pressure vessels. But as electric cars become more popular one of the solutions is to use the batteries as a bank.

That's a neat idea.

Michael

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 09:37:08 UTC | #920678

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 24 by Alan4discussion

Comment 22 by Reckless Monkey

We should remember that the heavy demand for power comes from motors and heating.

With properly designed heat-balanced - heat storage buildings with heat pumps, insulation and managed ventilation, other devices such as computers, TVs & radios can run part-time on batteries. Devices such as washing machines can be run at particular times of day. Energy prices could reflect this.

There are numerous designs for energy efficient houses. - Even my UK conventional house with wall and loft insulation, has the rooms on the SE side, adequately heated by direct sunlight - into large picture windows on sunny days.

The real Fukushima issue, is population pressure pushing people into living in geographically unsafe areas, such as tsunami and surge vulnerable coasts, high-risk areas of earthquake and volcanic activity, places in the line of flash-floods etc. Building vulnerable types of nuclear reactors in such places is very stupid. Usually it political pressure for a cheap job which leads to such decisions. There will always be politicians and their followers, who put "tax-cuts" before investment in the future. (Biblically we could call this the "Prodigal Son" effect)

I recall the flooding of New Orleans, where the environmental concerns about the destruction of protective swam-land were ignored, - cheap shoddy levees with pitifully inadequate shallow foundations were built , with electric pumping systems with their electric motors below sea-level and fed by overhead power-lines which collapsed during hurricanes, - all were added to the problems of a naturally sinking and deteriorating geographical location which had already sunk to 15 feet below sea level!.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 10:08:00 UTC | #920683

Misfire's Avatar Comment 25 by Misfire

People think radiation is magic.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 22:09:01 UTC | #920835

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 26 by Alan4discussion

Comment 22 by Reckless Monkey :

As for storage, there are a few options solar thermal plants using pressure vessels.

At the risk of wandering a bit off topic, - if steam boilers on solar power towers (http://lisas.de/projects/alt_energy/sol_thermal/powertower.html) were used, then transferring hot water under pressure to fireless railway locomotives or even steam, tractor units, this would provide short range powerful transport, provided they could be refilled from the main boiler as needed. The heat can also be stored in various ways at the power-tower.

Solar Power Towers @link - Heat storage and transfer
As already mentioned there are two main fluids which are used for the heat transfer, water and molten salt. Water for example is the oldest and simplest way for heat transfer. But the difference is that the method in which molten salt is used, allows to store the heat for the terms when the sun is behind clouds or even at night. Molten salt - better: the heat of it - can be used until the next dawn when the sun will be back to heat the cooled down salt again.

The molten salt consists of 60% sodium nitrate an 40% potassium nitrate (salpeter). The salt melts at about 700°C and is liquid at approx. 1000°C, it will be kept in an insulated storage tank until the time, when it will be needed for heating up the water in the steam generator. This way of energy storage has an efficiency of approx. 99%, i.e. due to the imperfect insulation 1% of the stored energy gets lost .

Fireless locomotive links below:-

http://www.martynbane.co.uk/modernsteam/hvalentine/fireless3.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0wvPDgDloA

In places like sunny desert areas power towers at intervals could power a railway system.

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 22:56:16 UTC | #920851

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Further to Comment 26 by Alan4discussion - the hot fluids from Solar power-Towers can be used to store very large quantities of heat in underground heat sinks. These can then be used to cover gaps in sunshine, after the fashion of geothermal power generation.

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 12:53:12 UTC | #921029

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 28 by Zeuglodon

Comment 26 by Alan4discussion

Would humans start living in communal housing? If more people lived in the same building, then the heating requirements per capita would drop.

Comment 16 by TeraBrat

Fusion is not the answer.

I'm surprised. From what I heard, fusion is largely regarded as the best answer we're going to get, at least in the near future.

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 14:48:21 UTC | #921059

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 29 by Alan4discussion

Comment 28 by Zeuglodon

In biblical times, people lived together in small rooms, with the animals in the "stable" "down-stairs" also generating heat!

The air was warm, but somewhat "ripe"! Communal living generates heat, but good insulation, thermal regulation and ventilation should do the job without intense crowding. It depends a bit on the local climate and building design.

There are numerous designs of energy efficient housing illustrated on this link!

There are in any case huge quantities of available solar and tidal power in selected localities with the appropriate local climates. These can be managed to give 24 hour electrical generation, but they are not where the present concentrations of population are presently found.

The problem is short-termism seeking luxury life-styles (or even basic subsistence), by simply ignoring the risks or natural disasters, and refusing to look to, or invest in, the future.

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 17:02:37 UTC | #921126

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 30 by Zeuglodon

Comment 29 by Alan4discussion

The air was warm, but somewhat "ripe"!

Hoho, I bet it was. ;)

Communal living generates heat, but good insulation, thermal regulation and ventilation should do the job without intense crowding. It depends a bit on the local climate and building design.

Yes, I did have the "crowding" objection in my mind, so thanks for bringing that out into the open. As for local-climate issues, is there somewhere I could get more information on that? Partly because I'm wondering if Britain's climate would be conductive, and partly just for curiosity.

There are numerous designs of energy efficient housing illustrated on this link!

Thanks a bundle for that link. I love perusing the diagrams and seeing how an energy-efficient house would work. I'm rather pleased whenever I see anything that's already in my house, and wonder how to integrate the rest.

There are in any case huge quantities of available solar and tidal power in selected localities with the appropriate local climates. These can be managed to give 24 hour electrical generation, but they are not where the present concentrations of population are presently found.

Minor quibble, but solar power isn't going to be generating 24 hours a day unless you live within the Arctic Circle. You already know that, though, so I'm sorry -- I'm just pedantic with language.

I wonder if it's possible that solar power could one day be a primary source of energy rather than a supplementary one. There's a lot of energy hidden in solar rays if only we could tap into it.

The problem is short-termism seeking luxury life-styles (or even basic subsistence), by simply ignoring the risks or natural disasters, and refusing to look to, or invest in, the future.

Short-termism is always a problem. Our best hope on this front is if such housing arrangements as are necessary for particular regions gain in popularity -- by celebrity endorsement or some new philosophical movement, much as I dislike admitting it -- but even then, this is going to be a finicky matter. People are more willing to customize existing houses than move out of them entirely!

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 20:43:50 UTC | #921238