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If Fukushima goes to shit again, maybe Jesus is onto something

Tuesday, February 14. I awoke at 5.45am — up early to catch the Shinkansen-to-Kesennuma, a town devastated by last year’s tsunami that lies some 500 kilometres north of Tokyo. The job was to shoot video of the town, documenting the work of an American missionary group that had been delivering aid and hoping to spread the love of Jesus to the locals in their time of need.

That we could travel that distance, in around four hours, shoot interviews and other shots for another four hours and then return all the way back home to Tokyo, all in the same day, is testament to this society’s progress and ability to innovate. However, when I checked my email upon waking, I read the following:

Hi,

In case you don´t know, the Cesium fall-out at Fukushima increased dramatically this past couple of days.

Until 9:00 AM of 11/02/2012

Cesium 134 : 4.45 Mbq/km2
Cesium 137 : 6.46 Mbq/km2

However, 9:00 AM 11/02/2012 - 9:00 AM 12/02/2012

Cesium 134 : 98.2 Mbq/km2
Cesium 137 : 139 Mbq/km2

This is an increase of over 20 times.

The wind will carry some of this radiation to Tokyo today and tomorrow, so stay inside as much as possible and please wear a mask outside.

Also, apparently another heating gauge is showing an increase.

Troubling times …

Good morning, indeed. Rise and shine.

We arrived in Kesennuma having passed within 100 kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on our way north. For the past 10 days or so, a thermometer in reactor #2 has been gradually showing increases in temperature within the reactor core. Yesterday, the same thermometer increased from about 70°  in the morning to more than 400° — beyond the limits of what the thermometer can read — by late last night.

There are however two other thermometers situated in the same core at the same level, and they register the temperature in the low 30s and have actually been showing a decrease in the temperature over the past few days. All of this started after TEPCO, the operator of the plant, had changed the way in which they were pumping cooling water into the reactor at the turn of the month.

Ever since they turned off one valve and increased the flow of another, the temperature abnormalities started to show. What they turned off were — from my understanding — sprinklers spraying water from above. What they turned up was water being fed in through a pipe lower down in the reactor. Since the readings started diverging from one another, they have actually increased the flow of water into the reactor through the pipe and claim that the thermometer registering such high temperatures must be faulty, and hence, nothing to worry about.

So move along. There is nothing to see here.

Strangely enough I struggle to believe anything that TEPCO say — or rather — as soon as TEPCO try to pass off something as not serious, my bullshit meter starts behaving abnormally. Today it went off the charts.

After the events of the past 11 months they already have no credibility left, so why would they then continue to seem to downplay events instead of showing an increase in caution? There is a saying in Japan, that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down.

Correspondingly, whistleblowing is not a big part of this culture — just look at the events at Olympus. When bad news is so blatantly unavoidable, then and only then will it be acknowledged. Until such a time, shame is avoided at all costs. Difficult news is denied or obfuscated no matter what. This is ingrained in the culture, from generations of practice. The feudal hierarchies of a simpler agrarian age now passed are becoming testament to this society’s inability to meet the needs of its people or the challenges of modern times.

But I digress. The thermometers in question are all located within the reactor core. It is accepted now that there has been a core meltdown within reactor #2, and that a large mass of uranium has melted through the metal reactor core and has come to rest much lower down in the surrounding concrete structure. Whether this blob of uranium has melted through that outer layer and entered the ground water is unknown — some people believe it has, while many believe there is likely still around a foot of concrete between the fuel and the ground.

Either way, it will be decades before they know for sure, because it is so radioactive that no one can enter. The thermometers then are much higher than all of this, back up in the reactor core, about three metres from the base of the core. Is it possible that some uranium remains in the assembly of the core, higher up and that it is no longer covered in water or is not receiving fresh cooling water after the pumping regimen was changed?

This really doesn’t strike me as an outrageous idea, so remotely impossible that it need not be considered. But we are left to speculate as the official press conferences tell us only that they believe the thermometer is broken.

And what of modern thermal imaging equipment? We can assess the composition of planets millions of miles away that we will likely never visit. Satellites read the weather and map the composition of metals deep within the Earth from tens of kilometres above us and yet I am supposed to believe that they cannot read the temperature accurately inside a building from even a few hundred meters away? Can you sense the frustration that many people here are feeling?

I happened to be in a meeting last night with many like-minded people, organising an event that will present art, music, films as well as discussions and workshops all based around the aftermath of last year’s catastrophe. There is a gradual, quiet groundswell of activism developing here in Japan and it is a little thrilling to witness it and be almost a part of it.

We got through our evening’s work and then were informed of the day’s events at Fukushima and the latest info about the rising temperatures in the reactor. Hearts sank so heavily you could almost hear it. Around the room eyes dropped, focusing on a forlorn abyss. It’s not quite panic any more, but more a hopeless kind of inevitability.

I don’t see how any government can justify the use of a technology that can inflict so much chaos if it goes wrong. No one wants to be in a job that has to deal with a situation like Japan has been dealing with for the past year. Not bureaucrats. Not labourers. Not politicians. No one. And when the issue of disposal of fuel still has not been answered, and can never really be sufficiently answered, then the whole operation is just too Quixotic for us mere mortals.

We can’t do this. We’re too fallible. Nature is too unpredictable. Leave it alone.If a wind turbine falls over in a field we can stand it up again. If solar panels fall off a rooftop we can put them back up. If a battery spills we can carefully handle cleaning up the toxic chemicals from the localised area where the spill occurred. But uranium and nuclear power? We’re not smart enough. We’re not diligent enough. We’re not immune enough to our own tendency to be corrupted by money and power. Collectively, we’re not up to it. So just put it away. The only guarantee of safety from the dangers of nuclear power is to not go there. Ever.

Meanwhile, back in Kesennuma there is this:

I’m standing in the concrete foundation of what used to be a house, or a business — someone’s livelihood. There is an enormous ship, parked in the middle of what used to be a town. The camera is trained on a Lutheran missionary who really does have his heart in the right place, yet is warning of the coming end of the world, and is glad that he is able to introduce new people to the love of Jesus and so on and so forth, and my mind is racing, contemplating yet again how will I get out of Tokyo if everything really does go to shit on account of that archaic industrial monstrosity full of poison that we, humble men, stupid men — basking in the glow of their industrial prowess — once built in Fukushima. Maybe this guy is onto something, I find myself thinking.

As we get on our train to return to Tokyo I read in “Twitterface” that there has just been another 5.9 magnitude shake down in Tokyo. Oh joy. Halelujah.

The one-year anniversary is just around the corner. Fukushima Daiichi seems to be preparing its own fireworks display to celebrate, but that would be a party that I really would not want to attend.

I will hopefully be returning to Ishinomaki, another tsunami-devastated town, with a harpist and shinobue (bamboo flute) player in tow, who will play a concert for all the locals who survived in a newly renovated community hall. That’s a party I would love to be at — celebrating that we can overcome adversity thrust upon us by nature. That we can regain our faith in life after such tremendous loss. Which all sounds way better than contemplating a whole other kind of disaster entirely of our own making.

Amen.

30
  • 1
    Andrew McMillen
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic piece, thanks Paul.

  • 2
    James K
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    What a terrible ongoing tragedy. Nuclear power for your countries electricity …. what a bad idea….

  • 3
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Readers might notice that the author of the e-mail was not identified, let alone identified as a competent authority. In fact Crikey readers who actually did science at school will realise that 100 MBq/km2 is utterly negligible, well below familiar background levels. Neither does the wind carry radiation. Ask yourself, how can the wind carry gamma rays?

    Instead, it is yet one more fragment of baseless fear mongering. Although it was a serious concern at the time as to whether anyone had suffered from acute radiation exposure, authorities were soon reassured. However the Japanese public, already in distress as they struggled to recover from a very real disaster, were harassed with threats of dreadful injuries from chronic exposure.

    It is sickening that the fear mongering was so successful that the Japanese government had to evacuate a large radius (nothing to do with downwind) to reassure a frightened populace. Now, our commentators crow of their success, and make jokes about their victims.

  • 4
    Owen Gary
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Incredible” as a species we are doomed, we will go the way of the dinasaurs, but from our own destruction!!!

    Perhaps all the worlds captains of industry should be forcibly moved to Fukushima where they can live out the rest of their days, which wouldnt be long & any siblings would also suffer the way the Japanese people have.

    Nagasaki, Hiroshima, & now Fukushima. I think they would have had enough of nuclear anything!!!!

  • 5
    darkhall67
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    a Lutheran missionary who really does have his heart in the right place, yet is warning of the coming end of the world, and is glad that he is able to introduce new people to the love of Jesus “

    Sorry. Any one who goes into a disaster zone to gain converts for jesus and preaches about the coming end of the world does NOT have his heart in the right place.

  • 6
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Someone mentions Jesus and suddenly half the class has gone googly-eyed and jumped, whole-of-body, into the metaphor. Get a grip, DARKHALL67. Our hearts are in our chests in the usual place. Our thoughts are with the Japanese who have an unnatural disaster on their hands. We’re working on ours. There is no plan.

  • 7
    Bohemian
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    My local sushi place isn’t using Japanse seaweed or any other product in sushi or any other dishes offered because of the concerns of patrons. I can only wonder what the poor people in Japna must really be going through. We get virtually no coverage of this most critical event. I only hope this wasn’t some kinf od retribution for the stand taken over Okinawa.

  • 8
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully we can say ‘vale to the nuclear power industry’.

    I doubt it , but one can only hope.

  • 9
    James K
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised the usual defenders of the nuclear industry have not jumped on this site, and started to justify their beliefs and play down the accident or play up the rare odds of it happening again, anywhere…. all that.

    Perhaps they just cant sink that low.

    I would be deeply concerned if I lived anywhere in the region of Fukushima: even the other end of Japan itself! Remember how far the fall out from Chernobyl travelled. It is a horrid time for the people of Japan.

  • 10
    darkhall67
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Someone mentions Jesus and suddenly half the class has gone googly-eyed and jumped, whole-of-body, into the metaphor. Get a grip, DARKHALL67. Our hearts are in our chests in the usual place. Our thoughts are with the Japanese who have an unnatural disaster on their hands. We’re working on ours. There is no plan.”

    Get a grip Hugh (Charlie) McColl. One person does not half a class make (unless it’s a two person class).

    I assume you are a christian , and just like all groups of people there are good ones and bad ones. I’ll assume you are a good one and would never go into a disaster zone with the aim of converting the poor suffering vulnerable people to your particular brand of religion while warning that the end is nigh.

    Many of the people in Fukushima have seen the end and dont need to be preached at.

  • 11
    ScottMC
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Paul, thanks or this, great article largely but the para bagging Japanese culture?

    Dude, that’s a freaking wide net you’re casting there.

  • 12
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    And yet we have some lunatics here (not you Ziggy…) advocating we build nukes to avoid CO2/AGW emissions.
    In the meantime, we’ll sell uranium to anyone - almost, stay tuned for next equivocation.
    What’s that old saw about power sans responsibility?

  • 13
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    @Darkhall67, has it not occurred to you that if the missionary truly believes what he is saying, then by his lights, ‘poor suffering vulnerable people’ need to hear it at least as much as anyone else? It might even be that, to someone who has lost most or even all of what this world has to offer, the Christian message is just what they want, maybe even need, to hear. Would you dare to presume that no such person exists in Japan right now?

    JamesK, watch this space, I’ll see if I have time to frame the response called for tonight. Hopefully we’ll see exactly who is ‘sinking low’.

  • 14
    darkhall67
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Not only has it occurred to me Mark Duffett but I am absolutely certain the missionary truly believes what he is saying.

    Doesnt make it right. Doesnt make what he is doing right. Doesnt make boorish , vulture-like behavior acceptable or excusable.

    NO japanese person who had his or her life tragically changed on that day needs to hear some wanker going on about the end of the world and how you can only be saved if you join his religion.

  • 15
    Paul Johannessen
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Hey ScottMC,

    The people of Tokyo just managed to get 250000 signatures together to try and force a referendum on the use nuclear power. The Governor of Tokyo turned around and said everyone involved was behaving like monkeys…

    Positively feudal. I stand by the claim.

  • 16
    Savonrepus
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    It does the Green movement absolutely no credibility to use the example of a nuclear reactor foolishly built and allowed to continue to operate in an earthquake and tsunami zone to try and demonize the entire industry. I am sure if you focused on death by motor vehicle accident you could demonize the entire automobile industry too or you could use the Costa Concordia to demonize the cruise ship industry. History has always been about man making mistakes, learning from them and moving forward. It seems these days to sell an idea a mistake has to be promoted as the end of the world and as a result we become dominated by the thoughts of troglodytes.

    Despite Fukushima there are still hundreds of nuclear power plants operating throughout the world (around 400 at one count). The alarmists would serve humanity much more productively by specifically identifying future problems rather than jumping up and down over milk that has already been spilt.

  • 17
    GDossor
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    For many in Fukushima it has become the end of their world as they know it. I find it abominable that anyone could refer to the Fukushima Plant disaster as spilt milk.

  • 18
    LJG..............
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    @SAVONREPUS - the problem is that the nuclear industry doesn’t learn from it’s mistakes.
    The biggest mistake being that nuclear plants are built and run by human beings who are at best are prone to error and at worst prone to cover ups, sloppiness and corruption. When a Cruise Ship sinks the consequences at worse may be a loss of human life and short term pollution, I’m not even sure we understand the full extent of the consequences of the meltdown at Fukushima yet.
    We haven’t managed to clean up the milk that has already been spilt and until the industry is more accountable I doubt whether we will identify where the future milk will be spilt.

  • 19
    Marcus Ogden
    Posted Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    I must confess I haven’t been keeping up to date with the news from Fukushima, but reading this article I can’t help but think:
    1. How can TEPCO possibly still be in business, let alone running the show?
    2. Where are the robots?
    Can’t robots be sent in where we biological folk can’t go, to find out what’s actually going on in reactor #2?

  • 20
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    Dear Paul Johannessen,

    I understand that you and many others of your acquaintance in Japan are feeling apprehensive. I’d like to make you feel better, in the best way I know how – by looking rationally at the facts of the situation.

    First, the alarming e-mail you received, which said ‘cesium fall-out’ in Tokyo had increased to around 230 MBq/km2. (from both Cs isotopes). What does this mean? Well, 230 MBq/km2 equates to about 0.031 microsieverts per hour. This needs to be compared with typical Japanese background levels (from all radioactive isotopes) of around 0.05 microsieverts/hr. So even the ‘high’ Cs readings amount to barely 50% over the normal total background level. 50% still sounds like a big increase, albeit that it was temporary? Not really, when you consider that the population of Ramsar (Iran) thrives in an average background of 1.16 microSv/hr - over ten times the ‘spike’ level of radiation in Tokyo, with no indication of increased cancer rates or anything like that. Maybe even the opposite.

    But from your dark speculation about ‘faulty’ thermometer readings, I gather you’re more inferring that the increased Cs is somehow symptomatic of some fresh failure at Fukushima. Surely, through some technical wizardry, ‘they’ know what’s ‘really’ going on? Thermal imaging? As a videographer, you should know that photons don’t go around corners, much less through metres of concrete and steel. And as someone who ‘maps the composition of metals deep within the Earth’ from a distance for a living, I can tell you it ain’t that simple.

    Now, I get that you don’t trust TEPCO, and maybe that’s fair enough. But do you really think it’s a helpful response to second-guess them, play armchair nuclear engineer and publicly propagate new disaster scenarios?

    You see, in this realm, it’s not just idle speculation. As a writer, you should know: Words matter. They change the way people think, how they feel, what they feel. Like fear, for instance. And if there’s one thing we learned beyond doubt from Chernobyl, it’s that the health effects of fear are far, far more damaging than those of radiation (von Hippel, 2011).

    The implication is clear. I started by trying to make you feel better, but I’m afraid that’s not the conclusion I’ve come to. Because the harsh truth, when you boil it down, is that by spreading fear, you, Paul Johannessen, are helping to kill people. Not to mention cruelling the chances of the technology that is our best hope for avoiding dangerous climate change – but that’s another story.

    Note I’m not saying the consequences of Fukushima are completely inconsequential. But neither are they, or at least should they be, catastrophic.

    von Hippel, F.N., 2011. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists September/October 2011 vol. 67 no. 5 27-36 (bos.sagepub.com/content/67/5/27.full)

  • 21
    Owen Gary
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    @Mark Duffett,

    A big chunk of Fukushima is uninhabitable & we dont really know the full extent of damage done to the population in Japan. We definitely will know in time that is the nature of radiation it is a silent invisible killer.

    The sooner plants are shut down around the globe the better. Hydrogen has been suppressed for along time even though it is the most ubundant element in the universe. It is easy to produce & leaves no pollution. By the way ever heard of the EV1 cars that were leased & proved to be so successful they reclaimed them to be crushed, no doubt they will return when the oil runs out, so dont give me spiel on climate change.

    The renewables combined will deliver all of our needs, so dont worry about the “base load myth” the nuclear power industries have some of the worlds most powerful & influential people behind them so wake up friend!!!

  • 22
    JB_Tokyo
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    As an Australian, also living in Japan at the time of the Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami in March of 2011 and approaching it’s 1 year anniversary with no plans to go anywhere at this stage, I have read a lot over this past year about Nuclear Power, why we use it and it’s risks/dangers.

    While I wish the world, humans, could change & could ‘fix’ things - where we’ve come from, where we’re at & where we’re heading - I think it’s impossible, at least unprecedented. We collectively don’t have much of a choice - there’s not enough people in power & in enough numbers in the world at this point in history, that logically could or would be able to stop, let alone reverse where we’re at with Energy and the ‘everything’ consumption we’ve evolved to require.

    Certainly for most of us we don’t have much influence as individuals in regards to NPP’s that already exist. That and it’s too late - even if the world decided to shut down the 435 existing NPP’s and cancel the 63 under construction* tomorrow, it would take decades to shut them down and for decades more, we’d need to keep the Fuels cool – many decades.

    * http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/n/nuclear-power-plant-world-wide.htm

    So when it comes to Nuclear Power and whether it is Good, Bad, Necessary or not Necessary – I have formed these two conflicting views, which in the end I think make the whole point irrelevant:

    1. There is no such thing as Alternative Energy – we’re going to have to use every possible known energy source, and develop new & better ones, more efficient ways to live off of our consumption of any energy source available, if we are going to maintain anywhere near current usage worldwide (let alone emerging economies & population growth!). There is no way around this & the impact may well be felt in our lifetimes.

    Article related to this opinion:
    Why don’t we ditch nukes and coal?
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3000/followup-why-dont-we-ditch-nukes-em-and-em-coal

    2. The next world Conflict – when, not if, partial world conflict from the pursuit of energy & other resources occurs, which country do we think will hesitate to blow up Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) in opposing countries?

    If there is geopolitical disorder, conflict between major powers; energy sources & highest consumers and/or social disorder on a large scale for any reason, in countries that have NPP’s – who will keep the lights on and the Cooling occurring, for the decades required?

    Does anyone really believe the human race has advanced to a level that world conflict, or conflict between one or more nations with significant armed forces & strike capacity, won’t ever happen again?

    So there we have it - we’re just bacteria in a giant petri dish, doing what bacteria do. I hope the can gets kicked down the road past the end of my life. If it does though, how will life have degraded in that time? What about for my children? Is there really a viable solution which doesn’t require humans to all work together in peace, harmony & for the greater good?

  • 23
    Paul Johannessen
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    Mark,

    Thanks for the comments.

    A few months ago - due to the increase in personal geiger counters in Tokyo - a very high reading of radioactivity was measured around a house in a part of town called Setagaya. People were wondering how such a concentration of radioactivity could occur in just one place. Was it a hotspot in Tokyo and were there others? It turned out that the use of radium in paint was restricted years ago and a now deceased former occupant of the house had stockpiled a few tins of the stuff under the floorboards which no-one else knew about. There was still a lady living there now and she was well into the twilight of her life and really quite healthy.

    So I am aware of the background radiation issue and that in certain doses it can actually be beneficial for a persons health. The uncertainty for us is whether we are ingesting the stuff. We can´t see it or smell it, yet it may be in the food we eat, and the fluids we drink, and from my understanding internal exposure is an entirely different ballgame to background radiation. One in which there is little hard data about.

    Lately there have been reports about a strange white substance falling from the sky in various parts of Japan. In Osaka not long after the first explosions but more recently closer to the site. I didn´t include it in the above article as there is no word on what it is from any authority at all. Just kids mistaking it for snow whilst walking home and then realising it is more like ash.

    Often I am in on this site to get an independent perspective on the science. This article caught my attention recently, particularly how the data differs between age and gender.

    http://www.fairewinds.com/content/cancer-risk-young-children-near-fukushima-daiichi-underestimated

    There is around 20 times the amount of fuel of Chernobyl still sitting in those reactors and storage pools at Fukushima, and after one more major jolt all the work to stabilise the place might all be undone in a matter of minutes. That is frightening. I didn´t make that up. I apologise if expressing my concern somehow is unacceptable to you. And you are probably right - I am a walking talking propaganda machine designed to scare people to death.

    I love how you spelled my name out in full once again just to really drive it home. Really patronising but it worked a charm. It´ll probably help my google stats too, so thanks.

    I wish I could always rely on cold rational logic, and that the world and people around me all operated on that level too. But I am a sensory being and I was asked to write a personal take on events and that is what I did. The science is better left to the experts, at least when they deem it suitable to tell the rest of us what is going on.

  • 24
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Mark Duffett - the point is that Temco has only itself to blame re. speculation on the current state of the reactor through its continual record of lies and stonewalling since the accident. The fact is that both Chernobyl and Fukushima have resulted in huge areas of land in developed countries being uninhabitable for decades at least. No other form of technology has had such consequences.

  • 25
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Mark Duffett, would you care to calmly and discreetly explain why or how it has come to pass that a spike of radiation has occurred in Tokyo, hundreds of kilometres from the TEPCO nuclear facility? I’m not thinking that the consequences of this calamity are catastrophic, far from it. But nor am I able to attempt to water them down, to make people “feel better”, to protect the nuclear power industry from the reality of its own shortcomings.
    In this discussion you have placed yourself in the armchair nuclear engineer position by trying to use ‘facts’ to allay fears. But you have no facts. You rely on the press releases of TEPCO just like every other mug in the world. How can you ask people in Tokyo to be calm while at the same time freaking out about a completely out-of-control situation on the ground at Fukushima. How do we know it’s out of control? Because there is a measurable spike of radiation in Tokyo. A year after the meltdown. You have no idea what’s happening there so don’t just make stuff up.

  • 26
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Hugh (Charlie) McColl, would you care to point to exactly what I’ve ‘made up’? Hitherto, I haven’t been the one doing the speculating. Rather, you and apparently many others are the ones who have jumped from the observation ‘measurable spike of radiation in Tokyo’ to the conclusion ‘the Fukushima reactor is out of control’.

    But since you ask, I’ll have a go at coming up with an alternative (and I’d argue more plausible) hypothesis. The most obvious one is that, rather than coming directly from the reactor, some Cs-bearing dust has been remobilised by winds moving through the main dispersion zone, where it was deposited back in March. However, there’s also this: “Cesium pollen started attacking Tokyo” (fukushima-diary.com/2012/02/cesium-pollen-started-attacking-tokyo/) - make of it what you will, noting that the source is a pretty hostile witness as far as Fukushima is concerned. According to timeanddate.com/weather/japan/tokyo/historic, the first rain after the pollen ‘attack’ began on 9 Feb was at 10 pm on 11 Feb, which would be consistent with the first increase in Cs-bearing material being recorded at 9 am on 12 Feb.

    Paul J, I agree that the way I used your name comes across as patronising, and I apologise for that. My only excuse is that it was getting very late and I ended up posting in haste, without my usual review. I also hadn’t suspected that your piece was commissioned, in which case Crikey’s editors bear some responsibility.

  • 27
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    As one, who for a long period has been ambivalent about the use of the nuclear process to add to our power sources, recent reading and observations make me very sceptical as to its enviromental efficacy and safety.
    The industry is riddled with accidents that have been both fatal and very expensive to remedy . Pretty well every country that has embraced this source of enegy has had a significant accident. The history of accidents goes back to 1950’s that are acknowledged. Many have had a military characteristic that have enable the perpetrators to hide the accident or incident. Whist Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are always referred to, there are instances throughout Europe and America, where accidents have been occurring since the inception of this industry. We have on record, not only Corporate controlled installations failing but even goverment installations having catastrophic breakdowns and accidents. We are yet to reconcile the impacts of the loss of two Russian nuclear submarines and the US Thresher. It will be years before we fully understand the impact of the radioactive releases from Fukushima on the Pacific Ocean
    I would suggest that those that advocate this industry to read Priengler and Spigelman’s Nuclear Barons.

  • 28
    Paul Johannessen
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    Your hypothesis matches that of others on the ground here. It is also suggested that some recent quakes reactivated dust already on the ground, thus registering in readings again as readings are made at 1m above ground level.

    For me, imediate concerns aside, the entire equation doesn’t add up. The costs of decommissioning plants are largely not included in the cost of construction. Plant operators are not required to clean up their own mess. The waste issue is not resolved. The potential and actual costs of accidents all make the risk not worth it. I can see how the technology is alluring, and that this allure has drugged many scientists into rationalizing the whole enterprise as some kind of silver bullet solution to the worlds energy needs.

    But again, I would argue that this is ultimately an emotional response, that the potential dangers of the technology are ultimately given less weight by the builders, owners and operators of the plants, because ultimately they are playing God with this tech, and it inflates egos. Simply, the tech turns them on.

    Likewise, thanks for the admission to the tone of your final comments, but I get the feeling that you launch into comments often, always justifying your input as shedding some rational light on events, yet really, it’s because you’re turned on by it too. By the opportunity to justify you’re own self righteousness and stroke your own ego. Again, an emotional motivation, made by another sensory being.

    And that is my argument. We are too human to deal with this kind of tech. Too fallible, too easily overcome by emotion to when we’re tired - too irrational. So on paper it looks great. But we factor ourselves enough into the rational sums.

  • 29
    Paul Johannessen
    Posted Friday, 17 February 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Typo!

    But we do not factor ourselves enough into the rational sums.

  • 30
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Paul, I sense a bit of a ‘two cultures’ thing (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Two_Cultures) going on here. By definition I can’t say whether your speculation on my subconscious megalomania is accurate, but generally I think you grossly misrepresent the motivations of scientific and technical people. Certainly I can assure you that as far as my conscious motives are concerned you’re way off beam. Simply, I don’t think there are any more important issues facing us at the moment than the intertwined ones of energy scarcity and climate change. I also don’t believe that we have the luxury of choosing solutions that appeal to our ideology, or inflate our egos, or make us feel warm and fuzzy, or whatever. We just have to use what works - and no, I don’t believe this entails undue risk, as any rational assessment of same, even including the events of the last 12 months, will indicate.

    So that’s my motivation - a better world for my children, or at least one that isn’t worse than what our generation inherited. If advocating for what I believe to be the best and possibly only path to that world using the tools at my disposal makes me self-righteous, so be it, I can do no other.

    Oh, and given Generation IV nuclear technology, the waste issue IS resolved.

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