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Asia-Pacific

Aug 3, 2011

Fukushima disaster: worse than Hiroshima

More gravely serious truths about the severity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 have emerged.

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More gravely serious truths about the severity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 have emerged.

Two things are now clear and they justify the following charges: the nuclear experts that the Australian media relied upon should never be trusted again; and social media real-time raw and unfiltered audio and video reports are providing a more truthful and relevant coverage of the aftermath of the continuing nuclear crisis than the selective and filtered copy being carried by print and wire agencies.

While the Bloomberg news report overnight of two extremely high radiation readings being recorded at the Fukushima complex of nuclear plants on August 1 and August 2 are alarming, other significant disclosures are also made in this story.

  • The reading of 10 sieverts of radiation per hour outside the damaged reactor buildings was the highest level the equipment used could have detected, meaning the lethality of the contamination was off the scale; and
  • For the first time a tenured nuclear expert Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University concedes that the melted cores of one or more reactors may have melted through the supposedly failure proof containment vessel floor, sinking deeper into the subsoil and given the nature of the radioactive material concerned, into a position where it can spread a very long distance directly through the subsoil water table.

It took TEPCO and nuclear apologists until last month to even concede that “partial meltdowns” had occurred in up to three of the reactors, even though the only plausible explanation for the caesium contamination detected outside the reactors within 48 hours was the rupturing of the caesium sheaths surrounding the uranium rods upon their exposure to air following the draining of coolant fluid, setting up the requirements for a melt down to occur.

In what would be consistent with a deliberate policy of gradually revealing the truth some months after the event, the Japanese nuclear authorities and government are also now routinely referring to the fact that contamination levels outside the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi complex include hot spots that are as highly affected as they were around the Chernobyl reactor that exploded in the former Soviet Union 25 years ago.

Which is where social media in Japan is making itself felt.

In a series of widely viewed and replicated YouTube videos a Japan nuclear expert, Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama, has told Japan’s lower house Diet that the nation has failed miserably to make a timely evacuation of the at risk population worst affected by Fukushima radioactive fallout compared to the massive relocation that occurred in the Ukraine in the two weeks after the Chernobyl disaster.

In the English language transcripts of these videos, notably on the Penn-Olsen Asia tech blog, Kodama says he is shaking with anger at the incompetence and dishonesty of the government and nuclear authorities and the TEPCO power company in the aftermath of the accident. He attacks the use of simplistic readings that ignore for example the accumulation of deadly isotopes at the foot of slippery slides in children’s playgrounds in favour of readings at the top from which rain has washed away the contamination.

The readings, like the children, are being cooked, either by ignorance or intent.

Kodama says the uranium equivalent of the contamination released by the three affected reactor cores and four cooling ponds at Fukushima was that of 20 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs:

“What is more frightening is that whereas the radiation from a nuclear bomb will decrease to one-thousandth in one year, the radiation from a nuclear power plant will only decrease to one-tenth.

“In other words, we should recognise from the start that just like Chernobyl, Fukushima I Nuclear Plant has released radioactive materials equivalent in the amount to tens of nuclear bombs, and the resulting contamination is far worse than the contamination by a nuclear bomb.”

Kodama’s testimony, poorly reported in the established Japan media, is circulating in social media in tandem with raw videos of government officials telling a meeting of Fukushima residents demanding urgent help in evacuating to other parts of the country that they should stay put and trust them to reduce radiation. The meeting becomes increasingly angry after one official tells the residents they could evacuate at “their own risk”, while they shout at them for telling them to stay put and die.

The bigger context to these reports from Japan is that the guidance given by nuclear scientists and apologists alike to the media in Australia was disgracefully inaccurate and patronising. The reality of the caesium contamination was ignored, and the quoting of initial radiation readings in the wrong metric was ignored (and later found to be fictitious as well as mischievous, when TEPCO confirmed that it didn’t actually have any capability of measuring contamination within key parts of the complex).

The constant refrain that Fukushima would never be a level-seven disaster such as Chernobyl contained longer in the Australian media than anywhere else, even after the nuclear authorities in France and US broke with the usual protocol of not commenting on other national agencies, and said that it could reach level six or level seven and expressed a lack of confidence in their Japan counterparts.

One thing that is becoming apparent after this disaster is that the truth, like the fallout, is going to force itself on the authorities no matter how much the business, political and scientific establishments try to play it down.

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152 comments

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152 thoughts on “Fukushima disaster: worse than Hiroshima

  1. fredex

    Bloody hell!

    Watch the nuke apologists start to fall over themselves to obfuscate.

  2. Mark Duffett

    It’s possible that the reluctance of officials to facilitate evacuations stemmed from the IAEA finding that far and away the greatest source of casualties arising from Chernobyl was the stress and disruption associated with forced mass evacuations.

  3. Captain Planet

    Thank you Ben,

    Calls for calm from Nuclear proponents in the immediate aftermath of the disaster were, on balance, probably justified.

    Until more information was known there was little to gain by hysterical doomsaying.

    At this point, however, very little that is positive can be said about the scale of this emergency.

    The Japanese government and TEPCO have achieved the unthinkable – they have outdone the cold war era Soviet government in secrecy, callousness and deception.

    I await the usual coterie of nuclear apologists reassuring us that such a disaster could never happen with a modern nuclear reactor.

    Closely followed by nuclear enthusiasts getting all excited about new prototype thorium reactors, which don’t exist but will supposedly be even safer.

    Until they, too, melt down catastrophically, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and cancers, and untold human misery.

    When there is ample evidence that the Nuclear Power Industry cannot function in the modern world without massive government subsidies, due to the high inherent risk of the operation and high costs, why we would even consider continuing with such an outdated technological terror, is beyond me.

    Nuclear Power was a bold experiment, but frankly, it has been shown time and again to be just too dangerous.

    Any business manager is ultimately in the risk management business. This means ranking the potential worst outcome, against the likelihood of that outcome.

    In this case, the potential worst outcome is complete catastrophe on a scale which rivals the most severe adverse events ever experienced by humankind, whether natural or manmade.

    The likelihood of this outcome, some would say, is vanishingly small. Chernobyl and Fukushima suggest otherwise, and even if the likelihood is ranked as “Unlikely in the extreme” the risk is still too great due to the phenomenally terrible consequences.

  4. Captain Planet

    @ Mark Duffet,

    It’s possible. But do you really think that was what drove this coverup?

  5. Phen

    And all this is now relegated to the status of “world news in brief” at best. All we can do is hope that the truth is somehow closer to TEPCO’s version of events than it unfortunately appears.

  6. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    I would like to know how much of the Japanese talk was incompetence and how much was deliberate spin.

    We certainly live in a world where spin is effective. The first reports get all the attention, and that is all that most of the public remember. Drip feed the truth later on and most people don’t notice.

    The assignation of Bin Larden provides a good case study. Huge news that he had been killed resisting the US soldiers, over the following few days more information (and ‘clarifications’) emerged suggesting to the rational that he was deliberately killed, and only today is there the first leak saying that the mission was to kill and not capture. Thanks to spin a deliberate assassination will be remember as a capture mission during which the US were forced to kill because he resisted arrest.

    In the same way, in a few years time, I’m sure that most of the Australian public will remember Fukushima as a fairly minor nuclear event, and those saying otherwise will be thought of as extremists.

  7. Robert Merkel

    With respect, Ben, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Do you even understand how the casualty estimates from the Chernobyl accident that are so hotly debated have actually been arrived at?

  8. paddy

    Bloody hell!! That embedded video is a must watch. 🙁

  9. Mark from Melbourne

    It would great if any one had a video grab of Andrew Bolt on Insiders that weekend. He was carrying on something fierce about how everyone was overreacting massively about the nuclear risk. Denouncing people left right and centre. (Sorry, didn’t mean to include the right).

  10. nicolino

    Tuna are a far ranging fish and I don’t recall anything being said about the possibility of contaminated fish making it to our canned tuna industry.
    Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

  11. sue arnold

    The cover-up in Australia is nothing compared to the censorship in the US. EPA monitors were shut down in March – A no bid contract was awarded the former Bush deputy secretary of defense in January. Contamination of California, Washington and Oregon is at very high levels, dairy products, leafy vegetables all showing signs of radioactive particles. Hot particles in Seattle.
    The Norwegian website which provided excellent maps of the clouds of contamination were also shut down in late March. The Fukushima nuclear disaster is the most serious environmental disaster of this century. It’s incredible to see that tourism to Japan is being heavily advertised in Australia. I can think of no riskier place to visit than Japan.

  12. Lindsey

    An excellent address from Prof Kodama.

    To those who cite the Chernobyl casualty estimates (saying that many evacuated from Chernobyl died as a result of evacuation) : is it not a matter of how these people were evacuated and the support mechanisms that were or weren’t available to them? Saying that evacuation-related deaths in the USSR are a reason to have avoided evacuating in Japan seems pretty strange, given that Japan is a very different political landscape.

    I’m certainly not an expert on the Chernobyl evacuations, but I don’t think that they could possibly be an excuse for allowing Japanese people, especially children, to be exposed to off-the-charts radiation.

  13. Seiji Armstrong

    The claims made here are sensationalist and the author should be ashamed. The bomb at Hiroshima killed around 70,000 people from the blast, then “between 90,000 and 160,000 people from burns, radiation and related disease” (wikipedia, quoting the US department of Energy). To compare the Fukushima incident to this is ludicrous and ignorant. The value of “10 sieverts an hour” is probably a typo. From what I read that would pretty much kill you within a couple of weeks. I think you mean 10 millisieverts. BBC has a good Q&A on radiation health: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12722435

    I`m not a fan of TEPCO, I think the amount of information they covered up from the public is appalling. But lets not exaggerate their incompetence and make untrue and grandiose claims.

  14. Mark Duffett

    @Sue Arnold, that’s as ridiculous as it is easy to disprove. If you’re really that convinced the Pacific coast of North America is swimming in radiation (it is, but good luck detecting the signal from Fukushima amidst the natural background), it’s not that hard for you or anyone in the US to get hold of a gamma ray spectrometer and demonstrate as much, which is why the idea of a coverup of widespread contamination is risible.

    As I’ve indicated above, fear of radiation has proven to be far more lethal than the radiation itself. You are spreading that fear. Ergo, you are helping to kill people. As such, I don’t think I’m being too strong in telling you to STFU.

  15. John Bennetts

    Lindsay, are you sure that the Japanese have managed their own evacuations any better than the USSR did years before? As in so many matters, the physical and emotional plight of the Japanese evacuees is slowly becoming known and it is not pretty.

  16. Simon Mansfield

    @ Crikey – Fukushima disaster: worse than Hiroshima

    Official Death Tolls

    Japan 2011 Tsunami – 20448 (July 31)
    Japan 2011 Nuclear Meltdown – 3 (July 31)

    Japan Hiroshima A Bomb 1945 – 90,000–166,000
    Japan Nagasaki A Bomb 1945 – 60,000–80,000

    Japan Motor Accidents 2010 – 4914

    China Coal Mines 2010 – 2433
    Global Plane Crashes 2010 – 829
    US Motor Accidents 2010 – 33808

    Ben stick to your knitting – Plane Talking – quite clearly you know nothing about the space industry, the nuclear industry, let alone perspective.

  17. davidk

    This is tuly but predictably awful. No matter whether it is oil, fracking coal seem gas or nuclear, the price we and the planet pay for our energy usage is frightening.
    @ MARK FROM MELBOURNE
    I too saw the bolt saying only 50 died due to chernobyl. no footage sorry. There’s not enough space on my hard drive for all the garbage he utters.
    @ SUE ARNOLD
    Oh no, that means I gotta cross the US off my must go list as well as Japan. There’ll be nowhere left soon

  18. Ben Sandilands

    Simon,

    You’ve given us a classic example of poor comprehension. Kodama’s address to the Diet wasn’t about fatalities, or driving, or the other nonsensical comparisons you are trying to make. He was talking about the uranium equivalence and the release of disease and cancer causing isotopes. Hiroshima was a detonation, Fukushima is the release of radioactive poisons. The full transcript of his paper on the Penn-Olsen Asia Tech blog makes this clear.

  19. Captain Planet

    Anyone who has not yet seen this documentary should check it out in order to be properly informed of the extent of complete fabrications which exist around the death and disease arising from Chernobyl.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4vMTdSAm1w

    The next time Andrew Bolt or another nuclear apologist spreads some outrageous lie about how only a dozen or so people died as a result of Chernobyl, point them to “The Battle for Chernobyl” on youtube. It’s easy to find and tells the true story – hundreds of thousands of soldiers, miners, helicopter crews, construction workers and others exposed to unknown but huge doses of ionising radiation in the attempt to clean up the disaster.

    I expect a very similar story is unfolding at Fukushima – we may or may not one day know the truth.

  20. fredex

    This crossed with Ben’s comment at 4.18pm

    Re ‘worse than Hiroshima” in the headline of this article see the following from Professor Kodama-from the link.

    “But there is no definite report from TEPCO or the Japanese government as to exactly how much radioactive materials have been released from Fukushima.

    So, using our knowledge base at the Radioisotope Center, we calculated. Based on the thermal output, it is 29.6 times the amount released by the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

    In uranium equivalent, it is 20 Hiroshima bombs.”

  21. Ben Sandilands

    Seiji,

    In common with Simon Mansfield your capacity to understand what was reported is in doubt. I’m not making the claims, grandiose or otherwise, that you attribute to me. I’m the reporter, and I’m reporting what has been said in Japan by the various parties to this issue, and particularly interested in the stark difference between the information conveyed by the filtered media and the raw information delivered by social media.

    (I am on record elsewhere and over a long period as being a supporter of NEW nuclear technologies as or when they emerge, right back to breaking the original stories about the invention of SYNROC by the late Ted Ringwood at the ANU in 1978. I am appalled at the criminal and negligent behavior of TEPCO and the Japan nuclear industry regulator and the grossly inadequate risk analysis done in planning the Fukushima Daiichi complex. The inability of the government of Japan, its officials and its nuclear stake holders to tell the truth in a timely manner is a national disgrace.)

    The reference to 10 sieverts an hour is not a typo. It was spoken by TEPCO officials and broadcast and printed widely in Japan.

  22. Venise Alstergren

    MWH: You could well be right about Oz being delinquent in it’s reportage of the killing of Osmar Bin Laden but I seem to remember some spirited discussion on the subject at Huffington Post and Slate. In the case of Oz we are an ill-informed audience. We get what we deserve.

  23. Venise Alstergren

    ROBERT MERKEL: With due respect to you, you don’t know what you’re talking about. If Ben Sandilands didn’t know what he is talking about he wouldn’t receive so many alarmed and/or anxious comments.

  24. ronin8317

    If fear of radiation is more deadly than radiation itself, I’m sure all the Green voters would be dead by now.

    On the other hand, you can’t expect the Japanese government to tell the truth. Decontamination takes money, and the Japanese government is heavily in debt, so their ‘solution’ is to cover up the problem, and the Japanese who live in Northern Japan will just have to die from cancer.

  25. Fran Barlow

    Whatever Ben Sandilands actually meant, the headline: Fukushima disaster: worse than Hiroshima was utterly irresponsible — Bolt-like in its dissembling.

    Neither in terms of deaths (actual or lost quality life years) is the Fukushima accident going to get within the proverbial bull’s roar of Hiroshima. While the evacuation was understandable, particularly as the area had been devastated by a Tsunami, and human services were going to be hard to deliver, there really was with the benefit of hindsight no compelling need connected with the failure of the nuclear plant complex, to evacuate such a large area.

    What Fukushima tells us is that 40-year-old plants placed at the shoreline aren’t well suited to surviving 9.0 magnitude earthquakes and 14metre tsunamis. We also learn that having, effectively, a one-party state for 60-plus years isn’t so good for accountability. Clearly, a better secured system for backing up the emergency cooling system was required. Saving money by placing the plant complex at the shoreline in 1964 when they’d already copped the backwash from Valverde in 1960 was classically stupid. Not having a bulwark large enough to protect the plant from such an event was also poor planning.

    The fact is though that not one death has yet been recorded from radiation toxicity or burns, and this despite the area being densely populated. I wonder what the death toll from a gas or petrochemical plant would have been?

    Those who are screaching about this now need to ask themselves what Japan might have done in 1964 instead of building nuclear plants. Had they built gas or coal plants instead — and let’s be serious, that was the principal alternative — how many surplus deaths would we have had? How much extra Co2 from one of the world’s largest emitters would we have seen?

  26. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Venise,

    In the week that followed the assignation of Bin Laden there was some media coverage (in the USA and here in Oz) of the ‘clarifications’, and thus speculation that he had been assassinated. But I’m sure that 90% of the public both here and in the USA missed this.

    I wonder how much coverage (both here and in the US) the unofficial news that it was in fact a kill mission will get?

    And back on topic, I’m sure that the when the radiation hit the USA that it would have been easy to measure, but I’m also sure that it would have been only a small increase over background radiation. So for those concerned, I would expect that the US is still safe to visit.

  27. paddy

    Thanks for the extra confirmation on the 10 seiverts an hour Ben.
    I was sure I’d also recently read that figure elsewhere from a reliable source.
    (Can’t remember where though.)
    It’s obviously going to be a long, painful and deadly experience for so many Japanese. Poor sods. 🙁

  28. lindsayb

    @ Mark Duffett
    what number of casualties were attributed by the IAEA to the “stress and disruption associated with forced mass evacuations” from Chernobyl?

    Perhaps the big increase in foetal abnormalities, deformed children, and various cancers in the populations of the Ukraine and surrounding countries were not counted by the IAEA as casualties of Chernobyl?

    Based on the huge number of peer reviewed publications coming from the medical community in that area which have noted significant increases in many types of health problems since 1986, I am not sure that the number of casualties attributed to Chernobyl by the IAEA can be accepted without question. This is the organisation who only a couple of weeks back were praising TEPCO for doing a fantastic job with the cleanup, even though TEPCO doesn’t know what the radiation levels are inside reactor buildings 1-3 (except that they are too high for humans to enter), where the corium from 1,2 and 3 is located, how much radiation they are currently releasing, where the fuel rods from the #3 fuel pool are, etc etc etc.

  29. Simon Mansfield

    Ben,

    How much “radioactive poison” equivalence are naturally found in the ocean.

    That the Japanese government and industry make it up as they go, is a well known aspect of their political culture.

    But more people died in the Kobe earthquake fires (apx 2000-3000) because they wouldn’t turn off the gas supply to the region for some 36 hours – than will die from the Fukishima meltdowns.

    The real outtake from Fukishima is that probably all the nuclear facilities of that vintage around the world should be closed immediately. The resulting energy shortage though might kill thousands this coming northern winter as they freeze to death with no power to heat their homes.

    The issue is extremely complex but to quote one person who has finally realised just how much his government lies to the nation of Japan serves no real purpose other than to make the story a beat up. Which makes Crikey more and more like the left wing version of the Melbourne Herald and Sydney Telegraph. It plays to its audience and simply works to reinforce the existing prejudices of its readers.

    In the comments above we have the usual anti nuclear rubbish – that Thorium reactors are a myth and let’s all go live in a cave powered by sunlight. When the very latest missive this week from NASA’s Climate Science Guru James Hansen touts the virtues of thorium fueled reactors as being the only possible solution to providing clean energy for our global industrial needs. Not to mention trees and soil being the only way to actually get carbon out of the atmosphere anytime soon.

    By focusing on just the one aspect of this story – namely the lying two-faced TEPCO and their government masters – you play directly into the hands of the paleo-Greens and their pseudo economic, science and technology views of the world.

    You are not actually reporting a story but rather you are commenting on a story. And if as you say you actually have a broader
    perspective on the issue – start putting that in your nuclear reports and start educating the dumbo-Greens who lap up this stuff as just more fodder for their ignorance and fear.

  30. Captain Planet

    Hi Simon,

    Can you point out a functioning Utility Scale Thorium Reactor Nuclear Power Plant?

  31. Simon Mansfield

    No – but you can point to a single base load thermal solar power station that can operate for than a few days without the sun shining again on it.

    In 1961 – no one had been to moon, and NASA and not even put an American in orbit. In 1969 they planted the flag on the moon. Obviously, we humans can build thorium fueled reactors very soon. And certainly a lot sooner that achieve stable fusion.

    If you can’t be bothered listening to James Hansen on the issue of energy – then why bother listening to him on the issue of Climate Science. Nearly every leading climate scientist says the same thing about nuclear energy. James Lovelock, Tim Flannery etc etc. They all say we have to accept the risks of nuclear or face the perils of climate change with nothing but wishful thinking that renewables are going to supply the energy needs of 7 billion people anytime soon. Just read Ben’s own response on the issue above. Even he accepts that nuclear is key to our energy needs in the next 30 years.

    This is the problem with the Greens and their fellow travelers – you cherry pick – and on that score you are no better than the deniers.

  32. Microseris

    Another example of Murphy’s Law and a good example of why society should not exchange a short term benefit (for the few) for the long term detriment of the many.

    As a general observation, why are the chief climate change deniers, the first ones to spring to the defence of the nuclear industry? Different argument, same dogma.

  33. Captain Planet

    Hold on a minute Simon, one talking point at at time.

    How do you reconcile your statement

    the usual anti nuclear rubbish – that Thorium reactors are a myth

    With your admission that there actually isn’t a single functioning Thorium Reactor Nuclear Power Plant anywhere in the world?

    Nuclear Reactors which doesn’t exist, but are nevertheless being enthusiastically touted as the clean solution to our energy needs, sounds like it fits the definition of a myth, to me.

    Solar Thermal power plants, for all their drawbacks, at least exist.

  34. Captain Planet

    Simon,

    Thanks for having the fortitude to admit the non existence of Thorium reactors instead of simply ignoring the challenge and moving onto the next talking point.

    I should have acknowledged in my previous post that this takes a certain amount of intellectual integrity not always found in the blogosphere.

  35. Simon Mansfield

    Actually there is considerable work being done on Thorium reactors.

    Your question was whether a “functioning Utility Scale Thorium Reactor Nuclear Power Plant” existed?

    Obviously the answer is that there are no functioning Utility Scale Thorium Reactor Nuclear Power Plants on Planet Earth today.

    Just as there are no functioning fusion reactors, no renewable base load power stations other than evil Hydro. etc etc.

    So your point is what exactly. That the easter bunny is a myth – that santa claus is a myth – or that in the near future – thorium fueled nuclear reactors will provide a clean energy source that reduces the danger of the nuclear cycle by 90% over today’s nuclear reactors.

    If only Ben’s article was based on intellectual integrity – rather than fear, uncertainty and doubt – then we might be actually progressing the issue of energy – rather than falling into ongoing abyss of ignorance that Crikey has decided to place the issue of energy into of late.

    I guess it churns page views – but how better is that approach than that of the Hun and Tele.

  36. fredex

    http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201108020249.html

    “Tokyo Electric Power Co. was struggling to determine the cause of the highest radiation levels detected at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant since the disaster started March 11.

    TEPCO said Aug. 1 that radiation levels of at least 10 sieverts per hour, or 10,000 millisieverts per hour, were found at piping connected to the main exhaust tower between the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Fukushima plant.

    That level of radiation would mean death if absorbed all at once. TEPCO officials have not yet determined its source.”

  37. fredex

    On the assumption that the reason my “comment is awaiting moderation” is that I included a link, I’m going to copy the essence of it, minus the link, which incidentally, was one from the first page of results I got when I googled ” 10 sieverts per hour/Fukushima”.
    I wonder if this will appear?

    Here is the quote from asahi:

    “Tokyo Electric Power Co. was struggling to determine the cause of the highest radiation levels detected at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant since the disaster started March 11.

    TEPCO said Aug. 1 that radiation levels of at least 10 sieverts per hour, or 10,000 millisieverts per hour, were found at piping connected to the main exhaust tower between the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Fukushima plant.

    That level of radiation would mean death if absorbed all at once. TEPCO officials have not yet determined its source. “

  38. ronin8317

    The Indian Thorium reactor is still a prototype, and the technology will take a decade or two to mature. It is a much better alternative to the current generation of nuclear power plants.

    A lot of ‘pro-nuclear’ poster have completely missed the point of the article. Please watch the video with the subtitles. There is a huge difference between ‘anti-nuclear’ and ‘anti-nuclear-coverup’. All the ‘nuclear experts’ who said Fukushima is save is wrong. It’s a melt-through. The containment vessel has been breached, and it’s a miracle is that it didn’t blow up worse than it had. In Chernobyl, the Russia dug tunnels and then pump liquid nitrogen underground to prevent the radioactive fuel from reaching the water table. In Japan, NOTHING has been done.

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/perspectives/column/archive/news/2011/06/20110620p2a00m0na005000c.html

    It is sill slowly eating away at the 4 meter thick concrete as I’m typing right now. There is no plan to stop it. The is no plan to contain it. The Government and TEPCO wants to ignore it and hope it’ll fix itself.

  39. lin

    @Fran
    actually, Ben’s headline is most likely accurate, and certainly defensible.
    1) independent scientists and doctors have estimated that the likely total death toll from Chernobyl will be in the 500,000 to 1 million range. (I know that the IAEA and nuclear spruikers jump up and down about this, but I still have not seen their extensive body of (largely) peer reviewed publications discredited in any logical and scientific way).
    2) total radiation release to date from Fukushima is higher than that from Chernobyl (estimated to be higher within 5 days of the first explosions), and significant releases are still occurring, both into the air, ocean and groundwater, the nuclear fuel is still uncontained, and TEPCO’s best estimates for time to encapsulate the plant is 10 years (provided they can develop the technology to do it).
    3) hundreds of thousands of people in Japan are still living in areas with higher radiation levels than those which resulted in forced evacuation around Chernobyl. Tens of millions have ingested high numbers of hot particles (estimated at 10 per day for the whole of April in greater Tokyo alone). Given the population density around Fukushima and the amount of radiation released, the eventual death toll could easily exceed those estimated for Chernobyl.
    4) The Soviets had literally hundreds of thousands of people cleaning up in the aftermath of of the reactor explosion. Fukushima has 3 melt-throughs and a MOX fuel pool explosion, but there has been nothing like the cleanup effort mounted by the Soviets. Although you wouldn’t know it from the MSM coverage, the situation over there is extremely serious, and very little has been done to try and contain the situation, which continues to deteriorate.

  40. Venise Alstergren

    SIMON MANSFIELD: Comment to Ben Sandilands “”You are not actually reporting a story but rather you are commenting on a story.”” I don’t wish to be rude, or patronising; however, surely you have noticed that all our newspapers are full with the comments of journos indulging in editorial comment. How else could it be? Let’s take as an example the case of a foreign princess who was known to have been the town bike. One evening when being driven in a car by the chauffeur-the car being the property of her current lover, the car is suddenly involved in a terrible collision. It is a write off and the princess and her lover die of multiple injuries shortly afterwards. This much is the news. Then all the people who have expertise in the model of the car, the bed-hopping behaviour of the princess, road safety experts, witnesses, conspiracy experts, the hired help, aides, and relations all write about their conclusions with varying degrees of ability and accuracy. The legend, or otherwise, is filled out. Short of actually being on the spot when the car met with its fatal collision, I fail to see how the person doing the reportage can do it any other way.

    The unfortunate fact of commentary like the above is that it is easily degraded by a journalist with an agenda and possessed of no moral parameters whatsoever, is free to make up all sorts of appalling half-facts, unresearched facts, suppositions, and a preparedness to pass off as fact a set of arguments which have no basis in reality at all. If you really despised this form of commenting you would immediately dismiss all the ravings of Andrew Bolt as the extremist sludge of mendacity they are. Not to mention some of the madder journalists (?) who write to Rupert Murdoch’s orders at the Oz newspaper.

    Further, salivating at the chance to slam the Greens, you dive headfirst into them.
    Trouble is by this stage anyone reading your rant has written you off as a nut case. You make no effort to understand that the Japanese people feel a sense of constraint about criticising their leaders. They feel uncomfortable to be seen as stirring. Of course, this in no way excuses their lack of behaviour on issues like these. Bit it is germane to the argument as to why they were submissive.

    FRAN BARLOW: I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, perhaps you could make a note to the effect that jouralists in any printed media generally do not write their own headlines. Usually an expert in this field is employed to do this.

    I’ve been thinking through the idea of Nuclear Power in Australia for some time, still without a firm resolution one way, or the other. However, I have noticed that both Fukushima and Chernobyl seem to have been operating with very outdated looking machines. Perhaps Nuclear Power necessitates a constant renewal of machines and a huge and continuous outlay and investment in never-ending technology. This makes me wonder if Oz has the requisite knowledge of nuclear technology to embark on this path. A recent survey of our working men found almost thirty percent of them to be both illiterate and innumerate. To think of Australia having nuclear power in the hands of uneducated workforce is not a prospect one could feel sanguine about.

  41. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Simon , the Fiberals have the Cherry Picking Title and have since 1996 . They even Pay people from overseas to come here and Cherry Pick for them . I thought thermal Solar had heated water as their base load ? Should be looking at Nano Solar , spraying on steel sheets , so my old qlder can have a very large panel and even puts money in your pocket when overcast. My solar hotwater can handle 3-4 days of overcast drizzle days before paying to heat my water with electricity from the dirty polluters. Have not cleaned the panels for nearly 15 years , fell off the roof before.

  42. Phen

    Venise – 30% of people are not illiterate and innumerate. But its good to see we’ve improved from the equally dubious 40% level you usually quote in these forums.

  43. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Venice,

    As an Engineer I know that Australia has some of the worlds best technical people.

    Unfortunately Australian management (including our politicians) have no idea. As you can tell from the climate change debate, most have no competence or respect for science or engineering.

    Our incompetent managers (and politicians) can bluster through most stuff-ups. Unfortunately technology eventually captures up with them and there are either massive cost overruns, delays, or in the end it just does not work (and usually a combination of these).

    Our managers and politicians are so incompetent that when this happens it is usually the people that have to pay and pay. And of course they cover their tracks so it is very rare to find out why so many technical projects fail.

    It is not hard to come up with examples.

    Our military has done very badly recently. In Victoria we have a public transport ticketing system which still does not work properly, the police computer system was stuffed up so much they gave up, and I’m sure that each state will have its own examples.

    Fortunately nuclear power will not happen in Australia for other reasons.

    The main reason it will not happen is that to build a plant will take many years. So clearly it can only be done if both major parties support it, both state and federally.

    Even if it was the rational thing to do, the success of the climate change deniers shows how easily an irrational scare campaign can result in a hostile public. So public support for nuclear is unlikely to happen, and thus it is unlikely to have political support for the life of the project.

    Given that nuclear will not happen for clear political reasons, why do some lobby for it now?

    Apart from those like Ziggy (who did it because he was paid to do so), some promote nuclear to distract the debate away from what action on climate change needs to be done over the next 15 years. If the nuclear supporters were seriously worried about climate change they would say that nuclear would be part of the future solution, but first we must …”.

    To do nuclear requires an informed rational debate. As the huge range of views in this thread shows, there must be some posters who are very very wrong.

  44. Simon Mansfield

    @ Venise Alstergren – of course the rest of the media comments rather than reports. But this is Crikey – and given the incessant tone of righteousness that drips from Bernard’s keyboard – we are paying for something better than 2 dollar blogger commentary.

    Crikey should be striving to be a “Journal of Record” and not just a left wing version of the Hun/Tele. One can watch The Drum for that.

    In the past 12 months Crikey has become a mirror of the Modern Left in Australia and each day becomes an ever sadder indictment of our collective intellectual bankruptcy.

    How else do you explain a headline like: Fukushima disaster: worse than Hiroshima … And Bob Brown voting down a better carbon reform deal in 2009 than what Jules served up in 2011.

    Ironically, Bobbie will make a great Balance of Power party in the Turnbull Govt and will rake in the Liberal preference votes like there’s no tomorrow.

    And Bernard will be happy.

  45. paddy

    Perhaps those posters scoffing at Ben’s reporting skills would like a second opinion.
    Try here.
    [http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201108020249.html]

  46. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    I find it amusing that Simon Mansfield accuses Crikey of “intellectual bankruptcy” whilst spitting venom and failing to justify a single point in his post.

    And if the 2009 ETS was so good, why didn’t it get the Liberals support?

    And why did The Greens not support the 2009 ETS. If you don’t know then you are not informed.

  47. Simon Mansfield

    @ Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    It is well known that the 2009 deal was better than the 2011 deal. The parts relating to renewable energy support have nothing to do with the core tax parts to the deal. And could have been added on at any time.

    “Locking in Failure” is up there with the “Science is Settled” and utter junk.

    The only reason Bob Brown opposed the deal was to wedge Labor and win more votes at the next election, and hence be better placed to win the balance of power.

    As to “intellectual bankruptcy” – I was referring to all of us who make up the collective left.

    That’s you, me, Brown, Gillard and Crikey et al.

    The left has become a joke – whether it’s the Greens, Labor, Greenpeace or Getup.

    And we are going to be out of power for a decade or more very very soon.

    So get use to being ignored by a Turnbull government if you are lucky and an Abbott government if we are really unlucky.

  48. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Simon Mansfield,

    I feel ignored by Gillard (I’m not formally working, and I’m not a family). And as I’ve just pointed out in the still active Rinehart’s thread, I don’t think there is much difference between Liberal and Labor (at least a Howard or Turnbull Liberal – an Abbott future is very scary).

    When someone says “It is well known” the sentence usually ends up saying something I disagree with. As I do in your post.

    The core premises of climate change are settled (see IPCC, Stern, Garnut) and your saying they are “utter junk” fails to convince me otherwise.

    Obviously you cannot conceive that a few people have integrity. I think the evidence shows that Bob Brown does have integrity.

    I feel that it would be wasting my time telling you why “locked in failure” is an accurate summary. (But if any reader genuinely wants to know I’m happy to post).

    I think of the left as “the workers united will never be defeated”. In this case the left can be conservative (no gay marriage, censor all x-rated content off the internet, etc), racist and cruel (how we treat asylum seekers), protective of (highly unionised) jobs instead of the environment, and more. In these areas Labor retains much of the old left.

    I think of myself as progressive, not left. I think of the Greens as being out in front, not left.

    There are many reasons why Labor will probably loose the next election. I will be pleased to see Gillard loose. Unfortunately I will be terrified if it is Abbott who wins.

  49. Fran Barlow

    Vernise said:

    [I’ve been thinking through the idea of Nuclear Power in Australia for some time, still without a firm resolution one way, or the other. However, I have noticed that both Fukushima and Chernobyl seem to have been operating with very outdated looking machines. Perhaps Nuclear Power necessitates a constant renewal of machines and a huge and continuous outlay and investment in never-ending technology. ]

    In the latter case the Chernobyl plant wasn’t that old — late 1970s, but this was the USSR, and the plant, when specified was not something that would have passed muster in the west. It was also operated outside design parameters at a time when a separate emergency not realted to the plant had interfered with plant operation. So, unaccountable state, poor design, misuse and a separate emergency — perfect storm.

    Fukushima actually had been slated for closure, and was months away from being closed, which is a part of the reason that some quite simple, but fairly costly, design improvements were not made. A rational regime in Japan would have started attending to this matter around about the time of Chernobyl. Sadly, Japan too was effectively a one-party state. Imagine the last NSW government running Australia for 60 years, starting off from a position where the country had been devastated by losing a war. That was the context for the construction and operation of Fukushima.

    I’d be very confident of our engineers running a nuclear plant here, or at any rate of our ability to get people in to do it. Note that we wouldn’t be starting tomorrow, but perhaps a decade from now.

    The other thing to consider is the alternatives for Japan in 1964. It would have been far cheaper to build a bog standard coal plant complex. However, that would have meant poisoning the people and the waters around Japan for 40 years, inluding with radioactive fly ash, contributing to atmospheric CO2 inventories, and then, when the tsunami came along, the spreading the toxic radioactive sludge from the plant over a very wide area. One has to consider the alternatives Vernise.

    @SimonMansfield

    [And Bob Brown voting down a better carbon reform deal in 2009 than what Jules served up in 2011.]

    The 2009 deal was not a better deal, but manifestly worse. It was a polluter pay day. That was Rudd’s point — he designed it so that we Greens could not support it and so that it would wedge the LNP. Your ignorant bashing of the Greens simply invites the view that those of us who favour nuclear power are not to be listened to. If you are interested in this issue, and not simply using it to score points, give it a rest.

  50. AR

    Ben, thanks for a concise, accurate & fair report. Just a small typo level-seven disaster such as Chernobyl contained longer in the Australian media – I assume that you meant continued.
    Also MWH & others, the US death squad may have had an assignation with ObL but he was assassinated.
    Topys lure, KO.

  51. Simon Mansfield

    Sorry Fran Barlow – But the Greens need the blow torch put to them like there is no tomorrow. For years now they have traded on their holy than thou attitude on issue after issue. In local communities all across Australia they represent the comfortable middle class in all its worst forms – while lecturing everyone else what is right, what is moral and what is evil.

    I live in a town surrounded my “waterfront greens” who own beautiful houses and have everything that money can buy and then tell young families they can’t have new land releases, can’t start new businesses that might take away a dairy farm, and on and on it goes.

    The Greens are no better than One Nation and should be exposed for what they are – the self serving white middle class who have it all and feel guilty about it. And try to overcome that guilt by stop others from having the same.

    The only possible way the 2011 carbon tax deal will survive beyond the next election is that Turnbull becomes leader again and hence prime minister in August 2011. And the Greens will lap it up when he sucks up to Bobbie and the rest of gang.

  52. Simon Mansfield

    obviously I meant August 2013 for when the next Mal becomes a PM

  53. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @AR – thanks for correction – I’ve got a new mac and there is a new automatic spelling corrector (clearly written by the Americans 🙂

    @SimonMansfield,

    I’ve replied to you, but my comment is “awaiting moderation”.

    @Fran,

    Further on why the ETS was bad, and “locked in failure”, is that it gave free permits to polluters, said how long they would get such free permits, and had some permits in the market which would thus give each permit a market based value.

    Effectively the ETS gave the polluters property rights over permits, which, just like water rights, cannot just be taken back by the government. (Under the constitution the government has the right to take property but they must pay compensation).

    If the ETS had passed, and a future government decided that a 5% cut was too small, and we need something which might actually get closer to our fair share, then the only way emissions could be reduced beyond what the ETS “locked in” would be for the government to buy back the permits (which the ETS had given them for free). This would be so expensive that in practice it could not be done.

    The ETS “locked in failure” because if passed it would have ensured that Australia’s greenhouse reductions would be way above what is needed to do our fair share.

    (I hope that this post does not get moderated).

  54. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Simon,

    You really do have an amazing hatred for the only party which always shows compassion.

    You call Greens supporters “self serving” but the reality is the opposite. If you look at most Greens policies you will see that it is about making Australia a better and fairer place for all, and for most Greens supporters that means others.

    I passionately support real action on climate change. I can’t think of any personal benefit from this except that I think it is the right thing to do. I don’t have children, and I’ll be dead before climate change becomes really bad.

    I don’t have kids but I support better education for all. I support compassion for boat people. I’m not gay but I support gay marriage.

    Anyone is welcome to disagree with my values. But to call me and other Greens supporters “self-serving” is not only wrong, but an insult.

  55. Tom McLoughlin

    I went to a talk by Sir Earnest Titterton at the Warrnambool Institute of Advanced Education in 1979 where he predicted ‘fusion in our time’.

    This faith in nuclear energy is making scientology look respectable.

  56. Simon Mansfield

    @ Michael Wilbur-Ham

    It’s not hatred – it’s contempt for a party made up of white middle class people who tell other people they can’t have something when they have it all themselves.

    All along the coast of NSW and Victoria are the Greens hard at work stopping people doing things they do themselves.

    Just look at Kiama – where our Deputy Mayor is off to NZ to live but will fly back once a month to keep the numbers up on council and stop any new land releases and all the other things he opposes. This is despite living in a waterfrontage on a headland himself. And better yet in a house he built without any eves.

    And to justify the time and carbon footprint spent flying back from NZ – he says he is use to the flying as he runs a consulting business in Perth. Carbon Ben we call him.

    The moral of this story is that the Greens are like the old Soviets and live the good life themselves while telling everyone else to make the sacrifice for Gaia.

    How can anyone take the Greens seriously when they tell everyone else how not to live – but live the good life so well themselves.

    I’ve spent the past 35 years immersed in leftist politics – I know the ideology, the dogma, the slogans backwards – and my conclusion after the past decade is that the Greens are the left wing version of One Nation. The greens don’t own the environment issue, they don’t own the gay marriage issue – but if they keep doing what they are doing of late none of these issues will see progress.

    The absolute worst outcome on gay marriage would be a conscious vote – it will lose. The only way to win that issue is that Labor supports it at the party platform level. And if it won’t do it this year, then it should wait another year. Besides as soon as the US Supreme Court upholds the New York gay marriage ordinance. It’s a done deal – and that is only a matter of 18 months away at most.

    Bob Brown wouldn’t even meet with James Hansen earlier last year when he was out here on a book tour as he din’t want to be associated with Hansen’s pro nuclear position.

    So yer – not hatred – just contempt.

  57. Tom McLoughlin

    Actually on the body count, does a slow death from high dosage of radiation over a longer period of time (as posited here), including epidemiological study of increased cancer rates, still count as a comparison to Hiroshima? For instance if thousands are dying 10 or 20 years later from nuke induced cancers from ‘hot particles’ that could add up to a grim comparison. Indeed that might give some verity to the frightening headline. Especially if those high dosage reports are right – and they sound ominously right given the meltdown into the subsoil.

  58. Ben Sandilands

    The points I did set out to make about the divide between raw social media reporting and filtered or compromised media parallel the situation that arose after the recent high speed rail crash in China.

    A report on that can be read here:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2011/07/25/china-caught-burying-crashed-train-cars-and-the-truth/

    I don’t think a left or right wing bias is relevant to what happened at Fukushima or Wenzhou . What is relevant is that social media gains in utility and credibility when the established media news services self censor because they are mindful of the risk of losing access to official sources, whether in Japan, or China or in Australia.

  59. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Simon,

    As I said in my reply which still awaiting moderation, I don’t see myself (or the Greens) as left. I am neither right nor left – I’m out in front.

    Judging The Greens by some local councillors would lead to some very interesting conclusions if we can do the same for Liberal and Labor.

    Obviously I know nothing of your local area, but I do know that continuous development of coastal areas is often opposed by those that live there (including by many Liberal and Labor voters).

    As I said in my earlier reply, most Greens support policies which would make themselves worse off in the self-interested way of Liberal (and increasingly Labor) supporters. Look at the big picture, and talk mainly federal politics as that is something we all share.

    That the Greens stand opposed to Labor and Liberal on so many issues says more about how Labor and Liberal have moved the extreme right than it says about the Greens. The Greens don’t “own” any issue, but their views on most issues have remained consistent and clear.

    There is no spin and bullish*t with the Greens (well very little). If you want what they stand for vote for them, and if you don’t want it don’t vote for them.

    I remain puzzled as to why so many who think of themselves as left or progressive support Labor. I think it has something to do with team loyalty – it clearly does not have much to do with politics. Want boat people locked up for years (vote Liberal or Labor), want nothing done on climate change (vote Liberal or Labor), etc etc

    At a polling booth a Democrat (remember them) once said to me that he though all Liberal voters were either selfish or uninformed. Personally I’ve never been able to find a rebuttal to his proposition.

    People get very upset about the Greens because they don’t like their policies. But I believe that most Greens have very high integrity. They have values and they keep to them. Bob Brown is the best example of this.

    What does Labor stand for now? I really don’t know.

    And of course Abbott is even worse. For example, what do Liberal supports expect Abbott to do on climate change if he becomes PM? Meet the 5% reduction as per policy, or meet the expectations of the climate change deniers and once in power drop the policy which he has already called “pointless”?

  60. Fran Barlow

    @simonmansfield said:

    [I’ve spent the past 35 years immersed in leftist politics – I know the ideology, the dogma, the slogans backwards – and my conclusion after the past decade is that the Greens are the left wing version of One Nation.]

    Well I certainly have. You’ve either abandoned leftist politics, or you’re playing fast and loose with the truth. No leftist could make the claims you do about the Greens.

    I recall Keith Windschuttle once avowed leftism — and now he’s a Quadrant favourite, quoted by a reactionary killer.

    The Greens are without doubt the most ethical party represented in an Australian parliament. The party —my party — is wrong on nuclear power, but they are right in principle on pretty much all else of importance. We defend the unions. We stand up for the disadvantaged, not only of this country but of others too. We insist that protection of the biosphere — humanity’s lifeline — be central to public policy. We defend humand rights. We oppose war and militarism. We demand ethical treatment of animals and insist on the right to die with dignity.

    Leftists may say we don’t speak forcefully enough on these matters — but I don’t hear you saying that. You sound like a rightwing troll who cares not a jot about nuclear power as part of a low carbon strategy, but merely sees it as a club to beat us with.

    I have no respect at all for those such as you who fly under a false flag.

  61. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Fran,

    I agree with you that The Greens are the most ethical party, not just because what the want to do is ethical, but because they are clear about their policies and will do their best to implement them.

    I posted earlier about why I thought that nuclear power would not come to Australia. Do you have any comments about what I said?

  62. Simon Mansfield

    Oh Fran. That’s the problem with the Greens if you leave the tent you’re a sellout. Most of the people who vote Green thesedays wouldn’t know squat about political history let alone one thing about the environment. Voting Green is little more than an accessory. This time I’m voting Green. Even though I went on holidays in Europe last year and we just bought a really nice house in Stanmore. It’s really nice, we can ride the bike to the station. And oh no we never shop at Wollies. We just love the farmers market. Seriously Fran – Bogans with a uni degree – and a get out card that says I vote green. If you want to lock in failure for a couple of decades vote Green. But ya get a clean soul with every vote.

  63. Captain Planet

    @ Simon Mansfield,

    I am sorry that your experience of the Greens has been so drastically different to my own.

    My experience has been that Greens range from struggling single parents and pensioners, through to highly successful and wealthy professionals. Indigenous activists rub shoulders with feminists, vegans, refugee rights advocates and anti logging protesters. As well as these demographics there is a substantial majority of everyday people who just care about their fellow humans, and think that the world should be based on a compassionate, nonviolent and cooperative premise. Like me.

    As a professional earning well into the 6 figure range per annum, I suppose I should fall into the category you have described of “the self serving white middle class who have it all and feel guilty about it.”

    This does not gel with my family’s decision to own one small car when we could afford two, or my choice to ride a secondhand bicycle to work and back (no, I don’t wear Lycra).

    Nor does my family’s quite modest 80 square metre home in a very ordinary part of a remote country town fit your description.

    If you truly believe the Greens are all well to do upper middle classes who want it all for themselves, how do you reconcile this with the Greens policies which support reductions in private health insurance rebates and subsidies to private schooling, while calling for more public housing, more spending on public health and education, and generally supporting initiatives which reduce inequality, mostly at the expense of the very demographic which you insist makes up the bulk of the Party?

  64. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Simon,

    I’m sorry, but I think you have departed to looney land. I really can’t understand your post.

    Are you suggestion that those who support Greens policies should not vote Green?

    Perhaps you just cannot understand that for many it is rational to vote for the greater good even if they themselves will be worse off.

    Voting Green if you live in a really nice house in Stanmore means that you are willing to pay higher taxes so that others will benefit. And what is more, I believe that people voting Green is the only way that Labor (and the Liberals) might end their continual move to the right.

    As Fran suggested above, I think you must now be so right wing that you cannot understand that others care for more than just themselves.

  65. Captain Planet

    Back to Nuclear Power.

    Come on, Nuclear apologists.

    How many Nuclear Reactors have been built worldwide…. and how many have been successfully decomissioned, and at what cost?

    As a former Radiation Safety Officer for more than a handful of minesites, I have had responsility for a couple of hundred radiation sources.

    In my immediate family is a holder of a Masters Degree in Applied Physics with an impeccable 30+ year career in radiation physics.

    10 Sieverts per hour at Fukushima is quite feasible and quite terrifying. 20 minutes at this level gives you a very good chance of dying within weeks, and after an hour you have almost certainly received a death sentence.

    The Chopper pilots and crews who dumped water on the Fukushima reactors early on in the disaster did so knowing that they were receiving a dose well in excess of that permitted by Japanese army OH & S regulations, and likely in a mere 10 minute dose, to increase their lifetime risk of developing cancer by the same amount as smoking tens of thousands of cigarettes. At least in this they were informed of the risk, unlike the chopper crews who dumped first lead, then sand on the Chernobyl reactor, hundreds of whom unknowingly received a fatal dose and died within weeks of their overflights.

  66. Simon Mansfield

    @ Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Given that a sizable percentage of the 88% of the electorate who don’t vote Green think the Greens are in loony land – I’ll let that observation slide on by.

    My point is that people who live in nice old houses in Stanmore should be happy with their choices and let other people in the western suburbs make their choices. Instead they look down on them as a pack of bogans who need the Greens to sort things out for them and make the world better. But just don’t call me on it – if I take another trip to Europe for the Biennale – cause my carbon footprint is special.

    If the Greens had left their ego at the door and voted for 2009 CPRS deal – we would not be talking about whether we should have a carbon policy – but how we can make it better. Yes it would have cost money to make it better. But it is going to cost trillions of dollars to fix the climate and the pissy amount of compensation that might have been required to tweak the deal up a notch is peanuts compared to what the whole thing will cost yet.

    It’s that complete denial of how the real world works that is the loony land that the Greens occupy. Most Green voters haven’t a clue nor any real concern about the complexity of these issues. But that suits Bob Brown quite nicely – as the last thing he actually wants is an understanding of the complexity of these issues to enter the debate. Simple ideas like “this time I’m voting Green” and “make the big polluter pay” and “Australia has reached capacity” is much easier to sell.

    Which is probably why Bob had no problem hitching his wagon to the anti Patagonia dam protest a few weeks ago. Who cares if these valleys were covered in ice 300 years ago. Who cares if Chile has the highest renewable energy ratio in the world. Who cares if Chile wants more clean cheap energy to run it’s mining industries and cities. Dams are bad ’cause I made a name for myself fighting dams 30 years ago. And I’m Bob Brown and I know best and I have a plane to catch. See ya!

  67. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Simon,

    I don’t disagree that most voters think that The Greens are extreme. But truth is not determined by popular vote.

    As always on Crikey my reasons why the ETS “locked in failure” are ignored, and the base claim is just repeated. If you want to further the debate you need to respond to my reasoning.

    It is clear that you have contempt for The Greens. Compared to the other parties I cannot understand your reasoning.

  68. Captain Planet

    @ Simon,

    Most of the people who vote Green thesedays wouldn’t know squat about political history

    And you think those who vote Labor, Liberal or National DO have an understanding of political history? I will wager my house against a peanut that any representative sample of greens voters will outperform a similar sample of voters from any major political party, if tested on knowledge of political history.

    let alone one thing about the environment

    I’m tired of pointing it out, but as you will be quite aware, many people vote green because they have strong views on humane treatment of refugees, women’s rights, public education and healthcare, equality of opportunity, opposition to the pointless american wars in muslim countries, concerns about the unknown potential health effects of the growing incursion of GM foods, or literally hundreds of other issues. To try to reduce the Greens to “an environmental party” is to either a populist appeal to the lowest common denominator of the voting public, or a wilfull ignorance of the complexities of a major force in Australian politics.

  69. Simon Mansfield

    @ Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH) It is clear that you have contempt for The Greens. Compared to the other parties I cannot understand your reasoning.

    ’cause they’re meant to be better. While the sad reality is that far too many of them are just bogans with nice degrees in the social sciences.

    @ Captain Planet – maybe if the Greens just stopped trying to be all things and went back to the core issues that the party was founded on – maybe there would be some progress on a few key issues – like reforestation, and better land and water care. But the party is now so besotted with replacing Labor it has jumped the shark and has an opinion on everything – without actually having a policy that would last more than 10 minutes in the real world.

    Anyway you wanted some nuclear stuff – here’s the latest off the news wire. I do publish solardaily dot com and nuclearpowerdaily dom com et al.

    Britain to shut nuclear unit in wake of Japan disaster
    =(File Picture)=

    LONDON, Aug 3, 2011 (AFP) – Britain’s government on Wednesday said it
    planned to shut part of a nuclear plant in Sellafield, northern England, as
    soon as possible and on commercial grounds following Japan’s nuclear disaster.
    Unions hit out at the decision to close the Sellafield MOX Plant, which
    employs 800 people.
    The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which implements government policy
    on the management of nuclear waste, said the facility would be closed to
    ensure taxpayers did not “carry a future financial burden.”
    A statement added: “The NDA Board has now assessed the changed risk profile
    for SMP arising from potential delays following the earthquake in Japan” and
    “the only reasonable course of action is to close SMP at the earliest
    practical opportunity.”
    The Prospect union, which represents workers in the nuclear industry, said
    “the closure decision was thought to have been influenced by the lack of
    funding available from Japanese government contracts, following the earthquake
    and tsunami that shut down the Fukushima 1 nuclear reactor in March.”
    It added in a statement that the facility takes plutonium that has been
    reprocessed from spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield’s THORP plant, and recycles
    it into ‘mixed oxide fuel,’ which can be reused to fuel nuclear reactors.
    Kevin Coyne of the Unite union said the decision was “shocking and frankly
    bizarre”.
    “The government is currently deciding whether to give the go-ahead for
    building a new MOX plant. So where is the rationale in closing the current one
    now?” he said.
    Sellafield lies on the Irish Sea coast in Cumbria, northwest England.
    Britain’s chief nuclear inspector said in May that Britain’s nuclear plants
    were not at risk from the kind of natural disaster that caused Japan’s crisis
    and could continue to operate as normal.
    The British government is planning a new series of nuclear reactors on
    existing sites to maintain electricity supplies and cut greenhouse gas
    emissions as an old generation of power stations are phased out.

  70. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Can anyone else make sense of Simon’s reasoning?

    Who says that Green voters “are meant to be better”? What does this even mean?

    I think the Greens make if very easy for people. They state their policies more directly and clearly than any other party (I know, because as a candidate many years ago I read through all the policies several times, and I failed to find any similar detail with the major parties). The Greens have remained consistent in their values. In short they have integrity.

    If you don’t like Greens policies, don’t vote for them. This is called democracy.

    But what is wrong with anyone who prefers the overall Greens package to the other parties voting Green? Sainthood is not a prerequisite for voting Green. What does Simon expect???

    And getting back to Ben’s article. If it was not for Crikey I would not know that the Japanese situation was as bad as it is. As Ben says, not only are Governments failing, but our major media is as well. (I note that the news that an insider has said that the Bin Laden assault was a kill mission never made the ABC TV news (in Melbourne) nor was mentioned on the ABC Just In internet pages. )

  71. achimova1

    I’m very glad to see an article in any news outlet that begins to tell it like it is about Fukushima. So thank you Ben. I have a couple of comments. According to the nuclear scientist Arnie Gundersen on his blog Fairewinds, the explosion in unit 3 was a detonation – ie a nuclear explosion, Pieces of highly radioactive fuel rods were sent high into the sky and landed up to 2 miles from the unit and the black smoke that went up from the explosion volatalised. Fallout from that has landed on both the east and west coast of the US and over the Arctic, as well as northern Japan.
    While I agree that the coverup by Japan has been egregious, why have other nuclear scientists and the Western press been silent? And why was the truth about Maralinga, Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island hidden? This is not just Japan’s problem. Those units were built by General Electric in the 60s. How much power did Japan have to say no to building them? They were still under occupation. There are still GE units in the US operating way past their used-by date – are they being shut down?
    Where are the offers of help? Yes the Red Cross etc will be there, but what about offers of evacuation for the Japanese people? It seems to me that people do not understand the physics of nuclear energy or the dangers at every level of the cycle. It is not possible to rehabilitate the land around those reactors for agriculture or fishing- yet people have to eat. The geography of Japan (vs Chernobyl) is highly populated. Millions of people need to re rehoused and fed – for the conceivable future. Is the Japanese government capable of doing this on its own?
    Re social media on this topic -I’ve been in contact with a US film-maker named Ian Thomas Ash, on whose website there are interviews by Japanese people in Minamisoma city, I suggest that readers of the list access his footage – and weep.

  72. Fran Barlow

    @SimonMansfield

    Do you also post as “Frank Campbell”? I suspect so. You have a series on Blot-and Jones- tyle tropes, and little else. The mass of the world’s populace would be far better placed if Green policies were an important factor in public policy. I disagree with the party on nuclear power, but our starting point for discussion — inclusive government, equality, environment, human rights — sets us apart positively from pretty much every organisation on the planet I don’t much care what reactionaries and those who make an effort to stay ill-informed think about the Greens. To paraphrase a line that the ALP once used to sing proudly: Let cowards quake and traitors sneer — we’ll keep the Greeen flag flying here.

    @MWH

    Right now, the principal obstacle to nuclear power in this country is political rather than technological. For reasons that have little to do with the feasibility of nuclear power, neither major party is willing to touch the issue. Bothe the majors are in bed with coal, and to a lesser extent with gas for a start. Both parties can see an enormous wedge being run against them in marginal seats which the other would gleefully exploit, so we see a Mexican stand-off. Given that a 5% swing has been enough to dislodge every Federal government we’ve ever had, neither is willing to risk it. Nuclear power is perfect for a classic FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) campaign because so few understand how it works, whereas most people get the idea of wind or coal or gas or hydro. One can appeal against nuclear power by citing existential questions — (Hiroshima, Chernobyl, fear of dirty bombs, proliferation), or “would you want one in your neighbourhood? — or on cost — because clean energy always costs more than dirty energy in the short run.

  73. jeebus

    The Greens are held to a much higher standard than Liberal or Labor by their critics. It was exactly the same with the Democrats. Make one mistake and you’re crucified by the establishment lynch mob.

    Putting the difficult to estimate health cost of Japan’s nuclear disaster aside for a moment, I would be interested to see the economic cost tallied up.

    From wasted land inside the exclusion zones (and compensation for victims), dealing with contaminated crops as far away as Hokkaido (and compensation for farmers), the cost to store and treat radioactive water from the flooded station, and what will be the phenomenal expense of cleaning up, disposing of, and entombing the entire reactor site for hundreds of years once it’s all done.

    Do these occasional (and some would say inevitable) black swan disasters in the nuclear industry tip the scales on the overall cost effectiveness of nuclear power?

  74. calyptorhynchus

    I just love all these nuclear apologists above telling us how their grandmothers licked their local reactor every morning before breakfast and lived to 100.

    My point is simple, if Japan had already gone over to renewables, what headlines would we have seen in the days after the tsunami:

    ‘Massive tsunami kills thousands, power shortages expected as tidal plant is damaged…’

  75. John Bennetts

    @ Captain Planet, posted Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 10:51 pm

    “… the chopper crews who dumped first lead, then sand on the Chernobyl reactor, hundreds of whom unknowingly received a fatal dose and died within weeks of their overflights.”

    That is BS.

    Got a reference for the statistic?

    Chernobyl was bad enough. There’s no need to add to it by spreading exaggerations and outright falsehoods.

  76. Ben Sandilands

    When SYNROC was invented in Australia by a team lead by Ted Ringwood at the ANU the elegant proposition was that spent nuclear fuel should be immobilised in an impervious and dense synthetic rock and put back down the mine shaft from which it came.

    Very simple. Yes. And left unanswered all sorts of distribution and proliferation questions.

    Ringwood was first lauded and then turned upon by the science establishment in this country when it became apparent that the sunk investment in vitrification of wastes would deny SYNROC the support it needed to advance. Vitrification is no longer held in such high esteem, for many good reasons, and long after his death, Ringwood’s concept is gaining momentum, overseas of course, since Australia always expels its best ideas.

    What marked the story at the time and indeed later from my point experience as a reporter was the ferocity with which what would be called ‘green’ points of view resisted even the notion that safe disposal of nuclear waste was possible, and the way that hatred of technological advances that were ideologically inconvenient ended up in an alliance with a corrupt nuclear establishment.

    It is not the first time that good science has been misused or abused by opportunists or ideologues.

  77. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Ben,

    If every nuclear power plant was shut down tomorrow, and no new plants opened, we would still have a massive nuclear waste problem. So finding the best way to deal with nuclear waste is a very important problem no matter whether you are in the pro or anti nuclear camps.

    Whether or not ‘safe’ disposal is possible, we certainly need to find the safest possible way to handle nuclear waste.

    I wrote earlier about my view of how incompetent our politicians and managers are. SYNROC now being looked at overseas is yet another example.

    It is easy to think of Australian technical ideas that have become successful after overseas development. So are there any counter-examples – a technical idea arrived at in Australia which has become an international success after being fully developed within Australia?

  78. Simon Mansfield

    @ Ben Sandilands

    As MWH clearly points out – nuclear waste disposal is an issue that will not go away. Maybe you should write an article on Synroc and its history.

    My understanding is that “Vitrification” is probably the only reliable waste disposal method available at present. Is that correct?

    Ironically, I was a young anti nuke campaigner at the time of Synroc and was part of many protests against Ringwood et al. How the times changes.

  79. John Bennetts

    Drifting off topic, I know, but I hope to see Type IV reactors, eg IFR, used to consume the 99% of the energy that remains in “spent” fuel rods as they leave existing reactors. Here’s a link to a discussion about Type IV reactors: http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/02/24/advanced-nuclear-power-systems-to-mitigate-climate-change/

    SYNROC was/is a magnificent idea. As a young engineer, I marvelled at the ingenuity and simplicity of the process. Decades later, I admit to not fully comprehending why it was shelved, when there is clearly a huge need for the nuclear power industry to demonstrate that it can and does clean up after itself.

  80. Mark Duffett

    Geoff Russell’s take on the issue of Chernobyl and other ‘nuclear casualties’ is typically idiosyncratic, but nevertheless worth the read. Extracting the conclusions from UNSCEAR (unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html) and the WHO’s 2006 (so yes, taking into account ‘dying 10 or 20 years later from nuke induced cancers’) report, the Chernobyl toll is as follows:

    In the 12 months after the Chernobyl explosion, 28 front line workers died. Over the next 20 years another 19 died from acute radiation sickness suffered in 1986.

    Of around 4000 thyroid cases in children after Chernobyl, 98.8 percent were successfully treated.

    …among the 200,000 emergency workers who received an average dose of 100 milliSieverts, there was an increase of 5 percent over normal cancer death rates. Instead of 41,500 cancers, they expect 43,500. During the first 10 years, there were 150. Ukraine has 48 million people and had 143,000 cases of cancer in 2008. The WHO estimates that during the first 10 years after Chernobyl, there were, including the 150 in the emergency workers, 405 additional cancers attributable to radiation from the accident. These are, of course, in addition to the thyroid cases.

    bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/05/measuring-our-monsters/
    bravenewclimate.com/2011/04/18/helicopters-tall-stories-journalism

    Not good. But really, Captain Planet, “complete catastrophe on a scale which rivals the most severe adverse events ever experienced by humankind”? “phenomenally terrible consequences”? How would you describe the direct impact of the earthquake and tsunami, then? I think you might be suffering from superlative inflation, and the currency of your words is devalued as a result.

    Having said that, I do not dispute the 10 Sv/hr spot readings at the base of a ventilation stack between two of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. An unscaled but nevertheless instructive gamma image is here: news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-20086824-76/peak-radiation-spots-found-at-fukushima-plant/

    @Calyptorhynchus, for the headlines you would have seen if Japan had ‘gone over to renewables’ before the tsunami, you simply need look at the reports from Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka in 2004. Because you’d be looking at the same thing: the impact of a major tsunami on a third world country.

  81. lindsayb

    it is reported that GenIV thorium reactors would burn 99% of the nuclear waste from current reactors, and would convert the remaining 1% into a form that would become safe after only a few hundred years.
    If this is true, there is a very strong case for developing and commercialising them, even if it is only to get rid of the waste from existing plants

  82. Captain Planet

    @ John Bennets,

    @ Captain Planet, posted Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 10:51 pm

    “… the chopper crews who dumped first lead, then sand on the Chernobyl reactor, hundreds of whom unknowingly received a fatal dose and died within weeks of their overflights.”

    That is BS.

    Got a reference for the statistic?

    Chernobyl was bad enough. There’s no need to add to it by spreading exaggerations and outright falsehoods.

    I wish you were right, John.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4vMTdSAm1w

    The interview with the nurse who treated the chopper crews and watched them die is particularly heart – wrenching.

  83. lindsayb

    in the documentary “The Battle of Chernobyl “, people from the front line who ended up in hospital with acute radiation sickness stated that the numbers of people taken to Moscow for treatment was much higher than those reported in official statistics. Another person, who gained access to a lot of previously top secret information about Chernobyl during the fall of the Soviet Union claimed to have found evidence of a massive coverup of the true toll of dead and permanently incapacitated.
    It is possible that the official numbers of around 4000 dead are a significant understatement of the true toll, and do not take account of the large increase in other health consequences of radiation than just cancer, such as miscarriage, increased infant mortality, and increased levels of birth defects that have been reported by the scientific and medical communities in the areas affected by the Chernobyl fallout. The Greenpeace commissioned review of scientific and medical literature from the affected areas concluded that the final toll could be as high as 800,000.
    The question is who do you trust?
    TEPCO and the Japanese government been an unreliable source of information about Fukushima to date, given that they finally admitted they knew about the meltdowns within a week of the explosions, but didn’t tell anyone for 3 months. Can they really expect that we will believe they are now telling us everything that they know?

  84. Captain Planet

    @ Mark Duffet,

    I think you might be suffering from superlative inflation, and the currency of your words is devalued as a result.

    I have had to catch myself a few times talking about this issue, and ensure that I am being objective, and not cherry – picking data.

    The UNSCEAR report is quite authoritative, I grant you that.

    Nonetheless, the forced evacuation of 336,000 people from their ancestral home, never to return, and half a million former cleanup workers living in fear for their lives as a result of unmeasured and unknown, but definitely dangerous, doses of radiation received at Chernobyl, does, in my opinion, qualify as “phenomenally terrible consequences”.

    On a side note, the UNSCEAR released their third report on the effects of Chernobyl on Feb 28, 2011. The assessment has been expanded to include 500,000 rescue workers (up from 380,000 in the second report), and 100 million people in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine (up from 5 million in the second report). The findings are broadly the same, with a lot of qualifiers about how it is impossible to measure or empirically determine the true impact in terms of additional cancers.

  85. Fran Barlow

    The discussion on the utility of thorium/GenIV reactors, while interesting, really has little to do with Fukushima, save to the extent that GenIV reactors have passive safety shut down built into them and so are safer in that sense.

    Proliferation of weaponizable material is indeed considerably harder than it would be with an older-style GenII reactor, but nevertheless somewhat misleading. The key constraint in making fission weapons is not putting your hands on weaponisable feedstock. Uranium can be had from seawater, or the sludge from coal plants. The principal constraint concerns weaponising the materiel in secret and then building the weapon and then a delivery system.

    Objecting to nuclear plants because their hazmat could be used in weapons is about as sensible as objecting to cars because their metal components could be refashioned into assault rifles or IEDs.

    There is no instance, as yet of nuclear weapons arising from this path. All those who have acquired weapons have done so through resort to dedicated facilities and bog standard uranium ore, probably because this is the easiest means to do so.

  86. Frank Campbell

    No surprise in any of that.

    Where does it leave George Monbiot, climate millenarian priest? He said he was converted to nuclear because of Fukushima…

    What now George? Back to the solar panels and wind turbines you dismissed?

  87. jeebus

    @Captain Planet, exactly. Not to mention people as far away from Chernobyl as Germany cannot eat wild mushrooms or boar even today due to the radioactive fallout that still contaminates woodlands.

    When a nuclear reactor fails in a catastrophic way you have global impacts. When wind turbines or solar panels fail, the cost by comparison is utterly negligible.

    Fossil fuel advocates love to benefit from cheap energy, but the only reason that energy is cheap is because we don’t factor in the external costs. Why is the rest of the world not compensated for the fallout dropped outside of Japanese borders? Why haven’t coal plants paid for the pollution they have been dumping into the air?

    Capitalism is broken because the price of goods does not reflect their environmental costs until the environment becomes a scarce commodity. It’s an economic system that does not prevent crises from happening, but rather hits the breaks too late in futile acts of damage control.

  88. John Bennetts

    @ Captain Planet:

    Thanks for the link to the vids. They are rivetting. I will re-watch them in a few days.

    I don’t believe everything I read or see on film, but Chernobyl is a special case. Estimates of the death toll range from less than 50 to over a million – a factor of 20,000. That’s like saying that Australia’s annual road toll lies between 10 and 400,000. It’s difficult to get the head around data with that degree of uncertainty.

    So, in search of reliable sources, what did UNSCEAR say this time around? Still tens of fatalities? Not hundreds, certainly not tens of thousands? Then why trumpet figures of hundreds of thousands, when there is scant evidence to support them? Is there a more authoritative source than UNSCEAR?

  89. John Bennetts

    OOPS! …10 and 200,000.

  90. Seiji Armstrong

    @Ben,

    Let me first say thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment. I have to acknowledge that yes, I did miss your interesting point regarding the stark difference between the mainstream media and the social media. I re-read the article, and I think perhaps missing the point is excusable, due to the tone of the article.

    From the misleading sensationalist headline, I already had my shutters on and found it hard to read the article objectively. I disagree that you are simply “reporting” and not making claims. You are offering commentary, as you are entitled to as the reporter, and it is with the tone of the article that I had a problem. By picking and choosing sentences from elsewhere you`ve written quite a convincing article that if true, would be cause for great concern.

    For example your quote “The reading of 10 sieverts of radiation per hour outside the damaged reactor buildings” is misleading, since elsewhere in the article they state “The workers were exposed to a maximum level of 4 millisieverts of radiation. The area where the high level of radiation was detected was subsequently made off-limits to workers.” it seems that the 10 sieverts wasn`t a typo (!!) which is very worrying, and thanks for clarifying, but it was found at piping between two reactors. I think that is pretty important information, the kind that would make your article more credible.

    Sorry, I may be coming off as a bit rude in trying to tell you how to do your job, and for that I apologise. I`m simply trying to offer my opinion that I found this article to be extremely misleading and in fact quite damaging to public opinion on energy related matters. It serves as fuel to the misinformed anti-nuclear campaigns, that probably yourself disagree with, and I was personally offended at the trivialisation of the Hiroshima tragedy. I know now what you “meant” regarding the radiation levels, not the deaths involved, but the onus is on you as the communicator here to justify your claims.

  91. Syd Walker

    Lin’s comment posted Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 6:34 pm said much of what I want to say.

    The title of Ben’s article is entirely defensible and yes, it’s been clear this is the worst nuclear disaster in history for months to people who haven’t relied on the mainstream media (including Crikey) for their info about Fukushima.

    Nuclear power plants boil water to turn turbines like other power plants. But they use a highly dangerous process to do it. It’s rather like boiling a kitchen kettle via a controlled release of energy from igniting dynamite situated inside the living room. If everything works fine, it seems impressive. But over time, things are likely to go wrong.

    I don;t think we’ve come close yet – even in this latest terrible disaster – to the worst that might happen. We could conceivably have an even more deadly global catstrophe.

    One thing that could go wrong is a solar storm of a kind unprecedented in the last century, but apparently not unprecedented if one goes further back in time. This could cause global disruption to many things in our highly electrified planetary society – but the disruption to the world’s nuclear power plants might well take a lot longer than a few days to fix. In the worst case, hundreds of nuclear power plants could meltdown, poisoning the whole atmosphere with high levels of lethal radioactive particles.

    See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/are-nuclear-reactors-vulnerable-to-solar-storms/2011/03/16/ABeCTae_blog.html

    Widespread negativity about alternative energy is incomprehensible to me. Emulating Germany and aiming for a fossil-fuel free AND nuclear free future is a no-brainer. Can we please just get on with it?

  92. lindsayb

    @Syd
    I saw a report by the USA nuclear power generators a couple of years back which estimated that there was between an 8-14% chance of meltdown in each of the 70 US boiling water reactors if the power went off for longer than 4 hours (the duration of US nuke battery backup). In Japan, they have 12 hours battery backup, and the meltdowns in reactors 1-3 occurred pretty much on the schedule outlined in the report, so it seems credible.
    One shudders to think what would happen in the event of a major solar storm, if the power went down for weeks to months (as could happen if the solar storm of 1859 was repeated now).

  93. Ben Sandilands

    I can offer a little hope when it comes to damaging solar flares. We now have constant solar monitoring and can predict the time and intensity of the damaging storm of high energy particles with increasing accuracy.

    In the event of a damaging flare looking like a large scale certainty the fall back strategy is to shut down the electrical distribution networks until the danger passes, and then restart and repair in stages. On the International Space Station the strategy is to orient the structure to provide maximum shielding to the crew, and above a certain level of intensity, for the crew to retreat to the standby Soyuz capsule and make an emergency return to earth.

  94. Mark Duffett

    …it’s been clear this is the worst nuclear disaster in history for months to people who haven’t relied on the mainstream media…

    Or mainstream science, apparently.

    Syd, that’s an extraordinary claim, on a par with your 9/11 truther stuff. I cannot fathom how you can make it in light of what’s been written above. By this stage, nearly five months down the track, dozens of people had been killed at Chernobyl, by even the lowest estimates (including by radiation). Five months after Fukushima, the death toll is three (none by radiation). How do you possibly see these relativities changing? No estimate that I’ve seen has Fukushima releasing more than a tenth the radiation of Chernobyl (expressed in becquerels). If you want to say otherwise, you’d better have some extraordinarily compelling evidence.

    As for emulating Germany, I suggest you have a read of item 12 in today’s Crikey (including my comment, natch), then come back and tell us why following in Germany’s footsteps is a good idea at all, let alone a no-brainer, given that we don’t have the option of importing nuclear electricity from France to make up the inevitable shortfalls. Seeing how the German experiment has panned out by 2020 would be prudent, methinks.

  95. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Ben Sandilands,

    I love the way you have covered all of humanity.. Those of us on the planet, and those in space above it 🙂

  96. John Bennetts

    LyndsayB and Syd:

    Battery backup is one thing. Diesel and GT backup behind the battery backup is another.

    It is normal practice for diesels to be provided in large power stations to ensure that essential systems can be kept operational for as long as necessary in the event of loss of external power and/or power generated by the power station itself.

    It is also common for there to be gas turbines close by large power stations, because they can connect to the high voltage system via a lower voltage subsystem, eg Liddell Power Station in the Hunter Valley exports power at 330kV. Within its grounds is the Hunter Valley GT Station’s two gas turbines. These are connected into a 33kV switchyard which is part of Liddell’s original equipment, constructed to provide power to external plant such as conveyors.

    Once power supplies are restored to the batteries, or to the load supplied by the batteries, then whether they are flat or not ceases to be an issue.

  97. Venise Alstergren

    MWH: As a Mac user, and proud of it. There is a way to get English spelling. I don’t remember how I did it. But I did it.

  98. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Thanks Venice,

    As I’m writing an online book, and most viewers are from the US, I’ve had to swallow my pride and accept that I should use US English.

    One problem I have with Crikey is that the text size of the published comments is smaller than the main article, and the text size as I type a comment is much smaller than the published comments. So sometimes I struggle to read what I’m typing. (The solution is to go Option + and zoom the screen, but I don’t do this as often as I need to.)

    Have you upgraded to Lion? I have, and I find it mostly good.

    And getting back onto topic, what does it say about the current state of democracy when reading the above proves that getting the simple facts about Fukushima is next to impossible? Clearly it is bad, but just how bad?

  99. Syd Walker

    @Ben

    Thanks Ben. Delighted to hear the nuclear industry has a strategy for solar flares. Will it work in all – or even most – of the hundreds of nuclear power plants worldwide? I guess we’ll have to wait and see (and pray?) about that. After all, we all ‘knew’ Japan’s nuclear industry had a robust strategy for coping with earthquakes, didn’t we?

    @Mark Duffett. Thanks for reminding us all that this space is really only for 9-11 Liars only. Not that I raised the topic myself, but you clearly enjoy re-emphasising the point.

    Regarding your on-topic comments Mark, I understand its true there were more evident casualties at Chernobyl by this stage (5 months after the disaster). But it is also true that ‘fixing’ the Chernobyl debacle was more advanced at the same stage. The Soviets managed to construct sarcophagus all the way round the stricken reactor, including underneath – thanks to the remarkable mobilisation of the Soviet military and civilian volunteers under Gorbachev (more than half a million ‘lquidators were involved). Many casualties were the result of Soviet workers getting excessive exposure to radiation at that time – but at least these heroes stopped further releases of radio-active particles into the atmosphere and groundwater. That’s far from the case with Fukushima and its multiple melted-down reactors.

    More relevant to casualty long-term figures – and the likely reason there’s such a discrepancy in our views – is that those who believe the casualties from Chernobyl were closer to a million than a few hundred – folk such as Helen Caldicott – do so on the basis of the large number of extra cancer deaths likely to have resulted from particulate radiation. These are deaths that would have occurred – and continue to occur – over a large area (Europe and even beyond), but are typically not attributed to the Chernobyl disaster.

    The total amount of particulate radiation already emitted from Fukushima significantly exceeds that released from Chernobyl – and the Fukushima cocktail of emitted nasties is somewhat more deadly than was the case at Chernobyl, with plutonium in the mix (it was showered from the Mox Reactor Three when it exploded). It’s true much of this particulate radiation has been dispersed into the Pacific Ocean (there to be concentrated in the food chain, inter alia making many fish toxic for human consumption). But radioactive particles have also fallen on North America and beyond. Some has blown back onto Japan and China into quite densely populated areas.

    In a way its silly to argue about which was the bigger disaster. This is not a reverse beauty contest. But there is a rational basis for arguing Fukushima is significantly worse than Chernobyl, notwithstanding your patronising rebuke. The disaster itself is larger – and the human response has been slow, inept and clouded by secrecy. In the late 1980s westerners often smugly remarked at how Chernobyl highlighted the worst aspects of the Soviet system. Now we have a comparison with a disaster of comparable scale in the west, we should abandon that smugness. It is not merited.

    http://www.chrismartenson.com/blog/exclusive-arnie-gundersen-interview-dangers-fukushima-are-worse-and-longer-lived-we-think/58689

  100. Simon Mansfield

    @ Venise Alstergren – Why build a dam where the climate is rain forest-or used to be before people like you started destroying it.

    Where is the rainforest in Patagonia? It’s mostly a landscape recently emerged from the little ice age. And if Chile doesn’t build a new hydro dam complex to power its industries and cities – what should Chile build – a nuclear power plant, a coal power plant, or a LNG plant powered by shale or coal seam gas. Or better still nothing – at all – and stay dirt poor.

    And no I haven’t been to Patagonia. I don’t live there and neither does Bob Brown – but he had to hitch his bandwagon to the issue ’cause he knows all about Chile and its needs.

    Seriously Venise if you want to go down this road – start handing out the short straws for who get offed first. Or shall we just look the other way and let the poor stay poor and let them do the dying – they have to be good for something. It’s this anti development mentality that infects the Greens which is so odious and so full of double standards.

    I’ll you give a little factiod. The Three Gorges Dam complex eliminated the need for China to build apx 120 nuclear power plants. And even then that was only a secondary benefit as the main reason China built it – was flood control.

  101. achimova1

    @John Bennetts

    The most authoritative work I’ve read about Chernobyl is the book by 3 Russian scientists – Alexey Yablokov, Vassiliy Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko. It is on the web as a PDF and can be downloaded. It was printed by Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. It is called

    Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for the People and the Environment

    The terrible legacy of illness, the cover-ups, the denial by the nuclear industry, the “belle indifference” of the rest of the world – it’s all there – and we are now watching the replay

    The book is 327 pages long. For those who do not want to wade through it, I suggest reading the last page, Here is one paragraph : “The normal lives often million people have been destroyed. Today, more than 6 million people live on land with dangerous levels of contamination – land that will be contaminated for decades to centuries. Thus the daily questions: how to live and where to live?”

  102. John Bennetts

    Thanks, Achimova1. It was a 4.3MB download. I have only skimmed it.

    My guess is guess that the authoritative work on Chernobyl is yet to be written. Yablokov et al’s work has a poor review on Wikipedia, including references to some pretty serious concerns about its data, methodology and conclusions. I will now go looking for the UNSCEAR update report, written after publication of Yablokov.

  103. achimova1

    @ben sandilands
    I have many reasons for not trusting the nuclear industry. Synroc was a good idea – it was nobbled in 1999 by Nick Minchin because a) there was an unexplained explosion of the matter that was being dealt with and b) it was more expensive than throwing the remaining plutonium-contaimated waste into pits without either vitrification or concrete containment. The 1992 Code of Practice for the disposal of nuclear waste was meant for the disposal of low level industrial and medical wastes,not for nuclear power or weapons testing waste. Then the land was given back to the Aboriginal people with a speech from Minchin which was a miracle of spin. (see Background Briefing 15/4/2000)
    Another piece of evidence re the nuclear industry is Peter Bott’s doco “Silent Storm”. The coverup of the possible health effects of the atomic bomb tests should have been a scandal.
    Yet another unbelievable action of the nuclear industry is to use DU weapons in war. The rising incidence of congenital abnormalities in children in Iraq especially Basra and Fallujah undeniable. Yet deny it they do. And God knows what it’s doing to the soldiers.
    Thanks very much for open this discussion – it would be great if was in the mainstream media – but maybe crikey has more coverage than they do?
    @John Bennetts
    There are many people who do not see UNSCEAR as reliable. I prefer the Chernobyl book because finally Russian, Ukrainian and Belarus scientists are getting guernsey and are putting out their research in English. Greenpeace International published 2 reports based on some of the Russian data in 2006.
    It’s Hiroshima Day. Sayonara

  104. John Bennetts

    Achimova1:
    I see no reason to link, as Achimova1 has, the actions 50+ years ago of a military test program’s proponents in Maralinga with any current or future proposal to construct nuclear power plants.

    As with most large industries, from banking through manufacturing and on to the various energy sectors, it is clear that cynical opportunism, corporate greed and plain old spin are common. That is the ugly face of all business in the modern era. I don’t like it any more than Achimova1 does. The rationale for socialising the losses of the banks which were incurred through their own folly a couple of years ago is repeated when the Japanese government and TEPCO socialise the costs of TEPCO’s failure to maintain, modify and operate their plant in accordance with prudent industrial safety standards. TEPCO has been a poor corporate citizen, but that says nothing much about the product they produced.

    The corporations involved in the atomic power industry are neither worse nor better than the coal industry, for example. Do you ever hear the coal miners and generators’ mouthpieces addressing fully and publicly the allegations that coal emissions are killers? Of course not, yet there is plenty to suggest that real deaths occur at a rate of thousands per year due to the coal industry, perhaps even thousands per day. I really don’t know the truth of the claims, yet they are ignored by the industry and are being ignored by political and corporate forces involved in determining our energy future. The coal barons sail through calm water, year after year, as they leave in their wake real dead and future climate calamity. Has this argument been focussed on the coal industry proportionately? Do those who argue against nuclear power because of the bomb testing program generations ago care about coal deaths, which is a much larger issue?

    Hiroshima Day or not, the power of the atom has become a power for good.

    The children of 2050 wonder why the coal industry was able to follow a business as usual plan of on-site safety and off-site deaths, decades after a safer and cheaper alternative was found. These children will do so in a world rapidly being degraded due to the inaction of today’s generation.

    By all means, castigate TEPCO and the Japanese government about their failed management of the Japanese nuclear power industry in general and the recent incident which has caused not a single death from radiation, but please maintain a bit of the same perspective that we would hope for in our leaders – an ability to make decisions for the common good.

    The common good clearly lies in drastic reduction of carbon emissions – not in 2030 or 2050, after the current decision makers have left office, but ASAP, as soon as … possible.

    Possible.

    Possible is a strong word which is incapable of misinterpretation. To write off possible nuclear power because of atmospheric testing that a distantly related industry did 60 years ago is to ignore a whole range of that which is possible and which must be considered for the common good.

    As for the furphy about DU armament, certain people should learn some basic physical chemistry. Bringing it into this debate, as though it is a monumental threat, is simply ringing the emotive antinuclear alarm a few more times. I don’t have to like it, but the stuff is much less radioactive because the U-235 has largely been removed from it. Further discussion of it here would be off topic, but see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium.

  105. Tom McLoughlin

    Dear Simon, having rented some pretty slummy places for the last 28 years, while being a student, and then activist, employed and otherwise on various environmental concerns I would love to have the financial security and complacent wealth you are referring to, if only to give it away. Being number 8 of 9 kids sort of rules out an inheritance of anykind also.

    Now I am making a decent living I still donate a good chunk now and then.

    Truth is as Singer says, every $200 in discretionary funds here is another life in abject poverty foregone, that might have literally been lifted out of misery for their whole via a decent charitable intervention say via Oxfam etc. I think about that down every street with late model cars parked on each side of the street owned by good well meaning people. Can you handle that confronting fact?

    So that’s a long way of saying you smeared me champ. And probably may others. I think you should consider withdrawing that generalisation.

  106. Syd Walker

    @John Bennetts

    Your faith in the safety of Depleted Uranium doesn’t take into account what geniuses in the military have decided is its preferred use – to ‘pentrate armor’ at high velocity, triggering explosive events that frequently emit copious quantities of dust. These dust particles get breathed into lungs, John. At that time, they are situated immediately adjacent to human cells – not in a nice block sitting a safe distance away.

    This conflation of the danger from an external source of radiation – as opposed to radioactive particles WITHIN the body – also seems to me at the heart of the unresolved dispute over Chernobyl (and likely Fukushima) casualties.

  107. Mark Duffett

    Anyone interested in a level-headed, constructive assessment of the implications of Fukushima should have a look at this MIT report: Technical Lessons Learned from the Fukushima-Daichii Accident and Possible Corrective Actions for the
    Nuclear Industry: An Initial Evaluation
    . Appendix A (Public Health of Fukushima) in particular deserves careful reading.

    http://mitnse.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/fukushima-lessons-learned-mit-nsp-025.pdf (only 756 kb)

  108. Mark Duffett

    Blow waiting for Crikey moderation.

    Anyone interested in a level-headed, constructive assessment of the implications of Fukushima should have a look at this MIT report: Technical Lessons Learned from the Fukushima-Daichii Accident and Possible Corrective Actions for the
    Nuclear Industry: An Initial Evaluation
    . Appendix A (Public Health of Fukushima) in particular deserves careful reading.

    mitnse.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/fukushima-lessons-learned-mit-nsp-025.pdf (only 756 kb)

  109. Captain Planet

    I’m going out on a limb commenting without having read the MIT report, Mark, but would it be fair of me to conclude from the title, that the report starts from the presupposition that it is desirable to have an ongoing nuclear industry?

    In my opinion, the most constructive assessment of the implications of Fukushima, would be that the converse is true: The debate should not be about corrective actions for the nuclear industry, but about corrective actions for the power generation industry – eliminating nuclear power generation.

    Whether this can be done, and how it could be done, is, to me, constructive. Starting from the predetermined position that we should have a nuclear industry (at all) is somewhat less constructive.

  110. Syd Walker

    Why Mark Duffett imagines that report is the best thing since sliced sushi is beyond me.

    It was published in May, before TEPCO even admitted meltdowns in three of the reactors. At least, the report shows no awareness that occured. One therefore has to wonder about the accuracy of other data it presents – let alone its reassuring pro-nuclear energy conclusions.

    Perhaps this is the most accurate sentence in the entire report:

    “The need for and merit of the corrective actions described in this document should be re-assessed as more accurate and complete information about the accident becomes available.”

    I’m with Captain Planet on this. Can we please stop wrangling about whether we boil kettles using nuclear fission. It’s way beyond a joke. Can we please get on with the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. We surely can’t afford to poison this planet any more.

  111. Mark Duffett

    @Captain Planet, here is the first para so you can judge for yourself:

    The accident at the Fukushima-Daichii nuclear plant has generated worldwide news and precipitated public concern about the safety of nuclear power in general. The accident has already caused some governments to re-think their nuclear energy policies, notably including the Japanese and German governments. There have been calls for cancellation of nuclear construction projects and reassessments of plant license extensions. This may lead to a global
    slow-down of the nuclear enterprise, based on the perception that nuclear energy is not safe enough. However, the lessons to be drawn from the Fukushima accident are different.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, starting from the premise of ‘whether nuclear power can be eliminated’ sounds crazy. I can think of no other industry (e.g. cars, planes, coal mining, each of which kills thousands annually) where this would even be contemplated, let alone that this should arise from an incident in which the number of deaths arising from the technology remains zero. (Moreover, I’d contend that Germany will soon answer the question ‘whether this can be done’ in the negative, but that’s beside the point).

    In any case, I’d still recommend a read (despite the title, it’s not that technical, nor is it that long), if only to get a sense of what the impact has been and is likely to be.

  112. Syd Walker

    @Mark Duffett

    How could the authors speak meaningfully about the “lessons to be drawn from the Fukushima accident” when they didn’t even know what had happened in that accident, in fundamental ways?

    If you’re determined to foist pro-nuclear propaganda on Crikey readers, Mark, please raise the standard.

  113. John Bennetts

    @ Syd Walker, Monday, 8 August 2011 at 4:01 pm:

    Thanks for bringing to our notice that the military, as usual, uses DU to kill people. That is what the military does.

    How about balancing your list by mentioning some of the peaceful uses, eg in radiation shields in medical equipment. If depleted uranium was as much of a problem as you and other fear-mongers pretend, then medicos would not be using it in their radiation shields.

    If certain commenters re matters nuclear would only use the noggins that they were born with, they might just develop both knowledge and balance. Until then, there is little that one can say or do to prevent them from making fools of themselves.

    Repeatedly.

  114. John Bennetts

    Captain Pamphlet, how about this for your research files?

    Read Jim Hansen’s bio on the intertubes – he is one very well informed and very public campaigner for climate action.

    Last month, he published this:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110729_BabyLauren.pdf

    It explains the role of renewable energy in a low carbon future… or not.

  115. Syd Walker

    @John Bennetts

    “If certain commenters re matters nuclear would only use the noggins that they were born with, they might just develop both knowledge and balance. Until then, there is little that one can say or do to prevent them from making fools of themselves.”

    I couldn’t agree more John. But who are the folk who’ve made fool of themselves in this debate? If you are trying to infer I’m on that list, please be more specific.

  116. Venise Alstergren

    SIMON MANSFIELD: [Moderator: this comment has been edited to fit into the Crikey code of conduct] I am not a member of the Greens. Nor do I even know how Patagonia got into the act. Clearly someone has looked at a Lonely Planet and mistaken the land where Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay, a smidgen of Bolivia all meet as being Patagonia. The real Patagonia starts south of the Rio Negro and includes Chile as well as Argentina.

    WTF should I give a damn about Bob Brown’s estimations of Patagonia? What I do give a damn about is he appears to be the only person in this filthy rich country who cares about the future. The majority of Australians are fat, torpid, apathetic and quite happy to do whatever their social superiors tell them to do. You obviously fit in like a dream.

  117. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @John Bennets,

    There is a very obvious reason why the important details of how to transition the economy towards zero emissions is never properly discussed on Crikey.

    It is because the comments on Crikey don’t change. Mainly non-right people come here to get a different perspective, yet the discussion is continually hijacked by the same group of verbose right-wing people wasting our time, and, I believe, deliberately distracting the discussion from moving forward.

    Perhaps they are unpaid volunteers, perhaps they are paid. In some cases the disruptive tactics are to clever to be anything but deliberate. The recent trend of some to pretend that they are Green, old Leftie, support climate change action BUT.., etc is just silly.

    How many non-right regular Crikey posters read Andrew Bolt every day, and regularly comment on his blog? None I would expect.

    So why do right-wing loonies come to Crikey to read articles that they know they will disagree with, and then spend hours every day posting in the discussions?

    What Crikey should have done is make a place for discussing whether or not climate change is real, and then ban any such discussion from other forums. Only then might these discussions make some progress.

  118. AR

    MW-H – for the reason you discuss (and I think it was Venise who pointed out that FC & its ilk had occupied 80% of a recent thread) I’ very reluctantly coming to favour using our real names.

  119. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    I’m not sure that using real names would make much difference. After all, Frank Campbell may very well be Frank Campbell.

    What I think would make a huge difference is to partition the discussions, and delete any comments that are off-topic.

    Just imagine what could have been achieved on climate change if many discussions on Crikey did not have to tackle the deniers!

    And I’m not suggesting banning topics. By all means have a forum no whether or not climate change is real, etc?

    I’m happy to debate Fran about nuclear because I think she shares my concerns that action is needed on climate change, and she shares my values. Fran might change my mind, or I might change hers.

    But has a Crikey climate change denier ever changed their mind? Ever?

  120. Captain Planet

    @ John Bennetts,

    thank you for the link to the article by Jim Hansen. He makes many good points. I note that although the growth in renewables has not been sufficient to supply growth in demand in the USA or worldwide in the past, nor has growth in nuclear power been great enough to meet this need.

    Did you watch all of “the battle for Chernobyl” by the way? The footage of some of the tens of thousands of army reservists running out onto the reactor roof, clumsy in their pitifully inadequate, improvised homemade lead suits, for their allotted 45 seconds of exposure, is particularly memorable. This course of action was only undertaken when robotic cleanup failed. Interesting to note that the Japanese are now utilising robots at Fukushima to access the areas which are simply too deadly for any human incursion. I expect that robotics has now developed to the point where mass human exposure can probably be avoided in the Fukushima cleanup.

    I welcome the robust discussion of nuclear power and the fervent opinions of our pro nuke fellow crikerians – I come here mainly to learn and discuss, after all.

    Gen IV reactor technology appears particularly promising, and if the link in the footnotes of Jim Hansen’s article is to be believed, apparently the Chinese have recently commissioned a 20 MW experimental Gen IV reactor just outside of Beijing. I will be very interested to see if any utility scale reactors actually appear in the next 10 years, or if this is just cold fusion all over again.

    I do not really consider that it is reasonable to draw the conclusions that Jim Hansen has done.

    Just because renewable energy has not expanded fast enough to keep up with growth in American / Global Energy demand, or reduce growth in fossil fuel usage, this does not indicate that renewables cannot meet American or Global energy demand.

    Beyond Zero Emissions in Melbourne have done some excellent engineering and economics work to prove that 100 % of Australia’s energy needs can be supplied from renewables. People cast aspersions on the assumptions regarding energy use and all kinds of other technical detail, but the fact is that the engineering and economics are sound: It can be done.

    If Nuclear is to be a part of any low carbon energy path the world takes, then it will have to deliver considerable improvements on safety and waste management before I’m going to be happy about it.

  121. Captain Planet

    MWH,

    I’m happy to debate Fran about nuclear because I think she shares my concerns that action is needed on climate change, and she shares my values. Fran might change my mind, or I might change hers.

    Good luck with that one. Fran is highly intelligent and erudite, but accepting the validity of arguments contrary to her position is not something for which she is renowned.

  122. achimova1

    Considering most of the “discussions” on the web, I think this one has been pretty reasonable. I do get irritated with John Bennetts, but got me to read the Hanson piece and remind myself that their are 2 grave dangers for our grandchildren – climate change and the use of the atomic energy. I am averse to the latter because I see rampant irresponsibility at every level of the process of making a nuclear power station to de-commissioning it – to say nothing of the use of bombs and DU weapons. Not the least problem is the denial by governments and scientists regarding the dangers of the nuclear cycle. It seems to me that those who want to make big money always deny the dangers when they are spruiking a commodity which blind Freddy can see is dangerous – tobacco, asbestos, fracking, some pharmaceuticals, pesticides,etc
    As for climate change and nuclear energy being our saviour in that regard – what’s the point of a sustainable planet if our children are eating and inhaling the products of uranium mining and nuclear power plant accidents?

  123. Frank Campbell

    MWH

    “There is a very obvious reason why the important details of how to transition the economy towards zero emissions is never properly discussed on Crikey.

    It is because the comments on Crikey don’t change. Mainly non-right people come here to get a different perspective, yet the discussion is continually hijacked by the same group of verbose right-wing people wasting our time”

    That’s not the reason. Firstly, Crikey writers are generalists- they are neither knowledgeable or particularly interested in technical, technological or scientific matters to do with climate change (or much else).

    Crikey is a segment of the MSM commentariat, no different from op-ed writers like Annabel Crabb, Switzer, Henderson, Richardson, Marr, etc etc.

    Second, Crikey doesn’t permit anyone critical of AGW (or any aspect of it) to write for Crikey. Therefore pro-millenarian opinion is unanimous. Most climate change pieces are little more than propaganda (eg Anna Rose, Sandell, Hamilton, Chapman). Quality writers such as Bernard Keane (who has real policy expertise) are hamstrung – on the one hand trenchantly exposing policy messes while being trapped in the prevailing mindset. Therefore they can’t see the wood for the trees.

    Crikey is indeed a site for progressives (“non-right” as you clumsily say), but its monopolistic opinion generates a degree of the Manichean sterility and repetition which bedevils comments on this subject (and “this subject” spills over into many others – in turn determined by current politics: the govt. has made it “the greatest moral challenge” etc).

    An even-handed approach wouldn’t eliminate headbanging comments, but there’d be some chance of rational analysis. Both sides would have to deal with sophisticated arguments more about technological detail and policy than whether someone is a Believer or Denier.

    For instance: renewable energy- key subject, but you’ll never read anything on Crikey which examines geothermal in Australia. Or detailed analyses of the other candidates. It’s an article of faith- “transition to clean green renewables”. Actually, this is what everyone wants for many reasons, but doubt is excluded (except for the one technology that divides millenarians: nuclear).

    This entire debate is likely soon to be consigned to landfill, as I’ve said often, because climate extremism has empowered the Right, and because the long-predicted GFC MK II will probably deny the capital required to implement the climate revolution (and will also kill off associated taxes).

    Until then, expect the two sides of the cult to keep banging their heads together, Beleiver and Deniers. And remember that 17% of Green voters -like me- think AGW is “exaggerated” (2011 poll).

  124. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Frank,

    I’m talking about the DISCUSSIONS on Crikey, and as you can see by your comment, Crikey do allow people who think that AGW is a cult to post.

    Some people who take part in the discussions do have great expertise. And many are rational. So I do believe that if Crikey discussions on climate change were not deliberately disrupted by deniers (as is happening now as I waste time responding to you) then progress would be made.

    If Crikey is so bad why do you read it, and read all the comments, and take part in the discussions? I don’t read Bolt or take part in his forum. Why are you here if it is not just to disrupt?

    As I’ve asked before, please provide somewhere I can go and learn about a rational and coherent alternative to climate change.

    All you do, Frank, is post with glee everything you think shows that climate change is false, whilst pretending that you are a Green and that you also accept that AGW is real. You dismiss those like Hamilton who, though not climate scientist, take what the scientist say seriously, and yet you don’t mind that the deniers have no scientific rational to back them up.

    Look at Frank’s post above and see if he adds anything of value to the discussion. I think not. If only Frank, and those like him could be banned from some Crikey discussions so that rational could move the discussion forward.

  125. Mark Duffett

    @Syd Walker, since the main body addresses itself almost entirely to the causes of the accident (i.e. how such incidents can be prevented) rather than its manifestations, I don’t see how the revelation of meltdown invalidates any of the report, let alone all of it. And no significant release of radioactive material to the environment has occurred since March, so the appendix on public health impact also stands.

    By the way, can we please stop with the trivialisation of electricity provision as ‘boiling kettles’? With over a quarter of a million children dying every year from causes attributable to a lack of electricity (who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/9241591358/en/index.html), it’s rather distasteful.

  126. Frank Campbell

    MWH: “If only Frank, and those like him could be banned from some Crikey discussions so that rational could move the discussion forward.”

    This fits well with Savonarola Hamilton’s call for democracy to be “suspended”…

    Repression just gives right-wing conspiracy nutters ammunition…

    And yes, Crikey does allow non-millenarians to comment. Very big of Crikey. My point was that banning sophisticated criticism by writers encourages shallow, headbanging polemic in comments.

    And I’ve answered the fair question you ask many times” if Crikey is so bad” why do I bother? -Purely to make the point that not all Greens and Leftists are victims of climate religion. You can abuse me as a ‘right-wing ideologue”, a “denier” (I’m not) and “pretending to be Green” as much as you like- I’m far to the Left of Crikey and a more militant green than anyone I’ve seen posting on Crikey. Unlike you urbanites, we are here on the front line, in a daily war with rednecks, corporate extractive thugs, paddock-thrashing farmers, loggers, and vicious illegal hunters…when was the last time a log-truck tried to run you off the road, MWH? When were you last spat on by a mob of drunken armed men you’d confronted for shooting kangaroos on your property, at 2am in the morning? Have you recorded the endless environmental abuses of tree plantation companies?

    The environment is out here, not where you are.

  127. Syd Walker

    @Mark Duffett

    We shall have to agree to disagree about the quality of that report, Mark. It strengthens my view that a frightening proportion of universitity departments these days morph, on cue, into scientifically literate PR organisations.

    Fukushima is a debacle by anyone’s standards. These pathetic attempts to minimise such a collosal disaster are a dangerous time-waster that impede development of a consensus around a massive, rapid program for expanding the use of renewables worldwide.

    It reminds me of a kid that blew out a neighbours eye with a firecracker back next day, moaning he’s not allowed to buy any more.

  128. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Frank,

    Of course you missed my point that I think Crkey should have a place for debating whether or not to accept Garnaut, etc.

    What happens on Crikey when the usual right-wing loonies don’t derail the discussion. Have a look at:

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/08/05/high-speed-rail-pulling-a-very-fast-one-on-capital/

    The discussion is informative, lively, and really worth reading. Why is this discussion different from the bickering in most other Crikey discussions, including the above?

    After all, the fast train discussion has most of the regular Crikey posters. The key difference is who is missing.

    There are only two posts by THETRUTHHURTS, and none by FRANK CAMPBELL, SIMON MANSFIELD, and SUZANNE BLAKE.

    And I’m sure I could add a few further names if I spent a bit longer at it.

  129. Frank Campbell

    MWH: “Why is this (very fast train) discussion different from the bickering in most other Crikey discussions, including the above?”

    Isn’t it obvious? There’s no mention of climate change in the title.

    The Very Fast Train is like Halley’s comet, but more frequent….every decade it comes around again…

    It’s a Very Silly Idea, as everyone realises after each feasibility study. It then heads out to the asteroid belt where it belongs…until a new generation of “visionaries” and pollies seeking monuments call it back again…

    The VFT is a topic just made for B. Keane: his policy experience enables him to vaporise the VFTs credibility. He does just that. That’s what Crikey could be like without the great weeping tumour of climate millenarianism- which is killing the govt, the Greens, the Left…and Crikey.

  130. achimova1

    This is not good news!

    Japan to Lift Evacuation Order Around Damaged Nuclear Plant

    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2011/2011-08-04-01.html

    Is the Japanese government – and the rest of the world – in total denial? Or is the task too big? There are many more people living in Northern Japan than around Cherobyl.

  131. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Frank, so even though you are against the VFT, you don’t bother to contribute to the discussion?

    You have just shown that you have nothing of value to add to the discussion, so don’t bother posting to the other thread.

    I still await you, or anyone else, to provide any evidence that climate change is wrong.

    You have done a great job on preventing any rational discussion by those who accept that something has to be done.

    The fault really is Crikey’s. This site either needs moderation so that in some discussions climate change deniers are not allowed, or there needs to be a blocking feature so that people can block the usual suspects.

    Is there anywhere else on the net where Australian’s can discuss climate change without it being hijacked by deniers?

  132. Frank Campbell

    MWH: “The fault really is Crikey’s. This site either needs moderation so that in some discussions climate change deniers are not allowed, or there needs to be a blocking feature so that people can block the usual suspects.

    Is there anywhere else on the net where Australian’s can discuss climate change without it being hijacked by deniers?”

    You make my case perfectly, MWH.

    Why not send us heretics to…ummm…Nauru? Better still, Kiribas, because it’s lower…

  133. Venise Alstergren

    MWH + FRANK CAMPBELL: Why don’t you you give each other your internet addresses? That way almost everyone would be happy. You two can insult the bjeesus out of each other and the rest of us would stand a chance of reading all the comments. 😈

  134. Mark Duffett

    Is there anywhere else on the net where Australians can discuss climate change without it being hijacked by deniers?

    There is indeed, MWH. BraveNewClimate (bravenewclimate.com) has in the last month or so instituted (and enforced) just such a policy as you describe. You’ll love it there 😉

    @Syd, as you say, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Another nub for this is your appellation of ‘colossal disaster’ to an event for which the casualties will be statistically undetectable, and are currently zero and counting. I just can’t see it that way, especially not in the context of the damage and loss of life wreaked by the earthquake and tsunami.

  135. Frank Campbell

    I see that Ziggy Switkowski (ex-Telstra boss, now pro-nuclear advocate) is also spreading “doubt and confusion” about AGW- not the basic science, but the innumerable extrapolations based on computer modelling (op-ed in the Australian,
    8th August).

    This is part of a gradual inching away from climate extremism by opinion leaders, which I’ve been predicting for months.

    Eventually, a tipping point will be reached, and conventional opinion will adopt the Switkowski line. In effect it provides an escape route from both sides of the cult, Believers and Deniers.

  136. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Thank you Mark.

    I just read BraveNewClimate’s comments policy and it is exactly what I’m looking for!

  137. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    The reasons Frank is such a pain (to me) is that posts such as his last one about Ziggy need a reply, not that it is possible that Frank would learn from it – we know he will not, but in case anyone with a rational and open mind thinks that no response means that Frank has made a good point.

    Ziggy rightly says that there is uncertainty, and he points out that the IPCC have shown this. And Ziggy rightly points out that the predictions will change. After all, the reason we are still doing research on climate change is to try to reduce the uncertainty, and if nothing was likely to change then there would not be much point in doing further research.

    Now the big question is which way are things likely to change as more data comes in and the computer models get better.

    Ziggy is ingenious in implying that climate change may become less of a threat, and not surprisingly this implication has been jumped upon by Frank.

    Now everyone knows, and even the IPCC have made clear, that there is a possibility that the predictions will become less severe.

    But neither Ziggy, Frank, nor anyone else, has provided any scientific reason for saying that it is more likely than not that things will go this way.

    Looking at the track record of the IPCC it is clear that they have constantly UNDERESTIMATED the risk, because the real-world measured data after each IPCC report has tended to track their worst case estimate – not their most likely.

    And there are lots of valid scientific reasons for the IPCC to have underestimated the risk. The most critical is that many of the flipping point scenarios are not included by the IPCC because their likelihood and their severity are not well understood.

    Ziggy was the CEO of Testra – his scientific days were well before this. Now he is (or was) a paid lobbyist for the nuclear industry. He is right to say that there is uncertainty, but he is wrong to imply that this means it is more likely than not that things will be less severe than forecast.

    And, most importantly, as we are now on the way to 4 degree warming (if all current international commitments are met), even if we only get the 3 degree warming predictions when we got to 4 degree warming, we would still be facing a major economic and environmental catastrophe.

    Frank likes to call those who call it as the science say alarmists. Calling the alarm for no reason is bad. But calling the alarm when there is a real threat is good.

    Frank, and the other denialists on Crikey, have still failed to give a link to any convincing rebuttal to the science. But they have succeeded in wasting our time, and preventing any rational discussion of how to tackle climate change.

  138. Frank Campbell

    MWH: “Now everyone knows, and even the IPCC have made clear, that there is a possibility that the predictions will become less severe.”

    Exactly. No one actually has a clue. That’s why Michael Mann and the East Bumcracks are themselves desperately trying to explain the plateau in temps of the past 13 years. A hockey stick with no curve at all. One of many hypotheses is Chinese sulphur emissions…

    Ziggy’s just stating the obvious: radical policy changes need far better empirical evidence than we’ve got…or are likely to get.

    Premature expenditure has already wasted many billions, from the vast (flooded) Victorian desal plant to solar rorts (now being abandoned) and geothermal fantasies…I’ve yet to see any climate millenarian (or anyone on Crikey) analyses the state of geothermal in this country…a billion dollars of subsidy has vanished so far.

  139. Venise Alstergren

    PHEN: Re your comment Wed 3 August @ 7.20pm. Don’t the denialists ever read someone’s comments before having a crack at them? Here, in glorious black and white is my actual comment. “”A recent survey of our working men found almost thirty percent of them to be both illiterate and innumerate.””

    This is a million light years away from accusing thirty percent of the Australian people as being illiterate and innumerate.

    Or, have I stepped on the toes of one of the afflicted?

    You accuse me of being over- inclined to use the phrase forty percent of ………. Basing this entirely on your misreading of my thirty percent comment, I fail to see that your criticism has any validity.

  140. Venise Alstergren

    WMH: Yep, you do make a good point that if you ignore Frank, other people will think he’s landed something on you. You have my sympathy.

  141. Phen

    Venise – I am not a denialist (I presume you mean in relation to climate change, rather than say the holocaust – in either case I am neither). Normally people would have some basis for throwing around such nasty accusations as that, but I digress.

    I say again, 30% of the Australian people are not illiterate/innumerate (not even close). And yes, if your dubious statistic is not intended to suggest that, then what exactly is your point of raising it?

  142. Mark Duffett

    Phen and Venise, the issue hangs on how you define ‘illiterate’. If it’s ‘not having the document literacy skills needed to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work’, then the proportion is 46%. If you lower the bar, the proportion drops, with 17% failing to reach even the lowest standard of literacy (as of 2006).

    abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4228.0Media%20Release12006%20%28Reissue%29?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4228.0&issue=2006%20%28Reissue%29&num=&view=

  143. Venise Alstergren

    PHEN:I assumed you to be a denialist of CC. To bring in the subject of the Holocaust, Armenian or otherwise, into the discussion reveals you to be devoid of
    grace.

    Once again, I point out that I at no stage inferred that thirty percent of Australians were illiterate and/or innumerate. The point of my raising the subject in the first place was to suggest that the survey done on the Australian worker WHICH FOUND thirty percent of the working ‘man’ or, if you prefer, ‘the blue collar’ workers. to be illiterate and innumerate, gives me no confidence that Australia could successfully build and/or maintain a nuclear industry. Which is more or less the deciding issue which will in future impel me to be anti-nuclear.

    MARK DUFFETT: Thanks for your scary “”the issue hangs on how you define ‘illiterate’. If it’s ‘not having the document literacy skills needed to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work’, then the proportion is 46%.y “” It is terrifying. As it’s late I will go now. Thank you for your input. See you in the Dogonaut Lounge.

  144. Phen

    Venise – you called me a denialist, which I am not, and I have never made any comment on any board which could reasonably be interpreted as denialist. So don’t talk to me about lacking class.

    And unless you think that the key roles in nuclear power plants are staffed predominantly by blue collar men, then your dubious statistic is pretty irrelevant to the topic isn’t it?

    Goodnight all!

  145. Mark Duffett

    @Venise “…the deciding issue which will in future impel me to be anti-nuclear”, I’d be sorry to see you go back to the (literally) dark side, certainly on this issue. I think you can be sure that the workforce for future Australian nuclear power plants will be largely in technical, white collar positions; and certainly all will be from the 54% of the working-age population whose literacy and numeracy standards are at least adequate.

  146. Captain Planet

    I can assure you that literacy and numeracy are key requirements for “blue collar” power station personnel.

    Those making the critical technical decisions in any Nuclear plant would certainly be degree qualified engineers.

    I would suggest that the 30 % of “blue collar workers” as quoted by Venise (if accurate) would be largely comprised of individuals performing tasks much less technical and demanding than operating or maintaining a power station. For example, bricklayers, truck drivers, grader operators, road crew workers, cleaners, and woodcutters, to name just a few, have considerably less demand placed by their employment on their literacy and numeracy skills, than an electrician or hydraulic technician working on a nuclear power plant.

    Note that this is not intended to denigrate those roles, as they all contribute to a functioning society and economy in valuable ways, and each of them places different demands on their practitioners: It’s just that Literacy & numeracy are not high amongst those demands.

    Venise, it is a bit elitist and arrogant to lean towards the anti – nuke position on the grounds of the (alleged) poor literacy & numeracy standards of the “working class”.

    The very same argument could be used to suggest that Australia should not have an aviation industry, a chemical industry, a vehicle manufacturing or maintenance industry, a mining industry, a natural gas industry, a manufacturing sector of any kind, or indeed any industry which involves the technical management of risk.

  147. Venise Alstergren

    CAPTAIN PLANET: There is absolutely nothing elitist about my comments at all. Just a cowardly streak of self-preservation. If we are to go nuclear, I would, on the whole, prefer to survive this event, and believe enlightened self-interest to be a central part of my survival instincts.

    “”For example, bricklayers, truck drivers, grader operators, road crew workers, cleaners, and woodcutters, to name just a few, have considerably less demand placed by their employment on their literacy and numeracy skills, than an electrician or hydraulic technician working on a nuclear power plant.”” Very true indeed. However, none of these industries have the same potential for mass extermination as the nuclear industry.

    “”The very same argument could be used to suggest that Australia should not have an aviation industry, a chemical industry, a vehicle manufacturing or maintenance industry, a mining industry, a natural gas industry, a manufacturing sector of any kind, or indeed any industry which involves the technical management of risk.”” Once again, very true. But aren’t these the industries the very ones who are always squalling for more skilled workers? Makes one wonder….

    “”“working class”.”” I find no more favour in that terminology that do you but there has to be a finite amount to the number of times one lot of words can be used. Work-force, working man, (I think I did use the term of ‘Blue Collar Worker) so I did my best.

    I read about the survey in the Melbourne Age-about six months ago. Very stupidly, I forgot to scan it or print it, and I lack the expertise to try and find it again. It was quite specific in its aims which were to survey members of the blue collar work-force in order to ascertain the various levels of education contained therein. A journalist had obviously picked up the story and become alarmed by the high level of illiteracy and innumeracy in the work-force. In turn I too became alarmed.

    “”Australia should not have an aviation industry””. Well, the way QANTAS have always abused and despised the travelling public, and the financial carryings on at the moment I can only agree that Oz should not have its own aviation industry.

    The only conclusions I can arrive at is that we must have one of the world’s worst education systems, and that, somewhere along the line we are unable to light a fire in the imaginations of our young people. A good friend, who is a mechanic, blames the collapse of the apprentice systems, and technical schools which in his words, are no longer teaching subjects remotely germane to the skills required, and the students who go to these places, not because they want to, but because they couldn’t get in anywhere else. But I admit he is a terrible conservative.

    Tell me, would you be in favour of the awesome forces of nuclear power being run in a country where a worker could be in a vital position to halt something terrible, but couldn’t read the instructions as to how to prevent it? I wouldn’t.

  148. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    What scares me most about nuclear in Australia is not the workers, it is management (including politicians).

    I think we could have the technical expertise to run a worlds best practice reactor, and we could ensure that all workers have the skills and abilities needed to do their job.

    But Australian management has no respect for technical expertise. So I would not live anywhere near a reactor.

    (And much earlier in this thread I gave some other reasons why I am not a supporter of nuclear in Australia.)

  149. Venise Alstergren

    MWH: There you are. Perhaps the real problem with the ‘working-man and illiteracy’ one that I’ve been waffling on about, does lie with management? My friend blames rotten teaching methods and very lazy students. My concern is, as I said above, is enlightened self-interest. However, somehow and somewhere the question should be addressed, and corrected. Or we will continue on as the robotic owners of a land who aren’t even concerned with its future.

  150. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    @Venise,

    I think the riots in the UK have shown how the world is moving towards self-interest, and who cares about anyone else.

    It could be argued that those in power (both political and economic) have been like this for a long time.

    Look at how Gillards tries to sell her carbon tax – no attempt at “we need to act for the benefit of our children”. The sales job is how you will be over-compensated and so be better off.

    Recent viewing and reading has bought home to me that for many the issues are now emotional, and emotional of ‘”whats init for me?” The London riots were not just the uneducated poor. It included some ‘average’ kids.

    Also note how irrational the rioters were. In the most CCT covered country in the world you would have thought that they would have done better to hide their identity.

    So now it is not just self-interest but stupid.

  151. Captain Planet

    Hello all,

    the thread that keeps on giving!

    Venise, thanks for the explanation of the source of the stats. It’s open to question though, there are plenty of reliable references on the web listing Australia’s adult literacy rate as 99 % or 100 % – I guess it all depends on the method of defining literacy.

    I don’t necessarily agree that Australia has “one of the world’s worst education systems”, or even necessarily a bad education system, per se.

    Blaming “rotten teaching methods and very lazy students” for an outcome which is really in dispute (are Australians illiterate?) is a very broad generalisation, and not substantiated in my personal experience.

    None of this takes away from the central premise of the latest discussion on this thread – can Australia safely and competently run a Nuclear Power Plant?

    We definitely don’t have the expertise within the country to do so right now. We would need to import or train (preferably both) some experts in engineering and Physics specialising in this field.

    But those are the higher level scientists and technical professionals. As for the “Blue Collar” workers, it is incumbent upon the management of such facilities to ensure that their staff have the basic skills to carry out their allotted responsibilities. I would be astonished beyond measure, if anyone without basic literacy and numeracy skills succeeded in gaining employment at a Nuclear Power Station, in a position where lack of such skills would jeopardise the integrity of the plant.

  152. Venise Alstergren

    MWH: I entered a comment under Guy Rundle’s summing up of the riots and for no reason, absolutely no reason at all, it was moderated. The purpose of my comment was, hopefully you might be able to read it over the weekend, to answer a couple of questions about it. I’ll hang off for a couple of days and if it isn’t printed by Sunday, I’ll ask you.

    CAPTAIN PLANET: Can I come back to you too? I’ve had a long day and am v hungry. Pretty please?

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