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Japan Power Stats Hardware

The Panic Over Fukushima 536

Posted by Soulskill
from the people-enjoy-being-scared-more-than-they-enjoy-math dept.
An anonymous reader points out an article in the Wall Street Journal about how irrational fear of nuclear reactors made people worry much more about last year's incident at Fukushima than they should have. Quoting: "Denver has particularly high natural radioactivity. It comes primarily from radioactive radon gas, emitted from tiny concentrations of uranium found in local granite. If you live there, you get, on average, an extra dose of .3 rem of radiation per year (on top of the .62 rem that the average American absorbs annually from various sources). A rem is the unit of measure used to gauge radiation damage to human tissue. ... Now consider the most famous victim of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two workers at the reactor were killed by the tsunami, which is believed to have been 50 feet high at the site. But over the following weeks and months, the fear grew that the ultimate victims of this damaged nuke would number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The 'hot spots' in Japan that frightened many people showed radiation at the level of .1 rem, a number quite small compared with the average excess dose that people happily live with in Denver. What explains the disparity? Why this enormous difference in what is considered an acceptable level of exposure to radiation?"
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The Panic Over Fukushima

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  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:19PM (#41039939) Homepage Journal

    If that is awesome, what is this [geology.com]?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:31PM (#41040083)

    It's worse than that. Coal plants on average emit more radiation per kWh than nuclear plants. Including all the disasters of the past few decades.

    People suck at dealing with low probabilities of very high magnitude. Which is why we're so scared of terrorists we can't leave our homes...except to get in a two ton killing machine to which tens of thousands die per year in the US alone.

  • by todfm (1973074) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:33PM (#41040109)

    While the Fukushima disaster may have increased the background radiation by a small amount, this isn't the end of the story on radiation exposure from that event. Fukushima also released radioactive particles that, when inhaled or ingested by humans, will expose their tissues to ionizing radiation for the rest of their lives. This is why you can't compare the exposure from events like international flights, which are distributed across your entire body and are transient in nature, to the total effects of a nuclear disaster. Some of the exposures from Fukushima were and will be much more than tolerable, transient increases in the background radiation a la living in Denver. For many people, the hot particles they inhaled or ingested will stay with them forever and will lead to significant cell damage and cancer.

  • by bmo (77928) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:38PM (#41040143)

    Incidents like Chernobyl happened due to cheap building and cheaper maintenance;

    No, Chernobyl happened because they completely botched an experiment in one of the worst reactor designs going - a graphite reactor known as the RBMK design. The Russians got the Latvians to finally shut theirs down like a year or two ago. Graphite reactors are *old* and basically unsafe if you do anything outside the design envelope. They will reliably produce heat for your boilers, but don't fuck with them.

    You should read the wikipedia page on the accident. It's pretty thorough and one of the better pages in wikipedia.

    --
    BMO

    PS: How old are graphite reactors? They go as far back as the Chicago Pile-1 in 1942. Nobody designs graphite reactors anymore because the hot graphite has a nasty habit of catching fire when exposed to oxygen, as in the case of Chernobyl.

  • Re:Wrong scare (Score:5, Informative)

    by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:15PM (#41040513)

    The father of one of my co-workers has spent essentially the entire time since a week after the tsunami, in Japan assisting with the planning and execution of the clean-up. As has been recently exposed in the media, he has been saying all along that things were and are much worse than TEPCO, the government and the Japanese media have been saying, that the response and cleanup efforts have been pathetically bad, and that the exposure for many people and the surrounding area has been much worse than have been let out.

    Among other things that have been publicized recently, it's been discovered that TEPCO executives had been instructing their workers to either not wear their radiation monitor badges or to cover them (with lead? I dunno, don't recall) to reduce the workers' apparent exposure.

    I've also read that an area of some hundred square miles may remain uninhabitable for decades if not centuries. Sorry, don't recall where - it was a couple of months ago.

  • Re:Propaganda (Score:5, Informative)

    by MacDork (560499) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:20PM (#41040557) Journal

    According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] 1 Sivert == 100 rem. 0.1rem would be 0.001 Sivert or 1 mSv. According to a quick google [nature.com] there were hotspots = 5.82 microsiverts per hour. That's about 51 mSv per year or an increase of 5.1rem.

    Where is he measuring this 0.1 rem increase? On Japan's south island?

  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:32PM (#41040651)

    What, do I look like a librarian? It's the glasses, right?

    Operational power reactors, worldwide: Approximately 430

    Research reactors: Approximately 250

    Ship/submarine reactors: Approximately 180

    Formerly operational but decommissioned commercial and research reactors: Approximately 350

    Total # of scary asploded nucular reactors I can think of offhand: 3
    (including Three Mile Island which resulted in negligible radiation leakage and no deaths)

    Source: Yahoo Answers [yahoo.com] and associated links to world-nuclear.org

  • Re:Wrong scare (Score:5, Informative)

    by cgaertner (1004238) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:34PM (#41040669)

    The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission disagrees with your assessment - this is what the chairman has to say in the official report [naiic.go.jp]:

    Message from the Chairman

    THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a magnitude
    that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent
    accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural
    disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen
    and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.
    How could such an accident occur in Japan, a nation that takes such great pride in its global
    reputation for excellence in engineering and technology? This Commission believes the
    Japanese people – and the global community – deserve a full, honest and transparent answer
    to this question.

    Our report catalogues a multitude of errors and willful negligence that left the Fukushima
    plant unprepared for the events of March 11. And it examines serious deficiencies in the
    response to the accident by TEPCO, regulators and the government.

    For all the extensive detail it provides, what this report cannot fully convey – especially to
    a global audience – is the mindset that supported the negligence behind this disaster.
    What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.”
    Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture:
    our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with
    the program’; our groupism; and our insularity.

    Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident,
    the result may well have been the same.

    Following the 1970s “oil shocks,” Japan accelerated the development of nuclear power in
    an effort to achieve national energy security. As such, it was embraced as a policy goal by
    government and business alike, and pursued with the same single-minded determination
    that drove Japan’s postwar economic miracle.

    With such a powerful mandate, nuclear power became an unstoppable force, immune to
    scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy
    responsible for its promotion. At a time when Japan’s self-confidence was soaring, a tightly
    knit elite with enormous financial resources had diminishing regard for anything ‘not
    invented here.’

    This conceit was reinforced by the collective mindset of Japanese bureaucracy, by which
    the first duty of any individual bureaucrat is to defend the interests of his organization.
    Carried to an extreme, this led bureaucrats to put organizational interests ahead of their
    paramount duty to protect public safety.

    Only by grasping this mindset can one understand how Japan’s nuclear industry managed
    to avoid absorbing the critical lessons learned from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl; and how
    it became accepted practice to resist regulatory pressure and cover up small-scale accidents.
    It was this mindset that led to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant.
    This report singles out numerous individuals and organizations for harsh criticism, but the
    goal is not—and should not be—to lay blame. The goal must be to learn from this disaster,
    and reflect deeply on its fundamental causes, in order to ensure that it is never repeated.
    Many of the lessons relate to policies and procedures, but the most important is one upon
    which each and every Japanese citizen should reflect very deeply.

    The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mindset
    that supported it can be found across Japan

  • by michael_cain (66650) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @08:28PM (#41041117) Journal
    Here [cancer.gov].

    Colorado is in the lowest sixth of US states for overall cancer rates. This despite being in the top third for skin melanoma. When you go in for a check-up, the docs don't ask you whether you've checked the radon levels in your house. But they will ask you if you wear sunblock, and UV-blocking sunglasses (UV has been linked to cataract development). Cause the UV levels that go with living at 5,000 feet are much more dangerous than the other radiation exposures.
  • by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday August 18, 2012 @08:55PM (#41041347) Journal
    A typical sample from this area would be well below 1%. Even in the shadow of Chernobyl five years after, the rate was only about 5%.
  • Re:Radon (Score:4, Informative)

    by ed1park (100777) <ed1park@hot[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday August 18, 2012 @09:25PM (#41041571)

    You are incorrect along with the author and the others trivializing the problem.

    It's not about the radiation. It's about the bioaccumulation.

    To compare the radiation from radon gas to the insanely toxic radioactive isotopes that were released into the air, water, and soil is retarded. (e.g.: Caesium, Plutonium, Strontium, Iodine, etc) It has gotten into the food they eat, the water they drink, and the air they breathe. And when it gets into the body, it will cause cancer. BTW, Radon has a half life of 4 days. Caesium-137, 30 years.

    How it's poisoned the food supply, etc. Scroll down to the table of contents and learn something:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_effects_from_Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster [wikipedia.org]

    Fellow Slashdotters, swallow your pride, accept your ignorance, and think before you type and moderate like fools perpetuating fallacies.

    BTW, I am pro nuclear power. But Fukushima was a failure in accountability coupled with a corrupt regulating agency. Nuclear power will only work when management and owners are held directly responsible with their lives. Both physical and financial.

  • by abirdman (557790) * <<abirdman> <at> <maine.rr.com>> on Saturday August 18, 2012 @09:53PM (#41041789) Homepage Journal
    The problems with the plant were not caused by the earthquake or the tsunami, they were caused by the electricity going out. It was not the freak failure of some madly over-spec'ed equipment, it was the simple failure to anticipate a lack of electrical service to power the pumps that were supposed to cool the plant. Once cooling failed, the accidents just happened randomly -- the roofs blowing off two reactors from hydrogen build-up, and various cracks and leaks caused, or highlighted, by pumping sea water through the plants for emergency cooling. Basically, once the power went off, none of their emergency response protocols were relevant.

    This confirms (for me, at least) Amory Lovins' assertion that the US will never build another nuclear plant because there's no way it will ever be cost effective, even when most of the liability risk is assumed by the government. This WSJ article is snake oil being sold by some would-be investors (or sellers of investments).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 19, 2012 @12:19AM (#41042735)
    Long term waste are *weakly* radioactive. If it was not for the heavy metal toxicity you could hold radioactive Uranium or plutonium im hand. The problem are short term waste (a few dozen year to maybe 300-400 years) which is dangerous because it emits dangerous radioactivity in short term, and are dangerous for a few helf life (so maybe up to 1000-2000 years). And for those time period we had building which stayed up. Heck even longer. Radioactive material which has half life much longer are much less dangerous because the radioactivity they emit is very low per second. So a 10.000 year half life is much less dangerous than a 10 year one.

    Furthermore the TYPE of radioactivity is important , alpha can be stopped with a glove or clothing (see above rubber glove holding an alpha emitter). Beta or gamma OTOH I would not like to be near, but I can't recall long term element waste for which we have them in a lot of quantity.


    So when you say " Oh, he doesn't even mention that we have to find a way to keep the nuclear waste safe for 150.000 years. " this is pure bullshit propaganda from greenies which have no idea which radioactive waste pose us the biggest problem.
  • by Xyrus (755017) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @01:50AM (#41043189) Journal

    Yeah, radioactive Iodine has a half-life of 8 days, so I find it rather unlikely that these "abnormalities" were caused by Fukishima. That would make the incidence rate higher than Chernobyl, and that was a much bigger release.

    Cesium has a half life of 30 years, so hangs around for a while. And no, cesium does not remain in the body permanently. The biological half-life of cesium is 70 days. So unless you're constantly ingesting it, it leaves the body on it's own accord.

    Strontium can remain in the body for considerably longer, so that's the one to look out for. Depending on where it is absorbed it has a biological half-life from anywhere as short as 14 days (soft tissue) to 60 years (bone). It has a similar radioactive half-life to that of cesium.

    Radioactive exposure does not mean you will get cancer or suffer any extreme health effects. It depends on the type of exposure. It takes a considerable amount of exposure to even marginally increase the likelihood of developing cancer.

  • by ed1park (100777) <ed1park@hot[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Sunday August 19, 2012 @09:38AM (#41045089)

    You are wrong on all three counts.

    O-rings. It was a stupid/deadly management decision.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/us/roger-boisjoly-73-dies-warned-of-shuttle-danger.html [nytimes.com]

    Fukushima. “They completely ignored me in order to save Tepco money,” said Mr. Shimazaki, 65
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/world/asia/critics-say-japan-ignored-warnings-of-nuclear-disaster.html?pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2920525&cid=40351611 [slashdot.org]

    WSJ article author is retarded and doesn't take into account bio-accumulation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_effects_from_Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster [wikipedia.org]

    Do you just make this stuff up? Read up on my other responses in this thread and learn a thing or two.
    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3057855&cid=41041571 [slashdot.org]

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