Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
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?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Panic Over Fukushima

Comments Filter:
  • Red Heading (Score:3, Funny)

    by stephenmac7 (2700151) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @05:55PM (#41039711)
    Off topic but: What's with the red heading?
  • I'm still blown away (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @05:59PM (#41039747)

    Not by the Fukushima thing - but by the fact that the tsunami was 50 feet high at the plant. I understand how it can happen; but that is truly awesome (in the literal sense of the word).

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

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

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      What gets me is, everybody bitches that Fukushima 'failed'. Yeah, after taking an earthquake and a tsunami. What were they expecting, the Japanese to armor it against a direct impact from an asteroid the size of Texas or something? It was what, a 1 in a billion chance they took? The gods of statistics hated them that day.
      • by abirdman (557790) * <abirdman.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 Solandri (704621) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @03:32AM (#41043555)
          I've been saying since March of last year, it really looks like a case of probability analysis failure, like happened with the O-rings in the shuttle's boosters. In the boosters, they noticed sometimes the propellant could burn through two O-rings. So they added a third O-ring, on the theory that if there's a 1 in 100 chance of burning through two O-rings, then each O-ring has a 1 in 10 chance of burning through, and there's a 1 in 1000 chance of burning through three O-rings.

          That ain't how it works. For the probabilities to multiply like that and provide redundancy, the vulnerabilities have to be independent events. Burning through O-rings isn't an independent event. A condition which causes one O-ring to leak and burn through (cold weather) is highly likely to affect subsequent O-rings. So you aren't really making things safer by adding an extra O-ring.

          At Fukushima, it looks like they had a dozen or so backup generators on the theory that if one has a (say) 1 in 10 chance of failing, then the chance of all of them failing is 1 in 10^12. But nearly all of them were located in the same place, so a single event (a tsunami) which took out one generator took out all of them. Having multiple generators situated this way did not provide redundancy because they weren't vulnerable to independent events. They were vulnerable to the same event.

          What they needed to do was put the generators in different locations, with different fuel sources, probably even different manufacturers and fuel types. That way an event which affected one would not affect the others, making their vulnerabilities independent events. The generators at reactors 5-6 were located further uphill, and thus survived the tsunami intact and were able to keep the fuel storage tanks there cooled.

          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).

          Actually the WSJ article is by a professor of physics at UC Berkeley. And he is spot on about the huge mischaracterization of the risk assigned to nuclear power (including by insurance adjusters). People in general suck at rationally analyzing extremely rare events with huge consequences. For nuclear power, fear of another Chernobyl overwhelms the rational fact that historically it's the safest power source man has ever invented. For lotteries, the desire to hit the jackpot overwhelms the rational fact that nearly everyone who plays loses money, and even on average you lose money.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Sunday August 19, 2012 @06:39AM (#41044261) Homepage

            At Fukushima, it looks like they had a dozen or so backup generators on the theory that if one has a (say) 1 in 10 chance of failing, then the chance of all of them failing is 1 in 10^12. But nearly all of them were located in the same place, so a single event (a tsunami) which took out one generator took out all of them. Having multiple generators situated this way did not provide redundancy because they weren't vulnerable to independent events. They were vulnerable to the same event.

            What they needed to do was put the generators in different locations, with different fuel sources, probably even different manufacturers and fuel types. That way an event which affected one would not affect the others, making their vulnerabilities independent events. The generators at reactors 5-6 were located further uphill, and thus survived the tsunami intact and were able to keep the fuel storage tanks there cooled.

            They did actually do that. TEPCO had plenty of reserve equipment stored at a location about 50KM from the plant, so it would cover both Fukushima Daiichi and Daini. Unfortunately infrastructure damage prevented them getting the equipment to Daiichi, even by helicopter. The plant itself was damaged so that even if the spare generators had been located up on a hill it wouldn't really have helped much anyway because there was no quick way of attaching them to the cooling system. The entire plant design was flawed in that respect.

            The cooling system was also damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Valves failed and even though they had power available (taking car batteries out of staff vehicles) they couldn't operate them.

            This is only now coming to light and data is analysed, CCTV footage released and the wrecked plant explored. The initial assumption that there was a single point of failure and that the tsunami caused all the damage has turned out to be wrong.

            • by Gibbs-Duhem (1058152) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @07:13AM (#41044363)

              This seems from the reports I've read to be pretty spot on. I would add an addendum to an earlier comment about this being why no nuclear plants will ever be built in the US again though; the current designs are generally "passive fail", meaning that unless electricity is supplied to the control systems, the plant will just... stop being just sub-critical and will go non-critical very quickly. For instance the pebble bed designs. My (somewhat, I'm probably giving myself a little too little credit) understanding is that these plants use nuclear fuel that just... can't react on it's own due to the sheathing materials. I think those are pyrolytic carbon still though, so of course there will still be problems with burning if they are exposed to air, the accompanying release of hydrogen, etc (I think).

              This seems very honestly to be the entire focus of the nuclear industry -- designing plants which are safe to operate no matter what, which maintain reasonable cost-effectiveness. It's basically the holy grail.

              I think the current problem is:
              1. Natural gas is cheap, coal is cheap, they are cheaper to build and easier to maintain.
              2. The regulatory process and validation work to get a new plant design is intimidating. Probably even intimidating as compared to the design of fighter jets.
              3. Nuclear *is* scary to the vast majority of people. This is residual in large part from Long Island, and based in concerns over running reactors commissioned in the 60s still being operated. *That* part I am scared of. But as a scientist and engineer, I think that these are solvable problems so long as safety and the concepts of "fail safe" systems engineering based on the Therac-25 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therac-25) which seem to have very permanently changed the way that people fundamentally think about how to do system engineering. These problems had not arisen and become understood when those plants went into operation. A current plant definitely would do a far better job of that.

              Heck, it even effects me on a daily basis (at this point in my career I would classify myself as a systems engineer); I think all the time "What happens if all this equipment just stops working" and the answer is always "go to a safe operational mode". The are different ways to do that. You have the F-16 style of doing that, which includes crazy amounts of unstable control algorithms. But by *far* the preferred mechanism is physical. For instance, if I have a furnace I expect to go to 2000C, and monitor the temperature with one thermocouple while I use a single additional thermocouple as a safety, is not really enough. I would *far* rather have a thermal fuse that blows hard when a temperature exceeds some set ultimate super failure limit and shuts everything off immediately. I don't trust thermocouples to be reliable, and I don't trust the controls equipment to respond properly in an emergency.

              But in one of these pebble beds, the sorts of controls they are integrating are way beyond "having power", by far the best safety integration is to design it such that electricity failing causes large physical things to happen. Dumping the pebble bed entirely, or dumping immediately a mediator into the reactor that is only prevented from triggering by constant electricity. Some of the designs I've seen literally place the reactor under a ridiculously large tank of water held closed by electricity. I don't know in what way that would fail, but it would be far superior to what happened in fukoshima.

          • by ed1park (100777) <[ed1park] [at] [hotmail.com]> 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]

  • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:06PM (#41039803) Journal
    Radiation in Denver is unavoidable. Radiation in Fukushima was manmade, and the inadequate safety features and inept management seem to be common problems with nuclear (and other) power plants. The furor is because the Fukushima radiation release could have been avoided, but wasn't.
    • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:16PM (#41039905) Journal
      That serves as a good thing to keep in mind moving forward, but the article is about the (now unavoidable) radiation level in the area. The "hot spots" are 1/3 the radiation level that your average Denver resident experiences. The point is that people should stop going into hysterics about the radiation, not that they should ignore the lessons learned by the reactor failure.
    • by asicsolutions (1481269) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:19PM (#41039929) Journal

      I've avoided it my entire life here in New Hampshire.

      • I doubt it - if you're near granite, you're getting dosed. Isn't New Hampshire the 'Granite State'? Unless NH granite is special, it's got similar levels of uranium in it, and the resulting radon escaping from it. Granite, from what I've read, is almost always a 'good source' of radiation. Granite from Canada, Washington and Oregon is the primary source of the radiation that makes the Columbia River the most radioactive river in the world.

        I did a quick Google to find the typical levels in NH but didn't

    • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:22PM (#41039983)

      Radiation in Fukushima was manmade, and the inadequate safety features and inept management seem to be common problems with nuclear (and other) power plants.

      Yeah, for definitions of "common" of perhaps one in a thousand.

      Of course, coal plants kill people when working as intended, but it doesn't look scary on CNN, so nobody cares.

      • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:23PM (#41039991)

      Radiation in Denver is unavoidable. Radiation in Fukushima was manmade.

      And everybody knows that natural radiation is good for you, while manmade radiation is bad... wait what?

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:13PM (#41040495)

      Radiation in Denver is unavoidable.

      Yes, and yet hundreds of thousands of people live in Denver, by choice. Many people in Colorado have lived here their whole lives. And yet they are not a city of cancer-ridden tentacled freaks.

      So what does it mean when people like you get freaked out by even lower levels of radiation that obviously harm just about no-one living in Denver their whole lives?

      It means your luddite fear of anything nuclear is utterly stupid, irrational, and you are causing way more harm than good by being freaked out about the tiny levels of radiation present in the area and trying to freakout others too.

      • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @07:59AM (#41044563) Journal
        I don't fear nuclear. I support replacing old nuclear plants with newer, safer designs. I think building more nuclear plants is an overall good idea.

        The question is not "can we avoid all radiation?" it's "can we avoid large scale accidental releases of radioactive materials?" The mismanagement of the Fukushima disaster may not occur at other plants, but my experience with bureaucracies indicates that similar mishandling is probable. That's not a reason not to have nuclear energy, that's a reason to have nuclear energy that humans can't screw up.

        Denver's radiation levels are higher than Fukushima's, but Fukushima's levels are now higher than they were before. Even if they're still harmless over most of the area it's still a large spill of an industrial pollutant. Just because it led to harmless radiation levels this time doesn't mean disasters will always lead to harmless radiation levels, especially with old reactor designs dominating.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:32PM (#41040647) Journal

      Radiation in Denver is unavoidable. Radiation in Fukushima was manmade, and the inadequate safety features and inept management seem to be common problems with nuclear (and other) power plants. The furor is because the Fukushima radiation release could have been avoided, but wasn't.

      But remember: Responsible, Serious, Journalists have dismissed any displeasure you might feel about having health risks you don't understand imposed on you become somebody higher up the food chain doesn't give a fuck as 'hysteria', so go about your business...

      Honestly, that's what really annoys me about the tone of this article... Do I have the slightest belief that Fukushima residents(or, for that matter, just about anybody else who isn't an epidemiologist or involved in some aspect of medical physics) has an accurate understanding of the risks it poses to them? Hardly. Does this mean that it is 'hysteria' to be worried when your local operators have been exhibiting negligence and incompetence indistinguishable from malice while issuing bland statements about how you have nothing to worry about? Also hardly.

      Really, a lot of anxiety about 'nuclear' this and 'GMO' that is pretty tepidly supported; but stems from the (overwhelmingly more robust) sense that the people deploying the technology being fretted about don't actually much care whether it is safe or not, cannot be relied upon to do what is necessary to ensure that it is safe, and are more than happy to lie about it for as long as they can get away with it. It would be nice if the anxiety were a bit more carefully focused; but there is a quite legitimate locus for it...

    • by SydShamino (547793) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @11:45PM (#41042571)

      Far more generally, people fear sudden or unusual events far more than they fear regular smaller events, even if those regular smaller events add up to far more damage over time. The panic over such low levels of Fukushima radiation compared to Denver radiation may be an example of this. Another example is the panic in Dallas over the West Nile virus. The virus has killed 13-15 or so people this year, mostly the old and infirm. Guess what also kills the old in infirm? The regular flu. How many have been killed in Texas this year? No one knows, because the government doesn't bother to collect that information. The most recent information indicates some dozen children died of the flu in the 2010-2011 flu season in Texas. Numbers of adults and seniors aren't tracked and aren't available, but the CDC estimates somewhere between like 4000 and 30000 flu deaths a year, depending on the severity of that year's outbreak.

      So, a dozen+ people die from something slightly unusual. Odds are pretty good that they all would have died from the flu in a few months anyway. But now the citizens and the government all in a panic to "do something" so they start aerial spraying of pesticides. How do you opt out of aerial spraying of pesticides where you live?

      Car crashes, the flu, heart disease, cancer from Denver's background radiation - no one really cares. But risk or kill a small fraction of that number of people - but do it all at once and in some novel way - and people will react with exponentially higher fervor.

      I think I saw someone on Slashdot once explain this as human instinct. Things that are unusual are more likely to get cave-man-proto-humans killed, so humans developed or evolved enhanced reactions to them. All I know is that we as a species are smart enough to overcome our instincts and react appropriately to situations, so we should do it in these types of situations, too.

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:06PM (#41039809)

    The news channels can't educate people on what a rem is, or why its important, in under 30 seconds, and nobody knows that from school anymore, so the news spin cycle is forced to sensationalize.

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:26PM (#41040027)

      Nonsense. The news channels could easily explain it in thirty seconds. Something like:

      "Radioactive exposure is measured in rems. The average American is exposed to 0.6 rems a year. People around Fukushima will be exposed to an extra 0.1 rems, which won't hurt them at all. Now, back to our coverage of the entire villages that were swept away by the actual disaster."

      They choose to sensationalize and fan the fires of ignorance because it makes for more exciting news, which gets them better ratings, which gets them more money. Simple as that.

      • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic.gmail@com> on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:09PM (#41040455)

        They choose to sensationalize and fan the fires of ignorance because it makes for more exciting news, which gets them better ratings, which gets them more money.

        I think our attraction to disaster is biological - I'm not sure _why_, but we all tend to slow down at accident scenes, just for one example. How much of our interest in Fukushima is just the fatalistic viewing of the tide coming in and washing people away? IIRC there is evidence that other primates do this as well.

        I suppose destruction derbies and horror movies are successful for similar reasons. Then there's the infamous Roman spectacles.

        I used to live in Pittsburgh(early 1990s). One of the local stations was not getting very good ratings for their 11:00 PM news, and decided to chase ambulances. They began showing video footage of every car crash they could get to. Soon they had among the highest ratings in the area.

    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      The news channels can't educate people on what a rem is, or why its important, in under 30 seconds, and nobody knows that from school anymore, so the news spin cycle is forced to sensationalize.

      More like, the news channels in the US won't educate people in a 30 second sound byte. They get better ratings when they pile on the hype. Remember dirty bombs? How they kept saying they were the end of the world and no nuclear knowledge was needed to kill kill KILL with them? The few stations who actually did the math and figured out the (conventional) explosive component was far more deadly than any radioactive jacket you could cover it with, and the radiation 'released' by one could only seriously in

  • Wrong scare (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pe1rxq (141710) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:07PM (#41039817) Homepage Journal

    Fukushima wasn't scary because of what happened. It was scary because one of the most developped countries in the world had absolutly no control over what happened.
    Untill now everybody was reassured that these things only happened to old sovjet reactors.
    Fukushima learnt the ignorant masses that when nuclear shit hits the fan it doesn't matter much which country the fan is located in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jbolden (176878)

      I think it makes a rather huge difference. Things went far worse at Fukushima than they did at Chernobyl. However the government was able to evacuate effectively, maintain health levels, control the situation.... I'd say the lessen is more or less the opposite.

      • Re:Wrong scare (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:33PM (#41040101) Homepage

        Maybe we're not talking about the same Fukashima but I distinctly recall pretty much total confusion and paralysis by the Japanese government and TEPCO. It was clear they did not have a good handle on the situation. They clearly lied, obfuscated and just refused to talk at times.

        THAT is what was so scary. Nobody believed what the government was saying. It was extraordinarily hard to figure out exactly what was going on. Waving Geiger counters around isn't the best way to determine health risks but that is exactly what the general public was forced to do given the poor official response. This went on for months. So, I'm supposed to believe them now?

        Note the similarities between Chernoble and Fukashima. Both governments caught unawares. Both governments go into minimize mode. The real situation turns out to be, in fact, pretty bad. People distrust official statements, get upset, get hyperbolic, perhaps panic.

        SNAFU....

        • by jbolden (176878)

          Maybe we're not talking about the same Fukashima but I distinctly recall pretty much total confusion and paralysis by the Japanese government and TEPCO.

          When exactly was this paralysis? Though out the whole thing the Japanese government and TEPCO were managing the reactor everyday. There was a lot of time they didn't know about what was happening exactly or how to handle it. But more or less they had very effective teams working through how to handle a truly tragic situation effectively. This was the fi

          • 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: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

          • Re:Wrong scare (Score:4, Interesting)

            by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @08:00PM (#41040855) Homepage Journal

            Sorry, I would suggest you talk to some japaneese guyes.
            Your perception is completely wrong.
            I was on a kenjutsu seminar last week in germany. The japanese instructors, about 15, where totaly ashamed about the incompetence of their government regarding fukushima. They where completely upset about the inability of anyone to act on that emergency.
            Sorry, if you want to talk about global matters, you should stop listening to US media and inform your self from global news sources.

  • by bmo (77928) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:12PM (#41039861)

    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?"

    Because the government and the electrical utility had been completely opaque and not forthcoming with any useful information and preferred to treat the public like children and tell them to go pound sand at public meetings. The government's handling of this from the beginning was a textbook example of how to *not* handle something like this.

    So what do people do when they can't get any valid information from their own government? Assume the government is covering it up and assume the worst. And there are plenty of people out there willing to fill the information void with the most outlandish "facts" going.

    That's why.

    --
    BMO

  • Radon (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drwho (4190) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:16PM (#41039907) Homepage Journal

    Radon, from unventilated places, is the leading cause of radiation induced death. Not nuclear power, nuclear weapons, or nuclear medicine. People need to wise the fuck up, and look at the actual facts and see what is going on. Not only is nuclear power safe, but efforts are underway to make it safer still. Modern nuclear reactor designs using liquid fuels instead of solid are the way to go. But all this anti-nuclear sentiment from alarmists (some of whom are funded by the petroleum industry) make utilities wary of funding the replacement of aging plants.

    • by chartreuse (16508)

      I don't know if many humans would be willing to take essential medical advice from a fictional alien doctor, much less one who could probably eat nuclear waste and crap out Daleks. Why not eat some nuclear waste from the pits at Hanford and get back to us on its health benefits?

    • Re:Radon (Score:4, Informative)

      by ed1park (100777) <[ed1park] [at] [hotmail.com]> 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.

    • Re:Radon (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MtViewGuy (197597) on Sunday August 19, 2012 @06:01AM (#41044103)

      Actually, during the 1960's Oak Ridge National Laboratory built a small 5 MW reactor based on what we call molten-salt reactor (MSR) design, using thorium-232 dissolved in molten sodium fluoride salts as fuel. The design actually worked quite well, but was discontinued because it didn't produce uranium-235 and plutonium-239, the two main fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

      But now, they're dusting off the old research and studying the idea of scaling up this MSR design (best known today by the name Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, or LFTR) for a new generation of extremely safe nuclear reactors that offer these advantages of conventional uranium-fueled reactors:

      1. Uses a cheaply-made form of nuclear fuel, and thorium-232 is widely more abundant than uranium.
      2. Doesn't need an expensive pressurized reactor vessel.
      3. Reactor shutdown happens in only a few minutes just by dumping the fuel from the reactor.
      4. By using closed-loop Brayton turbines, eliminates the need for expensive cooling towers or locating the reactor near a big source of cooling water such as a lake, fast-flowing river or ocean.
      5. Can even use spent uranium fuel rods or plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons dissolved in molten sodium fluoride salts as reactor fuel.
      6. The amount of radioactive waste generated is tiny compared to a uranium-fueled reactor, and more importantly, the radioactive half-life is under 300 years, which means very cheap waste disposal (it can be dumped into any disused salt mine or salt dome). Mind you, the nuclear medicine industry wants that "waste," since the byproduct of an MSR has enormous medical uses.

  • by JosephTX (2521572) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:18PM (#41039923)

    I guarantee you that "journalists" were being paid to sensationalize the issue. And people are STILL comparing the fukushima plant to some 1970s Soviet power plant? Incidents like Chernobyl happened due to cheap building and cheaper maintenance; the Fukushima "incident" happened due to a giant tsunami and record seismic activity.

    But just look at what's going on now. Japan's shutting down ALL their nuclear power plants so they can import oil from foreign companies, and several European politicians have been pushing for the same thing; meanwhile in the US, this sensationalism has just been cannon fodder for the mindless ranting made by people who own $100 in Exxon/Shell/etc stock.

    And these people wouldn't be able to get away with it if it wasn't for the idiots who eat all this up. If you're one of those people who bought into the scare tactics, you share just as much blame as the companies behind it.

    • 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.

    • by celle (906675)

      "Incidents like Chernobyl happened due to cheap building and cheaper maintenance; the Fukushima "incident" happened due to a giant tsunami and record seismic activity."

          NO!! Both happened because of mis-management, Chernobyl's management ignored design requirements and safety limitations and Fukushima's management were corrupt and cheap.

  • Propaganda (Score:4, Insightful)

    by santax (1541065) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:20PM (#41039953)
    The author: —Dr. Muller is a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. This essay is adapted from his new book, "Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines." Oh, he doesn't even mention that we have to find a way to keep the nuclear waste safe for 150.000 years. We are destroying the world with this. Sure, those reactors can be quite safe, but anyone know of a human-made building that is 150.000 years old and still intact? Didn't think so. Even mountains go and come over that period of time.
    • Well homo sapiens hasn't been been around long enough to have created buildings that are that old, so the premise behind your question is blithering nonsense.

      However there are certainly lots of geological formations that have have been stable for 150,000 years. In geological scale that's an eye blink. For example Canada's Acasta Gneiss is 4 billion years old.

      There are lots of practical ways of dealing with radioactive leftovers. The best is probably recycling combined with deep geological placement, somethi

    • by yndrd1984 (730475)

      we have to find a way to keep the nuclear waste safe for 150.000 years...

      ...or find a way to reprocess it.

    • 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 Anonymous Coward
      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 dan
  • by cvtan (752695) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:23PM (#41039989)
    The radiation in Denver is natural organic radiation, but the toxic killer rems in Japan were made by an evil corporation.
  • by PNutts (199112) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @06:23PM (#41039995)

    It's easy to look at the data today and form an opinion. But back when their reactors were exploding on TV and Japan and the US couldn't agree on how far to evacuate with no end to the disaster in sight other than a real possibility of all the fuel escaping containment a little panic was justified. Had TEPCO been forthcoming about conditions instead of hiding them the panic would have been worse. It's the unknown at the time that caused the most concern. And had there been a SSW wind for the first few days then it would be a much different story instead of most of the radiation going into the toilet that is the Pacific ocean so I don't buy the argument that "See, it's safe because it wasn't worse."

  • 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.

  • explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Saturday August 18, 2012 @07:20PM (#41040559)
    People worry because they fear the authorities might lie to them (or be mistaken) about the levels of radiation.
  • 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.

Swap read error. You lose your mind.

Working...