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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

George Monbiot Makes Sense

Brian straightened me out: the 500 milliS is real but from a few days ago. Still, ack. Clearly these people are not wimpy, but even spikes that high imply a high degree of difficulty. They'll have to go into replace the pump.

Radiation map. The "under review" prefectures are not shown, but Ibaraki south is.

: Halting work on number 2 reactor according to Kyodo News brief due to 500 milliSieverts radiation readings. I'm not sure what that means, but it is very high. That's MILLI not micro. (The readings we've been seeing in the JAIF updates are thousands, but they are in microS. So 2-3 milliS vs 500 milliS? This is probably right at the reactor. I hope. End update.

Update: They're still working away at Daiichi. They have more of the gauges working, but the results are not necessarily encouraging, so they are stepping up work on the reactors.

In the meantime, the vegetables that were not harmful yesterday are not consumable today. Vegetables, milk, water and probably some sea food is contaminated, so it is hard to figure net exposure levels. They basically just have to halt shipments. They are shortly going to test the pump at reactor 3. End update.

Another quake in northeastern Japan. No SEVERAL QUAKES:
Several strong earthquakes jolted northeastern Japan on Wednesday morning, after the area was severely damaged by the March 11 devastating quake, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

No tsunami warnings have been issued so far.

Among them, a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 jolted mainly Fukushima Prefecture, where a disaster has been unfolding at a nuclear power plant in the wake of the March 11 quake, at 7:12 a.m.

The quake measured upper 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Iwaki, Fukushima, and 4 in several locations in Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures, according to the agency.

It was followed by additional quakes, one of which also measured upper 5 in Fukushima Prefecture and lower 5 in Ibaraki Prefecture.
End update.

Really. I am slightly less enthused by nuclear power than he, but that's because I think the danger of global warming from fossil fuels is hugely exaggerated based on evidence.

But still:
Before coal became widely available, wood was used not just for heating homes but also for industrial processes: if half the land surface of Britain had been covered with woodland, Wrigley shows, we could have made 1.25m tonnes of bar iron a year (a fraction of current consumption) and nothing else. Even with a much lower population than today's, manufactured goods in the land-based economy were the preserve of the elite. Deep green energy production – decentralised, based on the products of the land – is far more damaging to humanity than nuclear meltdown.

But the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power. Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast.
He's right. If you take just coal mining deaths, it appears that coal has already directly killed far more human beings than nuclear power is ever likely to do. Not that we can afford to get by without it.

As for Japan? Japan has little alternative to nuclear power as a substantial energy source.

I'd say that our only real choice is not to be sloppy and complacent about the real risks of nuclear power. I fear we are currently nearing the danger line. Safer and more centralized storage or reprocessing facilities for nuclear fuel rods can do a lot, and we are nearing the point at which we should be building more plants so that we can shut down older plants.

Honshu (mainland Japan) is slightly larger in land area than Minnesota. Honshu's population is around 100 million, somewhat larger than Minnesota's 5.3 million. The middle of the land is mountainous; a lot of the population is concentrated on the flatter, coastal areas. It takes a ton of electricity to keep those cities viable.

The Daiichi accident is quite serious as nuclear accidents go. Nonetheless, it appears that most of Honshu is going to escape with almost no real contamination. We don't know the endpoint yet, but it is unlikely that this will get much worse (it's plenty bad already).

The reality is that this accident isn't endangering nearly as many lives as those endangered by being without power in Japan in the wake of the twin quake/tsunami disaster. Lack of shelter and warmth is one of the basic human deprivations that shows up rapidly in mortality statistics.

My obligatory quibble: This was not a nuclear accident. It was a natural disaster that damaged a power plant.

We don’t call the autos washed out to sea traffic accidents…
That's fair, except the damage wasn't primary. The primary damage was not being able to get power into the plant (of any sort) for days.

Admittedly, there wouldn't have been nuclear accident without an extraordinarily massive natural disaster.

When everyone expects nuclear power plants to be impervious to any and all disaster, natural or human, any accident at a nuclear power plant is a nuclear accident.

You may wish to quibble over whether that expectation is right or wrong and who is most responsible for it, but as they say in politics, perception is reality.
They are now reporting 3 quakes. Of course these are aftershocks, but they are still pretty strong aftershocks, and I can't imagine trying to run around a hot nuclear power plant with the rubble shaking around me.

If a natural disaster destroys a food crop and people starve to death in a few weeks, it’s not a farming accident. The situation is most usefully evaluated as a system/process. Assigning any element as primary seems arbitrary.

From what we think we know so far, there were no major human mistakes. The stuff performed up to specification, but nature exceed the design expectation. The expectations were not unreasonably lax, unless one is the sort of hysteric that AllanF mentions.

Again, I am just quibbling for recreation. I am a regular reader here because it’s not usually a place dominated by hysteria.
Foxmarks - understood.
Maybe you need to add that to your banner "hysteria free zone". I think I've seen more hysteria over those nuke plants than I did during the Cuban missile crisis. I like this article: link The best part is this:
The lesson to learn here is that if your country is hit by a monster earthquake and tsunami, one of the safest places to be is at the local nuclear powerplant. Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities. (original article here - link )
Iodine levels in Tokyo tap water at twice the level considered safe for infants. Same situation in Iwaki.

Broccoli has been added to the list of tainted vegetables. They have also added Tokyo to the list of regions whose produce should not be eaten.

AP reports there has been a run on bottled water in Tokyo and the store shelves are empty.

Black smoke was seen comeing out of Unit 3 in the afternoon and that prompted an evacuation of workers, though there was no spike in radiation. Workers are being kept out of the plant until Thursday morning.

AP also reports "for the first time, Edano suggested that those downwind of teh plant, even if just outside the zone, should stay indoors with the windows shut tight"
People should be concerned about the impact from this and other modern industrial activities that significantly degrade the environment. Most if not all PR stories that companies and government officials create during and after these industrial accidents are meant to calm citizens fears rather then inform. Those that believe nuclear power is safe labels any negative comments as "hysteria" as if only the most academic scientific discussions are reasonable. Given the cost to build and maintain nuclear energy plants along with decommission and longterm nuclear waste issues it all tends to give me a bout of hysteria now and then. Human time frames tend to reflect our very short life spans but nuclear power issues will span centuries and impact future generations in ways that we cannot imagine today so its best to have a bit of hysteria in the here and now.
Thanks MOM for keeping up with this story!!!!!
Ron - I agree that heightened vigilance is necessary.

Hysteria probably isn't - hysteria causes people to take unnecessary risks to avoid imaginary risks. The rule is never to multiply the body count!!
Brian -
The winds changed. That's the major problem here. They really should evac to the 30 km and then evac certain areas out to 60.

You know the points we were watching NW with the very high readings? Right outside the 30 km? That's about the place where they found the VERY high levels yesterday. Due to current test results, the Japanese government is expanding the testing program to SIX prefectures.

Also, simulations are showing that some infants outside the evac zone might have ALREADY received the effective dose of 100 milliS through iodine. Tell your wife that and see what happens. But first pad the ceiling and plug your ears. This happened due to political correctness in the Japanese government; they didn't want to admit that it was a Level 7, which in IMO it certainly is. I don't see how anyone could argue that it is not a Level 6.

Now is the point at which the situation moves into a much more critical set of expanding and interlocked problems.

As for Tokyo, I would be very hesitant to keep kids there right now. There isn't going to be enough bottled water to go around. You are looking at families evacuating kids probably 70-90 kms south, 50 north, and in some areas of the Tokyo metro area. Plus the regular refugees. Unfortunately I looked at ZAMG, and the winds have shifted around so we get another big land exposure. The problem is that it just keeps accumulating in the soil and the water. The flowing water shifts clean quickly, but it will build up in bigger ponds/lakes/reservoirs. Once it accumulates in the soil, every time it rains more leaches out into the tributaries and streams.

100 milliSieverts is the five year max dose for radiation workers. I think 100 milliS annually is perfectly safe for adults without any risks. For kids, I peg the no-exposure past to 50 milliS. That is safe enough that you have some margin. For infants, 25 milliS.

100 milliS over a year wouldn't hurt the average adult, even if you were wrong and got 200 milliS. There are populations in some areas that get exposures of around that.

But kids? Infants? Oh, no, especially since you have to grapple with the idea that they will be exposed to higher-than-normal levels for some years no matter what you do, even if the emissions are mostly curbed in another three weeks.
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