Fukushima Commentary 15...5/27/14-8/2/14
August 2, 2014
Japan’s Press reinforces the Hiroshima Syndrome
Whenever the anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki (H/N) bombings approaches, the Japanese Press posts numerous articles about them. Since 3/11/11, most Press outlets bring the Fukushima accident into the mix. In the process they reinforce and underscore the Hiroshima Syndrome. This year, a new approach emerges.
The Hiroshima Syndrome is a strong aversion to, if not mortal fear of, nuclear power plants due to confusion between reactors and bombs. Reactors and nuclear weapons are extremely different; in fact, it is impossible for a nuclear power plant reactor to experience a nuclear detonation. Why? Nuke plants use fuel that is nearly 20 times too dilute to be used in a bomb. But, this is not the only point of confusion. Many nuclear-averse people believe the atmospheric releases from nuclear plants, including those from nuke accidents, are the same as bomb fallout. But, the differences between the two are as significant as the dissimilarities between reactors and bombs. (For a more detailed breakdown on these two roots of the Hiroshima Syndrome, see “The Uranium Explosive Myth” and “Confusion about Fallout” in the left-hand menu)
The Hiroshima Syndrome is not uncommon in Japan, infecting much of the public. An informal survey run for me by a friend in Japan covering more than 150 persons, showed that 2/3 did not know the differences between reactors and bombs. The Syndrome also seems to taint most of the Japanese Press outlets and builds the biases found in their reporting. Late in 2012, the Asahi Shimbun polled 50 news outlets in Japan and 47 admitted they were antinuclear, with more than half admitting to the perceived connection between Fukushima and H/N as a reason. Seemingly unaware of the above-mentioned differences, most Japanese news media treat reactors and bombs as if they are literally one-and-same. There have been numerous articles on the impending H/N anniversary, and most admix the Fukushima accident with the H/N.
In this instance, an editorial from Japan Times is selected as an example. (1) Right from the start, the headline underscores nuclear confusion, Fukushima disaster colors A-bomb anniversaries. The sub-head tells us of a new confusion being added to the mix; Parallels can be drawn between control of information during Occupation and today. The intent is to make parallels between actual post-H/N confidentiality and unabashed assumptions concerning Fukushima informational flow.
Japan’s new secrecy policy has been used to allege covering up information relative to Fukushima Daiichi. There is a kernel of truth to this. The government’s policy includes the security measures at all Japanese nukes in order to keep sensitive information from falling into the hands of terrorists. However, many news outlets have posted articles where antinuclear activists and politicians allege that the new policy allows the government to withhold the “truth” about the impact of the accident, alleging a sumptuous buffet of supposed health problems….many of which are not medically connected to any level of radiation exposure. Many of these allegations are based on exaggerations and embellishments that stagger the mind. The reality is quite different. But, this does not dissuade the Times from trying to make the connection between Fukushima and H/N.
After WWII, America invoked what was essentially a top-secret tag to all things associated with nuclear weapons. In addition, some American military officials tried to downplay the effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. For example, in September 1945, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves “announced to the press that if any Japanese had died from exposure to radiation, ‘the number was very small.’ . . . Vegetation was growing in Hiroshima, and radiation levels were so low, ‘you could live there forever.’ ” (1) Obviously, paranoiac secrecy and misinformation were not uncommon with respect to American interests. It seems the Times’ uses Groves’ statement correctly.
However, immediately following the Grove’s reference, we find, “Skip ahead to 2011: Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, the head of Fukushima Medical University, makes controversial remarks suggesting that an exposure limit of 100 millisieverts per year is acceptable. The comments, which made international headlines, were contested. Referring to the remarks, The Japan Times’ Eric Johnston wrote, “According to a 2006 study by the U.S. National Academy of Science, an exposure of 20 millisieverts will produce 2,270 cancer cases per 1 million people annually.” This is supposed to show that Fukushima secrecy is as severe as that which occurred after Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Actually, it is trying to combine apples and oranges. Dr. Shunichi’s statement is based on scientific evidence. On the other hand, there is no actual evidence of negative health effects below 100 mSv/year exposure with humans. The NAS study extrapolates from much larger exposures and derives the 20 mSv/2,270 cancers per million number based on the severely flawed and contentious Linear/No Threshold notion. Thus, the Times’ attempt to make a Fukushima and H/N parallel crumbles.
To make matters worse, the above is immediately followed by, “Jump to spring 2014: On April 14, the Mainichi Shimbun reports that in an effort to collect data on internal radiation exposure, the Foreign Ministry sent an email to municipalities that ‘suggested the data could be used to play down the radiation effects from the disaster.’ The data was to be used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but ‘the email suggested that the IAEA report is expected to evaluate radiation exposure among residents at lower levels than reports by other international organizations.’” How does this relate to a possible connection between Fukushima and Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Your guess is as good as mine. I can’t find even a most-distant connection. Also, the Times is cherry-picking from an Email posting. Cherry-picking an Email posting? That’s stooping extremely low!
Undaunted, the Times sinks lower into the confabulatory abyss. During U.S. post-war occupation, many doctors and researchers in Japan found it difficult to get involved in the H/N aftermath. They faced a lack of funds, American Occupation-based restrictions, being required by the Allied authorities to translate all reports into English, and not having access to autopsy data. Censorship of reports written by Japanese researchers was not uncommon, and many reports that did make it through the restrictions suffered years of delay before seeing the light of day. The Times tries to connect this to Fukushima by referencing assumptions made by Japan’s most anti-nuclear news outlets, alleging government attempts to stop medical research with respect to Fukushima. These allegations are entirely vacuous. To connect speculative Fukushima newspaper reporting with actual H/N historical evidence is disinformation at its worst.
Finally, The Times tries to connect suppression of anti-atomic bomb protests after WWII with the speculative notion that the new state’s secrecy law will cause the same thing to happen with respect to Fukushima protests. This is a bold-faced fabrication. There is nothing in the law even remotely referring to antinuclear protests. Attempting to draw a parallel between what actually happened seventy years ago with something that is not happening now is morally corrupt. To add insult to their fantasy, the Times cites Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University. He says, “You find a similar power with the Japanese government as existed during the U.S. Occupation. Self-censorship will become more prevalent. Journalists will censor themselves before asking questions. The activists who try to find out information about the nuclear industry may get in trouble, they may not, but they’ll worry about what they otherwise wouldn’t.” In other words, fear that the secrecy law might someday be used to dissuade protests could keep demonstrators from demonstrating. If this sounds circular…it is! I wonder how many college professors the Times’ had to canvas to find one who fit their agenda.
The attempt to confuse Fukushima with Hiroshima/Nagasaki is clear. Millions of Japanese, and millions-more around the world, are already confused about reactors and bombs. The effects of not knowing the differences between reactors and bombs are considerable, and has caused severe psychological damage. By trying to add to the existing confusion by making unfathomably specious parallels between post-H/N secrecy and Fukushima, based on assumptions completely alien to Japan’s new sate’s secrets law, can only make the negative psychological impact of the Hiroshima Syndrome worse than it already is.
July 27, 2014
219th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 219th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Brian Wang, Dr. Jim Conca, Rod Adams, Eric McErlain, and Meredith Angwin, just to name a few.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… The phrase used for a fast, automatic reactor shutdown is “SCRAM”. It is the acronym for Safety Control Rod Axe Man, first used with the Chicago Pile reactor in 1942.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include Russia’s next generation nukes, the nuclear/renewable mix, selfish motives behind the Linear/No Threshold assumption, nuclear plant reliability…and much more.
From Next Big Future (2) –
Russia will be building 1200 MWe fast neutron reactors as the core of its next generation nuclear fleet
BRICS countries are building about75%of the world’s new nuclear reactors and are forming a new BRICS energy association
From Jim Conca -
Nuclear-Renewable Mix Is Just What The EPA Ordered
From Atomic Insights -
Selfish motives for LNT assumption by geneticists on NAS BEAR I
From Nuclear Diner –
How did Russia Build the Next Generation Fast Reactor while US Stalls on Deploying Advanced Prototype by 2021?
From ANS Nuclear Café –
Research Reactor License Renewal Challenges by Rod Adams
From NEI Nuclear Notes (3) –
Why the CERES Study on Clean Energy is Fatally Flawed
Energy Scalability and Carbon Reduction
Nuclear Energy's Unmatched Reliability
From Yes Vermont Yankee –
Carbon Emission Confusion
From Nuke Power Talk –
NRC Commissioner Nominees
* * *
Fact or Fiction (?) answer – Fiction.
Oak Ridge Associated Universities reports the term appears to have been coined by Volney Wilson at the University of Chicago. Wilson was in charge of the instrumentation at Chicago Pile (CP-1). Wilson directed the construction of the pile’s control rods. Leona Marshall Libby, the only woman present during CP-1’s start-up, says, "The safety rods were coated with cadmium foil, and this metal absorbed so many neutrons that the chain reaction was stopped. Volney Wilson called these ‘scram’ rods. He said that the pile had ‘scrammed’ [when] the rods had ‘scrammed’ into the pile."Scram is often said to be an acronym for "safety control rod axe man, but the word "reactor" was not in use at the time of CP-1’s initial criticality. The "axe man" being referred-to was Norman Hilberry who stood by with an axe ready to cut an emergency control rod’s rope tied to the railing of the balcony overlooking the pile. There is no record that the term “scram” was used with reference to Hilberry at the time of CP-1’s initial operation. https://www.orau.org/ptp/articlesstories/names.htm#scram
July 19, 2014
How Safe is “safe enough” in Japan?
The question of “how safe is safe enough” has suddenly emerged in Japan. The reason is the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval of Kyushu Electric’s submittal on safety improvements for Sendai units 1&2. The NRA says Sendai meets all of their safety regulations, so there is no technical reason to bar restarts. Even though a month-long process of establishing local public approval remains, the NRA finding has spurred the Japanese Press to ask the rhetorical “safe enough” question; which has not been publically broached in the island nation before.
The typically-objective Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, addresses the question without actually stating it. (1) Its answer seems to be that since the Sendai unit’s meet all regulatory criteria, they should be judged safe enough for full-power operation. The newspaper states, “Passing safety screening under the new safety standards is a precondition for reactivation of reactors.” The Yomiuri stresses that Kyushu Electric’s 400-page submission is detailed, including measures taken to avert “maximum impact of an earthquake on the reactors and tsunami height, as well as its measures against serious accidents including hydrogen explosions.” Owing to NRA pressure, Kyushu Electric substantially raised its assumptions for the maximum impact of an earthquake on the reactors and tsunami height, and upgraded accordingly. The Yomiuri also points out that Kyushu Electric is presently running on a thin margin of electrical reserves, and loss of only one fossil-fueled unit could make their surplus capacity vanish. Operation of the two Sendai units will keep this from happening. The implied conclusion is that by passing the NRA requirements, the Sendai nukes are “safe enough”.
However, the majority of major newspapers in Japan are purporting the opposite opinion. Many begin their commentaries with a recent statement by NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka, "We cannot say that a disaster will never happen. The regulations cannot guarantee safety." This opens the door for reasoning fraught with the promotion of uncertainty and doubt, all of which is designed to reinforce public fears.
Perhaps the most flagrant example is the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest newspaper, which seems determined to make itself the most antinuclear of the bunch. The Sendai units may meet NRA regulations, but is not “safe enough” for operation according to the Asahi. (2) Their editorial opens with, “It clearly hasn't dawned on the central government and Japan's electric power companies that it is impossible to construct a nuclear plant that is 100-percent safe.” It goes on to say that the “stance” of the nuke utilities has been “backward looking” since the Fukushima accident, and wrangled themselves out of “a huge investment of time and money” by “understating” estimates on maximum-possible quakes and tsunamis. In other words, the Asahi believes Japan’s nuclear utilities have ignored the lessons wrought by Fukushima. Thus, they should not be allowed to restart any of the idled nukes.
What the Asahi conveniently ignores is that the utilities have paid out billions of dollars in upgrades to meet or exceed the new standards, all of which have been based on extreme worst-possible scenarios for quakes and tsunamis. It has not mattered if the scenarios are likely to happen in the next millennia-or-so. The NRA said it must be done, thus it will be done or there will be no restart approval. The Sendai units are the first to show that meeting the new worst-case quake and tsunami mandates is entirely possible. This is not in any way an indication of “backward thinking”. Further, the Asahi fails to admit that the Nuclear Regulatory Authority has proved the worst earthquake in Japan’s history produced no safety system compromises at Fukushima Daiichi. The newspaper seems fixated on the vacuaous idea that the quake caused unacceptable damage on 3/11/11, and that there’s no way any nuke could survive a stronger temblor. This is nothing less than irresponsible fantasy.
With respect to the NRA, the newspaper says the new standards are “nothing but the minimum level required for safety.” The Asahi argues that nuclear utilities cannot be trusted to do the right thing during an accident condition, strongly implying that Tokyo should take charge in all cases. Their commentary says, “The electric power companies themselves must bring the [emergency] situation under control. There is no indication of how the central government would take responsibility should another serious situation occur in Japan.” Undoubtedly, the newspaper fails to comprehend that the people most qualified to handle emergencies are the plant staffs, and that virtually no-one in Tokyo has any plant operating experience. In fact, the utterly naïve orders from Japan’s PM, Naoto Kan, unnecessarily delayed the venting of unit#1 and virtually insured the subsequent hydrogen explosion which doomed both unit #2 & #3. The ignorant should never be allowed to lead the knowledgeable. How the Asahi can argue to the contrary with a clear conscience is unfathomable.
The Asahi also believes that no nuclear plant should operate before all public protective plans are completed. This sounds reasonable, but the bottom line is that public safety begins with multi-layered technological safeguards, followed by sound decisions made by the plant staff if and/or when a physical safety compromise is possible. The Asahi fails to acknowledge that the concept of “defense in depth” is the essential public protective factor. Regardless, the newspaper says that Tokyo should take control of such a situation, and not leave the decision-making to the local officials. The utter disaster of the Tokyo-organized nuclear evacuation, based on unrealistic and unscientific radiological assumptions, necessarily proves that a central government should never be given this type of responsibility. The local officials know their people and infrastructure far better than anyone hundreds of kilometers distant, and radiation biologists and Health Physics professionals understand the actual effects of radiation exposure many times better than naïve politicians whose main concern is garnering votes.
The Asahi also fails to consider that the Sendai units are quite different from F. Daiichi. F. Daiichi has Boiling Water Reactor systems, while Sendai has Pressurized Water Reactor plants. (For the distinction see “The Nuclear Cooling Tower” at http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/the-nuclear-cooling-tower.html which illustrates both types) But, perhaps the most important difference is in the containments that surround the reactor vessels. Fukushima has the relatively small GE Mark I design, which proved to be not forgiving enough with respect to hydrogen generation. The PWRs at Sendai not only have Mark I-similar inner structures for containment (drywells), but the entire nuclear structure is surrounded by a massive domed outer GE Mark III containment, which showed its safety in 1979 at Three Mile Island by withstanding an internal hydrogen explosion.
Finally, it seems the newspaper is overly-charmed with foreign prophets of nuclear energy doom who have long-held that the only safe nuke is one that never operates. The Asahi’s objections are essentially an echoing of long-held antinuclear grandiloquence concerning rhetorical uncertainties and insubstantial doubts. The editorial closes with the following question that shifts responsibility to the most innocent group in Japan, “Now that Japanese society knows what is involved, does it really want to again use nuclear power?” In other words, if the Sendai units restart and a Fukushima-level accident occurs, the people of Japan bear the ultimate responsibility by allowing it to happen in the first place. This level of hubris on the part of Japan’s second-largest newspaper is intolerable, especially since the Asahi makes no effort to balance its opinion with the existent facts.
June 29, 2014
215th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 215th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Rod Adams, Dr. James Conca, Meredith Angwin, Margaret Harding, Brian Wang, Will Davis, and (your’s truly) Les Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and is the only woman to win two.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include – nuclear as the best way to boil water, the criminal act of using radiation to scare people, the “bad science” used to set radiation standards, a “love letter” to engineers, Fukushima children not dying of cancer, and more.
From Atomic Insights (2) –
Cheap, emission-free way to boil water
Fission is an elegant way to heat a gas
From Dr. James Conca –
Scaring the Japanese People with Radiation Is Criminal
From Yes Vermont Yankee (2) –
"No Safe Dose" is Bad Science. Updated. Guest post by Howard Shaffer
Protecting Against Nothing: The Failings of ALARA
From 4 Factor Consulting –
A Love Letter to Engineers
From Next Big Future (3) –
The future of more cities, more nuclear energy and water management
800 MW fast neutron Russian breeder reactor is fully powered up
Prospects for lower cost nuclear fission power
From The Hiroshima Syndrome –
Fukushima Children are NOT Dying!
From ANS Nuclear Cafe (2) –
Nuclear Power Uprates: What, how, when, and will there be more?
"Vogtle Loan Guarantee Finally Approved"
* * *
Fact or Fiction (?) answer – Fact.
Marie Curie and her husband were awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for their study into spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel (who was awarded the other half of the Prize). In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize in recognition of her work in radio-chemistry. 44 women have received the Nobel Prize, but Marie Curie is the only woman to win the honor twice. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1903/marie-curie-bio.html -- http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/women.html
June 18, 2014
Nuclear Obsession Covers Up the Impact of the Tsunami on Fukushima Refugees
The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011, resulted in a huge number of deaths and a massive degree of property damage along the Fukushima Prefecture coastline. It is now known that 1609 people were killed and 207 remain missing, more than 21,000 buildings totally collapsed (or were completely swept away), more than 73,000 buildings were half-collapsed, and partial damage occurred at 160,313 specific locations. (1) While the numbers of dead and missing with Fukushima are considerable, they pale in comparison with Iwate (4,673 dead and 1,132 missing) and Miyagi (9,538 dead and 1,272 missing) Prefectures. Meanwhile the number of totally collapsed buildings in Iwate was actually a bit less than in Fukushima (19,107 vs. 21,252), and there were more than eleven times fewer half-collapsed buildings in Iwate (6,599 vs. 73,570). The partial property damage number for Iwate was nearly nine times lower for Iwate than Fukushima (18,601 vs. 160,313). Clearly, the amount of property damage done by the quake/tsunami of 2011 in Fukushima Prefecture was staggering, and can be understood as much worse than with Iwate.
This brings a number of questions to mind that cry out for answers…answers that ought to be readily available and given serious news media attention.
1 – How many of the oft-cited Fukushima evacuees would still be refugees if the nuke accident had never happened? The number of government-mandated evacuees has been documented as roughly 85,000. The total number of Fukushima refugees is often reported to be about 135,000. The 50,000 difference is often stated to be due to “voluntary” evacuees who fled due to fear of radiation. However, looking at the police statistics, I now seriously doubt the “voluntary”, radiation-fleeing concept applies to most of the non-mandated refugees in Fukushima. I now believe that the majority of them would still be refugees if the nuke accident had not happened!
The number that jumps out at me is the more than 21-thousand totally collapsed buildings in the prefecture. Let’s assume that 20,000 were homes with perhaps three persons per domicile. That’s some 60,000 refugees that lost everything to the temblor and/or tsunami wave. If it weren’t for the nuke accident, they would be no better-off than the approximately 200,000 refugees still languishing in relative inattention in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. How many of those 60,000 are included in the mandated evacuee statistics? How many of the 60,000 are included in the “voluntary” demographic? I offer that these two questions cry out for answers, and there is no reason why the relative numbers cannot be ascertained.
Those included in the “mandated” group are getting a bit more than $8,500 (USD) per month in compensation payments, and the total for the entire group now stands at $17 billion (June 13 numbers). (2) In addition, those owning homes are receiving similar individual disbursements in property compensation every month. In fact, the amount of property payouts stands at more than $17.5 billion (June 13, again). As for the “voluntary” evacuees, they have received a total of more than $3.5 billion. This should be compared to the Miyagi and Iwate refugees that get about a twentieth of the amount garnered by mandated Fukushima refugees, at between $400 and $600 per month. Property owners in Iwate and Miyagi can get $27,000 (lump sum) toward rebuilding, but this is merely 10% of the average construction cost of a new home.
2 – Would the current Fukushima evacuees be getting the considerable compensation they now receive if there were no nuclear accident?
Probably not! There is no reason to think they would be any better-off than the Miyagi/Iwate refugees of today.
3 – Should the Press distinguish between the number of Fukushima evacuees and those who would now be refugees if the nuke accident had not happened?
However, there hasn’t been even the most meager attempt on the part of the news media, both inside and outside Japan, to make this important distinction. The same is true for the Tokyo and Fukushima governments. It is something that ought to happen, but I seriously doubt that it ever will happen. Here’s why. It would seriously diminish the “news value” of the so-called plight of the Fukushima refugees with the Press, perhaps more than the fact that the mandated evacuees are making a small fortune out of remaining estranged from their homes. Further, it would show that the governments are more concerned with making political hay out of the Fukushima accident evacuees, at the expense of the Iwate/Miyagi refugees. Let’s face it, one of the unreported “feel good” stories since 3/11/11 is that the tens of thousands of quake/tsunami refugees in Fukushima Prefecture are far, far better-off than their Iwate/Miyagi Prefecture peers.
4- One of the most widespread stories of the past six months is that the number of Fukushima Prefecture “related” deaths now exceeds the number killed by the quake/tsunami (1656 vs. 1609). (3) It should be noted that if the Fukushima quake/tsunami “missing” numbers are added to the toll, the total would be 1816. Why isn’t this point ever made by the news media? Plus, why isn’t anyone, including the Press and the Japanese government, distinguishing between the Fukushima accident-related deaths and the Fukushima quake/tsunami related deaths?
Let’s do some more speculating with some reasonable numbers. There have been 434 Iwate Prefecture “related” deaths since 3/11/11, with a complete or partial loss of 27,000 homes due to the tsunami and quake. Meanwhile, the “related” deaths in Fukushima Prefecture is now at 1,656, with a complete or partial loss of ~95,000 homes. Using some simple math we find the rate of “related” deaths per home loss for both Fukushima and Iwate Prefectures is roughly the same! (Iwate=0.16 vs. Fukushima=0,017).
Without distinguishing between Fukushima’s nuke accident “related” deaths and those that would have happened if the nuke crisis had never happened, the Japanese government and the Press are doing the world a great disservice. In fact, this may well be the most severe instance of cover-up. The Press is covering this up because it would make the nuke accident aftermath seem much, much less than has been promoted to date. The governments are covering it up because Tokyo can make Tepco pay huge sums to the Fukushima evacuees while a relative pittance goes to the Iwate/Miyagi refugees, and make it seem reasonable. In actuality, Tokyo believes Tepco will reimburse them for every yen now being loaned for evacuee compensation. Further, the cover-up masks the fact that Tokyo is literally helpless in giving equivalent help to Tsunami refugees. Finally, if these questions are addressed by the Fukushima government, they run the risk of having Tokyo cut off the money flow to the prefecture for reconstruction.
1. Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011Tohoku district - off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake; National Police Agency of Japan; June 10,2014 http://www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/biki/higaijokyo_e.pdf
2 – Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments; http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-evacuee-compensation-payments.html
3 - Fukushima’s appalling death toll; The Japan Times; March 1, 2014. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/03/01/editorials/fukushimas-appalling-death-toll/#.U59aZKNOUdV
June 4, 2014
The Godzilla Movie and the Parallel with Fukushima
I’ve seen every Godzilla movie ever made. I was an adolescent when the first one hit America, and I immediately fell in love with monster movies…a passion I have held to this day. Needless to say, when the latest Godzilla movie hit the big screen a few weeks ago, I was there.
The movie opens at a Japanese nuclear plant which had cooling towers. I found this more than a bit odd because none of Japan’s actual nukes have them. I told myself it was only a movie and settled in for the duration. A few minutes into the flick, the nuke seems to be struck by a massive earthquake, causing the entire facility and its towers to collapse. Over the next 15 years (movie time) a wide radius around the devastated nuke is turned into a virtual no-go zone by the government due to allegedly high radiation levels. The parallel to Fukushima seemed obvious.
As it turned out, the government used public fear of radiation as a smokescreen to deflect the world’s attention away from what was really happening. A massive, radiation-eating primordial monster (called MUTO) was hatching beneath the station. There was no actual earthquake and there was no radiation released because the MUTO “egg” was absorbing it all. Rather than spoil things for those who have yet to see this epic monster movie, I’ll not get any deeper into the plot. But I will say that, once again, Godzilla saves the world.
I was wrong in my initial feeling that the movie intentionally appealed to the public perception of what happened at Fukushima in March, 2011. However, there was another more-subtle (and real) parallel with Japan’s reaction and response to the Fukushima accident. The nuke accident in Japan was successfully used by the government to deflect the world’s attention away from the real disaster – the earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/11. The earthquake destroyed or damaged more than a million buildings in Japan, and thousands lost their lives in the process. The tsunami forced the evacuation of nearly 500,000 people along the Tohoku region’s Pacific coastline, caused some 20,000 deaths (including the presumed dead), and made 250,000 of the evacuees permanently homeless.
The massive scale of this natural calamity was overwhelming and the political regime in Tokyo was literally helpless and hopeless concerning what to do. Nothing of this magnitude had struck Japan in it’s recorded history. Further, the government’s flawed policies over a period of more than six years had the nation’s economy literally circling the drain. Not only did Tokyo not know what to do, but there was precious little money to do anything even if they did. For politicians, this sort of experience is a career death-knell, and the Naoto Kan regime would inevitably collapse. Regardless, Kan and his party (Liberal Democratic Party) would not go down without a fight. They needed something to turn the Press’ focus away from their ineffectiveness, and they needed it fast!
Less than eight hours after the tragedy struck, the nuclear accident became a fixation of the Kan regime. The PM interfered in what was happening at F. Daiichi, and made a point to let the Press know that he was in charge. His infamous helicopter flight to F. Daiichi the morning of March 12 now seems little more than a ploy to get some positive Press, which the quake/tsunami would never have given him. When the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi occurred later that day, the government was provided with a convenient smokescreen. As the cloud of the explosion’s debris blew toward the northeast, the world’s news media pounced on it like hungry predators. The horrific aftermath of the quake/tsunami immediately became a secondary topic. In less than a week, the Fukushima accident was all we heard about.
Could a more perfect smokescreen have been anticipated? The weeks and months following 3/11/11 were rife with news reports about the Fukushima aftermath, and the Kan regime used it to the fullest while a quarter of a million tsunami refugees languished in utter inattention.
Thus, the parallel between the new Godzilla movie and Fukushima emerges. In both cases, a nuclear plant accident is used as a cover-up for the real problem-at-hand.
(Aside - By the way…I positively enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it to all Godzilla/monster-movie buffs. It is great fun.)
June 1, 2014
211th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 211th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Gail Marcus, Adam Hoffman, Brian Wang, Rod Adams and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Albert Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2 was first presented to the world in his General Theory of Relativity in 1910.
Now…for this week’s Blogs.
From Nuke Power Talk –
Lessons from VA: A Reminder for the Nuclear Community
From ANS Nuclear Café –
Plutonium Disposition by 'Downblending and Disposal'"
From Next Big Future –
Focus Fusion uses the natural instabilities of plasma instead of fighting them like the gigantic tokomaks for a smaller and vastly cheaper solution to nuclear fusion
From Atomic Insights – (2)
Dr. Helen Caldicott versus emission-free nuclear energy
I want to join the Okuma Town Senior Brigade
From Yes Vermont Yankee –
$17 Million Vermont Yankee Check to Utility--Use It Well
(Guest post by Reg Wilcox)
From The Hiroshima Syndrome – (2)
Fukushima Commentary, 5/28/14…
Did Fukushima Workers Flee in Mortal Terror?
A new Hiroshima Syndrome Information page…
Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments
* * *
Fact or Fiction answer – Fiction.
Einstein’s famous, paradigm-shifting formula was in his Special Theory of Relativity published in 1905.Also, the title of this ground-breaking work was actually “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”.
May 27, 2014
Did Fukushima Workers Flee in Mortal Terror?
The world’s press has reported that 650 emergency workers fled Fukushima Daiichi on March 15, 2011, fearing for their lives. It is also alleged that they disregarded the orders of their plant manager Masao Yoshida. However, this seems to be another example of the news media “spinning” the facts in order to present the most sensational point of view possible. In fact, it might be a tempest in a teapot.
On March 15, it appeared to F. Daiichi management that the situation was finally coming under control. All of the damaged cores were being cooled with seawater and the possibility of additional hydrogen explosions was nearly zero. There were more than 700 people at the plant site who had been combatting the situation for nearly five days. They needed a break. Plus, Yoshida’s staff had to decide upon subsequent mitigation efforts. It was decided that seventy of the workers would be needed to insure that conditions at the station would be maintained. Keeping the rest of the workers in the higher radiation fields would cause them un-necessary exposures while they waited for further orders. Thus, Yoshida decided to move un-necessary personnel to low exposure locations within the plant property boundary.
Yoshida’s order to withdraw to low-level locations seems to have been misunderstood. The workers were loaded on busses and driven to the Fukushima Daini station, 10 kilometers south of F. Daiichi. Some actually drove their own cars. Actually, the misunderstanding provided the temporarily un-needed staff with the lowest possible exposures and the best place to rest and recover from the exhaustion caused by five days of intense emergency efforts.
But, this is not the way the scenario has been portrayed by the Press. The New York Times ran their story under the headline “Panicked Workers Fled Fukushima Plant in 2011 Despite Orders, Record Shows”. The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s widest-read source of antinuclear angst, headlined “90% of TEPCO workers defied orders, fled Fukushima plant in 2011”. In both cases, inferences of a cover-up by Tepco are obvious. The NY Times article says, “If true, the account challenges earlier descriptions of the day’s events that portrayed the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, as having evacuated all but a small number of highly dedicated workers.” The Asahi says, “Tokyo Electric Power Company…has never mentioned the orders Yoshida issued on March 15, 2011.” NY Times affiliate, the Japan Times, makes it seem the government was complicit in the cover-up under the provocative headline “Government silent on report Fukushima No. 1 workers fled during crisis”. This is because Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined comment by saying, “We don’t know what the Asahi Shimbun has obtained and we can’t say its contents are identical to those the government has.”
The uproar started with the Asahi Shimbun getting a copy of Masao Yoshida’s complete testimony given to the Japanese Diet (congress) during the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee’s (NAIIC) inquiry into the accident. It supposedly covers more than 400 pages. During the testimony, Yoshia said “In fact, I didn’t tell them to go to 2F [F. Daini]. I thought I gave the order to temporarily evacuate to a location where radiation levels were low near the [Fukushima Daiichi] plant and await further instructions.”
To add insult to injury, the Asahi strongly suggests that Yoshida’s withdrawal “order” was ill-advised. The upper two stories of the unit #4 reactor building had exploded on March 15, and a loud thudding sound had been heard from inside unit #2 concurrent with the unit #4 blast. The Asahi adds that pressure had suddenly dropped in unit #2 for an unknown reason. To the Asahi, these two events made it seem that the accident was not coming under control and Yoshida’s decision to remove 650 workers from the site was misguided.
The skewed reporting was further exacerbated by quoting a former senior Asahi writer and current chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation who feels the government has not done its job to protect the public by insuring that panicked workers never do this again. He said, “This country operated nuclear plants without such systems. And the situation still hasn’t changed yet. [Japan] is still unable to draw up a [contingency] plan to deal with the worst-case scenario.”
For perspective, let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of the F. Daiichi workers ordered to withdraw to lower radiation exposure locations. Yoshida told them to go where the radiation levels were low. No specific location seems to have been suggested in the order itself. The entire F. Daiichi plant site had elevated radiation levels due to the three hydrogen explosions and subsequent uncontrolled releases of airborne radioactive isotopes. The F. Daini station did not suffer meltdowns was not in the airborne plume path coming from F. Daiichi. Thus, it makes sense for the workers to have assumed that Yoshida meant for them to withdraw to F. Daini. In fact, the Asahi mentions that Yoshida never blamed the workers for doing what they did! Further, Tepco’s response to the Asahi’s inquiry on the matter fully supports Yoshida, “Evacuating temporarily to the No. 2 plant [F. Daini] was not a violation of regulations because Yoshida’s order left open the possibility of leaving for the No.2 plant if there were no locations at the No. I plant [F. Daiichi] where radiation levels were low.”
Thus it seems that the workers who withdrew from F. Daiichi on March 15 did not “flee” in mortal fear. At the time, they apparently felt they were following orders. Let’s face it…if they actually fled in mortal terror, why did each and every one of them show up at F. Daini? If there was actually a death-fearing panic, at least a few would have bolted to some location outside the [then] 20 kilometer evacuation radius mandated by Tokyo, and not have placed themselves in a position to be ordered back to F. Daiichi. There was no panic, the workers did not flee in terror, and the press is making a mountain out of a mole-hill.