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Fukushima Commentary 21... 8/30/15-10/3/15
October 10, 2015
The News Media’s penchant for only reporting the nuclear negative
In 1987, I was near the end of my stint as News Media representative for the Perry nuclear plant in Ohio. I was frustrated because it seemed like the major news outlets bent over backwards to broadcast negative nuke reports while seemingly ignoring anything positive. A former Press manager with a major news outlet in Cleveland, Ohio, took me aside and gave me the facts of life, if you will.
He said he appreciated my frustration, but I needed to understand why nuclear reporting had become so one-sided. He first explained that the Press is a money-making venture. The ratings determine advertising income; the lifeblood of the business. There were (and still are) a handful of topics that are sure-fire money-makers, including war, presidential elections, natural disasters, and airline crashes.
Then, he turned to Three Mile Island, which happened in 1979. He said the ratings literally sky-rocketed, and stayed that way for the better part of two weeks. In the years that followed, the news media found that negative nuclear reports continually caused a positive up-turn in ratings, and positive stuff didn’t. This trend dwindled away by the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 (which was, back then, the year before). Chernobyl not only re-ignited the ratings impact of nuclear accident reporting, but demonstrated that broadcasting the negative was better for business, without balancing the commentary, rather than with some sort of opposing viewpoint. The Press had found a new topic to add to the sure-fire money-maker; negative nuclear reporting.
My friend said the Press would continue to make the appearance of a balanced effort, but the negative side would always get the emphasis. He added that it might someday come to the point where the news media would entirely ignore the positive and only report the negative when it came to nuclear energy. He speculated that all it would take was one more accident.
Unfortunately, he was right.
Fukushima has pushed the world’s Press into the journalistic dark side. My Fukushima Updates blog has lashed the Japanese Press, and the world’s news media outside Japan, severely for only reporting the negative. OK…not only the negative. There is the rare case that something positive works its way in, but it is usually found deeply buried at the end of a negative story. But, the exception is never the rule. The Press’ penchant for accentuation of the nuclear negative, and elimination of the nuclear positive, is too obvious to ignore.
The most recent case in point concerns the child thyroid study that has been taking place in Fukushima Prefecture for the past four years. On October 5,2015, a team of four PhDs in Japan published a report alleging that the Fukushima accident had spawned a thyroid cancer epidemic among the prefecture’s children. (1) (Here-in, the Tsuda Report) The conclusion contradicted the Fukushima University Medical School, Japanese Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening, and National Cancer Center, which all found that the detected child thyroid pre-cancerous anomalies in Fukushima Prefecture cannot be realistically linked to the accident. Regardless, the Tsuda Report’s claim made major headlines in Japan. At the time of this writing, it has spread to numerous mainstream news media outlets outside Japan, including UPI and AP.
Here’s the problem. In December of 2013, a scientific report was published on a comparison of the rate of child thyroid, pre-cancerous anomalies in Fukushima Prefecture with the rates in three prefecture hundreds of kilometers distant: Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki. (2) For background…theFukushima University medical team studying the issue had discovered that there was no prior data on child thyroid cancer rates in Japan. There was nothing to compare the 2012 results to. Was it typical or not? Because of the initial furor caused by the original release of their findings in 2012, the team decided to take matters into their own hands and offer free testing to volunteer families in the three (above) prefectures. Nearly 5,000 parents took advantage of the opportunity and had their children screened.
What was found was completely unexpected. The thyroid abnormality rates in Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki Prefectures were actually higher than that discovered in Fukushima Prefecture! This conclusively indicated that the radioactive releases from the Fukushima accident had absolutely no negative impact on the health of the thyroid glands in Fukushima’s children. One Japanese Press outlet – just one – mentioned the 2013 discovery at the very end of an article about a few more children being found to have the anomalies in Fukushima. No other Japanese Press gave it a cursory glance. To date, I have found but one news outlet outside Japan that covered the positive news. (3)
On the other hand, when one maverick team of four Japanese with PhDs publish a highly questionable report - full of so many holes that it should be tossed into the trash – alleging a severe cancer problem caused by the Fukushima accident, it gets major coverage inside Japan and significant coverage by the world’s mainstream Press! At this point, it is important to emphasize that the Tsuda Report fails to acknowledge the fact that Prefectures unaffected by the Fukushima accident had the higher anomaly rates. (Which is why I say the Tsuda Report is worthy of the trash heap)
I’m so mad about this that I can’t find the words suitable for a mixed audience! The news media might not make money off sharing the good news about Fukushima, but they are committing a moral crime against humanity by not doing it.
To be sure, the omission of the truth about Fukushima’s child thyroid condition isn’t the only instance of this ethically repugnant practice by the Press inside and outside Japan. Other good news that has not seen the news media’s light of day includes: the completion of the ice wall around the four damaged units at Fukushima Daiichi, finishing the impermeable sea wall along the shoreline of the four damaged units, all 700,000 tons of stored Fukushima wastewaters having been purified, and the fact that no Fukushima Cesium has been found in Pacific Ocean Salmon or Steelhead Trout off the North American Coast. There’s more, but this should be enough to get the point across.
It’s past-time for the Press around the world to perform a public service – if the negative (albeit often questionable) reportage must continue in the interest of promoting profits, then the positive stuff should be also reported as a matter of human ethics. Anything less is a crime against humanity!
October 3, 2015
Japan’s Press accentuates the bad and intentionally ignores the good
The past few weeks have been a relatively “slow” period relative to Fukushima Daiichi news. To be blunt, there have been no new problems for Japan’s Press to exploit since a typhoon skirted the Tohoku coast and overflowed a drainage ditch and sent an innocuous amount of radioactivity into the ocean a month ago. Since then, some widely-reported problems of the past have been resolved. Unfortunately, these problem solutions have been conspicuously ignored by the Japanese News media.
For example, the recent completion of the impervious sea-wall along the shoreline at F. Daiichi that should end speculations of hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater flowing into the sea every day. This was reported to the Press more than a week ago by Tepco, but not a single news outlet has made mention of it. It seems that Japan’s Press wants to keep the appearance of continual pollution into the Pacific Ocean alive.
Another example is the successful completion of the “ice wall” technology surrounding three sides of the four damaged units at F. Daiichi. Tepco shared this information with the Press more than two weeks ago, and an ensuing press handout announced start of the freezing process by filling the bore-holes with brine for insulation. For the last year, every minor glitch in the system’s construction made headlines. Speculations by critics, both inside and outside Japan, were regularly posted. But, when ice wall construction has a major success, there is not even a whimper about it.
Here’s one more case-in-point - when Japanese antinuclear activists make public statements about radiation risks specific to women and children, headlines always ensue. But when a panel of women makes a public presentation to the contrary, an informational black hole develops. Just such a panel held a meeting in Tokyo last week, and said accurate nuclear information is not circulated in Japan, but what gets spread is “improper information intentionally disseminated by anti-nuclear groups.” (emphasis added)
Then there’s the ploy of making a notional connection between nuclear energy and other publically-unpopular issues. Japan's Press has been unmercifully bashing PM Abe's new security law and last year's secrecy law. The secrecy law of December, 2014, was vehemently attacked by antinuclear zealots and Japan's most-antinuclear news outlets (Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Japan Times, etc.) due to the fear of incarceration from anti-nuclear energy activity. That furor has died down, but the Mainichi Shimbun has tried to make the national secrecy-nuclear energy connection once again (10/3/15). The Mainichi alleges a "leaked" Nuclear Regulation Authority training program for new employees. The "confidential" materials include BWR and PWR diagrams and explanations on how they both work, the steps between activating a reactor and getting it up to the status of normal operation, as well as water temperature and pressure data related to starting one of these reactors. None of this material is actually secret or has anything to do with national policy, but that makes no difference. Much, if not most of the Japanese public believes everything with nuclear energy is hush-hush stuff because the government wants the Plutonium to make bombs. There is a sufficient audience that believes in this secrecy myth, so it sees the light of day under juicy headlines.
Publishing news concerning nuclear energy problems, whether real or merely speculative, is always the case in Japan. But, when something happens of a positive nature, little or no mention is to be found anywhere. This has been the modus operandi of international prophets of nuclear energy doom for more than three decades. Antinuclear voices want to promote fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD), but don’t have the human decency to admit when something goes right.
Japan’s news media has seemed to take the global agenda to heart. Japanese news outlets unmercifully blast Tepco, Tokyo, and the Japanese nuclear community at-large, for every actual or perceived problem that emerges. In addition, when nothing worthy of a negative nuclear headline occurs over a period of time, they keep the adverse article flow alive with fallback topics such as re-hashing old stories with a “new” spin, expanded coverage of the largely ineffectual wave of Fukushima-based lawsuits, human interest stories concerning the “plight” of Fukushima evacuees, and editorials calling for the end of nuclear power plants in Japan. We are currently in the midst of just such a lull, and what we find coming out of Japan is mostly fallback material.
Japan’s public deserves to hear the positive, and not just the negative. But, Japan’s Press has become so decidedly antinuclear that it seems its one-sided reporting will continue unabated.
September 20, 2015
279th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week, we have postings by Dan Yurman, Dr. Gail Marcus, Stephen Alpin, Meredith Angwin, Rod Adams (guest post) and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… The first American reactor licensed for operation was Shippingport Atomic Power Station, located on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… the challenges facing the development advanced nuclear reactors, a realistic look at the resource limitations and environmental costs of all energy options, how to avoid leaping off the renewable energy cliff, beating the end of Vermont’s solar energy tax credit, and Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is nuclear-averse because of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
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From Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes –
The Chicken & Egg Conundrum of Forging a Future for Advanced Nuclear Reactors
From Dr. Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk –
Resource Issues and Energy Supply: What it Means for Our Energy Future
From Stephen Alpin’s Canadian Energy Issues –
Book sales, iTunes, and a renewable energy-powered Internet: Leaping into the future, and over a cliff
From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee –
The Solar View from Vermont: The Gold Rush and the Panels
From Rod Adam’s Atomic Insights; a guest post by Paul Lorenzini –
Saving the Environment from Environmentalism
Part I - Must we destroy the environment to save it?
From Les Corrice’s Fukushima Commentary –
Bill Nye’s nuclear aversion results from the Hiroshima Syndrome
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Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) answer for this week… Fiction.
The first licensed American reactor was in Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t Shippingport. It was the Breazeale research reactor at Penn State University, in College Park, licensed in 1955. Shippingport was the first American nuclear power plant licensed. Breazeale’s 60th anniversary was celebrated on July 22nd. After TMI, the facility was included as part of a Penn State program to educate teachers about nuclear energy. I was involved in sending teachers from the Cleveland area during several summers in the mid-80s, and had the honor of attending the summer program commencement as a trustee in 1987. Here a link to the Breazeale info page for the anniversary fete… http://news.psu.edu/story/363703/2015/07/22/public-events/breazeale-nuclear-reactor-host-60th-anniversary-open-house
September 15, 2015
Bill Nye’s nuclear aversion results from the Hiroshima Syndrome
On April 8, 2015, Bill Nye (The Science Guy) presented a keynote speech on the screening of Pandora’s Promise for Columbia University Coalition for Sustainable Development.1. Nye obviously doesn’t think nuclear energy should be part of the solution for climate change. In fact, he makes it clear he doesn’t like nuclear energy at all. His 30-plus minute speech explains why he has such a deep aversion - his nuclear objection results from a severe case of the Hiroshima Syndrome.
The Hiroshima Syndrome is psychological distress which results in a mortal fear of nuclear energy. It is caused by one or more of three not-uncommon misunderstandings: (1) Uranium is an explosive, thus a worst-case nuclear power plant reactor accident could conceivably result in a nuclear detonation, (2) nuclear power plant atmospheric releases are the same as bomb fallout, and/or (3) there is no safe level of radiation exposure. All three confusions can be traced back to the August, 1945, bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To those infected by the Hiroshima Syndrome, reactors are little more than bombs that haven’t exploded yet. Of the three predicating misconceptions, Bill Nye’s aversion appears to be most influenced by confusion #1.
Nye spends the first half of his speech talking about nuclear weapons, with a noticeable number of incorrect statements. (see Rod Adams’ Why doesn’t “The Science Guy” like nuclear power – yet? 2.) As we reach the 17 minute mark, Nye begins to demonstrate his confusion between reactors and bombs. He has just completed a rather convoluted explanation of Uranium enrichment during the WWII Manhattan Project, when he says, “Secrecy was required to develop the processes that allowed the United States to develop the first nuclear weapon – this stuff is still with the nuclear industry – this secrecy.”
I was part of the so-called “nuclear industry” for 15 years, and there was never any sort of secrecy involved. Never! Colleagues with much longer “industry” association say the same thing.
So…is Bill Nye lying? He’s confusing reactors with bombs. The Manhattan Project was cloaked in secrecy, so the nuclear industry must also be under the dark veil of concealment; they are both nuclear, so what is true for one must be true for both. Nye would be better-served to do his historical homework, which it seems he has not. Bill Nye has not lied; he just didn’t know what he was talking about.
He then explains what he believes as the Achilles Heel of nuclear energy; nuclear waste. He starts by saying he doesn’t know how many reactors the US Navy has, and asserts, “If they told me they may have to kill me,” clearly another appeal to his notion of nuclear secrecy. He seems to be trying to make a joke, but there wasn’t a hint of a chuckle from the standing-room-only audience. Regardless, all he should have “Googled it”. The number of US Navy nuclear-powered ships and subs, with the number of reactors on each, is not a secret.
He then asserts that the Navy takes the old reactors and buries them, “Usually in Idaho…but there are a lot fewer people there than in other parts of the world, so leaving it there is OK.” This quickly shifts to his aversion with the nuclear waste issues at Hanford, Washington…a nuclear weapon’s facility that was critical to producing plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. Hanford was entirely a nuclear weapon’s development facility. The Columbia nuke station happens to be a few miles from Hanford, but they literally have nothing to do with each other. The problems with cleaning up Hanford are used by Nye to argue that the same issues exist for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, which is to be used for power plant wastes. He says he has been to Yucca, saw a small stream burbling nearby, to which he shouts, “Dude!!” This is his way of saying that what was true for the Manhattan Project is necessarily going to be true for Yucca Mountain. Again, Nye confuses reactors with bombs.
Nye next shifts to nuclear accidents. He says, “Three Mile Island…almost blew up. Then Chernobyl did blow up. And Fukushima is still trouble…the nuclear mass of molten metal goo… remains in the containment… and they’re trying to set up this muon detector, and it’s just not working.” The implication of nuclear explosions is clear. If he knew what he was talking about, he would never imply such a thing. Reactor fuel is way, way too dilute in the fissionable isotope, U-235, for a nuclear detonation. It’s the wrong kind of uranium! Again, a simple “Googling” by Nye could have corrected his misconception, but either he didn’t feel the need to do it or feared that secrecy would keep the truth from being published.
It is important to point out that the Muon detection of Fukushima Daiichi unit #1 worked very, very well, and will be used for at least one of the other two units with damaged cores. The Muon imaging for unit #1 showed that it experienced a full, core-relocating meltdown. It did exactly what it was supposed to do…find out if any of the core remained in its original location.
Nye subsequently asks the question “Is this (nuclear energy) worth the risk?” He spends nearly 25 minutes confounding reactors and bombs, makes an implied assertion of a near nuclear explosion at TMI, and an actual one at Chernobyl, and then pops his question. To those in the audience who have the same reactor/bomb confusions as Nye, this is powerful rhetoric. He believes, and wants everyone to believe, that reactors are bombs waiting to happen.
Bill Nye is a star when it comes to the TV screen. Why…he’s the “Science Guy”! He has a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell, and more than a handful of honorary Doctorates. But, this does not mean he has sufficient expertise to make a realistic presentation concerning nuclear energy.
I have a diverse education…I could have declared any of five majors on my Bachelor’s degree: history, environmental biology, nuclear science & technology, philosophy, and art (photography). I also have a considerable experiential background in radio-chemistry, environmental biology, nuclear plant operations, and health physics. But, none of this means I should be spouting my opinion on anything outside my academic or experiential purview. I would never allow myself to be posed as an expert on paleontology, if you will.
Yet, Bill Nye has the hubris to voice his Hiroshima Syndrome-based aversion concerning nuclear energy, about which he appears to know very little. He believes intertwining nuclear weapons with reactors is perfectly acceptable and correct. His aversion is the result of the Hiroshima Syndrome. Like the majority of those so-afflicted, he has no idea that his nuclear paradigms are as empty as space-itself.
September 5, 2015
People of Japan: Please Consider This Seriously …
Millions of people in Japan are deeply troubled about the possibility of future cancers caused by the radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Conclusions of no discernible future cancers made by the International Atomic Energy Agency, United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, or the World Health Organization, have been largely ignored by this apprehensive demographic. The reason behind their rejection seems to be that the IAEA is a “promoter” of nuclear energy, and UNSCEAR and WHO are directly connected to the international watchdog. Japan’s government was a promoter of nukes before Fukushima, and a terrible accident ensued. This caused the public to lose trust in Tokyo, and by proxy distrust any international organization also assumed to promote nuclear energy.
Late in August, a prestigious expert organization not connected to the IAEA completed its assessment of the potential for cancers due to nuke accidents, including Fukushima. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has concluded that there will be no evident increase in cancer for most of the population from radiation released in a worst-case nuclear accident. Their Study of Consequences of a Hypothetical Severe Nuclear Accident and Effectiveness of Mitigation Measures is the result of a collaborative effort to address concerns raised during public hearings on the environmental assessment for the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington nuclear power plant. Their hypothetical accident at Darlington included all four units at the site, making their conclusion directly applicable to the radiological aftermath of Fukushima’s four damaged units.
The study applied protective actions such as evacuation, sheltering indoors, and administration of potassium iodide pills that would be taken in the emergency situation. The exposures following protective actions were then used as inputs for a human health risk assessment. The CNSC said some evacuations would be needed in close proximity to Darlington, but evacuations beyond a 12 km zone from the station would not be required, even under the most extreme worst-case scenario.
The CNSC concluded that it would be nigh-impossible to distinguish radiation-induced cancers from those that would be expected to occur in the population. The worst case estimates revealed the increased risk of developing all cancers, leukemia, and adult thyroid cancer, from released contaminants would result in an additional 0.0004 % chance of development on top of the 49% baseline risk of developing such cancers. The only radiation-induced cancer that might be distinguished from baseline cancers was childhood thyroid cancer, with a slightly increased risk predicted for all scenarios. The estimated excess of future childhood thyroid cancers in close proximity to the plant was 0.3% above a baseline of about 1%.
Specific to Fukushima, the report says, "The overestimation resulting from [the government’s] preliminary modelling has been demonstrated following the Fukushima accident where doses estimated based on post release measurements were shown to be two to five times less than the preliminary estimated modelled doses. For additional perspective, the measured doses at Fukushima are comparable to the estimated doses in this [Darlington station] study, and international authorities have indicated an increased incidence in cancer (e.g. thyroid cancer) is unlikely to be observed in the future in Japan." In other words, the estimated exposures used by Tokyo’s then-antinuclear Prime Minister and his cronies to justify their evacuation orders, were grossly exaggerated. In addition, claims of future cancer epidemics are not justifiable.
The CNSC notes that the lessons learned from Fukushima, including all mandated safety upgrades now being enforced by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, would further ease the worst-case predicted outcome of a four-unit accident at Darlington. The report states, "Had all of the plant-specific safety design features, operator actions and other Fukushima enhancements…been fully credited/realized, the likelihood of a severe accident would have been practically eliminated to the point where the release of radioactive material considered in this study and its impact on human health and the environment would have been significantly reduced." The implication here is that all the safety upgrades required before restarting any nukes in Japan makes a future Fukushima-level accident very, very unlikely, if not just about impossible.
People of Japan…here are the bottom lines. An expert panel on nuclear safety, entirely independent of the IAEA, says that there will be no statistically-evident change in cancer incidence and death rates in Japan due to Fukushima Daiichi. In addition, much, if not most of the evacuated population of Fukushima Prefecture should not have been evacuated, in the first place. Finally, when all legally-required safety upgrades are made to Japanese nukes, there is no rational reason to expect another Fukushima-level accident to happen.
(Unfortunately the report itself will not be available for computer download until later this month. It will be posted on the CSNC website.)
August 30, 2015
276th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week, we have postings by Dr. Jim Conca, Meredith Angwin, Gail Marcus, Rod Adams, Brian Wang, and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Sendai unit #1 is the first nuke in Japan to operate since 2013, marking the end of the Japanese moratorium. The Sendai unit is similar to the damaged units at Fukushima Daiichi.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… small modular reactors can supplement the irregular output of wind turbines, two posts on petitioning the NRC to discontinue using LNT and ALARA for standard-setting, whether or not global warming is real, a possible setback with the AP-1000 coolant pumps, the latest out of Pakistan, and the Hiroshima Syndrome at work with Japan’s Press.
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From Dr. Jim Conca at Forbes Magazine –
Who Says Nuclear Can’t Smooth Out An Erratic Wind?
From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee (2) -
Linear No Threshold; Comment to the NRC
My Comment to the NRC in favor of abandoning LNT and ALARA for rule making
From Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk –
Global Warming: Is it Real?
From Rod Adam’s Atomic Insights -
Reactor Coolant Pumps for AP1000 are Still a Problem
From Brian Wang’s Next Big Future (3) –
Pakistan starts construction of two 1100 MWe nuclear reactors
Tri-alpha Energy targets 1-second plasma duration at 100 million degrees in the one- four years
LPP Fusion closes last of $2 million stock offering and slogs away on Tungsten electrode work
From Leslie Corrice’s Fukushima FUD –
Ian Fairlie on Fukushima: Errors and Omissions
From Leslie Corrice’s Fukushima Commentary –
Japan’s Press Remains Infected by the Hiroshima Syndrome
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Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) answer for this week… Fiction. Sendai station’s units are all Pressurized Water Reactors. All units at Fukushima Daiichi are Boiling Water Reactor systems. In PWRs, water under extreme pressure is pumped through the reactor’s fuel core, but it does not boil. The boiling takes place in separate waiter within a device called a steam generator. The steam in a PWR is not radioactive. However, in a BWR the boiling takes place inside the fuel core of the reactor and becomes radioactive.