Remaining Staff at Fukushima Plant Told to Leave (Temporarily?); Intrade Predicts IAEA Will Upgrade Accident Level (Updated)

Markets like Intrade are only as good as the intelligence (as in G2, not IQ) of the people making the bets. Given the dearth of real information coming from Tokyo Power, it’s hard to reach informed conclusions about whether the powers that be are making progress in getting the damaged reactors in the Fukushima power complex under control. Japanese are just not big on Western-style disaster presentations: “Here is what happened,” (with a few schematics) “here is what we’ve done and this is what we are going to do next” with backup plans sketched out if the first line of attack fails. Their reflex is instead a combination of apologies and sincere vows to do better, plus and inward hiss if they are asked a really uncomfortable question. So the collective nervousness is based on the legitimate concern that Something Really Awful still could happen, and the incomplete and often inconsistent tidbits don’t provide much reassurance.

A wee vote of confidence is that the Nikkei has rebounded by over 3% and the Topix by over 4%. But the Washington Post (which has been doing a very good job on this beat) reports that the 50 workers trying to get the facility under control have been ordered to leave. It isn’t clear what is happening with reactor 4. A fire started there yesterday, and the concern was that it was in the spent rods pool, which is a real weak point in the design (this cooling pool evidently has its own container, separate from the reactor, and it isn’t clear whether it is intact). Some reports say the fire has been put out; others say it has been subdued but is still burning:

The fire at the No. 4 reactor erupted because an earlier blaze was not put completely out.

The causes of the fire was unknown because workers have been unable to get near the troubled reactor.

With it unclear whether the latest explosion damaged the container to reactor 4, BBC reports that the normally stoic Japanese are getting rattled and those that have options are starting to leave Tokyo.

Even though one can credibly call press coverage a tad alarmist, some experts are concerned. Per MSNBC:

“It’s more of a surrender,” said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who now heads the nuclear safety program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group that opposes the expansion of nuclear power. “It’s not like you wait 10 days and the radiation goes away. In that 10 days things are going to get worse.”

“It’s basically a sign that there’s nothing left to do but throw in the towel,” Lochbaum said.

And Intrade wagers are on the side of matters getting worse before they get better:

Screen shot 2011-03-16 at 1.22.59 AM

Update 1:30 AM: A chart posted by Brad DeLong from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum is probably meant to be reassuring but isn’t since it fails to flag the spent fuel from reactor 4 as a risk, when it seems more accurate to categorize it as a major unknown.

Update 2:15 AM: I was remiss in not spelling out the risk of the spent fuel. This extract comes from a post by Kirk James Murphy at FireDogLake:

Two days later, the nearby building containing the plutonium-uranium (MOX) fueled Fuksuhima Daichii reactor unit 3 exploded. So why bother about the rubble of reactor No 1? The WaPo quotes a nuclear engineer who knows the answer:

Although Tokyo Electric said it also continued to deal with cooling system failures and high pressures at half a dozen of its 10 reactors in the two Fukushima complexes, fears mounted about the threat posed by the pools of water where years of spent fuel rods are stored.

At the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, where an explosion Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, the spent fuel pool, in accordance with General Electric’s design, is placed above the reactor. Tokyo Electric said it was trying to figure out how to maintain water levels in the pools, indicating that the normal safety systems there had failed, too. Failure to keep adequate water levels in a pool would lead to a catastrophic fire, said nuclear experts, some of whom think that unit 1’s pool may now be outside.

“That would be like Chernobyl on steroids,” said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates and a member of the public oversight panel for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is identical to the Fukushima Daiichi unit 1.

We’d be lucky if we only had to worry about the spent fuel rods from a single holding pool. We’re not that lucky. The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools for spent fuel rods. Six of these are (or were) located at the top of six reactor buildings. One “common pool” is at ground level in a separate building. Each “reactor top” pool holds 3450 fuel rod assemblies. The common pool holds 6291 fuel rod assemblies. [The common pool has windows on one wall which were almost certainly destroyed by the tsunami.] Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. This means the Fukushima Daiichi plant may contain over 600,000 spent fuel rods.

The fuel rods must be kept submerged in water. Why? Outside of the water bath, the radioactivity in the used rods can cause them to become so hot they begin to catch fire. These fires can burn so hot the radioactive rod contents are carried into the atmosphere as vaporized material or as very small particles. Reactor no 3 burns MOX fuel that contains a mix of plutonium and uranium. Plutonium generates more heat than uranium, which means these rods have the greatest risk of burning. That’s bad news, because plutonium scattered into the atmosphere is even more dangerous that the combustion products of rods without plutonium.

Update 3:15 AM. Bloomberg reports the workers have returned to the plant. But no one seems to know the status of the spent rods near reactor 4. There are concerns the water inside is boiling. If the rods catch fire, it could become too hazardous to fill the spent rods pool with a fire hose (!), which is the apparent remedy. More information on the risks of the number 4 reactor spent fuel pool at Washington’s blog.

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  1. Paul Repstock

    I am as ignorant as ever. But, I think that removing the workers from the reactor was a courageous decision. Why leave them in there, if they are not able to accomplish anything.

    1. Ray Duray

      Paul Repstock,

      Re: “I am as ignorant as ever. But, I think that removing the workers from the reactor was a courageous decision. Why leave them in there, if they are not able to accomplish anything.”

      I am as astounded as ever. Removing the workers was a callous, despicable and mean-spirited decision by accountancy-idiocracy driven managers who were calculating that the immediate loss of 1,000 worker to acute radiation poisoning would be more expensive than the easily countered-in-court claims of the families of 1,000,000 eventual victims of radiation sickness over the course of 30 years.

      There is very little that was noble about the Chernobyl experience, but at least the communists were willing to sacrifice their workers to save their populace. In the case of capitalist Japan, following the American model, the populace is easily sacrificed if the profit calculation demands it.

      That’s the difference between communists and capitalists, and that’s why I’m not very happy at all with capitalists today.

      1. Paul Repstock

        Sacrifice?? Just to gain the political advantage of the “appearance”, of going the extra mile. I’m not sure what is flying higher, your pragmatism, or your panic that a tiny bit of radiation might show up in Vancouver??

    2. Richard Kline

      There is no such thing as safe nuclear power. We se the deadly reality of that conclusion again now, for deaths will surely follow this disaster in Japan. Irrespective of the claim by the nuclear industry that nuclear power plants (of varying designs) can be built and operated safely, the waste of those plants, principally but not exclusively their radioactive fuel rods, remain dangerous. Forever. Even if glassified (fused with large volumes of glass), such rod materials remain severely radioactive and hot enough to melt _any_ containment_ unless physically cooled. Essentially forever. There can never be ANY failure of cooling and containment, for such failure will result, not by design or incompetence per se but by physical reality, in the release of highly radioactive particles into the atmosphere and the direct, lethal contamination of hundreds of square miles at a minimum for each instance of failure. Forever is a very long time for something to never happen; in reality, never fails under the pressure of forever.

      And not even forever.: in some sixty years we have already had three known severe contamination incidents: the Windiscale core fire in 1957, the Chelyabinsk waste fire and release in 1967 (following a series of severe incidents), and Chernobyl. The Situation in Sendai has a strong potential to be the fourth. So we don’t even need to think in terms of containment forever, because we can guarantee on present experience that we will have one or two catastrophic contamination incidents from nuclear waste _alone_ every generation, regardless of any operational failure of a plant. This is the carrying cost of keeping the nuclear catastrophe industry in business, one or two dust-offs a generation.

      Nuclear power is amongst the stupidest things the human race has ever done; and we’re talking 150,000 years of experience here. That is over and above the madness of putting a ten reactor facility in a tsunami flow plain, but of course 9.0 earthquakes don’t happen all that often, right? The risk is low; tsunamis can happen on somebody else’s watch. But that waste, it just goes right on percolating, regardless of how one calculates the risk potential of cooling or containment failure at any given plant. That waste is sitting in ponds by the kiloton all over the world. And that waste cannot go anywhere in many countries because disposal facilities were never built, and politically cannot be built, so even glassification “or shooting waste into space” have been off the planning table for many years. While the waste continues to pile up; so to speak. And the coolant on those waste ponds can never, never fail.

      Forever is a very long time for never to last. . . . Stupid, _stupid_, STUPID.

      1. aet

        There is no such thing as safe power, period.

        The only deaths here are from explosu ion: why ought they to sacrifice people on the altar of ignorance?

        Unfounded fears demanding the lives of the power plant workers.

        This situation is simply not as bad as people are painting it to be: the tsunami and ERQ aftereffects are farfar worse, and are causing far more suffering now, than this situation ever will.

        Potentialities an re not actualities.
        AS there is nothing whatsoever thatI can do to effect the situation, I shall remain hopeful.

        Why fear, rather than hope?

        1. Rex


          Keep trying to wish it away or minimize it. Good plan.

          Your view seems to be more faith-based than physics-based.

          1. Anonymous Jones

            I’ve heard that even living is hazardous to your health.

            We must put a stop to this.

        2. Paul Tioxon

          Atomic Energy Tyranny says there is no safe power. Well, we are aiming for apocalyptic disaster free power, if that is not too much to ask for in Democratically controlled Republic. Nuclear power was specifically designed as a weapon, the by product of boiling water for steam turbines under controlled fission is an unintended use of the technology, and an example of the misappropriation of purely deadly military ordinance for use in commerce. The AEC is an adjunct of the military industrial complex. These power plants are deadly containers of radioactive waste that no one wants. Except for the spent uranium that we shoot from tanks at other tanks, a military advantage that the armored divisions like having in the battlefield. All of these plants are decades old, and most are beyond the original engineered useful life cycles. Yet, even with regular accidental leaks of radioactive material into the air and water and ground, these old geezers still get 20 year license renewals. This is early 20th century technology inside of half century old construction. No, it’s not only not safe, but has repeated failed in the one mission given to the over built over engineered hardened concrete bunkers: THEY DO NOT CONTAIN RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL ANYMORE. THEY LEAK. THEY LEAK LIKE SIEVES. WITHOUT AN EARTHQUAKE, WITHOUT A TORNADO, TSUNAMI OR CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE, THEY STILL FAIL DUE TO BEING OLD AND WORN OUT.

      2. Rex

        Richard says, “Even if glassified (fused with large volumes of glass), such rod materials remain severely radioactive and hot enough to melt _any_ containment_ unless physically cooled. Essentially forever.”

        I always felt that nuc energy was a stupid bargain because the waste had to be hidden for many thousands of years for our few-year benefit. Even at that, I always assumed that the spent fuel could be stored “safely” by just hiding it in some implausible eternal way. I thought the heat could be turned off by separating the rods or inserting a moderating material between them.

        What Richard says, and what I seem to be learning from this disaster in Japan, is that this waste needs to be monitored and uses energy to cool it for (years)^(big_n).

        Is this true? It can’t be, can it? It was insane enough when I thought we just needed to find caves that would be safe for a few hundred thousand years. We have to cool it too?

        I expect I must be missing some key knowledge, but my first shock in this mess was that there apparently was no mechanical way to achieve an off switch in a reactor. I again assumed that the rods could be pulled apart or something inserted between them to achieve power off.

        This may not be the forum for these basic technical questions. Anyone know where to go to get answers?

      3. Pele Priest

        madness of putting a ten reactor facility in a tsunami flow plain, but of course 9.0 earthquakes

        What could possibly go wrong? If, we would have the financial windfall of a Broken Bastiat Window. And another business cycle for gaming!

        Should we now quickly buy up all Japanese Products that have not yet been contaminated? All Toyota-s already arrived in port and all Toyota-s assembled in USA? Should we buy up these jewels of production just as fast as we bought up South Carolina Shrimp after the GOM contamination from BP oil spill? Should we buy up these precious vintage wonders before that come stamped with a label that clearly states the half-life of the isotopes they are made from?

        I’m going to the car dealer.


  2. bob goodwin

    I agree that there is distressingly little good info coming from Japan (but they may be overwhelmed, in addition to culturally different.) But I am more distressed by the misinformation floating in the vacuum. I have been digging through documentation on the internet, and it seems that a full meltdown is far from a foregone conclusion (given that the heat output remaining from the cores is down to 2% of its running rate and falling), or that even a full meltdown at this stage would put out the kind of radiation seen in Chernobyl. I think the most important point is that damage is most likely going to be akin to 3 mile island – i.e. small amounts of radiation will escape the containment vessel. In that scenario, a few people may die amongst a larger catastrophe that will take more than 10,000 souls.

    I think most of the doomsday scenarios require a cracked containment vessel, and full exposure of the fuel rods immediately after shutdown.

    But it is unnervingly hard to form an opinion, when the downside is so great, the information so weak.

        1. Ray Duray


          There are sensible and intelligent people who make a good case for nuclear energy as a means of producing electricity.

          Richard Rhodes, for one. You might look him up on Amazon or Wikipedia and find he’s got some bona fides.

          But your source, Rob Adams, unfortunately makes you appear to come across as a lunatic crackpot with some severely half-baked notions about science and how the world really works.

          You might consider upping your credibility by sticking to real science sites, and avoiding the crackpot lunatic stuff.

          Some suggestions:

          Union of Concerned Scientists:

          Federation of American Scientists:

          Arms Control Wonk:

          Scientific American:

          Your sources seem ridiculous, if not entirely reprehensible.

          1. Paul Repstock

            Just do a couple of searches on Mr. Arnie Gundersen. He makes a living spreading fear and panic.

            Never let a good disaster go to waste.

          2. Umberto

            It’s funny how the disaster capitalists are always the ones who accuse others of capitalizing on disasters. Sort of how the rich, which making class warfare on the poor, accuse the poor of class warfare every time they complain.

        2. Cedric Regula

          The FDL article uses the phrase “on steroids”, which personally I think is overused, but we still need to make the distinction about whether we are in emergency mode in the midst of a nuclear accident, or are 70s plant designs to dumb to succeed, or can we start with a fresh slate and with modern design, thoughtful site selection, safe waste disposal, and responsible, verifiable operating procedures save the planet with global warming friendly nuclear power.

          But first the emergency. FDL points out we have infrared spy satellites which could be used to find the control rods TEPCO seems to have misplaced. This may be tongue in cheek on the part of the author, but I’ll add we have spy planes, FLIR helicopters and night vision goggles too. So finding the rods is a non issue IMHO. (tho I’m somewhat gratified to know all those servo motors I designed and shipped to my spy camera, FLIR and nightsite customers can be put to good use, again.)

          But this does raise the issue that we may be at War. An enemy (evil, soulless and not abiding by the principles of MAD) has committed and act of War against us and our Allies, and maybe we do need the Pentagon to retaliate, with or without the express permission of Congress, whom will shortly be preoccupied with arguing over whether the USA is really broke or not.

          My initial tactical plan is to fly in the Apaches and let loose a barrage of hellfire missiles, first on the roof of the containment area buildings, then blow the tops of the containment vessels themselves. Followup with waves of Chinooks carrying premixed concrete (supervised by the Japanese of course-they know more about paving than anyone) and fill up the exposed containment area, reactor vessels and all spent fuel pools with concrete.

          We then have buried the problem, which is how I hear they belatedly solved Chernobyl.

          But I am aware that Generals routinely muck things up, so I would not give the go ahead on the attack until putting the plan thru focus group, staffed by a bunch of nuke physicists and engineers.

          And probably a geologist too. I’m not so convinced about this story that nuke waste burns thru soil and heads for the center of the earth, or even makes it all the way to the water table. To my knowledge soil does not burn, and if it did, we wouldn’t have an energy problem…(no input necessary from the peat moss crowd – that’s Ireland – you’ll get your chance someday)

          1. ScottS

            no input necessary from the peat moss crowd – that’s Ireland – you’ll get your chance someday

            You’ll come crawling to us eventually!

    1. Umberto

      No one wants to talk about the real worst case scenario: total meltdown, and long-lasting fire of the spent fuel, triggering the kind of fallout worldwide you could expect from a nuclear war.

      And why not? It’s not as if no corners have been cut with the design and operation of the plant, or with the response and cleanup so far. All we know so far is that the Japanese Government is incompetent and Tokyo Electric is worse.

    2. RDE

      Bob, actually the facts on the ground have already progressed far beyond TMI. There are 6 reactors all sited adjacent to each other, not one. 20 years of spent fuel is stored in open swimming pools on site, containing radiation equivalent to thousands of Hiroshima size bombs. All system cooling capability for spent fuel storage has been permanently disabled, and temporary seawater pumping has not been able to control rising temperatures in either the reactors or the storage pools.

      At least one reactor containment vessel has been breached, and uncontrolled meltdown is under way in at least two. If the core meltdown continues through the bottom of the containment vessel it will burrow its way to the shallow groundwater table where it will cause repeated steam explosions that will damage/destroy the nearby reactors and the spent fuel ponds. The potential exists for ongoing, uncontrollable radiation release into the atmosphere over a substantial time, and this in one of the most densely populated countries on earth with 42 million people in Tokyo alone well within reach of the radiation plume.

      No, the worst case scenario is Chernobyl multiplied several times over.

      1. Umberto

        The experts agree: the worst case scenario can’t happen.
        There are at least 50 guys working to contain the meltdown, and everyone who watches action movies knows that you only need 1 or 2 guys to stop armageddon.

  3. Salviati

    I wouldn’t call the press coverage alarmist at all, given the how potentially disastrous this could be. If the spent fuel rods are exposed and heating up, its gonna be damn hot. I don’t think an explosion is out of the question.

  4. Chris

    Something to consider here is the difference between Soviet versus Japanese treatment of responders.

    Chernobyl is notorious for the Soviets underestimating or not informing responders about the true risks. At the same time, it’s difficult to believe that these people (i.e the Bio-robots, who were necessary since electronic robots were incapacitated by the radiation) did not know the severity of the exposure they were receiving.

    Contrast this with the supposedly transcendent importance of society over the individual in Japanese culture. The unwillingness of the government to put military personnel in danger, combined with the evacuation order, may imply that they don’t believe any similar heroics will actually help the situation. Another possibility with the evacuation is that there are only so many skilled workers available to them, and they absolutely need these workers to survive for a while but are already planning for them to receive lethal doses. Raising the maximum safe exposure to 250 mSv might suggest the latter but it’s hard to tell.

    1. kievite

      “Chernobyl is notorious for the Soviets underestimating or not informing responders about the true risks. At the same time, it’s difficult to believe that these people (i.e the Bio-robots, who were necessary since electronic robots were incapacitated by the radiation) did not know the severity of the exposure they were receiving.”

      This is false. Soviets has one of the best physics education for the population. On may be simply the best. Plus all adults were systematically trained to deal with nuclear war emergencies (self-defence courses were part of the curriculum) which included skills such as wearing individual protection, protecting food and water from contamination, reading dosimeters, interpreting level of contamination on the ground, etc. Most people with high school education understood that they need to take iodine to prevent the accumulation of radioactive iodine in thyroid grand.

      So responders understood the risks pretty well, I would say much better then average US citizens, who never have a physics class in high school.

      It was just human heroism — do and perish. Also the society was more collectivist then Western societies and a lot of responders were members of the Party, which preached the cult of self-sacrifice. You were not expected to think about yourself is other people are in danger. To refuse meant to disgrace yourself forever in eyes of family and friends.


    This situation – particularly the last 2 paragraphs you describe in your post, describing the importance of keeping fuel rods submerged in water – sounds so unreal that it almost feels like science-fiction , or like something out of a Dan Brown novel. That this is actually real is quite an alarming fact. It shows that we have created power beyond which we can comfortably control; we see that an earthquake could trigger a disaster, the likes of which we’ve never seen.

    1. Salviati

      If you think that’s scary consider this:

      “Tepco believes that the storage pool may be boiling, raising the possibility that exposed rods will reach criticality. “The possibility of re-criticality is not zero,” a Tepco spokesman said.”

      Between nuclear engineer who would build such a Pandora’s box and financial engineers who build their financial counterparts, its difficult to say who is the bigger fool. One thing is for sure, “scientists” desperately need to be reigned in before they destroy us all.

      1. Ray Duray

        There is a severe amount of idiocy on this thread. Criticality requires nuclear enrichment to +90% U-235 for a bomb.

        Fukushima’s fuel rods at placement (and before depletion) are enriched to ~3% U-235.

        If this didn’t make sense to you, you are too stupid to comment on this issue. You need to stop commenting and start studying nuclear science at the most basic high school level.

        1. Salviati

          huh? I don’t know what high school you went to, but criticality is not covered in the curriculum. Better yet, its not covered in the physics undergraduate curriculum either. Additionally, you can have a criticality accident without an explosion.

          More important than anything else, I was not the one making the claim, it was TEPCO’s spokesman. Now either TEPCO doesn’t know what they are talking about or you don’t. Given their complete ineptitude I would be tempted to believe you over them. Except that a basic google search on recriticality of spent fuel renders a ton of documents, so apparently it seems to be within the realm of probability. But I would like to reiterate, I am merely reposting a statement made by TEPCO. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then you need to learn how quotation marks are used in the english language. You need to stop commenting and study english at the most basic high school level.

        2. Umberto

          Agreed Ray, anyone who can’t understand the false and misleading things you are saying, has to go back to kindergarten where they teach advanced nuclear engineering.

          1. Duke Newcome

            Ray, anyone who can’t understand the false and misleading things you are saying, has to go back to kindergarten

            You got chore :

            1. critical
            2. supercritical
            3. nuclear explosion

            Nuclear explosion is not so dependent on mass as it is dependent on Mass^3/ContainingVolume^2. To bring two hemispheres of U235 together fast enough for nuclear event, hemispheres need to accelerate suddenly from dynamite explosion or powerful mass driver. Otherwise hemispheres explode into vapor before neutron cloud expands to encapsulate expanding U235 with chain reaction. vapor expands at speed of sound but neutron cloud expands at nearly speed of light but faster than light within some substances, for example glass.

  6. psychohistorian

    I was very pessimistic yesterday and I see no reason to feel better today.

    I read the Chernobyl on steroids report yesterday and still believe this situation is headed there or beyond. The economic and social impact will be huge.

    1. psychohistorian

      I read that 6 of the 7 storage pools are/where multiple stories above ground.

      I read another report that showed questions about the water levels in all the storage pools….probably full of spent fuel since the facility has been running for ?40? years

      What is the Chernobyl solution to this evolving nightmare?

      When and how is it implemented?

      What are the human and environmental implications of the radioactivity that could possibly spew from this mess until the Chernobyl solution is implemented?

      Where are the non-sociopathic adults?

  7. Tertium Squid

    Asian markets are up a ton right now, though only a fraction of what they’ve given up this week.

    Whenever there are these big distortions, can I assume there are arb shops making out like bandits?

  8. g kaiser

    A wee vote of confidence is that the Nikkei has rebounded by over 3% and the Topix by over 4%

    Thast is a very wee vote in my view. If ever a ramp job, then this is one. New money and savers kicked.

  9. Uehara

    Sad indeed, I’ve lived in Tokyo for about six years on and off and Japan has become my second home. To see what is going on there is heart wrenching.

    According to an article on Bloomberg, the engineers were allowed back into the control room.

    I worry because the Japanese, in particular TEPCO is not the most forthcoming about what is going on in their power plants.

    1. bmeisen

      Neither are the French. On the other side of the Rhein it looks like Merkel in Germany may even want to disentangle herself from the wahnsinnige technocrats in the FDP and in the board rooms, especially of big energy (EnBW, Eon, RWE) and really go after renewables. Imagine how much Japan is going to spend to recover from this accident. Now invest that in renewables and energy efficiency. The key is solar, wind, hydro (essentially tidal and wave), geothermal and biodiesel from anything other than grains, cane and edible oils. Energy efficiency must be improved dramatically. For example extraordinary improvements are already possible with passive house technology. Those of us who live in arid areas, e.g. ARizona and Southern California might want to start thinking about giving up their electric dryers.

      1. Externality

        Those of us who live in arid areas, e.g. ARizona and Southern California might want to start thinking about giving up their electric dryers.

        Going back to air drying laundry will require changes in social norms, homeowners association covenants, local ordinances, and apartment lease agreements. Currently, many, if not most, Americans could not hang their laundry outside to dry even if they wanted to.

        Many of the environmentally wasteful practices prevalent in modern America came about from legal and social pressure on Americans to change their “outdated” ways. Laundry drying outside was seen as declasse’ and damaging property values. (An online dictionary actually uses this fact in its definition. Parents who allow their children to walk short distances to and from school are often portrayed as neglectful. The increasing prevalence of restrictive covenants complicates the installation of solar panels. Instead of nudging Americans toward energy-efficient solutions, society nudges them away.

        1. Externality

          Should be:

          bmeisen says:

          Those of us who live in arid areas, e.g. ARizona and Southern California might want to start thinking about giving up their electric dryers

        2. bmeisen

          Thanks for the detail. So you’re free to carry a concealed weapon, free to school your kids at home, free from burdensome mileage restrictions on your SUV, but you’re not free to hang your wet wash out in the sunny, high 90s, low humidity ARizona afternoon.

          1. Externality

            Believe it or not, this is true:

            Whether they want to install solar panels, use wind power or dry clothes outdoors, many homeowners are finding their plans to go green conflict with association rules designed to keep things uniform to maintain property values and keep developments aesthetically pleasing.

            Proponents of air-drying in particular are taking their cases to legislatures and municipal governments, hoping to win the right to air their clean laundry on their properties.

            It’s estimated that as many as 60 million Americans live in neighborhoods where homeowners groups prohibit laundry lines.


      2. DownSouth

        Fears of a major nuclear disaster in Japan put German Chancellor Angela Merkel under pressure Monday over her decision to postpone by a decade the switch-off of all nuclear reactors in Europe’s leading economy.


        Germany decided in 2000 under the SPD and the ecologist Greens to switch off the last of its 17 nuclear power stations by 2020, but Merkel’s government in 2010 postponed the exit until the mid-2030s, despite strong public unease.

        Merkel in hotseat over Japan nuclear crisis

        1. bmeisen

          State election in less than 2 weeks in Baden-Württemburg. The CDU is going down in flames!! The Greens have a good chance of taking over the minister presidency (governorship) in an astonishingly successful industrial region. Merkel is paddling frantically backwards because losing Ba-Wü will tilt the power relations in the Bundesrat in favor of the GReen/SPD opposition and she’ll be reduced to lame duck status until the next Bundestag election, which, if the CDU loses badly enough in Ba-Wü, she might be forced to draw forward. The municipal election in Frankfurt will also reflect changing attitudes. The Greens were at 25% last week – if they come in at over 30% CDU mayor Petra Roth will be pretty frustrated for a while.

          There is no future for nuclear power in Germany as a result of this disaster and the persistence of the Greens. If it can be done here then it can be done elsewhere!!

          France will still rely heavily on nuclear power – I expect that discussions of EU energy policy in Brussels are turning especially nasty. As more and more renewables come on line there will be more and more pressure to end the import of electricity from French nuclear plants.

  10. bob

    Arnie Gundersen has an agenda, and a quick google search reveals that his resume is quite inflated.

    He does not work at VT yankee, he works against it.

    Not sure what to make of anything now, but his opinion was made up before the fact.

    1. attempter

      Yup. The very fact that someone is proven right is why you shouldn’t listen to him.

      That’s very common logic nowadays, and it’s easy to see why. Defenders of the system are going to need it more and more.

      1. bob

        What exactly was “proven right”? Based on my reading of his work at least as much has been proven wrong.

        And as far as “the system” goes, oil/gas/coal are loving this.

        1. attempter

          What exactly was “proven right”?

          Um, the obvious?

          And as far as “the system” goes, oil/gas/coal are loving this.

          Here’s another telegram from the obvious:

          In spite of all the greenwashing pro-nuke hype, there was always zero chance that nuke-fired energy was going to be a substitute for any fossil fuel extraction and burning, as opposed to in addition to it.

          The amount of oil/gas/coal which has been burned and will be burned is exactly the same as would have been burned if there were no reactors, or if there were twice as many reactors.

          So anyone who supports nukes simply wants the ravages of uranium extraction (just as bad as coal strip-mining); the risks of the reactors themselves; the guarantee of ever more frequent, ever worse catastrophes like this one; yet another entire corporate welfare sector; and the further concentration of centralized political and economic power; supporters want all of that on top of whatever happens with oil/gas/coal, which has no relation whatsoever to what happens with nukes.

          Maybe your kind of argument could have been called naivete back in the 50s, but given the record of proof over all these decades, by now it can only be called a lie.

          1. bob

            “The amount of oil/gas/coal which has been burned and will be burned is exactly the same as would have been burned if there were no reactors, or if there were twice as many reactors.”

            I’ll take your word for that.

          2. attempter

            You don’t understand this economy at all, do you?

            Can you name an established sector where supply has anything whatsoever to do with what would be demanded in a truly free market? On the contrary, the goal in every sector is simply to produce, with the government guaranteeing the rent extractions wherever there’s insufficient demand.

            The oil and coal companies have no purpose or goal but to extract and sell oil and coal. The government guarantees their rents with however many subsidies are necessary. These are mostly indirect subsidies like policy which favors increased energy consumption, military spending, and allowing externalizations of costs on society and the environment.

            And here’s nuclear energy, a completely gratuitous welfare sector. Big Government doesn’t get more intrusive on the “free market” than this.

            But how delusional to think Big Oil and Big Coal are going to accept the cutting down of their percentage just to accommodate this rival welfare recipient. That’s why every cap-and-trade bill is so loaded with new welfare goodies for Oil and Coal, as well as scams like “clean coal” which are simply meant to greenwash business as usual.

            How ridiculous, that anyone thinks nukes are substituting for oil and coal in any way whatsoever. It’s simply all aboard the gravy train, with the added attraction of nuclear’s unsolvable* waste problem disaster potential.

            * Is there anyone on this blog who has any doubt at all that the waste will end up being directly dumped in the ghettos of the poor? We all know that’s where it’s headed, and nuke supporters are already complicit in this crime against humanity.

            Here’s a story alleging that nuclear waste is already being dumped off Somalia


            and linking that to the rise of piracy. It’s all right here in Larry Summers’ manifesto:


          3. bob

            The basis of your tirade was that statement. It cannot be proven true or false, ever.

            I am simply taking your word as a prophet, and treating it accordingly.

  11. bmeisen

    One of the few postive outcomes of this catastrophe is that Germany’s Green movement is ascendant. REcently the Merkel (CDU)/Westerwelle (FDP)government repealled a law passed by the most recent Green/SPD government to stop the use of nuclear power. Merkel and Westerwelle extended the shelf life of German nukes. In the last few days they have fallen over themselves scrambling away from that position. The stakes are big: the CDU is poised to lose power in Baden-Württemburg, Germany’s most productive state next to Bavaria. They had a big problem with their megalomaniacal boondoggle around the Stuttgart central train station from which the GReens were making hay. Now this. It could get even better in the local elections in Frankfurt/Main where the Greens could win more than the 25% anticipated last week.

  12. Michael Fiorillo

    Complex technology that involves immense risks over thousands of years (when factoring in disposal of high-level radioactive waste), all for the purpose of boiling water.

    How’s that for an example of madness?

  13. Max424

    Fans of Boeing will be happy to know that the last line of defense* in the Fukushima prefecture is the Boeing made CH-47 medium lift helicopter.

    The large and noble Chinook! Twin engines, tandem rotors, capable of lifting small howitzers — can X number of Chinooks carry enough cooling waters to the scene to dose the “heat” at the Daiichi plant; and save the day? We will soon find out.

    Either way, I suspect Kramer will relay the dramatic story of the Last Stand of the Chinooks, and Boeing’s stock price should get a nice little boost as a result.

    * Or, the last doll in the Russian Doll Defense!

    1. Skippy

      You had to mention Kramer, didn’t you. Last night stayed up late to watch the dice roll on the net work that will not be named, only to see the start up crew invoke his wisdom, plus big fat guy keep bringing up GE LOL (stock holder/retirement plan rof). Any way after that my dreams brought me visions of who is the real Charlie Sheen, Kramer or son of Sheen, doppelgangers refection IDK????

      Skippy…damn you!

      1. Max424

        “You had to mention Kramer, didn’t you.”

        Sorry, but I’ve taken a shine to Kramer. Whenever I want to feel good about my country, I tune in to Mad Money.

        Yesterday, Kramer told me, the reason the American markets could stare down chaos, and only loose 1% of their value in the face of calamity, is because they are strong, and free.

        The German and the French markets, yesterday, lost two and three percent, respectively, because they are not strong, and they are not free. This is what Kramer told me.

        And the underlying theme, not spoken but certainly implied, is that their is more than a hint of Socialism in the German and French systems, and Socialists easily scare, and they crumble when times get tough.

        Put simply; my main man Kramer believes the socialistic Krauts and Frogs can’t handle the truth; but we can.

        1. Skippy

          Just don’t look directly into his eyes, K, pick a spot on his forehead.

          Skippy…don’t know if he’s sharing Becks medical cabinet or what but, those orbs look like their going to fall back into that cavity behind them, then things could get really interesting.

          1. Max424

            “Just don’t look directly into his eyes…”

            It’s hard to look directly into Kramer’s eyes, isn’t it, because they are so shifty.

            Shifty eyes, the mark of a fertile mind!

            Beck, on the other hand, has steady eyes. They’re like magnets, they hold you. Only when his eyes fill with tears, on those not so rare occasions when he ponders the fate of his much loved but troubled nation, is the hypnotic “Peeper Link” between Beck and the viewer broken.

          2. LeeAnne

            Anyone who can stomach watching Kramer and analyze his thoughts for us, deserves recognition. Thanks a bunch Max 424.

            BTW Skippy, my copy of “Against Interpretation” arrived via Amazon a few days ago -an old one with Sontag’s portrait on the cover. It looks like the photographer’s attempt, or Sontag herself, at resembling Jackie here. Ironic given the title of her other book, “On Photography.”

            I’ll have to do some reading – both books – to see the connection: would Sontag have rather been a glamour girl than the brilliant social critic she was? Was she disappointed that her criticism is better known and more popular than her novels? Would she be embarrassed by the resemblance today? Feel that it is a distortion of her real intentions?

    2. Cedric Regula

      Well, we do have considerable experience fighting mega forest fires in S. Cal, so I don’t rule out success when attacking a tiny power plant.

      But maybe in this case we should go straight to the Chernobyl end game and dump cement from the air.

  14. LeeAnne

    I love this headlined on Drudge this morning -“U.S. Surgeon General: Get iodide…

    I don’t give a click what the article says. Emergency level pills (in the micrograms, not milligrams)has been SOLD OUT for days.

    AND, the US never stockpiled it for emergencies.

  15. briansays

    if you don’t succeed at first
    from wonkette

    The environmentalist wackos in the Obama Administration “asked Congress to provide a $4 billion loan guarantee for two new nuclear reactors to be built and operated on the Gulf Coast of Texas — by Tokyo Electric Power and local partners,” ha ha. Because there’s nothing greener than money nuclear power, built by a scandal-plagued Japanese company now presiding over the biggest nuclear-power disaster in history. (Okay, maybe Obama’s beloved “clean coal” is a teeny bit more green than nuclear fallout facilities on the Gulf of Mexico.) Anyway, let’s hear it for Tokyo Electric Power! Experts say this company has been running insanely dangerous nuke plants for years, and has badly bungled the response to the earthquake damage — in terms of safety announcements, public relations and that whole “nuclear holocaust/meltdown” thing. READ MORE »


    1. Umberto

      My favorite quotations from this event are the ones make about the reactors along the California coast:

      “This could never happen here since there can’t be any really big earthquakes in California.”

      Oh yeah!

  16. Chris Rogers

    Yves and Co,

    I find it a little ironic that an event occurring more than 6,000 miles away from Washington and New York is causing such a stir.

    What really tickles me is the gross hypocrisy and rank stupidity of many of those making comments or issuing advice.

    Here’s a few teasers – France informs its citizen’s in Japan to either leave the country or move down South of the nuclear accident. This from a country that tests its nuclear weapons on a coral reef island in the Pacific and assures everyone that said tests are ‘safe’ contrary to most scientific understanding as to the make up of coral and fissures that can occur within coral placed under such conditions as a nuclear explosion.

    Germany: Germany shutdowns all nuclear powers stations built prior to 1980 fearful thats its population may get over excited by the media circus in Japan – at the same time German engineering businesses are busy selling their nuclear engineering capability the world over – evidently Ms. Merkel has a low opinion of German engineering – time to dump that Merc, BMW, Posrche and VW.

    The USA: such is the concern in the States we now have reports that iodine supplements to protect against radiation exposure may be in short supply – evidently leading politicians have been reading too much into this weeks episode of ‘The Event’ and the nuclear power stations currently in Japan will somehow be teleported to the USA.

    All this crud from a nation with a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out the globe, environmental damage from its own nuclear research facilities that remains classified, a nation that thought nothing of detonating atomic weapons in its own back yard and exposing military and civilians to the effects/fallout.

    This from a nation that used Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 as tests for its new toy – of course, a military blockade was not sufficient for our Japanese friends to surrender given many were on the verge of starvation.

    A few facts make a salient reminder – lets remember Chernobyl and put things into perspective.
    Yes, Japan has a nuclear crisis, yes its bad, yes people have been evacuated – ie the survivors of both a huge earthquake and mega tsunami. Do remember all nuclear plants in question remained intact after the earthquake and shutdown according to protocol – however, systems have failed and we have an emergency – one that I’m confident engineers can cope with. Again, its no Chernobyl.

    Now get this folks, when Chernobyl blew up I was living in the path of fallout from the reactor – this in Wales many, many miles away.

    At the time, sheep had to be moved from the hills as they were contaminated and many of said sheep were deemed unfit for human consumption. nearly 30 years later, certain areas are still contaminated – to date I’ve seen no ‘two headed’ cows, sheep, pigs or birds – birth defects are normal per head of population.

    I also reside close to a nuclear power station on the River Severn, this close to a population area in excess of 1 million – that’s 1 million persons within a 20 mile radius of the plant – evidently, I spend my days wearing a useless face mask and white overalls to protect myself from this hazard.

    Time to get real, lets quit the bullshit and look at the facts – if Japan survived two atomic detonations within three days of each other – the death toll of which was similar to the blanket bombing raids Mr. LaMay made on other large cities – these being fire bombed, I’m confident with all the technology at its disposal, some of it even from the USA, it will overcome this disaster.

    I’m in Tokyo in three weeks time and can assure you I’m more afraid of flying than earthquakes and potential radioactive fallout in Japan – tis a shame others are not so stoic.

    1. Umberto

      You must be a foreigner. When Americans hear pundits for the nuclear industry telling them there’s no threat to America from clouds of plutonium entering the jetstream and being deposited on the West Coast in the next rainstorm, they know to read between the lines.

      1. Chris Rogers

        The last time I read geography, Wales was a constituent unit of the United Kingdom – so, evidently one is not from the USA. Actually, I currently reside in Hong Kong – this being less than 2,000 miles away from Japan – I can assure you, the diesel exhaust fumes are more dangerous than any supposed radioactive cloud from Japan’s stricken reactors.

        1. Cedric Regula

          Yes, diesel exhaust has been linked to a higher incidence of brain cancer, I heard, so I fully expect Asian math scores to fall oover time…

    2. Cedric Regula

      I’m certainly all for calmness. In fact, I was wondering if craazyman would be so kind and lead us on of those group sessions where we learn to absorb negative vibes, make the ummmmm sound, and channel said unhealthy vibes back out thru our navels. Like the rabbit is doing.

      I happen to be pro safe nuclear power. When one of these accidents occurs at a boneheaded design 70s vintage plant that actually failed because of boneheaded operational details, this makes me uncalm. I begin to worry about two things at the same time.

      1) Back to Earth Greenies tell me I’m going to be a subsistence farmer in AZ,. And when I set my t stat to 90F as usual…it’s still 105F-110F. And the expensive new electric car I bought to save the world is being charged with electricity that is made from oil/coal/gas. And now I’m supposed to save the world by hanging my loin cloth on a clothesline?

      2) I will be listening to pro nuke people trained by the Glenn Beck School of Nu Clear Fiziks.

      1. Chris Rogers

        I’m preparing a tinfoil triangular hat to wear upon my head to ward off the harmful effects of a non-existant radiation plume heading towards North America.

        Joviality aside, given how close to Japan Korea is, I have heard of no panic in that nation – still, they live with a real and present threat poised by North Korea.

        The mind boggles – still, if you can make a few bucks out of this crisis by investing in iodine manufacturers, we really must live in a sad mad world.

        1. Calida

          Hey Chris. Since you’re such a rugged macho man, why don’t you get off your butt and help put out the fire in reactor 4. You can be hero #51. Surely you’re not afraid of a little radiation are you?

          1. Chris Rogers

            If you cannot judge by what I’ve stated, that is I’m neither ‘pro-nuclear’ or ‘anti-nuclear’, rather I live with the facts.
            I suggest many posters should actually try working in heavy industry – try steel manufacturing for a start or mining and see how many deaths you have in those sectors.
            The disinformation people are reading, and ‘panic’ attributable to a crisis on the other side of the Pacific is totally unjustified and out of all proportion.
            As for assisting with the relief effort, one has already offered and donated to the Red Cross – what have you done?
            As with the financial crisis, people believe in about 20 myths when the reality is striking them in the face.
            Japan has suffered a terrible tragedy, and yet the media focus on a nuclear incident and not the actual suffering of millions of people.
            To-date, one person has died as a result of the nuclear accident, as opposed to more than 10,000 as a result of an earthquake and tsunami – not really a joking matter, but more are concerned with a ‘non-event’ rather than the actualities.
            Still, I’d rather be a cynic than a believer – you are being lied too, unfortunately I cannot fathom for what purpose.

    3. leroguetradeur

      MOX fuel rods. I would not fly in there any time soon. It may well not happen, but if it does…

  17. gepay

    In my life, there are times when I can skate through the drudge and times when I have to slog because any misstep will cause a catastrophe. With the financial meltdown, two catastrophic tsunamis, the BP Gulf oil disaster, and now nuclear plants melting down (along with their waste pools) in just a few years it is quite clear what phase we are in collectively. It is a given, that although they don’t happen often, there are times when everything that can go wrong will.
    Aside from the crudeness of using nuclear fission to boil water (yes, this is better than incinerating cities) the toxicity of the fuel and the dangers of the operation, not to mention denial of the certainty of eventual human error, nuclear power is more than dumb. It is a crime.
    There is no real argument. The only statistics that I find to be useful are those of the insurance actuaries. The judgment of the capitalist insurance companies is that the risk can not be calculated. Nuclear plants will not be insured. The laws were changed so the power companies could not be sued in case of the inevitable accident – what could be more clear.

  18. Iolaus

    If nuclear power proponents feel they are fighting a tsunami of misinformation, they might consider the lack of credibility the nuclear industry has, given its culture of secrecy. Here’s Michael McCarthy of the Independent (UK) on the subject: A Cloud Of Nuclear Mistrust…

  19. Carl

    How many people have died so far from the radiation?
    How many died at Chernobyl?

    UNSCEAR has conducted 20 years of detailed scientific and epidemiological research on the effects of the Chernobyl accident. Apart from the 57 direct deaths in the accident itself, UNSCEAR originally predicted up to 4,000 additional cancer cases due to the accident. However, the latest UNSCEAR reports suggest that these estimates were overstated. In addition, the IAEA states that there has been no increase in the rate of birth defects or abnormalities, or solid cancers (such as lung cancer) corroborating UNSCEAR’s assessments.

    The number of toaster related deaths in the world this past year was 45. This is up 12 from last year, and up 15 from two years ago. The number of toaster related deaths in the US alone was 17, nearly a 7% increase over the past year. This year toasters have killed nearly ten times more people worldwide than the deadly polio virus.

    So far more people have died from toasters. When the count goes above this. I will start to worry.

    1. Og Meersteen

      Personally, I won’t worry until all life on Earth perishes in a cloud of plutonium. Of course, then it will be too late to worry, but isn’t that the point?

      1. Og Meersteen

        …which is just to say if you wait until people die before you start to worry, you lose your chance to do anything about it…

    2. Cedric Regula

      Well, let’s be realistic. “Toaster deaths” are suicides and everyone knows it.

      But I have been a little suspicious about the effects projected from small amounts of fallout and long term radiation ever since I looked up the present population of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and found both cities are well in excess of 1 million Japanese. And they look pretty much the same as pre-war pictures of Japanese. (yes, I checked)

    3. Anon

      Does this look like children suffering from the effects of a toasters?

      Or maybe they just ate too many bananas, also a source of radioactivity comparable to the effects of radionuclides, according to nuclear industry shills.

      see from 1:28 if you can bear it:

      UNSCEAR is a well-known whitewash, for example, it excludes the 25% mortality rate before the age of 40 years of the 600 miners who went to the Chernobyl plant in May 1986 to dig a tunnel under the reactor core so the base could be supported. This was deemed necessary to stop it melting into the freshwater aquifer connected to the River Dneipner.

      Or maybe the Ukranian president was mistaken when in 2010, he went to Cuba to decorate Fidel Castro and others for the help extended to the children of Ukraine in the years since the accident?

      Perhaps no children got sick from the meltdown at all?

      Perhaps none of the 600,000 (by some estimates, 1,000,000) workers and volunteers who helped get the Chernobyl site under control ever suffered health effects, or died as a result?

      A bit like those crews who worked at the World Trade Center site after 9/11, which was perfectly safe, and never suffered a single problem after?

      However, the undisputed non-UNSCEAR scrubbed fact is that Cuba, a small island state blockaded by the US, has provided facilities to treat over 23,000 Ukrainian children since disaster struck in 1986:

      Ukrainian Head of State Victor Yanukovych awarded a decoration to Cuban former president Fidel Castro and his successor Raúl Castro, for the help provided to children victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, announced the Ukrainian Presidency today.

      According to a press release, President Yanukovych awarded Fidel Castro the Order of Merit in its first degree, and his brother Raúl the Yaroslav the Wise Order in its first degree, for their “important contribution to the health recovery of Chernobyl children.”

      Public Health Minister José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera was decorated with Yaroslav the Wise Order in its fifth degree.

      Some 23,000 children have received medical care at the Cuban rehabilitation center in Tarara to overcome the consequences of the most serious nuclear accident in history, occurring in 1986 at the Ukrainian nuclear plant of Chernobyl, states the press release, published on the Ukrainian Presidency’s web page.

      The Ukrainian president expressed his “deep gratitude” to Cuban authorities for the “enormous help” given to Ukraine to overcome the consequences of the nuclear catastrophe.

      At 01:24 hours on 26 April 1986, two explosions took place in reactor number four at the Chernobyl plant. The event constitutes a turning point in the history of the peaceful use of atomic energy.

      The power plant, whose failure was due to a sequence of human, technical and construction errors, expelled into the atmosphere up to 200 tons of fissible material whose radioactivity was equivalent to between 100 and 500 atom bombs like the one dropped on Hiroshima.

      More than 600,000 Soviet fire fighters, soldiers, officials and volunteers participated in tasks aimed at covering up the destroyed reactor and contain the lethal radiation, a heroic feat that would eventually result in the death or lifelong disability of many of them.

      1. kievite

        I have great respect the USA scientific community and I am surprised what’s happening in “free press” in coverage of Japan nuclear disaster. My impression (and I definitely can be wrong being a foreigner) is that the USA media as a whole acts as bunch of clueless, hysterical retards without high school education.

        Some great samples from Grey Lady (if she can be called lady after Bush years without mocking :-)(

        This is frustrating for all, because the answer depends in part on the prevailing winds, which can change. However, experts I’ve interviewed strongly doubt that there will be any significant risk on the West Coast, and say there is no reason to take the potassium iodide unless high levels of radioactive iodine develop. But again, scientists consider high levels unlikely in the United States. In addition, about 98 percent of a person’s dose comes from drinking contaminated milk, and if fallout were to reach here (again, unlikely) most people could protect themselves by not drinking milk or eating dairy products. Children are much more vulnerable than adults.

        Q: Do they know what is half-life of radiactive iodine ? It it that easy to get Japanese milk in the USA. Inqureing minds want to know…

        Hint: It has a radioactive decay half life of about 8 days.

        The great tragedy of Chernobyl was an epidemic of thyroid cancer among people exposed to the radiation as children — more than 6,000 cases so far, with more expected for many years to come. There is no reason for it to be repeated in Japan.

        Q: Did they call Glenn Beck to get the facts strait ?

        I understand that the Japanese government stated that all prefectures in Japan should start reporting twice a day on any signs of elevated radiation levels and that these reports should be made public. Will The New York Times be providing (translated) access to this information? Have you inquired of the U.S. government, e.g. NARAC, as to the size, direction and radiation intensity of the radioactive plume arising from the Fukushima plant? At what point should radiation monitoring reports in the U.S., particularly in counties on the Pacific Coast, be made publicly available? Have you looked into this?

        — Lyndon Comstock, Bolinas, Calif.

        A.So far the reporting on radiation levels available from Japanese authorities has been spotty, at best. We have been pursuing more comprehensive data, not only from the Japanese government, but from the United States Navy, whose ships have been offshore from the nuclear site, and more than 40 American experts from the Department of Energy who have now landed in Japan. They brought some sophisticated measuring gear with them, and we expect to soon see new measurements. My colleague Bill Broad wrote about the plume in Monday’s paper. N.O.A.A., the Air Force and others are also tracking the plume, and we will be reporting more of that information once we have vetted it.

        Q: Does not the USA has readiactivity measument stations among the costal areas that can provide data to calm public? What about US bases in Japan? Just publush the meashements in papers like LA and the panic will subside. Is it so difficult to that. Even the USSR goverement managed to did that (with typical for centralised command-and-control system substantial delay).

      2. Carl

        Yes there are birth defects but you have to subtract the natural birth defects that occur all over the world:
        If Chernobyl had not happened there still would be birth defects occurring in the area. The key is to do a detailed epistemological study.

        Every year an estimated 8 million children — about 6 percent of total births worldwide — are born with a serious birth defect of genetic or partially genetic origin, according to a new report from the March of Dimes.

        Additionally, hundreds of thousands more are born with serious birth defects of post-conception origin due to maternal exposure to environmental agents, such as alcohol, rubella, and syphilis, says the March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects: The Hidden Toll of Dying and Disabled Children.

        The report reveals that at least 3.3 million children less than 5 years of age die annually because of serious birth defects, defined as any serious abnormality of structure or function. An estimated 3.2 million of those who survive may be mentally and physically disabled for life.

        Birth defects are a global problem, but their impact is particularly severe in middle- and low-income countries where more than 94 percent of births with serious defects and 95 percent of the deaths of these children occur, the report finds. Both high prevalence rates and larger numbers of births contribute to the differences between low- and middle-income countries and those with higher incomes.

        A look at the long term effects from WW2 in Japan:

  20. ChrisPacific

    Wikipedia is indicating that workers were back in less than an hour later (source: Reuters) along with additional workers as radiation levels fell.

    Available data seems to confirm that the spent fuel rods comprise the largest risk at this point. There is talk about dropping/spraying water into the pools, but debris from recent explosions is a complication.

    It does not appear that any of the reactions concerned at this point are nuclear, just normal physical reactions like phase changes or burning resulting from waste heat, with the complication that the materials involved are radioactive. Anything that results in said materials being converted to airborne particles or gases (such as explosions, boiling or burning) poses a contamination risk.

    1. Og Meersteen

      I hear they’re in need of good PR people at Tokyo Electric, in case you’re looking for a job and don’t mind working in Tokyo.

      1. ChrisPacific

        I’m just trying to cut through the FUD and work out what the facts are.

        For the record, my position falls somewhere in between “nuclear power is safer than a toaster” and “all life shall perish in a cloud of plutonium.”

    2. kievite

      Here is a useful page with the summary of the current status

      Looks like the main problem remains connected with overheating spent fuel storage tanks, especially at Reactor No.4

      Spent fuel rods in a water pool may have become exposed to air, emitting radioactive gases

      But the problems are addressed one by one. Not that there is zero progress. Attempts to add some water using helicopters and police water cannons are two of the latest developments. They did not mention the reasons and nature of leaks that caused the problem.

      They also raised safety limits for radioactive exposure of the personnel to half of European levels.

    1. Cedric Regula

      Yes, well, in that case we’ll at least have the Efficient Market Hypothesis working for us.

  21. skippy

    When you air drop or spray water at an object, it means that, the object you wish to hit is…exposed.


    The Japan disaster is a rare event, and the use of nuclear energy cannot be eliminated out of fear of such incidents. What is important, is to ensure that all security and response mechanisms are in place and all nuclear installations are equipped to deal with any human or natural disasters.

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