Guest Post: Will Tokyo Be Evacuated Due to Fukushima Radiation?

By Washington’s Blog

Tokyo Radiation Exceeds Chernobyl In Some Places … Japanese Government and Experts Discuss Evacuation

As I noted last month, radiation in some parts of Tokyo is higher than in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Yesterday, Al Jazeera pointed out:

Experts estimate the radiation leaked from Fukushima nuclear plant will exceed that of Chernobyl.


The need to evacuate parts of the sprawling capital of 35 million may have once seemed an incredible prospect but some experts say the possibility can no longer be ignored.

Indeed, as Japan Times reports today, the Japanese government started discussing the potential need to evacuate Japan soon after the quake hit:

In the days immediately after the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government received a report saying 30 million residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would have to be evacuated in a worst-case scenario, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan revealed in a recent interview.


“It was a crucial moment when I wasn’t sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state,” he said.

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, Kan instructed several entities to simulate a worst-case scenario. One of those assessments said everyone residing within 200 to 250 km of the plant — an zone that would encompass half to all of Tokyo and cut clear across Honshu to the Sea of Japan — would have to be evacuated.

Things Are Getting Worse – Not Better – In Japan

While this is a worst-case scenario, things are getting worse – rather than better – at Fukushima. See this, this, this and this.

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  1. CB

    The opening comment seems like mindless malice.

    To the serious business, where in heavens name would you re-locate 35 million people? In a nation of small islands? This is mind bending.

    1. Maju

      It is a nation of large islands and it is a very wealthy nation, in principle able to afford such necessary investment, would political will exist.

      If in a poor country like Cuba, with 11 million people, they move a million people from here to there while a hurricane hits, a wealthy country like Japan or the USA should be able to do the same… proportionally, if need be. Yet what we see is that when disaster strikes the state washes its hands like Pilate and let people die: in New Orleans with Katrina, in the Gulf Coast with the BP oil catastrophe and in Japan with Fukushima. Political responsibility towards the people seems to have disintegrated when only Big Capital counts.

      Besides we should not even consider evacuating Tokyo before Fukushima pref. has been evacuated. Fukushima prefecture is a matter of a few millions. Tokyo is obviously a mind-boggling problem but at least the children should be evacuated, sharing the responsibility between the state and solidarious families across the country and Earth.

      Sadly that, while perfectly possible, will not be done: people will be leave to their own devices because infrastructure like a highway or the capital is considered more important than the lives this infrastructure is supposed to serve to.

      That way the inefficiency and wrong priorities of the Capitalist system are exposed but at the cost of so many lives. It’s very sad.

      1. Scotto

        I’ve lived in Japan for the last 15 years and I can state one thing with certainty: evacuating Tokyo is not going to happen. There is no possibility. As everyone living here knows, there is no place for that many people and no infrastructure to support them. Just as a thought experiment: there is an annual holiday in August every year (Obon) where people in Tokyo return to their home towns to pay their respects to their ancestors. This is far less than 10% of the population and the resulting traffic gridlock and swamping of hotels, buses and trains is a wonder to behold. The simple fact that a Tokyo evacuation is impossible on any practical level is the most likely reason for the vague, misleading and often delayed information about the situation that emanates from the government and industry. No reason to start a panic when there is literally nowhere for anyone to go.

        Think about it: the surrounding countries might take in a few hundred thousand refugees in a critical emergency (for example if an explosion created a lethal radiation cloud) but even that level of transportation would be barely possible. In the current situation of slowly creeping problems and poorly-understood contamination spread, it’s unlikely even that level of cooperation would be politically feasible.

        The approach that appears to be underway is to minimize the danger in the press (especially the Japanese language press) and try to delegitimize any outside criticism. This works because there is a deeply-rooted cultural tradition of suspicion of outside critiques (ie. only Japanese can understand Japan). But really it’s the only way. There is no plan B. Despite being a relatively wealthy country, there is neither land nor infrastructure nor transportation to even contemplate evacuating Tokyo. As well, many hundreds of thousands of people survived the atomic bombing during WWII (at horrific personal cost) so the strategy may be to simply deal with it in a similar way as an ongoing public health issue. This isn’t heartless or profit-driven as much as a pragmatic response based on the reality of the situation.

        Sometimes you are just in a predicament with no good solution. Then the only choice is the least-bad solution.

        (still living in Japan near Yokohama)

  2. Maju

    As I have been following the matter since day 1 and I have been advocating to evacuate at least large parts of NE Honsu, this comes as no surprise to me.

    So I’d like to read for a change an economic analysis on how the Fukushima catastrophe as such and the loss of credibility of Japanese products as result of the mismanagement by the government (how do I know if something from Japan is radioactive or not?) affects the global economy. After all Japan is (or was till 2010) the third economic powerhouse worldwide, after USA and China. It is obvious that this must be another blow to the weakness of the global economy and a very serious one.

  3. Jani

    When will the author of these realize that he is not competent to report on nuclear energy? His cognitive processes with respect to nuclear energy seems amount to: “Wow, this is scary! Therefore, it must be true.” First, the dose rates in Chernobyl are not that high and there are many places around the world where people are naturally exposed to MUCH higher doses than what you get in Chernobyl exclusion zone. No harm has been observed (except that smokers tend to get more lung cancers if they exposed to high levels of radon gas).
    There has been no need to consider the evacuation of Tokyo and if someone was considering it, it just tells of gross incompetence. Any such move would cause much more harm and damage than the extra dose from Fukushima. (The dose that people in Tokyo get now is way below what I am receiving at home.) In fact, the higher densities of particulate matter in cities (such as Tokyo) increase the cancer risk so much that if you were to evacuate people from somewhere, you might consider evacuating people from some parts of Tokyo INTO Fukushima. The cancer risk is then reduced.

    1. Maju

      Jani: I bet you volunteered already to work in Fukushima as liquidator (sarcasm meant). After all you seem to be of the pack of that Japanese cadre (minister or TEPCO executive, can’t recall) who claimed you could well drink plutonium, so “safe” it is.

      You are obviously the person not qualified to discuss nuclear issues, after all you’re obviously just a paid cheerleader for the nuclear industry (obviously – and if false, ad hominem for ad hominem).

      We are reading reports every day, listening to honest nuclear scientists like Busby or Gundersen (just two examples) who dare to say that 1+1=2, we are reading the measures of radiation taken by citizens, which are much higher than government would have admitted (until put between a rock and a hard place – and even then).

      You can’t come around and claim that radioactivity is harmless: children have already begun to fall sick thanks to the criminal negligence of the Japanese authorities and the complicity of people like you. Millions are in danger, in fact all the world but very specially in Japan and, secondarily, Western USA and NE Siberia (because of the winds). Radioactive rain is falling in St. Louis and Montreal… But for the ones like you, criminal minions of big hellish mass murderers like Hitler, all we need is a compassive lie… compassive with your fat pockets!

      This is the worst nuclear catastrophe ever and it severely affects all the northern half of Honsu island (and across the Pacific). Denial is not an option: problems must be confronted for what they are.

      1. picachu

        As wrong and evil as Jani’s comment is, she may as well be a spokesperson for the Japanese authorities by way of TEPCO.

        I think we all know that Tokyo won’t be evacuated, and that millions of Japanese will be killed in incredibly painful, long and tortuous ways from various diseases caused by this radiation.

        Japan’s enemies in WWII didn’t and couldn’t have inflicted this much damage on the Japanese. It takes a Japanese government to commit mass hari kari in such a spectacularly hideous way.

    2. chad

      In Jani’s defense the Chernobyl exclusion zone is very large ( 1600 square miles per Yves link to Wired ) and has varying degrees of contamination. Also, Yves, your link is mostly about wildlife that roams throughout the entire exclusion zone.

      There’s this link that backs up Jani’s claims

      (i don’t make any claims to the validity of the link i posted only that the issue is not black and white)

      1. picachu

        All it takes is some inbred retarded ignoramus to contradict a scientific fact for it to be considered “controversial.”

        All it takes is some pointing out of details that hardly matter for critics to claim that some relevant point is “oversimplified.”

        When you represent the status quo corporate media, getting legitimate concerns dismissed is a piece of cake.

  4. Tony

    I’m certainly no expert on radiation, but comparing naturally-occurring background radiation to the man-made stuff from Fukushima appears to be way too simplistic.

    There are at least three factors that need to be considered when assessing radiation risk:
    (1) where does it accumulate in the body?
    (2) what types of particles does the radiation emit?
    (3) what is the biological half-life

    Radioactive potassium, carbon, and radon occur naturally in our environment. Radon disperses in air and is generally only a problem if it is trapped by some structure like a house. Radioactive carbon and potassium are found naturally in our bodies have biological half-lifes that are less than 3 months each and are each weak beta emitters. I suspect that our bodies have adapted to the weak beta emission from radioactive carbon and potassium.

    Now compare the natural sources of radiation to the man-made stuff coming out of Fukushima such as radioactive cesium, strontium, and iodine. Cesium collects in muscle like the heart muscle and kills the muscle, strontium collects in bone and can cause bone cancer, while iodine collects in the thyroid causing thyroid cancer. Strontium and iodine are strong beta emitters. Cesium is a gamma radiation emitter.

    The above is what I turned up perusing wikipedia and the EPA pages on various radioactive particles. Obviously, there are many differences between naturally occurring radiation and the man-made stuff from Fukushima. It’s entirely plausible to believe that exposure to man-made radiation from Fukushima is much more damaging than exposure to the same level of naturally-occurring sources of radiation.

    1. Maju

      It’s not that way, Tony: radiation is radiation (and it’s mostly gamma rays, because other kinds are stopped by the skin or almost anything) and all (gamma) radiation is the same. Apologists tell that N amount is what you get with an X-ray but they “forget” to say that you get an X-ray for a few seconds each several years and that X-ray machine operators are always behind thick lead protections because otherwise those X-rays would be harmful for them.

      So if you live 24/7 by a source of radiation like an X-ray you have a serious health problem and if you eat or breath that source of radiation you have an even worse health problem.

      X-rays are not a problem because you are not exposed to them every day for hours, otherwise they’d be a major problem.

      Radioactivity kills (or in the best case “only” increases chances of cancer and subsequent death). Tiny amounts are tolerable but anything above that is dangerous and quickly enters the category of deadly. The issue has been researched for more than a century, since the Curies died from radiation poisoning, we all know that radiation kills: that some PR mercenaries come now saying otherwise Goebbels-style changes nothing.

      Also radiation is forever – in the human (historical) time frame. Most radioactive isotopes have half lives long enough to make decontamination impossible in centuries or even many many millennia: once it arrives it stays there forever. But we insist in extracting uranium from the entrails of Earth and transforming it into plutonium.

  5. delarge

    What that means is that people who live in Tokyo get roughly half the amount of radiation I was exposed to in the town where I was raised. Good to know.

      1. Nathanael

        Maybe he was raised in one of the Russian towns which mined and refined uranium. Some of those are permanently and totally off-limits now.

  6. Anon

    One of the problems seems to be that the great wash of radioactively contaminated waste water, which was used to cool the melted-down reactors and damaged spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi, has flowed into the sea – both for want of anywhere else to put it, and for any means to prevent it doing so.

    Reuters reported the latest research efforts in Japan on September 9 (and the numbers are expected to go only higher, since Cesium-134 was excluded from this particular study):

    Radioactive material released into the sea in the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis is more than triple the amount estimated by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, Japanese researchers say.

    Japan’s biggest utility estimated around 4,720 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 and iodine-131 was released into the Pacific Ocean between March 21 and April 30, but researchers at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) put the amount 15,000 trillion becquerels, or terabecquerels.

    Government regulations ban shipment of foodstuff containing over 500 becquerels of radioactive material per kg.

    Takuya Kobayashi, a researcher at the agency, said on Friday the difference in figures was probably because his team measured airborne radioactive material that fell into the ocean in addition to material from contaminated water that leaked from the plant. (

    This radioactive contamination is being picked up by rainstorms and typhoons coming inland/westwards towards Toyko and the rest of the main island from the Pacific, and being deposited back on land when these storms make landfall.

    High levels of radioactively contaminated dirt and dust have been reported on roofs and in street-level drains in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city after Tokyo, which sits 250km south of Fukushima (see,

    How did this radioactive contamination travel there? By wind and rain.

    Who is going to stop it? No one.

    Indeed, it reminds me of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Within a few weeks, that thing was distributed over the entire world – we even had a few little pieces in our office, souvenirs from business travelers who had passed through Germany at the time. For a parallel, without comment, see the following:

    1. Anon

      I should of course point out that the JAEA research covers only March-April – the exploded nuclear plant buildings and their uncovered spent fuel pools have been spewing their deadly contents into air and groundwater/seawater non-stop for six months now. (Compare nine days at Chernobyl.)

      And that according to Japan’s own economy ministry, Meti, Fukushima has put many other, highly deadly radioactive contaminants out there, aside from Iodine-131 and Cesium-137, (page 1 Fukushima radioactive contaminants released as at 23 June 2011; page 2 shows output of Hiroshima A-bomb as calculated in 2000). These include Strontium, Uranium, and Plutonium:

      1. Nathanael

        There is literally nothing we can do about the portion which is washed out to sea or thrown up into the upper atmosphere, except to hope that it gets diluted.

        The portion which lands closer, in the vicinity of Japan, will not get diluted. :-P

  7. hello

    c’mon, I’m all for being skeptical due we must people run towards near hysteria when it comes to anything dealing with radiation?

    Remember that there are multiple types of “radiation” –most are benign to humans or humans have a high tolerance. You’re being bombarded with radiation as you go about your business today.

    If Japan’s safe enough for Jim Al-Kalhiki ( , it’s safe enough for me.

    1. picachu

      Fine. Go live there!

      And for the record, we’re talking about radionucleotides in the body, not the radiation a.k.a. light you get from turning on a light bulb.

  8. Chris Rogers

    I’m getting a little sick of the ‘hyperbole’ surrounding the Fukushima nuclear accident and belief that its the end of the World for Japan and those nations close to Japan.

    A few facts, to-date no one has dies from the Fukushima accident, a 20 mile exclusion zone is in place and within this zone we have some ‘hot spots’ that are between X2, X500 agreed safety limits in the nuclear power industry for workers to be exposed to over a 12 month timeframe – a nuclear worker can be exposed to the equivalent of 2 CAT scans per year of radiation.

    Now, more than 20,000 died in Japan as a result of a tsunami, the same tsunami that overwhelmed sea defences at Fukushima – it was a ‘Black Swan’ based on the fact that had the sea barrier around Fukushima been higher, it would still have offered little protection based on the fact that the area surrounding the site actually dropped more than a metre, this was rather unexpected.

    I’m no shrill for nuclear power, I’m not opposed to it and grew up/live less than 20 miles from a UK facility – based on nonsense spread here, I should be scarred.

    Based on a lll known scientific data collated from two nuclear bombs actually dropped on Japan, Chernobyl and now this incident, the fact is nuclear energy is safer than deep coal mining – go and asked the families of 6 welsh miners who have just died in Wales in a mining accident – God knows how many deaths actually happen in Japan.

    For those of you who desire facts and not ‘hyperbole’, that is actual uncensored facts, please go and watch the BBC Horizon programme broadcast a few days ago of Fukushima – it certainly does not read like this, contains verified scientific facts and is presented by an award winning nuclear physicist not in the pocket of the nuclear industry.

    Could posters having watched this independent documentary then repost.

    1. picachu

      But you are shrill for nuclear power and obviously scarred from it. Perhaps there are radionucleotides in your brain causing you to lose brain cells.

      People have died from the radiation and hundreds of thousands more will die. In Chernobyl, many people died who were not counted officially. The most persuasive study put it at about a million people dead. Fukushima will be much worse because it is next to Tokyo.

    2. Maju

      The exclusion zone is of 20 km (12 miles), not 20 miles. The USA suggested a 50 miles (80 km) exclusion zone but Japan rejected it because it would have meant evacuating more than one million people (most of Fukushima pref.) and cutting a strategical highway.

      Based on Chernobyl’s standards most of Fukushima prefecture and parts of Miyagi and Greater Tokyo should have been totally evacuated.

      As the accident is not contained nor likely to be ever contained, this situation can only worsen (it won’t get better in many many generations if it ever does).

      There is an ongoing “China syndrome” that should cause very terrible results. In Chernobyl they made a huge effort to stop the burning of the melted core and seal the bottom of the reactor using lead, in Fukushima nothing of this has been done nor is likely to be possible, so the melted cores will unavoidably keep penentrating into the crust (including the water table, which they are already in contact with). I am unsure of the results but for what I have found it could be a huge nuclear explosion (in the best case at least the radiation will be flowing into the sea forever – and then evaporating and migrating all around the world, notably to North America).

      The situation is very bad.

      People do not die from radiation overnight (though a few may have already died among workers): you just increase A LOT your chances to accumulate mutations in your cells, leading to cancer and other problems. Young people (who incorporate more of their environment into their bodies) are the most susceptible.

      Chernobyl caused a dozen deaths or a million, depending who you read. What is clear is that children raised in the are suffer a lot in their health with many extreme cases. Please make a search for “Chernobyl children”, preferably an image search.

      And Chernobyl was contained in few months, Fukushima is not, nor looks likely to be ever contained. Chernobyl was evacuated more or less quickly and effectively, Fukushima residents have been left to fend for themselves.

      Today in Germany, far away from Chernobyl, they decommission every other boar hunted because it is too radioactive for consumption. They get that radioactivity from the ground, from mushrooms, from roots…

      And it will never leave us. We can contain it, we can ignore it, we can deny it but it is there… forever. Same in Japan. Worse: because the dimensions of the disaster are bigger (4 reactors with lots of MOX fuel instead of one, and just by the sea), the management is much worse and population density far bigger.

      There’s no hyperbole possible: there is a terrible force: that of disintegration of matter (and we are matter) that is just too much for us to manage, much less while in denial about what it really means.

      Because of that denial we built reactors on highly seismic areas, by the sea and key waterways, in densely populated zones. Maybe an experimental reactor in the middle of the Sahara could be manageable but what we have created: a monster of 600 reactors (and wanting to grow) scattered all around densely populated parts of Earth, often regardless of seismic risk, is NOT manageable: it is a crime against humankind.

      Go solar, bury all nuclear residues km under the surface and evacuate North Honsu. And do it now.

    1. picachu

      You are so enraged you can’t even type. You care so deeply about spreading nuclear power to places with active fault lines and giant earthquakes. Is this a normal person’s behavior?

    2. picachu

      You are so enraged you can’t even spell. You care so deeply about spreading nuclear power to places with active fault lines and giant earthquakes. Is this a normal person’s behavior?

    3. spigzone

      Nasa is warning of a multi-decadal peak in the number and intensity of solar storms and coronal mass ejections peaking in late 2012 to mid 2013 that have the potential to take down the worlds power grid.

      “This week researchers announced that a storm is coming–the most intense solar maximum in fifty years.”

      How safe will nuclear power be if the worlds electrical grids go offline for months and several hundred reactor core and cooling stockpiles go into uncontrollable/china syndrome meltdown simultaneously.

      How about you apologise for being such a clueless twit.

  9. deeringothamnus

    Probably nort worth mentioning, because nobody ever does anything, but, the best available technology to clean cesium would be capacitive deionization. There is only one reputable company selling or developing this, in the Netherlands.

  10. bananasaresilentkillers

    as a physicist it never ceases to amaze me how people lose their minds at the mere mention of ‘radioactivity’, especially since the vast majority of people do not know what it is or what it does. It reminds me of a “Twilight Zone” episode where some aliens conducted an experiment by introducing some blinking lights (IIRC) in the sky and watched from afar as a community slowly lost its mind as it struggled to grasp what was going on.

    Experience has shown that it is utterly futile to try to correct all the preposterous doomsday claims made by the crank Gundersen and others. So neither me nor the nuclear safety protection office in the office next to me will bother, but we will try to speed up production of our next educational video on radioactivity, for which will be adding a chapter on Fukushima. One hopes the silly “area-51-the-truth-is-out-there” hysteria will have passed by then, but you never know …

    p.s. this posting is gratuitous out of hair-ripping frustration over this issue. More self-therapy than anything, so do not expect a response if you feel it necessary to attack me. I won’t be going back to this posting anyhow. Thanks.

    1. scraping_by


      You’re doing nuclear industry PR for free?

      An observation which depends on the classic distinction that public relations run for free and advertisements you have to pay for the media space.

      As to your post, we are indeed not cool and not part of the fast crowd. Everyone who sits at the popular table is good with radiation and what’s our problem? You’re right, all the geeks and losers who don’t “get it” on nuclear should properly wilt and go away.

      However, being able to cry bullshit is the precious inheritance of the Western world. We don’t need to go to the imams for a fatwa on whether this is reality-based. And we can be uncool and see what’s in front of us.

    2. Nathanael

      Well, idiot, I suggest you go visit Fukushima and help with the cleanup. Send some innocent Japanese person back to take your place.

      While you die slowly and painfully from the radioactive cesium lodging itself in your body, those of us who are staying well away from the world’s worst industrial catastrophe will laugh at you and point. Well, those of us with a cruel streak.

  11. Kathleen4


    Thank you for cross-posting. George Washington’s blog provides regular Fukushima updates, but I was hoping you could find a factual and articulate article about Fukushima’s radiation and post it in the links section. The last I heard(which was very recent) was Fukushima’s radiation release was equal to over 600 “Hiroshima” A-Bombs. Now fathom that! We did not receive pictures of buildings decimated and shadows of incinerated bodies leftover from Fukushima, but the radiation release was equivalent to Hiroshima aftermath pictures magnified 600 times over! From what I have heard the radiation is appearing in the ocean, ground, and food supply of the world over, but I would like a nuclear scientist to explain to me why and how I am not seeing the shadows of over 600 A-bombs. I assume it is a case of nuclear energy not being concentrated in a finite packet(i.e. bomb), but that begs the question: Are we incinerating the earth and oursleves? The shadows of such intense and extreme thermonuclear radiation really do scare me when I think I should be seeing them, but am not.

    Thank you for your thought and time,

    1. Nathanael

      We have the *fallout* (radioactive cesium, etc.).

      We didn’t have the *explosion*, which is what created all the pictures with the shadows and so on.

      Two separate things. Nuclear bombs cause a big explosion *and* fallout. Nuclear power plant meltdowns cause only little explosions, but lots and lots of fallout.

      Fallout is worse.

  12. Shakely

    In an age of you-tube why isn’t anyone walking into Japanese supermarkets with radiation detectors? It should be obvious if the food is contaminated.

    Is anyone in the US govt checking food imported from Asia?

    Seems the whole affair is mismanaged.

    1. Maju

      They are all from Japan. I believe however that it’d be nice if popular organizations (or individual people) would do the same elsewhere: we do not know if and when our governments are reporting in these so important matters. North America (and Hawaii) is very much exposed to environmental radiation (also NE Siberia and probably other parts of East Asia and Pacific) but by means of food or even electronics it could reach anywhere on Earth.

      Japanese radioactive cargoes were rejected at least in China (people from Tokyo area, not cargoes), Netherlands, Egypt and a third country I can’t recall right not (Russia?, Turkey?) But I am astonished at the lack of information we have on whether imports (particularly those from Japan) are checked for radiation at customs. Lacking this info I tend to just not buy anything Japanese – just in case.

      Japan has also announced that Fukushima produce such as wheelchairs will be sent as “aid” to Third World countries. This is a clear case of subsidizing the people who is staying at the risk of their lives at the expense of foreigners, it is clear evidence of the wrong priorities: Tokyo wants to secure that the infrastructure linking with the North of the country stays put at any cost. They do not care about lives but as tools for their purposes.

      “Is anyone in the US govt checking food imported from Asia?”

      Nobody seems to know. What is clear is that transparent measuring of environmental radioactivity by EPA ceased weeks after the Fukushima catastrophe, precisely when the radiation levels began to grow, specially in the Pacific region.

      We are of course putting much of the blame on the Japanese government but other governments are accomplice. While, because of Cold War dynamics, Western governments had no issue in denouncing the USSR (what forced Moscow to respond quickly and as effectively as possible), today it’s more like a global conspiracy of silence. On the other side, today we have the Internet and are not so much exposed to a one-sided information as was the case in the 1980s.

  13. dugsdale

    As a matter of fact, I think a little controlled hysteria isn’t amiss at all here. All the “experts” thought Fukushima Daiichi was set up just fine, and everyone believed them. But their basic assumptions were way off, in terms of how long a period of cooling would be required in the event normal cooling systems were disrupted. As I understand it, there’s a similar (in type, age, and function) nuclear reactor in New Jersey that has even LESS emergency cooling capacity than the Japanese ones, and the implications of that reactor going critical are immense. Yet we’re still getting the “Nothing to see here, folks, move along” response from officials who SHOULD be urgently recasting all their models on which their past assurances about safety have been based. I’m sure scientists get exasperated at doomsday dialogue, but scientists are people too, and they’re as susceptible to tunnel vision, faulty logic, bias, and bad assumptions as anyone else. Fukushima Daiichi should have been a “hair on fire” moment for our nuclear regulators to start asking questions about the assumptions on which their reassurances of safety are based. Unfortunately our nuclear “regulators” have a long tradition of promoting the industry at the expense of the public, so I don’t think that’s going to be happening. Meanwhile, In Japan things are getting worse, and more dimensions of the catastrophe are being discovered. Point being, we’re not anywhere near knowing how bad the catastrophe is, even now.

  14. brian

    tepco has been hired to build 2 new reactors in texas on the gulf coast
    cuz us companies lack the expertise

    and for all the heat over the feds bankrolling solar
    the nuke plants received a $4B loan guarantee from DOE

  15. Tokyo Resident

    Dear Anon: Thank you very much for highlighting the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists September issue

    which has a rational, detailed discussion of the radiation situation resulting from Fukushima Daiichi. And as anyone who knows its history or remembers its coverage of Chernobyl can attest, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is no apologist for the nuclear power industry.

    See Frank von Hippel’s article — expect additional cancer deaths on the order of 1000 based on current knowledge. It notes that the timely interdiction of contaminated milk will probably mean there are only 1% of the thyroid cancers that were seen after Chernobyl. But we need to expect much greater health impact from the “long-term psychological effects” of “fear of ionizing radiation” … to which some comments above contribute.

    Yes, the stabilization and clean-up is still a hugely complex task, fraught with danger (especially to the workers), and there is a serious risk of continued massive contamination into the groundwater, the ocean, and the surrounding areas. But at this point the amount of radiation being released into the atmosphere is in the order of 1/10,000,000 of the amount that was being released at the height of the crisis (yes, this is according to TEPCO — see Daily Yomiuri this morning, Sept 21 P.2 — but not contradicted by private radiation monitoring you can find on many, many Japanese blogs).

    I don’t think you will see any evacuation of Tokyo.

    1. Maju

      Have they interdicted the milk? I am gladly surprised to hear that. You still have many other food-chain problems like feeding beef from Fukushima (probably radioactive, nobody checked properly) to children in Tokyo-Yokohama and elsewhere through the public education system on the pretext of “solidarity” with Fukushima farmers.

      “But we need to expect much greater health impact from the “long-term psychological effects” of “fear of ionizing radiation” … to which some comments above contribute”.

      The main contributor to stress (psychological effects) is the lack of trust inspired by the authorities since day 2. Instead of giving proper information and taking proper measures, they have decided to do the less possible and keep the people uninformed.

      As result the trust of the people on the government, both inside and outside Japan has plummeted. This would not have happened if they would have been outright sincere and would have put the means to remedy the disaster as much as possible. Instead what they are doing is extending and pretending, lying to the population (but eventually the people finds out) and demolishing the feeling of social trust that should be the central pillar all socio-political organization.

      The Japanese state is in suicidal mode and it is carrying much of the Japanese (and foreigner) people with it. Obviously the people notice and react: with apprehension, fear and disgust… rebellion maybe.

      What you can’t expect is that the sheep brought to the slaughterhouse feel happy about it. “Oh, the meat won’t taste as good”… Certainly it will not.

    2. Nathanael

      Unfortunately, Mr. Von Hippel’s article appears to be based on an early assessment of the fallout. It needs to be updated to reflect more current, *higher* assessments of the fallout.

  16. PT Barnum

    It must really be a real disaster for the Nuclear Industry to hire so many trained whores to flood blogs with stupid lies.

    1. Mark P.

      Frank von Hippel is a reputable physicist and an honest opponent of nuclear power. Indeed, since he opposes reprocessing, he was instrumental in persuading the Clinton administration to stop development of the Integral Fast Reactor during the 1990s — although I don’t agree with him.

      He’s also a co-author of the 2003 paper that first warned about the dangers of piling up spent fuel besides reactors, which will likely turn out to be the larger long-term threat at Fukushima —

      P.T. Barnum, on the other hand, is an apt monicker — given Barnum’s ‘thousand fools born every minute’ line — for a troll multi-posting ignorant abuse through this thread.

  17. Chris Rogers

    It would seem many of the ‘Doomsday’ posters, regardless of all known facts, have little true understanding of the issues.

    As stated, I suggest you watch a balanced documentary on the issue from the BBC and read the UN health report pertaining to Chernobyl published in 2006.

    Cost aside, nuclear power remains one of our safest forms of energy generation.

    However, please do not allow scientific facts to get in the way of hysteria and outright misinformation.

    As for myself, I favour a mixed energy generation capability based on nuclear & renewables and certainly not oil – with the correct ‘carbon capture’ technology, there is even a place for coal – so hardly a shrill for the nuclear power industry I’m afraid to say.

    1. Maju

      This documentary:

      Opsa, no BBC anywhere in the credits (wonder why if BBC is so “neutral”?). However it is dubbed the best documentary on Chernobyl ever. I have watched it and I strongly recommend it.

      Please do not allow scientific facts get in the way of complacency and dissimulation. Stay an obedient sheep until you die (sure we all will but… what world will the children of Earth inherit from us?)

    2. Nathanael

      Given the ludicrous cost of nuclear power, and the amount of land it has *already* rendered uninhabitable, it cannot be called “one of the safest”.

      Solar and wind are the safest, with hydro and geothermal as “next safest”.

  18. Up the Ante


    “There are 300,000 children living in Fukushima … About 75% of children are going to schools that are so contaminated that they would be radiation control areas in nuclear power plants, where individuals under 18 not legally allowed.”

    Burning of radioactive debris. We are witnessing a true societal breakdown in Japan.

  19. Kuri Gohan

    Tokyo or even Fukushima for that matter will never be evacuated. People who fear radiation and have the economic means have left or are leaving. Those who are staying are purchasing the cancer insurance. I lived in Fukushima from 1997 to 2011. We talked to our insurance guy when we closed down our policy. He said that almost everyone was buying it. They know that they will likely get cancer. There is just nothing they can do about it unless the govt helps out. I have family and lots of friends still there. They are worried sick for the most part. Some of their kids have nosebleeds on a regular basis. For all you supporters of nuclear power and those that say it will not hurt you, would you live there (with your children)? If not, shut up.

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