A plea for a return to science on the nuclear power issue

I get mail:

German physicist Peter Heller wrote a passionate plea for a return to science on the nuclear power issue, published in German here: http://www.science-skeptical.de/blog/fukushima/004149/

With Dr. Heller’s permission, I’ve translated it in English. But having gone over the content, I think his plea is worthy of a much wider audience – more than what NTZ can offer. So I send this to you with the kind request that you consider publishing it at WUWT.

Best regards,

P Gosselin

——————————————–

German physicist Peter Heller makes a passionate plea for a return to science on the nuclear energy issue. He wonders if ignorance and fear will cause us to abandon the legacies of Einstein, Heisenberg and others.

Fukushima

By Dr Peter Heller, http://www.science-skeptical.de

Astronomer, Physicist

There’s no place on earth I would rather be right now than at Fukushima – right in the atomic power plant, at the centre of the event. I say this because I am a physicist and there is no other place that could be more exciting and interesting for a physicist. The same goes for many, if not most physicists and engineers, on the planet.

Already at a young age I knew one day I would study physics. As a boy, I received a telescope for Christmas, and from that point on my view was fixed on the night sky; gazing at star clusters, nebula and galaxies was my favourite preoccupation. It was only later that I learned that these lights and the twinkling in eyepiece were actually the expressions of a chaotic and violent force of nature – the direct conversion of matter into energy during the fusion of an atomic nucleus.

My curiosity carried me, as if on a high, through 10 semesters of study and subsequent graduation. It was a time of discovery that involved the tedious task of understanding. At times I felt exasperation and self doubt with respect to the sheer complexity and breadth of what there was to learn. Yet, there were times of joy whenever the fog lifted and the clarity and beauty of physical descriptions of natural phenomena moved in its place. It was a time that, unfortunately, passed all too quickly and is now some years in the past.

The great minds that accompanied me through my studies were Planck, Sommerfeld, Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, and a host of others who, for us physicists, are still very much alive today. They are great thinkers who contributed to unravelling the puzzles of nature and the forces which keep the world together through the most minute structures. I devoured the stories of Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner, of Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller – to name a few – and on how they created completely new technologies from theoretical concepts, how the energy stored in the nucleus of an atom could be used for the good of man and how it became possible in a single process to tap into this source of affordable, clean and plentiful energy on a large scale as never seen by man. Electricity illuminates our world, drives our machines, allow us to communicate over great distances, thus making our lives easier and more comfortable. It is a source of energy that staves off poverty and enables prosperity.

Electricity: manufactured by splitting atomic nuclei with neutrons, gained through the direct conversion of mass into energy. It is the principle by which (via the reverse process of fusion) the stars twinkle in the night sky, a principle by which our sun enables life on our planet.

As a physicist it fills me with great joy and pride to see how man is able to rouse this force of nature at the most minute structural level, then amplify, control, and use it for our benefit. As a physicist I have the fundamental understanding of the processes – I can imagine them and describe them. As a physicist I have neither fear of an atomic power plant nor of radioactivity. Ultimately I know that it is a natural phenomenon that is always around us, one we can never escape – and one that we never need to escape. And I know the first as a symbol of man’s capability to steer the forces of nature. As a physicist I have no fear of what nature has to offer. Rather I have respect. And this respect beckons us to seize the chances like those offered by neutrons, which can split nuclei and thus convert matter into energy. Anything else would be ignorance and cowardice.

Dark times in history

There were times in history when ignorance and cowardice overshadowed human life. It was a time when our ancestors were forced to lead a life filled with superstition and fear because it was forbidden to use creativity and fantasy. Religious dogma, like the earth being the centre of the universe, or creationism, forbade people to question. The forbiddance of opening a human body and examining it prevented questions from being answered. Today these medieval rules appear backwards and close-minded. We simply cannot imagine this way of thinking could have any acceptance.

But over the recent days I have grown concerned that we are headed again for such dark times. Hysterical and sensationalist media reporting, paired with a remarkably stark display of ignorance of technical and scientific interrelations, and the attempt by a vast majority of journalists to fan the public’s angst and opposition to nuclear energy – pure witch-burning disguised as modernity.

Freedom of research

So it fills me with sadness and anger on how the work of the above mentioned giants of physics is now being dragged through the mud, how the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century are being redefined and criminalized. The current debate in Germany is also a debate on freedom of research. The stigmatization and ostracism of nuclear energy, the demand for an immediate stop of its use, is also the demand for the end of its research and development. No job possibilities also means no students, which means no faculty, which then means the end of the growth of our knowledge. Stopping nuclear energy is nothing less than rejecting the legacy of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and all others. It is tantamount to scrapping it, labelling it as dangerous – all in a fit of ignorance. And just as creationists attempt to ban the theory of evolution from the school books, it almost seems as if every factual and neutral explanation in Germany is now in the process of being deleted.

The media suggests a nuclear catastrophe, a mega-meltdown, and that the apocalypse has already begun. It is almost as if the 10,000 deaths in Japan were actually victims of nuclear energy, and not the earthquake or the tsunami. Here again one has to remind us that Fukushima was first hit by an unimaginable 9.0 earthquake and then by a massive 10-meter wave of water just an hour later. As a result, the facility no longer found itself in a highly technological area, but surrounded by a desert of rubble. All around the power plant the infrastructure, residential areas, traffic routes, energy and communication networks are simply no longer there. They were wiped out. Yet, after an entire week, the apocalypse still has not come to pass. Only relatively small amounts of radioactive materials have leaked out and have had only a local impact. If one considers the pure facts exclusively, i.e. only the things we really know, then it exposes the unfounded interpretations of scientific illiterates in the media. One can only arrive to one conclusion: This sorrowful state will remain so.

In truth, this does not show that the ideologically motivated, fear-laden admonitions and warnings were correct. Fukushima illustrates that we are indeed able to control atomic energy. Fukushima shows that we can master it even when natural disasters beyond planning befall us. Still, at Fukushima the conflict between human creativity/competence continues to clamour against the bond energy in atomic nuclei. It’s a struggle that that shows what human intelligence, knowledge gained, passion, boldness, respect, and capability to learn allow us to do. Personally this does not fill me with apprehension, but with hope. Man can meet this challenge not only because he has to, but most of all because he wants to.

Even though I have not practiced physics for some time now, I will never be anything other than a scientist and researcher, and there would be no other place I would rather be than on site at Fukushima. There is no other place at the moment where so much can be learned about atomic energy, which keeps our world together deep inside, and the technical possibilities to benefit from it. Do we have the courage to learn? Do we accept – with respect and confidence – the opportunities we are confronted with? Fukushima will show us possibilities on how to use the direct conversion of matter into energy in a better and safer way, something that Einstein and others could have only dreamed of.

I am a physicist. My wish is to live in a world that is willing to learn and to improve whatever is good. I would only like to live in a world where great strides in physics are viewed with fascination, pride, and hope because they show us the way to a better future. I would only like to live in a world that has the courage for a better world. Any other world for me is unacceptable. Never. That’s why I am going to fight for this world, without ever relenting.

————————————————–

Translated from the German, with the permission of Peter Heller, by Bernd Felsche and Pierre Gosselin. Original text appeared here: http://www.science-skeptical.de/blog/fukushima/004149/

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kim
March 20, 2011 10:21 am

The Endarkenment Beckons.
=============

March 20, 2011 10:22 am

Well said.

Mike G.
March 20, 2011 10:37 am

With 40 years in nuclear, both military and civilian, if such an event were to occur at the nuclear plant near here, the one I retired from, I would be volunteering to go back and help. I’d be willing to do so because I know that any radiation exposure would be within limits that would be unlikely to cause any health problems.
While I’m retired from there, I’m currently back working on contract. Yesterday (Saturday), I went back from a planned 5 week vacation to help review the site’s severe accident management guidelines (SAMG). I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

ew-3
March 20, 2011 10:40 am

Sadly I think the good Dr is going to be disappointed.
I grew up in the sputnik / NASA time. Since that time we’ve really gone backwards. It’s largely generational. The people that gave us sputnik and NASA were the warriors of WWII. They understood sacrifice and discipline. They looked forward to challenges. We’ve become too soft too risk averse. Our education system is in shambles and has become too political.
We need some major calamity to take place to wake us up.

March 20, 2011 10:44 am

Chernobyl:
Blew FUEL RODS INTO THE AIR, FRACTURED THEM.
Burned up… Scattered TONS of “rad waste” into the air.
Net dose to those outside the “exclusion area”, look it up.. IAEA.. less than 1 Roetegen equivilant to man. (I got 1.85 R from a CAT scan.)
Current doses from the emissions, virtually unmeasurable.
Fukashima has managed to “contain” most of the “hard stuff”, other than Cesium, Iodine and Xenon. 99% of all the Cesium and Iodine has “gone out to sea”, where it’s totality will be indistinquisable from background.
The BIG problem here is the loss of almost 3 Gigawatt of capacity. And let’s get down to the heart, if the other 3 units at Fukashima are going to go back on line, the “sea wall” is going to have to be:
14 meters high.
The emergency D.G.s are going to be in a tsunami/explosion proof building (earthquake too). Emergency plans will include 3 week offsite power loss.
All in all, this should NOT happen again.
Too NOT “fix” these things, would be a TREMENDOUS LOSS OF FACE for Japan, and I can assure you they WILL fix them!
Max

March 20, 2011 10:46 am

Very passionate and very true. The scientific illiteracy is found not only in the media but even more so [otherwise the media would have little impact] in the populace at large. To wit the many unscientific or pseudo-scientific views being peddled with great force and conviction, complete with personal threats and attacks. Sad, indeed.

Tommy
March 20, 2011 10:53 am

It is strange how many would block the modern technology based on shortcomings of reactors designed 50 years ago. It’s a bit like banning the importing of the VW Beatle based on design flaws of the 1972 model. After all, it’s still the Beatle, just as new plants are still nuclear. There’s a willful ignorance of the new IFR designs and other improvements.

March 20, 2011 10:55 am

Three quick observations: he asserts that nuclear power is “affordable, clean, and plentiful energy on a large scale as never seen by man.”
First, nuclear power is not affordable – it is mostly where heavily subsidized by governments that the reactors are built. There is a good reason Warren Buffett has not built a nuclear power plant — it won’t make money. A stand-alone nuclear power plant built today in the USA must charge 25 to 35 cents per kWh for its power produced.
Second, it is only “clean” if you think the highly toxic spent fuel is clean. I don’t.
Third, it is plentiful on a large scale as never seen by man only if one ignores fossil fuels – oil, coal, natural gas.
He makes an argument for using atomic power for the good of mankind, as if that is its only use. Yet those same physicists that he so admires stated that atomic power should never, ever be used because of the immense harm it will do. And has done.

James Sexton
March 20, 2011 10:59 am

Wonderful essay. Sadly, it is intermixed with a bit of ignorance itself. I’m a creationist. I’ve never advocated to ban the teaching of the evolution theory, nor do I know of any who do. I’m sure there may be some, but it isn’t the prevalent thought that I’m aware. Why he felt compelled to lash out at creationists while discussing nuclear energy policy is beyond me, but if he wants to be taken seriously, he should take the time to intellectually engage with a creationist, instead of practicing the very thing he’s wailing against.
Perhaps, his “plea for a return to science on the nuclear power issue”. Was exclusively for nuclear power only and not in the general sense of a return to science.

dp
March 20, 2011 11:00 am

It is one thing to be fearless of radioactivity. The same fearlessness can be had for gunpowder. But to be fearless of badly configured reactors is as foolish as to be fearless of badly made pipe bombs.
The devil is in the details.

Lonnie E. Schubert
March 20, 2011 11:01 am

Dr. Heller, Mr. Gosselin, and Mr. Watts, thank you!

Obie
March 20, 2011 11:03 am

I have been reading this blog for some months now and have never made a comment to anything that has been posted for no other reason than what ever I might have wanted to say had been said already and had been said usually within a few minutes of the post being made. But this post, as of this writing, has not received a single comment and I find that strange indeed as Dr. Heller’s letter makes a lot of sense. Generating electricity by using nuclear power has had its problems but the industry, in the western world, is so well regulated that deaths and injuries have been relatively few.
So why no comments from the usual readers of WUWT. Have you become ‘closet greenies’?

PaulH
March 20, 2011 11:10 am

I feel Dr. Heller’s pain. When this disaster struck and the MSM turned their attention to the damaged reactors, I was astounded at the depth of ignorance – even among those reporters I would otherwise trust. I was watching, reading and listening to all I could. But too many times I found myself shouting at the screen/radio/newspaper, “WTF?! That’s not how it works!”
I fear it will take a long time to dig out of this hole.

March 20, 2011 11:12 am

Max Hugoson says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
the “sea wall” is going to have to be: 14 meters high.
One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…

Greg, San Diego, CA
March 20, 2011 11:21 am

This article brought tears to my eyes – the passion of this man is palpable.
How do we get this article into newspapers worldwide?

John from CA
March 20, 2011 11:21 am

“So it fills me with sadness and anger on how the work of the above mentioned giants of physics is now being dragged through the mud, how the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century are being redefined and criminalized.”
Germany, like many European countries, appears to have contracted a bad case of “Green” mania. The mania stems from poorly educated youth, zealots, and an inadequate news media. Yet, “Greenies” aren’t nor are they ever likely to have a meaningful impact on Science and Physics.
No one is criminalizing Physics or atomic energy. Yet, its clearly obvious that physicists were not in charge of the Fukushima response. We all wish physicists had been in charge — the response would have been immediate, insightful, and would have avoided hydrogen explosions, contamination, and the destruction of 6 plants.
Taking the plants off-line at this time of year in Germany for assessment isn’t a bad idea. Its probably unnecessary but presents little risk in the grand scheme of things.
If you could replace politicians with physicists (assuming the physicists could actually agree about anything and the governments didn’t pay them all off) we might have a shot at intelligent change.

March 20, 2011 11:22 am

Thorium reactors needs to be seriously considered.
Here is a 16 min. slide show presentation that is worth a look:
http://www.globalwarmingskeptics.info/forums/thread-1145-post-8160.html#pid8160
It compares between Uranium and Thorium processes on the way to power production.

March 20, 2011 11:22 am

I wish people would quit living off the name Einstein.

March 20, 2011 11:23 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
Max Hugoson says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
the “sea wall” is going to have to be: 14 meters high.
One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…
==================================================
Too late for California.

March 20, 2011 11:25 am

The main factor that went into the disaster at Fukushima will always go into planning any nuclear reactor: the human inability to account for all future scenarios that could cause a disaster.

March 20, 2011 11:28 am

Many thanks to Bernd Felsche and Pierre Gosselin for the translation. And of course many thanks to Peter Heller for sharing his thoughts in such a brilliant way.
Note to the admins: The picture you have chosen above shows someone who looks almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Dr. Heller.
A picture of the real Dr. Heller can be found here:
http://www.freiewelt.net/nachricht-3883/dr.-peter-heller:-weltuntergangs-propheten-haben-unrecht.html

dp
March 20, 2011 11:33 am

Obie – posts sit for a short time awaiting moderation.
Ok – so this has to be said if only because perspective is the first victim of disaster.
Japan’s Toyota factory products have killed more people around the globe than all the reactors in Japan (and the world) have. Nobody is calling for a shutdown of Toyota.
Spot poll (using the Bill Murray of SNL model)
Que es más mortal?
1) Uranio
2) Toyota

CRS, Dr.P.H.
March 20, 2011 11:33 am

@Max Hugoson says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
The BIG problem here is the loss of almost 3 Gigawatt of capacity. And let’s get down to the heart, if the other 3 units at Fukashima are going to go back on line, the “sea wall” is going to have to be…..
—–
REPLY Sorry, Max, these were 1970’s era GE Gen 1 BWR at the end of their lifespan, not unlike our retired Gen 1 in Zion, Illinois.
When the Japanese decided to pump seawater and boron into the reactor cores, they killed them….the corrosion destroys the functionality of the mechanisms required for controlling the fission reaction (fuel rod & control rod assembly, refueling components, guides & motors & pumps etc.)
So, none of these units is likely to be serviceable at the end of the day, and radioactive materials will have to be either extracted or (more likely) entombed within their containment shells. This generating capacity is lost forever.

March 20, 2011 11:34 am

Will there be any posts from scientists making a plea to end nuclear power plants?

bubbagyro
March 20, 2011 11:39 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
It withstood the earthquake fine. It did not withstand the tsunami, not because it was on the coast, but because the backups were right at sea level. The solution is to have backup generators 1) on the roof, with tanks on stilts, and 2) redundancy to this backup, with secondary backup generators a mile or more away at elevation, and 3) to use the modern, not direct boiler type reactors.
Then we could await the next generation reactors, such as the much-ballyhooed thorium type, or fusion.
As an aside, there is no waste problem except for the wastes known as Democrats and ecotards on the ultra-left wing. Seal it in glass, and throw it in the dry, deep, 2 Billion years stable salt mines. End of problem. The ecotards made this problem, where rods have to now be stored on site.

Kohl
March 20, 2011 11:44 am

Roger says “Yet those same physicists that he so admires stated that atomic power should never, ever be used because of the immense harm it will do”
Ah, Roger. By all means make sure the facts do not get in the way of your argument!
You will find that those physicists of whom you speak were not talking of ‘nuclear power’ but of the ‘power of nuclear’ weapons. Many were unwilling to work on them at all. All were very unhappy about doing so. But that is not the same thing at all as the use of nuclear power for production of energy.

Viv Evans
March 20, 2011 11:44 am

A heartfelt plea – not so much for more nuclear power stations, but for people to engage with science, to become more rational, and especially for young minds to be allowed to become open to the awe one can experience through science.
It is sad that today’s general attitude is indeed more governed by feelings than by rational thinking.
Thus – people ‘feel’ that AGW must be right, because ‘pollution’ by CO2 feels so wrong.
Thus – people feel frightened by ‘nuclear’, in the same way some people feel frightened by spiders, because they haven’t made the effort to learn the first thing about it/them.
These ‘feelings’ are of course aided, abetted and driven by today’s MSM.
I hope you’ve noticed that, one week on, there’s a new kid on the block, the intervention in Libya.
Reports on the plants at Fukushima are slipping below the fold … danger over, or loss of interest?
Or, perhaps, no real danger in the first place, except fear of not selling enough print issues?

rbateman
March 20, 2011 11:45 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
One might also question the rationale behind storing spent fuel rods in pools wordwide.
Politically, you cannot get rid of this stuff and neither can it be recycled (again due to political quagmire).
So, 95%(if I am informed correctly) of the UO2 in spent fuel rods sits in pools of water being kept cool.

Theo Goodwin
March 20, 2011 11:47 am

James Sexton says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:59 am
“Wonderful essay. Sadly, it is intermixed with a bit of ignorance itself… Why he felt compelled to lash out at creationists while discussing nuclear energy policy is beyond me, but if he wants to be taken seriously, he should take the time to intellectually engage with a creationist, instead of practicing the very thing he’s wailing against.”
Political Correctness is the main tool in the ongoing destruction of Western Civilization. The Politically Correct are invariably dictating to everyone that offensive issues cannot be discussed. The Politically Correct insist that only they can define the term ‘offensive’ as it occurs in this context. All of us, including Dr. Peter Heller, must learn that free speech means free speech and cannot mean anything less than free speech. Ban the Creationists and you give aid and comfort to those who would ban the physicists, the nuclear engineers, the power company CEOs, and anyone who does not share the existing mantra of the MSM, academia, and the Left. Political Correctness is a raw grab for power and it comes from people who believe in raw power only.

Kohl
March 20, 2011 11:50 am

The principal point seems to me to be that the number killed or injured by the nuclear plant has been … zero? And that should be put against the number killed by the earthquake and tsunami ….. 7000 so far?
Clearly, the logic of the alarmist argument should be applied to both. No one should ever be allowed to live in an earthquake/tsunami zone again. Look at the immense harm it might do. (‘might’ is a little misplaced here – ‘will’ is more exact).
In the end, I too am confounded by the irrational fear surrounding anything to do with ‘nuclear’.

March 20, 2011 11:51 am

Tsunami-sensitive areas in the world.
Had the engineers known a little about storms and tides, they would indeed have built the reactors more out of harm’s way – a bit higher up. You see, the coast is formed (after the ice age) by the collective forces of tides, waves and storms. Where tides are absent, the coast has never experienced a rising sea level, with the result that a tsunami can overrun low-lying land that has never been eroded away. Combined with the absence of serious storms, a coast then becomes tsunami-sensitive.
As an aside, in the absence of tides, protective dunes cannot form either – see the coastal pictures at Fukushima. More about this: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/beachgo.htm and particularly http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/beachnew.htm which defines the beach/dune laws, also generally unknown.
It has never been reported why the Sumatra tsunami ran so far inland either and caused so much damage in some places but not in others. But look at the world map of tide heights, to see that north Sumatra experiences no tides at all, and no storms either. It is extremely tsunami-sensitive, like the north and west of Japan. There are more tsunami-sensitive places in the world, where it would not be wise to construct expensive infrastructure: http://www.seafriends.org.nz/oceano/waves2.htm
It is amazing that such simple facts are not generally known.

March 20, 2011 11:54 am

Thank you very much for posting my essay here. Pierre and Bernd helped (many thanks to them) with the translation, because I am not very experienced in English.
But: The picture does not show me nor am I a “Professor of Physics” from Harvard. As mentioned in my text I do not work as a professional researcher, I left university soon after receiving my Ph. D. (I am not a professor). I am a little bit younger than the professor and I live in Germany and never lived anywhere else on this planet. The essay is an answer to many comparable essays of individual viewpoints of the opponents of nuclear power in the current debate in Germany. Many people at the moment are talking about their fears (“German Angst”), I wanted to say something about hopes.
REPLY: Apologies, identical names. Do you have a CV/bio page that I can properly reference? – Anthony

Douglas
March 20, 2011 11:54 am

ew-3 says: March 20, 2011 at 10:40 am
[Sadly I think the good Dr is going to be disappointed. ——we’ve really gone backwards. It’s largely generational. The people that gave us sputnik and NASA were the warriors of WWII. They understood sacrifice and discipline. —-We’ve become too soft too risk averse. Our education system is in shambles and has become too political.
We need some major calamity to take place to wake us up.]
———————————————————————————
Well ew-3 I hope you are wrong about Dr. Heller’s plea and his view and hope for the future – his comment was like a guiding star for me.
But I do agree with you regarding our becoming soft and risk averse. There is no doubt that the education system has been subverted by politics from the bottom to the top.
Douglas

Tom in Texas
March 20, 2011 11:56 am

One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…
Or locating backup generators in the basement while placing spent (dry?) fuel rods on the roof.

Allen
March 20, 2011 11:57 am

Learning opportunities from this natural disaster will keep government-funded agencies in the black for years to come. Let’s hope that something like science is practiced by them and that we don’t stop our scrutiny about their claims to the truth.

EW
March 20, 2011 11:57 am

German is depressive. Just a week ago in a TV debate one person said that Germany must abandon this nuclear “technology of yesterday” and that there’s another good reason for it – young people don’t want to study something so ugly, most of the engineers is between 50-60 years of age and there will be soon a shortage of specialists fro running the plants safely.
Incredible.

Douglas
March 20, 2011 12:04 pm

Leif Svalgaard says: March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
Max Hugoson says:March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
the “sea wall” is going to have to be: 14 meters high.
One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…
—————————————————————–
We’ve all got 20/20 hindsight.
Douglas

Doug Badgero
March 20, 2011 12:08 pm

“kim says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:21 am
The Endarkenment Beckons.”
This is the most telling comment and it is not just about nuclear. The issue is will we be allowed to honestly answer the questions that are asked or will political correctness creep farther into science than it already has? Will we be allowed to do the work necessary to add to our understanding or will more and more areas be off limits to discussion, experiment, and advancement?

crosspatch
March 20, 2011 12:08 pm

Let us not forget that the workers at the plant also experienced this earthquake and tsunami. Many have friends and relatives who are dead, missing, or displaced in a shelter somewhere suffering terrible conditions. The workers there are human beings. That they have been able to keep these plants together, practically with their bare hands, is itself a heroic act. Those workers deserve medals.
In this country, we watch an industrial event that has released no dangerous levels of radiation, contaminate none of the surrounding environment, killed nobody by radiation, inured nobody by radiation, sickened nobody by radiation — and we must now rethink our infrastructure lest we also suffer “disasters” that don’t kill or hurt anyone or don’t contaminate our environment?
It’s just crazy irrational.

March 20, 2011 12:08 pm

@ Kohl — I gently suggest you study the history of nuclear non-proliferation. Those stellar physicists – some of whom I much admire – knew quite well that even atomic power plants (the term they used back then) could and would be used to create weapons. They knew quite well how the plutonium with which they were working was created. They wanted the entire thing to be stopped. Weapons, electricity, all of it. They knew what they were doing. And nobody in positions of power listened.
So here we are 65 years later, as a civilization, 6 or 7 billion people held hostage to the next great earthquake, beyond what a nuclear power plant was designed to withstand, or the next great tsunami – surprise!!! Who knew they could reach 100 feet!!!! Or the next clever sabotage effort that succeeds, or any of dozens of other ways for the genie to escape the bottle.
If all this atomic power is such a grand idea, why then is there so much angst world-wide over Iran building a nuclear power plant – and North Korea doing the same? Weapons-grade plutonium is not the only way these things can sow death and destruction and agonizing illness that lingers for years. Or worse, babies born with birth defects from radiation to their parents. Dirty bombs with spent nuclear fuel wrapped around a conventional explosive will ruin your day. Any physicist should know this, and every physicist should acknowledge this.

DirkH
March 20, 2011 12:08 pm

EW says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:57 am
“German is depressive. Just a week ago in a TV debate one person said that Germany must abandon this nuclear “technology of yesterday” and that there’s another good reason for it – young people don’t want to study something so ugly, most of the engineers is between 50-60 years of age and there will be soon a shortage of specialists fro running the plants safely.”
Hehe. That person probably never had to buy a gas centrifuge. Otherwise he would know that Germans make the best ones.

Jerry Gustafson
March 20, 2011 12:12 pm

Roger Sowell
Nuclear power would be very cheap if not for the cost associated with endless lawsuits and extra environmental studies that must be factored in whenever a nuclear plant is proposed to be constructed. Also, the subsidies are mostly in the form of federal loan and insurance guarantees not actual money spent by the government. Gwyneth Cravens in her book ,Power To Save The World, sites estimates that nuclear power could cost as little as two cents per kwh based on actual construction and operating costs.
Waste storage too would be a non problem if we recycled the fuel rods, reusing the non fissioned material in them . Doing this would reduce the amount of wast to a very small amount .

TheJollyGreenMan
March 20, 2011 12:13 pm

Sorry, but I tend to have another perspective on this issue. We had an engineering systems failure at Fukushima plant. Once the physicists have done their bit they should stand aside and let the engineers take over.
The emergency water should be part of a passive system, no pumps etc. required to operate the system. The solution is simple. Store the emergency water upstream, on a hill, the natural head of the water will ensure a supply of water even in the event of a power failure. Sorry, but in the mining industry we lost a lot of assets until all emergency fire fighting water was stored in large header tanks.
There was a flaw in the civil and systems engineering design relying on active instead of passive systems. And this applies to power stations built at sea level or in the high Alps or Andes.

Douglas
March 20, 2011 12:15 pm

bubbagyro says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:39 am
Leif Svalgaard says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
[It withstood the earthquake fine—————as an aside, there is no waste problem except for the wastes known as Democrats and ecotards on the ultra-left wing.—- The ecotards made this problem, where rods have to now be stored on site]
——————————————————————–
Bubbagyro. I couldn’t agree more – and it’s the same ecotards who have infiltrated our education system that are destroying the children’s minds – and the future.
Douglas

March 20, 2011 12:19 pm

rbateman says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:45 am
So, 95%(if I am informed correctly) of the UO2 in spent fuel rods sits in pools of water being kept cool.
But nuclear is safe. DOH!

March 20, 2011 12:21 pm

Floor Anthoni says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:51 am
Tsunami-sensitive areas in the world.
Had the engineers known a little about storms and tides, they would indeed have built the reactors more out of harm’s way – a bit higher up

REPLY: They didn’t know about earthquakes and tsunamis?

March 20, 2011 12:24 pm

Douglas says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm
Leif Svalgaard says: March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
Max Hugoson says:March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
the “sea wall” is going to have to be: 14 meters high.
One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…
—————————————————————–
We’ve all got 20/20 hindsight.
Douglas

=======================================================
They didn’t know about earthquakes and tsunamis ahead of time?

Juergen
March 20, 2011 12:24 pm

Thanks for the translation. I agree fully with Dr Peter Heller. He is the exception!
Germany’s media and so called experts have shown a lot of misinformation at the time of Chernobyl and it’s the same this time.
Japan shows that they are doing everything possible and impossible to keep it under control. Great job.
People that jump on a plane, into a car, burn coal, oil or gas, or do anything else that could cause death fear radiation as it is invisible. The media and the politics is doing the rest.

Bob Barker
March 20, 2011 12:24 pm

It amazes me that so many people, who think that it is impossible for human kind to effectively manage nuclear power development and production, have no trouble believing that effective worldwide CO2 mitigation is just a matter of will with only minor technical and economic challanges and inconveniences along the way.

March 20, 2011 12:27 pm

Kohl says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:50 am
In the end, I too am confounded by the irrational fear surrounding anything to do with ‘nuclear’.
I am confounded by the confidence.

Phillip Bratby
March 20, 2011 12:31 pm

As a retired physicist/nuclear engineer, I second Peter’s sentiments and would want to be involved in handling the incident.

March 20, 2011 12:33 pm

PaulH says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:10 am
I fear it will take a long time to dig out of this hole.
No matter the length of time it will not be long enough.

Ted
March 20, 2011 12:34 pm

Nuclear Power Solutions
We should be looking at practicable, cost effective and safe nuclear power that is quick and easy to install!
A typical nuclear plant takes 10 years and $6-billion to build, while a coal-burner takes thee years and $3-billion. A gas plant Takes two years and $1-billion.
Since 1960 Hundreds of mini reactors have been safely operating in nuclear subs, nuclear aircraft carriers, nuclear Cruisers, nuclear Icebreakers and ships of every description. Over 52 years the design and safety of the new reactors have been vastly improved.
There are at least 6 companies’ that are in the end design stages of small package nuclear reactor power and heat units.
I think this is an Ideal solution to most power requirements that are safe and affordable, and will satisfy MOST people from both sides of the climate debate.
Here is one such company, an American Company that looks like a winner to me:
Hyperion Mini Power Reactor.
THIS SEEMS TO BE THE WAY A SMALL INEXPENSIVE NUCLEAR POWER MODULES THAT DOESN’T NEED HUGE EXPENSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE, OR LARGE SCALE TRANSMISSION LINES. THE MODULES CAN BE PIGGY BACKED FOR LARGER POWER REQUIREMENTS. CAN BE QUICKLY BUILT ON AN ASSEMBLY LINE BASIS, INSTALLED AND RUNNING IN A SHORT TIME FRAME. – What’s not to like?
Hyperion Mini Nuclear Power Reactor = A fraction of the cost of nuclear reaction power plants + fast delivery and installation time starting in 2013.
The Hyperion Mini Nuclear Power Module (HPG) = 25 megawatts = 25 000 kilowatts
Clean, Safe, Affordable Power where you need it, when you need it.
http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/product.html
The Hyperion Mini Power Reactor. It is a small, safe transportable reactor module that is set up and in operation quickly.
Hyperion Power’s Mini Power Reactor, is a liquid metal-cooled fast reactor, and offers unique safety features and efficiency. The Hyperion does not need water to cool the reactor. Water is not used as coolant; it cannot go “supercritical” or get too hot. The Hyperion only needs a water supply to create Steam or hot water for heating or for the Steam turbines that will generate the electricity. Hyperion can be ganged or teamed together; the modules can produce even more consistent energy for larger projects.
Housed in a permanently sealed container just 1.5 meters wide by 2.5 meters tall, it’s small enough to be transported by truck, rail or ship. Meeting all the non-proliferation criteria of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), each unit produces 70 megawatts of thermal energy or 25 megawatts of electric power— enough to provide electricity for 20,000 average American-size homes or the industrial equivalent for seven to ten years depending on usage. Nuclear-based power plants can produce heat or electricity 24/7 with no greenhouse-gas emissions.
Offering a cost-efficient source of clean, emission-free, baseload energy, the Hyperion Power Module will provide crucial independent power for military installations; heat, steam, and electricity for mining operations; and electricity for local infrastructure and clean water processes in communities around the globe.
Who would have thought that the benefits of generating electricity from huge nuclear power plants… could ever be provided in a small, compact, energy module The size of a shipping container, that can be transported by truck, rail or ship to remote locations wherever reliable electricity and heat for communities, industry, military, mining or any application where heat and energy is needed?
Once sited safely in its underground containment vessel, an HPM is monitored but does not require a battery of operational personnel. It just quietly delivers safe, reliable power – 70 MW thermal or 25 MW electric via steam turbine – for a period of 7 to 10 years. A factory fresh module is shipped to quickly and simply replaces the reactor package.
. Hyperion power is also cheaper than fossil fuels and, when you consider the cost of land and materials, watt to watt, Hyperion’s innovative energy technology is even more affordable than many developing “alternative” energy technologies.
Out of sight and safe from nefarious threats, Hyperion power modules are buried far underground and guarded by a security detail. Like a power battery, Hyperion modules have no moving parts to wear down, and are delivered factory sealed. They are never opened on site.
Even if one were compromised, the material inside would not be appropriate for weapon proliferation purposes.
Further, due to the unique, yet proven science upon which this new technology is based, it is impossible for the module to go supercritical, “melt down” or create any type of emergency situation.
If opened, the very small amount of fuel that is enclosed would immediately cool. The waste produced after five years of operation is approximately the size of softball and is a good candidate for fuel recycling.
Conceived at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the HPM intellectual property portfolio has been licensed to Hyperion Power Generation for commercialization under the laboratory’s technology transfer program. Inherently safe, the HPM utilizes the energy of low-enriched uranium fuel and meets all the non-proliferation criteria the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Three factories, spread across the globe are planned to produce 4,000 units of the first design.

March 20, 2011 12:36 pm

Obie says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:03 am
So why no comments from the usual readers of WUWT.
I’m one that’s been here posting, oh, just a couple comments in these nuclear power related threads threads.

Onion
March 20, 2011 12:36 pm

No-one is dissing Einstein. And frankly, the idea that Fukushima is the greatest place in the world to be right now for scientists is offensive – to those who have put themselves at risk trying to get the place under control, and their loved ones. Creationism has nothing to do with this.
You may have a fundamental understanding of the processes behind fusion and fission, but there are other issues. How should spent fuel rods be dealt with? Why has information coming from the authorities been so poor (I watched a NHK news broadcast this evening where the journalists had a palpable sense of anger at the lack of clear info coming out this weekend)?
I’ve observed a lot of good as well as very poor MSM journalism over this story. Frankly, it feels like you’ve created a really good straw man to beat up to cheers from an echo chamber.

March 20, 2011 12:39 pm

Einstein believed God created. Opps!

Greg, Spokane WA
March 20, 2011 12:42 pm

Greg, San Diego, CA says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:21 am
This article brought tears to my eyes – the passion of this man is palpable.
How do we get this article into newspapers worldwide?
==============
So you want to get the word out?
Link to this article from your website.
Hit the 5 star button under the post.
Like it on facebook and any of the other sites, listed below the post, where you have an account.
Send the page to your friends and ask them to do the same.
That should be a good start. 🙂

noel
March 20, 2011 12:44 pm

.
.
I too am a physicist (retired) of the astro- kind. My opinion, in the past, was that nuclear energy was too risky to use on a wide scale. The events in Japan have demonstrated that such apprehension was, for the most part, unfounded; I became converted almost overnight.
But. Fear, in the population masses, is, and has been, a primary driving force. It has been a useful, if not fundamental, tool to instigate and maintain control, doctrines, dogma, and ideology.
From the original Judeo-Christian POV, the One God was here/there to provide solace or comfort or deliverance from the consequences of physical (natural) and/or moral evil. It didn’t take long for that specific offering (or sacrifice) to transmogrify into — “do it my way, or else I’ll clobber you”: the bad-news of tyrants, rather than the “come, let us reason together”: the good-news of the One God.
And so pandemic fear has permitted educated, degreed, popular, successful politicians and scientists and clerics and journalists and everyday pedestrians to believe that CO2 is poison. Almost the same crowd will readily accept that multiculturalism (in the sense that all cultures and religions and ideologies are of equal value) is a value beyond which there is nothing conceivable more valuable. The idea is to be revered or venerated or worshipped; opposition to the value is to be extinguished in any way.
All physicists are not immune to rampant, mimetic contagions. Neither are all clerics, or politicians, or anybody else. And even in “free-science” there remains the risk that the discoveries can lead to a triumphalism as potent as any religious brew has concocted.
“Come let us reason together” is a notion of workable religion as much as it could be a workable notion of the scientific method or a cultural mandate. But, like peace, reason does not always defend itself.
And if you’ll believe that CO2 is poison, then it’s not much of a stretch to criminalize the radioactivity of a banana.
.
.

March 20, 2011 12:52 pm

Not all newspaper columnists are scientifically illiterate. See this article by Suzanne Moore in today’s Sunday Mail:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1368050/Japan-nuclear-meltdown-Stop-scaremongering-I-swam-sea-round-Sizewell.html

Dr. Dave
March 20, 2011 12:56 pm

Perhaps I’m easily impressed but I thought the translation from German was amazing.
Excellent comments by James Sexton and Theo Goodwin. I am not a “Creationist”. I was taught evolution from grade school on. Only recently have I realized that the theory of evolution has a lot of holes in it. It does not fully answer some very fundamental questions like “how does an organism add genes to evolve into another organism?” And no…an adaptive response like Staph aureus developing resistance to an antimicrobial is not “evolution”. The adapted bacterium is still a Staph aureus.
Theo Goodwin makes a good point about PC. Rather than trashing Creationism it may have been more appropriate to use the example of AGW. But in Germany to doubt AGW is nearly a crime. Dr. Heller would have lost his audience. To be fair, there’s much better empirical evidence to support evolution than there is Creationism. At the same time there’s better empiric evidence to support UFOs and extraterrestrials than there is to support AGW.

March 20, 2011 12:57 pm

And what are we going to do with the waste?
I am not convinced nuclear energy is save.

March 20, 2011 1:00 pm

@Jerry Gustafson on March 20, 2011 at 12:12 pm
Re nuclear power would be very cheap if…
My comments on that topic are on record on WUWT’s earlier thread
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/18/good-news-from-japan-situation-fairly-stable-says-iaea/
The lawsuits are generally brought to force the plant into compliance with the governing regulations. The additional costs are built into the nuclear plant design – the triple-shielding is required due to the ultra-hazardous nature of atomic fission. The multiple redundancies for various systems are also required under the law, again because of the catastrophic harm that occurs when these things melt down, shake apart, blow up or otherwise go badly wrong.
The plant’s equipment is much bigger, for one thing, and therefore more expensive, simply because nuclear power plants produce low-pressure steam, and THAT requires much more steam to circulate for the same amount of power produced. More steam flow requires larger turbines, larger condensers, larger pumps, larger pipes and valves, larger cooling water systems, and so on. This is especially true for the BWR designs (boiling water reactor). The construction codes for nuclear plants require much more extensive, and expensive, testing and inspection including x-ray of most of the welds in the plant.
All these things add to the cost of the plant – but are required simply because nuclear power is very, very dangerous without elaborate and multiple safeguards. The original atomic physicists were absolutely correct when they said this should never be used. When the green genie escapes, there are multiple types of hell to pay.

ob
March 20, 2011 1:10 pm

a) someone wrote, we need physicists as politicians. Well, the angela merkel (german kanzlerin) has a phd in physics.
b) anti-nuclear is not anti-science!
c) it’s indeed a problem that germany (europe?, western countries in general?) has not enough (young) nuclear scientists.

crosspatch
March 20, 2011 1:10 pm

When you take into account the number of accidents and environmental damage done annually by the conventional power industry, nuclear is much cleaner and much safer. Why is nobody complaining about the mercury “fallout” from China’s coal power? That is more dangerous than anything we are going to see from Fukushima and it occurs every day, day in, day out, and does cumulative damage to the food chain.
We recently had a natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed people and damaged homes. We have such explosions practically monthly in the US. Globally, probably nearly every day someplace. We have all sorts of industrial accidents that kill dozens, yet no hue and cry as we have over this incident that has killed nobody or even injured anyone due to any radiation leakage.
If I were “big oil” or “big coal” I would be giving big money to the anti-nuclear wackos.

Paul Jackson
March 20, 2011 1:17 pm

Obie says:
“So why no comments from the usual readers of WUWT. Have you become ‘closet greenies’?”

Most of us have always been “greenies” we’re just pragmatic, active-minded greenies, not the faddist sheeple greenie that are so noisy. Worry less about green someone says they are and worry , more about how green you are really.

ew-3
March 20, 2011 1:17 pm

Unless we have the political will to grow nuclear it won’t happen. There is too much negative information out there most of it wrong. People still believe that many people died at TMI and hundreds of thousands have cancer due to Chernobyl.
Someone will need to take the bully pulpit of office, like Senator James Inhofe has fought against AGW. And let’s not think the our current president ‘H’ is pro-nuclear. He is just mouthing the words. He appointed Gregory B. Jaczko whose record would be better described as anti-nuke. And at DOE Dr Chu is focusing on alternative green energy.
Boy, are we screwed!

Chris Smith
March 20, 2011 1:23 pm

“There’s no place on earth I would rather be right now than at Fukushima – right in the atomic power plant, at the centre of the event.”
I am sure that we could find a Japanese family to do a house swap if you really mean this.

Douglas
March 20, 2011 1:30 pm

Onion says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm
. Frankly, it feels like you’ve created a really good straw man to beat up to cheers from an echo chamber.
——————————————————————–
Onion. It is you that maketh the strawmen. It’s all you ever do here. Go, take your onions with you and weep elsewhere.
Douglas

Gary Pearse
March 20, 2011 1:37 pm

The author seems insolated from everything but physics. Is he aware that science has become political science, at least in the AGW-CO2 chapter of science and no where is it more the case than in Germany (maybe the UK is worse). Actually, it can be said that this post normal science movement began with the anti-nuclear crowd 50 years ago. It must have already been about as bad as it is now when Dr. Heller was a student.

Douglas
March 20, 2011 1:40 pm

Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm
Douglas says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm
Leif Svalgaard says: March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
Max Hugoson says:March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
the “sea wall” is going to have to be: 14 meters high.
One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…
—————————————————————–
We’ve all got 20/20 hindsight.
Douglas
=======================================================
They didn’t know about earthquakes and tsunamis ahead of time?
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Amino – Of course you HAVE got 20/20 hindsight vision – A 9.0 one plus a 10 metre one plus the stored rods – all together. Great stuff. You guys p*** me off – Give these people a break. The damage at the plant is bad enough on top of the REAL disasters there– they will learn from it – believe me – but they don’t need s*** from EXPERTS like you to pontificate about it.
Douglas

Richard Sharpe
March 20, 2011 1:40 pm

The Make Believe Media, are, of course, trying to justify their continued existence. That is because many of us have realized that we don’t need them and we can no longer afford them.
They will continue to rush around turning everything into a catastrophe until the real catastrophe hits them.

pwl
March 20, 2011 1:43 pm

‎”Fukushima illustrates that we are indeed able to control atomic energy.” – Dr Peter Heller, Physicist, Germany
Fantastic article Dr. Heller. Outstanding.
Current doses from the emissions, virtually unmeasurable.
Fukashima has managed to “contain” most of the “hard stuff”, other than Cesium, Iodine and Xenon. 99% of all the Cesium and Iodine has “gone out to sea”, where it’s totality will be indistinquisable from background.
The BIG problem here is the loss of almost 3 Gigawatt of capacity. And let’s get down to the heart, if the other 3 units at Fukashima are going to go back on line, the “sea wall” is going to have to be:
14 meters high.
The emergency D.G.s are going to be in a tsunami/explosion proof building (earthquake too). Emergency plans will include 3 week offsite power loss.
All in all, this should NOT happen again.
Too NOT “fix” these things, would be a TREMENDOUS LOSS OF FACE for Japan, and I can assure you they WILL fix them!
– “Max Hugoson at March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am”
Excellent comment Max, I fully concur with the fixes.
BOB (Big Ole Battery), which also happens to be made by TESCO, could easily provide the multiple week or longer dedicated energy source for a nuclear plant. Every nuclear plant on the planet needs a Bunkered BOB within a few kilometers for backup.
I’ve written about it and a few other suggestions in this article:
http://pathstoknowledge.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/safer-nuclear-reactor-designs-are-a-must/

Otter
March 20, 2011 1:49 pm

I just recently read that Fukushima is ‘at least ad bad’ as TMI.
My father worked at TMI.
TMI was a blip on the radar compared to this. People are CLUELESS when it comes to such things and the anti-science, anti-advancement media cheerfully keep them that way.

REPLY:
yeah, sure, whatever. TMI was a failure of humans and technology, Fukishima was a result of an act of nature, big diff. – Anthony

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
March 20, 2011 1:59 pm

Okay, I’ve heard enough. Picture this; the 9/11 planes didn’t fly into the WTC, instead they were flown directly into nuclear power plants. Would you all be so sure about their continued programme then? I’m an atheist – because I see rationale and logic. I love science, because it trumps everything else. But if you fly a plane into a hydro-electric plant, or a geothermal-electric plant, or a coal-electric plant, or a gas-electric plant, you know what? It’s going to cause annoyance and economic problems…but everyone’s going to be fine. You fly passenger jet aircraft filled with fuel into one nuclear power plant – then tell me all is gong to be absolutely fine. And yes, there will be people reading this that will say that a nuclear plant could withstand it. Well do you want to know something else…I don’t believe it.
I don’t want to go back to the Dark Ages, and I want science to trump religion and belief in nonsense. But I don’t want to go to an age where hundreds of square miles are a no-go area for thousands of years, where cancer becomes a major killer, where birth defects affect millions.
Fusion? Great. But don’t tell me that we’re perfectly safe with nuclear power, because we ain’t. We could invest all those billions in hot-rock geothermal, or hydro, or tidal. We could. Instead people want to continue on a path thats always walked a fine line.

Jeremy Poynton
March 20, 2011 2:20 pm

@ew-3 says: march 20, 2011 at 10:40 am
“we need a major calamity…”
Well, Japan has just had one. And no man is an island…

DirkH
March 20, 2011 2:24 pm

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm
“Okay, I’ve heard enough. Picture this; the 9/11 planes didn’t fly into the WTC, instead they were flown directly into nuclear power plants. ”
It would have been very hard for them to hit the rather small reactor core – even the Pentagon did not take a direct hit. The reactor core is hidden in a rather stable containment, made to withstand enormous pressure. Try to hit a small ground target with a commercial airliner going at 800 km/h…
They could have taken out a turbine house, i grant you that.

Douglas
March 20, 2011 2:25 pm

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm
[Okay, I’ve heard enough. Picture this; the 9/11 planes didn’t fly into the WTC, instead they were flown directly into nuclear power plants. —————————–
Fusion? Great. But don’t tell me that we’re perfectly safe with nuclear power, because we ain’t. We could invest all those billions in hot-rock geothermal, or hydro, or tidal. We could. Instead people want to continue on a path thats always walked a fine line.]
——————————————————————————–
Ghost: nobody’s safe from F-wits that fly into things to destroy them. That is the way of the world. We have f-wits – they cause problems – but the way of the world is that you deal with it – we learn from it – invariably AFTER the event.
Douglas

BarryW
March 20, 2011 2:27 pm

I notice that the failure modes with the pumps is similar to New Orleans where the pumps were below sea level to begin with. Once flooded they were of no use.
Any system that depends on an active shutdown is going to have a failure mode. Even storing cooling water uphill can fail if the ground shifts enough to damage to piping. As I understand it, the reactors SCRAMMED correctly but still required cooling till the fuel cooled down. Seems to be a stupid design to require a system in a failure mode to continue operating for a safe shutdown.

ew-3
March 20, 2011 2:29 pm

OT – but explains why I don’t have much faith in the future due to our education system.
NEWSWEEK gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. Citizenship Test–38 percent failed. The country’s future is imperiled by our ignorance.
(two questions that really are troubling)
During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
Communism.
Correct: 27%
Incorrect: 73%
What is the economic system in the United States?
Capitalist or market economy.
Correct: 33%
Incorrect: 67%

janama
March 20, 2011 2:31 pm

Some one has created a web site for all those journalists you mention.
http://jpquake.wikispaces.com/Journalist+Wall+of+Shame
Here’s an excellent article in this morning’s Age Newspaper comparing nuclear to hydro power on safety.
http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/dont-fall-victim-to-nuclear-phobia-20110320-1c24t.html

DirkH
March 20, 2011 2:33 pm

Talking about German Angst, well, we have a tiny state to the left called Belgium sans government for like 300 days now… they have an interesting research program (obviously funded with German EU money) where they approach fast spectrum transmutation… this could solve the nuclear waste problem.
As all media in Europe ignore everything behind the respective national border, the German Greens of course completely ignore that. So… as a German nuclear physicist, maybe instead of driving to work in Aachen i could drive a 100km further to Mol…
http://www.sckcen.be/en/Our-Research/Scientific-Institutes-Expert-Groups/Advanced-Nuclear-Systems
Can we say ROTFLMAO now? 😉
http://www.bing.com/maps/#Y3A9NTAuOTgxODQzODgzODE2NTZ+NS42MDE5MDAxNDU0MTE0OTEmbHZsPTkmZGlyPTAmc3R5PXImcnRwPXBvcy41MC43NzgxMjQ2MzA0NTEyXzYuMDg4NDcwMjk1MDcxNjAyX0FhY2hlbiUyQyUyME5XJTJDJTIwRGV1dHNjaGxhbmRfX19lX35wb3MuNTEuMTg0MDYzNTUzODEwMTJfNS4xMTUzMjk5OTU3NTEzODFfTW9sJTJDJTIwQmVsZ2llbl9fX2VfJm1vZGU9RCZydG9wPTB+MH4wfg==

March 20, 2011 2:33 pm

So it turns out that nuclear fission reactors are dangerous when hit by huge tsunamis, Wind & solar power has been proven effectively useless, too expensive and impractical, Hydro-power & thermal power are too geographically Dependant, fossil fuels are cheap, efficient and a proven source of power generation but have become the focus of anthropogenic political wrangling to monitor & tax every last soul on this planet.
Ask the question if we should fire up a few nuclear fusion reactors to generate electrical power? In fact ask Joe public, “Mr green” or your politicians if we should start building them immediately?
It has the demonized word “Nuclear” in the question so Joe public will immediately wet him self and become frightened, “Mr Green” will campaign, lobby & protest against the idea of cheap and abundant energy as this suggests more people living longer and over populating the planet, destroying the environment through Co2 pollution and what ever anthropogenic disaster spin-off is popular.
And what about the politicians, wealthy elites & corporations? Well… the realities of creating heavy duty power generation will always be dangerous so long as there is greed in the expensive bureaucracies through which the funding of major engineering projects have to filter down through to begin with, especially if they are publicly funded by the tax payer then privatized by politicians, effectively handing a public utility over to corporations owned by wealthy elites who then drive up prices for their stock investors who make a killing of the consumer.
I’m just an engineer/technician “type” so my opinion is worthless too apparently!

janama
March 20, 2011 2:39 pm

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
Fly a plane into a hydro/electric and you break a dam and cause thousands of deaths. In Fukushima Prefecture that’s exactly what happened – A dam in NE fukushima burst and 1500 houses destroyed including most of the occupants.
The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.

Theo Goodwin
March 20, 2011 2:47 pm

Onion says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm
“I’ve observed a lot of good as well as very poor MSM journalism over this story. Frankly, it feels like you’ve created a really good straw man to beat up to cheers from an echo chamber.”
Which broadcast company did not scream nuclear disaster? Even Fox News could not resist. It was a bonfire of hysteria from the first report. There is no justification whatsoever for a news reporter or broadcast company to engage in hysteria.

u.k.(us)
March 20, 2011 2:49 pm

Ted says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm
…”Hyperion Mini Power Reactor.
THIS SEEMS TO BE THE WAY A SMALL INEXPENSIVE NUCLEAR POWER MODULES THAT DOESN’T NEED HUGE EXPENSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE, OR LARGE SCALE TRANSMISSION LINES. THE MODULES CAN BE PIGGY BACKED FOR LARGER POWER REQUIREMENTS. CAN BE QUICKLY BUILT ON AN ASSEMBLY LINE BASIS, INSTALLED AND RUNNING IN A SHORT TIME FRAME. – What’s not to like?…”
============
Some of my concerns:
I assume the “plants” will have 24/7 security lest some fool drops some C-4 or a hand grenade into the vault. Imagine the media hype.
NIMBY may be a problem.
Are the “plants” fail-safe, or do they need to be monitored by tech’s? They do need a reliable cooling source, I assume?
I say, it will never happen.

Theo Goodwin
March 20, 2011 2:53 pm

Dr. Dave says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm
“To be fair, there’s much better empirical evidence to support evolution than there is Creationism. At the same time there’s better empiric evidence to support UFOs and extraterrestrials than there is to support AGW.”
Just because you mentioned me in this context, I will say that I have found nothing interesting in Creationist writings. However, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is as close to real science as a Model T Ford is to a BMW. But we are forbidden to discuss anything that might be taken as critical of Darwin. That Political Correctness is immoral, unscientific, and un-American.

CRS, Dr.P.H.
March 20, 2011 3:06 pm

@rbateman says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

One might also question the rationale behind storing spent fuel rods in pools wordwide. Politically, you cannot get rid of this stuff and neither can it be recycled (again due to political quagmire). So, 95%(if I am informed correctly) of the UO2 in spent fuel rods sits in pools of water being kept cool.

Thanks, there is quite a bit being written about storage in the USA. Chicago Tribune posted a decent article here:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-0320-spent-fuel-20110319,0,5809639.story

For safety reasons, law requires spent rods to cool in pools for five years before they can be moved into dry casks — stainless-steel canisters, encased in 3-inch-thick carbon-steel liners and covered in 2 feet of reinforced concrete.
Installing dry-cask storage infrastructure at a plant with two reactors would cost between $20 million and $30 million, and annual costs for buying casks, loading them and running a dry-cask storage facility are $7 million to $10 million, according to Exelon.

Dry cask storage sounds like a good interim between temporary pool storage and long-term disposal. I always preferred recycling if possible, as these elements are rare in nature and may yet have useful properties besides weapons & power generation. With vitrification or repository solutions (the now-dead Yucca Mountain), the waste is lost forever.

bob sykes
March 20, 2011 3:06 pm

The sad truth is that nuclear power is dead. The politics alone have killed it. Safety and efficiency have nothing to do with it.
A review of construction costs some years ago discovered that most utilities had not fully factored decommissioning costs into their rate structures. These amounted to $2B (1970s dollars) per reactor. The cleanup costs of an accident are so huge, so much greater than mere decommissioning, that no public utility will risk it. That’s it. Politics plus economic risk means no nuclear power.
And don’t talk to me about fusion. Fusion is outright criminal fraud. Physicists have been playing with their tokamak machines for 40 years and have made literally no progress to self-sustaining fusion. None. Absolutely none. No other fusion technology (other than bombs) works either. The fusion researchers have lied repeatedy about the prospects, and they have wasted no only billions of dollars but the entire professional careers of two whole generations of young physicists.
Back in the 1970s, engineers pointed out that the capital costs of fusion were at least a full order of magnitude greater than fission reactors. So even if we drink the KoolAid and believe in fairies, fusion reactors would be so large and their costs so high that even the military wouldn’t build them.
So, we are stuck with natural gas (huge deposits, especially clathrates), coal (very large deposits), petroleum, natural gas and small amounts of hydro.

Stephen Brown
March 20, 2011 3:07 pm

I would like to thank Dr Peter Heller for his essay. It describes perfectly the “modern” retreat from scientific reality.
There can be no advancement in any field of human endeavour without some element of risk. Today this element of risk is deemed to be unacceptable. This means that human endeavour must cease lest it threatens those involved.
This is tantamount to becoming Oroboros, the serpent consuming its own tail. It requires the end of all human exploration and exploitation of the space which we all inhabit.

Engchamp
March 20, 2011 3:17 pm

What a brilliant synopsis Dr. Heller. Written to the point, simply and easily understandable.
I put up a comment on a previous post on WUWT, which I think may be relevant…
“I apologise if I am stepping on anyone’s toes, as I admit to not reading all the comments above.
The major factor that the MSM have omitted in their ignorance and doom-mongering, is that spent fuel rods were the cause of all the local radiation, simply because the Japanese back-up cooling water pump supplies failed – no electricity – even though they are doing a sterling job of containment.
urtailment. Without constant water cooling, any spent fuel rods in storage continue to rise in temperature as low level nuclear reaction continues.
I have often wondered why the design engineers involved have never bothered to utilise this heat energy, e.g. as in second or third stage compound steam engines, or latterly in second stage turbo-charging on large 2-stroke engines…”
One of the major problems that I have, personally, is trying to make my friends and family aware of what is really happening in the world of weather, climate and energy; all related, but with a woeful ignorance of the facts.
And there we have the dilemma, or a better word may be ‘bugbear’, because the more difficult the subject matter, then the harder it is to understand. So it is with climate and energy, more especially with the former.
There are not many ‘climate’ scientists that I (personally) would trust, but one that I would, on every turn, is Bob Carter. He is one of those lucky few who can explain something that is obviously complex, in a logical and reasoned manner, leaving one with the impression that the subject was not so difficult after all.
Then you have the sincere and rather avid folk on the ‘other side’, who still insist that any more man-made CO2 increase will be the end of the world.
It is about time these mostly ill-informed remarks were put to rest. If only it were that simple! However, there are good people in this world, who do not necessarily believe in hobgoblins, spirits (apart from vodka), or, indeed, propaganda; people like Willis, Judith, Christopher… I was going to carry on with many names, but I find, much to my delight, that they are too numerous to name.
Having said that, I must not omit your name, Anthony, for without your website I would have been unable to post this.

noaaprogrammer
March 20, 2011 3:18 pm

Several random questions/thoughts:
1. To what extent is our planet’s temperature gradient due to the decay of radioactive elements? Tell the ecotards that we sit atop a giant spent nuclear rod that happens to be spherical and watch them try to clean up that problem!
2. Are there any easy-to-understand formulas (like the Kelly Formula in gambling) that capture what is involved in the engineering quantitative analysis of something complex like a nuclear power plant?
3. The scientific community should be gearing up for the next onslaught from the doomsayers. According to the most recent National Geographic Magazine: By 2050 the oceans will have turned into carbonic acid so rapidly from man-made CO2 that much of sea life will have no time to adapt.

Billy Liar
March 20, 2011 3:32 pm

Tom in Texas says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:56 am
…placing spent (dry?) fuel rods on the roof.
I’m not an expert but as I understand it…
If you look at page 19 of the link below you will see that in order to refuel the BWR reactor it is necessary to flood the top of the reactor in order to keep the spent fuel shielded (by the water) while it is removed from the core. The spent fuel pool holds the removed fuel in a shielded environment (under water) until it is decayed enough to be transferred to dry storage.
http://www.ati.ac.at/fileadmin/files/research_areas/ssnm/nmkt/06_BWR.pdf

safariman
March 20, 2011 3:33 pm

Thank you for a well written article! Seems there is always a large contingent that get stirred to oppose everything new that’s cost effective! If they have their way we’ll go back to a life style and population mirroring the middle ages! It will get pretty ugly!

John Whitman
March 20, 2011 3:50 pm

The fear associated with all things nuclear (CO2, etc) is not evidence of knowledge.
Fear is used as a tool by media and interest groups and others.
I lay the blame for such fear in the lack of spirit of discovery and pioneering within a paternalistic/maternalistic society.
John

etudiant
March 20, 2011 3:51 pm

I fear Dr Heller is addressing the wrong problem.
The issue is not science or the desire to relinquish the legacy of Planck or Heisenberg.
The problem is the steady erosion of trust by the nuclear industry and its political proponents, which has persistently obfuscated or denied its problems, rather than to address them openly.
The long search for a nuclear waste repository in Germany is a case in point.
After a long search, the choice fell on a salt mine, which of course has the advantage that the very existence of the salt proves that the environment is dry and has been so for multiple millennia. The expectation even was the wastes stored there could eventually be retrieved once technology had reached the point where the fuel could be reprocessed for further use.
Trouble was that the mine was in fact leaking, which was known but was hushed up. So now the wastes have disappeared into a wet and salty grave, no one knows for how long. The effect on German public confidence in the country’s nuclear program has been hugely damaging.
The combination of dishonesty and very long lived hazards is doing this industry in, not the anti science sentiment.
It is interesting to me that many on this forum have learned to be properly skeptical of politically charged scientific findings on AGW.
It would perhaps be useful to reflect on whether that same attitude should be applied to the nuclear industry and its political sponsors.

bubbagyro
March 20, 2011 3:52 pm

bob sykes says:
March 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm
I would not say “stuck with” oil, coal, gas. There are hundreds of years left, if it is not inexhaustible (q.v. abiogenic oil), until we need to get to other sources, like nuclear energy (superior fission design, like thorium, then fusion) that will satisfy cost and safety. No reason to panic. But for now, drill, baby, drill!
But to overcome the myriad possibilities of natural disaster events, we need a strong, electricity rich economy, to help those suffering and in need.
As for radiation, anyone born in or before the 1950s has, as just one example, millions of radioactive strontium molecules still tied up in their bones from the hundreds of aerial nuclear tests conducted by USA, France, China, USSR, and Great Britain, and also 14C background is higher today as a result. One USSR aerial bomb approached 100 Megatons. Many gigatons of nukes were tested in the atmosphere, and yet our life spans are up 10-15 years on average worldwide since then.
So let’s keep a wholesome, scientific perspective, and keep on keepin’ on.

Dave Andrews
March 20, 2011 3:56 pm

Hey Ghost,
After 9/11 nuclear power operators looked very seriously into the deliberate aircraft crashing problem and measures were taken at nuclear plants worldwide. Unfortunately, they didn’t have your email address to inform you personally about it.
All forms of energy production have risks. They also produce considerable benefits for people on a very wide scale. You have to balance the one against the other before you reach any conclusions.

tmtisfree
March 20, 2011 3:56 pm

“how does an organism add genes to evolve into another organism?”

Begin here: Transposons and genome evolution in plants

And no…an adaptive response like Staph aureus developing resistance to an antimicrobial is not “evolution”. The adapted bacterium is still a Staph aureus.

This kind of argumentation falls in what is called the Sorites paradox: a grain of wheat is not a pile. Nor 2. Nor 3, nor 4. But there exists piles of wheat. Where do you place the limit? This is the same reasoning with “adaptive response” and “evolution”.

Frederick Davies
March 20, 2011 3:57 pm

Bravo!

1DandyTroll
March 20, 2011 4:00 pm

I know a person, he was born in 1920 and is still around kicking, and as it happens he usually spend his days surfing the net.
When I was eight I built my first model airplane, a spitfire, when he was eight he didn’t even know there was such a thing as airplanes. He didn’t have running water or a house connected to the sewer, since there wasn’t any sewer lines. The telephone didn’t exist in his mind yet neither.
But consider the flying apparatus. A machine that could take people up into the blue, to fly, and back safely again.
1928, your eight, and your world doesn’t include the flying machine, it doesn’t exist, but in 17 years there was jets, and in 41 years a man on the moon.
Imagine if they’d said back then, when the eugenics were all the rage, that, hey them flying apparatus’s are true and real dangerous, people go missing or, worse, die every year from accidents so how are those supposed to be good for us in the future?
What happened after 9/11 when planes couldn’t leave the ground?
What happens when planes can’t leave the ground due to volcanic outgassing problems?
And even what happens when really squeezing diamond uptight bureaucratic national security personal gets scared out of their pants from all the maybes and if’s and ban flight due to baby muffler capped milk cans?
Do we dismantle the aircraft industry or do we just make changes, up the security, and adapt and refine the technology one more time?
We would probably not have come as far had that world not let the aircraft industry been allowed to go through all the refinements through the years. An aircraft is just the same now as it was, almost a 110 years ago, way before they even existed in an eight year old old farts reality. The only thing that has changed, really, is that the design has been refined numerous generations, yet, still, accidents happens, terrorists happens, and they’r still used to slaughter thousands of people each year.
Although the main point is that in one persons mind it only took 41 years from the advent of flying machines to moon rockets landing on the moon. And I wonder how far along would we have come in the last 25 to 30 years had the green loonies not imposed a de facto ban on nuclear R&D, such bans were imposed in countries in Europe even before Chernobyl happened. The loss of knowledge, and larger nuclear waste heaps, are evident compared to France (that produce 80% of electricity from nuclear power), who, today even, manage to recycle about 10% of their nuclear waste.

March 20, 2011 4:02 pm

To Dr Peter Heller:
With the greatest admiration and respect, for having written the article I wish I had written. A toast – to life, to knowledge, and to the wisdom to use these gifts of God for the well being of all.

ew-3
March 20, 2011 4:05 pm

Jeremy Poynton says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm
Well, Japan has just had one. And no man is an island…
Yes, but no the kind of calamity I had in mind.
The only way to kick start nukes is to demonstrate that it helps us be energy independent. So a major flair up in the middle east that cuts off US supplies of oil for an extended period of time. Just to get peoples attention. Say no gas available at gasoline stations in the US for 3 or 4 weeks. We need people to get angry.

Kathy Kinsley
March 20, 2011 4:12 pm

Thank you, Peter Heller. We need more like you.
Oh, and if they built a nuclear power plant next door to me, I’d stay right where I am.

Nullius in Verba
March 20, 2011 4:14 pm

Oh dear. The use of 9/11 comparisons is usually frowned upon. Especially when the comparison is not even valid.
“But if you fly a plane into a hydro-electric plant”
Oh, you mean like a giant dam with millions of tons of water piled up behind it, at the head of an inhabited valley? An earthquake there (no need for planes) would result in something rather like a tsunami, yes?
“I’m an atheist – because I see rationale and logic.”
What does that have to do with anything?
“You fly passenger jet aircraft filled with fuel into one nuclear power plant – then tell me all is gong to be absolutely fine.”
Sure. “Everything is going to be absolutely fine.” This is in fact one of the tests they do on nuclear power stations, I’ve seen the video. Compared to a magnitude 9 tsunami, a jet plane is insignificant. Compared to a 30 ft high wall of water moving at up to 200 km/hr, a single jet plane is insignificant.
Here’s the video.

People seem to have no comprehension of the scale of what this power station has withstood. I have the same feeling of bemusement that I would if I said my wristwatch was ‘tough’, my mate said ‘oh, yeah?’ and proceeded to take it slam it repeatedly with a heavy sledge hammer, and then said ‘There, see? The glass on the front is slightly scratched!’
“But I don’t want to go to an age where hundreds of square miles are a no-go area for thousands of years, where cancer becomes a major killer, where birth defects affect millions.”
None of that could possibly happen. The most radio-active isotopes are the shortest-lived. With warning to evacuate, there is little likelihood of more than momentary increases in either cancer deaths or birth defects. A hundred square miles is a square 10 miles on a side, or an area extending 5 miles out from the reactor in the centre – which is not a big deal compared to the size of the planet. And there are uninhabitable places on Earth far more deadly over far longer time scales due to chemical or climatic conditions, that nobody is bothered about because it happens to be natural. Go live in Antarctica for a bit – an entire continent rendered uninhabitable, with death from hypothermia or starvation inevitable to anyone there without massive technological support – and tell me how unendurable it is that such a place could exist.
Go visit the city of Hiroshima, and you will find it thriving. Such events are never a good thing, but we can recover.
Nuclear power is dangerous, but not significantly more dangerous than many other chemical and industrial processes. The potential for harm is minor compared to many other events. And the safety measures are simply out of this world. Even the current event is not a threat to anybody not working at the site, and is unlikely to harm even those who are. It’s simply been blown up out of all proportion by the media and the campaigners.
Given the real disaster due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the urgent need to deal with that, it seems ridiculous to be spending our time fretting irrationally about this entirely imaginary fear. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth about nuclear doom is just annoying, and it will have bad consequences for technological progress for the future.

March 20, 2011 4:19 pm

Forget physics. The Japanese nuclear industry is very corrupt. Nuclear power is a strange right wing talisman that represents the military industrial complex. We know that in the UK a lot of accidents have been covered up or played down by the corporate media.
What are the radiation readings for Fukushima ? – They are censored.
However one area to the south is showing a recent dramatic rise.
ibaraki
2040 (0:5:50) 1635 (0:4:20) 639 (17:40 yesterday)
http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870

u.k.(us)
March 20, 2011 4:21 pm

Umm,
The sun just crossed the equator, it is spring in the NH!!!

DCC
March 20, 2011 4:26 pm

@HenryP who said: “And what are we going to do with the waste? I am not convinced nuclear energy is save [sic].
You are thinking of first-or second-generation technology. Try fourth generation. Read up on breeder reactors, aka Thorium or fast fission reactors. They actually consume all that old waste that politicians can’t figure out how to store.
And are you aware that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

P. Solar
March 20, 2011 4:30 pm

Herr Heller says: (in his pleading for a return science)
>>
Here again one has to remind us that Fukushima was first hit by an unimaginable 9.0 earthquake and then by a massive 10-meter wave of water just an hour later. As a result, the facility no longer found itself in a highly technological area, but surrounded by a desert of rubble.
>>
I don’t intend to knit-pick this huge out-pouring but let’s just look at this paragraph.
1/ As the 6th largest since quantitive recordings began, mag 9 is unusual but not “unimaginable”. Not a very scientific statement.
2/ Initial speculation of a wave of “up to 10m” was not a reality on the coast. This is about as scientific as IPCC’s may be as high as 6C warmer. Not very scientific.
3/ No “desert of rubble”. The nuclear plant is on the coast not in the city. It was flooded but not smashed up. No “rubble”. Untrue , over dramatisation. Not scientific.
So all dramatic over-statements , not unimpassioned science.
“and there would be no other place I would rather be than on site at Fukushima. ”
Really? So why aren’t you there. They could use someone with no fear of radiation to fix up things up. They have to keep pulling their guys out.
Strange that such a rigorous , hardline scientist can’t stick to the facts whilst appealing for a return to science.
Maybe it is not just the IPCC and “the team” , maybe science has always been a lie, it’s that we only just noticed.

Bob Diaz
March 20, 2011 4:30 pm

This is a long video, 1 hour, 7 minutes, BUT well worth watching:
Energy Biosciences Institute Seminar – Richard Muller

He makes a number of points about energy. Of interest is …
> The bulk of the radioactive waste is gone in 120 years
> When one factors in Coal and Natural Gas, the US has lots of “Liquid” Energy
> “Green Technology” will fail if it is not cheaper than current technology
> IF the US cuts carbon emissions, it makes NO difference
Bob Diaz

Mike G.
March 20, 2011 4:32 pm

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm
“Okay, I’ve heard enough. Picture this; the 9/11 planes didn’t fly into the WTC, instead they were flown directly into nuclear power plants. ”
Since 9/11, the NRC has required the nuclear power plants develop and implement strategies to intercept and stop land or water based terrorist attacks and to mitigate the consequences of an airborne terrorist attack that successfully makes it to a plant without being shot down. While the details of these strategies are not publicly available (to keep the details from the terrorists), from what I’ve seen, they’re a lot more robust than most folks would expect, including periodic drills where guys that look like they’ve got special forces backgrounds try to make it into the plant and access vital plant equipment.

Dave Springer
March 20, 2011 4:33 pm

Heller’s piece reads like an obituary for a fifth grade science teacher written by one of his students. Sophomoric dull and whiny. Spare me.

Otter
March 20, 2011 4:41 pm

I don’t understand your response to my earlier post. I come down squarely on the side of we NEED nuclear power. TMI was Nothing, but the media keeps bringing it up to keep the scare on.
Take you Meds or something 🙁

Dr. Dave
March 20, 2011 4:41 pm

Theo Goodwin says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm
” But we are forbidden to discuss anything that might be taken as critical of Darwin. That Political Correctness is immoral, unscientific, and un-American.”
_____________________________________________________
Theo,
I agree with you. For the most part I dismiss Creationism as mythology. Lately I have come to question evolution and you’re right, it is politically incorrect to dare to question Darwin’s theory. Darwinism has become as accepted as absolute fact as Newtonian physics. Anyone who dares question it is ignorant and un-scientific. Until recently I never questioned it, it all made such perfect, logical sense. Then just a few questions asked by the “other side” (be they Creationists or Intelligent Design proponents) compelled me to re-examine the issue. The fossil record is not nearly as supportive of evolution as the proponents would have us believe. And even at today’s state of technological advancement I have yet to see a proven biological mechanism that explains how one species can transform into another. I’m not dismissing evolution as impossible – simply as “unproven”. Yet one dare not question this “immutable truth” even though the hypothesis, like AGW, cannot be falsified nor proven. Evolution, like AGW is no longer taught as a “theory” but as a “fact”. In may, indeed, actually be a “fact”…but to date it remains an unproven theory. From time immemorial there are some things “society” just won’t tolerate being questioned.
Now, veering suddenly back on topic…I very much enjoyed Dr. Heller’s essay. It was passionate and well written (certainly expertly well translated). Being strongly pro-nuclear I agreed with nearly everything he wrote. My objection was to his (mis)use of Creationists’ doctrine to make his point. Darwinists stand a nearly equal chance at being wrong. In Germany he couldn’t possibly have used AGW as an example…most of the population buys into this crap. Perhaps he should have used the astrophysics example of the dispute between Hoyle and Lemaître. BANG!!

dp
March 20, 2011 4:42 pm

TheJollyGreenMan said:

The emergency water should be part of a passive system, no pumps etc. required to operate the system. The solution is simple. Store the emergency water upstream, on a hill, the natural head of the water will ensure a supply of water even in the event of a power failure.

I’ve got to believe reactor cooling engineering is not a full time job for you. Here’s a page that can help put things in the proper scale for you:
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/teachers/04.pdf

The purpose of the reactor coolant pump is to provide forced primary coolant flow to remove the amount of heat being generated by the fission process. Even without a pump, there would be natural circulation flow through the reactor. However, this flow is not sufficient to remove the heat being generated when the reactor is at power. Natural circulation flow is sufficient for heat removal when the plant is shutdown (not critical).
The reactor coolant enters the suction side of the pump from the outlet of the steam generator. The water is increased in velocity by the pump impeller. This increase in velocity is converted to pressure in the discharge volute. At the discharge of the reactor coolant pump, the reactor coolant pressure will be approximately 90 psi higher than the inlet pressure.
After the coolant leaves the discharge side of the pump, it will enter the inlet or cold leg side of the reactor vessel. The coolant will then pass through the fuel to collect more heat and is sent back to the steam generators.
The major components of a reactor coolant pump (page 4-16) are the motor, the hydraulic section, and the seal package.
The motor is a large, air cooled, electric motor. The horsepower rating of the motor will be from 6,000 to 10,000 horsepower. This large amount of power is needed in order to provide the necessary flow of coolant for heat removal (approximately 100,000 gallons per minute per pump).

If I’ve done my math right that comes to about 500 cubic yards of water per minute. There are 1440 minutes in a day, 10,000 in a week. That’s turning out to be quite a bit of water to put on a hill top. But let us assume there is a hilltop to put it on. Oh – wait. No hill top. But then calculate the size of the pipe needed to gravity feed that much water per minute and then describe how you turn that pipe on and off when there’s no electricity. You have to be careful the inertia in the pipe doesn’t pull the pipe off the hill. Air has to be let into the pipe at the top so it doesn’t get sucked flat like a cheap drinking straw. Haven’t mentioned yet the preferred condition of that cooling water be clean and free of plants and drowned animals. And wouldn’t it be a shame if it became contaminated on the way through the reactor, because all that water has to finally go into the sea (insert cheap joke about the rebirth of Godzilla).
Clearly a recirculating cooling system that can use preprocessed sea water is desirable and feasible. The problem is the site is susceptible to tsunami waves and the facility was not engineered to withstand a large tsunami. We don’t know if it was built to withstand a tsunami of any serious size, but even a small tsunami is capable of going over the barriers that were put in place. Tsunamis will rise to the occasion. See more at http://geology.com/records/biggest-tsunami.shtml.

Holbrook
March 20, 2011 4:50 pm

Until it was de-commissioned I lived most of my life 20 miles from a nuclear plant at Berkley, Glos, England and never gave it a second thought. However I do understand it was nowwhere near as safe as modern plants with automatic shutdown etc.
I therefore totally agree with the professor and was pleased to hear the head of EDF confirm that they are still planning to go ahead with the three new nuclear sites they intend to build in the UK.
Apart from energy they will bring jobs and the fact that the plants in Japan have experienced such a battering without so far causing too much damage fills me with optimism for the future.
I note the comment about the latest IPCC scare, this time regarding CO2 in the oceans….all I can say is that snow is once again on Kilamangaro.
Those pesky AGW’s must now be getting desperate.

P. Solar
March 20, 2011 4:50 pm

Dr. Dave says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:56 pm
“To be fair, there’s much better empirical evidence to support evolution than there is Creationism. ”
In the beginning there was God …. God created the world and all of creation in 6 days.
In the beginning there was a Big Bang…. in a few trillionths of a second the whole universe appeared from nowhere.
Science has explained nothing , it’s just changed the language.

P. Solar
March 20, 2011 5:02 pm

u.k.(us) says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Umm,
The sun just crossed the equator, it is spring in the NH!!!
No. the equator just crossed the Sun !!!
Wasn’t it in the 1600’s that Galileo showed we were not the centre of the universe?
You’re not a creationist are you?

March 20, 2011 5:04 pm

Douglas says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm
You guys p*** me off – Give these people a break. The damage at the plant is bad enough on top of the REAL disasters there– they will learn from it – believe me – but they don’t need s*** from EXPERTS like you to pontificate about it.
Douglas

=======================================================
Are you intentionally changing the subject?
Kinda strange that you think I don’t care about the people caught in the tsunami.

March 20, 2011 5:16 pm

Douglas says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm
A 9.0 one plus a 10 metre one plus the stored rods – all together.
What if next time it’s a 9.6 with an 80 foot tsunami? Is that planned for in any nuclear plant located on an ocean? That can’t happen?
You shouldn’t expect all people to agree with you. You shouldn’t get bent out of shape so easily. You also shouldn’t assume that just because someone doesn’t agree with you about nuclear power that it also means they don’t care about people. That’s quite a leap to make. It could be that people have serious objection to nuclear power because they do care about people.
So please no more accusations that I or anyone else that doesn’t like nuclear power doesn’t care about the people caught in the tsunami.
Also, shouldn’t your conversation be only about the people caught in the tsunami since you think I should be doing that? Does it really make sense that you say just because I’m not rah-rah about nuclear power that I am insensitive about what really happened over there?
Please clean your own house before you think you see dirt on the floor of someone elses.

P. Solar
March 20, 2011 5:18 pm

Holbrook says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm
>>
I therefore totally agree with the professor and was pleased to hear the head of EDF confirm that they are still planning to go ahead with the three new nuclear sites they intend to build in the UK.
>>
Well they would say that. Since the UK govt. has promised the tax-payer will cover the cost of any accident , it’s a win-win deal for the EDF. No risk , no need for insurance. In any other industry that would be an illegal govt subsidy.
Any why did Brown’s govt agree to that ? Because no financial institutions would even consider insuring them.
Worth noting that they got the tax-payers’ money from a bailed out bank to buy existing nuclear sites that belonged to the state, ie we the people.
They buy our land, using our money and if it fucupshimas … well, we pay for that too. Of course if nothing goes wrong they get to keep everything and flees us all with energy bills for the next 50 years or so before we come back and pay for decommissioning and eternal storage of all the shit they leave behind.
Yep , their position makes perfect sense to me. Whatever happens in Japan is irrelevant to their position.

P. Solar
March 20, 2011 5:25 pm

BTW what better way to encourage a commercial operator to cut corners on safety than to tell him he won’t be responsible if anything goes wrong?

u.k.(us)
March 20, 2011 5:27 pm

P. Solar says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm
=============
Ah, now we’re having fun, syntax as an argument.
It’s all about perspective.

March 20, 2011 5:30 pm

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm
Instead people want to continue on a path thats always walked a fine line.
If the billions put into developing hot nuclear had been put into developing coal, such as ways of cleaning the fumes from coal fire, coal fire energy could have been developed to satisfy the strictest green. Masks could have been developed that made black lung a thing of the past. All the promoting of nuclear because it’s cleaner than coal would become antiquated. Apparently there’s been more than 40 billion put into the study of hot nuclear, in the USA alone. The things I listed about coal could have been done for less than 40 billion.
But then maybe that’s not sophisticated enough for some. Maybe they like walking that fine line you talk about. Maybe it makes some feel they are advancing as a human to do it. That may, or may not be true. But it looks like some people want to take the most difficult and dangerous path possible to providing energy. What a mistake.

DirkH
March 20, 2011 5:32 pm

E Smith says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm
“However one area to the south is showing a recent dramatic rise.
ibaraki
2040 (0:5:50) 1635 (0:4:20) 639 (17:40 yesterday)
http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870

So that’s a map in nGray/h; wikipedia says
1 Sv = 1 Gy · W (where Sv=sievert, Gy=gray, W=weighting factor specific to each type of radiation and tissue).
where W ranges from 1 to 20 depending on the radiation. Your highest reading is 2040 nGy/h. That would translate to 17mSv/year to 357 mSv/year, depending on the unknown W, if it persisted which it won’t. What have we learned? 100mSv is the lowest one year dose clearly linked to an increase in cancer.
I wouldn’t panic yet, even if your link is real.

March 20, 2011 5:33 pm

DirkH
Flying a plane into a nuclear plant would be hard. But what if they had a missile? Aiming that is frighteningly easier than a plane.

DirkH
March 20, 2011 5:35 pm

P. Solar says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm
“I don’t intend to knit-pick this huge out-pouring but let’s just look at this paragraph. ”
Huge out-pouring, is that the beginning of self-awareness? 😉

DTaylor
March 20, 2011 5:35 pm

“janama says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm ……….”
“The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.”
The biologists name was Mary Mycio, and she wrote a book about Chernobyl, named Wormwood Forest Published in 2005. She was an American citizens, with an ethnic Ukraium background. She had a background, in Journalism, a B.A. in Biology, and a law degree from New York University, and I might add some competence in Nuclear Physics, and Health Physics (self taught). As the news gradually seeped out of the USSR, the extent of the disaster, and the prognosis, She pictured the area as a radioactive desert, a dead zone, or a black hole. She spent about 3 months poking around in the Exclusion Zone( dubbed Zone of Alienation). In addition to finding pockets of defiant local inhabitants, refusing evacuations, she is shocked to discover that the area surrounding Chernobyl has become Europe’s largest wildlife Sanctuary. A flourishing- at times unearthly–wilderness teeming with large animals, and a variety of birds, many of them members of rare and endangered species. Like the Forests, Fields, and swamps of the exclusion area, the people, and the animals are, have Cesium-137, and Strontium-90 packed in their muscles, and bones. For the record she has gone from a adamant opponent of nuclear energy to a ambivalent supporter of nuclear energy, which reduces our dependence on fossil fuel, until that time, alternative energy sources become practical. It is my opinion, that the time scale for alternative energy to become practical is a least 50 years, and possibly never!!

March 20, 2011 5:35 pm

janama says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm
The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.
I’m really going to need a link for that. I hope it’s not the Ann Coulter column.

Jeff Wiita
March 20, 2011 5:40 pm

To Dr. Dave, Theo Goodwin, and James Sexton, I agree with your comments. I am not a Creationists either. My contribution to your discussion is that there is a difference between micro evolution and macro evolution. Micro evolution is a scientific fact (natural selection). Macro evolution is not (Theory of Evolution). The problem with the Theory of Evolution is that Darwinism uses micro evolution to support their weak macro evolution theory. Intelligent design agrees with micro evolution, but not macro evolution.
Keep Smiling 🙂
Jeff Wiita

Jim Barker
March 20, 2011 5:55 pm

I am constantly amazed, that people without the sense to pull over to talk on their cell phones, can be completely freaked out with technology. Materials and technology have advanced considerably since the 1960’s. As others have stated, we can almost have neighborhood nuclear installed now. The only issue is how to pay the bill. Safety is not a big concern. Living here in NW Indiana, going back to cave habitation with our families, would be a larger issue.

harrywr2
March 20, 2011 5:56 pm

Roger Sowell says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:55 am
“A stand-alone nuclear power plant built today in the USA must charge 25 to 35 cents per kWh for its power produced.”
A 1 GW nuclear plant costs produces 8 TWh per year running at 92% utilization, the US industry average. At 10 cents/KWh that is $800 million a year in revenue. The ‘going rate’ for nuclear power is between $4 and $6 billion per GW.
The 2010 budget for Columbia Station is $317 million including $77 million in interest and bond payments.
So the actual operating cost minus financing cost is $240 million a year for a 30 year old plant.
So if we subtract out our operating costs from revenues at 10 cents/KWh we end up with $560 million left over for finance costs.
Using your number of 35 cents a KWh gives us $2.8 billion a year in revenue, if we subtract out $240 million in operating costs we end up with $2.56 billion available per year to pay down our loan for a $6 billion dollar/GW unit.

James Sexton
March 20, 2011 6:04 pm

Dr. Dave says:
Perhaps I’m easily impressed but I thought the translation from German was amazing.
Excellent comments by James Sexton and Theo Goodwin.
======================================================
I’d like to thank you and Theo for the kind comments even though it is apparent that you both view things a bit differently than I do. This is the only basis upon which understanding can be attained. I expected a different reaction in general. My faith in humanity is restored!
I feel it necessary to point out, I haven’t read much on either “intelligent design”, nor any novel “creationist” theory. I came to the conclusion that I am a product of a creation by my own thoughts and perspective. I would also point out that the “chaos theory” and “evolution theory” don’t fit well together.
Lastly, in my perspective, the difference between the thoughts of creationism and evolution is this, one believes our being came from one thought. The other believes we came from one micro-organism. My view of Nature doesn’t distinguish the difference. Nor, do either posits answer the original question. But, one, it seems, leads us closer than the other.
Towards the irrational fear of nuclear melt down, I would remind people that we were reduced to cooling the damned things down with firetrucks. (I don’t believe this is optimal.) We didn’t get to an awwww damn, but we got pretty close. We live, we learn and we adapt. Hopefully, our hindsight will provide better than the foresight used to put the reactor and backups in a place given towards tsunamis and earthquakes. Anyone believing we won’t see a catastrophic occurrence with nuclear reactors are deluding themselves. It isn’t a matter of “if”, it is a matter of “when”, especially given the proliferation of the technology. That said, we can’t base that as a reason not to pursue it and use it. If we were, as has been pointed out, we should ban wind, coal, gas, oil, cars, jets, planes, or any other thing that advances the general welfare of mankind.
As to electricity use, it’s an easy mix formula. Coal, where available for base. Hydro, where base demand is feasible. Nuclear where it isn’t. Nat gas to provide peak demand. Wind and solar to provide when it can and where it is economical. I don’t understand why this is so hard?

Eric Anderson
March 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Interesting and thought-provoking essay. That is, other than the gratuitous, totally irrelevant, and, frankly, flawed attempt to analogize by including a couple of demeaning references to “creationism” — whatever he means by that, as he didn’t bother defining precisely what it is that he is objecting to. Nevertheless, Dr. Heller evidently knows quite a bit more about physics than he does about biology or origins science, so I’m happy to listen to what he has to say on the former.

March 20, 2011 6:06 pm

Theo Goodwin says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm
Which broadcast company did not scream nuclear disaster? Even Fox News could not resist. It was a bonfire of hysteria from the first report. There is no justification whatsoever for a news reporter or broadcast company to engage in hysteria.

Agreed. Shephard Smith on Fox News’s 7 PM (Eastern) report was foaming-at-the-mouth hysterical over the ongoing or impending “nuclear disaster.” It was embarrassing. On the other hand, Bret Baer on the always excellent Fox Report (6 PM Eastern) was much better at maintaining a judicious sense of proportion. I don’t generally watch the opinion shows on Fox, so can’t speak to those, but Shep is ostensibly doing ‘news’. Unfortunately, his often ill-informed opinion is too often on histrionic display.
/Mr Lynn

RoHa
March 20, 2011 6:09 pm

“Japan shows that they are doing everything possible and impossible to keep it under control. Great job.”
Actually, there are some criticisms of the way the disaster was handled. One is that they did not fly in big big generators to restore power to the pumping system straight away. (Of course, a lot of people had one or two other things on their minds at the time. Nearly every city, town, village, road, and rail line on the North-East coast had just been reduced to rubble.)
The 50 who are staying behind to control Fukishima plant have a lot more guts, and a greater sense of duty, than me. I would have been on my bike and heading to Kyushu long ago.
A speculation that is going the rounds: The Israelis created and released the Stuxnet virus/worm to foul up Iranian nuclear plants. It has been found in Japanese computers. Could that have got into the systems at Fukushima and Tokai?

March 20, 2011 6:37 pm

Sorry to go somewhat off topic, but creationism was mentioned in this article. Here is a very impt Nature article regarding chromosome mapping of a chimpanzee with comparisons to humans.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7055/abs/nature04072.html
The abstract should have one “pause” for deeper consideration.
“we have generated a largely complete catalogue of the genetic differences that have accumulated since the human and chimpanzee species diverged from our common ancestor, constituting approximately thirty-five million single-nucleotide changes, five million insertion/deletion events, and various chromosomal rearrangements.”
35 millions + 5 million = 40 million random mutations, all in the “right” direction, all in 6 million years. There had to be literally billions of wrong mutations and somehow the fittest 40 million survived and reproduced. Somehow this had to occur, yet know one has the slightest idea how. But it’s a FACT they say.
We don’t see this species evolution going on right now in the millions of species on planet earth right now. We should be seeing evolution in motion everywhere, beneficial and harmful, we don’t. This is not about Creationism, which is only a theory not whatsoever based on science, and a more wacked-out theory than evolution. But the facts are there is much we don’t know. Why is it so important to think you are sure?

March 20, 2011 6:41 pm

E Smith says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm
Forget physics. The Japanese nuclear industry is very corrupt. Nuclear power is a strange right wing talisman that represents the military industrial complex.
Do you see this happening in America too? If you do I would very much like links to read up on it. Eisenhower warned about the military industrial complex, I’m sure you know. But if nuclear power is a product of it I’d like to read up on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. In fact that would would help to make sense out of why billions and billions have been put into nuclear.
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address. Talk of the military starts at approx 6:30:

Bernd Felsche
March 20, 2011 6:43 pm

Those picking nits in the translation of Peter Heller’s original article should address those comments initially to the translators.
Every language has idioms and nuances which do not have a 1:1 correspondence in other languages. Perfect translation (in a readable form) is not possible. However, if one asks the translators (or other able, third parties) nicely, then a re-examination and comparison of original source and translation may show that the nit is insubstantial; a figment of personal nuances imposed on language.
Remember: The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten.

March 20, 2011 6:46 pm

@harrywr2: re your costs of nuclear power.
Great! Please, go build one or two or ten. Take all your costs, for design, permitting, construction, financing, fuel, labor, maintenance, operations, taxes, licenses, land, environmental services, and legal services, and get a long-term contract for 10 cents per kWh. Take that to any financier or lender, and get that loan for $6 billion — and go build a nuclear plant! We’ll follow your progress in the news. If you build a double-reactor plant at 1100 MWe each, for 2200 MWe total, you will never get it built for less than $25 billion, and likely 10 to 12 years construction time.
Let me know who your financiers are. I’d be curious to see who is willing to part with their money on any new nuclear power plant built here in the USA.

DirkH
March 20, 2011 6:54 pm

Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm
“Flying a plane into a nuclear plant would be hard. But what if they had a missile? Aiming that is frighteningly easier than a plane.”
What kind of missile are you thinking of? An anti tank missile won’t do it, same for anti airplane, they’re designed to pierce armour and blast copper plasma or something similar into the machine, so they’ll pierce the building and spew the plasma into the space between containment and outer wall and not even pierce the containment.
So we need something bigger. Now there was a nice invention by the Brits to crack German bunkers. The tallboy, so yeah, you’re right, what if our terrorists had a tallboy bomb and a Lancaster bomber and enough experience to climb 10,000 meters high and drop it from there… Modern guided bombs make the job somewhat easier…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunker_buster
But i think you would have to attack at least twice to make sure you crack the reactor after you have cracked the containment. An easier way would be to attack with a nuclear warhead, but that kinda defeats the purpose.

DirkH
March 20, 2011 6:56 pm

Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm
“janama says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm
The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.
I’m really going to need a link for that. I hope it’s not the Ann Coulter column.”
Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm
janama says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm
The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.
I’m really going to need a link for that. I hope it’s not the Ann Coulter column.
Do you trust NatGeo?
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0426_060426_chernobyl.html

GregO
March 20, 2011 6:57 pm

Dr Heller,
Thank you for your fine essay – an inspiration.
I have been waging my own personal war on disinformation on the nuclear situation in Japan by emailing everyone on my email list with alternative sources of information including posting on this blog as well as other objective scientifically grounded sources (MIT; etc). The responses have been quite interesting – one friend called me and had read a link I gave her on how nuclear reactors operate and had read up in detail. She is not technically trained (but very sharp nonetheless) and was absolutely fascinated by how nuclear reactors work. After gaining a better understanding, she was able to see through the panic and alarmism MSM is selling.
Other friends and colleagues were less than positive and seemed to be feeding on the fear – it will most likely turn out their fears will thankfully be groundless.
Has anyone seen anything on MSM that names and celebrates the heroic people in Japan that have worked so hard to control this horrible crisis? I do not have a TV, don’t listen to the radio, and don’t read the poodle publications like Newsweek anymore (got rid of all that stuff after Climategate) so I really do not know.

Noelene
March 20, 2011 7:00 pm

When you think about it,building the reactor near the ocean is probably what saved it.How do you build a nuclear plant on land with access to water if an earthquake is going to bust pipes and bring down water reservoirs?Or am I being dumb again?

March 20, 2011 7:15 pm

We need to de-centralize our power and eliminate the “grid” altogether. The grid itself is a tremendous liability. The planned “Smart Grid” is really a total control grid with “snitch appliances” and the ability to shut your power down whenever the Big Nanny government bureaucrats see fit. Any centralized power system is also a system of control over the people. Nuclear power has not been proven safe or affordable so far in my opinion. There were 4,277 tons of nuclear fuel at Fukushima at the time of the disaster. The Mark 1 reactor design was so deeply flawed that top scientists resigned in protest yet many of these poorly designed reactors are in use today. Which lunatic thought it would be a good idea to store thousands of “spent” fuel rods above the reactor? This complex was a dirty bomb waiting to happen. I demand a full investigation of this preventable disaster. Despite all the pronouncements of the nuclear fanboys, all it takes is one tiny particle inhaled into your lungs and you are doomed to eventually die from cancer. Why are so many reactors located on fault zones? Where did the idea to store spent fuel above the reactor originate? I’m sorry but these facts do nothing to instill confidence in nuclear power.
I agree that mercury-laced coal pollution is another huge problem which must be dealt with and considered in any comparison. Mercury from coal burning plants circles the entire planet before gradually raining slow-death on all the little creatures below. Coal pollution from China is one cause of northern ice cap melting due to the albedo effect. Natural gas extraction is wrecking aquifers across the West. Wind turbines are sprouting up all over the place and new solar panels are everywhere. The arguments against the economic viability of wind and solar fail to account for the true longer-term costs of nuclear / oil / gas / coal such as thousands made sick over the course of their lives from pollution, damage throughout the food chain, billions in cleanup costs, and other “externalities”.
Someone mentioned eugenics as if it was a thing of the past. Sorry to break the news, but eugenics is all the rage right now among folks like John P Holdren, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Al Gore, and many other “hope and change” charlatans.
They have initiated their “final solution” for their imaginary “overpopulation crisis”. The Gulf oil spill wrecked the Gulf and the Grand Banks in the Atlantic, the Fukushima dirty bomb will wreck Pacific seafood production, and chemtrail spraying of aluminum barium and strontium will soon destroy the farm belt. Oil prices will top $7.00 per gallon in America and no one will be able to afford food. What food we can afford will be heavily laced with toxins. More and more slow-kill vaccines will be forced on an unhealthy immune-compromised people. Together with fluoride these toxins will attack our bodies and slowly more and more people will die. Our only hope is to face facts and fight back with truth and justice. We are all being deliberately exterminated.
Q. “What do you expect me to do?”
A. “I expect you to die, Mr. Bond”

Myrrh
March 20, 2011 7:22 pm

Peter Heller says: I devoured the stories.. of Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller – to name a few – and how they created completely new technologies from theoretical concepts, how the energy stored in the nucleus of the atom could be used for the good of man ..
Have you heard this one?
“Richard Rhodes, in his classic history of the making of the atom bomb, relates that as far back as 1943 Enrico Fermi approached Robert Oppenheimer with the suggestion that if they could not develop the bomb in time, the same purpose would be served by dumping strontium-90, which he was generating at his pilot reactor at the University of Chicago, over the German land-mass. Oppenheimer then discussed the proposal with Edward Teller who agreed that their animal studies would indicate that radioactive strontium would enter the food chain and be deposited “dangerously and irretrievably in bone” and kill perhaps 500,000 persons. The plan was discarded because they could not be sure the desired deaths would occur quickly enough. After the bomb was developed, the military did not want an atomic explosion associated with the possibility of biological damage so the animal studies remained classified until 1969.”
From “Chernobyl and the Collapse of Soviet Society” by Jay M. Gould -http://www.ratical.org/radiation/Chernobyl/CherobylCoSS.html
Hmm, for the good of which man were these heroes of yours thinking? Or is such a famous story, in your world of science, the reason for your enthusiasm? I only ask, inquiring minds like to know, perhaps you haven’t heard it.

Glenn
March 20, 2011 7:32 pm

janama says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm
“Fly a plane into a hydro/electric and you break a dam and cause thousands of deaths. In Fukushima Prefecture that’s exactly what happened – A dam in NE fukushima burst and 1500 houses destroyed including most of the occupants. ”
Damn good thing that a nuclear power plant wasn’t built on the dam, eh?

James Sexton
March 20, 2011 7:34 pm

DirkH says:
March 20, 2011 at 6:54 pm
Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm
“Flying a plane into a nuclear plant would be hard. But what if they had a missile? Aiming that is frighteningly easier than a plane.”
——————————————————-
“………… So we need something bigger. ”
==================================
No, not something bigger. Something more precise. I’d be chagrin to say more, but I understand if I can think, so too, can others. The fallacy is to believe we are advanced but they are not.
Unlike AAM, I am pro nuclear energy. However, the dangers pointed out by AAM shouldn’t be so casually disregarded. It will happen. Time and occurrence dictate as much. To believe it won’t, equals the hubris of the Titanic or the Lusitania.

Eric Anderson
March 20, 2011 7:37 pm

Noelene: “When you think about it,building the reactor near the ocean is probably what saved it.How do you build a nuclear plant on land with access to water if an earthquake is going to bust pipes and bring down water reservoirs?”
No, by all apparent accounts the reactors survived the earthquake OK and shut down as they were supposed to do. It was the backup generators, located at ground level, that failed when they were flooded by the tsunami. So, yes, they are using seawater to help cool now, but it was the seawater what don’ it in the first place.

sHx
March 20, 2011 7:38 pm

Interesting. The article mentions all the luminaries of early nuclear physics. Einstein is named several times, as though his name alone ought top be sufficient to persuade the anti-nuclear public that nuke is safe.
One particular name is conspicuous in its absence: J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. Much to his credit, however, Peter Heller mentions the name Edward Teller, the guy who fathered hydrogen bomb.
The fact is all those super-intelligent people spent the better part of their career -and the credibility of their science-to build bombs, more bombs and more destructive bombs. They didn’t build these devices for the good of the humanity but to kill fellow human beings and to instill fear of an inescapable destruction. True or false?
In 1963, the Cold War rivals came within a whisker of annihilating each other with thousands of these doomsday devices invented by those very intelligent and literate scientists. Right or wrong?
For nuclear science, the issues of public safety or peaceful use of nuclear energy came almost as an afterthought. The first and most important priority was to create devices that could terrorise the enemy and, if that wasn’t enough, to wipe them off the map. What kind of madness drove them to build and detonate 50 megaton bombs, or bombs that would leave structures intact but kill the living organisms inside?
This is the problem with nuclear science and nuclear energy. The public came to know the destructive force of atom way, way before the technology was converted for electricity generation. The thoughts and images that comes to mind at the mere mention of the word nuclear are mushroom clouds, radioactive fallout, mutations, cancer, mad scientists and secrecy. Compulsive and complete secrecy. But the fact that a small, simple device could kill 40 thousand in a blink is not secret.
Nuclear science and the industry cannot just shake their heads in disbelief at the utter ‘stupidity’ of the ‘illiterate’ public. They must face up to the fact that public fears nuclear for very good reasons.
Trinity & Beyond – The Atomic Bomb Movie pt. 1/5 documentary

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeayzvmAdxw&w=480&h=390%5D

Glenn
March 20, 2011 7:41 pm

DirkH says:
March 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm
“Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm
janama says:
March 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm
The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.
I’m really going to need a link for that. I hope it’s not the Ann Coulter column.”
“Do you trust NatGeo?”
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0426_060426_chernobyl.html
Do you? Did you read the article? There is a second page.

Glenn
March 20, 2011 7:47 pm

Noelene says:
March 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm
“When you think about it,building the reactor near the ocean is probably what saved it.How do you build a nuclear plant on land with access to water if an earthquake is going to bust pipes and bring down water reservoirs?Or am I being dumb again?”
You apparently didn’t consider that busted pipes due to earthquakes is just as likely to occur at the beach as on higher ground. Perhaps more likely, if the beach is susceptible to liquification.

JRR Canada
March 20, 2011 7:49 pm

What how dare you publish good sense from Peter Heller? The proper response is panic, run arround in circles and scream we are all going to dy. Thats true its only a question of when. Nuclear waste is a raining down, worlds end , think of the children, blah blah. Notice the MSM attention has moved on already, no meltdown no explosive spread of radioactive material, nevermind. There will be no return to science until scarcity bites the soft delusional masses we have created amongst us. Poverty and having to do without our marvelous technology tends to cure magical thinking real quick. Maybe its time for involuntary deprivement of technology for the anti science anti technology crew, social justice give them what they say they want.

conradg
March 20, 2011 8:08 pm

I sympathize with this fellow’s general feelings, but I also have to admit that the cost analysis is not terribly good with nuclear power. Not currently at least, even with advanced designs. At present, fossil fuels are far cheaper and by the time they begin to run low and become cost-competitive with nuclear, other forms of energy such as solar or geothermal will be much cheaper than at present. So I’m not sure if there’s a real window for nuclear to ever become a truly competitive replacement for other fuels. The safety concerns are of course overblown, and even the waste issue I think is being resolved by new techniques, but the cost issue remains almost insurmountable. The same probably goes for any future fusion power plants. For the present, fossil fuels are probably the best bet, and for the future there’s all kinds of promising and likely cheaper alternatives that do depend on technology not yet developed, but I have faith that some of them will pan out quite well.
So I think we are going to bypass nuclear for the most part, even if for the wrong reasons.

Graeme
March 20, 2011 8:08 pm

I still havn’t heard an apology from the luddites who wanted to shutdown the LHC because of their irrational fear that it would produce a runaway blackhole that would engulf the Earth.
REF: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXzugu39pKM

P.Laini
March 20, 2011 8:17 pm

Let’s return to science. Indeed? This so commonplace and yet boring distorted vision of the medieval times and religion not helps. For example, how many times more will be necessary to say that earth as a center of universe was not a religious dogma and, by the way, that the dispute between Galileo and the Church was essentially other thing than science versus religion? And could continue…
If you a have a sincere desire to learn about these topics, I sugest Thomas E. Woods, http://www.tomwoods.com/, as an introduction.
Two interesting authors will help to understand in deep what is happening in the world today: Olavo de Carvalho http://www.theinteramerican.org/ and JR Nyquist http://financialsense.com/contributors/j-r-nyquist

Douglas
March 20, 2011 8:21 pm

Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
March 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm
Douglas says:
March 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm
Are you intentionally changing the subject? Kinda strange that you think I don’t care about the people caught in the tsunami.
———————————————————————————
???? Are you unable to read or understand my comment?
—————————————————————————-
What if next time it’s a 9.6 with an 80 foot tsunami? Is that planned for in any nuclear plant located on an ocean? That can’t happen?
—————————————————————————-
You expecting the sky to fall in or something – How high can you go? 10.8 and 100metres?
—————————————————————————————You shouldn’t expect all people to agree with you. You shouldn’t get bent out of shape so easily. You also shouldn’t assume that just because someone doesn’t agree with you about nuclear power that it also means they don’t care about people. That’s quite a leap to make. It could be that people have serious objection to nuclear power because they do care about people.
So please no more accusations that I or anyone else that doesn’t like nuclear power doesn’t care about the people caught in the tsunami.
Also, shouldn’t your conversation be only about the people caught in the tsunami since you think I should be doing that? Does it really make sense that you say just because I’m not rah-rah about nuclear power that I am insensitive about what really happened over there?
Please clean your own house before you think you see dirt on the floor of someone elses.
————————————————————————-
What’s this diatribe all about? You missed your medication or something?
The context of my comment was in respect to your rather smug question @ March 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm ‘They didn’t know about earthquakes and tsunamis ahead of time?’
Nothing more that this. It seemed to me that you were rather callous and smug. I was simply saying of course they knew about earthquakes and tsunamis but for all that were still overtaken by those events AND I have no doubt that they will sort things out soon enough as well as learn from the experience.
Calm down
Douglas

bob
March 20, 2011 8:21 pm

The anti-nuclear view has now been comprehensively proven to be wrong. No honest well-informed scientific-minded person can now henceforth credibly be ‘anti-nucler’.
What remains are fanatics, pseuds, con-artists and the irredeemably ignorant.

Janice
March 20, 2011 8:30 pm

There is one very important use for a particular isotope of plutonium, without which there would probably not be a space program. Plutonium-238 is used as a heat and energy source in satellites and probes. Plutonium-238 cannot be used in weapons. There is no other material for building energy and heat sources that can last for about 50 years with no maintenance.
There is also the matter of medical isotopes, which have to be created in a reactor. Medical isotopes save many lives every year.
Nuclear. It’s not just for power and bombs anymore.

DTaylor
March 20, 2011 8:33 pm

Attention,
“The land area around Chernobyl has been locked up as you say – a biologist was given permission to enter and check it out. She found thriving animal life more diverse and greater numbers than before Chernobyl.”
Reference: Wormwood Forest, a natural history of Chernobyl by Mary Mycio, published in 2005, A Joseph Henry Press Book, An Imprint of the National Academies Press, 259 pages, available at Amazon.com(about $14.00), and in their Kindle edition for about $12.00. Wormwood Forest means Red Forest. You can also do a google search on Wormwood Forest.
Refer to my write-up
DTaylor says
Mar20,2011 at 5:35pm

Lady Life Grows
March 20, 2011 8:55 pm

Fukushima was 40 years old and was due to begin decommission at the end of the month. That is highly relevant. The disaster will teach a great deal to nuclear engineers–but a lot of it was already learnt and is a feature of modern design.
Dr. Heller, by all means go help out in Japan. You are truly needed there and in that case why miss out??? But you might ponder what happened to the Soviet heroes who investigated the Chernobyl core–they died within a few years from heart failure.
I find nuclear engineers flippant about health risks, and consider that a very strong arument against the technology as they cannot think accurately about radiation risks if they think 31 people died at Chernobyl (try over 30 000) and none at Three Mile Island (estimated 3000–and it was not America’s worst disaster).
As an adult male, you have much less risk, Dr. Heller, than the general public. By far the worst risks are to developing embryos.
The US government had very good reason to fight for nuke bombs, for they were fighting a Soviet regime that was enormously crueler to its citizens that Americans are able to comprehend. The American government outright falsified public health statistics to protect the bombs. But now it is time for truth.
Go to ratical.org and download Ernest Sternglass’ Secret Fallout. It is exacting scientific research that should withstand even the tough “peer review” of this WUWT group.
As to the general public, it would be awful nice if we could somehow get across the actual level of risk and what is worth doing or fearing and what just isn’t. But you will find that their IQs have been lowered by fallout.

March 20, 2011 9:00 pm

DirkH
“Do you trust NatGeo?”
Nope.

John Whitman
March 20, 2011 9:02 pm

I think you all would be interested in comparing the US NRC’s guidelines and regulations for US nuclear facilities and power plants to Japan’s government nuclear regulation body METI. Google for their websites.
METI has adopted very broadly the NRC guidelines & regulations. You might find METI is more restrictive in general.
METI’s enforcement methodology appears to be more direct than the NRC’s.
John

March 20, 2011 9:15 pm

Douglas says:
March 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm
How high can you go? 10.8
No, to 11, a Spinal Tap Richter scale.

March 20, 2011 9:16 pm

DTaylor
Are their studies used in the book?

Duster
March 20, 2011 9:18 pm

bob says:
March 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm
The anti-nuclear view has now been comprehensively proven to be wrong. No honest well-informed scientific-minded person can now henceforth credibly be ‘anti-nucler’.
What remains are fanatics, pseuds, con-artists and the irredeemably ignorant.

Not sure what ‘pseuds’ are there, but an interesting comment on western society can be found in the fact that within the psychiatric field, a ‘delusion,’ if it is widely held, does not allow one to diagnose its holders as delusional. It is no more empirically than if it were held by a single individual only, but where an uncommon delusional belief might see a single person 5150’d into a hospital, a commonly held delusion is simply passed off as ‘normal.’

March 20, 2011 9:21 pm

Dr. Dave says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm
. . . Evolution, like AGW is no longer taught as a “theory” but as a “fact”. In may, indeed, actually be a “fact”…but to date it remains an unproven theory. . .

Not to belabor the point, but the evolution of life forms on Earth is as much a fact as the existence of gravity. The evidence is the fossil record, and it cannot be gainsaid. What remains theoretical is the mechanism, namely natural selection by adaptation. We know a lot more about that than Darwin did, since the discovery of molecular genetics, which continues to introduce wrinkles and complications into a neat but clearly oversimplified 19th-century construct. But the concept of adaptation still has enormous explanatory power, and that is what science looks for, not some deus ex machina that ‘explains’ everything, and therefore nothing.
And that is but one example of the know-nothingism that Peter Heller decries, as the source of unwarranted and uninformed alarmism.
/Mr Lynn

Ronald Van Wegen
March 20, 2011 9:37 pm

Irrespective of whether or not he is right about nuclear power this man is sadly ignorant of the history and philosophy of science. Using words and phrases like, “forced”, “superstition and fear”, “forbidden”, “[r]eligious dogma”, “forbiddance” (sic), “backwards and close-minded” – he carefully summarizes thousands of years of our existence and moves blithely onwards to our bright future! Just because he can’t imagine “this way of thinking”.
Well, I’m pretty sure those “medievals” wouldn’t easily “understand” our “way of thinking” either; how we can slaughter tens of millions of people with totalitarian ideologies, nuclear war, “ordinary” war and last but not least, the murder of children by abortion. Or how the scientific world could be enamoured of “ether” or an infinite universe or (get this one folks) “climate change”! let alone multiverses, dark matter and time travel. After all, we are so advanced now! It’s a wonder he didn’t use the magical word, “Galileo”.
I’d be ashamed of that level of ignorance and bigotry if I was you Professor. Science was stillborn in every culture except Christian. Why was that? Because the idea of a creator who created out of nothing a world that was intelligible and not subject to the idea of eternal recurrences led to us being free to count and measure and know in a world that had a purpose. Please read just about anything by Stanley Jaki and you’ll begin to understand the medieval roots of physical science. Read Buridan’s statement about inertial motion way before Newton got to it. I’ve got to get back to work now. I hope he reads this, comment number 1,436 – oh well 🙂

Ali Baba
March 20, 2011 10:06 pm

“I am a physicist.”
Talk to an economist sometime, nuclear energy is a boondoggle. No private company will touch it without massive government aid/guarantees.

March 20, 2011 10:06 pm

bob says:
March 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm
The anti-nuclear view has now been comprehensively proven to be wrong. No honest well-informed scientific-minded person can now henceforth credibly be ‘anti-nucler’.
Is there a consensus?

Noelene
March 20, 2011 10:07 pm

Glenn
They don’t need pipes when they have an ocean next door.If I am not mistaken,I believe they were forced to use sea water,I don’t know if they still are.

March 20, 2011 10:07 pm

bubbagyro, March 20, 2011 at 11:39 am :

It withstood the earthquake fine. It did not withstand the tsunami, not because it was on the coast, but because the backups were right at sea level. The solution is to have backup generators 1) on the roof, with tanks on stilts, …

Further reading ‘outside these hallowed halls’ seem to indicate more than just the much-cited back-up generators being in harms way, i.e. being washed away/inundated by the Tsunami, but rather:
a) one source cites the diesel fuel tanks which were situated by the dock or pier are now absent (indeed, one tank is blocking a road just to the north of Turbine Building #1), and
b) the other situation being that electrics all over the facility were inundated by seawater which came in at a height not designed for, and, possibly because of land-height change (subduction zone land subsidence).
.

March 20, 2011 10:21 pm

Lady Life Grows, March 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm :
Fukushima was 40 years old

Please, Fukushima what?
Fukushima I or II ?
Fukushima I
o Daiichi (literally: Dai-Ichi or first in Japanese)
o Note: Six reactors, 1 – 6 (with a #7 and #8 planned) (1 – 4 currently with issues)
o http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_Nuclear_Power_Plant
Fukushima II
o Daini (literally: Dai-Ni, the second in Japanese)
o Note: Four reactors, 1 – 4
o http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_II_Nuclear_Power_Plant
Please also review at the two above websites for the dates various reactors at each site came on line, noting Dai-ichi came on-line commercially the earliest, in 1971.
.

Dave Springer
March 20, 2011 10:28 pm

Mr Lynn says:
March 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm
“Not to belabor the point, but the evolution of life forms on Earth is as much a fact as the existence of gravity.”
Evolutionary biologists often claim that evolution is a fact like gravity but you never hear a physicist claim that gravity is a fact like the existence of evolution.
I wonder why? /sarc

ferd berple
March 20, 2011 10:31 pm

“So, 95%(if I am informed correctly) of the UO2 in spent fuel rods sits in pools of water being kept cool.”
Candu style reactors can can burn spent fuel rods from other reactors.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CANDU_reactor
Plutonium isn’t the only fissile material in spent nuclear fuel that CANDU reactors can utilize. Because the CANDU reactor was designed to work with natural uranium, CANDU fuel can be manufactured from the used (depleted) uranium found in light water reactor (LWR) spent fuel.
CANDU reactors can also breed fuel from natural thorium, if uranium is unavailable.

March 20, 2011 10:33 pm

ecliptic, March 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm
We need to de-centralize our power and eliminate the “grid” altogether. The grid itself is a tremendous liability.

Funny, that was JUST the reason ‘the grid’ came into existence (increase reliability thru interconnection). You realize there is a field of study about this very thing?
Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) – The Grid
http://www.pserc.wisc.edu/documents/publications/special_interest_publications/grid_reliability/
Interconnected power systems, generation allow for … otherwise – YOUR power generation goes out, so do your lights! Regardless of ‘smart anything’ (lightning and other random trip events will see to that!)
Early history of power, “NIAGARA FALLS HISTORY of POWER”:
http://www.niagarafrontier.com/power.html
Also wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_grid

Dave Springer
March 20, 2011 10:45 pm

Lady Life Grows says:
March 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm
“As an adult male, you have much less risk, Dr. Heller, than the general public. By far the worst risks are to developing embryos.”
I’d never considered that before but you are of course correct. Ionizing radiation causes DNA damage. In cells that are differentiating (stem cells) into many different and diverse tissue types all the downline cells will replicate the damage. So damage that might not matter to a pancreatic cell might be quite critical to a brain cell and it won’t be just one brain cell but all of them if it’s early enough in development. That’s why all sorts of drugs deemed safe for adults carry warnings for pregnant women and young children.

JimF
March 20, 2011 10:47 pm

@Leif Svalgaard says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:46 am: “…To wit the many unscientific or pseudo-scientific views being peddled with great force and conviction, complete with personal threats and attacks. Sad, indeed….”
No, it’s not that exactly, it’s more like fear of witchcraft. This insidious thing – invisible, killing and mutating all it comes in contact with – a story stoked by media and greenies about how an insignificant rise in something 98% of us don’t understand very well (or at all), but 100% of us know can be very dangerous (witness Hiroshima), and further it’s totally controlled by a bunch of corrupt, lying bastards — well, there you have the horror story of nuclear power (thanks, Jane Fonda, and it might actually be worth watching The China Syndrome again, for the portrayal of the media).
Just read the comments above by Amino Acids (you’ve watched The Day after Tomorrow too many times) and Roger Sowell. That’s the sad thing.

March 20, 2011 10:52 pm

Lady Life Grows, March 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm
Fukushima was 40 years old and was due to begin decommission at the end of the month. …

Correction (or is this an update?) – last month (Feb. 2011) Fukushima I reactor #1 (yes, the very same one that ‘blew’ a weak ago Saturday, exposing a steel truss top structure vs reinforced concrete as in units 3 and 4 … not sure about #2 yet) had been renewed for 10 more years of operation

Tepco — the utility that supplies power for Japan’s capital and biggest city — accounted for nearly a third of that market capitalization, though its shares have been battered since the disasters, falling 65 percent over the past week to 759 yen ($9.6) Thursday.
Last month, it got a boost from the government, which renewed authorization for Tepco to operate Fukushima’s 40-year-old Unit 1 reactor for another 10 years.

Source: AP story via Yahoo: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/bungling-cover-ups-define-japanese-nuclear-power-20110317-003736-287.html
.

March 20, 2011 11:03 pm

P. Solar, March 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

3/ No “desert of rubble”. The nuclear plant is on the coast not in the city. It was flooded but not smashed up. No “rubble”. Untrue , over dramatisation. Not scientific.

a) Did you happen to view any of the higher-resolution sat pictures from DigitalGlobe (also via stratfor.com)?
The later pictures where the contrast was a little better … did you notice a tank blocking the road just to the north of turbine building #1? It *was* at one time next to the seawater in the lagoon/pier area (situated for easy filling via a small sea-going tanker?)
b) Have you seen any of the pictures taken on the ground at the reactor complex?
Just curious what your reference-base was in making your debris assessment …
.

Old Grump
March 20, 2011 11:20 pm

I won’t aim this at specific posters here, because to do so would make for a very long postin.
For all of you who are so apprehensive about the dangers of nuclear power, here is a good solution. I will say up front that I hold down my use of energy and of other resources. That is because I’m not a big fan of waste. I’ve been told that is because my parents grew up during the depression. (Both of them were born in the 1920s.)
Anyway, here’s your solution. Go find the composition of the power generation for your utility. Such things are readily available online. No, I’m not going to tell you how to do it. I found it, so you should be able to, also. Once you have the percentage of power from nuclear plants, all you need to do is to cut your usage by that percentage permanently. Then you can have the delirious thrill of not supporting those nukes.
My personal choice is to accept that danger, as I am quite aware of what the risks are and aren’t.

Larry in Texas
March 20, 2011 11:26 pm

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:12 am
Max Hugoson says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:44 am
the “sea wall” is going to have to be: 14 meters high.
One might wonder about the rationale in a tsunami-prone country to build power plants on the coast…
Leif, while I agree with you, I would worry more about why they hadn’t considered changes to the design of the reactor that required external power in order to run the water pumps that cooled the reactors. I understand that there is a design that doesn’t require the use of outside electricity.

March 20, 2011 11:47 pm

The problem with nuclear power isn’t the highly publicised accidents that can’t be covered up, it’s the hundreds of small incidents that we are lied to about and the political corruption.
Labour and the nuclear lobby
Anti-nuclear campaigners like to portray the government as being in the pocket of the nuclear industry. How else, they argue, do you explain the return to favour of an industry once written-off as dirty, dangerous and prohibitively expensive.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5149676.stm
German abandonment of nuclear power
In 2000, the German government, consisting of the SPD and Alliance ’90/The Greens officially announced its intention to phase out the use of nuclear power. Jürgen Trittin (from the German Greens) as the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, reached an agreement with energy companies on the gradual shut down of the country’s nineteen nuclear power plants and a cessation of civil usage of nuclear power by 2020.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Germany
Higher cancer risk for children near nuclear power plants found in Germany
A new study on behalf of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection is the first study to show reliable results: the risk of children under 5 years of age to contract leukaemia increases the closer they live to a nuclear power plant. This is the result of an investigation of the German Childhood Cancer Registry (GCCR) in Mainz carried out on behalf of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. The investigation concludes that in the study period from 1980 to 2003, within a radius of 5 km around the reactors, 37 children contracted leukaemia. On the statistical average, 17 cases would have to be expected. About 20 cases can thus be attributed to the fact that they live within this radius.
http://www.insnet.org/ins_headlines.rxml?id=5571&photo=
Sellafield (previously known as Windscale)
Some claim that the Irish Sea remains one of the most heavily contaminated seas in the world because of these discharges.[41]
The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention) reports an estimated 200 kilograms (441 lbs) of plutonium has been deposited in the marine sediments of the Irish Sea.[42] Cattle and fish in the area are contaminated with plutonium-239 and caesium-137 from these sediments and from other sources such as the radioactive rain that fell on the area after the Chernobyl disaster. Most of the area’s long-lived radioactive technetium comes from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at the Sellafield facility.[43]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield
In 1989 Sugaoka received an order that horrified him: edit out footage showing cracks in plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators. Sugaoka alerted his superiors in the Tokyo Electric Power Co., but nothing happened. He decided to go public in 2000. Three Tepco executives lost their jobs.
The legacy of scandals and cover-ups over Japan’s half-century reliance on nuclear power has strained its credibility with the public. That mistrust has been renewed this past week with the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. No evidence has emerged of officials hiding information in this catastrophe. But the vagueness and scarcity of details offered by the government and Tepco — and news that seems to grow worse each day — are fueling public anger and frustration.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iU29-CtBza8xA01r9IzPwksyP1WQ?docId=9e518d4998224fd8b705cc3fe9903eb6

Mikael Cronholm
March 20, 2011 11:50 pm

People who are against nuclear power are currently extremely preoccupied with trying to find out how many people may have died because of the accident at Fukushima. They also compare it with other nuclear accidents – counting the dead, counting the dead…
People who are positive to nuclear power try to weigh the risks of nuclear power versus other risks, either other kinds of energy sources, or flying, eating bananas, getting an x-ray or CT, etc.
Here is a different approach.
I can safely say that in the big picture of this natural disaster, in which ONE nuclear facility plays a major part, nuclear power AS SUCH has saved tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of lives.
Yup. I am sure of that, one hundred percent.
The simple reason is this. Compare the earthquake and tsunami 2011 in Japan with recent ones, in Indonesia 2004 and Haiti 2010 for example. Why do you think so many more people died in Indonesia and Haiti? The Haiti earthquake claimed around 300 000 lives. It was a 7.0 magnitude quake, i.e. 100 times less than Japan 2011, and there was no tsunami of up to 23 meter waves in Haiti. Imagine, a 7 story high wall of water thundering against the shore. And yet, when all casualties are counted, we probably don’t have to count more loss of lives than one tenth or less compared to Haiti.
What is the difference then? Very simple! Japan is a rich and technologically advanced country, whereas Haiti is not.
Does anyone seriously think that Japan would have prospered the way it has in the last 40 years without nuclear power? Of course not! It is because of that prosperity that Japan has been able to develop the technology and build their houses and other civil structures strong enough to withstand earthquakes. Also to be able to afford the planning and preparation it takes to cope after it has hit. And not just this time, mind you! Earthquakes happen all the time in Japan. I have experienced one myself – the hotel room on the eighth floor where I was brutally awaken at 5 in the morning moved half a meter back and forth. No big deal… it is built to take it… Pretty scary, though!
Nuclear proponents are often charged for being technology optimists who “dream” that nuclear power can be safe. But the big optimists are those who say that in the absence of nuclear power we would have already figured out something else that we could have used instead. And no! Not coal or oil. No, no! That’s dirty! What then? “Well, we would have thought of something, surely!” Yeah, right!
There is a lot of research going on world wide in the fields of solar power and battery technology. I know, because I am involved in a small way in the fringes.
But the key is, research costs money. That needs to come from investments. Investments can only come from a surplus in the economy – a farmer cannot eat the grain he needs to sow the next season. If you live from hand to mouth, like in Haiti, you will not be making the next big technological breakthrough for future energy sources.
So what it all boils down to is this. And this is a fact.
No nuclear power today = no solar cells tomorrow.

Mike Nystrom
March 20, 2011 11:59 pm

I would like to translate to swedish for possible publication in swedish newspapers, but I am unable to find a link to Mr Heller. Can anybody assist?

BCBill
March 21, 2011 12:07 am

It is relatively easy to build an earthquake proof structure compared to the difficulty of making a politician, or fool (are they the same?) proof structure. The most badly damaged Fukushima reactor was forty years old and not up to the safety standards of modern reactors. Why was it still running? The reactor was supposed to have been closed months ago, a good idea given the surge of seismic activity in the Pacific. Why was it kept going? The Exxon Valdez was the 53 largest oil spill in history. Every year more oil is spilled than was spilled in the Exxon Valdez. Stupidity and incompetence are not rare, they are commonplace. Given how many people blindly believe in AGW, how can anybody be sure that critical safety decisions will be made by wise people. Remember what fool proof means- it means engineered so that fools can’t make it fail. When many, if not most governments are run by scientifically illiterate people engineers really do have to make the dangerous things that they are in charge of, fool proof. Or else they have to make things that fools can’t do a lot of damage with. Enough people are aware of the dangers of making very dangerous things that some fool will inevitably be given responsibility for, that there is mounting and unstoppable backlash against the current nuclear industry. Brilliant minds should stop rallying to support big power and should switch their efforts to developing power sources with less potential for disaster when badly managed, like perhaps lithium reactors. In Canada our politicians refused to spend the money to repair our aging radionucleotide reactor and they refuse to finish the perfectly functional Mapleleaf reactor, resulting in critical radionucleotide shortages. Are these the sorts of “rational” people you want in charge of things that can do great harm? I believe reactors can be made to withstand all natural disasters except fools. Since they will never be fool proof, they must be made in a way such a way that their destructive potential is limited no matter how they are abused.

March 21, 2011 12:17 am

E Smith says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm

What are the radiation readings for Fukushima ? – They are censored.
However one area to the south is showing a recent dramatic rise.
ibaraki
2040 (0:5:50) 1635 (0:4:20) 639 (17:40 yesterday)
http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870

I did a bit of converting and normalizing.
1 milliGray = 0.001 sievert
1 microGray = 0.000001 sievert
1 nanoGray = 0.000000001 sievert
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert#SI_multiples_and_conversions
Hourly dose examples
* Approximate radiation levels near Chernobyl reactor 4 and its fragments, shortly[clarification needed] after explosion are reported to be 10,000–300,000 mSv/hr
* Average individual background radiation dose: 0.23μSv/hr (0.00023mSv/hr); 0.17μSv/hr for Australians, 0.34μSv/hr for Americans[9][5][10]
From http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870
Ibaraki radiation levels: 63 – 86 nanoGray per hour (or 0.063μSv/hr to 0.086μSv/hr)
Keep in mind that Ibaraki the counters in Ibaraki are quite likely close to sea level, where natural background radiation would be much lower than in Colorado.
From http://www.radiationnetwork.com/
Radiation levels in Colorado (near Denver): ~24 – ~67 CPM (scintillation counts per minute, depending on location and elevation).
By my calculations:
1 CPM = 0.00926μSv/hr
24 CPM = 0.222μSv/hr (in Colorado)
63 CPM = 0.58338μSv/hr (in Colorado)
9.3 CPM = 0.086μSv/hr (in Ibaraki according to the map, at 2011 02 21 05:50 (JST))
12 CPM = 0.111μSv/hr (Vancouver)
10 CPM = 0,093μSv/hr (Texas)
The background radiation level at Ibaraki shown by the Japanase radiation map at http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870 is nothing out of the ordinary. It is slightly less than those for Vancouver or Texas.
However, the values shown in the table at the bottom of the map at http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870 for Ibaraki, Horiguchi Hitachinaka City are as follows:
Date and Time (JST) nGray/hr
2011 03 15 19:40 —1114
2011 03 15 23:00 —1065
2011 03 16 00:30 —1046
2011 03 16 03:10 —1030
2011 03 16 06:00 —2114
2011 03 16 17:40 —1044
2011 03 16 19:50 —1029
2011 03 16 23:50 —1011
2011 03 17 03:00 — 993
2011 03 17 16:40 — 881
2011 03 17 19:20 — 876
2011 03 17 21:40 — 872
2011 03 18 01:00 — 856
2011 03 18 03:00 — 847
2011 03 18 20:50 — 760
2011 03 19 01:00 — 749
2011 03 20 06:50 — 637
2011 03 20 08:40 — 631
2011 03 20 17:40 — 639
2011 03 21 04:20 —1635
2011 03 21 05:50 —2040
Those values are the equivalent of the range from 631μSv/hr to 2,040μSv/hr, considerably higher than what would be normal levels of background radiation. Still, as of now no one knows for how long those levels will persist and whether at any point in time they will become dangerous.
It intrigues me that there is so much fear about possibly dangerous levels of radiation, but so little effort is being made to measure radiation on a regular basis and globally in many different places. Mind you, before we get to doing that, we should probably try to finish the other job, to try and come to grips with how to accurately measure temperatures. I doubt it that we can do that any time soon and that we will be able to do the much more difficult thing, measure radiation correctly in many different places without someone fudging the facts on that, too.
It is obvious from looking at the radiation map of Japan that the fudging and obfuscating is already in progress.

Sean
March 21, 2011 12:35 am

Nuclear and other power systems have different risks by nature. When a oil/coal/gas plant/rig/mine blows, the people killed and the pollution are near-by. A nuclear plant blows, and the stuff creates concern all over the world.
With BP people are angry. With nuclear, people are scared. That is not to say nuclear is more or less dangerous in practice.

Mike H.
March 21, 2011 1:20 am

A question for any physicists out there. What effect would a water pressure of 12919 psi have on an arbitrary group of ten spent fuel rods? In a containment cylinder?

Sergey
March 21, 2011 1:36 am

Devil is in details, and safety too. There is a wide field for improvement in nuclear plants technology, some measures are so obvious that it is weird that nobody suggested them yet. Zirconium cladding of fuel rods should be gold-plated, to avoid chemical reaction with steam and water. The cost is negligable compared to one of making the rods, and the gold can be recovered during fuel recycling. Gold-plated “pebbles” were already proposed for other types of reactors. Stainless steel cladding is used in Hyperion Generation reactors. Heat resistant titanium tubes are also possible solution to “meltdown” problem. Large water reservoir on higher ground near the the plant, connected by tubes to spent fuel basins and reactor cooling system, can provide back-up without need to use any pumps in case of grid failure. Just open a spigot and flood all you want to. But without commitment to further progress on nuclear thechnology we would not be able to make it as safe as we want.
The first industrial power technology, even before advent of electricity, namely steam engines, also was plagued by accidents, like exploded boilers. They were made from steel sheets connected by iron rivets. And rivets got cut, when boilers were overheated. The problem was solved first by using steel rivets, safety valves and later by welding the boilers.

a jones
March 21, 2011 1:43 am

To be blunt and use old fashioned units.
A major core failure in a small reactor such as used in submarines might release some 10 to the twelve curies, Chernobyl probably released a thousand times this. This incident, as best can be estimated at the moment, does not seem to have to released more than than a hundred thousand curies: and more likely a tenth of that.
It was suggested that TMI released a million curies mostly in the form of noble gasses, but the estimate has never been justified and is probably overstated by a factor of a hundred times or so.
The immediate danger from such a release is radioactive iodine which although it has a short half life enters the food chain chiefly through milk. This can be dealt with by controlling the milk supply and if necessary iodine tablets. After Chernobyl the USSR did neither so perhaps a few thousand people suffered who should not have done.
Except very close to the incident there are no serious hazards.
The Japanese are very well organised to deal with disasters including nuclear ones such as this one. You should not imagine that their timely precautions are any reason for panic or that anything is much amiss.
It is all under control: it is the massive disaster and loss of life from the natural catastrophe that is of concern.
Unless of course you believe in hobgoblins and the like as credulous people do and as politicians and their ilk invent in order to enrich themselves. But there is no doing much about that I am afraid: although I have hopes the blogosphere might change things for the better.
Kindest Regards

wayne
March 21, 2011 1:52 am

@ Walter Schneider
Seems you need to correct the last portion of your comment above. The table above you gave is in nGray/hr (nano) but your following words are speaking of μSv/hr (micro) and you assume greater than background levels, not so. Your chart reports the equivalent of 2.5 μSv/hr to 8.2 μSv/hr even if the worst weighting factors are used as a full 20 * 0.20 = 4.
use: 1 μSv/hr = 1000 nGray/hr * WeightingFactor
(or that is what your link to Wikipedia says anyway, between the lines)

Al Gored
March 21, 2011 2:04 am

“The media suggests a nuclear catastrophe, a mega-meltdown, and that the apocalypse has already begun. It is almost as if the 10,000 deaths in Japan were actually victims of nuclear energy, and not the earthquake or the tsunami.”
On Sunday afternoon the news ticker on BBC America stated:
“Japanese police say 15,000 people may have died in one perfecture alone, as efforts to tackle Fukushima crisis go on”
It was such a classic in misleading hype that I wrote it down. About all I can say is:
Holy Fukushima, whatever happened to reliable mass media.? Long gone.

Massimo PORZIO
March 21, 2011 2:04 am

Abour Walter Schneider said on March 21, 2011 at 12:17 am
> 1 milliGray = 0.001 sievert
> 1 microGray = 0.000001 sievert
> 1 nanoGray = 0.000000001 sievert
So, 1 Gray = 1 sievert.
AFIK this is true for the X, Beta and Gamma radiation only not for the Alfa ones.
That’s ok for me.
What I don’t understand is your worry about the Ibaraki, Horiguchi Hitachinaka City.
You stated that the values are in nGray/hr.
So the maximum peak of 2,040nGray/hr is 2,040nSv/hr or 2.040μSv/hr (not 2,040μSv/hr), which is just a little more than your reported Colorado maximum backgound (0.58338μSv/hr).
Where am I wrong?

Mikael Cronholm
March 21, 2011 2:07 am

@ Mike Nystrom. I am also from Sweden but live abroad. I have followed the hysteria in Sweden about this whole thing. I wish you luck, truly, to publish anything sensible in Sweden. I wonder where you think they would interested in anything that is more scientific than a horoscope?

Phil
March 21, 2011 2:19 am

Some radiation measurements for Fukushima prefecture can be found here. I have divided each measurement by the distance from Fukushima Dai-ichi to obtain the fallout as a function of distance (see scatterplot). They are not publishing any measurements closer than 20 kilometers, except for http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110321-1.pdf, which shows that Iodine 131 was out of spec at 5.94 x 10^-3 Bq/cc. Radiation measurements for points at Fukushima Dai-ichi and Fukushima Dai-ni can be found here, but they are only up to Mar 20.

Jean Parisot
March 21, 2011 2:54 am

The senior level media executives have to understand that cheap abundant energy is the lifeblood of the “information economy” that fuels the growth and diversification of their industry, and thus their personal wealth. One would think, those long term considerations would at least get some sane, rigorous science advisors and commentators on staff to push back on the need for immediate sensationalism and cries of doom.

John Nelson
March 21, 2011 3:01 am

Peter Heller is right to be concerned about the rejection of rational thinking and scientific detachment in the debate about nuclear energy. He is wrong, however, to equate this with ‘creationism.’ The founders of modern science were all creationists: Bacon, Boyle, Pascal, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Steno, Jonathan Edwards, Dalton, Faraday, Joule, Kelvin, Maxwell and Pasteur to name a few.
It is the evolutionists who want to shut down debate, just as the AGW alarmists want to shut down sceptics. Biblical creationism is no less rational that naturalistic materialism; both proceed on certain presuppositions which are beyond empirical demonstration.

Smoking Frog
March 21, 2011 3:03 am

P.Laini says: Let’s return to science. Indeed? This so commonplace and yet boring distorted vision of the medieval times and religion not helps. For example, how many times more will be necessary to say that earth as a center of universe was not a religious dogma and, by the way, that the dispute between Galileo and the Church was essentially other thing than science versus religion? And could continue…
If you a have a sincere desire to learn about these topics, I sugest …

I agree with you that geocentrism was not a Catholic dogma, but none of the websites you’ve linked say anything about it, if Google can be relied on. TomWoods.com says nothing about Galileo. FinancialSense.com mentions him in one article, but only in a quote at the beginning of the article, which is used in a stupid way and has nothing to do with whether geocentrism was a Catholic dogma. TheInterAmerican.org, in one part of one article talks about him, but says nothing about whether geocentrism was a Catholic dogma.

Alan the Brit
March 21, 2011 3:07 am

Excellent post. Well said! 10/10.

Ryan
March 21, 2011 3:17 am

I was in Germany last week and the way this disaster was reported in the media was jaw-dropping. Even intelligent Germany citizens now believe that these 6 reactors are all going to explode like an H-Bomb wiping Tokyo off the map, poisoning the whole of Japan and sending up a toxic cloud that will blow across to China and bring manufacturing industry there to a complete halt with devastating impacts on the global economy.
I came back to the UK to hear that the absolute worst case scenario was a release of a small amount of radiactive material into the atmosphere which might cause the people of Tokyo to remain indoors for a few days, with a death toll from cancer over the following years ranging between 0 and 200 but largely indistinguishable from the normal death-rate from cancer.
They cannot both be right.

Robertvdl
March 21, 2011 3:21 am

Maria Teresa Estevan Bolea and Agustin Alonso Santos analyse the nuclear alarm generated by Fukushima, crisis management and its implications.
Japón y las nociones urgentes de física nuclear
http://videos.libertaddigital.tv/2011-03-20/japon-y-las-nociones-urgentes-de-fisica-nuclear-ZYIlFMevgUc.html
Sorry it’s in Spanish

P. Solar
March 21, 2011 3:39 am

bob says:
March 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm
The anti-nuclear view has now been comprehensively proven to be wrong. No honest well-informed scientific-minded person can now henceforth credibly be ‘anti-nucler’.
This is a particularly stupid statement, like there is one “anti-nuclear view ” that summises the whole discussion. Something has just “proved” this view to be wrong. Nice reduction to a black and white issue , like climate!
So according to you , anyone who disagrees with your “proven” position is either uninformed, or dishonest (or both) and not credible.
In short you are saying ” the science is settle”. I would suggest that position is position is either uninformed, or dishonest (or both) and not credible.

Bernd Felsche
March 21, 2011 3:43 am

Mikael Cronholm says:

@ Mike Nystrom. … I wish you luck, truly, to publish anything sensible in Sweden. I wonder where you think they would interested in anything that is more scientific than a horoscope?

First, things first … Mike should contact Pierre Gosselin (info at the NoTricksZone Blog) regarding the re-use of our translation of Peter Heller’s essay. Re-use is fine by me. Mike should keep in mind that a translation cannot perfectly reflect the original. I’m sure that you will appreciate that aspect. Pierre has Peter’s contact info. Peter seemed amenable to having a wider readership, in as many languages as possible.
Regarding the erm climate of debate in Sweden, it doesn’t look promising in the MSM that I get to see (and understand – my exposure to Swedish is about a month). But there are blogs such as Skeptical Swedish Scientists — the resistance underground. 😉
I hope that reason will prevail over idiots such as Sweden’s foreign minitstry which has advised Swedes within a 250 km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant to take Iodine tablets as a preventive measure. Swedish people must be immune to the complications of too much iodine intake — or their rulers government don’t care.
Last: Nicely argued Mikael about the availability of energy being essential to what saves a great many Japaneses people from earthquakes and Tsunamis. Prosperity so that people can enjoy nature, and not suffer under it.

Alexander K
March 21, 2011 3:55 am

Thanks, Dr Heller, for a wonderful piece of common sense and perspective. Unlike you, I have never thrilled to the stories told by the great scientists, or been entranced by the objects in our galaxy, but perhaps that may or may not show a flaw in my character. I continue to be thrilled, however, by the stories of the great inventors, the innovators, the explorers and the mapmakers from various cultures. I have always been intrigued by the thinkers and the builders, the scientists, engineers, draughtsmen, cartographers and artists, who lightened the burdens of heavy labour, disease, hunger and ignorance that Man has struggled with over the millennia. To me, the stories of the discoveries by Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Newcomen, Harrison, Watt, Diesel, Benz, Bell, Mendel, Crick and Watson are as thrilling as any adventure novel.
As a regular and enthusiastic reador of WUWT, I have been shocked by some of the extreme positions taken by some of the regular posters here, who over time have acquired the persona of old friends for me; some of those attitudes provide gloomy evidence that we haven’t advanced that much in our heads from the primitive struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and untruth, faith and the absence of faith.
At the moment, the disaster-obsessed voices of the MSM seem like a Greek chorus of evil; the maxim that ‘ truth sets us free’ seems a good one to follow right now, but the doom-mongers make it difficult to find the truth.
Posts such as Dr Hellers and the calm, matter-of-fact post from Anthony outlining the facts about radioactivity and its measurement point the way forward.
Lengthy reconstructions of the failures in Japanese engineering design are not incredibly helpful right now, particularly to the unfortunate Japanese who have suffered a double disaster of unimaginable proportions. As a Kiwi, I thought the Christchrch earthquake was bad, but I struggle to understand the magnitude of the events in Japan and the resultant level of devastation.

banjo
March 21, 2011 4:34 am

all that chernobyl stuff

Alexander Vissers
March 21, 2011 4:48 am

Really tricky stuff, radiation. Both the history of Marie Curie, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and conditions in Uranium ore mines have given radioactivity a bad name. Add the extreme toxicity of Plutonium and historic elevated levels of thyroid cancer in the proximity of nuclear facilities and you have a media winner. Media do not like people to play down issues but listen to whoever wants to boost the story to make it a news issue. Still what has happend and may happen in Fukushima is pretty dramatic. It reveals the significant risk associated with storing radiactive material in a concentrated site: the threat of a chain reaction is constantly luring. So yes, this disaster should trigger reflection on nuclear safety and deconcentration of radioactive material, it is distance, deconcentration, that makes nuclear material uncritical, to name just one of the fundamental designs issues to be thought over, another might be to add lead and tin alloy to the bottom of nuclear containers to mix with any molten radioactive fuel and prevent chain reactions from occurring.

Julian Braggins
March 21, 2011 4:54 am

I see that several posters have mentioned radiation hormesis, or the beneficial effect of low dose background radiation. This is an article that goes into detail of studies on the subject and the misinformation that has been used to support the Linear No-threshold Theory dose (LNT)
http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/nuclear.html?LNT%20Myth
I wish the Main Stream Media (MSM) would read (and understand and absorb) this, and stop unnecessarily alarming people who are far away from any possible harmful effects.

Theo Goodwin
March 21, 2011 4:54 am

James Sexton says:
March 20, 2011 at 6:04 pm
“Towards the irrational fear of nuclear melt down, I would remind people that we were reduced to cooling the damned things down with firetrucks. (I don’t believe this is optimal.) We didn’t get to an awwww damn, but we got pretty close. We live, we learn and we adapt.”
I want to emphasize that the hysteria in the MSM that was manifested in reporting on nuclear reactors in Japan is a real threat to our well being as citizens and to our nation’s interests. Surely, there is no genuine scientist who would argue that the reporting was not hysterical. Now, let us apply this lesson to the history of AGW. I believe that MSM reporting on AGW has been no less hysterical than its reporting on the tragedy in Japan. We all know that Al Gore and his movie are truly hysterical in their claims about AGW. So does Dr. Muller whose remarks about Gore are “satirical” at best. The scientific community really must pull back from the hysteria of the MSM and the Al Gores. Not pulling back is a serious moral error. Scientists may believe that global warming is happening and that billions must be spent on it right away, but no scientist can believe the hysterical claims put out by the MSM and Al Gore.

Theo Goodwin
March 21, 2011 5:07 am

On a related matter, if we permit high schools to teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as the truth then, inevitably, they are going to teach AGW as the truth.
I am not a proponent of teaching Creationism in high schools. However, we must teach Darwin with all the warts. If we do not then we are not teaching science. Science always comes with warts.
As an example, what is most likely Darwin’s greatest contribution to biology is the heuristic that sameness of morphology is the best evidence for common descent. This heuristic cannot be treated as a true physical hypothesis because it is false. There are creatures with almost identical morphology and no common ancestor. Every biologist recognizes these points. Yet all of Darwin is taught as true. Those who teach all of Darwin as true are not teaching science.

juanita
March 21, 2011 5:15 am

Star Trek 2, Wrath of Khan.
For Godsake Bones, why didn’t you tell Spock to take the Iodine tablets!?!

Mikael Cronholm
March 21, 2011 5:22 am

@ Bernd Felsche. The Swedish government chartered two aircraft to evacuate Swedish citizens from Japan. Apparently the citizens are smarter than the government, because the first plane left with 2 (one!!!) “nuclear refugee” on board and the next one had 14 people on it…
Imagine the service level when you are the only passenger on the plane! “How many dinners would you like, sir? Should I just park the drinks cart right here and you can just wave to me when you need a refill, OK?”
What an effing waste, though!!!

Stacy
March 21, 2011 5:23 am

A physisits would just be in the way. I am an engineer with 30 + years in commericial and Naval reactors I have begged my present employer to let me go.

mrjohn
March 21, 2011 5:25 am

“There’s no place on earth I would rather be right now than at Fukushima”
Sure buddy, try living in Tokyo right now with two small children.

wsbriggs
March 21, 2011 6:12 am

The Good Doctor strikes a chord in me. Those of you who’ve read science fiction stories written about a “protectorate” protecting the ignorant masses, will see, if you’re like me, the current state of ignorance in the world with a strong sense of deja vu.
Globally, if we don’t increase the number of more well rounded in our society, we’re headed for another dark period. The Renaissance Education ideal produces graduates knowledgeable in Math, Science, Chemistry, History, Geography, multiple Languages, and Art. The idea that anyone has a “General Education” with less than that is flat nonsense. The base idea of this education is that we live in a world which we need to understand, from atoms and their constituent parts, to the cosmos – Sciences. We need to be able to describe that world – in math, to others. We need to understand the nature of the planet on which we live, the ground below us – Tectonics and Petrography, the air around and above us – Climatology, where our foodstuffs grow – economic Geography, and where others live – Political Geography. We need to know what has happened in the past, that we might avoid committing mistakes in the future – History. And because we are communicating human beings, we need to understand symbolic representation and aural communication – Art and Languages.
The sad part for me, is that for a couple of centuries this was the holy grail of education. They’ve lost the path today. If we’re to clean up the mess that Science and the “Humanities” have become, we need to start cracking.

Stacey
March 21, 2011 6:32 am

One can only be horrified by the ignorance of the media and their trumpetting of untruths. Sadly a great part of it is that journalists generally have a poor understanding of science unless it fits their agenda and then they know all.

March 21, 2011 6:40 am

wayne says:
March 21, 2011 at 1:52 am
@ Walter Schneider
Massimo PORZIO says:
March 21, 2011 at 2:04 am
Abour Walter Schneider said on March 21, 2011 at 12:17 am
Both of you are probably correct. The figures of concern are most likely off by a factor of a thousand.. It was late when I made those comments and not thinking too clearly anymore. That will teach me.
I will have another look at the figures and will correct them where necessary, but I must leave right now and cannot make the required correction until I get back later towards evening.

Keith Battye
March 21, 2011 6:41 am

#
#
Dr. Dave says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm (Edit)
. . . “Darwinists stand a nearly equal chance at being wrong.”
Umm . . but no. Evolution is based on a fair amount of observation, measurement and , yes, logic.
Creationism is just faith. Nothing else.
That being said it is certainly time for Evolution 2.0 and the PC world we live in doesn’t even want to allow research into finding out if E 2.0 is likely. Personally I am happy in a world that evolves scientific thought and principles whereas Creationism/Intelligent design can’t do that because it is based entirely on faith, faith in a “creator” . The creator “is , was and always will be world without end”. That rather stops any further questioning.
Questioning evolution will bring dividends in expanded knowledge and if it is proved to be an inadequate explanation for natures diversity that doesn’t automatically “prove” Creationism to be true. Smash all shibboleths I say.

March 21, 2011 6:51 am

JimF says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:47 pm
Amino Acids (you’ve watched The Day after Tomorrow too many times)
You know, I did see it. I thought it was just Hollywood. And more of a chick flick than for guys.
So you think a 9.5 earthquake couldn’t happen with a 80 foot tsunami? Has an 80+ foot tsunami ever happened before? Cause I’m just wondering.

Pamela Gray
March 21, 2011 6:55 am

There is precious little difference between climatism and creationism. For those spouting one or the other, you live in the same kettle.

March 21, 2011 7:12 am

This comment is a replacement for the one I made March 21, 2011 at 12:17 am
That is because of a necessary correction that had to be made. The sentence,

Those values are the equivalent of the range from 631μSv/hr to 2,040μSv/hr, considerably higher than what would be normal levels of background radiation.

had to be replaced with the sentence,

Those values are the equivalent of the range from 0.631μSv/hr to 2.040μSv/hr, a little higher than what would be normal levels of background radiation.

Thanks to wayne and to Massimo PORZIO, for pointing out the error.
E Smith says:
March 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm

What are the radiation readings for Fukushima ? – They are censored.
However one area to the south is showing a recent dramatic rise.
ibaraki
2040 (0:5:50) 1635 (0:4:20) 639 (17:40 yesterday)
http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870

I did a bit of converting and normalizing.
1 milliGray = 0.001 sievert
1 microGray = 0.000001 sievert
1 nanoGray = 0.000000001 sievert
From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert#SI_multiples_and_conversions
Hourly dose examples
* Approximate radiation levels near Chernobyl reactor 4 and its fragments, shortly[clarification needed] after explosion are reported to be 10,000–300,000 mSv/hr
* Average individual background radiation dose: 0.23μSv/hr (0.00023mSv/hr); 0.17μSv/hr for Australians, 0.34μSv/hr for Americans[9][5][10]
From http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870
Ibaraki radiation levels: 63 – 86 nanoGray per hour (or 0.063μSv/hr to 0.086μSv/hr)
Keep in mind that Ibaraki the counters in Ibaraki are quite likely close to sea level, where natural background radiation would be much lower than in Colorado.
From http://www.radiationnetwork.com/
Radiation levels in Colorado (near Denver): ~24 – ~67 CPM (scintillation counts per minute, depending on location and elevation).
By my calculations:
1 CPM = 0.00926μSv/hr
24 CPM = 0.222μSv/hr (in Colorado)
63 CPM = 0.58338μSv/hr (in Colorado)
9.3 CPM = 0.086μSv/hr (in Ibaraki according to the map, at 2011 02 21 05:50 (JST))
12 CPM = 0.111μSv/hr (Vancouver)
10 CPM = 0,093μSv/hr (Texas)
The background radiation level at Ibaraki shown by the Japanase radiation map at http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870 is nothing out of the ordinary. It is slightly less than those for Vancouver or Texas.
However, the values shown in the table at the bottom of the map at http://www.targetmap.com/viewer.aspx?reportId=4870 for Ibaraki, Horiguchi Hitachinaka City are as follows:
Date and Time (JST) nGray/hr
2011 03 15 19:40 —1114
2011 03 15 23:00 —1065
2011 03 16 00:30 —1046
2011 03 16 03:10 —1030
2011 03 16 06:00 —2114
2011 03 16 17:40 —1044
2011 03 16 19:50 —1029
2011 03 16 23:50 —1011
2011 03 17 03:00 — 993
2011 03 17 16:40 — 881
2011 03 17 19:20 — 876
2011 03 17 21:40 — 872
2011 03 18 01:00 — 856
2011 03 18 03:00 — 847
2011 03 18 20:50 — 760
2011 03 19 01:00 — 749
2011 03 20 06:50 — 637
2011 03 20 08:40 — 631
2011 03 20 17:40 — 639
2011 03 21 04:20 —1635
2011 03 21 05:50 —2040
Those values are the equivalent of the range from 0.631μSv/hr to 2.040μSv/hr, a little higher than what would be normal levels of background radiation. Still, as of now no one knows for how long those levels will persist and whether at any point in time they will become dangerous.
It intrigues me that there is so much fear about possibly dangerous levels of radiation, but so little effort is being made to measure radiation on a regular basis and globally in many different places. Mind you, before we get to doing that, we should probably try to finish the other job, to try and come to grips with how to accurately measure temperatures. I doubt it that we can do that any time soon and that we will be able to do the much more difficult thing, measure radiation correctly in many different places without someone fudging the facts on that, too.
It is obvious from looking at the radiation map of Japan that the fudging and obfuscating is already in progress.

TRM
March 21, 2011 7:45 am

Here is a handy chart that I came across on slashdot
http://xkcd.com/radiation/
Keeps things in perspective

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 7:52 am

John Nelson says:
March 21, 2011 at 3:01 am
Peter Heller is right to be concerned about the rejection of rational thinking and scientific detachment in the debate about nuclear energy. He is wrong, however, to equate this with ‘creationism.’ The founders of modern science were all creationists: Bacon, Boyle, Pascal, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Steno, Jonathan Edwards, Dalton, Faraday, Joule, Kelvin, Maxwell and Pasteur to name a few.
It is the evolutionists who want to shut down debate, just as the AGW alarmists want to shut down sceptics. Biblical creationism is no less rational that naturalistic materialism; both proceed on certain presuppositions which are beyond empirical demonstration.
==================================================
Mr Lynn says:
March 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm
“Not to belabor the point, but the evolution of life forms on Earth is as much a fact as the existence of gravity ……..And that is but one example of the know-nothingism that Peter Heller decries, as the source of unwarranted and uninformed alarmism.”
/Mr Lynn
====================================================
And, Mr. Lynn, this comment is an example of what I decry.
Hmm, so the one that articulated the law of gravity, which you tout, seems to left behind when it comes to evolution. His writings on Optiks are illuminating. To equate evolutionary theory with the gravity law is a bit over the top, IMO. Mr. Lynn, I’ve read your comments in the past, again, in my opinion, they were a bit more cerebral than this offering. I would point out, the evolution and creationism aren’t necessarily exclusive, save for the word random. But then, I’ve never come to an understanding of the term randomly selective. It seems to be a bit of an oxymoron.
Because I may hold a different view, I am a “know-nothing”? Perhaps. Is that worse or better than a denigrator?
Perhaps, like other scientific posits, the problem isn’t the theory, but messaging?
James

beng
March 21, 2011 8:29 am

*****
Alexander Vissers says:
March 21, 2011 at 4:48 am
It reveals the significant risk associated with storing radioactive material in a concentrated site: the threat of a chain reaction is constantly luring.
*****
No, please educate yourself. The fuel rods are designed & manufactured so that cannot occur, no matter how close in contact. Melt, possibly, but no “chain reaction”.

Jim
March 21, 2011 8:44 am

So refreshing to see the difference between a true scientist like physicist Peter Heller and a scientit climate astrologer like James Hansen.
One faces science head on, the other indulges science fiction fantasy.
One courageous, the other frozen by fear & delusion.

Ryan
March 21, 2011 8:50 am

1] Can someone please remove the creationism/evolution discussion from this thread – it has no business being here and could quickly bring WUWT into disrepute. I’m not taking sides – just have that discussion elsewhere.
2] What has surprised me is the number of INTELLIGENT and WELL-EDUCATED adults that have been led to believe that Japan and China are about to be wiped off the map, were it not for the intervention of 50firemen who are at this moment melting away in the face of a half-dozen glowing reactors. It isn’t about education and intelligence. MOST people are HIGHLY suggestible – if someone “important” tells them something is true, they have a strong tendency to believe it. They will not engage their own brain to determine the facts but will leave the man on the telly to do it for them, without questioning.

March 21, 2011 8:50 am

James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 7:52 am
I would point out, the evolution and creationism aren’t necessarily exclusive, save for the word random. But then, I’ve never come to an understanding of the term randomly selective.
Mutations are random. Most are lethal. A few confer an advantage to the organism in its current environment. As the environment [or pressure from other organisms even better adapted] changes, the new species goes extinct. During the existence of the Earth more than 99% of all species have gone extinct. There is nothing ‘randomly selective’ about that. You also have a wrong appreciation of what a scientific ‘theory’ is. A theory is but a shorthand for a large body of facts.

G. Karst
March 21, 2011 9:10 am

Mike G. says:
March 20, 2011 at 10:37 am
“I went back from a planned 5 week vacation to help review the site’s severe accident management guidelines (SAMG). I’ll be back at it tomorrow.”
I am glad to see rapid assessment, in response to latest developments.
My advice, is to focus on plant protection from unanticipated flooding. You will be surprised to learn that none of our stations are adequately protected against flooding from external (ground, rain or tsunami). This is also true with internal flood events, such as LP service water breaks as well CCW and steam line breaks.
Much improvement has occurred at some stations, however there is much work to be performed at many others. SGs, whether CTUs or diesels and their fuel tanks are usually found in exposed locales. They must be protected at all costs, as well as the equipment they supply. I am one voice, who has been saying this for years. GK

harrywr2
March 21, 2011 9:12 am

Larry in Texas says:
March 20, 2011 at 11:26 pm
I would worry more about why they hadn’t considered changes to the design of the reactor that required external power in order to run the water pumps that cooled the reactors
Everything has a design basis. The door between a house and attached garage has a 1 hour burn thru, the beams in skyscraper are insulated to protect against a theoretical fire. It’s all about ‘buying time’ until corrective action can be taken.
Nuclear power plants once shut down need cooling.
There are normally 3 backup power supplies, grid, diesel and batteries. For a period of time cooling can be accomplish with a residual steam cooling circuit.
8 fossil plants got taken out in the Earthquake/Tsunami.
It would also appear that the diesels ingested water while running which would mean a broken crankshaft, forget repairing them.
The batteries were sized at 8 hours which would be more then enough time in ‘normal’ circumstances to either repair the diesels or reestablish grid power.
In hindsight, 8 hours to reestablish grid power and/or repair the diesels appears inadequate.

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 9:27 am

Ryan says:
March 21, 2011 at 8:50 am
1] Can someone please remove the creationism/evolution discussion from this thread – it has no business being here and could quickly bring WUWT into disrepute. I’m not taking sides – just have that discussion elsewhere.
=======================================
Read the post. Dr. Heller, himself, put the question forward.

March 21, 2011 9:35 am

James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 9:27 am
Read the post. Dr. Heller, himself, put the question forward.
No, he did not pose that as a question, but held it as an example of ‘ignorance and cowardice’:
“There were times in history when ignorance and cowardice overshadowed human life. It was a time when our ancestors were forced to lead a life filled with superstition and fear because it was forbidden to use creativity and fantasy. Religious dogma, like the earth being the centre of the universe, or creationism, forbade people to question. “

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 9:41 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 8:50 am
“Mutations are random. Most are lethal. A few confer an advantage to the organism in its current environment. As the environment [or pressure from other organisms even better adapted] changes, the new species goes extinct. During the existence of the Earth more than 99% of all species have gone extinct. There is nothing ‘randomly selective’ about that. You also have a wrong appreciation of what a scientific ‘theory’ is. A theory is but a shorthand for a large body of facts.”
============================================
Hmm, Leif, I do understand the what theory means in science and mathematics. Still, I would draw a distinction between the law of gravity and the theory of evolution. Something about being demonstrable from start to finish, but I digress.
To repeat one of your assertions, “There is nothing ‘randomly selective’ about that.” …………. Let me try to articulate that thought in ways many can understand, including myself……………… I’ve got it!!
Yes, species selection through random genetic mutations. There is nothing selectively random about that.
I think Orwell can explain this much better than myself. Part 2 Chapt 9.
James

G. Karst
March 21, 2011 9:53 am

harrywr2 says:
“In hindsight, 8 hours to reestablish grid power and/or repair the diesels appears inadequate.”
When a station is depending on battery power, it is already in deep do-do. ANY event which necessitates lengthy battery power is a disaster in progress. If key equipment has been flooded there is no return of that equipment until much later. A broken service water line can take out an entire bank of converters and inverters. This renders emergency power moot. There are hundreds of other examples.
The complete answer is to environmentally protect ALL emergency equipment, from calamitous flooding by water or steam. GK

Mikael Cronholm
March 21, 2011 10:00 am

@ James Sexton. You are right. He did mention creationism. He dismissed it in a paragraph titled “Dark times in history”. That does not look like an invite. Religious discussions are quite tedious to wade through in a scientific context. So I agree. I don’t think it has any business here.

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 10:01 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 9:35 am
James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 9:27 am
Read the post. Dr. Heller, himself, put the question forward.
No, he did not pose that as a question, but held it as an example of ‘ignorance and cowardice’:
========================================
Sorry, Leif, that’s a fine distinction and really isn’t worthy of comment other than, when drivel such as this is put forward, what is entirely ignorant, is the expectation that someone wouldn’t respond. So, it was indeed put forth by Dr. Heller.

Mikael Cronholm
March 21, 2011 10:10 am

On the issue of backup power at Fukushima. My understanding is that the diesel gen-sets did start up normally, but that the water intakes were damaged and/or clogged up with all the dirt that the tsunami left behind. My suggestion to solve that problem would be to use gas turbines instead. They can possibly be placed on the roof of the building or somewhere else where it is safe, if that is not possible. They need no cooling except the intake air and air-to-liquid coolers for subsystems, like lube oil and such. Light weight, reliable, come in all sizes. Every commercial jet has a tiny one in the back, the APU. From there you can go up to hunderds of MW.
Large water tanks at high elevation was a good suggestion I saw for keeping a supply of spare cooling water.

John Luft
March 21, 2011 10:10 am

So consider this……virtually every commercial passenger airplane crash in the last 60 years has resulted in far more deaths than even among the front line emergency workers at Chernobyl….yet aircraft continue to be built and aircraft accidents continue to be investigated and improvements made. If the same “logic” employed by the anti-nuclear crowd were applied to the aircraft industry, we would be earth-bound forever.

Ian W
March 21, 2011 10:13 am

Would it not be possible to call a teleconference of the various news organizations’ anchors including Reuters and AP. Set it up as a public webinar perhaps and provide them Nuclear Physics 101 to show how “it exposes the unfounded interpretations of scientific illiterates in the media.”. I feel being publicly shown to be totally illiterate on the news that they are misleadingly reporting might be a salutary lesson that may improve reporting in the future.
If they can be so ignorant and misleading on issues that can be easily validated – how much more misleading are they on issues that we have to trust them on?

Ryan
March 21, 2011 10:15 am

By the way I see that some have claimed here that the tsunami wave was 10m high. From what I have seen of TV footage the wave was about as long as a car i.e. about 5m. That’s high enough to reach the roof of a bungalow. See the footage here and watch for the car and van as they get pushed over the sea wall:-
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12786619

Jon
March 21, 2011 10:16 am

REPLY: yeah, sure, whatever. TMI was a failure of humans and technology, Fukishima was a result of an act of nature, big diff. – Anthony
Sticking a nuclear power plant in such a seismically active area is definitely a failure of humans!
REPLY: Yeah, sure, on the moon then right? That’s really the goal here, to get nuclear power off the planet. For that matter, power of all kinds except unreliable wind/sun – Anthony

March 21, 2011 10:17 am

James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 9:41 am
Still, I would draw a distinction between the law of gravity and the theory of evolution. Something about being demonstrable from start to finish, but I digress.
Theory of gravity or law of evolution? When Newton formulated the theory of gravity it was not demonstrable ‘from start to finish’. No mechanism was put forward. Many of his contemporaries questioned this ‘action at a distance’. The theory held because of its explanatory powers. Same thing for the theory of evolution. Modern physics does not make sense without the theory of gravitation [incl. Einsteins refinement] as modern biology does not make sense with the theory of evolution. Both theories are shorthands for an overwhelming body of facts. Rather than this being a question about religion, it is a question of what constitutes a ‘theory’. Creationism lacks the explanatory power of evolution, because the nature and rules for the ‘non-randomness’ are left unexplained and unspecified. As simple as that.

March 21, 2011 10:21 am

Remarkable!:
I am a physicist. My wish is to live in a world that is willing to learn and to improve whatever is good. I would only like to live in a world where great strides in physics are viewed with fascination, pride, and hope because they show us the way to a better future. I would only like to live in a world that has the courage for a better world. Any other world for me is unacceptable. Never. That’s why I am going to fight for this world, without ever relenting.
…Not the world of fools, believing in the Gaia “cargo cult” and its malthusian accolites.
This is the choice: Back to pre-history, following the self-designated shamans of the human tribe, (just about to gather at Manaus, Brazil, in the middle of the Amazonian jungle), or way ahead to the future, to a healthy and ever struggling for progress rational humanity.

Jeff B.
March 21, 2011 10:31 am

Good luck with that. Leftists I know are ruled by emotion. They respond to empty rhetoric like “hope and change” instead of action. They are uninformed, prone to groupthink due to their collectivist ideologies, and easily lead by the media. They just feel that nuclear power is dangerous, no matter the facts.

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 10:35 am

Mikael Cronholm says:
March 21, 2011 at 10:00 am
@ James Sexton. You are right. He did mention creationism. He dismissed it in a paragraph titled “Dark times in history”. That does not look like an invite. Religious discussions are quite tedious to wade through in a scientific context. So I agree. I don’t think it has any business here.
====================================
First, see my response to Leif.
In my view, statements such as Dr. Heller’s should always be challenged. It is that it wasn’t for so long that people get disconcerted when the subject is broached now. For the record, from time to time, these conversations occur @ WUWT. And, for the record, I haven’t discussed religion. But given some peoples’ view of evolution, I suppose we could call it a religion. I don’t apologize for viewing the evolution theory as wanting in regards to the original question. And, when having these views describe as “ignorant” or an example of “cowardice”, I will always respond.
I can’t help but wonder what Newton would think of all of this.
James

P.Laini
March 21, 2011 10:38 am

Hi, Smoking Frog (March 21, 2011 at 3:03 am )
Let’s easy your job… As I sad, just as an introduction to those topics, and not only about Galileo, I indicated the author Tom Woods, a very well Known and respected one, and not the other two authors. In his site you can find his bibliography. Look for “How the Catholic Church built Western civilization“, http://bit.ly/brQ0Wd. Here you can read parts of it: http://bit.ly/eH5cOP, and in youtube you can find some videos with the same title of the book.
Not by chance, in this book you will find some references to Stanley Jaki, very well indicated by Ronald Van Wegen (March 20, 2011 at 9:37 pm).
Regards
P.S.:
For those who may interest, some other books are great sources to correct some preconceptions about the Church and science, and to show how disinformation spreads:
John W. O’Malley, org., The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and The Arts, 1540-1773, 2 vols., University of Toronto Press
Mordecai Feingold, org., Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters, MIT Press
Elizabeth Noëlle-Neumann, The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion, Our Social Skin (The University of Chicago Press)

Jerry
March 21, 2011 10:41 am

Sorry, Leif, that’s a fine distinction and really isn’t worthy of comment other than, when drivel such as this is put forward, what is entirely ignorant, is the expectation that someone wouldn’t respond. So, it was indeed put forth by Dr. Heller.
____________________________________________________
Are you really arguing that religious dogma didn’t prevent scientific inquiry in the middle ages? It would appear that Dr. Heller’s comments were specific to the point that certain things were beyond questioning.

Theo Goodwin
March 21, 2011 10:41 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 8:50 am
“You also have a wrong appreciation of what a scientific ‘theory’ is. A theory is but a shorthand for a large body of facts.”
One purpose of hypotheses is to specify the observations that are possible. The number of observable data is infinite. The hypotheses specify them by implying them. Hypotheses give us an intuitive and manageable way of specifying the infinity of observable facts.
Another purpose of hypotheses is to explain the observable facts. When some set of initial conditions are combined with some set of hypotheses deductions can be made of facts that can be found to exist in the future. The hypotheses describe the natural regularities which have the predicted observable facts as instances. Hypotheses explain the predicted facts by showing that they are instances of natural regularities. Both predicted observable facts and natural regularities are facts, though natural regularities are on probation as long as the hypotheses that describe them are actually used for prediction.
And, from above, another purpose of hypotheses is prediction. Hypotheses are necessary to make the deductions from existing observable facts that we call predictions.
Something is called a theory because it is a collection of hypotheses that has proved especially useful, because it has attained some renown over some period of time, or for similar reasons. You can also call such a set of hypotheses “facts” as long as you keep in mind that you are talking about general statements that might yet prove to yield a false prediction.

March 21, 2011 11:04 am

Theo Goodwin says:
March 21, 2011 at 10:41 am
Something is called a theory because it is a collection of hypotheses that has proved especially useful, because it has attained some renown over some period of time, or for similar reasons. You can also call such a set of hypotheses “facts” as long as you keep in mind that you are talking about general statements that might yet prove to yield a false prediction.
The distinction is not that ‘it has attained some renown’, but that the theory is a useful shorthand [a way of describing very many things with very few statements] for a large body of facts as the facts are know at this time. Should enough new facts be discovered, the theory would be abandoned and possibly replaced by a better theory. The notion that a theory has been ‘proven’ is nonsense. Creationism [in the weak form discussed here – i.e. no creation in 6 days, no young earth, and all the rest] could be a elevated to a theory if the non-randomness [that some people latch on to] could be formalized: who or what determines when a non-random event should happen and under which circumstances. No such explanation that is amenable to testing for its predictive capability is known to my knowledge. Many other pseudo-scientific notions, e.g. astrological planetary influences, electric universe, NAP, etc, suffer from the same problem.

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 11:08 am

Jerry says:
March 21, 2011 at 10:41 am
Sorry, Leif, that’s a fine distinction and really isn’t worthy of comment other than, when drivel such as this is put forward, what is entirely ignorant, is the expectation that someone wouldn’t respond. So, it was indeed put forth by Dr. Heller.
____________________________________________________
“Are you really arguing that religious dogma didn’t prevent scientific inquiry in the middle ages?” —– No, that isn’t what I’m arguing. I would have thought that clear by my several posts.
” It would appear that Dr. Heller’s comments were specific to the point that certain things were beyond questioning.”
Yes, it certainly appears that way. But, is it “were” or “are”? <————- This is exactly my point and how it is relevant to both the submission of Dr. Heller and the general climate discussion.
Dr. Heller bemoans the fact that some things weren't allowed to be questioned. All at the same time inferring there are things he doesn't believe should be questioned. He attached words like "ignorance" and "cowardice" to such a thought. Today, we hear the same arguments from climate alarmists.

March 21, 2011 11:21 am

James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:08 am
Dr. Heller bemoans the fact that some things weren’t allowed to be questioned.
Is your version of Creationism allowed to be questioned? I.e. are 90% of the mutations random and only some of the rest ‘guided’? does evolution work 99% of the time and only at some rare crucial time [Adam and Eve, perhaps] is a ‘higher’ guidance at work? As I understand it Creationism is an all or nothing proposition and if you are a believer cannot be subject to doubt. Perhaps I’m wrong on this. You tell me.

Mike Restin
March 21, 2011 11:22 am

“Bob Barker says:
March 20, 2011 at 12:24 pm
It amazes me that so many people, who think that it is impossible for human kind to effectively manage nuclear power development and production, have no trouble believing that effective worldwide CO2 mitigation is just a matter of will with only minor technical and economic challanges and inconveniences along the way.”
I could not agree more.
Boggles the mind.
Way OT: I need an app for an android to replace google earth.
Know of any?

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 11:56 am

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:21 am
James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:08 am
Dr. Heller bemoans the fact that some things weren’t allowed to be questioned.——
Is your version of Creationism allowed to be questioned?
==============================================
Of course it is allowed. And it has been questioned. The Father of freedom allows you to be wrong. It isn’t for me or anyone else to attempt to take that freedom.
“History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”—— Edward Gibbons.
That we should learn from history and not repeat the same crimes, follies, and misfortunes would be an assertion I don’t question.
It is the height of hubris and hypocrisy that we bemoan the fact that we are ridiculed and slurred for questioning the dogma of climate science in one hand all the while slurring and ridiculing others for questioning a different dogma in the other.

G. Karst
March 21, 2011 12:01 pm

Anthony:
Cannot a thread be created, titled:
“Religious and Scientific Dogma – Pros and Con” so that members who feel it is vital to discuss these topics, will have a thread to do so? It’s not that I don’t find such discussions interesting. It is just that they tend to distract discussion from the topic at hand. Just a suggestion. GK

Zeke the Sneak
March 21, 2011 12:02 pm

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:04 am
“No such explanation that is amenable to testing for its predictive capability is known to my knowledge. Many other pseudo-scientific notions, e.g. astrological planetary influences, electric universe, NAP, etc, suffer from the same problem.”
Would you care to clarify this statement? Most readers will naturally assume that you have made a full investigation because of your position as a PhD in heliophysics, etc..However the fact is, very specific predictions have been made and confirmed, using simple electrical principles as applied to comets and planets as charged bodies moving in an electric field. Your statements are inaccurate as they stand, until you care to demonstrate that you have specific Electric Universe predictions in mind which have not come to pass. On the contrary, Wal Thornhill was the only scientist on the planet to accurately describe what would happen when Deep Impact struck the comet Tempel One with a copper projectile. He did so in great detail. He also predicted that Saturn’s north pole would be hot, despite receiving no sunlight for fifteen years. The predictions are accompanied by cogent explanations using lab observations of z-pinch particle beams.
“The Electric Universe predicts, experimentum crucis, that BOTH poles should be hot, not one hot and the other cold.” That extraordinary prediction was confirmed in a report in Science on Jan 4. Such unusual predictions have become a hallmark of the Electric Universe paradigm and establish it as a first class theory.”

The iceman cometh
March 21, 2011 12:21 pm

All are chastened by the recent events in Japan. How was it possible for whole towns to be swept away before our very eyes? How could the model of a modern high-speed railway have disappeared with all its passengers? Or a cruise liner with its hundred tourists? What was a fishing boat doing, sailing across the fields and overtaking a doomed pantechnicon? How could a nuclear reactor have had its safety compromised, threatening to contaminate the region with radioactivity?
Japanese engineers have mastered earthquakes to a high degree. Tokyo emerged essentially unscathed from a tremor 8 000 times stronger than that which levelled Christchurch only a few weeks before. Yes, the high rise buildings rocked and rolled, but they did not collapse. The nuclear reactors went into a safe shutdown, just as they were supposed to. But power lines and many other services failed, so there is more work for the engineers to do, to make the infrastructure earthquake proof.
The real problem was the tsunami. We did not understand its possible magnitude. We had not realised that Aceh was merely a sneak preview. We had forgotten that, in 1883, Krakatoa caused waves 35m above normal sea level. In 1958, at Lituya Bay in Alaska, a wave reached 516m as a result of a landslide triggered by an earthquake of magnitude 8.3.
And you should not think that it is only around the Ring of Fire, the shores of the Pacific, that tsunamis strike. In 1751, an earthquake destroyed Lisbon, and the ruins caught alight. The citizens fled to the banks of the River Tagus to avoid the blaze. An estimated 20 000 died when the tsunami roared up the river.
Japan has already spent billions of dollars on anti-tsunami seawalls. They line at least 40 percent of its coastline and are up to 12 meters high. However, the March 11 tsunami washed over the top of many walls, and caused some to collapse.
Critically, it washed over the seawall at Fukushima Daiichi, a nuclear power plant. When the earthquake struck, the reactors were immediately shut down. The earthquake broke the power lines, but the emergency generators kicked in to keep the essential cooling water flowing. But 55 minutes after the earthquake, the tsunami arrived, flooded the generators for four of the six reactors, and stopped the cooling of those reactor cores. Two of the staff, who were presumably outside the reactor buildings at the time, have disappeared.
The seawalls held the tsunami at bay at the remaining two of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, at the four Fukushima Daini reactors next door, and at the three Onagawa reactors further up the coast, even closer to the centre of the earthquake. All these reactors shut down safely, the emergency generators kept functioning, and they will almost certainly be started up again.
All four of the reactors that lost emergency cooling have suffered catastrophic damage. There has been some release of radioactivity into the surrounding environment. The release has been far less that at Chernobyl, which in turn was far less than the radioactivity spread around the globe by the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
The catastrophic damage was caused by explosions of gaseous hydrogen. Many metals react with water when they are very hot, and the reaction produces hydrogen. This caused a build-up of pressure in the reactors. The operators took the decision to reduce the pressure, by releasing the gas along with some radioactivity into the secondary containment building. The hydrogen-air mixture then exploded and destroyed the secondary containment.
It is a miracle that no-one was killed in these explosions. When the building round Reactor 1 exploded, four people were injured, none seriously. When the hydrogen from Reactor 3 blew up, eleven were injured, one of whom had to be hospitalized. None were injured in the explosions that destroyed the buildings around Reactors 2 and 4. To prevent build-up of hydrogen in the Reactors 5 and 6, the owners have improved the ventilation of the secondary containment.
The workers trying to bring the plants under control are being exposed to significant quantities of radiation. The Japanese Government has just raised the limit to 250 millisieverts per worker. To put this in context, most of us are exposed annually to about 5 millisieverts from natural sources. A single whole-body dose of 5 000 millisieverts will kill half the population, but the death rate falls off rapidly below that level. It is unlikely that any of the workers will suffer serious consequences from their exposure.
The radioactivity that has been released is detectable in food grown within 30km of the failed reactors. The activity is primarily that from the iodine isotope I131, half of which disappears every 8 days. The releases are dropping as cooling is restored, which means that the food grown in that region will be safe within about 2 ½ months, if no further significant releases occur.
At this stage, the only deaths that have occurred at the damaged reactors appear to be those who were swept away by the tsunami. This is the essential message. We should be absolutely terrified of tsunamis. They are far worse than earthquakes, in the loss of life and destruction of property they cause. They are far, far worse than any nuclear disaster.
We have to learn from our mistakes. We need to bolster our defences against tsunamis. We can now do a pretty good job of designing against earthquakes. And the recent events have shown that most nuclear reactors can survive that greatest of cataclysms called a tsunami. Some reactors were compromised, but the fix is obvious.

James Sexton
March 21, 2011 12:23 pm

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:21 am
As I understand it Creationism is an all or nothing proposition and if you are a believer cannot be subject to doubt. Perhaps I’m wrong on this. You tell me.
===============================================
And, now we are veering into a different realm, atypical from what is usually here. But I feel compelled to answer this part of your question, and I’ll leave it at this.
Leif, you’re conflating two different levels of thought. Which, given the views expressed by Dr. Heller, yourself and others, it isn’t surprising. The history has left a horrible mark. Scientific inquiry typically, as I understand it, teaches us to question most everything. And to attempt to explain why things are the way they are.
To hold a belief of any kind, without any doubt, requires no scientific explanation, but rather, faith instead. I do not gain my faith from any science. And I don’t come to an understanding of science by faith.
Cheers.

March 21, 2011 12:32 pm

James Sexton says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:56 am
all the while slurring and ridiculing others for questioning a different dogma in the other.
I take it you mean the dogma of Creationism. It is also clear that discussion on this is fruitless. I asked for specifics and all I get are banal generalities.

March 21, 2011 12:35 pm

Zeke the Sneak says:
March 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm
until you care to demonstrate that you have specific Electric Universe predictions in mind which have not come to pass.
The most blatant error is the EU assertion that the Sun is powered from the outside rather than from nuclear fusion in the core.

Theo Goodwin
March 21, 2011 12:42 pm

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm
James Sexton says:
“I take it you mean the dogma of Creationism. It is also clear that discussion on this is fruitless. I asked for specifics and all I get are banal generalities.”
There are some very talented people who publish as Creationists. What they try to do is develop measures of complexity for various parts of reality including various kinds of protein molecules and you name it. Then they argue that random selection could not produce the level of complexity found in the protein or whatever. Developing measures of complexity is actually sort of interesting at times and might prove valuable. However, I have not actually studied it and will probably not have time to. As for their efforts regarding Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, they want to show that it is improbable. This effort is not something that has interested me. That is all I know.

Theo Goodwin
March 21, 2011 12:52 pm

G. Karst says:
March 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm
“Anthony: Cannot a thread be created, titled:
“Religious and Scientific Dogma – Pros and Con” so that members who feel it is vital to discuss these topics, will have a thread to do so? It’s not that I don’t find such discussions interesting. It is just that they tend to distract discussion from the topic at hand. Just a suggestion. GK”
Actually, you are off topic. The topic of Heller’s essay is set forth very clearly here:
“But over the recent days I have grown concerned that we are headed again for such dark times. Hysterical and sensationalist media reporting, paired with a remarkably stark display of ignorance of technical and scientific interrelations, and the attempt by a vast majority of journalists to fan the public’s angst and opposition to nuclear energy – pure witch-burning disguised as modernity.”
The topic of Heller’s essay is thought control as manifested in the insanely hysterical behavior of the MSM in reporting on the Japanese tsunami. They are exercising thought control through a rabid campaign against nuclear energy. I, among others, have been criticizing thought control in the areas of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Creationism. If your topic is not thought control, you are in the wrong forum. However, be my guest. We are all adults and can determine when a post does not address the desired topic.

March 21, 2011 12:56 pm

Theo Goodwin says:
March 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Then they argue that random selection could not produce the level of complexity found in the protein or whatever.
The notion of ‘random selection’ is completely wrong. The mutations are random, the selection is extremely directed [not random] as determined by the environment and the competition for resources. If the mutation does not help in that respect, it is not selected. If the mutation gives a calf on the steppe fins rather than legs, the calf dies.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, they want to show that it is improbable.
A good book by Richard Dawkins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climbing_Mount_Improbable takes care of that argument.

Zeke the Sneak
March 21, 2011 1:18 pm

Dr S, as an authority you have made a statement about the lack of testable predictions in Electric Universe theory. I presented two predictions which were confirmed by observations in space. If you were not aware of these successful predictions, you have made an error and need to correct it. Otherwise, it will give the unfortunate appearance to all here that you utilized your academic authority to class EU with astrology, without having familiarized yourself about the predictive power of electrical interpretations of energetic events in the solar system.
Again, it was predicted that when the comet Tempel 1 struck the copper projectile placed in its path, the following phenomena would be observed:
1. There would be a bright flash from an electrical arc before the projectile hit the surface of the rocky body – this occured, and swamped the sensors on the spacecraft
2. Jets on the comet would be moved: “The discharge would initiate a new jets on the nucleus (which will be collimated – filamentary – not sprayed out) and could even abruptly change the positions and intensities of other jets due to the sudden change in charge distribution of the comet nucleus.”
3. There would be more than one crater formed by the impact
None of these are explainable by current “dirty snowball” or “rubble aggregate” comet theories held by NASA.

Theo Goodwin
March 21, 2011 1:24 pm

Leif Svalgaard says:
March 21, 2011 at 11:04 am
“The distinction is not that ‘it has attained some renown’, but that the theory is a useful shorthand [a way of describing very many things with very few statements] for a large body of facts as the facts are know at this time.”
I can accept this. However, I do worry that you might say that String Theory is not a theory. I would say that it is a theory but not the accepted theory, not our “useful shorthand for cosmology.”
“Should enough new facts be discovered, the theory would be abandoned and possibly replaced by a better theory.”
It might happen that an old theory can be retained as a special case of a new theory, as Kepler’s Laws of Motion are deducible from Newton’s Theory of Gravity. It is always possible that future observation will prove a theory false.
“The notion that a theory has been ‘proven’ is nonsense.” Right. I did not suggest that.
“Creationism [in the weak form discussed here – i.e. no creation in 6 days, no young earth, and all the rest] could be a elevated to a theory if the non-randomness [that some people latch on to] could be formalized: who or what determines when a non-random event should happen and under which circumstances. No such explanation that is amenable to testing for its predictive capability is known to my knowledge.”
Yes. Agreed.
The bottom line for me is that I do not like to talk about theories in the common way, as if it were one big concept. It is not possible to do critical work on Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. I prefer to break them down into individual hypotheses and discuss those. In other words, I have no criticisms of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution but I have some major criticisms of individual hypotheses. Finally, my point in all this is just to say that science should be presented as science, as a work in progress that is usually messy, but not as the truth.

March 21, 2011 1:25 pm

Zeke the Sneak says:
March 21, 2011