The negligent promotion of nuclear panic

New York Daily News - March 16th, 2011

It pains me to see large parts of the media still hyperventilating over the very modest amounts of radioactive material coming from the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the east coast of Japan.

Nothing has been made more plain that most journalists and editors have no ability to evaluate risk, especially when it comes to radioactive measurements in very unfamiliar units (millisieverts anyone?). Everything they appear to know about radioactivity appears to come from poorly understood science reports and 1950s era B-movies.

You wouldn’t know from the coverage that that very same reactor survived a truly massive earthquake and a towering tsunami with barely a scratch even though it was built around 40 years ago in the expectation of surviving much lesser events.

You wouldn’t know that Japanese people are struggling to survive in the bitter cold, while coming to terms with the loss of family members, friends and entire neighbourhoods. You won’t hear that some survivors are being housed in other nuclear plants, everything else having been washed away.

Witness the BBC reporting today:

Japan nuclear plant: Radioactivity rises in sea nearby

The BBC’s Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the Japanese government has tried to reassure people about the plant’s safety

Levels of radioactive iodine in the sea near the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant are 1,250 times higher than the safety limit, officials say.

The readings were taken about 300m (984ft) offshore. It is feared the radiation could be seeping into groundwater from one of the reactors.

But the radiation will no longer be a risk after eight days, officials say.

There are areas of radioactive water in four of the reactors at the plant, and two workers are in hospital.

The plant’s operator says the core of one of the six reactors may have been damaged.

It has announced that fresh water rather than seawater will now be used to cool the damaged reactors, in the hope that this will be more effective.

Why eight days? Because that’s the half-life of radioactive iodine. But that’s not what you find out from the BBC.

What of those two workers in hospital? Sounds serious doesn’t it?

Not all of the media are so poorly informed. The Register’s Louis Page has produced some well-researched articles which go a long way to explaining what is really happening:

The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan was brought under control days ago. It remains the case as this is written that there have been no measurable radiological health consequences among workers at the plant or anybody else, and all indications are that this will remain the case. And yet media outlets around the world continue with desperate, increasingly hysterical and unscrupulous attempts to frame the situation as a crisis.

Here’s a roundup of the latest facts, accompanied by highlights of the most egregious misreporting.

First up, three technicians working to restore electrical power in the plant’s No 3 reactor building stood in some water while doing so. Their personal dosimetry equipment later showed that they had sustained radiation doses up to 170 millisievert. Under normal rules when dealing with nuclear powerplant incidents, workers at the site are permitted to sustain up to 250 millisievert before being withdrawn. If necessary, this can be extended to 500 millisievert according to World Health Organisation guidance.

None of this involves significant health hazards: actual radiation sickness is not normally seen until a dose of 1,000 millisievert and is not common until 2,000. Additional cancer risk is tiny: huge numbers of people must be subjected to such doses in order to see any measurable health consequences. In decades to come, future investigators will almost certainly be unable to attribute any cases of cancer to service at Fukushima.

Nonetheless, in the hyper-cautious nuclear industry, any dose over 100 millisievert is likely to cause bosses to pull people out at least temporarily. Furthermore, the three workers had sustained slight burns to their legs as a result of standing in the radioactive water – much as one will burn one’s skin by exposing it to the rays of the sun (a tremendously powerful nuclear furnace). They didn’t even notice these burns until after completing their work. Just to be sure, however, the three were sent for medical checks.

So – basically nothing happened. Three people sustained injuries equivalent to a mild case of sunburn. But this was reported around the globe as front-page news under headlines such as “Japanese Workers Hospitalized for Excessive Radiation Exposure”. Just to reiterate: it was not excessive.

The entire article is well worth reading

But panic sells (as readers of WUWT are well aware), and sober analysis of scientific fact is nowhere near as exciting or is likely to spread like wildfire across the Internet.

No-one will die from radiation from Fukushima. No-one will mutate or develop super-powers. Godzilla will not rise from the sea and destroy Tokyo, except in cinemas.

It’s my view that the world deserves better than this. The real plight of the Japanese survivors of the earthquake and tsunami is being forgotten in the service of a bizarre fear about radiation that is more science fiction than science fact.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Sam Patterson

Here are people using the term “Worse than Chernobyl”:


Could someone explain why any climate skeptic should advocate nuclear power?
Even if one comes to believe that is normal and healthy to get irradiated when things go wrong, the nuke power is still not viable for economic reasons. It is much more expensive than coal for power generation.
Why not fall back on coal? Is it because continuing CO2 emissions will bring about a climate catastrophe?

L Nettles

From the UK “Build a Nuclear Power Plant in my Underpants”

Brian H

The burns were, according to one semi-hysterical report, due to “beta radiation”. For the folks at home, that’s electrons. Mild electrical burns, sort of. A soothing salve is recommended.


One of the more amusing falsities i read (in German as well as in English language media) was that the Fukushima reactor damaged was a hundred times more powerful than the one at Chernobyl…

Lonnie E. Schubert

Thank you for the sanity check, Anthony.


Anthony, you and me both….
The “news” has just made me sick, not one word about the real tragedy – the people!
Their lives have been completely destroyed.

Simcoe surfer

I thought 400miliseverts was the low reading before poisoning started? 1000-2000 seems high? Really high, like dead?


I’m intrigued that neither the media, the Japanese regulatory folks,
or TEPCO are not reporting on the uranium or uranium/plutonium
decay product isotope sister of iodine and cesium: Strontium 90.
It has a half life of 28.8 years.
All three are products of fission reaction in nuclear power generation.
According to Wikipedia:

It [Strontium 90] is present in significant amount in spent nuclear fuel and in radioactive waste from nuclear reactors…”



sHx says:
March 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm
“Could someone explain why any climate skeptic should advocate nuclear power?
Even if one comes to believe that is normal and healthy to get irradiated when things go wrong, the nuke power is still not viable for economic reasons. It is much more expensive than coal for power generation.
Why not fall back on coal? Is it because continuing CO2 emissions will bring about a climate catastrophe?”
sHx, here in Germany, tomorrow (on Sunday – technically that is today as it’s 4 a.m. here) the Greens will probably get into a government coalition in Badem-Württemberg, probably with 25% of the votes, stronger than the oldest socialist party, the SPD. Think Australia only much, much worse. They used the Fukushima affair to get this high.
Now, they might manage to get about 3 or 4 nukes in BW switched off, no big deal, that’s at most 4 GW. But, you know, the thing is that they have opposed all new coal-fired plants in the past as well and might well start to go after the existing ones once they finished off the nukes. They are, after all, not only anti-nuclear, but they are also the ones who sent the Greenshirt delegations to COP15. Coal provides 40% of our electricity.
So, at least in Germany, the movement against nuclear power is also against coal power. Where does that leave an industrialized nation? In the dark. Earth Hour year round. (Yes, we will have electricity from time to time. Not necessarily when we need it, though – wind and solar.)
The tactics these people use are never based on informing the public but on fear-mongering. Nuclear Power = deadly radiation; Coal Power = deadly AGW. So, it’s the same fight and the same enemy.


I still get the Chicago Sun-Times delivered every day.
Todays headline:
Radioactive contamination may be worse than first thought at devastated nuclear plant (in smaller type).
Some selected excerpts:
“A possible breach”
“Two workers suffered skin burns after wading into water 10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found in water in or near a reactor”
The article plays up the breach angle, with ground water contamination a possible result.
Circulation of the newspaper is about 250,000 on a Saturday.

mike g

@ sHx:
CO2 aside, coal power is dirty. There is SO2, NOx, etc. All this is expensive to clean. Most of the coal plants have minimal pollution controls for this stuff. As such, they operate under EPA granfathering. Many are being sued for violating new source review requirements because they upgraded without adding best available scrubbing technology.
And, then there is Hg. It may not be possible to get the level of Hg emitted by coal plants down to what the EPA deems safe. Meaning there is no way to license a new coal plant, especially under the current EPA.
And, the Chinese don’t give a rats arse about SO2, NOx, Hg, etc. So, every nuclear plant they build means we all get to breathe a little easier in the rest of the world. And they are building them by the boatload, as many as 50-100 planned for the next 10 years. Try telling them they are uneconomical.


Media: If it bleeds it leads.
Politician/Savior : More fear = more votes
Connect the dots.

mike g

Where have we seen mention of Strontium-90? Oh yeah, all our lives we’ve heard of it being left over from all the above ground nuclear weapons testing. We’re probably not hearing a lot about Sr-90 because any new traces of it that might come from the Fukishima reactors are indistinguisable from the background leftover from above ground nuclear weapons testing.
Given, there is a lot more radioactivity in a nuclear reactor core than is produced by a nuclear weapon detonation. On the other hand, even after the worst imaginable scenario, 99.999%, plus, of that radioactivity is going to still be in or near that reactor core. But, a nuclear weapon is an extremely efficient way of dispersing the radioactivity it generates. Given those two extremes, I’m not sure it is even possible for this accident to approach the levels of fallout I, and billions or others, lived through as a child, and all my life since.


“The tactics these people use are never based on informing the public but on fear-mongering. Nuclear Power = deadly radiation; Coal Power = deadly AGW. So, it’s the same fight and the same enemy”
Bearing in mind that the average green dislikes people anyway.
Anything will do to scare people, being in the dark is not going to bother them, they’ll have power. The same way “we” are not allowed to use aircraft for holidays, but they can use them for all their international “save-the-planet” “jolidays”

mike g

@Simcoe surfer
What can we say? You thought wrong. 1000 to 2000 is not likely to be fatal. You might be getting milliseverts and Rem mixed up. 1000 Rem would have a good chance of being fatal. But, 1000 Rem is 10,000 milliseverts.

Theo Goodwin

The reporting on the tsunami in Japan and problems at the nuclear reactor achieved a crescendo of hysteria on the first day and that crescendo continues today. No one has suffered harm from radiation from the facility. There has been no radiation danger from the facility. The facts have contradicted the hysteria from day one. The author of this guest post, JohnA, suggests that the motivation is financial:
“But panic sells (as readers of WUWT are well aware), and sober analysis of scientific fact is nowhere near as exciting or is likely to spread like wildfire across the Internet.”
If that is the case then all of the MSM are now no better than the National Enquirer. If that is true then it is a national tragedy. Maybe the silver lining is that all of the MSM will soon be treated by the public as no better than the National Enquirer.
My fear is that all of the MSM have jumped on the anti-nuclear bandwagon. I believe that we have seen a campaign, maybe not orchestrated, against nuclear power. Everyone knows that the Greens have the power to create such a campaign. We know it because they have done exactly that with Global Warming for decades.
There is no clear long term strategy for dealing with such a cultural disaster. For the short run, make sure your US representatives and senators hear from you that you want them to support the vote occurring Tuesday that will remove from the EPA the power to regulate CO2.

mike g

Perhaps the true aim of the greens is to get Germany switched over to natural gas controlled by Russia.? It would warm the heart of any green I can think of to have the Germans living as slaves of the Russians.

V. Ferderer

I’m intrigued that neither the media, the Japanese regulatory folks,
or TEPCO are not reporting on the uranium or uranium/plutonium
decay product isotope sister of iodine and cesium: Strontium 90.

Because we haven’t seen massive core melt down yet. Strontium isn’t volatile, it isn’t present in the fuel rods gap.

A fine Article John. I will add a link to it on my Fukushima info page. Only rational articles are linked there, and yours is certainly rational if not eloquent. I also wonder how the intensely noble and deeply principled Japanese people feel about being used to sell advertising at the increasingly hysterical CNN? (etc) Wolf Blitzenkopf gets even more incoherent when Fukushima is howled about discussed.


Just as you have to find reliable sources for Climate Change news, you need reliable sources for nuclear power news. Here are the best three that I have found:


The greens are a bit mad in Germany. I saw the EU report on BBC News, and they were having a debate on the nuclear plants in Germany. Both German guests, some greenie woman and a social democrat guy were against these plants.
The entire exchange was hilarious, with the German guy turning a full 180 into wantingto be rid of these plants, which cynically was tied to the fact Merkel decided she won’t win without attacking nuclear power. But the Green woman was completly off her nut. She attacked Poland for exploring shale gas and nuclear power in order to get off reliance on coal (which happens to be low grade) and russian gas. She expects a poorer country like Poland to go into renewables – wind farms.
Which brings me to the next wonderful thing, a question was asked how these guests would suggest their own countries reduce CO2 and not use nuclear power. The Greenie wants it supplied by wind farms and biofuel. Now, wind farms will never produce enough electricity to replace so many coal and nuclear plants, so she expects most of it to come from biofuels.
Although the comedy award goes to the other german who has plans for a north africa solar panel farm.

Theo Goodwin

sHx says:
March 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm
“Could someone explain why any climate skeptic should advocate nuclear power?”
No one is advocating nuclear power. We just do not want to demonize it. There is a place for all of our energy technologies. Nuclear power might not qualify for the top of the list right now. But the MSM is doing its best to remove it from the list entirely. On the other hand, France seems to be doing very well with nuclear power. Someone should tell the MSM. Our view of energy technologies can change very rapidly and might have changed greatly in five or ten years.


sHx says:
March 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm
Could someone explain why any climate skeptic should advocate nuclear power?

For the same reasons non-skeptics do: (1) reliable power output (as contrasted with wind, solar, etc.); (2) no need for long trains of coal (Hansen’s “trains of death”) to be delivered; (3) no enormous masses of ash that must be neutralized and buried; (4) no fly ash causing asthma in vulnerable populations; (5) no acid rain; and many more.
The Peoples’ Republic of Oregon is an interesting study in contrasts. In the latter part of the 1970s, there was a very cold winter with very little precipitation in the Columbia River basin. If the Bonneville Power Administration had to run the dams on Columbia flat out, in order to provide power to keep people from freezing, the river level would have dropped so low that barge traffic on the river would have had to be halted. That would strand farmers’ grain up-river and prevent it from being delivered to customers who had already paid for it. Fortunately, the Trojan Nuclear Plant (45 miles downriver from Portland) was quietly humming away, producing a continuous 1.1 million kilowatts. Because of nuclear power, the reservoirs remained at optimum levels, people were able to keep warm, and businesses didn’t have to shut down.
Contrast that with today, when PGE, the company that owned the Trojan plant, is generating much of its electricity from coal in a plant at Boardman, 160 miles upriver from Portland. The Boardman plant generates about half the power that the Trojan plant did, and creates a great deal more pollution.
On balance, the use of nuclear power is better stewardship of the earth than burning coal.

Dave Worley

“Could someone explain why any climate skeptic should advocate nuclear power?”
Nuclear energy is economcally viable under rational regulations.
Not today, especially in the USA.
It’s a good hedge against the volitile oil market in places where shale gas is not available. France has done very well with it.
Once this crisis calms, and the death toll from radiation never rises above zero, you can bet that Japan will continue to use it too. They will likely modernize the plants though.
Nuclear is good “base load” generator IMHO.


The Fukushima situation is a disaster and no one should think otherwise.
The plant is still deteriorating and still emitting, according to Austrian monitors
( )
about 10**17 bequerels/day of iodine 131 and 10**16th of cesium 137.
These are about 10% of Chernobyls aggregate emissions daily and there is no indication it will stop soon.
NHK has just reported finding reactor water so radioactive that the dose from it would be 1 sievert/hr, where 5 sieverts is about the 50% lethal dose.
It is clear that TEPCO, the plant operator, has no idea of what to do and is essentially just doing the equivalent of painting the living room while the house is burning.
Given that there are about 1800 tons of nuclear fuel at the site, spread among 6 reactors and 7 storage pools, versus about 190 tons in the Chernobyl reactor that exploded, the fear of a massive disaster is not unreasonable, especially as we have no idea about the status of four of the pools.

Bernie McCune

The issue noted above and the radiation misinformation that is being promoted as something dangerous are the points of this article. The pain is there and the panic created by many media radiation illiterates is a terrible misdirection of our energy from the reality of these survivors and their difficult struggle.
Thanks John A for caring about what is important.


And unfortunately this biased reporting influences politicians. In the UK, a well respected politician, Paddy Ashdown, has declared that he will no longer support the construction of new reactors in the UK.
However, he has not explained how he wants to keep the lights on and the economy running in the future. He made vague references to renewables and to clean coal. Has he done the calculations, that demonstrate that even if you saturate the UK with windelecs, you could perhaps cover 30% of our energy demand, but still be left in total darkness if the wind dies for more than a day? Has he read about Lake Nyos, and the catastrophic effects of a CO2 blowout from these new CO2 reservoirs?
If we are not careful, the Biased Broadcasting Corporation and its numpty correspondents and executives will take us back to the Stone Age …. Silly me, that’s what they want, isn’t it…

kadaka (KD Knoebel)
(bold added)

Originally published Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 5:12 AM
Germany set to abandon nuclear power for good

Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done.
The world’s fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead.
The transition was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has called a “catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions.”

Germany currently gets 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power – about as much as the U.S. Its ambitious plan to shut down its reactors will require at least euro150 billion ($210 billion) investment in alternative energy sources, which experts say will likely lead to higher electricity prices.

The government has been vague on a total price tag for the transition, but it said last year about euro20 billion ($28 billion) a year will be needed, acknowledging that euro75 billion ($107 billion) alone will be required through 2030 to install offshore wind farms.
The president of Germany’s Renewable Energy Association, Dietmar Schuetz, said the government should create a more favorable regulatory environment to help in bringing forward some euro150 billion investment in alternative energy sources this decade by businesses and homeowners.
Last year, German investment in renewable energy topped euro26 billion ($37 billion) and secured 370,000 jobs, the government said.

But Schuetz insists that “we can replace nuclear energy even before 2020 with renewable energies, producing affordable and ecologically sound electricity.”
But someone will have to foot the bill.
“Consumers must be prepared for significantly higher electricity prices in the future,” said Wolfgang Franz, head of the government’s independent economic advisory body. Merkel last week also warned that tougher safety rules for the remaining nuclear power plants “would certainly mean that electricity gets more expensive.”

In Germany, the producers of renewable energy – be it solar panels on a homeowner’s rooftop or a farm of wind mills – are paid above-market prices to make sure their investment breaks even, financed by a 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour tax paid by all electricity customers.
For a typical German family of four who pay about euro1,000 ($1,420) a year to use about 4,500 kilowatt-hours, the tax amounts to euro157 ($223).
The tax produced euro8.2 billion ($11.7 billion) in Germany in 2010 and it is expected to top euro13.5 billion ($19.2 billion) this year. The program – which has been copied by other countries and several U.S. states such as California – is the backbone of the country’s transition toward renewable energies.

Gee, it’s nice to see that Germany, which is arguably single-handedly keeping the entire EU out of bankruptcy, still has enough wealth that they can afford to be scared away from nuclear power and depend on the likes of offshore wind turbines, and the German citizens can afford to be further taxed for the privilege of having centrally-distributed electricity (reliable or otherwise). And as Germany’s Renewable Energy Association mentioned, it’ll help to have a “more favorable regulatory environment”, perhaps by mandating all alternative energy projects be guaranteed a reasonable profit instead of merely removing a normal incentive of capitalism by arranging higher producer prices so the investors don’t lose money. Oh, and look at all the jobs that they “secured” just last year!
Yup, Germany must be doing very well indeed. This is cheering news!

I live in the eastern outskirts of Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture. My house is 33 miles due west of the Fukushima nuclear plant(s), in a New Town area which is elevated from Koriyama city “ground level”, and the house sits on top of a steep slope at the rear, which eventually goes down to a steep wall and below are rice fields. SO it’s a nice view all round and a nice birds-eye view of the city itself.
Basically, since the big quake 2 weeks ago, we’ve been “bugging in” at home, apart from that Friday night, where we stayed the night at the local community center because of a large crack in the ground all long the ground at the rear of the house and we were afraid the slope would give way and the house would end up in the rice fields down below. The house turned out to be okay thanks to 12 meter deep foundations embedding to rock below. The ground around the house, however, has compacted and sunk about 5cm, and there are interesting “tide marks” all around the house where the soil and concrete parking area just be be up to.
As I’m a bit of a weather nerd I’ve been keeping tabs on the synoptic charts and wind directions for the last 2 weeks, and luckilly, the prevailing wind direction has been from the north and north-west, blowing any nuclear material away from the house/area – thanks to the usual winter pressure patterns around Japan at this time of the year.
So I’ve been calculating that staying where I am has been inherently safer than bailing out to Tokyo, and so far this has been proven true – iodine-131 levels have been higher in the water supply south of the power plants than they have been where me and my wife are.
But even though the iodine levels in Tokyo have been higher in tap water, they levels still aren’t particularly hazardous to health – I’d receive a much higher dose of radiation flying back to my native Scotland than I am staying put!
Indeed, the western media have been in their usual Moronic Frenzy, all in the name of scaring everyone witless and selling more dead tree. It also seems that western governments are using the events in Japan to further some anti-nuclear cause, and of course media outlets such as the BBC are helping them along the way.
I’ve had very a very good friend in the UK whom I consider to be very intelligent email me saying stuff like “Mate that’s not what the news sources here are telling me! Get your ass out of Japan now!!111!oneone”, which of course is ridiculous, and it appears even he is being taken in by the media frenzy.
The UK and US governments aren’t helping by recommending any British or US citizen within 80km (I’m 54km away) of the power plant should leave the area or stay indoors. The 20km evacuation zone and the 20-30km “stay indoors” zones are perfectly adequate for this type of nuclear incident.
Sure, I’m keeping an eye on how the containment process is progressing. And if – and only if – there’s a massive ejection of radioactive material from the plant due to some kind of fire or explosion, only then will we bail out of the house and head away from the area.
For, it’s bugging in at home. Gasoline supply is not optimal at the moment – I have to wake up real early in the morning and head down to my usual gas station and collect a ticket at 6:30am, then return to the station later that day from 4-6pm, and we’re rationed to 3000 Yen worth of regular gas (works out at roughly 19.5 liters).
So yes, it is tough here, has been pretty tough for the past 2 weeks, but not as tough as the coastal areas hit by the tsunami, and not as tough as some of your friends who lived in the nearby Tamura area who had to evacuate town.
It is nice though to be able to read sane, concise, and honest reporting from the likes of The Register. At least there are some non-dumb people out there who get the real picture.


John, thanks for a little honesty.
A quotes from ttp://
On the two workers:
“While the patients did not require medical treatment …” but kept to observe.
Anyone have some other honest sites to get the latest?


Link missing ‘h’, should have been:


Nuclear energy production could be the saving grace for the USA. Plentiful cheap power allows enterprise to express itself. Cheap power allows getting needed hard to get to petroleum into the economy. It may allow coal to liquids. But basically nuclear power could solve a lot of issues that other means of generation create.
And you are right, the very least benefit of nuclear power is the worry of warmist.
In todays America half the population despises all forms of energy production. (the other half despises the green energy facade ).
The intrigue with bold endeavors has been replaced with wanting to preserve.
Somehow burning dung for heat is preferable to mining a mountain range.
Or even more displaced, demanding exotic minerals and petroleum from places that could give a rats rear what they run over to get it.

Brian H

Here’s a rather detailed summary by plant from Tepco:
The Japlish is a bit thick at times, but comprehensible.


If I can add one reason why we should advocate nuclear power in the long-term, it’s simply because it’s not an embarrassingly primitive technology. I mean, seriously, burning lumps of fossil wood to make steam to drive a steam engine to run a dynamo? Or controlling an invisible chain reaction in the nuclei of atoms which heats the working fluid?
It’s like asking why flat screens are better than CRTs. They just are, ok 🙂


At least in the USA and Australia, coal fired electricity generation is cost effective. Not so in France where coal is less abundant. The French generate ~80% of their electricity in Nuclear Power Plants.
Norway is fortunate because it has enough hydro power to sustain most of its base load.
My point is that each country uses the technology that is cost effective in their locality.
In the long term we only have a few hundred years of coal reserves compared to tens of thousands of years of Uranium and Thorium. Absent a miracle based on fusion power, it is inevitable that nuclear fission will reign.

Rob Huber

Brian H:
“The burns were, according to one semi-hysterical report, due to “beta radiation”. For the folks at home, that’s electrons. Mild electrical burns, sort of. A soothing salve is recommended”
I’m all for trying to tone down the shrill hysteria, but not at the expense of truth. Beta particles are high energy elections expelled from a nucleus. Saying they cause “mild electrical burns” is like saying gamma radiation might cause a mild sunburn or upset tummy.

Pete H

wayne says:
March 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm
“Anyone have some other honest sites to get the latest?”
Try this Wayne.

No one say coal is better because it’s safer, cheaper, and creates more jobs. You’re just not educated if you do.
Nuclear is more expensive, complex, dangerous, and takes jobs.
There. Now all is right with the world.
Nuclear not more dangerous you say? Spent fuel rods can be stored at your house then. Coz spent fuel rods are great and are part of great nuclear.
Coal makes all the miners get black lung—at least that’s what some people want you to believe, right? Some have got black lung, it’s true. But if 1/100th of the money that has been put into developing nuclear had been put into developing a mask to protect from coal dust then no more black lung. But I’m not sophisticated in saying that.
Fumes coming from burning coal is more dangerous than spent fuel rods? Unlikely. But let’s look at that too. If again another 1/100th, or let’s say 2/100ths, of the money spent in developing nuclear had gone into dealing with fumes from burning coal the pollution would have been reduced dramatically. Or am I wrong? I must be.
Nuclear is great. There. Now I’m right. Now I’m smart.


The whole thing is an utter disaster make no mistake, radiation might not be killing people but in the long run it destroys your DNA and gives you cancer, the worst of it is that it effectively cuts your genetic lineage as you’re much more likely to have deformed kids. But that’s just the health implications, what about the economic impacts – utter utter disaster for the Japanese , already counties around the world are banning food imports from Japan, what do you think that’ll do to the country? And it’s not over, not by a long short, if that containment vessel is damaged how are they going to cool the core without leakage? You realize it’s not like a fire where as the fuel is burned in a day it goes out, not this thing is just going to keep producing heat for months and months. That country is going to be paralysed with fear for months – fricken disaster for them!

Jason Joice

“Three people sustained injuries equivalent to a mild case of sunburn.”
Oh, the humanity!!!!


A few points for clarity. The half life of I-131 is ~8 days but it would take at least 5 half lives (40 days) for a majority of the I-131 to decay (3% of original activity).
The mild burns from the contaminated water could occur at 170 mSv but it would be mild. To put this into perspective, when patients are in surgery for interventional radiology or cariology they try to keep any one area of the skin less than 1,000 mSv with a target of never exceeding 2,000 mSv.
A whole body exposure of 1,000 mSv to 2,000 mSv is a very high exposure. For comparison 2,500 to 3,000 mSv is considered the lethal dose to 50% of the population within 30 days (without medical intervention). I would consider a whole body exposure of 500 mSv to be a very serious exposure. In the United States, a whole body exposure of 250 mSv is the upper limit allowed for life saving activities.


Good web sites for details:
World nuclear news
or the nuclear energy institute
One can also view the press releases in English from the Tokyo Electric Power Company. They provide updates several times per day but do not explain the situation like the world nuclear news can.

John Tofflemire

Kevin in Koriyama,
Thanks for your post and best to you for hanging in there up in Koriyama. Here in Tokyo today the streets are full with people walking and on bikes and few people are wearing masks. Those that are wearing masks are for the most part doing so because of allergies (it’s pollen season here).
I read today that some shipping companies are refusing to sail into Tokyo Bay because of radiation fears and are instead delivering cargo destined for Tokyo and Yokohama in the ports of Osaka and Kobe. This is the kind of behavior, if it goes on much longer, threatens to create a massive, unnecessary humanitarian crisis, behavior spawned and fanned by the irresponsible western press. I can tell you that Japanese people aware of the fear mongering over the Fukushima nuclear plants in the western media are very angry at this coverage.


mike g says:
March 26, 2011 at 6:59 pm
“… And, then there is Hg. It may not be possible to get the level of Hg emitted by coal plants down to what the EPA deems safe. Meaning there is no way to license a new coal plant, especially under the current EPA…”
Yet they keep pushing us to have fragile little vials of Hg in our homes… CFLs.

Daryl M

sHx says:
March 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm
Could someone explain why any climate skeptic should advocate nuclear power?
Even if one comes to believe that is normal and healthy to get irradiated when things go wrong, the nuke power is still not viable for economic reasons. It is much more expensive than coal for power generation.
Why not fall back on coal? Is it because continuing CO2 emissions will bring about a climate catastrophe?
Few people are saying it’s “normal and healthy to get irradiated” as if to discount that there is a real problem in Fukushima. Obviously there is a problem and to say it’s not serious is misleading. The point is that the level of irradiation has been drastically blown out of proportion and the situation in fact makes a very good case for nuclear power. The reactors survived a massive earthquake and a massive tsunami, both of which were far beyond the design parameters. That is rather incredible and speaks well about how robust the technology can be, and these are relatively old reactors.
If you want to see for yourself the reason why we should not adopt large scale coal power, take a trip to China. I was in Guangzhou, Shanghai / Wuxi and Beijing last week and I can say that they were by far the most polluted cities I have ever been to, and I’ve been to almost 40 countries. Every morning when I woke up I had to wash the gunk out of my eyes and blow the soot out of my nose. This was my second trip to China and my colleagues there told me it was relatively clear and that it can get much worse. I would imagine that if there were studies of what the air quality is doing to the health of the Chinese people, they would likely make a very solid case for nuclear power.


The last 10 years or so should have taught even the most oblivious observer that a nation’s media outfits really only care about their own domestic politics – to whatever extent they care about anything other than money.
They are not genuinely concerned about the suffering of others elsewhere. If you give them a choice between promoting panic and their own political agenda at home, or helping someone shivering in ruins half way around the world – they’re going to pick the former as a matter of course.
The European renewable energy crowd – or at least the nuttier elements – seem to be bent on some form of protracted suicide. On the one hand I hope for their own sake that the adults come back to the table and sort things out… but on the other hand, I’d personally benefit greatly if some place else served as the canary in the mineshaft.

Anthony is correct that, thus far, the radiation exposure has been slight. However, Japan’s NHK English-language site is reporting radiation 10 million times higher than normal. CNN just 20 minutes ago reported the same.
The concern is that no water, which contains radioactive particles, should exist in the turbine building. The fact that it does exist there indicates the second line of defense, the reactor shell, and the last line of defense, the containment structure, has been breached due to fuel rod meltdown. No one knows when or how badly these were breached. Nor can we say that the breach is already as bad as it will get. Aftershocks from the main earthquake continue, and act like small hammers, beating away at an already weakened concrete and steel structure. Any meltdown material inside the reactor and containment structure can leak. Adding water at this point may make the situation worse. Increased pressure in the reactor, or containment, will likely increase the leakage rate.
There is also a report that the ocean near the stricken plant has higher than normal levels of radiation. This also is an indication that something is leaking somewhere, and that is not good.
I’m pulling for the Japanese workers and the engineers and management who are making the decisions. I’m hoping that the above is the worst news that we will read. I suspect, though, that the continuing aftershocks will worsen the breach or breaches and more and more radioactive material will seep out. When the radiation readings reach too high, no workers will be allowed in. And that is of grave concern.
The following link shows an earthquake map of Japan, with intensities indicated by color of the dot.

Visualization of all earthquakes that have happened near Japan since March 11:


Nuklear power is NOT secure, because the energy-companies what to make money. I live in germany and they and the experts betray us many times (Atomlager ASSE).
Until now I have linked to this blog. But I don’t do it anymore, because I don’t support Nuklear power which brings million dollar to a few people.