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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fukushima meltdown: worst case scenario?

UK government Chief Scientific Officer Professor John Beddington comments on the developments at Fukushima nuclear plant. I hope he is correct.

If the Japanese fail to keep the reactors cool and fail to keep the pressure in the containment vessels at an appropriate level, you can get this, you know, the dramatic word "meltdown." But what does that actually mean? What a meltdown involves is the basic reactor core melts, and as it melts, nuclear material will fall through to the floor of the container. There it will react with concrete and other materials that is likely.

Remember this is the reasonable worst case, we don't think anything worse is going to happen. In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 meters up into the air. Now, that's really serious, but it's serious again for the local area. It's not serious for elsewhere, even if you get a combination of that explosion it would only have nuclear material going in to the air up to about 500 meters.

If you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation, i.e. prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall which would bring the radioactive material down, do we have a problem? The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue.

The problems are within 30 km of the reactor. And to give you a flavor for that, when Chernobyl had a massive fire at the graphite core, material was going up not just 500 meters but to 30,000 feet; it was lasting not for the odd hour or so but lasted months, and that was putting nuclear radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere for a very long period of time. But even in the case of Chernobyl, the exclusion zone that they had was about 30 kilometers. And in that exclusion zone, outside that, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate people had problems from the radiation.

The problems with Chernobyl were people were continuing to drink the water, continuing to eat vegetables and so on and that was where the problems came from. That's not going to be the case here. So what I would really reemphasize is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometers, it's really not an issue for health.

52 comments:

Albert said...

http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/53461/fukushima-nuclear-accident-simple-and-accurate-explanation

Kim_Dae-jung said...

A great example of "Be greedy when others are fearful."

steve hsu said...

Are you buying the Nikkei?

Yan Shen said...

And while this tragedy unfolds, a surprisingly large number of people are making jokes about the Japanese earthquake, including most recently the infamous Alexandra Wallace of UCLA, anti-Asian bigot extraordinaire. Even Hines Ward(half black, half Korean) of the Pittsburgh Steelers is calling out Americans for their bigotry in the wake of the Japanese tragedy.

http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=6220265

The list of people taking negative shots toward the victims of the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami is unfortunately growing... Ward just shakes his head thinking about the devastation and how the tragedy has affected so many lives.

"Imagine if those people had said the same thing about Haitians or African-Americans? All hell would break loose," Ward said. "But when it comes to the Asian community, it's easy to crack jokes because no one is coming out of the woodwork to defend those people."


I guess denigrating blacks is a serious no-no in politically correct white American society, but hey who cares about those Asians right? Gee whiz! 10,000+ Japanese dying in one of the great humanitarian tragedies of recent times! Who can't see the humor in that?

See also

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366425/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-Gilbert-Gottfried-fired-Aflac-making-jokes.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

J. said...

The physical damage will be negligible but how will the Japanese people react? Will they carry on?

steve hsu said...

I predict that they will.

Kim_Dae-jung said...

That and some already relatively undervalued Japanese companies. I've even bought TEPCO.

steve hsu said...

TEPCO? What's their liability exposure under Japanese law? Couldn't the stock go to zero? Is it already almost there?

Kim_Dae-jung said...

No idea. That's what diversification is for.

There's no time to find out. BP was obviously undervalued last year, but TEPCO perhaps even more so because it has no competition. TEPCO can't go out of business. Might it continue to operate paying all its income in liabilities? Might it be nationalized? Might it dilute its value like Citigroup? Maybe. I'm guessing no.

David said...

I have a friend here at work who is a nuke engineer by training. He said basically the same thing. The problem of 'meltdown' is really the melting. He said that in a meltdown you lose a 'coolable geometry'. The worst case is that the fuel rods break apart and fall to the floor of the reactor vessel where all the pieces land on top of each other.

I'm still not sure why they haven't sent in robots [Voltron jokes aside]. I think some military somewhere has to have bots that could get in there and maneuver the pile.

Kim_Dae-jung said...

I forgot to say that if the same disaster had happened in the US claims would be much greater. The Japanese are not litigious.

KenC said...

The Japanese are a proud and literally insular people. That in my opinion is why they don't want to be seen as being unable to handle this situation themselves. That would appear shameful. I would suppose that is why we have seen little if any US military help with the exception of the carrier Reagan floating around performing some helicopter missions. They don't want to be rescued by foreigners.

There will be time for wailing and gnashing of teeth and second guessing everything but in the meantime let's not forget that at least 20k have already perished and the hands of geologic might and the total will likely far exceed that. My heart goes out to the Japanese people but they will work their way through this. I also find it ridiculous that the major reaction
(pun fully intended) of the people in the US seems to be fear of nuclear fallout affecting them. There is much greater danger that they will die (west coasters anyway) at the hands of a overdue big quake either from the San Andreas or the Cascadia faults. But accurate risk assessment is not a strong point for most humans.

Albert said...

Some nationalistic Chinese in mainland China are not sympathizing Japanese either due to its lack of repentance toward WWII atrocities towards Chinese people, as even Germany is penitent in this regard. I read it from the Chinese newspaper in Los Angeles (World Journal) . I bet Steve can find newspaper articles describing this phenomenon in Taiwan. He can just ask his colleagues.

Jessy said...

Actually this has a lot to do with the propaganda of the Chinese government.

After the Tiananmen incident, the country needed new initiative to unite its people spiritually, particularly amidst the rampant corruption and growing disparity in income. I was in China a few years ago and I was stunned at how they brainwashed their youth. The TV was inundated with anti-Japanese shows replaying the Nanjing massacre over and over again, and children were taught anti-Japanese nursery rhymes with lyrics like "Japanese are not human beings". The generation growing up in the last 15 years hate Japanese far more than the generation who actually went through the war (like my grandmother!). My grandmother was able to tell the difference between a Japanese soldier and a Japanese civilian. The anti-Japanese sentiment has served very well in diverting the attention of the recently unemployed college graduates from internal dissent.

Ben said...

It seems like a discussion of the worst case scenarios that doesn't even address the issue with the spent fuel is missing a big piece of the puzzle. My impression is that that's by far the biggest threat at the moment because of the lack of containment, and if the cladding on the fuel pellets does catch fire it's going to be very difficult to put out. I also have a hunch that in terms of displacement and economic impact that the contamination doesn't have to reach Chernobyl levels to be a bigger disaster than Chernobyl here because of increased density and less available land.

KenC said...

I had posted about this months ago. I am surprised Yan Shen is not aware of this or somehow is under the impression that all Asians (living in Asia) are one big happy family. The difficulties between the Chinese/Japanese, Japanese/Koreans, or even the Japanese and Okinawan's (who the Japanese tend to view as lessor or corrupted Japanese even if they speak the same language) were known to me since I was quite young. But I suppose that is because I grew up in a culture that had all those ethnicities largely represented and I heard all the stories. I was quite an education for me. I was even required to take Japanese language in 4th and 5th grade as my teachers then were mostly of Japanese ancestry.

You might find this link of interest:

http://granitestudio.org/2011/03/15/guest-post-from-yajun-earthquakes-and-complex-feelings-toward-japan/

Yan Shen said...

Interesting. I discuss anti-Asian racism in the US and the response is... to point out the obvious fact that there is anti-Japanese sentiment in China, a total non-sequitur.

Imagine a man who beats his wife saying... "but but... surely I'm not the only one who does it!" Responsibility absolved. It would be nice if someone came and said that the way Asian Americans are treated in the United States isn't the way that civilized human beings deal with one another. But hey, that would actually require one to be a real man of principles, and we know that there aren't too many of those around today.

Yan Shen said...

The responses of Albert, Jessy, and KenC reveal the ugly decay of moral values and integrity in the United States. When made aware of an alarming trend of bigotry in the wake of the Japanese earthquake, bigotry so palpable that it was even discussed by mainstream websites, the first response of many isn't to acknowledge the disgraceful behavior of a subset of Americans, but instead to become defensive and criticize the people pointing out the bigotry. Amazing.

KenC said...

Yan Shen, I don’t know what to say. Your response is totally off the wall. I was not denying racism in many forms exists in the US but assumed that was obvious. That does not make it right but it is obvious, to me anyway. Nor was I pointing fingers at Asian racism in a lame attempt to somehow defend it in the US. Racism (or rather ethnocentrism) is a globally universal phenomenon with virtually every culture on earth exhibiting it to greater or lesser degrees.

Did you think I was only trying to blame Asians for this and absolve Americans? If so you have either misread or misunderstood my post. And misunderstood who I am as well. And is “the obvious fact that there is anti-Japanese sentiment in China” really that obvious to most Americans? Most haven’t a clue about that, at least most of the ones I have met while living in the mainland. Although I have to admit the subject rarely. if ever. comes up. Most white Americans I have met wouldn't know the difference between an Asian of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean descent and likely lump them all as all from the same kettle knowing little about their cultures or their histories.

Steve SailerS said...

There are four reactors at this Japanese site, plus a lot of nuclear waste in giant bathtubs. How does the total amount of radioactive material at risk compare to Chernobyl?

Jessy said...

I am defending American racism, I am just providing more explanation and fact behind China's anti-Japanese hatred groomed by the Chinese government as a response to Albert's post. Personally as a Chinese, I am more disturbed by the wide-spread, ill-informed hatred towards Japan by most Chinese than a few isolated examples of neglect or lack empathy from the Americans.

Jessy said...

oops, typo, I meant, I am NOT defending American racism.

Wade Nichols said...

And while this tragedy unfolds, a surprisingly large number of people are making jokes about the Japanese earthquake

A surprising large number of people? Gilbert Gottfried, Glenn Beck, and some UCLA professor that no one has heard of constitute a large number of people?

The responses of Albert, Jessy, and KenC reveal the ugly decay of moral values and integrity in the United States.

Their responses reveal what? What would you expect these guys to do?

Do you expect them to troll blog posts for evidence of "hate" like you do?

You really should get a freaking life, dude!

A very LARGE number of Americans have donated their money to various organizations (Red Cross) that will aid Japan, and you're fixated on Gilbert Gottfried, Glenn Beck, some unknown UCLA professor, and three guys posting on a blog?

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air, LOSER!!!!

anon said...

So encouraging people born many years after ww2 to an obsessive hatred of nazis is wonderful, encouraging people born many years after ww2 to an obsessive hatred of tojoists(?) is terrible.

anon said...

Although China really did suffer at the hands of Japan, not Japan from China. That's the reverse of what happened with the USA and Germany.

KenC said...

Yan good buddy! I have a video you need to see. It's a few years old but still holds up well. It's named GRAND TURINO directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. He's one of those old American USA white boys (so by definition racist) that know nothing about anything. Never the less give it a chance. You might realize we are all Hmong the people trying to make sense of things.

Jessy said...

America never encouraged hatred of GERMANS. The Chinese government encourages hatred of JAPANESE in general, not Japanese tojoists or militarists. The difference between Japanese and Japanese tojoists are more than subtle, I am sure you understand that.

KenC said...

Anon--man up and give us a name. Or go the .uck away.

anon said...

But you're not disturbed to see the tv inundated with shows replaying the warsaw ghetto over and over again.

anon said...

Your substantive contribution to the discussion is noted, Mr. American.

Kim_Dae-jung said...

encouraging people born many years after ww2 to an obsessive hatred of nazis

This purely from Jewish dominance of mass media.

Kim_Dae-jung said...

Thanks to Jewish mass media a Martian would think WW II was the Holocaust.

KenC said...

どうもありがとうございました。

KenC said...

Kim_Dae-jung Are you for real or only a piece of kim chee? Or kal bee. Or kook soo? Although--on a hot summer day- kook soo is very good.

Abcd said...

What's more amazing is your bringing up the issue of racism in a post that has nothing to do with it and then accuse others of jumping off-track. A one track mind and a disingenuous one in that. If you had any concern for minorities other than East Asian ones, we'd all be willing to listen. But given that you're an unreconstructed bigot waiting to castrate Black and Hispanic people (and who, I gather, also has a great amount of admiration for Dennis Mangan), it's more than a little annoying coming from you. Also, show some perspective please. As Orientalright put it, what Alexandra Wallace has said was not particularly PC, but Alexandra Wallace's views: those of the modal Asian student :: Glen Beck: David Duke. This is something that I can corroborate based on multiple exchanges on taboo subjects with Asian students that I've known pretty well. You remind me a lot of Muslims that are reluctant to clean up their own backyards but will lecture others on what ails their societies.

Jessy said...

No, because
1) the frequency at which the warsaw ghetto was broadcasted is MUCH LOWER than that of Nanjing in China, and unlike China, we have hundreds of channels that never touch on such a topic. China has only a few channels, and the communists controls all the content on the media. Are you suggesting that Jewish media = 100% American media?
2) Americans never teach our kids at kindergarten level that Germans are not human beings. Not the case for China. China teaches its young children anti-Japanese nursery rhymes.

I would not be surprised at all seeing China going Nazi.

Rami Niemi said...

It says in NYT that there is four times as much fuel rods in cooling pools as in reactors. So if there is three(or 5) reactor working times 5 from waste it makes 15 times the fuel compared to chernobyl.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/asia/18spent.html?pagewanted=all

anon said...

You forget that people have independent means of checking the accuracy of your statements. Like anyone who gets cctv4 or even has a broadband connection, I can know from personal experience that chinese war documentaries are no more inflammatory or pervasive than their counterparts in the rest of the world.

Jessy said...

I welcome all people with independent means to check to accuracy of my statements. Whether it is inflammatory or not is up to personal taste and judgment. But one cannot dispute the frequency with which these programs are aired, which is a much more objective measure.

Btw, are you anti-semite? Why are you focusing your energy towards the Jews in this country while lots of lives are being lost in Japan while defending Chinese anti-Japanese sentiment? I am a bit perplexed by your motive. Holocaust is not something that naturally and immediately comes to one's mind when Japan was rocked by a mega earthquake. Are you also cheering along with the Chinese bastards for Japan's fate?

RKU said...

Well, Yan Shen sometimes seems to have a pretty strange sense of proportion...

For example, I think there's a great deal of hard evidence that the top leadership of many of America's most elite universities do significantly discriminate against Asian students, and that seems a fairly serious matter, affecting the futures of huge numbers of young people.

But instead of pointing to that as "anti-Asian racism," Yan Shen instead focuses on some rather trashy-looking white teenage girl who produced a short YouTube video mildly insulting Asian students for sometimes being noisy with their cellphones in the library or that sort of time. Since America is a pretty big country, I'll bet you could find lots of trashy-looking teenage girls---perhaps even including some Asian ones---who've occasionally gotten bored and produced some rude YouTube videos. So what's the point of the story?

Yan Shen said...

"For example, I think there's a great deal of hard evidence that the top leadership of many of America's most elite universities do significantly discriminate against Asian students, and that seems a fairly serious matter, affecting the futures of huge numbers of young people.

But instead of pointing to that as "anti-Asian racism," "

You must have not been paying attention to the most recent post on AA here. I've been speaking out against colleges discriminating against Asian Americans for years.

Yan Shen said...

"If you had any concern for minorities other than East Asian ones, we'd all be willing to listen."

I've been defending blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, along with East Asians in the HBD blogosphere since back in the day. Since you enjoy stalking me online and keeping tabs on everything I post, I'm sure you can easily find the relevant comments I've made in defense of non-East Asian non-whites.

Abcd said...

Disabuse yourself of the notion that I "enjoy" anything that has your name attached to it. Glad to know that incentives for castration count as defense in your world.

Abcd said...

Also glad to know that you're warning Europeans about the perils of "race mixing," warning the rest of the blogosphere about how the Iberian descended whites in Latin America had their gene pool "diluted by the black and Mestizo populations there" AND defending blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, along with East Asians in the HBD blogosphere since back in the day. How's that for keeping tabs on your filthy shit?

Yan Shen said...

And yet you keep reading blogs like iSteve, Mangan, OrientalRight, etc. Something about that filthiness must intrigue you.

Abcd said...

"Something about that filthiness must intrigue you."

What's more intriguing is your intellectual dishonesty in this very post.

Anyway, a predictably feeble defense of your own positions. Yan Shen purportedly reserves his full-throated defenses only for "blacks, Hispanics, and Jews."

anon said...

But recycling some lame anti-chinese talking points was something that naturally and immediately came to your mind when Japan was rocked by a mega earthquake.

Jessy said...

I am a Chinese, just fyi, how can I be anti-Chinese? You will have a very hard time proving that I am anti my own race.

anon said...

All right, they were lame anti-China talking points.

bfgc said...

regarding Gottfried:

Some people don't have a good sense of when to start using a joke, or at the very least, have made bad guesses.

One of my Internet buddies had an in-game spray that referred to the Japan earthquake that was about as edgy as "Japan is really advanced. They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them.", and the general reaction to it was along the lines of "dude—too soon. At least wait until the bodies are cold."

Gottfried's blunder was simply more high-profile.

I'm not seeing the racism part of it yet, at least not in the general case—this seems like the sort of error Gottfried could have made back in 2003 (if Twitter were as popular back then) by tweeting something like "How do you say 'grandparents' in French? flambé!"

Ingmar Lee said...

This dude, Beddington is obviously an idiot shill on the payroll of the nuclear industry, -according to him, there's no problem whatsoever, provided that people in Japan simply stop drinking water or eating food. Yep, no problem whatsoever, -this is the corporate media twist. In the first days after the big quake, there was breaking news all over the Twitterscape, but now the corporate media has consolidated its messaging grip, and there's very little breaking news. The only "news" is these nuclear sycophants spinning the frame that there's no problem whatsoever.

KCO122568 said...

Today's date: March 29, 2011. The shits still hot and the reactors are leaking contaminants all over the place. The shit has already crossed the Pacific, the US and THE ATLANTIC Ocean. Trace amounts of radioactive materials are being reported all over the northern hemisphere, including water in MA.

You're all a bunch of lying bastards!

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