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Radiation And Risks At Fukushima

The mess at Fukushima, Japan’s deeply-wounded nuclear plant. It’s worse than we’ve been told. We look at the risks for Japan and the world.

In this photo provided by Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), NRA commissioners inspect storage tanks used to contain radioactive water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), in Okuma in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (AP/Nuclear Regulation Authority)

In this photo provided by Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), NRA commissioners inspect storage tanks used to contain radioactive water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), in Okuma in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (AP/Nuclear Regulation Authority)

What a nightmare at Japan’s deeply wounded Fukushima nuclear power plant.  Two years and counting after the plant was rocked by earthquake and tsunami, it remains a giant, lethal mess on Japan’s northeast coast.

Hundreds of tons of water being pumped through every day to keep it from boiling over.  Hundreds of tons of radioactive water leaking.  A new plan approved today to freeze a huge swath of shore to keep a radioactive river from despoiling the sea.  And it’s always worse than we’re told.

This hour, On Point:  the lethal nuclear mess at Fukushima, and how far it could spread.

- Tom Ashbrook


David McNeill, reports for The Economist and The Independent. Co-author of “Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.”

Yoichi Funabashi, chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation. Program director of the “Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident.” A former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, the second-largest newspaper in Japan.

Per Peterson, chair of the department of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley.

Ken Buesseler, senior scientist in marine chemistry and geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He has been studying radioactive contamination in the Pacific Ocean and its fish stocks.

From Tom’s Reading List

BBC News: Fukushima nuclear plant still ‘unstable’, regulator says – “The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant ‘has not ended’, the country’s nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is ‘unstable’. Watchdog chief Shunichi Tanaka also accused the plan’s operator of careless management during the crisis.”

CNN: Fukushima radiation levels spike, company says – “There’s been a sharp spike in radiation levels measured in the pipes and containers holding water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. But the company in charge of cleaning it up says that only a single drop of the highly contaminated water escaped the holding tanks.”

Bloomberg: Fukushima Fishermen Ruined by Tepco Now Key in Toxic Fight – “Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) ruined the livelihoods of the commercial fishermen who trawled the seas off Fukushima prefecture when its leaking reactors poisoned the fishing grounds. The utility now needs their help.”

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  • tbphkm33

    Seeing the enormity of the nuclear challenges the Japanese face and realizing that throughout the world there are aging nuclear plants, some now running beyond their design life, it brings home the dangers at hand. The probabilities of similar or worse events elsewhere grows as the fleet of nuclear power plants age. When one of the worlds most advanced nations, Japan, is struggling, it make you wonder what if the next incident is in an emerging economy ill equipped to handle a nuclear crisis. Or for that matter, how well the U.S., with its industry driven revolving door regulatory agencies, would manage such a crisis. We are told not to worry, but in a nuclear crisis, I rather not have corporations beholden to their bottom line calling the shots.

    • JobExperience

      Subscribe now to Popular Science for only $20 a year and we’ll send you plans you can use to build your own thorium reactor for less than you make in a month. You may already have a pick-up on which to haul it. Also, you’ll be automatically entered in a contest to win as much nuclear fuel as you can haul away from Fukushima. Clean, safe, too cheap to meter…. attributes shared by the nuclear industry and our fine publication.

      Atomic energy is a big lie and just another Capitalist extraction mechanism.:Alchemy with a new vocabulary.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        “Atomic energy is a big lie”

        Luddites unite!!! A big lie? 20% of the US annual electrical generation at over 800 billion kwhs of carbon free power per year. Without it you can turn out the lights.

        However, if you want to talk about the “big lie” then let’s talk about all the green jobs we’ve been promised during the last 4 years. Where are they? They were promised as a result of the $878B ‘shovel-ready’ stimulus program pushed by the Dear Leader.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Even without an accident such as Fukushima, the need to monitor spent nuclear fuel for tens or hundreds of thousands of years makes nuclear power non-viable (the cost of power today certainly doesn’t reflect the total cost of providing this form of energy). It is even more irresponsible that negotiating ridiculously generous retirement and pension benefits for unionized government workers by politicians who will not be around or in office to actually have to bear those obscene costs, as absurd as that practice is (Detroit, Illinois, federal government, California, etc. etc. etc.)

    • Shag_Wevera

      Lame anti-union add in.

      • jimino

        Plus an outright lie regarding the pension benefits. False equivalence + outright deception = typical so-called conservative comment.

      • TFRX

        Don’t call it an add-in, Shaggy.

        The lame anti-union part seems to have been the whole reason for the original post.

    • John Cedar

      This is very anti union:
      “It is even more irresponsible that negotiating ridiculously generous retirement and pension benefits for unionized government workers by politicians who will not be around or in office to actually have to bear
      those obscene costs,”

    • Bluejay2fly

      Anti-union scab.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        In spite of your name calling, the two situations are very analogous. Cities like Detroit and their Democratic, beholden-to-the-union politicians “gave away the store” when it came to cushy jobs and ridiculous pension benefits and wages that would be paid later for union support and votes for office now. This is why Detroit had to declare bankruptcy and why many other municipalities, state governments, and our own federal government are bankrupt, whether they admit it or not.

        • Bluejay2fly

          Even if 20,000 city employees raked in $60,000 per year more than they should that would be just over one billion while the debt was pegged at 18 billion. The city population of 750K would not realistically even have that many employees so my wildly exaggerated example does not even begin to reflect the entire picture of bankruptcy in big D. If you want to truly be fiscally minded how about the 250 billion we have given to Israel. At least those overpaid in Detroit were U.S. citizens. P.S. Sorry for the name calling it was meant as sarcasm not an insult.

    • jefe68

      Talk about huge leaps in one post.
      From nuclear accident brought on by a huge earthquake and tsunami to public sector unions.

      Bluejay has it right, and I would add that all you are doing is posting regressive right wing propaganda and using this forum as the message board. Misinformation is way to polite to frame the garbage you posted.

    • sickofthechit

      Don’t forget the very real and costly government subsidy contained in the liability insurance and limited liability we provide the nuclear industry. charles a. bowsher

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        I don’t support those subsidies nor other subsidies to the oil industry, the ethanol industry, etc.

    • TFRX

      Why don’t you stick to your SocSecPonziScheme lies?

  • Judy Gates

    Scary connection:
    Just read article printed in Peter Hessler’s latest book, Strange Stones, about Japan’s yakuza including references to Tepco. The following quote is from an article in the Telegraph, 21 Feb. 2012. “Tepco has long been a scandal-ridden company, caught time and time again covering up data on safety lapses at their power plants, or doctoring film footage which showed fissures in pipes. How was the company able to get away with such long-standing behaviour? According to an explosive book recently published in Japan, they owe it to what the author, Tomohiko Suzuki, calls “Japan’s nuclear mafia… A conglomeration of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, the shady nuclear industry, their lobbyists…” And at the centre of it all stands Japan’s actual mafia: the yakuza.”

  • Bluejay2fly

    Energy, wether it is hauling around millions of gallons of oil or running a nuclear power plant should not be done by private enterprise absorbing all the costs. As we have seen time and time again safety gets bypassed in order to create a profitable business. I would rather see the government cover the costs of safety and environmental protection mandates than monetize some other waste of government program ( Radio Free America post Cold War). Japan is a wealthy nation and there is no excuse for them not to have spent money updating an aging fleet of nuclear power plants. That plant had 70′s technology and should have been moved and replaced by a more modern plant farther inland. They had the 2004 Tsumani and Godzilla franchise as warning what more did they need.

  • hennorama

    One hopes the panel discusses the permanent closures of four nuclear power reactors in the U.S this year, three of which were in need of significant repair.

    The Crystal River Unit 3 reactor in Florida has a cracked containment dome; Duke Energy decided to close it rather than repair it.

    Both reactors at Southern California Edison’s San Onofre plant, located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, “were shut in January 2012 after a radioactive leak and the discovery of unusual wear on tubes that transfer reactor heat to power-generating turbines.” SCE decided not to repair and restart the facility.

    The fourth closure this year was of the Kewaunee Power Station, located near Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was closed due to the changing energy economics which have lowered electricity prices in that area.


    • nj_v2

      And others are scheduled to close…


      Vermont nuclear power plant to close in 2014
      Energy prices spell the end

      The owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant said Tuesday it would shutter the controversial facility by the end of next year, putting hundreds of employees out of work, about a third of them from Massachusetts, and raising questions about the future of the region’s other nuclear plants.

      The plant has withstood years of legal battles with the state and persistent protests about its safety, but in the end, officials at Entergy Corp. said they decided to close the aging reactor along the Connecticut River because of economics. A steep drop in natural gas prices in recent years led to plummeting wholesale electricity prices. That loss of revenue, as well as increased costs to comply with new federal and regional regulations, made it difficult to run the plant at a profit.…


      We jump from bubble to bubble, riding on successive waves of unsustainable energy sources to prop up an impossibly inefficient infrastructure.

      • Ray in VT

        It was really surprising when Entergy suddenly announced that they were going to close Vermont Yankee. It plant has had a string of problems over the past several years, but the company had been fighting tooth and nail to keep it open.

  • hennorama

    One unanticipated silver lining from the Fukushima disaster is that biologists have been able to use minute traces of cesium-134 and cesium-137, both known waste products from Fukushima, to track the migrations of various marine life across the Pacific.


  • Emily4HL

    Should we be worried about sea food?

    • J__o__h__n

      I’m sure the fish from the gulf are safe.

      • DeJay79

        if you don’t mind oil dispersant in your fish that is

        • JobExperience

          They fry in their own juice.
          So will we.

    • jefe68

      I would say the answer is yes on one level.
      It depends where the fish are coming from.


    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Climate change, dead zones, and overfishing will make this a moot point.

  • Coastghost

    This would pose a significant challenge to Japanese public opinion, but: would a nuclear “cauterization” of the site make sense? Plan a nuclear detonation at or near the site to consume all remaining nuclear materials and contamination. Not a pretty solution: but is fifty years of leaking water and unceasing handwringing any more effective in controlling the aftermath?

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      You just proposed creating the mother of all dirty bombs.

      • Coastghost

        Or I simply proposed one-time use of a nuclear furnace.
        IF it’s feasible, that is: I’m sure other objections could be offered, but the alternative(s) consist of–??

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Perhaps I don’t understand your proposal but what is the mechanism that all of the nuclear material is both consumed and/or contained. Last I checked, detonating a nuclear device creates additional fallout.

          • Coastghost

            I’m wondering out loud whether centuries-long drip drip drip of radioactive coolant is really preferable to a one-time detonation that disperses the radioactive contaminants PERHAPS more efficiently.
            We did manage to survive a couple of decades of above-ground nuclear testing and resulting fallout dispersion.

          • JobExperience

            Wow, Holy Osama bin Laden, Batman!!!!!
            Why expend the money to decommission ANY nuclear plant or waste dump; just NIKE ‘em ALL.

            Coastghost would have to be hosing us that he doesn’t know the consequences. Only Bill Clinton is that stupid. He suggested a nuclear missile as a viable solution to the Gulf Oil Spill. Where do the Oligarchs find these candidate guys?

    • hennorama

      Coastghost – this admittedly creative idea would bomb in Japan about as well as another atomic bomb.

      • Coastghost

        That I do not know. I suspect making the case would be difficult.
        On another hand: for Japan to make such severe use of nuclear power to help the nation get past the Godzilla-sized mess that is now Fukushima might be a landmark in Japanese history and polity.
        (Think of my proposal as a “controlled burn” that MIGHT help forestall long-term contamination.)

        • hennorama

          Coastghost – TY for your reply.

          Emotion often overwhelms reason in regard to nuclear power. Japan’s history as a victim of fission devices in WWII would seem to preclude any public support of “a nuclear detonation at or near the site…” regardless of its potential utility.

    • tbphkm33

      Would not work, it would only spread radioactive material far-and-wide. Such a scenario is popular in Hollywood movies, mainly for destroying biological or chemical agents, in which case if contained enough, it would incinerate the risk. Think of a bio lab that has a containment breach where the agent is known to have spread a few miles, yes, a bomb could incinerate (could also spread though).

      In the case of Fukushima, there is not only radioactive water, but radioactive metal, soil and rock. All heavier materials that will not be incinerated. Such material could be incinerated if launched into the Sun, but a terrestrial nuclear detonation would only serve to spread the radioactive material regionally, and to some degree, worldwide.

  • nj_v2

    The techno-dreamer optimists will be arriving soon to reassure us that “new generation,” “safer” nukes are going to be our salvation. Thorium! Van-sized reactors! Much less waste! Safer designs! Electricity too cheap to meter! Oh, wait…

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      We need to close all the nuclear plants we have; starting with all those that are the same design as Fukushima.


      We. Have. No. Solution. For. Nuclear. Waste.


      • Coastghost

        We still have Yucca Mountain, and thank God we’ll not always have Harry Reid.

        • Ray in VT

          You also have a Nevadan population quite opposed to having a toxic waste dump in their backyard for the next 10,000 years.

          • Bluejay2fly

            Just remember Ray it is all this vehement anti nuclear sentiment in this nation that helped bring on the oil economy with it’s Exxon Valdez,Deep Horizon, and hundreds of other ecological disasters. We must except that all forms of energy are dirty and have an adult discussion about how we proceed. Conversing with people who are absolutist helps maintains the status quo that we can ill afford.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            VT has third highest electric rates (18c/kwh) in the lower 48. This is BEFORE the closure of VT yankee (5c/kwh) AND the refusal to purchase hydro quebec (6c/kwh) power.

            The trend is not your friend.


          • Ray in VT

            Refusal to purchase from Hydro-Quebec? I must have missed that one, because it isn’t in the article that you cited. Yankee has had a recent slew of issues, and people here don’t trust Entergy, especially after it tried to spin off some of its oldest plants into a highly indebted company that people were worried would stiff the state on decommissioning.

            Cheap up front can have some high costs down the road, and the state has been looking to avoid some of that, which is, in part, behind the energy efficiency drive that the state has been pursuing. The bottom line is that we as a society waste far too much energy, and we have been able to do that for a long time because it has been cheap. I’d also rather take the risk of higher prices than having an unreliable and poorly run nuclear plant.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Perhaps ‘refusal’ is too strong a word. But the fact remains that they aren’t purchasing hydro-quebec power and will be replacing VY power with natural gas.

            We can all be for improved efficiency. It is the definition of inefficiency to close a nuclear plant before the end of its useful life.

            “Who told VT to be stupid?”

            “Most Vermonters were led blindly into throwing away the cheapest, cleanest energy available. Energy that made Vermont one of the lowest carbon emitters per capita in the world, a feat that will no longer be possible. Vermont Yankee is already mostly paid for, it had 20 years left, and mothballing it won’t save any money for the State, or reduce the risks that much either. ”


          • Ray in VT

            I think that you’re working on some bad info down there. Vermont has some big energy contracts with Hyrdro-Quebec, and we have for many years:


            Let Mr. Conca think what he likes. If the technology existed, then I would be happy to move one existing nuclear plant with a history of recent accidents close to his house.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            We are finding out the *real* costs of nuclear energy. Like decommissioning the plant, and keeping all the waste safe and secure – for THOUSANDS OF YEARS.

            Yeah, nuclear energy is a real smart way to boil water – NOT!


          • nj_v2

            People like the Worried One seem to think that cheap energy, cheap food, cheap everything is some kind of entitlement.

            People like the Worried One don’t understand the true costs of the human footprint on the ecosystem of the planet.

            People like the Worried One are dangerous.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            People like Worried care more about the poor than the elites.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Yucca Mountain is about 150 miles from Yosemite – which is a super volcano.

          What could possibly go wrong?


  • ToyYoda

    We have the technology to drill to the mantle of the Earth. Why can’t we just drill a hole where tectonic plates meet, and put the waste in it? As the plate subducts into the mantle, it will take the waste with it.

  • NrthOfTheBorder

    With an increasingly crowded world it seems incumbent on all of us to really pay attention to the irresponsible drive for more and more without a clue of the ultimate risk and danger this mentality presents.

    Frankly, there’s no room for this kind of disaster. But it is only one representation of a world that is very slow in waking up to the potential environmental & social disaster we court under the dominance of a value system that has out-lived itself by decades.

  • sickofthechit

    We live on a limited resource in the middle of nowhere and we treat it this way? We all need to wake up to the very real fact that nearly all our current energy production and usage methods are so short-sighted that future generations will see us as criminal in our treatment of this planet. I’m sorry I haven’t done much, much more to stop this insanity! Charles A. Bowsher, September 3,2013

  • Yar

    We tend to focus on the failings of man made technology in light of this disaster, but what should really looking at is the power of nature. Fukushima’s magnitude 9 quake was 32 times larger than a 1811-1812 Magnitude 8 quake on the New Madrid fault that temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi river and created Realfoot Lake. Lets talk about what will happen when a magnitude 9 quake hits somewhere in the US. Are we prepared? It was bad and there is still problems in Japan, but before we look down on their response we should prepare for our own possibility of disaster. I live 300 miles from the New Madrid Fault, I doubt my house would still be standing after a 9 magnitude quake, where as Tokyo is less than 200 miles from the quake and survived without wide spread damage in the city. Japan is much better prepared than we are for this type of disaster.

    • Bluejay2fly

      I am not an expert but the plant survived the quake it was the loss of 12/13 back up generators which was the problem. Who puts a back up generator at a site near the ocean at ground level?

      • jefe68

        Add to that the history of tsunamis and earthquakes that are more frequent in Japan due to the geology of the area, it would seem a no brainer to have those generators at a higher level than they were. This is nothing short of a design negligence driven by cost cutting.

      • tbphkm33

        It is the same lesson learned in New Orleans – all the backup generators were located at ground level where they quickly flooded.

  • Mark Clipsham

    I’m no engineer and it is much easier to say than do this, but why aren’t they freezing the power plant first? It would keep the core cool and freeze as well as isolate the water around it. That seems less daunting than freezing the entire shore line and would stop or lessen the growing problem – maybe buy some time? As long as “we’re” looking at comic book solutions why not that? Address the problem rather than the symptoms. Doing that couldn’t take much more effort than storing radioactive material or freezing the shore line which just delays the problem.

    • sickofthechit

      I believe the core is way to hot temperature and radioactive wise to do that. charles a. bowsher

    • tbphkm33

      Even if you could encase the containment dome and freeze it to absolute zero (-273º), it would have no effect upon the radioactive material. The feeder fuel of the plant will continue to decay. The only option we have is time, let it cool down.

      27 years after the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, scientists still risk their lives to crawl inside the plant to measure the radiation and heat that it is putting off. Parts of Fukushima, like Chernobyl, will be hot for hundreds of years. Containment is the only technology we currently have, there are no realistic emerging technologies for safely curtailing these problems.

      • Mark Clipsham

        Just seeing it as a Cat in the Hat scenario (Dr Suess). It is not being contained or cleaned up. Water is being used to keep the core cool and somehow that is doing something – freezing the shore line(!!!) is supposed to do something – so why not use the cooling effort at the shore (dry method) to cool the core rather than with water (wet method) that makes a bigger and bigger mess. Dangerous – you bet -and it will become more so as time goes on and the effort being used makes the problem grow bigger not smaller. Everywhere being contaminated or one area with intense radiation – people will not be healthy – wish there was a simple solution and not the band aides being used and suggested. “If you don’t wear shoes you’ll have no shoes to loose.” Will we learn from this – not much. If you play with fire you will get burned and the house may well go up too. What is your idea? Throw some more gasoline on the fire? If they chilled the water first could they at least use less of it? Just thinking.

        • tbphkm33

          You already have the worlds best minds at work on the problem – if a freezing contraption was even feasible, they would already be doing it. Reality is that any realistic temperature the water could be cooled to would be legible agains the cores that the water is cooling. Think of a hot frying pan that you put under the kitchen sink, the water just steams off.

          Freezing the soil to build a berm around the facility is to contain radioactive water within the immediate area. Once the ice berm is in place, they will continue to pump off water that collects behind it. It is in essence building a dam.

          • JobExperience

            Neither the world’s top experts nor the best technology are presently being used. TEPCO has been winging it on a shoestring budget while Abe refuses to take charge.

          • Mark Clipsham

            The best and the brightest brought us nukes and probably sited the plant. Maybe they should concentrate more on cloning people, pesticides and GMOs – what could go wrong? “It begins as a blessing and ends as a curse making life easier but making it worse.” KA. I wonder how the Amish would solve this problem – oh yeah. We are truly screwed; I wonder if Graber has extra room in his barn. We’re doing a fine job. Maybe hard work and conservation is the answer. Nah, no profit in that. I am going back to work – on my affordable, high-performance, no maintenance, strong, recyclable building system. I’ll leave this to the experts – should be cleared up in a few millennium.

    • fun bobby

      and if we are looking at comic book solutions then why not have Superman use his freeze breath or consult Dr. Victor Freeze?

  • ramani

    Why can’t a jelly medium or an adhesive material be used at the leak area or as a containment design.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      Is anything radioactive also very corrosive?

  • DeJay79

    I hate to be chicken little … but we’re all doomed!

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      I’m beginning to think the same. What’s amazing is we can’t even seem to talk about it.

    • fun bobby

      nahh billionaires will be fine.

  • Coastghost

    Public opinion will remain sanguine until fishermen begin hauling in eighteen-armed octopi and five-foot long lobsters.
    Maybe coelacanths in the Indian Ocean will somehow benefit and begin proliferating wildly: THAT would change the future of aquaculture.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    How much energy does it take to permanently freeze the ground? Where will that energy come from?

    It would be pouring salt on the wound to use wave power and wind power and solar power to contain the radioactivity produced by this fuster cluck called Fukushima.


    • hennorama

      Neil Blanchard – it would perhaps be the ultimate irony if the energy came from another nuclear facility. Of course that’s highly unlikely given the current status of nuclear power generation in Japan.

      “Of Japan’s 50 working nuclear reactors, only two are in operation. One of those was to be shut down on Monday evening to undergo routine checks, the other will go offline on 15 September, leaving Japan without atomic energy for only the second time in almost 50 years.”



      That aside, the major energy needs of the proposed freeze wall would be in the initial freezing process. According to a recent article on technologyreview.com, once the initial freezing was completed (over about six weeks), the energy required for continuous refrigeration is relatively small, perhaps about 25 million KWH annually. This is the equivalent of the average annual electricity consumption for about 2,200 U.S. residential utility customers (2011).

      Here’s are selected excerpts FTA:

      “The freeze wall would be a more definitive approach to managing groundwater. As proposed by Kajima in April and endorsed in May by a Nuclear Regulation Authority expert panel, it would run 1.4 kilometers and encircle the site’s four destroyed reactors. Vertical pipes are to be drilled or driven into the ground at one-meter intervals, creating what looks like an array of sub-soil fence posts. Fourteen 400-kilowatt refrigeration plants would pump -20 °C to -40 °C coolant down each pipe to absorb heat from the ground, producing an expanding cylinder of frozen earth.

      “In roughly six weeks, those cylinders would fuse together to form a continuous barrier that keeps groundwater out and contaminants in. The result would be a solid barrier from the surface extending approximately 95 feet down to meet a low-permeability layer of clay and rock. And while it would require long-term chilling to endure, the wall is immune to power outages lasting days or weeks. “It would take months or years to thaw the wall out,” says Daniel Mageau, vice president and design engineer for Seattle-based contractor SoilFreeze.

      “Several features make freeze walls better barriers than those fashioned from steel, concrete, or clay—alternatives that the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s panel considered and rejected. A key advantage cited by Phillips is the freeze wall’s self-healing capacity. For example, water flowing into cracks caused by an earthquake—an ever-present threat at Fukushima—would freeze to reëstablish the barrier. “That’s a really great asset,” says Phillips.


      “One major drawback, however, is power consumption. While the walls take months or years to thaw once frozen—and are thus immune to power outages—they do require long-term refrigeration to endure. Typically, the cooling power required for maintenance is about half of what was required to form the wall.

      “Tepco and Kajima could save energy if they employed a technique used at Oak Ridge. Its wall incorporated passive devices known as thermosyphons that Arctic Foundations has installed across Alaska to reinforce melting permafrost under buildings and infrastructure. A coolant gas passively cycles in the tubes whenever the ground is warmer than the air above, absorbing heat at the bottom by boiling, then dumping that heat at the top by condensing and finally dripping back down the tube wall to repeat the cycle.

      “Thanks to the inclusion of thermosyphons, the Oak Ridge system consumed barely 100,000 kilowatt-hours of power annually—less than 10 homes would use in a year. “It’s a very efficient system for moving heat against gravity. There are no moving parts,” says Yarmak.

      “Still, while Yarmak would love to export Arctic Foundations’ thermosyphons to Japan, he says power consumption is not a critical issue for Fukushima. Even with the more conventional freeze wall system that Kajima has proposed, whose power consumption would be roughly 250 times larger than at Oak Ridge, the power use still looks small in context. “For the scope of the problem that Japan has, it’s not a lot of energy,” he says.”




      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Was the freeze wall mentioned in the show?

        Thanks for the info and link.

        • hennorama

          WftC – TY for your reply, and you are of course welcome, as always.

          Yes, the freeze wall was discussed.

          About 7:00 into the show, Tom Ashbrook said “And the news today that the government will put up something like half a billion dollars, the equivalent thereof, to to build an “ICE WALL?” to stop this water from running into the sea. How’s that work, David?”

          The freeze wall concept has been discussed for some time, and as Mr. Ashbrook noted both on the air and in the text introducing the show above, the Japanese government announced today that they “would spend the equivalent of $470 million to try to tackle the alarming toxic water crisis at the country’s tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant.”

          http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/02/world/asia/japan-fukushima-crisis/ (today’s announcement)
          http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/07/world/asia/japan-fukushima/index.html (from last month “Fukushima leaks: Japan ponders freezing ground”)

          On a related note, if they only need fourteen 400 KW refrigeration units, they could be powered by 14 fuel cells with 400 KW capacity each, which would cost somewhere in the $30 to 40 million range for purchase and installation. Then they could use LNG (liquified natural gas) to run the fuel cells.

          The modular nature of fuel cell systems makes them adaptable for this use, and very quick to get up and running.

          http://www.clearedgepower.com/energy/purecellmodel400system/ (info on the PureCell® Model 400 system)
          http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2013/january/rocket-engine-maker-commissions-utc-power-fuel-cell (source of cost figure)

          • WorriedfortheCountry


          • hennorama

            WftC – the pleasure is all mine.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            It is an interesting idea. Did Dr. Peterson comment on this directly? My sense was that he thinks the direction they are taking is not the most judicious. I believe he was saying that flushing the salts out of the containment should be a priority to preserve the containment. Also, removing the fuel (a la TMI) should also be a priority. I’m just wondering if he considers the freeze plan a boondoggle.

          • hennorama

            WftC – TY for your response.

            I wasn’t really paying close attention to the broadcast, but Mr. McNeill explained the basic concepts, then said in effect “ask the engineers.”

            Mr. Ashbrook said of the idea of the “ice wall” (his words) – “Sounds like science fiction, something out of a Marvel comic book – the idea of a giant ice wall to hold back the poison …”

            Unfortunately, this is an inaccurate portrayal of the idea of the freeze wall. The freeze wall idea is to keep uncontaminated groundwater AWAY FROM the water that was contaminated through its use as coolant for the damaged reactors, not “to hold back the poison …”.

            In other words, to prevent the site from generating additional contaminated water, as well as its release. Try to imagine a sort of “force field” of artificial permafrost arrayed in an arc uphill from the plant, preventing groundwater from flowing into the site. See below for an image of the Fukushima prefecture water system, with the Abkuma Highland to the west of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

            Repeating from the article on technologyreview.com:

            “The freeze wall would be a more definitive approach to managing groundwater. As proposed by Kajima in April and endorsed in May by a Nuclear Regulation Authority expert panel, it would run 1.4 kilometers and encircle the site’s four destroyed reactors. Vertical pipes are to be drilled or driven into the ground at one-meter intervals, creating what looks like an array of sub-soil fence posts. Fourteen 400-kilowatt refrigeration plants would pump -20 °C to -40 °C coolant down each pipe to absorb heat from the ground, producing an expanding cylinder of frozen earth.

            “In roughly six weeks, those cylinders would fuse together to form a continuous barrier that keeps groundwater out and contaminants in. The result would be a solid barrier from the surface extending approximately 95 feet down to meet a low-permeability layer of clay and rock. And while it would require long-term chilling to endure, the wall is immune to power outages lasting days or weeks. “It would take months or years to thaw the wall out,” says Daniel Mageau, vice president and design engineer for Seattle-based contractor SoilFreeze.”




      • fun bobby

        it is pretty interesting from a technical standpoint. maybe this could also solve this glacier problem people keep crying about

        • JobExperience

          You can pay the electric bill.

          • fun bobby

            nahh I will leave it for all of our grandchildren

        • hennorama

          fun bobby – Thanks for responding.

          Freeze walls are fairly commonly used in construction, albeit on a much smaller scale and a temporary basis.

          As far as “this glacier problem” – that might be viable if solar energy was converted into energy for ongoing refrigeration. The problem would be the initial freezing phase, which requires more energy as well as uninterrupted, 24/7 energy.

          Once freezing occurred, solar would seem viable, assuming sufficient conversion efficiency.

  • John_in_Amherst

    As a side bar question, Has there been any thought to the problem rising sea levels pose to low lying nukes? Just how well will moth-balled nukes (let alone Fukushima) stand up to pounding surf centuries in the future?

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      We have had to shut down nuclear power plants because the cooling systems cannot safely cool them, due to climate change driven high temperatures.

      Many nuclear plants are right on the coastline, and they will be covered by the ocean as the ocean levels rise.

      If all the Greenland and Antarctic and land glaciers melt, we will have ocean levels at least 216 feet higher, on average. The gravitational pull of this ice will dissipate after it melts, and this will change the shape of the earth, as it spins; and there will be changes in the movements of the tectonic plates, and earthquakes and volcanic activity will also change.


      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Hey Neil, what year will those nuclear plants be covered? Let me in because I’m in the market for some cheap ocean front property.

        And what is the ambient temperature that the current plants stop working due to “high temperatures”?

        Neil, you are really losing it.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          We don’t know how fast the ice will melt, but if the temperature keeps increasing as quickly as we think it will, and depending on how quickly we get the feedback amplifiers, like melting tundra and albedo changes and the ocean releasing carbon dioxide – then it will rise rather quickly. It will be at least 3 feet by 2100, and it could well be double that.

          Plants are already affected; and as the climate warms, it will get much worse.

          We all are losing the climate we depend on for everything. It will get a lot worse before it gets better, and it will only get better if we stop burning fossil fuels.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Shucks… 3 feet by 2100? That isn’t enough and is outside my purchasing window.

            Remember Neil, cheap, abundant energy has always correlated with prosperity for the masses. Let’s not hurt the little guy while tilting at your windmills.

            btw – is antarctic sea ice extent growing or shrinking? And does the antarctic growth match the decline in arctic sea ice?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Yeah, what’s 3 feet of ocean level rise among friends? Pssfft – nothin’ to it…

            We have plenty of cheap abundant energy all around us – called renewable energy.

            You know what I *hate* about renewable energy?

            The smokestacks.
            The smoke.
            The smog.
            The mercury pollution.
            The cooling towers.
            The explosions.
            The spills.
            The limited fuel supply.
            The other countries that control the wind and the sun.
            The military cost to defend the wind and the sun.
            The radiation.
            The death of miners.
            The fly ash.
            The tailing ponds.
            The methane
            gas releases.
            The huge carbon footprint.
            The increasing cost over time.
            The inefficiency.
            The pipelines.
            The contaminated water.
            The damage to our lungs and overall health done by renewable energy is horrendous.
            The acid rain is nasty.
            The mountaintop removal.
            The carbon dioxide released.
            The waste.

            NOT really…

          • WorriedfortheCountry


            We have the data for Cape Wind — $.194/kwh in year one and 3.5% increases every year for 15 years until it reaches $.35/kwh for consumers. Also, this doesn’t include the costs required for backup generation when the wind doesn’t blow.

          • Ragingranny

            Exactly–great reply! Thank you.

          • Ray in VT

            I’ll bite on your last two questions. What is your position and what are your sources?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Position? None. Simply making observations. However, I suspect the arctic sea ice changes has more to do with ocean currents than ‘global’ warming.

            “In September 2012, for instance, satellites observed a new record high
            for winter sea ice extent; it remained high (but not a record) at the
            summer peak in February 2012. These new highs occurred while the Arctic was seeing record lows.”



          • Ray in VT

            What is the basis for your suspicion that arctic sea ice melt has more to do with ocean currents as opposed to global warming, and why ‘…’?

            May I ask where you first heard these stories?

            Now, I did see that there has been a slight increase in Antarctic sea ice (.8% per decade), but there has been a +/- -2.5% change in Arctic sea ice per decade:


            This image shows the trends in sea ice coverage over the past 34 years:


            It obviously goes up and down seasonally, but if you look at the highs and lows of coverage, the peak ice coverages are lower (about 21 million square km versus 22-23 throughout the 1980s and 1990s), and the troughs are lower (pretty consistently below 16 million recently versus only touching it in previous decades).

            Of course some of the growth in Antarctic ice could very likely be due to some very significant recent temperature increases there:


          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Why? Perhaps because the global warming has paused for the last 17 years or so yet the ice extent shrinking has continued.

            I probably saw it here:


            and here:

          • nj_v2

            The Worried One proffers:

            “…the global warming has paused for the last 17 years or so…”

            Repeating the same, lame, refuted, intellectually bankrupt, right-wing, denialist nonsense doesn’t make it any less bogus. But i wouldn’t expect anything less from you.


            “Humans have continued to contribute to the greenhouse warming of the planet over the past 16 years. The myth arises from two misconceptions. Firstly, it ignores the fact that short term temperature trends are strongly influenced by a variety of natural factors and observational limitations which must be analyzed to isolate the human contribution. Secondly it focuses on one small part of the climate system (the atmosphere) while ignoring the largest part (the oceans). We will address each of these errors in turn.”

          • Ray in VT

            One can get a number around 17 if one picks two single years (1997 vs 2011 I think that I saw in one graph), but the multi year smoothed average shows a much shorter period, and the most recent point is likely to tick up with 2012 maybe knocking 2008 (the coldest of the 2000s but would have been the 3rd highest in the 1990s) out.

            Certainly ocean currents and temperature changes are sure to play a role, as well as air temperature changes. Given that the changes in the global sea anomaly and arctic air temperatures have seen the same upward trend in recent decades, perhaps, given the nature of the ice sheet, positive temperature trends take longer to produce melting. For instance, perhaps the higher global sea temperatures from 2009-2010 produced the greater melt in 2012 and the lower 2012 anomaly has produced the less severe melt this year, although the melt over the past 3 months is still below the 2000s average. I really don’t know.

          • nj_v2

            Red herring alert!

            [[ Remember Neil, cheap, abundant energy has always correlated with prosperity for the masses. ]]


            Cheap, abundant energy has also always correlated with inefficiency, pollution, and unsustainable development and settlement patterns.

          • fun bobby

            well that’s not going to happen. it really won’t happen without nuclear.

        • Brad dayag

          “Hey Neil, what year will those nuclear plants be covered? Let me in because I’m in the market for some cheap ocean front property.”

          It wont be in Al Gore’s lifetime .. seeing as how he bought a $10 million beachfront home.

        • Ragingranny

          It isn’t the ambient temperature, it’s the temperature of the water used to cool the core that has an effect.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Got it. Reduce the operating capacity to 85% for 24 hours just to be ‘safe’. Not a ‘shut down’.

      • brettearle

        Sources, please

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          National Geographic September 2013 issue.

          The ice on Greenland and Antarctica is over 2 miles thick, and it pulls the sea level up around it – it increases the gravitational pull around it.

          On Antarctica, the ice has so much mass, it pushes the land it sits on *down* by almost a HALF MILE. And it pulls the ocean level that is bulging at the equator (due to the earth spinning) toward it.


          Learn your science facts!

          • brettearle

            Thank you.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            You’re entirely welcome.

          • fun bobby

            did you not just apologize for a rant yesterday in a post above?

          • brettearle

            You missed my point.

            It doesn’t surprise me, either.

            As usual, you are not understanding and recognizing the subtlety.

            When the Ignorance of yesterday–and I mean real Ignorance–arises, sometimes we do things that can test our own standards.


            Because we’re all human.

            All you are simply doing is trying to catch me in a technicality.

            If you had spent some time thinking about my words and their full context–before your comment, above–then it is somewhat possible that you might have overcome your own biases–for chewing me out for your One-Trick-Pony-itis–and would have, more clearly understood where I was coming from.

            But miracles are more likely in the Heavens.

      • Brad dayag

        “We have had to shut down nuclear power plants because the cooling systems cannot safely cool them, due to climate change driven high temperatures.”

        Thats not correct. Several reactors have been temporarily “derated” by as much as 20% for short periods of time because the cooling water discharged used to condense the turbine steam exhaust exceeded their regulatory limit.

        • Ragingranny

          It actually is true. I don’t know about anywhere else, but Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymoth Ma had to shut down in July because the sea water they use for cooling was too hot to work. This plant is the same age, year, make and model as Fukushima. I live downwind in the red zone so it concerns me personally and I try to stay informed. It is also just a few miles from Boston.

      • sickofthechit

        Surely you mean 2.16 feet higher, or at most 21.6 feet higher. I have to question the validity of anything you say if you maintain the oceans will rise 216 feet. charles a. bowsher

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Read the National Geographic article – it is two hundred and sixteen feet averaged across the world after all the ice melts.

  • hennorama

    Some nuclear power generating plants are being closed in the U.S. due to the changing economics of electricity generation. One can see the writing on the wall in U.S. electricity price trends, which have barely budged over the past year for much of the U.S. (notably excluding the spikes in the West North Central region and California).

    Here are the percent increases by Region, for All Sectors (Residential, Commercial, Industrial & Transportation) combined (June 2012 to June 2012):

    New England 1.6%

    Middle Atlantic 0.6%

    East North Central 1.7%

    West North Central 6.2% (from a relatively low base)

    South Atlantic 0.2%

    East South Central 2.3%

    West South Central 6.1%

    Mountain 4.1%

    Pacific Contiguous 7.7% (California was up by 8.7%, with OR up 2.2% and WA up 0.9%)

    Pacific Noncontiguous – 6.9% (an actual DECREASE, due to across-the-board decreases in Hawaii)

    U.S. TOTAL 3.15%


    • brettearle


      Would you give me a response to my own response, a bit below you?

      It was not a reaction to your comment–but rather to someone else’s.

      I thought that you’d also get a `kick’ out of this one, too…like yesterday.

      I simply don’t believe, that in my comment, I was being too petty.

      Indeed, I was attempting to point out a regrettable subtlety, that permeates the communication of many.

      If more of us owned up to it, indeed it would, undoubtedly, improve communication….

      I am not terribly proud of myself when I go into a diatribe–as I did last night, on yesterday’s thread–with regard to someone’s comment about Israel and apartheid.

      But, as a Jew, I happen to see BOTH Israel and some of the countries in the Middle East at fault. Noticeably so.

      It simply drives me NUTS that political bigotry arises, going after one country–in this case, Israel, many people’s punching bag–whenever some new crisis, arises in the Middle East.

      The next thing I know, if, God Forbid, someone breaks into the Museum of Science, in Boston, and steals the Dead Seas Scrolls, someone will be saying that Mossad was behind it….because the actual scripture, somewhere, depicts unmistakable proof that Israel was, and always will be, the spiritual problem of the world…and Netanyahu wanted to suppress this information because (stupidly, I should add…that is my own comment) he wishes to pack more settlements into the West Bank, before the next round of Peace Talks.

      Go figure….

      • hennorama

        brettearle – TY for your non-responsive response.

        Now, as to your felicitous, solicitous question – of course.

        Two points:

        1. We all have our “buttons” that get pressed at the peril of others. (For a clue about one of mine, see http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-viewpoint/082613-668778-epidemic-of-white-on-black-violence-is-a-fraud.htm#comment-1022791853 and both antecedent and subsequent commentary. This is my second public dustup with an op-ed writer, BTW.)

        2. My positions on assumptions and sources are both manifest and well-documented.

        Pettiness, like prettiness, is in the eye of the beholder. Fuggedaboudit, and keep pounding that keyboard.

      • hennorama

        brettearle –

        P.S.: diatribe = I Bared It = A Dire Bit

        Yet more hidden truths revealed via anagrams.

        • brettearle


          On another site (where I incidentally want you to go, eventually, if you’re willing; because it’s there where we can exchange Email addresses if you’re willing; no one can see any of that exchange), I pulled `one’ off, like “diatribe”….

          [Again, really liked 'diatribe']

          Mine was “Alimony”: We were assigned
          to simply write a piece, with `alimony’ as the central theme…..

          “The Forensics of Alimony”

          It doesn’t take a PHD in etymology to uncover the literal roots of the word, “alimony.”

          That is, it’s a piece of ‘wedding’ cake for anyone who’s been privy, over
          the years, to the Liz Smith-Louella Parsons socialite, gossip-column
          crowd–most often, in the Big Apple:

          As we know, ‘a’ can be used as a prefix, to mean, ‘without’—as in, for an apropos example, ‘amoral’.

          We also know that ‘limo’ is an abbreviation for limousine.

          And so, there you have it:


          Without a limousine in New York.

          I owe you some responses. Vielen Dank for your comments, heute.

          Lesen sie die aufgabe for heute

  • Jasoturner

    Based on what I know about human beings, we’ll probably distance ourselves from nuclear power once a devastating failure occurs causing enormous loss of life and property. But not a moment before…

    • brettearle

      In “learning lessons”, if we knew how many deaths, or shortened lives, the use of nuclear energy has caused, even then we might turn a blind eye.

      Only, as you say, when (pardon the pun) we are truly burnt, might there be significant action..

      The Public does not want to know from the tissues in autopsies–of humans and fish; of fish and humans–the long half-lives of radioisotopes that might be detected in such post-mortems.

      As an analogy–about NOT learning from history:

      Did we Truly, Truly take seriously the World Trade Bombing of 1993?


  • Art Toegemann

    “Capping” Fukushima is an international priority. It is a disgrace this has not already been done.
    We are new to nukes. Geologists should direct us to the safest, not cheapest, locations to construct. Cooling can be done with coolants, freezers. Spent rods can be stored in desert sand until someone figures out how to use them.
    That said: solar panels!

  • brettearle

    I’m a pessimist, like you.

    But I would not make your statement–unless I had sources that fully support what you say.

  • Bill Clawson

    I don’t mean to be a party-pooper, but without real numbers and some idea of which radioactive contaminants are involved, there is no way of knowing if this story is just hype or terribly serious. How radioactive is the stored radioactive water and what are the contaminants therein? If the byproducts have a relatively short half-life (days or weeks), then dumping the water into the ocean isn’t that bad of an idea (shocking or outrageous, perhaps, but not actually that bad).

    All this said, I don’t know why they aren’t recycling the used water in the tanks?

    • tbphkm33

      If only the radioactive elements in the water had half lives of days or weeks. Reality is that this is water with some elements that will be dangerous for thousands of years. An entire reprocessing plant will have to be built on the site for just the purpose of cleaning the water and other materials. Even then, you are only separating the moderately radioactive elements from the highly radioactive elements. Some material at Fukushima will ultimately be encased in glass and put into storage for thousands of years.

    • sickofthechit

      What I heard was that the cooling water becomes radioactive and that radioactivity can damage and corrode the circulation system itself. So they will apparently be generating more and more of this type “waste” as they continue to try to cool the core and prevent a meltdown.

      Nuclear energy, just one of many Pandora’s boxes our society has opened on future generations. I still haven’t heard anyone address the structural damage being done to the planet by Fracking. If you think I am nuts then think a little about the tremendous pressures they have to use to fracture the honeycomb (if you will) of rock to release the gas and oil which themselves are also at tremendous pressures. Once it is pumped out what fills that void, what replaces that lost pressure? The Sinkholes in Florida will look like pinpricks compared to what is being created in the Fracked areas. We are greedy, selfish idiots. charles a. bowsher

      • JobExperience

        Charlie: TEPCO efforts to filter the irradiated cooling water and groundwater have failed because the nucleotides corrode the equipment rapidly and are volatile when compacted (isolated, purified). Cleaning radioactive water is more difficult than first assumed. Some fuel rods are partly plutonium which complicates matters. Workers are exposed to a deadly dose within 3 hours (outside) and several thousands are already furloughed.

        • sickofthechit

          Thanks for the info.

  • Melissa Cook

    I’m not eating the tuna in my cupboard. …..

    • fun bobby

      was it caught near Japan?

      • JobExperience

        The mercury would be sufficient hazard no matter where it was caught. Tuna migrate over vast distances at about 30 mph. They are among the first to deliver radiation, especially being high on the food web. I no longer recommend consuming any seafood. Eating from the oceans is like eating from a landfill.

        • fun bobby

          thanks for your opinion. chunk light tuna comes from smaller fish that have lower mercury levels. it has relatively low mercury levels. albacore tuna has higher levels. one should be cognizant of the type, quantity and source of the seafood they consume.

          • 1Brett1

            I think you’ve stated what a well-informed consumer should look for when eating seafood in a clear, systematic way: type, quantity and source.

            I’ve eaten, for example, trout I caught in Western North Carolina streams and have been confident they were relatively free of pollutants. On the other hand, I would not eat Albacore tuna ever (as much as it is the best tasting; anymore, I don’t eat tuna at all, but chunk light is relatively safe). I also wouldn’t eat fish of any kind that comes from far away, especially from places in East and Southeast Asia. I also wouldn’t eat any seafood on a daily basis.

            We really can’t give the same kind of gravity to every threat we might potentially face in terms of ingesting pollutants, or we would become breatharians (in which case our problems of worry would be over very quickly).

          • jefe68

            So no Alaska salmon or cod?

          • 1Brett1

            Hi, jefe. I eat wild Alaska salmon once in a blue moon. I feel that is a good choice as opposed to farmed salmon, as far as taste and avoiding pollutants, if one is going to eat fresh salmon (I have to admit, I also love Sottish smoked salmon and indulge myself once in a while). It is considered sustainable too (the wild Alaska salmon). I admit that wild Alaska salmon comes from quite a distance to my table, but I am not on a crusade, I just try to be somewhat conscientious. I am not a fan of farmed salmon (it tends to be bland, for one thing); it is known to have troubling levels of PCBs. I tend not to like fish farming practices; many serve to contaminate the environment. Not only do such practices often pass on diseases and parasites to wild populations, but a lot of salmon farming practices tend toward being inefficient by using a lot of smaller fish to feed the salmon.

            I don’t eat cod. It is not available fresh where I live, for one thing. It has also been overfished (well, Atlantic cod, anyway; I’m not familiar with Pacific cod but have heard it is a better alternative in terms of being at more sustainable levels). They are also large fishes, and I avoid those.

            All of that said, I think the last time I ate cod was…I’d say a couple of decades ago. The last time I ate wild Alaska salmon was about six months ago. I live in an area where my local fishmonger offers flounder caught locally (which I love and eat about one or two times a month), local shrimp (I eat that about once a month) and mollusks, mostly scallops and clams (about once a month at the most; I even go digging for clams once in a blue moon too).

            I prefer going to a fishmonger; my place knows me, I know them, they bring in what they offer daily, and so on. I used to like monkfish, but that has been overfished. I sometimes am treated to getting trout; I like that a lot. That is usually from local fishing trips/friends who lay some on me. I have a great recipe based on one I heard about that someone had supposedly read from a magazine article Hemingway wrote in the ’40s; it supposedly was his favorite thing to eat on fishing/camping trips; it involves bacon and its rendered fat, Pinko bread crumbs and butter…all of the things I probably shouldn’t have at my age, but once in a while…I have great local choices, for the most part.

            I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet you’ve got some good fish. shellfish and mollusk recipes.

          • fun bobby

            many if not most of our inland waterways are polluted in some way. there are all the known things pcbs mercury mtbe and now we have all the caffeine and drugs and hormones and such showing up in freshwater fish
            not that I produce all my own food but at this point I only really trust the food I myself produce. I am thinking of starting some small scale aquaculture.

          • 1Brett1

            You’re wise not to trust our own waterways…I love seafood, but I find the older I get and the more I understand and hear about how readily creatures of the sea, so to speak, absorb pollutants, the less appealing. We can follow certain guidelines in protecting ourselves against Mercury and PCBs, e.g., eating smaller fish that don’t live a long life, cleaning and cooking fish properly (PCBs), etc., but that isn’t 100% protection. And, as you say, drugs and hormones are showing up in water supplies.

            Doing a small-scale aquaculture would be cool; I doubt that you’d need a whole lot of space if you were just raising seafood for yourself and a few choice (lucky) friends. It would be easy to control for diseases, etc., if you filtered and monitored your water and kept populations thin in your tanks, and so on. It’d be a lot of work and some expense, but you could supply local niche restaurants too to cover costs if that would be what it would take…the idea is intriguing, anyway.

          • fun bobby

            I actually have a design in mind where I repurpose a pond kit into an intensive aquaponics model. this allows for dense populations of fish as the plants are very efficient filtration.

    • jefe68

      The tuna in your cupboard is skipjack or albacore which has mercury levels almost three times higher than skipjack.

      I would be more worried about mercury.
      You can find better sources with less mercury on this site:

      Much more per can than the supermarket.

  • Brad dayag

    The reality of the situation is this: even as bad as the radiological releases are, their most probable impact no human health will be negligible and impossible to discern from background variances.

    • fun bobby

      for us anyways

      • Brad dayag

        No, pretty much for everyone.

        • Richard Werkhoven

          A lot of deaths from many disaeses are unattributable to sources due to limitations of the ability to analyse the data. This does not mean there was no cause or that the cause could not have been averted with better science.

          Also you may or may not remember that the exact same argument was used to disclaim the health risks from smoking for many many years.

          Some people will likely die – we won’t be able to prove it so the Nuclear industry is safe from being held accountable.

          The effect on marine biology over a long time scale will be more of an issue and the actual effects on humans will be significant and in fact already are.

          There is more to life than a provable death count.

          • fun bobby

            I think his point was more to acknowledge there is plenty of naturally occurring radiation and radiation caused by human actions so that this is relatively negligible. If you are really concerned about exposure to small doses of radiation avoid air travel, basement living, mountains, and bananas. Its funny you should mention cigarettes as some are now suggesting that it is the radioactive lead and polonium in cigarettes that forms clumps in the lungs and that what leads to cancer.

          • Richard Werkhoven

            In some cases it is the radiation that collects that is the cause of lung cancer – not in all cases from the research I have seen so far.

            So small as to be negligible is an odd argument when there is an argument over linear vs threshold models.

            If the linear response is correct then any additional radiation is additional risk.

            If the threshold model is correct then you may tip the dose over a threshold and therefore a small increase could be a highly significant effect for the person.

            The other issue is that the spread is rarely uniform – so the average added is not particularly relevant.

            So much science fraud being sprouted to try and explain away radiation releases.

          • fun bobby

            i never said it was in all cases or even that that was a universally accepted notion.
            In either model the size of the dose is very important. my point in another post was that our exposure in America from this event is very ,very low. there are many natural sources(and unnatural) that can give larger doses of radiation. of course it is a bigger concern for those in the vicinity.
            more people should be upset about the naked scanners which the government estimated would cause a half dozen or so cases of cancer per year and as far as I know have failed to catch any terrorists.
            i cant say that i understand your comment about “science fraud” in relation to my post

          • Richard Werkhoven

            The increase in dose is important yes – but all available information indicates that any dose is risk. Even the IEA explains why we don’t have any valid reference point for any study of low dose being accceptable.

            Yes likely in the short term the risk in the US is much higher from body scanners than from these current releases of radiation.

            The ‘radiation is everywhere so is nothing to worry about’ argument is much used to argue away the real risks from radiation. This is what I was referring to.

            Radiation is everywhere but not evenly so.

            The sun is often used as a model for radiation being safe yet sunlight is a major radiation risk especially in my country and we have to take precautions against exposure to avoid cancer and in many cases death.

            Risk is everywhere – but that does not mean it is not risk.

            Fukushima will have an effect and the distribtution will be uneven. Some people even in the US may experience a high enough concentration of Fukushima radiation release to be relatively dangerous whilst the next person may get next to no dose.

            Averages are pretty useless.

            I am not suggesting you intended fraud with your response – but the argument about so many sources is often used to misinform and mislead as to real risk.

          • fun bobby

            i make the argument for the sake of proportion. there was a recent study that showed sun exposure, though it does increase the rate of skin cancer, lowers the rate of many other cancers. exposure to low levels of radon may lower the rate of lung cancer by 60%. don’t get me wrong I don’t think radiation Is good for DNA in general but who can say what the risks of some cesium spiked hamachi maki rolls are? better to not worry about it and eat a diet with sufficient iodine


          • Richard Werkhoven

            The body uses UV from sun exposure to make Vitamin D. The necessary dose is relative to skin pigmentation.

            It is hard here to get the balance right so Vitamin D supplements are a better option than overdosing on sunlight.

            Hormesis is a theory at this stage. it probably happens but what the other effects are is uncertain. If you expose your body to toxins you probably reduce the chances of some disease or other.

            Cancer is usually the failure of cells to die. Most treatments for cancer are attempts to kill cells.

            By upping the level of radiation you probably knock off cancer cells – you most likely cause a whole lot of other effects on the body that are going to take a long time to show up.

            Again – this is science being misused. When the study can list the side effects and percentages for the various doses of radon then it may be a treatment or preventative measure – right now it’s evidence of the obvious and totally useless.

            Smoking has health benefits also – but overall it’s a bad idea.

            Iodine tablets pre-load the thyroid so that when I-131 is ingested it does not get absorbed by the thyroid gland.

            I-131 has a short half-life and is therefore a risk only for a few weeks after a fission event.

            Thyroid cancer is the first cancer to show up after exposure – the other cancers take longer to develop.

            Cesium has a much longer half-life and Iodine will not prevent it’s effects on the body.

            So no I’d worry about the cesium and hold back on a useless iodine overdose.

          • fun bobby

            I did not think it was obvious that radon gas would reduce lung cancer 60% before I read that study given that we were always told radon increased lung cancer.
            the average American diet is very low in iodine(and vitamin D but I digress). Japanese eat a diet rich in iodine, they also have a much lower cancer rate. thus my advice. I did not suggest an iosat tablet regimen. the point was that there are lots of radiation sources some of which are unnatural and some are natural and all have relative dosages. to worry about this particular one seems foolish at this point given all the others. you seem well enough informed to know that this is relatively immaterial for someone living in America. on the other hand if a huge could of radioactive dust heads our way I have my tablets, do you have yours?

          • Richard Werkhoven

            It’s obvious to me that someone did such a study and hoped for an outcome.

            It’s obvious to me that a toxin can reduce cancer. Even a toxin that can cause cancer.

            Dietary iodine is one of many factors that are higher or better in Japanese diets than US diets. Omega 3 etc is possibly more relevant.

            I was suggesting that being cautious on iodine was better than trying to stop caesium effects as iodine toxicity can also be a problem. Didn’t think you meant tablets.

            Caesium in tuna in some current situations resulting from Fukushima is a worry and has to be monitored to avoid contamination and iodine is in no way going to prevent the issue.

            The dose is what counts is quite true – the difference is that a palne flight ends at the end of the filght whereas consumption of contaminated seafood does not end at the end of the meal or the expulsion of the digestive waste products so the ongoing dose can be a lot worse.

            If a contaminated tuna is caught and served in the US it is just as dangerous to those who eat it as if it were caught and served in Japan. The total number of becquerels of radiation entering the country may be lower but that is irrelevant if you consume a contaminated product.

            I don’t live in the northern hemisphere and so am unlikely to be subject to a major airborne release in a short time period. If the release takes longer than 2 weeks to reach me then the iodine tablets are a waste of time.

            My country has had a radioactive plume go across it from weapons tests and it was covered up a bit like the misinformation the US got after Fukushima but much worse.

          • fun bobby

            I don’t think Radon has much of a lobby and I don’t know who would profit from a study concocted to show it was beneficial. Who would benefit from falsifying or doing a biased study on radon?
            I think without supplementation it would be quite difficult to overdose on dietary iodine.
            I have stopped eating the sushi that is flown in from japan for the reason you mentioned.
            where are you anyways?

          • Richard Werkhoven

            Radon lobby – no not exactly.

            There is a lot of work going into promoting radiation as beneficial though. If low leve radiation is perceived as safe or beneficial then it removes damage worries and PR problems for the Nuclear industry.

            But my point was the study expected an outcome. We don’t know what they were looking for.

            I just didn’t want anyone reading this to take your point too far.

            I’m not suggesting anything but proper vigilance and controls to avoid contaminated food. I don’t want to see Japan suffer.

            I am in Australia.

          • Brad dayag

            If it can be “proven” via some epidemiological method its science otherwise its a philosophical argument.

          • Richard Werkhoven

            Nice misuse of the principle there,

            Yes it couldn’t be proven according to some that smoking caused cancer but the actual science was that it did and it’s now not in doubt.

            I said that many cancer cases cannot be tracked back to the exact cause due to the nature of the available data and methodology. This is not the same as saying you can’t prove a link between radiation and cancer.

            Your point is philosophical because you can’t prove what will happen over the next decades from this incident that is still in progress and for which you don’t and can’t have all the facts.

            What is known therefore is that cancer is not easy to study at the levels likely from low dose radiation in a noisy cancer environment.

            What is clear is that pretending that this in some way means there is a positive angle to a lack of ability to pick a signal out of the noise is spin and not science.

            Yes we won’t know that patient X died of Fukushima – and we won’t see millions of obvious deaths and be able to say with certainty it must have been that radiation release.

            None of that means that people will or won’t die or suffer from these releases.

            I am fairly certain some will in a few decades time. I don’t know the number but likely more than 1.

            The releases are affecting lives right now though. That is provable reality – just not from the science you chose to focus on.

          • Brad dayag

            There are dozens of large radiological releases with observed doses on people that have been put through the epidemiological ringer. Based on these, Fukushima just doesn’t seem to be in the position to effect that many people and those who will receive a dose, it will be far too low to cause harm.

          • Richard Werkhoven

            Exact dose per subject is not known in those studies and the result is therefore very unlikely to be of great value.

            The doses assumed are by necessity very rough estimates.

            It won’t be far too low to cause harm – at best the harm will be minor. There is a difference.

            This is the sort of misuse of science that has me very worried.

            Just because there is a study it is foolish to assume it was useful or that a lack of a result proves something it just can’t.

          • hennorama

            Richard Werkhoven – not to mention the issues involved in tracking large numbers of people over long time periods.

          • Richard Werkhoven

            Well yes – and the problem of knowing the dose received with any accuracy – which considering the population were not wearing dosimiters at the time of exposure is extremely unlikely.

            In Chernobyl the difference between contamination between a house and the house next door was massive yet the study was based on the averaged likely dose. This is near useless to prove anything much.

          • hennorama

            Richard Werkhoven – Thank you for your illuminating comments. It’s always a pleasure to read well-informed and well-reasoned commentary.

            Well done.

        • fun bobby

          at this point it seems like it may affect some people in japan and has already affected some already.

    • nj_v2

      I see a lot of words there trying to be a cogent sentence, but, alas, they struggle in vain.

      • Brad dayag

        Oooh .. watch out folks, the grammar police are on patrol today.

  • sickofthechit

    Can we all agree that no one is pronouncing Fukushima correctly? charles a. bowsher

    • WorriedfortheCountry


    • brettearle


      • Coastghost

        Discussed, Disgust, or Disqust?

        • brettearle

          Good one

    • hennorama

      sickofthechit – Mr. Ashbrook has it right, which is not surprising, since he “spent ten years in Asia — based in India, Hong Kong, and Japan…” per his On Point bio.

      He does on occasion revert back to the common but incorrect “fuu kuu SHEEE ma” when he unconsciously mimics his guest, David McNeill in the early part of the broadcast (start listening @~ 9:30 to hear the flub @~10:00 in).


      http://joeclark.org/dossiers/Fukushima.mp3 (audio pronunciations)

      • sickofthechit

        The pronunciation twist I was attempting to get to would have had the first three letters rhyming with truck. I was just trying for a little levity…sometimes I miss the mark even worse if you can imagine.

        • hennorama

          sickofthechit – OK, NOW I get it. :-)

          Perhaps next time you could write “Shouldn’t we be pronouncing ‘Fukushima’ to rhyme with ‘Luck you she ma’?

          Or similar.

          Or even simpler – “Shouldn’t we be pronouncing the first three letters of ‘Fukushima’ to rhyme with ‘truck’?

          Humor is not always easy to communicate “in here,” as you’ve discovered.

    • JobExperience

      The NHK anchors seem to say “Excushima.”

  • WorriedfortheCountry
    • hennorama

      WftC – and sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Oh, but this one captures the current state of climate science so well.

  • ramani

    The point isn’t this Fukushima radiation level, it is the combination of screwing around on all fronts. For millions of years nature has got it right and we come along pressing buttons on stuff, 99.99 to the ten power don’t know how it works…we are messing with food genetics, pharmaceuticals, toxic pesticides…it goes on and on…and on. And we the people wave flags, use our blind spot so we won’t see it but our children and their children will have to deal with this crap. Society is the toxin and we have to detox by taking responsibility. If,”war is not the answer,” we are in the middle of a worlds war on our human nature…and nature in general.

  • WorriedfortheCountry
  • fun bobby

    so its basically an emotional response?

  • apeman2502

    Look into who really controls the progress and policy at the Fukushima plant. This site and others are sensitive about the fact.

    • patpatt3rs0n

      There are confirmed workers with Yakuza connections present at Fuku and amongst ‘decontimation’ projects. Also this plant was using MOX fuel which is extra-nasty as it contains plutonium.

      • apeman2502

        Keep digging. You are only half way there. After General MacArthur and that crew finished setting up the free election system in Japan, the Skull and Bones crowd led a meeting with the Yakuza. The Yakuza received a free pass in exchange for______. (fill in the blank and you will know why this mess has been isolated from the rest of the world, just like the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.) The ‘Grand Patron’ doesn’t appreciate economic competition. The sheeple deserve a good solid ass kicking from their ancestors for seeking and emulating the paths of mewling house pets.

  • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    People keep being surprised to learn there is no “safe” dose. That dental XRays, or a walk in the sun for 1 minute one day, could, just could, spark the cancer that kills you 10 years earlier than otherwise.
    But yeah, there’s no safety, in life. Only somewhat safer choices, and even those are not so clear. Like, is it really safer to get no sun at all? Not so clear, actually.

  • http://www.findingourdream.blogspot.com Hal Horvath

    I’d rather visit Fukishima on a tour, with modest radiation doses, than breathe typical city air 8 hours straight in a typical American city on an average day (not a better or worse than average day, just an average one). Why? Diesel exhaust.
    Really? Yes. Because I actually have a sense of the statistics and numbers, instead of superstition, as a way to assess risk.

    • ExcellentNews

      It is good to see that there is at least someone else who has escaped the dumbing down and stupefaction of the masses. Either that, or you have been fortunate to receive an education outside of the US :)

      The Japanese have put themselves in quite a mess, thanks to optimistic planning. Fukushima was designed using 100-year disaster scenarios. It makes me think of an unsaid principle from my old practice – never hire a cheerful engineer. You really need the ones who see a storm in a blue sky…

      • apeman2502

        The Rockefellers and George Herbert Walker Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations and power with Pres. Johnson oversaw the extensive excavations to put this particular design by General Electric right down on the beach in the middle of one of the most active tsunami zones on earth. With brittle cement demineralized water ponds built on top of the reactors to hold this fuel until a tsunami took it out. They could not wait for a tsunami to show up, So they made one. Homework time, son. The Japanese did not do this beyond a few subcontractors. Excellent News FAIL.

  • Frank

    I concur his tone was most disagreeable indeed

  • patpatt3rs0n

    I was LOL’ing at the guy who talked about cleaning the water. Also, Fish swimming away DECREASE their cesium amount…. Are you for real? Once you ingest cesium its there FOREVER, doesn’t fizzle away because they swim…

    He said ALPS cleans out “cesium and iodine”… guy is a misinformed, slightly?. Iodine is only a prob after melt or initial meltdown/fission… Also, cesium is only 1 radioactive isotope among dozens that have been/are/willbe created for YEARS… and ALPS has already failed and corroded. They found CS 400KM+ away… Tokyo is nuclear waste in places… they are incinerating waste… and Now we have reason to believe there is radioactive STEAM (observed atleast a dozen times, as recent as yesterday, coming down during the rains).

    Lets not forget: (Ag-110, Amercanium, Neptunium, “black substance” mould with 1,000,000,000 Bq/kg). This is already larger than chernobyl…

    Is this guy for real? The water is BILLIONS of bq/kg and they are apparently treating to international standards and should be allowed to discharge? … wow.

    Also, Reactor 3 was using MOX fuel. PLUTONIUM, so cesium is a very small risk. Crews have found pieces of fuel rods/plutonium up to 5KM away since they were literally BLOWN into the sky during the multiple explosions.

    paid shill?

Sep 15, 2014
In this Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014 photo, Middle Eastern leaders stand together during a family photo with of the Gulf Cooperation Council and regional partners at King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)

President Obama says he will build a coalition of partners in the Middle East to combat ISIS. We’ll do a reality check on who’s really stepping up for what.

Sep 15, 2014
This Monday, Sept. 27, 2010 file photo shows hikers on the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz. (AP/Carson Walker)

Uproar over development plans for the Grand Canyon. We go to the Navajo Nation and the Canyon floor to see what’s at stake.

Sep 12, 2014
In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

#WhyIStayed. We’re looking at women in and out of relationships of domestic violence.

Sep 12, 2014
President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, to discuss options for combating the Islamic State. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The President’s ISIS strategy. The Ray Rice video. Congress is back. Apple’s new watch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
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Our Week In The Web: September 12, 2014
Friday, Sep 12, 2014

In which you had varied reactions to the prospect of a robotic spouse.

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Beverly Gooden on #WhyIStayed
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Beverly Gooden — who originated the #WhyIStayed hashtag that has taken off across Twitter — joined us today for our discussion on domestic violence.

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Tierney Sutton Plays LIVE For On Point
Friday, Sep 5, 2014

We break out Tierney Sutton’s three beautiful live tracks from our broadcast today for your listening pleasure.

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