Everybody’s probably read an outline of the news by now: TEPCO, the operator of the crippled nuclear plant, has laid out a plan to stabilize the damaged reactors that would allow people to return to their homes within “six to nine months“. Which may be a little optimistic, since the Packbots (“which resemble drafting lamps on tank-like treads”) on loan from a Massachusetts company and the miniature remote-controlled helicopter drones reported back that radioactivity levels in the two worst damaged units reach in an hour as much as workers in the US nuclear industry are allowed to accumulate in a year.
But since it’s not on everybody’s daily reading list, I wanted to draw attention to the Guardian‘s excellent coverage, which runs the gamut from a Datablog (“Facts are sacred”) updated daily to commentary on disaster capitalism and the “Half-Life of Disaster“; a photographic series of “Salvaged memories from Japan”; and a great many unforgettable stories about the people who wil be putting their lives back together for many years to come.
Thanks, Anne. I was just thinking today that Mistermix needed to post some news on this. Asahi English has some good stories too.
Thanks, Anne for this. A couple of other things I saw today: http://truthout.org/work-fukushima-you-have-be-ready-die/1302159600 (h/t Naked Capitalism), saying they are hiring temps to work at the plant for $120/day, asking for people older than 50. Also, a great question from Grist: If it costs $150B to clean this up, how much geothermal energy capacity could Japan have built for that much money? (answer: 7-10X the capacity of Fukushima 1-6). http://www.grist.org/list/2011-04-18-what-if-the-152-billion-to-clean-up-fukushima-were-spent-on-geot
It really appears that nuclear energy is the industrial equivalent of Wall Street’s risk management practices.
Oh yeah, I know I had read the Duke Energy case long ago, but the current liability limit for US nuke plants: $12.6B. So if Indian Point blows and renders Manhattan uninhabitable, the US taxpayer pays all claims….
Felanius Kootea (formerly Salt and freshly ground black people)
Thanks AL. Sorry to post this in this thread but I didn’t see an open one. Jane Brewer just vetoed the Arizona birther bill.
I’m truly surprised.
@Felanius Kootea (formerly Salt and freshly ground black people):
Arizona must not have the possibility to recall the governor. Also, Brewer must not be interested in another term.
cue industry trolls to tell us how everything worked at Fukushima and how this accident demonstrates how truly safe nuclear power is…in 1, 2, 3….
I’m guessing that the towns closest to the reactor won’t be habitable in the next six months, or even in the next six years. I’d expect them to eventually become nuclear ghost towns.
Happy to be wrong.
All of these collateral costs need to be figured into the cost per KWh of nuclear. I know it’s not possible, because it’s somewhere between nothing and everything, but it somehow does need to be included. We are likewise leaving out the cost of externalities in coal, oil and gas. Why can we not have an honest cost/KWh? (I understand with nuclear, since it’s impossible to account for).
Since the people won’t be moving into the core, I don’t think radiation levels there matter much. Last I checked, radiation levels at the gates are around 4-5 times normal background radiation. Assuming the danger of further emissions of radioactive material is past (and that’s a big if), there is nothing keeping the people from returning home.
@Scott P.: Hi Scott, are you a machine troll or a paid troll?
I’m continually reintroduced to the Japanese craft of understatement:
Sooooo IIUC, not to worry about the possibility of the heretofore impossible thing happening so long as things go a-ok. Then it for pretty much for sure won’t happen. OK? OK!
Around the Chernobyl reactor, basic levels of radiation are low enough that large numbers of people work there every day (a big expense given that none of the reactors at the facility have produced electricity for many years). Despite that, no one is allowed to move back into the area, in part because there are plenty of radiating elements (think cesium and strontium) embedded into the soil. Stick a detector even slightly under the surface anywhere and it’ll go crazy. Breathe dust in from that dirt and you could be inhaling a case of cancer a decade or so down the road.
Something similar will likely be the case around Fukushima, even after they achieve cold shutdown and deal with the spent fuel pools. All the radiation happening over time leaves cumulative long-lived radioactive elements on everything. Having large numbers of people living in the vicinity of it pretty much ensures additional cases of cancer and birth defects.
Thanks for this comment.
Don’t call that a plan. It barely rises to the level of a scheme.
I would just like to point out that this is the second Ultravox! reference on BJ in the last month or so. That is all.
That is interesting. Sounds like paranoia, but it is interesting:
hmmm, TEPCO is behaving shady as hell, but I think that’s a) to forestall a panic coupled with Japanese stoicism b) Nuke Industry obfuscation and the standard elected official bed-wetting c) incompetence. a weapons program would be a complete alpha-jerk, and i think highly doubtful.
two excellent resources for those comfortable with some science:
Michael E Sullivan
I don’t think the public will have any real idea how bad this is until after the cleanup is mostly complete.
Depending on the extent to which TEPCO and the japanese authorities are downplaying issues or being *extremely* cautious it could be anything from a very scary accident that will end up having little or no affect on anyone not charged with emergency work at the reactor to a fairly massive effect. In terms of what is publically known right now, there have been a lot of fission products released into the ocean, but that isn’t a huge deal since none of the key isotopes bioaccumulate significantly, so dilution really does take care of the problem once you are outside the immediate neighborhood of the effluent. In terms of what is known to have been released past the gates of the reactor.
It makes sense that there is a very small probability of complete meltdown and almost no possibility of a chernobyl style warhead-equivalent explosion since the reactor was shutdown before the tsunami knocked out the cooling systems. There is no chain reaction, only a great deal of heat from the radiation of the fission products in the spent fuel.
Geiger counter readings suggest that it’s reasonable to be concerned within and near the 30km exclusion zone, but not to think this area will be uninhabitable like the area around chernobyl.
There is way too much fear mongering on this. It’s very likely that TEPCO is omitting and playing loose with information. But based on what outside independent information I’ve been able to discover, it doesn’t seem very likely that this event will end up with anything like the consequences of Chernobyl, Most of the evacuated area will probably be perfectly safe once things are under control, and the risk for people outside 50km is probably insignificant.