The Wall Street Journal has a discussion article titled "A Radiation Reality Check" on the front page of the Weekend Review section by the author of a new book, The Age of Radiance: The Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era (April 12-13 2014 p. C3)
While I’m sure this new book by Craig Nelson is interesting, it also contains some verifiable mis-information, which is also evident in the article.
Specifically, Nelson’s article in the WSJ notes that of the 600,000 Americans dying every year from cancer, 11,000 will be caused by atmospheric testing.
Nelson then goes on to state that only 75 people died from Chernobyl radiation.
Nelson then states that “the consensus estimate is a 1% increase in cancer for [Fukushima] plant employees and an undetectable increase for the plant’s neighbors.”
Nelson makes it easy to demonstrate the illogicality at the heart of his analysis.
[I won’t address his misinformation about Chernobyl but will focus exclusively on Fukushima.]
Fukushima involved spent fuel pools that were dry enough to cause zirconium fires. Spent fuel rods must be continuously emerged in water or they will release vast amounts of radionuclides. During the disaster at Fukushima, spent fuel rods were UNCOVERED.
Here are some relevant headlines from articles I saved in March 2011. Please realize that some of these links no longer are active and that some articles have been retrospectively edited to conform with the assertion of “no excess risks”:
NEWS ADVISORY: Fuel rods at No. 2 reactor fully exposed for about 2.5 hours: agency
"Japanese officials are playing down any health risk, but the US said it had moved one of its aircraft carriers from the area after detecting low-level radiation 100 miles (160km) offshore."
"Fukushima No. 2 reactor's fuel rods fully exposed, melting feared"
US helicopters and ships are moving away from Japanese coast because of "low level" radiation. Yah, sure....http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/USaircraftcarrierreportedlysailsintoradioactivecloud/2011/03/14/id/389345http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/16/japan.nuclear.reactors/index.html?hpt=T1
Tokyo (CNN) -- Spent fuel rods in Unit 4 of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been exposed, resulting in the emission of "extremely high" levels of radiation, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.
PLEASE READ MY SUMMARY OF SPENT FUEL #4 CONDITIONS IN MY BOOK, FUKUSHMA AND THE PRIVATIZATION OF RISK. I’ve also included a long but relevant excerpt at the bottom of this post. http://books.google.com/books?id=seK2AQAAQBAJ&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=fukushima+and+the+privatization+of+risk+spent+fuel+pool+4+fire&source=bl&ots=-37yoR3zgn&sig=nsDuVrKZ57ybZX57g6hCGI4fy1s&hl=en&sa=X&ei=cmNJU5XJMcmG8QHfhYCwDQ&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=fukushima%20and%20the%20privatization%20of%20risk%20spent%20fuel%20pool%204%20fire&f=false
So, we know that spent fuel pool 2 and 4 lost water.
David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman and Susan Stranahan point out in their new book Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster that spent fuel rods will release gaseous isotopes, such as cesium-137, when the temperature of the zirconium alloy cladding, which encases the rods, reaches a temperature of 800-900 degrees Celsius. (page 71)
In other words, fuel rods need not shoot out flames to release their radionuclide inventories.
Robert Alvarez tells us that “On average, spent fuel ponds hold five-to-ten times more long-lived radioactivity than a reactor core” and that “A single spent fuel pond holds more cesium-137 than was deposited by all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the Northern Hemisphere combined.”
SO, HOW CAN FUKUSHIMA RESULT IN A NEGLIGIBLE INCREASE IN CANCER RATES IN JAPAN WHEN MORE THAN ONE SPENT FUEL POOL LOST WATER AND SUFFERED ZIRCONIUM FIRES, LIKELY RELEASING VASTLY MORE RADIONUCLIDES THAN RELEASED DURING ATMOSPHERIC TESTING?
IT IS SIMPLY ILLOGICAL THAT 11,000 AMERICANS DIE ANNUALLY FROM ATMOSPHERIC TESTING, WHICH PRODUCED FAR LESS RADIATION THAN FUKUSHIMA, WHILE FUKUSHIMA WILL KILL SO FEW PEOPLE THAT EXCESS MORTALITY CANNOT BE MEASURED.
Nelson is either poorly informed about the events that occurred at Fukushima, or he is engaged in deliberate deception.
Here is the article from Alvarez. Please read his warnings for yourself:
Meltdowns Grow More Likely at the Fukushima Reactors
March 13, 2011 · By Robert AlvarezRobert Alvarez:…On average, spent fuel ponds hold five-to-ten times more long-lived radioactivity than a reactor core. Particularly worrisome is the large amount of cesium-137 in fuel ponds, which contain anywhere from 20 to 50 million curies of this dangerous radioactive isotope. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium-137 gives off highly penetrating radiation and is absorbed in the food chain as if it were potassium.
In comparison, the 1986 Chernobyl accident released about 40 percent of the reactor core’s 6 million curies. A 1997 report for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by Brookhaven National Laboratory also found that a severe pool fire could render about 188 square miles uninhabitable, cause as many as 28,000 cancer fatalities, and cost $59 billion in damage.
A single spent fuel pond holds more cesium-137 than was deposited by all atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the Northern Hemisphere combined. Earthquakes and acts of malice are considered to be the primary events that can cause a major loss of pool water.
In 2003, my colleagues and I published a study that indicated if a spent fuel pool were drained in the United States, a major release of cesium-137 from a pool fire could render an area uninhabitable greater than created by the Chernobyl accident....
Majia here: So, the spent fuel at Daiichi released at least some of its inventory. We do know that xenon was detected in the US from the Daiichi disaster at 400,000 normal levels. How many orders of magnitude was the release of plutonium? Uranium? etc.
The indisputable conclusion is that Fukushima cannot kill next to no one if atmospheric testing kills 11,000 Americans a year.
Here is more background about unit 4 drawn from my published book Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk by Palgrave Pivot:
On the morning of Tuesday 15 March, the IAEA released a statement warning that the Japanese authorities had reported a fire in spent fuel pool 4. Japanese authorities informed the IAEA at 03:50 coordinated universal time that the spent fuel storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was on fire and that radioactivity was being released directly into the atmosphere.[i]
The fire was reportedly extinguished later on 15 March.[ii] The Los Angeles Times reported this same sequence of fires in unit 4 spent fuel pool, which purportedly contained both new and spent fuel.[iii] However, Jim Riccio, a nuclear expert for Greenpeace, reported on 16 March to The Guardian that the spent fuel pool at unit 4 was still boiling: ‘The spent fuel pool in unit 4 is boiling, and once that starts you can't stop it… The threat is that if you boil off the water, the metal cladding on the fuel rods that is exposed to the air, and is volatile, will catch fire. That will propel the radiation even further.’[iv]
On 19 March, The Los Angeles Times reported that spent fuel pool 4 was still in danger of overheating because of cracks.[v] The chronology of events after this point becomes muddled as subsequent reports indicate that the pool was somehow repaired enough to contain water. On 20 June 2011, Tepco reported that the water in spent fuel pool 4 was down by two-thirds as of 11 June and radiation levels were so high workers could not approach the pool.[vi]
Spent fuel pool 4 would become the focus of considerable attention in the spring of 2012, as will be explained presently. In June of 2012, the Chairman of Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency admitted in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun that unit 4 had exploded, although details were not provided.[vii]
Release of the written transcripts of the 16 March audio files of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Operation Center Fukushima Transcript provides some insight into the complexities of the disaster. Conversations about the plant status clearly indicate that spent fuel pools 3 and 4 were damaged and burning.[viii]
On page 62 of the transcripts, speakers are recorded as stating that in additions to units 1 and 2 ‘boiling down,’ the spent fuel pools in 3 and 4 are having ‘zirc water reactions,’ indicating that the fuel cladding was burning because the used rods were no longer submerged in water. A speaker asserts that there are ‘no walls’ on unit 4 spent fuel pool: ‘The explosion leveled the walls, leveled the structure for the unit 4 spent fuel pool all the way down to the to the approximate level of the bottom of the fuel. So, there is no water in there whatsoever.’
Later in the transcripts, a speaker reiterates this report on the status of spent fuel pool number 4: ‘our understanding of the unit 4 spent fuel pool is it has been destroyed on the side such that it will get no water above the bottom of the active fuel for in effect the sides of the reactor building are gone…the sides are gone.…’
The overall status of the plant is summarized on page 215 by another speaker: he states the status of the plant has progressed to at least ‘2 reactors [in meltdown], multiple spent fuel pools and maybe 4 reactors and 4 spent fuel pools....’ The prognosis was considered grim: ‘We’ve just not seen any mitigation of any of the events and we would take all the spent fuel pools and probably all the four reactors into the final conclusion because we’ve not seen any mitigation….[ix]
The site contamination complicated the emergency response. On 7 April 2011, The New York Times reported that broken fuel rods were found outside of containment at the Daiichi site: ‘Broken pieces of fuel rods have been found outside of Reactor No. 2, and are now being covered with bulldozers... The pieces may be from rods in the spent-fuel pools that were flung out by hydrogen explosions.’[x]Fragments of rods were found up to one mile from the plant.[xi] These highly radioactive rods are capable of producing immediately lethal doses of radiation.[xii]...
[i] The press release has since been removed from the IAEA webpage. It was originally found here http://www.iaea.org/press/?p=1248.
[iii] K. Hall and C. Williams (15 March 2011) ‘Fire Erupts Again at Fukushima Daiichi's No. 4 Reactor; Nuclear Fuel Rods Damaged at Other Reactors’, The Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/15/world/la-fgw-japan-quake-reactor-fire-20110316, date accessed 20 March 2011.
[iv] Goldenberg ‘Japan Nuclear Crisis.’
[v] T. Maugh (19 March 2011) ‘Electric Power Partially Restored at Japan Nuclear Plant’, The Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/19/science/la-sci-japan-reactor-damage-20110319, date accessed 20 March 2011.
[vi] ‘Tepco Injects’ (20 June 2011), NHK, http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/20_03.html, date accessed 20 June 2011.
[vii] H. Hattori and K. Takeuchi (29 June 2012) ‘AEC Chairman: Major Change Needed in Reprocessing Nuclear Fuel’, The Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201206290123, date accessed 30 June 2012.
[viii] U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)(16 March 2011) ‘Official Transcript of Proceedings of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi ET Audio File’, p. 62, http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1205/ML12052A108.pdf, date accessed 7 May 2011.
[ix] U.S NRC ‘Official Transcript’ March 16.
[x] H. Tabuchi and A. Pollack (7 April 2011) ‘Japan is Struck by Powerful Aftershock’, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/asia/08japan.html?_r=1&, date accessed 8 April 2011.
[xi] J. Glanz and W. Broad (5 April 2011) ‘U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant’, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/asia/06nuclear.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, date accessed 6 April 2011.
[xii] R. Alvarez (May 2011) Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the U.S.: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage (Institute of Policy Studies), pp. 5-7, http://www.ips-dc.org/files/3200/spent_nuclear_fuel_pools_in_the_us.pdf.