Monday, July 16, 2012

Science Corrupted by Private Funding? MIT and the Fuksuhima Disaster

MIT needs a moral conscience.

I had a friend who completed his PhD in physics there in the 1980s. He is a brilliant man and was strongly opposed to the nuclear arms race during the 1980s when I knew him.

So, I was under the impression that MIT is an institution that encourages a wide array of viewpoints.

However, I guess my experience was rather atypical because all I seem to read recently out of MIT is propaganda, literally (see my previous blog posts at end of this post).

Here is the latest example from MIT's Technology Review

Lesson Learned: The Fukushima disaster should make nuclear energy safer than ever. Jacopo Buongiorno

Majia Here: I'm going to critique two excerpts from this glossy hype for nuclear energy after the biggest nuclear disaster in human history.


Excerpt: "Scary though the accident looked and sounded in the media, its radiological consequences are negligible. Nobody has died from radiation exposure..."

Majia Here: First of all, we do NOT know that no one has died. See the bottom of this post for information about "missing" plant workers.

Second, deaths from radiation exposure do not typically happen quickly unless the exposure was acute. People with acute exposure typically die within months unless they respond to intensive treatment.

Most people who have died of radiation exposure from nuclear explosions have died years after their exposure. Thus, it is absurd to trivialize the disaster by stating that no one died from it.

In truth, many, many people - no doubt millions - will die from diseases caused by the Fukushima disaster.

New understandings of genetics, such as the bystander effect and delayed effects, reveal that ionizing radiation can produce genomic instability. Research has demonstrated that a single alpha particle transversal can break DNA. Cells not directly irradiated can subsequently produce progeny with damaged DNA.

Ionizing radiation – even background levels – cause genomic instability. Ingested and inhaled alpha and beta particles are extraordinarily destructive of cells and DNA.

Fallout from a nuclear disaster includes alpha and beta emitters that end up contaminating food and water.

Radionuclides bio-accumulate and bio-magnify as they move up the food chain.

It may take decades or longer for the full effects of the disaster to be expressed in human health consequences.

(I've linked at end of this post relevant background articles with citations for these claims)


[Excerpt] "The U.S., the U.K., France, China, and South Korea, among others, studied the Fukushima accident closely so that they could reduce the likelihood of similar events at their own plants."

Majia Here: I wish this statement were true. The fact is that any nuclear power plant anywhere will suffer meltdowns in the event of station blackouts.

The likelihood of solar activity producing a long-duration power outage is relatively high. Were that event to occur, every nuclear power plant without power would, after exhausting its emergency generators, suffer meltdowns and spent fuel fires.

I've read the NRC enhanced safety requirements and they are completely inadequate for addressing the threats posed by power outages, earthquakes, floods, and a host of other natural calamities that occur way too frequently.

MIT needs to re-evaluate its (lack of) conscience.

I know there are many smart people at the institution.

The article published in MIT's technology review was NOT smartly argued and raises rather alarming ethical questions about the role of funding in shaping scientific "truth."


Here is an excellent link for an academic study of solar flares and nuclear plants
In this video, nuclear engineers Mr Arnie Gunderson and David Lochbaum discuss how vulnerable nuclear power plants are to electrical disruptions. Their analysis even addresses the many vulnerabilities of the "back-up" generators

How to Bias Studies on the Biological Effects of Radiation 
Is Fukushima an ELE? 

Massive Power Outages Through Storm Hit US 

Previous Critiques of Biased MIT Research:

April 2, 2012 Environmental Health Perspectives Editorial on Evaluating Low Dose Effects of Chemicals (with Implications for Ionizing Radiation)

April 30: A Plant in Environmental Health Perspectives

May 17 The Plant Erupts into a Poison Fruit

June 12: Poisoning the Well


The Japanese news agency Mainichi reported on June 22 2011 that the whereabouts of 30 Fukushima plant workers were unknown: "The workers' names were listed in records showing that they had been loaned dosimeters, but when the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), contacted the companies they were associated with, the companies replied that there was no record of those workers.[i] By August, TEPCO was reporting that the whereabouts of 143 workers was unknown.[ii] Tepco also reported in August that a 40 year old worker died of acute leukemia after working at the plant for seven days.[iii]

[i]           "Whereabouts of 30 Nuclear Power Plant Subcontractors Unknown: Health Ministry" Mainichi (2011, June 21):
[ii]           “TEPCO Says It Has Lost Contact with 143 Nuclear Plant Workers,” Japan Today (2011, August 10):
[iii]          Obe Mitsuru. Japan Finds Radiation Spread Over a Wide Area. The Wall Street Journal 2012 August 31, A11.



  1. Isn't it a shame that one of the most prestigious engineering schools in the United States will stoop so low as to shill for an industry, rather than conduct real science? This guy uses every one of industry tricks: speaking of the disaster in the past tense; Condemning the BWR reactor design, but saying the newer designs solve the problem.

    I'm not really understanding how they can keep claiming that no one died from the radiation. Didn't two people die directly in the explosion of #3? Didn't the plant manager succumb to a massive case of throat cancer? Hasn't Japan experienced hundreds or even thousands of suicides from those who are displaced or about to be. What about the reporters who contracted cancer and died after visiting Daiachi.

    That claim alone is so absurd as to call into question the ethics of anyone who makes it.

    I guess you could also claim that a gun never actually kills anybody either - they just die of "dehydration" from those nasty holes in their bodies.

    Personally I take the MIT professor's article as a hail mary effort to get people to ignore it - just like Noda trying to retroactively absolve himself of responsibility - of course it won't work, this time. The damage is too large, and too widespread and word is starting to escape the dragnet.


  2. Haven't you noticed how the lying is extreme nowadays? It's everywhere. From stories out of Syria or Libya, to statistics about things like unemployment or radiation, you almost have to assume that everything is a blatant lie.

    It's probably the end of an era. Kind of like the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


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