Edge of Darkness

by craig on March 14, 2011 8:23 am in Uncategorized

I had a few articles in mind for the weekend, but the vivid horror of the Japanes tsunami gave me pause. Anything I might say seemd trite, and the tune, or rather chant, of this kept running through my head insistently:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,

The terrible events in the earth remind us of the frailty of human existence and the power of the Earth. Of course, there have been worse disasters – it is only two years since an earthquake in China killed perhaps ten times as many. But the technological capacity of Japan to capture and broadcast its own disaster gave it an immediacy to us that forces us to confront and absorb the fact of massive individual human suffering.

I have however been conscious of an undertow of anger at the continual stream of nuclear industry dependents and lobbyists brought on to every Western network to assure us there is no real danger from the nuclear plants and that a meltdown is most improbable.

When the second reactor house blew off last night at least eight people were injured, some seriously. If there were not a serious possibility of major disaster, then they would have not had those workers on site, desperately trying to cool the core with sea water, when it has been fully understood that the hydrogen explosion they were caught up in was likely to happen. They were working desperately and presuming knowingly on what might easily have proved a suicide mission.

Like Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry is hoping they will get away with it on a wing and a prayer (and, in this case, millions of gallons of sea water and boric acid). I certainly hope they do avert disaster. But to pretend everything is fine, and propagandise that to the Western world throughout which the nuclear industry is urgently seeking to regenerate itself, is both sickening an an insult to our intelligence. One of many reasons I am against nuclear power is that in practice it always brings with it government lies, secrecy and corruption.

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33 Comments

  1. Nuclear propaganda is peppered with a deliberate confusion of the terms chance and risk. Risk factors in consequences, and although the *chance* of a disastrous accident is low (although clearly not as low as claimed) the consequences are huge. Any honest evaluation of the risks would immediately eliminate nuclear generation as an energy option. And that's without mentioning costs – those are lied about too, with all the financial models substantially or wholly omitting the costs of insurance and decommissioning. James Lovelock – he of the Gaia Hypothesis – famously changed his mind about nuclear power, becoming a supporter. I wonder if the events in Japan will force a reconsideration.

    And they were warned.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/12/japan

  2. Of course, "Nuclear Meltdown" makes a great headline and sells a lot of papers. But at the risk of spoiling a good rant, may I inject some actual factual information?
    https://morgsatlarge.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/why

    • So they had people working to avert disaster at great personal risk from the hydrogen explosion in the reactor house they knew was coming, all for no reason? They have evacuated 200,000 people for a laugh? It would not matter if there were a full meltdown, because everything would woek perfectly and it would be completely contained?

      I agree hysterical is not good. Blinkered and wilfully ignorant is not good either.

    • The morgsatlarge explanation has been criticised now. Mainly because the writer is not a nuclear scientist, though his father was.
      http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=display&a

    • That got blown into as many small pieces as the reactors at Fukushima. The post had to be moved and MIT folk 'edited' it (flushed most of it down the toilet). Comprehensive fisking here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/4pj4n8p. How embarassing for you.

  3. Paul Johnston

    14 Mar, 2011 - 9:51 am

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.

    Upton Sinclair

    Sort of sums it up doesn't it?

  4. Cherenkov effect

    14 Mar, 2011 - 10:05 am

    "The LSE's Prof Janet Hunter says Japan, sitting on the Pacific's earthquake-prone ring of fire, is no stranger to widescale disaster, and is consequently in a good position to recover from the latest crisis. An organised local government network has strong contingency plans which will be put in place, she adds."

    On the BBC's 'live' page.

    Todays "reassurances" will, I have little doubt, become tomorrows lies.

    Japanese society is truly terrible for questioning power. Many Japanese are simply robots, coming home maybe one hour a day, working 6 days a week. Places where power has this privilege do as you say, seed secrecy corruption and lies. There are a number of telling points about what they (are forced to) say that show things are incredibly serious. I hope they achieve maximum success in minimising this disaster

    • "Japanese society is truly terrible for questioning power. Many Japanese are simply robots, coming home maybe one hour a day, working 6 days a week. Places where power has this privilege do as you say, seed secrecy corruption and lies."

      Are you writing this on auto-pilot? Your views are trite, boring, racist cliches.

  5. The second reactor was a plutonium reactor, an alpha emitter, no gamma radiation measures to be had from that one.

    Now reactor number two also shows problems with cooling, the whole four part complex is jeopardised, avery dangerous situation with wider implications than Japan. Listening to an old friend Dr. Chris Busby on R4's today prgramme, who wrote books about long term low radiation exposure in all its ranges, and why it is dangerous to us, its becoming clearer what a melting plutonium core would mean to all of us, for years to come.
    Nuclear power is too expensive, its dangerous to run along coastlines, (Iron age landslide in Norway swamped North sea countries with 180ft. tsunami) and its legacy over a few thousand years is not something we should consider for our kids when the EU is spending 400 billion Euro's in CSP ( concentrated solar power).

  6. Despite the trouble in the ME, this is a risk free energy future, which also provides enough employment and know how to oil producing countries who one day will run out of the stuff. It is also vital to explore/implement all the alternatives we have on the door step, be they wave power, sea currents, storm/wind power, the more diverse the better, we have the highest potential for these here in Britain, so why become dependent on French nuclear power and /or Russian gas?

    Bad luck does seem to come in three's, first the earthquake, then the tsunami, almost scrubbing inlets clear of everything, now the impending nuclear disaster. I see hope conquering all, regardless of a robotic Japanese nature, people are sticking together when they are hit and they will overcome this long term plight. They will also build better, more tsumnami prove housing, because otherwise nobody will ever settle in these low lying inlets again.

  7. Dick the Prick

    14 Mar, 2011 - 11:19 am

    There's just so much vested interest in all of this i'm not fully sure we can point fingers at any particular power sourced industry. Being a Yorkshire Tory i'm unfortunately in the odd position of really supporting coal fired power stations but that ship seems to have been torpedoed. Is climate change man made? I dunno. But i'm damn sure it works and i'm dam sure that if it was 10 miles away and blew up, it'd be a bloody inconvenience but hardly a disaster. Wind farms don't work in either hot or cold conditions, solar power is inefficient, nuclear has costs & risks that no bugger's got any idea about and oil & gas are both finite and responsible for huge international wars.

    I dunno, there's no room for idealism. I'm distinctly of the opinion that climate change can be mitigated by better flood defences, coastal improvements, better drainage and digging coal. Employment, security, sufficency & relative safety. I think NIMBYism to nuclear has a greater reference to self preservation than a bypass or industrial estate.

    Follow the money I guess but any way, we're slowly getting screwed.

  8. The trouble is, everybody wants the electric supply to work at the flick of a switch but refuses to face up to how that is achieved. I doubt if 95% of the population have any understanding of what electricity is or how it works – the just take it for granted.

    By the same token, we in the west buy up Japanese cars, electronics and other goods, with no thought for the consequences, which led to excessive risk taking in a country with no oil and almost no coal but sitting on major seismic fault lines. Some engineers and campaingers pointed this out years ago, but few would listen.

    Japan has since the 1970s oil crisis increasingly relied on nuclear-powered steam generation (power stations are just giant kettles, which in the case of fission-powered ones can't be turned off easily). It was a calculated risk which has gone bad.

    And blaming ordinary Japanese people for being "robots" when they are just working to feed their families doesn't seem very helpful…

  9. ps.

    We have the same dilemma in the UK, albeit on a less dangerous scale because we don't have seismic risk factor. The Nimbys oppose building any kind of power station but are the first to moan if there is a power cut and the first to complain about electricity, oil and gas prices. So what are we doing? Building wind generators which don't provide base-load electricity and are basically subsidy-farms. The UK needs to build a dozen major new conventional power stations in the next decade, to replace old ones which are wearing out, but the only politically feasible option in the face of the power of the Nimby lobbies is to build them on existing sites. Which means new nuclear stations. as the protesters won't allow us to build coal powered ones…

  10. Cherenkov effect

    14 Mar, 2011 - 11:58 am

    I forgot to follow up this ""The LSE's Prof Janet Hunter says Japan, sitting on the Pacific's earthquake-prone ring of fire, is no stranger to widescale disaster, and is consequently in a good position to recover from the latest crisis. An organised local government network has strong contingency plans which will be put in place, she adds."

    with something like ths:

    "More than 500,000 people have been displaced by the quake, tsunami and nuclear emergency, Japan's Kyodo news agency reports, while millions have spent three nights without water, food or heat in near-freezing winter weather."

    Yeah, looks like ace contingency to me.

    P.S. Tokyo is going hungry too.

    The BBC's reporting (of only 'upbeat experts') is really quite ugly

    • "Yeah, looks like ace contingency to me."

      Sounds like fatuous and smug sarcasm to me.

      What exactly surprises you about the fact that 500,000 people have been displaced by a magnitude 9 quake and a tsunami which swept away whole towns?

      There are indeed all kinds of contingency plans in Japan for many kinds of natural disaster but sometimes they are just a bit bigger and the tsunamis are just a bit higher than can be dealt with. There is nowhere in the world that could have simply shrugged this off so stuff your posturing sanctimony.

      • Cherenkov effect

        14 Mar, 2011 - 2:40 pm

        And you synthetic inventions sound like flatulence to me: "What exactly surprises you about the fact that 500,000 people have been displaced by a magnitude 9 quake and a tsunami which swept away whole towns? " Absolutely nothing surprises me about it.
        "There are indeed all kinds of contingency plans in Japan" – Nobody (other than you perhaps) are suggesting otherwise.
        I'm saying the LSE mouthpiece parroting BBC nuclear chicken soup fails to notice any contingency has been flushed down the toilet.
        "There is nowhere in the world that could have simply shrugged this off " Nobody said they would or could. DO YOU UNDERSATND?

        • "I'm saying the LSE mouthpiece parroting BBC nuclear chicken soup fails to notice any contingency has been flushed down the toilet."

          This means, if anything but hyperbolic babble, that all contingencies have turned out to be useless. This is FALSE.

          "Nobody said they would or could. DO YOU UNDERSATND?"

          So what you're saying is that even the best laid plans etc… are often disrupted by magnitude 9 quakes?

          Well, thanks for your extraordinarily helpful and perceptive analysis that despite what the BBC says (as one of your synthetic inventions has it), this disaster has been disastrous. And Cherenkov effect's chosen specialist subject on Mastermind is stating the bleedin obvious

          • Cherenkov effect

            24 Mar, 2011 - 1:02 pm

            Well, in the general knowledge section, if asked for the definition of a wanker, there's a fair chance reference to you will score.

            As you plainly don't understand, I'll point it out in the perhaps unfounded hope your idiocy goes sporadically dormant that Janet Hunter (an others) should keep their demonstrably wrong opinions to themselves.

    • cherry blossom

      14 Mar, 2011 - 2:04 pm

      I left Japan about 30 years ago because I was fed up with her ethos of the triumph of the utilitarian value over humanity. These days I realised that UK is simply about 10 years behind Japan in this path.

      • but you still call yourself sakura

        it'll be out soon, and just for a moment we will lose ourselves in tunnels of white forgetting all this trouble

  11. The latest is that 'the crisis is deepening, sadly, despite the reassurances given by everyone there, a US naval vesxsels on its way to help with the effort turned away on measuring radiation levels, so something is seriously wrong.
    The sea water will ruin the reactors forever, so they will have to be exchanged.

    What they need now is large gas/oilpowered generators to tie them over, ideally mobile, because Fukushima will be offline for 5-10years, if not forever.
    Number 3 reactor is totally diferent from No. 1 and 2, a mere comparrisson of the explosions saw more force and projectiles emitted, a large mass rocketing up and coming down, so we should take great caution, whilst be alerted to whats possible next.
    We could send Chris Huhne a reminder that its not too late to think of alternatives to a french nuclear dependency and or that on Russian gas.

    • "The latest is that 'the crisis is deepening, sadly, despite the reassurances given by everyone there, a US naval vesxsels on its way to help with the effort turned away on measuring radiation levels, so something is seriously wrong.
      The sea water will ruin the reactors forever, so they will have to be exchanged."

      The reactors were due to be shut down anyway.

      • They are not all exactly the same age and they were due to be shut down in varying times between three and twelve years from now. But what that last comment reveals is your extraordinary insistence that nothing has gone wrong at all. When you are so one-eyed, you are ill place to call other commenters boring and cliched.

        • "But what that last comment reveals is your extraordinary insistence that nothing has gone wrong at all. "

          It doesn't reveal anything of the sort. Nowhere have I said "nothing has gone wrong" and I can hardly be deemed insistent on something I've never said even once.

          Of course something has gone wrong, There was a bloody great Earthquake for heaven's sake! My own comment to ingo was merely to observe that the saltwater damage to the nuclear power plant is not of much significance given that they were due to be scrapped soon anyway.

          And before anyone comes piling in with the aim of twisting "not of much significance" I will add that the danger posed to the reactor itself IS significant as we can all see. I'm not being one-eyed about this at all.

  12. "The terrible events in the earth remind us of the frailty of human existence and the power of the Earth. Of course, there have been worse disasters – it is only two years since an earthquake in China killed perhaps ten times as many. But the technological capacity of Japan to capture and broadcast its own disaster gave it an immediacy to us that forces us to confront and absorb the fact of massive individual human suffering."

    The truth is we simply don't know how many people have been killed in this yet. The official figures so far are necessarily low. They haven't yet found the bodies and haven't even learnt how many are even missing.

    The Sichuan quake apparently killed somewhere between 60 and 70 thousand. This quake/tsunami could well have killed half as many if not more.

    To see the scale of this look at something like this:
    http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/0,1518,750653,00.h

    And this one also gives a good idea of the scale of destruction here.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6nM814erBI

    • I quite agree – hence the perhaps. But even if it turns out to have killed as many as the Szechuan earthquake, the point that this has had hugely more immediate impact on remote observers because of the sheer volume of video, ramians true.

  13. Paul Johnston

    14 Mar, 2011 - 2:10 pm

    Phew!

    Calm down eveyone seems it was an amazing sucess!
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/14/fukushiim

    • Not read his piece, but Lewis Page regularly writes right-wing pieces for El Reg. I get the sense he's a fairly mainstream journo, pro-establishment, pro-arms industry etc. Quite anti-progressive as well, given his apparent attitude towards social change. Not sure it's a great surprise that he's come out waving a flag for the nuke industry.

      Point to ponder: I wonder how much Japan could reduce its dependency on nuclear power if it were to put some proper effort into wave power instead?

      • "I get the sense he's a fairly mainstream journo, pro-establishment, pro-arms industry etc."

        He may well be all of those things and an eater of babies on the weekends. The question is whether his article is correct or not.

        And in fact, it is the "mainstream media" which seems to have been doing its best to spell out possible TEOTWAWKI scenarios. I saw on the BBC website that someone was suggesting the containment vessels could explode and scatter plutonium over an area twice that of a nuclear warhead or a dirty bomb. I wondered if that too was accurate as well or if this was an example of what is sometimes called "fear-mongering".

        • "Point to ponder: I wonder how much Japan could reduce its dependency on nuclear power if it were to put some proper effort into wave power instead?"

          Well, the tsunami of course packed a massive amount of energy but it is clearly impractical to harness that. Even if it were possible you wouldn't know when the next one was coming. There would almost certainly be questions about whether the power generated would be sufficient for 120,000,000 people. If it were, with Japan's technological skills, then it is likely they already would have invested a lot of money into it. They do, in fact, have a small number of wind-farms and a lot of individuals have solar panels on their roofs but it is extremely quixotic to believe this kind of power can run the bullet trains etc…

  14. I'm no fan of nuclear energy but we now see where Japan is without it. Very few trains running, Tokyo is almost at a standstill.

    If anything good comes of this it will not be switching to another source of electrical power, but reducing the amount we use overall

  15. I once read quite a lot on the Chernobyl incident and the disagreements about the casualties from the accidents. The IAEA and Greenpeace produced separate reports which, as you may imagine, disagreed wildly about the numbers affected: the former I think settled on a figure of about 7,000, the latter more like 200,000, if my memory is correct. Two things stood out. First, the IAEA report focussed in on the region around Chernobyl and didn't consider the whole world. Here you get into stochastic effects where the consequences of radiation exposure, though they are real, are impossible to measure as they fade off into the background with all other causes of mortality. Second, the Chernobyl incident would have been much worse if the Soviet Union had not been able to gather nearly a million conscripted soldiers to clean up the mess. This would be completely impossible in a country like France or the UK, for example, and probably Japan.

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