When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater

Fukushima is going to dwarf Chenobyl. The Japanese government has had a level 7 nuclear disaster going for almost a week but won’t admit it.

The disaster is occurring the opposite way than Chernobyl, which exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactions are getting worse. I suspect three nuclear piles are in meltdown and we will probably get some of it.

If reactor 3 is in meltdown,  the concrete under the containment looks like lava. But Fukushima is not far off the water table. When that molten mass of self-sustaining nuclear material gets to the water table it won’t simply cool down. It will explode –not a nuclear explosion, but probably enough to involve the rest of the reactors and fuel rods at the facility.

Pouring concrete on a critical reactor makes no sense — it will simply explode and release more radioactive particulate matter. The concrete will melt and the problem will get worse. Chernobyl was different — a critical reactor exploded and stopped the reaction. At Fukushima, the reactor cores are still melting down. The ONLY way to stop that is to detonate a ~10 kiloton fission device inside each reactor containment vessel and hope to vaporize the cores. That’s probably a bad solution.

A nuclear meltdown is a self-sustaining reaction. Nothing can stop it except stopping the reaction. And that would require a nuclear weapon. In fact, it would require one in each containment vessel to merely stop what is going on now. But it will be messy.

Fukushima was waiting to happen because of the placement of the emergency generators. If they had not all failed at once by being inundated by a tsunami, Fukushima would not have happened as it did – although it WOULD still have been a nuclear disaster. Every containment in the world is built to withstand a Magnitude 6.9 earthquake; the Japanese chose to ignore the fact that a similar earthquake had hit that same general area in 1896.

Anyway, here is the information that the US doesn’t seem to want released. And here is a chart that might help with perspective.

Making matters worse is the MOX in reactor 3. MOX is the street name for ‘mixed oxide fuel‘ which uses ~9% plutonium along with a uranium compound to fuel reactors. This is why it can be used.

The problem is that you don’t want to play with this stuff. A nuclear reactor means bring fissile material to a point at which it is hot enough to boil water (in a light-water reactor) and not enough to melt and go supercritical (China syndrome or a Chernobyl incident). You simply cannot let it get away from you because if it does, you can’t stop it.

The Japanese are still talking about days or weeks to clean this up. That’s not true. They cannot clean it up. And no one will live in that area again for dozens or maybe hundreds of years.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Hi-Res Photos

Dr. Tom is a retired scientist who is now farming on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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  • Tom Burnett
  • tcburnett

    I’m interested…Where is the asshat who argued that (1) I do not have a Ph.D. and (2) I made all of the level 7 disaster at Fukushima up because I had some ‘agenda’? Does he still visit here? Because 15 months later, everything I said was EXACTLY accurate, including the Hydrogen explosions and nuclear events – which has not yet happened – although I EXPLICITLY said they would, because they must. The physical laws of the universe are not dependent upon press releases from the Japanese government. If I may be so crass and classless, may I say that all of you who made those arguments are dumbasses. NOW I have stated categorically that the R4 fuel pool is down. Since the portion of the R4 building which housed the fuel pool has been demolished http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-e5nMkwQzk&feature=plcp there is not a lot of wiggle room.

  • tcburnett

    The gift that keeps on giving.

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  • Tom Burnett

    I am pretty sure this was derived from a Google translation of something. If not, I am confused.

    However, I suppose it is about time to dig up Fukushima again (sorry) and comment that my observation of nearly a year ago was right on. The damn thing is still fizzing away, #3 explodes regularly, #4 id melting faster than the wicked witch of the west, and the Pacific ocean, not to mention the entire island of Hokkaido is being continuously irradiated – along with the West coast of Canada and the US. We are all glow-toys now.

    My Geiger counter tanked. Would anyone like to start a donation drive for a new one? I have a new computer dedicated to it and a broadband connection and I’ll be happy to keep the East Hawaii edition of Radiationnetwork online – if I have a meter.

  • Tom Burnett

    Oh, no Joe….they have been injecting nitrogen GAS into reactor 1 since April and probably into reactor 2 as well. They don’t need permission to do that. But my information says that they have a large tank of LIQUID nitrogen being positioned. OK, it could be a long-term source of nitrogen gas – but I think they are going to try the liquid nitrogen squirt. Why don’t you wait and see before you diss my credibility. I haven’t been wrong yet.

    You know something else, Joe? I would have preferred that they hadn’t opened R2 and let those billions of doses of radiation out – but they did. And now I think it’s a bad idea to pour liquid Nitrogen into a reactor core.

    And I’m thinkin’, Joe… that the only reason a hydrogen explosion can be a possibility at all is if a nuclear core is hot enough to split the oxygen/hydrogen bond of the water they keep pouring in there – and If I had just said something, maybe someone wouldn’t have opened that reactor and might have stood stood back and thought about the results of their actions for another day and maybe have done something else.

    So what I just did was give TEPCO a chance to think about it and maybe not do it – and they can save face by saying they hadn’t planned to do it at all. Because, Joe, these are business managers, not nuclear reactor experts and they need adult supervision – and I’m providing that in a way they will understand.

    So read between the lines, Joe. See if you can grasp what EFFECTS my post might have rather than the literal words – because I don’t think you are quite getting it.

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  • Ben

    From NHK, April 23:

    TEPCO: Highly radioactive concrete fragment found
    The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says that concrete debris emitting a high level of radiation has been found near the Number 3 reactor.

    Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, says its workers detected radioactivity of 900 millisieverts per hour being emitted from a 30-by-30 centimeter concrete fragment, 5 centimeters thick, on Wednesday. [¦]
    From EX-SKF blog, April 23:
    Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 154 Terabecquerels Per Day, Every Day:


    • Mary in Seattle

      Trying again.

      Enenews reported today:

      Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 154 Terabecquerels Per Day, Every Day, EX-SKF, April 23, 2011:
      Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 154 Terabecquerels Per Day, Every Day of radioactive iodine and cesium still spewing out of the plant, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission now admits.

      […] From Yomiuri Shinbun (9:15PM JST 4/23/2011):

      The Nuclear Safety Commission under the Prime Minister’s Office disclosed on April 23 that the amount of radioactive materials being released from the TEPCO Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was 154 terabecquerels per day (1 tera is 1 trillion) as late as April 5 when the amount being released was considered stabilized.

      It has been widely reported that Chernobyl released 5.2 MILLION terabecquerels.

      It would take a very long time to get to even a million terabecquerels from Fukushima at 154 a day.

      So why then is it also reported that Fukushima is about one-tenth as bad as Chernobyl? There were dozens if not hundreds of reports with that “one-tenth” figure. 1/10th of 5.2 million equals 520,000. Is this because there was a far greater release early on?

      It’s not adding up for me.

      • Ben

        Don’t forget that Chernobyl has been giving for a long time, and keeps on giving. It had a 25 year head start.

        It’s all guess work anyway.

        From the EX-SKF post here:

        you can see this chart:

        which is taken from the Nuclear Safety Commission here.

        Those are cumulative amounts for iodine and cesium, as the bloger indicates in his explanation, up to April 5.

        I don’t read Japanese, but I assume the vertical axis represents becquerels.

        So, 1 terabecquerel is 10^12 becquerels. So the base of the chart (10^14) would be 100 terabecquerels, and the top (10^18) would be 1 million.

        So we see that, as of April 5, cumulative amounts are above 100,000 terabequerels (above 10^17 becquerels) for iodine, and above 10,000 terabecquerels for cesium.

        How much above I don’t know because I don’t know if there is a linear progression on the chart between each order of magnitude; if so, the iodine cumulative release looks like around 200,000.
        Whatever those numbers are, it looks like the daily output between the beginning and April 5 was much much higher than 154 terabecquerels/day. (And there is also the matter that you can’t just add both isotopes, the tota is more than the sum, by some formula I am not familiar with.

        What they seem to be saying (perhaps) is that after April 5 things have calmed down to “only 154 terabecquerels per day.

        As this guy explains in this Counterpunch article, it’s a VERY inexact science


      • Ben

        It’s all guess work.
        From the EX-SKF post here:

        you can see this chart:

        taken from the Nuclear Safety Commission here

        Those are cumulative amounts for iodine and cesium, as the bloger indicates in his explanation.
        I assume the vertical axis represents becquerels.
        1 terabecquerel is 10^12 becquerels

        So you see that as of April 5, cumulative amounts are above 100,000 terabequerels (10^17 becquerels) for iodine, and above 10,000 (10^16 becquerels) for cesium.
        How much above I don’t know because I don’t know if there is a linear progression on the chart between each order of magnitude; if so, the iodine cumulative release looks like around 200,000.
        So whatever those numbers are, looks like the daily output between the beginning and April 5 was much much higher than 154 terabecquerels/day. And you also need to consider that the total is more than the sum of both. And no other radioactive isotopes are measured, which does not mean they are not present.
        What they seem to be saying (perhaps) is that after April 5 things have calmed down to “only 154 terabecquerels per day.

        NHK has just reported that debris on a “nearby mountainside is radiating 300 millisieverts per hour. Now, “nearby is not a very clear indication of how far this mountainside is, but it certainly does not look good. That amount of radiation will give you a fatal dose in about 20 hours if you stick around it.

        • Mary in Seattle

          Answer found re missing terabecquerels (that would make this event 1/10th the severity of Chernobyl):



          The total amount of radioactive material discharged from the plant from March 11 to early April was estimated between 370,000 and 630,000 terabecquerels, according to government sources.

          The commission, however, said the figures were estimates only, “with a considerable margin of error.” Radiation levels around the six-reactor complex have been slowly falling, it said.
          Of course, it looks like all guesswork to me, anyway.

          • Tom Burnett

            Aloha Mary,

            You are still reading what TEPCO was saying in April. By June 6, they revised the ESTIMATE of radioactivity of materials emitted from Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant from 370,000 terabecquerels to 770,000 terabecquerels. THEN they started opening up the reactor containments.


    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      That seems pretty conclusive that a core explosion occurred in reactor 3. Something blew the concrete out of the reactor and whatever did also irradiated it.

    • Tom Burnett

      TEPCO Data Shows Ongoing Criticalities Inside Leaking Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2

      Interestingly, several SPAMMERS have stated, based upon nothing but their opinions, that there can have been no fission excursions at Fukushima. This morning, one of these people suggested that I pull the original article and follow the lead of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who “have shifted our focus to using the lessons from the Fukushima crisis to improve nuclear power safety at existing and future reactors.” In other words, they think it’s all over but the accounting.

      It isn’t over. It is not getting better. My original description was exactly accurate and TEPCO had done nothing – because there is nothing they can do. So they are trying to hide it, much like the US government was complicit in hiding the Gulf oil spill – the results of which won’t be over – or even fully known – for decades.

      We cannot depend on the government for information or leadership or protection anymore. We must find the information for ourselves. We can. It is available. The truth exists. We simply have to look. And think.

      April 28, 2011
      Analysis by: GLG Expert Contributor
      Analysis of: Press Release (Apr 28,2011) Detection of Radioactive Materials from Subsurface Water near the Turbine Building
      Published at: http://www.tepco.co.jp
      Data released on April 28, 2011 by TEPCO is now unequivocal in showing ongoing criticalities at Unit 2, with a peak on April 13. TEPCO graphs of radioactivity-versus-time in water under each of the six reactors show an ongoing nuclear chain reaction creating high levels of “fresh” I-131 in Unit 2, the same reactor pressure vessel (RPV) with a leak path to reactor floor, aux building, and outdoor trenches, that is uncontrollably leaking high levels of I-131, Cs-134, Cs-137 into the Pacific Ocean.

      When a nuclear reactor goes “critical” it means that the fissioning of U-235 or Pu-239 becomes a self-sustaining process, called a chain reaction, where fissile material hit by a neutron then spilts (or fissions) into two atoms with atomic numbers between ~90 and ~140 while “throwing off” a few neutrons which then hit other fissile atoms and so the reaction then continues until it’s stopped, usually by dropping the control rods, or reactor scram.

      During normal reactor operation, short-lived nuclides like I-131 (8 day) that pose high radiological hazard decay as quickly as they are created, because its halflife is much shorter than the refueling cycle, so I-131 reaches an equilibrium value quickly. In contrast, because the cesiums decay slower than they are created, reactor inventories of Cs-134 (2 year) and Cs-137 (30 year) gradually rise during the cycle, reaching a maximum at end of cycle.

      When Units 1-3 were all scrammed on March 11, 2011 from earthquake-caused station blackout, the chain reaction of splitting fissile U-235 and Pu-239 into numerous fission products came to an immediate stop. Reactor scram means that neutron-absorbing control rods are dropped into the reactor core to absorb enough neutrons that the chain reaction ceases. Because I-131 has no long-lived “parent” to “feed it” by parent decay, the levels of I-131 in scrammed reactors with intact geometry will decrease exponentially with an 8-day halflife, meaning that after 5 halflives (40 days) the I-131 levels are only 3% of what they were at scram.

      But instead of seeing that expected decrease in I-131 levels relative to Cs-134 and Cs-137 in the regular TEPCO press releases, I-131 was seen to be increasing, instead of decreasing as the physics said it should.

      Until the April 28 press release with accompanying graphs and table, I discerned that something strange was happening with the elevated I-131 levels, but until this latest news, it was impossible to know where, exactly, was the source of the high I-131 levels.

      The answer is clear if you look at the graphs of groundwater radioactivity measurements from all six reactors. “Outlier” Unit 2 has I-131 levels roughly 20 times its levels of Cs-134/137. The only possible source of I-131 would be “pockets” of molten core in the Unit 2 RPV settled in such a way that the boron in the injected water is insufficient to stop the localized criticalities.

    • Tom Burnett

      H/T Francisco Gonzalez, crossposted from:

      SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2011
      #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Ishikawa of JNTI Talks about Reactor Core Conditions
      More on 77-year-old Michio Ishikawa of the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute on the situation at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, as he appeared on Asahi TV on April 29.

      A Todai as-hole though he may be, I started to like this guy as I watched. He didn’t mince his words, and said what they are doing at Fukushima I Nuke Plant is not working. That surprised some, including the host of the show, as Ishikawa is known as a strong proponent for the nuclear power generation and the nuclear industry.

      I watched the segment (video No.2 out of 11) where he discussed the situation at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, particularly about the condition of the reactor core.

      Here’s what I’d add to the snippets on my previous post. (My summary translation of what Mr. Ishikawa said, not literal; my comment in square bracket):

      About TEPCO’s “roadmap:

      “I believe what they are trying to achieve after 9 months is to cool the reactor cores and solidify them so that no radioactive materials can escape. But they are just doing peripheral tricks like water entombment and nitrogen gas injection. Nitrogen gas, it’s dangerous, by the way.

      “What they must do is to cool the reactor cores, and there’s no way around it. It has to be done somehow.”

      About the condition of the reactor cores:

      “I believe the fuel rods are completely melted. They may already have escaped the pressure vessel. Yes, they say 55% or 30%, but I believe they are all melted down. When the fuel rods melt, they melt from the middle part on down.

      (Showing the diagram) “I think the temperature inside the melted core is 2000 degrees to 2000 and several hundred degrees Celsius. A crust has formed on the surface where the water hits. Decay heat is 2000 to 3000 kilowatts, and through the cracks on the crust the radioactive materials (mostly noble gas and iodine) are escaping into the air.

      “Volatile gas has almost all escaped from the reactor by now.

      “The water [inside the pressure vessel] is highly contaminated with uranium, plutonium, cesium, cobalt, in the concentration we’ve never seen before.

      “My old colleague contacted me and shared his calculation with me. At the decay heat of 2000 kilowatt… There’s a substance called cobalt 60. Highly radioactive, needs 1 to 1.5 meter thick shields. It kills people at 1000 curies. He calculated that there are 10 million curies of cobalt-60 in the reactor core. If 10% of cobalt-60 in the core dissolve into water, it’s 1 million curies.”

      [He’s an old-timer so he’s used to curie instead of becquerel as a unit. 1 curie equals 3.7 x 10^10 becquerels (37,000,000,000 becquerels or 37 gigabecquerels).
      10 million curies equals 370,000 terabecquerels, and 1 million curies equals 37,000 terabecquerels. I used this conversion table. Tell me I’m wrong! Cobalt-60 alone would make a Level 7 disaster…]

      “They (TEPCO) want to circulate this highly contaminated water to cool the reactor core. Even if they are able to set up the circulation system, it will be a very difficult task to shield the radiation. It will be a very difficult work to build the system, but it has to be done.

      “It is imperative to know the current condition of the reactor cores. It is my assumption [that the cores have melted], but wait one day, and we have water more contaminated with radioactive materials. This is a war, and we need to build a “bridgehead” at the reactor itself instead of fooling around with the turbine buildings or transporting contaminated water.”

      [As Ishikawa explains, a notable opponent of nuclear power, Tetsunari Iida (executive director of the Institute of Sustainable Energy Policy and Kyoto University graduate majoring in nuclear science) nods in deep agreement.]

      About “war” at Fukushima I Nuke Plant:

      “Take the debris clean-up job for example. They are picking up the debris and putting them in containers, as if this is the peacetime normal operation. This is a war. They should dig a hole somewhere and bury the radioactive debris and clean up later. What’s important is to clear the site, using the emergency measures. Build a bridgehead to the reactor.

      “The line of command is not clear, whether it is the government, TEPCO, or Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
      “Look squarely at the reactors and find out the true situation. [Trying to do something with] the turbine buildings is nothing but a caricature [a joke, a manga, a diversion].”
      The show’s host says “But wait a minute, Mr. Ishikawa, you are a proponent of nuclear power and we expected to hear from you that everything is going well at Fukushima…”

      Mr. Ishikawa answers, “Well, if I’m allowed to tell a lie…”

      Now, Mr. Tetsunari Iida speaks, agreeing to Mr. Ishikawa’s “war” analogy:
      “I totally agree with Mr. Ishikawa’s assessment of the plant, and that this is a war. The government simply orders TEPCO to “do it”. But it is like the Imperial General Headquarters (大本営) on the eve of the Sea of Japan Naval Battle during the Russo-Japanese War [in 1905] ordering merchant ship TEPCO to attack [the imperial Russian navy].

      “The government should appoint a commander. TEPCO has a limit as a private business. No one knows what to do. We have to seek the advice from the best and the brightest in the world.”

      Mr. Hasegawa of Chunichi Shinbun jumps in, and says “We took the numbers from the government like 30% core melt as true, and went from there. But then Mr. Ishikawa says it’s a total melt.”

      Then, Kohei Otsuka, the Vice Minister of Health and Welfare and politician from the ruling party (DPJ), sitting right next to Mr. Ishikawa, butts in, and warns everyone:

      “Since none of us knows for sure the condition of the reactor cores, we shouldn’t speculate on a national TV.”

      Mr. Hasegawa overrides the politician, and says “The real problem is that what no one knows is presented to us every day as if it is a fact, like 30% core melt in the chart.”


      I wish Mr. Ishikawa had punched the light-weight politician in the face. At least he should have laughed at him.

      Again, the video (2 of 11) for those of you who understand Japanese:

    • Tom Burnett

      Read the last two sentences of this. If there have been no new leaks, they are dumping the water into the ocean. Of course they are – there is nowhere else to put it. But now I suspect there something in the woodpile – because the place this huge increase in radiation is occurring is ~10 km SOUTH of Fukushima Dai-ichi. What’s there? Fukushima DAINI!


      Level now 3300 times limit at No. 2 reactor intake

      The operator of the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant says it has detected higher levels of radioactive materials in seawater samples from near the water intake at one of the reactors.

      Tokyo Electric Power Company says it detected 130 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per cubic centimeter in samples collected near the water intake for the Number 2 reactor on Saturday. The figure is 3,300 times the national limit and 30 percent higher than the level detected on Friday.

      It’s the same site where iodine-131 at a level 7.5 million times the limit was detected on April 2nd. TEPCO says it detected radioactive cesium-134 at 120 times the limit and cesium-137 at 81 times the limit at the same place on Saturday. But the readings taken for these 2 substances were down for the third straight day.

      There was a 90 percent drop in levels of iodine and cesium to the south of water intakes for reactors 1 through to 4.

      The level of highly radioactive water in the sea rose to three to four times the level of the previous day along the coast 10 kilometers south of the power plant.

      TEPCO says it’s continuing to monitor the level, though there has not been a fresh leak of highly contaminated water.

      Monday, May 02, 2011 05:45 +0900 (JST)

    • Tom Burnett

      Once more for anyone who doesn’t quite get it yet:

  • Ben

    Wall Street Journal:


    Tokyo Takes Over PR From Plant Operator

    TOKYO—Japan’s government said it will largely take over speaking for embattled Tokyo Electric Power Co., after six weeks of nuclear crisis at the company’s Fukushima Daiichi power complex have often generated conflicting reports from the government and Tepco.
    Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the country’s top nuclear regulator, said Friday said it will run Tepco’s main daily plant-status briefing, held each evening, though the company will conduct some others on its own.
    Tokyo’s intervention in Tepco’s public-relations arm came after several briefings that sowed confusion, with Tepco issuing statements on radiation levels that it later rescinded or revised, or that appeared to catch Tokyo by surprise at briefings often held at around the same time of day.
    “We have decided to make announcements as unified as possible,” said Banri Kaieda, minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA. [¦]

  • Ben

    This below from NHK (this is Japanese national broadcasting company, so it’s unlikely they would want to paint things worse than they are).

    Note that at the indicated rate of 10 tons of water per hour, it will take them 41 days to transfer the 10,000 tons of “highly contaminated water”. And it will take them about 9 months to pump out the “estimated 67,500 tons of contaminated water”.

    At the same time, they acknowledge that water levels are continuing to rise all over the place, so obviously at this rate of pumping, the operation will result in more, not less, flooding.


    Levels of radioactive water rising despite efforts

    The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant continues to transfer highly radioactive water near a reactor to a storage facility.

    Tokyo Electric Power Company says work has been underway since Tuesday to move 10,000 tons of highly contaminated water accumulated in the turbine building of the Number 2 reactor to an on-site waste processing facility. The water has been pumped into the facility at a rate of 10 tons per hour.

    TEPCO says the toxic water level in a tunnel near the turbine building was 2 centimeters lower as of 6 PM on Wednesday. But it says because there was no change in the water level in the basement of the turbine building, the leaking of toxic water into the basement appears to be continuing.

    The utility company also says the water level in a tunnel linked to the Number 3 reactor has been rising several centimeters a day for the past week. The water is expected to rise to about one meter below the ground level soon.

    The company says water levels are also rising in the Number 5 and 6 turbine buildings.

    TEPCO says an estimated 67,500 tons of contaminated water are now in the Number 1, 2 and 3 reactors alone, hampering efforts to restore the reactors’ cooling systems.

    The utility says at the Number 1 reactor, some cooling water poured in has likely evaporated.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011 06:08 +0900 (JST)

  • Ben

    The Oil Drum has a recent post on Fukushima

    The comments section to that post (nearly 300 comments so far) is an excellent source of information and analysis, and it is well worth scrolling through.

    • Mary in Seattle

      You are a treasure, Ben.

      The comments are worth reading.

  • Ben

    I’ve checked today.


    1. There are charts for unit 1, but no readings given under the “dose” category above. Readings at the dry well stopped after April 8, and all readings at the suppression chamber were erased from the record.

    2. I don’t understand why units 5 and 6 show higher dry well radiation readings than units 2 and 3. Where are those 30+ Sieverts/hour coming from at the dry wells of units 5 and 6? Aren’t those reactos supposed to have no fuel? Can anyone explain what this means?

    3. Charts for unit 4 are not shown at all (either for dose, pressure or any other parameter). Why?

  • Charleroo

    Runaway nuclear meltdowns *can* be stopped — even if all the fuel is melts into a single pool (significantly worse than Fukushima appears to be). The Chernobyl experience explains how.

    The explosion at Chernobyl loosened tons of sand that were packed around the plant. Fortuitously, that sand melted into the molten fuel with 2 beneficial effects:

    1. It diluted the fuel until it became subcritical and cool. That’s why it never burned beneath Chernobyl’s floor containment — the flow stopped.

    2. It vitrified the fuel, making it far less dangerous if it does contact water.

    What’s amazing is the sand was not designed for that purpose. For years, all the Russians knew was that the fuel had cooled — by the time a tunnel was dug under the Chernobyl plant, it didn’t need to be flooded with liquid nitrogen as the Russians planned. But the Russians didn’t know why until years later when they got a camera inside to see what happened.

    What’s interesting is, as far as anyone knows, no effort has been made to dig a tunnel under Fukushima. Such a tunnel could be filled with cement to provide additional insulation from ground water, or filled with boron and sand to do intentionally what saved Chernobyl accidentally.

    And, yes, saved. Chernobyl could have been much worse. It *did* have containment (if not steel containment vessel) and the basement part held.


    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      Aloha Charleroo.

      This is a more difficult question because you are representing both Chernobyl and Fukushima as the same type of accident. They are not.

      Then you provide ‘facts’ about things which didn’t happen and build out your logic from them. That doesn’t work. You cannot start with imaginary ‘facts’ and use them to prove a point about something that didn’t happen. Lewis Carroll can, but you cannot.

      For instance, you state the Chernobyl reactor was inside a containment. It wasn’t. The reactor was inside a reactor vessel, but it was not in a ‘reactor containment.’ They are different. Then you say sand which had been packed AROUND the plant, by definition OUTSIDE the non-existent containment, somehow climbed the walls after the explosion and jumped into the reactor. That didn’t happen either. THEN you say that the wandering sand MIXED with a melting fuel core which had previously exploded and wasn’t melting (because it had blown itself to bits) and vitrified a fissioning mass of fuel which no longer existed. You further state that this imaginary vitrified fuel mass is now safe from explosion if it hits the water table – the implication is that the sand saved Chernobyl from something worse. Like what?

      And all this to make the point that a fissioning nuclear mass can be controlled by pouring sand on it – which it cannot. The sand will melt but it will not vitrify the nuclear mass – they won’t mix.

      Here is a link describing what happened at Chernobyl.


      If you don’t want to read it all, begin at “Steam Explosion Risk”.

      Allow me to quote two brief portions of it:

      “Fire brigade pumps were then used to drain the basement. The operation was not completed until 8 May, after 20,000 metric tons of highly radioactive water were pumped out.

      With the bubbler pool gone, a meltdown was less likely to produce a powerful steam explosion. To do so, the molten core would now have to reach the water table below the reactor. To reduce the likelihood of this, it was decided to freeze the earth beneath the reactor, which would also stabilize the foundations. Using oil drilling equipment, the injection of liquid nitrogen began on 4 May. It was estimated that 25 metric tons of liquid nitrogen per day would be required to keep the soil frozen at −100 °C.This idea was soon scrapped and the bottom room where the cooling system would have been installed was filled with concrete.” (my bolding – I am tying this back to my ORIGINAL post.)

      #1. Two levels of bubbler pools UNDER the reactor were emptied of water and liquid nitrogen was tried – but it could not be maintained – and then they discovered that most of the fissile material had been destroyed and was no longer in the reactor core – so they filled the bubbler pools with concrete.

      “The reactor itself was covered with bags of sand, lead, and boric acid dropped from helicopters: some 5,000 metric tons of material were dropped during the week that followed the accident. At the time there was still fear that the reactor could re-enter a self-sustaining nuclear chain-reaction and explode again”

      #2 The sand was dropped in by helicopter! That stopped once it became clear that no more nuclear excursions were occurring – or at least not many. We still don’t know exactly. (That’s good to know! I was afraid all the radiation animated the sand into a live creature which crawled into the containment to feast on the metal and bathe in the heat.)

      (1) Chernobyl was an inherently unstable RBMK reactor. It did NOT have a containment vessel. Nothing diluted the fuel except the fuel itself – which exploded and blew itself apart. THAT is what stopped the nuclear excursion. Small chunks of fissile material may well be continuing to fission in and around that reactor, and some of it may well melt silica into glass at about 3,000 degrees – but molten silica will not combine or ‘melt into’ fissioning nuclear metal. Plate glass is made flat by floating it on a bath of liquid tin. Liquid glass floats on liquid tin and it floats on liquid uranium. It does not mix.

      (2) Nothing vitrified the fuel at Chernobyl. It makes no difference whatsoever if it touches water. It is not a fissile mass anymore. There may be a bunch of glass-coated spent fuel there which merely proves that the coated (not vitrified) material is no longer fissioning, or it could not have cooled into solid globs.

      You make one other statement that is wrong (I know, it’s hard to believe): “But the Russians didn’t know why until years later when they got a camera inside to see what happened.” No. The Russians knew immediately. They had ‘liquidators removing debris and camera people (who died) filming directly into the reactor.


      The place no one could get a camera into for three years was Three Mile Island, not Chernobyl – and now Fukushima.

      Chernobyl DID NOT have a pressure containment (which are not constructed of steel in any case), it was NOT ‘saved’ and it COULD NOT have been worse unless the other three reactors had become involved. If you think it could have been worse, please enlighten me as to how.


      Now we must contrast that to Fukushima. If one person doesn’t know the difference, MANY must not.

      Two main points:

      Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor exploded during a fission excursion which blew the reactor core apart. It is still radioactive. It is probably still experiencing occasional nuclear excursions. It is so hot (radioactively) that the new zillion dollar sarcophagus being constructed must be built off-site and slid into position. Guess how long until someone can walk in there and buy real estate? Oh, 20,000 years or so.

      The Fukushima cores ARE in containment vessels but they are all probably breached in one way or another. If the Japanese cannot keep the cores and spent fuel pools cool by continuing to pour water on them for the next hundred years or five, they will melt down. If they melt down, they could explode in a nuclear excursion (like Chernobyl) or they could simply melt down to the water table and create a steam explosion, or they could just sit there and emit radioactive clouds and pretty blue light for the next thirty or two hundred years.

      But SOME of the products of fission themselves decay into secondary radioactive isotopes and have very long half-lives. That is why the US was going to put all of our used fuel rods in a salt mine under Las Vegas for a hundred thousand years. The very same expended fuel that is going to be dangerous for a hundred thousand years is sitting in Fukushima just waiting for the water to be turned off by another earthquake so it can go fissile again. After it finishes which may take centuries, that property will be good to use again in – you guessed it – 20,000 years. And it doesn’t care WHAT you pour on it. Sand? Sure! All you got.

      So what the Japanese have are four Chernobyls just before it exploded. They can either pollute the entire ocean and atmosphere with highly radioactive particulate matter and water for a hundred years or whistle ‘Dixie’.

      They can’t even light off a nuke half a mile under it and hope the whole mess falls in because it is too close to the ocean.

      What can they do? Nothing. The IAEA is now reporting only once a week and will probably stop completely. The US says there is no radiation and refuses to test fish or turn on their meters so they can honestly say they aren’t reading anything abnormal.

      We will eventually forget all about it and accept the inevitable increased death-count and deformed babies – because there is no other option.


    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      According to the Japanese, it’s all over – time to rebuild. According to me, it isn’t over. The Honshu coast had two MAG6.0 or higher earthquakes today. The next 9.0 is on the way.

    • Mary in Seattle

      To the editor – site still having problems, I think. When I submitted the below comment a few minutes ago, got error message and don’t see it. Hopefully this will not be another double-post like the miso comment.


      Chernobyl 25-year anniversary is the 26th. Below are some recent articles about it, then and now:


      AT 1.23AM on April 26th, 1986, technicians at the VI Lenin nuclear power station began a test on the cooling systems of reactor number four, which had been operational for only three years. As they gradually shut down the reactor and launched the experiment, they committed a series of errors that compounded fundamental design flaws in the plant, and a massive power surge sent temperatures in the core spiralling to critical levels.

      Within seconds, two explosions ripped through the reactor with enough force to hurl a 2,000-tonne safety plate off the top of the building. All cooling systems were destroyed and the fuel rods were shattered. Fire took hold of the graphite inside the collapsing core of the reactor.

      It was this fire that sent a radioactive plume across Europe, and glowed menacingly beneath helicopters that dropped thousands of tonnes of quenching sand, lead, clay and boron onto the burning core.

      “There were wave-like movements in the air – the air was even moving by itself. It was awful. We immediately felt pain in the throat – the first sign of a high radiation dose – and headaches, pressure in the head, very painful joints, especially the knees.

      Toronto Star:


      Raissa Galechko – Lived about 110 kilometres south of Chernobyl. A journalist, she now lives in Mississauga:

      Galechko was hosting a picnic in the woods just outside the capital Kyiv for her daughter Zoya’s 12th birthday. Galechko didn’t pay attention to the phalanx of military vehicles driving north out of the city. When word spread that government bosses were quietly moving their own children out of the capital, she knew something was seriously wrong.

      After the accident, many women in early stages of pregnancy were forced to have abortions. “Women fled to villages so they wouldn’t have to abort, Galechko said. Those closer to term were told to deliver early.

      A few years later, spots appeared on Zoya’s back. A doctor recommended immediate surgery “and told me to move to a clean zone, Galechko said, adding 18 melanomas were removed. She can’t say for certain that Chernobyl was to blame. “We’ll never know.

      Two years after Chernobyl, she travelled there to interview the editor of the local Soviet-run newspaper, who told her that he was never allowed to write about the accident or document the aftermath.

      “People were sick in the streets but that was never reported, Galechko said.


      Powerful Greenpeace blog post:


      We have just returned after completing an important mission in Ukraine – taking around 70 journalists from 18 countries with us to Chernobyl, nearly 25 years after the nuclear catastrophe. It was one of the largest media trips Greenpeace has organized. These seasoned journalists asked critical and insightful questions, none of them easily moved.
      But many of them were deeply disturbed by what they saw and heard – often by the mundane details that were mentioned matter-of-factly by the interviewees.

      Like every year Ukraine government needs to spend between six to eight percent of the fiscal budget to cope with the consequences of Chernobyl.

      Like how tens of thousands of Ukrainian children need to be sent away every year to uncontaminated areas for at least a month, in order to allow the body to get rid of some of the Cesium-137 accumulated through eating everyday food like milk, mushrooms, berry jam and meat.

      Like how food sold in every market needs to be tested for radionuclide like Cesium and Strontium.

      Like how children of Rokytne get tonsillitis several times a year because their immune systems are compromised by radionuclide. According to deputy head doctor from the District Hospital, two-thirds of the population of 53,000 he cares for is affected by Cesium-137 contamination in food. Rokytne is 300km away from Chernobyl, on the other side of the country.

      . . .

      Like how young expectant mothers get advice about what food they need to avoid, in order to minimise radionuclide uptake, which causes deformity in the developing fetus. They need frequent checks and if the fetus develops serious deformity then it may have to be aborted.

      . . .

      Nuclear proponents now claim that – despite the fact that the situation in the Fukushima nuclear plant is still not under control, despite the massive amount of radioactive water dumped into the sea with unknown consequence – Fukushima proves that nuclear energy is safe, because so far no one has been killed by the radiation?

      I want them to say that to the doctors and the parents who are told that the state can now only afford to send children away for breaks in clean areas for 18 days per year. Nuclear supporters probably don’t know that it takes 50 days for the body of a child (100 days for adult) to get rid of half of its radioactive Cesium-137.

    • Mary in Seattle

      A recent article for Charleroo:


      The associate professor of physics at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, spent 18 months inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone — a circle with an 18.8-mile radius surrounding the four-reactor-unit power plant, including damaged Reactor No. 4.

      As a nuclear-engineering graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he was the first Westerner to study the accident up close. His peer-reviewed findings were detailed in 1994 and 1995 in three issues of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission journal, Nuclear Safety.

      Mr. Sich knows that the Soviet government failed to reduce radiation levels with unsuccessful attempts to bury the nuclear core. He knows the meltdown and massive releases of radiation ended on their own, but not before causing widespread radiation exposure.

      . . .

      The helicopter mission succeeded in burying the red glow inside the reactor building, prompting the Soviet government to announce an end to the meltdown. But they likely buried only the small portion of the nuclear core ejected from the reactor shaft, researchers agree.

      For days afterward, fuel exposed to open air sent radioactivity across Ukraine, the Soviet Union, Europe and Scandinavia, indicating that the accident was worse than Soviet claims.

      Check it out.

      I read another article this morning about the fear of forest fires in the Chernobyl and surrounding areas. They are woefully underfunded to fight such a fire, and fear massive amounts of radiation would enter the atmosphere in the case of a large (and no longer uncommon) fire.

  • Ben

    What is mentioned in this post regarding the initial explosion at Unit 1 seems to match what Gundersen is saying in his last update.

    If what Takeshi Tokuda, Member of the Lower House (House of Representatives) in the Japanese Diet, says is true, the explosion that blew up the Reactor 1 building roof and side walls may not have been an hydrogen explosion as the government has insisted, but something decidedly more serious.

    [Tokuda is writing about his day on April 15, including a visit to Minami-Soma City, which has been designated as “planned evacuation zone”. He visited the Minami Soma City General Hospital and spoke with Dr. Oikawa, and the following is what he heard from Dr. Oikawa.]

    Then I heard a startling story from Dr. Oikawa.

    On the first hydrogen explosion on March 12 [Reactor 1], broken pieces [of…??] and small stones [from the explosion] landed in Futaba-machi, 2 kilometers away from the Plant.

    When the hospital checked the radiation level on the people who escaped from around the nuke plant after the explosion, there were more than 10 people whose radiation level exceeded 100,000 cpm [counts per minute], beyond what could be measured by the geiger counter the hospital had.

    [100,000 cpm is the new level that the Japanese government set that requires decontamination. Before the Fukushima accident, the level was 6,000 cpm, and on March 12 it was still 6,000 cpm.] […]
    **end of quote**

    Now, see what Gundersen is saying in his last update, starting around the 4:30 mark:

    So, if Tepco is right that the current I-131 contamination at the unit 4 spent fuel pool came from the sky after the initial explosion(s), then those had to be Chernobyl level explosions or worse, because it means that the spent fuel pool had to get some 30,000 mega becquerels (30 billion becquerels) per square meter initially from the sky.

    If not, then the spent fuel itself is undergoing fission at the pool.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      Aloha Ben,

      TEPCO isn’t right. They are lying and the IAEA is helping them. The IAEA issued daily reports until 15 April. It looks like the 15 April (Friday) report actually reported in the events of 14 April for the most part. Then the IAEA went blank for two days and didn’t issue another report until Monday, 18 April. That was the first time since the incident that they have taken the weekend off and I am pretty sure it is part of the plan to give the impression that it’s all over and that we can go back to our boring routines.

      But the Monday report, while mentioning that two robots were sent in on Sunday, also says this: “As of 18 April, white “smoke” was still observed coming from Units 2, 3 and 4.” Tuesday’s report was essentially a re-run of Monday’s and Today (Wednesday) there is no report at all.

      I don’t have the link Arnie has showing the pressure and temperature readings in the containments – I have asked him for it. Is someone else has it, I’d appreciate knowing. If it is confidential I will hold it as confidential.

      Let me state clearly that Arnie’s statement that reactor three is ‘probably OK’ is not my assessment.


      • Francisco

        Hi Tom,
        I posted my message on this article by mistake, I meant to do it on the most recent article.

        I believe the site from which Arnie Gundersen got his graphs is this:


        If it shows up in Japanese, there should appear a Google Translate button on top after a few seconds.

        Then, above the graph, you will see links indicating things like:

        Atmosphere (gas) temperature, Dose, reactor pressure, etc, for each unit.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          Aloha Transpan,

          Arnie got back to me. You are right on. Same site, he references these specific pages.


          and http://atmc.jp/plant/atmosphere/

          and http://atmc.jp/plant/water/

          I sincerely appreciate you responding. Please help me keep up to date with this.

          a hui hou

          • Dr. Tom Burnett

            Apologies, Fransisco.

            I credited Transpan for the link. My error.

            Would YOU pease help me keep up to date with this?

            a hui hou

          • Ben

            Yes, of course, I will help you keep up to date to the extent of my ability, which unfortunately doesn’t amount to much except scanning the web for information. Information on this has been scant and pretty confusing and suspect from the start, and I am afraid it will become more scant as their ability to control it and dosify it improves, and as the shielding from the press of the people working at the plant becomes more airtight. The emphasis right now seems to be on closing ranks. I just have a very bad feeling about it. The plant looks like a total mess, the amount of fuel in it is huge and apparently in various stages of mischief — and to hear that the best we can expect is to maintain the current situation for many months and hope it goes away is not comforting at all.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          Watch. There is going to be another MAG6.9+ EQ.

          5.0 2011/04/21 03:08:41 37.286 142.337 44.3 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

          6.0 2011/04/21 01:54:41 40.306 143.629 7.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

          5.8 2011/04/21 00:39:05 40.498 143.479 15.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

    • Dr. Tom Burnett


      I may not have addressed the core issue (sorry) in your post. I probably did somewhere else, but I’ll hit it again. CPM or, on my instrumentation. C/M measure gross radionuclide activity. TEPCO is trying to hold the radioactive water for 5 to 8 days to allow the short-lived isotopes to become stable and non-radioactive. That way the water they eventually release into the ocean – which is all of it – won’t send every meter off the scale. Only the gamma isotopes will read off the scale. Still, that’s better PR than having combined A/B/G readings – at least for public consumption (the readings; not the gamma emitters).

      In any case, measuring radiation in C/M doesn’t tell anyone anything they need to know, except they are standing in the WRONG PLACE. http://orise.orau.gov/reacts/guide/measure.htm

      I can get a pretty high Geiger counter readings on my hopped up LENi Geiger counter from any of several sources. I have marbles and bowls made out of radioactive glass and clay. There is a test source on the side of one of my Geiger counters. I have an old, radium-painted clock somewhere. But I don’t have a scale for readings that high until I go to my CDV-715 which I can’t calibrate because I don’t have anything that radioactive, and, if I did, I wouldn’t go near it.

      My guess is that someone pulled out a bunch of old Victoreen CDV-715 Geiger counters. If you get ANY READING on one of those you are already screwed. So you turn them on and they don’t read anything. Mine is in a metal case but the analog dial is covered in plastic – I would expect it to melt inside one of those reactor buildings. You know – like the robots. Which are probably now disabled from heat and radiation and are now blocking the access so no more can get in. I’d almost bet on it.

      • Dr. Tom Burnett

        @ Ben: I follow this reasoning. It never occurred to me to post it until I heard SEVERAL dumbasses (after Ann Counter – I don’t pay any attention to her) saying that a little radiation is good for you. S’not.


    • Dr. Tom Burnett
    • Dr. Tom Burnett
  • Pingback: Fukushima: Dr Tom’s Warning « Kyoto Observer()

    • I just had a one-second moment of inattention and deleted several pages of Fukushima observations. It only takes ONE SECOND whether you are writing an article or operating a nuclear plant. I will try to resurrect the high points, but it will be substantially less detailed this time around. And more ranty.

      We cannot see, or predict, the future. We can try to learn from the past, but most of those lessons are ‘don’t let this happen to you’. It is invariably too late. The lessons NEVER tell us how to fix the problem. They are only ‘gotcha’ moments we wish had never have happened.

      So…let us apply our inability to see the future to Fukushima. We don’t need to make anything up and we don’t need to make predictions. At this point we can go with observations.

      I observe that the ‘official’ information stops at the end of the business day on Friday and doesn’t resume again until the following Monday – or the next business day if Monday is a holiday. The last ‘official’ information we got from the IAEA was on Friday: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

      To me that’s a bit disingenuous. It seems as though the official position is that the incident is over, they are just cleaning up and back on a 9-5 weekday schedule, no problem, move along, nothing to see here. Let’s look at the actual wording of that report.

      It updates us through last Thursday in an off-beat sort of way. For instance, it says things like this: “As of 14 April, white “smoke” was still observed coming from Units 2 and 3. White “smoke” was also observed coming from Unit 4 on 14 April.”

      ‘Smoke’ is not ‘steam’. If we assume that the observer knows the difference, and nothing was lost in translation (neither of which are probably good assumptions, but still), we are left with the knowledge that ‘smoke’ in the incomplete product of oxidation. Nothing we commonly recognize as combustible lives in the core of a nuclear reactor. What IS in there is a huge mass of melted fissile material that can never be removed, metal fuel rods, control rods, concrete, and some stainless steel. If ‘smoke’ is coming out, some of that material has to be oxidizing.

      TEPCO says that the temperatures in the reactor cores is being maintained at 214 to 600 degrees F, but they admit their instrumentation might not be working. But here is some news. Concrete and steel don’t give off smoke at 600 degrees F. They start burning off their impurities closer to 5,000 degrees. So who is kidding whom? Is it steam or is it smoke? There is a world of difference.

      But they don’t know because they cannot replace the instrumentation – the radiation levels are too high. They are going to try and send in a robot with a big rectal thermometer for the nuclear core. I wonder if it can speak? I wonder if it can say “I’m melting, I’m melting.”

      All they can do is busy-work. They have begun to build a pipe line to supply water to the reactors, but there is no place to put the water after they pump it in. They can pump it from ditches to condensers and back, but simple logic tells us that they are continuing to pump 21 cubic meters of fresh water AN HOUR into the reactors to try and prevent them from fissioning and it has to go somewhere So, whether or not it is being made public, they are dumping huge amounts of highly radioactive water into the ocean. Simple. It has to go somewhere and that’s the only ‘where’. The concept of using tankers was forgotten early-on, but the water is still flowing.

      I can prove it without doing any math. The same report referenced above states the following:

      “To minimize the movement of contaminated water to the open sea, temporary boards to stop water (3 steel plates in total) were installed on 13 April on the ocean-side of the Inlet Bar Screen of Unit 2.

      Silt fences have also been installed in the inlet canal and in front of the Inlet Bar Screens of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4. On 11 April, a silt screen was installed at the southern end of the inlet canal. The installation in front of the Inlet Bar Screen of Units 3 and 4 was completed on 13 April and for Units 1 and 2 on 14 April.”
      That’s the politically correct way of saying they are dumping radioactive water into the ocean. Silt fences don’t stop water. Water seeks it’s own level. SEA level.

      In addition, they got an increased pressure reading in one of the cores and began injecting nitrogen to prevent a hydrogen explosion – but that won’t control the pressure and it will eventually vent to the atmosphere or to the water table. Unless, of course, the hydrogen blows up – which is the same thing – it will vent to atmospheric pressure. So that is busy-work as well. They want to be able to say, and ARE SAYING “We are doing our best, and cleaning up an old accident. No more earthquakes will occur, so neither this plant, which is hanging on by it’s fingernails, nor any OTHER bland on the affected coastline are in any danger. Go about your business.”

      That belief is irrational. But worse, it isn’t true. It reminds me of the ABC interview with Tim Geithner this morning. We now take you to excerpts of that interview for a brief interlude from Fukushima.

      These are quotes from Geithner. They are irrational as well. From here: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/geithner-congress-raise-debt-ceiling/story?id=13393920&page=2

      Geithner acknowledged that even President Obama has shifted since his 2006 Senate vote against raising the debt ceiling, which Obama said was a mistake in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last week.

      Geithner: “Things are different now. We’re just coming out of a deeply damaging financial crisis,” Geithner said. “Millions of Americans still feel the scars of that crisis now.”

      Sound familiar? It should. It isn’t true any more than the story Fukushima is old news. We aren’t coming out of anything. The economy is America’s Fukushima and we handling it the same way. We are hanging on with our fingernails and pouring water on it. It will melt down anyway – AFTER we have wasted all the water.

      More nonsense from Geithner:

      “The hard thing is to try to take advantage of this moment, and get Republicans and Democrats to come together and lock in some reforms that will reduce our long term deficits.”

      “We recognize, the president recognizes, and Republicans recognize, this is something we have to do and we have to do it in a bipartisan basis,” Geithner added. “Neither side has the votes to do this on their own.”

      So Tim, you are saying that each political party wants reform, but only at the cost of the other one? And that they have to negotiate a pissant budget cut so it all looks good, but we STILL have to raise the debt limit? Why is that? Well, Tim – basically it is because of what YOU DID.

      AMANPOUR: A lot of views this week, a lot of disappointment among many people that many of those big bankers and financial institutions responsible for the financial crisis have still not been prosecuted, punished.

      I mean, how does that bring confidence to the American people?

      GEITHNER: Well, let me just say, I agree that you saw a — really a huge loss of confidence in the average American in our financial system and how it works, whether it protects them from abuse, whether it’s a fair system with the kind of integrity you need. And financial systems require trust and confidence. And you saw in this crisis just terrible mistakes, devastating loss of confidence.

      AMANPOUR: Do you think that some of these people should have been at least prosecuted, punished?

      GEITHNER: You know, that’s really a question for my colleagues in the enforcement —

      Actually, Tim…it’s a matter for the American people. The President was elected on a reform ticket. Instead, he took everyone who had caused the problems and promoted them. How stupid is that? And instead of getting out of Afghanistan, he doubled down. If you are going to pick people like Alan Simpson to the co-chair of the deficit commission (AKA the catfood commission), rush to judgment and fire one person for something she didn’t say, but defend a college professor for something he DID say – incorrectly; to hold ‘beer summits’ at the White house while the country is going down the tubes, and THEN to run for reelection… The TSA and DEA AND FBI are totally out of control and no one at any level of government listens to the President because he can’t back his own playbook. I swear that the entire beltway is out of touch. It’s like the cultist enclave of David Koresh in Waco. It’s worse! The whackos are in charge and a clear gulf has formed between the government and the people it is now enslaving. That’s what governments do during their final breaths – they blame the citizens for not maintaining ownership and oppress them. After that it’s just a matter of time before they melt down.

      Someone SHOULD be in jail and Tim Geithner is only one step from the top of the list.

      We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. If this had been an actual emergency, we wouldn’t have told you because we can’t do anything about it. Besides, you are just one of the 310 ‘lesser people’ sucking at the teat of government. The government owns you- you don’t own the government anymore. The government is going to have to borrow 48 cents of every dollar we spend on Hamid Karzai -who hates us.

      We are about to reach America’s ‘Let them eat cake’ moment.

      I leave you with two thoughts:

      The typos and misspellings herein are mine. The computer I wrote this on merely did what my mind, through my fingers told it to do. Blaming inanimate objects for the actions of humans is yet another example of irrational behavior. Nuclear power doesn’t choose how it is used. Neither do firearms, or pencils. You may not like any of those, but you cannot pretend they are evil. Humans invented them. Humans built them. Humans use them. Blame the humans, not their devices. Hold people responsible for their actions. The result is responsible people.


      “Past performance is not indicative of, and no guarantee of, future results” is a government mandated statement that is required for groups involved in certain trading activities. But it doesn’t apply to government itself – or campaign promises. I think that they who make the rules should abide by them equally.

      I also think that the oath of elective office is meant to be taken literally:

      I ________________________ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

      “So help me God” is not required for the affirmation, should the person choose that version over a sworn oath. But either version obligates the person to true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. Taking that oath and then reneging should, in my humble opinion, be High Treason, whether or not the country is at war. By “High Treason” I mean about the height of a sturdy oak limb.

      Originally posted at http://drtom.posterous.com

  • Mary in Seattle

    415/11 interview with Arnold Gunderson (long). Here’s the link and headline:

    “Three Mile Island expert: Fukushima could kill 200,000

    “Interview: The worst is “probably” past, but there’s a one-in-four chance Fukushima could deteriorate. Here’s how.”


    • @Mary: I like Arne, but he’s wrong on this one There are four reactors directly involved and seven fuel pools. I can do the math for you if you wish, but the odds are 100% that Fukushima will deteriorate.

      • Mary in Seattle

        I thought he was pretty cautious too. But experts (at least in litigation) are famous for being cautious and not going out on a limb with predictions. That’s why people like you are refreshing.

        Michio Kaku on Democracy Now! on 4/13 was stronger in many ways. Transcript link is below. See what you think.


        • Dr Kaku is a little off as well.
          “AMY GOODMAN: Entomb it in…?

          DR. MICHIO KAKU: In a gigantic slab of concrete. You’re going to have to drill underneath to make sure that the core does not melt right into the ground table. And you’re going to put 5,000 tons of concrete and sand on top of the flaming reactor.”

          At least he recognizes my core statement regarding groundwater – because ‘ground table’ means ‘water table’. You might ask him to clarify that, but that’s what he meant to say.

          But then he suggests dumping sand and concrete on the top. OK…sand will melt into glass – but concrete will just melt. That won’t stop the reaction. Other than his example about driving a car into a river being completely absurd, he is at least correct that no one is at the wheel and any tiny problem will create an extinction event.

          But in his defense, the reason he cannot compose a rational model is that there are none. This is new. It was predictable, but it is still unprecedented.

          • Mary in Seattle

            Exactly re unprecedented.

            One wonders if anyone working on this will get any better at figuring out what options there might be. And when if ever.

    • This is from today’s news, 17 April, 2011:

      “Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of Tepco, Asia’s largest utility, told a news conference in Tokyo on Sunday that they would need up to nine months to bring the plant to ”cold shutdown”.

      He said the plan would allow the tens of thousands of residents evacuated from the area around the power plant to return home as soon as possible.”

      I cannot even believe I read that. “Cold shutdown’ means separating the two halves of the fuel cores. Once they melt together, that’s the end of ‘cold shutdown’. It is not possible. Those reactors can NEVER be brought to ‘cold shutdown – in fact, the situation is deteriorating and the next 8+ EQ will turn everything to shit.

      The residents can never return home – at least not on this world – maybe in Bizarro World.

      Bookmark this page and read it again after what I just said becomes obvious.

      • Mary in Seattle

        More reading material for anyone who is interested. Dr. Grossman, a toxicologist, was very involved in getting the NY Academy of Sciences book on Chernobyl completed. Long transcript, only pasted the intro.


        Editor’s note: Permission to create this transcript was granted by Karl Grossman. The following has been minimally edited to clean-up grammatical syntax to enhance readability. Responsibility for footnote annotations rests entirely with me.

        Chernobyl: A Million Casualties
        Karl Grossman interviews Dr. Janette Sherman
        5 March 2011

        Complete Transcript of Dr. Janette Sherman’s 5 March 2011 interview on EnviroVideo, conducted by Karl Grossman.

        • Don’t you mean Dr. Janette Sherman, toxicologist and internist?? Karl Grossman is a Professor of Journalism and an author of some great books including perhaps the best book on nuclear power, What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power. Yes, that interview is one of best you’ll see on latest up to date Chernobyl and dangers of nuclear contamination and cancer. Will post on my facebook page soon how you can get the book discussing the 5000 studies in non-English translated into English NY Academy of Sciences. $10 plus shipping. Conrad Miller M.D.
          I have videos on contaminated Hawaii milk, and other components of the Fukushima misdeal tsunami catastrophe on my youtube channel conradmillermd

          • Dr. Tom Burnett

            Hey Doc, can we exchange email addresses?

            I agree with everything in that interview except the addendum – which AGAIN blames inanimate object for the failings of humans.

            Does no one understand that nuclear power plants and everything else is built to a price point for investors, NOT a safety point for the human race?

            WHY was the nuclear plant unsafe? It wasn’t. ALL of those reactors It met and exceeded their design limits. But someone made the conscious decision that a design limit of magnitude 6.9 was sufficient. That mistake; that conscious decision to build to a price point, and Chernobyl AND Three Mile Island were HUMAN errors. Blaming nuclear energy because of human failings is….and I seem to use this word a lot lately… irrational.

            The sun is the mother of all nuclear plants in our solar system. Solar power is simply another phrase for harnessing nuclear energy.

            Want a safe nuclear reactor? No problem. Thorium. The FIRST commercial nuclear reactor in the US ran on thorium (Google Shippingport).

            We can build safe thorium reactors. We can run our EXISTING reactors on Thorium. (CANDU reactors can run on thorium). India has thorium reactors running. China may already. Russia is going to.

            Do you know why we are not using thorium reactors? Because the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX wanted plutonium for weapons. Now the weapons are degrading as a function of time. They have to be rebuilt. We still ‘need’ plutonium. So they say.

            My opinion is: why do we need nuclear weapons? There are thousands of Gen1 and II BWR plants in operation. As they tank, we will have effectively nuked ourselves. People are such dumbasses!

        • Mary in Seattle

          Yes, you are correct, I flubbed the name.

          Glad to have you posting!


  • Phi334

    @ Dr. Tom

    I’m curious to get your opinion on an odd occurrence in the town I am from. I live in a city built right off of the Ohio river. The town is set up that everything close to the river is basically farm land, there is a levy, then there is the city. Recently the farm land has been flooded completely up to the levy without the occurrence of any substantial rain in the past week or so. Do you think that the corps of engineers could be flooding this intentionally as a precautionary measure to try and protect the farm land from radioactive rain? And if it is would that even work?

    • Daily hydrological reports are dull reading, but this might be informative: http://www.weather.gov/oh/hic/nho/

      I don’t think the Corps of Engineers is doing that because, as you point out, it wouldn’t work. The radioisotopes are going to fall out of the sky and water won’t stop them or wash them off because radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. Specifically Cesium 137 (and now a slew of other long-lived products are being found). This isn’t a one-shot deal. Every time a fissile reaction occurs, another blast of particles goes into the sky. Chernobyl isn’t an active emitter anymore, but they are putting yet another sarcophagus over it to keep the residual radiation out of the air. That can’t do that with Fukushima. Fukushima is a continuous version of Chernobyl – yes, each reactor is smaller than Chernobyl – but they keep going into fission and they are immune to both humans and robots.

      When they run out of water, those reactors and fuel pools will go fissile and cause a massive, worldwide extinction event. Not by exploding, although my original water-table event is actually happening – just not with the water table, but with the water the TEPCO is pumping into the reactor cores – EACH OF WHICH is hot enough to boil water, and TWO of which, maybe three, are hot enough to flash water into O2 and H. They don’t need to get to the water table anymore, the water table is being brought to them. But that is a failed strategy from the get-go.

      I doubt that most people really understand what is happening at Fukushima…and why is is different than Chernobyl…and why it matters. After all, Uncle Sam will protect us! But that veneer is wearing thin. Uncle Sam can’t protect us and ‘no child left behind’ insures that we are stuck in stupid. No one has to learn anything anymore. It’s not a requirement.

      Fukushima is about to turn into a nightmare and no one even grasps the significance. The US and Japanese governments are in ‘lie and deny’ mode.

      I have some dosimeters which read in Roentgens http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%B6ntgen

      I calibrated them all when this started – they read accumulated dosage. All of them are reading 30 Roentgens over three weeks. Are they ALL off by exactly the same amount, or have they actually measured that sort of dose? I don’t know.

  • Dwight Kondo

    Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors
    (TEPCO is criminal for this disregard. k)

    JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press
    Updated 11:58 a.m., Saturday, April 9, 2011

    “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

    It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.
    Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Tsunami-hit-towns-forgot-warnings-from-ancestors-1325081.php#ixzz1JZXzTEGH

  • Dwight Kondo

    Radiation levels jump in groundwater at Japan nuclear plant
    Apr 15, 2011, 1:25 GMT

    Tokyo – The operator of a stricken nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan reported levels of radioactive iodine and caesium in groundwater has soared at the plant, a sign of seepage from nearby reactor turbine buildings, a news report said Friday.


    • 60,000 TONS of radioactive water? That looks like 1.442307692×10⁷ gallons. That can’t be right. Someone else do the math, please. Here is the weight of water @4degrees C.

      Pounds Kilograms
      Cubic cm. 0.002205 0.001
      Cubic inch 0.036127 0.0163871
      Liter 2.204684 1.000028
      Gallon 8.345404 3.7854118
      Cubic foot 62.42796 8.316847

      • Sorry…that came out garbled. Pounds are shown to six decimal points except the last entry which is shown to five. Here is the chart – just as garbled.


        • Nope. That number is accurate. ~4.5 million MORE gallons of highly irradiated water – which they can either release to the ocean and keep making more, or stop and let the whole thing melt down.

          If you have any friends in Honshu or Tokyo, tell them to get the hell out. This whole thing is going to go to shit.

      • Ben

        Assuming a standard water density of 1 kg per liter (that is, 1 ton per cubic meter) of pure water at 4 deg C, then:

        60,000 tons of water occupy 60,000 cubic meters, which are 60,000 x 1000 = 60 million liters.
        A liter is about 0.26 gallons, so that would be about 15.6 million gallons.

        As an aside, I wonder why they keep expressing it in metric tons, as if they could weigh it. Clearly the estimates have to come from volume estimates, so why don’t they don’t just give the volume?

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          Because no one knows what 60,000 tons of water is but almost everyone knows that a gallon of gas costs about $4, so 15.6 MILLION gallons is a lot.

          • Ben

            15.6 gallons would be about the average capacity of the gasoline tank in a current mid-size car. So this would give you one million fillups. You could fill it up *every day* for more than 2,700 years.

  • I am still under the impression that the Fukushima fault subsidy is loaded up and will unload catastrophically. If THAT happens, we WILL have a problem.

    Luckily for me, my house seems to be subsiding into a lava tube and all I’ll have to do is push dirt over it…and apply for a building permit to build stairs and a hatch.

  • Pingback: Fukushima: The Nuclear Explosion Solution | Japan Times 6()

  • Mary in Seattle


    Strain from Japan earthquake may lead to more seismic trouble, scientists say

    By Joel Achenbach, Monday, April 11, 12:37 PM

    Japan won’t stop shaking. Monday, one month after the horrific March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the island was rattled anew by an aftershock, this one measuring at magnitude 6.6. It was hardly a major temblor, but it was strong enough to knock out electricity briefly at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.

    Four days earlier, a magnitude 7.1 quake led to four deaths and widespread power outages. With soldiers still looking for the bodies of thousands of people who vanished a month ago, Japan is coping with the painful reality that it is sits in a seismic bull’s eye.

    Now scientists are warning that the March 11 event not only will lead to years of aftershocks but might also have increased the risk of a major quake on an adjacent fault. A new calculation by American and Japanese scientists concluded that the March 11 event heightened the strain on a number of faults bracketing the ruptured segment of the Japan Trench.

    “There’s quite a bit of real estate on which stress has increased by our calculations,” said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ross Stein. “The possibility of getting large, late aftershocks to the north and south of the main shock is real.”

    Stein and two Japanese colleagues, including lead author Shinji Toda of Kyoto University, have submitted their research to the journal Earth Planets Space. The scientists are not making a formal prediction of another big earthquake. But they believe that the section of the Japan Fault to the east of Tokyo now has more stress than before March 11.

    “That section of the subduction zone is clearly loaded,” said Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State seismologist who was not part of the new research.

    The processes that lead to earthquakes are too chaotic to be predictable in any practical sense. Two other scientists said that even if there is an increase in seismic hazard on nearby faults, it is minimal and certainly hard to quantify.

    Susan Hough, a USGS geologist who has written extensively on the subject of earthquake predictions, sounded a skeptical note when asked about the increased risk of a big quake: “Big earthquakes don’t cascade like dominoes, bang bang bang. At least not commonly. So I think the maps showing bright red bull’s eyes of increased stress may be more alarming than they should be.”

    Hanging over Japan is the worrisome example of Sumatra. Three months after the Dec. 26, 2004, magnitude 9.1 earthquake that generated a catastrophic tsunami, the adjacent segment of the same fault broke again, this time in a magnitude 8.7 earthquake. The fault system has since generated several more powerful earthquakes.

    “It will take probably a decade before this aftershock sequence is over,” Stein said. “The watchword in Tokyo should be long-term vigilance. Nobody should think this should go away in a few weeks or a few months.”

    Tokyo is in a particularly treacherous location. It sits on the gentle Kanto Plain, adjacent to a large bay that is protected by a peninsula from the battering forces of the Pacific Ocean “ tsunamis and typhoons. But there are faults in every direction, and a triple-junction of tectonic plates just offshore where slabs of the earth meet, grind, and sometimes violently lurch past one another. Down below the Kanto Plain might be a rogue slab of crust, debris from all these geological collisions.

    Tokyo last suffered a devastating earthquake in 1923. The Great Kanto Earthquake triggered fires that raced across the city and created a firestorm that immolated tens of thousands of people taking refuge in a field.

    Robert Geller, a geophysicist at the University of Tokyo, is not alarmed by assertions that there is an increased hazard: “From a scientific point of view it may be true the risk is slightly higher than normal, but the increase is not marked enough that any special precautions are warranted.”

    And the Japanese people have taken many precautions. Buildings are designed to withstand violent shaking, and citizens are trained in disaster preparation.

    After the March 11 quake, Stein prepared a letter, authorized by his superiors, that offered basic advice to American officials in Japan: Carry a whistle, water, power bars, a first-aid kit, flashlight and batteries, work gloves and a trowel for digging people out of debris. Look around for objects that might become lethal missiles in an earthquake. And identify the sturdiest table in the room “ and be ready to dive under it when the next big one hits.


    • WELL, WELL, WELL! ““ Mon Apr 11, 8:33 pm ET

      TOKYO ““ News reports say Japan has decided to raise the severity level of the crisis at its tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant to 7 “ the highest level and equal to the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.

      Quoting sources at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Kyodo News agency and public broadcaster NHK both said Tuesday that NISA would raise the severity level of the nuclear radiation disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to 7 from the current 5.

      NISA spokesman Minoru Oogoda declined to confirm the reports.

    • I will say this again, The subduction (or rift – your preference) zone off Honshu is still loaded up. It is going to let go. It is all we will need to kick us right into the middle of the current rapid-onset extinction event.

      Two weeks ago someone was arguing that the level five radiation hazard was as far as it could POSSIBLY go – because with no water in the reactors, they would just cool down and ….problem solved. and that there was not ONE SHRED of evidence that any of the reactor cores had melted or reached 5,000 degrees. And that taking precautions, especially if I suggested them, were silly. Everything is fine, I must have some ‘agenda’. I did. It was to tell the truth. and the people who listened are safe right now, because they knew the actual situation two weeks before anyone else. They read it HERE first.

      I’ll try again. The rift zone off Honshu is loaded. It is going to let go. You can forget about ‘repairing’ or ‘decommissioning’ those reactors. You can forget about that entire area, and maybe Tokyo as well. Or you can sit and stare at the news in disbelief when it happens.

      • Mary in Seattle

        Upgrade to 7 now a done deal. 🙁

        The Low Level Radiation Campaign website is posting updates (http://www.llrc.org). First paragraph of most recent update below (hyperlinks don’t paste):

        Monday 11th April 2011 – 1st paragraph updated 12th April

        Advice for the people of Japan

        Large areas of Japan are contaminated to measured levels around 1 microsievert per hour. This figure is just for Caesium 137; it does not measure the alpha-emitting radionuclides Plutonium and Uranium. These contaminants are the real threat to health. No official sources are saying anything about this hazard although hundreds of tonnes of Uranium and Plutonium are missing from the spent fuel ponds. It’s known that up to 1760 tonnes of spent fuel was stored on site. Some of it was in pools in the roofs of reactor containments which these high resolution aerial photos show to be absent, following explosions.

  • Pingback: Dr. Tom Burnett: When the Fukushima Meltdown Hits Groundwater « Kyoto Observer()

    • I mentioned the likelihood of this happening in another thread. There was just another MAG7.2EQ off Honshu. Those reactor containments, designed to withstand a MAG6.9EQ were already damaged.

      I am waiting for reports, but this does not bode particularly well.

      • 22:30 hours, Sunday, April 10, 2011. ANOTHER MAG7.x EQ hit just of the Honshu coast. I keep predicting these and some dumbasses keep denying they can be happening and question my motives for saying they are possible. Listen, fools: If the wind changes and a cloud of highly radioactive fallout goes over mainland China, there is going to be an instant solution to the problem.

        Call me names. Assassinate my character. It won’t matter. Because NOTHING I HAVE STATED THUS FAR HAS BEEN INACCURATE! I correctly projected the initial meltdowns. YOU READ IT HERE FIRST! I correctly predicted successive earthquakes and the inability of the Japanese government to control the problem. YOU READ THAT FIRST HERE TOO!

        Now you may THINK that the rest of the world is going to stand quietly by while Japan irradiates the rest of the world – but it’s not going to happen. Yes, yes, I know – you don’t believe me. Great. Hide and watch what happens if another major radiation leak occurs.

          • * Cesium-137 forecast shows high altitude radiation cloud concentrating over California, western US on April 12 (VIDEO) (3496)
            * Japan raises Fukushima to Level 7, same as Chernobyl (3085)
            * Amount of radiation in 3 gallons of milk from Hilo, Hawaii surpasses annual maximum contaminant level set by EPA (1075)
            * Vancouver, Canada radiation tests show iodine-131 in rainwater at almost 100 times above US drinking water limit (989)
            * Strawberries, mushrooms with Cesium-137 found in Northern California; 5 of 6 items in food chain sampling test have radioactive particles (807)

    • I have now posted industry insiders who are admitting EXACTLY what I have been saying on an ongoing basis. You may choose to change the gist of the thread from the actualities to an attack on me personally, or my education – and several people have. But I don’t suppose you will be able to attack everyone.

      I refer you back to the first sentence of my original article. “Fukushima is going to dwarf Chernobyl”. I have stood by that statement and still do. Now Arnie Gunderson agrees with me. Try to dispute his education or industry experience. When you cannot, compare what is now being said with what I originally said – they seem to equate quite well. Facts is facts and fools is fools.


      • Mary in Seattle

        Al Jazeera has been doing some great reporting on this. See:



        Olson also fears that if the core meltdowns get to the groundwater under the plant, “You have an explosive force that is like putting dynamite under the site. The problem is if you get this molten fuel into that water it could cause a steam explosion.”

        “Since unit two is showing signs of fission happening, the chances of something more catastrophic happening at that site are increasing,” Olson added, “People are acting like the worst is over, and that is just not understanding the real issues here as far as the radiological impacts.”

        She also pointed out that the fuel pool in reactor No. 3 “is gone, according to recent photos. There is no fuel there. The reactor fuel pool in No. 3 is gone. Where did it go?”

        • Aloha Mary,

          My long, disappeared post was addressed to you and thanked you for your contributions.

          It also examined, technically, the difference between light and heavy water reactors -people see the word ‘water’ and assume that all water is the same – but that is not the cane with nuclear reactors. Some have to have water to STOP them from going awry. They are called ‘light water’ reactors. Some REQUIRE water to maintain fission. Those are ‘Heavy Water’ reactors and operate on a different principle.

          Anywho, personalities aside all of my observations from two weeks ago are still correct.

      • Mary in Seattle

        New resource: A month ago I looked up this book on Amazon.com and it was over $100, though there was a place you could buy it for $40. Published by the NY Academy of Sciences in 2009, “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment” – is now a google doc and accessible. Link is:


        Name of the google doc is yablokov2009-Chernobyl, if the above link doesn’t work.

        • Thanks for that. Here is how far anyone can trust any government. It’s been a level 5 all this time because the Japanese were considering each reactor a separate incident and no one said anything different.

          Provisional INES Level 7 Rating

          The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can confirm that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has submitted a provisional International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) Level 7 rating for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This new provisional rating considers the accidents that occurred at Units 1, 2 and 3 as a single event on INES and uses estimated total release to the atmosphere as a justification. Previously, separate provisional INES Level 5 ratings had been applied for Units 1, 2 and 3.

          Level 7

          “An event resulting in an environmental release corresponding to a quantity of radioactivity radiologically equivalent to a release to the atmosphere of more than several tens of thousands of terabequerels of I-131.”

          Naturally, no one is going to look up terabequerels.

          • Mary in Seattle

            It’s governmentS and more. See link below (first few paragraphs pasted):


            Toxic link: the WHO and the IAEA

            A 50-year-old agreement with the IAEA has effectively gagged
            the WHO from telling the truth about the health risks of radiation
            by Oliver Tickell
            28 May 2009

            Fifty years ago, on 28 May 1959, the World Health Organisation’s assembly voted into force an obscure but important agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency ““ the United Nations “Atoms for Peace” organisation, founded just two years before in 1957. The effect of this agreement has been to give the IAEA an effective veto on any actions by the WHO that relate in any way to nuclear power ““ and so prevent the WHO from playing its proper role in investigating and warning of the dangers of nuclear radiation on human health.

            The WHO’s objective is to promote “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health”, while the IAEA’s mission is to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world”. Although best known for its work to restrict nuclear proliferation, the IAEA’s main role has been to promote the interests of the nuclear power industry worldwide, and it has used the agreement to suppress the growing body of scientific information on the real health risks of nuclear radiation.

            Under the agreement, whenever either organisation wants to do anything in which the other may have an interest, it “shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement”. The two agencies must “keep each other fully informed concerning all projected activities and all programs of work which may be of interest to both parties”. And in the realm of statistics ““ a key area in the epidemiology of nuclear risk ““ the two undertake “to consult with each other on the most efficient use of information, resources, and technical personnel in the field of statistics and in regard to all statistical projects dealing with matters of common interest”.

    • 9 April, 2011

      Here is Pat Takahashi’s take. He in on the ground in Japan. At the end of his blog today he mentions several colleagues by name from whom he requested information.


      • Mary in Seattle

        Thanks for that link, fascinating. I had wondered why the bomb sites in Japan were now safe, and had no idea what a relatively small amount of material was in those two bombs.

        Re plutonium safe to eat (!!) there is an interesting piece below about a nuclear plant worker who died at 36 from leukemia. Unbeknownst to his family, his organs were harvested by the nuclear authorities for testing. The amount of plutonium in various organs was staggering (and you have to scroll down a bit to get to the part about this man):


        Another good piece published by Truthout on 4/8:


        To read more about Dr. John Gofman, referenced in the Truthout piece, the below link is a great resource:


        I read “Killing Our Own” as a book, but the whole thing is online now at this site.

        And thanks for continuing to post comments here, I check every day.


    • It rats me when I spend four hours composing an article and it disappears because I paged up another reference on the same tab. But I did.

      I may or may not recompose the entire article eventually.

    • Guess what? This radionuclide isn’t formed by passive reactor heat. http://www.weatheronline.co.uk/weather/news/fukushima?VAR=nilujapan131

    • I can’t do this experiment myself because I haven’t been active in the nuclear power industry since 1978. That, of course, destroys my credibility. Arnie hasn’t been actively involved in the actual hands-on work with reactors either – but he has credibility. So this is from him. enjoy!


    • By Yoko Kubota and Kiyoshi Takenaka

      TOKYO — Japanese nuclear power plant operator TEPCO expects to stop pumping radioactive water into the ocean on Monday, days later than planned, a step that would help ease international concern about the spread of radiation from a smashed nuclear plant.

      Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Democratic Party was likely to be punished at Sunday’s local polls for his handling of the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, killing 13,000 and triggering the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

      China and South Korea have also criticized Japan’s handling of the nuclear crisis, with Seoul calling it incompetent, reflecting growing international unease over the month-long atomic disaster and the spread of radiation.

      Japan is struggling to regain control of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that was damaged by the magnitude 9 quake and 15 meter tsunami.

      The nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), has been pumping sea water into the reactors to cool the nuclear core, and then discharging the water, after it has become contaminated, back into the Pacific Ocean.

      TEPCO had planned to stop the discharge on Saturday, but work was interrupted by a powerful aftershock late on Thursday. The firm then pushed the target back to Sunday, a goal it failed to meet.

      “We are making checks on remaining water, and the final check is scheduled for tomorrow,” a company spokesman told a press briefing late on Sunday.

      TEPCO was forced to start pumping sea water into the power plant after failing to restart the reactors’ cooling systems after the quake. It has been pumping in nitrogen to cool the core, but officials say they are unsure of what to do next.

      “We cannot say what the outlook is for the next stage,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director-general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said on Sunday. “As soon as possible we would like to achieve stable cooling and set a course toward controlling radiation.”

      It is also grappling with a major humanitarian and economic crisis and facing a damages bill as high as $300 billion — the world’s biggest for any natural disaster.

      Japanese who voted in local elections on Sunday were expected to shun Kan’s ruling party, further weakening him and bolstering opponents who will try to force his resignation once the crisis ends. Results of the vote are expected on Monday.

      Unpopular prime minister Kan was already under pressure to step down before the disaster, but analysts say he is unlikely to be dumped during the nuclear crisis, which is set to drag on for months.


      In Tokyo, around 5,000 people took to the streets in two separate anti-nuclear protests on Sunday. Some carried placards reading ‘No More Fukushima’ and ‘No Nukes’; others danced and played musical instruments.

      One group of demonstrators marched to the offices of the operator of the stricken plant, which has apologized to Japan, and neighboring countries, for the crisis.

      Radiation from Japan spread around the entire northern hemisphere in the first two weeks of the nuclear crisis, according to the Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

      Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, is reeling from the triple disaster and several countries have banned or restricted food imports after detecting radiation.

      More critically, the nuclear crisis and power shortages have disrupted Japan’s manufacturing and electronics global supply chains, hitting computer and automakers in particular.

      Power blackouts and restrictions, factory shutdowns, and a sharp drop in tourists have hit the world’s most indebted nation.

      Efforts to regain control of six reactors hit by the tsunami, which caused partial meltdowns to some reactor cores after fuel rods were overheated, has been hindered by 60,000 tonnes of radioactive water.

      NISA said efforts to restore cooling systems were not making clear progress.

      TEPCO wants to start moving some of the highly contaminated water out of the reactors and into a condenser, a key step toward restoring the critical cooling system.

      “We may be able to use (electric) systems that are currently functioning for cooling, and that may speed up the cooling restoration. But there is no concrete and clear option,” said NISA’s Nishiyama.

      “It is one step forward, one step backwards.”

      (Additional reporting by Chisa Fujioka, Issei Kato and Masahiro Koike in Tokyo; Writing by Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

    • 22:30 Sunday, April 10, 2011. Another MAG 7.x EQ just occurred off the Honshu coast. The situation may become worse.

    • ANOTHER 6.0 EW just occurred of Honshu. That’s two today.


  • Now, with more radiation leaking and being deposited through the air by rainfall, they should know:
    How to protect your garden patch or field against radioactive fall-out

  • Mary in Seattle

    “Tom Burnett is a farmer on the Big Island of Hawaii. 22,000 people have read these articles – three were assholes.”


    (And this article was also the most read at commondreams.org, I noticed today….)

  • Mary Holder

    I am in Tokyo. What is your assessment of our current situation? If we cannot leave, what else can we do in the worst case scenario?

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      Aloha Mary,

      Obtain P-95 quality painter’s masks for your family. The radiation you MIGHT be exposed to must be ingested or inhaled. You are in no danger from direct radiation.

      If you suspect that fallout is occurring over the city, (and it will vary greatly by wind and precipitation), stay indoors as much as possible and try to filter the air coming into your dwelling with a HEPA filter or better.

      “Worst case” has already occurred until the next 9.0 EQ hits. The problem will be with us for some time.

      I hope this helps.

    • Chris

      Mary, before you take Dr. Burnett’s advice, please read my posts considering his actual academic training and work history in physics, nuclear physics and earth sciences.

      The short answer is, he seems to have no actual work history in these fields. Also, he has lied regarding his cliam that he has a PhD in Physics.

      He does not.

      Although, it seems he does have a degree in earth science (according to a short bio I found on him on the Internet) but that could also be dubious since Dr. Burnett has claimed that the University of Texas in Austin somehow “misplaced” his records.

      This is another very odd statement and certainly troubling … that a university would somehow misplace a student’s records.

      I am simply referencing the little I could find out about him online from a short bio written about him due to a speaking engagement he made in April, 2010.

      The speakers’ bios were all posted on that website link, which you can read in my previous posts replying to Dr. Burnett’s article.

      I have called his attention to this online bio and he has not disputed its contents.

      Please do your own due diligence on anyone who purports to know something about any given topic and whose opinions may influence you… especially in this very important instance.

      • Dr. Tom Burnett

        As I am trying to figure out how to stop following this thread, it occurs to me that no one in the history of the world who ever made a contribution to humainty learned it in school. They learned critical thinking skills and went from there.

        Except, maybe, George Bush who learned how to run a business at Yale.

        Why don’t you take your business down the road? The other 20,000 readers of this blog disagree with you for the most part.

        You have now done your job and derailed the thread. Your work here is done, and mine as well.

        • Just as I suggested in another thread, they just had a follow-on 7.2 right off the Honshu coast. That magnitude exceeds the design rating of the Fukushina reactors which were already damaged.

          We shall see.

    • Dwight Kondo

      Aloha Mary,

      Organize the people around you for mutual support, sharing of necessities and information gathering.

      Start to solidify every negative opinion that you have of that government. Trust yourself in your assessments that the leadership has sold you out and serves the world wide nuclear industry and TEPCO in particular.

      Promise yourself never to be passive again and then go out and protest.

      Doing such, you might then help save the rest of us and maybe even yourselves.

      If you are in danger, if you think you are in danger, do not take it lying down.

      Ore wa wakarimasu ka?

      Fight and overcome your fear thru activism.

      Nothing else works.

    • Dwight Kondo

      I had another point to emphasize in regards to ‘organizing’ those around you that you trust or needs your help.

      Start constructing in your community or apartment building, the safest RETREAT or fallback area in case the radioactivity in Tokyo intensifies. Thinking that because of the wind changes or conditions at the damaged plant, the radiation problem might only be of limited duration or stretches of time.

      If during the intense periods, head for your ‘FALLOUT SHELTER’ that you and your neighbors and friends have done your utmost to construct while it is relatively safer. This neighborhood planning and action committees, probably started already all over Japan, will something all of us must eventually do.

      Chad Taniguchi, who headed the Kauai County rescue operations following the 9/11/92 Hurricane Iniki bullseye instructed me on the two most important things after such a knockdown :

      1. Drinking Water

      2. Communication.

      Number 2 surprised me, but it makes sense. If the worse happens and you cannot go out, you might want to consider that telephone and cell communication might be out or overwhelmed. A ‘walkie-talkie’ is cheap and reliable. Get it now.

      Stay in touch and alive!

  • Chris

    I read your piece with great interest, especially since I have had fleeting thoughts about the use of a nuclear bomb(s)to finally end this horrific situation.

    From a layman’s point of view, it seemed “somewhat reasonable” to me. I suppose it’s the old analogy of “fight fire with fire.” However, again, this is the thought process of someone who knows absolutely nothing about nuclear reaction.

    Now, it seems that some of your readers have challenged your assertion regarding the use of a nuclear device(s) as the only way to stop the reaction(s). Some have questioned your ability to make knowledgeable comments on this unfortunate incident.

    So, could you possibly post your academic credentials as to where and when you obtained your PhD in Physics and your professional credentials regarding nuclear physics?

    In addition, could you also post if you have worked in the field of physics? If so, where and when?

    These days the Internet is a source of information on many people. After a quick search for information on you, I did find a link to an April 10, 2010 lecture you gave at the Conservative Forum for Hawaii regarding the 2nd Amendment.

    There I found a very short bio on you which did indeed cite your PhD in Earth Science from the University of Texas in Austin.

    It also cited your time working as a former marine during the Vietnam War (thank you for your service) and your time at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as a training officer and forensic investigator, as well as your involvement in numerous other groups … especially relating to the use of firearms.

    The article also mentioned your move to Hawaii after your retirement from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department in 1997.

    However, the article did not cite your Ph.D. in physics. Is this just an oversight? If so, it would seem to be a rather major omission.

    Here is the article I am referencing, along with the link: http://www.conforhawaii.com/speaker-bios/.

    The actual text follows:

    Thomas Burnett, Ph.D.
    “Dr. Burnett was born in Germany as an American Citizen, the son of the military occupation mayor of Nuremberg during the American occupation. He grew up and attended school in Texas, receiving a Ph.D. in Earth Science from the University of Texas in Austin.

    He joined the Marine Corps in 1966 and is a Vietnam War veteran. After leaving the Marines, he joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. While there, duties included serving as a training officer and as a forensic investigator. After retiring from the sheriff’s department, he moved to Hawaii in 1997.

    He is a certified Hawaii State firearms instructor, a Utah State Concealed Carry Weapons instructor, lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and NRA certified firearms instructor and range safety officer, and a Department of Civilian Marksmanship – USA Shooting (Olympic) riflery coach.

    Dr. Burnett is also a Major in the Civil Air Patrol, a member of the Optical Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association of Forensic Scientists, the National Sheriff’s Association, and the Law Enforcement Alliance of America.

    He is a lifetime member of the International Police Association, the Texas State Rifle Association, and the Second Amendment Foundation.”

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      I was in the physics Doctorate program under John Wheeler at UT/Austin in the 60s. I did not take a degree in that discipline because he and I disagreed on a function of causality – he insisted that one could emerge from a wormhole before one entered it – but his math depended on the then-new idea of a multiverse and I disagreed. He is now deceased, but my interpretation was proved correct within the last seven years. Causality is required.

      I know now that one does not tell their sponsor they are idiots – especially since he was friends with Albert Einstein and I was about sixteen. As a sop to busting me out of the program, they allowed me to change my major and accepted a dissertation on the eye segmentation of Drosophila melanogaster. But because I was not a dumbass, I had further contact with the physics community and still advise professors on the subject of nuclear physics – although some of my records were ‘misplaced’ at UT/Austin. That was actually an advantage because I am below the radar – if you want a reference, Pat Takahashi will provide it. I am still advising him and I expect that my name will appear in his blog.

      I do not give a shit about your opinion. I am retired and am a farmer. If you disagree with my FACTS, produce your documents – I am too old and wise to argue with assholes and I am not interested in pissing contests. Degrees earned forty years ago have no relevance now in any case, so your point is moot.

      To the best of my knowledge, I have never posted anything in the realm of physics which wasn’t accurate. Obviously, no one can predict the future, and my opinions are my own – everyone is free to disagree with my opinions. If, instead, they choose to disagree about facts or argue about me and not the physics involved, that is their prerogative – people who cannot debate the issues always go for the messenger and have since Sun Tzu. My advice to them would be to either disprove my facts and references, or piss up a stump.

      • Chris

        Dr. Burnett, I think it’s only natural (for thinking people) to boldly inquire about the professional background and academics of anyone who professes to know a good deal about any topic.

        Hence, my request for your credentials.

        At the very least, it seems that you have indeed misrepresented your academic achievement when you present yourself as having secured a PhD in Physics.

        You do not have one.

        You did not indicate how long you were studying physics before you were removed from the program for insubordination … I assume, that is what your meaning is.

        Also, perhaps your readers would be interested in learning about the other nuclear physicists that you counsel.

        Could you explain how those with actual degrees in nuclear physics would want to consult with you, since you did not receive the amount of training (whatever amount of time that actually is) that those with degrees did?

        In fact, I would assume that the field of study of physics versus nuclear physics would be different.

        Also, are you suggesting that the University of Texas deliberately disposed of your academic records? If this has been done, then this is a very serious matter and one that should be investigated.

        What evidence do you have that U.T. did this and have you called them out and perhaps requested aid from your nuclear academian associates?

        Your bio seems to indicate that your entire working career has been in the military and law enforcement, rather than anything to do with physics or even earth sciences.

        If I am wrong, please correct my assumption.

        Lastly, you mentioned that degrees (or in your case, a lack of one, in a key area relative to this very important discussion)earned some fourty years ago doesn’t really matter.

        You say your comments/opines are yours alone and that is a fair thing to say. However, it would follow, referencing your statement about your degree being dated with the passage of time, that your comments be viewed and judged in a likewise manner.

        Still, you also must know that you present yourself as man who knows a great deal about this situation … someone who has the “only” answer to the problem even though your background does nothing to substantiate your statements.

        In addition, perhaps any of us who have looked at the website “Godlike Productions” knows that this site promotes all manner of conspiracy posts, many that are really wild rants and never come to fruition nor are proven.

        Yet, you linked to them as supportive evidence which I would think that true professionals, trying to prove a point, would never consider doing.

        Unfortunately, too many people will simply run with your piece and push it along via various blogs without bothering to do some basic research into your credentials.

        You have certainly not been truthful concerning your complete acadmeic credentials and that is extremely troubling.

        I would think that it should also be troubling and circumspect to others. No one respects a liar.

        However, your career in the military and law enforcement are certainly admirable.

        I also agree with your support of the 2nd Amendment and that our country has long been involved in the wrong-headed notion of nation building.

        The Bush Doctrine has become the Obama Doctrine, in spades. I am not surprised.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett


          what is troubling to you does not seem particularly troubling to anyone else. When I was in the physics program the ‘standard model’ of particle physics didn’t exist and plate tectonics was still being debated. The standard model wasn’t finished until the late 1970s, and still is not correct – but nuclear physics, and power plants and making things go boom was well established by the 1960s. The GE design used at Fikushima dates from that time. Beginning with Sputnik in 1957, the military wanted everyone who could use a slide rule in their nuclear program. Unless you lived in my time and traveled on my path, you have no business making judgment calls. You can challenge me on facts all day long.

          My peer group consists of current professors and Emeritus professors of physics at several universities – they don’t have a problem with me – you have the problem and you are not a concern of mine. Your concerns are not concerns of mine. Your name-calling is not a concern of mine. Either you accept my opinions or not. Either you debate facts with facts or you do not.

          By attempting to be forthright with you, the suggestion is now made that investigations should be carried out – go right ahead.

          Apparently this thread has become a personal vendetta for you since you have continued to switch the subject matter of the thread from the facts I have presented about Fukushima to now suggesting that I am illiterate in the subject matter, a liar, and not deserving of anyone’s consideration.

          Neither does that concern me. I am a farmer. I am retired from whatever I used to do or did not do. A doctorate degree requires a master’s degree as a prerequisite – which requires a Baccalaureate degree as a prerequisite – unless they don’t.

          One of my prerequisites was a simply a bet by a then-academic, who had the attitude you have. I challenged his course and he said, jokingly, that he would give me the course if I beat Bobby Fischer at chess. I was fourteen. I asked (there was an audience – it was a Mensa group) if he would accept a tie, and he agreed. So I went the 90 miles to Austin, coincidentally the UT/Austin campus, and was given a seat as one of many players Bobby would walk around the hall and play simultaneously. No one beat Fischer. Several people tied him. I was one of them. I got the course, and I got the opportunity to challenge more of them.

          Now – am I lying about something that happened FIFTY years ago to impress you? No. I am telling you that your continued fixation on making the world fit your belief system is flawed. Everyone does not fit the same mold.

          Argue my points, friend. Do not argue me. You are merely wasting everyone’s time and, in fact, doing a huge disservice to people who want to read facts in plain English.

          I will be happy to give you an example.
          The information is today’s update from http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

          You may understand this, but most people won’t – so they won’t read it. Thus they won’t notice that the wording is very calming and benign, but at least some noteworthy measurements are now being taken in megabequerel per square meter instead of bequerel:

          On 3rd April, deposition of both iodine-131 and cesium-137 was detected in 7 prefectures. The values for iodine-131 ranged from 2.4 to 82, for cesium-137 from 5.2 to 57 becquerel per square metre.

          On 4th April, deposition of iodine-131 was detected in 7 prefectures ranging from 3.1 to 75 becquerel per square metre.

          On 5th April, measurements were made at 7 prefectures ranging from from 0.01 to 3.2 megabecquerel per square metre but the type of radionuclides were not mentioned.

          They will not read that the temporary electric pumps are still in use and that the previous update merely meant that they are now using off-site power – not that the cooling system has been restored. It is wrecked at all four of the reactors involved.

          They will not understand the significance of the pressure containment vessels remaining at atmospheric pressure and they will almost certainly not convert the temperature readings from Centigrade to Fahrenheit – so they may not grasp that the lowest temperature in any of the reactors, a cool 115 degrees Centigrade is 239 degrees Farenheit – still hot enough to flash water to steam.

          They may not realize that 22 cubic meters of fresh water an hour are being frantically pumped on the cores just to to keep them above the boiling point of water – and that water is going somewhere – either leaking into the ocean, or dispersing to the atmosphere as steam – and that this rate of cooling, about a hundred thousand gallons a day, will have to continue for about a hundred years just to keep the condition unstable.

          They may not understand that the NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE WORLD derives from a lack of access to safe drinking water and that 100,000 people a day could live instead of die with the water that is being poured into a nuclear sinkhole.

          But I can’t say that because you don’t like my credentials? I’m a dirt farmer. I am self-sufficient for water and food; for energy, sanitation and self-protection. Because I recognize the symptoms of a rapid-onset extinction event – and this is simply another manifestation.

          If it will make you feel better, I hereby renounce any claim to knowledge and I will stop posting. God forbid someone dare challenge your divine knowledge.

          But you may read my blog – I shall continue to be an illiterate liar over there.


          a hui hou – I am out of this blog.

          • Chris

            My good Dr. Burnett, please accept my most humble apology, for my intent was not to chase you away from this important blog… and any blog concerning this tragedy is very important.

            Because this situation is so dire, I feel that readers need to know about the background of anyone representing himself as an authority on this subject.

            I rather expected that you would run away, rather than admit that you did indeed lie about your claim of having a PhD in physics.

            It is interesting that you have now changed the information concerning your academic credentials in the area above the tags section at the end of your article.

            It now says this:
            “Tom Burnett has a Ph.D. in Earth Science from the University of Texas.”

            No mention of your previous claim to also have a Ph.D. in Physics, as was previously written.

            You simply ignored my attempts to get you to post your work experience in any of these fields, which would lend credence to your article and reassure the reader, because you have none.

            Apparently, you never put your studies, in even earth science, to use in the work world … choosing to instead become a law enforcement officer.

            In addition, it is you who decided to attack me when I dared to question your authority.

            By any measure, someone who does indeed have the proper credentials would not be offended, or angry, or run away when an interested reader asks for specifics on his background.

            Yet, all you write in response are generalities with no names of your “current and Emeritus professors at several universities” given.

            Also, you provided zero actual amount of time given for your studies of physics.

            How many years did you study?

            Intead, you go off on another rant about how you know what is best concerning this situation, without a degree in physics or nuclear physics and no work history.

            Btw, I was not suggesting that someone, other than you, should conduct an investigation into the alleged actions of “misplacing” your student records.

            Of course, I meant that if this had actually occured, that you would certainly want to find out about this situation.

            I believe that anyone in similiar circumstances would.

            At any rate, you have lied, obfuscated and betrayed the trust of the readers. That is a fact, plain and simple.

            When called out, you could not stand the heat in the kitchen, so you got out.

            Lastly, my examination of your background and ability to post knowledgably about this nuclear nightmare does not suggest that I think this is not an immense problem.

            Quite the contrary.

            I do believe that we are in uncharted terrority and I pray that they quickly find a way to stop the devastation.

            I bid you adieu, Dr. Burnett.

          • administrator

            Chris – please don’t blame Dr. Burnett for changing his bio. I am the website administrator. I originally understood Dr.Burnett had a PhD. in both earth science and physics. When I clarified that he had his PhD in earth science but not physics, I amended the bio at the end of his article. Dr. Burnett did not change his bio. I changed his bio.

            I apologize to all concerned for this error.

            Mike Aiello
            administrator HawaiiNewsDaily.com

          • Jen

            I would just like to thank Dr.Tom. I think you’ve made MANY important points that warrant attention. It is ridiculous for people to start such a fuss about your credentials.
            Thank you for taking the time to care.

          • Steve

            you wrote: “A doctorate degree requires a master’s degree as a prerequisite…”

            This statement is not correct. My son got a BS and is currently getting a PhD in Environmental Chemistry at Duke and will not get a Masters. Most people think a Masters Degree is required to obtain a PhD, as I used to think, but it’s simply not so.

        • @Steve: Quite correct. People can be chosen for post-grad programs by finding a willing sponsor but it is a very infrequent occurrence. It only happens when someone demonstrates a broad base of knowledge in the field or, if it is a new field, either an extraordinary ability to think critically or an overwhelming desire – or whose family funds a professorial chair.

          MANY of those people easily switch disciplines without forgetting what they have already learned. College, after all, teaches one how to think – the actual material you learn is obsolete by graduation – unless it deals with primary physical laws.

          I congratulate you that your son is brilliant and that that brilliance is recognized. I am sure you know that your son is not a typical student and that should have been the gist of your post – not that I am wrong, but that special situations exist. I am sure you also understand that MOST people must follow a specific path into a Doctoral program.

          So which is it? Can everyone with a Baccalaureate degree proceed directly to a Doctoral program and I am wrong, or lying, or is your son one in ten-thousand? The difference is important.

          Because my vocation became an avocation, I have been branded a liar and not to be believed and you seem to be on that bandwagon. That in itself doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that I am a current civilian radiological first-responder and I am authorized to command an incident. Part of that involves invoking safety procedures, which are the same worldwide: Don’t stare at a gamma source and don’t breathe or ingest radioactive particles.

          That someone would suggest that a person near an incident ignore those procedures because they don’t like the type of degree I took over forty years ago is irresponsible at best and malicious at worst. And that sets me off.

          If I am wrong, great. Does your son disagree with my posts? He is not a nuclear physicist either, but an environmental chemist can speak to the issue.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      @Chris: The people who are busy calling me insane would have said the same thing if I had predicted a MAG9.0EQ near a nuclear reactor a couple of months ago. In fact, I may have, but I have not checked my blog to see.

      The very same people are now assuming, for no reason I can discern, that ANOTHER MAG9.0EQ in the same area is impossible and that no other nuclear plant anywhere can suffer a similar calamity. In fact, NO nuclear plant i, the world is designed to withstand a MAG9.0EQ. One person wrote that all nuclear plants are designed to withstand the maximum LIKELY EQ at their location. NOT coincidentally, that likelihood is universally MAG6.9. That’s the price break between more safety and the chance of a larger event.

      It is like they are in a pretend world where multiple disasters cannot occur. But if a MAG9.0EQ hit just a little further south and involved Fukushima Dai-Ni (#2), the entire world could not cope with the scale of the disaster.

      It is simply unreasonable to assume that a repeat of this is impossible – it isn’t. It isn’t even unlikely. Neither it it unlikely at all for a similar event to occur anywhere in the world at any time. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/

      Neither is it unlikely for an undiscovered earth-crossing body to impact. webpages.charter.net/dkessler/files/ARapidMethodCollisionProb.pdf

      There are two ways to deal with probability: Hope it never happens, or have a plan in case the odds catch up with you. If the IMMEDIATE results of an unplanned incident do not get me, I am reasonably well prepared to survive for a year.

      People who are not prepared to survive have no choice but to argue that an event they cannot deal with cannot happen. Simple Psychology 101. When it does, they cannot deal with the reality. That is what is happening here. People are blaming everything except what caused the problem: An earthquake and a tidal wave. I didn’t cause them. If a follow-on event occurs, I will not have caused that either and I really don’t care to take the blame.

      If they don’t want to believe it’s possible, fine. I don’t care. I’m not their mommy.

      • IAEA Briefing on Fukushima Nuclear Accident (8 April 2011, 15:00 UTC)

        â Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Summary of Reactor Status

        On Friday, 8 April 2011, the IAEA provided the following information on the current status of nuclear safety in Japan:

        1. Earthquake of 7 April

        The IAEA confirms that an earthquake occurred in Japan at 14:32 UTC, 7 April. The IAEA International Seismic Safety Centre has rated it as a 7.1 magnitude, revised from an initial 7.4 magnitude. The epicenter of the earthquake was 20 km from the Onagawa nuclear power plant and approximately 120 km from the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants.

        The IAEA has been in contact with NISA and can confirm the status of the following nuclear facilities:

        Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

        No changes have been observed at the on-site radiation monitoring posts. The injection of water into the reactor pressure vessels of Units 1, 2 and 3 was not interrupted.

        Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant

        No changes have been observed of the readings at the on-site radiation monitoring posts.

        Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant

        All reactors have been in cold shutdown since 11 March earthquake.

        Two out of the three lines supplying off-site power to the site were lost following the 7 April earthquake. Off-site power continues to be supplied through the third line.

        Cooling of the spent fuel pool was temporarily lost, but has subsequently been restored.

        No change has been observed in the readings from the on-site radiation monitoring post. The status of the plant is currently being checked.

        Tokai Daini Nuclear Power Plant

        Tokai Daini nuclear power plant remains in cold shutdown since the 11 March earthquake. No abnormality has been observed.

        Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant

        The Higashidori nuclear power plant was shut down and in a maintenance outage at the time of the 7 April earthquake. Off-site power was lost temporarily. Emergency power supply to the site operated as expected until off-site power was restored. All the fuel had been removed from the reactor core and stored in the spent fuel pool. Cooling of the spent fuel pool is operational.

        Tomari Nuclear Power Plant (in Hokkaido)

        At the time of the 7 April earthquake Tomari Unit 1 and Unit 2 were in operation. Following the 7 April earthquake, the Hokkaido Electric Power Company reduced the generating power to 90% of capacity.

        Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant

        The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and uranium enrichment facility lost off-site power. Emergency power supply to the site is operating.

        2. Current Situation

        Overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains very serious although there are early signs of recovery in some functions such as electrical power and instrumentation.

        As of 6 April, TEPCO started injecting nitrogen gas to Unit 1 containment vessel to reduce the possibility of hydrogen combustion within the containment vessel.

        The leakage of highly contaminated water from the 20 cm crack in the cable storage pit of Unit 2 directly to the sea reported on 2 April was stopped by injection of coagulation agents (liquid glass) on 5 April. Additional activities to secure the leak were reported finished on 6 April.

        To prevent discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima Plant to the open sea, construction work was carried out at the breakwater in the southern part of the Plant on 5 April.

        In Unit 1 fresh water has been continuously injected into the reactor pressure vessel through feed-water line at an indicated flow rate of 6 m3/h using a temporary electric pump with off-site power. In Units 2 and 3 fresh water is being injected into the reactor pressure vessels continuously through the fire extinguisher lines at indicated rates of 8 m3/h and 7 m3/h using temporary electric pumps with off-site power.

        The reactor pressure vessels’ temperatures remain above cold shutdown conditions (normally less than 95 °C). In Unit 1 indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV is 224 °C and at the bottom of RPV is 117 °C. The pressure in the RPV is increasing as indicated on both channels of instrumentation. NISA has indicated that some instruments in the reactor vessel may not be working properly. Drywell pressure is increasing slightly due to the addition of nitrogen. In Unit 2 the indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV is 144 °C. The temperature at the bottom of RPV was not reported. Indicated Drywell pressure remains at atmospheric pressure. In Unit 3 the indicated temperature at the feed water nozzle of the RPV is 88 °C and at the bottom of RPV is 112 °C. Fresh water was sprayed onto the spent fuel pool by concrete pump vehicle (50t/h) from 21:53 UTC, 6 April.

        No change in status in Units 4, 5 and 6 and the Common Spent Fuel Storage Facility.

        2. Radiation Monitoring

        On 7 April, low levels of deposition of both iodine-131 and cesium-137 were detected in 5 and 4 prefectures respectively. The values reported for iodine-131 ranged from 3.8 to 20 becquerel per square metre, for cesium-137 from 9.7 to 25 becquerel per square metre.

        Gamma dose rates continue to decrease. For Fukushima, on 7 April a dose rate of 2.3 µSv/h, for the Ibaraki prefecture a gamma dose rate of 0.16 µSv/h was reported. Dose rates reported for the Eastern part of the Fukushima prefecture, for distances of more than 30 km to Fukushima-Daiichi, range from 0.2 to 28 µSv/h.

        As part of a new measurement program carried out by MEXT in cooperation with universities, gamma dose rates have also been measured in 26 cities in 13 prefectures for the period 5 to 7 April. In 19 cities, all measurements are below 0.1µSv/h. In a further five cities, some measurements are up to 0.21µSv/h. In the city of Tsukuba in the prefecture of Ibaraki, dose rates are in the range 0.17 to 0.2 0 µSv/h. In Fukushima City, the range is 0.42 to 0.5 µSv/h. typical normal background levels are in the range 0.05 to 0.1 µSv/h.

        As of 6 April, iodine-131 and cesium-137 was detectable in drinking water in a few prefectures at levels far below those that would initiate recommendations for restrictions of drinking water. As of 7 April, one restriction for infants related to I-131 (100 Bq/l) remains in place as a precautionary measure in only one village of the Fukushima prefecture.

        Since our written briefing of yesterday, data related to food contamination was reported on 7 April by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. These reported analytical results covered a total of 63 samples taken from 5 – 7 April. Analytical results for 62 of the 63 samples for various vegetables, spinach and other leafy vegetables, various meats, unprocessed raw milk and seafood in nine prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Hyogo, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Niigata, Tochigi and Yamagata) indicated that I-131, Cs-134 and/or Cs-137 were either not detected or were below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities. One sample of spinach (grown outdoors) taken on 6 April in Ibaraki prefecture was above the regulation value set by the Japanese authorities for I-131.

        TEPCO is conducting a programme for seawater (surface sampling) at a number of near-shore and off-shore monitoring locations. The near-shore sampling point for Daiichi Units 1 – 4 is located 330 m south of their common discharge point. The near-shore sampling point for Daiichi Units 5 and 6 is located 30 m north of their common discharge point.

        Until 3 April a general decreasing trend was observed at these sampling points. After the discharge of contaminated water on 4 April, a temporary increase has been reported. On 5 April a decrease was again observed at these points.

        At the Daini site, near-shore samples are being collected at two locations: directly north of the common discharge point of Daini, and close to Iwasawa Beach, which is south of Daini nuclear power plant. The latter monitoring point is 16 km south of Daiichi nuclear power plant on the northern boundary of TEPCO’s Hirono thermal power plant. Starting from 2 April, TEPCO collected samples at three additional sampling points lying on a north-south transect that runs parallel to the coast but at a distance of 15 km from the shore. On 4 April, a further set of three sampling points, also at 15 km from the shore, was added. All six sampling locations lie along a north-south transect.

        Since 5 April TEPCO is sampling daily at 6 points situated 15 km offshore along a north-south transect. Levels of radionuclides reported at these locations for 5 of April are in the range 57 – 200 Bq/l for I-131, 57 – 310 Bq/l for Cs-134 and 18 – 320 Bq/l for Cs-137. Values of Cs-134 and Cs-137 measured at the sampling points situated at the North and South ends of the transect are considerably lower than those measured at the stations directly offshore from the release points.

        MEXT initiated the off-shore monitoring program on 23 March. Initially, the monitoring was carried out at 8 points lying on a north-south transect parallel to the coast and 30 km off-shore. Sampling points 1 to 8 are separated by about 10 km. On 28 March, points 9 and 10 were added to the off-shore sampling scheme. Points 8, 9 and 10 lie in one line perpendicular to the coast. Points 8 to 10 are also separated by 10 km. On 4 of April MEXT added two sampling points to the north-west of sampling point 1. These are referred as point A and B. Monitoring at off-shore points consist of:

        * Measurements of ambient dose rate in air;
        * Collection and analysis of surface sample of seawater; and
        * Collection and analysis of samples of sea water collected 10 metres above the sea water bottom.

        On 8 April the only data reported concerned the 15 km offshore north-south transect.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett
  • ron

    I’m not sure what the author’s real purpose in writing this article is, but as best I can tell he is sorely lacking in his details.

    First, there is no evidence that the cores in units 1 through 3 have left the reactor vessels or containments in any sort of “meltdown”. It is likely that the cores have experienced melting, but the melted materials have likely remained within the vessels.

    Second, there is no evidence that there is nuclear criticality associated with any of the damaged reactors or spent fuel pools. The melting experienced to date has all been due to decay heat. In order for the fuel to have enough heat energy to “melt” there way through the thick steel reactor vessels and concrete containment buildings they would require the heat of active fission (requiring that the cores be at least critical) (critical defined as producing as many neutrons as are being consumed in the fission process, sub-critical is defined as the number of neutrons being produced is less than being consumed and super-critical is defined as the number of neutrons being produced is more than being consumed ““ for reactor power to be stable, the reactor is “critical”).

    Third, if once of the reactors were to return to criticality and begin to melt there way out of the reactor vessel and containment, the melted building material would help dilute the critical mass with additional material that will not support the fission process and therefore will tend to end the nuclear chain reaction and allow the mass to cool. This is what occurred at Chernobyl and ultimately stopped the remnants of its core from leaving the building. The mass of former core materials at Chernobyl melted there way into the basement of the reactor building but ultimately came to a halt and “froze” after it engulfed enough building materials to dilute itself out of a critical geometry. It is highly unlikely that the Fukushima cores could melt there way out of their buildings since they have had cooling water restored (albeit via seawater injection which has since been replaced by freshwater). Also some of the water that has been injected included boron which is neutron absorber (prevents the neutrons from being used by the uranium for fission). The boron addition was to help ensure the reactors remained shutdown.

    Fourth, even if a core were able to melt its way out of the building and hit groundwater, it would not “explode” upon contact with the water. Yes, steam would be created, but with nothing to contain the pressure, no “steam explosion” is possible. In fact the contact with the water would cause the melted core to give up heat and probably cause it to “freeze” in place since the water from the water table that close to the ocean is essentially unlimited. The core would just sit there and boil the ground water without any possibility of further movement. It could consume some of the soil, but that would just dilute the critical mass even more and produce even more reason for the mass to solidify as the major source of its heat would be terminated.

    Fifth, the idea of exploding a nuclear weapon near the damaged reactors to disperse their cores is absolutely insane. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO WANT TO DISPURSE THE CORES ““ it will be far easier and less environmentally damaging to continue to contain the cores than spread them out stop the potential for any future nuclear reaction. Even if dispersion were some sort of good idea, conventional explosive would be more than capable of doing the job without all the other damage associated with an air burst from a nuclear weapon. When the author proposed this as a solution, he completely lost all credibility with me. NO ONE IN THERE RIGHT MIND WOULD EVER PROPOSE THIS AS A SOLUTION.

    Sixth, the statement that all reactors are built to withstand only a 6.9 magnitude earthquake is also not correct. In the U.S. the plants are designed to withstand the maximum earthquake expected at their site location based on historic records and analysis of the geography in the area, then once the maximum earthquake size is determined, an additional safety factor is added to determine the ground motion accelerations that must be withstood. I would expect other plants to be similarly designed as building a plant to resist a 6.9 magnitude quake in an area that could not possibly experience anything greater than, say, a 5.0 would be a severe waste of resources. I understand that the quake experienced at Fukushima was beyond their design, but all indications are that all the plants shut down correctly after the quake which would indicate that fundamentally they survived the quake without significant damage to the systems that protected the fuel. It was the tsunami (that also exceeded what they were design for) that caused the damage to the plant (stopped the emergency diesel generators) and have led to majority of their problems.

    Seventh, the fact that MOX is involved in Unit 3 is a relatively minor issue. Plutonium is produced in all light water fission of U-235 as one of the products of the fission reaction. Near the end of our fuel cycle at Palisades (just before we shut down for refueling ““ changing out about 1/3 of the fuel), it is my understanding that most the power being produced is from the fission of the plutonium created earlier in the fission process. Pre-loading the core with plutonium in the form of MOX fuel, just means that more of the power will come from plutonium earlier in the fuel cycle. The amounts of the different types of radioactive materials produced in the core that are capable of being dispersed after an accident (know as the “source term”) is different, but still similar to that of straight uranium fuel.

    Overall, there is little probability of the melted fuel in the Fukushima reactors and spent fuel pools will leave their buildings as long as they are being cooled (in addition, with every day that passes after the fuel was last critical, less decay heat is produced). The plant workers are working diligently to provide cooling ““ either temporary or to get the permanent systems restarted ““ to ensure that cooling is maintained. There is no indication that any of the melted fuel is critical as criticality would produce radiations far in excess of what is being and has been measured. Therefore “China Syndrome,” where the core melts its way out of the building is essentially impossible. Additionally, if a core were to melt its way to ground water, it could not explode as there would be no ability for the steam produced to be contained and cause a steam explosion, the ground water would simply boil and the steam would escape to the atmosphere. There is absolutely no reason to use a nuclear weapon to disperse the cores.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      Oh, good. I’m insane again. In the US and all over the world, the GE GEN I and II containments are designed to withstand a MAG 6.9EQ. OK? Find me one that is designed to withstand a greater EQ. GUESS WHAT! There aren’t any, regardless of what you were taught at your 6 week nuclear reactor technician course.

      I never suggested ‘dispersing’ the cores. I suggested VAPORIZING them – and then I stated categorically that it would never happen and made a joke about sparkling wine next New Years’ eve.

      I am getting really bored with trying to explain nuclear physics to dumbasses. Want to see what the international community thinks? Here:




      I am not a voice in the wilderness – Here:




      There are other references in the replies. Since I don’t make this stuff up, I have to include references and citations so people can go and look for themselves.

      Where are yours? Where the sun don’t shine? If you want to disagree with something I state and then cite, put your references in so we can all look at them.

      And learn to write in English. Do you understand the difference between a statement like “NO ONE IN THERE RIGHT MIND….” and “NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND…?”

      Because anyone in THEIR right mind wouldn’t run their mouth about nuclear physics when they can’t manage seventh grade English.

      Pardon my attitude, but I am just becoming bored to death with stupid people.

      • ron

        My, you are testy. I shared your article with a friend of mine–and that was his reply. Sorry I did not fix his there/their syntax. He has a BSE degree, graduate of US Naval Nuclear Power School, was an Engineering Officer of the Watch at US Naval facilities in both NY and CA–on board submarines, and is a Senior Engineer at a nuclear plant in the US where he has worked for over 20 years.
        I noticed you really did not refute many of the points he made.

      • Mary in Seattle

        The fairewinds link takes forever to open but it’s a Dr. Chris Busby piece. Better link for his stuff is http://www.llrc.org (low level radiation campaign).

      • John


        What a totally unprofessional and weak response. You discredit your entire argument by attacking in a rambling diatribe a well laid out critique.

        Btw, you aren’t providing references, just links. A better response would have been to cool off a bit (maybe a Benzo?) and provides supporting quotes with links to those quotes. Very few readers will go read entire pages in hopes of finding the information you’re referring to.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          “What a totally unprofessional and weak response.”

          It’s Monday.

          “Btw, you aren’t providing references, just links.”

          I wonder why I do that? Read on.

          “A better response would have been to cool off a bit (maybe a Benzo?) and provides supporting quotes with links to those quotes.”

          You nailed it. The links are there for that specific reason. I do not subscribe to the ‘no child left behind’ principle in which the answers are all provided in sound bites so no one has to actually learn anything.

          By not learning, we can stick to the important business of argumentum ad hominem and Dancing with the Stars and all be mindless drones.

          Thank you for the medical advice, but I don’t need a “Benzo”. I am already chronically fatigued from replying to people who can’t understand the issues, but they have to babble about SOMETHING, so they critique the way ‘I’ deal with people who can’t understand the issues and have to babble about something.

          You keep doing that. It is very helpful.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      Let me give you some more news, Dr. Strangelove.

      Nuclear bombs quickly eliminate the highest exposure victims and effectively disperse the remaining fuel, whereas breached reactors only kill a few quickly and everything is still there, just spread around some. From my associate’s Enewetak days, it was clear that only faulty bombs, those that do not or only go partially to nuclear fission, create the biggest radiological hazard. Add in the spent fuel rods hanging around in these reactor facilities, and you get one big radiological mess.

      Not only is nuking the reactor cores NOT insane, but it is being widely considered. The concept is that cauterizing the wound will stop the bleeding instead of allowing it to continue for a hundred years.

      I never suggested that nuking the reactor cores was a good idea. What I said is that nuking the reactor cores is the only way to localize the problem so you don’t have to keep pumping 2 million gallons of water a week on it and then letting that water run into the ocean.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      @Ron: Well, what might my ‘real purpose’ be? I have been accuesd of whitewashing the severity of the disaster, and sensationalizing a non-disaster.

      If you pose a question, it is appropriate to propose an answer.

      What does ‘as best you can tell’ mean? Does it mean you are an expert and disagree with my facts? Where do you state the correct facts? I am willing to debate facts.

      Or does it mean your knowledge in the field is limited to what you have read over the past day or two? As best as I can tell, you cannot wipe your ass with both hands and a mirror. What might that have to do with anything?

      • END THE FED

        “3/11-Era Radiation Monitoring and Soft-Censorship in the Atomic Age

        We are now facing the possibility that the entire Northern Hemisphere will be affected with radioactive fallout similar to the Chernobyl event of 1986. The international community, unfortunately, is poorly prepared to respond to a global radiological emergency. General knowledge about the actual potentialities of nuclear accidents and related health consequences from fallout exposure is very poor and generally shaped by misguided notions perpetuated in film, deficient public education efforts and general media mismanagement.

        The root cause of this soft-censorship is the refusal by nuclear-club nations to inform their populations of the true nature of biological effects of ionizing radiation from weapons testing fallout. That information, obviously, would imperil a nation’s ability to retain nuclear WMDs. Non-democratic, election-proof militaristic-factions in Western governments decided in the 1940s and 1950s to propagandize the nuclear bomb by ‘selling it’ as a conventional munition with tremendous immediate blast effects. But, in fact, a nuclear bomb incorporates an equally dangerous chemical and biological weapons component. Military-autocratic forces in Western democracies tried to quash any knowledge of these ‘components’ by numerous immoral interventions in the progress of scientific and public understanding of nuclear weapons. These unethical distortions and misinformation campaigns have eliminated the perception that nuclear bombs have a chemical and biological weapon component.

        This false representation of radiobiological dangers from nuclear activities became reflected in the quality of global radiation monitoring networks. Today, as in the past, these first warning systems for radiation dangers – in North America and most parts of Asia – have poor coverage and detection technologies that are of the ‘hand-me-down’ quality (when compared to state-of-the-art equipment used in other applications in both the public and private sectors). In most of the Northern Hemisphere, state-run networks are tremendously flawed in design and will undoubtedly contribute to the inability of emergency management officials to react to a radiation emergency. Equally as bad, most of these networks are controlled by bureaucratic public and private organizations that are unwilling to state the true nature of radiation emergencies for fear of panic and any ‘bad press’ shed on activities like nuclear testing and nuclear power generation. Thus, a ‘tiered data review’ stands between raw, authentic data and the public. This means that, in routine and emergency occasions, most of the crucial radiation data accumulated by radiation networks is first reviewed by governments, contractors and nuclear officials and quality controlled and manipulated – sometimes censored – before the public sees it. The data that streams onto publicly-accessible internet sites associated with these networks is usually a small portion of the available data, and never the best possible data. Sometimes, live streaming website data is the only unaltered data that the public ever sees.

        Citizens should be encouraged to review such internet sites and grassroots groups might want to secure and learn how to operate a Geiger Counter to re-assure community members that statements by authorities about safety and lack of danger from airborne radiation are authentic.

        Read more on our environmental radiation monitoring page. Also, review a large knowledge-base about radioactive gases on our nuclear power page and learn about the nature of gas and solid state radioactive isotopes during environmental releases in our analysis that deals with leaked underground nuclear tests (with focus on N. Korea). Technical: global radiation monitoring networks have zero real-time gaseous or alpha detection ability and lack the capability to fully characterize the nature of radiation (specific radionuclides by spectrometry) and accurately pinpoint plume dimensions and vector.”


    • Mankind

      “based on historic records” – this is the most active known area of the “ring of fire” and they have a BIG one at least every 100-years so to say that this was beyond their capacity to predict is ridiculous.

      “It was the tsunami (that also exceeded what they were design for) that caused the damage to the plant (stopped the emergency diesel generators) and have led to majority of their problems.”

      NO – it was the nuclear idiots who designed these plants and put their only backup generators in the basements at sea-level just waiting for the Tsunami to flood them out. They couldn’t even build “flood-proof” rooms either to house them in knowing they were at sea level? And backup batteries only for 8-hours? Why wasn’t the plant hooked directly to the grid like they did a week later?

      “exceeded what they were design for”

      How hard could it have been to put the generators up on the hillside you see in the photos behind the plants where they would be high-and-dry and none of this would have happened. Oh excuse me – might cost $x dollars more to run some extra cables but can’t do that when the fate of your entire country and civilization rests in the balance. For the Japanese, this would be like pulling teeth not to make productive use of every available square inch in their basements first! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this whole “disaster” was completely man-made and could have been easily avoided. Obviously, I could have done a better job designing these plants and I’m just a home-builder.

      If this is all they cared to do for backup planning and protection before this happened, then they deserve exactly what they got! And Good Ridden to Nuclear Idiots who couldn’t use basic common sense to prevent this in the first place. Hope they take all their Nukes away from them before they do any more damage to the rest of the planet as they’ve already done by setting off a few more in the next BIG one that will be “totally unexpected”. It could have been today – the place is still rocking and fact is will always be rocking so you can “plan” on it happening again – that’s guaranteed!

  • Henny

    Hi Dr. Tom,

    I really appreciate your honest, jargon-free descriptions of what is really likely to happen as an outcome of the Fukushima plant issues.

    I keep hearing news of contaminated milk in California and Washington, and of course the official line is that it is so low it is of no concern etc. Well, I believe in the precautionary principle, and therefore I am a little concerned about any level of exposure for my kids.

    Would you advise against small children drinking cow milk (daily) that has these low levels of radiation exposure? And how long is the level likely to remain higher than “normal” environmental levels – are we talking a few weeks, or is this all relating to half-life of isotopes (and things that are beyond my comprehension right now)?

    Thanks for all your great work in sharing honest information in a clear way 🙂

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      Aloha Henny,

      Thank you for the kind words. In plain English, let them drink the milk. The dirty little secret is that if the cow’s milk contains dangerous concentrations, so does everything else.

      Have someone check it once in awhile with a Geiger counter if you like. Your fire department has some and they ought to be providing that service at every fire department in America instead of listening to the EPA.

      The EPA doesn’t know what is happening in your town or at your farm. Or, actually, much of anything – except that the ‘safe’ levels of radioactivity they established after 2,000 nuclear tests and billions of dollars of research mean nothing – and the REAL safe limits are whatever anyone happens to measure.

      Fukushima is going to be with us for a long time in one form or another. Pouring water on it simply makes the water radioactive – it doesn’t stop the radiation. Nothing will stop the radiation except time. A lot of time. Hundreds of years, or thousands. We, as individuals are going to live with it.

      It’s not as bad as it sounds. Since the forties there have been over 2,000 nuclear tests – many right outside of Las Vegas – and most of us are still here.

      You probably have more of an issue with Radon gas than with fallout from Fukushima. But that is an opinion, not a fact. No one is willing to talk facts or provide much hard data -and why should they? We can’t see radiation, so unless you are a eccentric physicist and happen to have six various types of radiation detectors around your house, you will never know the difference.

      This is the sort of information that is available. http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

      “In Units 1, 2 and 3, external power supply is now being used to power the pumps that are injecting fresh water into the reactors, thus replacing temporary electrical pumps.”

      What does that mean? I don’t know. The sentence says that “external electrical power” – which could mean the power grid OR generators, OR Leprechauns on bicycles has replaced “temporary electrical pumps.”

      And as soon as the barge which brought the water runs out, which should take a couple of hours, the problems will resume anyway.

      The best information I have seen is from here: http://transport.nilu.no/browser/fpv_fuku?fpp=conccol_I-131_;region=DMANC1

      • Henny

        Thanks for your replies, Dr. Tom.
        I won’t say it is reassuring to know milk is not some ‘special case’, but I would definitely rather be informed!

      • Mary in Seattle

        Re nuclear tests – thanks for bringing that up. When my son was diagnosed with AML (leukemia) in 1996, he asked his doctors why he got it. They told him – and seemed dead serious – that they couldn’t rule out that his mother was born and raised in Arizona during nuclear testing.

        BTW, there’s an article on http://www.commondreams.org today about more than 1 in 10 reactors at risk from earthquakes. Not comforting.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          I don’t post there. I started to, but I was merely duplicating what I do here – which is usually to explain what is likely to happen, listen to long rambling comments questioning my sanity, and then watch those things happen.

          The article I found there was this one: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/04/04

          It says that in order to store more radioactive water, they have to get rid of what they already have stored – so they are dumping it in the ocean. But they give numbers in terms which are not commonly understood – for instance, they day they are dumping 10,000 tons of radioactive water. What does that mean? It means you have to do some math – which no one expects you to do. It works out to about 2,640,000 US gallons.

          One can make a logical guess that once they need more room, they will dump more water. The ploy to use US navy vessels to dump it in the middle of the Pacific is probably still on the table, but it’s a really bad idea. Unfortunately, there are no GOOD ideas in play to deal with this.

          The IAEA update this morning is here: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

          At least they explained what they are doing – they are injecting fresh water in to the containments through fire extinguisher pipes at reactors 1,2 and three at a rate of 21 cubic meters (about 21 tons) of water an hour. Don’t confuse cubic feet with cubic meters when you are doing the math. Since it cannot be recirculated – all THOSE pumps are broken – it is only coolant until it leaks out or boils away.

          I did mention in a previous post that pouring cement and epoxy into the leaky containments wouldn’t work. It didn’t.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          @Mary: Regarding your son’s AML, I know you are not asking for a medical opinion because I am not a physician – however, I concur with the impossibility of ruling out a connection – if the fetus was in vivo during the exposure. That is well known as ‘bystander response’.


          If, however, the natural mother did not die of AML, or was not pregnant during the exposure period, I would say the doctors were kicking the can down the road. They can’t prove I’m not a space alien, either.

          • Mary in Seattle

            I would like to believe that. However, even though I was a full-bore meat eater during my pregnancy and on prenatal vitamins, my son was born with anemia, and had a couple of other anomalies as well. I have no idea whether the doctors were just “giving him an answer.” But I don’t think we know enough about “internal emitters” of radiation to be certain, one way or the other.

            There was an interview on PBS last week of a man who was brought in to work at Chernobyl until he got sick and was evacuated. I think he was a demolition expert. He is still alive. He and his wife lived nowhere near Chernobyl. Later she became pregnant and his daughter contracted leukemia and died of it at two years old. A second daughter also contracted leukemia but survived. He feels quite certain it was because of radiation damage to him that both became sick. Is there a way to prove it? I don’t think so, there are just epidemiological and statistical studies….

          • Dr. Tom Burnett

            @Mary: You are correct, of course. the human condition requires that all things be explained. But, in fact, we don’t know most of what we think we know. I know enough about ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation to be able to say that there is no ‘safe’ dosage. There is merely the LD-50 – the dosage at which half the people who get that amount die. Of the people who do not die, it is safe to say they will be affected in some way we cannot predict. But what the government is doing now is, to me, unconscionable. Instead of simply telling the truth, they are raising the ‘safe’ levels of radiation to higher arbitrary values because of bean counters and profit margins, not because any government particularly cares for it’s citizenry except maybe Belgium and Denmark – for reasons I don’t know. But I suspect countries which stay out of wars and other countries’ business fare much better than those which don’t.

    • Dr. Tom Burnett

      I had better post this – hopefully the site admin can make it sticky.



      I used one as the basis for my current gizmo and it is a good product. There is a Yahoo group: Geiger Counter Enthusiasts – for you techies.


      Probably not a good idea to let children drink milk right now. The following explains why:

      “April 2 – Estimating Strontium-90 burdens in U.S. milk

      No one in the world to our knowledge is testing for strontium-90 in milk in this post-3/11 (Fukushima) episode. That is a crime to all children.

      What does strontium-90 do? It behaves just like calcium and where calcium is channeled by the body to help grow ‘healthy bones and teeth,’ so goes the strontium-90.

      Children are in a prolonged state of ‘calcium deficiency.’ They absorb strontium-90 into their growing bones and teeth whenever it is present in their diet . As the strontium unit levels in the diet increases, so does the amount of strontium-90 that incorporates into the skeleton – because the body is fooled into thinking strontium-90 is calcium.

      When in the bone, strontium-90 attacks the bone marrow, a blood-forming organ. That is where red blood and white blood cells are formed. Bombarded by these beta rays, white blood cells can be altered from the constant barrage of radiation and cell aberrations can take the form of mutated ‘T-lymphocytes’ (or T-cells), which are our body’s soldiers on the ‘front lines’ boosting the body’s cellular immune response. Stem cells also originate in the bone marrow (at about 12 weeks in prenatal growth) and give rise to ‘B-lymphocytes’ that give rise to ‘humeral’ antibodies. A weak immune system reduces an individuals ability to fight both cancer and infectious disease. As we know, when a weak person is verbally insulted, their ego is easily damaged. When a weak body is ‘insulted’ by biological ‘curses,’ the body easily falters.

      Can we estimate how much strontium-90 is presently in a liter of U.S. milk? Probably not, or not very well. The best data to make this guesstimate would be (for various reasons) from the early 1950s, but there is scant data from the 1950s on strontium-90 in milk and soil. We can take a guess and, using this chart, estimate that Berkeley area milk is around 13 picocuries per liter of strontium-90 and double that for strontium-89.

      Q: Is this bad?

      A: Yes.

      Q: How do you know?

      A: How do you know it’s not? The U.S. government deliberately failed to study strontium-90 in fallout. They focused on iodine-131 in fallout and never did a proper follow up. More

      NRC NUREG 1.109 rev. 1 Oct. ’77 gives a conversion factor of 0.0083 millirems to the bone of a teenager from one picocurie of ingested strontium-90.”


      But there is more to this:

      “Strontium Isotopes Detected in Moscow – Japan, Canada and U.S. Have Some Explaining To Do

      According to an article by Agence France Presse on April 1,”Radon, a company set up in Moscow to monitor radioactivity and dispose of radioactive waste in central Russia, has been detecting traces of iodine and strontium isotopes since last week, deputy director Oleg Polsky said.” [“Moscow ‘detects radioactive particles'”]

      If radioactive strontium isotopes were detected in Moscow, then the Japanese, Canadian and American authorities would have detected it too if they were looking for it. They should have been looking for strontium in air and milk, for starters, because strontium-90 is a known health danger. What if they did detect it but withheld that information from us? Well, then, their assurances of safety are out-and-out lies. Either way, governmental institutions in North America and Japan are criminally negligent or violators of human rights because they are covering up a public health danger. When a deadly chemical is in your midst and your protectors will not tell you the truth, you have a serious credibility problem – and criminal or human rights violation – involving government officials.

      Human rights lawyers should immediately file a federal TRO (temporary restraining order) on the EPA to prevent any destruction or manipulation of the recently collected RADNET air filters. Lawyers could motion a federal judge to order an independent lab to run a beta spectrometry analysis on the filters to detect radiostrontiums. This court order could provide Americans with needed information and also provide evidence that the Obama adminstration and the EPA were acting negligently regarding public health.

      Next week’s Agence France Presse article: “International nuclear thought police shuts down Radon for illicit statement”


  • Staff Reporter

    Hello Dr. Tom

    This is a map showing the forecast distribution of XE-133 across the northern pacific. It shows that Hawaii will be under a cloud of this stuff by April 6. Any reason for concern?


  • Tracy

    So..How long until this radiation starts killing people in America??

    • I suppose we could possibly have a couple dozen cases of leukemia develop in twenty to thirty years from this.

      • ozdawn

        “a couple dozen cases of leukemia develop in twenty to thirty years”? What complete non-sense! And why only ‘leukemia”? This statement of such hopeful “opinion” is no more valid than someone saying “we could possibly have a million cases develop in twenty to thirty years”.

        You’re honestly expecting someone to believe that only 1 person per year will be effected out of the over 100 million in Japan who are as close to the center of these meltdowns as was Ukraine and Belarus not to mention the almost 400 Million people in North America now taking a direct hit downwind like the rest of Europe got from Chernobyl or the 5 Billion in the Northern Hemisphere combined who are also going to be exposed to a more or less extent. Fact is, in the 25-years since Chernobyl, the overall cancer rate has increased and has now for the first time taken the place of heart conditions as the #1 health problem and killer!

        Cancer Projected To Become Leading Cause Of Death Worldwide In 2010
        ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2008)

        Since when does any amount of Cesium 137 pose “little or no health risk”? Never – this man-made fission product certainly isn’t “natural” so cannot be considered part of the “background” and cannot be compared to all the other sources as it shouldn’t be there to start with. Plus, this new exposure is now in addition to all the rest people already receive so represents an “increase” in overall exposure and not the “equivalent” of the same exposure. Unlike an xray which is over in a millisecond, these radioactive isotopes once lodged in the body will continue radiating non-stop, 24-hours as day, 7-days a week. Would you suggest it “safe” to get an xray every minute of every day? A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760. Multiply the 400 millisieverts they say is “harmless” by that, you get 3,500,000 times the normal dose each year. You call that safe? With a half-life of 30-years, ingestion of just a single radioactive particle presents a radio-hazard for the rest of ones life. Good luck dodging all those sub-atomic radioactive particles floating around in the air while playing Russian roulette with your Geiger Counter.

        Fact is you do not know what is going to happen in the future (nobody does) and your projection is a complete fabrication. And since we are now talking about what you “believe”, I believe there will be an increase in the usual as well as “rare and unusual” cancers, strange tumors and mutations over the twenty to thirty years just like with Chernobyl! Does anyone remember the 3-legged cows or 2-headed chickens?

        Chernobyl’s Lessons for Japan
        > In 2006, a multi-agency panel of UN experts estimated that two hundred thousand square miles of Eastern Europe were blanketed with fallout, five million residents of the area were exposed, and one hundred thousand people continue to receive radiation contamination from their food and environment that is above normal background levels. Chernobyl shows that the environmental absorption of fallout results in persistent radiation that will affect plants, wildlife, soils, and water for thousands of years.

        Germany’s radioactive boars a legacy of Chernobyl
        > A quarter century after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union carried a cloud of radiation across Europe, these animals are radioactive enough that people are urged not to eat them. And the mushrooms the pigs dine on aren’t fit for consumption either.

        If this amount of radioactive contamination is still present in the pigs and mushrooms, then it is also present to some extent in every other living being also present who also eats and drinks the same radioactive contaminates. The focus on only “wild boars and mushrooms” is obviously a deliberate attempt to shift the attention away from applying this same rationale to everything else living in that radioactive environment (Europe). If its detectable in boars and mushrooms, then its also present in chickens, turkeys, cows, etc, etc as well as lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, etc. etc. If its found in “some” of the animals and plants that they want to report to the public in this way, then it is also present in “all” of the animals and plants including the human beings who aren’t exempt from the same laws of nature that have somehow only contaminated the pigs and mushrooms as the this study only focuses on.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          First, it is AFFECTED, not effected. Secondly. I am not asking anyone to believe anything – but the dimple fact is that we cannot control what is happening, and WILL be happening for the next hundred years or so. The simple fact is that leukemia is the primary source of cancer in exposed patients – not breast cancer or colon cancer. But proving it years aftet the radionuclide in the thyroid is gone cannot be done.

          Next idiot, step up.

      • ozdawn

        “a couple dozen cases of leukemia develop in twenty to thirty years”? What complete non-sense! And why only ‘leukemia”? This statement of such hopeful “opinion” is no more valid than someone saying “we could possibly have a million cases develop in twenty to thirty years”.

        You’re honestly expecting someone to believe that only 1 person per year will be effected out of the over 100 million in Japan who are as close to the center of these meltdowns as was Ukraine and Belarus not to mention the almost 400 Million people in North America now taking a direct hit downwind like the rest of Europe got from Chernobyl or the 5 Billion in the Northern Hemisphere combined who are also going to be exposed to a more or less extent. Fact is, in the 25-years since Chernobyl, the overall cancer rate has increased and has now for the first time taken the place of heart conditions as the #1 health problem and killer!

        Cancer Projected To Become Leading Cause Of Death Worldwide In 2010
        ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2008)

      • END THE FED

        You started this article with “Fukushima is going to dwarf Chenobyl.”

        It has been proven that nearly 1 million deaths were caused by Chernobyl.

        “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment was published by the New York Academy of Sciences. It is authored by three noted scientists: Russian biologist Dr. Alexey Yablokov, former environmental advisor to the Russian president; Dr. Alexey Nesterenko, a biologist and ecologist in Belarus; and Dr.Vassili Nesterenko, a physicist and at the time of the accident director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Its editor is Dr. Janette Sherman, a physician and toxicologist long-involved in studying the health impacts of radioactivity.

        The book is solidly based on health data, radiological surveys and scientific reports “ some 5,000 in all.

        It concludes that based on records now available, some 985,000 people died, mainly of cancer, as a result of the Chernobyl accident. That is between when the accident occurred in 1986 and 2004. More deaths, it projects, will follow.”


    • @Tracy:

      One of the problems is that no one understands what they are writing about – they get paid to crank out articles, and they typically do minimal research. Most of the ‘technical explanations’ I have read don’t know Rads from Rems from Roentgens from Grays from Sieverts from Roquefort.

      This explains it, but only to people who already understand it. http://www.radprocalculator.com/FAQ.aspx

      Here in an excerpt – see how far you get before you simply stop reading:

      “Rad and Gray are absorbed dose units. When we look at radiation being absorbed in tissue, the absorption varies with the energy of the radiation. With a higher energy deposition in tissue, there are more rads or more Grays deposited than a lower energy deposition at the same rate (particles or photons per second). Now, what is a rem and what is a a Sievert? The term rem came from an acronym that means Roentgen Equivalent Man, in another words the equivalent biological damage done to human tissue. Some radiation emissions, when depositing the same energy as other radiation emissions, do more biological damage to the human organism than others. How does one convert? To go from rad to rem or from Gray to Sievert, you need a multiplication factor that represents the effective biological damage. Most training texts call this a quality factor (QF) or a radiation weighting factor. Some training texts call it a biological damage conversion factor but what it truly represents is the the ratio of biological damage done by radiation types to the biological damage done by gamma radiation. For gamma, x-ray and beta radiation, this factor is 1. For alpha, it is 20. For neutrons it is between 3 and 10, and is generally conservatively taken as 10. What this implies is that a rad or Gray of alpha energy absorbed by soft human tissue does 20 times more damage than a rad or Gray of gamma, x-ray or beta energy absorbed. Since for gamma, x-ray and beta, the multiplication factor is 1, one rad equals one rem and one Gray equals one Sievert. There is an excellent video animation on this subject by Ionactive Consulting of the United Kingdom on their website. View the video if you want a more detailed explanation these concepts.”

      So you must already understand Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation, and whether simple exposure is required, or ingestion, or skin contact, and with what, and for how long. To know that, you must first understand the dozens of radionuclides, how they are propagated, why the half-life of each is different, and what that means.

      My instruments are holding a background of combined A/B/G radiation about 200 millirads/hour, with occasional bumps as high as a hundred. It’s a lot higher than it was yesterday, but it’s raining pretty hard and airborne particulate matter is being pulled out of the atmosphere. It’s still nominal. My Roentgen dosimeter is still at zero.

      Why does that matter to you? It doesn’t. There were MANY nuclear tests right outside of Las Vegas and they no doubt caused some cases of leukemia. But we are talking about people who sat on their porches and watched the explosions and continued to sit there and ingest food and drink while the fallout clouds drifted over them and deposited nasty things in their pate’.

      There was no nuclear detonation at Fukushima – there have been Hydrogen gas explosions, and the melted reactor cores are sending radioactive particles into the air and water, but if you took your microwave apart and turned it on without the safety components in place, the radiation would severely damage you in minutes. It’s a different kind of radiation – it’s non-ionizing radiation created by a Magnetron tube (which is not really a tube). In point of fact, some materials can exhibit thermal runaway in a microwave oven – very similar to what is happening to the reactor cores at Fukushima. Yet 90% of all households with electricity have microwave ovens.

      • ozdawn

        “One of the problems is that no one understands” – the difference between Contamination and Irradiation!

        Radiation Exposure and Contamination
        Types of exposure: Radiation exposure may involve

        * Contamination
        * Irradiation

        Radioactive contamination is the unintended contact with and retention of radioactive material, usually as a dust or liquid. Contamination may be

        * External
        * Internal

        External contamination is that on skin or clothing, from which some can fall or be rubbed off, contaminating other people and objects. Internal contamination is unintended radioactive material within the body, which it may enter by ingestion, inhalation, or through breaks in the skin. Once in the body, radioactive material may be transported to various sites (eg, bone marrow), where it continues to emit radiation until it is removed or decays. Internal contamination is more difficult to remove. Although internal contamination with any radionuclide is possible, historically, most cases in which contamination posed a significant risk to the patient involved a relatively small number of radionuclides: hydrogen-3, cobalt-60, strontium-90, cesium-137, iodine-131, radium-226, uranium-235, uranium-238, plutonium-238, plutonium-239, polonium-210, and americium-241.

        In general, ionizing radiation refers to high-energy electromagnetic waves (x-rays and gamma rays) and particles (alpha particles, beta particles, and neutrons) that are capable of stripping electrons from atoms (ionization). Ionization changes the chemistry of affected atoms and any molecules containing those atoms. By changing molecules in the highly ordered environment of the cell, ionizing radiation can disrupt and damage cells. Cellular damage can cause illness, increase the risk of developing cancer, or both.Ionizing radiation is emitted by radioactive substances (radionuclides), such as uranium, radon, and plutonium. It is also produced by man-made devices, such as x-ray and radiation therapy machines.

      • ozdawn

        “In point of fact, some materials can exhibit thermal runaway in a microwave oven ““ very similar to what is happening to the reactor cores at Fukushima.”???

        That is the most ignorant statement I’ve heard so far on this subject! Since when do microwave ovens release nuclear fission particles into the air and blanket the entire Northern Hemisphere with fallout!!!


        Here is a list of the radioactive particles you’d expect to see in the air from an uncontroled nuclear reaction starting from 3-16-11 on ZAMG site which are still being released each and every day with no end in site:

        CS 137

        Fact is, the plume continues to be released every minute of every day with no end in sight yet! When looking at a map on one day – you have to remember to add up what was also present in the same area all the days before (starting around 3/18 in America) as the fallout continues to accumulate each day. If a sample of milk finds the radioactive fallout is present one day, then it is also present all other days too. A sample is simply a tiny snapshot of just one moment in time while this meltdown continues to release a huge ongoing and accumulating plume of radioactive fallout all over the world!

        Now the debate becomes “how much is bad”.. .the answer.. there are NO GOOD AMOUNTS of Cesium-137, Iodine-131, Xenon-133, Etc. Etc. While they may not be large enough amounts to detect with Dosimeter, your cells on a sub-atomic level will certainly know they are there after you ingest enough of them over time.

        “A single alpha passing through a cell is sufficient to induce a mutational event”

        Dr. Joshua Hamilton, a toxicologist who has a specialty in drinking water, says there is no safe amount of alpha radiation, even if the radiation is below that federal legal limit. The EPA has stated in its 2000 rule for regulating radiation in water that, “a single ‘wild’ cell can give rise to a cancer. For alpha particles, it has been shown experimentally that a single alpha passing through a cell is sufficient to induce a mutational event.”

        “This particle is highly energized, and it’s coming in at high velocity. If DNA is in its path it will basically attack the DNA,”

        And all these “dose charts” being used as evidence that nothing is wrong with Fukushima are misleading. “In fact, they currently have no way to know or estimate any given patient’s cumulative dose.”

        Cumulative Radiation Exposure Shows Increased Cancer Risk For Emergency Department Patients ScienceDaily (May 30, 2008)

        All radiation is cumulative over time so even for those lucky enough to have survived all the nuclear tests, Chernobyl, etc. over the years, this certainly is only going to add to all that previous exposure which for many people already at their limit may put them over the nuclear edge. To get a true estimate of the total fallout released and present in the environment, you have to add up all the samples:

        1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 = 21 days and counting!

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          You are another of the uneducated masses who cannot distinguish THERMAL runaway, which is what I stated, with a fission excursion. Maybe if you bothered to look up the difference, you would note that the microwave example is not demonstrative of a fission reaction at all – it merely provides a real-world analog for people who do not understand fission.

          Next idiot, step up.

          • ozdawn

            > “you would note that the microwave example is not demonstrative of a fission reaction at all ““ it merely provides a real-world analog for people who do not understand fission.”

            So you are saying that your readers are suppose to “look up the difference” rather than take your “expert” opinion as representative of the truth. I don’t recall you mentioning that in you original statement.

            And talk about double-talk, you now say you used an example “not demonstrative of a fission reaction at all” to provide analogy for fission.

            This is representative of the same kind of invalid analogies being harped across the media that ingesting these dangerous man-made radioactive particles is somehow the same as being exposed to an xray or taking plane ride.

            How this for an analogy:

            “We are all getting a little piece of the radioactive debris. These may consist of little bits of organ-seekers here and there in our air, water or food. But they will accumulate in our organs, just as hairs in the shower drain.”

            TEPCO Workers’ Beta Burns Likely Caused by Strontium-89: Former Japanese Nuclear Official http://www.idealist.ws/index.php

    • “What’s for dinner?”

      “I dunno – I’ll nuke something. I have to be up early to go protest against nuclear power plants.”


      Do you know that a sunburn is a radiation burn?

      Guess what allows your smoke detectors to detect smoke? A little radioactive pellet. Those tritium sights on your rifle? Radioactive. Old wind-up clocks and watches that glowed in the dark? Radium paint.

      Know why the fruit and veggies in your store made it all the way from a jungle in Mexico or a farm in New Zealand looking today-fresh? It’s probably been irradiated.

      I didn’t want to go down this road, but the byproducts of burning coal and oil include radioactive particles that were laid down millions of years ago. Dangerous? No. The dangerous particles have half-lives between 5.2 days and thirty or so. Here’s the way that works.


      • ozdawn

        Again, what do any of these “examples” have to do with the ingestion of a lethal cocktail of long-lived radioactive isotopes coming from a nuclear release such as this?

        Next they will be drawing up new Recommended Daily Allowances:

        Amount Per Serving % Daily Value
        AM-241 1 millisievert 100%
        BA-136M 1 millisievert 100%
        CS-134 1 millisievert 100%
        CS-136 1 millisievert 100%
        CS 137 1 millisievert 100%
        CO-60 1 millisievert 100%
        EU-152 1 millisievert 100%
        EU-154 1 millisievert 100%
        H-3 1 millisievert 100%
        I-129 1 millisievert 100%
        I-131 1 millisievert 100%
        I-132 1 millisievert 100%
        I-133 1 millisievert 100%
        PU-238 1 millisievert 100%
        PU-239 1 millisievert 100%
        PU-240 1 millisievert 100%
        PU-241 1 millisievert 100%
        SR-90 1 millisievert 100%
        TC-99 1 millisievert 100%
        TE-132 1 millisievert 100%

        • I believe they will, instead, settle on 3-5 MilliSieverts TOTAL PER day as the recommended dosage.

          This is actually the salvation of America. No one will live long enough to retire or collect Social Security.

    • ozdawn

      Since when does any amount of Cesium 137 pose “little or no health risk”? Never – this man-made fission product certainly isn’t “natural” so cannot be considered part of the “background” and cannot be compared to all the other sources as it shouldn’t be there to start with. Plus, this new exposure is now in addition to all the rest people already receive so represents an “increase” in overall exposure and not the “equivalent” of the same exposure. Unlike an xray which is over in a millisecond, these radioactive isotopes once lodged in the body will continue radiating non-stop, 24-hours as day, 7-days a week. Would you suggest it “safe” to get an xray every minute of every day? A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760. Multiply the 400 millisieverts they say is “harmless” by that, you get 3,500,000 times the normal dose each year. You call that safe? With a half-life of 30-years, ingestion of just a single radioactive particle presents a radio-hazard for the rest of ones life. Good luck dodging all those sub-atomic radioactive particles floating around in the air while playing Russian roulette with your Geiger Counter.

      Fact is you do not know what is going to happen in the future (nobody does) and your projection is a complete fabrication. And since we are now talking about what you “believe”, I believe there will be an increase in the usual as well as “rare and unusual” cancers, strange tumors and mutations over the twenty to thirty years just like with Chernobyl! Does anyone remember the 3-legged cows or 2-headed chickens?

      Chernobyl’s Lessons for Japan
      > In 2006, a multi-agency panel of UN experts estimated that two hundred thousand square miles of Eastern Europe were blanketed with fallout, five million residents of the area were exposed, and one hundred thousand people continue to receive radiation contamination from their food and environment that is above normal background levels. Chernobyl shows that the environmental absorption of fallout results in persistent radiation that will affect plants, wildlife, soils, and water for thousands of years.

      Germany’s radioactive boars a legacy of Chernobyl
      > A quarter century after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the Soviet Union carried a cloud of radiation across Europe, these animals are radioactive enough that people are urged not to eat them. And the mushrooms the pigs dine on aren’t fit for consumption either.

      If this amount of radioactive contamination is still present in the pigs and mushrooms, then it is also present to some extent in every other living being also present who also eats and drinks the same radioactive contaminates. The focus on only “wild boars and mushrooms” is obviously a deliberate attempt to shift the attention away from applying this same rationale to everything else living in that radioactive environment (Europe). If its detectable in boars and mushrooms, then its also present in chickens, turkeys, cows, etc, etc as well as lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, etc. etc. If its found in “some” of the animals and plants that they want to report to the public in this way, then it is also present in “all” of the animals and plants including the human beings who aren’t exempt from the same laws of nature that have somehow only contaminated the pigs and mushrooms as the this study only focuses on.

      • Dr. Tom Burnett

        Absolutely correct. There is no safe level of radionuclides – Chernobyl and Fukushima are different types of accidents, but the resulting release of the products of fission will likely equal between the two over time.

        • END THE FED

          I think it’s pretty obvious that Chernobyl would be like a walk in the park when compared to what Fukushima will end up doing to all living things on this planet. Especially when you compare the amount of spent fuel rods and when they play into this MAN made disaster.

          The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools dedicated to spent fuel rods. These are located at the top of six reactor buildings ““ or were until explosions and fires ravaged the plant. On the ground level there is a common pool in a separate building that was critical damaged by the tsunami. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. In short, the Fukushima Daiichi plant contains over 600,000 spent fuel rods ““ a massive amount of radiation that will soon be released into the atmosphere.

          Fukushima will be like Chernobyl on Steroids.

    • Mankind

      “So..How long until this radiation starts killing people in America??”…

      The current understanding of the relationship of cancer to radiation is that the risk of cancer increases linearly with dose and that there is no safe amount of radiation. This understanding is represented by the “Linear No-Threshold” (LNT) model of cancer.


      “A single alpha passing through a cell is sufficient to induce a mutational event”


  • I am so thankful for Dr. Tom’s comments and answers on the nuclear disaster in Japan. I never took physics and I am interested in earth science; however, until now, I thought I was not capable of understanding all the technical, scientific lingo of those “brainiacs”. Dr. Tom must be a teacher somewhere because, with few exceptions, I understand him. This doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation; in fact, I feel worse. How can we stop the cover-up???!!!

    • I think I’m in love. Someone actually said something nice! Thank you, Jean. My target audience is not propeller-heads. I write for people who want to know, in plain English, what is actually happening.

      During the course of reporting this disaster I have been accused of overstating it, understating it, dramatizing it, trying to cover it up, lying, imagining the whole thing and being insane among other things.

      But on Match 19, pictures from Digital Globe, which has a satellite over Fukushima twice a day, as well as three other satellites which image the facility twice a day stopped being released to the public.

      Fresh oil is still washing ashore on the Gulf Coast, but that’s no longer news.

      The only news we hear is that the economy is getting better and all we need to do to make live perfect is confiscate all privately-owned firearms so the ATF can sell them to the Mexican drug cartels. We must keep up the raids on medical marijuana regardless of what people vote for and continue to spend America’s future in Afghanistan for absolutely no reason while the crooks who stole our country get promoted and give themselves billions of dollars in bonuses. None of that makes any sense to me.

      Maybe I AM insane. I can’t seem to grasp the logic of making corporations the equivalent of individuals as regards political spending, either. I might be able to come up with a ten buck donation, but corporations spent $300 MILLION on candidates in 2010. I can’t donate any more because I have to pay taxes. GE got a tax CREDIT on a gross profit of $15 Billion in 2010. What? WHAT?!?!?

      Thank you for the nice words, Jean. I don’t smoke pot (or anything), but I’d have to agree to random drug-testing to get a job. Yet there is no mandatory drug testing in Congress or the White House – I’ll bet it’s for a reason.

  • If the molten mass (whatever its combined properties) penetrates a lens of concrete, rock or clay, or a combination thereof, it will surely turn into superheated steam when a path of least resistance is found vertically to the atmosphere. This will in turn open up the entire plug of said “mass” and mechanjcally blow it sky-high like a geiser untill the water or the mass are exhausted. The power of water under pressure suddenly being released, in what is called “flashing”, is not generally appreciated. Many have been killed due to boiler explosions including one in New York City which blew a masonry wall down on top of lunching patrons. It’s explosive power is comparable to that of dynamite once a path of escape is initiated.

    • Flashing to steam, or flashing to a Hydrogen explosion drives to the point of least resistance. One expects, but cannot predict, that it would be to seaward.

      If it chose a path through the reactor, it would validate my original post – which I hope is wildly pessimistic.

      • Francis

        Dr. Tom

        Would this be a perpetual geiser of radioactive steam?

        • Worst case, it could be.

          • As I just related to my nuclear physics peer group – always bet against me on the subject of criticality excursions – I’ll cover all wagers at any odds you like. I can tell the difference between an accident and a disaster very quickly. The criteria is simply radiation. If it stops, it was an accident. If it continues to worsen over a day, a week, a month, it’s a disaster,


            Reporting from Tokyo and Los Angeles “

            Radiation levels increased sharply inside and outside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant Thursday, slowing work on the devastated facility again and once more throwing into doubt the integrity of the containment vessels that hold the fuel rods.

            Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said the level of radioactive iodine in water at the plant hit levels 10,000 times the permissible limit, preventing workers from getting near the water, which accumulated during early efforts to prevent a full-fledged meltdown by flooding the plant.

            Engineers have been pumping water out of basement tunnels in the reactor buildings and into holding areas in an attempt to give workers access so they can try to restore electricity to the cooling pumps that could ultimately bring the crisis under control. But they cannot do so when radiation levels are that high. Well, goodbye, and thanks for all the fish. The good news is that next years’ sparkling wine will sparkle in the dark.


            The iodine is the primary gaseous byproduct of fission of uranium in the fuel rods that produce the power from the plant. Its presence in water suggests that, at the very least, the encasing around the uranium fuel pellets has cracked, permitting the gas to escape. The good news is that radioactive forms of iodine have a half-life of about an hour for one isotope, and eight days for the other, so the radioactivity should quickly decay if no further release occurs.

            Engineers speculated that the radiation surges may be coming from a partial meltdown of the fuel core of reactor No. 1. It appears that small segments of the melted fuel rods in that reactor are undergoing what is known as “localized criticality,” emitting brief flashes of heat and radiation.

            The level of radioactive iodine in seawater off the coast at the plant has also risen, according to Japan’s nuclear safety agency. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Thursday that the amount of the isotope in water about 350 yards off the coast had increased to 4,385 times the permissible level, up about a third from the previous day’s level.

            The agency said the seawater level of cesium-137, a much more dangerous isotope because its half-life is more than 30 years, was about 527 times the permissible level. Environmental experts fear that the cesium could get into plankton and then into fish, where it could make its way along the food chain to humans.

            Fishing is not allowed within 12 miles of the plant, and radioactive isotopes are expected to become diluted quickly in the vastness of the Pacific.

            For the first time, Japanese officials said Thursday that they had detected radiation in beef from Fukushima prefecture “ 510 becquerels per kilogram of meat, just over the national guideline of 500 becquerels per kilogram. The meat will be retested and will not be sold, authorities said.

            Even as radiation levels are rising at the nuclear plant, public broadcaster NHK said Thursday that many workers at the facility do not have radiation monitoring badges. Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as Tepco, which owns the plant, confirmed the report, noting that most of the devices were destroyed in the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left 27,500 people dead or missing.

            Company officials said only 320 monitors remained out of the 5,000 devices the company had before the disaster. But they said the leaders of each team of workers have a badge and that workers without badges are assigned to areas with low radiation risk. Tepco added that it may postpone low-priority work to minimize employees being on site without a monitor.

            Concern over radiation may also be hampering recovery of bodies in the immediate area around the nuclear facility. Fukushima prefecture still has 4,760 people missing, and media reports suggest that authorities are hesitant to look for them for fear of radiation exposure.

            Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, said Thursday that the evacuation of residents near the stricken plant would be “long-term.”

            The U.S. Department of Energy has sent about 40 people to Japan to help with the crisis, according to Peter Lyons, the department’s acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy. The French nuclear group Areva has sent five experts in decontaminating water.

            On Wednesday, a 155-person Initial Response Force specially trained in handling nuclear emergencies was dispatched to Japan from the U.S. Naval Support Facility in Indian Head, Md.



            Makinen reported from Tokyo and Maugh reported from Los Angeles.

            Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

  • Kachina

    President Obama wants to spend 6 Billion dollars for moe Nuke Plants. We have been warned out of the 104 existing Plants half are over 20 years old & need repair. Some are considered high dander. Then we have NuclearWaste going into oceans, mountains & land. Evidence shows this waste is leaking. I think we are dead already based on current information; we just don’t know it yet. GO SOLAR!

    • I like solar – it is nuclear, after all. But I like geothermal more. Explain to me the difference between trying to collect solar nuclear energy and producing terrestrial nuclear energy – same thing, actually.

  • Anon

    Now they found 10,000 times the legal limit of radioactive iodine in the groundwater, which they say is 15 meters below the plant, so we know how far down the water table is.

    • Mary in Seattle

      I’ve really enjoyed this whole discussion and learned a lot – though am not pro-nuclear power.

      Just fyi, ABC just posted a piece titled “Crews ‘facing 100-year battle’ at Fukushima” stating “A nuclear expert has warned that it might be 100 years before melting fuel rods can be safely removed from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.”

      Another expert in the article, “Laurence Williams, Professor of Nuclear Safety at England’s University of Central Lancashire” is not nearly as alarmed.

      But BOTH of them agree that capping the reactors with concrete won’t fly. Made me think of this article (as that had been a hope of mine the last couple of weeks, bury the damned things).

      • Aloha Mary.

        Thank you for helping to validate me. I don’t really care – I have no ego to be broken and I’m retired, so I have no agenda. But the entire problem in the world is not nuclear power. it’s this:


  • soylentgreen

    When will we wake up to the FACT that human population will be the death of our children?

    This search for ever more growth and energy, is simply fueling the cannibalistic orgy to come.

    If you don’t get what I just said watch or read “The Road”.

    Humanity needs to take another road. Or let our little kids suffer the perils.

    Peakoil will cure our hubris soon enough. We currently convert petroleum to food at a 1 to 1 ratio, or worse. Phosphates are almost history.

    Your governement is wholly in thrall to the interests of the elites, who don’t care how you perish, and you will.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is the truth.

    • Francis


      It’s not POPULATION, it’s GREED that will do it. The population of the entire world can fit inside the state of Texas and live comfortably. It’s GREED that is under the nuke problem. GREED.

    • I doubt that waking up will work. Everyone says “Wake up! Wake up!” and then do not propose a course of action after I wake up. And trust me, ANY course of action ANYONE proposes will merely bring the ceiling down on them.

      Watch what happens: My course of action is that every official who takes the oath of office should be bound by that oath – and everyone in the US takes basically the same oath: “I swear (or affirm) to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to the best of my ability.”

      Anyone who does not do that, or sells their vote, or does not work in the best interest of the citizenry, should be dragged out of their office and hung to the nearest light post or tree. I don’t want to cite examples, but lying and denying is as bad in the economy as it is in nuclear disasters: http://robertreich.org/

      OK, we’ll see what falls on my head from that. In the mean time, let’s try to keep our focus on the subject matter we started with. Let’s start here – don’t be afraid – it’s not complicated and there are lots of pictures: http://www.darvill.clara.net/nucrad/types.htm

    • “Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is the truth.”

      I am sorry to agree with you, but I do.

  • Ben

    Why dont we build the reactors that cannot melt down,
    A couple of years ago i remember seeing a (nuclear) fuel system which looked like a pyramid of stacked cannon balls which when exposed (dry) the reaction stops are they to expensive? or are they just prototypes? we humans are a funny bunch but the prospect of 57 reactors on the ring of fire is not
    Ha Ha funny its just stupid. at least it should take a while to get to the southern hemisphere. though it looks like they are going to dump it in the ocean in a tanker……

    • “Why don’t we build the reactors that cannot melt down?”

      What a great question! There are a bunch of answers, ranging from “We can’t”, to “Cost”. It’s true that the easiest way to get electricity from radioactive fuel is to heat water to steam and use it to run turbines. The classic way to do that had been to move the fuel rods close enough together to make them generate a lot of heat, but not close enough to allow them to go critical. It’s a balancing act, and if you fall off, you don’t get another try.

      But you are correct. We ought to be able to build a reactor that is safe and we can. I believe the reference you made was to a ‘pebble bed reactor’, one of the types of gen IV reactors now on the drawing board.

      The ideal goal here is to build an INHERENT PASSIVELY SAFE reactor. They are described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_nuclear_safety
      The concept is that if everything goes to shit at once, the reaction will stop instead of go critical. And you just know that at some point everything is going to go to shit all at once. So this seems like a no-brainer.

      We have the technology and we have the ability. What we don’t have is an educated government or citizenry. Because no one knows what they are talking about, and because the experts called to testify before congress are paid by someone with a vested interest, THAT company is going to tell congress that all the OTHER competing designs are unsafe.

      And then there is the ‘proliferation’ issue. We only have millions of spent fuel rods laying around because Jimmy Carter made re-using them illegal – his illogic was based on the concept that we would have a place to store them – but we do not. Not re-using them and constantly making new ones seems stupid to me.

      • who cares what kinds of safe reactors we can build? there is no reason whatsoever to mess with nuclear stuff.

        • Dr. Tom Burnett

          That’s right. The windmill in your yard will handle all your energy needs, right?

        • Mankind

          Amish seem to get along fine with it – why can’t we?

    • Interestingly enough, people question my education because I am not willing to comment on radionuclide emission from burning coal – but when someone mentions a pile of cannon balls I immediately recognize the description of a pebble bed reactor – which almost no one has ever heard of because none exist.

      Questioning my opinion is fine, and I will respond to hard scientific questions with references and citations.

      Questioning my personality or education is pointless. I have no personality and my education is what allows me to discuss these subjects rationally.

  • my2cents

    NUCLEAR POWER NO the name has to be changed to : NOT CLEAR POWER.The reason being is that it is NOT CLEAR to the Industrial age scientist who invented this shit,that when it is released into the atmosphere it kills human man.Not just one or two people but mankind as a whole.The scientist are the only ones benefiting from this sorry ass industrial age technology.If these scientists are so smart,why don’t they figure out how to shut it down safely before it gets to this point.And the Japanese decide to build a NOT CLEAR POWER PLANT on the most active fault line IN THE WORLD.AH SO this is real good.CHEAP,CHEAP.AH SO YES WE CAN DO IT.CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP.Should -a-could-a- would-a ( Should-a) not built a NOT CLEAR POWER PLANT on the most active fault line in the world. With such a destructive force when it has no power supply,(could-a) built a better back-up power supply so that when a disaster of this magnitude happens on the most active fault line in the world it would a not exposed the world to RADIO ACTIVITY.It has got to be stopped,not only is it old industrial age technology ,it is NOT SAFE ENOUGH to use Then or NOW and never will be.What was the NUCLEAR BOMB designed to do? KILL Nuclear-KILL,and still to this day it is NOT CLEAR to these so called smart people,that even when it is supposedly not designed to kill people, it does, when it is exposed to the atmosphere.But wait there’s more,we can contain it and it will be safe.Well if it is so safe then why do we have this problem in Japan.Hello smart people,I dare you to give me one logical answer as to why this accident is happening.Oh I know, it’s because it was an accident.Good answer ya good answer.We don’t live in the industrial age any more.Those days are gone,done,in the history books just like WW1and WWII I say out with the old and in with the new.New smart technology not old NOT CLEAR POWER Just remember CHEAP is NOT always the best,as is being seen in Japan.

    • Jeez. Someone delete this. How are scientists benefiting from an earthquake and tsunami?

  • mike z

    I heard that coal dust from coal plants actually has radioactivity to it and this dust circles the globe and in all the air we breathe, Can you comment on that??

    • No, other than to suggest that building safer nuclear plants is better than burning coal and oil.

      • Chris

        I’m kinda curious what area your doctorate is in, Dr. Burnett. It seems a pretty safe assumption that an expert in nuclear power would be aware of the radiation released from a coal-fired power plant. I’m all for safer nuclear power too.


        • That’s not a safe assumption. I believe I stated that safe nuclear plants are better than burning coal or oil, so suggesting that I am not aware of the problems with coal and oil are immediately disproved. I wrote that for a reason. I am a nuclear power proponent, but I do not care for this thread to be dragged into another area. There are hundreds of fires at this very second in abandoned coal mines around the world and the radiation they release is not trivial – but we are discussing the immediate potential effects of a nuclear meltdown, not arguing about coal or how to save the whales or the flying spaghetti monster.

          • For that matter, the article you refer compares normally operating coal-plant by-products to normally operating nuclear plant by-products, with a specificity to radiation, which has nothing to do with a nuclear disaster. What is your point? Just to derail the thread?

  • Robert Shule

    May I offer this grim poem to this grim assessment in hopes to deter all those fools out there who still think nuclear power is still a good idea:

    The Nuclear Apprentice:

    Apprentice in the shop alone,
    Thinks since Meister went for the day,
    He’ll have some magic go his way.

    I will make power he atones,
    I can take this nuclear fuel,
    And put it in a water pool.

    Steam will rise,
    And turn a blade,
    Easy way this power is made.

    There were things he did not surmise,
    And much he did not consider,
    For retrospect made him bitter.

    Geisters from the closet,
    he called on for detail,
    Without thought on what they entail.

    Next thing you know he lost his bet,
    Radiation flew all about.
    Humbled apprentice lost his clout.

    Meister the situation is grave,
    The geisters that I bid,
    Now I can’t get rid.

    Meister looked sad for this even he could not save.
    Nuclear Geisters are not his to command,
    Atomic power is something for only the good Father’s hand.

    This take on the Goethe’s famous ballad unfortunately has to end differently than the original work. (Remember Disney’s version with Micky Mouse and the brooms carrying pails of water? The Meister came back, saw the mess, waved his wand, and put the unruly brooms back into the closet. ) Clearly, nuclear powers are not brooms, and the problems as Dr.Tom describes cannot be so easily waved away.

  • Anon

    Thanks, that’s very helpful. Do you have thoughts on what would determine whether it reaches the water table or stays in rock? Is it a matter of how much of the core is there, how deep the rock is, etc.? I understand that this is going some way from analysis of worst-case to judging its likelihood, but I don’t know about this stuff at all so I thought to ask.

    • We don’t know – it’s never happened. The criteria is whether enough critical material exists to melt all the rock around it and continue to descend toward the center of the earth. This is the heaviest material there is – it is a matter of how efficient the rock around it is able to act as a heat sink.

      No one has ever asked me for the BEST possible scenario, but you are pushing the boundary. Best case, all the reactors and buildings and fuel rods melt together and sink 100 kilometers into the lithosphere. Problem solved.

      • Joe Neubarth

        The simple fact of the matter is that as uranium lava (corium) melts down through the cement under the reactor vessel it will be diluted by the melted particulate that is is slowly moving through Thepossibility of it betting more than a few feet under the reactor vessel is remote as it will be diluted to the point that it does not have enough centralized heat to melt any further.

        • That depends entirely upon the composition and mass of the fissile material and the composition of the material beneath it. Because it requires no external power source to remain critical, it might well create it’s own encapsulation. The Corium may flow into channels, but it will not become diluted. Ever. By anything.

          I suspect you have been researching Chernobyl, but there, the reactor core exploded stopping the reaction. At Fukushima, the reaction is intensifying.

          Take a magnesium road flare and light it underwater – or a welding torch. It will continue to burn until it burns itself out or runs out of fuel. Another experiment might be to take some magnesium or aluminum powder and mix it with iron powder, forming thermite. It’s difficult to light – but once you manage that, it will oxidize rapidly without any external influence and without diluting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermite

          Interestingly, one of the chemicals which makes Thermite burn even hotter is Barium. Barium is also a neutron poison and a lot of it was poured into Fukushima to try and prevent criticality. However, once criticality is achieved autonomously, the barium becomes something else entirely.

          So imagine a thermite reaction which won’t run out of fuel for a hundred thousand years and tell me how it might become ‘diluted’.

          • Oh, please! I am using the oxidation of a highway flare underwater as an analogy because it is something most everyone is familiar with. I am not suggesting that a nuclear pile burns or emits radioactivity by oxidation. I am saying that if the entire ocean cannot extinguish an underwater flare you can hold in your hand, it won’t extinguish a critical nuclear pile.

            If I say get plenty of bed rest and take two of these tablets seven days running, I mean seven days sequentially! I don’t mean to get out of bed and run down the block trying to take a tablet twice a day!

    • From TEPCO two days ago. The current radiation dispersion models available to the public ceased being published on Monday as well. I don’t make this shit up.

      At a press conference Monday, TEPCO officials for the first time mentioned the possibility that the core pressure vessels of reactors one, two and three may all be damaged, Jiji Press news agency reported. Telltale signs of nuclear fission — radioactive iodine-131, caesium-137 and other isotopes — have been detected in water that has flooded the basements of the three reactors’ adjacent turbine buildings, halting work there. Two workers, unidentified men in their 20s and 30s employed by a TEPCO subsidiary, were hospitalised last week after wading though the water with inadequate protection. They are expected to be released Monday. TEPCO has faced heavy criticism for not briefing the workers sufficiently before sending them on their dangerous mission which saw the two men sloshing through the pool without full-length boots. Work at reactor two has been temporarily halted since Sunday because of the danger. The immediate focus is on draining the highly radioactive water from the turbine room basements, but without releasing it into the environment. The water inside the reactor two turbine room was Sunday measured at 1,000 millisieverts an hour — a dose that can cause temporary radiation sickness with nausea and vomiting for people who are exposed.

      Pacific Ocean seawater just north of the plant was found to have 1,150 times the legal limit of iodine, the nuclear safety agency said Monday. Previous readings to the south reached more than 1,850 times the legal limit. The nuclear crisis remains a distraction from the dire plight of hundreds of thousands made homeless by the quake-tsunami disaster that has left nearly 30,000 people confirmed dead or listed missing. Hundreds of aftershocks since the March 11 disaster have rattled buildings and further strained nerves — including a powerful 6.1-magnitude quake that sparked a tsunami advisory in worst-hit Miyagi prefecture early Monday. In areas near the nuclear plant — some of them virtual ghost towns with people holed up in their homes — rubble remained uncleared and tsunami victims have received little aid because supplies have ground to a halt. The Japanese government has ordered people to leave the area within 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the stricken plant and “encouraged” people to move out of places 20-30 kilometres away.

      Environmental activist group Greenpeace said it had confirmed radiation levels of up to 10 microsieverts per hour in Iitate village, 40 kilometres northwest of the plant, and urged the government to evacuate the area. “It is clearly not safe for people to remain in Iitate, especially children and pregnant women, when it could mean receiving the maximum allowed annual dose of radiation in only a few days,” said its radiation safety expert Jan van de Putte. “The authorities must stop choosing politics over science and determine evacuation zones around the Fukushima nuclear plant that reflect the radiation levels being found in the environment.”

  • Anon

    This might not apply to Fukushima (I don’t know where the water table is or how much soil if any is there), but is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corium_%28nuclear_reactor%29#Corium-concrete_interactions accurate with regard to what happens when it gets to soil?

    • Anon

      The TEPCO website says it was built on bedrock http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/challenge/energy/nuclear/plants-e.html . What would likely happen in that case?

      • Bedrock is typically basaltic rock in newer geological formations – such as the island I live on.

        If it is thick enough, or porous enough to allow a flowing reactor core to disperse, the core could would eventually encase itself in melted rock – which is, in the case of basalt, glass. That would be an excellent outcome in my opinion.

        I would not solve the problem, but it would contain it – until the next earthquake. If I saw that happening I would probably have the immediate tendency to toss all the other debris and fuel rods and cores down the hole – but I make things go critical – I don’t make them stop.

    • There is a water table at Fukushima- the question is how much water is available to interact with a core IF one melts down to it.

      Let me digress for one moment, please.

      People call me and ask what the worst case scenario is..and I tell them and it appears as my prognosis. No it isn’t. I am a strong PROPONENT of nuclear energy. Chernobyl was WAY over one-in-a-million odds – and STILL could not have happened if two huge voltage spikes had not hit the plant DURING the 30 seconds a year the reactor was being SCRAMMED.

      Three Mile Island was human error. The technicians didn’t believe the instruments and warning bells and overrode the automatic safety system.

      Fukujima is different. Those containments were designed to withstand a 6.9. Nothing will withstand a 9.0. It’s almost 500 megatons of energy.

      Even if the generators had been uphill, the plant would have failed.

      Back to Fukushima. I would have to see the blueprints, but at least one containment is breached and it’s not going to be fixed. IF that blob of critical mass makes it to the water table, the reaction will not be to cool off the core – it will be to convert water to H and O2 – which will explode. Period. And that process may well continue multiple times and could easily draw in the other three damaged fuel cores and the ~600,000 depleted fuel cells laying around.

      This is still not an apocalyptic event.

      IF, however, the core stops before it hits the water table, it will probably encase itself in a molten ball and remain in that state without exploding – however, as water seeps in, it will flash to steam and continue ejecting particulate matter into the atmosphere – and water (no one is quite sure how at the moment, but it is happening).

      I would not like to be the person who takes the job of mitigating the problem. Unless the reaction is stopped, there is no short-term solution and there is no long-term solution. So WORST CASE, NOT MY PREDICTION, is a million pound blob of fissile material sitting in a fissure in the water table ejecting Hydrogen particulate matter.

      • blf

        It doesn’t matter how safe people say nuclear energy is, accidents WILL ALWAYS happen. Some will not be so bad, others will be worse.

        Bottom line: NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT to expose others to deadly radiation for ANY reason, any more than a person has the right to shoot someone.

        We do NOT need nuclear energy, and ALL nuclear reactors should be decommissioned and buried.

        • We either need nuclear energy, or we need 5 billion less people. I suspect the people will disappear before the remnants of Fukushima do.

          • Far safer alternatives to fossil fuels and Uranium fueled nuclear plants are being born.

            For example, a compact, inexpensive, green, Low Energy Nuclear Reactor (LENR) invented by Andrea Rossi is now in production.

            It is inherently much safer than existing nukes and uses non-radioactive Nickel, not radioactive Uranium, as fuel.

            Power cost is projected at one penny per kilowatt hour.

            No nuclear waste is produced.

            Other new technology might employ used nuclear fuel rods to run large diesel engines to generate electricity and reduce the dangerous waste on-site.

            See Cold Fusion and Black Swans at http://www.aesopinstitute.org to learn more. Black Swans are highly improbable developments with huge potential impact.

            A one Megawatt heating plant has been approved to open in Greece, in October.

            A similar plant is under negotiation for construction in the USA.

            A nuclear scientist has said when these small modular units, which can be linked like solar panels to produce any desired power level, begin producing inexpensive electricity it will start a “stampede”.

            Several competitive designs are being developed. Early regulatory approval has been received in Greece and may prove possible here.

            These technologies will cost-competitively undercut any need for new Uranium fueled nuclear plant production and allow the replacement of existing installations as rapidly as mass manufacturing and concerned parties will permit.

            Revolutionary Black Swan designs have no possible chance of a meltdown!

            They can become a building block for decentralized energy generation.

            Big is fragile, dangerous and ugly. Small is still beautiful.

      • denny

        I’m reassured concerning your intelligence – So glad you’re still a strong proponent of nuclear power – it’s such a courageous position to take. In the face of certain contamination (your personal assessment) and death. Why don’t you use that Dr in front of your name to create a non-lethal form of energy. For the cost of one reactor (Diablo Canyon, for example) we could have solarized the entire west coast of the USA. Ironic though, now we’re solarizing the entire west coast of the USA, but from a different process.

        • I have never used the phrase ‘certain contamination and death’.

          “Solarizing” the west coast of the United States won’t produce the amount of power Diablo Canyon does and one magnitude 9 will destroy the entire solar array. That’s not a solution. There are two solutions. One is to build gen 4 reactors on ships and plug them into the shore grid. They are not susceptible to earthquakes and can get to deep water within minutes to avoid tsunamis.

          The second is geothermal.

          Life on earth depends entirely on the sun, which is a huge, unconstrained nuclear reactor. It’s 93 million miles away and standing in sunlight is very bad for your health, even at that distance.

          Accidents like Fukushima are going to happen and we have to accept the consequences if we want electricity.

          • denny

            I cannot understand why you are attempting to explain away this disaster thereby minimizing its ultimate effects. It’s obvious to me that your intelligence and knowledge of these matters cannot be trusted. Why? You are still an obvious proponent of this energy source. In your article you are describing the possibility of an event so catastrophic that millions of human beings will be affected. Your reasoning concerning how the potentially disastrous consequences of nuclear power are worth it because we will be provided with electricity are completely insane. I would rather face an uncertain future without electricity than a certain future of radiation and death. There is absolutely no logic to your argument. Unfortunately, your reasoning is the same reasoning as the irresponsible financial adventurists who keep providing us with these get rich quick schemes and something-for-nothing approach to our way of life. The businessmen who created these plants were duly warned and the many people (whose voices we never heard) who strongly opposed the construction of these plants were patronizingly patted on their heads and told to go home because there was absolutely no threat from the cons-truction of these death ovens. If it can potentially kill millions then it shouldn’t even be considered.

          • Denny…

            I cannot understand how you ever got the idea I am trying to “explain away this disaster, thereby trying to minimize it”.

            The other fifteen THOUSAND people who have read the article cannot understand why I am trying to MAXIMIZE the potential disaster – which I am not doing either.

            If I predict, correctly, that at some point another earth-crossing body will impact the planet and potentially cause another K/T boundary event and there is nothing we can do to stop it, half the people who read the article will call it visionary, and the other half will call it doom-and-gloom.

            The point is that we are using resources at a rate which would require five earths to supply them and we only have one. Here are a couple of sources:

            (scroll down)

            And this explains the above site for those who need an explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GorqroigqM&feature=player_embedded

            My father was born before the Wright Brothers flew. They disn’t have electricity or toilet paper or automobiles. But you do. EVERY SINGLE THING you eat, touch, or use is available to you because of electricity. I am actually a bit in awe of the fact you assume that without nuclear power, you will not die. Of course you will. But you can be part of the solution. Go out to the main breakers and turn off your electricity – and get everyone you know to turn off theirs – and see how long you last living like that, showering in ice water, drinking warm lemonade and not watching TV. I’ll be generous and give you 12 hours. After that, you won’t care if they build a nuclear plant in your yard as long as you get your power back on.

            I have no county services where I live. I collect my own water, dispose of my own sewage, grow vegetables and have a dirt road. But I do have electricity, although I can do without the grid – if it goes, it does. We make our own biodiesel out of coconuts.

            YOU might prefer facing an uncertain future without electricity, and I am prepared to. But unless you are willing to farm your own food, and preserve it against the winter when you can’t grow, and kill your own meat fresh every couple of days, you aren’t prepared to live without electricity. In fact, unless you have put all of your resources for years into becoming self-sufficient, you aren’t – and now it’s too late to start. That’s what ought to be obvious to you.

            Here’s something else. The economy is about to crash. That ought to be obvious to you as well. Where I live, gasoline is almost $5 a gallon and goes up every DAY. That is called hyperinflation – as gas goes up, the price of everything else goes up – and it’s going to keep going up – and the country is out of money – the government can’t kick-start a dead economy with printing presses.

            If you have to drive ten miles to work and you are making $20 an hour, you can work another few months before you can no longer afford to get there.

            Then come back and tell me I’m insane.

      • Joe Neubarth

        You say that even if the Diesel Electric generators were build above where the tsunami could hit them the reactor would have failed too is total Bolshoi. The reactors came through the Earthquake which at their location was well under a 6 in shaking magnitude and had no reported damage. They were scrammed when the main steam valve shut to protect the turbines and after the scram for thirty minutes were being cooled appropriately. There was no loss of pressure in the coolant loop and no excessive transients up to the tsunami. When the swell washed out the diesel generators there was no further means to cool the shut down reactors and heat buildup from the delayed neutron precursors probably melted three cores. If they had their electricity they would have been able to cool the reactors as did the other reactor sites in Japan.

        • You are responding to an event which didn’t happen. My opinion is that the backup facilities for supplying fuel to the generators and fresh water to the reactors, as well as the pumps and pipes external to the containments, were damaged beyond immediate repair. The pools of used fuel cells, which sat ABOVE the reactor containments were damaged as well, pipes and control systems were destroyed, and THEN the tsunami hit. Maybe the generators could have put off the problem for another hour, but they cannot have stopped it.

          • denny

            Hello, Dr. Tom, Should the rest of the nuclear proponents be like you we most likely wouldn’t have had this tragedy. You are a man who actually takes part in a dialogue and it has been refreshing to be able to participate in one. Though we have different opinions I firmly believe we could ultimately arrive at a solution or compromise to our differences. I apologize if I have offended you in any way.
            It seems these days that every time we turn around there is a mass scale, life threatening situation that is either not being addressed or is being thoroughly minimized ‘for our protection’. I find this response to catastrophe contemptuous and condescending. We, as citizens, are not to be trusted. Instead, we are kept in the dark (for whatever reason) and consistently told everything will be all right. A sad state of affairs, one which, without the cooperation of the citizenry, can certainly lead to more tragedy.
            Psychologically, we have been reduced to ‘consumers’. Psychologically, we have been reduced to purchasing corporate products which are used, sadly, as definitions of our humanity. Materialism defines us and somewhere in that ongoing circular process we are losing our humanity. What has our ‘leadership’ or putative brain trust provided for us in the last ten years or so? Multiple wars in which many more innocents perish than supposed bad guys. A financial looting of not only our wealth, but of our futures and now we are even paying for that theft. Among other environmental tragedies, we have been given, in the last year, the Gulf Gusher and the nuclear disaster in Japan. I cannot imagine what is next. I will say what I believe most people know in their hearts, but are too afraid to admit it to each other – this virulent, predatory, winner-take-all version of capitalism is destroying us and is fully capable of taking all of us down for the final count. We are being led by a group of environmental, financial and social (Torture is now an accepted part of our daily regimen – horrifying) rapists aka sociopaths. I am not paranoid. I’m simply responding to what has been served up to us in the last ten years. Our way of life has changed dramatically and drastically. More Americans live in fear today than ever before and it’s an understandable response, although a tragic one.
            Your points about electricity are well taken, however, what is it worth if our quality of life descends into the mouth of madness? Keep up the dialogue, Dr. Tom. We need it and we need you, more like you. All the best. Denny

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  • As a total ignoramus in nuclear technology I am baffled by the extreme range of assessments by highly and equally qualified scientists on the Fukushima crisis. On the one hand, optimists like Wade Allison seek to reassure us about the possible dangers ahead while on the other,Dr. Tom Burnett warns of a truly apocalyptic scenario. Why this uncertainly an lack of incontrovertable objective data?

    • Aesop institute and cold fusion. That is a total scam. that guy has been running off about imaginary power sources for decades – and has quite a bit of investment money out of it. There is only one tiny problem. It doesn’t work. Before cold fusion it was ‘fractional Hydrogen’. Complete snake oil.

  • jim hardy


    we all want to be Herb Morrison at the Hindenburg.

    but remember it’s better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.

    please go back to school and take some reactor Physics.

    you’re actually right about the placement of the diesels. Had they been 40 ft up this would have been a celebration instead of a mess.

    Do something useful – go dig up Obama’s birth certificate.
    That’ll make you sound important.

    old jim

    • I am not warning of an apocalypse – the word implies world-wide. I am simply saying that you don’t simply pull the plug on a melted reactor core and turn it off.

      Worst case is by no means apocalyptic – except for the reactor complex and the immediate vicinity. Maybe Tokyo and Korea and the rest of the world will have a few problems, but I specifically stated earlier that the event is not apocalyptic.

      They cannot start pouring concrete on a critical core. You can cover it with something – like they are trying to build for Chernobyl – but this is not a spill at a canned soup factory. http://corium.blogspot.com/2010/03/youtube-video-chernobyl-disaster-severe.html. Hundreds and maybe thousands of people went to the direct aid of the accident and all of them died. But the official death toll is something like 44. Saying “A million or so” is really bad for tourism.

      Look up ‘Chernobyl sarcophagus’. The accident happened in 1986. They don’t expect the ‘sarcophagus’ to be finished until 2013. And when that one rots away they will have to build another one.

      The problem with radiation is that it can be transmitted between organic and inorganic matter. It’s not ‘contagious’ – In fact, I’ll bet no one you ask can tell you why it’s dangerous at all. But people don’t stick chunks of Plutonium in their pocket and take it home from work for their kids’ school show and tell.

      • Thank you for your clarification. That word ‘apocalyptic’ is bandied about so much these days that the term has evidently lost much of its original meaning. Even so, I can understand why a Japanese technician in my area has spent his savings on evacuating family members from the Tokyo area.

        • Joe Neubarth

          I expect the uranium lava to cool down and solidify. The contamination will be contained and eventually cleaned up and life will continue in Japan. The area for fifteen miles around Fukushima can become a national park and people will be able to visit it and enjoy natural beauty. The only caveat will be that they will be told not to eat anything that grows there.

          • Yes, cool down and solidify – Except it won’t cool down – it will heat up. Yes, they can make a nice park around it – like they have at Chernobyl. Wander around and enjoy nature – just don’t eat any vegetables or drink the water or touch anything or forget to wear your lead suit.
            OK, I get what what the people are saying who insist that without a moderator, in this case light water, the fission reaction will stop. You are talking about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_moderator

            But you need to think it through. ‘Moderators’ are used to create higher efficiencies in THERMAL, meaning ‘controlled’ reactors. Once the nuclear pile loses it’s moderator, it is no longer a controlled thermal reaction. LESS fission occurs, but what does is many times more energetic. Plant operators play a balancing act between generating the most thermal energy they can without falling off the tightrope.

            Again: If your moderators disappear, you are no longer in control of the reaction. They keep pumping water on the Fukushima fuel piles to try and cool them down – but it’s a fool’s game.

            it is past the point at which they can stop the reactions or clean it up because the fuel piles have at least partially melted together, in huge concrete containment structures (some of which have cracked), so there is no possibility of ever moderating the reaction again, or accessing the fuel piles, or removing them. Continuing to pour water on them simply creates radioactive water which then steams away or runs into the ocean. And that’s as far as that plan will ever go.

  • Thanks for a grim assessment that we can only hope does not play out that badly.

    Far safer alternatives to Uranium fueled nuclear plants are being born.

    A compact, inexpensive, green, Low Energy Nuclear Reactor (LENR) invented by Andrea Rossi is now in production.

    It is inherently much safer than existing nukes and uses non-radioactive Nickel, not radioactive Uranium, as fuel.

    Power cost is projected at one penny per kilowatt hour.

    No nuclear waste is produced. And other new technology might employ used nuclear fuel rods to run large diesel engines to generate electricity and reduce the dangerous waste on-site.

    See Cold Fusion at http://www.aesopinstitute.org to learn more. These are Black Swans, highly improbable developments with huge potential impact.

    A one Megawatt heating plant has been approved to open in Greece, in October. A similar plant is under negotiation for construction in the USA.

    A nuclear scientist has said when these small modular units, which can be linked like solar panels to produce any desired power level, begin producing inexpensive electricity it will start a “stampede”.

    Several competitive designs are being developed. Early regulatory approval has been received in Greece and may prove possible here.

    These technologies will cost-competitively undercut any need for new Uranium fueled nuclear plant production and allow the replacement of existing installations as rapidly as mass manufacturing and concerned parties will permit.

    These revolutionary designs have no possible chance of a meltdown!

    They can become a building block for decentralized energy generation.

    Big is fragile, dangerous and ugly. Small is still beautiful.

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  • This is one of the most-irresponsible pieces of garbage I’ve read yet on this incident.

    BWR units will NOT maintain criticality without them moderator BETWEEN the fuel rods. The fuel’s enrichment density does not permit it; it literally is physically impossible.

    The moderator is the water.

    Learn how the technology works before you make a complete fool of yourself.

    • Let me reply to this gentleman:

      “Karl Denninger on March 29, 2011 at 11:01 am

      This is one of the most-irresponsible pieces of garbage I’ve read yet on this incident.

      BWR units will NOT maintain criticality without them moderator BETWEEN the fuel rods. The fuel’s enrichment density does not permit it; it literally is physically impossible.

      The moderator is the water.

      Learn how the technology works before you make a complete fool of yourself.”
      Good advice, Carl. Good advice.

      But water is not required to keep a reaction going – it’s required to keep a reaction from going too far in BWR sustems.

      The statement is PARTIALLY true for negative void coefficient reactors. CANDU and PWR reactors, in which the moderator is liquid water (heavy water for CANDU, light water for PWR) are NCE reactors – but that doesn’t mean they are foolproof. Never underestimate a fool or turn your back on the ocean.

      In the event of a loss-of-coolant accident in a CANDU, the moderator is lost and the reaction is ‘supposed to’ stop – NVC means that you have to force the reaction to continue instead of try to moderate it. In CANDU the moderator is located in a separate heavy-water circuit, surrounding the pressurized heavy-water coolant channels. This design gives CANDU reactors a positive void coefficient, although the slower neutron kinetics of heavy-water moderated systems compensates for this, leading to comparable safety with PWRs.

      However, Three Mile Island is a PWR reactor and suffered a partial meltdown from loss of coolant – not from too much coolant.

      The problem here, and at Chernobyl, and in most of the reactors currently in use and in production, is that they are not CANDU or PWR reactors. They are Generation I and II BWR reactors. They don’t work the way you describe.

      I’m pretty sure that the authorities are not shooting water all over those blown up reactors to try and get the reactions going again. Check your source again, Carl.

  • Wade Rhein

    My wife’s family and many of our intimate friends live in Japan and while we all hope for containment of these radiological poisons and empathize with the victims there’s opportunity for a new paradigm.

    It’s a paradox that the ongoing Fukushima crisis could not have happened at a better time or place!
    In the last year because of climate change, peak oil and now the Arab Renaissance the US Corporate/Plutocracy had announced to we the people via their sock puppet, Obama, that the government has 10’s of billions of dollars for new “Ëœclean energy’ nuclear power plants. Of course behind the rhetoric there’s quite a large amount of Corporate Greed. None the less without Fukushima we can surmise that more Atomic Power Plants would have been shoved down our”¦.
    In fact they still might be.

    The German people just this week defeated members of PM Merkel’s regressive party in regional elections and now we learn that there is serious talk of replacing all of their nuclear plants with other forms of electrical generation.
    Can you say Fukushima?

    After the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which my father-in-law witnessed at 7 years old from a distance of about 20 km) the Japanese people reluctantly came to accept nuclear power as the best way to propel them to the world’s second largest economy (now third behind the PRC). Now Fukushima coupled with Hiroshima.
    Can you say Humpty-Dumpty?

    Once the highly educated and hard working economies of Germany and Japan begin designing, manufacturing and selling safe renewable alternate energy producing technology the US can either Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.

    Which will it be?

    • Aloha Wade,

      Let’s get our definitions straight. There is a fixed amount of energy in the universe. It cannot be produced. It can only be converted from one form to another – and it is never lost. We get most of our energy from the sun in the forms of heat and nuclear radiation. The sun is the mother of all Fukushimas – but we are protected from a lot of it by our atmosphere, which reflects it. If it did not, we would have already shared the fate of our sister planet, Venus. We will someday, but we caught a break of a few billion years.

      To say that nuclear energy is inherently unsafe for human life is true – the sun’s radiation is lethal – but we need it anyway. When the dun goes out, so does our solar system and planet.

      We cannot create energy. We can only convert matter to heat – and we have figured out how to carry that heat in the form of electricity to distant destinations. And except for turbines which are powered by water dams, we have to create electricity by spinning turbines with steam. We have tried windmills and mirrors and metal sea-serpents but none of them are reliable or robust enough to supply our needs. Geothermal energy might be, but the oil and coal companies own the governments.

      Part of the problem with Fukushima, and all GEN I and II BWR reactors is that they are accumulation thousands of tons of ‘spent’ fuel rods which must be hidden away forever. Those are creating most of the problems at Fukushima now and they exist because, in 1977, Jimmy Carter made reprocessing and re-using nuclear fuel illegal. So instead of the fuel rods coming out of the reactors and going back to the reprocessing plants – as is done with nuclear weapons – the companies that make the fuel rods get to keep making more and more and there is no place to put them.

      If the dumbass hadn’t done that, each plant would have two complete sets of rods and a few spares. If a rod broke, it would be stored and replaced with a spare. When it became time to refuel, the new rods would be delivered, switched for the used ones, and the used ones would go back for reprocessing.

      Now since we know that the oil companies own the governments, we also know that we are not going to stop burning oil and coal. And, if we had plenty of it and it didn’t hurt the atmosphere, when something like this happened, the price should go DOWN to help everyone. But it goes UP because we are being price-gouged by greedy bastards who have too much of everything already.

      And because they do, and because somehow every country owes every other country more money than exists, there is no money left to develop new ways to kill the planet. It goes like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5QwKEwo4Bc

      And as soon as all that happens, and gas is now over $5 a gallon in Hawaii, we are going to be doing this in Los Angeles. By the way – the Platoon Guidon in this movie says 3092. I graduated in platoon 3089. I did this. It sucked. See the dumbass Marine carrying a PRC25 on his back? That was me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUUYlztf064&feature=related

      • Matt J.

        Once I saw “convert matter to heat”, I knew you have no clue what you are talking about.

        • Well, Matt, I did leave out a step. Mass and energy are convertible, but most people don’t want to learn about that. There is some math involved.

          In point of fact, all the energy we use goes through a heat transition at some point. Refrigerators produce heat. Your computer has a heat sink around the CPU and probably a fan to remove the excess heat. Try to think of something you use that doesn’t produce heat as part of the energy process from electricity.

          So instead of working through a complex map describing how mass is converted to energy and energy is converted back to mass – which would require that I teach an entire semester of 7th grade science and biology, I simply skipped to the chase. ALL of the mass we convert to energy – EVERY BIT OF IT – is eventually released as heat.

          It’s just the way physics works, Matt. Maybe this will help you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass%E2%80%93energy_equivalence

          • Clarifying

            I think what he meant is that most of our energy sources are chemical and you don’t turn oil into heat when you burn it. But, of course, you’re right, since even in a chemical reaction energy is released and so there is a very small mass difference.

  • It’s my own stupid fault. If I just went by ‘Tom’ and didn’t put the ‘Dr.’ in front of it, no one would care.

    This responds to a reply by Frank Snapp, whose comment I appreciate and which carries the conversation forward. I am actually enjoying the opportunity to respond to it – although the situation is unfortunate.

    “Glassification”, also known as “vitrification” requires access to non-critical fuel cells in a controlled environment. http://www.srs.gov/general/programs/solidification/index.htm Fukushima is well past that point.

    To address your point directly: moderators only work on non-critical fuel piles. Once criticality is reached no moderator can physically contact it without burning or vaporizing. At that point human-induced moderation becomes impossible and the pile must reach equilibrium with the earth through processes of which we really know virtually nothing.

    But we do know, from 2.000+ nuclear tests, and hundreds of active reactors, that the world is not going to end because one, or all four F-D-I reactors melt down.

    We also know that s critical fuel pile at 5,000 degrees C is impervious to everything except something hotter – a supercritical fusion device – or the center of the earth – or an eventual self-entombment in it’s own lava cyst inside the lithosphere unless the pressures become so great, or some other natural reaction occurs which causes it to go supercritical and detonate as a thermonuclear device – I do not believe that is possible.

    Back in the Hyman Rickover days you had to be a nuclear physicist to run a nuclear reactor. Now you don’t. You can go to any of several schools which teach you how to control what you CAN control – and each lesson invariably ends with: “But this can’t happen because……..”

    If you ask “What would happen if a MAG9.0 EQ hits my 6.9 containment and then my aux power goes out?”, you get one of two answers (1) that will never happen, or (2) You are fvcked.

    I believe the instructors who answered truthfully are in a tiny minority – because it serves no purpose to train operators to try to deal with events they cannot deal with.

    There is a line – it is dictated by profit vs risk. Anything which passes that line is neither planned for, nor considered in ANY phase of the plant operation. That is why Tokyo Power seems helpless. They are. This contingency was not part of their plan and they have no way to adapt to it.

    Blaming them is useless. They did not approve the plant design. Blaming GE is pointless. Their containments are designed for MAG6.9EQ events. The plant – and ALL gen I and II AND III plants are designed to withstand a MAG6.9EQ. No planning for a subsequent tsunami which might be generated over a 6.9 is required. In California, NO requirements exist – but the Gen 1 and II GE containments are still manufactured to 6.9 standards. But so are the new GEH (GE-Hitachi) and the Westinghouse Gen III+ containments.
    They will ALL fall to shit in a MAG9.0EQ event. Fuhgeddaboudit.

    So what do we have? We have a situation. We started it but we can’t stop it. However, the earth can stop it and will at some point. We simply have to live with the consequences of our actions until that time. Did we learn anything? Yep. Put nuclear reactors on ships. Is that a good idea in the long run? No. Since when has that deterred us?

    • GeoBear

      Dr Tom ~ What kind of doctor are you?

      • Ph.D. Earth Sciences and Physics.

        • GeoBear

          Thanks, and for the FDL link.

        • Joe Neubarth

          Uranium fuel is already Oxidized. How is it going to burn if it already has oxidized? Somebody is pulling your leg, Tom. On the Zirconium cladding (actually a Zirconium alloy) the Zirc only oxidizes at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit while in the presence of water. With the fuel plates getting up to 1000 degrees, I doubt that there was any more water in the fuel rod pool. No water = no oxidation. Tain’t gonna happen unless the Japanese started spraying water on the red hot plates. In that case they would have a Hydrogen explosion. They wouldn’t do anything that stupid, would they??????

          Now, could the fuel plates melt down? Possible. Could that create a messy clean up problem? Yes.

          • Radioactive criticality is not an oxidation event. It does not need oxygen to sustain it.

            The Uranium fuel and MOX fuel aren’t going to burn. They are going to reach an equilibrium and supply heat and radioactive particles for thousands of years.

            Unless I missed the sarcasm, the Japanese did and are still trying to spray water on the fuel cores and spent fuel rods -after Hydrogen explosions blew up three of the four structures.

            Eventually they will realize that the event is ahead of them.

    • Tom, run the physics on the fuel in the core (or the spent pools) and determine the minimum amount of material required to support a critical mass absent a moderator. The fuel in the core of a BWR is enriched to only 3-5% U-235 (or in the case of MOX, 3-5% Pu-239.) I’d be very interested in what you believe you find from that investigation, including references. This is all published data.

      Your scenario is implausible.

      Melted fuel is entirely possible (and presumed to have occurred), but the heat is not coming from active fission; it’s from decay heat. It still makes a hell of a mess but there’s a monstrous difference between the two scenarios.

      • Here you go: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/scale/pubs/18-06TN.pdf

        Want just a wild guess?

        Decay heat, eh? Decay heat is plausible until the fuel core gets hotter than decay heat allows and begins to melt together. Decay heat is stable because there is nothing to cause decay heat to increase. If the heat increases past that point – for instance if the reactor cores started to melt together and the heat INCREASES, you have a difficult time calling that decay heat.

        IF you are talking about CANDU-type reactors, or most heavy-water PHD reactors, it is an entirely different story. They require a ‘moderator’ to maintain criticality.

        Fukushima is a Gen I BWR. If the coolant/moderator goes away, the fuel pile goes critical.

        Can we make ‘safe’ reactors? ABSOLUTELY! Thorium reactors are safe. Why don’t we? Because the military wanted plutonium for weapons – so we are stuck with dangerous reactors.

        • stopclimatechange

          As much as I love reading semi-well thought out (to the uneducated mind) conspiracy rants, this is just TOO wrong.

          “Decay heat is stable because there is nothing to cause decay heat to increase. If the heat increases past that point – for instance if the reactor cores started to melt together and the heat INCREASES, you have a difficult time calling that decay heat.”

          The “Dr.” part in your name, I will assume, is not due to a Ph.D. in any science applicable to this subject, as your statement demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of how heat (or pretty much anything else in physics) works.

          Decay heat is, shockingly, the heat produced during radioactive decay. There is no “decay heat final temperature” as you oh-so-incorrectly imply. Heat may be constant, but temperature builds. It’s simple thermodynamics. Heat capacity-cooling capacity=change in temperature. There is no attainable floor and there is no ceiling.

          What we have had in Japan is a lack of cooling capacity. If decay heat is higher than cooling capacity, temperature (different than heat) rises. If temperature rises above the material limits of any core component, it will melt. Period.

          “Fukushima is a Gen I BWR. If the coolant/moderator goes away, the fuel pile goes critical.”
          No. You need to do some research on temperature coefficient of reactivity. ALL PWR/BWR plants that are approved for use by the NRC will go subcritical in the absence of a moderator of sufficiently high density. The design being discussed is one of those.

          “Can we make ‘safe’ reactors? ABSOLUTELY! Thorium reactors are safe. Why don’t we? Because the military wanted plutonium for weapons – so we are stuck with dangerous reactors.”
          I love the smell of military-industrial complex conspiracies in the morning. Unfortunately, you have no grasp of what makes a reactor safe or unsafe, or apparently how plutonium is made, or a great number of other things that have to do with nuclear reactors.
          If you look at the fission product yield of U-233 (the surrogate fissionable isotope in the thorium fuel cycle), you should be able to quickly note that (gasp!) the nasties that are created in this reactor are pretty much just as nasty as in any that use U-235 or Pu-239.

          If you are against U/Pu reactors, you are against Th reactors. You just weren’t educated enough to know it.

          Good luck in your future conspiracies, and may they have fewer non-facts and holes.

          • Dr. Tom

            I ‘liked’ your post in the hope it would stay up for a little while so we can do this lesson again. I always love it when I read things like this: “As much as I love reading semi-well thought out (to the uneducated mind) conspiracy rants, this is just TOO wrong”. I immediately know that someone sent in the second string and I am going to have a field day.
            You quote me: “Decay heat is stable because there is nothing to cause decay heat to increase. If the heat increases past that point – for instance if the reactor cores started to melt together and the heat INCREASES, you have a difficult time calling that decay heat.”. OK, I can see how that might confuse you, and you are correct. I phrased that badly. I was discussing cooling pools for used fuel rods and I probably should have said “Used fuel rods in cooling pools, typically containing water and a neutron poison, are designed to maintain a stable temperature over long periods of time. Should that control disappear they will begin to overheat and can easily melt and achieve criticality. Once control rods are separated and encased for entombment, they will maintain a steady decay rate because they are physically separated by a sufficient distance that they cannot interact.” One point to you because I was too lazy to write all of that.

            Then you jump into a personal attack. I will skip that. Then you ‘school’ me about decay heat. There most certainly is a ‘decay heat final temperature’ and it is achieved then the fissile material has decayed to stable isotopes. There is also a ceiling. The sun (a fusion reaction) is running about full speed. It is slowly getting warmer, but that is a specific chemical process. You missed that boat.

            You say “What we have had in Japan is a lack of cooling capacity”. I don’t think those reactors operated for decades with a lack of cooling capacity, do you? So you must mean something else. Since you don’t know what you mean, one point to me. You continue with “If decay heat is higher than cooling capacity, temperature (different than heat) rises. If temperature rises above the material limits of any core component, it will melt. Period.” Yep. That is what I was saying.

            When fuel rods melt, they can form a sufficient fissile mass to go critical. That’s where the radiation is coming from. A fissioning fuel mass. DU fuel rods will happily go dritical as well – but I think we agree on that subject.

            Let’s get you up to speed on BWR reactor theory. You can pick up enough to invalidate your points here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor.

            Then you say, as I have heard before, that all BWR plants approved by the NRC will go subcritical in the absence of a moderator of sufficiently high density.” That’s not true -it’s backward. The moderator used at Boiling Water Reactors is….WATER. When it boiled away, the fuel cores didn’t go sub-critical – they began experiencing fission excursions. Insofar as my comment that we are using Uranium reactors instead of Thorium ones because the military wanted the plutonium, I can back that up. http://www.gjfreepress.com/article/20110325/LETTERS/110329975

            I can also direct you to a quick study of the chemistry of a thorium reactor, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle . If you care to delve a bit more deeply into the subject, try here: http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/sorensen-rebuttal-of-ieerpsr-thorium.html

            Finally, you lead into another ad-hominem attack by suggesting that I am an anti-nuclear power conspiracy theorist. It think that’s what you said. You were so busy being snarky that you weren’t clear. In point of fact, I am not against nuclear energy at all. I am an advocate. My point had been consistent throughout: NO commercial reactor or building in the world is designed to withstand more than a MAG 6.9EQ. Unless you see the earthquake or tsunami as a conspiracy of some sort, I am not sure where you got your conclusion.

            And finally…U/Pu and Thorium reactors are different. I advocate for thorium. India is running a Thorium reactor. China’s new CANDU reactors use thorium. CANDU reactors running thorium are inherently more safe that GENI and II BWR types – but nothing as absolutely safe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CANDU_reactor

            I’ll revisit this.

            I am not against ANY reactors. I am pro-nuke.

          • stopclimatechange

            I don’t know why I cannot reply to your comment, but so be it.

            I’m also confused as to why you think there is any “field day” to be had on your part (nor do I know who I am a “second string” for, as I independently stumbled upon this place). Apparently, you can typically drown any dissenting voice here with a deluge of links to uneducated reporter drivel and wikipedia articles, but not on this subject and not when the dissenter has operated nuclear reactors for the majority of their adult life.

            Allow me to back up for a second and say that I was a touch fired up by the amount of misinformation posted here, mostly due to the “matter of fact” presentation of it. I’ll try to refrain from the semi-personal jabs and stick to the subject at hand. On the other side of the coin, and in no uncertain terms, this is truly a one way information exchange. If you learn something here, excellent… one less terrible thing to see on the internet. You will not be teaching me, nor correcting me. And with that:

            Decay heat-
            You are correct in that I attempted to “school you” (and failed), because what you said was wrong. But I did not miss any boat. The whole of this conversation, I can assure you, is elementary to me.

            The fact that you picked the ceiling/floor concepts to attack instead of the heat in-heat out concepts indicates that you do not understand that they are the same thing rephrased. The examples you gave did nothing to refute the simple fact that there are no limitations on the effect and it is wholly governed by in/out. I understand radioactive decay and solar fusion, just as I understand why neither has an impact on anything I stated.

            Lack of cooling in Japan-
            Hyperbole much? I thought it was a clear enough statement, but you seem to believe that it indicated that I don’t know what I mean (?).

            No, I certainly do. I mean “THE ISSUE IN JAPAN IS A LACK OF COOLING CAPACITY”. Always has been. As soon as the systems designed to remove decay heat failed (and for a spectacularly stupid reason), this disaster began. Because of a lack of cooling capacity. There is no misunderstanding on my part.

            Fuel rods melt, become critical-
            I keep seeing you state this. This is not the concern nor the driver of this event. The only time criticality is a risk in the current scenario is when the boric acid solution in the pools becomes too weak AND the fuel geometry is outside of design specifications yet allowing for enough moderator between the fuel to allow the neutrons to be thermalized. Again, only an issue in the pools. Why? No halfnium.

            Another important thing to note/learn… the level of enrichment of commercial plant fuel will not allow a melted mass to become critical. It cannot happen. Fast neutrons do not interact sufficiently to come even close to criticality.

            Getting me up to speed on BWR-
            Really? Admittedly, you had no idea what kind of background I might have had… but it seems to me that such lack of knowledge would prompt one to research the validity of my claims. Had you done this, you would see that I was correct.

            Then you go on to tell me that all I know about temperature coefficient of reactivity and void coefficient of reactivity is wrong. And that somehow your insistence and some garbage link will make it so.

            Sorry to disappoint, but I am 100% correct, as are the others that have apparently told you this same correct thing in the past.

            I don’t think I need to restate it at this point. You simply need to do some real research and understand what I’m saying, then promptly stop spreading misinformation around the internet.

            Thorium fuel cycle-
            Again, I thought that I made it pretty clear that Th fuel cycles are just as dirty as U/Pu. It’s a fact. It’s also a fact that you can use (and people have used) Th fuel cycle reactors to create Pu.

            There’s still loads of neutrons to capture, so nothing is stopping anyone from making Pu-239. What you probably read somewhere and misinterpreted is the fact that Pu-239 produced in the FUEL of Th cycle reactors is unsuitable for weapon usage. This is correct. A large amount of Pu-240 is produced, meaning you would have to do loads of processing and isotopic seperation to make it useful. This is cost prohibitive and will not be done. Whether or not this is the reason almost everyone uses U/Pu cycles (and it probably is), the Th fuel cycle is NO MORE SAFE or clean.

            Your pro-nukeness-
            That may very well be. And that may very well make the main difference between us, on this subject, solely level of understanding. I recommend fixing that, as a friend with far less understanding than they think they have can be worse than an enemy.

            Apologies for any typos, I don’t have time to proofread.

          • Tom Burnett

            I am not going to be drawn in to an argument over your erroneous data. Then the dialog is reduced to argumentum ad absurdum. I shall continue with facts if you don’t mind. Because you don’t like them does not diminish them.


            Thorium: This is from a friend and colleague of mine. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-takahashi/there-is-something-about_b_410825.html

          • Tom Burnett

            So the federal government says that you can maintain nuclear reactors. That’s encouraging. I am sure all of the operators at Fukushia were trained as well as you and it didn’t help.

            You rant about the Thorium fuel cycle, but you have no experience with Thorium reactors. Thorium reactors have never been involved in a nuclear accident but that’s not the point of anything either. The point is that every reactor in the world is built to withstand a MAG6.9EQ. Anything over that may well damage it. and a MAG 9.x CERTAINLY will. My discussion concerns what happens after the damage occurs. I do not discuss fuel cycles or actinides because people don’t know what those words mean. I speak in plain English and I provide facts, with links, so people who want to delve deeper can.

            I mentioned that we use Uranium reactors instead of Thorium because the military wanted Plutonium. You called that a ‘conspiracy theory’. So I proved it. You are arguing just to argue. You have a pretty strong opinion – in fact, you haven’t posted anything BUT your pretty strong opinion and anyone who doesn’t agree with it or proves you wrong is ‘non-educated’. That is twice you have flubbed simple English. Referring to renowned scientists like Pat Takahashi as non-educated is not correcting errors. It is merely an attempt to derail the discussion. Come back with facts or don’t come back.

          • Ben

            Well, speaking of one’s boastful ability to grasp things, I must say don’t become inspired to a lot of confidence in the reality grasp of someone who names himself “Stop Climate Change,” as if he believes we can *stop* the fluctuations of phenomena that occur for a multitude of different reasons and the interaction between those reasons, interactions which we can barely begin to guess and describe, much less understand with any degree of useful precision at all, while possibly many others that we don’t even know exist remain laughing at us in the Rumsfeldian basements of the “unknown unknowns.” Stop what??? Talk about hubris.

          • Tom Burnett

            He has spammed the board five times so far with the same wandering lunacy. I suppose he will continue to do it. You can’t cure crazy.

      • So without a moderator, in this case water, there will simply be some decay heat but no further fission will occur? That must be why they are pouring water on the reactor cores and fissile material holding pools as fast as they can. To keep the reaction going….eh, Karl?

        In fact, they have no idea WHAT they are doing. The idea seems to be to keep the problem from getting worse – but what they are actually doing is holding it in the worst situation possible – right between a full meltdown and a temporarily stopped meltdown. They will have to pour fresh, deionized water into all of those containments, essentially forever, just to hold what they have now – and that radioactive water has to go someplace. Trust me, they cannot convert destroyed reactors from light to heavy water reactors. After all the ships have been irradiated by hauling it into the middle of the Pacific and dumping it, there won’t be any more ships – and there won’t be any more fish. But the reactor will still be there dumping radiation into the water.

        Since it is remotely possible to go around collecting fuel rods that haven’t melted together yet, they will probably try to do that robotically at some point. They might get a hundred or so, but most of them are melted together, at least partially, because their pools of cooling water evaporated.

        But the reactor cores are not going anywhere. They have melted down, also at least partially, and they are sitting in huge, cracked, concrete containment bunkers which didn’t contain them.

        You can’t even blow the containments up with standard explosives to GET to the cores.

        Popping a big nuke under the whole mess and letting it fall in the hole is all that’s left. But that’s politically impossible – so they will simply stop talking about it and hope there isn’t another 9.0 EQ at the SECOND plant- Fukushima Dai-Ni. Which is right down the coast.

        Do you know that Japan has more of those reactors than any other country except France and the US? But instead of building safe reactors, we are spending trillions of dollars in Afghanistan, and peeping into peoples’ bedrooms to see if they are gay or have an ounce of marijuana.

        And people call ME insane.

  • Frank Snapp

    Dear Dr. Burnett:

    I appreciate your torque and integrity in your analysis of the Fukushima situation. Largely, I agree with you. However, I do think there are solutions, though the margins of error are almost infinitesimal. For example, as to MOX fuel going critical and also Pu containing “spent” fuel going critical, some geologic species of Magnesium sand and then, or mixed w/concrete will stop the criticality or would buy some time. I’m not sure if glassification is even possible in this circumstance, which is another procedure by which control over Pu oxides or Pu oxide contaminated nuclear fuel can be made more inert, or inert. I am, however, in complete agreement that all five known sources of nuclear fuel that could go critical are extremely substantial and far more dangerous, as the Greenpeace press release of 03/26? says, than Chernobyl, already 3x worse, which I think is perhaps the French playing along with the U.S. military/CIA minimization in the world media of the crisis. Keep on publishing. You rock for having critical thinking skills. Thank you very much as seeing anything published written by a thinker and not a propagandist for the government/industry, gives one some energy to keep looking for a solution on this one. Thanks again.

    • Matt J.

      What ‘integrity’? He has no grounds for the claim that all three reactors are already in meltdown, nor for his talk bout 5000 degrees. We have plenty of evidence that the temperatures never got THAT high.

      The Fukushima incident is already bad enough, we really don’t need the exaggerated accounts that make it sound even worse than it is.

      • Aloha Matt.

        You seem to know more about this than anyone else. Do you know that the Fukushima incident is rated as an excursion level 5?

        Do you grasp that an excursion level 5 is classified as a full meltdown?

        Let me help you a bit more. This is about Three Mile Island, but it explains temperatures and meltdown parameters.


      • Here ya go, Matt. YOU decide how bad it might be. I am simply presenting worst-case scenarios, all of which become more likely by the hour.


      • Dear Matt J.

        The reason I am a retired nuclear physicist and forensic scientist is because I have the clue you do not.

        This was your comment:
        “What “Ëœintegrity’? He has no grounds for the claim that all three reactors are already in meltdown, nor for his talk bout 5000 degrees. We have plenty of evidence that the temperatures never got THAT high.

        The Fukushima incident is already bad enough, we really don’t need the exaggerated accounts that make it sound even worse than it is.”

        And this is my reply: Simply because I am a week or two ahead of the curve does not speak to my integrity. I happened to have been right, for the reasons I mentioned, and now my diagnosis is universally accepted in the scientific community.

        Read this. I will accept your apology online.


  • Dr. Tom Burnett’s epic “Wow!!” article above far surpasses all other published literature to date. I thank Tom born 1948 for these heartstopper revelations. I thank magnanimous publisher and Social Gospel apostle Mike Aiello born 1959 for publishing Tom’s article here. I thank indomitable Socrate-an gadfly Jim Albertini born 1946 for crystalizing the point of Fukushima’s nuclear apocalypse. And I thank government operations/public relations expert Keoki Kai born 1965 for schooling me on the ABCs of government/corporate transparency. Locally, remember Wailuku Drive doll PR pro Elisa Yadao’s jettisoning employer Bishop Estate when Dickie Wong et al bullsh*tted the public on Wong et al’s pillaging/grand theft of Hawaiian assets. Stateside, remember just weeks ago when Charlie Sheen’s trustworthy PR dumped Sheen for self-destructing. Japan eggheads tell me that we Americans find racist reasons to degrade Japan, & that the Fukushima apocalypse is the most recent racist attack vs. Japan. Local settler & Nippon academician Mack Honda born 1958 queries if the U.S. titillates over Japan as the whipping post via Fukushima’s apocalypse — of course, Honda sadly is self-delusioned/Mikado-xenophobic — laughable, though there’s nothing laughable about a nuclear apocalypse which shall reduce Japan as a global/world power/titan to a mid-major power [Keoki Kai’s sports indulgence re: NCAA conference calibre] a la neighbor Australia. Of course, knowing Honda, he’s blaming the U.S. for leading Japan to nuclear disaster via neo-imperialism/economic megapoly. And that we Americans would love to do nothing more than reduce Japan to a token map-spot like a New Zealand. Dr. Tom Burnett is my prophet for all time. The supreme irony is that of the Triad of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disasters, Fukushima’s record-shattering apocalypse 1) epiphanizes in the nation which most revulses at “Nukes,” namely Japan; 2) manmade hubris/conceit far surpass Mother Nature’s crucibles of earthquakes & tsunamis. Counter-intuitive, really, that Japan self-curses its way into diminishment. BTW, Stalin did not know that we Americans had only 2 successful Nukes in August 1945, which we dropped on Hiroshima/Nagasaki, wholly unnecessary in that Japan was beaten to oblivion by then. We Nippon descendants in Hawai’i do not have nuked ancestral kazoku/family members from Hiroshima/Nagasaki simply because our original settlers in Hawai’i emigrated from the distant countryside of Hiroshima/Nagasaki as simple farmers, not city folks like those nuked in 1945.

    • Fairuse

      Convoluted though it is, I think the point you are trying to make is that we in America have deep seated cultural racism directed towards Japan(Nippon).
      And this racism drives our animated concern over a potentially breached nuclear reactor core. Aside from those points the rest of your wall of text is baffling.
      Thanks for the brain stretch.

      • Good to get your input, Fairuse. Thanks for your different viewpoint. Much aloha.

        • Chotto matte kudasai [hold on a second]. 😉 America is racist toward Japan??? Thanks for your reaction, Fairuse. I appreciate your thought. Aloha, –Curt

      • Dr. Tom

        As an aside, no commercial nuclear facility on earth could have weathered a MAG9.0EQ unless it was on a ship or a submarine. Coincidentally, Russia has a purpose-built nuclear power ship which would have not have been damaged if it had simply slipped it’s mooring and motored out to sea in the hour between the earthquake and the arrival of the tsunami.

        In fact, the giant leap between the GE design and the ‘new’ GEN III+ design is a gravity tank of cooling water ON TOP of the containment which allows for gravity flow of water during a power outage, but would have ruptured at Fukushima and accomplished nothing. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/03/110323-fukushima-japan-new-nuclear-plant-design/

        Even ‘advanced’ GEN IV reactor configurations http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_IV_reactor

        are designed for effeciency, which equates to profitability – they are not built with safety as the primary consideration. Nothing is. EVERYTHING YOU USE, and every component in that aircraft you are flying in and the car you drive and the house you live in was supplied by the lowest bidder.

        Military equipment procured by a no-bid contract is supplied because someone paid someone – not because it’s the best product available.

        Maybe it makes sense to convert a couple of trillion dollar aircraft carriers into floating generation IV nuclear plants and simply plug them into a shore facility where they could serve a peaceful purpose.

        Let’s face it – there is a practical limit to capitalism. Hyper-wealthy people cannot GIVE their money away as fast as they get it – so at some point one has to ask ‘How much is too much’?
        And that leads to “If you made your billions in America, why are you giving them to Africa while ONE American is hungry? Or ‘Why is the government trying (unsuccessfully) to buy friends in Afghanistan while ONE American loses his home?

        Geeez, I am going on a rant – and I can’t stop myself. We had the most beautiful land in the world. We had all of the mineral resources, including oil, anyone could ever use. And we used it up. The US owns ZERO steel plants. In fact, the US owns nothing anymore. Except debt.

        This is what it looks like. http://www.usdebtclock.org/

        It ain’t pretty. And it won’t go away because we have nothing left to export, except war. And that is why we are at war and always will be.


  • Dr. Tom
  • Dr. Tom

    Maybe some pictures. Pictures always seem to help. This chart (scroll down) is current as of four hours ago.


    I know it says March 18 – it’s a typo.

  • Interesting read.

    What is making this issue worse is the fact that the Japan and U.S. government/nuclear authorities and Fukushima Public Affairs staff is not open, transparent and candid with the press.

    Especially the Fukushima Public Affairs staff, who are violating the rules of crisis management communication by first denying that the nuclear disaster is as bad as it is and than continuing to stonewall the public especially the media.

    This is not only violating their own, and other companies policies concerning communicating to the public concerning a nuclear crisis but is also infuriating the world press which is summarizing that a “cover-up” is taking place.

    The plant’s failure to address the crisis with competent staff (who are experienced in engineering, nuclear, and environmental issues) who are open and honest with the public is of a dire necessity but instead we have plant officials denials and stonewalling which is causing distrust by the press and rumor mongering by the public.

    This is another example of poor disaster management of a public relations crisis following in the footsteps of Exxon in the Alaskan Prince William Sound, NASA’s handling of the Challenger space shuttle crisis in 1986 (which is caused the deaths of 7 astronauts including our own local boy Ellison Onizuka), and the recent debacle in the Gulf of Mexico caused by British Petroleum.

    The NASA officials were caught by surprise so badly that even when a world wide audience witnessed the Challenger space shuttle explode and burn and we as an audience saw our own U.S. heroes die, it took NASA five hours to confirm to the public what we had seen for ourselves.

    The Fukushima plant officials were also clearly caught off-guard and have been and are very lackadaisical in their abilities to craft their message in keeping the public informed.

    Hopefully it’s not to late to save the environment from this stone-walling natural but man-made disaster but there also needs to be a better contingency plan to communicate with the public which officials have miserably failed at.

  • GG

    Ok let me rephrase that. I don’t know what the number of years for the life span in the water or air. But water is far more serious than the air. And since everyone tends to believe that the ocean is huge and will filter it out, what happens when it is seen that it spreads because of currents and hurricanes and what not.

  • GG

    Wrong calif_215. When the dangerous chemicals hit the water, the effect intensifies and makes matters worse. It has a half life span for in the water. The air can dissipate the chemicals;However, water is certainly a different story.

  • Dr. Tom

    Let me address my colleague from California: Friend, statistically, most of the population of California lives on or adjacent to the San Andreas fault. While you may not personally, you do statistically – because you are a statistic. And most people in California don’t realoze that earthquake, forest fire or flooding isn’t covered by their homeowners insurance, but that’s a different story.

    To the best of my knowledge, every nuclear power plant in the world is built to maintain containment during a MAG 6.9 EQ – except Chernobyl which had no containment at all.

    Nuclear reactors are much simpler than bombs. You simply place fissile material in conjunction, but not touching, and it gets very hot – so you pump water through it in pipes, which turns to steam and runs turbines. But you also have to pump water directly over the fissile material itself to keep it from getting TOO hot or it will melt together and cause problems. So light-water reactors have three methods of not destroying themselves – which is what they want to do naturally. First, you make the rods small – about 40 pounds each – and you place them in two grids. One on top and one on the bottom. And as you push the grids together, the material interacts and gets hotter than it already was – BUT IT WAS ALREADY HOT! And after you use up all the free energy, about 3% of the total in the fuel, you have to replace the rods and keep the spent rods in cooling pools or containments – essentially forever.

    At Fukushima, the recently spent rods were stored in pools ABOVE the reactor piles.

    She second way is by pushing water over the pile at an increased volume to carry off excess heat – and the third way is by shoving neutron-absorbent material – Graphite or Boron over the rods to absorv the energy.

    All that is swell. Until you can’t pump cooling water over the piles anymore. Even if the reactors are SCRAMMED, the fuel has to be cooled by water – a LOT of water. If it isn’t, it will get hot and separate the oxygen from the Hydrogen in the remaining water and the Hydrogen will explode (Hindenburg). It will then set the graphite control rods on fire. That is the gray smoke you see coming out of reactors 2 and 3. THEN it will get hot enough to start melting the fuel piles together – and a few hundred tons of expended fuel rods which have now fallen through their pools and onto the floor around the reactor containment.

    When that gets to about 5,000 degrees Centigrade, nothing will stop it. I see fire trucks pumping huge amounts of water on burning houses and can’t put them out. But this is a self-sustaining reaction of a fused mass of the heaviest metal in the world.

    Pouring concrete on it would be like pouring concrete down an active volcano. On my island, the most active volcano passes THROUGH the water table – there is always steam coming from vents. But the entire Pacific Ocean can’t extinguish our volcano.

    Now let’s discuss the interaction of water with a self-sustaining heat source at about 5,000 degrees C. It isn’t like a fire where we can remove one of the elements of combustion. What will happen is that a plasma layer will form in which steam is converted to Hydrogen and oxygen – but the water itself will never touch the fuel. There will be a plasma layer around it.

    You can see this effect in a small way in your kitchen. Put a frying pan on the stove on high heat. In a minute, drop a few drops of water into it. the water evaporates into steam. Wait a few more minutes and drop some water into the pan. The pan is too hot to turn the water to steam – so the water droplets sit on the hot pan. They don’t evaporate and they don’t cool the pan. Capice?

  • EcoLibertarian

    This article contains much unsubstantiated hyperbole. It is clear that Fukushima 2 or 3 has either a containment crack (from the hydrogen explosion) or a primary coolant circuit crack. Although the cores of these reactor did get too hot, and that is definitely unsafe, there is no evidence that the status of any of the cores continue to worsen. Even if in jest, the suggestion to use weapons as a solution discredits the rest of the diatribe.

    • Don WV

      Did you fail science 101? ANY meltdown partial or full is a uncontrolled nuclear reaction. Even if the containment vessels of the reactors is intact, and a partial or full meltdown is in progress, how long do you think these vessels will hold? The only thing the Japanese are accomplishing right now is prolonging the inevitable. The only thing they can do right now is try to keep the reactors cooled with water and pray! BTW, Dr Tom is correct with his theory on nuking the reactors! In theory this IS the only think even theorized that will stop a uncontrolled nuclear reaction.

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  • Well, I can see some people need to watch the documentaries available on Chernobyl. If the “lava” pours into the water table…the disaster will be beyond cataclysmic. The explosion will be absolutely incredible and will spew plutonium into the upper atmosphere and pollute the entire northern hemisphere in short order. Much of northern Japan will be annihilated for hundreds of years. Also, anyone getting water linked to that water table will be in big, big trouble. Diseases will be rampant for decades to come and cancer rates will explode. Do some minimal research on Chernobyl to find out how bad this is since it appears to be about 10 times worse despite the mainstream media lies.

    • Don WV

      You are right!
      Extensive work was done from 1970 to 1990 on the possibility of a steam explosion or FCI when molten ‘corium’ contacted water. Many experiments suggested quite low conversion of thermal to mechanical energy, whereas the theoretical models available appeared to suggest that much higher efficiencies were possible. A NEA/OECD report was written on the subject in 2000 which states that a steam explosion caused by contact of corium with water has four stages.[29]
      As the jet of corium enters the water, it breaks up into droplets. During this stage the thermal contact between the corium and the water is not good because a vapor film surrounds the droplets of corium and this insulates the two from each other. It is possible for this meta-stable state to quench without an explosion or it can trigger in the next step
      A externally or internally generated trigger (such as a pressure wave) causes a collapse of the vapor film between the corium and the water.
      The local increase in pressure due to the increased heating of the water can generate enhanced heat transfer (usually due to rapid fragmentation of the hot fluid within the colder more volatile one) and a greater pressure wave, this process can be self-sustained. (The mechanics of this stage would then be similar to those in a classical ZND detonation wave).
      The ZND detonation model is a one-dimensional model for the process of detonation of an explosive. It was proposed during World War II independently by Y. B. Zel’dovich,[1] John von Neumann,[2] and Werner Döring,[3] hence the name.

  • Gozilla

    Nuke the nukes!

  • Dougie McEwan

    A little over egged but one things fir sure we are all going to get some of the egg on our face.

  • Calif_215

    Your suggestion about blowing it up is stupid, and would
    make things worse.

    When the “lava” hits water it will dissipate in the
    steam explosion. Bad news but the criticality goes

    • Dr. Tom

      Umm…I didn’t make the ‘suggestion’ to nuke it. I said that unless it hit a water table or entombed itself – or exploded, that was the only way to stop the reaction.

      when the ‘lava’ hits water, and depending on the precise circumstances, which include the mass of the nuclear pile, the amount of water available, and the flow, there will certainly be hydrogen gas explosions – but why would a supercritical nuclear pile disintegrate?

      There is a reason that fuel rods are RODS and not BLOBS and are separate – and can typically be mitigated by neutron absorbents between them – like graphite. But once those control rods burn away and the rods fuse into a mass, dunking the mass in water won’t stop the reaction. It will only flash the water into steam and separate the O2 from the H. And the H will explode. But the fuel will still keep on keepin’ on.

      • Dr. Tom, you’re wrong on this. The moderator is necessary for criticality with low-enriched fuel as is used in BWRs.

        • Ed T

          Karl D,
          The concentration is low, but there are many tons of fuel in those rods. When the fuel melts, it stratifies and the heavier elements tend accumulate at the bottom. I doubt anyone, even one of the national labs with their supercomputers, can adequately simulate what happens in the molten mass. Let’s just hope that we don’t learn the hard way about the practicality of explosions initiated by molten critical masses.

  • Mahalo Tom

    for the frank assessment. What has not been mentioned in all the news and analysis on the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe of 2011+, is that this same area was quaked and tsunamied JUST a 114 years earlier. In 1896, The Great Meiji-Sanriko Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the same area with an even larger wave yet smaller earthquate just at 7.3. Both quakes – 1896 and March 15, 2011 originated in the same area off the northeast coast of Honshu. The 1896 disaster took 22,000 lives and an old photo is in Wikipedia which looks similar to what happened a few weeks ago.

    With this geological history, the building of the Fukushima reactors was BAKATARE!

    If the reactors are not brought under control, will History refer to this meltdown in Asia as an ‘American Syndrome’ instead?

    • dippity

      sure, six reactors designed by G(eneral)E(lectric) and three of them supplied by GE, with licenses given out for japan to build the other three…
      GE, who, by the way, paid no taxes last year on billions of profits…
      go figure.