Ritchie takes me to the woodshed

Worth repeating this in full:

The Guardian has reported:

Japan has raised the severity level of its nuclear crisis to the maximum seven, putting the emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant on a par with Chernobyl.

Officials from the nuclear and industrial safety agency (Nisa) confirmed that the crisis level had been raised from five to seven on the international nuclear and radiological event scale.

At the same time there are reports of serious shortages affecting economic production, 200,000 people without homes or having restricted access to them, there will be serious health issues for many, the sea has been contaminated affecting the food chain, maybe for some time to come, and the plant still has no cooling system meaning the crisis is far from over yet.

I think in retrospect that justifies my comment on March 11 that:

Don’t think nuclear melt down in Japan is some minor issue.

It’s massive. For the world.

I am very, very worried.

This issue still has the capacity to have such an impact – and may well do so, given that the awareness of the severity of the issue is growing, not declining.

I’d compare that with Tim  Worstall on his blog, who said:

Absolutely the worst that could happen, absolutely the worst possible outcome, is that the reactors end up as a puddle of cold metal at the bottom of their containment vessels.

That’s it. The chain reaction is already shut down. All that is left is the residual heat which the water is cooling. If the water doesn’t cool it then yes, the rods and fuel might melt. At which point they might stay liquid until they hit that 2-3 metres of reinforced concrete underneath them where they will solidify.

So the worst possible outcome is a 40 year old reactor which cannot be used again.

If evidence were needed that, as ever, the man has not a clue what he’s talking about, this is it.

As ever, the judgement of the right wing is proven to be utterly unsound.

And let me give you the rest of what I said at the time:

There cannot be a nuclear explosion, there is no possibility of a fire as at Chernobyl (because there is no graphite to catch fire). We can have, as we have had, a hydrogen explosion, but that’s outside the reactor and outside the containment vessel. No radioactivity released as a result.

Just to give you an idea of the “raised levels of radioactivity” that have been reported. Between 500 and 1,000 microsieverts per hour. The top end of that range is about half what you would get if you had a CT scan.

Or, if we use the Banana Equivalent Dose (you do indeed absorb radiation from eating a banana, a pile of bananas will indeed set off a radiation detector) the mid range there is like eating 20 bananas a day for a year. One banana a day for a year is around 35 microsieverts.

So, we’ve just had the fifth worst earthquake in the past century, the 7 th worst we have on record, a 30 foot wall of water sweeping in at 500 miles an hour and the worst part of the nuclear power system is that if you were standing right there, right at the plant, you might get the same radiation dose as a fruitarian?

And you want to use this to tell us that nuclear power is dangerous?

I’ve got bells on the other one which will jingle if you pull it.

So, what has actually happened? The reactor cores have indeed melted (a bit at least). Have they melted through the containment? Not as far as we know. They certainly haven\’t melted through the concrete underneath them. And let us look at what Ritchie said:

A nuclear power plant in Japan is failing – part has already exploded. The melt down of the core is being discussed.

It’s been my nightmare since realising the folly of Sizewell and nuclear power as a teenager living in Suffolk.

If that melt down happens – and I sincerely hope it does not – ¬†then we’re not just heading for one of the biggest ecological disasters in human history. We’re also heading for a massive humanitarian disaster. And if Tokyo is as disrupted as I fear – it being only 200 miles or so a way, we face potential global financial melt down.

If there is no one to deal wih the counter party to debts in a global financial system it stops. Banks can’t work through that.

Don’t think nuclear melt down in Japan is some minor issue.

It’s massive. For the world.

I am very, very worried.

So, who do you think called this right then?

Yes, we\’ve got several nuclear power plants entirely screwed. Yup, we\’ve got radiation leaks.

Is this a massive ecological disaster? A massive humanitarian one? Is Tokyo disrupted? No one dead as yet (thank goodness of course) and no one as yet exposed to a level of radiation that might cause their death.

As The Guardian points out (and of course I\’ve no idea whether these figures are true or whether they\’ve got garbled as some have done earlier):

Japan\’s nuclear safety commission estimated that the Fukushima plant\’s reactors had released up to 10,000 terabecquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per hour into the air for several hours after they were damaged in the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

The emission of radioactive substances from Fukushima Daiichi was about 10% of that detected at Chernobyl, Nishiyama said.

The nuclear safety commission said emissions have since dropped to below one terabecquerel per hour, adding that it was examining the total amount of radioactive materials released.

10% of Chernobyl? Which at top will cause 4,000 deaths over 50 years? So we\’re talking about 400 over 50 years are we? And that\’s without considering the half live of iodine 131 (8 days) as opposed to the caesium which Chernobyl sprayed over the countryside (30 years).

That is, fewer deaths than we would expect from a coal fired plant of the same size operating normally over the same period?

Hey, make up your own minds on this judgement thing.

19 thoughts on “Ritchie takes me to the woodshed”

  1. I heard on BBC radio that the electricty shut down amounts to 20 gigawatts . They said 10 of this was nuclear and 10 conventional power, which would mean another Fukushima sized site is off line (though I would not be surprised, knowing the BBC, if it is actually 15 gw conventional power). Either way the power shortage is not largely because of a nuclear failure but because conventional generators don’t work well after being hit by a tidal wave. This, of course, isn’t worth reporting.

    When I first commented here I said that I hought it unlikely that this would kill as many people as a car crash but that it was likely it would get somewhat more coverage than the then estimated 10,000 non-nuclear deaths. Assuming hormesis is true, there will be no future radiation deaths. In which case I greatly overestimated the number of nuclear deaths, underestimated the 25,000 conventional deaths and underestimatedthe way in which reporting would callously ignore the real tragedy in favour of anti-nuclear hysteria.

  2. Oh this is a good development. Ritchie making direct attacks on Timmy with neener neener neener articles. Long may this continue. Entertainment level heading for 7.

  3. I note that it is not the IAEA who have changed the classification but Japan’s own national body – NISA – and wonder why.

  4. Agree with Marksany.With any luck Harry Hill will end up introducing them with the pre-break cry of “FIGHT!!” and the two of them will wrestle each other in comedy costumes. Or Murphy could be armed with the BIG BOOK OF ACCOUNTANCY versus Worstall with the BIG BOOK OF ECONOMICS and they could whack each other to establish which is the Boss discipline.This is the British way.

  5. The differences with Chernobyl (and the results but let’s leave that for now) are so great that anybody directly comparing is for me difficult to take seriously.

    My lollipop supply bet is still on.

    When we manage the perspective of time, (hopefully less than 20 years) I am still sure that we will see that the disaster was the Tsunami and that the nuclear installations held up well (under the circumstances) and the real measured damage by radiation will be comparatively negligible.

    I will however keep an open mind and follow this carefully. What I am not going to do is ask for a radical energy policy change on the basis of unclear Tsunami damage.

  6. Nuclear power remains the safest form of energy so far devised and no amount of bullshit from murphy can alter that fact.

  7. Balancing quantifiable risk versus public fears has long been an issue in the nuclear world. Should you order an evacuation if you are fairly confident injuries can result (car wrecks), but you are preventing citizens from increasing their cancer risk over 20 years by 1%? In a way, the Japanese event is that example, taken to an extreme. And a big mess by anyone’s standards.

    FYI: I’ve worked in the US nuclear industry over twenty years. One perspective that’s absent in the media is an insider’s take on how a nuclear power plant really operates day to day. It’s a far different world, both good and bad, from what people normally perceive. It is not The Simpsons and not Star Trek. Current media conversations sometimes remind me of casual drivers discussing with great confidence what it’s like to compete in the Daytona 500.

    My book “Rad Decision: A Novel of Nuclear Power” provides a needed portrait of the industrial nuclear power world. It also happens to culminate in an accident very similar to the Japanese tragedy. (Same reactor type, same initial problem – a station blackout with scram.) Rad Decision is currently available free online at http://RadDecision.blogspot.com . (No adverts, nobody makes money off this site.) Reader reviews are in the homepage comments – there are plenty of them. There is also a paperback version available and a PDF download. The book also looks closely at Chernobyl.

    Rad Decision shouldn’t convince any reader that nuclear is perfectly safe or horribly unsafe. Instead it provides the reader with some background and perspective so they can make more informed judgements. Unfortunately, my media presence consists of this little-known book and website, so I’m not an acknowledged “expert”. Sorry about that. I just happen to do the nuclear stuff for a living.

  8. I note Ritchie has not mentioned the 52 dead in the Pakistani coal mine, the 2,631 dead in china from coal mine deaths in 2009 or the 3,210 the year before that? I would encourage him to dismount his high-horse and embrace nuclear power the the clean, safe and ruthlessly efficient energy source that it is.

  9. Dick Murphy in idiot shocker.

    I spent 15 years 60 kilometres away from a nuclear power station, and you know what? I’d do another 15 years. Rather that than live 60 kilometres away from Dick Murphy.

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    The BBC was interviewing a very reassuring, even matronly, expert this morning – Professor Gerry Thomas I think – from the Chernobyl Tissue Centre. She totally surprised the BBC interviewer by estimating that the number of deaths from this reactor incident will turn out to be zero.

    Not zero now, zero in fifty years.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    Johnson – “I spent 15 years 60 kilometres away from a nuclear power station, and you know what? I’d do another 15 years. Rather that than live 60 kilometres away from Dick Murphy.”

    Alas while the internet cannot spread radiation, it does spread idiocy. So 600 kilometres is not far enough.

    Most British people, I would guess, live within 60 kilometres of a nuclear reactor of some sort. London must have half a dozen research reactors of one sort or another. I doubt anyone cares much.

  12. I like that Tepco is now an authority because it has raised the ‘severity level’ although it was not so long ago we simply couldn’t trust Tepco because it hadn’t raised the ‘severity level’ high enough…

    SMFS,

    Most British people, I would guess, live within 60 kilometres of a nuclear reactor of some sort. London must have half a dozen research reactors of one sort or another

    I hadn’t thought of this until your comment, so I rushed to look – because I hoped for a mass exodus from London and thereby get a nice pad on the river. Unfortunately London has but one civil research reactor left.

  13. One perspective that’s absent in the media is an insider’s take on how a nuclear power plant really operates day to day.

    That was the case with Macondo. I did fairly well (in terms of visitor numbers) telling people how it all works.

  14. So Much For Subtlety

    ukliberty – “I hadn’t thought of this until your comment, so I rushed to look – because I hoped for a mass exodus from London and thereby get a nice pad on the river. Unfortunately London has but one civil research reactor left.”

    Damn. I guess I am living in the past. They have even dismantled Jason – the only PWR I know of that was within a major city (at the Royal Navy place at Greenwich). Philistines.

    So perhaps I should have said up to 1990 or so a large percentage of the British population were living within 60 kilometres of a nuclear reactor. This is a list of the research reactors we used to have:

    Research reactors

    * Aldermaston – VIPER – Atomic Weapons Establishment
    * Ascot – CONSORT reactor, Imperial College London, Silwood Park campus
    * Billingham – TRIGA Mark I reactor, ICI refinery (installed 1971, shut down 1988)
    * Culham – JET fusion reactor
    * Derby – Neptune – Rolls-Royce Marine Power Operations Ltd, Raynesway
    * Dounreay
    o The Shore Test Facility (STF) at VULCAN (Rolls-Royce Naval Marine)
    o DSMP1 at VULCAN (Rolls-Royce Naval Marine)(shut down 1984)
    o DMTR
    o Dounreay Fast Reactor – Fast breeder reactor (shut down 1994)
    o Prototype fast reactor
    * East Kilbride – Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre (deactivated 1995, fully dismantled 2003)
    * Harwell AERE
    o GLEEP (shut down 1990)
    o BEPO (shut down 1968)
    o LIDO (shut down 1974)
    o DIDO (shut down 1990)
    o PLUTO (shut down 1990)
    * London
    o Greenwich – JASON PWR reactor (dismantled 1999)
    o Stratford Marsh – Queen Mary, University of London (commissioned 1966, deactivated 1982, (fully dismantled))
    * Risley – Universities Research Reactor (shut down 1991 decommissioned-land released 1996)
    * Sellafield (named Windscale until 1971)
    o PILE 1 (shut down 1957 after Windscale fire)
    o PILE 2 (shut down 1957)
    o WAGR (shut down 1982)
    * Winfrith – Dorchester, Dorset, 9 reactors, shut down 1990
    o Dragon reactor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *