Now Ritchie doesn’t know anything about nuclear

I remain as worried. And, I think, rightly so. Tokyo remains at risk from this plant, as does a large tract of Japan. If this plant can’t be made safe – and so far there’s been an absurd and wholly inappropriate belief that the market can solve this which is now looking decidedly misplaced – then the impact on the world’s financial systems will be colossal.


Readings carried out by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority at steel tanks used to store thousands of tons of radioactive water showed readings have soared 20 per cent to a new high of 2,200 millisieverts per hour.

The new high was at the same “hot spot” identified by the agency on Saturday, when the level stood at 1,800 millisieverts. Experts say exposure to that level of radiation for more than a couple of hours could prove fatal to a human.

“The radiation concentration was found in the H3 area of storage tanks, which are the same type of tanks that have leaked in the past,” a spokesperson for Tokyo Electric Power Co. told The Daily Telegraph.

“The reading of 2,200 millisieverts was found around 5 cm from the tank, but it had fallen to 40 millisieverts per hour 50 cm from the tank,” the spokesman said.

They’ve found a patch 2 foot across which is emitting beta radiation (ie, stopped by a stout pair of gumboots) well above the level you want anyone to be exposed to. This does not a disaster make.

Tokyo is not in danger. Imagine all those water tanks flooded into the bay: I wouldn’t be all that keen on eating shellfish from the bay for a few years but other than that the total effect on the planet would be around and about zero.

Yes, they need to get the fuel rods out, yes, there’s the cores still to deal with. But they’re not going to go bang, they’re not about to go critical or anything. We’ve a very expensive problem of some very poisonous metal lying around. But no more problem than that.

26 thoughts on “Now Ritchie doesn’t know anything about nuclear”

  1. Tim

    Do you remember (no reason why you should), I bet a year’s supply of lollipops (on this very same page) that no deaths from radioactivity in the first year was going to be the result. (I’m not responsible if somebody runs somebody else over with a mobile crane)

    The hysteria and ignorance is amazing.

    Do you think Mr. Murphy owes me some lollipops?

  2. Yes, I was amused at the ‘market’ comment; it seems to be used in the same way that everything was the fault of ‘witchcraft’ according to peasants in the dark ages.
    Maybe Ritchie hasn’t heard of the state-run Chernobyl plant, which was unencumbered by the ‘market’. I believe that plant had a less-than perfect safety record.

  3. I look forward to the general reaction to this from the Graun:

    “This week, leading economist Lord Stern said that claims made by David Cameron last month that exploiting shale gas in the UK would bring down energy prices were “baseless.”

    “I do think it’s a bit odd to say you know that it will bring the price of gas down. That doesn’t look like sound economics to me. It’s baseless economics,” he told the Independent.”

    Baseless economics to say that increasing supply doesn’t reduce prices…? WHAT?

  4. Well, at least he’s not claiming to be Britain’s leading nuclear safety expert. Even though he’s only very slightly less qualified in that role than he is in his usual one.

  5. Of course Ritchie hates Jewclear, sorry, nuclear power. It’s all a big conspiracy to kill non-Jewish babies and drink their blood…

  6. What these locally very high readings tell us is that the tanks are leaking. The danger is not that someone will wallow naked in the hot spots, but that by some route the beta emitters will be ingested by people.

  7. Tim, until I found another way in today, I thought you had been taken down.

    I am presently on your September Archive, using Firefox. even from here, if I click on your masthead, I get the Site Unavailable announcement, and the message “error id: “bad_httpd_conf”

    DK called this something like a DNS propagation issue the other day, which seems to persist.

  8. I’m slightly confused by Ritchie being just as worried now, where there is water leaking from storage tanks, as he was when there was an unknown situation and media reports of “core meltdown”.

    The fact that “nothing much has happened” over an extended period, surely means that we’re going to have to wait for the next accident before Godzilla stomps Tokyo back in to the Bay?

    Of course, this isn’t to belittle the doses involved – but a background of 40mSv would still give you 6 hours (IEAE guidelines) or so if you were involved in life-saving work. Or 2.5 hours before you have any clear indications of increased risk of cancer. And that’s at a not entirely massive 50cm from the tank (I would assume they mean a particular area of the tank rather than 360 degrees).

    It does rather call in to question his ability to differentiate between degrees of “nasty”. Which does rather make his preferred soapbox a not-entirely-sensible place for him to be.

  9. The trouble with socialists is that they have a grossly inflated sense of self, stemming from the belief that They Know Best.

    Do I give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about what a retired accountant thinks is wrong with a nuclear reactor?

  10. PaulB is right.
    Even though the risk is currently lower than for 19th century tin miners in Cornwall, it makes sense for Jepco and/or the Japanese government to build a retaining wall since the cost will be less than the savings on lawyer’s fees (some ambulance-chasing US-educated lawyer would otherwise get every single one of the tens of thousands in the prefecture who develop cancer for other reasons to sue Jepco and/or the government).

  11. He remains worried, and, he thinks, rightly so.

    That’s not news.

    ‘I remain worried, and, I think, wrongly so.’

    That’s news.

  12. It would certainly be a good idea to build a containment wall in case of catastrophic failure of the tanks, but as with everything to do with Fukushima Daiichi, this is hugely overblown. High radioactivity implies short half-life, so this is a mixed blessing. There’s a rather odd gap in the half-lives of fission products. There’s sub-100 year ones and very long-lived one (200,000 years plus) but none in between. The real nasties are strontium 90 and caesium 137 (30 year half-lives, and gamma activity from Cs137,) with krypton 85 being a minor additional hazard. If there’s actual actinide residue from the fuel itself in there, then that’s even less of a problem, since that’s mostly alpha active. The short lived fission products are mostly gone already – even ruthenium 106, with its 1 year half-life, has 80% gone.

    Hardly surprising that Murphy is wading into it, of course. I’ve said before that one of the more striking things about him is that he is not only ignorant of most things, but of everything. The rest of us have areas where we’re competent, a penumbra of areas in which we’re less so, and wide areas where we wot not. Murphy is thick as pigshit in every single particular, yet does not see this as any hindrance to his witless pontificating. Quite remarkable.

  13. Regarding radiation, it’s the gamma dose that matters & since that’s about 2% of the Beta dose, its not a problem.

    Alpha and beta can be more dangerous, if they are somehow ingested, because the radiation cannot escape the body. Gamma passes straight through human tissue, alpha can’t and beta struggles to IIRC. So as PaulB said, the concern is somebody somehow drinking some of this contaminated water, although how the hell that’s supposed to happen I don’t know.

  14. TimN, Depends on your definition of dangerous. Something that can be easily protected against is a lot less dangerous than something you can’t avoid. It’s very hard to avoid gamma but easy to avoid alpha/beta with simple protection.

    What is not mentioned is what the source of the radioactivity is (yes I know it’s water, but what element). If it’s cesium, then dangerous no matter what if in the environment. If iodine then it’s half-life means that it can be flushed into the sea after a short while with no problem.

  15. While it is most unusual (& gratifying) to see somebody reporting this to produce actual figures I am quite sure these are false.

    According to Wikipedia “(ICRP) recommends limiting artificial irradiation of the public to an average of 1 mSv (0.001 Sv) of effective dose per year, not including medical and occupational exposures.[1] For comparison, radiation levels inside the US capitol building are 0.85 mSv/a, close to the regulatory limit, because of the uranium content of the granite structure”

    So claiming 2,200 msv per hour seems improbable. I suspect it is 10^6 lower.

  16. The most likely source of the radiation is Strontium-90. (It can’t be Caesium, that would be mostly Caesium-137, which is (indirectly) a gamma emitter.)

    Strontium is chemically similar to Calcium, and gets incorporated into bones, where it can irradiate you from the inside for years.

    Neil Craig: the figure of 2,200 mSv per hour (that’s about 22 million bananas per hour to TJGM) comes from the plant operators. I think we can believe it. I speculate that there’s been a leak from a tank, with the radioactivity concentrated by evaporation.

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