From Fukushima to Monju

Suddenly the world is a awash in eminent nuclear disaster.


Either that or we’re finally just beginning to wake up to how fragile this technology really is.

I do find it difficult to believe that Japan would actually be trying to bring it’s fast breeder reactor back online after Fukushima.

Arnie Gundersen on Fukushima: Be Prepared to Leave

Yesterday Chris Martenson posted an excellent interview he conducted with Arnie Gundersen of Fairwinds Associates.

Chris Martenson Interviews Arnie Gundersen on Fukushima

In it Arnie warns:

I have said it’s worse than Chernobyl and I’ll stand by that. There was an enormous amount of radiation given out in the first two to three weeks of the event. And add the wind and blowing in-land. It could very well have brought the nation of Japan to its knees. I mean, there is so much contamination that luckily wound up in the Pacific Ocean as compared to across the nation of Japan – it could have cut Japan in half. But now the winds have turned, so they are heading to the south toward Tokyo and now my concern and my advice to friends that if there is a severe aftershock and the Unit 4 building collapses, leave.

Emphasis mine.

Half-way in to part one of the interview Arnie reminds us of the Sumatra quake:

…let’s say there is a severe aftershock, Unit 3 and Unit 4 are in real jeopardy. And if you remember the Sumatra earthquake, that was a nine plus about three or four years ago. The biggest aftershock occurred three months afterwards and that was an eight six, so aftershocks even though we are two months into this, if the Sumatra event is any indication, aftershocks are still possible.

And what a severe aftershock could mean:

Brookhaven National Labs did a study in 1997 and it said that if a fuel pool went dry and caught on fire, it could cause a hundred and eighty-seven thousand fatalities. So it’s a big concern and probably the biggest concern. I now the Chairman of the NRC said that the reason he told Americans to get out from fifty miles out was that he was afraid that Unit 4 would catch fire, that exposed fuel pool would volatilize plutonium, uranium, cesium, and strontium. And if the Brookhaven Study is to be believed could kill more than a hundred thousand people, as a result.

We are well beyond where any science has ever gone at that point and nuclear fuel lying on the ground and getting hot is not a condition that anyone has ever analyzed.

The wind is going to push it south this time and so the issue is not the total radiation you might measure with a Geiger counter in your hand, but hot particles.

In other words, if there is an aftershock big enough to wreak further havoc — and it’s only been two months since the tsunami — such that the completely uncontained Unit 4 were to catch fire or worse, with the winds now blowing south towards Tokyo there is the potential for wide-scale long-term illness at a level for which the human race has no benchmark.

If you are in Tokyo, be aware that extremely radioactive car filters are being discovered. (It turns out that car filters are an excellent tool for trapping and detecting radiation in a given area.) These filters are picking up “hot particles”; not radiation in wave form as we typically think of it. This is radioactive particulate matter released by the previous detonations at Fukushima. Fallout.

If ingested, these particles can be devastating to long-term health.

Media Blackout

Interesting aside: Anderson Cooper is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. Bayou Lee thinks that’s why he doesn’t come across as “handled” like much of the rest of the media.

Cape Wind Flies

Ira Flatow had an excellent interview this last Science Friday with Cape Wind‘s Jim Gordon and Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association. Cape Wind finally has the go-ahead to complete America’s first offshore wind farm on Nantucket sound.

Here’s the interview:

Cape Wind Project Moves Forward

Be sure to listen to the callers. Having just learned about the escalating disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I couldn’t help but come away from the interview with a feeling that the show had been professionally “hit” by the oil lobby. Or maybe it was disinformation orchestrated by the Institute for Energy Research of which Denise warns. Or perhaps those were actual angry NIMBY Cape residents pretending to have more noble concerns.

Either way, I wasn’t buying it. Jim deflected the arguments with the nonchalance of over-learned routine.

Congrats to Cape Wind.

Catalog Choice

My father is notoriously difficult to gift. I mean, really.. what do you get for a sixty-five year-old guy who’s owned everything he could possibly need — and then some — for years already? Even when I was a kid he was difficult to shop for, but lately holidays and birthday gift-giving has taken on an almost comical nature. (“Here’s that concealable beer bladder you always wanted, Dad!”) Ah yes, capitalism at it’s finest.

This year, in addition to some ridiculous gifts (the new and improved Clapper Plus came out this year, you see…) I decided to see if I could solve a house-hold problem or two.

In particular, the catalog situation was getting out of control. Some months back I questioned if there wasn’t something we could do about the giant pile of glossy pulp my father had forever mulching under the family’s kitchen counter. We rifled through the pile for ten minutes or so. There were dozens of catalogs; many had been coming for years. Our initial impression was that there was probably no way to stop the ongoing marketing deluge. We sighed and left the glossed pulp to mulch away. But not before my conscience had been sufficiently twinged.

In early December I decided to look around at stopping some of the nonsense. After all, a sixty-five year-old guy probably doesn’t need to be getting catalogs featuring knitting supplies and the world’s cutest kitchen gadgets. (Unless, you know, I’ve been completely misreading Dear-Old-Dad all these years.) If I could at least stop the completely useless catalogs, I reasoned, then maybe my conscience could ignore the larger problem for another year or so.

Trying to figure out how to stop catalogs on a publication-by-publication basis immediately proved to be a nightmare. Catalogs don’t seem to be subject to the same kind of clear “unsubscribe” legislation the way that email marketing services are.

At some point, however, I stumbled upon Catalog Choice, a free service put together in collaboration with The National Wildlife Federation and others. It’s awesome. I was able to use the Catalog Choice centralized unsubscribe service to suspend over over sixty catalogs that had been coming to the old homestead for years. While most of the catalogs warn that it can take over three months for cancellation to fully complete, my father is happy to report an already lighter daily mail load.

And this year, for the first time in quite awhile, I got a truly heartfelt Christmas “thank you”. Which didn’t cost a penny.

Now I wonder if Dad will let me borrow his Clapper.