Fukushima Radiation Reaches Robot-Killing High

March 30, 2012

Invisible in the mainstream media, the Fukushima slow-motion disaster continues.

Japan Times:

Radiation inside the reactor 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has reached a lethal 73 sieverts per hour and any attempt to send robots in to accurately gauge the situation will require them to have greater resistance than currently available, experts said Wednesday.

Exposure to 73 sieverts for a minute would cause nausea and seven minutes would cause death within a month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The experts said the high radiation level is due to the shallow level of coolant water — 60 cm — in the containment vessel, which Tepco said in January was believed to be 4 meters deep. Tepco has only peeked inside the reactor 2 containment vessel. It has few clues as to the status of reactors 1 and 3, which also suffered meltdowns, because there is no access to their insides.

The utility said the radiation level in the reactor 2 containment vessel is too high for robots, endoscopes and other devices to function properly.

Spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said it will be necessary to develop devices resistant to high radiation.

High radiation can damage the circuitry of computer chips and degrade camera-captured images.

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19 Responses to “Fukushima Radiation Reaches Robot-Killing High”

  1. It’s hard to believe that some people still believe nuclear is safe, economic, and vitally important. 54 nuclear plants offline and the lights are still on in Japan. Are those extra lights worth the nuclear graveyard, miles of uninhabitable wasteland? Meanwhile solar is lowering the cost of electricity in Germany, yet here we have an abundance of wind and solar still untapped. If Fukushima is not enough disaster to convince anyone of the dangers of nuclear power, what is? How much land area has to be rendered uninhabitable for millennia before enough is enough? Notice that many smaller states like Switzerland and Ireland lost their interest in nuclear when they realized one failure could cost them the country effectively for eternity. We don’t need nuclear. It is treacherous, deadly, insidious, costly, and unnecessary. Please, no more straw man arguments that there are no alternatives, or nuclear is safer than coal. That’s absurd. Nobody likes coal or tar sands. Nuclear will never replace them or any other source. Such ideas are fantasy, not fact. It takes too long to build them, the capital cost is too great, and no private company will insure them. At present, nuclear only supplies a small fraction of electricity generated in the US. The majority of energy consumed in the US is for heating, transportation, and industry, and is derived from fossil fuels. Nuclear does little to displace them. The Fukushima disaster deserves an honest discussion about the real and tragic consequences involved. Comparing downsides seems asymmetrical with wind vs. nuclear. Wind esthetics and bird kills, vs. nuclear wastelands, cancer, and death, but it seems more realistic than comparing nuclear to coal. I say, when we have tapped all the solar and wind available, then we can talk about other non renewables. We don’t need nuclear. Shut ‘em down.

  2. Martin Lack Says:

    It sounds to me like Fukushima needs to be encased in concrete and/or buried under water but, just remind me, how many people have died as a result of this accident?

    Given that Tokyo will almost certainly be next to be hit by a Tsunami, I really do hope the Japanese will have closed-down all the nuclear power stations in the area before it happens (if that is they have the luxury of a choice).

    However, Fukushima is not sufficient grounds to argue that all Nuclear power generation should be abandoned. If you want to argue that it is technically-elitist that is understandable, but to claim that we probably don’t need it in order to solve our long-term energy needs is in severe danger of being intellectually dishonest.

    • roancarratu Says:

      It’s not ‘how many people died’, but how many will die. The problem is that most of the deaths will be from DNA damage from radiation, especially low level radiation, which causes more of such damage according to Dr. John Gofman, the discoverer of U-235 in his research about low level radiation. The NRC, in it’s own research reports, made public, show that a random number of people along the travel routes of low level radiation transports will die from cancer and other mutations because of just being exposed that briefly to what is believed to be harmless amounts of radiation. But since the connection between the radiation and the cancers cannot be proven in any way but statistically, no law can be made about the problem according to the Supreme Court.

      (My friends and I tried to bring suit about this to the Supreme Court of the US back in the late 60s and the Supreme Court refused to consider it, as it does all ground breaking discoveries that might upset a whole billion dollar industry. The profit is of more value than the lives that are destroyed.)

      Now it is possible to understand that the much higher level of exposure and the huge populations that are being exposed, will produce a level of cancer and mutation that will eventually be considered an epidemic. This is not speculation, this is a fact as admitted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as far back as 1960.

  3. Jean Mcmahon Says:

    nirsnet@nirs.org; http://www.nirs.org NIRS says there is a way to stop the Georgia plants..Call Obama…



    March 30, 2012

    Dear Friends,

    This is big. The $8.3 Billion taxpayer loan for construction of two new reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia, the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s support for the “nuclear renaissance,” may be blocked–by the Obama Administration.

    Please act now and tell President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu to stop these loans for good. And please help us spread the word–in this case, our numbers really matter.

    Here’s the background: According to an article today from the industry publication Platt’s, the nuclear industry is growing increasingly worried that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will not give final approval for the Vogtle loan. That’s because the nuclear industry wants a sweetheart deal–one where Southern Company has to put up virtually none of its own money and where all financial risk for the loan is laid squarely on the shoulder of taxpayers.

    But both OMB and DOE have come under scathing criticism, especially from Congressional Republicans, over the failure of the Solyndra solar company loan granted by the Administration. And the proposed Vogtle loan would be 15 times larger (and far riskier) than the one given to Solyndra.

  4. alexsisxela Says:

    Jeez. Look at the backdrop behind the interview. And the guy is talking about a cloud of radiation over the US and emphasising how dangerous it is, with no mention of quantity, or the fact that radiation levels over the US due to Fukushima never exceeded even a millionth of background.

    I love your Climate stuff, but you repeatedly turn to appeals to prejudice and ignorance when it comes to nuclear.

    There are some great reasons to disagree with nuclear power as a primary energy source, based on facts. Why not use those? You could liaise with someone with a reliable understanding of nuclear physics before posting.

    • roancarratu Says:

      ‘Background radiation’ is not a fixed amount, it is a variable. It can be anything, even deadly, and still be called ‘background’. It changes constantly according to what the materials in the ground is and where other radiation is blowing from. Not to mention fluctuations in solar radiation. There are places in Arizona that sets off radiation detectors constantly because of emerging Radon gas from underground trace amounts of Uranium ore.

  5. dougalthedug Says:

    I’m with Alexisxela, I couldn’t watch the RT anti-science piece. I tried but got as far as the guy saying the USGS were basically lying about the levels of radiation being detected in rainfail. Then saying “there’s no safe level of radiation” blah blah blah without actually talking about the levels being detected in hard numbers. Considering we are bathed in radiation all the time the numbers are important. If it’s background level then this is pure propaganda. I’d be wary of posting stuff like this when your blog is partly about the importance of solid scientific data.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I happen to think the most serious issues with Nuclear are economics and proliferation.
      However, since the mainstream media has completely lost interest in the story, I think a heads up that those reactors are still bubbling cauldrons is worthwhile and timely.
      Moreover, while I agree that background radiation has an effects, there seems to be in your statement no recognition of the difference between background radiation and the introduction of unique, biologically active isotopes like cesium, strontium, and iodine into the biosphere, where they can concentrate, and move through soil and food chains.
      I suspect there will be reverberations of this event showng up for decades, and in unexpected places.

      • alexsisxela Says:

        The biologically active isotope issue is a fair point, but how much do you think have they concentrated?

        K-40 is biologically active. You have several thousand K-40 nuclei decaying every second inside your body. C-14 is biologically active – there’s another several thousand per second. If you think its reasonable to have concerns about I-131, Cs-134 and Cs-137 from Fukushima in the US, surely it would be better to get the numbers and look at them in context instead of making vague alarmist statements.

        Let me know if you’d like links to data, dose rates, anything like that and I’ll do what I can to help. I’m not remotely interested in pushing the idea of nuclear or downplaying the effects of radiation – I agree with you that the economic and proliferation issues are serious – but I am concerned that someone whose reputation rests on their accuracy and care in interpreting scientific facts should let it go out of the window when it comes to nuclear. Including the content of the videos you choose to post to make your points. I don’t think that does either side of the debate any favours.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          I don’t know how much they’ve concentrated, but posting something like this might help me find out. By all means if you have credible data send along.
          Again, I think the radiation issue in terms of nuclear is often overdone – although there were some real, and horrible effects at Chernobyl.
          what we are seeing at fukushima is unique in that the Japanese government tells us this will be a several decade process to clean up. That’s the optimistic, sunny, half-full view.
          The gloomy, half-empty view is that, the accident continues to fester for decades, keeps creating and leaking novel isotopes into the surrounding ocean and atmosphere, and we, or at least those that happen to live in Japan or nearby – have to get used to the idea of a certain level of radionuclides in their food and bodies that is different, and higher, than it has been in the past.
          I think that’s at least worth discussing.

          • alexsisxela Says:

            Yes, it will take decades to clean up. It’s an awful thing to happen. And it’s absolutely worth discussing, from both its half-empty and half-full viewpoints. There’s lots of room for opinions and perceptions and a rich debate without going near sources that give false or misleading information, and without referring to arguments that are based solely on fear and ignorance to the detriment of research, reasonable care and accuracy. When people do that with regards to the climate, we expose it, ridicule it, use it to undermine people’s credibility.

            I’m not a nuclear expert, which is why I’d recommend liaising with someone who is. I work in particle physics research, so I have a very sound understanding of the quantitative analysis of radiation; I also have a masters in environmental science; and I have some grasp of the medical effects, though again, not as any kind of expert. There are plenty who are, and if you can resist the temptation to find someone who holds the views you want them to hold, but instead look for someone who is trusted widely by nuclear medicine professionals, radiation epidemiologists, etc. as being reliable and straightforward, then you’ll be doing well. It’s a tricky subject to get a firm handle on, and it’s way too easy (and too common) for people to adopt an opinion and feel convinced that they’re right.

          • alexsisxela Says:

            Re credible data, it depends what you’re trying to find, so I can only give an example. It’s not easy to get data tailored to any question you could think of. I had a brief look around for the most alarming reliable results for the US that I could find!

            Here is the US Geological Survey’s report into fallout from Fukushima in US precipitation. If you download the open file report and look in Table 2, you’ll find data in pCi/L for activity of isotopes from Fukushima in rainwater in pCi/L, and fallout deposition measured in Bq/m^2, for various stations.

            There are many stations, and most recorded very small numbers, but let’s deliberately take the highest, which is the I-131 activity at station WA98. That rainwater was found to have an activity of 1090pCi/L, which converts straightforwardly to 0.04 Bq/cm^3. Now let’s imagine you were out in this rainwater, soaked to the skin, for twelve hours, every single day for a month.

            There’s a Nuclear Information and Resource Service site that gives a dose rate for I-131 on the skin. Point number 6 tells us that every Bq/cm^2 deposited on the skin will give a dose of 1319nGy/h. If our clothes are soaked to the equivalent of 5mm thickness of water over our body, then we’d have 0.02 Bq/cm^2 of I-131 from the water in contact with our skin. That would lead to an absorbed dose rate of 26.4nGy/h to your skin.

            To convert this to a dose equivalent, we should multiply by 0.01 for skin irradiation, giving 0.264nSv/h. Multiplying by 12×31 hours of being soaked in a month, we have 98.2nSv.

            So by being soaked in this water, day in and day out for a month, we’ve been subject to an additional dose above background of 0.1µSv, which is the dose you’d receive from background radiation in about 20 minutes.

            You could argue that the radiation could enter by other more sensitive means, perhaps. You could imagine drinking ten litres of rainwater every day for a month. But look at the ridiculous lengths I’ve gone to in order to take the most extreme cases. I’m not sure how much worse you could make it – perhaps you could imagine someone who insisted on eating the thyroid glands of three cows every day for breakfast. It gets a bit silly quite quickly.

            Of course it’s easy to take that example and say “yeah, but what about the….” – there’s always something else. If someone wants to make a case for there ever having been the remotest danger from Fukushima fallout in the US, they should make that case. Instead, they just say “detectable levels of radiation have been recorded as far afield as….” and everybody thinks it’s serious. Of course it’s detectable! The technology we have for detecting stupidly tiny amounts of radiation is amazing.

            Another common one is “of course the authorities are trying to convince you that it’s safe…” – that’s a sure way of making it sound serious without having anything. If that’s not blatant water-muddying disinformation, I don’t know what is.

            I hope that’s a helpful example, at least as food for thought.


          • greenman3610 Says:

            helpful. thanks.
            As I mentioned, my primary impulse was as a reminder that there is
            still a situation out there. I’m not terribly concerned myself about
            US exposures. As I mentioned, the economics of nuclear, and the proliferation
            aspects, remain the showstoppers for that technology.

          • alexsisxela Says:

            And I agree with that impulse.

            My point was really about the importance of being able to recognise people who are making absurdly skewed arguments before posting them on your site and putting your name behind them. I’ve raised a few points regarding Arnie Gundersen here in the past too.

            We’re best served by having these people’s claims and rhetoric out in the open, scrutinised carefully and exposed for what they are, just as with everything else. It’s not easy.

            Good luck, anyway. You’re doing great stuff.

  6. Martin Lack Says:

    To answer the question I posed (or one very similar to it), more people die each year getting dressed than die from anthropogenic nuclear disruption.

    Germany’s decision to abandon all nuclear power generation as a result of Fukushima is going to prove very costly to the environment. Those countries that have a choice must stop mining fossil fuels. If nuclear is needed to meet demand so be it. We cannot afford to reject any low-carbon technology on the grounds of out-dated anti-nuclear hysteria.

    We already have a nuclear waste legacy and risks of proliferation and terrorism. That is why we should never have given up on Fast Breeder Reactor technology that would have provided a means to recycle waste/bomb material to make it much less of a problem (in terms of volume, activity-level, and half-life); and provided an alternative to the deeply destructive and dangerous practice of mining uranium (99% of which cannot be used in a conventional thermal nuclear reactor).

  7. Martin-Where to begin. If fast breeders were so great, they would already be successful. They are not. For a perspective and technical analysis see:

    Myth VIII – Yes, you’ve highlighted several problems but you see once we get these new fast reactors working all these problems will be solved – Reality: Fast-reactors are a failed series of white elephants that are unlikely to ever work

    If there’s one thing that constantly worries me (if not scares me) about the nuclear industry and its cheerleaders, its they’re undying enthusiasm for (so-called) fast “breeder” reactors (or their stable mate the fast neutron reactor). Anyone with half a brain, who knows the sordid history of these boondoggles (part III here), would have to conclude that they represent a series of failed white elephants – and would generally try to change the subject when anyone brought the matter up.

    The most recently built Monju in Japan is a classic example. It has already suffered 2 coolant leaks and fires, the last of which forced it off-line for several years. It cost a staggering $ 5.9 Billion and took 10 years to complete, despite its tiny 280 MW output (that’s about $21,000 per installed kW! 3 times the cost of PV at the time of its installation, 7 times the cost at current market prices!). It has, like most Fast Reactors, spend more of its life off than on and been subject to repeated modifications and changes, not least due to those leaks of radioactive coolant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monju_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    doug “If it’s background level then this is pure propaganda.” See comments on
    background radiation below.

    alexisxela – “the fact that radiation levels over the US due to Fukushima never exceeded even a millionth of background”. Please, state levels and your source. Background levels can be fine and you can still ingest dangerous levels. It is not a valid criteria for safety. An expert in physics is not required. What is required is an expert in BEIR. The first post Fukushima comments from experts on BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) were; don’t drink milk. If you are an expert on this, you know that exterior levels of radiation are meaningless unless you are at Fukushima. The damage due to radiation is an inverse power law of distance, so a “background” level outside the body, can still be extremely dangerous if breathed or ingested. Using geiger type background levels, or exposure due to an airplane flight as a criteria is meaningless when estimating internal levels and judging the effects. Peter is right. Bioaccumulation and biomagnification are the real hazards. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22378648
    It is the kind of radionuclide and its availability to the food chain that matters. There is background radiation in rocks, just like there is mercury in rocks. It really is not much of a hazard unless you mine it, and turn it into dust, etc. If mercury is at background levels in the ocean, its still dangerous. Its the reason there are mercury warnings on certain fish. Handling fish would not be as toxic as eating them, of course. Confusing external radiation doses with the internal ingestion of radionuclides like Strontium-90 and the radionuclides of Cesium is not helpful or scientific. The government sets allowable (legal) levels of radiation, just like mercury. Just like mercury, there are no “safe” levels. So we have a situation where monitoring is inadequate, and it is difficult to estimate the effects because of the complex interaction of environment. The fact that exposure to BEIR is one of the weakest arguments against nuclear has everything to do with the difficulty of doing the epidemiology, that work in it is underfunded, and that adequate monitoring is unavailable, and nothing to do with the actual dangers. Like smoking and global warming, only way more difficult. Still, the governments of several EU countries:
    “Twenty five years after the catastrophe, restriction orders remain in place in the production, transportation and consumption of food contaminated by Chernobyl fallout. In the UK, they remain in place on 369 farms covering 750 km² and 200,000 sheep. In parts of Sweden and Finland, restrictions are in place on stock animals, including reindeer, in natural and near-natural environments. “In certain regions of Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland, wild game (including boar and deer), wild mushrooms, berries and carnivorous fish from lakes reach levels of several thousand Bq per kg of caesium-137″, while “in Germany, caesium-137 levels in wild boar muscle reached 40,000 Bq/kg. The average level is 6,800 Bq/kg, more than ten times the EU limit of 600 Bq/kg”.
    Those don’t sound like acceptable consequences in exchange for lighting that somehow is no longer needed in Japan. They sound like vast areas of contaminated land and unacceptable hazards to human beings in exchange for unnecessary lights.

  8. [...] Fukushima Radiation Reaches Robot-Killing High (climatecrocks.com) [...]

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