14 iii 11, 4:12 AM GMT—I want to stress in regard to my health advice that, unless you are in Japan, you need not do much except start taking mineral supplements, which is good for you in any case, and trying to obtain potassium iodide pills in case the worst happens. For all other measures outside Japan, there is no emergency until news comes that a fallout cloud is headed in your direction, and hopefully that news will not come. If you are breastfeeding an infant or milking backyard llamas it would be a good idea to prepare alternatives. Otherwise, chill — it’s good for your health.
More information about the Fukushima situation is available and I’m proud to say that I correctly retrodicted that the main problem was in getting power to the cooling and monitoring systems. Ironic that this is usually the problem in major nuclear accidents since we are talking about power plants. The main power grid went down, of course.
I wasn’t exactly right about the roads preventing the delivery of diesel generators. What actually happened was that the diesel generator back-ups were kept outdoors in a yard near the waterfront and they were wiped out by the tsunami. (I wonder what probability was assigned to that scenario by the safety planning gurus.) Replacement generators were delivered by truck, but the plugs were incompatible with those of the power plant. Somebody left their universal conversion kit back at the Holiday Inn. (Again I’d like to see the statistical risk factor pre-assigned to that.)
This reminds me of the 1984 loss of a few hundred pounds of uranium at the Fernald Plant in Ohio, which was caused because the night crew did not have keys to the equipment closet where extension cords were kept. An extension cord was needed to power the Hoover vacuum cleaner used to clean up uranium spills. This is secret nuclear stuff difficult for the layman to grasp, I know.
It is by someone described as “a PhD scientist……whose father has extensive experience in the German nuclear industry.” Wow, what a credential! So anyway this Dr. Science guy knew on Saturday: “There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity.” What a Nostradamus! Within 24 hours, 22 local residents were being hospitalized for radiation exposure, and as of Sunday night in Japan, the reactors were still not under control and one or two full meltdowns are still possible.
In other words that “simple and accurate explanation” was actually a simply inaccurate explanation, and virtually nothing there is truthful. It does well represent the voice of the industry trying to preemptively put a happy face on a very dour situation. Eerily reminiscent of the first days of the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher and BP’s blatant lies.
So my hopes that we will see any easy capitulation by the nukomaniacal class have already been dashed. Incredibly, they are going to try to claim this as a proof that “the system worked” — a line taken in that article. If these modern PR guys had been present at the burning of the Library at Alexandria, they would have claimed the incident well demonstrated the fire-retardant properties of papyrus.
I strongly suggest watching or rewatching the China Syndrome. The movie hit theatres as the TMI accident hit the news. The scenario in the film involved a reactor meltdown set off by a California earthquake. Spooky.
Geoffrey Sea holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Science from Harvard. He did graduate work in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and in radiological health physics at San Jose State University. He is co-founder of Southern Ohio Neighbors Group, which successfully defeated plans for the centralized storage of spent nuclear fuel at Piketon, Ohio. He has published in the American Scholar, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and many newspapers. He can be contacted via email at SargentsPigeon@aol.com