williambanzai7's picture


Earlier in the week, I was looking for materials written by Hirose Takashi, a well known Japanese anti-nuclear activist. A found portions of a recent interview on Japanese television that had been translated by C. Douglas Lummis.

Takashi has been warning from the beginning that the Fukushima site would have to be entombed and that there was folly in delaying the inevitable decision. As we now see, Takashi was right, four of the six Fukushima Daichi reactors are unrepairable and a decision has been made to scrap the all six reactors at the Fukushima plant. In the interim we have witnessed an incredible spectacle revealing just how unprepared TEPCO was not only for the tsunami, but the epic follow on damage control struggle. 

Doug Lummis is a political scientist who lives on the Island of Okinawa. He has recently published a book on democracy titled "Radical Democracy" which I must confess I have not yet read, but has been critically well received. I noticed that he had been in recent communication with Takashi and thought it would be interesting to solicit his thoughts on what is happening. I received the following last night, just as I was reading of the decision to scrap the reactors.

For ZH readers, I am also posting the Hirose Takashi interview which was originally posted on the counterpunch website.

Power Corrupts; Nuclear Power Corrupts Absolutely

C. Douglas Lummis

In the early 1970s I helped organize a tour of students from Japan to the Hanford Nuclear Facility in central Washington State. We timed it so that our guided tour of the site would be on the anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. This knocked the official guide a bit off balance; when we came to the big photograph of the Hanford workers cheering when they learned that it was the plutonium they had made that went into the Nagasaki bomb, his words got a little mumbly and hard to hear.

But he was very energetic when it came to explaining how safe the Hanford Facility was. Waste plutonium, he said, was buried in pits dug deep into the ground, and then carefully monitored to make sure there was no leakage. I asked him, “But didn’t you tell us just now that plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years? Who is going to monitor it for that long?” “The US Government, of course.” “In all of human history, has there ever been a government that lasted for 24,000 years?” He did not answer, but only looked at me with contempt. Evidently he thought I was lacking in patriotism.

This was the moment I realized that a very intelligent, highly trained nuclear engineer can be a fool.

My field, political science, has produced probably only one scientific law: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But few political scientists have noticed that the closest thing we have to absolute power is nuclear power. Nuclear power corrupts the thinking of its believers in a peculiar way. It seems to tempt them to imagine that they have been raised to a higher level, where common sense judgments don’t apply. Common sense judgments like, it’s very dumb to produce a substance that will continue to radiate death, and will therefore require “monitoring”, for tens of thousands of years.

And then there’s the problem of accidents. As my common-sense grandmother used to say, “Accidents do happen”. An “accident” means something unexpected, something you hadn’t planned for. In the case of some dangerous activities, we seem to be willing to take the risk. We (we who are not the direct victims, that is) are satisfied if the probability of auto accidents or airplane crashes is kept fairly low. But in the case of nuclear reactors, a low accident rate is not enough. The consequences of a full-scale meltdown are so horrifying that, to justify building a nuclear reactor, the promoters must guarantee that there will be no accidents at all. The problem with this is not just that it is impossible, but that it carries the nuclear engineers and nuke-promoting politicians away from the real world and off into a fantasy world that exists only in their heads, and on charts and graphs. A world where the trite, common-sense saying, ” Accidents do happen” doesn’t apply.

The trouble is, they happen. The engineers in charge of the Fukushima Power Plants said that for a tsunami to climb all the way up from the sea and engulf their reactors was “beyond their imagination.” Yes, that is what is meant by an “accident”. It was probably beyond their imagination that no one would remember to put gasoline in the emergency pump, which apparently was one of the big factors in the meltdown. It was probably beyond their imagination that someone would “accidentally” cut the telephone wire between the plant and company headquarters. When they started squirting seawater over their delicate machinery – a measure which it seems they thought of on the spot – it apparently didn’t occur to them what effect the salt would have on all those gauges and valves and pumps and switches. And it seems that it’s only in the last few days that they are beginning to notice that the sea water that they pump in comes flowing back out again, carrying radiation with it.

This is not to blame the workers. They are only human, and there is no such thing as a human being who makes no mistakes – especially when frantic. And there is no such thing as a machine that never breaks. And there is no such thing as a world without accidents. Common sense people have been saying these things for decades, until everyone got bored hearing it. But boring or not, it was true.

I used to have a kind of black humor joke that I thought was pretty clever. People would say to me, The anti-nuclear movement seems to be dwindling. Do you think it can last? I would say, Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. A big accident is sure to happen some day, and the movement will rise again.

It isn’t funny after all.




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FranSix's picture

One thing about Chernobyl that interceded to prevent a major catastrophe(not that Chernobyl wasn't a major catastrophe directly responsible causing hundreds of thousands of deaths) was that all of the sand in the walls of the reactor fell to the bottom of the building ahead of the molten fuel.  It fused with the fuel slowing the down the progress.  It was a total accident.

Here, we're told over and over that the control rods were inserted immediately and that it was the heat that was the problem.  One of the mistakes at Chernobyl was that the control rods were not fully inserted which caused a spike in the energy given off, leading to the meltdown.

Now if we are to believe that the rods fully inserted and that its just a matter of heat needing to be carried off to slow the progress of the meltdown, then there isn't a single nuclear reactor out there that's in the least bit safe because there's no way to stop the reaction at any given time.

However, if you assume that almost every official in the industry has been blatantly lying about the insertion of the control rods and the press parroting the same, it suddenly makes a lot more sense. 

Another detail that might be ignored is that the materials used in the control rods were thoroughly  second rate in order to save money and would have never stopped any reaction at any rate.

So which is it?  Control rods totally ineffective thus making every last nuclear reactor on earth a major risk or that the inept TEPCO did not manage to insert as they've sworn up and down they did?



Jim in MN's picture

Control rods are effective in stopping the primary critical reaction.  However the decay heat from fission products will still produce several MW of heat for years.  Decay heat is a different process than criticality and there is no known way to stop it.

Thus a reactor in 'cold shutdown' will simply heat up and melt in a few hours if there is a loss of cooling.

I leave it to you to draw your own safety conclusions from this information.

umop episdn's picture

Where does the plutonium come from that is used to build atomic bombs? How can the military/financial/industrial complex turn the rather useless U-238 into a metal much more useful for bomb-making?

A nuclear reactor is where it's at. For max power and max corruption, you need reactors, and lots of them. The big boom war toys require it. Therefore, the people must be trained to accept nuke power....and the glow-in-the-dark black swans *will* fly in for a multi-eon long visit.

casey13's picture
Storing nuclear fuel for thousands of years is stupid but it can be reproccesed.


williambanzai7's picture

I have no doubt that there a safer methodologies for dealing with these problems. I am also not an anti nuclear activist in the sense that this issue fell off my radar screen fir a long time.

Here is what I have a problem with. The obvious hubris and denial of common sense that Doug alludes to. The framing of the political process that we have no alternative but to pursue this. If I am ever going to be amenable to that kind of argument, you better convince me first that we have exhausted other safer alternatives such as....energy conservation and sustainable living. In the latter case, our leaders have lead us straight down the path of waste and delusory abundance.

With this kind of wasteful mentality, why should we accept that these risks have to be taken and if so at a level supporting such a wasteful status quo?

Jim in MN's picture

WB7, Suggest you investigate combined cycle power production (gas turbine followed by heat recovery boiler), which is twice as efficient as 'teakettles' that simply boil water and throw two thirds of the heat away at the outset.

Thermal power plants--whether coal, nuclear, fuel oil or simple wood combustion--are not elegant machines.  They are a sloppy application of brute force.  The fuel cycles only add heavy externality costs to this basic lack of efficiency.

Natural gas combined cycle plants today are far more efficient, routinely clocking 65%+ use of heat.  (If linked to a heat load like a factory or urban central heating system 90% efficiency is achievable in a 'tri-generation' mode.  But heat loads are not sizable or convenient in comparison to our electriticy needs.)

A major reason that combined cycle generation is so efficient is that the front end gas turbine is basically a jet engine strapped to the ground.  This allows direct use of military and aerospace R&D into jet engines.  Just imagine the scale of R&D being leveraged there.

Getting renewable fuel into combined cycle plants should be the first order of business along with energy efficiency and other renewable supplies, including pumped hydro storage.

Biomass IGCC


Synthetic gas: Sabatier reactors


And pipeline quality biogas from farms etc.

Anyone who won't admit the potential of biomass IGCC is not a serious energy policy analyst.  Check the UN World Energy Outlook, IEA, etc. 

The R&D is expensive.  'People' would rather spend it on coal and nuclear, and enviros want to push solar into the #2 renewable spot after wind. 

Hot gas cleanup for biomass IGCC, and commercial scaleup, is the single biggest gap in global energy strategies, and it is an alarming one because it forces a coal and nuclear future.  You can have all the wind, solar and efficiency you want and you're still ceding 50% of the playing field.

williambanzai7's picture

I am proud to report that I actually drafted a Power Purchase Agreemet in the financing of one of these. I know what you are talking about.

falak pema's picture

Combined cycle increase the energy cycle from 18-20% for nuclear to around 45_50% in terms of primary energy recovery. Due to both heat recovery and lower transportation losses in grid. They can be retro fitted for existing urban or located for new units close to urban centers, unlike nuclear large scale units. Japan is an exception as land is sparse.

falak pema's picture

Sorry, still a Pandora's box to me.

blindman's picture

thanks for this excellent post / link.


falak pema's picture

Imagine Federer saying : "I never make a mistake". And Nadal adding, "I can repair any mistake I made in the last point". And Jukovic concluding, "Those two guys are in a class of their own. Nobody can stand the fall-out they generate in a five set match".

That's human drama for you...

What this article tells us is that we should stay at that level...So it's about time those Italians started their Kitegen project. And we had oil from algae in quantities we never dreamt of! And that the Sahara was covered with PV panels instead of having Q-daffy camels shit all over the place.

Dream on ...Don Quixote.

tamboo's picture

Special Note: Just about everyone who is writing about protocols for radiation toxicity is forgetting about the importance of magnesium salts. Magnesium is a crucial factor in the natural self-cleansing and detoxification responses of the body. It stimulates the sodium potassium pump on the cell wall and this initiates the cleansing process in part because the sodium-potassium-ATPase pump regulates intracellular and extracellular potassium levels. Cell membranes contain a sodium/potassium ATPase, a protein that uses the energy of ATP to pump sodium ions out of the cell, and potassium ions into the cell. The pump works all of the time, like a bilge pump in a leaky boat, pumping K+ and Na+ in and out, respectively. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg and I will write a full explanation and instructions for use in the next few days. Meanwhile load up on magnesium oil, magnesium bath flakes, Dead Sea salt and Epson Salts.


Paul Krugman's picture

I think you are confused. First off, humans don't have cell walls. Second, sodium potassium pump has nothing to do with cell walls or cleansing anything. It is the way cells communicate with the brain, seeing as how we don't have copper wires to transmit electrical impulses. It is also a way to regulate the volume of cells. Not sure how medical student doesn't know this. It is taught in elementary biochemistry. 

tamboo's picture

if you look into it this guy's no crackpot.
that being said a shitload of concrete will be needed.

For the real news on the Japan reactor, Tokyo’s water and radioactivity see http://www.naturalnews.com/031836_radioactive_fallout_Fukushima.html

Dr. Emoto, the Crystal Water Man
Dr. Emoto sent a message to the world concerning the waters in the Japan reactors. He calls for prayers. Here is his message:


To All People Around the World

Dr Emoto's prayerPlease send your prayers of love and gratitude to water at the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan!

By the massive earthquakes of Magnitude 9 and surreal massive tsunamis, more than 10,000 people are still missing…even now… It has been 16 days already since the disaster happened. What makes it worse is that water at the reactors of Fukushima Nuclear Plants started to leak, and it’s contaminating the ocean, air and water molecule of surrounding areas.

Human wisdom has not been able to do much to solve the problem, but we are only trying to cool down the anger of radioactive materials in the reactors by discharging water to them.

Is there really nothing else to do?

I think there is. During over twenty year research of hado* measuring and water crystal photographic technology, I have been witnessing that water can turn positive when it receives pure vibration of human prayer no matter how far away it is.

* “Hado is the intrinsic vibrational pattern at the atomic level in all matter, the smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness.” (Emoto)

Energy formula of Albert Einstein, E=MC2 really means that Energy = number of people and the square of people’s consciousness.

Now is the time to understand the true meaning. Let us all join the prayer ceremony as fellow citizens of the planet earth. I would like to ask all people, not just in Japan, but all around the world to please help us to find a way out the crisis of this planet!! The prayer procedure is as follows.

Name of ceremony:
“Sending our thoughts of love and gratitude to all water in the nuclear plants in Fukushima, Japan”

Day and Time:
March 31st, 2011 (Thursday)
12:00 noon in each time zone
And at noon each day thereafter.

Please say the following phrase:
“The water of Fukushima Nuclear Plant, we are sorry for your suffering. Please forgive us. We thank you. We love you.”

Please say the prayer aloud or in your mind.
Repeat three times with hands in a prayer position.
Please offer your sincere prayer.

Thank you very much from my heart (to your heart).
With love and gratitude,
Masaru Emoto
Messenger of Water

Ben Fleeced's picture

Near term - Essroc/Ital Cemente

falak pema's picture

dharma? Polymorphic space...I'm sure our friend ORI at ZH would have interesting thoughts on this!

williambanzai7's picture

Well, he has one thing right. Anger is not the kind of energy needed at this moment. Once it becomes clear what the true effect of this event is and what has to be done, the character of the Japanese will clearly manifest itself.

breezer1's picture

thanks for digging at the truth bill.

the whole policy of governments around the world seems to be to say anything that will prevent the truth getting out as it will cause panic and that will cause heads to roll, literally. 

williambanzai7's picture

There are a handful of people who were really treated like lunatics.

Now, when it turns out their warnings should have been heeded do they prance around saying I told you so. No, the facts speak for themselves. Their modesty is a sign of their character and honest intentions.

slewie the pi-rat's picture

about 30 years ago, two of the GE design engineers resigned due to their perception of the design flaws, especially with the spent fuel, in case of a coolant failure. 

you write above:  "...four of the six Fukushima Daichi reactors are unrepairable and a decision has been made to scrap the all six reactors at the Fukushima plant."

i may have missed this decision.  i am not aware that the japanese PTB had made public any decisions.   can you provide a link, or  some more info, please?

tyler put this up yest:

Japan Prepares To "Bury The Problem" Following News Of Uncontrolled Reactor 1 Chain Reactions updated

yet, when i checked the bloomie link, i could find no reference to and japanese decision, but only the now-usual song&dance such as this:

“The reactors are stopped, so it’s hard to imagine re- criticality,” occurring, Tsuyoshi Makigami, a spokesman for the utility, told a news conference today.

& this:   Dismantling the plant and decontaminating the site may take 30 years and cost Tokyo Electric more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. The government hasn’t ruled out pouring concrete over the whole facility as one way to shut it down, Edano said. Tokyo is 135 miles (220 kilometers) south of the Dai-Ichi power plant.END PASTE.

there are almost 350 new comments to this piece since i left ZH yest, so, i'll go slogging, now and see if there is anything more than rumors, there, again.

i'm a poli sci major, also, altho my 2 graduate degrees are in academically unrelated fields and not "related" to each other, either.  this generalist (as opposed to specialist) has tons of "unrelated knowledge" yet whatever understanding i have gleaned is most certainly related to at least myself.

zeroHedge seems to bring out the gonzo in both of us, according to our different talents and styles, and i find yer stuff to be great, mr.7, so t.y.v.m. for who you be and whatchu do, here. 


williambanzai7's picture

It is very easy to make mental jumps as a result of the press coverage. The press is saying that the decision to scrap is tantamount to a decision to bury it in concrete. I'm not an engineer, but everything I have been reading seems to indicate that once you admit that these things are no longer salvageable, given their current state the only way to proceed is cool them down and at some point bury the whole thing in concrete so nothing leeches out. They seem clearly to have decided that all six need to be scrapped.

Without any technical knowledge I was at least smart enough to suspect that TEPCOs decision tree was tainted with the hope of partially salvaging the situation. That is why I found the interview interesting.

Generally speaking, I have never been impressed with the veracity of the nuclear power industry. I am not a tree hugged. But given the stakes I dint see any way to move forward without transparent discussions taking place.

I am looking at all the propaganda flying around and I am reminded of why I was initially uneasy.

What I have learned from all of this is the time frame has to be well beyond decades and in certain respects centuries.

Drag Racer's picture

WB, I had to junk you for using the word 'dint'.


I don't care who ya are, that shit's funny right there...

slewie the pi-rat's picture

thank you. the propaganda is freaking off the charts!

you say: "They seem clearly to have decided that all six need to be scrapped."

and, i'm not trying to get the fight club thing goin or even get an answer this time, but is this about the same as saying the site must be abandoned because human beings can no longer function there, safely; 4 of the reactors are toast and the other two almost certainly damaged due to lack of coolant in the spent pools, one due to lack of same even while "shut down" at the time of tsunami? 

but, instead of the "They seem clearly to have decided..." part of this (you wascawy wabbit, you),  i am most impressed by the way you chose you words when going from: "...once you admit that these things are no longer salvageable,..." to your next sentence:  "They seem clearly to have decided that all six need to be scrapped."  lol.

anyhow, i hope i understand you.  i think i do.  and what i think i understand is v. v. understandable stuff, and much of it nicely personal, too. 



BigJim's picture

Paging Trav, paging Trav...

slewie the pi-rat's picture


since it's just past  3PM eastern, housekeeping 101 requires me to post my answer to:

fukushima = 5X chernobyl by this date:  over or under?   UNDER.

since no one took the over, congrats to everyone who played and thanks for playing and for your ongoing consideration of the basic question(s) involved here.

slewie (i'll never try this again) the pi-rat...

johnQpublic's picture

40-100 piccuries/liter in pennsylvania rainwater


serious question....how much of that before my swimming pool is polluted?

80 days for I-131 to full decompose

how many months,years,decades before i can use my swimming pool safely again?

if you swim in it, you will get it in your mouth....double whammy

williambanzai7's picture

I am totally ignorant of the technical truth about this. But I am very capable of detecting crisis mismanagement, management buffoonery, CYA and self serving industry propaganda.

If they just don't know the answer, they should say so.

I am also not impressed with assurances that there could never be a similar tsunami in California.

PY-129-20's picture

A tsunami is a sea wave generated by an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, or even by a large meteor hitting the ocean.  (The Japanese word tsu means harbor; nami means wave.)  The following link illustrates how an earthquake along an ocean-floor subduction zone can create a tsunami: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/savageearth/animations/tsunami/index.html .  Basically, an event like an earthquake creates a large displacement of water resulting in a rise or mounding at the ocean surface that moves away from this center as a sea wave.  These sea waves can move more than 800-kilometers (500-miles) per hour.  As they approach land and as the ocean shallows, these waves slow down, making them grow in height (amplitude).

What are the sources for and examples of tsunamis that might affect California?

Though damaging tsunamis have occurred infrequently in California, they are a possibility that must be considered in coastal, and even deep-lake shoreline, communities.  There are two sources for California tsunamis, based on distance and warning time:

Local sources - Relatively local earthquakes and landslides off the California, Oregon, and Washington coast pose the greatest threat of tsunamis that can reach California’s coastline in less than an hour.  An earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone, off the coast of northern California, could trigger a tsunami that could reach land within minutes.  Earthquakes off the rest of the California coast (south of Cape Mendocino) take place mainly on strike-slip faults, and because the movement they generate is mostly lateral, tsunamis from local sources are less likely to occur because the ocean floor and overlying water is not typically thrust upward.  For more information regarding tsunamis from the Cascadia subduction zone, go to http://sorrel.humboldt.edu/~geodept/earthquakes/shaky2_tsunami.html.

The more likely source of a landslide-induced tsunami is a large submarine landslide triggered by ground shaking from even a moderate earthquake in the coastal California region.  There would be little time for warning about such an event so close to shore.  An extreme example of a landslide causing a large tsunami is the rockfall at Lituya Bay, Alaska, in 1958.  The water splashed 520 meters (1,700 feet) up the other side of the inlet, and a wave about 30 meters (100 feet) high was created.  In California, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake in 1930 off of Redondo Beach is thought to have caused a landslide that generated a six-meter (about 20 ft.) wave.  For more information about tsunamis from landslides and rock falls, go to http://www.prh.noaa.gov/itic/library/about_tsu/faqs.html#4 .

Distant sources - A tsunami caused by a very large earthquake elsewhere on the Pacific Rim could reach the California coast many hours after the earthquake.  For example, the tsunami caused by the recent magnitude 9.0 earthquake near Sumatra caused a sea level fluctuation in San Diego of about 22 centimeters (8.6 inches) a day later in San Diego. (See the latest West Coast & Alaska Tsunami Warning Center bulletins at http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov ) The magnitude 9.5 earthquake in Chile in 1960, the largest earthquake ever recorded, resulted in a 1.6-meter (5.2-foot) wave that reached Santa Monica about 14 hours after the earthquake (http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/web_tsus/19600522/runups.htm).

The most devastating tsunami to affect California in recent history was from the magnitude 9.2 Alaskan earthquake of 1964.  Areas of northern California experienced a six-meter (20-foot) tsunami wave that flooded low-lying communities, such as Crescent City, and river valleys, killing 11 people.  (The following link shows the travel time of the tsunami wave from the 1964 Alaskan Earthquake: http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/web_tsus/19640328/traveltime.gif).

For more information regarding tsunamis that have affected northern California, see the chart at the following link: http://www.humboldt.edu/~geodept/earthquakes/tsunami!/n_coast_tsunamis.html.

The table appended to the bottom of this page contains information on some additional tsunamis in California from 1812 to 2000, compiled from the following website: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/nndc/servlet/ShowDatasets.


And landslides, even far away, can produce huge and devastating Tsunamis. It has happened also in areas that are considered safe like the West Coast or even in the Mediterranean Sea. Is it likely? No, very, very unlikely. Could it happen? Sure, it will happen. When? Who knows? Maybe in three weeks, maybe in 120.000 years.

williambanzai7's picture

Don't forget impact with space objects.

We can't predict any of these things. What this event demonstrates is how our judgement of the potential peril is warped by a misplaced faith in science.

They know that these plants spin out of control in worst case scenarios. The question is is it an acceptable risk in a compact densely populated country like Japan. Is it worth the risk in the State of California?

These kinds of questions have to be addressed in an open forum. Not a forum where the engineering clique says we know what's good for everyone.

Zero Govt's picture

the fundamental issue for nuclear is the economic case and the expense of the electricity which is up to 400% more expensive than hydrocarbons (coal or gas fired stations). 

ONLY politicians would ever sign-off on nuclear generation because they are so fuking dumb/corrupt. That simple. The private sector would be banging out low cost, low danger coal and gas fired power stations, they wouldn't touch high cost dangerous nuclear with a barge pole!

Only politicians subsidise buses and can't stop playing with their train sets, both inefficient and expensive means of transport 100 years past their sell-by dates.

It's the same dumb political decision-making process in every area of society they intervene in with the same stupid results and expensive mistakes everytime. Govt is the systemic social and economic error. Govt is the moronic retard of society. You can only trust the free market and the competition mechanism to sort the wheat from the chaff (shit)

Japan like the West is rammed with systemic (political) errors ...as we shall see in the years ahead

A Texan's picture

Why don't you get your facts straight?  Nuclear accidents are very rare, and have produced far fewer injuries and deaths since WW2 than coal alone.  But, like airplane crashes (vs. cars, which kill far more people, just not as spectacularly), nuke plants garner headlines.  Oh, and those ridiculous movies from the 1950s - all they've done is poison the minds of 2 generations as to rational thought about any aspect of the nuclear issue.  Coal is not low risk - not when you look at its entire lifecycle.  First, you have to mine the stuff.  Dozens to hundreds die each year in accidents, and many hundreds each year due to the cancers caused by inhaling coal dust in a confined space.  Then you have to transport it to the plants - and surely a few dozen people a year die from accidents.  Finally, you have to burn it - and while a fire at a coal plant is certainly easier to extinguish than a reactor that is out of control, coal plants put prodigious amounts of mercury and thorium into the atmosphere, and also cause acid rain.  What are the effects of that?  I don't know of any definitive studies, but literally thousands per year must die of cancers caused by exposure to these substances. 


I won't bother to include the release of carbon, because I think that global warming is an utter hoax and scam...but if you are a believer, then this has to be taken into account.


So, how many have died from nuke accidents?  I know that the answer from Three Mile Island is ... wait for it ... wait ... its coming ... ZERO!  Chernobyl likely will result in thousands of cancers - a tragedy, to be sure, but it was a design that nobody builds any more because we know it to be unsafe, and it also had no containment dome (all Western reactors do, and all new plants anywhere do).  Fukushima's effect is ongoing, and hence unknowable right now, but I don't think that there have been any deaths yet (not from radiation, anyway; maybe from an accident in the plants?).  Surely there will be some cancers.  Note that this is also an old reactor (the design is about 40 years old) and that there was considerable human error that training and newer, more reliable equipment can significantly ameliorate at other existing plants in the future.  Newer plants can be designed with more redundancy from Day 1, and with at least one system that isn't dependent upon power (like, for instance, gravity - not even an asteroid strike will interrupt that source).  FYI, the Fukushima plant withstood the 9.0 quake, despite being designed for "only" a 7.5 - the problem came from underestimating the tsunami - a mistake that likely won't be made again.


Note that lots of the ultra-poisonous nuclear waste could be burned up in the reactors if we only reprocessed the used fuel, as the French do.  But Jimmy Carter forbade breeder reactors, so we can't do that (and Fauxbama won't change the rules - though I wonder why others didn't since then). 


Bottom line:  there is no such thing as no-risk production of energy.  You want to close all of the nukes, or not build any more?  OK, fine - but just be prepared to deal with the consequences.  More pollution, and many tens of thousands of deaths from accidents and cancers - that's guaranteed, even assuming a perfect safety record at the plants themselves.  Coal isn't so low risk as you'd like to believe.  Oh, and the high cost of nuke plants has far more to do with regulatory paperwork and the idiotic lawsuits that are allowed, as opposed to any technological issues.  The problem is a human one that can be fixed.


Full disclosure:  I don't work for or own stock in any company having anything to do with the nuclear industry, nor do I know anyone who works in it (though I can't speak for their stock portfolios, as I just don't ask...or care...what they own).

akak's picture

You conveniently ignore, or pointedly overlook, the fact that the coal industry does NOT produce incredibly toxic waste products which could relatively easily (and may already) contaminate significant areas of the earth for tens of thousands of years, and for which no long-term remediation has yet to be implemented, much less discovered.

Yes, the coal industry proably has killed more people overall, and on average kills more people annually, than the nuclear industry ever has ---- yet.  But you fail to address the total risks involved, which are substantially if not immeasurably greater for the nuclear fission power generation industry.

A Texan's picture

See my response above, particularly the last paragraph.


Clearly, nuclear power has risks, and with the long half-lives of some of the more deadly fission products that can be (and have been/are) scattered to the 4 winds in a meltdown, those risks can be very large.  But, as I mentioned initially, we have to consider ALL risks.  Unmentioned as a risk in my first comment was the economic and political risk of having insufficient dependable power...so let's go down a list of some of the items that need to be discussed (by society, not necessarily by us, here, on ZH):


1)  If power is too expensive, economic activity slows considerably - meaning that people lose jobs, don't get medical care that they need, don't get proper nutrition, etc.  I don't know how one would begin to measure that effect.


2)  Less economic activity means less tax revenue and less profits to be able to fund research into future alternatives to ... pretty much any technology that we use now, including nuclear power.  Delaying technological progress generally kills people but, again, it is incredibly difficult to measure this.


3)  If we don't have sufficient nuke power, then we have to rely upon fossil fuels.  Petroleum, in particular, is probably past its peak production, with a world demanding it more and more with each passing year.  Burning coal to spin turbines in power plants instead of liquifying it for use in vehicles and aircraft  doesn't help to relieve the pressure.  In case you hadn't noticed, people fight wars over petroleum...one could argue that WW2, which gave us nuclear energy, was largely the consequence of nations jockeying for the control of oil.  Half of our military (at considerable expense) exists and is overseas for one mission or another because of oil. 


4)  Our entire food system - production, transportation, processing and storage - is dependent upon petroleum (mainly) or other fossil fuels.  Make them more expensive, and you price people out of the market.  Not so much in the US, but in poorer countries.  While being priced out of the market for a new BMW might be disappointing, having that happen WRT food is rather more consequential.  As above, I wouldn't know how to begin to calculate the effects of malnutrion and starvation.


5)  We have worldwide shortages of potable water.  Desalinization has great promise in relieving this problem, but it is (at least in the past, now and for the foreseeable future) highly energy intensive.  Where's the energy going to come from to head off this looming disaster, if not with a boost from nuclear?


6)  Lots of people want to build electric cars - they are the Holy Grail of global warming proponents.  Well, fine, I wouldn't mind having a dependable and reasonably-priced electric car, even if I don't subscribe to GW, but the question remains:  how do we power those cars?  If we don't expand energy production significantly, then you simply can't do it.  You want to burn coal and/or natural gas to do this - OK, fine, but deal with the consequences of more pollution and an acceleration of the depletion of these 2 resources.


7)  There are safer designs than Chernobyl (and we knew this long before Chernobyl was even designed) and Fukushima - and that's for standard nuke plants.  Safer yet are pebble bed reactors and thorium-powered reactors.  Move into those, and the probability of an accident drops to near zero, with the effects of any accident dropping by orders of magnitude vs. Chernobyl.


There's nothing perfect, but we DO need power.  Otherwise there will be a massive drop in living standards, and such has ALWAYS produced war, and most certainly will this time around.  Our Department of Energy has existed for roughly 35 years, consumed literally hundreds of billions of dollars of national treasure, and has produced roughly a doubling of our dependence on foreign oil imports for the trouble.  We have to hit this problem (energy shortages) with a shotgun blast of solutions:  drill more, conserve more, develop shale oil and natural gas, build more nukes, conserve more (including putting more diesels on the road in the US), develop solar and wind to a greater extent.  Heck, if people grew more food in their gardens and put a hot water tank on their roofs, that'd save a lot of fuel, all by itself. 


I don't count out coal - but neither do I count out nuclear.  We either produce the power in this world of increasing population and increasing expectations, or the Four Horsemen will be visiting our world pretty soon.

Zero Govt's picture

A Texan

who is "conveniently ignoring" my point was not about nuclear safety (at all) but about the EXPENSE of it as an industry to produce electricity.

The fact of the matter is nuclear is 3 to 4 timers more costly than coal or gas fired power stations. It is an economic non-starter. Only politicians are dumb enough and corrupt enough to think nuclear is a 'good idea'

To the private sector nuclear is a no-brainer, they choose and invest in hydrocarbons and not surprisingly cannot be found to invest in nuclear projects without bucket loads of subsidies from Govt and rooms full of caveats about disposing of the toxic waste.

As a strict rule of thumb throughout all economic history, if Govt subsidises it, you are 100% guaranteed it is a pile of crap   ...nuclear is it

A Texan's picture

Read this article and get back to me:  http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=183373   Karl Denninger speaks elequently here (and today) about the use of thorium from coal in it (and then using the Fischer-Tropsch process to liquify the coal used for the thorium into liquid fuel for our vehicles - and, viola, no need for imports), and I think that this is the solution to our problem for the next couple hundred years - no gov't subsidies needed, and a far, far reduced risk of any nuclear safety and waste issues.  All that we, as a nation, have to do is pull our collective heads out of our ass.


Anyway, if France can get ~80% of its electricity from nuclear without accidents, why can't we?  Are they smarter than we are? (Don't answer that, sometimes they are, and this is a case in point).  Note also that the Navy has operated nuclear reactors in large numbers of ships for the last ~50 years, also with no accidents.

[Beginning of edit]. By the way, I wasn't ignoring your discussion about the cost of our present type of nuclear plants - I did mention that much of the cost is regulatory/legal, something that can be nearly eliminated with the stroke of a pen and a little planning.  Here's how:  Congress passes a law, and the President signs it, that forces the Dept. of Energy to actually do something useful for the tens of billons that we spend on it each year:  approve 3-5 standardized nuclear reactors any one of which, if chosen by a utility for a new plant, will get guaranteed approval within 6 months of submission to the DOE.  No state or local laws or regulatory schemes will be able to derail this, nor will any lawsuits be permitted EXCEPT for very narrowly-defined instances of malfeasence in construction by the utility or its contractors.  This will substantially cut the cost of nuclear.  I also mentioned thorium and pebble bed reactors before, both of which are far less risky than our present nuke plants, and don't require the same kind of expenses related to containment, pumping, etc. [End of edit].

But I'm a thorium/coal proponent - its just that we can't flick a switch and completely switch over to what Denninger proposes in the next year, or the next 10, so we have transitional issues.

A Texan's picture

I read the article, thanks for providing it.  THAT is the kind of discussion we need here.


I'm not a scientist, so I can't accept (or dismiss) the findings re: Chernobyl.  However, it is clear that said incident was a Class A disaster.  We probably won't know for decades what the full impact was and, given the propensity of TPTB to lie to the general public in all societies, I wouldn't doubt that the effects of this accident were worse than the official story.


I do take heart that Chernobyl was the kind of reactor that we haven't used since the early 1950s, and all that we use are decommissioned.  We've known for a long time that reactors of that type are potentially very unsafe, as borne out by the Chernobyl accident.  To the best of my knowledge, no plants of that type are being built, and the rest should have been decommissioned in the intervening 25 years.


We know how to build safer reactors, with multipli-redundant systems, at least some of which aren't dependent upon power to operate.  We can also build pebble bed and thorium powered reactors that simply cannot have accidents of this type.


We learn from mistakes - and the errors in the Chernobyl design and in handling the disaster have been highly instructional.  So will the Fukushima incident.  NOTHING designed by Man is perfect, or ever will be, but the very real risks of insufficient fossil fuels - principally economic but also military - can be as dangerous as badly designed nuke plants.  I don't minimize the risks of nuclear power, but we know and understand those risks - and we can, therefore, deal with them and make both the probability and the severity of any accident significantly lower than with old reactor designs like those at TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

A Texan's picture

Whomever junked my post should at least have the intellectual honesty and courage to say why they disagree with me.  Let's hear the factual reasons why I'm wrong - I'm not afraid to learn, or to change my views if I'm wrong, but simple junking doesn't affect me at all.  Maybe you'll even convince others...if you actually have facts on your side, that is.

falak pema's picture

WB7...your article on 'Neutron' man was an expression of your brilliant intuitive intelligence. M. Sarkozy represents a dangerous trend to 'instrumentalize' this Fukushima mega-catastrophy for purposes of french histrionics. Alike what he's done in Libya when he fronted the USA's imperial decision to take out Q-daffy. As the USA with two official wars on its back and the past involvement of GWB/Condoleeza to make Q-daffy part of respectable western satrapy club, absolving him in the process of Lockerbie crime, was an embarrassing situation for O'b, in which to show open US belligerence in current powder keg of ME.

Sarkozy has played his part as the Oligarchy's official stalking horse on both issues in his current position of G20 president. I don't know what he can contribute to Japan, who are now seriously considering the cement blanket solution over sizzling Fukushima. But I don't think this bodes well for France. As the nuclear lobby is so strong there. And as you so rightly point out...Absolute Nuclear power (current situation in France) corrupts absolutely. It bodes bad for France and European continent...I hope the Baden-Wurttemberg vote will have spill-over effect in France. There is an election coming up in May 2012; for President.

williambanzai7's picture

Tnx, his misdirection tactics are well known to conjurers and street magicians.

As for his visit to Japan, think about this. The Japanese are very big on ceremony and protocol. It's not like this clown can drop in and have a beer. So he is there distracting everyone from the real mission at hand.

falak pema's picture

Having said that, given the mega problems at Fukushima, the techno-structures of both US and French nuclear lobbies could contribute in several areas as I read the press:

1° The urgent problem of irradiated water evacuation. There is apparently the solution of evaporating it from a recipient vessel, empty oil tanker(?), then use molecular sieve/reverse osmosis techniques to trap all radioactive material and evaporate the cleaned water as steam.

2° The problem of accessibility to reactor functions through robotics. 

3° The cement blanketing. Subsequent dismantling.

4° Creating new control norms world-wide to learn from Fukushima.

We'll see how all this pans out in reality. I hope sincerely that the world community contributes. Here both the French and US expertise could help, but then we don't know how dire the reality is.

williambanzai7's picture

I just saw this comment by reader Jay over on the WSJ site:

The general public in Japan are not happy with how the French and German Governments were the first to run for the airports after the earthquake and they took note of how the American diplomats all stayed and even headed into the danger zone to help. Twenty thousand American soldiers are helping with the disaster relief. The Europeans have some making up to do and that is why Sarkozy is here.

Zero Govt's picture

you mean the European herd had more sense as a collective fleeing Tokyo than the dimwitted American zombies surely!

were the Europeans on the first/same flights out of Tokyo as the Japanese bwankers who left "reluctantly" (yeah right!) according to the press?

Drag Racer's picture

after that comment you have no right to ever ask anyone to watch your back or ask for any help in any circumstance ever again.

williambanzai7's picture

I agree, but the very last thing I would recommend is sending Obama over there.

A Texan's picture

Oh, come on, he's a "man of the people," send him on over to help bail out the water from the basement.  Just for a couple of hours.  Oh, and none of those unattractive hooded suits - what kind of a photo-op would that be?  Kerry made that mistake, like Dukakis with the tank helmet - can't risk a repeat.  Maybe Moochele can help out, too, and improve the health of the Japanese children.

falak pema's picture

lol, I hear they have good golf courses in Japan!