"Understanding The Radioactivity At Fukushima" - A Physics And Engineering Perspective

Tyler Durden's picture

Recently, the world was subjected to the worst kind of manipulative propganda: that emanating from a so-called scientist who used his tenuous affiliation with MIT to lend his ideas credibility and spread outright disinformation and propagate a false sense of calm, which may have well cost people their lives as it came just days ahead of the biggest explosions seen at Fukushima last week. Today we present what an actual objective, scientific analysis of the risks and pitfalls at Fukushima should look like, courtesy of Ben Monreal of the USCB department of physics. Is this is a comprehensive overview of all that could go wrong (and right)? Of course not- after all the Japanese government still refuses to release actual actionable information (the world should be demanding thermal imagery from Fukushima, but oddly isn't). But under the existing conditions, this is probably one of the better reports we have read on the matter.

Understanding the radioactivity at Fukushima (pdf)

UCSB Libya

h/t Themos Mitsos

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TruthInSunshine's picture

MIT has literally cordoned off "Dr." Josef Oehmen, and he's unreachable, and not made available to media inquires.

Dr. Josef Oehmen works or did work for Siemens, which is heavily invested in nuclear power plant construction and maintenance, and he also apparently has a professional affiliation with the nuclear industry.

Oh Dr. Josef Oehmen...where are you...we're waiting...

MIT Damage Control and Josef Oehmen's “Why I Am Not Worried” About Fukushima


lizzy36's picture

Hard to believe that CRAMER went to the mat for this fraud on Monday. And used his thesis as a reason to BTFD. How Cramer is still on CNBC is amazing to me (or maybe not).

MsCreant's picture

Maybe not. If you had someone who had integrity, by definition they would not be willing to support the Ponzi script like he is willing to. I wonder if some of his audience watches because they love to hate him, like a wrestler you cheer against or something.

DonnieD's picture

Good analogy. The Ted DiBiase of stock pickers.

Careless Whisper's picture

physics? whatev. i'm off to rio for the weekend to check out these samba dancers.



Lord Koos's picture

Right... that level of radiation is less than what Denver gets all year round.

d_senti's picture

If anyone knows Japanese, you can read the "official" readings of radiation levels at various sensors around Fukushima here:



Yen Cross's picture

You are testing my patience. Get real!

TheGoodDoctor's picture

You know lizzy, I watch Cramer now to see how much propaganda he spews each night. His intro is usually has the most propaganda. I watch a couple segments like if I am interested in his executive interviews. But everything is bright and shiny in Cramer's world.

Anyway, I was appalled at how much he is misinforming his viewers. Yeah BTFD on the crisis in Japan. Sometimes I just can't believe what comes out of his mouth. He looks at the floor when he is lying. He won't look at the camera if he is lying.

Mike2756's picture

I'm not worried, either. 'Course i'm nowhere near Japan.

Escapeclaws's picture

I have the dubious honor of having been one of the first to get taken in by this so-called MIT prof. It seemed so plausible when I first read it. It is hard for a laymen really to know anything. For instance, there was somebody claiming the stuxnet virus got into the control systems of Fukishima. This is alleged by Customers Man in the comment section of GW's article "The amount of ratioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl" who seems to have a pretty strong anti-Israeli stance. Discounting placing the blame on the Israelis, is there a likelihood that the Stuxnet virus could have escaped it's intended victim, the Iranian nuclear program, and gotten into other reactors? If so, are reactors all over the world vulnerable or affected by this virus? Does anyone know the answer to this question? Because it could be critical in the event of other nuclear reactor accidents.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Um... I'd be more willing to believe the stuxnet rumor if Fukishima had failed in the absence of a 9.0 quake and tsunami... Occam's Razor is overrated but in this case fits pretty nicely.

Escapeclaws's picture

Clearly the quake and the tsunami were the cause of the problem. However, the question is whether the systems are nevertheless infected by stuxnet, making it all the more difficult to get things back on line. Your reponse seems like like it was purposely designed to deflect any discussion of this possiblility since you are stating the obvious as if that could be the only issue.

slewie the pi-rat's picture


hi, Escapeclaws,

i saw the flames shooting outa yer ass the other day over this professor of lies and didn't say anything, b/c i figured you would be capable of getting it, later, which you have done, nicely, here.

may i suggest you stf up about the stuxnet virus for now?  don't we have enuf known unknowns to do without the unknown unknowns till we finish learning of and digesting the eventz in Japan? 

thanks for listening!



Escapeclaws's picture

fair enough, Slewie. I was concerned because when this stuxnet stuff came out (a few months ago?), it was a very big deal. I ain't married to the idea--just curious, nomsayin?

rapier's picture

I saw the article and dismissed it as a technical position that had merit because it catagoricly stated some things would not happen based upon very limited information.  No technical concusion can possibly be made with certainty about any complex mechanical system with even perfect information.  At this late date dozens of important outcomes can only be given a very broad range of probability.

The only certain thing is human error, human folly.

Math Man's picture

"My feeling:  The global radiation hazard is nil"

Dr Oehmen and Dr Monreal have come to the same conclusion - the press reaction to this tradegy is completely and totally overblown.   At the end of the day, the 15,000 people who are dead or missing from the earthquake and tsunami will vastly exceed any collateral damage from Fukushima.   Three Mile Island and Fukushima even are ranked the same a ---  5 out of 7.  And how many casualties did we have from TMI?  ZERO.

The press should focus more on the thousands of homeless people and extensive rebuilding that needs to occur in Japan, rather than the worthless fear mongering that has passed for news at ZH.

You can all get back to burying silver and canned hams in your backyards now.

RichardP's picture

So you are saying that it was a given that the workers would be able to bring all of the reactors under control without incident?  Doesn't that assumption demean the heroic work that these guys have been doing - to say the outcome was a foregone conclusion?

herewego...'s picture

I junked you for not reading the pdf. You might as well of just written FIRST!


I agree with end the fed, but here'sthe conculsions so you dont have to download the file:



• The worst general-public effects of Chernobyl were 

stress/fear; HUGE education/communication failure   

• You have the information: count the millisieverts and 

decide how to respond

• My feeling: the worst-case radiation hazards from 

Fukushima are mitigatable and local 

• (early evacuation + controls on 

131I in food)

• My feeling: the global radiation hazard is nil.   

• The best way to reduce worldwide low-level radiation 

releases is ...  stop burning coal

• Save your energy for those affected by the tsunami and 

“50 plant workers” at Fukushima

Ben Monreal, UCSB Physics  3/11

herewego...'s picture

Oh, and no disrespect to the very talented in the art and craft of financials Zero-Hedge team, but thanks for finally posting something from someone that actually does this sort of thing for a living.

Zero hedge is an amaaazing alternative to the MSM bollocks - and only fails when it parrots MSM instead of calling the hysteria out.

Suggestion: folks who cheerleaded the hysteria should donate to the Japanese Red Cross who need all the help they can get as volunteers are less because of the western media screaming about fuck-all, when the real story is thousands dead and further thousands homeless after losing family and friends.

We have the money - we follow zerohedge and that makes us money. Time to donate.

Donate to the 2011 Japan crisis - Google


Thinkor's picture

I'm surprised to see ZeroHedge so deeply involved in the anti-nuclear hysteria.  Although Oehmen probably made a bad prediction in his original article, the fact is that not even one case of radiation sickness has yet been reported in Japan, where perhaps more than 100,000 people have died already from the more direct consequences of earthquake and tsunami. 

I emphasize "probably", because Oehmen was talking about radiation released from the reactors and, for all I know, the only significant releases of radiation may have come from the spent-fuel pools and not from the reactors themselves.

The latest information from the IAEA regarding radiation is this: "At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, radiation levels spiked three times since the earthquake, but have stabilized since 16 March at levels which are, although significantly higher than the normal levels, within the range that allows workers to continue onsite recovery measures."  So, at the source itself of the radiation problems, the levels are still low enough for workers. 

As for Oehmen's level of expertise, I note that the MIT school of Nuclear Engineering started their activity on this issue with Oehmen's article with minor modifications, principally excising his lead-in opinions about the likelihood of a significant release of radiation. 

Finally, to quote the last slide of the presentation that is the supposed subject of this ZeroHedge article

"Save your energy for those affected by the tsunami and the 50 plant workers at Fukushima".








Yen Cross's picture

Beat it you idiot! Or I'll beat you down!!! This about the slimmey Creant. Lets dance Bitch. All the other girls are sharp! You are a skank!

cossack55's picture

Obviously a Faux News plant.

Misean's picture

About sums it up. The Honda-Accord is much more threatening our well being.

Pondmaster's picture

Pro Nuke - Anti Coal - wheres the Greenpeace banner at beginning of wasted 1st year chemistry blurb . The guys a fraud and a charlatan

Flakmeister's picture

Ok... what are your credentials? Other than your opinion?

Flakmeister's picture

Looked over the article....fairly even handed and an attempt to be level headed.

On the last page, he explicitly states that the best way to reduce low level radiation releases is to stop burning coal.

Coal is the real killer in so many ways....

Hulk's picture

Yes, for those interested in the components of coal combustion, which include radioactive elements:


The amount of Uranium and Thorium released yearly by burning coal is 30,000 tons.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

The thorium in coal, if utilized properly, could provide way more energy than the carbon in coal. Instead we burn the low-grade stuff and breathe the high grade stuff. As usual we have things ass-backwards.

FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

Up next please Tyler (as it's way overdue on zerohedge)...

"The events of 9/11" - A Physics And Engineering Perspective

malikai's picture

Finally a good, scientific analysis of the situation. Everyone should read it before posting.

Byte Me's picture

I have / did:

Have to lurve this bit:

   • The best way to reduce worldwide low-level radiation
    releases is ... stop burning coal

So. If the nuclear industry is now toast (instead of just TEPCO) then Big Coal will hate it if this becomes a mantra.

Oh hang on -- I forgot -- " Clean Coal "

Yeah - 'course it is...

Flakmeister's picture

Clean coal.... what a fucking oxymoron

Byte Me's picture

Clean coal.... what a fucking oxymoron


Spot on. But Big Coal has sold this handle to Joe public without objection from Joe.

YOU are the first one I've heard calling it for what it is.

flattrader's picture

Oxymoron on the level of Childsafe Guns.

malikai's picture

If you ignore the mining side, there is at least one possibility for "cleaner coal". Coal or Gas electrical plant +algae is a great idea in theory, and possibly in practice.

The idea of sequesterization is a bit silly to me, unless that is used for something like CO2 flooding EOR where you get something else out of it. 

Otherwise it is yet another big energy sink and resource destroyer.

Flakmeister's picture

My personally fave is:

Corn to Ethanol, the US version of the Easter Island logging industry....

You are aware that some of ethanol plants want to convert to use coal for the distillation.... fucking marvelous....

Papasmurf's picture

That makes sense.  Could get closer to break even that way.

Flakmeister's picture

Brings that "green thing" into question to say the least

TaxSlave's picture

Ethanol plants should be forced to use all ethanol for all of their energy.  Same thing for every other 'renewable' tax-feeding parasite company taking handouts.  Grow your silicon using solar panels, make your aluminum for your windmills using all wind power. 

SWRichmond's picture

GW needs to read slide 28 very very carefully, and then reconsider his recent post.

The OP also noted the release due to coal fired generation. More facts:

estimated radiation doses ingested by people living near the coal plants were equal to or higher than doses for people living around the nuclear facilities. At one extreme, the scientists estimated fly ash radiation in individuals' bones at around 18 millirems (thousandths of a rem, a unit for measuring doses of ionizing radiation) a year. Doses for the two nuclear plants, by contrast, ranged from between three and six millirems for the same period. And when all food was grown in the area, radiation doses were 50 to 200 percent higher around the coal plants.



I Feel Free's picture

Yes, a coal plant releases more radioactive materials into the environment than a PROPERLY FUNCTIONING nuclear reactor. Obviously, that's not what we have here. This release is many orders of magnitude higher. When the author of this article writes "My feeling: The global radiation hazard is nil", it's obvious he's an apologist for the nuclear industry.

flattrader's picture

I understand what you are saying.

Still GWs skills at analysis are pretty much limited to copy and paste and likely doesn't hold a PhD in nuclear physics.

At some point, comparisons of these accidents and possible solutions are very helpful.

They were/are very different facilities, in different locations, with different fuels.