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"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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Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:34 | 1075656 TruthInSunshine
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


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:52 | 1075748 lizzy36
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).

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:55 | 1075761 MsCreant
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:58 | 1075773 DonnieD
DonnieD's picture

Good analogy. The Ted DiBiase of stock pickers.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:14 | 1076029 Careless Whisper
Careless Whisper's picture

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


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:22 | 1076047 Ras Bongo
Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:49 | 1076152 TheJudge2012
TheJudge2012's picture

Now that I can believe.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:39 | 1077075 Lord Koos
Lord Koos's picture

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

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 02:58 | 1078067 dick cheneys ghost
dick cheneys ghost's picture

A look back at WW2 and the start of the Atomic Age

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 03:05 | 1078073 d_senti
d_senti's picture

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

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 08:43 | 1078297 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

You are testing my patience. Get real!

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 08:51 | 1078317 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

Lets take a walk!

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:30 | 1076071 TheGoodDoctor
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:13 | 1076022 Mike2756
Mike2756's picture

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:34 | 1076637 Escapeclaws
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:59 | 1076731 Buckaroo Banzai
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:07 | 1076980 Escapeclaws
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.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:15 | 1077707 RichardP
RichardP's picture

Good Grief!!

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:57 | 1077116 slewie the pi-rat
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!



Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:10 | 1077688 Escapeclaws
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?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 20:44 | 1077220 rapier
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:46 | 1076910 Math Man
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.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:22 | 1077724 RichardP
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?

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:32 | 1077760 herewego...
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

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 01:13 | 1077849 herewego...
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


Sun, 03/20/2011 - 06:41 | 1078179 Thinkor
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".








Sun, 03/20/2011 - 08:49 | 1078304 Yen Cross
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!

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:38 | 1075687 cossack55
cossack55's picture

Obviously a Faux News plant.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:40 | 1075705 Misean
Misean's picture

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:57 | 1076932 Pondmaster
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

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 11:59 | 1078836 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:42 | 1075713 Flakmeister
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....

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:25 | 1076342 Hulk
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:11 | 1076765 Buckaroo Banzai
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:47 | 1075732 FunkyMonkeyBoy
FunkyMonkeyBoy's picture

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

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:03 | 1075782 CitizenPete
Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:18 | 1076039 Horatio Beanblower
Horatio Beanblower's picture

Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth -

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:49 | 1075735 malikai
malikai's picture

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:13 | 1075819 Byte Me
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...

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:23 | 1075854 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Clean coal.... what a fucking oxymoron

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:28 | 1075868 Byte Me
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:37 | 1075898 flattrader
flattrader's picture

Oxymoron on the level of Childsafe Guns.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:33 | 1076079 malikai
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:18 | 1076304 Flakmeister
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....

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:21 | 1076568 Papasmurf
Papasmurf's picture

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:37 | 1076655 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:41 | 1076880 TaxSlave
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. 

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:53 | 1075741 SWRichmond
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.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:30 | 1075882 I Feel Free
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.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:14 | 1076294 flattrader
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.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:39 | 1075904 bigdawg
bigdawg's picture

Sorry, the scientific american article smells of are some facts:

Average annual radiation dose is 360 millirems per person. 300 from natural sources.

Sleeping next to someone for 8 hours: 2 mrems

Exposure comes from the naturally radioactive potassium in the other person's body

Coal plant, living within 50 miles: .03 mrem

There is much thorium and uranium in coal. Living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant adds .009 mrem of exposure. Both figures are considered extremely low levels.

Living in a masonry home: 7 mrems

Stone, brick and adobe have natural radioisotopes in them.

Living on the Earth: 200 mrems

We are living in a sea of radon. It is made from the natural decay of uranium and thorium in the soil, left over from the creation of the solar system. Radon is a rare gas that diffuses out of soil and into the air. It contributes more than half of our background exposure.

Smoking: up to 16,000 mrems

The tobacco leaf acts like the absorbing surface of charcoal in a radon test kit. It collects long-lived isotopes of airborne radon, like lead-210 and polonium. Small portions of the lungs can get relatively whopping doses, compared to background levels.

Porcelain teeth or crowns: tenths of a rem

Uranium is often added to these dental products to increase whiteness and florescence.

Air Travel: 1 mrem per 1000 miles

30,000 feet above the ground you're closer to the ionizing radiation (high-energy gammas well as particles) from the sun.

Grand Central Station, NYC: 120 mrem for employees

Its granite walls have a high uranium content.

Brazil Nuts:

This is the world's most radioactive food due to high radium concentrations 1000-times that of average foods.

The US Capitol Building in Washington DC:

This building is so radioactive, due to the high uranium content in its granite walls, it could never be licensed as a nuclear power reactor site.


If a nuclear power plant is functioning correctly, then the radiation emitting is on the order of "zero", so 50% to 200% of "zero" doesn't mean much, does it?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 23:06 | 1077540 ThePhysicist
ThePhysicist's picture

You've put radiation dosage in the right perspective.

The fools tossing back potassium iodide for near-background levels of radiation will experience more problems from the cure.

I assume GW buys all of his electrical power from windmills. Otherwise, a hypocrite he will be.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:24 | 1077717 New World Chaos
New World Chaos's picture

Similar information, in graphical form, and in Sieverts:

Note that the timing of the dose matters, because if exposure is gradual then some of the damage can be repaired along the way.  I.e. getting 3.6 mSv in one day near Fukushima is worse than getting the same 3.6 mSv from natural sources, spread out over one year.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:50 | 1075742 MsCreant
MsCreant's picture

That was really clear. Thanks.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:52 | 1075753 Misean
Misean's picture

Yes, it was.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 21:55 | 1077389 MsCreant
MsCreant's picture


I hope this is right, and that you turn out to be right. This report makes it look that way, I will own that. In this case being wrong is good.

I will not apologize for what I said. You were not arguing facts, you were just trying to discredit through insults.

Meanwhile it looks like you are correct.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 08:58 | 1078319 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

Really clear! is your chrystal (sp) ball working? Victoria despises you Creant!

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:52 | 1075752 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Oh, for those cornucopian techno type touting fusion.... read

In particular, neutronicity...

If you think fission is dirty, it has nothing on fusion. Nothing like thermalizing intense neutron sources for induced radioactivity....

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:05 | 1075786 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture


So what?  Your answer should be very interesting.  In particular, I'd like your description of what is being irradiated / activated that will be a problem.  Please include in your answer a description of the total mass of components that will be irradiated over the life of the plant in an operational scenario.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:20 | 1075847 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

 Perhaps before we get into a discussion of this, why don't you quickly describe how a fusion reactor works, i.e. how we get usable energy out of the device? Let's start there.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:46 | 1076894 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Changing the subject already? OK.  First off, I will stipulate there is no current practical design.  This will enable you to shout loudly that anything I suggest doesn't work.  I will respond "No, not yet."  Maybe we can skip that part.  Somehow I doubt it.

It's been proposed that the "problems" with the energetic neutrons can be taken advantage of / dealt with via a "lithium waterfall" which accomplishes several desireable tasks: capturing neutrons and neutron energy, shielding the vacuum chamber walls from bombardment, breeding Tritium, and even providing the working fluid for heat exchange. 


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 20:21 | 1077164 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Not changing the subject, merely establishing your level of expertise. On more than a few occasions I have typed a fairly complex and lengthy argument to which the reply is, "What? I don't understand this...."

Fission is childs play compared to fusion..;jsessionid=8A130E31C4138F3F1D24043A73ED3D5D?purl=/4164277-Ekv2n3/

the above are by the optimists...

So you get cute with Lithium, over a period of time, the whole mechanical stability of any "waterfall" device is compromised by neutrons either transmuting elements or slow destruction of the alloys. These are high energy neutrons that can destroy the crystal lattice by knocking around atoms thereby creating nano-cracks....

How many feet of Lithium do you think that you need to attenuate the neutron flux by 50%. Remember these are 14 MeV neutrons, greater than nucleon binding energies. And the fluxes are going to be 100-1000 times greater than a fission reactor

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 23:43 | 1077597 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

How many feet of Lithium do you think that you need to attenuate the neutron flux by 50%.

I turned in my copy of Duderstat and Hamilton at the book store when I finished the 1982.  If you're going to ask me to solve the fusion problems I will stipulate I cannot.  WIll you stipulate that you possess sufficient expertise to say that they cannot be solved?  I "want" them to be solved, and hope they can be.  Are you one of those who hopes they cannot?

Your comment, the original one to which I responded, was about "dirty" and "activation" effects of neutrons, related to the higher flux rates in a fusion reactor, and said nothing about the technical difficulties caused by heating effects and lattice damage.  Since the OP is about fission products and radiation externalities, I was responding to your charge about how fusion would be worse than fission when it comes to radiation effects.  That charge is poppycock; as I am sure you know, fusion reactors do not produce tons of radioactive "spent fuel" that has to be cooled.

If you think fission is dirty, it has nothing on fusion. Nothing like thermalizing intense neutron sources for induced radioactivity....

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 20:53 | 1080084 I Feel Free
I Feel Free's picture

How many feet of Lithium do you think that you need to attenuate the neutron flux by 50%.

I calculate a 0.13 meter thickness of LiH shield material to attenuate the neutron flux by 50%. This is based on data from the NASA technical paper:

which calculates a fast neutron cross section of 0.100 cm^2/gram for LiH. I also used a Li density of 0.534 gram/cm^3, and Li mass of 4.65 x 10^-24 gram/atom.

This would only reduce the neutron flux by 50%. To get the neutron flux down merely to the level of an unshielded fission reactor -- 100 to 1000 times less flux -- would require a LiH neutron shield of 0.9 - 1.3 meters. (Obviously, considerably more shielding is needed to make it safe for personnel working at the facility.) The problem is that such high neutron flux, on a continuous basis, is going to cause severe degradation of the LiH shielding rather quickly.

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 00:13 | 1080609 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Very nice leg work!

I quickly looked over the note, (been years since I looked at this stuff!) You got me to make a quick dirty estimate

mu = sigma N0 D / A

I get the attenuation length to be 3.73 cm^-1  taking a total xsec to 70 b, but this is for thermal neutrons...

In the paper, pg 5, mu = 0.11 /cm  which implies 2.06 b  which jives with

and which is turn leads to 6.3 cm for 50% attenuation...Better than my physics gut told me (I figured ~2 ft...)


This has to be a first for Zerohedge...

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 01:46 | 1080794 I Feel Free
I Feel Free's picture

Not bad. You got 6.3 cm for thermal neutrons. I got 13 cm for fast neutrons. Fast neutron cross section decreases with increasing energy (so that fast neutrons are more penetrating than thermal neutrons) so it seems consistent.

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 08:19 | 1081099 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Capture cross section might consistently decrease with increasing energy, but I don't remember it being linear.  Anything but, in fact.  I couldn't find a reliable number for n capture cross section fior Li6 for 14Mev electrons.  You guys are backing into one and calling it good.  Nice.  I hope you don't live next door to me.

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 09:03 | 1081244 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Back of the envelope calculation... A real estimate would have to be done with a Monte Carlo as the attenuation length does vary with energy. Moreover it is not a simple analyic function....

The absorption process is n + Li6 -> He4 + H3, whereas  the above x-secs include the elastic component....

BTW, all my neighbors think I am a great guy :)

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 11:23 | 1081854 I Feel Free
I Feel Free's picture

I already provided a link (NASA technical paper) for the neutron cross section for 14 MeV neutrons in my post above. I wasn't extrapolating anything. I was simply comparing the number that Flakmeister got for thermal neutrons with my calculation for fast neutrons.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 22:20 | 1077468 MSimon
MSimon's picture

I have studied Polywell extensively and it looks pretty good. If it can be made to work.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:16 | 1076033 I Feel Free
I Feel Free's picture

The soil around the plant gets irradiated and the atomic components undergo neutron activation. All of the atomic components of soil -- carbon, iron, calcium, oxygen, etc. -- are converted to radioactive isotopes when irradiated by thermal neutrons that would be produced by a fusion reactor. Furthermore, thermal neutrons are difficult to shield.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:59 | 1076941 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

...thermal neutrons are difficult to shield.

No, they're not.  It's a very well known and well understood process. Products commercially available; example:


Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:06 | 1077636 I Feel Free
I Feel Free's picture

That's shielding for fast neutrons. It mainly "moderates" the fast neutrons, i.e., slows them down to thermal energies at which point they are difficult to shield. Thermal neutrons penetrate into the environment and make surrounding materials radioactive via neutron activation. The borated shielding absorbs some of the neutrons, but the high neutron flux from a fusion reactor is difficult to attenuate significantly without destroying the shielding.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 09:09 | 1078345 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Borated poly slows fast neutrons and then absorbs them.  Adding some lead outside the borated poly catches the resulting gammas from the N capture.  This is 40 year-old design we're talking about here.  Then there's the old standby, the borated shield water tank.  JHFC. 

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 10:39 | 1078540 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

 You do realize that the neutrons are the energy, stopping them in inert material does not generate any power. You have to thermalize them and transfer the heat.

  In my younger days I did a few experiments involving muon-catalyzed fusion... Unfortunately, you can't make it work, mu-sticking leaves you at about 80% of breakeven... What you can do is use the neutron flux to breed plutonium for net gain in energy, nice eh? Don't think that this option is on the table, though.

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 08:27 | 1081083 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Please read the statement that I replied to: Furthermore, thermal neutrons are difficult to shield.

He wasn't, as far as I know, talking about fast neutrons.  That's because he said "thermal neutrons."

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 12:12 | 1078885 I Feel Free
I Feel Free's picture

The neutron flux expected in a commercial deuterium-tritium fusion reactor is about 100 times that of current fission power reactors. This creates problems for material design in the reactor structure, shielding, safety, etc. After a single series of deuterium-tritium tests at the Joint European Torus (JET) tokamak reactor, the largest fusion reactor yet to use deuterium-tritium fuel, the vacuum vessel was sufficiently radioactive that remote handling needed to be used for the year following the tests. There are also safety problems associated with handling tritium. There are other fuel cycles, such as deuterium-deuterium, but they are more difficult to achieve.

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 08:14 | 1081091 SWRichmond
SWRichmond's picture

Please read the statement that I replied to: Furthermore, thermal neutrons are difficult to shield.

He/she wasn't, as far as I know, talking about fast neutrons.  This was a reasonable assumption on my part, since he specified "thermal neutrons."  See?  Further, we weren't talking about capturing their energy, though you constantly are talking about that.

Also, I wished to note that fusion reactors don't produce masses of irradiated fuel that have to be stored for long periods.  Yes, the vessel is highly activated due to bombardment.  As I said at the beginning of this now-ridiculous and hijacked thread, so what?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:08 | 1076215 TheJudge2012
TheJudge2012's picture

Using fusion to power the world's energy needs would destroy about 8 tons of hydrogen a year and send up tons of helium into the atmosphere, not counting hydrogen bomb testing.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:13 | 1076282 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Very simple what process do we convert the energy released in a fusion reaction into something we can use? I'll give you a hint, in D-T fusion, 80% of the energy released is the kinetic energy of neutrons....

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:26 | 1076823 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

So I guess you use those neutrons to turn a paddle-wheel and drive a dynamo.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:52 | 1075755 Hollywood
Hollywood's picture

I read it and I understand it (well mostly understand)--makes sense.  However, I'm not going to volunteer to go near that place, and I would bet people who write the "don't worry" reports, probably aren't over there either.  Just sayin...

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:03 | 1075790 Monetative Easing
Monetative Easing's picture

That piece was well done (although the context of the actual presentation would have been helpful). That said, I don't think the gist of it was that its safe to go near the plant or its surrounding environs.  Instead I believe the author was suggesting that beyond a certain distance (e.g. West Coast N. America), this wasn't a threat to people. 

It would be helpful if we had the author's definitive thoughts on Tokyo.  For those of us who weren't worried about gaining a new-found glow from this event, the true concern is what happens if Tokyo is or is perceived to be affected.   This presentation seems to suggest that its not a concern if I read it correctly.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:05 | 1076000 TomGa
TomGa's picture

Here's the link to the actual presentation:

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 13:58 | 1075774 scratch_and_sniff
scratch_and_sniff's picture

That just about does it for me.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:06 | 1075784 avonaltendorf
avonaltendorf's picture

Photo of fire engine spraying #3. Totally absurd, does nothing.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:20 | 1076320 Rastadamus
Rastadamus's picture

Is this some type of sick joke? Am I supposed to take these people seriously? And then a Tokyo Electric executive breaks down in tears?

You couldn't write fiction like this. And then the people who seem to want Obama to do something and not go to Brazil are just player haters, I guess it would make them happy for Obama to put on a radiation suit and climb inside a reactor...


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:53 | 1076712 Augustus
Augustus's picture

O'Bama has been described as The Magic Negro, The Messiah, and The One.  With all of those characteristics attributed to him by his followers, the man should not hesitate to get into that reactor and fix it.  Right Now.  Yesterday. 

Perhaps he could stick that Peace Prize up his butt and crap it out when over the most dangerous plant, just for a fancy start.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:04 | 1075785 TruthInSunshine
TruthInSunshine's picture

Benjamin Monreal, from UC Santa Barbara was a recipient of the Early Career Research Program Award and $904,000 from the Office of Nuclear Physics at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  Monreal earned his PhD from MIT in Experimental Partical Physics in 2004.

I wonder if Monreal knows Oehmen.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:07 | 1075800 InconvenientCou...
InconvenientCounterParty's picture

thanks ZH. This information is inert on its own, but fed to a critical mind, it's the best kind of nourishment.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:07 | 1076007 Eternal Student
Eternal Student's picture

Ditto on the thanks, Tyler. Really appreciated coming across this presentation.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:13 | 1075820 astartes09
astartes09's picture

Hells yeah!  Thats my alma matre baby!  See we do other things besides binge drinking.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:16 | 1075828 Clycntct
Clycntct's picture

The worst general-public effects of Chernobyl were
HUGE education/communication failure"

It would have saved me alot of time if he would have put that up front.

Cause now I'll move on to real fear which I can live with.

And Oh my lying eyes.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:32 | 1075884 blindman
blindman's picture

yea,  that was funny in a not so funny

way.  the author was born with a lead foil

hat and a lead shield bib.  i'll bet he texts

while he drives too. 

and the worst effects of the hiroshima bombing

were on the japanese psyche, this is why the

average/common man despises "intellectuals"

and their front men,  one gets the whiff of apologist

for fascism.  otherwise a very well made presentation.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:16 | 1076552 Mr. Mandelbrot
Mr. Mandelbrot's picture


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:16 | 1075831 blindman
blindman's picture

i feel better now knowing the authorities have

it under control,  no need to be concerned, nil.

bury your dead.  slide 23 and 24 could make you

queasy though.

ps.  poop for hire.  imo

and where do you remove the top 10 cm of soil

to?  a reservation?  or just find the cheapest r.e.

in japan and put it there.  it is already there.  problem

solved once again,  all is well.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:47 | 1075926 taraxias
taraxias's picture

ps.  poop for hire.  imo



Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:16 | 1075834 brian0918
Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:26 | 1075864 duncecap rack
duncecap rack's picture

What about the people who set off the detectors at O'hare? Was that probably nothing to worry about? Any idea of what level of radiation causes those things to go off?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:37 | 1075897 Rogerwilco
Rogerwilco's picture

It tells me that DHS can manipulate more than a pair of gonads. News when you need it, now move along, citizen.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:30 | 1075875 Life of Illusion
Life of Illusion's picture



The report is dated 3/11?

what happen after that date,,,?


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 22:15 | 1076106 GoinFawr
GoinFawr's picture


The information in the article was excellent. The 'conclusions' OTOH, may require some updating, to say the least.


"The worst general-public effects of Chernobyl were



HUGE education/communication failure"

... huge area uninhabitable for the next 6-9 centuries or so; could that be considered a negative general public effect?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:32 | 1075886 A Man without Q...
A Man without Qualities's picture

This is a useful link on radioactive waste management.


One point is, it takes 40 years for radioactivity to drop 1000 fold, so not sure where the 100 fold after 100 days comes from.

Also,  I thought the spent fuel actually emits more of the harmful radiation (beta and gamma), as it has the lower isotopes, even though the heat drops?
Sat, 03/19/2011 - 22:27 | 1077481 MSimon
MSimon's picture

Because decay rates of different isotoopes vary the decay rates are very non-linear. i.e. all the fast decaying stuff is gone after 100 days and then the slower decay stuff is left.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:31 | 1075888 Predator
Predator's picture

ZH is the best in terms of getting information out to the masses.  From there, do your own DD.  At least the options are published.  Great work TD.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:37 | 1075899 avonaltendorf
Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:46 | 1075927 A Man without Q...
A Man without Qualities's picture

thanks for posting, very informative.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:41 | 1075910 Life of Illusion
Life of Illusion's picture


Operation sand? About fucking time.

Japan nuclear crisis: scientists consider burying Fukushima in a 'Chernobyl sarcophagus' Japanese authorities are considering a “Chernobyl solution” for the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima that would bury it in concrete and sand. 8:00AM GMT 19 Mar 2011

As the team of 300 workers continues to try to douse the reactors with water, engineers said they had not ruled out the drastic measure.

But the “messy fix” would be considered only as a last-ditch attempt as it would leave the plant and its surroundings off limits for decades.

“It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete, but our priority right now is to try to cool them down first,” a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, the plant’s owners, said.

At Chernobyl, authorities literally “threw everything” at the reactor to try to cool it down, including lead, boric acid and liquid nitrogen.

When they finally extinguished the fires, an army of workers conscripted by the then Soviet government buried the reactor in thousands of tons of sand, then threw together a concrete container known as the “sarcophagus”.

Despite costing hundreds of millions of pounds, the “sarcophagus” is already falling apart – and fears are growing that it is leaking radiation again.

Now they want to spend a further £600 million building an even bigger containment building, to put a lasting lid on the leak.

The situation at the Fukushima plant is likely to be even more complex and expensive because it involves not just one reactor but six.

Public awareness of the dangers of radioactivity is also higher and so it is likely to be harder to get willing workers to help with the construction.

“It’s just not that easy,” said Prof Murray Jennex, an expert at San Diego State University in California. “They [reactors] are kind of like a coffee maker. If you leave them on the heat, they boil dry and then they crack. Putting concrete on that wouldn’t help keep your coffee maker safe. But eventually, yes, you could build a concrete shield and be done with it.”

The cost and difficulty of a “Chernobyl solution” is increased by the need to reinforce the floors of the reactors.

At Chernobyl, mines had to be dug under the plant to inject a layer of concrete to stop the core melting into the ground. If this happened it would explode when it hit the water table.

The preferred option for Tokyo Electric Power would be to bring the reactors under control and then dismantle them. This would mean the damaged reactor cores would be put into cold storage and the plant mothballed. This is what happened after the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 and it is considered a cheaper and safer option.

It also means that there would be no need for an exclusion zone around the plant as there is at Chernobyl as the most dangerous radioactive material would be safely removed.

As Japan entered its second week after the earthquake and tsunami flattened coastal cities and killed thousands of people, the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl looked far from over.

The nuclear disaster has triggered global alarm and reviews of safety at atomic power plants around the world.

“This is something that will take some time to work through, possibly weeks, as you eventually remove the majority of the heat from the reactors and then the spent-fuel pools,” Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a news conference at the White House.

Millions of people in Tokyo continued to work from home, some fearing a blast of radioactive material from the complex, 150 miles to the north, although the International Atomic Energy Agency said radiation levels in the capital were not harmful. That is little solace for about 300 nuclear plant workers toiling in the radioactive wreckage.

Even if engineers restore power at the plant, the pumps that cool the reactors with seawater may be too damaged from the earthquake, tsunami or subsequent explosions to work.

The first step is to restore electricity to pumps for reactors No 1 and No 2 by today. By tomorrow the government expected cooling pumps for the badly damaged reactors No 3 and No 4 to have power, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, Japan’s nuclear agency spokesman.

Asked about burying the reactors in sand and concrete, he said: “That solution is in the back of our minds, but we are focused on cooling the reactors down.”

Some experts said dumping water from helicopters to try to cool spent fuel pools would have little impact.

“One can put out forest fires like this – by pouring water from far above,” said Gennady Pshakin, a Russian nuclear expert. “It is not clear where this water is falling. There is no control.”



Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:51 | 1075942 taraxias
taraxias's picture

burying this monstrosity can't be done

if any civil engineers feel it's possible please post it because I know a few good ones on this end who are still scratching their heads

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:04 | 1075986 bigdawg
bigdawg's picture

OK, well, you'd first have to know what the underlying foundation rests it founded on relatively durable bedrock, or just a big concrete mat foundation resting on sand??

Anyway, I'm sure the heat from the core would help in the curing of the concrete... ;-)

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:34 | 1076085 Diogenes
Diogenes's picture

It's built on a series of fault lines in a region of frequent earthquakes and tsunamis. We will need to encase it in something that will last for 25000 years without cracking. Your move.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:50 | 1076173 bigdawg
bigdawg's picture

You've missed the point.

Best you can do in this case is try to encapsulate the thing...and the biggest challenge would be to stop the hot stuff from travelling down to the groundwater.  So, you have to know what the actual soil conditions are that the plant rests on...back to my original it founded on bedrock, sand, etc.???  I understand that they tunnelled underneath Chernobyl to fill with concrete so that the core didn't leak down to the groundwater.  If you have relatively durable bedrock immediately below the plant, that might not be necessary.  We all know it's in a fault zone.

Question:  Did they design the waste repositories from this plant, or any other nuclear power plant, to resist cracking/leaking for 25000 years?  From what I read about Yucca Mountain, I don't think they expect it would contain the materials for that long.

Mon, 03/21/2011 - 15:38 | 1082851 Diogenes
Diogenes's picture

That is the point. That is why they have the problem they have now. Nobody asked, how do we make this safe for as long as the radioactivity is dangerous? They only asked, how can we make something that will last till the check clears the bank and we get out of town?

We already know what happens to that site when a major earthquake hits. And major earthquakes hit Japan every 50 years if not sooner. So how long is encasing a lot of radioactive waste in cement going to last?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:09 | 1076255 flattrader
flattrader's picture

Re: this--

>>>The preferred option for Tokyo Electric Power would be to bring the reactors under control and then dismantle them. This would mean the damaged reactor cores would be put into cold storage and the plant mothballed. This is what happened after the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 and it is considered a cheaper and safer option.

It also means that there would be no need for an exclusion zone around the plant as there is at Chernobyl as the most dangerous radioactive material would be safely removed.<<<

I don't think comparison of these accidents and solutions are very helpful.

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

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:23 | 1076331 bigdawg
bigdawg's picture

I'm sure they'd love to be able to go in there and just dismantle the reactors.  From what I've read so far nobody seems to know whether or not the reactor cores have been breached or not...if not, then dismantling seems possible.

The problem seems to be the spent fuel rods...there is no real containment for those at this point.  The authorities are just trying to keep them cool for now but unless they come up with a different plan to contain, they'll be doing this for the next year, or up to 19 months, which seems to be the longest length of time they keep these rods in the water before putting them in dry storage. 

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:02 | 1076746 flattrader
flattrader's picture

This is likely more problematic than you described.

Spraying salt water on these rods is a great optic towards keeping them "cool with water", when in reality it involves highly treated borated water (based on what I've read).

They can pour all the sea water they want on it.  I don't believe it will get them anywhere.

Dismantling this mess may be a fantasy.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:44 | 1075920 KickIce
KickIce's picture

Looks like another stab at trying to save the industry and I'm still pro nuke.  IMO, the most believable statement thus far is the tears of the Japanese executive.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:44 | 1075924 reader2010
reader2010's picture

What they need is Tony Hayward and his top kill team.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:49 | 1075940 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture

It's a good presentation.  Love the rainbow periodic table charts.  But with 13 seperate hot spots and all the potential fuel pool damage plus reactor containment damage, think the author's conclusions need to be taken with...well let's just say that things in this particular accident are very dynamic and complicated. 

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:29 | 1077016 PhattyBuoy
PhattyBuoy's picture

So somewhere between 1 Sv (1000 mSv) & 5 Sv (5000 mSv) the human body breaks down.  Measurements > 5 Sv is fatal (quickly).

Reports say that radiation "close" to the reactors was reported to reach 400 millisieverts per hour on Tuesday after a blast inside reactor No. 2 and fire at reactor No. 4.

400 mSv = 0.4 Sv, therefore, 2.5 hours of exposure = 1 Sv -> cancer.

What does the term "close" translate to in actual distance from core/pond emissions?
5 feet, 10 feet, 50 feet, 100 feet, more?

The question then becomes what is the actual measured distance from core/pond emissions to the location where necessary repairs to (replacement of) motors, pumps, nozels, compressors, condensers, conduit, wiring, etc. is done.

Undoubtedly, humans will have to crawl into the guts of the reactors, or on the upper chambers / rooftop (if there is one left) to effect repairs. In the case of pond work in #3 &#4, you would be essentially working directly next to, or within the hot stream of radioactive material - you are essentially working exactly at "ground zero" ...

The true measurements at these locations in close to the guts of the core are much greater than 0.4 Sv.

They have to be greater than 5 Sv !!! If you are working in close you are dead very quickly ...

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 14:58 | 1075967 Franken_Stein
Franken_Stein's picture


What you need for such a kind of disaster is a lead plated exoskeleton with an autarkic oxygen supply and servo motors.

The kind we all know from the movie: "Aliens".


You don't have to be a genius to come to this conclusion.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:00 | 1075977 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture

New coinage on NHK just now:

"The Great East Japan Earthquake"

Please update accordingly.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:06 | 1075978 mcarthur
mcarthur's picture

Another factoid no one likes to mention is the amount of uranium in your garden due to fertilizer application.  Phosphates mined in Florida and elsewhere have a high uranium content.  The plants used to extract it but don't anymore since they don't want the NRC all over them.  It's sent to market instead so winds up in your garden. 

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:01 | 1075982 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture

Radiation level at 30km spot from plant still high

The government says the level of radiation in a town 30 kilometers from the damaged nuclear plant remains relatively high. It says those in the rest of the area are not immediately harmful to human health.

The science ministry released the data on levels of outdoor radiation monitored at 28 locations in a 30 to 60-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from 7 AM to 3 PM local time on Saturday.

It says the level at Namie Town, 30 kilometers northwest of the plant, marked the highest level of 136 microsieverts per hour around 10:20 AM.

But the figure is slightly lower than the 140 microsieverts per hour that was detected in the same place at noon on Friday.
Associate Professor Keiichi Nakagawa of the University of Tokyo's Medical School said that if a person is exposed to a level of outdoor radiation of 140 microsieverts per hour for one month, the accumulated dose of 100,000 microsieverts would be harmful.

But he said that people need not worry too much as long as they stay indoors and avoid outdoor exposure.

He also expressed concern that psychological stress may affect people's health.

He added that it is important to reduce the amount of radioactive substances released from the nuclear plants as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 19, 2011 18:56 +0900 (JST)  (NHK news)

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:05 | 1075995 Horatio Beanblower
Horatio Beanblower's picture

Hats off to capitalism...


Iodine Iodide - Radiation Protective Mega Pack - FREE UK SHIPPING

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:17 | 1076301 gwar5
gwar5's picture

Capitalism is great.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:10 | 1075999 Jim in MN
Jim in MN's picture

Chief of Tokyo Fire Department giving news conference.  Choked up when he "My firefighters....are extremely motivated.  I am very sorry for the families left behind."

News says firefighters planned seven hour operation but extended the time  after government request.  Chief cabinet secretary then said they will have to keep doing these operations.

Engineering professor from Tokyo says the crane in unit 3 may have destroyed the pipes and fuel rod assemblies and this 'needs to be checked'.  He also said the containment for the reactor has been destroyed but that could be a mistranslation.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:20 | 1076037 Tail Dogging The Wag
Tail Dogging The Wag's picture

I'm not an expert in nuclear technology, but I'm skeptical of this report. One thing I am an expert in is smelling bullshit. Besides the radiation spewed out of Chernobyl, the other toxic material spewed out was lies and disinformation that came out of the Soviets and the rest of the world's nuclear experts, including the infamous IAEA which is funded by ... you guessed it.

The lies and disinformation coming out of Fukushima are only eclipsed by the amount of radiation being thrown into the air.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:33 | 1076641 Mr. Mandelbrot
Mr. Mandelbrot's picture


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:18 | 1076041 Boilermaker
Boilermaker's picture

Did anyone give TRAV7777 a chance to validate this against his stack of Popular Mechanics mags?

This really should be fact checked before being posted.  I expect ZH to, at a minimum, let the fantasy Engineer of the site rubber-stamp this shit first.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:25 | 1076059 Tail Dogging The Wag
Tail Dogging The Wag's picture


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:00 | 1076211 Clycntct
Clycntct's picture

I took the time to watch that this am and it's about the scariest thing you could ever ?? see.

Man give him an inch and he'll fuk up a mile.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:26 | 1076335 FranSix
FranSix's picture

Unreal when you consider that Chernobyl was the accident that led to glasnost, and preceded the collapse.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:33 | 1076845 uranian
uranian's picture

I just watched that doc linked by Tail Dogging The Wag...a soundbite from Vasili Nesterenko, one of Russia's nuclear experts at the time who helped in the aftermath of Chernobyl:

...if the heat managed to cracked the cement slab [and the radioactive magma hit the water beneath the reactor], only 1400kg of uranium and graphite mixture would have needed to have hit the water to set off a new explosion. Our experts...concluded that the explosion would have had a force of 3 to 5 megatons. Minsk, which is 320km from Chernobyl, would have been razed, and Europe rendered uninhabitable.

For comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 22:22 | 1077471 FilthyLucre
FilthyLucre's picture

But, but, the conventional wisdom is that a meltdown will cause a large steam explosion if it hits water. And in the event of a meltdown resulting in a nuclear excursion the yield shouldn't be all that big as supposedly the critical mass will blow itself to pieces before it really gets started. A 3 to 5 megaton explosion is much larger than the largest yield from any fission bomb and is the sort of yield produced by fusion bombs. I wonder where he gets the 3 to 5 megaton number from. Also a ground level explosion of 3 to 5 megatons would produce nowhere near as much damage as an air blast and shouldn't be able to raze a city 320 kms away. This claim sounds pretty fanciful. I am in no way decrying the disaster that Chernobyl was or Fukushima is.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:17 | 1077718 FranSix
FranSix's picture

They mean to say that an explosion as 'small' as 5 megatons in this context would have spread radioactivity through Europe very easily at a minimum.

But a much larger sample of fissile material would have hit the water table should the floor of the reactor floor have collapsed.  

Watching the documentary is very eye opening.  Though they don't explain clearly exactly why fast breeder reactor fuel hitting the water table would explode, just that it would.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 03:47 | 1078097 uranian
uranian's picture

Vassili Nesterenko (2 December 1934 – 25 August 2008) was a physicist from Belarus and a former director of the Institut of Nuclear Energy at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. He was born in Krasny Kut Village, Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. He had a diploma from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University. He worked on the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

Since 1990, he had been the director of the Belarusian Independent Institute of "Belrad", created in 1989 with the help of Andrei Sakharov, Ales Adamovich and Anatoly Karpov.[1]

Because of his activities, he lost his job and got problems with the State Security Agency of Belarus, which threatened him with internment in a psychiatric asylum. Later, however, the Belarusian government tried to soften him proposing him to get back a job in a state institute, "at the condition that he would not work on Chernobyl anymore." He escaped two assassination attempts.



Perhaps it's just my tinfoil hat, but that the government attempted to shut him up so strongly inclines me to believe that he was telling the truth. Another fact that came out of that documentary is that the only doctor who has made an attempt to record the ongoing effects of Chernobyl on the surrounding population was still under house arrest (after 5 years in jail) in 2005. I read yesterday that there's around 25 times as much nuclear fuel at Fukushima as there was at Chernobyl.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:39 | 1076083 Tail Dogging The Wag
Tail Dogging The Wag's picture

The Wikipedia file on Legasov, the Soviet nuclear scientist at the IAEA that could not take the "Institutionalized Fuck You" and commited suicide two years after the Chernobyl disaster began.

Valery Alexeyevich Legasov — September 1, 1936, Tula, Soviet Union — April 27, 1988, Moscow, Soviet Union


By the time of the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986, Legasov had become the First Deputy Director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy.[1] He became a key member of the government commission formed to investigate the causes of the catastrophe and to plan the mitigation of its consequences. He took the most important decisions to avoid repeat accidents and informed the government of the situation in the disaster area. He did not hesitate to speak to his fellow scientists and to the press about the safety risks of the destroyed plant and insisted on immediate evacuation of the entire population of Pripyat. In August 1986 he presented the report of the Soviet delegation at the special meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. His report displayed depth of analysis and full honesty in discussing the extent and consequences of the tragedy.[2]

Having exposed himself to radiation at the accident site, the scientist began to feel the effects on his health, along with suffering from depression which stemmed from lack of recognition.[citation needed]

On the second anniversary of the disaster, Legasov committed suicide by hanging himself from the stairwell of his apartment. Reportedly, before his suicide, he recorded himself on audiotape revealing previously undisclosed facts about the catastrophe. According to an analysis of the recording by BBC TV series Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster,[3] Legasov claims political pressure censored mention of Soviet nuclear secrecy, which forbade even plant operators knowledge of previous accidents and known problems with the design of the reactor, in his report to the IAEA. It was implied that his suicide was at least partly due to his distress at not having spoken out about these factors at Vienna, the suppression of his subsequent attempts to do so, and the damage to his career that these attempts caused. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also stated that Legasov had become bitterly disillusioned with the failure of the authorities to confront the design flaws.[4]

Legasov's suicide caused shockwaves in the Soviet nuclear industry. In particular, the problem with the design of the control-rods in Chernobyl type RBMK reactors was rapidly admitted to and changed.[3]

On September 20, 1996 Russian President Boris Yeltsin posthumously conferred to Legasov the honorary title of Hero of the Russian Federation for his "courage and heroism" shown in his investigation of the Chernobyl disaster.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 15:32 | 1076084 FranSix
FranSix's picture

Re-introducing Thorium:


Lightbridge with solid fuel rods developed with Russian scientists looking for a way to dispose of nuclear waste stockpiles, and provide nuclear energy.

The Roy Process for disposing nuclear wastes

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:13 | 1076782 snowball777
snowball777's picture

Still spits out actinides...still dirty as Charlie Sheen's "angels".

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 19:38 | 1077073 FranSix
FranSix's picture

As I understand from the presentations, Xenon gas is the big problem with solid fuel reactors.  But you have to start somewhere.  I figure the solid fuel Thorium reactor would do very well as a step in the right direction, especially since you can burn nuclear waste.  It would not require re-tooling of the entire industry.

The next step would be re-tooling the entire industry to use molten salts.  After that, who knows?  Perhaps the invention will be made that uses radiationless fusion reactions.  (They exist, just not well known.  Boron11 fused with Hydrogen or Lithium-7 fused with hydrogen are radiationless.  LENR of heavy water electrolysis with a deuteride cathode is also radiationless.)

We can only hope that the Japanese disaster does not grow into another Chernobyl.  Chernobyl was the cause of decades-long efforts in nuclear co-operation towards the use of Thorium.

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:34 | 1077765 MSimon
MSimon's picture

Polywell. pB11. Low cost. If it works.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Sun, 03/20/2011 - 09:03 | 1078334 Yen Cross
Yen Cross's picture

antacids! need your help with that douche. Thanks.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:15 | 1076289 gwar5
gwar5's picture

The good professor had me until the very end until he said to stop burning coal. Mary Ann was always my favorite anyway because of her coconut cream pies.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 18:52 | 1076912 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Are you defending burning coal?

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 22:21 | 1077464 snowball777
snowball777's picture

The only defensible thing about coal is its relative abundance, but even that will be history within a handful of centuries.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:38 | 1076374 10kby2k
10kby2k's picture

Either way, the reactor will be gone.

If it has to be contained/encaspulaed and left as wasteland, the nuclear industry is close to finished...due to the constant remider to the world by its mere exisitence.

If it can somehow be dismantled and removed....the nuclear industry can allow us to forget, before they move forward.

If there is an uncontained meltdown......the nuclear industry will be irrelevant.

The stakes are huge.


Sat, 03/19/2011 - 16:47 | 1076424 bob_dabolina
bob_dabolina's picture

It will take at least 500,000 - 1,000,000 people willing to expose themselves to debilitating levels of radiation to get this mess partially cleaned up. It will take 100,000 years to be cleaned entirely. Most of Japan will likely become uninhabitable if not the entire island nation itself. This is something I have been saying since day 1.

The human toll could even get much higher.

This is the worst disaster in human history.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately otherwise the entire world will be at risk.

Sat, 03/19/2011 - 17:21 | 1076566 Escapeclaws
Escapeclaws's picture

How do you know this?

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