Japan Nuclear Crisis Update

The situation continues to be very dangerous.

How bad are things? From the NY Times:

The risk of a meltdown spread to a third reactor at a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan on Monday as its cooling systems failed, exposing its fuel rods, only hours after a second explosion at a separate reactor blew the roof off a containment building.. . .
Operators fear that if they cannot establish control, despite increasingly desperate measures to do so, the reactors could experience full meltdowns, which could release catastrophic amounts of radiation. The two reactors where the explosions occurred are both presumed to have already suffered partial meltdowns — a dangerous situation that, if unchecked, could lead to full meltdowns.

What would the impacts of a meltdown be? From the Washington Post:

The potential size of the area affected by radioactive emissions could be large. A state of emergency was declared briefly at another nuclear facility, the Onagawa plant, after elevated radio­activity levels were detected there. Later, Japanese authorities blamed the measurement on radioactive material that had drifted from the Fukushima plant, more than 75 miles away, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA noted that forecasts said winds would be blowing to the northeast, away from the Japanese coast, over the next three days.

UPDATE: According to the Washington Post, there have been long-standing concerns about the containment vessel used in this particular reactor model.  In addition, these vessels were apparently at the end of their useful lives and may be brittle.

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Reader Comments

3 Replies to “Japan Nuclear Crisis Update”

  1. The great tragedy in Japan painfully illustrates the difference between real environmental crisis and fake environmental crisis such as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and ozone.

    The environmental health effects in Japan involve real people who have names, addresses, medical records, and death certificates. The world can clearly see and understand the causes and consequences of their suffering.

    Whereas with carbon dioxide and ozone, the health effects are largely imaginary and speculative, and are based on weak statistical associations and other such gimmicks that are used to concoct the threatening term “premature deaths.” Unlike real deaths from environmental catastrohpe in Japan, premature deaths do not involve real people, medical records and actual deaths.

    “Premature deaths” are intended to mislead and alarm the public about highly distorted and politically charged environmental “crisis” which in reality are generally benign and minor issues. “Premature deaths” primarily benefit government regulatory employees and their contractors, attorneys, consultants and others who make their living by practicing deception. Hopefully, we are seeing signs that environmental deception and hysteria are becoming more difficult to sustain as more people begin to recognize the fallacies.

    This is the difference between fake environmental problems and real environmental problems.

  2. I have to respond to this comment, not for what it says about climate change but for the callousness of its reaction to the Japanese situation and the potential for a serious radiation increase. Except for people on the scene with acute radiation poisoning, the victims of a radiation release are those who get cancer and would not otherwise have done so. They’re the ones you’re dismissing as the fallacy of premature death.

    Chernobyl is the example. People in the Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe who die in the years to come from the radiation won’t have “Chernobyl” on their death certificates. The only evidence will be an increase in cancer rates among people in the path of exposure. Say what you want about climate change, but at least don’t tell the Japanese people to stop worrying because radiation will only cause “fallacious” “premature deaths.”

  3. Dear Dan,
    I did not intend to imply that radiation poisoning is “fallacious premature death.” My point is that this radiation release is a real environmental problem that causes actual deaths and not so-called “premature death” which is only a statistical term and not an actual human fatality.

    The EPA uses “premature deaths” to describe “health affects” associated with atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and ozone. The EPA uses this term to confuse the public by giving the impression that “premature deaths” equate to actual human fatalities, which is false and misleading.

    It is interesting to note that the EPA and Japanese authorities are not using the term “premature deaths” to describe radiation health effects. It appears that this subject is being discussed in a manner that is respectful of the real victims of this tragedy, without misleading and exaggerated hype.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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