April 12, 2011 | Tom Quirk

Further Events at Fukushima

There are now a number of excellent websites that give detailed analyses of the events at Fukushima.

There is an excellent general article on Fukushima by Richard Wilson on public health aspects as well as some detail on the incidents at the power plant. Richard Wilson has written extensively on risk-benefit analysis and his catalogue of disasters puts this event very much closer to Three Mile Island than to Chernobyl. There are also some interesting comments on the consequences of evacuation enhancing the risk of cancers. Finally there are some pointed remarks on the news media reporting nuclear incidents. The ABC ia a good example of selective reporting with one interview from an Australian school teacher living in Tokyo.


A thorough explanation of the events, as currently understood, is on the AREVA website. The analysis has detailed diagrams covering both the reactors and the spent fuel storage. Most concern and uncertainty appears to be directed at the spent fuel stored in the pool at Unit 4. This is because all the nuclear fuel was transferred some three months before the earthquake into the pool so there is a much greater thermal load in Unit 4 than in the pools by the other reactors. The term “criticality” has been used in some reports on the state of the spent fuel pools. This does not mean a nuclear explosion but rather the possible sustained release of radioactive material.


Finally there is an extensive set of articles on Wikipedia that covers most aspects. Their links to definitions of technical terms enables you to drill down into many aspects of nuclear reactor operation and safety.


In summary, the power plants buildings are mostly intact unlike Chernobyl. This means that the fission products released in steam will fall to ground close to the plant.

The main radioactive contributions outside the plant will be carried by wind but with decreasing activity and none or little local contamination of soil.

Great care has been exercised monitoring radiation exposure of plant operators.

For the surrounding populace, the stress of leaving their homes may cause more harm than the radiation risks. There will probably be no need to create a protective land zone around the plant.

The remaining and important issues are how well the company (TEPCO), regulators, politicians and the media managed and reported the event.

Nuclear power is at present the only viable candidate for baseload power supply if fossil fuel power generation is to be reduced.

Posted by Tom Quirk at 3:27 am | Comments (6) |


  1. Mr. Quirk,

    I have been tracking closely the media coverage of the continued failure to contain the meltdown at Fukushima.

    It is astonishing to me that you can be so certain there will be no long-term, permanent consequences.

    I disagree with the final six paragraphs of your article. For example, your claim: “Great care has been exercised monitoring radiation exposure of plant operators.” is completely in error. TEPCO has already admitted they did not have enough detectors for each employee and were sending in groups of five or more employees with only one radiation detector. (The NYTimes had a long article addressing TEPCO’s use of underpaid and undereducated staff to deal with the highly-radioactive materials while the engineers and managers are not anywhere close to the radioactivity.

    Your sentence: “There will probably be no need to create a protective land zone around the plant.” also begs credibility. How you can so confidently make this assertion is quite incredible. The evacuation zone closest to the plant will be uninhabitable for many, many years.

    This sentence “In summary, the power plants buildings are mostly intact unlike Chernobyl.” is also unbelievable. There are areas within all four reactors with levels of radioactivity so high they have not been examined for structural integrity. How you can make these brazen statements is mind-boggling.

    What I believe is happening is a vain attempt to keep the masses from panicking and the ensuing chaos that will result. The Japanese Government just upped the rating to 7 from 5 and expanded the evacuation zone. TEPCO has no capacity to bring these reactors under control. It is just a matter of time before much of the Japanese islands will be completely uninhabitable. The charade being promoted by the ‘experts’ that ‘all is well or will be well’ is quickly crumbling and the harshest of realities will ultimately have to be faced.

    Not once in your ‘article’ do you acknowledge the mass suffering and disorientation that has occured for millions of Japanese. What matters most is how to help these millions, not to debate and argue for a nuclear-powered future.

    I do not know anything about you, Mr. Quirk, but your article appears to be written from some distant, insulated Ivory Tower with no connection with the reality on the ground. If you still hold to your belief that all will be well I have some prime real estate with views of the TEPCO nuclear facility for sale!

    Comment by Fred Morgenstern — April 12, 2011 @ 6:46 am

  2. To follow-up on my perspective review these articles:






    The future for Japan is very grim, indeed. More earthquakes (may we stop referring to 6+ earthquakes as ‘aftershocks’) in the area may make all commentary irrelevant.

    Comment by Fred Morgenstern — April 12, 2011 @ 7:00 am

  3. Mr Quirk – The nuclear industry has trashed our past and our present and has stolen our future. There are scores of papers in the peer-reviewed literature on the impacts of an industry which has placed the planet in peril and with impunity. The industry is has an ignominious past, present and no future.

    “Since the advent of the nuclear age in the mid-1940s, the mass of radioactive 129I (t1/2 = 15.7 Myr) circulating in the Earth’s hydrosphere has increased nearly fortyfold from its natural background level of 140 kg.

    “Nuclear fuel reprocessing has been by far the major contributor, responsible for releasing 5400 kg of 129I, primarily into the North Atlantic Ocean. Regional and global trends in the distribution of the 129I inventory are elucidated from an examination of more than 600 determinations of 129I in environmental samples from around the world.

    “Because the major point sources are located in Europe and the United States, more than 99% of the present 129I reservoir is distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, where both 129I concentrations and 129I/I ratios in rivers, lakes, and shallow seawater are several orders of magnitude above the preanthropogenic background.

    “ Downwelling in the North Atlantic presently provides a major sink for marine 129I; however, marine upwelling along the margins of the Pacific will eventually return part of this anthropogenic input to the ocean surface, where it will find its way back into surface waters and the atmosphere.

    “Iodine-129 has a long half-life (15.7 Myr), and consequently, there is also the possibility that climate change will influence the dynamics of iodine transfer in surface reservoirs. We model the effect of a collapse in thermohaline circulation and project a concentration increase of more than 3 orders of magnitude in shallow oceans over the 10,000 years that follow if nuclear reprocessing is to continue at the present rate.”

    doi:10.1029/2009GC002910 [Citation]
    Glen Snyder Department of Earth Science, Rice University, MS-126, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, Texas 77251-1892, USA
    Ala Aldahan Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Villav, 16, SE-75236 Uppsala, Sweden
    Göran Possnert Tandem Laboratory, Uppsala University, Box 529, SE-75120 Uppsala, Sweden

    Mr Quirk – the horse died long ago. Stop trying to hump it.

    Comment by Dryblower — April 12, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  4. Quirk is a QUACK. No, wait, he’s an Ostrich with his head in the sands.

    Comment by Johnny — April 12, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  5. It is an absolute disaster.See many of the articles here; http://www.globalresearch.ca/ and http://www.fairewinds.com/ I’m not saying we should abandon nuke energy entirely but the current state of safety standards and technology is appalling.

    Comment by Ross — April 12, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

  6. Prof Arnie Gunderson of http://www.fairewinds.com/ has been involved in the decomissioning of Nuke reators for the last 30 yrs.Reactor no 3 has been spewing out plutonium not needed for energy generation,but for nuclear weapons programs.This is why some surmise on http://www.globalresearch.ca/ that Japan with surrepticious complicity of the USA, is manufacturing nukes in defiance of its’ non poliferation treaty of atomic weapons.

    The radiation from all the nuke tests since 1945 is mounting.It is not the gamma rays or background radiation recorded by geiger counters that is most dangerous,it is radio active,cesium,idine,strontium and plutonium the most deadly invention of man.When the large neutron radiation enters our bodies,we have it for most of our lives,causing the most deadly cancers.

    This is far bigger than chernobyl.There are 3 reactors in meltdown pouring untold deadly radiation into the Pacific Ocean,poisoning the food supply for hundreds of millions of people.

    Comment by Ross — April 14, 2011 @ 11:44 am

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