Fukushima Leak a Problem Locally, not Internationally; UPDATED

The Pacific is large. Discovery reports “New revelations about leaks of hundreds of gallons of radioactive water from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan have stoked fears across the Pacific Ocean. And while there are valid reasons to be concerned, the claim that thousands of people in the United States have already been fatally poisoned by Fukushima radiation in seawater is not one of them.”

UPDATE: @sydnets provides a link to the following:


which in turn links to:

Fukushima Commentary August 24 Japan’s Disastrous Flirtation with Worst-Case Scenarios

The Register – Oh noes! New ‘CRISIS DISASTER’ at Fukushima! Oh wait, it’s nothing. Again: But hey, let’s soil ourselves repeatedly anyway

New Scientist – Should Fukushima’s radioactive water be dumped at sea?


Hate to back up the Reg though; they’ve been nothing but trouble on climate.







  1. As I understand, the real difficulty will begin in November, when the some 1,300 spent fuel rods will each be manually removed.


  2. Not finding a reliable source that backs this up very well. Most of the alarming stuff comes from Christina Consolo a.k.a. "radChick". She maintains a Fukushima scare page. But she doesn't really reference reliable sources. One item on her Facebook page references InfoWars, which to me is pretty much disqualifying.

    We need context. Like this or that.

    Still not finding any straight answer for comparing becquerels to sieverts or rads (the unit of bioloigical damage). Presumably the relationship is complicated. Consolo likes to measure in the less biologically relevant terms for some reaosn.

  3. This helps but still is quite unspecific. It is clear that the question of becquerels and sieverts has been asked many times but not answered in an accessible way that I have found. The clear thing is that becquerels tell us very little about actual impacts.

  4. The fuel rod thing does look pretty darn scary though.

    "And if an another strong earthquake strikes before the fuel is fully removed that topples the building or punctures the pool and allow the water to drain, a spent fuel fire releasing more radiation than during the initial disaster is possible, threatening about Tokyo 240 kilometers away."

    But apocalyptic for the whole world? We need numbers for that and they seem hard to come by. The closest this current link comes is " if you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool, the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs,” which sounds like a lot. But is it? Is a "Hiroshima" a good measure of cesium 137? Does cesium 137 matter?


  5. Where to begin. Let's start with a discussion of SFP #4:

    They will not removed INDIVIDUAL rods, but bundles containing 70 or so rods.

    Fuel had been discharge around 4 months before the event, if memory serves me correctly. The Japanese run 13 months cycles and replace roughly 1/3 of the core. There was also some older spent fuel that had been discharged 1-2-3 years before.

    The fuel has now been sitting in the pool an additional 2.5 years or so. This means that the fuel is quite a bit cooler than when it was first discharged. Also remember that, we/they have been moving fuel for many many years, how do you think it got into the large central storage pool and the dry casks.

    They will likely start with the FRESH unirradiated fuel in the pool (around 200 bundles). THis fuel has no risk. It is essentially non radioactive (slight alpha emitter as uranium decays). In fact, they pulled several bundles more than a year ago to evaluate. After that they will likely go to the longest discharged fuel. It is old enough to be easily air cooled and can be readily moved to their central storage pool for a few more years of cooling.

    The most recently discharged fuel will have been out of core at least 3 years before they start moving it. It will require some additional care in the immediate area as it will be both temperature hot and still very radioactive, but practice does make perfect.

    An earthquake that destroyed that building would NOT contaminate Tokyo. It would make a mess on the site. Period.

    Now I'm not a radiation expert, but one comment on the whole contaminated water issue. The phrase "a drop in a bucket" is extremely appropriate. The size of the Pacific ocean compared to the physical amount of radioactive materials that have been released is a very small drop in a very large bucket. We can detect it because we have very sensitive equipment, but it's impact will be so minimal as to be unmeasurable.

    I will try to get some links for you, but a friend asked that we get you some answers quickly.

    [ Thanks! This has the ring of truth to me. We'd welcome further your further participation on this topic. -mt ]

  6. Consider the amount of plutonium and radioactive fallout dumped in the Pacific from 1945 to 1965 from US, UK, and French weapons tests. It was bad for the people it rained on but it did not end up poisoning the entire Pacific. What Fukushima may or may not be releasing to the environment is far less than what's already been released. Should the leakage be stopped - yes, obviously. But will it kill or injure anyone? No.

    Note also that Christina Consolo is formally trained as an opthamologist and has no relevant education or job experience in health physics, epidemiology, reactor operations, environmental remediation, or engineering. She knows as much about radiation safety as I do about prescribing eyeglasses.

    Fukushima cleanup will be difficult, complex, and time-consuming, there's no question about that. But that does not immediately lead to the conclusion that the current situation is a crisis, let alone an international one. TEPCO doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence, but I'm also not familiar with the specifics of their cleanup efforts or the volume & activity of their waste streams. My experience is primarily with more dangerous radwaste - various sludges at Hanford and fuel pieces at Sellafield, not so much with contaminated water.

  7. Michael:

    Unfortunately, there is no simple way to convert Bequerels to Sieverts. The frustrating, but accurate answer is that the conversion depends on a number of factors. Before making the calculation, the following factors must be known or reasonably estimated: isotopes of concern, method of ingestion, distance from source, time exposed to source, rate of ingestion (is the person continuing to drink contaminated water or breath contaminated air, for example)

    Each radioactive isotope produces its own unique emanations (to use an ancient term used by people like Becquerel) with a certain quantity of alpha, beta, and gamma particles/rays. Each of those has its own unique energy level and thus deposits a different amount of energy in tissue as it passes through. A becquerel is a straight measurement of the number of decays per second; a Sievert is a measure of the energy deposited in tissue (presumably because that energy has the potential for biological damage). For every isotope there is a "effective dose coefficient" in units of Sv/Bq.

    The International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) publication 119 includes several tables of those effective dose coefficients that vary for each isotope depending on the method of ingestion. Table A-1 (Effective dose coefficients (e) for ingested and inhaled particulates (activity median aerodynamic diameters of 1 and 5 lm) for workers), for example, is 32 pages long.

    Here is a direct link to the document in PDF format:


    Who says nuclear professionals are not transparent and cannot effectively communicate to the public?

    Someone needs to create an ap that includes these huge tables of constants and the appropriate (simple but laborious) equations. Real people would then be able to enter what they know and get an estimate for the dose.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  8. So are y'all saying this release was much smaller than Chernobyl? Because even among scientifically literate people, that isn't the impression that is out there. It certainly wan't my impression until reading this material.

  9. Hi:
    First have you seen this History Channel doc about Simi Valley Nuke accident? (I had never heard of this maybe you have and had to do with fuel rods, but were kept cool a different way than in japan). Does show how most governments cover up as much as possible when it comes to accidents - that goes for U.S., Japan, etc.

    Unfortunately, in Fukushima it is 4 damaged reactors, not like at Chernobyl where it was only one. I also recently watched a doc about The Wolves of Chernobyl from Nova - 25 years later, amazingly wildlife is back (with high radiation levels), but people other than scientists, nowhere to be found - according to Nova doc half a million people had to be evacuated from that disaster. Unfortunately, it seems from what I have read the potential of problems to move the fuel rods at Fukushima is a situation we have never had before. I believe we do need all the top nuclear scientists and engineers from around the world to be leading the clean-up and not TEPCO/Japan govt.
    There is a global call for this at: Green Shadow Cabinet.org
    Hope for a miracle.

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