Sunday 25th of October 2020

too hot to handle...


A spike in radiation levels at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has forced workers to suspend their operation, a government spokesman says.

He was speaking after smoke was seen rising from reactor three. Earlier, a blaze struck reactor four for the second time in two days.

Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, which killed thousands, damaged the plant's cooling functions.

The site has also been hit by four explosions, triggering radiation leaks.

'On standby'

On Wednesday, Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a news briefing that workers at Fukushima had been withdrawn following the rise in radiation levels. It is believed that about 50 employees had been working at the plant to try to stabilise its four reactors.

Mr Edano also said that the radiation levels were now falling: from 1,000 millisieverts on Wednesday morning to 600-800.

But that was still more than average, Mr Edano said, adding that "the workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now. Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby."

change the name and sell tickets at the front door...

Even Chernobyl, the world's most publicised nuclear accident, was at first hidden from the world by what was then the Soviet Union, and might have remained hidden had its plume of escaping radioactivity not been detected by scientists in Sweden.

So why do they do it? Why does the instinct to hide everything persist, even now, when the major role of nuclear energy has decisively shifted from the military to the civil sector? Perhaps it is because there is an instinctive and indeed understandable fear among the public about nuclear energy itself, about this technology which, once its splits its atoms, releases deadly forces.

The nuclear industry is terrified of losing public support, for the simple reason that it has always needed public money to fund it. It is not, even now, a sector which can stand on its own two feet economically. So when it finds it has a problem, its first reaction is to hide it, and its second reaction is to tell lies about it. But the truth comes out in the end, and then the public trusts the industry even less than it might have done, had it admitted the problem.

It doesn't have to be like this. A quarter of a century ago, Britain's nuclear industry acquired a leader who for a few years transformed its public image: Christopher Harding. He was an open and honest man who thought that the paranoia and secrecy surrounding nuclear power should be swept away.

When he became chairman of British Nuclear Fuels, which ran the Windscale plant, he decided on a new order of things. He renamed it Sellafield, and, to general astonishment, decreed that instead of sullenly turning its back to the public, it should welcome them with open arms. He did the unthinkable: he opened a visitor centre!

Harding died young in 1999, but he was, in his lifetime an exceptional man: not only for his charm and his personal kindness – he was revered by Sellafield employees – but for his vision of a nuclear industry which would be better off dealing with its problems through transparency and honesty, rather than through obfuscation and deceit. But he was, unfortunately, the exception who proved the rule.

The rest of the nuclear industry has been dissembling for so long, and caught out in its lies so often, that the chance for trust may have passed. Even if, as I suspect, the Japanese government is trying to be reasonably up front about the problems at Fukushima, it is by no means certain that anything it says about the nuclear part of their nation's catastrophe will be believed.

what happened to the nuclear reactors...

from MIT NSE Nuclear Information Hub (

What happened at Fukushima (as of March 12, 2011)

The following is a summary of the main facts. The earthquake that hit Japan was several times more powerful than the worst earthquake the nuclear power plant was built for (the Richter scale works logarithmically; for example the difference between an 8.2 and the 8.9 that happened is 5 times, not 0.7).
When the earthquake hit, the nuclear reactors all automatically shutdown. Within seconds after the earthquake started, the control rods had been inserted into the core and the nuclear chain reaction stopped. At this point, the cooling system has to carry away the residual heat, about 7% of the full power heat load under normal operating conditions.
The earthquake destroyed the external power supply of the nuclear reactor. This is a challenging accident for a nuclear power plant, and is referred to as a "loss of offsite power." The reactor and its backup systems are designed to handle this type of accident by including backup power systems to keep the coolant pumps working. Furthermore, since the power plant had been shut down, it cannot produce any electricity by itself.
For the first hour, the first set of multiple emergency diesel power generators started and provided the electricity that was needed. However, when the tsunami arrived (a very rare and larger than anticipated tsunami) it flooded the diesel generators, causing them to fail.
One of the fundamental tenets of nuclear power plant design is "Defense in Depth." This approach leads engineers to design a plant that can withstand severe catastrophes, even when several systems fail. A large tsunami that disables all the diesel generators at once is such a scenario, but the tsunami of March 11th was beyond all expectations. To mitigate such an event, engineers designed an extra line of defense by putting everything into the containment structure (see above), that is designed to contain everything inside the structure.
When the diesel generators failed after the tsunami, the reactor operators switched to emergency battery power. The batteries were designed as one of the backup systems to provide power for cooling the core for 8 hours. And they did.
After 8 hours, the batteries ran out, and the residual heat could not be carried away any more.  At this point the plant operators begin to follow emergency procedures that are in place for a "loss of cooling event." These are procedural steps following the "Depth in Defense" approach. All of this, however shocking it seems to us, is part of the day-to-day training you go through as an operator.
At this time people started talking about the possibility of core meltdown, because if cooling cannot be restored, the core will eventually melt (after several days), and will likely be contained in the containment. Note that the term "meltdown" has a vague definition. "Fuel failure" is a better term to describe the failure of the fuel rod barrier (Zircaloy).  This will occur before the fuel melts, and results from mechanical, chemical, or thermal failures (too much pressure, too much oxidation, or too hot).
However, melting was a long ways from happening and at this time, the primary goal was to manage the core while it was heating up, while ensuring that the fuel cladding remain intact and operational for as long as possible.
Because cooling the core is a priority, the reactor has a number of independent and diverse cooling systems (the reactor water cleanup system, the decay heat removal, the reactor core isolating cooling, the standby liquid cooling system, and others that make up the emergency core cooling system). Which one(s) failed when or did not fail is not clear at this point in time.
Since the operators lost most of their cooling capabilities due to the loss of power, they had to use whatever cooling system capacity they had to get rid of as much heat as possible. But as long as the heat production exceeds the heat removal capacity, the pressure starts increasing as more water boils into steam. The priority now is to maintain the integrity of the fuel rods by keeping the temperature below 1200°C, as well as keeping the pressure at a manageable level. In order to maintain the pressure of the system at a manageable level, steam (and other gases present in the reactor) have to be released from time to time. This process is important during an accident so the pressure does not exceed what the components can handle, so the reactor pressure vessel and the containment structure are designed with several pressure relief valves. So to protect the integrity of the vessel and containment, the operators started venting steam from time to time to control the pressure.
As mentioned previously, steam and other gases are vented.  Some of these gases are radioactive fission products, but they exist in small quantities. Therefore, when the operators started venting the system, some radioactive gases were released to the environment in a controlled manner (ie in small quantities through filters and scrubbers). While some of these gases are radioactive, they did not pose a significant risk to public safety to even the workers on site. This procedure is justified as its consequences are very low, especially when compared to the potential consequences of not venting and risking the containment structures' integrity.
During this time, mobile generators were transported to the site and some power was restored.  However, more water was boiling off and being vented than was being added to the reactor, thus decreasing the cooling ability of the remaining cooling systems. At some stage during this venting process, the water level may have dropped below the top of the fuel rods.  Regardless, the temperature of some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 °C, initiating a reaction between the Zircaloy and water. This oxidizing reaction produces hydrogen gas, which mixes with the gas-steam mixture being vented.  This is a known and anticipated process, but the amount of hydrogen gas produced was unknown because the operators didn't know the exact temperature of the fuel rods or the water level. Since hydrogen gas is extremely combustible, when enough hydrogen gas is mixed with air, it reacts with oxygen. If there is enough hydrogen gas, it will react rapidly, producing an explosion. At some point during the venting process enough hydrogen gas built up inside the containment (there is no air in the containment), so when it was vented to the air an explosion occurred. The explosion took place outside of the containment, but inside and around the reactor building (which has no safety function).  Note that a subsequent and similar explosion occurred at the Unit 3 reactor. This explosion destroyed the top and some of the sides of the reactor building, but did not damage the containment structure or the pressure vessel. While this was not an anticipated event, it happened outside the containment and did not pose a risk to the plant's safety structures.
Since some of the fuel rod cladding exceeded 1200 °C, some fuel damage occurred. The nuclear material itself was still intact, but the surrounding Zircaloy shell had started failing. At this time, some of the radioactive fission products (cesium, iodine, etc.) started to mix with the water and steam. It was reported that a small amount of cesium and iodine was measured in the steam that was released into the atmosphere.
Since the reactor's cooling capability was limited, and the water inventory in the reactor was decreasing, engineers decided to inject sea water (mixed with boric acid - a neutron absorber) to ensure the rods remain covered with water.  Although the reactor had been shut down, boric acid is added as a conservative measure to ensure the reactor stays shut down.  Boric acid is also capable of trapping some of the remaining iodine in the water so that it cannot escape, however this trapping is not the primary function of the boric acid.
The water used in the cooling system is purified, demineralized water. The reason to use pure water is to limit the corrosion potential of the coolant water during normal operation. Injecting seawater will require more cleanup after the event, but provided cooling at the time.
This process decreased the temperature of the fuel rods to a non-damaging level. Because the reactor had been shut down a long time ago, the decay heat had decreased to a significantly lower level, so the pressure in the plant stabilized, and venting was no longer required.
***UPDATE - 3/14 8:15 pm EST***
Units 1 and 3 are currently in a stable condition according to TEPCO press releases, but the extent of the fuel damage is unknown.  That said, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant have fallen to 231 micro sieverts (23.1 millirem) as of 2:30 pm March 14th (local time).
***UPDATE - 3/14 10:55 pm EST***
The details about what happened at the Unit 2 reactor are still being determined.  The post on what is happening at the Unit 2 reactor contains more up-to-date information.  Radiation levels have increased, but to what level remains unknown.


What happens next is a multi-million dollar question...

we might have a lucky bull's eye, in the dark...

U.S. Calls Radiation ‘Extremely High,’ Sees Japan Nuclear Crisis Worsening

This article is by David E. Sanger, Matthew L. Wald and Hiroko Tabuchi.


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave a far bleaker appraisal on Wednesday of the threat posed by Japan’s nuclear crisis than the Japanese government had offered. He said American officials believed that the damage to at least one crippled reactor was much more serious than Tokyo had acknowledged, and he advised Americans to stay much farther away from the plant than the perimeter established by Japanese authorities.

The announcement opened a new and ominous chapter in the five-day-long effort by Japanese engineers to bring the six side-by-side reactors under control after their cooling systems were knocked out by an earthquake and a tsunami last Friday. It also suggested a serious split between Washington and its closest Asian ally at an especially delicate moment.

The Congressional testimony by Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the commission, was the first time the Obama administration had given its own assessment of the condition of the plant, apparently mixing information it had received from Japan with data it had collected independently.

Mr. Jaczko’s most startling assertion was that there was now little or no water in the pool storing spent nuclear fuel at the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, leaving fuel rods stored there exposed and bleeding radiation into the atmosphere.

As a result, he said, “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”

His statement was quickly but not definitively rebutted by officials of Tokyo Electric Power, the Daiichi’s plant’s operator.

“We can’t get inside to check, but we’ve been carefully watching the building’s environs, and there has not been any particular problem,” Hajime Motojuku, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric, said Thursday morning in Japan.

Later Thursday, a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Yoshitaka Nagayama, was more equivocal, saying, “Because we have been unable to go the scene, we cannot confirm whether there is water left or not in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4.”


No idea what's happening and we're doing something but we're confident...

splitting atoms...



Japan says it is stepping up efforts to cool reactors at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Army helicopters dumped tonnes of water to try to prevent a meltdown of fuel rods. Water cannon will join the operation shortly and it is hoped electricity will be restored soon.

Increasing alarm has been expressed in the US at the crisis.

The confirmed death toll from Friday's 9.0 magnitude quake, which triggered a tsunami, has risen above 5,000.

Police say 5,178 are confirmed dead and another 8,606 people are still missing.

'Deep condolences'

Japan's military CH-47 Chinook helicopters began spraying tonnes of water on reactors three and four at Fukushima, 220km (137 miles) from Tokyo, at 0948 local time (0048 GMT), officials said.

cautious chinese...

  1. 0717: China says nuclear safety standards need revising before any new power plants are approved. Work will even stop at power stations where some preliminary work has already started. Officials say the country's medium- and long-term nuclear plans will have to be adjusted. This is perhaps the clearest signal yet that the problems at Japan's nuclear power plant will affect the industry across the world, says the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing.

technological devices for locating earthquake faults...

Americans read the increasingly panic-stricken reports of deepening catastrophe at Fukushima, speed to the pharmacy to buy iodine and ask, "It's happened there; can it happen here?"

Along much of California's coastline runs the Ring of Fire which stretches round the Pacific plate from Australia, north past Japan, to Russia, round to Alaska, and down America's west coast to Chile. Ninety per cent of the world's earthquakes happen round the Ring.

The late great environmentalist David Brower used to tell audiences solemnly, "Nuclear plants are incredibly complex technological devices for locating earthquake faults."

Apparently acting on this piece of sarcastic wisdom, the US has deployed four nuclear plants near the Ring of Fire faultline, including two active ones in my home state of California.

Forty miles up the road from me, in far northern California we had a boiling water reactor, closed in 1976 because – surprise! – there was an earthquake from a "previously unknown fault" just off the coast. Now all we have are spent nuclear fuel rods in ponds, right on the shoreline, a few feet above sea level, nicely situated for a tsunami, such as the one that disabled the relief diesel generators designed to pump emergency coolant in the Fukushima plant. Three plates meet a few miles west of where I write. We had a 7.1 earthquake in 1992. First moral in the nuclear business: Expect the unexpected.

Further south, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, planned in 1968 when no one knew about the Hosgri fault, part of the Ring of Fire, a few miles offshore. See moral number one.

Further inquiry established that there'd been a 7.1 earthquake 40 years earlier, offshore from the plant, completed in 1973. The power company – Pacific Gas and Electric - said it would beef up defences. In their haste, the site managers managed to reverse the blueprints for the new earthquake-proofing of the two reactors, and so the retro-fit wasn't a total success. Second moral in the nuclear business: people do mess up.

Read more:,news-comment,news-politics,alexander-cockburn-another-fukushima-in-america-not-if-but-when#ixzz1GqmGeXau

Gus: despite many people claiming the nuclear industry as great and economical, one of the major problem with it is that it needs vast amount of subsidies to start it (often governments pay for the whole lot), huge amount of subsidies to match the carbon energy price and is still basically twice as expensive as renewables... The technology is quite simple: have a contained nuclear-fission reaction heating some water into steam driving some turbine... The engineering processes involved are lots more complex. In just one Fast Breader reactor, the French used up tp 5000 tonnes of liquid sodium at 700 degrees C to capture the heat from plutonium/uranium fission, high heat then transfered to warm up water to drive turbines with steam... One has to consider that all the pipes and structures have to stand this pressure and heat for up to 30 years, therafter being decommisioned because radiation has gone through all the shielding by then. In the UK, decommisioning old reactors' cost is up to more than 150 billion pounds — cost that are never accounted for in the construction of nuclear reactors. Taxpayers foot the bill. Decommisioning also involve keeping rods, that are still "hot", under constant cooling for another "100 years" or so...
Nuclear energy using uranium was chosen  BECAUSE IT PROVIDES WEAPON GRADE URANIUM and PLUTONIUM. The "safer" thorium alternative is still AS RISKY as uranium power station though it DOES NOT provide any weapon grade derivatives. So far I have not been able to locate ONE commercial thorium power station... though it could be slightly cheaper to operate...
In the case of Fast Breeder reactors, at the time of my last deep study in the 1970s, the shut down time of such an industrial complex was 30 seconds before meltdown...
To some extend it is brilliant technology, yet like the launch of a space shuttle, it can encounter small technical difficulties that snowball into a catastrophe... Every pipe, every joint, every weld has to be 100 per cent. Every engine has to perform 100 per cent with a series of back up systems that eventually, as shown in Japan, may not be fail-safe.

Some people are advocating much smaller nuclear power stations but then security becomes a far greater issue as more stations are needed to feed our hungry need for energy. All this would increase the amount of waste management problems and other issues.

couldn't possibly be true .....

We are now at this stage in the life of our country and our world: WikiLeaks revealed that the Japanese Government was warned three years ago that earthquake preparedness at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was dangerously insufficient.

Naturally, the leaders of the world are - or wish to start - prosecuting WikiLeaks, and not the Japanese Government.

The IAEA was saying in 2008 that Japan's nuclear safety guidelines were dangerously out of date. A government whistleblower in that country was quoted in a cable to Washington the same year that a Japanese ministry was "covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry."

And our government, in our name, continues both to seek ways to prosecute WikiLeaks, and to stick by the President's ludicrous 2009 suggestion that we accelerate our national Nuclear Power program. The uncensored real oversight, and the truth about Japan's irresponsibility, are both buried because the illusion of Japan as a successful safe nuclear nation is necessary to President Obama's pitch, and President Obama's pitch is necessary to some labyrinthine political calculation, and to the bottom lines of sundry international corporations.

Wikileaks: Japan Warned About Fukushima

sinking feeling...

As the Japanese have now linked an electric cable to the disabled plant in order to restart the pumps, other aspects of nuclear problems emerge in the world:

The president of French Polynesia has asked France to send scientists to assess the risk that the Mururoa atoll, which was used as a nuclear bomb test site for 30 years, could collapse into the Pacific Ocean and unleash a tsunami 20 metres high on the surrounding islands.

Polynesians have been watching the events in Japan - caused by a 10-metre high tsunami - with mounting alarm. The fear that part of the Mururoa atoll might collapse into the sea is not new. Back in 1997, one year after the final, highly controversial, nuclear test, an official report referred to the risk.

Now locals have seized on an admission by a French nuclear safety official, Marcel Jurien de la Graviere, that "the possibility of a collapse of part of the Mururoa atoll cannot be ruled out".

President Gaston Tong Sang writes in his letter to his opposite number Nicolas Sarkozy that there is disquiet among French Polynesians, who fear not only a 20-metre high tsunami washing over their islands, but also the release of radioactive material which has so far been entombed in the atoll. De la Graviere suggested that people on nearby Tureia atoll could be exposed to radiation 300 times the level in France.

Meanwhile, locals have told ABC News that there are places on Mururoa atoll where the road has sunk two metres below sea level and that there are huge cracks in the coral.

Read more:,news-comment,news-politics,french-polynesians-fear-20-metre-tsunami-from-nuclear-mururoa-atoll#ixzz1GtRQs0CT

la plume de ma tante...

Radiation Spread Seen; Frantic Repairs Go On

WASHINGTON — The first readings from American data-collection flights over the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan show that the worst contamination has not spread beyond the 19-mile range of highest concern established by Japanese authorities.

But another day of frantic efforts to cool nuclear fuel in the stricken reactors and the plant’s spent-fuel pools resulted in little or no progress, according to United States government officials.

Japanese officials said they would continue those efforts, but were also racing to restore electric power to the site to get equipment going again, leaving open the question of why that effort did not begin days ago, at the first signs that the critical backup cooling systems for the reactors had failed.

The data was collected by the Aerial Measurement System, among the most sophisticated devices rushed to Japan by the Obama administration in an effort to help contain a nuclear crisis that a top American nuclear official said Thursday could go on for weeks. Strapped onto a plane and a helicopter that the United States flew over the site, with Japanese permission, the equipment took measurements that showed harmful radiation in the immediate vicinity of the plant — a much heavier dose than the trace levels of radioactive particles that make up the atmospheric plume covering a much wider area.

While the findings were reassuring in the short term, the United States declined to back away from its warning to Americans to stay at least 50 miles from the plant, setting up a far larger perimeter than the Japanese government had established. American officials did not release specific radiation readings.

Meanwhile the French expose the "plume" of radio activity that escaped reactor number 3 when the wind were blowing offshore... You don't need to know French... just slide the cursor under the map...

14 US near nuke-accidents in 2010...

There is a very important report out today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on the performance of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)—the government agency that enforces safety regulations for U.S. nuclear reactors in the hope of preventing a catastrophe such as is occurring in Fukushima. The report looks at 14 “near-misses” at U.S. nuclear plants during 2010. A summary of the findings can be found here, but the gist is that nuclear power plant operators in many cases may have shirked their safety responsibilities. "That plant owners could have avoided nearly all 14 near-misses in 2010 had they corrected known deficiencies in a timely manner suggests that our luck at nuclear roulette may someday run out," the report concludes.

The UCS report, titled "The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010: A Brighter Spotlight Needed,"  praises the NRC for what it calls a few "outstanding catches," but also criticizes the NRC for, in several instances, not pushing plant operators hard enough to fix safety problems.

MOX, money and catastrophe pending...

With four busted reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site, engineers and rescue workers have plenty to do just to keep all their plates spinning. But over the past few days, there always seems to be one reactor causing them more headaches than others. Yesterday it was reactor 4, with its coolant pool empty of water and the spent fuel rods stored there emitting massive waves of gamma radiation.

Today it's reactor 3. The day began—at least in the West—with images of helicopters flying over the reactor building, dumping seven-ton loads of water in an attempt both to cool the containment vessel and prevent that storage pool from drying up as well. But what makes reactor 3 so special? In one acronymic word: MOX.

All of the fuel rods in all of the other reactors are made essentially of uranium with a zirconium cladding to seal in radioactive emissions. Reactor 4 uses something different. Its fuel rod are only 94% uranium, with 6% plutonium stirred in and then the same zirconium shell. This mixed oxide (hence the MOX moniker) formulation has one advantage—and a number of disadvantages.

The advantage—no surprise—is money. Plutonium is a natural byproduct of radioactive decay and spent fuel rods are thus full of the stuff. You can always put them into long term storage for a few dozen millennia—which is where most spent rods have to go–but you can also reprocess some of the waste and combine it with pricier uranium for a cheaper and still energy-intensive rod. With nuclear power still more expensive than fossil fuels like coal, manufacturers need to save where they can to remain competitive, and MOX is a good budget cutter.

But MOX is also temperamental. Physicist Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takma Park, MD., spoke to TIME earlier in the week and heaped scorn on the Mark 1 reactors used at the Daiichi site. His criticism in that conversation was the comparatively flimsy (by nuclear reactor standards at least) containment vessels used in the Mark 1s. But he's no fan of the use of MOX either.

Read more:

you saw it here first...

in "la plume de ma tante" article above...

Faint traces of very low levels of radiation from the stricken nuclear complex in Japan have been detected in Sacramento, European officials reported Friday, bringing the distant atomic crisis to American shores for the first time.

The readings, picked up by highly sensitive detectors set up to monitor clandestine nuclear blasts, were the first solid evidence of the leading edge of a long radioactive plume that has drifted slowly across the Pacific with the prevailing winds over the past week and has now reached the continental United States.

Health experts said the plume’s radiation had been diluted enormously in its journey across thousands of miles and — at least for now, with concentrations very low — would have no health consequences in the United States. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spread around the globe and reached the West Coast of the United States in 10 days, its levels detectable but minuscule.

Late Friday, the Department of Energy confirmed the European statements about the arrival of the radioactive plume in Sacramento, saying the federal station there detected “minuscule quantities” of radiation that posed no health hazard.

But the Obama administration’s initial reluctance to release its own radiation information and the haphazard way that thereadings came dribbling out of Europe first — not the United States — raised questions about whether American officials were being as forthcoming as they had pressed the Japanese to be.

ignore or do something...

So could the weight of the melting ice make the oceans slightly heavier and destabilise geologically active areas around the world?

Not according to geophysicist Dr Jeanne Sauber from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

"The tectonic forces (and stresses) responsible for very large earthquakes are much, much larger than the stresses due to melting glaciers and ice sheets. I do not think global change is responsible for the frequency of large events," Sauber says.

Pyle agrees: "Just to give the context: global sea levels rose by about 100 metres between about 19,000 and about 15,000 years ago, as most of the glaciers from the last ice age melted. Current rates of global sea level rise are very much smaller — a few millimetres per year at the most," he says.

Local impact

While melting ice might not have a global affect, it could have an impact on active faults that lie directly underneath glaciers on landmasses such as Alaska or Greenland.

"Melting of ice may change stresses in the crust locally, near the place with ice cover. As the ice load is removed, small faults in the same region may become re-activated," says Pyle.

But the Japan quake, for example, was completely caused by plate tectonics. "The size of the event may have been a bit of a surprise, but the location and the way it moved were not."

Future wholesale melting of ice above active faults would promote earthquakes through unloading, says Professor Bill McGuire who is with Geophysical & Climate Hazards in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London.

"This would take the form of 'bringing forward' the timing of earthquakes by reducing the stabilising tress beneath," McGuire says.

Ice melt from free-floating ice sheets in the Arctic, on the other hand, would have no impact on active faults because they don't exert any pressure on the sea floor.

There is, however, some research that links ocean water mass with a slight increase in volcanic activity.



Gus: there is some discrepancy between the figure here of the previous big melt and those I have used in my argument about global warming... There has been several big melts and freezing events in the last 1.000,000 years and the dating of these is open to scales of time and improvement in studies. I used a scale that refers to 12,000 to 10,000 years ago while here a scale of 19,000 to 15,000 is offered. It appears science cannot agree on this, or my own reference material has been superseded. But at this stage the scale of such things becomes relative. One of the important factor is that ice ages and lower CO2 in the atmosphere are in step — and same as warmer periods and higher CO2 in the atmosphere — regarding of the scale used.

The point is that presently CO2 is rising in the atmosphere at a rates of knots. In complex systems there can be some lag time and original inertia due to the size of the system plus regressive steps due to other factors, but the general trend is strong: more CO2 in the atmosphere, more warming. Thus, should the earth be going towards a cooling trend, this has been overturned by our carbon energy expenditure creating EXTRA CO2 from fossil fuels — the carbon that has been buried for millions of years and has not been part of the surface carbon equation since that time...

Serious scientists are worried. VERY worried... This is likely to make temperature rise faster than we can imagine and eliminate sustainability in some — possibly many — parts of the world. With rising temperature come humidity, greater atmospheric stresses and rising sea level. With extra CO2 come acidification of oceans and other troubles. We know that the sea rose at least 100 metres in the last big melt and that there has been mini-ice ages since, but now with the extra CO2, we're entering uncharted territory with rising temperatures of between 2 to 6 degrees C by 2100...

CO2 is the culprit. Our energy consumption is creating the EXTRA CO2. We are warming the atmosphere. We are warming the surface of the planet.

We also know that sometimes the damage from stresses may not appear till something snaps sudenly. Many mechanical and chemical stress tests can show that changes may not be linear but in strong sudden steps... Before hitting a wall a vehicle is still integral. Global warming scientists have already warned of this effect, once the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches a certain level.

Discrepancies in our sciences of the earth are not causes for uncertainty about the processes. I have old reference books from the 1930s that place the dinosaurs at only six million years ago. The point is we know more about dinosaurs and their extinction about 62.5 million years ago and that they survived at least for one million years following the beginning of decline. At present we, humans. are not faced with a million years of trouble. We're looking down the barrel of a couple of century TOPS — or ten generations.

Our time is that of enlightenment about our choices.

Till only a few decades ago we'd never realised we had a noticeable effect on the surface of the earth, though we would have been stupid not to realise that by cultivation, by building cities, creating garbage and waging wars, we would not change this surface. We've since known about our creation of acid rain and of our depletion of the ozone layer. We know we've irradiated the Van Allen belts a thousand fold. We know we've placed garbage in space as well as placed there an array of technological marvels for communication and scientific studies.

Now serious studies tell us we're presently creating a change of large magnitude for us and the earth: global warming...

For the earth it's nothing new. The earth's surface is only reactive. For us it could be a dinosaur experience.

The choice is simple: ignore or do something. I will fight so we do something of consequence.

mocking the MOX...

A former minister has demanded an official investigation into Downing Street's approval of a controversial nuclear fuel plant at Sellafield in Cumbria that has already cost the taxpayer £1.34bn – with little return.

Michael Meacher MP, who was environment minister under Tony Blair, said that he would be asking the National Audit Office and the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee to investigate the economic evidence used to justify the licensing of the Sellafield Mox Plant. Despite the cost, since the plant opened it has failed to fabricate more than a tiny fraction of the uranium- plutonium mixed oxide fuel it was designed to produce for foreign customers – just 13.8 tons over 8 years compared to a projected output of 120 tonnes a year.

Mr Meacher was the minister responsible for giving the plant an operating licence in 2001 but signed the licence only after he was pressurto do so by Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, who had told Mr Meacher that the former Prime Minister was adamant the "Mox fuel" plant must open.


MOX fuel was mostly designed to recycle — into civilian use — weapon grade plutonium that was made obsolete by "Nuclear Arm Reduction Treaty"... Thus this information shows that either there was never enough weapon grade plutonium or that little has been recycled... there could still be a lot of plutonium either in storage or in weapons at the ready.

PLEASE NOTE: 13.8 tonnes of this type of nuclear fuel represents not much more than a cubic metre of the stuff but it has to be kept in small quantities (possibly about half a kilogram portions) away from each other otherwise, the lot would get super HOT and unmanageable, like in a melt down.

Note as well, it takes no more than about 5.8 kilogram of weapon grade plutonium to make an atom bomb...

old kamikases...

Elders Offer Help at Crippled Reactor


TOKYO — By any measure, the thousands of people toiling to cool the crippled nuclear reactors in Fukushima are engaged in jobs that the Japanese consider kitanai, kitsui and kiken, or dirty, difficult and dangerous.

Seemingly against logic, Yasuteru Yamada, 72, is eager for the chance to take part. After seeing hundreds of younger men on television struggle to control the damage at the Daiichi power plant, Mr. Yamada struck on an idea: Recruit other older engineers and other specialists to help tame the rogue reactors.

Not only do they have some of the skills needed, but because of their advanced age, they are at less risk of getting cancer and other diseases that develop slowly as a result of exposure to high levels of radiation. Their volunteering would spare younger Japanese from dangers that could leave them childless, or worse.

“We have to contain this accident, and for that, someone should do the work,” said Mr. Yamada, a retired plant engineer who had worked for Sumitomo Metal Industries. “It would benefit society if the older generation took the job because we will get less damage from working there.”

Weeks after the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck, he and Nobuhiro Shiotani, a childhood friend who is also an engineer, formed the Skilled Veterans Corps in early April. They sent out thousands of e-mails and letters, and even set up a Twitter account. On his blog,, Mr. Yamada called on people over age 60 who have “the physical strength and experience to bear the burden of this front-line work.”

The response was instant. About 400 people have volunteered, including a singer, a cook and an 82-year-old man. Some 1,200 others have offered support, while donations have topped 4.3 million yen, or $54,000. His blog has been translated into 12 languages.

Although Mr. Yamada, a soft-spoken cancer survivor, started with a simple goal, he has triggered a much wider debate about the role of the elderly in Japan, the meaning of volunteerism and the growing reality that the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the reactors, will face an increasingly difficult time recruiting workers. Some experts expect that Japan will ultimately import laborers to help with the cleanup. More than 3,000 workers, many of them poorly paid part-timers, are at the Daiichi site. Already, several have suffered heat stroke and nine have absorbed more than their legal limit of radiation. Dozens of workers have stopped showing up.


The ABC has obtained documents confirming the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant grossly underestimated how devastating a tsunami could be to the facility.

After lodging a Freedom of Information request, the ABC has obtained Tokyo Electric Power company's (TEPCO) tsunami and earthquake plan for its Fukushima plant.

Submitted in 2001, it is contained on just a single page, which was accepted by Japan's nuclear regulators.

The document, which was never updated, predicted the highest wave to hit the plant after an earthquake would be 5.7 metres high.

The tsunami that hit the Fukushima complex on March 11 was 15 metres high.

The document also predicted that the strongest earthquake that could rattle the facility would come from a magnitude 8.6 tremor.

The one that hit on March 11 was magnitude 9.

Today at TEPCO's annual shareholders' meeting, officials admitted to the more than 9,000 shareholders that it underestimated the size of a possible tsunami.


8.6 to 9 may not seem like a lot of difference but in the world of logarithms the difference means roughly four times stronger....

Radioactive caesium in the water...

Radioactive caesium has been found in tap water in Japan's capital city for the first time in more than two months.

Radioactive caesium has a half life of 30 years, making it extremely toxic.

Traces of radioactive caesium-137 were found in tap water sampled in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward over the weekend, but authorities say it is well below the maximum safety limit.

It is the first time in 10 weeks caesium has been detected in Tokyo's tap water.

Last week, 10 children sampled by health authorities tested positive for traces of caesium-137 and caesium-134.

The children come from Fukushima city, which is about 60 kilometres from the stricken nuclear plant.

In April, radioactive caesium was found in a species of fish called young lance, a tiny fish which is eaten dried or cooked, off Japan's east coast.

Record levels of radiation...

Record levels of radiation have been recorded at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant reactor, just months after the nuclear accident resulting from the earthquake and tsunami in March.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that Geiger counters [a hand-held device used to measure radiation] registered their highest possible reading at the site on Monday.

TEPCO said that radiation exceeding 10 sieverts (10,000 millisieverts) per hour was found at the bottom of a ventilation stack standing between two reactors.

Al Jazeera's Aela Callan, reporting from Japan's Ibaraki prefecture, said the level recorded is "fatal to humans" but that it is contained just to the plant's site. However, scientists are planning to carry out more tests on Tuesday.

"Authorities are working on the theory though that it has come from those initial hydrogen explosions that we've saw at the plant in the days after the earthquake and tsunami," she said.

"It is now looking more likely that this area has been this radioactive since the earthquake and tsunami but noone realised until now."

structural safety...

It is one of the mysteries of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis: How much damage did the 11 March earthquake inflict on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors before the tsunami hit?


The stakes are high: if the earthquake structurally compromised the plant and the safety of its nuclear fuel, then every similar reactor in Japan may have to be shut down. With almost all of Japan's 54 reactors either offline (in the case of 35) or scheduled for shutdown by next April, the issue of structural safety looms over any discussion about restarting them.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) and Japan's government are hardly reliable adjudicators in this controversy. "There has been no meltdown," government spokesman Yukio Edano repeated in the days after 11 March. "It was an unforeseeable disaster," Tepco's then president Masataka Shimizu famously and improbably said later. Five months since the disaster, we now know that meltdown was already occurring as Mr Edano spoke. And far from being unforeseeable, the disaster had been repeatedly forewarned by industry critics.

mildly criminal...

The Japanese government is planning to release more than one million tons of contaminated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, angering fishermen, local media have reported.

Japan has debated what to do with the rapidly increasing store of radioactive wastewater for years, and now the decision to release it into the ocean could be confirmed by the end of the month.

Currently, Japan houses the water in more than 1,000 tanks, but with 170 additional tons of the radioactive by-product being produced every day, storage space is quickly running out.

It is estimated that all tanks will have reached maximum capacity by the summer of 2022 and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Friday that the decision was one they could “not keep delaying,” Kyodo News reported.

The water is used to cool the Fukushima nuclear reactor core, which went into meltdown after the catastrophic 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck the plant. 



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