# The more political thread besides Japan Earthquake: nuclear plants scientific one

#### NUCENG

Re: The "more political thread" besides "Japan Earthquake: nuclear plants" scientific

My opinion at this point is that:

People died.

Tepco was not aware of the tsunami threat.

SBO studies, like the 1993 Japanese one were supposed to be "top of the notch" : https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=3943942&highlight=probabilistic#post3943942

Tsunami science is a young science. Nothing comparable with nuclear physics, which is an old, mathematical science, with largely predictable results when given a realistic set of causal predictions.

Almost nobody was really aware that nuclear plants relied on other sciences beyond nuclear physics. Three Miles Island and Chernobyl were nuclear physics gone wrong. Fukushima was not. Fukushima was tsunami science gone wrong.

The November 2010 IAEA-supported Masao Takao presentation, based on the Chile tsunami of 28 February 2010 saying that "we assessed and confirmed the safety of nuclear power plants" http://www.jnes.go.jp/seismic-symposium10/presentationdata/3_sessionB/B-11.pdf [Broken] 24/25 , was wrong.

Even the groups that are most critical about nuclear plants such as Greenpeace didn't care about scientific presentations like the one by Toshiaki Sakai (Tepco) in a public event in Miami in 2006 : http://www.asmedl.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=ASMECP002006042460000069000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=Yes&ref=no [Broken] "we still have possibilities tsunami height may exceeds the determined design tsunami height due to uncertainties regarding the tsunami phenomena".

Yet, regardless the uncertainties about the 869 Jogan tsunami, the Kamtchatka tsunami of 1952 should have been regarded as relevant for Japan. Even non-specialists like you or I should have known about the Kamtchatka tsunami. Everybody should have known about the Kamtchatka tsunami. Everybody should have understood that Japan was just as vulnerable to tsunamis as Kamtchatka.

This was not so difficult to understand. Just look at a map. Just look how similar Japan and Kamtchatka are.
Let's start by assuming every point you made is correct. They surely seem to be correct based on what has been discussed here. The only point I disagree is that noone knew that more than one science was involved.

People should understand that very little in life can be treated has a single scientific or engineering basis. Dependence on other engineering disciplines apart from nuclear physics is nothing new. Pressure Vessel engineering depends on mechanical engineering that learned from steam boiler explosions. Corrosion and flow-related erosion pipe failures have led to improvements in chemistry and metalurgy. Natural Gas pipeline explosions still happen. Computers and mathematics have evolved drastically since the days when slide rule accuracy was a limitation that required massive margins for safety. The Verazzano Narrows bridge collapsed. Seismic design and geology have applications beyonf nuclear power plants with the same sort of uncertainties as tsunamis. Meteorlogy is another science that Hurricane Sandy just tested. We could go on and on. Anything as complicated as a nuclear power plant involves almost every scientific field you can imagine.

So I move back to your post. What conclusions do you derive from the facts/opinions you list? Can mankind learn from disasters? If you conclude we need to drop the nuclear option, is it even possible to significantly reduce risks by closing nuclear plants? Even after TMI2, Chernobyl, and Fukushima over the last 50 years, the number of deaths and finasncial damages from other hazards is much worse. Consider Hurricanes and Typhoons. Consider the deaths in Japan from the Tsunami that had nothing to do with Fukushima. Pipeline accidents and mining accidents have killed more people. Warfare has killed millions and resulted in destruction beyond imagination. Transportation accidents (auto, aircraft, ships) still occur and result in loss of life and property. If we only consider the relative risk from nuclear power against the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, the risk from nuclear doesn't even register on the same scale.

I understand that the huge impact to Japan and the disaster-related deaths are staggering, but absent a firm understanding of the impacts of the alternatives to powering our future, what should we be doing differently? I believe much of the redesign and lessons-learned underway in the nuclear industry is fully justified. So the strawman that I think doing nothing is acceptable won't wash. I am not arguing with your list, Tsutsuji, I really would like to hear how we can reduce risk other than learning from every science we have. Can we survive as a modern society if we retreat every time there is an accident?

Last edited by a moderator:

#### nikkkom

Re: The "more political thread" besides "Japan Earthquake: nuclear plants" scientific

If we only consider the relative risk from nuclear power against the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses, the risk from nuclear doesn't even register on the same scale.
Ukrainians who still pay for the Chernobyl area maintenance and who lost thousands of square kilometers of land - still not safe for habitation for years to come - are disagreeing with you.

what should we be doing differently?
Who are "we"? Humanity as a whole?
I'd like to (again) identify a much smaller "we": the nuclear industry. If "you" (nuclear industry) want "us" (the unwashed masses) to support you, you MUST stop causing Chernobyls and Fukushimas, short of truly disastrous events beyond any control and prediction (asteroid impact etc). Tsunamis in Japan ARE NOT beyond prediction.

I believe much of the redesign and lessons-learned underway in the nuclear industry is fully justified.
I see that in Fukushima some of Chernobyl "lessons learned" weren't in fact learned. This is a very troubling sign.

#### a.ua.

Re: The "more political thread" besides "Japan Earthquake: nuclear plants" scientific

Ukrainians who still pay for the Chernobyl area maintenance and who lost thousands of square kilometers of land - still not safe for habitation for years to come - are disagreeing with you.
You are mistaken.
We have built several nuclear power plants after the disaster and plan for the future to build another 2 blocks
But Japan, by this time, no more than 10 percent of what was done in the Soviet Union after the disaster.
When we talk about the lessons of Chernobyl, we speak of a "culture of safety."
This is the second reason for the disaster in Japan after the tsunami.

Excuse my English, I use a translator

#### nikkkom

Re: The "more political thread" besides "Japan Earthquake: nuclear plants" scientific

Ukrainians who still pay for the Chernobyl area maintenance and who lost thousands of square kilometers of land - still not safe for habitation for years to come - are disagreeing with you.
You are mistaken.
LOL. You don't realize that I *am* an Ukrainian. :)
I am mistaken about what exactly?

#### jlduh

I agree that it's probably what happened!

But then again, is this consistent with the conclusion: it "cannot be considered socially irresponsible behavior"?

How can it be the wise decision of the prosecutors?

#### zapperzero

It was to be expected. It's also very, very unjust. There were clearly bad decisions made, those decisions clearly led to huge amounts of property damage and not a few indirect deaths (elderly&sick evacuees mostly).

#### nikkkom

I agree that it's probably what happened!

But then again, is this consistent with the conclusion: it "cannot be considered socially irresponsible behavior"?

How can it be the wise decision of the prosecutors?
I am more interested in "how we can fix the system so that it (such bad managerial decisions) doesn't happen in the future?"

Note that it is not so that all TEPCO managers are bad people. The problem is that "good" managers, which push for more expenses, have worse career prospects, IOW they don't reach higher levels on the corporate ladder. (This isn't uniquely TEPCO or Japanese problem, by the way).

Because of this dynamics, the problem can't be fixed by installing "better" managers.

Only competent independent oversight agency with power to force nuclear operators to implement safety measures can help here.

#### jlduh

NHK World has removed its "Data On Fukushima plant" link from first page, saw it yet at the end of August... Probably a side effect of the Olympic games strategy?

You have now to click "311 Beyond stories of recovery" (nice!) logo and then the link to the "data on Fukushima plant" appears on the right:

http://www.nhk.or.jp/japan311/

But anyway, the page is no more updated since end of May 2013!

http://www9.nhk.or.jp/kabun-blog/500/

Which is pretty normal in fact: japanese are no more concerned by the nuclear problem, and Japan seems to be today the safiest place in the world to be if you fear radiations, just look at this nice updated "Radiation Map" that is now above the "Data on Fukushima Plant" link!

http://www.nhk.or.jp/japan311/311-nuclear.html [Broken]

Great numbers, all lower than in the rest of the international towns listed. Message is clear: don't worry anymore...

I reference this here because my feeling is that the decommissioning of the information will be a more effective (and easy) task than the decommissioning of the real stuff...

A step by step process.

Last edited by a moderator:

#### jlduh

Well, what to say to this kind of article?

http://www.cfact.org/2013/10/12/physicist-there-was-no-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/

Some "nuclear people" should consider how to stay credible after that kind of event. I saw a lot of them sincerely reconsidering their position after the "impossible" Fukushima accident, accepting to revise some of their positions. This article shows that it's not true for everyone. Not a surprise, in fact.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
Well, what to say to this kind of article?

http://www.cfact.org/2013/10/12/physicist-there-was-no-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/

Some "nuclear people" should consider how to stay credible after that kind of event. I saw a lot of them sincerely reconsidering their position after the "impossible" Fukushima accident, accepting to revise some of their positions. This article shows that it's not true for everyone. Not a surprise, in fact.
Though somewhat egaggerated in wording, it is nevertheless factually accurate, though with two minor caveats:
1. Evacuations are at least temporarily depriving people of property.
2. It will probably eventually kill some people.

But I wholeheartedly agree with him that people have lost perspective and let hysteria take them over when they talk like the nuclear "disaster" was the biggest/worst part of what the earthquake caused.

#### jlduh

Though somewhat egaggerated in wording, it is nevertheless factually accurate, though with two minor caveats:
1. Evacuations are at least temporarily depriving people of property.
2. It will probably eventually kill some people.

But I wholeheartedly agree with him that people have lost perspective and let hysteria take them over when they talk like the nuclear "disaster" was the biggest/worst part of what the earthquake caused.

Well, comparing a technological "disaster" or "accident" (as you want) to a natural disaster is somewhat a flawed way to represent things. We all know that natural disasters can be terrible in numbers of victims, and especially in a short amount of time: this tsunami was terrible, yes , and killed many people (around 16000 deaths), and for example the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India in 2004 was 15 times even worse (around 235 000 dead people).

BUT, this doesn't mean ANYTHING when you start to talk about a nuclear accident like Fukushima, because:

1- we talk about a technological accident caused by a natural disaster, and not a natural disaster itself
2- this accident/disaster is the result of human technological choices/decisions/designs facing a natural disaster
3- the consequences of this accident are NOT assessable only in terms of "number of people killed in a short amount of time". The consequences are and will be for a long long loooooooong time (on the scale of a human life) way more various and wider for the people than just : "killed or not killed by radiations". I hope that i don't need to develop this point....

Something else has to be added to this: the Fukushima accident is a "lucky accident" in a certain way. A lot of luck has played a role to make it "smaller" (relatively!) than it could have been. Many experts agreed about this fact, because:

- when you are in a situation like that, with a total loss of power with no more backups on the nuclear plant, which is a scenario which was not even considered as possible by designers and engineers ("beyond design basis", as they say), with heavy hydrogen explosions resulting from this out of control situation,

- when you consider that in this scenario, nothing was designed to secure spent fuel from being ejected from top pools and/or being exposed to air after leaks from the pools damaged from explosions (which didn't happen BY CHANCE, and ONLY BY CHANCE)

- when you imagine a very very very possible scenario where exposed fuel to air creates heavy radiations, that can be even increased by criticality created by ejected fuel laying on the ground with no moderation or water on it (again this didn't happen by CHANCE, not by design, as design was not even daring considering this scenario!)

- when you imagine the direct consequence of this: total impossibility to approach the site to try to regain some control over the situation (no more injection of water in reactor buildings and remaining pools, etc.), and so a plant with tons of spent fuel and 6 reactors left to themselves with no power on site

then you can imagine what would have been the situation in Japan: a large area totally out of human control for sufficient time to create a situation where other plants around (like Daini; only 12 kms away from Daiichi!) would need to evacuate also (this is no science fiction, this was very close to be reality if any criticality and/or heavy radiation was released because of this "no human present" situation), i let you imagine the consequences for Japan and not only for Japan in this development of events in domino effects.

Again, this didn't happen but only by CHANCE, not by intentional design in any way.

When you consider this, you are a bit shocked by that kind of article. Yes tsunami killed MUCH MORE people than radiations so far. SO WHAT??? The potential for making Japan a no man's land was real in the scenario i describe above, and again, this is no absurd science fiction, nor "hysteria", it is fiction, yes, but based on scientific facts that are difficult to negate: a totally out of power nuclear plant is not able by design to stabilize itself, and especially with no human left, if human had to leave because of too high radiations. Can you negate the fact that this domino effect was very possible based on the situation we had the 3/11?

By the way, I personnaly consider that based on the current situation on site, this scenario is still possible, considering the time during which the plant will be vulnerable to new natural disasters for example (new earthquakes, new tsunamis, heavy typhoons, etc.), and less than efficient management and manpower in very difficult working conditions...

So please, Mister KELMM, be a bit modest in the way you treat facts. You are maybe "factually" right, but you lack honesty and modesty, considering that:

- the goal of humans is not to be worse than nature when creating disaster,
- in this specific case, humans could have beaten nature. It was very very close to, with a bit of luck missing...

Last edited:

#### tsutsuji

Gold Member
South Korea :

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1331045/south-korea-scale-back-reliance-nuclear-power-wake-fukushima (14 October 2013)

Nuclear energy should account for between 22 per cent and 29 per cent of power generation capacity by 2035, compared with a 41 per cent goal introduced in the previous long-term plan in 2008, South Korea's energy ministry said.
(...)
The government last week promised tighter regulation of the nuclear industry after indicting 100 officials on corruption and bribery charges relating to the use of components with faked quality-control certificates.

The probe found 277 faked certificates for parts used in 20 operating reactors as well as 2,010 false documents at eight plants that were offline or under construction, according to the government.

#### russ_watters

Mentor
jlduh said:
Fukushima accident is a "lucky accident" in a certain way. A lot of luck has played a role to make it "smaller" (relatively) than it could have been.

...which is a scenario which was not even considered as possible by designers and engineers...
Sure, but no possible additional bad luck can trump the bad luck that caused the accident, right? That would be the bad luck of having one of the worst earthquakes and worst tsunamis in recorded history so near the plant. And in addition to ignoring the bad luck that caused the accident, you are also trivializing the engineering that contributed to the "good" luck that limited it. In engineering, part of the point of a "safety factor" is extra strength to deal with problems you don't think of - because enginers know they can't think of everything. But either way, you don't get to score "maybes" and "almosts" on your scorecard. If you did, you wouldn't be putting Fukushima (or Chernobyl or TMI) on your scorecard at all!

Like the author, I agree that this accident shows just how safe nuclear power is, not how unsafe: given a natural disaster way outside the bounds of what was anticipated, the plant did little damage beyond what it did to itself.
-the goal of humans is not to be worse than nature when creating disaster.
I think you mean "no worse". Anyway, the author never makes such a claim. You can't fault him for something he didn't say. All he's saying is that he is of the perception that - based on the attention each are given - the media and many in the public consider Fukushima to be the worst result of the earthquake/tsunami.

#### LabratSR

Well, what to say to this kind of article?

http://www.cfact.org/2013/10/12/physicist-there-was-no-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/

Some "nuclear people" should consider how to stay credible after that kind of event. I saw a lot of them sincerely reconsidering their position after the "impossible" Fukushima accident, accepting to revise some of their positions. This article shows that it's not true for everyone. Not a surprise, in fact.

http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2013/10/fukushima-i-npp-accident-was-nuclear.html

#### jlduh

The french newspaper Le Monde (considered as "moderate" and balanced in France) just published an article about the workers of Fukushima, the french version is here:

http://www.lemonde.fr/japon/article/2013/10/10/fukushima-dans-l-enfer-des-liquidateurs_3493382_1492975.html

A less than perfect translation by Google, but better than nothing for those who don't understand french language:

Almost the same music from an article about the current morale and organisation of the workers on Daiichi site, from the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/15/fukushima-nuclear-power-plant-cleanup

"I'm particularly worried about depression and alcoholism," said Takeshi Tanigawa, a professor in the department of public health at Ehime University in western Japan. "I've seen high levels of physical distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder."

Many of the casual labourers employed by subcontractors live in cheap accommodation in places such as Yumoto, a hot-spring resort south of the exclusion zone around the plant. The number of workers has declined in the past year amid complaints from hoteliers and inn-keepers about drink-fuelled fights. These days, more seem to prefer the bars and commercial sex establishments of nearby Onahama port.

A 42-year-old contract worker, who asked not be named, confirmed that alcohol abuse had become a problem among workers. "Lots of men I know drink heavily in the evening and come to work with the shakes the next day. I know of several who worked with hangovers during the summer and collapsed with heatstroke."
In the long term, Tepco and its partner companies will struggle to find enough people with specialist knowledge to see decommissioning through to the end, according to Yukiteru Naka, a retired engineer with General Electric who helped build some of Fukushima Daiichi's reactors.

"There aren't enough trained people at Fukushima Daiichi even now," he said. "For Tepco, money is the top priority – nuclear technology and safety come second and third. That's why the accident happened. The management insists on keeping the company going. They think about shareholders, bank lenders and the government, but not the people of Fukushima."

Naka, who runs a firm in Iwaki, just south of Fukushima Daiichi, that provides technical assistance to Tepco, said the lack of expertise afflicts the utility and general contractors with a pivotal role in the cleanup.

"Most of their employees have no experience of working in conditions like these, and all the time their exposure to radiation is increasing," he said. "I suggested to Tepco that it bring in retired workers who said they were willing to help, but the management refused."
"Tepco is spending its money on fixing the technical problems, but it also needs people to carry out that work. I'm very worried about the labour shortage. If they don't do something about it soon, the employment system at Fukushima Daiichi will collapse first, not the plant."
"The real work at Fukushima Daiichi is being done by the general contractors, with the smaller companies picking up the crumbs," Yoshikawa said. "They outbid each other for contracts and so end up with less money to pay their workers. They have no choice but to hire cheap labour."

Last edited:

#### jlduh

In engineering, part of the point of a "safety factor" is extra strength to deal with problems you don't think of - because enginers know they can't think of everything.
Hi again Russ, i agree with you on this matter (I'm an engineer!) and i have to add that engineers are even better when they openly and honestly recognize that "they can't think about everything" ;o)

Now, back to the "safety factor". I agree that this is part of intelligent design, but of course the "wise amount of safety factor" is by definition something very difficult to assess from scratch, and in reality, the errors and accidents are big contributors to weight the amount of safety factor to put in a specific -future or improved- design. No doubt that some additional safety factors -and new scenarios considered as impossible until now!- will be added in the future (i hope!) by nuclear engineers.

But never forget that safety factors cost money, and that money is what ultimately drives companies like Tepco or others. Companies are not only made by engineers, financial guys (defending the interest of shareholders of course) are often the one who ultimately decide, you know that like me.

But you must admit that, considering the root cause of the accident (total loss of main and backup power because of earthquake and tsunami), it seems that Tepco put a lot of energy to also include an "unsafety factor" in the design of the Daiichi plant, as i mention it here:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4497672&postcount=733

So 6.4m design instead of 15m real wave (and not reconsidering it after they even imagined it in 2008) seems to be the definition of what i call a "2.34 unsafety factor"...

Saying that "safety factors" avoided a much worse scenario once the accident initiated (avoiding the domino effect that i mention) imply to recognize also that a big unsafety factor (with no willingness to correct it when it was considered this could happen) initiated the accident.

Alternatively if you say that bad luck initiated the accident, then you have to say that good luck avoided to make it much worse! But it's difficult to say that, on one hand, the bad luck initiated the accident, but that on the other hand, intelligent safety factors avoided to make it a complete nightmare in case of domino effects scenario (scenario which i think you recognize could have been, and was not far from being in fact, plausible and possible?)

Safety factors exists, unsafety factors also, let's recognize them BOTH in the Fukushima case. Or bad luck and good luck... if you prefer? But not one in one case (the root cause) and the other in the other case (the development of the accident). This wouldn't be balanced in my mind...

Last edited:

#### jlduh

All he's saying is that he is of the perception that - based on the attention each are given - the media and many in the public consider Fukushima to be the worst result of the earthquake/tsunami.
I still wanted to respond to this point from your post. Again, if the perception of public and media is like that, there are some reasons, whether you will find them good or bad. In my opinion, some are related to some kind of psychology, and some are facts related.

1- The tsunami is quick and as a natural disaster, only little can be done against it: it happens so violently that everyone is shocked and then of course sad for the death of so many citizens, friends, family members. After the shock, what stays in mind is sadness, but not fear.

2- On the other hand, the nuclear accident is not so shocking at first (some explosions are not visually so shocking than the images of this gigantic wave) BUT it creates of course a climate of deep fear among people because nuclear stuff is frightening (more on this below) and also because that's an ongoing situation that has to be managed by humans for the next years/decades with anxiety created by all the risks that stay present like a "Damoclès sword" (not sure about the english translation of this french expression!) over the head of Japanese. Japanese, but not only japanese. There are more than 500 reactors in the world, people can imagine better with Tchernobyl or Fukushima accidents what would happen to their families if such an accident would happen in the reactor next to them. That's why in global opinion, this nuclear accident is frightening for a lot of people, and medias reflect this.

3- This perception is increased by two factors:

3.1 After Tchernobyl, everybody (experts and politicians mainly) said that the accident was very specific to RBMK reactors, by nature more unstable than the technology used everywhere else. So basically it was said: no need to worry, our tech is much better and moreover, these russians were stupid and did stupid things to create the accident, such an accident is not possible in US, EUrope, France, etc. Still Fukushima happened, and it was in Japan with a tech that was mainly american. This creates confusion and fear in the mind of citizens, because it happened again with "top tech and no stupid russians"... So it can happen next to us?

3.2 Nuclear stuff is frightening in the minds of many people because "nuclear" is associated with bombs, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc, which were very impressive images, a kind of "nuclear tsunami" in fact. Of course, a nuclear plant is NOT a nuclear bomb (there are misconceptions around this very often i admit) BUT people have this representation because civil nuclear has been more or less created for military reasons by military people (getting plutonium for the bombs and missiles). The first applications of nuclear power have been military, then, as a "son tech", it has been for civil (energetic mainly) applications. This stays in mind of most people, and so, civil nuclear is in general associated in people minds with destruction, death, illness, and (last but not least) SECRECY, which was the culture inherited from military years.

That's why this is frightening ALSO (in adition to the facts above, keeping in mind that a plant like Fukushima IS still a dangerous beats for a long time of course) for many people.

This is psychology, but psychology doesn't mean pure invention or "it's wrong". It's based on facts that are associated (sometimes with misconceptions, it's true) all together to create this perception... Mr KELMM can be upset by this, but it's also a fact.

Last edited:

#### a.ua.

Still Fukushima happened, and it was in Japan with a tech that was mainly american.
This creates confusion and fear in the mind of citizens, because it happened again with "top tech and no stupid russians"...
You can not imagine how surprised us.
Everything is relative, we say.
But, wait, wait, we can go very far their fabrications.

#### jlduh

Nuclear compensation fund recovery to take decades

Japan's Board of Audit says it could take more than 30 years for the government to recover funds it has invested to help compensate victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

The government has issued bonds worth 5 trillion yen, or 50 billion dollars, to help the plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Company pay compensation. It is for people who've had to evacuate, and farmers and fishermen who've lost their livelihood.

The government plans to recover the funds through an annual pay-back by TEPCO and contributions from other nuclear power companies.

But the Board of Audit says if TEPCO does not go into the black, recovery would not end until 2044.
Even if the utility's profits improve, the funds would not be fully recovered until 2030.

The Board of Audit expects the need for government assistance to balloon further as demands for decontamination and real estate compensation increase.

The board wants TEPCO to quickly balance its finances, because the longer it takes for recovery, the heavier the burden on the national budget and taxpayers.

The board is also urging the utility to sell off its property assets and subsidiaries to minimize the burden on the public.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131016_40.html [Broken]

Last edited by a moderator:

#### nikkkom

Though somewhat egaggerated in wording, it is nevertheless factually accurate, though with two minor caveats
I spotted at least one serious error. Article claims that water tanks contain only tritium as a contaminant. It is obviously not true - they contain everything sans Cs.

### Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving