Skip to comments.Slideshow: Fukushima Plant Passed Ultimate Test
Posted on 04/29/2013 6:30:03 AM PDT by null and void
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant performed beyond its best expectations after being struck by a mammoth earthquake and a 40-ft-high tidal wave in 2011, experts said last week.
More than two years after the earthquake and tsunami struck, studies are now showing that radiation exposure levels were much lower than originally predicted. Thus far, the only deaths directly attributed to the nuclear plant have been related to the evacuation of residents, and not to radiation exposure. The powerplant did an incredible job, Jeff Terry, an associate professor of physics at Illinois Institute of Technology, told Design News. Even with multiple meltdowns and explosions, there were no radiation-related fatalities.
The performance of the plant has been a surprise to some. Media reports initially following the disaster predicted thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands, of fatalities.
Click the image below to start the slideshow.
But a recent study published in Transactions of the Japan Academy indicated that radioactive cesium levels were too low to detect in 99 percent of the 22,000 residents examined in Fukushima Prefecture over the past two years. Internal exposure levels of residents are much lower than estimated, wrote Ryugo Hayano, a physics professor of physics at the University of Tokyo in the recently published study.
To be sure, there are still many legitimate concerns about the effects of the disaster on the plant. Thousands of Fukushima residents still cant return to their homes and groundwater at the plant is contaminated. Tea leaves, rice, beef, and other agricultural products may also be affected by low doses of radiation. Moreover, molten fuel almost certainly flowed through steel reactor vessels and is now believed to be residing inside concrete containment buildings, where it may have to remain for years. We wont know how bad it is until someone gets in there, Terry told us. And that could take five to 10 years.
Still, exposure levels have been low for residents and plant workers alike. First-year radiation doses for individuals in the area of greatest exposure were measured at 2 rems (a rem is a measure of biological damage to tissue), according to a University of California-Berkeley physics professor in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Those levels are only slightly higher than what individuals are typically subjected to, but are not considered dangerous.
On average, 0.6 rems per year is normal, while nuclear powerplant workers are limited to about 5 rems per year. According to the 1982 book, Nuclear Power: Both Sides by Michio Kaku, 1,000 rems would kill a person a few days after exposure, 500 rems would kill half of the exposed population within a few weeks, 200 to 400 rems would cause radiation sickness and hemorrhaging, and 50 rems would cause no immediate visible effects, but could induce long-term damage.
In this case, the public got hardly any dose at all, James F. Stubbins, a professor of nuclear, plasma, and radiological engineering at the University of Illinois, told Design News. And the workers doses were low, too.
Experts who talked to us said the Fukushima plant did amazingly well, considering the magnitude of the disaster. The 40-year-old plant withstood an earthquake that measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale, even though it was designed for an 8.2 (because those numbers are measured on a logarithmic scale, thats nearly a 10X difference). The earthquake was then followed by a 15-m high tidal wave -- about 10 m higher than called for in the plants original design.
I try to remind people that there were 20,000 people killed by the tsunami and the earthquake, Stubbins told us. There were basically no people killed by the Fukushima power plant.
Ultimately, those numbers are bound to change. One study predicted there will still be between 15 and 1,300 cancer fatalities worldwide as a result of the accident, and approximately two to 12 cancer cases among the plants workers over many years.
Still, experts point out that whatever the ultimate number of deaths, it will only be a small fraction of the total fatalities associated with the earthquake and tsunami. And its far less than the number of automotive fatalities on American roads every year.
We have to remember, this accident was caused by one of the worst earthquakes ever known, Ahmad Hassanein, head of the nuclear engineering department at Purdue University, told us. The reactor was 40 years old and it stood up well. Given the situation, it did better than expected.
Terry added that the Fukushima plant was safer for the public than comparable coal-burning plants. People like the idea of being perfectly safe, he said. But youre never going to get that. When you convert one form of energy to another, nothings ever going to be perfectly safe.
Who designed/built that plant? The Japanese themselves? The US...the Brits...the Germans? Certainly not the Soviets or the Chinese.
Sometimes you just don’t know what to believe.
Fukushima I was the first nuclear plant to be designed, constructed and run in conjunction with General Electric, Boise, and Tokyo Electric Power CompanyIOW, It was a bilingual, bicultural committee...
They should have had priority access to helicopters and backup batteries.
They withstood a gigantic earthquake IMMEDIATELY followed by a huge tsunami, and ALMOST survived it, intact.
This would have been huge boost to nuclear power, if only they had more backup batteries.
And maybe not putting it right next to a tsunami flood zone would have been a good idea too
I don’t trust the experts that wrote this report as far as I could throw the plant.
I believe I’m being lied to.
A belief that fits nearly every circumstance of my life. *sigh*
Is nuclear energy dangerous? Sure. What to believe? View the photos of Hiroshima/Nagasaki side by side from immediately post nuke and today.
There was a crap ton more radiation released than Fukushima. So if F was so bad, how do they explain millions living on an actual nuclear explosion?
As with all things, agenda id the biggest danger of all. That’s what to believe.
My guess is the original reports of massive radiation leaks were the inaccurate (lies) ones. Massive amounts of deadly radiation being leaked fits the agenda, finding out the power plants were in fact safe does not.
Interesting story but seems to be a case of no matter how bad things were thank goodness they weren’t worse.
Lessons learned. Newer designs will have emergency generators above ground, easier access for plug’n’play external emergency power, contingency plans for providing extra diesel fuel and battery packs, and likely will have things that need to be kept wet at the lowest points in the facility, instead of in above ground pools.
I'm with you. Sensational media reports before critical details are know are the best source for news. Scientific studies that mirror real-world experience should always be questioned as part of a big conspiracy.
People worked very hard, at every stage from planing through disaster recovery, to make sure they weren't.
Lots of brave and bright souls took extraordinary pains and risks to make that happen, as a simple matter of professional pride, integrity, duty, dignity, decency and face.
Somewhere out there are dark souls doing all they can to make a future disaster as devastating as humanly possible, in the name of their "god". Never forget Osama bin Laden started out as an engineer building stuff. Never forget the pig-god in whose name he lusted to become a mass murderer. We should never allow another to follow in his bloody footprints.
(Got H-1Bs? Student Visas?)
... EXACTLY AS DESIGNED AND INTENDED. The point is that it will REMAIN there, unlike the millions of tons of toxic waste spewed into the environment by coal power plants every single year.
It's like anthropogenic climate change zealots - their models are proven wrong, their predictions are contradicted by observation, and yet they cling desperately to the idea that we're dooooomed, doomed I tell you!
"Look!" they shriek, "two extra people might get cancer someday!!! We must shut down all nuclear power plants now!!"
Those plants are put on the coast for the ready access to water. If anything they backup generators should have been located higher.
Sad that this nuclear power plant had a meltdown because it lacked electricity.
Also, sad that the anti-nuke activists have prevented the industry from building updated modern plants.
As far as I know, it’s not possible to have a meltdown and have only a tiny radiation leak. Of course the corporation is going to say “not to worry,,,we have everything under control.” I don’t trust corporations any more than I trust government. Neither gives a rats about you. The bottom line for both is power and your money,,,not you.
I liked the following quote...study predicted there will still be between 15 and 1,300 cancer fatalities worldwide....
First...."worldwide"? Really? 15 more deaths out of 7 billion? Second, two orders of magnitude is a pretty big range. Truly, this shows how worthless the "science" is on this - or how worthless the reporter is if they managed to get the facts wrong.
“Second, two orders of magnitude is a pretty big range.”
On an exponential scale it is not big. You often find variances of a couple of orders when the entire measurable range might extend 30 or 40 orders
One of the lessons learned (In Japan at least) is that, while we can model sea barriers for waves “X” so high, we should also add very comfortable cushions into those estimates of wave height based on the land sinking.
The elevation of the land itself in the northeast part of Japan fell by about a meter in some places. This allowed the sea to overtop sea walls that were designed to withstand the wave height that they indeed saw.
If you told engineers 30 years ago that the entire chunk of land on which you’re now standing could go *down* by a meter (or more) in five minutes, they’d blink, look at you and say “Uh, really? Are you smoking something?” because we had no direct experience with this. Only since the advent of highly accurate three dimensional positioning systems (eg, GPS) from a reference point off the surface of the earth would we discover that a huge area of land just dropped, relative to the sea surface.
I’m going with body counts.
People killed at the F-D plant: I think three or four now. All of which were deaths due to physical failures at the plant, things like dropping off heights after structural failures, etc.
People killed by the tsunami: Over 20K.
Which is a bigger threat? Atomic power or sea water? I know which side I’m coming down on, and I’ve got numbers to prove it.