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Fukushima Radioactive Fallout Nears Chernobyl Levels 537

Posted by timothy
from the yeah-but-what's-the-actual-danger? dept.
0WaitState writes "The cumulative releases from Fukushima of iodine-131 and cesium-137 have reached 73% and 60% respectively of the amounts released from the 1986 Chernobyl accident. These numbers were reached independently from a monitoring station in Sacramento, CA, and Takasaki, Japan. The iodine and cesium releases are due to the cooking off of the more volatile elements in damaged fuel rods."
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Fukushima Radioactive Fallout Nears Chernobyl Levels

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  • Sensational! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    More sensationalist bullshit. Get this off slashdot, please.

    I don't doubt the claim, I do doubt the presentation. Have some respect.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is it too early to discuss movie deals involving giant radioactive zombies, animals & fishes?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by deniable (76198)
        I'd be watching for the lizards.
        • by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:36AM (#35609996)

          You rang?

        • Re:Sensational! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rei (128717) on Friday March 25, 2011 @11:04AM (#35611668) Homepage

          With a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound
          He pulls the spitting high-tension wires down...

          You know, I once came up with the notion that if you wanted an *incredibly* loud speaker, and had a large budget, you could encode music into detonating det cord by varying its radius and thus the force of its pressure wave. Depending on how thin you can make the cord, a normal length song would take a couple dozen to a couple hundred tonnes of explosives (not cheap), but you would have the volume to broadcast across a huge area.

          I was then thinking of, "What song would be best to play to people out of the blue, no warning, as part of a crazy art project?" And then it hit me: Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult. In Tokyo Bay. As you inflate a Godzilla parade float in the water with helium, causing it to rise up and out of the water head-first (ultimately releasing it to float away over the town).

          • by TheSpoom (715771)

            You know, I once came up with the notion that if you wanted an *incredibly* loud speaker, and had a large budget, you could encode music into detonating det cord by varying its radius and thus the force of its pressure wave. Depending on how thin you can make the cord, a normal length song would take a couple dozen to a couple hundred tonnes of explosives (not cheap), but you would have the volume to broadcast across a huge area.

            Please, please, please send this to the Mythbusters.

    • Re:Sensational! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by osu-neko (2604) on Friday March 25, 2011 @04:42AM (#35608956)

      From TFA:

      The amounts being released, he says, are "entirely consistent" with the relatively low amounts of caesium and iodine being measured in soil, plants and water in Japan, because so much has blown out to sea. The amounts crossing the Pacific to places like Sacramento are vanishingly small – they were detected there because the CTBT network is designed to sniff out the tiniest traces.

      "Relatively low amounts" in Japan. "Vanishingly small" amounts elsewhere. Yeah, they're really sensationally hyping this one up. /sarcasm

      I don't doubt the claim, I do doubt the presentation. Have some respect.

      So you think the claim is true, but it should not have been presented? Reporting simple facts now is sensationalism? They should have had enough respect to simply not report it? (No doubt you'll claim they could have been presented in a less sensational manner, which is utterly ridiculous considering, but whatever. Clearly any reporting of these facts at all would be considered sensationalist by you.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by subreality (157447)

        The problem is the title: "Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels"

        The headline is actually worse than sensationalist: It's an outright lie. Fallout of Cs-137 and I-131 are at near Chernobyl levels, but the fallout, as a whole, is far far less than Chernobyl.

        • Re:Sensational! (Score:4, Informative)

          by yes_really (2014766) on Friday March 25, 2011 @07:51AM (#35609750)
          I wonder how far it will go though... Chernobyl actually really "exploded" and thus in contrast to what the officials say there is only very little radioactive material within the chernobyl sarcophagus (they say there is 97% left inside, but you can walk inside with little protection, check youtube - there are many videos of the inner sanctum of the sarcophagus ... there is only little left. the rest is spread around the ukraine, russia and europe mostly). Most of the material was pushed into the air when it exploded. As there are no real (trustable) sources in terms of the Japanese nuclear catastrophe it wouldn't suprise me if there is a complete melt down of No. 3 and no public information available on the real scale of the disaster (e.g. plutonium 235, its byproducts and other radioactive material and spreading across continents and oceans).
          • Re:Sensational! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by NoSleepDemon (1521253) on Friday March 25, 2011 @08:29AM (#35609954)
            There's a documentary on the scientists trying to find the radioactive fuel / core inside the chernobyl structure on google video. They had to use robots to scout ahead because some of the rooms had pockets of radiation that could emit a lethal dose in seconds. One difference between Chernobyl and the Japanese reactors is that Chernobyl wasn't contained. Even if the Japanese reactors melt down, it's very likely that the melting cores will be captured in the containment structures built beneath them. As long as the containment holds then you won't be seeing plutonium anywhere except where it's supposed to be.
            • Re:Sensational! (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Bobtree (105901) on Friday March 25, 2011 @12:36PM (#35612752)

              Inside Chernobyl's Sarcophagus - BBC Horizon (1996): http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B98ECEE5D787AABE [youtube.com]

              This is an amazing and terrifying retrospective, and a must watch for any fan of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games.

            • The containment might crack, because the pressure inside is high and the hydrogen explosions might have damaged the structure. Also there are no special containment structures below the core a.k.a. core catcher, just the containment itself.

              The only safe thing about the plants is that this is happening elsewhere, in Japan.

              I would point you to a source, like the current TEPCO press release, but it fails to tell of the "smaller" explosions, which obviously did happen considering the damage to the outer structu

          • That's not exactly true. A hydrogen explosion did disperse some of the core contents, but the majority melted through the floor of the reactor and ended up in ducts and maintenance passages. All areas of the facility under the reactor are filled with it. Google search for 'corium.'

            All of the reactors probably did melt down. A meltdown isn't scary. TMI had a 50% meltdown, and none of it even escaped the pressure vessel. Don't play so much STALKER.

          • Your statement is so wrong that it is fractally wrong. There is not a level at which your statement is not wrong.

            Google "Chernobyl" "elephants foot".

            Read up on the ruins of the reactor- it's a HUGE problem. The concrete coating is rotting and there isn't money to build a new one.

            When you are done- read this site: http://www.angelfire.com/extreme4/kiddofspeed/index.html [angelfire.com]

            It's really cool- a Russian lady on a ninja motorcycle goes on annual trips through the area, takes photos, and Geiger counter readings.

            It

            • I recall reading that story was bullshit -- civilians are not allowed to go there alone. She went in tours like everyone else.

        • by Thuktun (221615)

          The problem is the title: "Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels"

          The headline is actually worse than sensationalist: It's an outright lie. Fallout of Cs-137 and I-131 are at near Chernobyl levels, but the fallout, as a whole, is far far less than Chernobyl.

          Yes, and fallout *at those particular stations*. To compare the overall fallout from Chernobyl (implied by the sensationalist title), they would need to factor in the distance from the sources (Chernobyl is much farther away from those stations) as it applies to wind/weather dispersion patterns as well as half-life of those isotopes.

          Junk science journalism FTL.

    • The article uses scientific notation to give the radiation release in becquerels.

      It is impossible to be sensationalist when using scientific notation!

      • Re:Sensational! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Tackhead (54550) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:16AM (#35610298)

        The article uses scientific notation to give the radiation release in becquerels.

        It is impossible to be sensationalist when using scientific notation!

        Yeah, yeah, your fancy exponents, but try using percentages!

        From TFA:

        "Similarly, says Wotawa, caesium-137 emissions are on the same order of magnitude as at Chernobyl. The Sacramento readings suggest it has emitted 5 Ã-- 10^15 becquerels of caesium-137 per day; Chernobyl put out 8.5 Ã-- 10^16 in total -- around 70 per cent more per day."

        Yeah, seventy percent. The same 70% by which 85 is 70% more than 5.

        WTF, NewScientist? The error's in the original article too, but this is the sort of mistake I expect from the mainstream media. A pop scientist publication should be smarter than this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)

      Yeah they conveniently forget that this was never the problem at Chernobyl. Both Iodine and Cesium are only dangerous if you ingest significant quantities of them. Additionally they have halflives measured in hours ... Meaning these clouds are completely harmless after half a day passes.

      The problem at Chernobyl was release of Uranium and Plutonium [oecd-nea.org] in clouds, which then spread around the site, and irradiated everything. They will keep irradiating everything for eons. Soviets managed to vaporize about 3.5% of

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        Iodine 131 has a half life of 8 days, caesium 137 is 30 years. 20 seconds in Wikipedia would have told you that. As you got these two basic facts wrong, I'm not reading the rest of your post. Your ignorance is no better than big media's malevolence, so kindly STFU.
        • Re:Sensational! (Score:4, Informative)

          by Luckyo (1726890) on Friday March 25, 2011 @06:14AM (#35609336)

          He's correct on everything else though, and the reason why those clouds are generally harmless to population is because they tend to rain microscopic amounts of radioactive cesium as it cools. Cesium-137 is dangerous if breathed in as small particles that get stuck in the lungs (iirc).

          Iodine 131 is even safer. It's risks are based on the fact that thyroid gland tends to vacuum all the iodine in the body, including isotope 131 where it irradiates your body from inside for a long time. Of course, that requires significant ingestion of such iodine in the first place, which most typically comes with significantly contaminated water. Again, amount needed is fairly significant, and ones measured on the microscopic levels are barely notable to the human and animal bodies, and are several tens of orders of magnitudes lower then total ionising effect of background radiation on sea level.

          Essentially you're far more at risk of getting cancer if you move to live 500m higher from sea level then from radiation in Fukushima if you don't live in Japan at the moment. The main risk in Chernobyl has been that essentially entire heavy part of radioactive isotopes of table of elements got into atmosphere. This is obviously not the case with Fukushima.

          P.S. And please, don't even DARE flying. That's incredibly dangerous, you get irradiated!

          • Re:Sensational! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday March 25, 2011 @07:20AM (#35609624)

            "Of course, that requires significant ingestion of such iodine in the first place, which most typically comes with significantly contaminated water."

            Milk.
            Chernobyl results showed that cows eating the contaminated grass had almost all the radioactive iodine in the milk and children who drank that milk got sick.
            Apparently 90% of the children thyroid cancers could have been prevented if the government had issued a warning not to drink milk.

          • Re:Sensational! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Rei (128717) on Friday March 25, 2011 @11:16AM (#35611800) Homepage

            He's correct on everything else though

            No, he's not. I went one step further and followed his link. Proof by Ghost Reference. It does not say what he claims it does.

            The main reason why elements with low half lives are dangerous is precisely *because* they have low half lives. U-238 is all over the bloody planet, but with a half life similar to the age of the planet, it poses little threat. Iodine poses the primary threat initially after a nuclear accident, followed by cesium and strontium over time. The Chernobyl exclusion zone may be opened for development and agriculture again up once the cesium and strontium decay sufficiently.

            What sort of ridiculous-looking hat are you pulling your figures from, like your "500m higher" one? Fukushima City's radiation levels are ~100 times their normal background level -- and they're 30km *west* (against the prevailing winds) of the reactor. Tokyo today is at 4x their normal background, and they're *150km* away and tangential to the prevailing winds. And the accident is still ongoing, and will be for quite a while. And we're talking about external radiation, not inhaled/ingested particulate, which is orders of magnitude worse for the body than radiation from external sources (like most background radiation, like the radiation from X-rays, like the radiation from flying, etc).

            Could you please put down the nuclear power pom poms for just a minute and enter the real world where this is a serious disaster having a serious effect on a first-world country?

      • by presidenteloco (659168) on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:34AM (#35609176)

        "Spending a year close to Fukushima itself will have ZERO observable health effects."

        Go for it. I'm sure they could use your assistance there.

        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:32AM (#35610528) Homepage Journal

          Death toll from Earthquake and tsunami 10,000+
          Death toll from the reactor accident so far 0.

          • by Rei (128717) on Friday March 25, 2011 @11:39AM (#35612074) Homepage

            Nuclear disasters are disasters in slow motion. Apart from initial explosions and the like, there's no good reason any sizeable number of people in an informed populace has to die because there's plenty of time to react. That doesn't mean you can ignore them or that they don't cause tens or hundreds of billion dollars in damages. You have to put forth heroic efforts to try to stop a catastrophe from becoming a megacatastrophe. You have to order the evacuations. You have to destroy produce and milk. You have to leave areas closed off to settlement and larger areas to agriculture. You have to find new water supplies. You have to seal off any sources of further radiation leakage, whatever the cost. And so on, all depending on the scale of the accident.

            Everyone focuses on deaths with nuclear accidents, but apart from the sudden explosion/etc deaths and the deaths caused by a poor response to the disaster, nobody has to die in even a major nuclear accident. They're just really freaking expensive to deal with, in terms of containment, in terms of ruined property, and in terms of protracted economic damages.

      • Re:Sensational! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:43AM (#35609222) Journal

        Both Iodine and Cesium are only dangerous if you ingest significant quantities of them. Additionally they have halflives measured in hours

        No.

        I-131 8 days.
        Cs-137 30.2 years.

        The problem at Chernobyl was release of Uranium and Plutonium in clouds, which then spread around the site, and irradiated everything.

        In the long term the problem was the Cs-137 [unscear.org].

        Does it really need to be said that the Japanese lost control of exactly 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000% of their nuclear fuel.

        If exposure of the rods and burning off of radioactive isotopes is zero loss of control, then stabbing someone is zero loss of blood unless they die.

        Wanna bet the author of this story is a "green scientist" ?

        The only thing I'd bet is that you're thoroughly annoyed that an out-of-date power plant has demonstrated that humans need to try much harder when deploying nuclear power. You're deliberately polarising it as greens vs nuclear advocates when it's really the desire for safe nuclear power vs the desire for maximising profit at inappropriate risk.

        • the desire for maximising profit at inappropriate risk.

          So you think we need to do a lot more work before we deploy wind farms? Considering that over the last ten years there have been 44 deaths worldwide associated with wind farms and 7 deaths worldwide related to nuclear power plants (I'm not sure if this number includes the current situation) if nuclear power is not yet safe enough, then wind power has a long way to go.

    • Re:Sensational! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by georgesdev (1987622) on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:35AM (#35609184)
      I still have some liquid soap left from last year's flu hysteria.
      And some air masks too. Who wants some?
      There was also a hysteria for the mad cow disease, but my wife did not buy anything, we merely rode the car through pools of soapy water back then (near farms)
      The problem when the media says apocalypse is coming once a year, and we're still there the next year is that we pay less attention the next time.
  • really guys? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seggybop (835060) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:40AM (#35608744)
    glad to see that slashdot is 100% on board with the media's general nuclear hysteria
    [I don't think I need to explain why "nearing chernobyl levels" is a ridiculous description...]
  • by pipingguy (566974) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:40AM (#35608746) Homepage
    OMG, we're all gonna die! Again!
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by deniable (76198)
      I know, I died three times last week.
    • OMG, we're all gonna die!

      Don't worry, it's a well-known fact that radiation exposure will bring you back as a zombie.

      And since everyone else will be zombies too, you won't have to worry about what kind of impression you'll make. (That hot chick's ears will be falling off too.)

    • Apocalypse!
      We've all been there.
      The same old trips, why should we care? ...
      It's do or die.
      Hey, I've died twice! :)

  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by znu (31198) <znu.public@gmail.com> on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:41AM (#35608748)

    From TFA:

    The difference between this accident and Chernobyl, they say, is that at Chernobyl a huge fire released large amounts of many radioactive materials, including fuel particles, in smoke. At Fukushima Daiichi, only the volatile elements, such as iodine and caesium, are bubbling off the damaged fuel.

    That's a really important difference. It means the total release of radioactive material is far smaller. And the iodine, at least, is a lot less scary than the sort of stuff you get from fuel particles -- it has a half-life of only 8 days, so there's no real long-term environmental threat from that. (The cesium is rather worse -- half life of ~30 years.)

    • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:56AM (#35608804) Homepage

      It's ridicolous fear-mongering to post that we're at so-and-so percentage-level with regard to release of 2 specific radioactive substances, without mentioning that this in no way implies that we're even close to similar in general.

      Like you point out, in particular iodine is a short-lived and thus mostly local problem (and even local radiation-levels have been very modest this far). Half-life of 8 days means that it's more than 99% gone in 2 months and 99.99% gone in 4 months and so on. (basically add a 9 every month)

      There may yet be larger releases, but -this- far we've got ~20.000 dead due to earthquake and tsunami, and ~0 dead due to radiation released from the powerplants.

      • There may yet be larger releases, but -this- far we've got ~20.000 dead due to earthquake and tsunami, and ~0 dead due to radiation released from the powerplants.

        Several people have radiation sickness from high exposure already, high doses have been recorded up to 40km away, and radiation kills long term (unless it's a massive dose), so that's not a very useful statistic. It is useful to know what levels of radiation have been released.

        Unless fuel ponds or a reactor burns fully this disaster won't be comparable to Chernobyl, and it's unlikely to get that bad, but we should not play down its impact, which is likely to be hugely expensive over the long-term, given the

        • Yes it is a critical situation, but not as bad as this hype

          The "Several people" are workers at the plant ....

          Radiation in this case is mostly Iodine, which has a short halflife but is dangerous if ingested, not because of the whole body effects of the radiation (which are minimal) but because it is concentrated in the thyroid ... this is why short term avoidance of tapwater was advised

          Caesium is usually distributed all over the body and is expelled natuarlly and so is less worrying in small doses ...

          40 yea

        • by ZombieWomble (893157) on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:22AM (#35609112)

          Several people have radiation sickness from high exposure already, high doses have been recorded up to 40km away, and radiation kills long term (unless it's a massive dose), so that's not a very useful statistic. It is useful to know what levels of radiation have been released.

          All of these points are, I believe, at least hyperbole, and at worst outright scaremongering.

          While it's true several plant workers have been taken to hospital for monitoring after receiving acute doses higher than safety recommendations (>100 mSv), this is many times lower than the typical onset of "radiation sickness". The safety threshold is chosen as the limit of detectability for increased cancer risk over a lifetime, which puts it on the order of 1 or 2 percent increase in lifetime risk of cancer. Given they're doing very valuable work, this is not that dramatic a risk - the risk to other emergency responders in the wake of the tsunami is probably much greater.

          With regards to the "high" doses 40 km away, these need to again be put in perspective - it is "high" compared to the local background (although often only 50 to 100% more than usual, barring localised spikes), but there are places in the world where natural radiation is almost 100 times greater than the typically quoted "background dose", and people live there just fine. Combined with the fact that most of this radiation is short-lived Iodine isotopes, a ballpark estimate suggests that people living outside the plant would only see a dose of 1 mSv or less by the time the iodine had decayed away, even if they ignored all the simple safety precautions which can be taken to reduce that further. These doses are well known not to cause any significant increase in cancer risk - long term or not.

          And your suggestion of a Chernobyl-style sarcophagus being required is still rather unlikely. Since it appears none of the reactors have actually melted down or suffered a substantial failure in containment in the immediate vicinity of the rods themselves, it's quite likely that they'll be able to take them through a more or less normal shutdown and decommissioning once proper cooling is restored, and the storage implications will be no more serious than if they reached their natural end-of-life. Indeed, if they weren't already near or past their expected end-of-life, they could probably be fairly readily repaired, refuelled, and set running again within a relatively short timeframe. (Indeed, there's talk that this is being considered for Reactors 4 through 6, although that may turn out to not be politically viable).

          I'm not denying it's a serious issue - but in the perspective of tens of thousands dead, and many times more homeless and short on food and other supplies, it really shouldn't be dominating headlines in this way.

          • by subreality (157447) on Friday March 25, 2011 @06:52AM (#35609478)

            Since it appears none of the reactors have actually melted down or suffered a substantial failure in containment in the immediate vicinity of the rods themselves, it's quite likely that they'll be able to take them through a more or less normal shutdown and decommissioning once proper cooling is restored ...

            Actually, the high I-131 and Cs-137 levels pretty well indicate that at least a partial meltdown has occurred. We'll only know for sure once we're able to crack them open and see what's inside, but my money's on it looking a lot like the TMI leftovers. With a mess of corium casserole inside, they're not going to just pop the lid off and pull the fuel bundles like any other shutdown. It'll be years before they peek inside, and years more before they've finished scraping the slag out. That's much better than Chernobyl where angry flaming core got spooed everywhere, but it's hardly a "normal" decommissioning.

        • by Glock27 (446276) on Friday March 25, 2011 @06:54AM (#35609504)

          radiation kills long term (unless it's a massive dose)

          That is commonly accepted thinking, but is apparently incorrect.

          The tens of thousands more distant from Ground Zero, and who received lower exposures to radiation, did not die in droves. To the contrary, and surprisingly, they outlived their counterparts in the general population who received no exposure to radiation from the blasts.

          These findings come from the Atomic Bomb Disease Institute of the Nagasaki University School of Medicine, which has been analyzing the medical records of survivors continuously since 1968.

          Quotes are from Lawrence Solomon: Japan’s radioactive fallout could have silver lining [financialpost.com].

          Sometimes reality is surprising.

        • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday March 25, 2011 @06:57AM (#35609516) Homepage

          If by "high" doses you mean "doses that may, perhaps, increase your lifetime risk of getting cancer by a single-digit percentage" then yes.

          I'm not saying this is ignorable, or not serious. I'm saying that this far, it seems likely that the harm to human health from the nukes, will be a tiny fraction of the damages resulting from the earthquake and tsunami.

          i.e. if there where zero nuclear powerplants in the affected area, the number of dead and seriously injured people would've been essentially identical.

          Japan has suffered a huge catastrophy. Nuclear powerplants has this far gotten a huge fraction of the attention, while actually causing a miniscule fraction of the deaths and injuries. This *may* change if we get a larger release of radioactive substances, offcourse.

          • by Solandri (704621) on Friday March 25, 2011 @09:01AM (#35610160)

            I'm saying that this far, it seems likely that the harm to human health from the nukes, will be a tiny fraction of the damages resulting from the earthquake and tsunami.

            I suspect more people are going to wind up getting cancer and dying from smoke inhalation from all the gas, wood, and coal heaters they're using due to the rolling blackouts, than from radiation from this accident. In other words, the loss of electrical generating capacity due to the Fukushima Daiichi plant being offline is probably going to kill more people than the radiation it emits. But death by radiation is more exotic and makes a better story than death by long-term smoke inhalation, so the media splashes it all over their headlines.

            Nuclear powerplants has this far gotten a huge fraction of the attention, while actually causing a miniscule fraction of the deaths and injuries. This *may* change if we get a larger release of radioactive substances, offcourse.

            Statistically, if you compare the safety of each power source in terms of deaths per TWh generated, this accident would have to kill something like 10,000 people in order for nuclear to lose its title as safest power generation technology (wind is currently second safest - yes, wind power has killed more people Watt-hour for Watt-hour than nuclear). This obsession people have with worst case scenarios is skewing their judgment into making the wrong decision on how safe the technology is. Just like how plane crashes make people think planes are more dangerous than they really are, or how big lottery prizes make people think it's worth buying a ticket when it really isn't.

    • by shmlco (594907)

      Or the radioactive carbon and other material that came from the burning graphite in the Chernobyl reactor. That burned for what, two weeks straight?

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:42AM (#35608754) Homepage Journal
    Like all other moments in life, there is a Simpsons quote that sums it up:

    "turning a possible Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island"
    • Like all other moments in life, there is a Simpsons quote that sums it up:

      Sorry, but you also have to provide an xkcd and a reference from LoTR or Dr. Who.

  • So does this mean the reactor has officially "melted down"?

    FTA: "Chernobyl a huge fire released large amounts of many radioactive materials, including fuel particles, in smoke. At Fukushima Daiichi, only the volatile elements, such as iodine and caesium, are bubbling off the damaged fuel." So, it's not on fire but... well what does this mean?
    • by jamesh (87723)

      and more importantly, what is a China Syndrome called when it happens in Japan???

    • I believe the term is "partial meltdown", where the fuel rods get hot and unstable, but do not go goey like cheese under the grill. From the little I remember from university metallurgy is that essentially these rods are alloys, primarily U-238 but with other stuff entering the mix when the uranium undergoes fission, alloys are known change phase under heat and certain metals bubble out or condense depending on their chemical properties.

      Total meltdown is where the rods turn into liquid and drip down into a

    • Re:Total Meltdown (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sjames (1099) on Friday March 25, 2011 @04:14AM (#35608870) Homepage

      So does this mean the reactor has officially "melted down"?

      No, but the press has.

      This is only referring to the cesium and iodine. I find even those figures suspect considering that Chernobyl literally ejected it's core directly into the air. Especially given the rather unalarming radiation measurements all around the area.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Something did melt because TEPCO measured neutron radiation which indicates a small amount of fission.
      What and how much is anybody's guess.

  • by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:44AM (#35608766)
    Speaking of Chernobyl, below is and interview with a former director of the Soviet Spetsatom agency handling the Chernobyl case. He has plenty of published papers [google.com] out there and apparently now teaches and advises on nuclear safety in Vienna. In the interview he gives four scenarios for the Japanese reactors... I wonder what the verdict is not a week later.

    Full translated interview:

    17/03/2011 Rafael Poch, Berlin Correspondent

    Andreyev: "In the nuclear industry there are no independent bodies" "The most dangerous reactor in Fukushima is 3, because it uses a fuel of uranium and plutonium," said Yuli

    He spent five years at Chernobyl. Spetsatom was deputy director of the anti-Soviet body nuclear accidents and knows very well how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works.

    Yuri Andreyev (1938) is one of the most knowledgeable in this area. To Fukushima includes four scenarios of varying severity, from mild to very severe.

    "In Fukushima, the most dangerous reactor is three, because it uses MOX fuel more plutonium uranium that France is being used experimentally in two Japanese plants," says this expert.

    In 1991 everything fell apart in Moscow. The salary of deputy minister of atomic energy, the position he was offered Andreyev, not enough for anything. The Academy of Sciences of Austria was invited to lecture and eventually settled in Vienna as adviser to the minister of environment, universities and the IAEA itself.

    Chernoby is still surrounded by lies, says. The accident was not the responsibility of plant operators, as stated, but a clear design flaw in the RBMK reactors result of cost savings. Proper design of those Soviet reactors required a large amount of zirconium, a rare metal, and a maze of pipes, special techniques for welding of zirconium, stainless steel and huge amounts of concrete. It was a fortune, so they decided to save money, said Andreyev.

    One of the resources of savings was to feed the reactor with relatively low enriched uranium, since uranium enrichment is a complicated and expensive. This increased the risks and was contrary to the rules of safety, but supervision in the USSR nuclear part of the Ministry of Atomic Energy. Something similar is happening today with the IAEA, as the UN agency "depends on the nuclear industry," said Andreyev, under which lies and secrets of Chernobyl are now fully present in Fukushima.

    Security, money, irresponsibility

    "Those who design nuclear power plants are pending on two things: safety and cost. The problem is that security costs money. If you spend too much on nuclear power plant it is not competitive. The accident at Three Mile Island is the perfect example. After the accident was to improve security in a convincing way to avoid repetition of the accident both plants more expensive, they lost all meaning. For thirty years in America was not built a single reactor. Chernobyl was all very complicated but also had to do with economics. Academician Rumyantsev showed that we had to close all RBMK reactors. Simply ignored. There are always people interested in hiding something ... "

    What are they hiding?

    They lend themselves to compromise on security in exchange for selfish considerations. In the USSR for the cost of uranium enrichment in Japan simply for money. The location of central Japan, near the sea is the cheapest. Emergency generators are not buried and, of course, were flooded instantly .... Behind all this there is corruption. I have no proof, but will not take long to appear. How can I design a nuclear power plant in an area of ââhigh seismic risk, near the ocean, with emergency generators at the surface?. Wave arrived and everything was out of service. There is no error, this is a crime.

    What problems do you see wi

    • by adolf (21054)

      I find your Babelfish to be unintelligible: Apparently, they're translating from Russian to Spanish to English.

      Much is lost.

      Would a native Spanish speaker care to contribute a better translation of the linked and translated article, or (much better) a native Russian speaker care to find the interview in its original dialect and convert it (even in brief) to English in one step?

      Please?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by batistuta (1794636)

        Here. I've tried to do a better translation from the Spanish article, which is actually quite well-written

        Andreyev: "In the nuclear industry there are no independent organisms"

        "The most dangerous reactor in Fukushima is 3, because it uses a fuel that combines uranium and plutonium," he states.

        He spent five years at Chernobyl. He was vice-director of Spetsatom, the Soviet body for the fight against nuclear accidents, and he knows deep internals of how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works.

        Yuri

  • by Entropius (188861) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:52AM (#35608798)

    For those who don't know, the University of Washington has one of the best nuclear physics programs in the US.

    Turns out they do detect trace amounts of iodine-131 in the air, but nowhere near Chernobyl levels.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.4853v1 [arxiv.org]

  • by no known priors (1948918) on Friday March 25, 2011 @04:07AM (#35608840)

    Reporting live from Tokyo (well, just on the outskirts, but def. part of the greater Tokyo area):
    People here have bought up massive amounts of bottled water, though apparently the level of radioactive iodine has fallen below the maximum legal limit for infants (which is one third for that of adults). Milk is also in short supply. Two days ago, two supermarkets near me had no milk, or plain bottled water. (Haven't looked since then.)

    On the subject of meltdowns, there is no "official" meaning to the term. But, I would say that at least a couple of the reactors have "melted down" (I haven't really been paying attention to the news, so I don't know if any of the others have or not). Anyway, fun facts, the "precautionary" safe limit of 80 KM set by the US government (and then the Australian government), for folks, was apparently worth setting. At least one village outside the 30 KM radius has had really high levels of radioactive iodine get into the water.

    Me, I'm staying in Tokyo until things get really bad. But, I imagine, at least a couple of million of the other residents would also want to leave at that time too. So...

  • Fukushima (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TopSpin (753) on Friday March 25, 2011 @04:28AM (#35608910) Journal

    There are immediately several posts expressing scepticism about this story. You people need to set that instinct aside for a moment. I am not [slashdot.org] an anti-nuke hysteric. Allow me the benefit of the doubt.

    Recent reports from Japan are trending towards large amounts of contamination. Levels of Caesium and Iodine in the sea are very high. Soil samples are turning up large amounts of contamination. Tokyo tap water (200 km away) is contaminated. Vegetables in Hong Kong are accumulating Caesium that exceed limits. I have been monitoring Kyodo and NHK news and the degree of contamination being reported is disturbing.

    Today's events include severe radiation burns on two workers, acknowledgement of containment failure in No.3 (MOX reactor,) an increase of the evacuation radius from 20 to 30 km and an order to greatly increase radiation monitoring at the site. Unexplained bursts of various gases have been forcing worker evacuations throughout the week. Fukushima didn't end when the news cycle cut over to Libya.

    Fukushima has been releasing vapour directly into the atmosphere from reactor pressure vessels in which fuel damage has occurred. There is no precedent for that procedure in the history of nuclear technology, there has been no opportunity to directly measure the contamination of these releases, so there is no credible information on the actual amount of contamination being released from these vessels. There is no credible information on the amount of spent fuel that was lofted by the spent fuel pool fires. There is no accounting of the amount of contamination flowing off the site due to the use of water cannons.

    DO NOT discount reports of contamination. DO NOT dismiss out of hand comparisons of Fukushima with Chernobyl.

    I can't find a way to sugar coat that. Sorry.

    • Re:Fukushima (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spad (470073) <slashdot@[ ]d.co.uk ['spa' in gap]> on Friday March 25, 2011 @04:39AM (#35608946) Homepage

      DO dismiss out of hand comparisons of Fukushima with Chernobyl. Because they're completely different events, at differently designed nuclear power plants, with a completely different level of response from the local authorities. Even in the absolute worst case scenario, Fukushima will never be anywhere near as bad as Chernobyl was in terms of deaths, long term damage to the environment or cost & duration of cleanup.

    • by NuShrike (561140)

      No, sounds like they're finally feeding water into it which is allowing boil off and so some radiation release. Two very different hings. Do not conflate it with the fact the are fixing things and it's under more cooling control than left alone.

      Levels of cesium and iodine are from direct runoff and in the direction of venting. The levels are still nothing to worry about unless you're in the direct area. Tap water was being fed by the Edo river from the north into Tokyo's water. That's just another red her

    • I am not an anti-nuke hysteric.

      I'd kind of like to be a pro-nuke non-hysteric, but alas, it seems that our species lacks either the brains or the willpower to use designs that are proof against earthquakes and Soviet-quality engineering, or to plan ahead on what we're going to do with all the spent fuel and other nasty sh*t that you wouldn't want them dumping in you back yard.

    • Re:Fukushima (Score:4, Informative)

      by orangedan (1643169) on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:03AM (#35609036)
      As for the levels in the water, they appear to have gone done quite quickly [nuclearsafety.gc.ca]. Personally, I trust these guys because they give strict facts and no speculation. I have yet to see any reports of Hong Kong vegetables, but I admit I'm too lazy to google. That said, my (again, admittedly) knee-jerk reaction is to point out all the sketchy stuff in the past with China and other food products and ask if it might not be something else.

      Things are slowly getting better. It wasn't the best two weeks, but life in Japan goes on as normal. That said, I'm down in Kyoto, which is pretty far from it all.
    • Re:Fukushima (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:14AM (#35609090)

      DO NOT discount reports of contamination. DO NOT dismiss out of hand comparisons of Fukushima with Chernobyl.

      I can't find a way to sugar coat that. Sorry.

      The scary contamination in Tokyo is between 0.3% and 1.5% of the radioactive exposure you get from smoking one cigarette. Scary, isn't it?

      • The scary contamination in Tokyo is between 0.3% and 1.5% of the radioactive exposure you get from smoking one cigarette. Scary, isn't it?

        You didn't say why cigarettes are radioactive. As I recall, in WWII the government took the tobacco industry's usual fertilizer (urea) to make explosives. The tobacco industry switched to Rock Phosphate, which they liked better anyways because it could be mined with a caterpillar instead of collected with farm hands.

        Most of the phosphate rock in Florida as well as some other locales contains significant concentrations of radioactive Uranium. This becomes an issue when the processed phosphate rock is used fo

  • Braindamage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zmooc (33175) <{zmooc} {at} {zmooc.net}> on Friday March 25, 2011 @05:41AM (#35609216) Homepage

    This article is full of errors major errors, including the title/conclusion.

    They're typically off by about a factor 10; they seem to have ignored the exponent when calculating the percentages they use to conclude Fukushima is nearing Tsjernobyl levels. Where they state that Tsjernobyl put out 70% more caesium-137 than Fukushima, it's actually 1700%. Where they state that Tsjernobyl put out 50% more Iodine-131 it's actually 1400%. These numbers are based on the readings provided by the article.

    Apart from that the comparison simply makes no sense for a 1000 other reasons. Remote detectors for airborne radioactive particles cannot reliably provide an indication of what the reactor put out, especially given the fact that Tsjernobyl was a fire releasing all kinds of aerosols while Fukushima releases mostly gasses that probably get carried much futher by the wind and do not pollute the grounds in the perimeter of the reactor as much as Tsjernobyl.

    Furthermore, Tsjernobyl started out with explosion that probably released a huge quantity of especially iodine in one big blast, not leaving quite that much for the "aftermath" (which this article makes a comparison with). Also, what they fail to mention is the deadly mix of compounds other than iodine and caesium released by Tsjernobyl.

    This is nothing like Tsjernobyl and it will not become anything like it either. Stop the FUD please.

    • Re:Braindamage? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Friday March 25, 2011 @07:17AM (#35609608)

      They are comparing a per-day value from Fukushima to a 10-day value from Chernobyl, that's why there's a factor of 10 difference, and they have taken it into account.

      • One done in USA and the other a day later in Japan AT THE BEGINNING OF THE INCIDENT - and then extrapolated that over 14 days until they had amounts close or over those in Chernobyl.

        http://newsroom.ctbto.org/ [ctbto.org]
        http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14938445,00.html [dw-world.de]

        "The estimated source terms for iodine-131 are very constant, namely 1.3 x 10^17 becquerels per day for the first two days (US station) and 1.2 x 10^17 becquerels per day for the third day (Japan)," the institute said in a German-language statement posted on Wednesday on its website.

        "For cesium-137 measurements, (the US station) measured 5 x 10^15 becquerels, close, while Japan had much more cesium in its air. On this day, we estimate a source term of about 4 x 10^16."

        If they keep counting long enough they'll top Hiroshima as well. Then again, so will my room on the other side of the planet.

  • by kikito (971480) on Friday March 25, 2011 @07:06AM (#35609544) Homepage

    Title says it all.

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:02AM (#35610920)
    how about a comparison of how much radiation a coal power plant is emitting compared to a nuclear power plant.

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