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3 Years Later: A Fukushima Worker's Eyewitness Story 148

Posted by timothy
from the is-that-just-the-regular-ominious-music? dept.
Lasrick writes "Tuesday, March 11 is the 3rd anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. In this article, a worker at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station gives his eyewitness account of what happened there in the immediate wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami that caused three of the station's reactor cores to melt." The witness, says the story, "was promised anonymity as a condition of providing his account."
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3 Years Later: A Fukushima Worker's Eyewitness Story

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    cause hearing about it every fucking day distorts the age of the event

    • Yeah. (Score:5, Funny)

      by o_ferguson (836655) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:31PM (#46440621)
      Almost like this story has a half-life of some insane number of years...
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        We will be reading about it in 50 years time, as they finally concrete over the last of it. If I live that long it will be interesting to see what they end up doing with the site.

    • Well, this is why nuclear power is so dangerous. If something bad happens, the bad is here to stay.

      • by terjeber (856226) on Monday March 10, 2014 @07:18AM (#46444297)
        Nuclear power, the safest, cleanest efficient way to produce energy known to man.
  • Is fusion the answer to all our energy problems? Is it practical at all and will it be cleaner / safer than fission ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fission isn't unsafe. Gross neglect and building reactors in areas where very destructive natural disasters are know to happen is unsafe.

      • Just blame the guy who can't speak English. Ah, Tibor, how many times have you saved my butt?

      • Re:fusion? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nojayuk (567177) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @02:19PM (#46440831)

        "areas where very destructive natural disasters are know to happen"

        That describes the entire nation of Japan pretty much. The earthquake and tsunami of 2011 isn't even the biggest natural disaster in Japan in the last hundred years, the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 killed more than 100,000 people in Tokyo. The Kobe earthquake in 1995 killed about 5,000. The Japanese write books with titles like "Japan sinks!" and make animes like "Tokyo Magnitude 8.0" but they love their country even if it is actively trying to kill them.

        Next time you've got a half-day in Tokyo go over to the Metropolitan Towers, the city's local government building near Shinjiku. There's a free observation gallery you can visit on the 36th floor and on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji to the south-west. That's an active volcano, by the way, less than 100km from where 30-odd million people live and work. It's at the corner of three active tectonic plates, the source of the 1923 earthquake I mentioned.

        As for "areas where very destructive natural disasters are know to happen" why do people live in the Mississippi valley with its killer tornadoes (550 dead in 2011 alone)? Do Americans like taking risks that much?

      • Where is my mod points when I need them. Oh, I posted here, wouldn't do any good.
        But if I could, I would give you +3 points.

    • No (Score:5, Informative)

      by justthinkit (954982) <floyd@just-think-it.com> on Sunday March 09, 2014 @03:21PM (#46441131) Homepage Journal
      The U.S. is going away [slashdot.org] from fusion.
  • Summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:51PM (#46440715) Homepage

    When the power went out things got difficult, communication became harder, the plant was already badly damaged. The tsunami made things a lot worse, and general confusion prevented people taking effective action. On paper it was a recoverable situation that should have been safely dealt with, in practice human nature doesn't cope well with this kind of crisis.

    • Good point: maybe these things ought to remain on paper.
    • by Solandri (704621)
      I'm an engineer by training. My natural inclination is to assume the worst and seek evidence showing that things aren't quite that bad.

      Reading TFA, I was struck by how the manager seemed to assume the best and sought evidence showing things were worse. When workers told him they couldn't read the coolant water levels anymore, rather than assume the worst (the cooling water had all evaporated) and order seawater to be dumped in (killing the commercial life of the reactor), he repeatedly asked the worker
      • by sFurbo (1361249)
        IIRC, dumping in sea water would not only kill the commercial life of the reactor. Sea water becomes much more radioactive than non-saline water when radiated with neutrons (I think the neutron capture of Cl-35 is to blame, but I am in no way sure), so the cleanup also becomes much more elaborate.
    • by khallow (566160)

      in practice human nature doesn't cope well with this kind of crisis.

      What "nature" does cope well with flying blind? Before we blame this on the yoomans, perhaps we ought to consider whether an optimally rational actor would have done any better?

  • by Will_Malverson (105796) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @01:52PM (#46440719) Journal

    Almost 20,000 people died because they lived close to the ocean.

    A few dozen people might wind up with cancer someday because Japan uses nuclear power.

    The obvious conclusion? Nuclear power is bad and should be eliminated immediately.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      200,000 people are homeless from the evacuation and will probably die in school gyms.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rob Y. (110975)

      And had the nuclear plant not melted down, another 20,000 people could've moved back into the area and attempted to devise ways to survive the next tsunami. But as it is, the meltdown has rendered a big swath of land uninhabitable. The tsunami would've killed those 20,000 either way. But the nuke didn't have to be there making things worse.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjames (1099)

        So if another tsunami hits that (evacuated) area, does that mean we credit the meltdown for saving 20,000 lives?

      • But as it is, the meltdown has rendered a big swath of land uninhabitable.

        It's not uninhabitable. People could live there perfectly fine for a long time I bet, just like some are around Chernobyl. It is probably more danger in the long run than other land, but we are just attempting death avoidance in levels far safer than other situations that we are ok with. Living in the evacuated zone is probably safer than being a coal miner.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Not even close.

      The nuclear disaster causes a lot of people to lose their homes and businesses. Not out of fear, because the area was contaminated well above safe levels and is still being cleaned up. It also forced all nuclear plants in the country to shut down. Even if Fukushima has been fine most of them would have needed to be taken offline for checks and repairs due to the quake being well above their design limits and the damage to them that was immediately evident. In a country with lots of earthquake

      • by Dare nMc (468959)

        >Comparing the disaster to the deaths from the tsunami is meaningless.

        Do you even realize that the earthquake was the root cause of every death? From your post, you make it sound like the meltdown, and the earthquake were unrelated. The point being you suck as risk analysis if you don't understand that when a once in a 1000 years tsunami strikes a area, people will die in that area. The added risk to life caused by also having a nuclear plant in this area was a insignificant increase in the average ri

    • On the long run (Score:1, Interesting)

      by stooo (2202012)

      >> A few dozen people might wind up with cancer someday because Japan uses nuclear power.

      Nope. The first years it was close to 600 in the direct vincinity:
      https://nuclearhistory.wordpre... [wordpress.com]

      The number is not considering the widespread ingestion of contaminated agricultural produce, and is exponential over the years (or at least over the firt 300 years)

      On the long run, Fukushima takes more lives than the tsunami. Much more.

      • That 600 was NOT cancer deaths. Note from your link:

        A total of 573 deaths have been certified as âoedisaster-relatedâ by 13 municipalities affected by the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

        And

        A disaster-related death certificate is issued when a death is not directly caused by a tragedy, but by fatigue or the aggravation of a chronic disease due to the disaster.

        Note that "radioactivity-casued cancers" are NOT included in that descr

    • by greg_barton (5551)

      Wish I had mod points for you. +1

    • by MrKaos (858439)

      Almost 20,000 people died because they lived close to the ocean.

      A few dozen people might wind up with cancer someday because Japan uses nuclear power.

      The obvious conclusion? Nuclear power is bad and should be eliminated immediately.

      The gestation period of most cancers is about 6 years. Which means that even the direct effects of the Fukushima disaster won't start appearing until 2017. Radioisotopes analogue micronutrients when presented to a metabolism. Plutonium (pu-239) presents as Iron. Iron is highl

      • by sFurbo (1361249)

        Plutonium (pu-239) presents as Iron. Iron is highly sought after in oceanic metabolisms and therefore complete uptake of pu-239 into the food chain is guaranteed. This is the nature of bio-accumulation and the effects are cumulative.

        Plutonium would be present in the ocean as PuO2, right? Which is highly insoluble. Do we have any measurements on the bioavailability of plutonium in ocean environments?

        pu-239 has a half life of 25,000 years and is fatal to humans at a dose of around 1-10 micrograms [oppenheimer].

        That depends highly on the form. If it is ingested as PuO2, only 0.04% is taken up, the rest is excreted. Granted, it might be much more bioavalable if it is bioaccumulated.

        When the person is buried the isotope will eventually make it's way into the water table, if cremated the ashes will carry the radioisotope back into the air.

        Not if it is present as the oxide, which it will surely be after cremation. The oxide is unreactive (unless it is reduced), and heavy, so dust will settle relatively qui

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @03:02PM (#46441029)

    At least none in the designated evacuation buildings deemed to be safe and high enough, where hundreds upon hundreds of people died. Where are the eyewitness reports of how those were crushed? (Oh right.) Where are the accusations of mayors and emergency planners who are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people?

    One thing is for sure. You don't care about people. You don't care about their lives, as was made abundantly clear [wordpress.com] on wikipedia. You don't care about what people lost. Some 400.000 people lost everything, in many cases even friends and relatives, not to mention everything in their households. Documents, photos, clothes. Their homes? That goes without saying. And that's the problem.

    I wanted to make the suggestion that everyone of the 100,000 or so people affected by the nuclear accident be paid half a million dollars. A family of four would get $2,000,000. Enough to start a new life. The problem is not the cost. $50bn is about a year's worth of coal, oil and gas being imported to replace nuclear power in Japan. The problem is the other 400,000 who will rightfully say that their losses were so much worse, that they should easily be entitled to get even more money.

    Yes, it's a terrible accident and an avoidable one as well. It has been known since 1966 (p.50) [nrc.gov] that the Mark I BWR containment is unable to withstand a meltdown under any conditions, because it is too small. In case of a meltdown you either vent the containment in a controlled manner, or it leaks uncontrolled. Japan only saw the need to install filtered containment vents in any of its nuclear power plants in 2013 ... they must have had a problem in one of their nuclear plants or something. Strangely enough, neither Germany or France needed that kind of reminder to get to that point. They did it a quarter of a century before that. (And yes, it was after Chernobyl. But it's not like the Japanese never heard about that one.)

    • I do not mean to be insincere, but why would the government or anyone else for that matter directly pay the victims of a natural disaster $500,000?

      I can understand a large amount of money being diverted by the government or charities to help the victims recover, either physically with homes or psychologically with mental health services.

      But paying them money directly might not be such a good idea. It could make them targets and victims once again when people try to prey on them, abusing their emotional
      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        You're absolutely right that the money is not a solution especially because it would put them into an eternal hell of discrimination (which is already the case because a lot of Japanese treat anybody who got anywhere near radioactivity as if they had some infectious disease). I was tempted to write more on this, but the comment was long enough as it was and I thought the reference to the tsunami victims was enough to show the problems with that.

        The most important thing that should be done is to talk rationa

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          The most important thing that should be done is to talk rationally about radioactivity. But so long as the anti-nuclear shills keep screaming at the top of their lungs

          The most important thing that should be done is to talk rationally about whether humans are mature enough to manage nuclear power safely. It stands to reason that we are not because we're underutilizing the technolgies that we have just to keep the fissibles out of our atmosphere when we burn coal. We're lazy, greedy, self-destructive monkeys and I simply don't trust any of the monkeys with nuclear power.

          When we learn to care for people to whom we have no obvious connection, we'll be ready to use power syst

        • by MrKaos (858439)

          The most important thing that should be done is to talk rationally about radioactivity. >

          If you were talking rationally about it you would be talking about radioisotopes, their bio-accumulation in the food chain and, their effect on the human species.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          The blame for the terrible death of those people rests solely with an international movement that is spreading fear and panic in order to gain political power, without any regard for the people they harm.

          You mean the pro-nuclear movement? The ones spreading fear and panic over the lights going out, fossil fuels being the only alternative and killing millions when nuclear power isn't chosen, that sort of thing?

          It would be nice to have a debate that wasn't instantly polarized by bringing up these groups.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I do not mean to be insincere, but why would the government or anyone else for that matter directly pay the victims of a natural disaster $500,000?

        I can understand a large amount of money being diverted by the government or charities to help the victims recover, either physically with homes or psychologically with mental health services.

        Power. The disaster had a human component of insufficient preparation, with Fukushima being the most famous part of it. Letting the government maintain control over relief

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        FEMA does, as do many other governments as part of flood or earthquake insurance. It's a subsidy to the insurance industry, not welfare, but it's done to protect the liability of insurance companies in areas prone to certain disasters.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      You don't care about their lives, as was made abundantly clear on wikipedia.

      This guy clearly doesn't understand how Wikipedia works. When a sentence is contested people pile in with more detail and citations. He claims this detail and the citations are evidence of a conspiracy to make more of the nuclear disaster than he feels is warranted, when in fact they are simply a reaction to people adding [citation needed] tags.

      The problem is the other 400,000 who will rightfully say that their losses were so much worse, that they should easily be entitled to get even more money.

      Let me explain the current situation to you, then perhaps you would understand why it is such a big deal for those affected.

      Victims of the tsunami lost entire towns,

      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        I know very well how wikipedia works. And I know what it looks like when something is broken. When the number of dead people from an earthquake gets pushed down to the point that it constitutes a minor point, something is broken. And no, this is not a conspiracy. It is perfectly sufficient that people, like you, publicly play down the importance of cities being destroyed and thousands of people being killed. Just as you do right here in your post.

        Let me explain one thing: It does not matter if the towns ar

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ONE: On the safety of certain technologies

    I once learned buildings must actually be planned to fall by themselves... in a controlled way. Were a building to be made absolutely resistant to catastrophe, no one would know what would happen if a catastrophe big enough happens. Instead, it is planned to break at anticipated points, allowing for a safer evacuation.

    Can something like a nuclear reactor ever be made so as to be called 100% safe? I guess not. Yesterday it was an earthquake (of all things!), but ther

  • by masonc (125950) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:12PM (#46441657) Homepage

    I followed the disaster as it happened on twitter and the news, and like everyone was shocked by the deaths. I find that the criticism of the workers and TEPCO who were put in the most awful of circumstances was disingenuous. How many organizations would have done better? Put yourself in the place of one of the workers on site; power is out, your family may be dead, the water has risen and swept away most of the town, and the reactors around you have cracked in the earthquake. You have no communication, you may be about to be radiated. Many of the workers were evacuated only to be sent back in. What bravery.
    We never appreciate the people who face death and do their job.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I find that the criticism of the workers and TEPCO who were put in the most awful of circumstances was disingenuous.

      Uh no. Fuck TEPCO. Everything they've said since the accident has been a lie, or gross incompetence of a totally unacceptable order. The workers have been heroic. TEPCO has been pathetic.

  • The article offers no insight that I didn't know three years ago. I live 90 miles from the Fukushima plant and I've posted several times about what that time was like, as it was happening, from Japan.

    No one is living (or dying) in school gymnasiums, as someone above said.

  • by FrankDrebin (238464) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @06:23PM (#46441957) Homepage

    massive earthquake and tsunami that caused three of the station's reactor cores to melt

    Also, cold weather caused the Challenger to explode.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      massive earthquake and tsunami that caused three of the station's reactor cores to melt

      Also, cold weather caused the Challenger to explode.

      Thank you. This disaster was caused by GE, Tepco, and the US and Japanese governments. It was guaranteed to happen by design. Whether that design was malicious or idiotic is irrelevant.

    • Spoiler Alert: The Titanic sunk because it filled with water.

  • The Japanese government and Tepco will do their damnedest to root out/discredit this guy who they will label a traitor. The last thing they want are other people writing the narrative.
  • The article doesn't worth reading beyond this paragraph:

    "Ultimately, Yoshida would make headlines when he famously disobeyed instructions from TEPCO headquarters to stop using seawater to cool the reactors. Though he was later reprimanded, his disregard for corporate instructions was possibly the only reason that the reactor cores did not explode."

    Obviously, the author doesn't know what he is talking about. A nuclear reactor doesn't explode. It melts. Some hydrogen gas may explode, however it has nothing to do with a nuclear explosion.

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