Feeds

Fukushima one week on: Situation 'stable', says IAEA

Shameful media panic very slowly begins to subside

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Main killer in all this? The panic

Some more details on casualties thus far have been released, reported by WNN. It turns out that there has been one confirmed death, but not at the Daiichi plant at all: a worker who was in a crane cab at the separate Fukushima Daini plant (where all reactors are now confirmed to be safely in cold shutdown) was killed when the quake hit. Two more workers, this time at the Daiichi plant, are still listed as missing since the quake and tsunami hit. Six more required medical help following the quake, one suffering two broken legs.

A further 15 non-radiological injuries have resulted from hydrogen explosions at the site, though some of these were minor in nature and the individuals concerned returned to duty shortly after.

As to radiation-related issues, there has been one case of measurable significance. Earlier in the week when workers were still limited to a total dose of 100 millisievert, one individual breached this limit during venting operations and consequently was evacuated to hospital. As noted above, personnel are now permitted to sustain doses of 250 millisievert.

The Japanese people, rightly, are hailing the personnel at the site as heroes. Not the least impressive aspect of their performance is the way they appear to be tackling the situation with such professionalism as not to carelessly risk their own well-being.

In summary it appears more and more that health consequences from reactor damage will be extremely minimal even for workers at the site. It will now be a surprise if anyone who has not been inside the plant gates this week is affected by the situation at at all – apart from all the people worldwide who have been taking iodide pills or eating salt unnecessarily. There may also be measurable psychological health effects from the global media-driven hysteria surrounding the situation, of course.

"Experience from past nuclear incidents has shown that the stress and panic caused by these events can be as bad as, or worse than, the direct threat from radiation," according to Dr Jim Smith of Portsmouth uni's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Analysis

The Fukushima reactors actually came through the quake with flying colours despite the fact that it was five times stronger than they had been built to withstand. Only with the following tsunami – again, bigger than the design allowed for – did problems develop, and these problems seem likely to end in insignificant consequences. The Nos 1, 2 and 3 reactors at Daiichi may never produce power again – though this is not certain – but the likelihood is that Nos 4, 5 and 6 will return to service behind a bigger tsunami barrier.

The lesson to learn here is that if your country is hit by a monster earthquake and tsunami, one of the safest places to be is at the local nuclear powerplant. Other Japanese nuclear powerplants in the quake-stricken area, in fact, are sheltering homeless refugees in their buildings – which are some of the few in the region left standing at all, let alone with heating, water and other amenities.

Nothing else in the quake-stricken area has come through anything like as well as the nuclear power stations, or with so little harm to the population. All other forms of infrastructure – transport, housing, industries – have failed the people in and around them comprehensively, leading to deaths most probably in the tens of thousands. Fires, explosions and tank/pipeline ruptures all across the region will have done incalculably more environmental damage, distributed hugely greater amounts of carcinogens than Fukushima Daiichi – which has so far emitted almost nothing but radioactive steam (which becomes non-radioactive within minutes of being generated).

And yet nobody will say after this: "don't build roads; don't build towns; don't build ships or chemical plants or oil refineries or railways". That would be ridiculous, of course, even though having all those things has actually led to terrible loss of life, destruction and pollution in the quake's wake.

But far and away more ridiculously, a lot of people are already saying that Fukushima with its probable zero consequences means that no new nuclear powerplants should ever be built again. ®

Personal bootnote

As one who earns his living in the media these days, I can only apologise on behalf of my profession for the unbelievable levels of fear and misinformation purveyed this week. I have never been so ashamed to call myself a journalist.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.