Feeds

Fukushima scaremongers becoming increasingly desperate

Dead horse long ago flogged down to a mere red stain

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The situation at the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in Japan was brought under control days ago. It remains the case as this is written that there have been no measurable radiological health consequences among workers at the plant or anybody else, and all indications are that this will remain the case. And yet media outlets around the world continue with desperate, increasingly hysterical and unscrupulous attempts to frame the situation as a crisis.

Here's a roundup of the latest facts, accompanied by highlights of the most egregious misreporting.

First up, three technicians working to restore electrical power in the plant's No 3 reactor building stood in some water while doing so. Their personal dosimetry equipment later showed that they had sustained radiation doses up to 170 millisievert. Under normal rules when dealing with nuclear powerplant incidents, workers at the site are permitted to sustain up to 250 millisievert before being withdrawn. If necessary, this can be extended to 500 millisievert according to World Health Organisation guidance.

None of this involves significant health hazards: actual radiation sickness is not normally seen until a dose of 1,000 millisievert and is not common until 2,000. Additional cancer risk is tiny: huge numbers of people must be subjected to such doses in order to see any measurable health consequences. In decades to come, future investigators will almost certainly be unable to attribute any cases of cancer to service at Fukushima.

Nonetheless, in the hyper-cautious nuclear industry, any dose over 100 millisievert is likely to cause bosses to pull people out at least temporarily. Furthermore, the three workers had sustained slight burns to their legs as a result of standing in the radioactive water - much as one will burn one's skin by exposing it to the rays of the sun (a tremendously powerful nuclear furnace). They didn't even notice these burns until after completing their work. Just to be sure, however, the three were sent for medical checks.

So - basically nothing happened. Three people sustained injuries equivalent to a mild case of sunburn. But this was reported around the globe as front-page news under headlines such as "Japanese Workers Hospitalized for Excessive Radiation Exposure". Just to reiterate: it was not excessive.

Reporters clamoured to know more - in particular how could the water in the basement of the reactor building have become so radioactive - no less than "10,000 times normal". One might note that in general radiation levels 10,000 times normal mean that you could achieve a tiny fraction of an extra percentage point of cancer risk by being exposed for a fortnight or so.

Japanese government spokesmen briefing the press obligingly gave a list of possibilities. Among these was the possibility that the suppression chamber at No 3 may be leaking water or steam due to damage (as well as doing so due to planned venting operations which are being carried out on purpose).

The suppression chamber is technically part of the core's primary containment, though in fact the core itself lives in its own central cocoon at the middle of the doughnut-shaped, water-filled suppression chamber. The plant owner, TEPCO, in conjunction with Japanese government officials, stated that the No 3 suppression chamber might have suffered damage well over a week ago: this possibility was well known. We here at the Reg reported it back then, and not being goldfish we still remember doing so.

And yet we hear "Japan fears nuclear site reactor damage", "Dangerous breach feared at Japanese Nuke Plant" - as if this was some grave new piece of news today.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
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?