Marking Three Years of Post-Fukushima Progress

Allison M. Macfarlane

The approach to the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor complex winds through empty villages where weeds grow in silent communities, storefronts are shattered and advertising signs entice a population that may be years in returning.

A year ago I visited the site of the devastating March 11, 2011, accident triggered by a massive 9.0 earthquake and subsequent 46-foot tsunami.

Chairman Allison Macfarlane and other NRC officials stand in the darkened interior of Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex northeast of Tokyo Dec. 13, 2012. Photo courtesy of TEPCO
Chairman Allison Macfarlane and other NRC officials stand in the darkened interior of Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex northeast of Tokyo Dec. 13, 2012. Photo courtesy of TEPCO

The site where four of six reactors were inundated bears testament not only to the power of the natural forces but also to the huge hydrogen explosions that rocked three of the reactors. Rusting trucks lay about the property. And thousands of workers in protective gear and full-face respirators scramble over the shattered industrial complex.

It is hard to visit the site without coming away impressed with the forces at work and a recognition this cannot be allowed to happen again anywhere. In the United States, we must redouble our efforts to prevent such an accident here, whether caused by an earthquake, another natural disaster or a man-made event.

Not long after the accident at Fukushima, the independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission I chair embarked on a concerted effort to learn and apply lessons from Fukushima. The Commission set out a three-tiered program of safety enhancements.

Many of the recommendations — while complex — are grounded in simple concepts. Among them are ensuring all U.S. plants take the latest seismic and flooding information into account; ensuring that the 31 U.S. early design boiling water reactors similar to those at Fukushima have the capacity to vent pressure and perhaps even filter vented air; ensuring there is sufficient additional equipment at the ready to deal with a loss of power at a reactor site and provide backup cooling; and getting additional sensors and cooling capacity for spent fuel pools.

The NRC staff and the nuclear industry have made good progress in responding to the recommendations to date.

We have approved plans for nuclear power plants to buy additional equipment and distribute it around their sites so that they will be able to respond even if a severe event disables permanently installed equipment. They are in the process of installing spent fuel pool instrumentation, and this spring and fall they will begin major work to accommodate hardened venting systems and additional wiring and piping to connect to newly installed cooling equipment.

JLD vertical CEvery U.S. plant is in the process of completing an in-depth reanalysis of their sites’ potential for floods and earthquakes. We’ve checked the first flooding analyses and expect more in soon. We also expect the earthquake analyses from the vast majority of U.S. plants by the end of March. We’ll ensure the plants compare their sites’ new analyses to their existing designs to see what enhancements might be needed.

The NRC has conducted our work following Fukushima in a spirit of openness and transparency, and we’ve benefitted greatly from public feedback. Over the past three years we’ve addressed Fukushima-related topics in more than 150 public meetings. These meetings let the public see and participate in discussions on proposed NRC actions and the industry’s responses.

Finally, let me address the occasional Internet-based concerns we’ve seen about Fukushima contamination in the Pacific Ocean. Contamination near Japan’s coast is well below U.S. and international drinking water limits. And the Pacific’s vast volume has greatly dispersed any contamination before it can reach our west coast. Here the concentrations are projected to be hundreds or a thousand or more times below already strict U.S. and international limits that protect public health and the environment. Scientists have not seen any Fukushima contamination that raises a concern about the U.S. food supply, water supply, or public health.

The images of Fukushima are indelibly impressed on my mind. Even now I’m still struck by the experience of seeing the empty nearby villages, each holding memories of the 160,000 people displaced by the accident. Fukushima put nuclear safety in the spotlight. As we continue our work to address lessons learned, the NRC is committed to keeping it there

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

71 thoughts on “Marking Three Years of Post-Fukushima Progress”

  1. I would like to say first, I appreciate your article and the efforts to provide accurate information. But, I strongly disagree with the current standards for drinking water the United States has as standard.

  2. The one FACT that’s clear to me is that there are differences of opinions when it comes to ‘claiming’ things as fact. People should realize that first. Especially, when it comes Nuclear Power.

    I disagree that, as you say, I am spreading fear.

    I would say, that I am spreading love instead. I love animals, children and even unborn generations that are going to be dealing with this ongoing catastrophic global event for centuries.

    Learning about bio-accumulation of radiation contamination and learning in advance how to mitigate when needed and to best protect yourself and your loved ones is what I’m talking about.
    IMO – That reduces fear and stress.

    The primary, easy to understand, point of the BEIR VII report is that, in short summary, it says…
    “There is no safe level of radiation above normal background.” [paraphrased]

  3. I hope that such events never happen again, also hope the world peace.We go to work every day, and your family happy together, you are safe.

  4. @CaptD

    Please go back and review my post. My source is the US Department of Defense Operation Tomodachi Registry. It is not a slanted news report or an attempt to interpret information posted by unknown sources on the internet.

    My knowledge is admittedly not “first hand,” because I was not on a ship off of the coast of Japan in 2011. I have reviewed official documents and spoken to responsible individuals. In my last US Navy assignment, which ended in September 2010, I worked in the OPNAV office that was responsible for oversight and funding of all of the Navy’s intermediate maintenance establishments. I have excellent sources of information and direct contact with people who were responsible for both operations during the humanitarian efforts and for the ship clean-up.

    Rod Adams
    CDR, USN (ret)
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  5. CaptD and Rich have just no factual argument here, and the way they describe M. Gate sounds like libel.
    The megaton to megawatt program has transformed tons of Russian bomb material into very valuable fuel for the American power plants for years. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t want to use modern technology to do the same with spent fuel. We know how it could be done, even we know the Canadian CANDU plants could be adapted to burn spent fuel without having to built new types of plant.

    The farmers near Fukushima are trying to rebuilt their industry, selling rice that is well below the safety norms. I applaud the emperor of Japan that ordered some to be served to him :

    But this effort is made difficult by the relentless effort by people like CaptD and Rich to infuse fear into as many people as possible, based on no rational reason. This is really a despicable attitude.
    Some people are afraid, and voicing their honest concern, I respect that. But this is clearly not what we are seeing here, instead a systematic effort to instill fear.

  6. In the first days after 11/3, Areva did send a help team to assist Tepco as soon as possible, together with large amount of boron. Japanese government clamping on information ? Everyone can read hostile to nuclear article in all the Japanese newspapers, there’s no clamping at all !
    But where is your hostility to all the new coal that is being built in Japan currently to replace nuclear with expedited, simplified environmental impact studies ? How many people will it kill, hasn’t a coal plant in Italy just been ordered to be shut down because of the several hundreds of death it’s pollution causes every year ?
    Even if maybe what happens with some of the external worker isn’t very closely followed, they all are subject now to the same radiation standard as in the US, which safety has been verified by large and extensive epidemiological studies. This is much safer than air pollution from fossil fuel.

  7. CaptD is right on again! Bill Gates would have sold his mother if there was enough money in it.
    Telling people that spent fuel is harmless and a treasure is like trying to pick up a turd by the clean end. Recycling spent fuel would make sense but you still have to deal with the residual high level waste even though its volume would be reduced.
    Try living anywhere near Fukushima or ever growing anything near there again. Even if eventually you grew some rice, how would you market it? Half-price rice rice from Fukushima. Don’t miss this glowing bargain. The rice that keeps on giving.
    Get real, nuclear is far from ideal!

  8. And let us not forget all the IAEA workers that are on site ever since the first week of April 2011, 2 weeks after the tsunami. And the Areva workers.

    We all know the IAEA and Areva want the greatest harm to be assumed by their employees the world over.

    Nice catch Captain D !!

  9. Rod Adams ===> Since you were not aboard and are using either hearsay or releases made by the US Navy, remember that there are also many US Navy sailors that now have health issues since their USS Reagan deployment and even those civilians workers working aboard the USS Reagan have reported health issues, so the proper thing to do is to first find out much more by getting the US Navy to release all the radioactivity data they have, so that the public can better understand exactly what happened.

    For you to say that someone else has “made some pretty damning accusations, held court and declared guilt, apparently based on news reports and photos where you did not “see” any dosimetry” is putting yourself in the the exact same boat, since you are doing the same thing in saying that they are wrong!

    Data and factual information must rule the day, and if nothing else, this points out that the US Navy should have reported what they observed in almost real time, because not doing so, has now made them look like they are covering up something and/or for themselves.

  10. To Garry Morgan Thanks for adding your “spot on” comments, I look forward to reading many more from you. Regarding sailing into radiation, one would hope that the US Navy would know exactly what types and amounts of radiation were in the area since the USS Reagan was nuclear powered and therefore had a complete complement of Nuclear Trained Officers

    I also have read that there were not enough Iodine pills aboard and that most of those that did receive them were Officers instead of the enlisted men and women that were tasked with sweeping the decks and doing other activities that kept them outside instead of inside the ship.

    The US Navy also had sailors sign health releases that many are now questioning, since they had no idea of what exactly they were for, if in fact the task force was exposed to enough radioactivity that the ships (and exposed equipment like aircraft) of the task force had to be decontaminated…

    The NRC should help everyone understand what the health effects are of exactly what happened.

  11. I propose that the Chairman of the NRC would be well advised to fund an independently done History: After 3/11 and then once it is completed, use it to examine exactly what responses by the NRC were later found incorrect, in order to determine how they occurred, since it is obvious that the NRC chain of command failed in its duty to keep the public informed with factual up to date information. This effort would be similar to an NRC AIT review and would result in the NRC being far better prepared if/when the next nuclear incident/accident occurs so that it can fulfill its mandate by responding far more Professionally.

    This History is very important because if/when the next “Fukushima” occurs, the NRC needs to respond in a more Professional manner that relies upon best practices, instead of just nuclear industry protectionism. Since the NRC already has existing funds for many programs and/or studies, funding this historical review should be given top priority. I believe that Paul Langley, myself and a few others that have been documenting this information since 3/11/11 would be most interested in this undertaking since we have already collected most of the publicly available documentation that we would need to complete this History.

    Example: Paul Langley’s Nuclear History Blog

    A multi-part series of “Flashbacks” of the News released immediately after Fukushima occurred.

    Paul Langley’s series uses actual News accounts that were published and/or official reports that were considered factual at the time they were released. This series also illustrates just how MSM was really only reporting information that (no surprise to many of us) was later found to be completely inaccurate because it tried to protect the nuclear industry from the fallout of Fukushima’s triple meltdowns!

  12. Left unsaid is the data on all the undocumented first responders that has been “lost” by those questionable companies that hired them to work at Fukushima immediately after 3/11. Since the Utility keeps itself an arms length away from “contract workers” we may never know how many of them were affected by radiation, especially since the Japanese Gov’t. has now clamped down on all reporting that it considers Anti-Japanes which would include anything about Fukushima related illness or death!

  13. Dessert Tripper, sorry you are wrong, high burnup fuel is not as yet safe to store in casks and/or transport in them since the NRC has allowed them to be used without first figuring out how to store.transport them, Placing the cart before the horse” to quote a high level NRC Expert!

    Waiting for “next generation of reactors come on-line that can utilize what is now “spent fuel” in their fuel cycles.” may or may not work out depending upon what happens during the meantime…

    One only has to look at other attempts to store and reduce radioactive materials to see that accident do happen even to Experts.

    Could the Carlsbad Plutonium Dump become a US Fukushima ?

  14. joffan7 You are employing the tired old Pro-Nuclear Blogging habit of talking down to those that do not agree with you, by saying that only nuclear experts know everything… Except how to have kept Fukushima from causing a triple meltdown and more important, how to shorten the many decades required to not try and deal with it!…

  15. Chas

    It’s ironic to hear you complaining about someone else belittling you with an arrogant attitude, when your post takes that as its whole basis.

    There is zero reason to balance facts with lies. And lies are what you have been sold in the “opinions that differ greatly”.

    In fact I have read the BIER VII report, although I would not claim I’ve read it cover to cover. I don’t know why you bring it up though; you seem to feel that it is an argument on its own whereas in fact it is a complex document with many different points to discuss within it.

    Spreading fear is not a harmless activity, as many people seem to believe. It has a real impact on people’s lives and indeed on their health. Your suggested ridiculous counterproposal only underlines how accurate my call is.

    As for the Michael Collins piece – so many words, so little content. If you want to waste your time on that nonsense, who am I to stop you? His criticism of the Kim Martini article’s style is particularly ironic, given his own style.

    Note: Some content removed for adherence to the blog comment guidelines.

  16. Thanks for curiosity about autonomous EX-VESSEL water-level instrumentation, a technology that has a substantial technical foundation derived in part from the TMI-2 accident.

    Ignored TMI-2 post-accident recommendations regarding reactor water-level monitoring and inadequate-core cooling can be found online in NUREG 737 and 933 as generic safety action items IIF-1, -2, and -3. They have been treated as “resolved” as recently as December 2011, despite the occurrence to date of four disastrous loss-of-coolant accidents.

    No traction has occurred from efforts to inform responsible professional and regulatory organizations by means of October and November 2012 presentations at the Anaheim IEEE and ANS San Diego meetings, as well as subsequent presentations at NRC, DOE, Argonne, and other nuclear institutions.

    You can find much more by Googling “water-level monitoring in nuclear reactors DeVolpi.”

  17. @Garry Morgan

    You have made some pretty damning accusations, held court and declared guilt, apparently based on news reports and photos where you did not “see” any dosimetry.

    Don’t forget that radiation is easy to measure. The general area doses were measured and below the levels at which there is any need for dosimetry.

    Airborne contamination levels were well above background, but they were not at levels high enough to put anyone at risk.

    Yes, there was some measurable contamination on surfaces, but it was not at a high enough level to put anyone at risk. Yes, it was above the “standard”, but since the standard is “not detectable” it is a very low trip wire that is designed to indicate an issue worth investigating. The standard is not a radiation health issue.

    I presume that you are a traditional radiation protection person who believes there is no safe level, but that stance is not supported by science; it is a political stance that is used to establish regulations. According to the best science, there is no evidence for any negative health effect for doses less than 50-100 mSv (5 to 10 rem). No one even came close while assisting the Japanese people to recover from a terrible natural disaster.

    No one jeopardized the health and welfare of sailors needlessly. They took appropriate actions in a situation that was probably less hazardous than sending sailors into smoky areas or operating on a normally operating flight deck. Military members inherently know that they occasionally need to take moderate risks in order to accomplish important missions or to save people’s lives.

    Rod Adams
    CDR, USN (Ret)

  18. Dear Garry Morgan, I used the phrase “…we must abandon the practice of defending against diverse initiating events.” to point to the fact that there is a common cause in all of the severe nuclear reactor accidents which is not acknowledged, disregarded, even covered-up by the very NRC and IAEA, suppose to be the government bodies to prevent the disasters.
    When I raised as a Safety Concern the issue of cladding -coolant interaction in 1987(!) in Westinghouse as being misrepresented in the computer codes, I’ve been denied even the possibility to defend myself from ridiculous accusations…
    Now I’m proposing a solution to prevent the ignition caused by any diverse initiating events. Do You think that after Fukushima and the additional 4 (four) reactors lost for the same common cause I’m getting any attention?!
    What I’m stating that the ignition of firestorm in the reactor core can and should be prevented by venting of steam and depressurizing the reactor, and indeed gravity flooding of the core. Which means that the non-design basis events could be prevented, the fuel will remain intact in any event.
    I also propose to design only demonstrated safe reactor systems, which means that the reactor must be placed in a containment designed for the consumption of the entire Zirconium inventory and the worst detonation of the Hydrogen produced from that (1000 kg in 10 seconds for PWR and 1800 kg in 10 sec for BWR) in the containment. Even if we prevent the ignition of the firestorm in the core.
    Only such a doubled safety could be considered real safe nuclear power plant design.

  19. Hey just curious, what are the recommendations on water level instrumentation, or do you know where I can find them? I didn’t know there was a recommendation on level instruments.

    There are many water level instruments in BWRs, but they have ranges and are complex, and operators need to be trained on understanding when their indications are valid or not. In US BWR EOPs, if your indications are invalid, you are supposed to take all actions to flood the reactor until water is over flowing out the safety valves. (just adding info about BWR instrumentation, not trying to make a point)

  20. I assume Mr Moderator you are referring to my blog on a huge potential flooding problem at the Fort Calhoun Station. You are probably right, the only connections that I could see to Fukushima were tsunami, flooding, seismic design, and earthquakes. Mentioning terrorism was way off base.
    I apologize.

  21. As you know Commander Adams, estimates are not facts of the actual radiation dose received by the ships company. Like you, I have faith in our Armed Forces and the varied missions they may be assigned to perform. There is the appearance there was an element of negligence involved in the operation.

    The actual dose received may be calculated based on the classified information contained in the ships daily status report and the dosimeter readings of each individual exposed. It would be negligence knowing that you are sailing into a highly radioactive plume and not issue individual dosimeters. Unfortunately, it appears this is exactly what happened; is that not true Commander?

    A commander in a peacetime operation should not jeopardize the health and welfare of those under his or her command when the information available in real time indicated a dangerous hazard in the form of a highly radioactive plume, as was the case in this incident.

    There are reports which have surfaced, due to the ongoing legal action, indicating dangerous levels of radiation were present and known by Naval Commanders participating in the operation.

    I thought it very revealing that not one Sailor, or Marine, including officers shown in hundreds of photographs during the operation displayed personal dosimeters.

    Garry Morgan
    U.S. Army Medical Department, Retired

  22. Please note that according to the blog guidelines, comments need to be related to the topic of the post (in this case, the accident at Fukushima). We are applying that guideline liberally here, but please, for comments unrelated to the Fukushima accident, we’d appreciate you using the Open Forum section of the blog.


  23. Commanders and Radiation Protection Officers involved in this event who failed to protect those under their command, should as a minimum be forced to retire, resign or face Non-Judicial punishment for their negligence.

    Those directly responsible for jeopardizing the health and welfare of sailors needlessly under their command should be Court Martialed. Apparently, the commanders at sea ignored their alarm warnings that they were in a highly radioactive plume.

  24. Engineering can not solve the issue of deceit, a problem within the nuclear industry. The issue of deceit has taken off like a “firestorm” in an oxygen enriched environment since the Fukushima disaster.

    Defense in depth must begin at the levels of leadership in both the corporate level and at the regulator. False information, propaganda, gag orders, failing to keep the public properly informed does not, nor will it ever build confidence in nuclear power nor our NRC Regulator.

    Your statement Mr. Stolmar is bothersome, “…we must abandon the practice of defending against diverse initiating events.” Is that not the same as: “…demonstrate a successful severe accident prevention strategy.”? Planning, preperation and training for any event which may occur, isn’t that part of defense in depth.

    If you are not aware or identify the worse case scenario, how are you going to plan, train and engineer a response? There seems to be a denial that non-design basis events may occur and result in a disaster. That denial is often initiated by leadership for the purposes of benefiting the nuclear corporation’s bottom line; not protecting the health and welfare of the citizenry.

  25. Nuclear Safety
    Thanks for the update.
    As noted the NRC has been working on Fukushima issues for three years. Important earthquake and flooding reviews continue.
    My major concern is how a nuclear plant downstream of a vulnerable earthen dam can be allowed to continue operation when the NRC has information that the plant’s flood protection design basis is woefully inadequate in the event of a catastrophic failure of the dam. Long ago the NRC calculated that Fort Calhoun Station would be hit with a tsunami-type surge of 46 feet if the upstream dam failed. This would far exceed the plant’s design flood elevation resulting in a Fukushima accident at the plant.
    The nuclear industry prides itself in taking a conservative approach with regard to nuclear safety. Why does the NRC not take a similar approach in this situation? I know a more detailed flood analysis is underway but even if the 46 foot surge is off by 50% a devastating accident would still result. It is almost spring and it brings to mind the serious Missouri River flooding that occurred just 3 years ago at about this time of the year. One can only imagine the impact of a dam failure with a high reservoir level on everything downstream including a nuclear power plant. As upstream dams are not protected from terrorist attack, it makes these dams a tempting terrorist target. Also these dams would fail under earthquake conditions that are not nearly as severe as to what the nuclear plant itself is designed to withstand.
    Somehow the NRC must believe that the licensee will figure out a way to “evaluate” it’s way out of this problem. Common sense tells even the layman that if a dam failed during the significant 2011 flood event the plant would have been subject to a severe accident.
    NRC, please put safety first.

  26. I agree with CaptD’s comment below.

    Windmills and Solar Panels do not require an ‘evacuation zone’ when there’s an accident.

  27. The fears are not groundless. It is not paranoia.

    To call something a ‘true fact’ does not necessarily make it so.

    I feel like it’s okay for you to attempt to belittle me with your arrogant attitude that because you THINK you know it all, makes it true. That’s where your thinking is flawed.

    Have you read the BEIR VII Report?

    “The more you get paid by the nuclear power industry, the more likely you are to avoid expanding your knowledge of the subject beyond the nuclear power industries ‘talking point’ manual.” – by anonymous (probably a former Nuclear Industry Employee) 

    I guess it’s okay to basically call me a fear monger, but if I call you a DNA destroying baby killer, that would probably be going to far.

  28. I disagree. The venting of stagnant steam and flooding the reactor is needed with depressurization. This will prevent the ignition of firestorm in the core, the reducing reaction of steam by the zirconium. And will leave the cladding and the fuel in it intact.

  29. Face saving is the biggest concern, instead of investigating the possibility of preventing the ignition of firestorm in the core.

  30. @CaptD

    I have more faith in the integrity of the US Navy than you do. My former employer took good care of its people, treating the radioactive contamination in the sea off of the coast of Japan with what I believe was an excess of caution.

    The USS Reagan, as a nuclear-powered ship, carried adequate monitoring gear and employed skilled people to conduct surveys and samples.

    According to the report issued as part of the Operation Tomodachi Registry ( the maximum doses a sailor on the USS Reagan during the period from March 12, 2011 through May 11, 2011 would have received are as follows: (

    Whole body: 0.008 rem
    Thyroid: 0.11 rem

    That computed maximum dose makes the following assumptions:

    “These estimates were calculated based on you spending 24 hours outdoors/on-deck,
    having a constantly high physical activity level (and associated breathing rates), and being
    exposed to the radiation over the entire 60-day period. Your actual radiation doses are expected
    to be lower due to the protection afforded by being below deck and lower levels of physical
    activity for much of this time.”

    Rod Adams
    CDR, USN (Ret)

  31. Severe accident prevention strategy = reactor core firestorm prevention
    In order to regain the public support for nuclear power we must abandon the practice of defending against diverse initiating events and demonstrate a successful severe accident prevention strategy. It is evident that the severe accident in the PWR and BWR plants is a firestorm of cladding – coolant reaction within the core, destroying the first barrier between the radioactive fission products containing fuel pellets and the environment. Preventing the firestorm ignition is the winning strategy for the future of nuclear power, and it does not require the abandonment of PWR and BWR proven designs. It just requires the full understanding of the dynamics of severe accident progression and the timely intervention of operators by rapid depressurization and staged all the way to gravity flooding of reactor. Do we have all the means to do that? What additions we have to make to our hardware and what are the necessary corrections in our accident response manuals?

  32. I think your evaluation of corporate (or bureaucratic as the case may be) communication does a dis-service to those who are involved in these organisations. In every position I have ever held in business, I have been directly advised from superiors NEVER to talk to the press and ALWAYS keep customer and company information confidential; discretion is paramount, especially when there is a proximate emergency. This policy is ubiquitous throughout the world and does not imply a cover-up.

    Individuals in the same profession use professional language (jargon), the use of which allows for more efficient conveyance of meaning. This does not imply a cover-up.

    There is ample information on the internet regarding Fukishima, such as press releases and reports from TEPCO, the Japanese government and organisations that are involved or closely linked to the cleanup. Perhaps allegations of cover-up are an inability or unwillingness to comprehend the reality of the situation?

    Also, You’ve taken the quote of the Areva VP out of context. He was talking, of course, about the destruction of property and the immense human tragedy caused earthquake and tsunami.

  33. Rod Adams Sure there will be always be Experts that disagree with everything that other Experts on the opposite side of any debate say! I also agree that the nuclear industry has the money it needs to fund all the studies it wants, that end up saying whatever they want them to, or they simply will not publish them…

    We also know that exactly three years ago today, all the Japanese nuclear Experts (along with many others across the World) that said that “modern” nuclear power plants were safe and would not meltdown because they were so well designed, were proven terrible wrong by Fukushima’s triple meltdowns and that it will take decades if not about 100 years to deal with its on-going pollution of the Pacific Ocean, that is, if nothing BIG goes BAD before then.

    Yes I also agree that the Coal Industry has many health problems associated with it, which the Nuclear industry is all too eager to point out; but the SAME THING COULD BE SAID ABOUT THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY; since it also mines radioactive Uranium ore which is then processed into highly radioactive fuel rods of several different types. Once this radioactive fuel is used in a reactor, it then produces huge amounts of additional radioactive waste that will have as yet unknown effects on mankind over the enormous timespan that it will take to render all of it harmless! Because this radioactive timespan dwarfs anything currently affecting mankind, it is completely unscientific to say today what the harmful effect of our using nuclear power plants in the twentieth and twenty-first century will be generations from now!

    For example, should highly radioactive “dirty” material from Fukushima be used in a terrorist weapon at some point in the future, its affect on man must be placed directly upon the nuclear industry that created it, because without building the nuclear power plants it would have never existed to cause harm to man’s health. This is yet another potential “future” health problem that cannot be discounted since there is so much radioactive waste material unaccounted for at Fukushima and many other locations globally!

    It is no longer fair for the nuclear industries spokespersons to try and/or the NRC to limit discussions to only the positive points that favor using nuclear while at the same time shrugging off all other negative points as not being relevant!

  34. No one died of radiation exposure from Fukushima. Maybe we should celebrate that!

    And I don’t recall anyone ever being killed from spent fuel. In fact, spent fuel is a valuable commodity owned by the Federal government and, therefore, the American people. Bill Gates estimates that spent fuel may be potentially worth over $100 trillion in clean energy production in next generation reactors.


  35. The Earth’s oceans are naturally radioactive thanks to the radioactive uranium, thorium, and potassium that they contain. The Earth’s rivers dump over 32,000 tonnes of naturally radioactive uranium into the oceans every year– dwarfing anything that could have come out of Fukushima.


  36. Dear Chas

    You might like some more accurate but less scary-dramatic information then you appear to be getting at the moment, from real oceanographers and marine chemists.

    I agree that we should not allow misguided information, and the groundless fears it can generate, to harm our children. Nor should such paranoia-based reasoning interfere with the development of our science, economy or humanitarian ability to end energy poverty.

  37. I have tracked down the source of the claim for 5 lethal doses. It was a hastily composed email that included several other mistaken claims. Since it was written by a US NRC staffer, I verified with the US NRC Office of Public Affairs that the email was incorrect.

    You can find details at

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  38. Lily, if it wasn’t you who claimed that airline pilots used the radioactivity from Indian Point as a beacon maybe a year or two back, I apologize for the error. Still, if you’re going to make these deaths attributed to anything nuclear DO please cough up the beef in terms of links and addresses of your certified sources. It’s only in being accurate — and honest to the public. And I do not place the deaths of evacuees on the reactors but rather the bad knee-jerk reactions of clueless government officials. The evacuees would’ve done well enough staying put without someone’s ill-researched judgement and incompetence booting them out. Chernobyl was a grand test example that it wasn’t necessary to clear everyone out of Dodge, and Fukushima was hardly a Chernobyl.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  39. Dr. James Hansen would disagree with your statement that “perils will always far outweigh benefits.”

    He and a colleague named Pushker A. Kharecha recently published a peer reviewed paper titled “Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power” documenting the 1.84 million lives saved so far by using nuclear energy instead of burning coal or natural gas to supply the same amount of electricity.

    You can find the paper here:

    He is campaigning now to convince his associates in the environmental community to take a new look at nuclear energy.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  40. Why does the NRC always forget to mention all the negative effects of using NPP, from the cradle (aka mining) to the grave (aka centuries of ☢ Waste storage), which make using NPP less than GREEN?

    We all need to start providing fair balanced descriptions of generation technologies if we are to have an educational discussion, which as Scientists we should all insist upon, since accurate Data is our bread and butter!

    Where is the complete NRC listing of all the different kinds of radioactive pollution observed both in Japan and in the USA since 03/11/11 and just as important, why has the NRC withheld reporting detailed listing of everything observed?

  41. Agreed, along with many other improvements that all the Utilities will fight the the NRC tooth and nail, even though their ratepayers will be the ones paying for these safety improvements!

    That is just the tip of the nuclear power plant safety problems we face!

  42. Leaked Emails Expose NRC’s Cover-Up of Safety Concerns Days After Fukushima Disaster | EcoWatch

    Here is a great listing of internal NRC emails that give a sense of what was being discussed immediately after 3/11/11 occurred:

    Click to access ML11175A278.pdf

    Note: It takes a while to load, but it is worth it and/or saving to disc.

    NRC employees talking in coded phrases, using foreign languages, trying to tell each other to follow the chain of command so as not to make any public statements and even to other US Gov’t. Labs (which were the most telling emails to me) to not get involved.

    Taken together, they illustrate just how bad Fukushima really was, despite the happy face that BOTH the NRC and the Nuclear Industry tried their best to project to the public.

    It has been a rough road for the past 3 years and in retrospect, I’d give the NRC a D+ grade and I’d give the US Nuclear Industry a D- grade for their handling of Japans Nuclear Debacle.

    To be fair, sometimes those in the Nuclear Industry do get it right but what they have to say is not welcomed by their associates, even though it is the truth:

    “Clearly we’re witnessing one of the greatest disasters in modern time.”
    – AREVA Executive VP
    March 21, 2011

  43. @Lilly : The study that you reference about the black dust is available as pre-print here.

    The location where the dust sample were taken in 2012 are all very near the plant, Namie, Futaba, Minami-soma, Iidate, not in Tokyo. The color comes from the fact it consists mostly of asphalt, tire particles, lichen, soil. While the amount of cesium at around 7MBq/Kg may seem high, it’s not enough to make the area a hot spot by itself since testimonies of the time confirm the amounts collected were usually below a gram, so a few hundreds Bq. Some plutonium was found inside the sample, but the amount is 10 million times smaller at 0,7Bq/Kg.

  44. We understand this topic can be emotional, but please refrain from personal attacks on other commenters (per the blog comment guidelines). Thank you.


  45. by way of clatrification, the NRC recommended to the Department of State an evacuation zone for Americans residing in Japan. Evacuation orders issued for Americans came from the Department of State.


  46. Meanwhile in the real world, then-commissioner Jazcko ordered a 50-mile (80 km) evacuation radius around the F. Dai’ichi site, making it impossible for American navy units to conduct rescue operations and deliver aid in some of the areas hardest-hit by the tsunami.  The Japanese themselves only ordered a 20 km evacuation radius.

    This is just one of the ways that radiation phobia kills people.

  47. 1973 workers at Daiichi have received over 100 mSv internal thyroid exposure.

    That is a half-truth at best.  The measured exposures of F. Dai’ichi emergency workers were published more than 2 years ago.  Of the 20,549 persons scanned, only 167 had total exposures greater than 100 mSv (p. 12).  Of the general public, no children (none!) exceeded the screening level (p. 22).

    In contrast to the non-event of radiation hazard, the “secondary disaster” was created by policymakers and a phobia-ridden public (p. 26).

  48. @LillyMunster Guarapari is a town in Brazil next to a beach rich in monazite sands. The sand naturally contains phosphates of thorium and uranium. Readings as high as 20 uSv/h have been recorded there (~175 mSv/year). It’s a tourist destination. People have lived there for hundreds of years. You can also look up Ramsar, Iran where the background radiation is ~200mSv/Year. People have lived there for thousands of years. In fact NIH has published a study ( of the people who live there that show that their exposure to higher levels of background radiation actually imparts a protective mechanism. Their bodies are better adapted to repairing chromosal abnormalities than people who live in lower background locations. Daniel is right that the area around Fukushima is safe.

  49. states airline crew flying regularly from New York to Tokyo receive an additional 9 mSv/yr from cosmic radiation.  Airline crew in general are healthier than the general public.

    20 mSv/year is nothing.  The residents of Ramsar in Iran receive on the order of 260 mSv/yr with no observable impact on health.  Any area where radiation levels have sunk below 100 mSv/yr should be designated open for habitation; all the Fukushima isotopes are busily decaying away, so that’s as high as they’re ever going to be again.

  50. IPPNW is urging the EU to drop their 600 bq/kg level down to 5 bq/kg so it is based on an actual health safety factor rather than an arbitrary intervention level.

    So, by the IPPNW, the EU would have to ban the sale of bananas (roughly 100 Bq/kg of K-40 and other natural radioisotopes), as well as salt substitute (KCl) and prohibit the potassium iodide pills used to protect people against accidental releases of radio-iodine.  Very smooth!

    Thousands of people die each year from the inhalation or over-ingestion of hydrogen hydroxide.  I await the IPPNW’s program to ban hydrogen hydroxide with bated breath.

    2,973 people died of causes related to the Fukushima disaster.

    Those people (mostly fragile elderly) died because they were ordered to evacuate, and there was neither proper transportation to move them nor adequate facilities to receive them.  Many lived in what amounts to “cube farms”, which is intensely stressful and carries a high risk of spread of disease.  Some never got there, dying of stress or medical neglect in the journey.

    All of this would have been avoided if the evacuation had NOT been ordered.  Shelter-in-place was adequate for the threat.  Radiation levels never came close to what’s required to induce acute radiation sickness (ARS), and the elderly in particular are at almost zero risk of long-term illness from low-level radiation; they simply will not live long enough for any newly-induced cancers to become a threat to life or even health.  They died because Tokyo ignored the major threat while shrinking in fear of a minuscule one.

    This sort of disproportionate and downright harmful fear is typically called a “phobia”.  The proper response to a damaging phobia isn’t to humor it, but to treat it.  It would be helpful if the radio-phobes received counseling and education on actual radiation science, perhaps combined with anti-anxiety medication to blunt their conditioned emotional response to the issue until their heads can take over.  In the most severe cases, this might require inpatient treatment.  I look forward to the day when “Lily Munster” and her cohort can walk the shores of California without worrying themselves sick that some bit of natural monazite sand, or even some droplet of sea-spray perhaps carrying a few atoms of Cs-134 from Japan, might somehow leap up and zap them dead.  I especially look forward to the day that they stop trying to infect the entire world with their crazy fears.

  51. Although the NRC chairperson has inherited a formidable post-Fukushima agenda, she should be advised to elevate vital ACRS and staff Tier 3 recommendations on water-level instrumentation to higher, more appropriate, and timely attention.

    The traumatic billion-dollar TMI-2 accident still serves as an awesome reminder that indestructible instrumentation is needed for durably responding to unexpected changes in reactor-coolant water level.

    The Fukushima reactor cores melted down without instrumented indications of impending or actual loss of coolant.

    Reactor safety can be enhanced not only for spent fuel pools: Reactors themselves need autonomous, survivable water-level instruments.

    A. DeVolpi, retired reactor physicist

  52. Sorry but 5 bq/ kg is simply ridiculous. A single banana contains roughly 15 bq, and you need about 6 to make a kg. So you are way out.
    The world has always been a radioactive place, life developed in this environment we are used to it. The natural background in Denver is several times higher than it is in the area of Fukushima that will be resettled in April. But cancer rates in Denver are not any higher than in any other place in the US.

  53. stock, I have no idea what you’re talking about. The US has plenty of fuel in dry cask storage. Storing fuel in pools is only temporary until decay levels allow the temperature to lower enough for dry cask storage. This type of storage is ideal to keep the fuel long term until the next generation of reactors come on-line that can utilize what is now “spent fuel” in their fuel cycles.

  54. The second to the last paragraph above is almost entirely incorrect or very misleading.

    Where do you get your information on dispersion of ‘radioactive’ contamination?

    Radiation will spread and accumulate, especially since the ongoing 3 meltdowns are not going to stop any time soon.

    The saying “dilution is a solution to pollution” is just a rhyme, it is not truth.

    “Scientists have not seen any Fukushima contamination that raises a concern about the U.S. food supply, water supply, or public health.” – Macfarlane

    What? There are many others whose opinions differ greatly. In all fairness I feel that should be mentioned.

    In my opinion you are obviously being informed by the wrong scientists/doctors or experts that most likely have conflicts of interest in the Nuclear Industry.

    We should not allow this kind of misguided information to harm our children or the environment, just for the sake of continuing a proven high risk technology whose only real solution is to decommission all of the Nuclear plants and then start trying to figure out what to really do with the nonstop dangerous waste.

  55. We have not begun to learn our nuclear “lesson” as long as any nuclear plants or weaponry exists. Perils will always far outweigh benefits. Until government & corporate profit are separated I hold little hope that our species will survive.

  56. Stock, there has been actually 6 deceased workers on the Fukushima daiichi plant after the accident, but none of them due to receiving radiations. Two were drowned by the Tsunami, the others died much later, long after the explosions that were releasing large amount of radiations.

    Internal *alpha* radiation is 20 times more dangerous, that’s why the raw value is multiplied by 20 **before** giving a mSv value. Today only cesium is found in the Fukushima area, and it does not emit alpha radiation. The radiations of cesium are very similar to the ones of the radioactive potassium that’s naturally occurring in our food, and our body actually processes the two very similarly which means that on average the cesium is excreted after 90 days for adults (earlier for kids).
    In the recent measurements in the Fukushima area, almost 100% of the radioactivity is from potassium 40 and not cesium 134 or 137 as shown by this Japanese document :

    Click to access kagezen_2013_shimoki_02.pdf

  57. That is very interesting.  Bananas average about 100 Bq/kg between K-40 and other natural radioisotopes, so it follows that the 5 Bq/kg standard would prohibit the sale of bananas.  Presumably it would also prohibit the sale of salt substitute (potassium chloride), and the potassium iodide pills used to protect people against radio-iodine releases would themselves be banned as too radioactive.

    Moderator Note: A portion of this comment was removed.

  58. @LillyMunster

    Daniel specifically stated “no one died from radiation at Fukushima.” He did not say no one died. You may have misunderstood, but you are being inaccurate when you state that he has been “dishonest and reprehensible.”

    The doses that you mention are far below those that would provide an acute case of radiation poisoning or lead to a near term fatality. The very bottom of the range of exposures that cause those effects is about 800 – 1,000 mSv – (0.8-1 Sv or 80-100 rem). At Chernobyl, none of the first responders that received less than 2,200 mSv suffered a near term death. Everyone with lower exposures recovered from acute radiation sickness. 40 survivors received between 2,200 and 4,100 mSv. (see page 58)

    The bottom of the range at which there is a proven link to an increased chance of contracting cancer is 50-100 mSv, so there are a few workers who fall into that category. So far, they are all still living and have no special health problems. No one in the general public has received a dose that would put their long term health at risk, but they have sure received a huge dose of fear-related stress that may have already caused health issues.

    Click to access risk_ps010-2.pdf

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  59. @stock

    Can you provide a link to the “Freedom of Information Act documents” that describe the 5 people who too “acute lethal doses” at Fukushima?

    I would like to learn more.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  60. The reason that they never mention it is because those two statements are not true. NRC is in charge of promoting nuclear power, not the facts. They are complicit in the coverup that the Japanese government is perpetrating. The FOIA searches have found ample documents to show that is the case. Take off your blinders.

  61. That is just completely wrong and those kinds of comments are exactly why the public distrusts the nuclear industry.
    “nobody died” is a total distortion. 2973 deaths are tied to the Fukushima disaster itself. A number of hospital patients died in the evacuation. Two workers at Daiichi drown during the tsunami. Another four workers have died at the plant, one under suspicious circumstances that appear to have been an acute radiation exposure incident. 1973 workers at Daiichi have received over 100 mSv internal thyroid exposure. Two workers had over 650 mSv internal exposure. Five workers were over 250 mSv internal exposure. Many more reached the 100 mSv exposure limit in the first year of the disaster. Proclaiming “nobody died” for political points is dishonest and reprehensible. There are many who worked at the plant who may yet die from their exposures or see their health seriously damaged from their heroic efforts to keep the plant from spiraling further out of control.
    Exposures of those near the plant have been plagued with a lack of timely screening, inaccurate dose reconstructions and efforts to dilute the exposures by including those exposed in counts of the entire population of Japan.
    Hot spots of black substance, a mix of dirt, metallics and fuel fragments from one of the reactors at Daiichi are found all around the evacuation zone and as far away as Tokyo. There is a peer reviewed paper this month in the American Chemical Soc journal on this.
    Readings in Futaba range from 10 uSv/h to 30 uSv/h excluding hot spots. I am sure there are some evacuees who would rent their homes out to Daniel so he can go live there. Since it is so “safe”.

  62. The US intervention levels for radioactive contamination are not guarantees of health safety. They are only levels where the government will pull food off the market. The US also has the highest intervention levels in the world at 1200 bq/kg. IPPNW is urging the EU to drop their 600 bq/kg level down to 5 bq/kg so it is based on an actual health safety factor rather than an arbitrary intervention level. A level of 6 bq/kg in human urine has been documented as capable of causing bladder cancer.

    2,973 people died of causes related to the Fukushima disaster. How many will die or become ill from their exposures over the coming decades remains to be seen. If only as much effort went into reform of the nuclear industry that has gone into trying to spin what has happened in Fukushima to make it go away, we might actually be safer.

  63. The anniversary of Fukushima is not something to celebrate. We do not celebrate the holocaust.

    After 3 years, there is still no knowledge or public admission of where the coriums are. That is mind boggling. And in the USA we allow plants to store their spent fuel (the most dangerous thing) right on top of the reactor or right next to it, rather than using existing technology and to dry cask it.

    Cask it before we need caskets.

  64. I hope you are being facetious, because those are not facts. Freedom of information act documents indicate that 5 people took acute lethal doses at Fukushima, and allowing kids, or adults, to live in 20mSv zones of external radiation, that is likely to become internal radiation and thus 20 times worse, is patently criminal. They did a better job at Chernobyl.

  65. As an organization charged with promoting facts, the NRC never mentions that 1) no one died from radiation at Fukushima and 2) the radiation levels are safe in most of the evacuated zones and have been since the day after the accident

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