Jim Green’s recent Punch piece on Fukushima accuses Barry Brook and I of having an “indifference to human death and suffering”. This is offensive and false.
Green’s attempt to support his accusation by cherry picking sections of the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report into the radiation induced health impacts at Fukushima displayed considerable ignorance and bias.
Presumably Green considers the cancer risk figures calculated by the 35 authors of the WHO report as credible. Presumably, that’s because he understands that they are seriously expert in such matters. So why didn’t he present their judgement about what the numbers actually mean?
The first sentence of the associated WHO press release summarises their findings, but I prefer a shorter simpler sentence from the Summary and Conclusions in the body of the report (p.92): The present results suggest that the increases in the incidence of human disease attributable to the additional radiation exposure from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident are likely to remain below detectable levels.
What? Say that again ... “below detectable levels”?
Today is the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and it promises to be another silly-season for Australia’s nuclear apologists.
They have form. While the crisis was unfolding in March 2011, Ziggy Switkowski advised that “the best place to be whenever there’s an earthquake is at the perimeter of a nuclear plant because they are designed so well.” Even after the multiple explosions and nuclear meltdowns, Adelaide-based nuclear advocate Geoff Russell advised: “If you are in a quake zone and have time to seek shelter, forget hiding under door jambs and tables, find a nuke.”
Even as nuclear fuel meltdown was in full swing at Fukushima, Adelaide University’s Prof. Barry Brook reassured us that: “There is no credible risk of a serious accident… Those spreading FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] at the moment will be the ones left with egg on their faces. I am happy to be quoted forever after on the above if I am wrong ... but I won’t be.” Eggs, anyone?
Latest 2 of 95 commentsView all comments
The damage to Japan’s Fukushima reactors has probably ended any risk of Australia going down the nuclear path.
In fact, despite some uninformed commentary, there has been no international renaissance of nuclear energy, only a resurgence of pro-nuclear talk. In the years 2008 and 2009, the world retired 3000 MegaWatts of old nuclear capacity and only 1000 MW was brought on line. In the same two years, about 60,000 MW of new wind power was commissioned.
When I was a young physicist, nuclear power was seen as cheap, clean and safe. I went to the UK in 1968 and accepted support from their Atomic Energy Authority for research on a problem affecting the useful life of fuel elements in power reactors. Since then, despite huge public subsidies, nuclear power has proved to be very expensive.
Latest 2 of 98 commentsView all comments
Sunday was the first anniversary of the nuclear meltdowns, explosions and fires at Fukushima in Japan. Australian governments and uranium mining companies need to be held to account for their role in the disaster.
The impacts of the nuclear disaster have been horrendous. Over 100,000 people are still homeless and some will never be able to return. Homeless, jobless, separated from friends and family, the toll on people’s health and mental well-being has been significant − one indication being a sharp increase in suicide rates. One farmer’s suicide note simply read: “I wish there wasn’t a nuclear plant.”
Early indications are that the long-term cancer death toll will be in the range of several hundred up to 1000. The death toll could rise significantly if many people resettle in contaminated areas. Tens of thousands of people are grappling with the dilemma of going home to live in contaminated areas or starting from scratch elsewhere. Direct and indirect economic costs of the disaster will amount to several hundred billions dollars.
Latest 2 of 113 commentsView all comments
The Australian Conservation Foundation is having an anti-uranium rally on Sunday to mark “one year since the start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster”.
Nearly 20,000 people died during the quake off northern Japan and following tsunami. That was a disaster. True horror. It was much more visual than the 2004 Boxing Day disaster which killed 12 times more people but didn’t have a nuke. It didn’t have the impending doom story-line, only actual suffering. Nobody really wants to see footage of amputations, infections, crushed limbs, grief and loss. It’s just too distressing.
Impending doom is much more fun, especially when there is a villain. Somebody to blame. You get to enjoy sticking the verbal boot in. I’m often tempted to believe in God just so I can blame her for natural disasters.
Latest 2 of 170 commentsView all comments
An earthquake. A tsunami. A nuclear meltdown.
Just one would’ve been devastating. But we’ve seen few catastrophes quite like this troika in human history.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake. A tsunami that was more than a dozen metres tall in some areas. A huge radiation cloud. More than 15,000 people killed. A first world country crushed.
Latest 2 of 34 commentsView all comments
The option of using nuclear power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation has been raised from time to time during the national debate on the carbon tax and climate change.
Although nuclear power it is not currently on the government’s energy agenda, Australia is a major supplier of uranium to the global nuclear industry which produces 14 per cent of the world’s electricity from four hundred and forty reactors in thirty countries. Their combined fifty year experience provides a basis on which to consider the deployment of nuclear power here.
As memories of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident and the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe receded, a global nuclear power renaissance seemed likely as climate change concerns mounted. Then came the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster following a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Latest 2 of 101 commentsView all comments
It’s time for a quick quiz.
1. In Italy, people marched and voted against nuclear power recently. Every Australian news service carried the story. But did they mention how many nuclear power stations Italy will need to close as a result of this courageous decision?
2. Following the Fukushima failure the Chinese suspended approvals on new nuclear power stations pending a safety review. Did the Chinese stop work on any of the 26 reactors currently under construction? How much nuclear power are the Chinese planning for in 2050?
3. The recently announced Moree Solar Farm will take 4 years to build and will be, so far, the largest solar photovaic power station on the planet. How many food producing hectares will it displace? How many such “farms” would you have to build to replace a large coal-fired power station like Victoria’s Loy Yang A?
Latest 2 of 150 commentsView all comments
Anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott has argued that the nuclear industry is “conducting a whatever-it-takes propaganda campaign” and distorting scientific evidence on radiation’s effects. Here, Geoff Russell responds.
Helen Caldicott proposes a grand coverup by the World Health Organisation and presents as her only evidence a 1959 agreement between WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A search of the international medical research database PUBMED for “Chernobyl” shows 3767 scientific papers. These are from researchers all over the world. Papers like “Did the Chernobyl atomic plant accident have an influence on the incidence of thyroid carcinoma in the province of Olsztyn?” by Polish scientists. The answer, by the way was “no”.
Latest 2 of 82 commentsView all comments
A poll by Roy Morgan Research several days into the Fukushima nuclear crisis found that 61 per cent of Australians oppose the development of nuclear power here, nearly double the 34 per cent level of support. Thus the growth in support for nuclear power over the past five years has been totally erased ... and then some.
While there was undoubtedly growing support for nuclear power until Fukushima, the issue has been the subject of a great deal of hype and spin.
In 2009, for example, a flurry of media reports and commentary followed the release of a Nielsen poll which found that support for nuclear power had risen to 49 per cent and had overtaken the level of opposition.
Latest 2 of 124 commentsView all comments
The after effects of the quake and tsunamis in Japan will cause clear and on-going pain and suffering for years, while the risks from the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors look to be subsiding - see here for the latest updates. Meanwhile, Geoff Russell argues that any and all risks need to be put in perspective.
Residents living in the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear plant face some considerable cancer risks during coming decades. They will come primarily from cigarettes, red meat, alcohol and salty foods. These should hardly be called risks, since each will definitely cause tens of thousands of new cancer cases every single year throughout Japan.
An additional possibility, a potential risk, hardly visible in comparison, may come from radiation as a result of the quake and tsunami damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Latest 2 of 45 commentsView all comments
The situation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors seems to be improving, but the long-term fallout remains unclear. The Punch spoke to Associate Professor Haydon Manning - head of politics and public policy at Flinders University and a man with a particular interest in nuclear power - and asked him what it means for the political future of nuclear.
What’s the history of nuclear fear in Australia?
In the Australian community we’ve never had to confront the stark reality - like the French, the Japanese and South Korea have - of real energy shortage. Given our abundance of coal and gas we’ve never had to focus on any of the positive arguments for nuclear power as the answer to a problem or energy security.
Rather, we associated nuclear power with weapons. This is certainly true of someone like me, who as a student marched on the streets in opposition to Olympic Dam in the late 70s. Then in 1979 we had the ‘icing on the anti nuclear cake’ when Three Mile Island had its minor meltdown.
Latest 2 of 132 commentsView all comments
While Japan 2011 will be remembered for the tragic earthquake and tsunami that swept a destructive path through coastal communities, it will also go down in history as a date with destiny on the nuclear energy debate following the fallout from the Fukushima reactor emergency.
Fears surrounding the ongoing crisis at the Japanese nuclear plant have seen it described as the “New Chernobyl”.
The immediate scale of the disaster may not be as dire as Chernobyl but, like the Ukrainian accident, its potential to set back for years the proliferation of nuclear energy as an alternative to carbon-based sources of power is equally as significant.
Latest 2 of 24 commentsView all comments
The Punch put some questions to one of the nation’s nuclear experts - Dr Gerald Laurence. Dr Laurence is a Radiation Safety Adviser and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide’s School of Chemistry and Physics.
Q) How scared should people in Japan be about the nuclear situation?
A) Not a great deal – the 20-year total of deaths from Chernobyl (from the UN 20-year report) suggests that the radiation related deaths are of the order of a few thousand at most; of the thyroid cancers, mostly in the young 99 per cent were treated & cured (note all the data in the report are strongly disputed by environmental and progessive groups who claim that WHO & IAEA are under the influence of the nuclear industrial complex).
In Japan so far it is spent fuel rods that were removed from the core in November, so iodine-131 (which has an eight-day half life) is not a major risk. The most serious fission product that will be released will be caesium-137 with a 30-year half life.
The possibility of food (rice, milk, etc.) being contaminated because of contaminated fields is real, but public health measures (testing and so on) should mean such produce should not reach the public. Local contamination (houses, towns) will clear at rates dependent on the weather (dissolved in rain, etc.). Local weather also disperses & dilutes the plume (and I assume the Japan Met Bureau can model this very well).
Latest 2 of 70 commentsView all comments
The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station has been unfolding for about a week. The on-site situation remains extremely serious, with glimmers of hope being shrouded by a shadow of deep uncertainty.
If you’ve not been following the situation on BraveNewClimate, please visit the site, which contains assumed knowledge for understanding the rest of this post.
As predicted, attention over the last couple of days has focused on the critical situation with the ponds used for temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel at the individual reactor units, before it is moved to a centralised facility on site. Although this old fuel has lost much of its original radioactivity, the decline is exponential, which means that thermal energy must continue to be dissipated for months.
Latest 2 of 29 commentsView all comments
Some parts of the environmental movement will be quietly high-fiving each other this week, as the nuclear industry’s progress over the past decade looks certain to take a massive step backwards.
They have been quick to proclaim ``I told you so’’ and make the fallacious analogy that the incidents in Japan mean that Australia and indeed all other countries should not consider nuclear as part of the energy mix.
Incidents which, it should be kept in mind, involved an unprecedently large earthquake and decades-old technology.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
RT @Rob_Stott: Like a lot of Republicans in the US, it's much easier to support gay marriage when you're no longer in a position to do anyt…
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…