John Hartshorn comments

Posted in: Take cover - but where? Japanese helpless over N Korean threat See in context

If you will look at a map of the region on Google Earth you will appreciate that there is no other straight line route that NK can shoot their long range missiles on that is less threatening to other countries than the flight path that passes over a bit of Hokkaido. Not that this makes them acceptable or innocuous but it does make them appear less deliberately provocative. There's no need for undue alarm now. Later on, perhaps, but these tests are making political statements, not posing a military threat to Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Posted in: 4 researchers exposed to radiation at Tokaimura lab See in context

This was only newsworthy because of the rarity of reportable nuclear accidents combined with a lack of scientific literacy that somehow equates this small exposure with real risk. By far the major source of radiation exposure for most people over their lifetimes is medical tests and treatments, with natural background radiation a distant second. Even factoring in Fukushima, the average human exposure from nuclear power plants over a lifetime is less than living with a smoke detector in your home, living in a brick or stone building, in the area of a coal power plant, or even eating a banana a day.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Posted in: TEPCO partially restores power to cooling systems at Fukushima plant See in context

The author of this article misunderstands the consequences of a loss of coolant flow in a storage pool and has written a needlessly alarming article as a result.

The statement "Even used nuclear fuel becomes dangerous if its temperature is allowed to rise uncontrollably to the point where a self-sustaining critical reaction begins, causing a meltdown" is not accurate. If the used fuel continued to heat the water to the point at which it all evaporated leaving the fuel assemblies uncovered, the result, which would not occur for a number of days and could be prevented by the addition of makeup water as was done after the Tsunami, would be a possibility that some individual fuel assemblies most recently removed from the reactor core could catch fire and release radioactive particles as they burned. This is a concern that declines over time as the isotopes created inside the reactor decay. After the amount of time that even the freshest fuel in the Fukushima pools has been out of the reactors this is a remote possibility. Even in the worst case there would be no critical nuclear reaction.

That said, the industry can and should reduce any pool fire risks further by placing fuel in dry cask storage after it has cooled for a year. This would reduce fuel pool loads substantially and allow the remainder to be spread out in such a way that residual risk would be very small. Since the fuel needs to be repackaged anyway before moving to a reprocessing facility or long term storage location, this is a sensible way to reduce risk and reassure a nervous public.

Journalists who write about technical issues owe it to the public to be fully informed and avoid sensationalizing.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan extracts 'fire ice' gas from seabed See in context

No matter how often we are informed that continuing to find and burn fossil fuels is leading to climate changes that will make the human prospect more tenuous, we persist in doing this sort of thing. Some have remarked on the possible exhaustion of current fuel reserves sometime late in this century as a limiting factor in the process, but our ingenuity seems perfectly capable of finding and producing more than enough of these substances to damage the planet in ways we can only begin to understand. Sensible people will recognize that we need to stop this process and reverse it as rapidly as possible, but it requires enough wisdom and foresight to actually do the long term planning and embrace the necessary changes (including higher energy costs during the transition period and a major expansion of nuclear power), so we continue to blunder ahead on the same path to really bad outcomes. Can the human race grow up and act responsibly in time to avert environmental Armageddon? Maybe, but we need to look past the siren call of instant gratification and commit to some minimal sacrifices in the name of generations yet unborn.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Posted in: China 'fully prepared' for currency war: banker See in context

The yen is down 15% against the dollar in 6 months while the Chinese yuan is up about 2% over the last 12 months. Clearly Japan aims to stimulate exports by pushing it's currency lower. The Chinese response so far has been muted. Japan needs to avoid following this course further or a regional bout of competitive devaluations will end with no winners.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Posted in: WHO: Small cancer risk after Fukushima accident See in context

In order to fully understand these numbers it's useful to compare nuclear with other power sources in terms of safety.

If you don't believe the numbers in this table you can search any reputable source and find similar data. Nuclear is safer than any other major power producer when you look at all the history, and the newer designs being rolled out now are another order of magnitude safer. You don't even need to discuss likely deaths from climate change resulting from fossil fuel emissions to see that nuclear, even factoring in the two major accidents, is the safest power source.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Posted in: Smog causes surge in heart attack deaths: study See in context

This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the epidemiology of diseases. Increasing smog is just the most obvious cause of health and environmental damages from burning fuels. Nuclear power is much safer in this regard with essentially zero emissions.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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