Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Earthquake Anniversary: Updated and Unplugged

The non-fatal-tragedy

School buses
 They were used for evacuation
Older people fell off the seats and died
Today is is the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated large portions of eastern Japan on March 11, 2011.  Approximately 20,000 people died in the tsunami and earthquake, but the focus of the media has always been on the Fukushima "disaster" or "tragedy."

Three nuclear power plants suffered meltdowns.  Nobody died of direct radiation, and it is unlikely that there will be any detectable rise in cancer deaths. In terms of deaths, the immediate deaths came from mishandled evacuations.   See my post from last year: Fukushima: the Second Anniversary.


In Japan, some people are being allowed to move back to areas that had been evacuated for fear of radiation. Fuel rods are being successfully removed from Fuel Pool #4.  The story in Japan is slow, but progress is being made.

Instead of trying to update the situation myself, I will share some links:


Camera operator
From Wikipedia
Anti-nuclear activists are using today to "Unplug Nuclear Power."  They can't actually unplug nuclear power, so they are unplugging themselves by turning off their electricity for a day. Supposedly, this will "show that nuclear power is unnecessary." Activists have defined four levels of "unplugging" yourself from electricity.  In the first level, you "turn off extra lights and cut back on video games."   

My friends, these are real quotes.  I could not begin to make this stuff up!  Shall we have a "play a video game for nuclear" day, maybe?

I have great hopes that that the nuclear opponents will unplug themselves from those horrible electricity hogs: broadcast media.  If they see a reporter with a video camera at one of their rallies today, they should make her leave the premises. Otherwise, she will begin sending video to some broadcast media establishment, and that group will use a lot of electricity to broadcast the video clips.  This is totally against the spirit of "unplug nuclear power."  I hope the nuclear opponents won't let this happen.


Martin Langeveld said...

By referring to the Fukushima "disaster" in quotes, are you acutally implying that it was not a disaster? In the next sentence you mention there were three meltdowns. Not a disaster? Then you say "Nobody died of direct radiation." That makes it not a disaster? If you lived in Japan, the world's only victim of nuclear bombardment, how would you feel about a triple meltdown that forced the so-far permanent evacuation of a huge stretch of land? (Yes, "some people" have been allowed to move back, but what percentage of those evacuated?)

Engineer-Poet said...

Shouldn't you actually have to have fatalities or major injuries to make something a disaster?  There's not even serious property damage off the plant site itself.

The actual fatalities came from the hasty evacuation ordered by Tokyo.  It's a tragedy on the order of people seeing a heavy meteor shower and killing themselves because they believe it's the end of the world.

Meredith Angwin said...

Mr. Langenfeld

Apparently you think property damage to an industrial facility is an equal "disaster" to an event in which people die. I can't help if you believe that moving or property damage is as bad as death.

Well, yes, for me, nobody-died means not-a-disaster. Perhaps when you hear of a house fire, "everybody escaped" and "everybody died" are the same to you. I think your moral compass needs a little adjustment.

In your view, apparently, "had to move" is the same as "dead." Tell that to my friend in California who left Austria at a very young age, with his family, just ahead of the Nazis. If "moving" is the same as "death" to you, perhaps I can introduce you to him. He's old, but still winning tango contests with his wife and enjoying hanging out with his grandchildren. Once I introduce you, you can explain to him how "moved" is the same as "dead" and why his family should have stayed in Vienna.

Speaking of moral compasses....you don't mention or acknowledge the deaths from the earthquake and tsunami. 20,000 dead means absolutely nothing to you. You are like the people at the NRC meeting in Brattleboro in 2011 who practically RIOTED when the NRC asked for a moment of silence for the dead of the Japanese tsunami. That group only wanted to hear about nuclear "victims." They didn't want moments-of-silence for actual dead Japanese people.

I rarely get as angry about a note as I have been about your note.

By the way, how about some facts about the situation in Japan.

Warning: these facts don't fit your nuclear-caused-all-harm worldview.

1) Japan Today, Sept 2013
290,000 people still living in shelters in Japan
52.000 of them are displaced because of Fukushima, the rest because of the tsunami and earthquake.


2) Rice farmers in Japan fighting the salt-water contamination of their land. They need new salt-resistant strains of rice (if possible).


I am not even going to get into the fact that if there were more reasonable assessments of risk from radiation, most of the people who left from Fukushima would be back by now. That's a whole story in itself. This article has many good links, including to UN assessments.


I have met you, and I didn't think you would stoop as low as you did in this comment. I am frankly surprised and appalled. I know you are anti-nuclear and have long wanted VY to shut down, but I was still amazed at this one.

Martin Langeveld said...

Meredith, I'm sorry if you got angered, but you are certainly reading an awful lot into what I said that I didn't say, including apparently deducing my entire worldview. I'm only questioning your use of quotation marks around disaster, nothing else.

I said nothing about the earthquake or tsunami, I agree with you completely that they were disaster, but now I'm insensitive for not mentioning that in a comment?

Thanks for the links, I'll read them. Here's one back to you: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/03/11/three_years_later_the_physical_and_psychological_effects_of_fukushima_linger.html Ask the evacuees described there — living in temporary housing after all this time, experiencing PTSD, depression and kids with high thyroid cancer rates — if they think the meltdowns were not a disaster.

If something happened at Vermont Yankee (I know, that will never happen), and you lived in the evacuation zone, were forced to move, and were unable to return to your home, but nobody died, that would not be a disaster to you?

If the answer is that it wouldn't be, then I give up.

Martin Langeveld said...

Oh, and by the way, I'm not "anti nuclear", either. Nor am I particularly "pro nuclear." I've had a tour of the VY reactor building, my neighbors work at VY, and I think it's a safe operation. My volunteer work around the VY issues has been concerned with economic development preparations for a post-VY economy in this region — something that's clearly needed now, but would have been prudent for the region to work on even if VY was assured another 20 years of operation. The Post-VY group, SeVEDs and I have done that work without taking a position on it, working with both pro- and anti-nuclear people.

Meredith Angwin said...


I appreciate your comments. The evacuation from Fukushima has been a disaster, for sure. However, the "disaster" part is that the evacuation was totally mishandled, most people did not need to be evacuated, and the VAST majority of people could have returned to their homes long ago. However, as per usual, fear of radiation has caused a huge toll.

Well, yes, if I had to leave my home I would be very sorry for it. However, you asked, how I could claim that merely not-causing-deaths meant it wasn't a "disaster." Hey, in my little subculture, the traditional toast is "To Life!" So my views of losing property temporarily may be quite different from yours.

If I had to leave, it would be awful, I would probably call it a "disaster" at the time. But I like the fact nobody died. That fact is important to me. That fact is obscured by the endless sad vigils held by nuclear opponents for Fukushima (but not tsunami) "victims."

Your reference is mostly about psychological impact. Interestingly, in the link you sent, the fire brigade is bowing its head for tsunami victims. However, the headline is about the effects of Fukushima.

There has been a huge psychological impact from the tsunami plus out-of-control fear of relatively low levels of radiation. I encourage you to read this BBC report: Fukushima: Is fear of radiation the real killer?

Well, yes. Fear of radiation is the killer. These parents are hurting their children by "protecting them."


Glad to know you are neither pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear. SeVEDS looks like it will be getting some money from Entergy, if the agreement is approved by the PSB.That should make people happy, I guess. I am not sure planning will be much help. Maybe it can. I wish you the best in trying.

Here are two of my blog posts on post-VY economics and why "planning" won't help much. I quote you in the first one (in a good way, you said things well and succinctly).



Engineer-Poet said...

"Ask the evacuees described there — living in temporary housing after all this time, experiencing PTSD, depression and kids with high thyroid cancer rates — if they think the meltdowns were not a disaster."

The evacuations were hard on the evacuees, certainly.  But the meltdowns were only a disaster if they required the evacuations; if not, the real disaster was the panic in Tokyo.

All evidence points to the evacuations being a panicked over-reaction rather than a measured and rational response to the actual level of threat.

Meredith Angwin said...


You wrote:
living in temporary housing after all this time, experiencing PTSD, depression and kids with high thyroid cancer rates

"Kids with high thyroid cancer rates?" You say that as if it were a fact, when it is not clear that thyroid cancer rates have increased. Thyroid cancer SCREENING has certainly increased, and more cancers will surely be detected. But a moment's thought will show that this means comparatively little.

I encourage you to read the doctor's comments on these two sites:


You see that many doctors think the actual cancer rates are the same. I agree with them.

However, I am not surprised that the perceived cancer "rates" are higher. Let me explain. I will use an example.

In America, some women have regular mammos for breast cancer, some women never go to the doctor, and some high-risk women have MRIs (which detect much smaller cancers) . Okay.

Now imagine a draconian law is passed: ALL women past age 40 MUST have an MRI within three months of this law passing, or all credit cards and driver's licenses will be cancelled for women who do not obey!

So, every woman in the U S past forty rushes in and gets an MRI, which can detect very small cancers.

What will be the cancer rate THAT year compared to previous years? Wow, it will be much higher! An epidemic!

Does that mean there are more cancers actually? No. It just means that cancers that would perhaps have been detected eight years later (women who never see a doctor), two years later (women who used to get mammos which can only detect bigger cancers)--all these cancers will all be detected at once! In one year.

It's a detection epidemic.

If you read the doctor's comments on both these posts about thyroid cancer, most of them think this is exactly what is happening in Japan. They never used to screen for children's thyroid cancers except in the most primitive ways: a doctor feeling a child's neck, which could only detect a pretty big cancer. Now, they are full-force testing hundreds of thousands of children with elaborate detection tools. They will, undoubtedly, find more cancers. But, whether there really are more cancers...that is another story entirely.

However, you claim that thyroid cancers in kids are increasing. I encourage you to read what the doctors say about this. I am pretty sure you are wrong, but only time will tell, so I can't prove it.

If you have proved the opposite to yourself to your own satisfaction, there is nothing I can do to dissuade you.

(My mother died of breast cancer in her forties, and I follow the "screening" literature very carefully. I am also high-risk, but this isn't about me...)

Robert said...

Merdith, I would like to make a suggestion: I go to a web site called the www.greenbuildingadvisor.com where a lot of the guys there build efficient houses. The website is based in Vermont and some of these guys are in your neighborhood! (Brattleboro). I think they are generally antinuclear but might listen. Now they are telling people to install mini-split heat pumps and induction cooktops and even like all-electric houses. Where it all the electricity supposed to come from? I don't think solar panels are enough, especially with any thing that heats. Take a look over there. Thanks, Bob

Meredith Angwin said...


First, I would like to thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate them.


Thank you for the note and the link.

I don't think I can convince any anti-nuclear person of anything. On the other hand, all the "get off fossil" plans generally do involve more use of electricity. And indeed, where is the electricity going to come from?

My experience is that anti-nuclear people are quite willing to live with their own cognitive dissonance on this subject. They usually don't want nuclear, coal, fracked gas, ridge-line wind turbines, new transmission lines and so forth. But electricity in the wall socket...yes, they want that! They will surely welcome heat pumps, and electric cooking , etc.

Sigh. Thanks for the note, anyway.

Robert said...

Has Entergy (or whoever responsible) reassured the public that there will be no brownouts or blackouts with the lack of Vermont Yankee? Also, I know Vermont is a liberal state but how did the antinuclear people get so much clout in a state that is So Cold. It maybe possible to run a country cabin on solar panels but what are businesses going to do if power goes out and they have to close? I don't they could even run a salon on solar panels.

Robert said...

Oh, and check out the latest article on the web site: One of the authors, Martin, was a volunteer in Armenia with the gas was shut off and he wonders could it happen here? Yet, the article on the cooktops says that "we don't want gas because we don't want to expose our children to the products of combustion". Do they want us to all have campfires?

Meredith Angwin said...


ISO-NE, our grid operator, has said that we will not have black-outs or brown-outs without VY. However, they said that before several coal plants announced they were closing, and before their latest "capacity" auction in which the Northeast had a small shortfall in capacity (as opposed to too much capacity). So, we will see. They haven't said it lately.

Only the northwestern corner of the state has natural gas by pipeline. Most of the state uses fuel oil or propane or wood. Plans to expand the pipeline south has been incredibly controversial. People are fighting it to the point that the pipeline company will probably have to use eminent domain to complete the pipeline. So, I would conclude that natural gas is not popular here.

People in Vermont just want the electricity to come out of the wall socket, and it should only be made by renewable sources that run steadily. Oh wait...the Vermont PSB just turned down a permit for a renewable source that would run steadily...it would have been a new biomass plant. The PSB said that the plant would create too much truck traffic.

People here basically want magic and miracles.

I encourage you to go on the vermontdigger site and look at energy articles. I cover much of this in my blog, but I emphasize Vermont Yankee, while the Digger gives equal attention to developments in biomass, gas pipelines, etc. It's kind of eye-opening.