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Japan Science

More Bad News From Fukushima 268

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-bad-to-worse dept.
PuceBaboon writes "Both Reuters and the BBC are carrying the story of an increase in radiation levels reported by Tepco for contaminated water leaking from storage tanks on site. When this leak was discovered almost two weeks ago, Tepco reported that the radiation level was 100-millisieverts. It now transpires that 100-millisieverts was the highest reading that the measuring equipment in use was capable of displaying. The latest readings (with upgraded equipment) are registering 1800-millisieverts which, according to both news sources, could prove fatal to anyone exposed to it for four hours. Coincidentally (and somewhat ironically), today is earthquake disaster prevention day in Japan, with safety drills taking place nationwide."
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More Bad News From Fukushima

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  • by PlusFiveTroll (754249) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:34AM (#44730333) Homepage

    -Tepco reported that the radiation level was 100-millisieverts. It now transpires that 100-millisieverts was the highest reading that the measuring equipment in use was capable of displaying.

    What the actual fuck. How could such a stupid mistake be made?

    • by tuo42 (3004801) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:38AM (#44730357)
      That's what I was thinkng also!

      Then again, it is a very interesting way of damage control. Simply bring equipment which can only measure up to the damage level we want.

      I cannot understand how a company can make such a mistake. This is the most severe radioactive problem at the moment, threatening to change a country for the next decades.

      They know how important this is, and fail to bring along the right equipment?

      Unbelievable...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:52AM (#44730421)

        It is all intentional and just a big game of what they can cover up and with which lies they can get away with.
        The whole Fukushima operation is just a big scam with Tepco and the government as key players.
        The current LDP government is financially supported by all major Japanese companies that are heavily involved in the nuclear industry.
        That was a very lucrative business because there were hardly any rules that could not be bend but that has all gone bad after the Fukushima disaster.
        The main objective for Tepco and the LDP prime minister is to get nuclear energy accepted again.
        Although there are many accidents and false reports, the national media does not pay much attention, fearing the wrath of the LDP patry and some of the major companies here in Japan. But that doesn't differ much from the US I guess.
        Also, the national television company is just another propaganda media outlet but may Japanese are not aware of this fact.

        Japan has a long history of cover-ups when the government and major Japanese companies are involved.

        • by polar red (215081) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:12AM (#44730543)

          Humanity has a long history of cover-ups when big organisations are involved.

          FTFY

          • Maybe it was an incompetent news agency reporting on a preliminary result. 100 millisieverts is a pretty high level on its own after all.

            • by DarkOx (621550)

              If your equipments scale goes to 100 and the reading you get is 100; than its pretty incompetent to report that value as anything other than 'its at least 100'

              • by fnj (64210) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:40AM (#44731089)

                If your equipment only registers to 100 and you read 100 on it, then it is WHOLLY imcompetent not to RUN and get better equipment to re-measure.

                • by oobayly (1056050)

                  I'm surprised the equipment wasn't designed to read up to 110% of the max displayed reading and show an error code when in that zone.

                • by cyfer2000 (548592)
                  If MY equipment only registers to 100 millisieverts and I read 100 millisieverts on it, then I will run away and do NOT come back!
              • by thsths (31372)

                At least 100 is the scientific statement - the correct statement in plain English is "the reading is off the scale". That also conveys the urgency properly. But of course PR prevented that from being publish - which means that now they have to deal with the fact that they have been lying to the public.

              • The measurement likely was 1099, and the display was 099.
                So everything was fine.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:09AM (#44730519) Homepage

        Tepco needs to be taken out of the equation. Now.

        (Though they can still pay the cleanup bill...)

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:37PM (#44731689) Homepage

          The Japanese government already practically owns TEPCO because it had to nationalize it to cover the clean-up cost. They just don't have any administrative control or use their shareholder rights.

          So basically TEPCO is in charge but not paying the bulk of the bill. The situation is not unique to Japan, every country with nuclear power would be in the same situation if something like that happened because getting commercial insurance to cover the hundreds of billions of dollars it costs is impossible.

      • It is! Unbelievable! As in I actually don't believe them!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:29AM (#44730643)

        It isn't damage control. It is technician stupidity. There are a wide range of radiation meters. But the type that can read up to 200 Rem/hr (2,000 mSv) aren't common. A typical meter won't even read up to 1 Rem/hr, because such high levels aren't common. Only casualty meters read higher.

        Any decent health physicist is acutely aware of where the meter saturates (which can sometimes be caused by the electronics itself--you really need to understand how your meter works when you adjust the scales).

        Simply bring equipment which can only measure up to the damage level we want.

        No, you bring the meter with the radiation you expect to find. If it is higher, you back out and bring a meter for that. If your readings are 50 mRem/hr at most points, it is ridiculous to carry around a meter than reads 0-200 Rem/hr. It is not precise. It is like reading the speed on your speedometer when it is calibrated in units of 500 mph.

        • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:46AM (#44730743)

          It isn't damage control. It is technician stupidity.

          Apologists need to stop trotting out equivalents to, "Don't attribute to malice.. bla bla stupidity," at every corner.

          It's not the middle of the 20th century. We're awash with excellent physicists who can't find a job, and I can assure you that everyone in the highly competitive Japan who has a job in the nuclear industry has the technical ability.

          What they don't have is a moral compass: it's a very obeisant culture.

          • by GNious (953874) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:12AM (#44730913)

            It isn't damage control. It is technician stupidity.

            Apologists need to stop trotting out equivalents to, "Don't attribute to malice.. bla bla stupidity," at every corner.

            People just need to understand that there is a point where Stupidity stops being a valid and reasonable excuse. Still having Tepco handling all of this is one such case, where it is not longer correct to attribute it to Stupidity.

        • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:04AM (#44730871)
          But it should be obvious to anyone that if your equipment pegs to 100mSv and no higher that something is wrong, and you shouldn't go to the media claiming 100mSv was the likely extent of the radiation levels in the leak.
        • I get that, but if your speedometer is pegged to the maximum reading at 150mph, the thought might occur to you that you are going faster.

          • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:58PM (#44732105)
            It must be a digital display, because you can clearly see when a needle (like a speedometer) is pinned.

            I think there is a real takehome lesson for designing instrumentation here. A device should not show the value "100" for "everything greater than 100." Under overload it should just show a row of hyphens or something. Even my cheap little digital kitchen scale does this.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          If your readings are 50 mRem/hr at most points, it is ridiculous to carry around a meter than reads 0-200 Rem/hr. It is not precise. It is like reading the speed on your speedometer when it is calibrated in units of 500 mph.

          In the really real world, we practically never see a nice round number like that. We're always seeing fractions. So if the number was that round, then I'd check it again just to see if the meter was doing something weird. And if I got precisely the same completely round number over and over again, then I'd certainly suspect the results.

          Stupidity is too meek a word for this situation.

        • by drerwk (695572) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @11:29AM (#44731341) Homepage
          Are you telling my the Mach meter on my deux chevaux is pointless?
          • by oobayly (1056050)

            Clearly it's because the pitot tube is behind the shock cone. Citroen's transonic aerodynamics were always a bit suspect.

      • by dj245 (732906)

        That's what I was thinkng also! Then again, it is a very interesting way of damage control. Simply bring equipment which can only measure up to the damage level we want. I cannot understand how a company can make such a mistake. This is the most severe radioactive problem at the moment, threatening to change a country for the next decades. They know how important this is, and fail to bring along the right equipment? Unbelievable...

        In the measuring instrument business, you generally size the instrument to have a scale which is 50-80% of its range. So, for example, a speedometer for a Honda Civic might go to 140mph even though the vehicle is capable of only 115mph. It is bad to only use a very small % of the range of a measuring device for many reasons. If you have a speedometer in your Honda that goes to 5,000MPH, the accuracy at normal speeds is likely to suffer. If these were instruments for measuring leakage out of a storage ta

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They were using the deluxe meter but forgot to bring the pro meter that day.

    • by durrr (1316311)

      I wonder how the values are measured. Is the values measured at some fixed distance to the source to do they have some waterproofed sensor they immerse?

    • by jamesh (87723) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:46AM (#44730395)

      -Tepco reported that the radiation level was 100-millisieverts. It now transpires that 100-millisieverts was the highest reading that the measuring equipment in use was capable of displaying.

      What the actual fuck. How could such a stupid mistake be made?

      Wouldn't be the first time testing was stopped as soon as a nice answer was found...

    • This error, reporting such a dead end scale value, was also reported sometime ago by Tepco, and there was another time before that, sorry I cannot get the links out so quickly but I clearly remember this. This same mistake has occured more than once within the hole Fukushima disaster,

      The scheme is also the same: First, horray everything is safe. Later, Ups the needle hit the scale end and we did not tell them to start running.

      How could .. ?
      Well, on the one hand untrained personel or simply intentional or bo

    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:48AM (#44730407)

      Just wait a few weeks until they find out that 1800 mSv is the maximum reading on the new instrument.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Just wait a few weeks until they find out that 1800 mSv is the maximum reading on the new instrument.

        Ah "oops": Sorry, we didn't notice the new meter actually says Kilo-Sieverts; there was just a minor error where we put the decimal in the wrong place.

    • by Urkki (668283) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:52AM (#44730425)

      What the actual fuck. How could such a stupid mistake be made?

      Well, situation was probably carefully evaluated, and everything considered, it was decided that this is a mistake worth making. Just speculating to provide an example, there may have been something else happening at the same time, some evaluation or hearing or whatever, and there it was important that the reading was not too high, so the short term mistake at the expense of looking like amateurs was deemed a good trade.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      -Tepco reported that the radiation level was 100-millisieverts. It now transpires that 100-millisieverts was the highest reading that the measuring equipment in use was capable of displaying.

      What the actual fuck. How could such a stupid mistake be made?

      Yes, the test should have been repeated using measuring device with 10-millisieverts max scale: everything would be normal then, no reason to worry.

      (ducks)

    • by boorack (1345877) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:45AM (#44730733)
      It was deliberate, somewhat shortsighted lie. This is how every fuckin big fat corporation behaves these days. It is worse than communism. Just compare Fukushima fiasco to old commies handling Chernobyl. They did everything they could to NOT let this crap hit watertable. They've put liquid nitrogen injecting installation under the reactor to make sure it won't burn through the basement and won't contaminate ground waters. They've put 600 thousands people to work to clean up their mess (every man for one minute or so). Compare this to the crap, lies, corruption and cost cuttings TEPCO is doing on their site. Our corporate fascist system is failing us badly and if we won't put them all in check soon, consequences of their misdeeds, greed and corruption will hit us hard.
      • It is worse than communism.

        No, it's not. If the government won't let their friends corporation die, and won't let they suffer any negative consequence from their acts, then it's exactly like communism. Not worse.

        Looks like the URSS won the Cold War.

        • by sjames (1099)

          At least in the old USSR, if your screw-up was embarrassing enough you could fall out of favor. Under corrupt capitalism, as long as your bank balance stays high, you can do no wrong.

    • by thej1nx (763573) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:08AM (#44730885)
      The same way, news medias like to make "intentional mis-interpretation" for sake of sensationalism and more eyeballs. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/announcements/2013/1230191_5502.html [tepco.co.jp]
    • Japan needs to ask for the help of international experts. There is a ton of unutilized nuclear expertise just in the US who could be a part of this effort.
    • How could such a stupid mistake be made?

      "Bring the meter that only goes up to 100 milliserverts."

      Never attribute to incompetence that which can adequately be explained by self-reinforcing emotional behavior.

    • by citizenr (871508)

      It wouldnt be honorable to admit equipment is not suitable for the job = LIE IN YOUR FACE like a true Asian.

    • by Yomers (863527)

      What the actual fuck. How could such a stupid mistake be made?

      Do not worry gaijin, we upgraded our dosimeters to a newest model that is capable of displaying up to 1.8 sieverts!

    • making a statement about deadliness of a sievert level of water leaking into the ground is also nonsense. that would be for a full body exposure to a level of radiation, and the lethal dose is more like 5000 mS, 1800mS over four hours and a person would be almost to the point of "severe radiation sickness", but most would not die. perhaps 8% would die at that level without proper medical intervention.

      • by Yomers (863527)

        making a statement about deadliness of a sievert level of water leaking into the ground is also nonsense. that would be for a full body exposure to a level of radiation, and the lethal dose is more like 5000 mS, 1800mS over four hours and a person would be almost to the point of "severe radiation sickness", but most would not die. perhaps 8% would die at that level without proper medical intervention.

        Exactly out thoughts, gaijin! It's 4 hours - nobody should swim that long, and only 8% anyway - not a big deal. We are waiting for a new tsunami that will wash all this inconvenient radioactive junk into the ocean, we do not need it any more, you see. Ocean currents will do the rest, nature will find the way! Pity about dolphins tho. Tasty, tasty dolphins!

        Tepco - committed to bringing nuclear power to every doorstep in the world!

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Here's my dumb question: Is 1800 millisieverts from the new equipment an accurate reading?

      Is the equipment well-calibrated and shown to be accurate when the reading indicates that, OR is 1800 near the maximum of the measurement range of that equipment as well?

  • Oblig. (Score:5, Informative)

    by bondsbw (888959) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @08:38AM (#44730353)

    1800 mSv is 36 times the maximum yearly dose permitted to US radiation workers. More here [xkcd.com].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Per hour.

    • Re:Oblig. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by BigDukeSix (832501) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @10:32AM (#44731045)
      These are really big doses we are talking about, in the range of what external-beam radiotherapy uses to destroy tumors. When stating that four hours' dosage at this level is likely to be lethal, this means "likely to be lethal by acute radiation sickness with death occurring in days." In reality, much shorter exposures are likely to be lethal from induced cancers (leukemia and thyroid cancers being common). It will just take longer for those people to die. I suspect that most of the workers who have been on site to this point have likely had their fates sealed.
    • http://what-if.xkcd.com/29/ [xkcd.com]

      As mentioned in http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/announcements/2013/1230191_5502.html [tepco.co.jp] (mentioned by another commenter), the high radiation was 5 cm off the bottom, and fell very quickly with height. So this seems to be almost exactly the same situation as that in the xkcd strip.

  • Wrong issue (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907)

    While everybody is writing about the water, the real issue is the spent-fuel-rod pool. If that thing is not secured very soon, Tokyo becoming uninhabitable within a very short time is a real possibility. There is so much radiation in there, it is staggering. The pool is inadequately cooled. The pool is damaged enough that even a minor earthquake could prevent cooling it more and a fire starting in there would both be impossible to put out and starting by itself very fast. If that happens, only the wind not

    • by durrr (1316311) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:09AM (#44730517)

      Sounds like you sourced that from HystericGreenAlarmism.com

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gweihir (88907)

        That is probably what the Japanese are thinking also. It is called denial, and it can kill on a large scale if practiced in the face of a severe risk.

        • by greg_barton (5551)

          The end of the world is neigh? Which seal of the apocalypse is Fukushima?

          • by Mashdar (876825)
            Andre the seal.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            The end of the world is neigh?

            OMG PONIES.

    • How did this comment get modded UP? Tokyo is 300km from the affected reactors for God's sake. Tokyo isn't going to become uninhabitable EVER due to fuel rods at Soma unless they physically ship the rods to Tokyo.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by gweihir (88907)

        You have no clue. Really, none whatsoever. 300km only mean that they can see it coming, not that they can do anything about it. Shipping the rods to Tokyo would be pretty safe though, as they would still be contained. As long as you keep them cooled, you could even walk next to them. If they burn, however, all that radioactive material ends up in very fine particles for maximum effect.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chernobyl_radiation_map_1996.svg [wikipedia.org]

        The Chernobyl exclusion area is about 700km from tip to tip. Varying from about 300km wide to 100km wide.

        Total "lost" area is 2,600 km.

        If a similar area were lost in Japan it would be .6% of their total land mass, concentrated in important areas (potentially including tokyo as noted above).

        I agree, it's unlikely. But it's not impossible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nojayuk (567177)

      I presume you are referring to the spent fuel pool in the reactor 4 building as that's the one that's been reported by fantasists and alarmists like Arne Gunderson as exploding, imminently collapsing, bulging, disintegrating, sinking into the ground and catching fire ever since the accidents happened. Unfortunately for their delusions reactor 4 is still there as is its spent fuel pool which today has a water temperature of 38 deg C., not what I'd describe as "inadequately cooled".

      Right now the engineers at

    • by mysidia (191772)

      There is so much radiation in there, it is staggering. The pool is inadequately cooled. The pool is damaged enough that even a minor earthquake could prevent cooling it more and a fire starting in there would both be impossible to put out and starting by itself very fast. If that happens, only the wind not blowing in the wrong direction could save most of Japans industrial base and a significant part of its population. With the probability of minor earthquakes in that area, they are already on borrowed ti

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @09:14AM (#44730557) Homepage Journal

    1800 millisieverts is a dose, not a level. It's as basic a mistake as confusing feet with feet per second.

    From other sources, it's a logical guess that what's meant is millisieverts per hour but an article should not make the reader guess what it means.

    • The article does NOT make you guess. The idiot who posted the summary chopped that part out, and the dutiful editor let it go without correcting it.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:24PM (#44731639)
    This is business as usual for Tepco, and the entire 'Nuclear Village' in Japan (the combined utility, industry, regulator and government group that controls nuclear energy in the country).

    This has been going on since before the plants were built. The reactors were so vulnerable to the earthquake/tsunami because they deliberately ignored the historical record of flooding in that part of Japan. The collective decision was made to ignore the worst case scenario.

    After the earthquake, flood and power outage, the upper management was incompetently slow to make decisions because they were unwilling to think about loosing the plants and the likelihood of radioactivity being released. It was only the heroic action of the technical team at the site that averted a disaster worse the Chernobyl. They ultimately had to disobey direct orders to save the situation.

    In the period after the so called 'shutdown' the authorities have been maintaining a delusional belief that they are doing an acceptable job and events are under control. Neither is true.

    Delusional thinking is supported by not doing obvious monitoring procedures. It's magical thinking: if they don't know how bad it is, then things must be OK.

    There is an ongoing failure to monitor radiation at the plant site, in the ocean and on the land. NGOs and international entities have been denied permission to do independent monitoring in the exclusion area and the ocean near the plant. One NGO Safecast [safecast.org] has been doing radiation monitoring outside the exclusion zone and making the data available.

    Quibbling about whether beta radiation is lethal is an example of delusional thinking. The fact that there are an entire spectrum of recently discovered radioactive water leaks is the critical information. None of these leaks were found in a timely manor. This happening two years after the reactor failure is appalling.

    Tepco does not know how bad things are because they don't want to know. The rest of the Nuclear Village is not much better. The Abe government is putting significant effort into trying to restart other closed reactors at the expense of dealing with Fukushima. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency has no credibility, because they have done almost nothing to make Tepco more responsible. Tepco and the NRA have been hiding as much information from the public as they can, so no-one believes anything they say.

    The prognosis is bleak. The situation is deteriorating, and two years have been wasted while ignoring the obvious. There does not seem to be any organization in Japan that has the leadership ability to manage the crisis. The likelihood of another very serious radiation leak is going up with time, not down.

    It is completely possible that there will be a dramatic failure and an internationally chartered group will take over long term responsibility. This is in effect what happened at Chernobyl. See New Safe Containment [wikipedia.org].

  • meltdown (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nick Olson (3037365) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @12:57PM (#44731781)
    This is not an anomaly but a continuing pattern of deception and lack of forthright information.This is of global concern and needs a global response.Sadly the worlds misleaders would rather play golf than address the most serious global contamination to date.

"The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray." -- Robert G. Ingersoll

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