Close to the point of no return?

An ABCNews article, quoting Dr. Michio Kaku.

“It’s gotten worse. We’re talking about workers coming into the reactor perhaps as a suicide mission and we may have to abandon ship.”

That’s close to what I meant by nuclear triage. Except I see it as an “either/or” decision, not a “both bad and worse” one.

But, as always in these long articles, we get mixed messages. With that “abandon ship?” we also get:

Radiation levels were as high as 10 millisieverts per hour today, the equivalent of getting a CT scan for every hour of exposure. Radiation levels have since dropped and the plant workers are planning to return to work, officials said.

We may have to abandon ship as the plant workers plan to return to work?

Okay, the 10 mSv/hr. dose rate. That’s 1 rem/hr. That rate might be just on the threshold forjust an “acute” radiation death. Or not. I’ve already used the term “LD 50/30” here, with 400 rem as that benchmark. It means “Lethal Dose for half the population within 30 days”. The thing is, it was built around truly acute doses: periphery of a nuclear explosion, criticality excursions, that sort of thing. And it certainly still applies to getting it within a few hours. But sixteen days? Your body has two weeks to recover from the earliest damage even as more damage is layered on…

…is there a radiobiologist in the house?

Anyway, most of us RCTs have been in 1 rem/hr. dose rates on many occasions. We just try not to linger. In fact, lingering is officially forbidden due to the philosophy of ALARA–Always Let A RentaTech Absorb.

Sorry. House tech joke. It means As Low As Reasonably Achievable, and is applied in most health and safety concerns.

Dose rates dropping, that seems like good news, right? But then there’s this:

The last step in a nuclear meltdown is the breaching of the containment vessels. The fact that at least two containment vessels are damaged makes nuclear experts nervous.

“We have cracks now, cracks in the containment vessels…

Oh boy. That would explain the “abandon ship”. You should definitely check the lifeboats and make sure they’re okay..

Obviously posts on this will follow.

About wormme

I've accepted that all of you are socially superior to me. But no pretending that any of you are rational.
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15 Responses to Close to the point of no return?

  1. Mountainbear says:

    Hmm, if that’s the Michio Kaku I found via google, then I have the question: who is he talking about as “we”? He has no say there.

    Is he even there? If that’s the same guy, then he has some book signing to do in NY at 7 pm today.

    And since I’m paranoid, I checked his twitter. He’s not there. 14 hours ago he stated that he was lecturing in Mexico City.

    ABC talks about “nuclear experts”, but they only feature him. I’d really like to hear a statement from someone who’s right there. Yes, I know, his points may be valid and he’s an authority in his field, no doubt, but he’s not there. He’s not part of the team dealing with this. He’s commenting from the sidelines and anyone who has ever been to a soccer or football game and who has listened to how everyone watching from distance knows better how to play the game than the coach and the team can imagine how such stuff irks me.

  2. doc_benway says:

    Michio Kaku is a well-known theoretical physics (string-theory) guy who has done a lot of TV. The networks trots him out to comment on every science-themed “news event,” from the contrail controversy to the brush/impact-with-Apophis-in-2036 “story” that made a splash a few weeks ago.

    His animated on-camera presence, mane of white hair and facility with words make for instant entertainment, but I don’t think he is any better informed about what is going on on the ground in Fukushima than some of the commenters here.

    • wormme says:

      Ah, thank you. Being a celebrity scientist would sure be fun!

      • doc_benway says:

        He certainly appears to be having fun, and is fun to watch. He is an able explainer, good with analogies.

    • Juums says:

      Good ol’ Dr. Kaku. I grew tired of him and his looseness with science after watching The Universe‘s obligatory nod to futurism. If I ever need to finish a math problem that requires twenty-two dimensions that cannot be observed to make it work, I’ll be sure to call him.

      Otherwise I’ll content myself with NEI’s update stream, which hasn’t yet confirmed that there’s been one, let alone two, breaches of primary containment.

  3. Sparkey says:

    Point of no return, meh.Color me unmoved. (Calm)

    First, Dr. Michio Kaku is that Discovery Channel celebrity scientist who hawks his book on tour. Anyone who watches his show is familiar with his tendency for over-eager overstatement that “theoretical” physicists are famous for when asked to comment on the empirical world we live in.

    For example, his comments failing to account for simple things like the residual heat having dropped to 5% of what it was Friday. It’ll take a 7MW core a lot longer to breach than the 160MW it had right after shutdown. It’s not like this is a computer simulation with no intervention.

    Secondly, the “Fukushima Fifty” haven’t entered the realm of Chernobylesque sacrifice. As you have noted, though high, these are not fatal levels. In fact the “Fukushima Fifty” is really the 180 being rotated through.

    And thirdly, we’re not seeing the sustained high dose rate one would expect to see if core slag had breached the reactor vessel.

    To me it sounds like the same hyperbolic speculation we’ve been hearing since Friday, and if true, we’d all be dead by now.

    Again, I don’t want to downplay the seriousness, but I don’t think being sensational is helpful either.
    I don’t see any reason to loose faith or have my in-laws make a panic visit.

  4. ansky26 says:

    I saw the Michio Kaku “point of no return” quote earlier today in…I think it was…a CBS article with a lead paragraph about the last 50 workers being evacuated from Dai-ichi. I don’t know to whom Kaku actually gave the quote, or in response to what question, but the assumption I took was that it was in reference to that now corrected mistranslation; i.e., that abandoning Unit 3 (which didn’t actually happen) was “the point of no return.”

    It would not surprise me at all, then, if ABC just recycled Kaku’s quote into their story with no context.

  5. doc_benway says:

    Hyperbole is Kaku’s stock in trade. We can all thank Carl Sagan for that.

  6. doc_benway says:

    Wormme, here ya go, , as it were.

  7. Pingback: Big Media Fukushima roundup, American edition. | World's Only Rational Man

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