Friday, March 25, 2011

The Nuclear Power Community Reponds: Radioactivity at Fukushima No Big Whoops

My last post on the current situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant has brought responses from two members of the nuclear power community.

One email came from "Steve". I responded to it this way:
If you provide me your last name, I would be more than happy to run your email as a post. Also I would be interested to know how you developed your knowledge on the subject.
 "Steve" responded:
No, thank you. Frankly, I don't want my name associated with your
blog. You serve the state by mindlessly repeating the most outrageous
and easily debunked claims. Your fear is your business, but when you
use your blog and your ignorance of the subject matter to frighten...
readers and others you do a grave disservice.

I have three degrees from MIT and have spent 30+ years working with
nuclear technology. My firm has performed detailed analysis of the
safety and reliability of components to be used in proposed upgrades
to present-day reactors and for next-generation designs. I am
presently advising multiple clients on the potential for new nuclear
technologies, I've recently completed the design of a safety system
for a new nuclear therapy for otherwise intractable cancer treatments,
and I have proposals in front of former clients for additional, more
detailed analysis of their equipment's safety and reliability in
nuclear power plants.

I am not mindlessly pro-nuclear and our reports are detailed and
critical. I am also a trained scientist and engineer and can add and
subtract. I have visited the graves of members of the public killed
by coal, oil, gas, and particularly wind and solar, two of the most
dangerous forms of energy known to mankind. I have not visited the
graves of members of the public killed by nuclear power because they
do not exist in North America or Japan.

I respectfully suggest that you cease blogging about these matters.
To be blunt, you are not competent to do so. Stick to what you know
and serve society well, rather than needlessly frightening people.


Click below to see his initial email to me and an email from a second member of the nuclear community:

Really Dr. Wenzel, you do yourself very little credit by using your
blog to repeat bald assertions by ignorant government bureaucrats.

You are absolutely wrong when you write that "since reactor 3, unlike
the other reactors can spew out radioactive plutonium."

ALL irradiated uranium fuel contains plutonium. Reactor 3, with Mixed
Oxide (MOX) fuel, is nothing more than the thrifty Japanese recycling
their fuel, unlike wasteful Americans. When the MOX fuel was first
placed in reactor 3, it had more plutonium than the other reactors.
However, plutonium "burns" faster than uranium, so without detailed
knowledge of the placement within the core and reactor power history
it is impossible to know if the fuel presently has any more plutonium
than ordinary uranium fuel after use.

As for the claim that reactor 3's containment may be breached,
consider the evidence: radioactive water found in the turbine hall. A
radioactice spill is indeed serious, but we know that
1) The reactor fuel is very probably damaged to the prolonged lack of
2) The fuel in the spent fuel pool may have been damaged.
3) The engineers have been releasing steam from the reactor after
injecting seawater, the so-called "feed and bleed" method of emergency
cooling, and
4) There have been literally thousands of tons of water sprayed on and
near the reactor.

Given these facts, and the fact that there is scant evidence that
other reactor containments have failed, and ample evidence that most
of the reactor containments survived the earthquake and tsunami
intact, the conclusion that reactor 3 has breached containment, based
solely on a finding of radioactive water, is premature and highly

Shame on you for repeating rumors when you clearly do not understand
the subject matter.


I also received an email from James Russell, who identifies himself as  PE, CHP, Registered Professional Nuclear Engineer, California, and Certified Health Physicist (radiation protection specialist). Although I have no reason to question the credentials he has put forth, please know that I have not independently verified the credentials. Also, note that I have removed references to another web site that were made in this email. Russell writes:
Dear Mr. Wenzel,

It is sad to see yet another posting....which completely misstates the situation re radiation exposure in Japan. I realize an economist may not know much about radiation exposure but one would hope that they are at least bright enough to get some competent assistance before they open their mouths as well as checking their figures, which unfortunately neither you, Mac Salvo, Mike Rozeff, nor Don Miller have bothered to do....
Re you posting of this date, specifically, there is a difference between exposure to radioactive material and radiation exposure. There is a difference between contamination and with beta emitters and whole body exposure. And, critically, there is a difference between dose rates and dose. Make a effort to understand the differences and the quantities before posting more nonsense. (And it would be nice if you actually corrected your errors but none of your colleagues have done that, even the egregious Mr. Salvo, so why should you? Indeed, you are in the business of propaganda so what is the point, certainly not accuracy.)

Let me illustrate - you wrote: “some of the people near the Fukushima plant may have already been exposed to a total of more than 100,000 microsieverts of radioactive iodine” This is gobbelty gook. A sievert is quantity of estimated risk primarily due to whole body exposure to penetrating radiation, such as gamma rays or x-rays. Radioiodine is a beta emitter that represents a minimal hazard if inhaled or absorbed into the body as it concentrates in the thyroid and can, in excess, increase the risk of thyroid cancer. One can not be “exposed” to 100,000 microsieverts of radioiodine. 100,000 microsieverts, 10 rem, is the whole body dose equivalent at which no observable effects occur but at which we may begin to see an “estimated” increase in cancer risk down the road. But you can’t get a wholebody dose from radioiodine, you either get a skin dose, if it is external to the body, or a thyroid dose, if it is ingested. At Chernobyl, huge quantities of radioiodines were released and there was little or no evacuation. (This is not the case in Japan - not even close - there have been minimal releases of radioiodine and noble gases which pose little to no risk off-site.) Even at Chernobyl we have seen - at most - 70 potential additional thyroid cancers after all these years and even these are questionable.

Your article confuses contamination and the resultant doses to real people, which have not occurred. The 100,000 figure you cite was an external dose rate 100,000 microsieverts/hr directly adjacent to the plant where no member of the civilian population was present and was an external beta dose rate - a hazard to the skin only. The two workers that were sent to the hospital recently received high beta doses to the skin of their legs – the equivalent of a sun burn at most - from walking in a puddle in the turbine building that had a high level of contamination. The dose rates they were exposed to were reported to be 170 mSv/h and 180 mSv/h but it is not clear how long the exposure lasted. There indeed, may be no discernable effect from that exposure.

Let me congratulate yet another...poster for contributing to the hysteria surrounding the nuclear crisis in Japan, which is of extremely minor public dose significance, and which is being used to distract the sheeple from the continuing murders of real people in the MENA by the Empire.


James Russell, PE, CHP

Registered Professinal Nuclear Engineer, California, and Certified Health Physicist (radiation protection specialist)


  1. I don't see how skepticism in unhealthy, besides, do readers not inherently take an economists word on a nuclear reactor meltdown(which everyone is speculating on) with a a grain of salt?

  2. What was it said the greatest minds in the Government and Economic World said?

    Oh yeah... "Subprime is contained"

    I'd rather be cautious and alive - then trust yet more Government lies and end up dead.

    Although as an Individual who likes to think for them self - I'm quite sure the Government would prefer it the other way around.

  3. @Kyle
    I agree, but I appreciate the fact that these gentlemen volunteered their expertise to this discussion.

    And I also appreciate the fact that Bob Wenzel is man enough to post these dissenting viewpoints.

    So Thanks, Steve, James and Bob

  4. I applaud your humility in posting harsh criticism to what you had posted before.

  5. These guys bring up interesting points, I'm glad they came forward, and most of all, I commend EPJ for posting their messages in a transparent fashion. BUT....

    I get EXTREMELY turned off when people chastise truth-seekers (renegade economists who use sound theory to explain events/EPJ) for, well... seeking the truth, and accuse them of selling FEAR.
    These "experts" do not understand the role of economicpolicyjournal. This website does not market fear. This website is a place for those of us who are already scared-out-of-our-fucking-minds (and appropriately so), who want to prepare ourselves intellectually and emotionally for the upcoming age of volatility. We visit this site because its author acknowledges the imminent doom, has the ability to explain it with sound theory and has a good track record for doing so. This site does not seek to mindlessly repeat claims that can be easily debunked, hence the posting of these two emails.

    This is not the mainstream media. Here, we've long-since acknowledged that mainstream media can't get any worse, that the word "expert" is only a marketing term, and that track-records as well as a basic understanding of human action matter. We are the unrelenting skeptics that the world has created. We've taken journalism into our own hands. When there is an unusual event, we dig into it like any other, and–-advanced apology that you won't find in the mainstream--we are not always right. We'll admit it. Challenge us, please. Competition makes us better. This is free-market media and this is how our process goes. This is our process to get to the bottom of everything. And we do.

    If these two guys had visible track records and sound theory I would probably be reading their blogs. I crave credible people. But I've never heard of these guys. One of them won't even give a name he can stand behind.

    Until these two step forth and consistently put their reputations on the line (like EPJ does every day), they are just snipers. Cheap shots from a safe distance.

  6. Wow. And here I thought the Fukushima event was a disaster. I thought that the local evacuations were being ordered to prevent injuries to the public. Shame on the Japanese authorities for their mindless fear mongering. If only the ignorant Japanese nuclear authorities had consulted with "Steve" and James Russell, PE, CHP.

    Oh well, back to other current events. I just thank my lucky stars that we have experts managing our economy, like "steve" and James Russell, PE, CHP manage nuclear power plants.

  7. If this blog was fear-based, then it wouldn't have posted these replies. Seeking the truth requires learning what is the truth by trial-and-error and healthy debate.

    Scientists, academics, bureaucrats and corporatists forget this little fact.

  8. By the way, maybe "Steve" and James Russell, PE, CHP could recommend a reliable source of information regarding Fukushima, so all of us mouthbreathers could get accurate information, rather than irritating poor "Steve" and James Russell, PE, CHP.

  9. Strange, if it is no big deal as these guys suggest then why is Japan's govt increasing the threat level and expanding the evacuation zone?

    Keep in mind that the critics in this post are employed by the nuclear industry. They have a very biased reason to burry the truth.

  10. "Steve" here. This will be my last comment or email, because I have better things to do than waste my time with intellectually dishonest people.

    The problem is that a falsehood, whether repeated in honest ignorance or written with pure malice, takes much more effort to refute than to write. "It is far easier for you to accuse me of prostituting my sister than for me to prove that I am an only child."

    Look at Mr. Russel's valiant effort. Wenzel wrote “some of the people near the Fukushima plant may have already been exposed to a total of more than 100,000 microsieverts of radioactive iodine." Russel kindly spent 334 words in a succinct, well reasoned de-bunking of the 24-word falsehood.

    That's a 14:1 advantage in time and effort for the ignorant and malicious. Wenzel compounds his crimes by refusing to acknowledge the point or admitting his error.

    In "Fed Economists in total retreat"
    Wenzel attacks economists for not responding to his posts pointing out gross errors of fact and reasoning. But when it is he who is shown to be mistaken, he does the same thing. He won't admit his errors, respond to the points made, or check out the web sites offering valid information provided in earlier posts.

    You are wrong about plutonium in reactor 3 only. You are wrong about dose. You can't respond to my logic regarding the likelihood of a containment breach versus some radioactive water from condensed steam or spillage from attempts to fill the fuel ponds. All you can do is repeat the misinformation of federal bureaucrats that serve your present needs, while at every other turn, you excoriate federal bureaucrats as mendacious cowards.

    The shoe is now on the other foot, and it fits all too well. Mr. Russel is correct: it would be nice if you actually corrected your errors but none of your colleagues have done that, and it would appear that few, if any, of the comments here want that.

    You and your readers are welcome to frightening yourselves in whatever manner you find amusing. I'm done with trying to shovel out this particular stable. There's plenty of manure, but there is no pony.

  11. Let's follow disinter's logic:

    "Keep in mind that the critic who runs this blog is employed by the economic industry. He has a very biased reason to bury the truth. "

  12. There really only needs to be one specific feature built into all nuclear power plants in order to make them safe: an off switch.

  13. Let's follow disinter's logic:

    "Keep in mind that the critic who runs this blog is employed by the economic industry. He has a very biased reason to bury the truth."

    I'm relatively certain Mr. Wenzel is self employed.

  14. Steve,

    You say: "I have not visited the
    graves of members of the public killed by nuclear power because they
    do not exist in North America or Japan."

    If you would like to visit graves of Nuclear Accidents/Incidents in the United States, I suggest you start here:
    (3 direct immediate deaths) Of course their coffins are entombed in concrete and the corpses aren't complete--"Some highly radioactive body parts were buried in the Idaho desert as radioactive waste"

    And next time you go to Japan, please visit:
    (2 direct immediate deaths)

    Shame on you for repeating untruths when you clearly haven't researched the subject matter--ESPECIALLY as you are an expert in the field.

    When you come back, you can visit any mid west town oncology department in the US:
    (10,500 acknowledged as at least partially caused by nuclear sources)

    Then head West to Washington:

    with uncounted victims tied to this abhorrent unethical human experiment carried out by the US Military and Nuclear scientists.

    There are plenty of graves from Nuclear Accidents/Incidents--they just sometimes take a little longer to dig.

  15. Steve,

    This event really isn't about Wenzel coming out and slashing his wrists with his "Steve" tee on. He's published seemingly logical contradicting information, acting out his role as a tolerant economist seeking accuracy. Wenzel is probably either going to refute the new information or use it to better understand what's happening. If he does something else, then his audience will go somewhere else.
    Instead, what this event should be about is you setting out to be more right. Go challenge others, especially others who claim to be nuclear experts. Get your name out there in the alternative news space. We want you to be right, we want you to be the best. We hope you maintain a great reputation because we need good information so that we can make the right decisions.

    Use your metaphors for good Steve. Cheers.

  16. I re-read the posts under scrutiny.

    Still don't see where Robert "claimed" anything other than to make statements that were additionally pointing to links of support, contained therein.

    Sometimes that which is said, even in error (not saying there was error, just sayin'...), brings out more truth. Silence is for fools.

    As AC said above, many of us, myself included, are indeed scared and I seek the truth, here as elsewhere.

    I still wish to thank the 2 scientists for posting their dissent and I give a standing ovation to Robert for his daily postings.

    I think Steve's insults were over the top and betrayed a secondary purpose to his post. But I applaud his courage in coming back, to give - and take - more.

    Vive la difference!


  17. 'We want you to be right, we want you to be the best.'

    Says you. I don't want this guy to be the best, I want him to go away. He's an arrogant idiot. He counts words as if keeping score in a game, and you 'want' him to be the best in the nuclear industry? Seriously? THAT would scare the crap out of me. He CLEARLY is a classic internet troll.

  18. STEVE SAID "I have visited the graves of members of the public killed
    by coal, oil, gas, and particularly wind and solar, two of the most
    dangerous forms of energy known to mankind. I have not visited the
    graves of members of the public killed by nuclear power because they
    do not exist in North America or Japan."
    WELL STEVE COME BACK THIS TIME NEXT YEAR and YOU will see plenty of graves of people that have DIED of radiation poison in the NUCLEAR INDUSTRY ......frigging arsehole....

  19. Steve comes off as unprductive and insecure. If he took five minutes to review this site, he would see that it is about truth seeking and sound theory. It is the opposite of his alleged enemy of misinformation.

    Every post by Robert has clearly come with an implicit understanding that he is merely making available th information out there, and using his own intuition to filter out the incredible. A short review of his posts will reveal this, as they highlight sources that contradict each other, all for the purpose of helping hs readership stay informed and make their own decisions.

    Steve has acted like an arrogant troll not interested in helping educate and create sn understanding.

    So here is my proposal. Steve, why not provide a post on the fukushima and related accidents that persuades and informs, helping us to make our own judgments. I am positive wenzel would post it, and you would reach thousands of readers in a single day. Surely this is a good cause?

  20. I thought this graph of deaths per terrawatt hour by energy sources was interesting. Nuclear has the fewest number of deaths/TWh at 0.04 and coal has the highest at 161.