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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Was Three Mile Island really "ten times worse" than the Japan disaster? That's what convicted felon Jay Lehr says...

In a previous post, I fingered Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute as the right's propaganda go-to guy on the Japan nuclear disaster. Heartland is YET ANOTHER industry front group pushing libertarian guff. Flip through the recent book Merchants of Doubt (which mentions Heartland prominently) if you want to know Lehr's true agenda.

Hell, even Wikipedia tells the story:
In the 1990s, the group worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks, and to lobby against government public health reforms.[5][6][7] More recently, the Institute has focused on questioning the scientific consensus on climate change, and has sponsored meetings of climate change skeptics.
Philip Morris used Heartland to distribute tobacco-industry material, and arranged for the Heartland Institute to publish "policy studies" which summarized Philip Morris reports... The Heartland Institute also undertook a variety of other activities on behalf of Philip Morris, including meeting with legislators, holding "off-the-record" briefings, and producing op-eds, radio interviews, and letters.
For their anti-smoking efforts, the Heartland guns-for-hire received money from Big Tobacco, while ExxonMobil paid for the efforts to raise doubt about global warming. When the family behind Wal-Mart kicked in $300,000, Heartland (without disclosing the funding) came out with propaganda defending Wal-Mart's treatment of workers. Our beloved media duly published these "objective" reports, no questions asked.

For more on Heartland and similar propaganda groups, you may want to read a 2005 article titled Sock Puppets of Industry. As for Lehr himself: He is known not as a scientist nowadays but as a "motivational speaker."
(Back in the '60s and '70s, he had a reputation as an expert in ground water hydrology.)
He was editor of "Rational Readings of Environmental Concerns," which labels all environmentalists as "extremists" and "alarmists" among other things.
Get the picture?

Good. Now tell MSNBC and other major media outlets to get the same picture, because they love Lehr.

Someone should also tell MSNBC that Lehr went to prison for committing fraud against the government. He was also kicked out of his professional organization.

Here we have Lehr in his natural habitat, Fox News:
I can tell you with the utmost confidence there will not be a health impact of anything that is going on at the Fukushima power plant.
So why was the area evacuated? Why were most of the 800 workers told to go home? UPDATE: Why did the last 50 workers leave just a short while ago? If no-one is there, isn't a meltdown inevitable -- and hasn't the environment been contaminated already?
But a total meltdown has only occurred at Three Mile Island back in 1979. That was a disaster of a nuclear plant considered 10 times more serious than Fukushima. And the rods actually did melt down, fell to the floor of the reactor building. And they only melted five-eight of an inch into five inches of steel before they cooled and the situation stopped. And as you well know, there were no health impacts from Three Mile Island.
"No health impacts"? That's questionable. Some say that the experts who made that determination had the same "lack of bias" that has made Heartland so famous. We'll address that issue at another time.

As some of you may be old enough to recall, back in 1979, there were a lot of guys like Lehr who hopped in front of the teevee cameras and cooed sweet words of reassurance: "Everything under control; nothing to see here. Smile and be happy." (Saturday Night Live did a great spoof of this propaganda campaign; too bad it's not on YouTube.) The TMI-2 reactor experienced the meltdown. TMI-1 remains in operation to this day, and will continue to work until 2034, at which point the entire place will be decommissioned.

If you're old enough to recall 1979, here's a question: Do you recall seeing any video of huge explosions or fires at TMI-2? You never saw such footage, because nothing went boom.

We've heard a few booms in Japan lately.

So on what basis can our relentlessly unbiased friends at Heartland say that TMI was "ten times" more serious than Daiichi? How do you measure such a thing, especially at this stage of the game? Why does no other internet source mention this "ten times worse" figure? (Go ahead: Use Google to double-check.)

If Jay Liar is right -- if he may be considered an "objective" authority -- then why does France's ASN nuclear agency say that the Daiichi catastrophe is actually worse than TMI?

Go to this page and scroll down. I take the liberty of reproducing here a map of the area (click to enlarge) showing
...the maximum expected radioactive iodine hazard regions around the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant, if TMI's containment vessel were ever to catastrophically rupture. 320 miles (the outer ring) is the expected maximum zone of where a high cancer risk could occur in a radiation emergency...
The map certainly commands one's respectful attention. Not only does the high-risk area include the seat of the American government, it also includes the location where I currently plant my own humble rump.

Keep in mind that Tokyo is only 150 miles from the Daiichi reactor. Radiation there has climbed to ten times normal levels. Foreign banks have pulled employees out of the city, and Austria has moved its embassy to Osaka.

So here are the basic questions: How can one say that the TMI event was "ten times worse" if the containment was not ruptured? And to what degree have the containment buildings been ruptured in Japan?

Disturbingly, the media will not give us a straight answer on that key question. The NYT will say this:
...Tokyo Electric would probably try to spray water into the reactor building through a gaping hole in the wall blasted open by an earlier explosion.
To this layman, that sure sounds like a rupture of some sort.
At least 750 workers were evacuated on Tuesday morning after a separate explosion ruptured the inner containment building at Reactor No. 2 at the Daiichi plant, which was crippled by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.
So we have two ruptures, plus damage to the third and fourth reactors.

From the Irish Times:
Radiation risk: reactor's protective containment vessel may have been damaged
The International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledged the reactor’s protective containment vessel might have been damaged.

If the containment has failed even partially, then radiation could escape.
Uhh...I thought we had established that it had failed, at least partially.

Go to Google News, type in the word "containment," and you'll see many decidedly non-straight stories about whether the containment units have been breached.

First, let's go here:
Now GE's technology is facing the ultimate test: Can the structure enclosing the reactor keep the hot, radioactive stew bottled up inside? And can the spent fuel pools withstand a combination of explosions and equipment failure?
Now, from a day earlier:
NucNet, "The Nuclear Communications Network," citing the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), reports March 15 that following the explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, "damage is suspected to unit 2's inner or primary containment vessel (PCV)."
The lack of a clear answer indicates that there are a lot of Lehr-types on the ground, doing everything they can to keep the hoi-polloi in a haze.

Michio Kaku, whom I trust one hell of a lot more than I trust the well-paid liars from Heartland, says that we have not yet passed the point of no return. Nevertheless:
* 3 reactors have suffered partial meltdowns.
* These three reactors also suffered hydrogen gas explosions
* A fourth unit has a nuclear waste storage site on fire (which can in principle release more radiation than in a standard reactor core).
* Almost all workers, except for 50, have been evacuated. Once all the workers are evacuated, full scale melting is inevitable.
* Unit 2 actually had 100% of its core fully exposed, for about 2 hours. Worse, cracks seem to have formed in the containment vessel, which may be the source of the very high radiation levels.
* Unit 3 uses MOX fuel, which contains some deadly plutonium, one of the most dangerous substances on earth. The utility keeps saying that things are stable, only to see things worsen. This "stability" is the stability of hanging by your fingernails.
If things get any worse, Kaku suggests entombing the reactors in a concrete sarcophagus. That's what the Soviets did at Chernobyl. Naturally, the right-wingers are spewing a lot of hate toward Kaku.

The aging Mark I containment design has long been a point of controversy. As far back as 1972, insiders worried that these units might not contain a meltdown. Guess what? There are lots of Mark I containment units in use today in the United States.
The primary disadvantage of the Mark I seems to be its relative thinness. Twenty-three U.S. reactors have the Mark I shell, the paper reports. The closest Mark 1 shells to Baltimore are on two reactors at Exelon's Peach Bottom plant, just over the Pennsylvania line on the Susquehanna River, about 50 miles away.

Of course, southeastern Pennsylvania is not part of an earthquake zone...
Oh really? What about the Ramapo Fault, which runs under PA, NJ and NY? (I don't yet know if there are nuclear plants along that fault which use the Mark I design.)

Please don't accuse me of spreading panic. I'm asking practical questions. The people who do the most to spread panic are the ones who force the public to become ultra-cynical about authority. In the long run, the "science mercs" employed by Heartland and similar organizations train us all to mistrust everything we hear from "experts" in the media and government.
TMI, that brings back fond memories. I organized an "End of the World Party in a bar in Columbia for my co-workers.

Anyway, there were a lot of stories floating around about two headed calves and the like in the months after the accident. What isn't generally known is there was a toxic waste dump up the Susquehanna River at Olmstead AFB that contaminated well water. Above the AFB is the aptly named town of Steelton, home of a Bethlehem Steel company plant. Then there's the Brunner Island Power Station a PP&L coal fired generating plant.

If any radiation leaks from TMI caused an increase cancer cases, how could you tell?

Now, for the situation in Japan, I saw on the news (take with a grain of salt) that Tokyo Electric has had problems with credibility and ongoing problems about being candid about accidents at its nuclear facilities. Also the speculation is the 50 workers remaining on site are on a suicide mission.

Finally, the reason why the Jay Lehrs of this world are successful is people want to believe him. Same for Conservative talk radio, it appeals to their prejudices.
Forgot to add to my comment:
During the flood of 1972 the TMI construction site was swamped. There are barriers in place but flooding presents a greater risk than an earthquake.
It isn't Lehr claiming TMI was 10x worse, it's the IAEA. They rate Fukushima a 4 on a scale of 7, TMI is 5 and Chernobyl 7. Each number being a factor of ten. Thus TMI is 10x worse.
And every expert on teevee not named Lehr has been saying for days now that Daiichi is a 6. Which undoes your point.

It's always the anonymous comments...
Would you be happier I had a bogus made-up name? Doesn't change the facts.
That is PRECISELY what I ask for. And it's not just me. Most bloggers have come to understand that you get better quality comments if you force the commenters to sign their work. I don't mind if you sign with a pseudonym. Requiring a signature helps to weed out the bots and the griefers

As for the facts...I've proven you wrong, and you still refuse to acknowledge that you are wrong. No WONDER you're ashamed to sign your work, you arrogant fuck!
By the way, anon -- just in case you are really Jay himself (which you probably aren't, but weirder things have happened)...just wait. Wait until you see what I have in store for you.
"If things get any worse, Kaku suggests entombing the reactors in a concrete sarcophagus. That's what the Soviets did at Chernobyl. Naturally, the right-wingers are spewing a lot of hate toward Kaku."

I got the impression that the use of sea-water as an ad hoc coolant was effectively writing the plants off anyway. These places are already destined to be concrete cased. The only question left is whether the engineers can cool the rods before Tokyo becomes hazardous to human health.

Or at least thats the impression I got.

When did the IAEA rate the dcastrophe at a 4?
What will their final rating be?
Anon is playing the truth like a republican.
Excellent piece! I was wondering about this Heartland Institute as we keep coming up against them on the TV shows. Have posted a link to this on our website
I have no doubt this is much, much worse than TMI. I also think it is going to wind up being much, much worse than Chernobyl. I really hope it doesn't turn out that way but I am very afraid. Tokyo is just 150 miles away. Although theoretically the radiation will disperse and not be hazardous by the time it gets to Tokyo we all know how these theoretical things tend to work in reality.

I was discussing this with my wife earlier and if all 4 of those plants go critical how are we going to get those 36 million people out of Tokyo? My God this is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. This is absolutely terrifying for those of us who aren't sociopaths.

I also have no doubt that the absolute thing to do is exactly what the Russians did in Chernobyl. Unfortunately, that entails the sacrifice of human beings to get that done. The Russian soldiers had no choice and that was unfortunate.

I am just hoping those 50 haven't already gotten a lethal dose of radiation which according to my Atomic physics book from my undergrad days is around 500 rems. My textbook also says that anything over 100 rems damages blood forming tissue. These workers undoubtedly have gotten more than 100 and probably all have gotten close to the 500 rem maximum. Very, very sad. I wonder if we'll hear anything about these people's fates in the coming weeks.
So then, the Obama Administration hopes that Lehr's expertise will be enough to explain the situation I suppose:
They are now rating it equal to TMI.
Ayn Rand was an objectivist interventionist and despised libertarian non-interventionism.
Also nee Rosenbaum was a Zionist
proponent of Ashkenazi supremacy.
Jay Lehr has no expertise in climatology or nuclear energy. I attended a course at The Ohio State University that he was brought into teach on hydrogeology. It was a graduate level course. Lehr showed up in hot pants and a T shirt (age 50 something at the time) and babbled about himself. His course text book was a 100 page pamphlet: USGS Water Supply Publication 2220. It was representative of his level of true expertise. He was never on the faculty. Just a contract instructor that they fired.

Jay Lehr is a wanna-be celebrity. He is also a convicted felon. No one really takes him seriously, except wingnuts and people who are easily bamboozled by BS. His only real expertise is self promotion and showmanship.

Basically Jay is an old joke. A very old joke.
For the record too. I know Jay Lehr personally. Hence I think very little of him.
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