Archive for the 'japan' Category

What’s going on in Fukushima?

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Some remarks on the recent observations regarding plant 2.

What’s Fukushima accident’s death toll?

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

“Meeresfürchte”, an artwork by Johann Merkewicz questioning food safety

I am currently have an argument with John Baez on Azimuth. My comment is currently awaiting moderation.

John wrote:

..the death toll due to nuclear power was a negligible fraction of the overall death toll due to the tsunami. The Japanese should be improving nuclear safety and building in better organizational checks and balances, rather than shunning nuclear power.

What do you call negligible?

According to Wikipedia there were 15883 confirmed earthquake/Tsunami related deaths and 2,676 people missing.

In an Bloomberg article by R.P. Gale and E. Lax one finds:

And what of the lasting threat from radiation? Remarkably, outside the immediate area of Fukushima, this is hardly a problem at all. Although the crippled nuclear reactors themselves still pose a danger, no one, including personnel who worked in the buildings, died from radiation exposure. Most experts agree that future health risks from the released radiation, notably radioactive iodine-131 and cesiums-134 and – 137, are extremely small and likely to be undetectable.

Even considering the upper boundary of estimated effects, there is unlikely to be any detectable increase in cancers in Japan, Asia or the world except close to the facility, according to a World Health Organization report.

On the website of the World Health Organization report one finds amongst others:

In terms of specific cancers, for people in the most contaminated location, the estimated increased risks over what would normally be expected are:

all solid cancers – around 4% in females exposed as infants;
breast cancer – around 6% in females exposed as infants;
leukaemia – around 7% in males exposed as infants;
thyroid cancer – up to 70% in females exposed as infants (the normally expected risk of thyroid cancer in females over lifetime is 0.75% and the additional lifetime risk assessed for females exposed as infants in the most affected location is 0.50%).

By this it looks indeed as if one wouldn’t see an increase of the overall cancer rate in all over Japan. However it is not said here what this means in absolute numbers. How many more cancer cases/deaths are there to be in total?

(This report is also cited by the german GRS report as “the” main source (see p.59) for the estimation of future health risks due to the Fukushima accident.)

In the above citation of R.P. Gale and E. Lax it is in addition mentioned that there were no deaths due to radiation exposure. (which I often cite, because they are rather pro-nuclear and often rather well-informed) seems to assert the same, they write:

There have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes to ensure this. Government nervousness delays their return.

(please note that from this sentence it can be (and usually probably will be) ambiguously infered that “There have been no deaths from the nuclear accident…”, which is not true, please read further)

The assertion that there had been no deaths due to radiation (which is also cited as such on Wikipedia) is eventually based on a sofar unpublished study by UNSCEAR , which was mentioned in an article by Brumfield, who writes:

So far, neither operator seems to have suffered ill effects as a result of their exposure.

Furthermore it seems that the UN thinks there were 6 dead workers, who did not die from radiation.

I think this should be scutinized. In an email from Karl Feintuch at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commision (USNRC) (p. 76) (here another internet capture) it is reported that:

Japan reports 5 persons have received lethal radiation doses

but as he points out: there should be “caution regarding maturity and reliability of that information”. Furthermore Tepco reported at least one death, which sounds to me by the description very much radiation related (but this is only a Google translate):

For one person seriously injured who had been trapped in the tower crane cockpit of the exhaust tube,
Is transported to the ground from the tower crane in 13 minutes 5:00 pm today, died in 17 minutes 5:00 pm
Has been confirmed.

Moreover if you read reports as the article “Worker wants new government to secure safety at Fukushima plant” in Asahi Shimbun, than you may ask yourself how exhaustive and good is the monitoring of the health of workers at the Fukushima plant?

A TEPCO employee in his 20s who grew up in Fukushima Prefecture has become an opponent of nuclear power after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“I was told to work at the plant like a kamikaze pilot,” said the man, who is evacuating from Fukushima Prefecture due to high levels of radiation he received. “I have no idea about how much radiation I was exposed to.”

What kind of treatment receive these workers who risk their health and lives for mitigating the effects of such a catastrophe?

But let’s have again a look on the overall mostly future expected casualities:

According to the study “Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident” by John E. Ten Hoeve and Mark Z. Jacobson (via

We find that inhalation exposure, external exposure, and ingestion exposure of the public to radioactivity
may result in 15 to 1300 cancer mortalities and 24 to 2500 cancer morbidities worldwide, mostly in Japan. Exposure of workers to
radioactivity at the plant is projected to result in another 2 to 12 cancers cases.

So their “best estimate” as Evan Douple called it in the bloomberg article is about 130 deaths.

The Results were evaluated against daily worldwide Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) airborne radionuclide concentrations and deposition rates from around Japan.
Atmospheric and ground concentrations of iodine-131 (I-131), cesium-137 (Cs-137) and cesium-134 (Cs-134) were then used to estimate the worldwide health effects from the radioactive fallout

On a first glance into the paper it looks to me as if for example sea and groundwater contamination via the ongoing release of contaminated water and eventual future contaminations had not been taken into account.

The study
Accounting for long-term doses in “worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident” Jan Beyea, Edwin Lyman and Frank N. von Hippel (via finds:

On balance, the net result of adjusting the TH&J numbers to account for long-term dose from radiocesium is uncertain, but the mid-range estimate for the number of future mortalities is probably closer to 1000 than to 125.

According to a report in Yomiuri Shimbun there are at least 537 deaths which had been certified by municipalities as a direct consequence of the Fukushima disaster.

So if one accepts a cancer related death toll of 1000 people (i.e. a higher but possible projection in the Ten Hoeve and Jacobson fallout study or the expected average toll in the Beyea, Lyman and von Hippel article) and if adds these the stress related 573 deaths one has currently a prognostized Fukushima accident death toll of about 1600 people.

This is roughly about one tenth of the casualties of the earth quake/Tsunami catastrophe. Is that negligible?!

Moreover the Fukushima air circulation blew about roughly 81% of the fallout onto the open sea. That means if the winds would have been blown onto land then this would have given at least a factor 5 more fallout on possibly populated land (if one assumes approximately equal population density). But if one takes into account that the wind almost never blew into south direction (eventual erranous personal observation) , i.e. almost never into the direction of the densely populated Tokyo area then it sounds cautious to assume a factor of ten for what the cancer rates could have been under different weather conditions. That is in that case the death toll could have been about as big as the death toll of the earth quake/Tsunami catastrophe.

And I don’t want to imagine the death toll which would have been a reality if additionally a criticality event would have turned into a chain reaction.

destructive sides of the power of science

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Hiroshima nowadays

For commemorating the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki two links to recent comments, which I left on the blog Azimuth. One link is to a comment to the new scientist article article “The carbon cost of Germany’s nuclear ‘Nein danke!’ ” where I try to explain why the authors arguments that Germany’s renunciation of commercial nuclear power generation leads to more carbon output are flawed.

A second comment is related to the Manhattan project itself but also to the dangers of biotechnology.

25 years after the Chernobyl disaster

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

This post is for commemorating the Chernobyl disaster which happened 25 years ago.
Unfortunately since then other nuclear tragedies happened – most notable of course the Fukushima tragedy, where even today we may eventually still hear bad news.

The company Siemens, which initially thought about a cooperation in nuclear technology with Rosatom (according to the article Le départ de Siemens relance les spéculations sur le capital d’Areva by, mentioned in this randform post ) seems – according to the agency reuters: “Siemens could exit Rosatom nuclear venture” – to think about changing their plans.

Here an article on a website which is sponsored by Siemens by Akira T. Tokuhiro who lists 14 points as an “Initial Look at Lessons Learned From Fukushima”.

Here a link to photos from Chernobyl and other sites of nuclear tragedies.

I decided to put newer drafts of the article “New economic schemes in games” (where among others the dangers of future nuclear power generation are outlined) into that blogpost. The newest version is from today.
There are also parts of the article at the Azimuth project. I plan to put more parts there.


Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The discussion about an eventual criticality accident in Fukushima which started in the comment section of the blog post about the Fukushima plant continued partially on Azimuth within this comment.

Last weekend there was a demonstration against nuclear power generation in Berlin, which had about 70.000 participants.
Images of the demonstration after the click.


about the Fukushima plant

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The german Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) (which is owned by the state of Germany to about one half ) has regularily updated information (in english) about the Fukushima plant and other plants at trouble at:

A german version is at

The report is by order of the german ministry for the environment.

The japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology has a japanese website on the Readings at Monitoring Post out of 20 Km Zone of Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP at:

and of Readings of environmental radioactivity level by prefecture at:

A partial translation of the pdf’s is possible via google translate
update 19.3.2011: there are now also english pdf’s of the measurements

update 20.3.2011: The above mentioned grs has also a website about the potential dangers of radiation however the old one, which is still in the Google cache was currently a bit more informative. There they say as a “rule of thumb” that

Als Faustregel gilt, dass die Aufnahme von etwa 80 000 Bq Cs-137 bei Erwachsenen einer Strahlenexposition von etwa 1 mSv entspricht.

translation without guarantee: 80 000 Bq of Cs-137 for an adult equates to about 1 mSv.

further translations:
The limit of import into Germany for caesium is 600 Bq/kg. For milk, milkproducts and kids nutrition is 370 Bq/kg. For the beginning of May 1986 (shortly after Chernobyl) the Commission for radiation safety recommended to eat and drink only milk with less than 500 Bq/l of Iodine 131 and green vegetables with less then 250 Bq/kg of Iodine 131 .

Fukushima, calculations and comments

Monday, March 14th, 2011

On sunday the 7 th fleet reported:

The U.S. 7th Fleet has temporarily repositioned its ships and aircraft away from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant after detecting low level contamination in the air and on its aircraft operating in the area.

The source of this airborne radioactivity is a radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant. For perspective, the maximum potential radiation dose received by any ship’s force personnel aboard the ship when it passed through the area was less than the radiation exposure received from about one month of exposure to natural background radiation from sources such as rocks, soil, and the sun.

The ship was operating at sea about 100 miles northeast of the power plant at the time.

24*30 = 720

So this means the boat received a 720 fold radiation at a distance of about 160 kms of the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant from what’s supposed to be normal.

Even if one assumes that the density of such a plume disperses quadratically one would have 720*(160^2/270^2) = approx. 250 times higher dose then normal, or in other words in one hour one would perceive about a third of a months radiation dose above normal being in such a plume at a distance of 270 kms (which is the approximate distance between Fukushima and Tokyo). Luckily the ship could get out fast of the hazardous zone.

Unfortunately the possibilities to alter weather are very small. In fact there were experiments in Abu Dhabi and it seems China is also doing a lot of research in that direction, seen critical by some others. The latest research item in cloud seeding seems to have been laser shots into the air over the sky of Berlin (see also this article ).

The information about what’s really going on at the plant is fuzzy. It is understandable that some people would like to avoid a panic and thus would not make all information available to a broad uninformed public, who might draw false conclusions. But some people would like to appease people by making unscientific claims about certain likelyhoods (while at the same time claiming that nothing can be measured!). But one should think about how such an approach may impair credibility…this holds especially true for some certain news agencies, who’s reports are less based on facts but on biased commentaries disguised as “facts”.

So here a bit of information taken together:
An interactive map from the New York times of the Fukushima plant with a BWR design which (if I understood correctly) is by General Electric. An illustration by Hitachi of the concrete Fukushima plant seems to be in this pdf. The design looks a bit differently than the General electrics one…
A rather matter of fact and informative blog post about what happened at Fukushima by what seems to be a pro-nuclear writer (at least he cites pro-nuclear sources). What one got to hear sofar is that the reactor vessels and the containment of the troubled plants are still intact.

Our thoughts are with the japanese people and their grief.

Moreover we hope that the brave workers at the Fukushima power plants will succeed with their plans to avoid the worst. We hope that it will be possible to supply more and better equipment (see e.g. Kyodo news about the 5 fire pumps) to the dangerous Fukushima area and that with international help the results of the earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear disaster can be mitigated and that the worst possible nuclear scenarios won’t happen at Fukushima.

update 16.3.2011: I forgot to include a link to the

->overview on nuclear energy on randform

In this overview I actually saw the probability of a terrible accident with currently exisiting reactors as rather small. So in this overview I focused on problems with future types of nuclear energy generation (which include even more dangerous nuclear technology) and with the waste problem. I am asking myself now if I should give nuclear energy even more critical scrutiny.

poincare oddyssee

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010


Last time when I was in Göttingen I found a poster at the math department documenting an art science collaboration between mathematics professors William Thurston, Kazushi Ahara and Sadayoshi Kojima on one side and a team around clothing designer Issey Miyake, notably including chief designer Dai Fujiwara of Issey Miyake (here a link to a partial version of the poster, see also absnews article by Jenny Barchfield). A result of this collaboration is that the Issey Miyake Fall-Winter 2010-2011 ready-to-wear collection is inspired by the geometrization conjecture.

From the poster:

In the mid-October of 2009, Prof. Thurston showed us the detail drawings of the “8 Geometry Link models as Metaphor of the Universe” They inspired us to make the collection based on them, accompanying design study with rope and toile. Considering the body itself as the Universe, we have added our own interpretation of beauty to them. The new perception of the body shared by all the members of the team resulted in the discoveries of new lines and forms, which were then applied to textile, color and detail studies. Thus the new collection has taken shape steadily, revealing its whole picture eventually. To sum up the exchange with Prof. Thurston led us to find a completely new kind of beauty and embody it in clothing. This mission was, as it were, an odyssee to explore the Universe with infinite imaginations.

The geometrization conjecture roughly says (I am not an expert on this) that a three dimensional volume form without boundary (a two dimensional analog of such a form would be for example the surface form (i.e. the “skin”) of a ball or the surface form of a doughnut) can be decomposed into “pieces” which have one of 8 characteristic “geometric structures”, which means roughly that in a small neighbourhood of any such “piece” there is – out of only 8 characteristic ways – one specific way to measure length. A theorem states that any three dimensional (oriented) volume form without boundary can be obtained by cutting a “thick” (that is instead of a rope take a ribbon) link out of a three dimensional sphere. Thus you can characterize special types of three dimensional volume forms (here: “the pieces”) by assigning a link to them. This is – by what I understood sofar- why there are 8 links (or link models) on the poster – they characterize the 8 types of possible “pieces”, which built up three dimensional volume forms without boundary.

Why do they call these 8 links “Metaphor of the Universe”? I can only make wild guesses, which sound rather like science fiction than science: Maybe if you imagine the space of the universe to be eventually such a three dimensional volume then by cutting it into pieces (may be along black hole horizons huh?!) and “measuring distances” (determine a metric) one could make deductions about the actual form of the universe? Or – reversely by making assumptions about the form of the universe (like e.g. that its space is a three sphere) one may get informations about what could be inside black holes…given that one finds all black holes…(this is just a funny joke).

But joking aside – I think they call it Metaphor of the Universe because these simple 8 links may be used to describe quite complicated things.

->wikipedia link math and fiber arts


Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


When we were in Japan a good year ago, we had the great chance to see mount Aso.


happy new year 2010

Thursday, December 31st, 2009


ranform wishes all its clients a happy new year and not a happy new ear !

Again on new years eve we will try to avoid the inner districts of Berlin since the roads in Berlin usually feel almost like being in a war at that evening.

Below are some images from the Nishinihon firework show in Ohori Park, Fukuoka from over a year ago. Here firework specialists are creating an amazing firework with high precision. The specialists are even able to rather scientifically predict the height and time of detonation in such a way that they are able to create little images like a smilie or a heart (please see below). Where it should be said that a heart which is poetically dropping down from the skies is of course hilarously kitchy.

Remark: The images were made with a small canon without a tripod.