Welcome to The Atomic Village

Welcome to The Atomic Villagealt

Denko-chan (でんこちゃん), whose name comes from the “den” of electric power (電力, denryoku), the “ko” (子, child) in which female names so often end, trapping their bearers in a state of eternal childhood, and the generally female diminutive suffix “chan”, can be found everywhere in TEPCO propaganda. Here she is, with finger characteristically a-wagging, admonishing us to “Take care of electricity!””

These days, Denko-chan is perhaps more representative of the situation that the country and TEPCO find themselves in when rendered like this, in fan art:


As an energy resource poor island, Japan has embraced nuclear power over the last several decades as a means to ensure security of energy supply. Growth in electricity supply was a key enabler of the Japanese post-war boom and commitment to high-tech industrial growth, but dependence on external sources would have entailed a major vulnerability. The oil shocks of the 1970s strongly underlined the danger of dependency on potentially unstable or capricious foreign suppliers, creating further impetus for nuclear development. The relative independence and self-sufficiency conferred by nuclear development also fitted with a characteristic Japanese cultural insularity. Prior to the earthquake and tsunami, nuclear provided over 30% of Japan’s electric power from 54 reactors. Continue reading “Welcome to The Atomic Village”

Fukushima: Fallacies, Fallout, Fundamentals and Fear

It will be a long time before we have a complete picture of the unfolding nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, and much longer before the scale of the impacts can truly be understood. Misinformation and disinformation abound in an emotive and exceptionally polarised debate over the nuclear power industry. Teasing apart fact from fiction will be a major task. First we need to look at the latest information on the state of affairs at Fukushima, and then turn to the debate over the health impacts of radiation and comparisons with Chernobyl. Continue reading “Fukushima: Fallacies, Fallout, Fundamentals and Fear”

Fukushima: Review of an INES Class 7 Accident

The Fukushima disaster continues, and will do so for a long time to come. This is hardly surprising given the overwhelming force the plant was exposed to, which far exceeded the worst case scenario it was designed to withstand.



The 2 pictures above were taken at Fukushima Dai-Ni 

The immediate devastation from the earthquake and tsunami was immense, even before the accident began. Continue reading “Fukushima: Review of an INES Class 7 Accident”

The Fukushima Fallout Files


Detroit Publishing Co. After the Quake 1906 “The burnt out San Francisco Call newspaper building from Grant Avenue”We have now seen a series of explosions at the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi plant (Fukushima 1), and it is becoming increasingly clear that containment systems have been breached in at least some units. The pervasive consequences of station blackout began with a hydrogen explosion in unit 1, followed by a much larger explosion in unit 3, two explosions at unit 2 and one at unit 4. Units 1-3 had been operational prior to the earthquake and tsunami, but were automatically shut down with the quake. Units 4-6 had not been operational for some months, but reactors require constant cooling whether or not they are operational. It is likely that we will see all units compromised due to the loss of power that has prevented cooling. Continue reading “The Fukushima Fallout Files”

How Black is the Japanese Nuclear Swan?


Pillsbury Picture Co. “The Burning of the Call” 1906 The San Francisco Call newspaper building in flames after the April 18, 1906 earthquake

The Japanese earthquake is a tragedy of epic proportions in so many ways. The situation continues to evolve, and the full scope of the disaster will not be understood for a long time. One critical aspect is the effect on Japan’s nuclear industry, which provides over 30% of the country’s electricity from 54 reactors. Some of the largest nuclear plants in the world (Fukushima Dai-ichi and Fukushima Dai-ni, 4696 MW and 4400 MW, respectively) are located close to the epicentre, and on the coast, directly in the path of the resulting tsunami:



A state of emergency has been declared for five reactors, with the worst affected reactors being the forty year old Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) at Fukushima Dai-ichi, 240 km north of Tokyo. These reactors shut down, as the control rods were automatically inserted to dampen the nuclear reaction (SCRAM). At least two reactors experienced a station blackout, which prevented the cooling system from functioning (a loss of coolant, or LOCA accident). Continue reading “How Black is the Japanese Nuclear Swan?”