Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Panic over impending Japanese nuclear meltdown...

FURTHER UPDATE: I found the wikipedia writeup on the incident quite useful - highly factual, and essentially captures all that has happened [Wiki link]

UPDATE: I'm surre there is still great anxiety among the public on the risk of radiation leakage and meltdown at the Japanese reactors. I want to thank the person who posted this excellent step by step explanation of how things will unfold at the reactor. Right now the Japanese are pumping saltwater mixed with boron into the reactor. The boron slows the nuclear reaction and causes the reactors to cool faster - this should work according to the MIT professor but will permanent damage the reactors. Even if this fails completely, the worse case scenario is a systematic cleanup:


Right now there is small radiation leakage because they use salt water instead of pure water which has a tendency to absorb some of the radioactive material. They also have to reduce pressure in the reactor by opening values to and that also leads to limited amount of radioactive material to go to the atmosphere. These amounts are small since they evacuated a large area around the nuclear plants..

We are seeing panic due to a lot of misinformation and the media playing up the situation. Foreign govt precautionary moves such as UK & China wanting to evacuate their citizens from Tokyo is causing panic.

Based on another expert's view roughly 24 hours from this afternoon we will know exactly what is going to happen - success, failure or calamity. I guess in the mean time there is just no way to get people to calm down as it is difficult to get them to gather correct information and think through the situation in a calm manner. When people just read headlines such as this one that just appeared : More nuclear reactors show signs of trouble it can be really scary but actually the Japanese govt was just reporting that 2 other reactors have slightly higher temperatures - the trouble, if any, is small and contained.

Right now there is a panic going on among people and financial markets surrounding the nuclear plants in Japan. Expats are reported fleeing Tokyo and foreign govts have issued warnings about the dangers of radiation for citizens located in Japan. The 24 hour news media reported several blasts and a fire at 3 nuclear plants. The Japanese stock market (Nikkei) plunged by 14% setting off a full blown financial panic in Asia. This is an exercise in cool heads and ability to analyse information in a situation where there is panic, confusion and all out fear.

Nobody actually knows what is going on in those nuclear reactors because they cannot get close enough to take measurements. The official information released talk of a "possible meltdown" adding to the panic.

While there is a possiblity of catastrophy and calamity, human emotion has mingled together with sketchy facts and precautionary assumptions to react as if the worse case scenario which has a finite probabilityof occuring is the primary outcome. The worse case scenario goes something like this - meltdown of the reactor, failure of 2 layers of containment and leakage of radioactive material into environment. Some people are saying the containment vessels might have been damaged by the quake.

Yesterday I watched an expert trying to explain to a reporter the technicalities of these nuclear reactors. The reporter eager to pump up the excitiement surround their failures seemed to ignore what the expert from a university tried to say - the containment vessels are built with safety margins far in excess of what was necessary to withstand the Friday quake. Even if there is a meltdown, radiation would leak but nothing like the Russian Chernobyl disaster would occur. But cleaning up would be extremely messy.

Breaking Headlines such as this one add to the panicL

It is a warning by the Japanese govt that the area surround the plants have dangerous level of radiation after the explosion. You think about it - one would expect radiation at the nuclear plant compound to be quite high after explosion - the explosion releases some of the radioactive gases collected in the reactors.

The final mess assuming that everything fails and nuclear material leaks out of the containment vessels melthing through the surface probably will be quite serious to the environmental. However, the place has been evacuated and an eventual cleanup probably cost several billion dollars.

Compare the damage to the reaction of the financial markets. The Japanese market lost 14% of value - that is equivalent to US$400B and you include losses in regional bourses it will total about US$500B or half a trillion dollars. ....and these losses occurred even before anyone knows what is actually happening in those nuclear reactors. - the explosion seem to have set off the panic. Quite incredible....I would say how panic can set in and spread....

Here a minister tries to explain to the public that people outside the 30Km should stay calm but to no avail:

Foreign investors have flee the Japanese stock market causing a total drop over 1.5 days of 20%. In the Kobe earthquake the Japanese market fell about 21% but that fall took more than 3 months. In the 1st 2 days of the Kobe earthquake, the fall was about 5-6%.


Anonymous said...

We are very lucky to be in Singapore. Not only politically very stable (govt very strong) and socially peaceful (no riots, no civil wars)and so can earn money and live well, but also Mother Nature has been very kind to us too. The worst was just a bit of flooding only and somemore partly man made.

So with a lot of people wanting to flee from Japan, maybe it is a good opportunity to attract some of them as foreign talents to Singapore. Only thing is language (they speak Japanese but not much English or Mandarin) is a problem for them. Otherwise they may be very good talents. Good for our GDP.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 12:56

I am speechless. You are no different from CNA that tried to profit from other's misery. You are from the government circle, are you not? You are just like our government who talks only about profit, profit and nothing but profit. You suck! Really feels like throwing your mother's smelly shoe.

Anonymous said...


Panic is the word. Singaporeans should stay calm. If event gets worse, you can depend on the Government to get us out like they did with Singapore flood. And we will also see how dependent singapore has on Foreign talents who are the first to flee.

In fact, if I were Kim Jong Il now is the best time to attack and we can all have a catastrophic ww3.

Anonymous said...

To anon 12:56 you will be the mercenaries of PAP who will start profiting by having a COE bidding for Singaporean's citizenship. I bet you can make alot of money while getting paid millions of dollars from we taxpayer. Enjoy it while it lasts. Two more months to go and you're history.

spirit of the samurai said...

something for sporeans to seriously think about before proceeding with plans to go for nuclear energy, even if it is in Batam or deep below the seabed.

the recent floods in spore and the indifferent attitude of our govt leaders suggests we are not ready for nuclear technology.
one little mishap is all it takes.

i hope the situation gets better for Japan and its people.

Anonymous said...

the recent floods in spore and the indifferent attitude of our govt leaders suggests we are not ready for nuclear technology.
one little mishap is all it takes.
Anon 15/3/11 14:51

But floods are not as dangerous as nuclear mishaps.

So of course for floods, including its prevention, will be handled differently from nuclear mishaps.

Just like in order to have justice, the punishment must fit the crime, right or not?

Anonymous said...

"the punishment must fit the crime, right or not?"

Sure. But has this been the case for PAP. Do we need reminder for
- mas selamat
- mrt train deface
- orchard road flood
- temasek loss
- yod overspent etc etc.

I fail to see any punishment fitting the above "petty" crimes, how else would I see any for big nuclear mishap? Before any can be meted out, is game over. So all the rhetorical justification is moot here.

India's mohan singh is stopping his track for nuclear. Singapore is courting suicide.

Anonymous said...

This isn't fear of the unknown. Its fear of the possible.

The tendency for governments to talk down risks leads to a believability problem. Just following their statements over the last three days shows how wrong they've been already. Almost no chance of meltdown? Famous last words.

Kobe did not have a nuclear disaster element. Nuclear contamination lasts years.
If you consume radioactive material, that stuff stays in your body for years. No joke.

Chernobyl was one reactor. Fukushima has four potential disasters.

The economic cost is manifold. Physical infrastructure loss, radiation land unusable, manufacturing output, tourism, sales of foodstuffs....

The world economic 'recovery' is built on flimsy ground. Nothing has fundamentally changed from pre-financial crisis. All the bad assets are still there.
This may break the camel's back

Anonymous said...

From Nov 2, 2010 Asia news excerpt, LHL said
"It's very difficult to put it (a nuclear power plant) very far from population because nobody in Singapore is far from population.

"Yet we cannot afford to dismiss the option of nuclear energy altogether."

As part of building up its capabilities, Singapore should keep up with new developments and learn from the experiences of other countries.

The country should also get in touch with experts in the field of nuclear energy and train a few of its own experts in the field.

He added: "Then we can critically assess developments in nuclear technology and decide on the feasibility of nuclear-power deployment one day in the future."

When he called for questions from the floor, Mr Lee was asked if it would happen during his time in office.

He replied: "I would say possibly during my lifetime."


Anonymous said...

So should Teo Chee Hean volunteer to go into the radioactive plant in Japan to see how we can learn from the other countries? There is no better time than now for an on-the-job onsite and realtime training for a failsafe nuclear plant in Singapore. GCT can tell him to be stoic like the Japanese and not be kpkb, just get on with the task, and we will have more foreigners who will come in built a Titanic that will never sink...aye aye

Who's staying onboard?

spirit of the samurai said...

to anon @ 15.10

you miss my point completely.

let me put it this way.
if a person cannot do a simple job well and still have the gall to give lame excuses, can you and i really trust him to do a job that is umpteen times more complex and more risky?

that is what nuclear technology is all about. precision, discipline in constuction and maintainance at the highest level.
even a tiny fraction of sloppiness is not acceptable.

having said that, do you think the present Sin govt has what it takes in comparison to Japan, after so many fiascos and with no accountability? can you and i still trust the Sin govt?

the day PM Lee (assuming he is still PM) gives the go ahead for nuclear energy, will be the cue for me to pack up and wish you good luck.

Anonymous said...

It Shouldn't Have Happened, But It Had, What To Do?

Anonymous said...

I thought someone just said that Japanese very calm. How come panic now?

Anonymous said...

Just to share some crazy idea that cam about when it was noted that our Defence budget had a boost .

1) Buy if poosible 4 Nuclar powered air craft carriers to stationed around the island.
2) This is will up land used by the RSAF to sell/ buld Bungalows/Condo to fund the 4 aircraft carriers.

3) use the "excess electricity" genterated to furthur reduce the gas/oil fueled Power stations: more land to sell !

Any potential metltdown can be mitigated with ready available water from the sea....

TokyoSingaporean said...

Dear Lucky,

The situation is under control. No worries.

Anonymous said...

So long as the Japanese remain calm and stoic as said by Goh Chok Tong Senior Minister(who does what?) of Sin and do not flee Japan like their foreigner inhabitants, the Japanese will rise to glory economically again.

Panic? SM Goh Chok Tong will say You're fear mongering or trying to prove him wrong. He will be very angry and You better be careful before he demands that You watch Channel News Asia.


Anonymous said...

So did the tragedy stop Mr Lucky from profiting from the stock market panic?

Anonymous said...

But floods are not as dangerous as nuclear mishaps.


So of course for floods, including its prevention, will be handled differently from nuclear mishaps.

Not true. In the little things, PAP shows that their actions are very consistent. Save face 1st always. In a nuclear disaster, where the 1st few hours are critical, lack of information will be fatal.

Anonymous said...

Only thing is language (they speak Japanese but not much English or Mandarin) is a problem for them.

Lucky and his friends(eg Mr Au) may disagree, but Japanese AV idols are NOT a problem. 100% welcome!

Anonymous said...

Lucky, take this as a good buying opportunity. The BOJ will be printing money like no tommorrow. The insurance co will jerk up rate until they make back their losses. The construction company will be doing a roaring trade. The demand for material and resources will shoot thru the roof. All the ingredients for an economic revival in Japan are there. This earthquake and tsunami may succeed in reviving the Japanese econonmy which the Japanese have failed to do so since the early 90's.

Anonymous said...

Reconstruction and such activities do constitute to a large extent economic revival. So you may see some increase in GDP numbers. But do not forget there is firstly huge loss in assets and wealth. So net off, there is little or no gain.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 15/3/11 12:56

You are an animal because only animal knows how to grow GDP from other disaster.
You appear to like to grow GDP at all cost by opening tsunami of foreign trash to flood this piece of land over the last 5 years.

Wiser said...

When will the World catch up with US? http://is.gd/YL9zqk

PAP will be very pleased with their GDP spot up there.
But somebody ought to educate Hans on the "healthy" & "protection of human rights" records. There is more to than meet the eyes.

Anonymous said...

How a reactor shuts down and what happens in a meltdown – an interactive infographic.


Wiser said...

Japanese PM Kan lambastes atomic plant operator.


Now put it in the context of PAP. Who do you think GCT will lambast? No prize for the correct answer.

Anonymous said...

Here I am worrying about my friends in Japan & there goes the moronic media and some sickening people spreading fears regionally. I am praying for Japan and the people daily. Amen.

jamesneo said...

15/3/11 23:30 it is precisely because the BOJ is printing like crazy that they might instead "break the golden goose". at the present, the Japanese are able to withstand 200% debt to GDP because most of this debt are held internally by their citizens. If the crisis escalate, i feel that the japanese citizens will become more distrustful of their government and will no longer want to buy the government bonds at such low interest rate. Moreover, the insurance companies themselves might be forced to demand much higher interest rate on the bond market.

Anonymous said...

the natural disaster will probably take 15000 lives, the man made disaster will probably affect ten times that amount. nuclear power is not something to go for. better to use solar, wind or hydro.

Anonymous said...

what will happen if radioactive clouds are blowing towards sg? does our gahmen has any solution that will stop the clouds?

890 K extra for Nathan said...

to anon @9.25,
i have no doubt the 30 highest paid politicians on the planet will not be around...starting with father and son.

by then, sporeans can continue to hope they will keep in touch through their mobile devices.

let's hope this does not happen for Sporeans' sake but more so for Japan and its people.

890 K extra for Nathan said...

i fully concur with anon @9.25

and my previous post is meant for anon @9.31.
my apology for the error.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 09:31

If radioactive clouds were blown to sg, I think GCK's No. 1 priority would be to lookout for any Singaporean who bring up the issue and the Incitement Law will be applied to its fullest extend!

Anonymous said...

Is there such a thing as Incitement law in SG?
What does it say exactly.
HArd to believe.

Wiser said...

The world map on nuclear plants