Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nuclear Japan Who's Who

I intend this post to serve as a reference to interested parties, providing only the most basic of information. I shall endeavor to keep opinion to a minimum.

The Elements
Atomic weight 238.02891 grams per mole, atomic number 92, phone number 555-HOT-STUFF, uranium-238 can be used as a nuclear fuel when it is enriched with 3 % uranium-235, a more unstable isotope.

Contrary to popular belief, plutonium does not come from disgraced ex-planet Pluto. With an atomic weight of 244 grams per mole, an atomic number of 94 and a phone number that is unlisted, plutonium has a deservedly bad reputation. It's used by reactor 3 at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station that was hit the tsunami.

During nuclear accidents and explosions any iodine that's lying around becomes radioactive. If people eat or drink the radioactive iodine, or breathe it in, it can be absorbed by the body and result in thyroid cancer. This only happens if your body is in need of iodine. This can be prevented by taking potassium-iodide or potassium-iodate tablets, or by eating iodein-rich foods such as seaweed. The British embassy in Tokyo has been distributing potassium-iodate tablets to people who can prove they are British citizens.


The radioisotopes of cesium present a high health risk during and after nuclear accidents. Cesium's radioactive isotopes don't accumulate in the body but they do accumulate in fruits and vegetables. Best avoided if possible.

The Radiation
Alpha Particles
These can be thought of as helium nuclei with both electrons missing. If someone tells you that alpha particles are not dangerous because they are non-penetrating just punch the person in the side of their jaw at a 45 degree angle to the X, Y and Z planes. When alpha particles are ingested or inhaled they about 20 times more dangerous than beta and gamma radiation.

Beta Particles
High-energy electrons or positrons traveling at high speeds, beta particles have a medium ability to penetrate, and a medium ability to ionize, when compared to alpha and gamma radiation. Nobody likes Mr Average.

Gamma Rays
What most people think of as "nuclear radiation". Gamma rays are very high frequency waves that are released when subatomic particles do things. Blocking gamma rays requires thick, dense barriers such as concrete blocks or packed earth.

The Companies
The Tokyo Electric Power Company has a history of covering up nuclear accidents. TEPCO has admitted that over the 25-year period from 1977 to 2002 they lied more than 200 times to the authorities.

General Electric
The US company that built three of the six light water reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station. They also make nuclear weapons. Nice work if you can get it. Here's an ABC News article about problems with design of the reactors and their containment systems:

Hitachi built reactor number 4. Read into that what you will.

Toshiba built reactors number 3 and 5, and supplied most of the equipment for the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station including the cooling pumps.

The People
The "Fukushima 50"
The Fukushima 50 refers to a group of about 200 TEPCO workers, police, firemen and others who are working at Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station to deal with the numerous incidents that are occurring there.

Naoto Kan
Being president of Japan must be tough during times of crisis. On a good day, the Japanese government is lazy, ignorant, incompetent and corrupt. There haven't been any good days since the earthquake.

John Beddington
The UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. He sometimes chats with the UK ambassador to Japan. Read one of his conversations here:

Akio Komori
Foreign media have been focusing on the fact that Komri, managing director of TEPCO
, cried when leaving a press conference. Crying at press conference is a standard operating procedure in Japan so I wouldn't read too much into it.

Dr Masashi Goto,
Goto designed the reactor containment vessels while working as an engineer for Toshiba. Shortly after the earthquake he gave a lecture at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan explaining why he thought the situation was much worse than TEPCO had made out.

Josef Oehmen
Oehmen was the author of a (fake?)letter asserting that Fukushima Dai-Ichi posed no threat to the public. It went viral the day after the earthquake but was quite quickly by myself and others.

Keely Fujiyama
When UK tabloid newspaper The Sun published a bizzare apocalyptic account of the situation in Tokyo by Keely Fujiyama, several people in the Twattersphere suggested Fujiyama may have been a fabrication. I can reveal that she is in fact, a real person. She was born in Nottinghamshire, UK in 1975 and married Ryu Fujiyama in 2002. She may have a famous sister. More information will be released shortly...

Taro Kono
Japanese MP who Wikileaks has revealed, expressed serious concern about the safety of Japan's nuclear power industry during dinner with a US official in 2008. Read the leaked cable here:


Anonymous said...

One minor correction, Naoto Kan is Prime Minister of Japan, not President.

Rupert Pupkin said...

somewhere among this assortment of characters, organizations, and elements there must be a sockpuppet or two.

I for one was soothed by the herr doktor oehmen's letter.

But now that you bring the seimen connection into it and the careful message management chronology, I don't know what to think.

As for a The Clash song sub-title for the who's who post, I propose Atom Tan, Wrong 'Em Boyo or Right Profile.

Thank you for sharing the info you have Karamoon.

Anonymous said...

Have a look at

After 18" it's in English and it's about the very good quality of nuclear plants sold by GE to Tepco. (old advert in the 80ies)

Anonymous said...

Sorry it's in French,you'll probably find it in English somewhere. It's in Japanese anyway.
They're in France at the moment apparently (August 11th)