Author Archives: nuclearhistory

The Barry Brook Position in the light of Ergen – Enforced Amnesia or Ignorance ?

The Aim of this post is to present the mass media statements of knowledge and opinion given by Prof. Barry Brook.

Prof. Brook has presented the pro-nuclear environmentalist case for a number of years. I was and remain particularly interested in his public level presentations regarding the nuclear accident at Fukushima Diiachi in March 2011.

A primary objective of this post is to determine whether or not the information transmitted to the public by Prof. Brooks contains sufficient technical knowledge. Particularly in both the contexts of current best practice and historical levels of knowledge. Specifically regarding the criteria for the safe design of multi- mega-watt nuclear reactors. Given that nuclear reactors have long working lives, historic and current technical knowledge are both relevant, as are regulatory updates and technical modifications. Indeed, the US NRC mandated changes in procedures and equipment at relevant US nuclear reactor sites throughout the USA in the wake of Fukushima.

I certainly do not question anyone’s right and ability to express their knowledge and opinions to the public. I rely on an open and democratic society in precisely the same manner as everyone else. Prof. Brook has of course the same right. In my personal opinion, the tension between academic meritocracy exists within a field of tension within democratic society. Thus, I believe I have equal rights to express my knowledge and opinions both with, and indeed, in tension to any qualified academic. And certainly studying Prof. Brook’s public statements via the mass media will be an exciting one for me, perhaps a boring one for him, should he notice. However, my aim is to assess, not attack, the public statements of Prof. Brook. Certainly if Prof. Brook has reason to complain, I will certainly listen and respond to what he might object to. I shall try to ensure that he has no reason to complain.


Prof. Barry Brook:

3 years training, both formal (in classroom) and on the job in military radiological safety. Three years experience as a military radiological safety Non-Commissioned Officer within the setting of Royal Australian Electrical and Mechancial Engineer Corps RADIAC workshop and laboratory located at the time at 4 Base Workshop, RAEME, Bandiana, Victoria. I was trained by Australian military officers who had been trained by qualified US military personnel for a five year period. The RADIAC unit I served in was in routine communication with Australian personnel at the original Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. I was trained to monitor all radiation types from normal background to occupational levels, and assisted in the processes by which Australian military and Civil Defence radiac detectors were confirmed accurate (calibration) at all sensitivity settings, which in the case of PDR-27A detectors included nuclear battlefield relevant readings. Although this training was undertaken many years ago, and although the training was merely technical and not academic (though much theory was taught to me), my knowledge both then and now remains relevant to my interest in, and consideration of the pronouncements made by nuclear industry, nuclear authorities and their followers.

I note that Prof. Brooks and I have, in my opinion, a classical and predictable source of potential (and in the past, actual) conflict. In my opinion Prof. Brooks accepts the safety reassurances of nuclear authorities. I do not automatically accept the safety assurances of nuclear authorities.

It is my opinion that Prof. Brooks shares a view of the climate change situation which determines that something akin to an emergency exists. As a layman I am aware that climate change due to human activity – largely the release of greenhouse gases via the burning of fossil fuels- has been increasingly confirmed with growing authority since the 1800s. I am also aware that industries involved in the fossil fuel economy have a continuing interest in ensuring uncertainty exists within the public mind regarding the cause of rapid climate change. Such a stance is of course unacceptable. But these things are facts as I see them. It is my view that Prof. Brooks, assured as he is by the statements of government and private nuclear experts, vigorously proposes that the risks of a greatly and rapidly expanded nuclear reactor for power sector are far less than the unmitigated risks of sudden climate change. I do not resent Prof. Brook holding or expressing his actual views on such things. ( I can only surmise what Prof. Brooks thinks on the basis of his public statements, and I only need to be approximately correct for my present purposes.)

Having watched and studied nuclear authorities for many decades as a layman, I can say that I am a skeptic when it comes to the PR issued by nuclear authorities. Both over the history of the “nuclear age” and since the accident a Fukushima Diiachi. It is my view that nuclear authorities have twice justified their actions on the premise that they and their skills and technology were and are needed to “save the planet”. This current attempt to expand nuclear industry makes the same promises of salvation as the earlier and first promise did. It is not conflating bombs (the alleged salvation of the Free World) and reactors (the alleged saviours of the planet re sudden climate change) to say that both then and now nuclear experts and authorities have many very many false claims regarding the safety of the human dose response to exposures of radiation in absorbed dose quanta which suite the experts at the time. I further believe, on the basis of medical ethics, that nuclear authorities often deliberately conflate medical treatment doses and medical diagnosis doses of radiation exposure with additional doses, whatever they are from case to case, imposed as a result of nuclear industry, military and civilian. This is one reason why I claim the right to think for myself in these and other matters of relevance. (For example, in March 2011, the Japanese electrical generator company, TEPCO, claimed that the fallout exposure from radionuclides released by the failed Fukushima Diiachi nuclear power plant were harmless because the dose imposed upon civilians in the Prefecture was less than the dose imposed by a chest ray. This statement is a perfect example of a corporation acting completely outside of its brief and authority and in direct contraction of medical ethics. Medicine is only medicine when 1. the patient gives informed consent to the treatment 2. where there is a health benefit which outweighs the risks of the treatment. Power plant executives are not qualified to administer medicine to a gnat, let alone a human being. Much has been made of the alleged “paradox” of the Evacuation zones in Japan, but it is not a paradox at all, as much some nuclear advocates actually mock the evacuations which took place in Japan.)

I can identify the point of deviance between Prof. Brook and myself. I no more expect to change his mind than he has any basis for believing that he, on the basis of his nuclear expertise, change mine. I have one vote. So does Prof. Brook. I am not a subordinate to him. He is not my doctor. He has no basis for expecting that I should share his nuclear views. I might share his views on other things, but certainly not on this nuclear one. In nuclear matters I have more formal training than he has. Even though I was, when employed in the field I was trained to engage in, I was a mere technical functionary with also a clerical function within Australia’s nuclear safety regime at the time. If I have a technical question the fate of Kangaroos under unmitigated climate change, I might ask Prof Brook that question. However, if I have a technical question relating to nuclear safety, I have a number of people I am free to contact for an answer. For these people have relevant qualifications. Barry’s views on radiation safety are his views. They are based upon advise he has received. But with sincere respect, Barry is not qualified to give nuclear safety advice. He has no formal qualifications in health physics. Even my smattering of formal qualification in that area exceeds Barry’s. (Which by no means should constrain him his expression of his beliefs.)

I refer to the following public media statements made by Prof. Barry Brook:—fukushima2c-nuclear-power-and-the-rational-approach-to/3733762

These two references will suffice. Many other references to Prof. Brook’s public media contributions exist. Please read the contents and listen to the video at the above links before continuing to read this post.

The account Prof. Brook gives of the nuclear accident at Fukushima and it’s consequences is very conventional when compared with other accounts from nuclear industry experts. Barry mentions relative risk compared to other forms of power generation, the chemical pollution unleashed upon Japan as a result of the March 2011 disaster, the age of the Fukushima power plants, the apparent resilience of the aged plant and equipment in the face of earthquake, the unexpected height of the tsunami which swamp the plant and particularly the emergency power generators. Barry is of the view that the people at risk from the high risks of high radiation doses were the plant workers: that the risk to the general population in the immediate vicinity of the plant (say 30 kms)


CBS News’ Ben Tracy goes to Punggye-ri

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy was the only American broadcast news correspondent invited by North Korea to witness the destruction of a nuclear testing facility last week.
Tracy described the trip as secretive and full of strict rules, but reported officials said they wanted journalists at the site to be “transparent.”
Tracy was not allowed to pull up the shades on his train window and had his radiation-testing equipment confiscated.

A tad useless I think.

An ever present Nth Korean nuclear hazard


North Korean Nuclear Reactor Safety: The Threat No One is Talking About
DECEMBER 14, 2017

The ability of North Korea to safely operate its nuclear reactors, according to many experts, is increasingly being called into question given the North’s isolation and lack of safety culture. Pyongyang’s ability to respond to a nuclear accident in a timely fashion will make the difference between a small-scale event and a catastrophic disaster. And while the actual contamination would be localized, the lack of transparency from North Korea in dealing with the situation is likely to cause political panic in the region in excess of the actual radiological exposure and environmental impact. The opening of nuclear safety talks with the North to help prevent such an accident from occurring would provide a rare opportunity for regional dialogue and could pry open the door for realistic and productive discussions of North Korea’s nuclear program.

A Disaster Waiting to Happen?

A video of Kim Jong Un smoking next to an untested liquid-fueled missile tells you everything you need to know about North Korea’s nuclear safety culture. The remarkable 14-second clip shows the Supreme Leader taking a puff while a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile is erected on the launch pad mere feet away—prompting a torrent of snarky Twitter commentary expressing regret that Kim’s lit cigarette had not “solved the problem for us.” Kim’s recklessness is certainly notable, and it hints at an underemphasized and potentially devastating possibility: the threat of a nuclear accident in North Korea.

At the March 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, then-South Korean President Park Geun-hye claimed that Yongbyon, North Korea’s primary nuclear research center, “is home to such a dense concentration of nuclear facilities that a fire in a single building could lead to a disaster potentially worse than Chernobyl.” While her damage assessment is likely an exaggeration—researchers from 38 North assess Chernobyl’s power output to have been 3,000 percent greater than Yongbyon—the potential for a nuclear accident is not.

Niko Milonopoulos and Edward D. Blandford noted previously that a sudden fault in North Korea’s outdated power grid could prevent the Yongbyon reactors from being adequately cooled and could potentially trigger a meltdown. Such an event could also be prompted by a natural disaster or abnormal weather patterns. Complementary analysis by Nick Hansen indicates that North Korea’s 5 MWe plutonium production reactor had to be briefly shut down following a flood in July 2013 which destroyed parts of the cooling systems. He noted with concern that “if a major flood cuts off the cooling water supply to the reactors before they can be shut down, a major safety problem could occur.” This is exactly what prompted the series of nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima.

In 2010, a team of Stanford scientists led by Dr. Siegfried Hecker visited North Korea’s 25-30 MWe Experimental Light Water Reactor, which was still under construction at the time and will likely be operational soon. Their subsequent analysis expressed a lack of confidence in North Korea’s ability to operate the site safely upon completion, citing insufficient concrete quality, the lack of an independent nuclear regulator, and the inexperience and isolation of the design team as particular concerns….” end quote. read the rest at the link above.

There is no reason to be optimistic about the radiological state of North Korea. It is likely to be a dangerous mess around and in the nuclear test sites, and other nuclear sites, military or civilian.

The population of the country are slaves at all levels. Over the decades millions must have suffered and died prematurely from all manner of things, including nuclear hazards by now, I think, well embedded into the biosphere of the place. The ones worst off are those closest in and that has always been the case.

There is no data in the public domain which pertains to the radiological state of North Korea, and correcting that global ignorance must surely be a high priority. Given that the man with worst barber in the world says he wants peace. Open disclosure by the North Koreans to the rest of the world is the minimum we should accept.


Which would be worse? The US nuclear test sites, or the North Korean ones? How much has the USA spent trying to cleanup its underground tests sites? How much does the routine hydrological monitoring cost the USA ? Who is going to clean up North Korea’s sites? Who is going to pay? Who compensates their nuclear veterans? No one. What are the chances of justice for North Korean nuclear vets? Either none or Buckley’s. This isn’t a furphy Mr Brownowski.


North Korean soldiers and their families are being treated in a military hospital for radiation exposure after the September hydrogen bomb test at the Punggye-ri nuclear facility.

More than a thousand troops of the North Korean army were deployed to the site to dig tunnels and patrol the surrounding area, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of North Korean affairs.

The news comes after reports in the Japanese press indicated that around 200 people died in an accident at the facility due to a tunnel collapse in October.

After reporting a series of small earthquakes and a landslide in the area near where the facility is located, south of the Mantapsan mountain, several experts have warned that the site has become too unstable to host further nuclear experiments. Another bomb test would risk a massive collapse and radioactive leaks, Chinese geologists warned.

end quote.

Pity the poor civilian North Koreans. So malnourished their bones must be some percent Sr89 and Sr90 by now.

No hydrological charts for the site as far as I can see. And ground and surface flows through the test sites are the most important long term vectors for radiologic risk.

North Korea’s 2017 Test and its Nontectonic Aftershock J. Liu et. al March 2018

North Korea’s 2017 Test and its Nontectonic Aftershock
J. Liu L. Li J. Zahradník E. Sokos C. Liu X. Tian
First published: 14 March 2018

Geophysical Research Letters.

Seismology illuminates physical processes occurring during underground explosions, not all yet fully understood. The thus‐far strongest North Korean test of 3 September 2017 was followed by a moderate seismic event (mL 4.1) after 8.5 min. Here we provide evidence that this aftershock was a nontectonic event which radiated seismic waves as a buried horizontal closing crack. This vigorous crack closure, occurring shortly after the blast, is studied in the North Korea test site for the first time. The event can be qualitatively explained as rapid destruction of an explosion‐generated cracked rock chimney due to cavity collapse, although other compaction processes cannot be ruled out.

Plain Language Summary
North Korea detonated its strongest underground nuclear test in September 2017. It attracted the public interest worldwide not only due to its significant magnitude (6.3 mb) but also because it was followed 8.5 min later by a weaker event. Was the delayed shock a secondary explosion, an earthquake provoked by the shot, or something else? We answer these questions, thanks to unique data from near‐regional broadband stations. We basically solve a simple problem—fitting observed seismograms by synthetics. The good fit means that we understand why and how the seismic waves are radiated. According to our model, the explosion created a cavity and a damaged “chimney” of rocks above it. The aftershock was neither a secondary explosion nor a triggered tectonic earthquake. It occurred due to a process comparable to a “mirror image” of the explosion, that is, a rock collapse, or compaction, for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site. Interestingly, shear fault motions, typical for natural earthquakes, were extremely small both in the explosion and in the aftershock. Small natural earthquakes also occur at the test site, and geotechnical works might trigger them. Thus, all studies related to rock stability of the site, and prevention of radioactive leakage, are important.

end quote

full text available at link above.