Reasons Why This MIT Scientist is not worried about Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants.

Via Claudia Azula Altucher
on Mar 14, 2011
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I learned today from an MIT Scientist the Reasons why he is not worried about the power plant situation.

I am not a scientist. Hey! I am not even that smart. These are points that brought me some peace of mind and got me away from the frenzy of the media panic-attack.  I know that people feel very strongly about nuclear power, but that is not the point of the article.

1.- Are tsunamis and earthquakes taken into consideration when building nuclear plants?

“When designing a nuclear power plant, engineers follow a philosophy called “Defense of Depth”. That means that you first build everything to withstand the worst catastrophe you can imagine, and then design the plant in such a way that it can still handle one system failure, that you thought could never happen, after the other”

Should everything go wrong, power plants have a way to go into “Third Containment”, a very high level, not invoked yet, but that would prevent further problems:

“The third containment is a hermetically (air tight) sealed, very thick bubble of the strongest steel and concrete. The third containment is designed, built and tested for one single purpose: To contain, indefinitely, a complete core meltdown”

“The point is that the nuclear fuel has now been cooled down….Also boric acid has been added to the seawater. Boric acid is “liquid control rod”. Whatever decay is still going on, the Boron will capture the neutrons and further speed up the cooling down of the core”

2.-Didn’t Part of that Third Containment Explode?

“A part of the third containment WAS damaged in the explosion BUT… it happened outside the pressure vessel (as opposed to what happened in Chernobyl), which was not intended but a possible scenario and OK because it did not pose a risk for the containment.”

3.- But what about the radiation that already escaped?

Some radiation was released when the pressure vessel was vented….If you were sitting on top of the plant’s chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy”

4.- Will Power Plants emergency plans be revisited after this?

Japanese plants will be upgraded to withstand a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami (or worse)

5.- So, what is the challenge then? Is there something that should worry us?

I believe the most significant problem will be a prolonged power shortage. 11 of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors were shut down and will have to be inspected directly reducing the nation’s nuclear power generating capacity by 20% with nuclear power accounting for 30% of the national total power generation capacity.

Emergency response has to deal with shelter, drinking water, food and medical care, transportation and communication infrastructure as well as electricity supply.

Yes, the earthquake+tsunami was a catastrophe and there have been deaths. Yes it is bad and prayer and donations are welcome and a good thing to do.

Yes we can accompany, chant mantras, be in spirit with the people of Japan going through the aftermath of the earthquake and Tsunami.  Yet, the nuclear power plant issue is not as bad as the media would have us believe.


My intention here is to reproduce portions of the article that have brought peace to me and share them. If you want to comment or make suggestions that you feel can change the world for the better go directly to the article, thank you.

SOMEWHAT RELATED ARTICLE: 32 Unusual Ways to Deal with Anger


About Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama). Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English. She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at And you can follow her on Twitter:


29 Responses to “Reasons Why This MIT Scientist is not worried about Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants.”

  1. Great post. And don't say you are "not even smart". Anyone who fights the panic that the media tries to rile up in order to sell newspapers in a hero in my book. So you are my hero. (And my wife).

  2. Claudia says:

    Thank you James! 🙂

  3. pjc says:

    Awesome post.

    Smart is as smart does. You're very smart for understanding that a nuclear accident is a very tiny part of this very large catastrophe.

    ".If you were sitting on top of the plant’s chimney when they were venting, you should probably give up smoking to return to your former life expectancy" . Great quote!

  4. anywho says:

    "Moreover, Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months, even if a major meltdown is avoided. Thus, even in the optimistic scenario that further reactor damage is contained, both the economic damage and the death tolls are both likely way understated."

  5. Claudia says:

    I am not going to pretend I understand what you are talking about, but I am grateful that you shared your information in case someone else would like to read more. I am going by what I read from this specific scientist.

    Nobody really knows what the outcome will be.

  6. jaltucher says:

    PJC! We're going to run into each other in every crowded bar. When are you next coming into NYC?

  7. anywho says:

    OK, I found this later, but elephantjournal wouldn't let me post again. Perhaps this will make it more clear:

    The point is, this is very serious, and should definitely be a point of concern.

  8. Claudia says:

    I pray to God that it gets contained.

  9. pjc says:

    Hi James! I'd love to hang with you in NYC. I don't travel very often (my life is sort of organized around enjoying Oregon), but it happens every 1-2 years, and offering to buy you lunch is on my list.

  10. anywho says:

    "The reactors were not built to withstand this type of earthquake". I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember verbatim what he said, but watch the clip.

  11. TamingAuthor says:

    Correct, we do not know if the explosion affected containment. The earlier ones did not.

    Meltdown itself is not the problem as containment controls adverse effects of meltdown.

    Not sure where you heard radiation outside was 10,000 time normal. Only reports I have heard is that traces have leaked. But also heard they left an emergency crew of fifty to tend to cooling, while eight hundred were evacuated — but as with most reports they have omitted time, so not sure when that occurred.

    Unless containment is breached there will not be major effects. And, even then, it could be minor. But hard to gauge without cameras and reporters on the scene.

    I used to take U235 fuels cells to school for show and tell when I was a kid, so I tend not to be as nervous as many about the effects at low dosages. (My father was a nuclear physicist.)

  12. Stressless says:

    I just think that when it comes to Radiation…. reactors, and Japan's history.. we should not try to get involved analyzing ….

    we have to know when to just SHUT UP! Just PRAY PRAY… send money…. DO SOMETHING! Stop talking about it.

  13. Claudia says:

    Stressless, I can understand your anger, yes praying is good, panicking is not

  14. Claudia says:

    Dear God,

    May we all remain calm in this situation
    May we strive to find truth and channel our energies in a way that is trully helfpul
    May we forget our anger, and misdirected energy
    May we all pray for the people of Japan
    May the people of Japan find safety, may they be saved, healed
    May they find comfort, may the rebuild their lives and cities
    May we all be healed
    May our hearts remain open and loving
    May our prayers be heard
    May we all be well
    Thank you

  15. jaltucher says:

    @Stressless, the best way to deal with the stress is to first get reliable info and not use the panic-mongering media to fan the flames of fear. Right now what is being said and what is the reality are so far apart that it defies any rational explanation. At the moment, there are precautions being taken, but it appears to be under control. Mindlessly sending money will do no good. In fact, there are many scams being perpetrated by those who would take advantage of this situation.

  16. anywho says:

    very good explanation by rachel maddow what's currently going on with reactor 4 among other things. The "unworried" MIT scientist had no idea what he's talking about.

  17. Amelie says:

    I'm afraid this article and the scientist at MIT strike me as extremely naive.

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  19. This guy from MIT is starting to sound sillier and sillier with each passing news day. Probably time to check and see if he's under PR contract from the Nuclear Power industry.

    The site where this was posted is itself filled with detailed information that contradicts the original post.

  20. jaltucher says:

    The situation is dangerous but it still seems as if no lethal radiation was released. (it is possible to be a "little pregnant" here without there being any fatalities). I wish the media though would turn away from this issue and the panic they are propogating ("nuclear snow in NY?" was a headline I saw recently) and focus on helping the families who are still missing loved ones in this disaster, the ongoing cleanup of the devastation, and also the more recent news coming out of the middle East where governments are firing on protesters as young as children. I'm scared the media is trying to scare too many people.

  21. xuuya says:

    and, according to this much more credible author at… :

    The writing "You Can Stop Worrying About A Radiation Disaster in Japan — Here's Why" is packed full of disinformation and technical jargon, masked as scientific expertise, meant to confound, confuse and scientifically impress the un-technical (concerned) reader. The author at first did not identify himself, which is a tactic many people use so that they do not have to take responsibility, or worry about being held accountable. Appended as a sort of disclaimer to the article that morphed out of the comment we find the statement: "Since posting this, we have learned that it was written by Dr. Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT."

    In the nuclear arena, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for the infamous Nuclear Reactor Safety Study (WASH 1400), chaired by MIT nuclear scientist Norman P. Rasmussen (commonly known as The Rasmussen Report), that whitewashed the massive flaws and safety failures of a burgeoning, secretive, incestuous nuclear power industry, even while it exposed them to some degree."

    The article is fascinating, and sounds grounded in honesty and a realism that Mr. MIT lacks.

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    OH PLEASE~nuclear energy is dangerous and terrible for our planet. I agree with Bob, who the heck are "they" working for? Look at our planet right now and tell me that Nuclear energy is safe.

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