Joseph Oehmen, MIT Research Scientist: “there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors”

I assume by now you’ve seen this: “You Can Stop Worrying About A Radiation Disaster In Japan — Here’s Why“.

I repeat, there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors.

By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation….

I’m so glad to hear the situation is under control. And that Business Insider, an online journal, is getting us this important information in a timely manner.

Have you also seen this article, debunking the above cited item? If you have, let me know, because it seems to have been removed from it’s resting place on the intertubes.

For more information and essays about the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Reactor problems in Japan CLICK HERE.


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18 thoughts on “Joseph Oehmen, MIT Research Scientist: “there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors”

  1. The linked to article did not “debunk” anything. While it did point out that Mr. Oehmen presented his credentials in such a way that he appeared to have more credibility, it did not, in fact, debunk any of the points made by his blog post, whether they be true or false.

    The newly updated blog post is linked to at the end of the article you linked to.

  2. Joe, no it is not. If you see a link I’m not seeing, perhaps you will be so kind as to give us the link instead of merely sending us on a treasure hunt.

    The article cited above has already been debunked by events, it would seem.

  3. Amazing how there’s still so much misinformation floating around about this. The debunking article says that Dr Oehman has been proven wrong because…

    ‘an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi plant released “a surge of radiation 800 times more intense than the recommended hourly exposure limit in Japan,”‘

    Except that by itself this does not represent a ‘significant release of radioactivity’. What was the duration of this event? What radio-nucleotides were involved? Over what area did it occur?


    Dr Oehman is in fact wrong. Partly. Because he’s talking about the wrong problem. He’s talking about the cores in reactors 1-3. When he says there won’t be a signifcant release of radioactivity from those reactors he’s (apparently) right. Even if the cored melt their way through the steel containment they would wind up as solidified masses on the concrete pan underneath the reactor. A radioactive solidified mass to be sure but one that is still well contained.

    The larger concern, and real potential for long-term contamination, is the cooling pond of reactor 4. There is concern that the water in the cooling pond has largely, if not completely, evaporated and the fuel rods stored there are getting hotter. See this recent BBC article for more details…

    If those rods catch fire then there *will* be significant release of radioactivity. Remember the reason that hundreds of square miles around Chernobyl are uninhabitable is not because the core suffered a meltdown but because before the meltdown it caught fire and exploded, spraying radioactive material across most of Europe.


  4. I apologize, I believe I misinterpretted the meaning of your last paragraph. I was under the impression that the original blog post that was cited was missing. It has been moved to the MIT NSE site with the optimistic title removed:

    If it was referring to not being able to access the “debunking” article, I was able to access it easily by following the link you provided. If it is missing, it is possible that it is regionally blocked. It’s an interesting article, showing just how easily the perception of credibility can be altered without even lying about one’s credentials.

  5. The reason the radioactivity spread from Chernobyl so far was because they used a carbon quenching system, as opposed to water cooling, meaning that radioactive soot was dispersed over a wide area. Steam won’t travel like that.

  6. There are usually two bad things about such “wonderful news”
    a) They’re usually not true
    b) They just add to the general delusion of some people who, at the moment, remind me of those wonderful people in “Eric the Viking” who totally knew that their island would not sink.

    The “real” news from Japan sound slightly encouraging, they are about to re-start their cooling attempts by basically using fire-trucks and they say they are about to get electricity back so they can restart the cooling system.
    I hope that this time
    a) the information is correct
    b) they are successful

  7. While it would appear that Oehmenâ??s comments need to be modified given the events subsequent to when he wrote his article I hardly think Salonâ??s Justin Elliot is in any position to offer an educated response which he large did not. The meat of Elliotâ??s reply was that because the NY Times reported â??a surge of radiation 800 times more intense than the recommended hourly exposure limit in Japanâ? Oehmenâ??s original article was full of it.

    I would disagree.

    The times actually has a wonderful chart on the measured radioactivity at the plants perimeter that they keep updated.

    There really were no significant releases before late Monday. Oehmenâ??s article was an accurate snapshot of events up until late Monday.

  8. I should follow up by acknowledging that the property line trend certainly doesnâ??t look good. If you want my prediction, here it is: Offsite power will be restored within 36 hours, and within 72 hours radiation levels will be back to where they were over the weekend.

  9. Everyonoe does understand, yes, that if you are a worker in a nuclear plant and there is enough radiation to make you and your colleagues have to run away for the time being, that’s significant.

    The NYT article is a bit misleading, in that it compares doses of routine irradiation from devices to ambient radiation hundreds of meters from the source. This is not impressively safe. Inverse square and all that. Plus, there is a difference between irradiation (energy) and release of stuff (as discussed in some of the comments above). These simplistic comparisons are not helpful.

  10. The MIT blog as been updating as events change and things that were not an issue before become one and previous issues drop in severity.
    I see a lot of misuse of the numbers all over the net as people get units wrong(world of difference between milli and micro), move the decimal place wrong during conversion or just don’t include the context. 400mSv without the per hour, location or the duration doesn’t lead to accurate risk assessment. Also switching back and forth between rems and sieverts can cause even more math errors.

  11. Stephanie wrote: “The modified post, which does not include the claim that there won’t be a significant release of radiation, is here:”

    Note that is “modified” beyond recognition, by *other* people at MIT from a different department, who actually know about nuclear engineering. They kept Oehmen’s structure, and fixed the content, without noting their changes. Which really doesn’t say much for Oehmen.

    Note also that the mitnse people even state that they don’t even agree with Oehmen’s piece’s title.

    The best that can be said for Oehmen’s original piece is that he wrote it to reassure family members who are in Japan.

  12. Unfortunately the salon article does not debunk a lot. Neither does he address the various ways actual events have already proven Oehmen’s assessment of the crisis to be a piece of crap, nor does it even mention the myriads of factual mistakes – like the core catchers Oehmen describes that are not present in Fukushima, or the wrong depiction of how hydrogen develops when the reactor overheats (by bond disruption rather then by chemical reduction). The only issue the salon article addresses is the radiation emitted – if that would be all, Oehmen would have made a mistake, but his article would still be pretty good. After all, it would have been easy to debunk Oehmen’s article for somebody who knows something about the issue (surely not for me, back then), but the salon “debunking” is, by and large, nothing else than an ad hominem attack. If you point out in a matter-of-fact way that somebody is completely clueless and then state that he lacks qualification, it’s OK, that’s just blunt. But writing along the lines of “This guy has no idea and we really don’t like him, because he’s arrogant!” without a proper assessment of what exactly he got wrong is not the way.

    I have to admit that I took Oehmen seriously, too. During the weekend all I could find about the then beginning crisis were random and contradictory descriptions about ongoing events. Oehmen’s piece was the very first I could find to address the whole thing in a coherent – but at least misleading, as I know now – way. It was not until Monday, that news agencies began to provide expert opinions and a real description of what a power plant is and what is actually going on there. I think the lack of suitable information during the weekend plus the help of some shill sites was the main reason why Oehmen’s piece spread like a virus – of disinformation: last time I checked (two days ago) translations into German, Spanish, and Japanese were available! I may be wrong here, and perhaps I just try to justify my own naïveté to accept Oehmen’s article at face value, but a discussion of the rapid diffusion of his article should include a discussion of the failure of almostthe whole media landscape to cover the events in a comprehensible and coherent way.

    Sorry for my English, I am French.

  13. When posting about a developing situation, you should be aware that things might be strikingly different tomorrow.

  14. When posting about a developing situation, you should be aware that things might be strikingly different tomorrow.

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