Saturday, November 24, 2012

Obama to Push for Smaller, Cheaper, and "Safer" Nuclear Power Plants

(UPDATE) Link to Babcock & Wilcox page on the modular nuclear reactors:

One to 10 units per site, less than 5% enriched uranium, 4 years between refueling.

Link to DOE press release:

The president will give $450 million to these rich multinationals like B&W, Bechtel. He will end up effectively giving away the similar amount to Solyndra alone ($385 million out of $535 million), so it's only fair, I suppose.


Fukushima? What is that? How do you pronounce the word?

President Obama, who may be keen to use corporate donations to fund his second inauguration ceremony in January, wants to spread the wonderful clean energy even to "small, remote areas that cannot support traditional reactors".

Judging from the's article below, it will be based on the technology for the nuclear reactors on board the US Navy's submarines and aircraft carriers.

The Obama administration will fund 50% of the project to design and commercialize small, modular reactors, with the other 50% by Babcock & Wilcox, TVA, Bechtel International, and Mr. Bill Gates.

I posted an article about Babcock & Wilcox in October. It's the company who "filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in part as a result of thousands of claims for personal injury due to prolonged exposure to asbestos and asbestos fibers (from Wiki).

For Mr. Gates, to have inflicted buggy Microsoft products on the entire world for the past 20-plus years is clearly not enough.

After the disastrous support for alternative energy companies and start-ups (like this one) that went belly-up after extracting large amounts of cheap loans from his administration, it seems Mr. Obama has decided it's safer to bet on the old, established multinationals.

It's not his own money anyway.

From email newsletter (11/24/2012; emphasis is mine), by the editor James Stafford:

Greetings from London.

This week in energy, let’s go nuclear for a change.

And let’s start with the Obama administration’s plans for a new generation of nuclear power. This time around things will be smaller and ostensibly safer.

This new nuclear generation was given greater impetus on Tuesday when the administration announced it would fund up to 50% of the cost of a 5-year project to design and commercialize small, modular reactors.

Who’s funding the other 50%? The project, which hopes to be operational by 2022, will be led by Babcock & Wilcox energy technology company of Charlotte, in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International. And of course, we can’t forget Bill Gates, a key private investor.

What is unique about the project is the small modular reactor design. They are about one-third the size of existing reactors. The technology used has already been implemented by the US Navy, but not commercialized. The administration is keen to point out that this new nuclear generation represents lower upfront costs, higher safety standards and greater flexibility—they can be used in small, remote areas that cannot support traditional reactors.

They are assembled at a factory site and transported, ready to use, to their intended location.

In terms of costs, these small modular reactors have a $250 million price tag, compared with as much as $9 billion for the typical large reactors currently built in the US.

What will this new nuclear generation mean for consumers’ utility bills? Well, no one can say with any certainty just yet. Whether these new reactors would translate into cheaper electricity prices has not been definitively demonstrated, though it is of course an ultimate goal.

Low natural gas prices are also a bit of a worry for the nuclear industry as a whole.

While nuclear is experiencing a bit of a revival in the US and coal languishes in its death throes, globally, coal is enjoying gains. Some 1,200 new coal plants are in the works worldwide—the bulk of them in China and India—as countries take advantage of cheap coal prices in the US. But even Europe is importing increasing amounts of coal from the US. US coal exports have reached a decade high.

For Europe, this is troubling. As the European public puts increasing pressure on governments to abandon any dreams of fracking shale gas reserves over environmental concerns, the energy gap is being filled in by more polluting coal. This is the subject of our special investor piece today. There is good news—and bad. While the European Parliament has rejected a fracking ban proposal, this doesn’t mean we’re about to see a shale gas free-for-all. Hurdles and pitfalls abound.

Another developing trend that has caught our eye is what appears to be the declining attraction of Canada’s oil sands among US companies. A recent report put out by Peters & Co. energy investment bank of Calgary notes that there are some $17 billion in Canadian oil sands assets up for sale right now. The logic holds that US companies are trying to get out. The report points out that the $17 billion is the equivalent of assets sold throughout the past decade.

Finally, amid all the hubbub of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) dramatic report about the US overtaking Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil (oops, hydrocarbons) producer, we’ve missed something in that figure-manipulating report: A largely unnoticed blurb about California’s energy woes end with the information that the Monterrey Formation in Southern California has 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil. This puts Bakken (North Dakota) to shame. It’s four times the volume of Bakken.

Ah yes, the Monterrey Formation in So-Cal. It will be extracted when Hell freezes over, as they say, or the Democrats lose majority in the State Assembly. (Meaning it will never happen, just in case you are wondering.)

Anti-nuclear people in the US, it's your tax money that will fund these new nuclear reactors, whether you like it or not.

Friday, November 23, 2012

#Radioactive Japan with No Money Part 1: Chiba's Kashiwa City Mayor to Have Residents Decontaminate, Says "It's a Great Learning Opportunity"

It all boils down to the governments of all sizes in Japan not having the rainy-day funds they could spend. They don't have any savings (budget surplus) at all, and the borrowed money they are willing to spend is on "decontamination" and "sharing the pain" by spreading disaster debris, both of which have been contracted out to the largest general contractors in the nation.

First, the mayor of Kashiwa City in Chiba Prefecture in the high-radiation Tokatsu area where over 650,000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium was found in the soil (dry) in the city-owned land in the storm drain in October last year has decided that the "decontamination" effort in his city is to be done by the residents themselves. Yes, the city will help, by providing promotional videos.

Mayor Akimoto, 44-year-old ex-Bain management consultant, says, "In order to eradicate the fear of radiation, it's best that the residents themselves do the decontamination and experience firsthand what radiation is about." According to the mayor, it is a learning opportunity for the residents, and decontaminating one's own home is just a light work.

Talk about a spin by a management consultant. What Kashiwa City has is "contamination from radiation", not "fear of radiation".

From Tokyo Shinbun Chiba Local Version (11/23/2012):

民有地除染「市民で」 柏市長方針 来月に支援強化

Kashiwa City Mayor's policy is for the city residents to decontaminate privately-owned properties, extra support starting next month


In the press conference on November 22, Mayor Hiroyasu Akiyama of Kashiwa City said about the decontamination of privately-owned properties such as houses, "In order to eradicate the fear of radiation, it is important for the residents to have firsthand experience", stressing again his policy to proceed with the decontamination by the residents instead of using contractors.


In Chiba Prefecture, 9 cities have been designated as "areas that need special attention to the contamination", and 6 of them, Matsudo, Nagareyama, Noda, Abiko, Inzai, Shiroi, are employing businesses to do the decontamination. There were people who asked for the same approach in Kashiwa City, but [the mayor] said his intention was to have the city residents to do the decontamination, because the financial support from the national government would not be enough.


In the press conference, Mayor Akiyama pointed out that the decontamination of one's home is a light work that residents can do themselves, and asked for cooperation. "Doing the decontamination is a great opportunity to deepen one's knowledge of radiation. I would like [the city residents] to fully understand [by experience], instead of understanding as a concept."


The video of how to decontaminate will be available in the city's homepage starting December 1st.

What neither the mayor nor the residents acknowledge is that Kashiwa City has no money. Only 60% of the city budget is funded by tax revenue (still better than the national government budget, 50% of which is funded by tax revenue), and the rest comes from government subsidies and municipal bonds.

If a favorite refrain of many in Japan, "National debt? We owe it to ourselves, not a problem", is true, well, print away. Debt does not matter, right?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

OT: Google Earth, Map Show Australian Island That Does Not Exist

Apple "solved" the Senkaku Islands row between Japan and China by showing two sets of islands, one for Japan and one for China, on iPhone5's ill-fated map (which also showed the USSR in Moscow, and London's Big Ben with different faces showing different times).

Now it's Google's turn to show a mystery island on its Google Earth program.

AFP reports that when Australian scientists went to look for an island that appears in Google Earth, there was no such island, and the ocean at that location is very deep (1,400 meter deep).

Google's response? Oh how dynamic the world is! (As if the island has just recently sank...)

In the age of digitized maps and navigation systems, it almost feels as if the real world should follow what's on the map and not the other way around; when it doesn't the problem is with the world, not the map.

From AFP (11/21/2012):

Aussie scientists un-discover Pacific island

SYDNEY — A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to Australian scientists who went searching for the mystery landmass during a geological expedition.

The sizeable phantom island in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Google Earth and Google maps and is supposedly midway between Australia and the French-governed New Caledonia.

The Times Atlas of the World appears to identify it as Sable Island. Weather maps used by the Southern Surveyor, an Australian maritime research vessel, also say it exists, according to Dr Maria Seton.

But when the Southern Surveyor, which was tasked with identifying fragments of the Australian continental crust submerged in the Coral Sea, steamed to where it was supposed to be, it was nowhere to be found.

"We wanted to check it out because the navigation charts on board the ship showed a water depth of 1,400 metres (4,620 feet) in that area -- very deep," Seton, from the University of Sydney, told AFP after the 25-day voyage.

"It's on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no island. We're really puzzled. It's quite bizarre.

"How did it find its way onto the maps? We just don't know, but we plan to follow up and find out."

News of the invisible island sparked debate on social media, with tweeter Charlie Loyd outpointing that Sandy Island is also on Yahoo Maps as well as Bing Maps "but it disappears up close".

On, discussions were robust with one poster claiming he had confirmed with the French hydrographic office that it was indeed a phantom island and was supposed to have been removed from charts in 1979.

Another claimed: "Many mapmakers put in deliberate but unobtrusive and non-obvious 'mistakes' into their maps so that they can know when somebody steals the map data."

Google was not immediately available for comment. But the Google Maps product manager for Australia and New Zealand told the Sydney Morning Herald a variety of authoritative public and commercial sources were used in building maps.

"The world is a constantly changing place, and keeping on top of these changes is a never-ending endeavour," Nabil Naghdy told the newspaper.

The closest landmass to the invisible island is the Chesterfields, a French archipelago of uninhabited coral sand cays.

Here's Google Earth screenshot of "Sandy Island". I can understand the map may have the island, but on Google Earth? "Sandy Island" looks like a cut-out hole.

A Man Takes Hostage at Credit Union in Aichi, Demands Food, Megaphone, and Resignation of Noda Cabinet

(UPDATE as of 4:35AM November 23 Japan Time)

At 3:08AM, the Aichi prefectural police made a daring rescue attempt which was successful. The police released the hostages and arrested the man, according to Chunichi Shinbun. Before he was finally arrested, he had gotten all he wanted - bento, drink, cigarettes, megaphone, flood light - except for one thing, obviously: resignation of the Noda cabinet.

It will happen anyway, post-election, whether Mr. Noda is able to form a coalition or not.


I thought it was a made-up story in one of the popular Japanese message boards, but it turns out to be real.

I don't think I have ever heard of a Japanese hostage taking situation where the demand is the resignation of the cabinet.

From Yahoo Japan News quoting Yomiuri (11/22/2012):


A man with a knife barricades himself in Toyokawa Credit Union, takes 5 hostages


There was an emergency notification from Toyokawa Credit Union Zoshi Branch in Zoshi, Toyokawa City in Aichi Prefecture at about 2:20PM on November 22 to the Aichi Prefectural Police.


According to the Police and the credit union, a man in his 30s or 40s has barricaded himself with a knife, and 5 people including bank employees and a customer have been taken hostage. They are a male deputy branch manager (41 years old), female employees aged 27 and 19, a female part-time worker aged 55, and one female customer.


The branch is shuttered and one cannot see inside. To the policemen who have rushed to the scene, the man is demanding food and drink. He is also demanding the resignation of the Noda cabinet and the media coverage.

FNN News says the man also wants a megaphone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Toshiba's Robot for #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Is a Dud, Japanese Media Is Mum on Shortcomings as Toshiba Tries to Sell to TEPCO

While all Japanese media seem to have simply copied and pasted Toshiba's PR material and called it a "news article", AP actually reported what the reporter saw at a demonstration held in Yokohama on November 21, 2012.

If you just read the Japanese media, Toshiba's four-legged robot has wonderful features. According to one of the media, Sankei Biz (11/22/2012):

  • It can withstand 100 millisieverts/hour radiation for almost a year, working 10 hours a day;

  • It can move at 1 kilometer/hour, work for 2 hours straight (...wait a minute, you just said it can work 10 hours..);

  • It can climb stairs, carry 20 kilograms of load.

But according to AP's Japanese reporter,

  • During the demonstration, it took a misstep, with one leg frozen up in the air, and the robot had to be carried off the stairs and rebooted;

  • It took one minute to climb one stair;

  • If it falls, it cannot get up by itself.

Duh. AP's Ms. Kageyama correctly asks, "What exactly is the robot capable of doing?"

From Bradenton Herald, quoting AP (11/21/2012; emphasis is mine):

Toshiba shows off robot meant to help at nuke site

By YURI KAGEYAMA — AP Business Writer

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Toshiba Corp. has developed a robot it says can withstand high radiation to work in nuclear disasters, but it's not clear what exactly the robot is capable of doing if and when it gets the go-ahead to enter Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The four-legged robot can climb over debris and venture into radiated areas off-limits to humans. One significant innovation, Toshiba said, is that its wireless network can be controlled in high radiation, automatically seeking better transmission when reception becomes weak.

But the machine, which looks like an ice cooler on wobbly metal legs, also appears prone to glitches. The robot took a jerky misstep during a demonstration to reporters, freezing with one leg up in the air. It had to be lifted by several people and rebooted.

The robot was also notably slow in climbing a flight of eight steps, cautiously lifting its legs one by one, and taking about a minute to go up each step.

With obstacles that aren't as even and predictable as steps, such as the debris at the Fukushima plant, it may need as much as 10 minutes to figure out how to clear the object, Toshiba acknowledged.

And if it ever falls, it will not be able to get up on its own.

Still, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it might use the robot to inspect the suppression chamber of the nuclear plant where a devastating meltdown occurred after a mammoth tsunami slammed into northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

Toshiba began developing the robot with hopes it would prove useful in helping to decommission the plant. No human has been able to enter the highly radiated chamber since the tsunami disaster.

"We need this to go in and first check what is there," Toshiba Senior Manager Goro Yanase said Wednesday.

It was unclear when a decision on the robot's use would be made, according to TEPCO, which operates the nuclear plant.

Although what Toshiba showed was top-notch robotics, what the machine might be able to do appeared limited in the face of the disaster's magnitude and complexity.

Japan boasts among the world's most sophisticated robotics technology, exemplified in the walking, talking human-shaped Asimo robot from Honda Motor Co. The inability of such gadgetry to help out with the Fukushima disaster was widely criticized.

Part of the reason is that robots, although suited for tasks such as greeting visitors at dealerships, are too delicate. Their wireless remote-controlled networks are not designed to endure high radiation. Honda has acknowledged Asimo would not have been able to withstand the environment at Fukushima, as some had suggested.

Toshiba's Yanase said the new robot, which has a dosimeter to measure radiation and six cameras, can stay in a 100 millisievert environment for about a year and can tolerate even higher radiated areas for shorter periods. At 100 millisieverts, the rise in cancer cases caused by radiation becomes statistically detectable, although even lower dose radiation is not advisable for people.

The suppression chamber was 360 millisieverts the last time it was measured, TEPCO said.

Decommissioning Fukushima Dai-ichi is expected to take decades.

Reading the Sankei article, Toshiba seems to be pressuring TEPCO to take its robot and use it (somehow) at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, as Toshiba expands its portfolio of post-nuclear-disaster technologies that includes gamma-ray camera, SARRY, and the new multi-nuclide decontamination facility (ALPS).

Why does a robot have to be a hunky gadget loaded with stuff and why does it need to climb stairs to begin with? A host of tiny, self-organizing and collaborating drones still gets my vote.

If the robot has to have legs, MIT spin-off's BigDog is not bad either, able to run 5 miles per hour, carrying loads:

Compare this with the Toshiba's robot...

(H/T Twitter follower @metro172)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Leak from SARRY's Vent Line

(I didn't even know that SARRY had a vent line.)

The cause of the leak seems to be elementary (yet again). They had a plug in the drain line, so the contaminated water that should have gone to the drain line went up and out of the vent line instead.

What has happened to "attention to detail" which has been a hallmark of Japanese processes? (Or "was" a hallmark?)

Fukushima I Nuke Plant is entering the second winter since the nuclear accident, and many, many more winters to come until the plant is decommissioned. Well beyond the attention span of most Japanese.

From TEPCO (11/20/2012):

French Officials Accuse US of Hacking Sarkozy's Computers, Attacks Bear Hallmarks of "Flame"

From The Hill (11/20/2012; emphasis is mine):

Report: French officials accuse US of hacking Sarkozy's computers

The United States used U.S.-Israeli spy software to hack into the French presidential office earlier this year, the French cyberwarfare agency has concluded, according to the newsmagazine l'Express.

The magazine reported late Tuesday that the computers of several close advisers to then-president Nicolas Sarkozy – including Chief of Staff Xavier Musca – were compromised in May by a computer virus that bears the hallmarks of Flame, which was allegedly created by a U.S.-Israeli team to target Iran's nuclear program. Anonymous French officials pointed the finger at the United States.

“You can be on very good terms with a 'friendly' country and still want to guarantee their unwavering support – especially during a transition period,” an official told the magazine. The alleged spying attack took place a few days before the second round of the French presidential elections, which Sarkozy lost to Francois Hollande, a socialist.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reportedly did not deny the allegations when asked point-blank about them.

“We have no greater partner than France, we have no greater ally than France,” Napolitano reportedly answered, at the opening of an interview with l'Express. “We cooperate in many security-related areas. I am here to further reinforce those ties and create new ones.”

In the interview, Napolitano also said that the Flame and Stuxnet viruses had “never been linked to the U.S. government.”

The White House did not return a request for comment from The Hill.

I remember there was a little noted piece of news earlier this month that the oil giant Chevron admitted that their system was infected with Stuxnet.

From CNET (11/8/2012):

Stuxnet, the sophisticated computer virus that attacked a nuclear enrichment facility in Iran two years ago, also inadvertently infected Chevron's network.

Reportedly created by the U.S. and Israel, the highly destructive worm was designed to infect Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. Rather than steal data, Stuxnet left a back door meant to be accessed remotely to allow outsiders to stealthily knock the facility offline and at least temporarily cripple Iran's nuclear program.

The oil giant discovered the malware in July 2010 after the virus escaped from its intended target, Mark Koelmel, Chevron's general manager of the earth sciences department, told The Wall Street Journal.

"I don't think the U.S. government even realized how far it had spread," he said. "I think the downside of what they did is going to be far worse than what they actually accomplished."

A Chevron spokesperson told CNET that the company's network was not adversely affected by the virus.

"Two years ago, our security systems identified the Stuxnet virus. We immediately addressed the issue without incident," a Chevron representative said.

What does Stuxnet have to do with Flame? It turns out that they share the same source codes, according to Computerworld (6/11/2012):

The two pieces of malware -- Flame for reconnaissance, Stuxnet for attack -- each included a module that appears to originate from the same source code, likely written by a single programmer.

Persistent comments that Fukushima I Nuke Plant was infected by Stuxnet don't seem to take into account, though, that their network system hadn't been quite brought up to speed in the PC era, not advanced enough to get infected.

Monday, November 19, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: A Small Victory in Osaka City? Disaster Debris Test Burn on November 24 Halted?

The boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City, having absorbed Shintaro Ishihara's Taiyo (Sun) Party and no doubt absorbed the subsidy money for the political parties in Japan (it's a generous subsidy from the national government, funded by taxpayers, 250 yen per citizen every year), was just going to declare the end of the City Assembly session today (November 20, 2012) so that he can focus on the national election.

But on the last day of the session, a meeting of the Public Welfare and Health Committee was held, and an assemblywoman from Liberal Democratic Party submitted a motion to suspend the test burn of disaster debris from Iwate and continue to study the health effect from the debris burning. The motion passed, quite unexpectedly.

So, people who have tirelessly been campaigning on-and off-line against the debris burn in their city (for that matter, they've been against any city, calling the bureaucrats and officials everywhere and visiting them to talk in person) and have almost given up because of the boy-wonder just does what he wants, are stunned.

It's still unclear what will happen next. It seems LDP of Osaka City is saying the burn will be stopped, but Komei Party is not so sure and says if the mayor wants to do it he will just do it. As far as they know, and I can gather, the test burn may be put on hold until January at least.

I wonder what will happen to the container ship on route from Iwate to Osaka.

By the way, the boy-wonder mayor, after having a haircut that shows his forehead to fit in with the Ishihara's group, now looks like just a tired middle-aged man. He's campaigning for his party, while remaining as the mayor of Osaka City.

He looked like this, until very recently:

According to Hokkaido Shinbun (11/20/2012), he apparently said to the crowd in Osaka (rumors have it that his crowd is well-paid):


"Try us once, to run this nation of Japan."

Once is more than enough.

Latest Numbers on Thyroid Testing in Fukushima (November 1, 2012)

From the September 2012 report (that details the result of the fiscal 2011 testing) and November 2012 report from the Fukushima prefectural government on the thyroid testing for children in Fukushima, using ultrasound:

Number of children tested so far (2011, 2012): 114,471
Number of children whose test results have been confirmed, as of September 28: 95,954
(to base the ratios of children with nodules and cysts)

Number of children with nodules larger than 5mm: 491 (0.51%)
Number of children with nodules 5mm or less: 432 (0.45%)

Number of children with cysts larger than 20mm: 5 (0.005%)
Number of children with cysts 20mm or less: 37,758 (39.35%)
(Of the above, children with cysts 3mm or less: 21,031)

In regular medical practice, thyroid cysts of 3mm or less are considered as "no cysts", according to the Fukushima Prefecture.

Summary page of the November 2012 report by the Fukushima prefectural government (English labels are mine):

And the page that has the breakdown of the cyst by size, for children tested in the fiscal 2012 up to September 28, 2012 (English labels are mine):

People in Japan continue to freak out after listening to Dr. Caldicott, particularly over her remark that 40 percent of 80,000 children tested in Fukushima "have thyroid abnormalities, which is incredibly rare in pediatrics". (Around 11:30 into the video.)

US Treasury Secretary Timmy Geithner: Eliminate Debt Ceiling Altogether

Hear that, Japanese politicians? You're behind the curve again. Instead of voting each time to issue another batch of bills, notes and bonds for further deficit spending like you just did, you could simply get rid of the restrictions to issue debt.

Geithner's Debt 4Eva will go together wonderfully with Ben "Blackhawk" Bernanke's Quantitative Easing 4Eva.

From Bloomberg News on Friday (11/16/2012; part):

...Geithner said in the interview the debt ceiling should be eliminated, and “the sooner the better.” Without an increase in the ceiling, the government may not be able to pay all of its bills and risks defaulting on its debt. Congress and the Obama administration debated the limit for months last year before reaching an 11th-hour agreement in August 2011.

On the so-called "fiscal cliff", he wholeheartedly agrees with the CEO of one of the largest retailers in the world, Wal-Mart:

Geithner said he agreed with Michael Duke, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), that consumers need a quick agreement on the fiscal cliff.

“The uncertainty right now about whether this will be resolved on sensible terms, whether our middle-class families will see their taxes go up, already is having an effect on consumer confidence and the economy,” he said.

Let's see, the government's so-called solution to "solving" the fiscal cliff is mostly about which consumer group to tax further and by how much. According to Geithner and the Wal-Mart CEO, as soon as the consumers know for sure they will be taxed heavily, they will start spending. Makes sense.

Meanwhile, one of the past Nobel Prize winners in economics is promoting his wonderful idea of bringing back 91% tax rate. Move over, Monsieur Hollande (whose proposal is to tax the "rich" at 75%).

People like Dr. Krugman or Mr. Warren Buffet (who also begs the government to tax him) have an option to contribute to reducing the government debt without involving others. They could simply contribute their money to the Treasury Department. The Treasury Department says you can even use your credit card, and do it online at

You get to incur further personal debt in order to save the federal government. Makes sense.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is Thyroid Cancer in Children Rare in Japan?

Tweets that get retweeted by people in Japan that I follow have been abuzz with the talk given by Dr. Helen Caldicott, whom Mr. Kouta Kinoshita has invited to speak in several cities in Japan. Many seem to be freaking out, particularly as the news of another case of thyroid cancer found among Fukushima children broke at the same time and Dr. Caldicott states it is extremely rare for children to have thyroid cancer.

Is it that rare?

People on Twitter are saying "2 cases [actually one confirmed case in September and one suspected case this time] of thyroid cancer among 114,000 children tested so far in Fukushima, that's extraordinarily high, not seen anywhere else in the world! It's usually one in several millions for children!"

So I decided to look for the data on thyroid cancer cases by sex and age, and found it at Japan's National Cancer Center's website for cancer statistics.

According to Center for Cancer Control and Information Services, National Cancer Center, Japan (from their excel sheet cancer_incidence(1975-2007).xls):

Number of cases in 2007

age 0 - 14: zero
age 15 - 19: 14

age 0 - 9: zero
age 10 -14: 6
age 15 - 19: 41

Disease rates in 2007 (cases per 100,000)

age 0 - 14: zero
age 15 - 19: 0.4

age 0 - 9: zero
age 10 - 14: 0.2
age 15 - 19: 1.3

The sex and the age of the child with the confirmed case have not been disclosed, but the second suspected case is a girl in her late teens, between 16 and 18 years old, as disclosed by the Fukushima Medical University committee.

There are total 365,590 children in Fukushima aged 0 to 19 as of October 2011, according to the Fukushima prefectural government data. (Excel sheet)

National Cancer Center's data shows the disease rate for girls aged 10 to 14 hasn't changed much over the years, but that for girls aged 15 to 19 has risen with the rise of the overall rate for the entire females. For Japanese females, a big jump seems to have happened between 1989 and 1991.

As a comparison, here's the link to UK's thyroid cancer incidence statistics. The rate for females age 15 to 19 looks to be slightly above 1 per 100,000.


(UPDATE) One of my Twitter followers sent me a tweet with the link to Dr. Caldicott's speech. In it, she says the first confirmed case of thyroid cancer was a 12-year-old boy. No idea how she got that information, as the Fukushima prefectural government and Fukushima Medical University haven't disclosed the details of the child at all.

So, for that age group (10 to 14), the maximum rate since 1975 is 0.5 per 100,000 in 1999, according to the National Cancer Center data above.