Saturday, March 19, 2011

NRC Webcast Monday and How Not To Do Modeling

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission will present a webcast, "Briefing on NRC Response to Recent Nuclear Events in Japan," Monday, March 21, at 9:00 Eastern Time. You can reach the webcast from here.

In other radiation news, the New York Times may have maxed out on the potential for causing radiation hysteria. They've got a graphic that shows everybody dead within a mile from the Fukushima plant. As I noted yesterday, you need dose rate and time to calculate an exposure. The Times didn't bother with that second little detail. What's worse, though, is that this map represents some kind of modeling, and the explanation is quite clear:
The recommendation was based on a model that predicts potential radiation levels depending on whether the containment vessels remain intact, weather patterns, and other factors.
What's not clear, or even mentioned, is which of those "depending" factors (also called assumptions) were used for the calculation. For those of us who've done modeling, the first thing we ask about someone else's model is what the assumptions are. Is this a dispersal of all reactor contents? How high in the air are they blown? It looks like a worst case, or, as a colleague e-mailed, an impossible case.

The Times text also has me wondering exactly what the basis was for the US evacuation order. This graphic, with its lack of relevant information? Or other modeling results that may have made more sense?

1 comment:

Fred Z said...

One wonders what sources of information the US government could have about conditions inside the reactors that are not available to the Japanese government.