Jeffrey LewisNuclear Boy

I am not sure I understand why, but this made me smile.  Maybe it was the earnestness.  But, amidst the worst nuclear catastrophe in decades, a smile is definitely worth something.


  1. anonymous (History)

    Great video.

    On a serious note, can’t they use the helicopter to plant a remote video camera facing the pools of the open roofed Units 1, 3, and 4. If the fuel is still partially in water it would go a long way towards knowing if criticality is a risk or not. They could judge the geometry of the remaining fuel and decide if the neutron absorbers are still there or gone. This guessing while spraying water (which I hope is boron’d) is risky. Seems to me that Unit 4 would have already melted down if it was going to, so all they are doing is placing water shielding on the spent fuel so they can have human access. For all we know the water steam is spreading more radiation than it is preventing.

    • FSB (History)

      what do you mean by criticality ?

    • Red_Blue (History)

      “Recriticality” in the context of the spent fuel rods at the spent fuel pools refers to a hypothetical accident scenario where allmost all of the water boils off, most of the zirconium cladding oxidises, the steel-boron fuel racks collapse and the remaining pellets drop to the bottom of the pool in such a configuration that will support fission.

      Basically a total or partial meltdown of the spent fuel. While the fuel initially is less hot (thermally and in fissionable isotopes) than fuel in an operating reactor, the neutron poison concentration of the resulting melted “corium” is less and the attainable geometry of the dispersed fuel quite unpredictable.

    • FSB (History)

      Criticality is like so not going to happen w/ LEU.

  2. Nick (History)

    The following link should help:

  3. Masako (History)

    Thanks, Jeffrey, for posting this. This gave me a bit of laughter and warmness somehow. I do not know why, but I think the person who created this is genuinly hoping to help people suffering. I realized that I have not laughted very much since last Friday, and I do not think I can do it from the bottom of my heart yet. But I know laughter is good for your health both mentally and physically.

  4. Dan Joyner (History)

    That’s awesome Jeffrey. Thanks for that, it’s not only humorous but touching and quite a clever metaphor.

  5. Andrew Tubbiolo (History)

    I stand in awe at the ability of the Japanese (Or at least a Japanese person.) to turn a major disaster into potty humor. We somehow have lost that ability, I’m glad to see it still exits in other cultures when faced with greater peril that we did with 9/11. A major event American culture has yet to generate any real humor over. I’m not saying that because I think it’s good to make light of disaster, but it is part of the mourning and coping process. This gives me some hope for a more sane than not Japanese response to their ongoing dangers.

  6. anonymous (History)


    Criticality occurs as a matter of normal operation in a LEU power reactor. Its when the fission process is self sustaining such that neutrons from prior fissions are used for new fissions.

    Its a risk that the mass of uranium including the fissionable fraction of 235 creates a self sustaining configuration where the energy and radiatiion output goes up exponentially. Happened to chernobyl and could happen in the spent fuel pond if the fuel is arrange just right with no neutron absorbers and a water moderator to increase the fission probability of each neutron. 35

    • *Eve (History)

      We should just call it fuel pool #4, due to the fact the whole unspent core is in that pool – 135 tons of LEU is in there.

  7. Cecile Click Yamamoto (History)

    I don’t think this is meant to be funny or entertaining. It seems to me that it is a very wonderful way to frame this event for children and anyone else who does not have the education to understand what is going on in this plant by dint of straight instruction. It is a good analogy for chidlren and everyone else. Yes, Japan is a culture where things like unchi and onara (poop and farts) are not such an embarrassment and such public references like this do not create the same titilation as they might in American children and adults. The Japanese children’s book Minna Unchi, which has been translated as Everyone Poops, is an absolutely brilliant way of giving a small child struggling with potty training a helpful perspective on the biological process of defecation and how various animals deal with it in order to make the task less onerous, I would imagine. I read it to my kids. I would say that this short animated film is in that tradition. Not meant to be funny but instructive. We must remember that lots of young ears are picking something up…schools are being let out early. So thank you to whoever had the insight to tell the story to the kids like this. It sure makes it less scary which is the point. And, as far as I know it is an accurate depiction of the event. And YES we here in Tokyo and the affected area need to all give these “doctors” our deep gratitude and prayers. But that is something the Japanese are very good at, too. Maybe the ritual of the bow helps that process along.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I didn’t say it was intended to be funny, merely that it made me smile — something I needed that day.