Crisis at Fukushima dwarfs all other concerns

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Good morning:

Grim news from Fukushima.

BettyKath posted this article by Harvey Wasserman. He is Senior Editor of the Columbus Free Press and http://www.freepress.org where this was originally published. He edits http://www.nukefree.org where the petition for global intervention at Fukushima is linked.

The Crisis at Fukushima 4 Demands a Global Take-Over September 19, 2013

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Why is this so serious?

We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.

Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool.Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.

Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific. Fresh reports show that Tepco has just dumped another thousand tons of contaminated liquids into the sea (http://www.alternet.org/environment/)

The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.

The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.

Just prior to the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.

Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.

According to Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with forty years in an industry for which he once manufactured fuel rods, the ones in the Unit 4 core are bent, damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling. Cameras have shown troubling quantities of debris in the fuel pool, which itself is damaged.

The engineering and scientific barriers to emptying the Unit Four fuel pool are unique and daunting, says Gundersen. But it must be done to 100% perfection.

Should the attempt fail, the rods could be exposed to air and catch fire, releasing horrific quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. The pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and possibly explode. The resulting radioactive cloud would threaten the health and safety of all us.

Chernobyl’s first 1986 fallout reached California within ten days. Fukushima’s in 2011 arrived in less than a week. A new fuel fire at Unit 4 would pour out a continuous stream of lethal radioactive poisons for centuries.

Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers.

We have two months or less to act.

For now, we are petitioning the United Nations and President Obama to mobilize the global scientific and engineering community to take charge at Fukushima and the job of moving these fuel rods to safety.

You can sign the petition at: http://www.nukefree.org/crisis-fukushima-4-petition-un-us-global-response

If you have a better idea, please follow it. But do something and do it now.

The clock is ticking. The hand of global nuclear disaster is painfully close to midnight.

23 Responses to Crisis at Fukushima dwarfs all other concerns

  1. Deborah Moore says:

    Gonna eat and watch a movie.
    Have a good Saturday evening, folks.

  2. Deborah Moore says:

    Sha la la la la.

  3. Deborah Moore says:

    Hello, Saturday Night.
    Playing youtube dj for myself, I found this video.
    Didn’t look up the background on it, ’cause it’s so awesome anyway.
    Check out the back up “girls”.
    Without looking at stats, I’d say that’s Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Warrens, and KD Lang.

  4. aussie says:

    The technologies and buildings of most existing nuclear plants are 50 years old. They should not be recertified for another 20 years…. they were not built to last that long.

    That’s not to say nuclear is too dangerous to be used. There are newer technologies, such molten salt fusion, which can use up 95% of the fuel (as against about 5% of the existing old ones) — including the wastes of current plants which are causing the biggest disposal headaches. Such units could be built on existing sites and safely use up the stockpiled wastes. The electrical side of the infrastructure is already there.

    This won’t help Fukushima at all. The company doesn’t have the expertise — nobody has really, but a world group of experts together should be able to work it. The company also hasn’t been totally forthcoming with the Government; loss of face may be a factor but the longer they leave asking for help the worse that will get.

    Meanwhile, amazingly, there have not been deaths directly caused by this. The thyroid problem is easily fixed by giving the whole population, but children especially, iodine supplements to push out the radioactive iodine. Even Chernobyl resulted in very few deaths and that was mostly workers sent in up close to deal with it, after the event. But they DID deal with it. Fukushima has been put off and put off and it’s time to start DEALING with it.

    • bettykath says:

      I’d prefer all energy and money go into renewable energy. No more nukes, of any kind!

      I think they have been trying to deal with it but putting bandaids on a hemorrhage just doesn’t work. I’m beginning to think they are like kids playing doctor when what’s needed is a full, skilled trauma unit.

  5. looneydoone says:

    Living within a few yards of the Pacific Ocean and near a 500 hectare organic vegetable, poultry ranch we are all in a controlled panic over the Fukushima debacle.
    I will not eat anything caught outside the waters of Mar de Cortez (Sea of Cortez)

    • cielo62 says:

      Looney doone- even without radiation, I won’t eat anything caught in the Gulf of Mexico! Polluted water, left over oil from BP… YUCK!

      Sent from my iPad

      • looneydoone says:

        cielo, Mar de Cortez (aka Sea of Cortez, Gulf of California) is one of the few pristine bodies of water on the planet. The variety and abundance of marine life is amazing…I don’t believe any of the catch is sold in the usa.

        • cielo62 says:

          Looney doone- ah! I didn’t know that! I didn’t know pristine water existed naturally anymore. What the fuck are we doing to our poor planet? 😦

          Sent from my iPad

          • looneydoone says:

            cielo,
            It’s a protected heritage site, no large scale or foreign fishing operations allowed. The waters are crystal clear. Cousteau called it the ocean nursery. There are Whale sharks, giant Manta Rays, shrimp, scallops, sea bass, halibut, oysters, clams, octopus, and more. Catches are closely monitored. Diving is spectacular (not near the northern reaches, but mid-point southward)

          • Crane and I went diving there and it was spectacular, particularly an underwater seamount that topped out at 80 feet.

            Missed the hammerheads. It was July and they had moved to deeper colder water.

  6. Two sides to a story says:

    I’ve been watching the slow train wreck from some energy blogs that keep track of happenings in Fukushima. Interesting that mainstream media around the world ignores it.

  7. cielo62 says:

    This scared me shitless. I say lets send the entire GOP contingent of climate change deniers there.

  8. bettykath says:

    They have proposed an “ice wall” around the site. This means a huge earthen dike that is refrigerated till frozen solid. The initial problem with this is the length of time needed for the dike to freeze. The on-going problem, assuming we aren’t annihilated first, is the enormous mount of energy that’s required to keep it frozen.

    There are several nuke plants in the US that would not be able to withstand a seismic event of any consequence. And there are those who want to renew certification for another 20 years and even build more.

    Nukes were sold as the cheapest form of energy but that’s true only if the storage and clean up of the waste isn’t considered. Taxpayers have backed the building of these and then get stuck with the clean up but the engineers were never given the job of finding a permanent solution to the clean up, only temporary storage.

    It looks like the only safe place is somewhere in the southern hemisphere.

  9. This is an extremely serious situation that I have been following for months.

    I don’t believe we humans have an answer that will solve this problem.

  10. crazy1946 says:

    It would seem that the human animal not only is the only creature capable of destroying our environment (and us with it), it would seem that it is hell bent on doing it… The real question is (or could be), do we have the ability to solve this growing problem? Or perhaps we could ask do we have the resolve to do so? When mankind has destroyed it’s own (and almost all other species) habitat, do you think the lowly Cockroach will do a better job of managing the world than we have? Is it time now to go ahead and bend over and kiss our collective A**** good bye? Look at the bright side, at least we won’t have to give the IRS any more money, right?

  11. crazy1946 says:

    Hmmm….

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