Environment  
comments_image Comments

Disaster Spiraling Out of Control at Fukushima as Japan's Prime Minister Asks for Global Help

Massive quantities of heavily contaminated water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean, dousing workers along the way. Huge, flimsy tanks are leaking untold tons of highly radioactive fluids.
 
 
Share

Workers preparing to take apart a contamination water tank where radioactive materials were leaked at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Photo Credit: AFP

 
 
 
 

Japan’s pro-nuclear Prime Minister has finally asked for global help at Fukushima. It probably hasn’t hurt that more than 100,000 people have  signed petitions calling for a global takeover; more than 8,000 have viewed a  new YouTube on it.

Massive quantities of heavily contaminated water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean, dousing workers along the way. Hundreds of huge, flimsy tanks are leaking untold tons of highly radioactive fluids. 

At Unit #4, more than 1300 fuel rods, with more than 400 tons of extremely radioactive material, containing potential cesium fallout comparable to 14,000 Hiroshima bombs,  are stranded 100 feet in the air.

All this more than 30 months after the earthquake/tsunami led to three melt-downs and at least four explosions. 

“Our country needs your knowledge and expertise” he has said to the world community.  “We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem.”

But is he serious? 

“I am aware of three US companies with state of the art technology that have been to Japan repeatedly and have been rebuffed by the Japanese government,” says Arnie Gundersen, a Vermont-based nuclear engineer focused on Fukushima. 

“I have spoken with six Japanese medical doctors who have said that they were told not to discuss radiation induced medical issues with their patients. None will speak out to the press. 

“Three American University professors...were afraid to sign the UN petition to Ban Ki-Moon because it would endanger their Japanese colloquies who they are doing research with.” 

Abe, he says (to paraphrase it politely), might not be entirely forthcoming. 

Fukushima Daiichi is less than 200 miles from Tokyo. Prevailing winds generally blow out to sea---directly towards the United States, where Fukushima’s fallout was measured less than a week after the initial disaster. 

But radioactive hot spots have already been found in Tokyo. A worst-case cloud would eventually make Japan an uninhabitable waste-land. What it could do to the Pacific Ocean and the rest of us downwind approaches the unthinkable. 

“If you calculate the amount of cesium 137 in the pool” at Unit #4, “the amount is equivalent to 14,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs,” says Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at the  Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute 

The Unit #4 fuel assemblies were pulled for routine maintenance just prior to the earthquake/tsunami. An International Atomic Energy Agency document says they were exposed to the open air,  did catch fire and did release radiation

Since none of the six GE-designed Daiichi reactors has a containment over the fuel pools, that radiation poured directly into the atmosphere. Dozens more designed like these reactors operate in the US and around the world. 

Then corrosive sea water was dumped into the pool. 

Unit #4 was damaged in the quake, and by an explosion possibly caused by hydrogen leaking in from Unit #3. It shows signs of buckling and of sinking into soil turning to mud by water flowing down from the mountains, and from attempts to cool the cores missing from Units #1, #2 and #3. 

Tokyo Electric Power and the Japanese government may try to bring down the Unit #4 rods next month. With cranes operated by computers, that might normally take about 100 days. But this requires manual control. Tepco says they’ll try to do it in a year (half their original estimate) presumably to beat the next earthquake. 

But the pool may be damaged and corroded. Loose debris is visible. The rods and assemblies may be warped. Gundersen says they’re embrittled and may be crumbling. 

 
See more stories tagged with: