Fukushima Reactors Are a "Ticking Time Bomb," Japanese Govt in Denial
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AMY GOODMAN: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan tried Tuesday to calm fears about radiation levels and food safety in the region around the heavily damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. His comments came after Japan raised the severity rating of its nuclear crisis to the highest possible level, heightening concerns about the magnitude of the disaster.
Speaking at a news conference to mark one month since the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of the country, Japanese Prime Minister Kan said produce from the region around the Fukushima plant is safe to eat despite radiation leaks.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: [translated] From now on, people should not fall into an extreme self-restraint mood, and they should live life as normal. To consume products from the areas that have been affected is also a way in which to support the area. We should enjoy the use of such products and support the areas that have been affected. I ask you to do this.
AMY GOODMAN: A spokesperson for the International Atomic Energy Agency said the latest food sample data indicates levels of contamination are below the limits set by domestic authorities. Denis Flory, IAEA spokesperson, also said yesterday Japan’s nuclear crisis was not comparable to Chernobyl.
DENIS FLORY: The mechanics of the accidents are totally different. One happened when a reactor was at power, and the reactor containment exploded. In Fukushima, the reactor was stopped, and the containment, even if it may be somehow leaking today—and we do not know—the containment is here. So this is a totally different accident.
AMY GOODMAN: Japanese officials said they raised the severity level to 7 because of the total release of radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, not because of a sudden deterioration in the situation. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster is the only other nuclear accident rated at the highest level, 7, on a scale developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess nuclear accidents. But officials insist so far the power plant in Japan has released one-tenth as much radioactive material as Chernobyl.
To discuss the situation in Japan, as well as his latest book, we’re joined by Dr. Michio Kaku, a Japanese American physicist, a bestselling author, professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York and the City College of New York. His brand new book is Physics of the Future: How Science Will Change Daily Life by 2100.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to see you again.
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Glad to be on the show, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about this raising of the category level to 7, on a par with Chernobyl.
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, Tokyo Electric has been in denial, trying to downplay the full impact of this nuclear accident. However, there’s a formula, a mathematical formula, by which you can determine what level this accident is. This accident has already released something on the order of 50,000 trillion becquerels of radiation. You do the math. That puts it right smack in the middle of a level 7 nuclear accident. Still, less than Chernobyl. However, radiation is continuing to leak out of the reactors. The situation is not stable at all. So, you’re looking at basically a ticking time bomb. It appears stable, but the slightest disturbance—a secondary earthquake, a pipe break, evacuation of the crew at Fukushima—could set off a full-scale meltdown at three nuclear power stations, far beyond what we saw at Chernobyl.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about exactly—I mean, as a physicist, to explain to people—exactly what has taken place in Japan at these nuclear power plants.