I wish I didn’t have to write anymore posts about fecking Fukushima, but alas: In March 2011, at the time of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, there were 54 nuclear reactors operating in Japan. After the Fukushima disaster the reactors have been gradually shut down, ostensibly for safety checks, and this weekend the final reactor will be shut down (it will be the first time in forty years that Japan has been without nuclear power). Due to ever growing public concern it doesn’t seem likely that any of them will ever be in service again. Seventeen of the reactors are owned and operated by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co), including of course the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Last December, just before Christmas, the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, announced that the four crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima had been stabilised and were in cold shutdown (see here). It all sounded like the crisis was over, but of course it wasn’t. Incredibly high levels of radiation at Fukushima have made the clean-up job all but impossible. Nothing is under control and for more than four hundred days now, Fukushima has been spewing all kinds of toxic crap into the atmosphere and the water table and the ocean (my advice would be not to eat anything that comes from the sea, where ever in the world you live). Here’s a recent Russia Today piece about it…
One thing that these high levels of radiation tell us is that nuclear fission is still occuring in one or more reactor buildings at Fukushima. There is by no means a ‘cold shutdown’ at Fukushima. In fact, the situation is growing ever worse. The main danger is the 10,000 or so spent fuel rods that are stored at the plant (the rods are stored on site because there’s nowhere else to put them). Here’s what Robert Alvarez has to say about spent fuel rods in a recent Huffington Post article:
Robert Alvarez is part of a large group of people who this week have sent a request to the United Nations for help with the Fukushima disaster, as follows:
Urgent Request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
May 1, 2012
To: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
An Urgent Request on UN Intervention to Stabilize the Fukushima Unit 4 Spent Nuclear Fuel
Recently, former diplomats and experts both in Japan and abroad stressed the extremely risky condition of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool and this is being widely reported by world media. Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), who is one of the best-known experts on spent nuclear fuel, stated that in Unit 4 there is spent nuclear fuel which contains Cesium-137 (Cs-137) that is equivalent to 10 times the amount that was released at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Thus, if an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain, this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.
Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies at the Fukushima Daiichi plant sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl.
Nuclear experts from the US and Japan such as Arnie Gundersen, Robert Alvarez, Hiroaki Koide, Masashi Goto, and Mitsuhei Murata, a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, and, Akio Matsumura, a former UN diplomat, have continually warned against the high risk of the Fukushima Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.
US Senator Roy Wyden, after his visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 6 April, 2012, issued a press release on 16 April, pointing out the catastrophic risk of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, calling for urgent US government intervention. Senator Wyden also sent a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, requesting Japan to accept international assistance to tackle the crisis.
We Japanese civil organizations express our deepest concern that our government does not inform its citizens about the extent of risk of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool. Given the fact that collapse of this pool could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences with worldwide implications, what the Japanese government should be doing as a responsible member of the international community is to avoid any further disaster by mobilizing all the wisdom and the means available in order to stabilize this spent nuclear fuel. It is clearly evident that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool is no longer a Japanese issue but an international issue with potentially serious consequences. Therefore, it is imperative for the Japanese government and the international community to work together on this crisis before it becomes too late. We are appealing to the United Nations to help Japan and the planet in order to prevent the irreversible consequences of a catastrophe that could affect generations to come. We herewith make our urgent request to you as follows:
1. The United Nations should organize a Nuclear Security Summit to take up the crucial problem of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.
2. The United Nations should establish an independent assessment team on Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 and coordinate international assistance in order to stabilize the unit’s spent nuclear fuel and prevent radiological consequences with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Original text can be found here.
Arnie Gundersen, a signatory to the above document, was on KGO radio in California a few weeks ago, talking about the situation at Fukushima…
There’s been very little in the mainstream media about the incredibly dangerous situation at Fukushima (think about that). However, Senator Ron Wyden did get some coverage after he returned from his fact finding trip to Japan. Here’s an interview he gave to MSNBC on 17th April…