Wednesday, March 30, 2011
We wake up today, as every day, with an uncontrollable nuclear wound on the side of the world. Welcome to a more radioactive world.
The truth is out. Three Japanese reactors are melting down.
I'm Alex Smith. In this Radio Ecoshock special, you will hear the evidence, the testimony, the awful facts. For the frightened people of Japan. For the world.
Radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors has been measured on a hill just behind my home. Very small amounts have spread across the Northern Hermisphere, across America, to Glasgow, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Russia. And into Asia, to China, Korea, and even the Philippines. Perhaps only earthquake-struck New Zealand remains untouched.
A greater global tragedy, and personal threat to you, may or may not happen. Certainly the island of Japan is blighted, and oceans around the world will become more radioactive than before. In this program, we talk risks, and pass on civil defense tips, survival information coming out of Japan.
In the second half of the program we're going to zero in on one of the most dangerous nuclear reactors in the United States. You will hear from long-time activist Rochelle Becker, and lawyer Steven Weissman.
Out of 100 old and dangerous American nukes, which did we pick as the most dangerous American reactor of the week? Here is you first clue: at what reactor complex were 1900 people arrested in a few weeks, the largest anti-nuclear arrest record in American history?
But what about this melt-down. Why should you believe that, as I do?
The Japanese government and the utility Tepco have said for over a week that a "partial melt-down" is occuring at all three Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors that had fuel in them when the earthquake struck - Numbers 1 to 3.
A Russian expert, Professor Vladimir Kuznetsov, an advisor to Russia's state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, was quoted in The Hindu newspaper:
“In all likelihood, fuel at the second reactor is melting and burning through the reactor containment and may get into the ocean and soil.”
But I've heard some Russian scientists say outrageous things, about climate change or the source of oil, for example. We need more.
The most serious report of a meltdown was published in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday March 29th. Richard Lahey, former head of safety research for General Electric for these types of reactors, said the core of the reactor seems to have melted through the containment vessel bottom, dripping lava-like extremely radioactive material on to the concrete floor of Reactor #2.
If true, that is certainly at least the "partial meltdown" Japanese authorities talked about, if not a posssible start to the much-feared "China Syndrome" - where nuclear material melts down through concrete and rock to reach the nearby water table, only to explode, releasing horrible radiation into the atmosphere. Japanese authorities downplay that possibility, but can we trust them?
For me, the third and final confirmation of multiple meltdowns came from a Tokyo Electric - Tepco - press conference. Remember Lahey in the Guardian was talking about Reactor 2, which the Japanese government has continually called the most serious, where they are trying to control melting fuel rods, a heating reactor, and major radioactive leaks.
But Tepco also found tons of extremely radiactive water in the other two reactors and adjacent turbine halls, Reactors 1 and 3. On Monday in Japan, in a news story filed March 29th in the English language version of the Korean news service Donga.com the following:
"In a news conference Monday evening, a corporation source said, [quote]'Pressure vessels Nos. 1 to 3 were damaged and open to the air. You can imagine images of pressure vessels with punctures,' adding, 'Water has not been filled to capacity in nuclear reactors despite efforts to inject water perhaps because pressure vessels have punctures.'
If the 16-centimeter thick pressure vessels have punctures, melted nuclear fuel could have fallen into the bottom of the vessels to form a puncture or the inner wall of the vessels could have melted, the corporation said."
End quote from Donga news and Tepco.
If Tepco has admitted all three reactor vessels have been "punctured", we can assume triple melt-downs are occuring. Even ABC News in America warned Tuesday the 29th of a possible multiple meltdown. According to ABC News, nuclear inspector Katsumo Yokata, who spent 5 days examining Reactor #2, and received a year's limit of radiation in just 5 days - there is a crack in that reactor. ABC said there could be multiple meltdowns releasing huge quantities of radiation.
In the same story, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the reactors have now cooled enough that, quote "a wild explosion is now out of the question" and barring the unpredictable, they don't see a big spike of radiation coming.
Other experts are saying the Japanese accident is already worse than Chernobl.
The news goes up and down, day by day, hour by hour, depending on who you believe. Certainly the Japanese government is now admitting this accident is out of control, polluting their country and the ocean. They are now discussing putting a special fabric cover over the reactors to limit the release of radioactive particles, but I expect that plan to drop by the time you hear this.
As I said in my podcast Japan Atomic Emergency Number 5, I expect the former main island of Japan to become split into two parts, connected by a narrow road and rail isthmus running up the West coast of the island.
Bloomberg news is reporting businesses are moving office space and production facilities out of Tokyo and into the former commercial center of Osaka, about 520 kilometers, or 320 miles southeast of Tokyo. A lot of Tokyo residents have left the city for the Southern part of the island, fearing radiation, and seeking safe drinking water. According to Japanese TV, radiation has been found in the soil 200 kilometers away from the Fukushima reactor, about 125 miles.
I expect the entire central portion of Japan will be too radiactive for farming or habitation for at least 30 years. Be sure and sign up for our podcast, on the main page at ecoshock.org, to get our periodic updates. The emergency reports are free, without any advertising, or need to sign up. Click and get them as they come out.
Farming the constant stream of news, another trend is developing - the Japanese economy is falling fast, and may take the rest of the world with it. Just take this one story: The Mitsui-owned ship MOL Presence was turned away from the Chinese port of Xiamen in Fujian province last week because the container ship was too radioactive. The ship registered at 3.5 microsieverts per hour. Mitsui company said that big ship has been in Tokyo harbor for only a few hours on March 17th.
In that short time, the ship became radioactive, and it's cargo refused by China, a major trading partner. How many Japanese ships are radioactive? How will they be decontaminated? Many shipping lines are now refusing to go to Japan, saying their insurance won't cover radiation damage to ships or the crew. The world's third largest economy, and one of the biggest exporters, is becoming shunned.
What about airplanes coming into Tokyo and other Japanese air space? Lufthansa stopped flying there almost as soon as the accident was announced. Are other aircraft radioactive, after flying through Fukushima emissions?
World trade and manufacturing is already being hit, especially the electronics and car industries. Car plants all over the world are shutting down, or preparing for shutdown, due to lack of Japanese parts, in the just-in-time delivery system. Companies are announcing diversification and we may see a blow to globalization.
Tepco stock has fallen over 70 percent. It will likely be nationalized, putting all the damage costs on the Japanese taxpayer. We can expect the same in any reactor meltdown in the world. The Japanese stock market has lost billions and billions of dollars.
Japanese hospitals admit they have practically no expertise in handling radiation victims. The system is not prepared for what is coming. On Wednesday the Telegraph newspaper reported people coming from Fukushima are being turned away from hospitals and clinics, for fear they are radioactive. The heartless shunning of survivalism has begun in Japan.
Meanwhile, Japanese authorities are caught between two awful choices, neither of which will save them. Deadly radioactive water has appeared in trenches outside the reactors which lead toward the Pacific Ocean. These trenches are anywhere from 16 metere, 52 feet, to 22 meters deep. The water within them triggers nausea with a 30 minute exposure, and death if exposed for four hours. One trench is about a meter from the surface and overflow, another just 10 centimeters below ground.
Trying to control the tons of extremely dangerous water filling the buildings and the trenches, Japan at mid-week tried to reduce water being pumped into critical reactor number 2 by 70 percent. The temperatures in that reactor, already beyond design capabilities, went up 20 degrees Celsius.
My obvious prediction is this: as long as the winds are blowing some of the air-born radioactivity West over the Pacific, Tepco may try to limit cooling water. But the minute those winds blow back over the Japanese mainland, or the melted core starts to go through basement concrete, the authorities will pump in everything they've got. That will flood the Pacific with radiation. And it won't stop long-lasting radiation from covering large parts of Japan.
If you live outside of Japan, and especially in North America, pay attention to the following clips I've collected, mainly from Japanese NHK World television. You will learn how to handle yourself in a more radioactive environment, and your own fate when, not if, one of the geriatric American reactors, or their over-stuffed fuel ponds, blows.
[Segment of clips covering top news from Japanese TV NHK World. Includes civil defense know-how for food hit by radioactive iodine. Info re: breastfeeding, pregnant women, what might be safe, boiling and home water filters have no affect on radioactive particles.
Also many reports back up what I have said, and things you need to communicate to friends, workmates, contacts. Recommended listening. With a clip of Jackson Brown "After the Deluge" (thanks VR!) - and this program contains original work by Vastman "After the 9.0" - premier on Radio Ecoshock.]
So what will happen in Japan? No one really knows. We've never seen a multiple reactor meltdown.
As one person commented on a fascinating Fukushima threat at theoildrum.com - Japan is at war. The enemy is of her own making. A tiny army, not more than 800 men, is fighting to save their country from utter devastation. To save the world from even more radiation.
All they can do is stay, until they are too sick to remain, running the pumps to slosh around water loaded with radioactive isotopes, trying to cool the damaged reactors. That could take years, if enough workers willing to die for the mother country can be found.
There is some good news. According to David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists, proper pumping equipment is keeping the hyper-dangerous spent reactor rods at least covered in their pools. They are using sea water. The pools may be damaged and leaking. Certainly heavy equipment and parts of the blown off roofs have fallen upon the carefully spaced rods. But Lochbaum predicts radiaton from that source may, may be limited to what has already escaped.
The reactors themselves, and all the rad water they are leaking out, are another matter. When the Prime Minister of Japan goes on national TV saying this is no time for optimism, things are bad.
You are alive to witness one of the great events of all human history. Radioactivity already released will be recorded in geological history for at least a half a million years. We have again changed the planet, just as we do with our carbon burden daily. As with the insane atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, we are adding yet another layer of radioactivity to our precious Earth.
That will cost us, and cost our children dearly. The only hope, where there is hope, is that you and everyone you know will make an end to the rest of the danger. Shut down the nuclear power plants. Shut them down now.
Humans have lived without electricity for more than a hundred thousand years. I lived without it for ten years, and they were good years. We are better to rise and slumber in time with the Sun, to run small things with whatever solar and wind power we can make, than ever to risk our lives, our very planet, to the killing power of the atom. Shut them down.
WORST REACTOR OF THE WEEK: DIABLO CANYON REACTORS, CALIFORNIA
In the second half of the program, we drill down to one spectacularly wrong-sited nuclear plant right on the Southern California coast. Diablo Canyon was opposed by tens of thousands marching in San Francisco, by more tens of thousands showing up at the construction site, and about 1900 people arrested, a record for anti-nuclear power activism in the United States.
Shortly before the plant was to be opened, new earthquake fault lines were discovered very near Diablo Canyon. Yet years of trying to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commision to act came to nothing. The operator, PG&E still refuses to do seismic testing requested by the State and various bodies, or to participate in an Earthquake Evacuation Plan.
Now PG&E want this earthquake-prone reactor relicensed for another 20 years - up to 75 years after construction began (in 1968). That might have sailed through, since the utility said earthquakes were nothing to worry about, they would handle anything that came up - just like Tokyo Electric assured their public.
Now, as I understand it, the NRC has withheld a decision for a year, but the plant keeps operating. Meanwhile, they are loaded up with highly radioactive waste fuel rods, without a proper protective building to prevent a terrorist attack, by airplane for example. And like every American reactor of the same design, if the power goes out for more than a day, it is possible Diablo Canyon could become another Fukushima.
The reactor sits very near Vanderberg military base, while another California reactor near a fault line, and more tsunami prone - San Onofre - is right on a military base.
I got a lively interview from a mother and grandmother who has been a leader trying to shut down Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, for almost 30 years. Give a listen to Rochelle Becker, from the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility. A real powerhouse, with a plan to shut down earthquake reactors - and don't forget Indian Point just a few miles north of New York City is also near a fault line! It is madness to let these keep running, once we've seen what happened in Japan.
We follow up with Steven Weissman, a professor and lawyer at the University of California, Berkeley. Steve explains California is leading the country in the percentage of power generated by truly renewable energy. And the State had the foresight to build up a decommissioning trust fund, included in electricity rates since the 1980's. So the State really could shut down these reactors, even though the California budget is always broke.
Steve wrote an article about Diablo Canyon, after the Union of Concerned Scientsts noted is was one of 14 American reactors to have a "near miss" in 2010 alone. Despite supposed NRC oversight, and the safety pronouncements by PG&E - these reactors had backup pumps stuck in an off position for about 18 months. Nobody knew and nobody checked. Hey, why would you need emergency backup pumps to work? Nothing ever goes wrong at a nuclear plant!
If you are tuning in from afar (hello to my Swiss readers and listeners! and all you folks from the UK and Australia!) - you may think "Who cares what happens in California?" But Japan is teaching us, a nuclear meltdown anywhere is everybody's problem. Radiation respects no borders. Now we are headed into a more radioactive world, whatever that means.
Our web site is ecoshock.org. Be sure and click on the podcast button on the main page. I'm sending out occassional "Japan Emergency Bulletins" between radio programs, to about 700 podcast subscribers. This is one of the biggest events in history, and it changes so much day to day.