by Richard Wilcox
August 19, 2012
Richard Wilcox has a Ph.D. in
Environmental Studies from a social science, holistic perspective.
He teaches at a number of universities in the Tokyo, Japan area. His
articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been published at
Counterpunch, Global Research, Dissident Voice, Activist Post,
Zen-Haven, and Rense.com. His most recent interview with Jeff Rense
is available at the website www.rense.com. Many of his environmental
articles are archived at:
Were it not for certain nuclear whistle blowers and outside,
independent experts, the public would have to rely on the glib and
technically inaccessible reports from Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco)
or the Japanese government.
Not that those reports are entirely without substance, but due to
the incomprehensible technical jargon most people simply throw up
their hands and hope for the best.
Luckily, in this day of the Internet we can learn a lot about what
is going on thanks to independent researchers and writers.
To the extent that mainstream newspapers have covered the issue
responsibly, and there has been substantive coverage, web sites like
“enenews.com”, “fukushima-diary.com” and “rense.com” have served as
information clearinghouses for mainstream news, academic studies and
independent sources of journalism about the nuclear crisis in Japan.
Given this wide perspective, it is hard to see how any meaningful
progress is being made at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP).
This is the conclusion I drew, or anyone with reasonable skills of
observation would have drawn, in April of 2011. The Japanese
government kept telling us that “everything is under control” and
there is “no immediate danger,” all the while, lying through their
teeth about the reactor meltdowns.
Any intelligent layperson who considers the technical aspects of the
disaster will be at a loss as to how the plant operators will be
able to restore the cooling system, which may be badly damaged, to
reactors that themselves may be unrepairable or in various states of
If the nuclear fuel in the reactors has
melted through to the floor, what would be the point of setting up a
cooling system to a dysfunctional reactor and a pool of melted fuel?
No one in the government clearly answers
these questions nor has the international community come forth with
a possible solution. (1)
Credit must be given to the hard work of engineers and makeshift
cooling systems were installed, but the state of the reactors is
precarious--highly radioactive--and things have not gone smoothly
for plant operators, Tepco. As for long term solutions, none are
presented. We are supposed to believe that out of this gigantic mess
of strewn rubble and constantly leaking pipes and cooling systems,
progress is being made.
At some level there is: as long as the
melted fuel keeps cooling and there are no other major earthquakes,
the level of radioactivity will naturally decrease. But this is a
hypothetical, best-case scenario.
The fuel pools of Units three or four could collapse in another
large earthquake and the highly radioactive fuel rods will not be
removed until 2013 at the earliest-- putting the entire world in
grave peril every second that ticks by.
Nuclear expert, Arnie Gundersen, recently stated regarding units 1-3 that they will,
“get to the point where they throw some concrete
down on the top of it and come back in 300 years.”
this may not even be cleaned up in “500 years!” (2)
This bears repetition:
FUKUSHIMA’S ENVIRONMENT WILL NOT
EVEN BE RESTORED IN 500 YEARS
It’s no wonder nuclear watchdogs have
created a special rating system for Fukushima - putting it in a new
category, above Chernobyl, as a no. 8 level nuclear disaster.
Fukushima is a,
nuclear accident requiring international assistance and monitoring”
Quadrillion Becquerals Here, A Few Quadrillion There...
Meanwhile in Tokyo the Japanese government admits that the
incineration of radioactive debris shipped from the tsunami disaster
zone, from 2011 to 2013, will emit at least 2 billion
radiation into the air (according to my calculations) (4; 5).
you read that correctly: TWO BILLION.
Compared to the FNPP disaster
that is not much at all, that number could end up being lower, or
even much higher, depending on how much debris is burned, how
radioactive it is, whether the equipment malfunctions, and so on.
The curious point is that the Japanese government admits they are
intentionally emitting radiation into densely populated urban
Nominally, this policy is “to help the people in the Northeast” (or
more likely to help their buddies in the incineration business).
This is sheer insanity, but these are the times we live in, when
even Japanese school children are being given pamphlets “full of
misleading information and half-truths” about the safety of burning
radioactive debris (6).
The government’s heartfelt concern for the inhabitants of the
northeast is touching. But after 17 months there are still evacuees
living in classrooms partitioned with cardboard (7) and rumors of
many people dying from cancer due to radioactive fallout. This has
gone unreported in the establishment press (8).
Meanwhile, the situation at the FNPP is still unstable. Tepco has
a total of about 10 million becquerals per hour of radioactive
cesium was being emitted from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors as of
June. That is about one-80 millionths of the level that was being
spewed immediately after the accident (9).
This is down from a peak of thousands of trillions of becquerals at
the time of the reactor explosions (10; 11).
quadrillions or as petabecquerals (10 to the 15th power) (12), the
radiation emitted was
comparable to Chernobyl, being well over half
if not roughly equivalent in volume (13).
While the worst Chernobyl
had to offer was pretty much over once it had blown its lid,
Fukushima could still release vastly greater amounts of harmful
radiation due to the nuclear fuel at the site.
The Unimaginably Unimaginable Danger Of Being (Nuked)
Although the government continues to dismiss the idea that the
quakes themselves were the main cause of the nuclear meltdowns,
while attributing the entire crisis to the “unforeseen” natural
phenomenon of the tidal wave, they admit the quake caused,
3-square-centimeter rupture in the piping of the emergency cooling
system for the No. 1 reactor.”
In addition, they note,
possibility that tremors from the earthquake created a tiny rupture
of 0.3 square centimeter or less, which later grew larger when the
reactor temperature and pressure rose and radioactive substances
leaked from there”.(14)
This is controversial given that independent scientists are not
allowed to inspect the facilities and that witnesses saw the Unit 1
building collapsing before the tsunami arrived.
One worker, a maintenance engineer in his late twenties who was at
the Fukushima complex on March 11, recalls hissing and leaking
‘I personally saw pipes that came apart and I assume that
there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant.
There’s no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the
plant,’ he said.
‘There were definitely leaking pipes, but we don’t
know which pipes - that has to be investigated. I also saw that part
of the wall of the turbine building for Unit 1 had come away. That
crack might have affected the reactor’ (15).
In addition to the accumulation of evidence that the earthquake
itself was a primary cause of the meltdowns (16; 17) - something
the industry does not want to admit - there are other inherent
flaws in the way nuclear power plants are built and operate.
Gundersen points out that the service pumps failed because they were
flooded by the tidal wave on 311.
These pumps send water from the ocean to cool the back up diesel
Gundersen (at 19:00 mark in below audio):
have been 14 meltdowns and not three. If you look at the data, there
were six units at Fukushima Daiichi [power station no. 1], there are
four at Fukushima Daini [station no. 2], three at Onagawa and one at
The net affect is that there were 37 diesel generators
between those plants. 24 of those diesels were knocked out by the
tsunami. You need the diesels to cool the plant.”
This occurred because at FNPP no. 1 the tsunami flooded the actual
diesel generators, but at the other plants the,
“tsunami knocked out
the cooling water to the diesels, something called service water.
So, Japan narrowly missed 14 meltdowns and not three because the
cooling water to 24 of the 37 diesels was destroyed.”
This bears repetition
...JAPAN NARROWLY MISSED 14 NUCLEAR MELTDOWNS
Furthermore, it was sheer luck that there were not eight meltdowns,
for another totally different, random, reason:
The plant manager at Fukushima Daini, which is six miles away from
Daiichi, is quoted as saying that if the tidal wave happened on a
Saturday his four units would have melted down too. He had a
thousand people on site because it was a Friday, but if it happened
on a weekend there would have been a skeleton crew there.
had been destroyed so nobody could have gotten in to help, and we
would have had Fukushima Daiichi and Daini in meltdown conditions.
What happened was almost unimaginably unimaginable.
had the earthquake happened on a Saturday or Sunday there
would have been eight instead of merely three meltdowns - you can’t
make this stuff up, folks.
The FNPP site is fraught with danger, with constant reports of
highly toxic water leaking from this pipe or that, or this reactor
For example, water in Unit 2 turbine basement was found to
have 47 million becquerals per liter. (19) These sorts of conditions
are common. Many engineers are “highly suspicious” of government
assurances that things are going well.
“Takahashi Kei, a former cooling system worker at the plant now
working as a radiation survey volunteer, said the utility company’s
executives are portraying the situation in the best possible light.
‘There are leaks everywhere, wreckage too. It’s not as simple as
they portray,’ he said.”
Japanese nuclear expert, Hiroaki Koide, recently said that,
state of the reactors is still deteriorating”. (20)
Let’s repeat that for the audience at
THE STATE OF THE REACTORS IS STILL DETERIORATING.
This hardly sounds like a successful
“cold shutdown” and tends to support Gundersen’s idea that the units
1-3 will have to be entombed in concrete (if not with Japanese
parliament member’s tempura, leftover from their extravagant
taxpayer funded banquets).
Recently there is talk from engineers
who have intimate knowledge of the FNPP situation, and even from the
government, that Japan needs to recruit help from the international
community of scientists and engineers (21; 22; 23).
Hey! Good idea, let’s hope they don’t
wait too long.
After all, this disaster is not only Japan’s fault,
but an international issue from start to finish.
The lesson yet to be learned is that nuclear power is inherently
dangerous and that the consequences for humanity and the environment
continue to be “unimaginably, unimaginable” in their size.