The spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 4 is ready to collapse; one more major earthquake and the pool might drain and 262 tons of nuclear fuel melt down, forever altering our world; perhaps leading to a chain reaction of meltdowns; the end of life on earth?
Tepco, the utility in charge, is not up to the task of dealing with this. Take action:
Email the President and tell him to intervene personally in this crisis; it's a matter of national security
Email the Secretary of State and tell him the same http://contact-us.state.gov/app/ask
Special Update: Water
The contamination of water has become a major issue at the Fukushima power station. Estimates of up to 900 petaBecquerels of radiation are offered as a measure of the ocean contamination. The truth is, nobody knows how much has been released. We do know now (and mostly assumed) that water has been leaking directly out from the reactor cores since the days of the meltdowns. Imagine seawater passing over the molten cores and then merging with the groundwater, all flowing out to sea. Not to mention the steam, highly radioactive, rising up out of the reactors (some of them open to the sky after the explosions).
So there's a major contamination of the ocean, affecting marine life, and our life. Seafood from the Pacific is not recommended for the foreseeable future, and it's to be expected that in time, the contamination will spread to the other oceans surrounding the globe. But that's only half of the problem.
The other half is the groundwater within the power station. This groundwater is radioactive and increases the overall radiation dose that workers receive, thereby shortening their total working time at the station. With the shortage of workers already in evidence, it's an unfortunate development (Tepco was aiming for 12,000 workers this year, but only could find about 6,000; of these, about 1,300 are reaching there dose limits and will have to leave. Tepco has stated that they don't know where they will find more workers).
So far, Tepco has been pumping up the groundwater and storing it in 1,000 ton steel tanks, about 650 of which are welded together, and 350 of which are bolted together with a rubber seal at the flange. One of the bolted tanks lost 1/3 of its water, creating a radiation hazard (2 mSv/h, enough to kill someone in four hours) around it. Those bolted tanks are rated for 5 years, but they're failing already. The story of water leakage and failing containments is a long one, involving tanks, reservoirs lined with plastic sheets and clay, leaking pipes, and sometimes close to 400 billion becquerels of radiation per cubic meter of water.
But that's not all. Tepco decided to prevent the radioactive groundwater from flowing out to the sea by creating "ice walls" between the individual reactors and the sea, by injecting chemicals into the ground that would "freeze" the soil and/or the water content there.
Unfortunately, this does exactly what it was intended to do; keep the groundwater trapped inside the station, where it is now rising to ground level, thereby A) increasing still further the radiation that must be endured by the workers; and B) turning the ground into soft mud, thereby weakening the already compromised structure of the buildings housing the reactors, and 100 feet above, the spent fuel pools. The last thing any of us want is decreased stability for the spent fuel pools.
Fortunately, there is word that the ice walls are failing, that the ground water level is rising and falling with the tides. Despite the contamination to the ocean, for the short run this is the better scenario in my humble opinion. The prevention of a meltdown in the fuel pools trumps all other concerns, until they are emptied of fuel (see following article for details). Unfortunately, this may take quite some time as the radiation around SFPs 1, 2, and 3 is so high that no one can get near enough to even begin work. Tepco tried to do a remote-controlled operation at SFP3 and lost a section of a crane into the pool. This will make removal of the fuel even more difficult when the time comes.
In reference to the following article, which focuses on SFP4 and the possibility of a chain of events propogated by an event there, another update:
Tepco is now days away (today is Nov. 15, 2013, never mind the date at the top; it's just to keep the order of articles) from beginning to remove the fuel from SFP4. They've built a new, boxy containment around and over the fuel pool to prevent and radiation releases (and thankfully it will keep the workers warmer in winter) and they've installed a new crane on this new structure. They've brought in very qualified experts in fuel removal to train their own workers -but we don't know who these workers are. The run-of-the-mill worker at Tepco these days is supremely unqualified to work in a nuclear plant. I'll keep you posted.
There are rumors that if two fuel rods touch, it might be the end of the world. An oversimplification, but that's the gist of it. I don't foresee any such thing happening, though there could well be problems, greater or smaller. But I think it would take a very serious accident to ignite the chain of events leading to station abandonment, which is the thing we don't want to see. The local workspace, SFP4, may have to be evacuated for some time at some point; this is managable, though every slowdown increases the chance of an earthquake striking before the pool is empty.
We need to see the larger picture, and here is where the hysteria about the fuel removal does us wrong: There are 7 spent fuel pools needing attention (and I don't consider the common pool to be any less demanding of attention; it could as well be compromised by an earthquake or other mishap; see: mouse).
The fuel pools of Nos. 5 and 6 are supposed to be not in such bad shape but the others are disastrous.
No. 3 is supposed to have MOX assemblies in it, containing up to 7 or 8 percent plutonium oxide; one of the most lethal of all radioisotopes.
Let us all pray for the safe removal of the spent fuel and the well-being of the workers. I don't know that any international effort, by a team of scientists or by a worldwide group of activists, can stop what's happening now. Let us all also consider our own disaster relief plan, as the government, wherever you are, is not concerned with such things. Get your iodine supplement ready, study how to use it, and consider having enough food on hand to last you three weeks. Just in case.
We must keep the pressure on, to the government, to our own friends and neighbors, to ourselves. As an activist from Japan said to me, "It's about the energy." It's not about any one individual action, group, petition, resolution, demonstration, or politician (!). Keep the energy up; and keep your energy up.
* * * * * * *
To rephrase our conundrum:
The spent fuel pool above Reactor No. 4 contains 1,533 nuclear fuel rod assemblies, each assembly containing 63 fuel rods, for a total of 262 tons of uranium-238. Of that, 1%, or 2.6 tons, was converted to plutonium-239 during the fission process. 202 of those fuel rod assemblies are brand new, unused.
The building is falling apart. It leans to one side. The pool was cracked during the earthquake, and it's leaking. For a time, TEPCO placed 60 ton metal covers over the pool. The electrical control panel for the entire place has been placed on a flatbed truck, outdoors, as a temporary measure; for 2.5 years. All the piping for cooling water was destroyed in the earthquake and tsunami, and water has been provided since then by PVC hoses, springing leaks constantly and freezing and cracking in winter. They will be replaced by polyethylene hose, but not steel pipe, as it is too radioactive to work in many spots for that long. There is up to 10 miles of hose between water source and fuel pool in some instances.
A word about TEPCO: They have close business ties to the Yakuza, who sometimes dictate policy, as well as provide contractors. It’s estimated that 33% of the workers at Fukushima Daiichi are either Yakuza, or their debtors. Others are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, homeless or minors; now TEPCO is advertising in foreign countries for workers, offering $378 a day for two hours' work -and to live in the 20km zone. Native Japanese have earned from $38 up to $2,000 a day depending on the scarcity of labor, the progress at the plant, and the radiation risks of that day's work. Most of the original staff is long gone.
TEPCO, by the way, asked permission from the prime minister to abandon Fukushima Daiichi, and Daini (another nuclear plant 7.1 miles away), when the reactors first started melting down. The PM demanded they stay. If they had abandoned the plants, you and I and everyone would likely be dead right now.
At this moment, your life is in their hands.
Scientists say that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting Fukushima this year, and a 98% chance within the next 3 years. Others are predicting another M.9 earthquake within this year. Fukushima has been experiencing earthquakes from magnitude 4.1 up to 6.2, almost every day for months. If an M.7 earthquake strikes, the building collapses and the pool ruptures and drains, a meltdown will occur releasing at least 10 times, and as much as 50 times the Cesium-137 as Chernobyl.
The molten cores of three of the reactors are now burrowing down into the earth; when they reach groundwater, there will likely be a huge hydrovolcanic explosion. Same result: collapse of the building and fuel pool, and a spent fuel meltdown.
There are also the consequences of something disrupting the electrical systems and shutting off power. A hurricane, flood, X-class solar flare or even a rat chewing through a wire could cause the cooling systems to shut down (NEWS FLASH: Happened twice. First time at fuel pool No. 2; second time it shut down cooling for four spent fuel pools, including the common SFP, for 30 hours). As the pool heats up, water will boil off and the fuel will melt down. A major loss of electricity would affect each one of the reactors and spent fuel pools.
TEPCO plans to start moving the fuel rods out of the pool in 2014. They expect the entire process will take at the very least 10 years, though they admit it could take up to 30.
TEPCO has so far refused all offers of outside help.
No one knows how much radiation has already been released. One of the reactors is open all the way to the core, and several fuel pools also, having already caught fire several times. The ground has huge cracks in it, constantly emitting steam.
By now millions of tons of contaminated water have been poured into the ocean, and just as much radioactive waste has been incinerated in ordinary furnaces all over Japan, the ashes dumped into Tokyo Harbor. Highly radioactive black soot is showing up all over Tokyo.
People all over Japan are getting sick. Some are dying.
In all the world, two politicians have come forward to help - The Honorable Ron Wyden; thank you Senator, and His Excellency Mitsuhei Murata; thank you Ambassador.
TEPCO themselves have admitted this is already four times worse than Chernobyl -with their gift for disinformation, we can conclude that it is much worse than that. And the radiation continually pours out of the reactors, and the fuel pools, and the ground, and into the ocean, and the sky, and will never stop, not for centuries, not for millennia.
This is only the start. If the fuel pool at no. 4 melts down, the radioactivity will be so intense, everyone will have to leave the plant. If they stay, no matter how courageous, they will die, too quickly to do anything.
No one there. Abandoned nuclear plant. That night, the power shuts down. No one to keep it running, it's a makeshift system at this point anyway. The cooling systems, for reactors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 all shut down. Silence. The cooling systems for the fuel pools 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 and Main fuel pool all shut down.
No one there to inject Nitrogen in the reactors at risk of hydrogen explosion. No one to vent steam. Even robots cannot operate in such high radioactivity, the circuits fail.
Next morning, the sound of explosions; reactors blowing up. More explosions, fuel pools reaching criticality, or just hydrogen explosions. Meltdown has begun. Level of radioactivity now at least 10 times worse, or unmeasurable. Lots of steam. In a few hours, cores melting down into the earth.
Evacuation ordered for 40 Km around the nuclear plant. This includes Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant, 12 Km distant.
Fukushima Daini shut off, abandoned in haste. 4 reactors, 4 spent fuel pools. Day turns to night. In two days, power shuts off. That night, cooling systems shut down. Next morning, again, explosions occur, some in reactors, some in spent fuel pools. This goes on all day, lessening at the day wears on. At night, sky seems brilliant above the plant. This is caused by Gamma ray shine, visible in ultra-radioactive events.
By now the release of radiation equals about 147 times that of Chernobyl; a conservative estimate.
No one can go near either of these two plants for years, not even for one half hour. Japan's 126 million population begins migrating to other parts of the globe; many die in the interim. It is hard to convince anyone to stay working at one of the 52 remaining nuclear plants in Japan; it is hard to convince anyone to stay for any reason. Automated remote systems are considered unfeasible.
Over the next two six months international efforts are made to shore up the operational staffs at these plants. Finally it is decided that Japan is too "hot" to risk the lives of nuclear engineers, and the plants are hastily "decommissioned" by filling the reactors and fuel pools with a concrete mixture of zeolite, boron, and other radio-absorbent materials. They are then "entombed," as was done with Chernoblyl.
The concrete, improperly set, cracks and steam escapes; the temperatures rise and explosions are noted at some plants.
This is the better of the case scenarios, if spent fuel pool 4 fails. The worst case: Individual workers abandon nuclear plants all over Japan, as skeleton crews try to maintain basic safety; accidents soon happen despite their best efforts. The plants are finally abandoned when all the workers die of radiation poisoning or are ordered to leave by the government, now only a ceremonial remnant. No containment or decommissioning efforts are made.
* * *
The state of things:
Not good. I've been writing about Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 4's spent fuel pool for months, passing along vital information on Facebook, Tweeting and messaging everyone I can think of, more celebrities than politicians, on the theory that everyone listens to Lady Gaga; no one cares (or even knows) what some Senator says. If by some chance Lady Gaga gets exercised over the immanent destruction of life on earth, well, she's got a podium to pound on. She will get heard.
And she will mobilize 6 billion people where I can't even mobilize a fly to get off of my coffee cup. But Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Bono, Jon Stewart, George Clooney and so many other stars who I thought of as activists, yes your “rotten Hollywood L.A. liberals” haven't even bothered to acknowledge my pleas, let alone hold a press conference decrying the dangers of nuclear power in general, and this nuclear nightmare going down now.
So the situation is not good. My petition had 92 signatures, and the other petitions I've seen and signed are doing about as well; one reached, if memory serves, about 12,578; it was to the White House and it was rejected: not enough signatures. I've seen about 15 petitions in all, for a total of what, about 22,628 signers, tops? Out of 6 billion? Who are the other people -do they sleepwalk?
I shouldn't complain. I should ask myself what I'm doing wrong. I am not getting through to people. They are not understanding me. They don’t understand when I say their life is at stake. I don't mean someone else's life; I don't mean an abstraction of life. I mean their own life.
Is it so hard to imagine the end of one's life, of all life? Not anymore; not for me. I've read about it, and I’ve thought about it. To where I've wrapped my head around the concept, and I understand it. I even, sad to say, accept it.
'Cause I realize that even though my efforts and those of many others were made in sincerity, and in enough time to make the difference, it doesn't matter. No comprehension was gained, no understanding reached.
I have a vision of our galaxy, glowing silently in the deep night of space, crowded, massive. Around the galaxy, tiny lights go on, then off, at intervals; ceaselessly, throughout planetary aeons. Warm lights, appearing and extinguishing, again and again. These lights are planets, planets like ours that support sentient, self-aware life; that rise, develop lethal weaponry, and disappear. Perhaps in the universe, planets like ours come and go a dozen times in a day.
It seems perfectly ordinary to me now, that this planet, peopled with the sort of endearing, confused, perfectly imperfect, lovable, slightly mad, and sometimes bad primates we call human should go lights out pretty soon. And that it would happen not with a bang but in eternal silence, of radiation pouring out of a seedy industrial plant on a far shore, as one by one we go to sleep, not waking. And that the final sound will be waves lapping on the shore for 900 million years, uninterrupted, unobserved.
Did I say we were charming? We are. We have divine properties, unacknowledged properties, far too unused, far too rare. We are magnificient creatures -let’s help ourselves to a hand of applause; we've done so much for ourselves and for each other, and come so far, in spite of politicians. We should be charmed. We are beautiful.
So why would we off ourselves? Is self-awareness that hard to bear, an anguished state requiring self-extinction? It's hard being human, it's such a complicated burden, being so complex, and it's very hard to make the crawl, to hike the drill up the hill from instinct ...to intuition. But there's more; We can be the winners here.
What is so hard to understand? I'm asking you to be more selfish, more instinctual, more self-centered, more coldly survivalist, more ruthlessly looking out for No. 1, more of everything that's good for you -hold back nothing for me, I want you to be happy! I want you to thrive. I want you to be at peace -or gloriously undone, cramming whiskey ice cream sundaes into your face! I want you to survive, to go wild, to sprout, blossom, send out new shoots; to live the life of Riley. Live the dreams of Walter Mitty if you dare.
But first, you have to take action. If you don't want to, okay; If you don’t mind, we can go.
But I wonder, where do we go? With no human bodies to inhabit, where will we stay? For the next 800 million years, where will we hang out? There will be no suitable primate bodies re-arising for at least that long. Our extracorporeal spirits may find new “life” as intergalactic vagrants, ceaselessly wandering the dark depth, aimlessly traversing cosmic corridors while yearning for a thing we’ll never find. Or more likely that we’ll adapt to the peaceful, frozen existence of bacteria in a sort of suspended animation for most of a billion years, then protozoa, successively inhabiting more complex life forms as they become available-and I assure you they will be in a very mutated state. Do you want to know what the next Homo Habilis will look like? No, you don't.
It's too complicated. We don't want to go there. We can stop it but we have to act now, it won't wait.
Should I continue writing? Is anyone listening? I'll let you carry the ball if you wish. It's not over, yet; it's not finished. There is still one more day.
|the face of Life: invincible protester Masunaga Sumiko|
PS: There isn't a lot any one person can do, but together, we have a chance. Sign this: http://www.avaaz.org/fr/petition/Appel_urgent_pour_eviter_une_nouvelle_catastrophe_nucleaire_mondiale/
And in the U.S., this: http://www.change.org/petitions/senators-boxer-and-feinstein-investigate-the-ongoing-danger-from-the-fukushima-nuclear-reactors
Email the President and tell him to intervene personally in this matter; it's a matter of national security, as well as a humanitarian and ecological crisis: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments
And tell the Secretary of State the same: http://contact-us.state.gov/app/ask
Send a message to your President or Prime Minister or Monarch wherever you are, asking them
to intervene directly, and swiftly, to avoid such a disaster.
If you're in Japan, take to the streets. But you already know that!
If you come up with a better idea, an action, please tell me so I can do it too. Tell as many people as you can, let them know the truth; there’s a mainstream media blackout on this.