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Intro: "Despite the Japanese PM's optimistic assessment of Fukushima, experts have new worries about the plant's recovery."

The fourth reactor at Fukushima on February 20, 2012. The yellow area is the containment vessel. (photo: The Asahi Shimbum Digital)
The fourth reactor at Fukushima on February 20, 2012. The yellow area is the containment vessel. (photo: The Asahi Shimbum Digital)

Fukushima Nuclear Plant's Slow Recovery Offers Lessons to the US

By Richard Schiffman, Guardian UK

08 May 12


Despite the Japanese PM's optimistic assessment of Fukushima, experts have new worries about the plant's recovery.

n December, Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, declared that "a cold shutdown" had been achieved and that the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was now over. "Today, we have reached a great milestone", Noda told the Japanese people in a televised address. "The reactors are stable, which should resolve one big cause of concern for us all."

But Mr Noda's optimistic assessment appears to have been premature. Nuclear engineer and former power company executive Arnie Gunderson compared the prime minister's statement to President George Bush declaring "mission accomplished" on the deck of the USS Lincoln in 2003. Gunderson calls the situation at Fukushima "a long battle, far from over."

Even Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which owns the Fukushima facility, says that it will take another 40 years to fully decommission the reactors there, a project which poses unprecedented engineering challenges. But the company's own tests disclose a more immediate danger. Rising radiation levels within one of the reactors, the highest recorded so far, and evidence of a leak in the critical cooling system demonstrate that the situation is still far from stable.

Tepco revealed at the end of March that protective water levels in the containment vessel of Reactor No 2, were far shallower than they had expected, which might mean that the uranium fuel rods there are no longer completely submerged, and are heating up. The Japan Times reported on 29 March that radiation inside the vessel has reached 73 sieverts per hour – high enough to administer a lethal dose to a human in a matter of minutes, even to disable the robotic devices which are sent regularly into the reactor to monitor what is happening there.

Conditions elsewhere in the plant are more difficult to assess. Reactors 1 and 3, both of which melted down after the earthquake and tsunami last year, are currently sealed and impossible to enter, even by robots. So we don't know what is going on inside those crippled structures.

But nuclear experts say that their biggest concern involves Reactor 4, which sustained severe structural damage during the earthquake and subsequent hydrogen explosions which collapsed its roof. This is where hundreds of tons of spent fuel sits perched 100 feet above the ground in a cooling pool exposed to the open sky.

A report released in February by the Independent Investigation Commission on the nuclear accident called this pool "the weakest link" at Fukushima. Robert Alvarez, former senior policy adviser at the US department of energy said: "If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain it could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident."

How likely is this? While the structure of Reactor 4 is stable for the moment, the Dai-ichi plant lies miles from a big earthquake fault - as large as the one that caused last year's quake, but much closer to Fukushima. According to a study published in February (pdf) in the European Geosciences Union's journal Solid Earth, that fault is now overdue for a quake.

Whether or not the critical pool at Reactor 4 would survive another major quake intact, Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me in a phone interview that a failure of the jury-rigged inadequate piping installed after the disaster could knock the cooling system out of commission.

After visiting Fukushima on a fact finding mission recently, Senator Ron Wyden wrote to Japan's ambassador to the US warning that, "loss of containment in any of these pools could result in an even greater release than the initial accident. "Wyden urged Japanese authorities to remove the spent fuel rods from the vulnerable pools to far safer "dry cask storage", which would protect them from potential earthquake release. Yet, the technological challenges of such a transfer of highly dangerous materials are formidable.

These risks have led two former Japanese diplomats on a crusade to avert what they see as a disaster waiting to happen. UN veteran Akio Matsumura and former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland Mitsuhei Murata attended a conference in Seoul at the end of March "to inform the participants from 54 nations of the potential global catastrophe of reactor unit 4." They called on the international community to set up an independent assessment team of structural engineers and nuclear scientists to study conditions at Reactor 4 and recommend a course of action.

What lessons can the nuclear industry in the US draw from the Fukushima accident and its still unresolved aftermath? Edwin Lyman describes it as a wake-up call that we have not yet heeded. He told me in a phone interview that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has failed to fully implement the recommendations of its own post-Fukushima task force.

Lyman says that several nuclear plants in the midwest, south and west are located near earthquake faults, including two plants in California - Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo county, and San Onofre between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Both of the California facilities suffered what the NRC terms "near misses" within the last year. At Diablo Canyon, the plant's engineers inadvertently locked a series of emergency valves in the reactor cooling system, an error which was not noticed for 18 months and could have led to a meltdown in the case of an emergency. The problem at San Onofre involved a leak of radioactive steam from a worn generator tube in January. The plant has been shut down indefinitely and is currently undergoing extensive testing.

While a Fukushima-type disaster could happen here in the US, Edwin Lyman insists that it doesn't need to. But he says that we have to act now to require new safeguards, demand higher performance standards and expand the roster of accidents that nuclear power plants will need to protect against. Let's hope the NRC is listening. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # Mamazon 2012-05-08 11:33
The situation at Fukushima's Reactor #4 is even worse than this article states because it is only 50 meters away from a cooling pool with 10,000 more spent fuel rods -- if Reactor 4 blows so will the pool and that's a release of enough Cesium to equal 85 Chernobyls... Get out the duck tape folks, global annihilation is just an earthquake away and we're stuck talking about the evils of gay marriage and Obamacare. It seems we humans have lost our survival instincts. How will we ever be able to deal with the thousands of years care that nuclear waste demands? ANd we just approved the building of two more plants... ultimate dangerour lethal plants just to boil water? There are beter ways -- but if we don't wake up and get the smartest people in the world to work together on the looming Fukushima disaster -- we are all pretty much doomed. What should I tell my kids?
+5 # wsh 2012-05-08 14:10
Mamazon, NOBODY knows about this...I tell people about the 85 X Chernobyl possible release, and they say, "Oh my! So where are we going for lunch, anyway?" It just doesn't register that this could mean the end of all higher life forms.

Look at how few people are reading and commenting on this article....

But it's all okay, Tepco has a ten year plan for stabilizing the fuel rods in Daichi 4.
+8 # jwb110 2012-05-08 12:05
The International Community and the Japanese have their heads in the sand and think their ass doesn't show.
+4 # reiverpacific 2012-05-08 12:47
I don't know if "Recovery" is the word to use re' Fukushima (Fuck-you-shima ?) -aren't residents from a many-mile radius being evacuated?
That's hardly "Recovery" -,more like "Retreat"!
B.T.W., some readings on the Oregon Coast are now showing some signs of contamination and an associate of mine is beginning to monitor it with some specialized equipment.
Stay tuned (You too President "safe-nuclear" Obama, much as I like and respect you!).
+1 # Max Demian 2012-05-08 14:15
Fukushima Is Falling Apart: Are You Ready … For A Mass Extinction Event?

According to nuclear experts all over the world, "Fu(c)kus(all)h ima" is FAR WORSE, and is still an ongoing event that is getting worse and worse, contrary to what we're told in the mainstream. Face the music and take precautions, such as you and everyone in your family wearing HEPA face masks when out of doors, and only going outside as little as possible; and, especially, NOT going outside AT ALL during precipitation of any kind, particularly rainfall.

If you can manage it, move to the Southern Hemisphere immediately, further south than Central America, south of the Equator. This is absolutely no joke; this is truly how serious the situation already is, and it is very likely to get much worse if it hasn't already.

To give you a personal example, I have had a constipation and hemorrhoid problem for several years, but they didn't start rupturing and bleeding until the past year. The last major time they bled, ugly black material, probably cancer cells, came out with the blood. This occurred from a ruptured EXTERNAL hemorrhoid, so it was not from fecal matter. And I rarely go outside (about once every 3 weeks), and every time I go out I wear a HEPA mask at all times. I started wearing the mask within ten days of when the Fukushima disaster began.

0 # Max Demian 2012-05-08 14:44
Let me clarify a couple of things in order to make it clear that taking precautions is NOT a waste of time:

Due to Fukushima, I will probably die from cancer within the next couple of years because I have three autoimmune diseases and therefore have a compromised immune system. But for many if not most of you who do not have compromised immune systems, the precautions are NOT a waste of time; and, if you "religiously" carry them out, you WILL lower your chances of developing cancer(s).

Also, here's a couple of other examples of necessary precautions, even if you have not been doing them for the past year, which will lower your chances of developing cancer(s)]:

Don't take showers (because, while you're taking showers, you're breathing in the radioactive dust that is now in the water, and the lungs are one of the worst places for it to lodge; almost guaranteeing, especially in the case of the plutonium that has been and continues to be released by Fukushima, that you will, NOT "may", develop cancer(s).

Take baths instead, but only lukewarm or body-temperatur e baths so you don't open your pores allowing more of the radioactive dust in the water to get into your body(ies) through your skin.

Be sure to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables to wash the radioactive dust off of them before consuming them.

Purchase and consume lots of organic high-antioxidan t foods and supplements.

0 # Max Demian 2012-05-08 14:53
Purchase and consume eight apricot kernals (a cancer preventative) per day; and/or apricot kernal oil, both available from If you develop cancer(s), consume more kernals per day; because, in cancer patients, they are also an excellent natural cancer treatment.

Examples of the best antioxidants and/or other cancer-preventa tive supplements include the following: Vitamin D3, Pau d'Arco, Melatonin (the latter two flush radiation from the body), Resveratrol (red wine extract), Grape Seed (or Resveratrol with Grape Seed), Milk Thistle (to flush the liver), and others.

Take maximum dose Potasium Iodide (125 mgs) once per day, a day or two before going outside, and/or on the day of and just before going outside (do NOT take constantly, or daily, for more than a month).

0 # Max Demian 2012-05-08 15:48
As I do, watch the weather and keep track of the jetstream, and only go outside in non-inclement weather when the jetstream is not blowing right over and/or through your area, including the edges of it (experts say that the edges of the jetstream can carry the highlest levels of radioactive dust). Use the following websites:

Any weather site for your area (MSN local weather is good) (refresh the page every time you want to check it, if you keep a window and/or tab open for it) (just refresh the page every few hours, if you keep a tab and/or window open for it) (automatically refreshes often)

And last but definitely not least, if you believe in God, pray daily for God's protection from the radiation, particularly when you bathe and when you venture outside; and pray for protection from the radiative dust in the air, food and water especially as well.

+1 # Max Demian 2012-05-08 16:26
There have not been releases in the Southern Hemisphere, to my knowledge, of large amounts of radiation like from Fukushima... yet anyway. So the Southern Hemisphere is MUCH safer right now, at least as far as radiation levels are concerned. For those considering leaving the U.S., North America and/or the Northern Hemisphere, now is the best time to do so; because pretty soon the U.S. government and/or other Western governments aren't going to allow people to leave the country, at least permanently. Obviously, stay away from Westernized countries like Australia and New Zealand, which are all turning into corporate-fasci st authoritarian police states like the U.S., U.K., etc., where human rights and civil liberties are being eradicated, and they are becoming more totalitarian and repressive; as well as staying away from countries which have nuclear power plants, and/or where you would be living directly east of them.

Further very important information concerning Fukushima:

Urgent Warning: Fukushima Estimate of Situation
0 # Max Demian 2012-05-11 15:13
Cesium in Fukushima Prefecture 122 Times Higher than in Belarus (Chernobyl) Evacuation Zone

Also, I neglected to mention that you should use organic sesame oil in your cooking, because it too helps flush radiation from the human body.
+1 # Corazone 2012-05-09 00:51
The sad fact is that no one in Washington or in the mainstream media is going to listen to any of these warnings or even go back to the pre-Fukushima levells of monitoring in the continental U.S.. And, personal actions are in reality a joke since limiting how much you go outside for example, is not a practical alternative for many. Fortunately, the Occupy movement offers some small hope.
0 # Max Demian 2012-05-09 11:05
True, but one can wear a mask while outside.

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