Monday, March 21, 2011

Fukushima fact or fiction about fallout?

Is the party line of the Japanese government and of some in America correct? That the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster will have no greater impact on human's than a chest x ray might have?

First this update on the stock market as of this morning's pre-open vis a vis the crisis: "US stock futures point to healthy gains for Wall Street Monday as the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site looks to be stabilizing."

Secondly, I will unequivocally say right off the bat that I have absolutely no idea of what the current or ultimate impact of Fukushima is or will be although I have my opinions! While I know a little about a lot of things, nuclear power plant disasters are not one of them. And, in reality, given the severity of the incident, the fact that the place is to "hot" to get near in order to inspect it in any comprehensive way and that events are rapidly unfolding on a minute by minute basis, who is qualified to give any definitive answer?

What we have here is an old-fashion case of many more questions than answers. Answers, once available, that will most likely take quite some time to fully understand and process. Meanwhile, getting lost in all of this is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

What could one, not so rosy outcome of the story be?

In my reading on the subject of the Fukushima crisis I came across an article titled "Nuclear Apocalypse in Japan, Lifting the Veil of Nuclear Catastrophe and cover-up."

It is an article written by Keith Harmon Snow, and it is extremely comprehensive. Snow is of the opinion that the story the world is being told by some is not true, and that this nuclear crisis in Japan represents one that is apocalyptic in nature. In fact, in the article he invokes the name of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. He is also on a personal crusade to halt "nuclear expansion."

What gives him more authority than you or I to express his opinion on the incident? Nothing really as we all have that right. However, per his provided biography he is an engineer who has studied the nuclear power industry closely and so it appears that at the very least he knows a little more than I do:

"I began my career as a journalist by looking deeply into the rabbit-hole of nuclear power from 1993 to 2000. I visited the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Public Document Rooms -- which have since been closed in many places -- where I read thousands of microfilms and scanned microfiche records and excavated document after document in search of truth. I visited nuke plants in New England and industry conferences. I interviewed officials and I attended the most boring and sometimes secretive public meetings with the most stifling and unimaginative bureaucrats and with engineers (like me) so dry they squeaked. And then I reported on regulatory corruption, technical failures, undemocratic initiatives to betray the public trust, and the accumulating radiation and nuclear poisons -- and the many ways that the mass media supported and perpetuated the mythology."

If nothing else this article is an extremely thorough look at this crisis and the nuclear power industry in general, and it offers another side to the argument that is still unfolding and will be doing so for most likely some time to come.

The following is a short excerpt with the remainder of the article being found here.

"... Reactors No. 4, 5, and 6 at Fukushima were shutdown when the earthquake struck. After the water drained and the spent fuel became exposed, the pool at reactor No. 4 caught fire, and continues to burn, as of Thursday March 17, releasing massive amounts of radiation into the environment. The status of the other six spent fuel pools at Fukushima is unknown. A courageous U.S. journalist Rachel Maddow explored the spent fuel pool issue with a former government official. The most important, critical point made by Princeton professor Frank Von Hippel occurs at minute 14:19 -- where Rachel Maddow talks over him: these are LONG-LIFE RADIONUCLIDES being emitted from the spent fuel pool(s). Isotopes of cesium: Cs-137 has a half-life of 30 years and will be around and hot for decades. 

How much disaster are we talking about? The atomic bomb that exploded at Hiroshima created about 2000 curies of radioactivity. The spent fuel pools at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant (U.S.) are said to hold about 75 million curies. There are six spent fuel pools at Fukushima, but the numbers of tons of fuel rods in each have not been made public. 

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) did the math: If Fukushima's Reactor No. 4 operated for 35 years and produced 30 tons of irradiated fuel per year and each ton is equivalent to 24 times the amount of cesium-137 produced by the Hiroshima bomb, then each fuel pool could contain on the order of 24,000 times the amount of cesium-137 produced by the Hiroshima bomb, if all the produced irradiated fuel remains in the fuel pool.

Nuclear stupidity No. 1: the Fukushima reactor buildings are square (not circular) and had to absorb the force of the tsunami wave straight on. Stupidity No. 2: six reactors clustered too close together. Stupidity No. 3: no shoreline protection against a tsunami. Stupidity No. 4: reactors sited on earthquake faults. Stupidity No. 5: assumptions and calculations proving that the reactor, prior to its construction, could withstand anything that nature threw at it. Stupidity No. 6: it didn't begin in Japan: the industry, with all its corruptions, false assumptions and technological hubris, was born in secrecy in the United States of America. 

Stupidity No. 125: spent fuel pools are packed too tightly, as is well-established by industry documents, for economic reasons, discarding safety concerns. Stupidity No. 458: the Spent Fuel Pools at Fukushima are suspended up high inside the reactor buildings secondary containment -- the same buildings whose roofs are blowing off! Are we to believe that the massive explosions that were captured on film, and others that were not, did not damage these elevated time bombs..."

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