|The Energy Net|
Fukushima: The Disaster that Never Was
On March 11th 2011 Japan suffered a triple whammy from the
largest quake to ever hit the country, a devestating tsunami, and then
the meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi facility.
Within weeks of the meltdown, the global media pulled back from coverage
of the story due to the impacts on the global corporate push to build
hundreds of new nuclear facilities. Today, the people of Japan are demanding
the end of nuclear power in their country. Here's the story you will not
hear on PBS, CNN or FOX.
The meltdowns at Fukushima is on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which was the largest industrial accident in history. The 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck on 3-11 were major tragedies for Japan. The quake left nearly a half million people without homes and over 15,000 people dead. In late June, the Japanese government estimated that it would cost $200 billion to rebuild the Sendai coastal region. The stunning images of cars, buildings, villages and coastal devastation by the massive wave of water that came ashore 35 minutes after the initial quake are heart wrenching images. Thanks to Japan's routine evacuation drills, the loss of life was far lower than if the public had not been prepared to leave.
Yet, the Fukushima meltdowns that began immediately after the quake would take an already immense tragedy and dramatically complicate people's lives in northern Japan. Rather than being able to return home and pick up the pieces afterwords, over 125,000 people would be forced into a state of limbo as to when or if they can ever return home.
For the last 40 years the Japanese public had been assured that there was no chance of a serious nuclear accident. No Chernobyl would ever happen as the country's reactor's were designed to withstand earthquakes. Due to the country's limited energy resources, fifty-five nuclear reactors were constructed with the goal to build many more. However, since 1995 the country had been hit with a number of very serious nuclear accidents that had put a damper on Japan's nuclear agenda, the worst being a major fire after the 2007 quake that closed the country's largest nuclear complex Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.
Even though the epicenter of the 9.0 Tohoku quake was nearly 110 miles away, the force of the quake was greater than the thousand year event planned for. This resulted in the loss of offsite power and critical cooling systems needed to keep the reactors from suffering a major nuclear catastrophe. There were serious concerns about three other nuclear facilities at Onogawa, Tokai and Fukushima Daiini.
Three reactors had nuclear fuel melting that resulted in hydrogen explosions that tore the roofs off two of the buildings. The spent fuel pond in Unit 4 underwent criticality tearing away the top of the building. In the hours and days immediately after the quake, the US media downplayed the nuclear dangers. CNN attempted to hide images of the hydrogen explosion. Since the disaster, statements by workers at Fukushima undermined Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCo) claims promoted worldwide by the nuclear industry that the massive tsunami was the cause of the nuclear disaster. The reason for this Public Relations deception needs to be understood. Nearly 10% of the nuclear reactors around the world are situated close to earthquake faults. Furthermore, in one of the most dramatic acknowledgements to come out of the Tohoku quake, the length of the fault rupture was far less than expected for such a massive quake. This means that scientists that have used faultline lengths to estimate quake sizes may no longer be accurate.
The loss of primary as well as backup power meant that the three operating reactors couldn't keep their nuclear fuel cool, nor be able to monitor what was actually happening inside the buildings. Probably the most important factor that kept the scale of the disaster from being far worse in terms of radiation contamination was that the prevailing winds for the first week were into the Pacific Ocean.
The radiation levels went from 500 to over 800,000 terra bequerels after the hydrogen explosions. There is absolutely no doubt at this point that TEPCo's management at the facility understood the extremely grave status of the reactors yet failed call for the appropriate evacuation out to levels that would protect people closest to the facility. It was shear fortune that winds were blowing offshore in the days following the worst releases, or impacts would have been catastrophic.
At the peak of the radiation emergency over 125,000 Japanese were forced to flee their homes in many cases over 50 km from Fukunshima. The Japanese government has ordered TEPCo to pay each evacuee $1,000 per month for the first six months and $500 per month for the next 6 months for mental distress.
The number of workers killed during the first days of the disaster is clearly being withheld. In one report a crane operater was killed when one of the units exploded, later mention of deaths via drowning were reported. Another report said that 14 elderly Japanese died while attempting to evacuate. A later story spoke of an older temp worker who died but did not list the reason for his death. Thousands of TEPCo workers have been working under unclear if not illegal conditions in terms of radiation exposures. There are very likely a large number of Kamikaze workers, including an entire brigade of retired Japanese who have removed their badges in an attempt to save the country's nuclear industry from collapse.
The economic costs as mentioned for the earthquake have been estimated at $200 billion. These estimates are clearly premature. Early compensation claims for Fukushima range from $24 to $48 billion. TEPCo. itself, the fifth largest electric company in the world, is in severe economic crisis having lost over 3/4 of its total net value since the disaster, endangering several large Japanese banks. One estimate suggested it would take up to a decade to cleanup Fukuhshima, yet, it is not yet clear that cleanup is even possible. One report stated the Japanese government has no authority to close any of the commercial nuclear reactors. With news coverage suggesting that there could very well be global lawsuits against Japan, especially with story that there is a large body of cesium that will reach the West Coast within 5 years. It is not clear what economic impacts to the Japanese tourist, fishing and agricultural industries has ocurred or will. There has been no discussion on the impacts on human health either.
Nor has there been any real estimates on how much it will cost for replacement power from Fukushima and a number of other units that have been shut down. New sources of electricity will need to be constructed for those units that remain closed.
In the case of Chernobyl, estimates have gone into the hundreds of billions of dollars. This devastating event could certainly equal that. Japan also has a limit on nuclear compensation claims, but that has been publicly attacked.
Impacts from radiation to coastal fisheries, plants, wildlife, agricultural production, roads, buildings and lands and human health are monumental in scope. Okay, take a breath... Yeah, there are still sheep in Wales and Scotland that have to be monitored for radiation 25 years after Chernobyl, not to mention berries in Scandavia.
Probably the most important aspect of what is to come on how big of a lie the Japanese government attempts to run up the flag. The UN Security Council's lapdog the International Atomic Energy Agency came up with plan along with their Soviet's counterparts after Chernobyl to roll back the impacts from the 1986 disaster. The key rollback according to the the experts is that radiation levels were so minor that people didn't need to be evacuated more than a a few kilometers, compared with the 10,800 sq miles that were contaminated by cesium. The Soviets covered a substantial portion of the 30 KM exclusion zone around Chernobyl with Glue to keep contamination from spreading. we can assume that "emergency" procedures dictated by the IAEA will be put in place that will allow for inhabitants to stay in zones that would otherwise require evacuation
Work in Progress.
The radioactive disaster was classified at level 7 of the International Nuclear Event Scale. At the peak of the disaster goverment estimates say 800,000 trillion Bequerels of radiation was released. And 3 months afterwords is still releasing 154 Bequerrel per day. There is no way to know just how much radiation was released especially in the days immediately following the explosions when monitors were not operational. Attempts to obtain radiation measurements from the US using Freedom of Information Act requests have failed to date.
Large amounts of radiation have been dispersed into the Pacific Ocean or the planet's atmosphere. This radiation will add to the already increasing inventory that will damage biological life forms everywhere. For example, plutonium has a half life of 24,000 years, which means a particular quantity of this deadly material will continue to stick around for 240,000 years. If a tiny speck of this plutonium were to get into your lungs it could cause lung-cancer.
The political fallout in Japan is nothing short of a political sea change. A mid June public poll indicated that over 80% of the public wanted nuclear power ended. This opinion is being attacked, managed and actively manipulated by all of Japan's major media outlets.
There are a number of global impacts from Fukushima that are hard to miss. The first is the political fallout. A number of surveys have taken place internationally with the most recent poll out of the UK suggesting that support worldwide for nuclear took a 25% dive. Countries like Germany and Italy completely reversed policies, while a number of countries that were planning on new development have slowed interest or now face substantial public opposition where that wasn't previously the case. In a recent UK scandal, it was disclosed that the government had meetings with nuclear industry officials to strategize on how to deal with public fallout.
In the USA, as mentioned in the preface, there is no doubt that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has come under intense scrutiny as being captured by the nuclear industry. At least one set of reactors planned in Texas was abandoned, while calls to close reactors in California and New York have come under scrutiny. Newly emergent movements have been strengthened worldwide and are talking to each other.
Radioactive Fallout from Fukushima was of serious concern worldwide soon after the hydrogen explosions. Fears spread around the world about the dangers, however they were quickly managed by nuclear regulators worldwide, claiming that the public from California to Europe were in no danger. This of course, was a boldfaced lie. The United States has no regulations in place that the fetus, or those with incredibly weak immune systems.
The first phase of the disaster is to stabilize the ongoing runnaway reactors. This has not yet been done yet. Bringing power back onsite, was the first step, so that the spent fuel ponds and reactors could get coolings systems operational. Another step included injecting nitrogen into the reactors to reduce the chance of further hydrogen explosions. There is still the danger of the melted nuclear fuel breaching the reactor cores. Unlike Chernobyl which had a sarchophogus constructed around the reactor, TEPCo has already started encapsulating the damaged facilities with a polyester fabric which will take months to complete. The purpose for this is to stop the continuous release of radiation into the environment. Over 110,000 tons of highly contaminated water have will need to pumped out of the buildings and cleanup. One tactic used to keep radiation from spreading at the facility was to spray a plastic sealant on the ground and surfaces.
Probably one of the greatest problem is what to do with the radioactive contamination spread across thousands of square miles of Japan. Depending on the amount of contamination, the public sewage systems now contain immense quantities of liquid contaminants, while buildings, topsoil, contaminated animals, and plants now all technically belong in a nuclear waste facility.
On July 9th the government announced that cleanup of the 3 damaged reactors could take over 30 years to complete, with fuel removal not to start until 2021.
Due to the scale of this disaster its not possible to simply post a few helpful links.
The disaster has already had far reaching impacts on Japan and the nuclear industry and will continue to do so into the future. Safe Energy groups have repeatedly warned the world that such events would come and that their impacts would be outside the scope of normal human discourse. Chernobyl played a major role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, just as Three Mile Island played a role in stopping the first push in the United States, as the nuclear industry and the government were pushing to build 1,000 nuclear reactors by the year 2000. In 1984 Forbes magazine called the US nuclear industry the largest managerial failure in history costing as much as the Vietnam war or the push to travel to the moon. Nuclear promoters have been dishonest with the public. The tactics used push the nuclear agenda by the corporate media and governments worldwide are breathtakingly brutal in scale. The anti-nuclear movement was one of the largest worldwide phenomena of the 20th century, yet there will be no documentaries shown by TV or major major media outlets.