ATLANTA (update 3/20/11) Low levels of radioactive contamination from Japan reached California Friday according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which downplayed any danger to public health. Power is now restored at the number five and number six reactor fuel pools of ruined Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear energy site. Meltdowns continue in reactors one, two and in three which contains PLUTONIUM MOX FUEL. The spent fuel pool which suffered explosions, drainage and fire contains even more dangerous radioactivity than the reactors. High levels of radiation from the burning fuel pool are keeping reactor crews at a distance and hampering efforts to restore critical electric power to the cooling systems.
Heroic workers are risking their lives to contain the disaster. Power is hoped to be restored to reactors one and two on Monday, but likely damage to plant systems raises doubts about whether cooling can be restored to the super-heated reactor cores containing tons of melting radioactive fuel. Last-ditch efforts may still be made to entomb the melting reactors in concrete. Pilots and workers dumping concrete from the air would face lethal clouds of radioactivity. Operators are contemplating releasing hydrogen gas building to explosive pressures, a move which caused explosions in the one and three reactor buildings last week.
World media has done an admirable job of understanding and reporting on the risks and workings of nuclear reactors and the safety infrastructure fundamental to accident-free operation. Anti-nuclear advocates have been in high demand to comment and help the media and public analyze and understand what is happening in crisis-beleaguered Japan. The nuclear lobbyists hit Capital Hill on Monday morning with new propaganda for shaken Congressional aides. President Obama, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Southern Company and the Georgia Public Service Commission avowed their undying support for nuclear energy plans to continue with VOGTLE in Georgia. Citizens have sent hundreds of e-mail letters to Obama and Chu to "PUT THE BRAKES ON NUCLEAR POWER."
March 12, 2011: DR. MICHIO KAKU interview
ATLANTA (update 3/18/11) The situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi has grown worse and worse with every passing day. It is believed that the spent fuel pool has been on fire for more than 24 hours. (EDITOR'S NOTE 3/12/12: there is no evidence that there was a fire in the spent fuel pool) The spent fuel pool, which also lost electrical power in the aftermath of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and 33-foot tsunami wave one week ago, contains roughly four times the radioactivity of each of the three reactors which are still assumed to be melting down. Chernobyl spewed 40 percent of its radioactive contents 25 years ago, releasing 400 times as much radiation as the Hiroshima atom bomb. The disaster at Japan's nuclear site in Northeast Japan is far from being over according to experts.
Radiation from the accident reached the West Coast of the U.S. this afternoon. The NEW YORK TIMES has an animated model of the projected plume. Dramatic video footage of futile attempts to drop water on the super-heated and exposed spent reactor fuel pool at Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 4 and aerial footage of the ruined site are being studied by experts to try to understand what the states of ruin are at the Japanese reactors.
ATLANTA (update 3/14/11) A second reactor building has now exploded in Japan. Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 in Fukushima Prefecture 150 miles north of Tokyo exploded at 7:00 p.m. on Monday local time. The Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor contains MOX PLUTONIUM FUEL which is even more dangerous and deadly than uranium fuel. We have just learned through Japanese collagues that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 has lost all cooling and reactor core meltdown is imminent. Paul Gunter from Beyond Nuclear commented, "The vessel and containment are going to get the maximum test." (EDITOR'S NOTE 3/11/12: it is now known that meltdowns and breach of containment happened at reactors #1, #2, and #3.)
Japanese officials still assert that the fuel in Units 1 and 3 is only partially melted. Fuel in the super-hot reactor core is only half-covered with water though it is hard to tell because gauges are malfunctioning. Workers have been unable to reintroduce coolant to the reactor cores saying it is like trying to pour water into an inflated balloon. U.S. troops began pulling out from their position 100 miles offshore earlier today because of elevated radiation readings. The situation of having several reactor accidents simultaneously is absolutely unprecedented.
The world watches with bated breath as thousands of Japanese survivors of the monster earthquake and tsunami which rocked northern Japan Friday afternoon are forced to flee out-of-control reactors which were also damaged by the 8.9 magnitude quake. The affected area is near Sendai, population 1,000,000 in Miyagi prefecture.
The human miseries and tragic death toll caused by the horrific natural disaster are greatly worsened by the threat from multiple nuclear reactors which have been in an emergency state since the quake began. It is good that the reactors were shut down immediately and Japanese officials began evacuating people from near the troubled reactors right away. The evacuation zone has been expanded several times, currently up to 12 miles, as the situation grows more serious by the hour. More than 200,000 people are being force to leave at this time. The number of military responders has jumped from 51,000 troops to 100,000. The latest reports say that Tokai Unit 2 reactor only 75 miles from Tokyo is now in danger from loss of coolant in addition to the reactors that have been under watch since early Friday morning. Onagawa nuclear reactors in northeast Japan have been shut because of high radiation readings, presumably from the troubles at Fukushima. IAEA has stated that radiation levels are back to normal at Onagawa though IAEA's mission is to promote nuclear energy making their optimistic statements suspect to Nuclear Watch South.
Nuclear power reactors do not explode like nuclear weapons, though they can explode violently from a variety of causes. The most serious threat posed by operating nuclear reactors is the fantastic amount of radioactivity and heat that is generated and must be contained within the reactor structure. According to IAEA's website, for instance, the radioactivity released by the catastrophic explosion at CHERNOBYL was 400 times the radioactivity from the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
The extreme heat produced by nuclear fission is used to boil water which in turn drives steam generators to produce electricity. The principle is the same as burning coal and oil to make electricity, although the use of uranium, and in the case of one of the problem Japanese reactors, plutonium, for fuel greatly increases the risk that nuclear energy poses to public health and places nuclear reactors in a singular industrial class, heavily regulated and intensely controversial since its inception in President Eisenhower's 1953 "Atoms for Peace" program.
The great concern to public health and the environment from nuclear reactors is the phenomenal amount of radiation generated by tons of fissionable uranium, or less commonly used, plutonium (MOX) reactor fuel, in reactor cores. Indeed, life on Earth did not begin until radiation on the surface of our newly formed planet had died down sufficiently. The Earth is bombarded by cosmic radiation and its surface inhabitants are shielded by Earth's atmosphere. Radioactive elements exist in rock and soil, but they are widely dispersed, and again, the inhabitants, are shielded from them by the Earth itself.
Human activities have concentrated radioactivity on the surface of the Earth, creating an environmental risk that, before Chernobyl, has not been experienced on our planet. Radioactive poison works on a cellular level to cause not only illness but genetic damage. The harm to creation itself is at the very core of Nuclear Watch South's opposition to nuclear energy. The most important point to appreciate is that the radiation released from Russia's Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 spewed an unprecedented amount of radiation into the surface environment of our planet. This is why the news of the nuclear reactors in Japan is receiving so much attention.
At present, six GE boiling water reactors at Fukushima Daiichi (I) built in the 1970s and four GE boiling water reactors at Fukushima Daini (II) built in the 1980s are all shut. (EDITOR'S NOTE 3/12/12: all but one of Japan's reactors are shut) General Electric is the American company who collaborated with Hitachi and Toshiba to build nuclear reactors in Japan. Five of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors that are posing the immediate threat are the same type as Nuclear Plant Hatch on the Altamaha River in Georgia.
The problems with the three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are that the earthquake knocked out all electric power, including the power systems that keep water pumps circulating millions of gallons of water to cool the fiercely hot reactors. It is so important to keep coolant, water, flowing around the reactors that there are back-up generators. Unfortunately, these were flooded by the tsunami, and it was this total loss of power that prompted officials to begin evacuating people. In 1991, a meltdown was narrowly averted at Georgia's then-new VOGTLE reactors when a truck backed into a power pole in the switchyard knocking out all emergency power to both reactors. That accident prompted a U.S.-wide regulatory change on emergency back-up power. Reactors at Fukushima Daini are also experiencing cooling problems and operators are venting radioactive steam to reduce pressure in the reactor buildings. The latest reports say that another reactor, Unit 1 at the Tokai site near Tokyo is experiencing cooling pump failure. A state of emergency has been declared at Onagawa reactor near the Fukushima sites because of high radiation readings. Officials still claim the reactors are all under control.
The reactor building of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 exploded on Saturday. Reports that there was a meltdown in progress began to circulate and it is still suspected that a meltdown, or meltdowns, are in progress. The explosion was from the build-up of hydrogen, an accident which the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said cannot occur and a scenario for which none of 104 licensed reactors operating in the U.S. are prepared. One death has been reported, a crane operator, who may have been killed either in the explosion or by radiation. The dramatic explosion of Unit 1 was captured by video and begins at :47 seconds.
After a day of widespread speculation U.S. experts have agreed with Japanese pronouncements that the containment of the wrecked Unit 1 is still intact. Recent updates by UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS speculate that the extremely dangerous cesium 137 being detected offsite is not from a full-blown meltdown but from damaged fuel. The Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor building would normally contain the radiation that is released from the reactor so now radioactivity is indeed escaping to the environment. Sea water is being used to cool the reactor and is seen as a sign of desperation by reactor operators — nuclear expert ROBERT ALVAREZ called it a "Hail Mary pass" since corrosive sea water will ruin the reactor and prevent its ever being used again.
Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 which loaded PLUTONIUM MOX REACTOR FUEL in September 2010 exploded Monday at 7:00 p.m. local time. Operators are flooding both reactor containments with sea water and boron which captures neutrons, but have been unable thus far to figure out a way to actually introduce coolant into the reactor core. Experts agree that restoring electricity to the water pumps is crucial. Questions also remain unanswered about the condition of the chilling pools containing highly radioactive "spent" fuel rods. A press release from TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Sunday acknowledges that they are trying to figure out how to cool the fuel pools. Fuel pool fires or loss of coolant are extremely risky scenarios at reactors and in the GE boiling water reactors are located on top of the reactor building, a design weakness that was corrected in later reactor designs. The highly radioactive spent fuel rods are the class of waste for which deep geologic disposal is required, and as multiple cores are presumed to be stored in each pool, a crisis with the fuel pools could rival or surpass the crisis in the reactors.
The crippled reactors are smaller than the Chernobyl reactor which polluted much of Europe with cesium 137 in 1986. There are other crucial differences as well. The Chernobyl reactor was running at full power when it exploded with violence that spewed radiation high into the stratosphere where winds carried the radioactive fallout around the globe. The Japanese reactors have been shut for many hours now and the radiation and heat from the internal fission in the core will have dropped off sharply. However, as Japanese operators are venting radioactive steam into the environment in an effort to reduce pressure in the reactor vessels, if there is a meltdown it will likely spread radiation more locally, impacting the Japanese people potentially more than the Russian people suffered from Chernobyl.
Worldwatch Institute report finds renewables output surpasses nuclear in 2010
World Nuclear Industry
Status Report 2010–2011
Breakthrough study by IEER proves we can get off coal, oil and nuclear by 2040
IT’S LONG PAST THE TIME TO END RELIANCE ON NUCLEAR POWER
WASHINGTON, DC (3/13/11) — The SUN DAY Campaign and many other safe energy advocates have been speaking out about the risks and dangers posed by nuclear power for decades – since before the 1986 Chornobyl accident, since before the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, and since before the hundreds of other radioactive releases, unplanned shut-downs, and other mishaps that have continuously plagued both the U.S. and the international nuclear industry since its founding.
While nuclear power’s unacceptable safety, environmental, public health, economic, and national security risks should have been self-evident long before now, the latest unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan once again underscores the following:
Nuclear plants can never be designed to withstand all potential “acts of God.”
Nuclear plants can never be designed to withstand all instances of “human error.”
Nuclear plants can never be designed to withstand all types of “mechanical malfunction.”
Nuclear plants can never be designed to withstand all forms of “terrorist attack.”
There is no such thing as “safe” nuclear power.
There is no such thing as “clean” nuclear power.
There is no such thing as “cheap” nuclear power.
Consequently, all governmental financial and regulatory incentives for new nuclear plant construction should be ended and no new reactors should be built.
Existing nuclear reactors should be phased out as rapidly as possible and no now-licensed reactors should have their operating lives extended.
Safety standards for existing reactors should be substantially tightened while they continue to operate and federal nuclear funding should be redirected to the orderly phase-out of those reactors as well as the safe decommissioning of closed reactors and disposal of radioactive waste.
National energy policy should be refocused on greatly improved energy efficiency and the rapid deployment of renewable energy sources which are far cleaner, safer, and cheaper than nuclear power.
SUN DAY CAMPAIGN