Nuclear Alert–Fukushima Just Will Not Go Away   1 comment

Fukushima

Thanks to our friends at “Beyond Nuclear” for their continuing work in covering both United States Nuclear dangers and the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima plant in Japan.  This morning Beyond Nuclear is reporting the results of United States Senator Wyden’s recent tour of the Fukushima site. The Senator wrote that he was shocked by the potential for catastrophic radioactive releases from the ruined site.  In his follow up letter to the Japanese Ambassador he wrote:

The scope of damage to the plants and to the surrounding area was far beyond what I expected and the scope of the challenges to the utility owner, the government of Japan, and to the people of the region are daunting. The precarious status of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear units and the risk presented by the enormous inventory of radioactive materials and spent fuel in the event of further earthquake threats should be of concern to all and a focus of greater international support and assistance.

Please contact Sen. Wyden to thank him for his vital efforts, and contact Secretary Chu,Secretary Clinton, and Chairman Jaczko, urging they do what Sen. Wyden calls for. You can also contact your U.S. Senators and Representative, to urge them to add their voices to Sen. Wyden’s effort.

In his letters to the Japanese Ambassador,  Ms. Clinton and Dr. Jaczko, the Senator noted:

TEPCO’s December 21, 2011 remediation roadmap proposes to take up to ten years to complete spent fuel removal from the pools on the site.  Given the compromised nature of these structures due to the events of March 11th, this schedule carries extraordinary and continuing risk…Seeing the extent of the disaster first hand during my visit conveyed the magnitude of this tragedy and the continuing risks and challenges in a way that news accounts cannot.

According to Mr. Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy:

In recent times, more information about the spent fuel situation at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site has become known.  It is my understanding that of the 1,532 spent fuel assemblies in reactor No. 304 assemblies are fresh and unirradiated. This then leaves 1,231 irradiated spent fuel rods in pool No. 4, which contain roughly 37 million curies (~1.4E+18 Becquerel) of long-lived radioactivity.  The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.

The infrastructure to safely remove this material was destroyed as it was at the other three reactors.  Spent reactor fuel cannot be simply lifted into the air by a crane as if it were routine cargo.  In order to prevent severe radiation exposures, fires and possible explosions, it must be transferred at all times in water and heavily shielded structures into dry casks.. As this has never been done before, the removal of the spent fuel from the pools at the damaged Fukushima-Dai-Ichi reactors will require a major and time-consuming re-construction effort and will be charting in unknown waters. Despite the enormous destruction cased at the Da–Ichi site, dry casks holding a smaller amount of spent fuel  appear to be unscathed.

Based on U.S. Energy Department data, assuming a total of 11,138 spent fuel assemblies are being stored at the Dai-Ichi site, nearly all, which is in pools. They contain roughly 336 million curies (~1.2 E+19 Bq) of long-lived radioactivity. About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 — roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accidents estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP). The total spent reactor fuel inventory at the Fukushima-Daichi site contains nearly half of  the total amount of Cs-137 estimated by the NCRP to have been released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, Chernobyl, and world-wide reprocessing plants (~270 million curies or ~9.9 E+18 Becquerel).

It is important for the public to understand that reactors that have been operating for decades, such as those at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site have generated some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet.

Many might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than the Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the public debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.

According to the reporting of Akio Matsumura

The meltdown and unprecedented release of radiation that would ensue is the worst case scenario that then-Prime Minister Kan and other former officials have discussed in the past months. He warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that such an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty. Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable. Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis “just opened Pandora’s Box.”

Reactor Building Number Four in its Current State.

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