Monday, March 28, 2011

Radio Ecoshock's amazing series of reports on the Japanese nuclear disaster

I happily listen to Radio Ecoshock every week and highly recommend the show. The last couple weeks Alex Smith (the host) has done an amazing job of collecting information and publishing more shows than normal. The reports have had accurate and useful information about the disaster, interviews with leading scientists, and a certain amount of gloomy outlook because Alex seems to have a darker view than most. Anyway.. that aside, it's excellent stuff.

All the following text is copied off his blog post accompanying each podcast episode. I liberally quoted quite a bit but not every word. I've informed him of this page and I believe he's in approval of what I've done. When reading the following when the word "I" appears it is Alex Smith talking. For further information please go to his website.


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I have more news nobody wants to hear about. Yes, it's the continuing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan.

... undeniable video footage, reported on Russian TV, that Reactor 4 is leaning badly, with a possibility the building could fall over ...

... Japan suddenly released an aerial map of radioactive contamination, developed with the U.S. Energy Agency. It shows horrible radiation far outside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone - up to 80 kilometers away from the damaged nuclear plant....

... Three reactors admittedly melted down. At least two nuclear spent fuel ponds are partly blown-up or leaking. Radiation levels higher than Chernobyl. Two reactors are heating up dangerously, one even beyond normal operating temperature in a reactor. This amid a culture of hidden nuclear worker poisoning, and a history of withholding nasty nuclear facts....


... On May 10th, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan appears to have cancelled plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors. Such a step was unimaginable before Fukushima.

Prime Minister Kan also requested, and got, the closure of what has long been considered Japan's most dangerous reactor - the Hamaoka nuclear power station. Some reports suggest the Americans pressured this decision, fearing radiation risk to nearby bases at Yokota, Yokosuka, Atsugi and Zama.

INDIA ... Despite brave announcements from governments heavily invested in big nuclear promises, Fukushima is chilling new plants around the world. In just one example among dozens, the environment ministry committee set up to evaluate a proposal for four 1000 megawatt plants on the Bay of Bengal - have refused to grant the license. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power project in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is one hold. ... Two reactors are almost finished there. Looking at high chances of a quake or tsunami, this plant right on the coast looked too much like Fukushima. The committee is asking for more safety details, specifically citing Fukushima. Source: Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 28, 2011

... There have been violent protests, and one death in India against the big government nuclear power expansion plants. The proposed world's largest reactor complex, the Jaitapur project, in western Maharashtra state, have the French company Areva as a partner. Nuclear dealing has been very secret in India, almost as part of its nuclear weapons complex. The public has little to no say on what is built. Millions of people would be in danger around each reactor. ...

... Reactor Four at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion on March 15th.

Theoretically, that should never have happened. The reactor had been shut down for several months, for maintenance. Following a Japanese practice, not allowed in the United States, all of the unused fuel rods, 204 of them, were moved into the spent fuel pool, right above the reactor. That pool was already the most heavily loaded at the site, with 1331 spent fuel rods in the pond. There is far more radioactive material in this pond than ever existed at Chernobyl.

... Following the earth quake March 11th, water ran dry in the pool. A reaction took place creating hydrogen, which collected in the outer shell, and then blew up. There were fires in the building for two days, recorded on video from a great distance. We can presume a giant plume of radiation escaped, blowing mostly into the sea due to wind direction, but also on to the land of Japan. In that pool fire, explosion and continuing daily radioactive steam are the worst and most long-lasting elements, including plutonium, uranium, strontium, and others we seldom hear about. ...

... The plant operator, Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, suggests radioactive debris fell into the Reactor 4 pool, due to the much larger explosion at Reactor 3 next door, the day before. What we do know from recent video, and from footage shot by drone fly-overs: the Reactor 4 building was very severely damaged. It looks like a wreck, not a reactor building. We can see right through parts of it, like looking through a skeleton. Now, as reported by Russia Today TV, analysis of video shows the whole Reactor 4 building is tilting badly.

... Two weeks ago, .. Radio Ecoshock program titled "Fukushima Drama" .. reported weakness in the structure of the Reactor Four spent fuel pool, and Japanese proposals to build several concrete pillars under it. Now it appears that work has started. Among a cascade of catastrophic possibilities at this nuclear plant, beginning this work at Reactor 4 underlines how severe and serious this threat is.

Remember too, there was a lot of very hot radioactive debris around both reactors 3 and 4. Some of it, possibly including parts of fuel rods blown out by explosions, was dragged into a dirt pit, by remote-controlled bull-dozers

Workers will be risking their lives to work on the Reactor 4 building. But as you'll hear later in this program, the Japanese nuclear industry is no stranger to using up expendable workers to clean up a mess....

WHERE DOES ALL THE WATER PUMPED INTO REACTOR FOUR FUEL POND GO? Meanwhile, an unmanned modified cement pouring arm is dropping up to 200 tons of water a day into that spent fuel pool at Reactor 4. Where is it all going? Some isgoing back up into the air, as radioactive steam. We can see that on live video cams. Reactor 4 has been steaming or smoking ever since the accident two months ago. Depending on the wind, the radiation goes either out to sea, or over Japan, for many miles inland.

DOZENS OF SEWAGE SYSTEMS FILLED WITH RADIOACTIVITY We do know the sewage systems of Fukushima Prefecture are filled with nuclear poisons.... It started May 1st, with a report from Jiji Press in Japan. Being a small country with few resources, the Japanese attempt to recycle almost everything. So they burn their sewage sludge, producing a kind of slag that is sold off to japanese cement companies, who turn them into blocks, and other cement products. The treatement plant in Koriyama Japan measured 26,400 becquerels of cesium in every kilogram of sludge. The reduced sludge measured a staggering 334,000 becquerels per kilo. Local officials admitted ten tons a day were sent out to a cement company, totaling 500 tons since the earthquake in early March.

REACTOR ONE IN BIG, BIG TROUBLE - ALL FUEL RODS EXPOSED: On the 27th of April, Bloomberg news reported radiation levels at Reactor 1 rose to the highest levels measured since the March 11th quake. A pair of robots masure an astounding 1,120 millisierverts per hour of radiation. If I calculate correctly, thats about 112,000 millirems per hour, in American measurement. Then it got worse. The temperature inside this first reactor kept rising, and there is only one reason why.

On May 11th, Bloomberg News reported Tepco admitted THE ENTIRE FUEL ROD ASSEMBLY IS TOTALLY EXPOSED TO THE AIR in Reactor 1. In fact, the water level was 3 feet, 1 meter below the fuel rod assembly. This likely means the entire fuel bundle has melted down. Honestly, I don't know what comes next. Tepco has taken far too long to find this out, to do anything about it.

... What does a complete melt-down mean? When does it go through the reactor containment into the basement, all the way to groundwater - where it explosed violently? Is it already melting out? This can only go from very bad, to extremely bad. Chilling news indeed.

REACTOR TWO: Reactor Two is probably the most seriously damaged. It has a hole in it, lava-like nuclear fuel is pooled in the bottom, possibly leaking out into the lower aparatus or building basement. Certainly highly radioactive water, tons and tons more of it every day, is passing directly through the melted fuel into various catchments, the basements and trenches, and the sub-soil. TEPCO is trying to catch some of it, for storage or treatment later. Reactor Two is also smoking, releasing radioactive steam each and every day. It is a nuclear accident out of control.

REACTOR THREE: And yet that almost seems better than the monster next door, Reactor Three. NHK World understates the situation this way: "The firm also says the temperature of the plant's Number 3 reactor has been rising this month, and that work to pump water to cool the reactor may be insufficient."

It may be "insufficient" because the temperature inside Reactor 3 keeps rising and rising. At one point it was measured above 300 degrees C, at least 572 degrees Fahrenheit - higher than the operating temperature of a live reactor.

ABUSE OF NUCLEAR WORKERS IN JAPAN: ... But this bold search for the new Japan calls on the people to admit one more shame: the dirty secret of how that country's nuclear industry has used the most defenceless people to clean up their mess. Those workers are expected to go way and die as unreported casualties of radiation sickness, and deadly cancer.

Japan has a history of using outcasts for the most menial work. Over long feudal time, they created a lower caste for such jobs. This continued into modern times, and some untrained casual workers have been employed to clean up nuclear accidents, reportedly just with buckets and towels, with no protective equipment.

You can find evidence in the film "Nuclear Ginza" produced in 1995 for the UK television Channel 4. The film starts in Japanese, with English sub-titles, then weaves in English language narration. You hear the stories, and see the images, of low-class or homeless workers used by the nuclear industry, for very little pay. In some cases, nobody explained the risk, and nobody kept track of their dose, and ignored obvious signs of radiation poisoning. If a law suit arose, the victim was paid off, the film says.

See that complete half hour documentary at

"Stoneleigh", and in her career as Nicole Foss... She has a degree and experience in evaluating nuclear accidents. In Stoneleigh's recent moving and poignant post at The Automatic Earth, she explores the reported horrible conditions for workers at Fukushima during this accident, in the context of long-term abuse of nuclear workers in dangerous situations in Japan.

Stoneleigh explains the history of lower castes in Japan, from the Burakumin to the yoseba. There are many links in the article, including to another blog titled "Dying for Tepco? Fukushima's Nuclear Contract Workers" by Paul Jobin at

How these use-them and lose-them workers are attracted by false advertisements, (or hustled up by Yakuza according to the program "Nuclear Ginza"). They face incredible risks, and afterwards are shunned. As today's Fukushima nuclear workers will be in Japan.

Have you wondered how more than a thousand TEPCO workers walked through radioactive water, wandered near record-high radiation outside the plants, ran through tunnels of irradiated water - while the utility claims there is not a single serious radiation injury? That nobody has suffered radiation poisoning, or even gone over the recently raised acceptable levels? ...


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Call it 3/11 for the March 11th date when four reactors started their journey to explosions and runaway radiation.

Your life will never be the same. Right now, listeners outside Japan are asking "Are we safe?" What about the drinking water, milk, food? Should we buy Japanese products?

THE REAL SITUATION NOW The real situation now depends on where you live. For Japan, as you will soon learn, the radiation is much worse than reported. My opinion is: the government is verging on criminal acts by withholding vital information from the Japanese people, leaving more people in irradiated zones, eating irradiated food, while running other nuclear reactors with the same risk or worse.

For the worried people in North America, the situation is slightly better. So long as there are no further explosions taking heavy radioactive isotopes into the upper atmosphere, what crosses the Pacific will be bad, but livable. As I will explain next, with the latest news, there is a lot that could go wrong. We could still see more waves of radioactive elements, similar to the one which hit North America's West Coast in the week March 18th to 23rd, and Europe a week later. Don't let this new story slip out of your attention.

The news for the Pacific ocean, and all the fish, whales, and creatures there, is very bad. Every week sees a new and worse announcement of rising radiation released into the ocean. Everything points to this pollution continuing for months, if not years or decades. We don't know where that leads.

WHAT IS THE RISK OF ANOTHER BIG BURST OF RADIATION INTO THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE? In the third week of April, a representative of the Japanese government said the Fukushima reactor site was somewhat stable. He promised there was no chance of another big explosion, and no further risk to Tokyo. Here is one news story from Agence France Press:

"The Japanese prime minister's special advisor on the nuclear crisis says the immediate risk of a major radiation leak from the Fukushima power plant has receded, the Wall Street Journal reported. The government could not say the situation had been completely stabilized at the plant, but after studying the possibility of severe deterioration Tokyo was comfortable with the current evacuation policy, Goshi Hosono told the paper in an interview Saturday. 'There is no way Tokyo or Kyoto will come into harm's way,' said Hosono, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's special advisor on management of the nuclear crisis."

No threat to Tokyo? Published government statistics show radiation in Tokyo is 2.5 times higher than normal. One amateur with a high quality Geiger Counter published this on his face book page: "2011-04-26 [at] 15:13: 0.716 micro-Sieverts/h. Location: Roof of Metropolis Office, Minato-ku, Tokyo." That is 18 times Tokyo normal. It goes up and down, depending on the wind direction.

CREDIBILITY OF JAPANESE AND UTILITY AUTHORITIES Should we believe the Japanese authorities, that the major crisis has passed? Even as news conferences reveal that the danger is unknown? The instrumentation for these reactors and spent fuel pools was washed away. There are no working control rooms. No human has even approached the reactor buildings 1 to 3 over a month later.

SUDDEN READJUSTMENT OF FIGURES WAY UP There have been international complaints about a lack of sharing that which is known. A real blow to the credibility of the government -and the plant operator Tepco - comes from their continuing press strategy "minimize now, confess later".

In the worst example, on April 23rd, the government Cabinet Office admitted the total radioactivity released by Fukushima Dai-ichi was many times higher than they claimed previously. On April 5th, the government said the amount released was 0.69 terabecquerels/hour for iodine-131 and 0.14 terabecquerels/hour for cesium-137. After this comparatively low number was widely circulated in the international press, two weeks later the numbers were recalculated to be at least 10 times higher. I quote the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper here, "converting cesium amount into iodine equivalent), the amount released turned out to be 6.4 terabecquerels/hour (which was 154 terabecquerels per day. Previously, the Nuclear Safety Commission had simply added the numbers for iodine-131 and cesium-137, and announced it was less than 1 terabecquerel per hour."

MORE ON PLUTONIUM FROM FUKUSHIMA Let's talk about that plutonium that neither Japan nor the U.S. authorities want to tell us. Charles Digges, published March 31 in Russian environment group Bellona, said: "In typical circumstances, plutonium does not go airborne. But in catastrophic conditions like Chernobyl and Fukushima, plutonium ends up in the environment and remains toxic for hundreds and thousand of years.

On Monday, TEPCO officials announced they had found isotopes of plutonium 238, 239 and 240 in soil samples taken on March 21 and 22 from five locations at the plant. One sample of plutonium 238, according to TEPCO, was measured at 0.54 Bequerel per kilogram of soil, and the mix of plutonium 239 and 240 in two other samples measured 1.2 Bequerel per kilogram. The data do not make clear how dense the contamination by alpha isotopes is and how many Becquerel are measured in a square meter.

Also in question is whether plutonium is spreading to the environment from the damaged reactors by steam or leaks, or both, or from the spent fuel storage pools. The plutonium finds signal another dangerous turn of events. Sedentary plutonium oxide soon becomes soluble and it can be expected that it will not remain within the confines of the Fukushima Daiichi plant for long, nuclear experts said.

Yukiyo Edano, chief Secretary of the Japanese cabinet said that the plutonium leaks confirm fuel melts. “It is likely that the appearance of the plutonium is a result of the situation of the fuel rods. They may be partially melting,” Edano told reporters."

REACTOR 1 Let's start with reactor number one. Was the first explosion at Fukushima caused by Japanese reluctance to vent radioactive gas, and explosive hydrogen, into the Japanese countryside? And what does that tell us about routine radiation released by reactors in America, England, and elsewhere?

A revealing Wall St. Journal investigation suggests Japanese fear of releasing radiation made this accident worse. Following the atomic bombing, Japan did not want more radiation. Therefore Japanese authorities made much stricter rules about venting radiation than the Americans, who designed the GE Mark 1 reactors at Fukushima. Tepco had to ask high-level Japanese authorities for permission, causing an overnight delay. Then they were afraid of the super-high radiation inside the plant, when it came to sending a worker inside to release the valves manually. More hours of delay, and so the hydrogen from melting fuel rods built up, creating pressure twice the design limits, and exploded, wrecking the outer building and other equipment, possibly including the spent fuel pond.

THE RISKS OF FLOODING REACTORS The Japanese authorities plan to drown the reactors and fuel pools at Fukushima. They will even flood the reactor containment vessels. Since there is no recycling capable of handling all this new water, it must collect in reactor buildings, trenches, the sub-soil, and the sea. On April 22, NHK World TV reported water still could not be raised high enough to cover the fuel rods in Reactor 1. Tepco plans to flood the containment vessel to cool the reactor. The Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency expressed concerns the extra weight could break the building, if another large quake occurred. They also said suppression pool pipes may not withstand the weight of extra water. I read this as a possibility the reactor building, or the reactor itself, could fall apart under weight of water never planned in the original design. A desperation move.

REACTOR 2 We'll move on the equally dangerous Reactor Number 2. As you recall, The Los Angeles Times on March 15th said one third of the fuel rods in this reactor were damaged, likely melting down. And this reactor has a hole blown in the lower structure, that pours out any water injected as highly radioactive waste. "Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said an estimated 70% of the nuclear fuel rods have been damaged at the No. 1 reactor and 33% at the No. 2 reactor." Despite pumping thousands of gallons of highly radioactive water into the #2 condenser tank, Tepco reported April 18th "At the Number 2 reactor, the level of highly contaminated water in the tunnel is still rising."

REACTOR 3 Reactor #3 is a mess and everyone knows it. Again, there is a partial melt-down of fuel. This reactor has the highest level of radioactivity around it, and yet the lowest temperature and pressure of the three formerly operating reactors in that row at Fukushima. No human has entered the reactor 3 building.

An unbelievably radioactive piece of concrete was found near Reactor #3. This 30 by 30 centimeter piece measured 900 milliseverts an hour. Tepco believes this fragment came from the explosion at Reactor 3. Was it part of the now missing fuel pond? Or did it come from the reactor itself? [Recorded in audio, or video here.

Tepco admits Reactor 3 fuel has melted down, but says the upper containment held. Arnie Gundersen says this reactor has the lowest pressure and lowest temperature of all three reactors 1 to 3, and may be the least dangerous. In the Radio Ecoshock interview, he agrees part of the Reactor 3 spent fuel pond is missing. But Gundersen suspects part of the Reactor spent fuel pool remains, being the extreme heat source shown in aerial heat photos of the site. Some kind of radioaction is happening there.

REACTOR 4 - SPENT FUEL POND We move on to Reactor Number 4. As you know, that reactor was shut down for maintenance at the time of the quake and tsunami on March 11th. The still unused reactor fuel was placed in the spent fuel pool as well, a few months before the accident. The spent fuel pond is the dark ogre of Reactor 4.

During the week of April 12-14, operator error led to that fuel pond draining, heating up, and emitting more steam and radiation. Tepco confirms damage to this pond fuel, reporting Iodine 131 and Cesium-137, signs of nuclear reaction. The utility says there are 1,331 spent fuel rods and 204 unused fuel rods stored in the pool. As the Japanese news service Kyodo reports, quote: "According to TEPCO, radioactive iodine-131 amounting to 220 becquerels per cubic centimeter, cesium-134 of 88 becquerels and cesium-137 of 93 becquerels were detected in the pool water. Those substances are generated by nuclear fission." "The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the confirmed radioactive materials were up to 100,000 times higher than normal, but that the higher readings may have also been caused by the pouring of rainwater containing much radioactivity, or particles of radiation-emitting rubble in the pool."

Arnie Gundersen of takes up the rainwater claim in one of his free online videos. The calculations show Fukushima releases were either greater than Chernobyl - or this idea that rainwater caused the new radioactivity readings is not true.

REACTORS 5 AND 6 Everyone knows Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors number 5 and 6 are perfectly safe. Forget about them, says the government and Tepco. But NHK World TV reports water is rising in the turbine buildings of Reactors 5 and 6, making them less stable in case of quake. Tepco says it could be groundwater. Or is it radioactive water from other operations? Unreported by the mainstream media, this supposedly "safe" facility is slowly flooding. Reactors 5 and 6 are said to be in cold shut-down, but the earlier problems with their spent fuel pools have not been reported on lately. Following warnings from the government, and international scientists, it seems very likely that at least one of the reactor buildings will collapse further, either due to internal water load, or because of excess water in the basements and subsoil. We don't know what happens then.

PROPOSED RESPONSE BY JAPAN/TEPCO We can only briefly discuss some of the proposed responses by the utility Tepco and the Japanese government. The first priority appears to be the construction of a new external cooling system. This means large new tanks and a new treatment facility to recycle the cooling water, to be complete by summer, as announced April 16th.

THE NEW RADIOACTIVE SEA For everyone in the world, it is important to realize more radioactive poisoning of the sea is simply inevitable, given the Japanese strategy of pouring on more and more water. On April 16th, radiation was still rising in the sea near Fukushima, despite earlier plug of leak. According to the New York Times, quote: " he level of radioactive iodine 131 jumped to 6,500 times the legal limit, according to samples taken Friday, up from 1,100 times the limit in samples taken the day before. Levels of cesium 134 and cesium 137 rose nearly fourfold."


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was Fukushima made worse by a secret weapons program? Did the Americans cause this disaster with HAARP?


One blogger, citing Chinese sources, says the big quake and Fukushima accident are the result of a secret Japanese nuclear weapons test. He says: "Chinese experts say that this was not an earthquake, a top-secret testing of nuclear weapons."

Believers in this theory use Net photos of a mysterious whirlpool, which could be a result of tsunami. The General theory is the Japanese, who are experts at tunnels (they made the deepest railway tunnel in world), - constructed a secret underwater nuclear base, which blew up, causing the quake. Radiation at reactors was to cover up a secret test March 9th, they say.

There is zero proof. It would have to be a really big nuclear weapon, since [116] estimates of the single 9.0 quake power is one million kiloton bombs.

PROJECTED RADIATION CALLED "FACTS" - THE NORWEGIAN INSTITUTE CASE Let's consider the most serious misleading and frightening example of Net reporting gone wrong. In just one of hundreds of examples, on [126] April 14 a Net poster with the label Dutchsine released a You tube video with maps apparently showing radiation pouring over North America, especially the West Coast. These animated maps were based on projections made by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU).

When I checked with the author, Dr. John F. Burkhart, his email response denied these maps showed real levels of radiation, but a "worst case" projection based on the first burst after the hydrogen explosions. That was a high level that did not continue, invalidating the projections. Nevertheless, the animations spread all over the Net as fact, causing misplaced fear. Contacted by Burkhart, Dutchsinse did not reply, and did not correct the video.

That was followed by an even more misleading video about Xenon 133. The posters did not realize Burkhart boosted the Xenon projection by two orders of magnitude, to be able to see what might happen with Xenon (but didn't). You'll find those garish blue smears hitting North America all over the Net - but they do not reflect reality, as Burkhart told me.

COAST BEING "BOMBARDED" WITH PLUTONIUM? How about the stories that the West Coast is being "bombarded" by plutonium? Should I try and find a hole to hide in? Is it safe for us to go to work, or kids to go to school? This is scary stuff.

The best sources of new information can also be the worst. I've found good links at the Alexander Higgins blog, resulting from excellent digging into EPA databases online. But Higgins' blood-curdling headlines are over-the-top frightening. For example, Higgins, drawing on research by Lucas Hixton Whitefield, carries this lurid headline April 21st: "Radioactive Fukushima Plutonium And Strontium Bombarding US West Coast Since March 18th" But the actual figures show barely detectable levels of either material. For example the amount of Plutonium-238 measured by the EPA in Seattle was 0.0000025 pCi/m3, or Pico Curries of radiation per cubic meter of air. And that likely stopped by the end of March.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2011 BILL MCKIBBEN - Last Stand for Climate

Alex Smith skipped posting a nuclear accident update this week saying:- I have a problem. Important news continues to pour out of the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, along with radiation reaching my home here on the West Coast of North America. At the same time, about a dozen listeners have sent email reminders that this nuclear accident, even at it's very worst, can never kill as many millions of people as climate change. Though Fukushima radiation may continue to damage the chromosomes of plants and animals for a few million years, global warming appears to be driving a mass extinction event.


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A single test for Strontium-90, which is attracted to bone marrow and increases cases of leukemia - was found more than 30 kilometers from the plant, according to Kyodo news.

Scroll down in this story by blogger Alexander Higgens to find traces of uranium-234 and uranium-238 from Fukushima found in Hawaii, California, and Washington State by the U.S. EPA.

What does the Japanese government know, and when will they tell us? Why did the Canadian government refuse to test milk? (Now, after fantastic pressure, the Canucks say they will test milk in British Columbia. Even though radioactive milk has been found in Vermont and other states.)

CONTEST: BIGGEST WHITEWASH BY A MAINSTREAM REPORTER (this week) The prize for biggest whitewash from a Western reporter goes to.... [drum roll] no, not George Monbiot, but long-time BBC Science correspondent Pallab Ghosh. He tells us Fukushima is nothing like Chernobyl, and was only upgraded because of technicalities in the International Scale (INES) . Let's join as Pallab and his long-time employer the BBC take up this analysis....

GHOSH: Well that's the point. The levels of radiation are relatively low, especially compared to Chernobyl. It's just on a technical point that it has been raised to 7. I think what a lot of people have been saying is that this reveals the inadequacy of this system which is supposed to be like the magnitude scale for earthquakes. ...

What about the tens of thousands of nuclear evacuees, and all the Japanese who dutifully stayed in the radioactive dumping zone until that was expanded. I can't believe Pallab Ghosh was so naive... no risk to people living near the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant? Did he miss the memo about plutonium-laden nuclear fuel rods blown a mile and a half out of the site?

I want to briefly take you back to March 14th in Japan, 3 days after the quake struck. Here is Russia Today [RT 110314 Panic Call all 6]

On the same day, a Russia Today reporter calls in about the #4 spent fuel pond, which I suspect as one of the major sources of contamination of Japan, North America and the Northern Hemisphere. [RT 110414 Spent #4 fuel pond]

Here is a clip from NHK World Japanese television March 14: [NHK World 110314 #4 fire]

And finally the next day, with the fire still raging in Reactor 4 fuel pond on the 15th, along with the open-to-the-sky bonfire of the spent fuel of Reactor 3 next door. [NHK World 110315 #4 and #3 on fire]

There are repeated press stories saying that raw fuel rods littered the reactor plant site, preventing human access to at least the Reactor 3 building, with an almost eerie silence about what was going on in Reactor #4. Here is just one story from the pile, NHK World April 9th, when areas of the plant could not be reached by anything human, almost a month after the quake.

DEATHS AND INJURIES - A LITTLE INFO DRIBBLES OUT... Now on the subject of deaths and injuries, three people are admitted dead at the reactor sites. One was a crane operator killed at the other Fukushima Daiini site. At Fukushima Dai-ichi, two worker's bodies were "missing" for over two weeks, and finally retrieved from a reactor building, or tunnel. Tepco and the government say they died in the tsunami or earthquake. Their bodies were highly radioactive.

About 29 others were injured, some of them due to radioactivity. At least nineteen workers or firemen at Fukushima received at least a lifetime dose of radiation, although we are not told how much.

A PROBLEM FOR THE REST OF THIS CENTURY Shaun Burnie, an independent nuclear consultant from Scotland told Russia Today TV on April 4th, "Twenty five years after Chernobyl, they're still struggling with contamination on the site and the threat of further releases. Fukushima is 3 reactors and many, many more tons of spent fuel than is contained in Chernobyl. So this is an issue we're going to be talking about probably for the rest of the century and beyond."

IS JAPAN STOCKPILING PLUTONIUM FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS? In another paper, "Thinking the Unthinkable - Japanese nuclear power and proliferation in East Asia", Shaun and co-author Frank Barnabie suggest Japan has used its nuclear power industry to create all the necessary materials to create a nuclear bomb very quickly. Japan is, they suggest, a de facto nuclear state, which would not be surprising considering North Korea has threatened to send a nuclear missile to Japan, while testing just such a missile in the Sea of Japan.

DISASTER CAPITALISM And there's another kind of conspriracy swirling around the damaged plant. Nuclear-Industrial titans with their political allies, nations and campaign contributions want the new new nuclear renassiance: gazillions of dollars to clean up the mess they made. The partnership that built Fukushima, General Electric, and now their newer partner Hitachi, have sent in a plan to dismantle Fukushima One. ... The prize: more than a trillion yen, at least twelve billion dollars, with another twenty or thirty billion in cost over-runs I suggest - in a super-contract lasting decades. Disaster capitalism at its best.


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Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency assured the world there would be no further explosions.

The following Tuesday the Los Angeles Times reported, "Engineers also planned to begin injecting nitrogen gas into reactors Nos. 1,2, and 3 in an attempt to prevent possible explosions from the buildup of hydrogen gas..."

Japan unilaterally decides to dump thousands of tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific ocean. On top of the existing leak of highly radioactive waste water coming from Fukushima reactor number 2.

Here is a report from Mark Willacy of ABC TV Australia.

MARK WILLACY: It's extremely serious. What we have is a 20-centimetre long crack inside a concrete pit near reactor 2. Now that's letting out 7,000 tonnes of radioactive water every hour, and this is quite highly radioactive water, this isn't low-level radiation. Now what they've tried to do is try to plug that crack. They've tried to put concrete in it, but the force of the water has just blown the concrete out; the crack's still there.

MARK WILLACY: Well I can tell you that ... There's going to be an 11,500 tonnes of what's being called low-level radioactive water dumped into the Pacific. Now, the reason this has to be done according to TEPCO, the company that operates the plant and the government here in Tokyo, is because this water's just building up around the plant. As I said, 11,500 tonnes of it, it's not going anywhere, it has to be moved out of the way so that really contaminated and toxic radioactive water can be stored safely at the plant and not run off into the ocean. So that dumping process has started tonight.... the government and TEPCO are saying, "Please, do not panic. This is low-level radioactive water.

ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Other conservation organisations say there is no justification for deliberate ocean dumping. The Friend's of the Earth describe the move as exporting Japan's burden to the world.

DAMON MOGLEN: We're really in a disastrous situation in Japan. There are only bad choices at this point. We really do face a situation in which we could have further explosions and fires at the reactors and the nuclear waste site, and they do indeed need to cool it down.

dumping radioactive waste at sea is forbidden under an international treaty called the London Convention. Japan, the US and Australia are all signatories to the treaty, but he says it doesn't cover release of radioactive material from land.

the Japanese government and industry are using a loophole which says that, while you can't dump nuclear waste directly into the ocean in barrels, for example, you can actually pump it into the ocean from land based sources.

Following announcements on Japanese TV, the American Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Reactor #1 was 70% destroyed.

Arnie Gundersen of Fairwinds Associates makes a strong case there are intermittent bursts of criticality - live and uncontrolled atomic reactions - happening in Reactor #1. He bases this on isotopes reported by Japanese authorities - which can only come from a current atomic reaction. "Inadvertent criticality" may erupt from time to time inside the damaged reactor.

Reactor #2 is estimated to be 30% destroyed, and several sources say melted radioactive materials have burned through the containment, to the concrete floor below. Extremely radioactive water has filled the turbine hall, and trenches around the reactor, including that 7,000 tons an hour leak to the Pacific.

Reactor #3 looks all but destroyed, and has radioactive water so hot workers cannot even try to restore systems there.

The spent fuel pool in Reactor #4 was out of water for some time, may have damaged fuel rods, and could be the most dangerous of all. a hydrogen explosion in the fuel pool of Reactor #4 blew highly radioactive material sky-high on March 15th. There were hot reactor fuel rods in that pool, likely distributing nasty elements, including plutonium.

The New York Times published an article "U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan's Nuclear Plant" on April 5th that you must read. It contains a secret assessment of more problems, including the risk of those radwater-filled buildings falling apart in an aftershock.

Starting March 19th, the Americans evacuated 200,000 personel and their dependents from Japan, in a mass air job. A government web site gives the reason, quote: " Departure is authorized due to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant following the 8.8 earthquake and tsunami."

From Al Jezeera April 4 transcript:

"Less than 200 kilometers to the north [from the Hamaoke nuclear power plant] lies Japan's capital, where the operator of the crippled Fukushima plant is coming under increased pressure. A small crowd gathered outside the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power company to voice their anger at its handling of the crisis.

The protests seem to go completely unnoticed by the Japanese media. ...

The Japanese journalists could be found inside the Tepco building, waiting for the latest update from management. One reporter who wasn't there was Takashio Isugi.[spelling may not be correct] He's a free-lancer who is now out of work after he criticized Tepco for mistakes made after the Tsunami struck. 'The Japanese mass media is basically sponsored by Tepco through advertising. So far, nobody from the mass media has criticized Tepco. Only free-lancers.'

press reports said the American Environmental Protection Agency withdrew 20 monitors because readings were too high. The Agency later clarified the radiation monitors, part of RadNet, weren't working properly. That included 4 out of 11 monitoring machines in California, where two nuclear power plants sit near earthquake faults. In fact, the Federal government didn't release any radioactivity report until Tuesday April 5th, 25 days after one of the world's largest nuclear disasters.

March 28, 2011: Plutonium, more leaks, & big no-go zone - Japan

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Japan Atomic Emergency Bulletin #5, for Monday March 28th in North America, Tuesday in Japan: "A full 17 days after the earthquake and tsunami..." the Japanese government finally gets around to testing for Plutonium. Uh... as he says... "In the past few days, extremely high levels of radioactive water have been found in Reactor #3, and in soil in a trench outside the buildings. Reactor Number 3 has been steaming or burning for weeks. Despite the pronouncements of various experts, I always suspected plutonium was bound to be released into the environment."

"The Greenpeace team led by radiological expert jan va de Putte found radiation levels up to ten micro Sieverts per hour in Iitate village, 40 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima nuclear plant. This is 20 kilometers outside the official evacuation zone."

"This is also an alarming development for the international community. If a storm or common winds carry plutonium to North America, or throughout the Northern Hemisphere, water supplies and farms could be polluted for more than a hundred thousand years." ..but.. "THIS IS NOT HAPPENING NOW!"

"The New York Times reported one reactor had a crack in the containment vessel, according to an inside source. That story since disappeared. Various government officials have said at least two reactors have damaged containment vessels, and may have melted down. Then those statements are contradicted by other officials. Now they claim not to know."

Heads Up - Prepare for a Japanese Nuke Melt-down

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"the Japanese reactor disaster appears to be spinning out of control, heading toward Chernobyl levels. You should have at least two week's worth of water in your home. A month if you can. There is no way to boil radioactivity out of water. None of us has filters to remove it."

"Does that sound too extreme? I've been watching Japanese English language TV, and following top experts. Even the Japanese authorities admit Fukusima Reactor #3 has a leak in the reactor core, which has flooded into the main building. Three workers stepped in water 10,000 times over radiation limits. I doubt anyone will be able to go back in there, and live."

Helen Caldicott - The Nuclear Nightmare Continues

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This is a jam-packed episode full of great stuff which he summarized as follows. He leads it off with an interview of Dr. Helen Caldicott, an Australian Physician who's also a visionary anti-nuclear activist.

"#1 a major interview with world-famous anti-nuclear campaigner Dr. Helen Caldicott after the Fukushima Japan nuclear accident. Red hot. Covering nuclear power threats in Japan, the United States, Canada, France, and Europe generally."

"#2. I talk with the "Peak Oil Shrink" psychologist Dr. Kathy McMahon about how we handle the wave of bad news lately. She has an old nuke plant 35 miles away, and will fight that license renewal."

"Kathy also tells us about a sneak peak at her new book on spouses and family who are in denial about Peak oil, global warming and the economic crisis. A wise woman, well worth the listen."

"#3. Some news you haven't heard about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and developing events in Japan."

"#4. The full song "Power from Above" by New England folk singer Dan Berggren, plus a quick clip from "House of Trouble" by Clatter."

Navigating the Chaos - Carolyn Baker interview transcript

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This is an interview with Dr. Carolyn Baker, a psychiatrist specializing in work related to the collapse of our society. Whether or not that collapse does occur, there's a lot of evidence suggesting it will, and that evidence is causing part of the social turmoil.

"Alex Smith: What if long-standing institutions stagger and fall here at home? How will any of us get ready for rapid change when our wants are not filled by shopping, when supermarkets are replaced by much smaller local resources, when oil becomes like gold?"

"Eight years ago when Carolyn Baker started talking about a developing crisis in civilization, she was criticized, even rejected by some, as a fringe personality. "

"Now Dr. Baker is at the center of the Transition movement in America, people seek her out to help them understand a bankrupt economy, rising oil and food prices, and a crazy climate."

THE DISASTER CONTINUES Japan Atomic Emergency Bulletin #4

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"Now that the bombing of Libya has started, we can all forget about the on-going nuclear disaster. People are getting bored with news out of Japan. More than half the media is reporting the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi Reactor is under control, or the authorities are making "good progress".

Is it all over?"

"We can say several Fukushima Reactors, and their spent fuel pools are still out of operator control, some are still emitting dangerous radiation, and a more serious accident could still occur at any time."

"First of all, the radiation level at The West Gate of the plant was 269 microsiverts, while radiation north of the Service Building was 3,054 microsiverts. In American measurements, 1 Sivert is about 100 rem. A chest X-ray is anywhere from 6 to 18 microsiverts. The lowest clearly carcinogenic level is 100 microsiverts per year. So at over 3,000 microsiverts, parts of the Fukushima plant are extremely dangerously radioactive."

JAPAN: Twilight of the Nuclear Gods

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"At least 7 nuclear reactors, and several pools burning with nuclear waste, with a chain of violent explosions, fires and radiation blowing from the coast to the capital. I'm Alex Smith. Like you, I've been through about a week of jaw-dropping news. It has been painful and emotional, even across the ocean, to record the fear, suffering, and mass deaths in Japan."

"Just like 911, the world will never be the same. And just like 911, the government and corporations are withholding, hiding what happens."

Most of this episode was a melange of different clips from the weeks happenings. He also had an interview with "Nicole Foss, from one of the most popular financial blogs anywhere, The Automatic Earth. It turns out she is also a published nuclear expert."

Japan Atomic Emergency Bulletin #3

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Japan Atomic Emergency Bulletin #2

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Japan Earthquake Atomic Emergency

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He doesn't make shows about nuclear disasters every week. No, he's got plenty of ecological stuff to talk about. The day before the earthquake he published this show which should give an idea what his normal shows are like:

The Age of Ocean Warming

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His two websites are linked below.. I strongly recommend subscribing to his podcast.

What do you think? Please leave me a comment below.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Greg Palast says nuclear safety testing is a fraudulent sham (from EarthBeat Radio)

With the recent nuclear accident in Japan we are generally worried about nuclear safety and rightly so many are questioning whether to continue building nuclear power plants. The powers-that-be however are urging continued expansion etc. This weeks episode of Earth Beat features an interview with independant journalist Greg Palast who's been reporting for the BBC about the nuclear disaster, and who claims the safety testing is a fraudulent sham.

Before getting to Palast however the show had snippets from a press conference in Washington DC. These were: Bob Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies – yet, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ignored warnings on this problem. We hear from Alvarez on this issue, and we hear from Jeffrey Patterson of Physicians for Social Responsibility, who claims there is no safe level of radiation, and that it is only a matter of time before an accident similar to Fukushima’s happens in the US unless we act swiftly. Dr. Patterson ended his part talking about the impossibility of managing the unmanageable.

Palast reports that TEPCO has been invited to build the first two nuclear plants in the U.S. in over 30 years. That the design is similar to the ones which had their meltdown in Japan. And that it'll still have the same cooling-pool-next-to-the-hot-reactor design that failed so badly.

Additionally the partner is Houston Energy which has had to rename themselves into Reliant Energy because of their horrid safety record (fined over $1Billion) and fraudulent activities.

He talked about how rampantly fraudulent is the safety testing of diesel backup generators and seismic qualification at nuclear plants. The reason given is the cost involved if (when) problems are found. The $billions involved are a financial problem and they have incentive to commit fraud rather than fix the problems.

The broadcast also included a "debate" between some nuclear experts, which I've embedded as a youtube video below.

See also:

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Deepwater Oil Spills and Nuclear Meltdowns will continue due to lax of safety regulators? (Rachel Maddow)

Last nights Rachel Maddow Show featured a jaw-dropping piece of exclusive investigative reporting where the take-away is we can only expect more oil spills and nuclear accidents because the regulators are refusing to regulate. What follows is over 20 minutes of video bouncing back and forth between the Deepwater Horizon oil spill from last year, and this years nuclear meltdown accident at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Oh, and along the way there are several phrases used that abbreviate to B.P. for some reason.

She makes a very interesting analogy with air bags. They which don't make cars safer, but limits the damage if accidents occur. Government regulations require that car makers must include effective air bags because they've been proven to increase survival rates and they've been proven to work.

The analogy is between air bags, blowout preventers, and the diesel backup power system at the nuke plant which should have kept the plant from overheating. In all three cases they are backup safety systems which, if they work correctly, are to limit the damage if an accident occurs.

We see every day on the roads that air bags work - because, unfortunately, car accidents happen so often that it's not even news. We saw last year with the oil spill what happens when the blowout preventer does not work. And we see this year what happens when the nuclear plant cooling system fails because the backup power system fails.

What has Rachel's hair on fire is information in an initial report made by DET NORSKE VERITAS who, under a Coast Guard contract, studied the blowout preventer from the Deep Horizon well. The report goes over the likely cause of the accident, leading to the explosion, death of drilling crew, and the oil spilled which poisoned the Gulf of Mexico. (the report is linked below)

The information? It's her reading that the report finds that blowout preventers simply cannot work. It's bad enough that studies have shown they fail 40% of the time, but when it's in an accident situation where it really needs to work it simply won't do the job of closing off the well.

Further - the U.S. Government is in a process of rapid approval of drilling permits. She says they've approved at least 5 permits this month alone. FWIW A couple weeks ago President Obama held a press conference in which he talked about having approved many drilling permits as proving that his Administration is not putting themselves in the way of expanding oil drilling (see: Pres. Obama talks about petroleum reserves, energy security and resiliency, Obama's plan for energy security and the green economy, Obama proposes nuclear power expansion while Japan has nuclear crisis).

The thing about this is that on that the government knows very well that the blowout preventer doesn't work, that the basic riskness of this situation has not changed, so why the heck is the government approving any oil drilling permits?

Part of her proof she cites is that among the approved permits is one for Noble Energy, Noble essentially being BP (the oil giant whose oil well blew up last year). The safety plan Noble filed dates from Sept 2009, meaning that the government cannot be doing much to insist that these oil companies change their practices if the plan they accepted was written before the most recent oil drilling accident.

With the nuclear accident they (scientists and governments) are claiming that "they" will be "learning from this" and "applying lessons learned" to better safety standards in the future. With this as an example of what really happens, can we really expect that anything will actually be learned? I expressed this doubt a couple days ago: This world doesn't have to become an uninhabitable nuclear radiation poisoned wasteland

It's clear from a quick glance over the report (linked below) that it's an extensive study, and that it's not quite as simple as blowout preventers cannot work. It does say "forces from the flow of the well pushed the tool joint into the Upper Annular element" and "created a fixed point arresting further upward movement of the drill pipe" and "Forces from the flow of the well induced a buckling condition on the portion of drill pipe between the Upper Annular and Upper VBRs" and "drill pipe deflected until it contacted the wellbore just above the BSRs" and "the drill pipe was positioned such that the outside corner of the upper BSR blade contacted the drill pipe slightly off center of the drill pipe cross section" and "a portion of the drill pipe cross
section became trapped between the ram block faces, preventing the blocks from fully closing and sealing
" and "trapping of the drill pipe would have occurred regardless of which means initiated the closure of the BSRs".

In other words - a pipe dislodged itself getting trapped and kept the system from fully closing. Because the blowout preventer didn't close the oil of course kept leaking out. I didn't read far enough to see if her claim (that the blowout preventer was unable to work at all) is true.

Video below.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comment box below.

Deep Water Oil Drilling permits issued with no lessons learned

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Bob Cavanaugh - oil industry veteran

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

This world doesn't have to become an uninhabitable nuclear radiation poisoned wasteland

While writing my previous blog post on Natural Remedies For Your Thyroid and Kidneys due to the Japan nuclear emergency I had a moment of realization or awakening. Namely, the truth that I was writing about something I thought I would never have to write about: A real honest to goodness nuclear emergency, the likelihood of further nuclear emergencies, and how would we be dealing with them. The sad truth is that world leaders are going to treat this like a blip on the road of progress. They're going to say the sheep got scared because a few radioactive clouds escaped, they'll slow down nuclear reactor construction for awhile, but eventually we the people are expected to forget about this and they'll be able to go back to the game plan of building more nuclear reactors.

If that's the route our society takes then we can only expect more nuclear accidents to occur, and an ever-increasing level of radioactive poisoning of the environment. My reasoning is simple. These are human made machines and they break or the humans operating them make mistakes. Over time we can only expect more nuclear accidents.

Oh, yes, the powers-that-be are making a show of "we will learn from this" and apply the learnings so that the machines will be run more safely in the future. Do you really believe that? The history of deploying technological wizardry shows us this sort of assurance isn't always followed. Lessons are not always learned, even when learned people study failures with the intent to learn from them. Denial is rampant.

Some of the things technology has wrought are finicky, fragile, full of dangerous substances, prone to break spectacularly, etc. Yes some of the most dangerous things also bring the most positive benefits, but do the benefits negate the risk?

I started this with the suggestion that our world doesn't have to end up as a poisoned wasteland. I am sad that our people seem dedicated to a path which will convert our beautiful planet into a poisoned wasteland, especially since I feel deep inside me that there is another way.

Other choices can be made.

See also:

See also:


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Do the nuclear reactors in Japan have a flawed design? (Democracy Now)

Today's episode of Democracy Now (Mar 17, 2011) contains some, uh, explosive claims from Karl Grossman and Paul Gunter. What they say is that nuclear fuel rods are themselves designed with explosive materials. Not the "fuel" (uranium) inside the fuel rods, but the rods. The design of the fuel rods themselves requires being under water to prevent explosions. It's probably better if I quote from the report rather than try to replicate it with my words:

Interviewed were: Karl Grossman, investigative journalist and professor of journalism at SUNY College at Old Westbury. He is author of several books on the nuclear industry. Paul Gunter, reactor oversight project director at nuclear watchdog group Beyond Nuclear. He is the co-founder of the Clamshell Alliance anti-nuclear group.

The main thrust of the story was that nuclear officials were warned and knew of design flaws and the level of danger. But the powers that be deployed the risky design that, as we'll see in a minute, is explosive by nature. However as I noted yesterday just because the powers that be screwed up doesn't absolve us from our own responsibility in this. It is our purchase of electricity which causes the electricity companies to exist. (see: Higher Purpose: Japans earthquake and nuclear crisis asks us what we really want)

JUAN GONZALEZ: Japan is facing an unprecedented triple crisis caused by the earthquake, tsunami and the partial nuclear meltdown. The official death toll has now risen to above 5,000, while 9,400 people remain missing. Fears of radioactivity have severely hampered relief efforts in parts of northern Japan, which was hit with a snow storm on Wednesday.

We should remember that the nuclear radiation emissions so far essentially haven't caused any deaths. It is the flooding and earthquake. The level of fear our society has over anything nuclear is obvious here. The earthquake and tsunami would itself be a big story with lots of coverage (e.g. the Haitian earthquake last year) but it's the nuclear issue that's getting the coverage.

PAUL GUNTER: Well, Unit 3 is burning what they call plutonium oxide. They like to call it MOX as an acronym rather than POX, but in fact it’s plutonium oxide. This fuel has a lower melting point, for one, and it’s just loaded with plutonium, which is highly toxic at micro levels.


KARL GROSSMAN: What has happened here is an enormous nuclear power tragedy, and we’re on the cusp, I fear, of an even more horrific tragedy, with a loss of cool down accident—and we have multiple loss of cool down accidents underway—and, importantly, breach of containment. And as Paul said, that’s quite possible now. Just the most enormous disaster, except for a loss of water accident in a spent fuel pool, where you have tons upon tons of nuclear poisons—no containment, except for some corrugated steel ceiling. That stuff gets out in a loss of water accident, and it would get out explosively, because of the fuel rods being made of zirconium. And I could explain that. It will just burst into the environment, become airborne, affect not only Japan but much of the world.

Here's where he's setting up the the fuel rods being explosive claim. But, let's unpack this paragraph a bit. There are two sets of nuclear rods - those in the reactor being actively used to generate power - and those in the spent fuel pond. See Rachel Maddow compares the Japan nuclear disaster to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl for some insight into the distinction. As Rachel reported, the spent fuel pool has lost its cooling water. Also the spent fuel pool doesn't have the same quality of containment as the reactor core. The reactor core on these plants has three layers of building and a gigantic steel vessel. The spent fuel pool is simply a pool of water in a simple building, and in these reactors this pool is part of the outer containment building and hence as the containment building has blown up the spent fuel pools are now essentially open to the atmosphere with zero protection.

KARL GROSSMAN: Yeah. They have known the consequences all along. This is a report—it’s called "Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2"—done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not Greenpeace, and it projects peak early fatalities, peak injuries, peak cancer deaths, scale cost in billions in terms of property damage, and a large hunk of the earth being rendered uninhabitable for millennia. And just, for example, for the Indian Point 3 nuclear plant, which is about 35 miles from where we sit now in New York, 50,000 peak early fatalities; 167,000 peak early injuries; cancer deaths, 14,000; scale cost of billions, they say $314 billion—in 1980s dollars, we’re talking about a trillion.

As to the likelihood of a severe core melt accident, in 1985 the NRC acknowledged that, over a 20-year period, the likelihood of a severe core melt accident to be basically 50/50 among the 100 nuclear power plants—there’s 104 now—in the United States. They’ve known all along here in this country that disaster could come, and there’s a good likelihood of it coming, and they’ve known the consequences.

The danger has been known for years - and essentially ignored.

KARL GROSSMAN: ... "What does the NRC and its staff believe the likelihood to be of a severe core meltdown?" So, you know, when you hear these lines about, "Oh, the chances of a severe core meltdown, infinitesimal," and if there is, like you’re hearing these reports out of Japan, an accident, "Oh, just some minor effects among the population"—not at all.

You go to the documents. And many of them were, well, secret for years. In my book—I did a book in 1980, Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know about Nuclear Power—there’s a line in a Atomic Energy Commission report, "WASH-740-Update": "The possible size of the area of such a disaster might be equal to that of the State of Pennsylvania"—in other words, covering the whole state of what would be the state of Pennsylvania, which almost occurred with the Three Mile Island accident. We’re talking about huge disasters here. ...

And just let me mention one other thing. Everybody should, when you hear about these hydrogen explosions, understand that the fuel rods are composed of a substance called zircaloy. It’s based on something called zirconium. And way back in the late '40s and ’50s, they were looking for something to build these—not control rods—fuel rods with, and they decided to use zirconium, because it allowed the neutrons to move from fuel rod to fuel rod and keep the chain reaction going. Problem was zirconium, the other major industrial use is the speck on a flashbulb. Zirconium is explosive; at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it explodes. Before that, it emits hydrogen gases, which have exploded in several of these plants. There's, in a nuclear plant itself—this is in my book—20 tons of zirconium. At spent fuel pool, you’re talking about, because there’s all these old fuel rods, hundreds of tons. That stuff, again, as things get hot, explodes.

That's where it gets to the claim that the reactors were designed to be explosive. This was an accident waiting to happen.

The fuel rods are long tubes - 12 feet or more long - made of zircaloy, as he says. The fuel (uranium) is made of pellets inserted into the rods. The rods are gathered into bundles and lowered into the reactor.

The thing is that zircaloy itself is explosive. As it breaks down it emits hydrogen (the explosions at the plants were said to be hydrogen gas explosions) and the zirconium itself is explosive. If/when the rods reach 2000 degrees F.

UPDATE: A friend pointed out this may have been a bit over the top.

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Rachel Maddow compares the Japan nuclear disaster to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl

Rachel Maddow has done some stunningly amazing coverage of the nuclear emergency in Japan. Explaining in clear terms the reality of what's happening, and bringing on nuclear scientists to explain clearly the physical characteristics of the nuclear meltdown as it's occurring day-by-day. The concern today is the spent fuel in the cooling ponds on-site. These cooling ponds are located in the upper portion of the outer containment structures. It's those outer containment structures which have blown up, and obviously there is no effective containment of the spent fuel rods. The critical thing is to keep the spent fuel pools cool, and filled with water, but it appears at least two of the pools are empty of water. Dry. Which will mean they have zero cooling, could catch on fire.

In one video today she gave us clear comparison with the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents. At Chernobyl there were 180 tons of nuclear fuel which blew up and burned. On site at these Japanese plants, between the various spent fuel ponds is more tonnage of spent fuel.

As we can see in the videos below, aerial pictures have been taken of the plant site, and we can see just how bad is the damage to the containment buildings. On Reactor 4 the walls are just gone, period.

This sort of reporting is to be valued and treasured - clear eyed presentation of the truth as it is, along with honest analysis. (see Rachel Maddow: Nuclear Plants Threatened by Earthquake for the story she told on Monday)

Understanding the concern about spent fuel pools

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How much radioactive material is at the Fukishima plant

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Assessing and strategizing against a nuclear emergency

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