Nuclear Reactors and Nuclear Waste
Akio Matsumura writes that
On March 11, we commemorate the 8th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
To an outside observer, this anniversary passes as a technical progress report, a look at new robot, or a short story on how lives there are slowly returning to normal.
Yet in Japan, the government has not figured out how to touch or test the irradiated cores in the three crippled reactors, which continue to contaminate water around the site of the melt down. The government does not know where it will put that radioactive material once it can find a way to move it.
Meanwhile, the government and site operator are running out of room to store the contaminated water, which is filling up more and more tanks. The cleanup is estimated to take forty years and the cost is estimated at $195 billion.
The latest publicly released findings of radiation levels are from 2017, when Tokyo Electric Power Company had to use a remote-controlled robot to detect the levels in Reactor 2, since no human can approach the crippled reactor.
The rates read 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the March 2011 meltdown. We have no reason to believe that they have fallen since then. Remote-control robots are being used in the other reactors as well, indicating that radiation levels are similarly high there.
Even using the robot, work can only be carried out for very short times, since the robots can only stand 1000 sieverts of exposure – less than two hours in this case.
This is an extremely high amount of radiation. After TEPCO published the rate, the Asahi Shimbun reported that “an official of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences said medical professionals have never considered dealing with this level of radiation in their work.”
The Japan Times quoted Dr. Fumiya Tanabe, an expert on nuclear safety, who said that the “findings show that both the preparation for and the actual decommissioning process at the plant will likely prove much more difficult than expected.”
Fukushima’s Children Need International Attention
There have been many victims of this disaster. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Local fishermen are worried that the government will proceed with its plan to dump the storage tanks of contaminated water into the ocean.
Others worry that the flow of the radioactive wind and contaminated water are reaching North America and will continue to do so for the next forty years.
Above all of these important issues, it is the children of Fukushima who most need our attention. They are at risk of higher rates of cancer because of their exposure to the contamination from the initial explosion. In Chernobyl, the only comparable case we have, more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer were found in children according to the UN through 2005.
There is evidence that thyroid cancer rates are higher among Fukushima’s children than the national population, but it is a latent disease: it is still too early to tell what the full impact will be. But it is clear the case needs action.
Scientists will always offer different opinions, swayed first by uncertainty, but also, sadly, by politics, money, and ambition.
Some will claim that the evidence has been exaggerated, underestimated, or that perhaps we’re at too early a stage to be certain. Or that we need more time to clarify the results. I have seen many instances of these arguments at the United Nations and international science conferences. Why do we wait and make another mistake?
Helen Caldicott, a medical doctor and founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, part of a larger umbrella group that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, wrote:
“The truth is that most politicians, businessmen, engineers and nuclear physicists have no innate understanding of radiobiology and the way radiation induces cancer, congenital malformations and genetic diseases which are passed generation to generation. Nor do they recognize that children are 20 times more radiosensitive than adults, girls twice as vulnerable as little boys and fetuses much more so.”
March 11th, 2018
Today, March 11, 2018, is the 7th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident. The government of Japan has admitted that the process of removing the irradiated cores from the three crippled reactors will take at least forty years. The Fukushima nuclear crisis will affect human and environmental safety for many years to come. Experts worry that the forty-year flow of the radioactive wind and contaminated water are reaching North America.
The Middle East and China are beginning to get more nuclear power plants, which many believe will be a major help for climate change. But what risks are we creating through nuclear development?
Nuclear disasters need not have natural origins Before long, we may see terrorist or cyber attacks on nuclear power reactors, whether in Europe, the Middle East, or elsewhere. If this occurs at one of France’s 18 nuclear power stations, for example, huge areas of Western Europe – cities and farms alike — will become uninhabitable for many years. (from a communication from Akio Matsumuro)
1. Nuclear Reactors and Nuclear Power
Are we aware of the danger to all planetary life from the radioactive waste accumulating in some 435 nuclear reactors worldwide as well as the radioactivity that has already been released into the atmosphere by the 2053 nuclear explosions that have taken place without our knowledge and consent between 1945 and 1998?
For many decades, we have been told by governments and scientists that nuclear technology is a safe and reliable source of electricity, that it relieves us of our former dependency on coal and does not contribute to greenhouse gases and global warming. However, Dr. Helen Caldicott, an Australian paediatrician who is thoroughly versed in the science of nuclear energy, has for decades tried to alert both governments and people to the very grave dangers of the radiation emitted by nuclear reactors and the process of uranium extraction, as well as the threat to planetary life posed by the toxic radioactive waste accumulating from the growing number of reactors worldwide. She has concluded that nuclear power contributes to global warming, involves huge costs to tax payers both in constructing and dismantling nuclear reactors and constitutes a threat not only to human health but to planetary life as a whole. “Nuclear power is neither “clean” nor “green”. There is no “safe” dose of radiation. Those who persist in promoting nuclear technology ignore these facts. First Chernobyl and now Fukushima offer us a very clear image of the danger to the whole planet if something goes wrong in a nuclear reactor because of earthquake, human error or terrorist attack – particularly if the reactors, like those at Fukushima, have been built in a zone that is prone to earthquakes. The radiation emanating from Chernobyl was 10x that emanating from the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The radiation emitted by the Fukushima disaster is 100x that emitted by Chernobyl.
see Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (New York Academy of Sciences Publication) which gives the true picture of the fall-out from the explosion there, including the deaths from cancer and genetic mutations.
There are currently 435 operable nuclear reactors worldwide and 72 under construction. Some of these, like the Dai-ichi Fukushima plant complex have been built on earthquake fault zones and are
therefore highly vulnerable. Dr. Helen Caldicott has been writing about the dangers of nuclear technology for decades and describes them in her book “Nuclear Power is not the Answer” and in her online videos from which the information given below is drawn.
Her conclusions: Nuclear power is the most dangerous way of making electricity. 200 completely new radioactive elements are created in the process of nuclear fission in the reactors. All are toxic. Some “live” for only a few seconds; others remain radioactive for millions of years. Eventually these elements will enter the re-productive organs of plants, animals, and humans, where they will mutate the genes in reproductive cells, causing disease and death in the immediate generation and transmitting a hidden genetic disease to future generations. The incidence of cancer is already on the rise in both adults and children.
- Large amounts of fossil fuels are needed to mine and refine the uranium needed to run nuclear reactors, construct the massive concrete reactor buildings and transport and store the toxic radioactive waste. The burning of these fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere. In addition large amounts of CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) gas are emitted during the process of enriching uranium. “The vast infrastructure necessary to create nuclear energy, called the nuclear fuel cycle, is a prodigious user of fossil fuel and coal.”
- The actual running of nuclear reactors contributes to global warming. While in operation they release radiation gases which ultimately impact our health and cause deleterious mutations which affect plants and animals as well as humans. Nuclear reactors are carcinogenic factories. We are increasing the amount of background radiation wherever these reactors are operating. There is no “safe” dose of radiation.
- Nuclear reactors only last about 40 years. After that they may fracture, crack and are very expensive to decommission and dismantle, not to mention the unsolved problem of disposing of the waste. The highly radioactive Chernobyl casing is cracking and disintegrating. If it collapses, it will release huge quantities of radiation that will again affect Northern Europe.
In her words: “This technology is evil because it kills people.” And she comments: “How dare we damage the process of evolution.” www.helencaldicottfoundation.org
2. Nuclear Waste
The main problem about nuclear reactors is the amount of radioactive waste they generate which constitutes the greatest danger for the planet. There is as yet no way of safely disposing of the radioactive nuclear waste elements.
It costs a phenomenal amount of money to clear nuclear waste. The estimated cost of clearing nuclear waste from Sellafield (the UK's largest and most hazardous nuclear site) as of the 5th March 2015 stands at £53 billion, up £5 billion from £48 billion a year ago. Sellafield has two nuclear fuel re-processing plants, waste treatment facilities and storage ponds and silos for nuclear waste from the first generation of nuclear plants. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has just terminated a contract in January 2015 with a private consortium, Nuclear Management Partners to clean up Sellafield. (source The Times 5/3/15)
- The inability to contain or dispose of them will ultimately affect all animate life.
- Radioactive waste contains over 100 dangerous elements. It can leak into the water supplies of the earth, getting into the food chain and increasing in concentration over time, leaving a lethal legacy to our descendents and all planetary life. The long-term results are epidemics of cancer, congenital deformities, damage to the DNA and building blocks of life.
- The US currently has 70,000 tons of it coming from 104 reactors. Japan also has a large amount from its 53 reactors (now provisionally closed down).
- Instructions regarding nuclear waste say that it must be isolated for a million years but this is obviously impossible. No container can last that length of time. There could be earthquakes, soil or rock movement on land or under the oceans, leading to leakage from the stored waste.
Dr. Caldicott says: “If you love your children and grandchildren, shut them down.”
3. Nuclear Explosions
2053 nuclear explosions took place between 1945 and 1998:
other nations 53
“Every male in the Northern Hemisphere has a tiny amount of plutonium in his testicles from radioactive fallout that is still falling on the earth from the upper atmosphere, which was polluted by the atmospheric weapons tests conducted during these years… Plutonium 239 remains radioactive for half a million years.” Caldicott
Anyone who reads this material could take up the issue of the safety of nuclear reactors with their representatives or any organisation which has influence with governments or online organisations like AVAAZ. This is something that concerns all of us currently alive as well as generations to come. If the colossal sums of money spent on building and running reactors were instead directed towards developing Renewable Technologies we could supply all our energy needs from these sources without endangering our health and the health of the planetary biosphere. see www.carbonfreenuclearfree
Are people aware of the danger to all forms of life on the planet if Fukushima reactor #4 should collapse or if one of the 1,535 rods should break as it is being removed? And what about the 300 metric tons of heavily contaminated water still pouring daily (2018) into the Pacific?
The internationally renowned physician and author, Dr. Helen Caldicott, has informed us that if the Fukushima disaster had happened during the night when minimum staff was on duty the results would have rendered Japan uninhabitable. As it is, the present condition of the four reactors may take 200 years to resolve, even if the technology to deal with it, at present non-existant, were developed.
Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.
Meanwhile, children nearby are dying. The rate of thyroid cancers among some 250,000 area young people is more than 40 times normal. According to health expert Joe Mangano, more than 46 percent have precancerous nodules and cysts on their thyroids. This is “just the beginning” of a tragic epidemic, he warns.
There is, however, some good news—exactly the kind the nuclear power industry does not want broadcast.
When the earthquake and consequent tsunami struck Fukushima, there were 54 commercial reactors licensed to operate in Japan, more than 12 percent of the global total.
As of today, not one has reopened. The six at Fukushima Daiichi will never operate again. Some 30 older reactors around Japan can’t meet current safety standards (a reality that could apply to 60 or more reactors that continue to operate in the U.S.)
Fukushima’s General Electric reactors feature spent fuel pools perched roughly 100 feet in the air. When the tsunami hit, thousands of rods were suspended over Units 1, 2, 3 and 4.
According to nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, the bring-down of the assemblies in Unit 4 may have hit a serious snag. Gundersen says that beginning in November 2013, Tokyo Electric Power removed about half of the suspended rods there. But at least three assemblies may be stuck. The more difficult half of the pile remains. And the pools at three other units remain problematic. An accident at any one of them could result in significant radiation releases, which have already far exceeded those from Chernobyl and from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At least 300 metric tons of heavily contaminated Fukushima water still pour daily into the Pacific. Hundreds more tons are backed up on site, with Tepco apologists advocating they be dumped directly into the ocean without decontamination.
Brief Summary of what happened:
The March 11, 2011 earthquake which took place off the Pacific coast of Japan’s Northern Island was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan and the fifth most powerful earthquake (magnitude 9) recorded since records began in 1900. It triggered powerful tsunami waves reaching heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) which travelled up to 10 km (6 miles) inland. Since then, there have been over 1800 aftershocks and in November 2013 an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck again off Japan's east coast.
When the tsunami hit the Dai-ichi Fukushima Plant Complex, all electric power that was used to cool the 6 reactors was cut off. 3 of the 6 reactors melted down. There were 4 hydrogen explosions and a large amount of radiation was released – 3 times more than Chernobyl. It was reported that this radiation had reached Seattle on the west coast of America.
There are 1060 tanks currently holding millions of tons of highly radioactive water that could easily fracture and spill into the Pacific if there was another strong earthquake.
The 6 nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant were built on river beds in an area that was known to be an earthquake fault zone. Water, originating in the mountains and flowing down into the river beds where these reactors were constructed has continually flowed beneath the damaged reactors. It bathes the radioactive cores of the reactors and flows out from here into the Pacific Ocean. There is no way of stopping it. Between 300 and 400 metric tonnes a day of this radioactive water has been and is still flowing into the Pacific, contaminating the fish, algae and the birds who feed on the fish — and ultimately affecting humans. Contaminated fish have already been found off the coast of Alaska and the west coast of America. According to a report by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, the initial breakdown caused "the largest single contribution of radionuclides to the marine environment ever observed."
This is only one aspect of this catastrophe. One of the others, less well known is that an American aircraft carrier was sent to help in the aftermath of the Tsunami. The carrier was contaminated by a radioactive 'cloud' that passed over the ship, visible to the sailors on board. 14/2/2014 Sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan have filed a renewed lawsuit against Tokyo Electric. The aircraft carrier was heavily dosed as 3 Fukushima reactors melted and 4 exploded. Tragically, these young service people, mostly in their twenties, are suffering a wide range of radiation-related diseases like the ones that surfaced at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the Bomb tests and elsewhere.
A full article on the situation appears at the environmental website EcoWatch:
U.S. Sailors Sick From Fukushima Radiation File New Suit Against Tokyo Electric Power
Citing a wide range of ailments from leukemia to blindness to birth defects, 79 American veterans of 2011’s earthquake/tsunami relief Operation Tomadachi (“Friendship”) have filed a new $1 billion class action lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power.
Returning to the reactors, the ongoing problem is with the reactor #4 structure which was distorted by the earthquake and tsunami. The rods stored 100 feet above the ground inside the frame of the reactor could already be broken because the boxes containing them have been damaged. There are fragments of debris everywhere on top of the boxes and on the floor below them. There is a risk that any one rod could break or touch another one, releasing radiation and/or causing a fission reaction. The fuel rods in reactor 4 hold an amount of radioactivity that is 14,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
In late November 2013 Tepco (the Tokyo Electric Power Company) began the high-risk operation to remove the 1,533 rods stored in the spent-fuel pool in Reactor 4. This is estimated to take at least a year to complete. The dangers inherent in this particular operation, as compared with the other 3 reactors damaged in meltdowns, arises from the following factors, summarised on November 24th, 2013 by Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo. see www.globalresearch.ca
See also video http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=040_1384817880
Charles Perrow, world authority on industrial accidents, Author of ‘Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies’, and Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Yale University, has warned that if the operation being undertaken this month on Unit 4 at Fukushima goes wrong it could be a threat to the whole planet. Perrow writes:
‘... Much more serious is the danger that the spent fuel rod pool at the top of the nuclear plant number four will collapse in a storm or an earthquake, or in a failed attempt to carefully remove each of the 1,535 rods and safely transport them to the common storage pool 50 meters away. Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable… Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years. ...’
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-perrow/fukushima-forever_b_3941589.html
Former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says: full-scale releases from Fukushima "would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival."
January 5th, 2017
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a meeting of the UN Security Council that "vicious non-state groups" are actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, and that such groups can already create mass disruption using cyber technologies. Eliasson called the hacking of a nuclear plant a "nightmare scenario."
Edith Lederer, "UN: Threat of a Hacking Attack on Nuclear Plants Is Growing," Associated Press, December 16, 2016.
The open council meeting focused on ways to stop the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by extremist groups and criminals. Members unanimously approved a resolution to strengthen the work of the council committee monitoring what countries are doing to prevent "non-state actors" from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction, known as WMDs.
Eliasson said there are legitimate concerns about the security of stockpiles of radioactive material suitable for making nuclear weapons but that are outside international regulation.
In addition, he said, "scientific advances have lowered barriers to the production of biological weapons."
"And emerging technologies, such as 3D printing and unmanned aerial vehicles, are adding to threats of an attack using a WMD," Eliasson said.
He said the international community needs robust defenses to stay ahead of this technological curve. "Preventing a WMD attack by a non-state actor will be a long-term challenge that requires long-term responses," Eliasson said.
U.N. disarmament chief Kim Won-soo said the new resolution recognizes "the growing threats and risks associated with biological weapons" and the need for the 193 U.N. member states, international groups and regional organizations to step-up information sharing on these threats and risks.
Kim said it is important that the Security Council keep up its focus on preventing deadly weapons from getting into the hands of extremists and criminals, but it also needs to study how to respond if prevention fails.
"The consequences of an attack would be disastrous and we must be prepared," he said.
Eliasson said that "a biological attack would be a public health disaster," but that there is no global institution capable of responding.
Brian Finlay, president of the Stimson Center in Washington, which has been supporting the work of the Security Council committee since 2004, said the resolution requiring all countries to take action to prevent non-state actors from getting WMD "has provided a near unprecedented rallying point for global efforts to prevent terrorist acquisition of these weapons."
But challenges remain, he said, citing a steady increase in nuclear, biological and chemical incidents around the globe, "including notably by non-state actors." He also cited growing access to the internet and potentially illegal technology transfers, saying there is "evidence that terrorist groups with regional or global ambitions continue to seek weapons of mass destruction."
He called for civil society, industry and the general public to support the campaign against the growing threat of the world's most dangerous weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Hidden Casualties of Radiation: the long-term effects of Chernobyl
Researchers, journalists, and academics need to dig deep for the facts when framing narratives about the risks of radiation exposure, but here’s the problem: If actual deaths or deformities from radiation are not reported, rather hidden, then of course, the narrative will be radiation risk is not an ogre. On the other hand, if the facts show radiation disfiguring, maiming, and killing lots of people, the narrative will be nuclear power plants are something to be frightened about. That is how the process works, how a narrative comes to life.
Whichever side one choses, either for or against nuclear power, the Chernobyl nuclear accident (in reality, a holocaust) in 1986 provides 100% real time conclusive irrefutable evidence that nuclear power radiation exposure is a monster from the deep like no other, a giant ogre, a killer that deforms, distorts, and ruins lives forever.
Horrendous deadly effects of radiation are found throughout Belarus in asylums hidden away from public view, 300 asylums in the backwoods, deep in the countryside. Seventy percent of the fallout from Chernobyl drifted into Belarus with devastating impact on the “Children of Chernobyl.”
When a nuclear accident like Chernobyl happens, it’s like gee-whiz, an accident, but that characterization simply misses the point. The accident, in and of itself, characterizes the risks inherent with nuclear power plants, accidents do happen with more to come. The accident is the risk; the nuclear power plant is the disaster. Accidents happen, time and again, a powerful argument against nuclear power.
Here’s the unpleasant aftereffect: Cliodhna Russell from Ireland volunteered to work at a children’s asylum in Belarus a couple of years ago. Keep in mind that Chernobyl happened in 1986 well before the children she met in the asylum were born. Today, they are the product of deformities and birth defects caused either by radiation effects from within their mothers or by a radioactive-enriched environment.
Cliodhna Russell: “Children rocking back and forth for hours on end, hitting their heads against walls, grinding their teeth, scraping their faces and putting their hands down their throats… This is what I witnessed when I volunteered at Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus (February 2014),” How my Trip to a Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus Made me Proud to be Irish, the journal.ie. March 18, 2014.
Cliodhna Russell volunteered via her relationship with Adi Roche, the chief executive of the Irish-based charity Chernobyl Children International, which she founded in 1991 to provide aid to children of Belarus, Western Russia and Ukraine. To date the program has enabled over 25,000 children affected by radiation exposure to come to Ireland for vital medical treatment and recuperation, with terminally ill children attending the Paul Newman therapeutic recreation centre at Barretstown in Co Kildare.
Cliodhna Russell’s personal story references the pioneering work done by Adi Roche in Belarus: “I now think about what faced Adi Roche when she first went into Vesnova and witnessed the children in straitjackets with shaved heads, dying at an alarming rate. According to Adi, ‘The death count was so high that we had to stop counting or we would have lost the will to go on.”
“The impact of Chernobyl is still very real and very present to the children who must live in an environment poisoned with radioactivity” (Adi Roche), 30 years after the fact.
Tear-jerking, heart-wrenching stories of deformed, crippled, misshaped, countless dead, because of radiation sickness, is enough to turn one’s stomach in the face of any and all apologists for nuclear power.
March 28th 2015, article in The Times by Richard Lloyd-Parry:
The Fukushima clean-up will take Japan 200 years according to Akira Ono, the chief of the Fukushima power station. The technology needed to decommission the three melted-down reactors which are dangerously radioactive does not yet exist and he has no idea how it might be developed. Recent scans of one of them showed that all the nuclear fuel that was in the reactor's furnace has melted and dripped down into the concrete outer containment vessel. The resulting mess is so radioactive that humans cannot go near it. Robots have yet to be invented that could enter the ruined reactors and remove the radioactive material, placing it in storage vessels which have also not yet been invented. The proposed 30-metre deep ice-wall to prevent highly radioactive groundwater from flowing into the Pacific has not yet been constructed. The fact that this water is still entering the Pacific from one of the reactors has been concealed for up to ten months.
The alternative suggestion is to seal the entire complex in a giant casing similar to the one put in place at Chernobyl but it would need to extend underground to stop the contaminated groundwater reaching the sea. The number of personnel working on the site has increased from 3,000 a day one year ago to as many as 8,000 on some days.