By Gordon Madison
Within 10 days of the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the West Coast potentially became exposed to radioactive “fallout,” from the tons of pulverized nuclear waste stored at the facility. All information in this rebuttal is documented and readily available on the internet. In a disaster of this magnitude it would seem prudent to err on the side of caution and take the most basic precautions to protect our families and ourselves.
A few days after the Japan Earthquake I happened upon Dr. Rick Johnson’s Public Health Mono Gram titled “Concerned about the Nuclear Disaster in Japan?” I was deeply concerned that the information contained in that flyer did not address the Japan nuclear crisis in its entirety. Shortly thereafter I saw the same information presented in this publication.
I was disturbed to see that a public official could have the facts of such a profoundly significant event so inaccurately researched. In response I was compelled to respond to the flyer and the article with a rebuttal to the facts as presented by Dr. Johnson.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster is a catastrophe of the highest magnitude and demands our full attention as the situation unfolds. The downwind health risks from this disaster are very real and need to be monitored closely. Fallout from the explosions, fires and partial meltdowns could very possibly end up in our food chain, water supply and in the environment that surrounds us. To assume that distance or an ocean protect us from potentially lethal radioactive particles is a dangerous assumption.
This issue is not about ambient nuclear radiation that is streaming from the damaged reactors. The threat originates with the tons of spent fuel rods that were either pulverized in massive explosions or turned to ash when the exposed rods overheated and spontaneously combusted.
Spent fuel discharged from reactors contains appreciable quantities of fissile (U-235 and Pu-239), fertile (U-238) and other radioactive materials. Following the explosions, this highly radioactive particulate material has been lifted into the atmosphere and carried on prevailing winds. Those upper atmosphere currents can potentially carry that material aloft for weeks or months across the Pacific Ocean, inland over the Northwest, then across the entire country on the Jet Stream. As a result, we could then expect to experience a fine sprinkling of micron and submicron size radioactive dust scattered throughout the downwind “plume.” This material will not become inert over time. On the contrary it will remain toxic for a span of time ranging from 24,000 (PU-239) to 4.6 billion years (U-238).
According to Dr. Johnson: “There has been no leak of radioactive material.”
According to their own report, titled “Integrity Inspection of Dry Storage Casks and Spent Fuels at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station” (published Nov. 16, 2010), Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi power station was looking at ways to increase the storage capacity for nuclear waste at this 40-year old facility.
From the report, which is available online, there are approximately 1,760 tons of spent fuel rods currently on the site, either in cooling pools or dry cask storage. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds 63 fuel rods.
These spent fuel rods are stored in 7 cooling pools on site. Six of the pools are located on top of the reactor containment buildings and a seventh common pool is in a separate building that was critically damaged by the tsunami. The pools on top of containment buildings #1 and #3 have been completely destroyed by explosions. The spent rods contained in those pools represent approximately 985 tons of solid radioactive waste material. The explosions, which ejected large pieces of equipment almost 4,000 feet into the air, potentially pulverized the spent fuel rods into radioactive debris ranging from many pounds down to micron and submicron size. In other words, a cloud of microscopic dust particles, each with a half life of 4.5 billion years have been injected into the atmosphere where prevailing winds can lift them into the jet stream, potentially remaining there for years.
According to Dr. Doug Rokke, Director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Project and a leading expert on radiation contamination and cleanup, the downwind effects of radioactive dust and particles can range for thousands of miles.
“Attempts to cool with sea water continue.”
The remaining spent rods are now 30% to 70% damaged. Fires have spontaneously erupted and are subsequently doused with seawater from helicopters and water cannons, but these efforts are reported to be ineffective. The burning fuel rods produce radioactive ash that can also be lifted into the atmosphere in the same manner as the pulverized material.
“Radiation levels are equivalent to one chest x-ray per hour.”
Following a week of conflicting information and speculation, Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri acknowledged that the radiation levels from the damaged Fukushima facility were high enough to kill people. In the same article, Komiri admitted they may have to resort to the Chernobyl plan and bury the reactors in sand and concrete.
“A ‘China Syndrome’ or Chernobyl type event is virtually impossible.”
Fukushima is a 40-year old Mark 1 facility with hundreds of thousands of spent fuel rods, at differing levels in the cooling cycle, remaining on site. While the Chernobyl event was triggered by design flaws and human error, the conditions at Fukushima are unique, but equally as dire. The spent fuel rods remain highly radioactive and must be kept cool. If exposed to air long enough they will eventually combust and could become essentially, a Chernobyl on steroids.
In a March 16, 2011 article, Physicist Alexander Sich stated that the Fukushima reactors have safety systems built in that would prohibit a “China Syndrome” scenario. Dr. Sich cites the construction of the containment buildings and the reactors themselves as being the main factor in preventing complete meltdown. However, the explosions at Fukushima were so devastating that they completely breached the containment buildings, leaving the reactors exposed to the outside environment.
Dr. Sich is confident in the construction of Fukushima’s containment vessels, but these antiquated systems have never been tested under such extreme conditions.
“The reactors were shut down by the earthquake, averting what could well have been an even worse catastrophe.”
The reactors themselves did shut down during the seismic event, but quickly overheated when the water pumps failed immediately following the earthquake and tsunami.
The Japanese government confirmed this fact, suggesting at least a partial meltdown of two reactors took place. “Officials said the rating was raised after they realized the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 percent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those cores have partially melted down.”
“It appears that weather has blown much of the radiation from the Fukushima reactors out to sea.”
Immediately following the explosions the winds were heading in the direction of Tokyo, prompting panic and hysteria. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, Mayor of Minamisoma stated that his own government had misled him regarding the radiation threat and urged the evacuation of 71,000 people from his town.
The weather cannot be counted upon to clean up the effects of this nuclear disaster. Radioactive particles can remain aloft for months. Some of these particles will fall into the Pacific Ocean, more will fall on Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California and continue on across the United States, depositing a fine layer of lethal dust on farms and into water supplies. The effects of this form of contamination are insidious and almost impossible to track back to the original source. This disaster will continue to kill for years.
Misconceptions and Myths:
“So far U.S Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said she doesn’t think there will be a need for them (K1 pills) here”
Considering the government’s lack of response to the BP Oil spill by allowing use of highly toxic Corexit dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico, or the EPA’s all clear regarding air quality at Ground Zero shortly after 9/11, it comes as no surprise that government agencies are downplaying the Fukushima disaster.
“A scenario in which Eastern Sierra residents would need KI is also beyond my wildest imagination.”
Partly true: KI is only effective against radioactive Iodine that typically attacks the thyroid gland. Iodine has a half-life of 59 days and is more of a threat to those closest to the hot reactors. However, there is a minute risk from Iodine in the radioactive fuel rod material that was pulverized in the explosions and is now free in the atmosphere.
The side effects of Potassium Iodide (KI) are minimal and may include acne, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. As a precautionary measure the use of KI may provide temporary protection against contamination as the initial dust cloud dissipates over the Pacific Ocean and West Coast.
“A meltdown would not affect us.”
A full core meltdown would produce a geyser of radioactive ash that would continue unchecked until the core was completely sealed with sand and concrete. This process would require a massive effort on the part of the Japanese government and would take quite some time. Six meltdowns would be an unimaginable catastrophe. We would experience the immediate downwind effects for many weeks or months. The residual contamination in our water and soil would remain “hot” virtually forever.
“Explosions have occurred, but mainly hydrogen gas explosions outside of the reactor core.”
As stated above, the initial explosions were hydrogen gas escaping into the containment, mixing with air and then combusting. Subsequent explosions were of an unknown nature and breached the integrity of the containment buildings, in one case blowing out the entire side of the building. Spent fuel rods continue to combust and send ash into the atmosphere
“Our distance would serve to protect us.”
The most dangerous assumption is that our distance from the blast would insulate us from any radiation release. If you are standing 100 feet from a campfire you don’t feel the radiant heat, but if you are downwind, the smoke can still burn and irritate your eyes. The radiant energy from the energetic material is a regional threat and hazardous for the populations near the site. However, downwind exposure to the dust and ash is equally hazardous.
It would be irresponsible to suggest that we all run out and purchase gas masks or begin sealing ourselves into our houses. We are downwind from a very large and very dangerous release of radioactive material into the atmosphere. Much of it will fall into the ocean, but the fact still remains that our area will be under the downwind plume for the foreseeable future. To dismiss this event as something far away, someone else’s problem or ignoring the situation while hoping it will go away will not change the reality.
Mr. Madison lives in Crowley Lake and is the editor of www.BoycottsAmerica.com.