Desperation at Fukushima | The Jackal

18 Mar 2011

Desperation at Fukushima

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By late Tuesday, the water meant to cool spent fuel rods in Unit 4 was boiling and by Wednesday, the fuel pond had caught fire and was leaking radiation directly into the atmosphere. The fuel rod fire was reportedly put out within 2 hours and it is unknown how much radiation leaked. At the time readings at the plant were extreme.

On March 14th injection of seawater was halted because all available water in the plant pools had run out. A water supply was restored at 03:20 but operators have resorted to other measures to cool the reactors. Apparently a police riot control truck has since been brought in over uneven roads to keep a spray of water on the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors (unconfirmed).

On March 17 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that twenty-three nuclear and rescue workers have been injured and another 20 have received high radiation doses from the "partial" meltdown of reactors 1, 2 and 3. Two people were still missing the Vienna-based agency said, citing government information. The IAEA did not indicate that any of the 23 injuries were due to radiation exposure.

Reputable agencies have reported that at least one crane operator was killed in the initial explosion of Unit 1 and a subsequent explosion also killed 2 workers.

Of the 20 people who were exposed to radiation or contaminated with radioactive material, one worker has 'suffered from significant exposure', the IAEA said. Today IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stated that he was not aware of any casualties from the disaster at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The 50 people still working at Japan's stricken Fukushima reactor are not "being sacrificed", Dutch nuclear researcher Folkert Draaisma says. The unidentified technicians and emergency workers are trying to save potentially millions of their countrymen. Chernobyl workers who stayed at their stations when the Ukrainian reactor exploded in 1986 died within three months of exposure. The Christian Science Monitor today said that even Chernobyl wasn't all that bad in terms of lives lost. Similar insane statements have been made by pro nuclear supporters who continue to try and downplay the disaster.

Two Japanese military CH-47 Chinook helicopters began dumping seawater on Dai-ichi's damaged Unit 3 on Thursday morning, defence ministry spokeswoman Kazumi Toyama said. The MOX fuel in Reactor 3 is of most concern. Television footage showed much of the water dispersing in the wind. Chopper crews flew missions of about 40 minutes each to limit their radiation exposure, passing over the reactor with loads of 7,500 litres of water a time. Heavy-duty firetrucks are also available on site, but it is unclear if they have been utilized apart from a replacement to the damaged pumps. An attempt to bulldoze a road to unit 4 has been abandoned. The U.N. nuclear agency has warned that the situation is "very serious."
Radiation plume from Fukushima Dai-ichi.
On 18th March at Midday, New Zealand's One News reported that power had been restored to the facility. However the plan is to reconnect power to unit 2 once the dumping of water on the unit 3 reactor building is completed. According to Japanese representatives, engineers have been able to lay the power cable but this is not as yet supplying power to unit 2.

It has come to light that fuel tanks for the entire site were placed in an unsafe location. These powered Dai-ichi's generators counted on to pump water into reactors and spent-rod wells to keep the rods from overheating and going critical. Only a small dike separated the tanks from the the ocean.

International reaction:

China has suspended approval for new nuclear power stations. It will also carry out checks at existing reactors and those under construction. China currently gets only about 2% of its electricity from nuclear power from 13 reactors and is currently building 27 new reactors - about 40% of the total number being built around the world.

The French government has called for an audit of all 58 nuclear reactors in France.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that seven older plants, those that came online prior to 1980, would be shuttered until at least June while safety tests are conducted.

There is general agreement that all 143 nuclear power plants in the European Union's 27 countries should now undergo additional stress testing.

The level of radiation has reportedly only risen slightly in Russia’s Far East. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered safety inspections at Russian nuclear facilities and checks and a review of nuclear industry development plans. But none of the latter have been suspended inside Russia.

The Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association has raised questions over whether Indonesia should continue with its nuclear plans and now considers building a nuclear reactor as a last resort. 

The Philippines Government has been quick to say that their nuclear power plants are safe and would not meltdown in the event of a similar catastrophe. Without proper testing, this claim remains unsubstantiated.

On March the 14th the Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) leaders assured them that Indian nuclear plants are safe. However the chance of core damage from a quake at Indian Point 3 is estimated at 1 in 10,000 each year. Under NRC guidelines that's of immediate concern regarding adequate protection of the public.

South Korea, which is currently operating 21 nuclear power plants and constructing 5 more units, is not very likely to change its nuclear power policy in response to the unfolding crisis. Nuclear power is currently supplying almost 40% of national electricity. Public opinion on nuclear issues could be a key factor in the 2012 South Korean presidential election. Their president has stated the Bushehr reactor meets all necessary safety standards, and this has been confirmed by the IAEA.

The Canadian government says it is still safe for Canadians to remain in Japan, provided they avoid the area around the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, about 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

The US has made no plans to implement safety measures concerning their many nuclear reactors. They have moved stationary radiation monitors to the West Coast. It is interesting to note that the typical nuclear reactor in the United States, has a 1 in 74,176 chance of core damage by an earthquake each year, exposing the public to radiation. Accidents, tsunamis and other natural disasters are not factored into this calculation.

The US is advising any citizens still within 80 kilometres of the badly damaged nuclear reactors to leave. Australia and South Korea have also advised this however the Japanese government has not extended the 20 km evacuated area and still advises people to remain indoors within 30 km of Fukushima Dai-ichi. No further plan has come to light and those within the affected area are running out of provisions. It appears that the Japanese are relying on a prevailing wind direction to take the radiation offshore. Although the Japanese government has not made an announcement, many people are leaving Tokyo and other areas in the event that radiation levels rise further.

Here is a very good article to read if you're within fallout countries: Urgent radiation preparedness action items for California, Oregon, Washington, B.C., Yukon and Alaska. Potassium iodide which is used as a nuclear fallout medicine, has sold out in parts of the United States and Canada.