Poison skies: Hanging over Japan is a Fukushima nuclear crisis that’s far from over

April 26, 2012 - JAPANSpent reactor fuel, containing roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl, still sits in pools vulnerable to earthquakes. More than a year after the Fukushima nuclear power disaster began, the news media is just beginning to grasp that the dangers to Japan and the rest of the world are far from over. After repeated warnings by former senior Japanese officials, nuclear experts, and now a U.S. senator, it’s sinking in that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amidst the reactor ruins pose far greater dangers than the molten cores. This is why:  Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl. Several pools are 100 feet above the ground and are completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions. The pools could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake. The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating and can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds, if not thousands of miles. The stark reality, if TEPCO’s plan is realized, is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Da-Ichi containing some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain indefinitely in vulnerable pools. TEPCO wants to store the spent fuel from the damaged reactors in the common pool, and only to resort to dry, cask storage when the common pool’s capacity is exceeded. At this time, the common pool is at 80 percent storage capacity and will require removal of SNF to make room. TEPCO’s plan is to minimize dry cask storage as much as possible and to rely indefinitely on vulnerable pool storage. Sen. Wyden finds that that TEPCO’s plan for remediation “carries extraordinary and continuing risk” and sensibly recommends that “retrieval of spent fuel in existing on-site spent fuel pools to safer storage… in dry casks should be a priority.” -HP
Today, there is great distrust of the safety of nuclear power plants has is seen worldwide. First Chernobyl then Fukushima forced a whole array of countries to reassess their attitude toward nuclear power. There have been no new nuclear plants built in the United States over the past 26 years. Now Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium will be shuttering their reactors. Spain is in the process of electing not building any new nuclear reactors, and Italy decided not to begin a nuclear energy industry at all.  In post-Fukushima Japan, only one reactor out of the country’s 54 is still running. The future of nuclear energy there is especially foggy as the wrecked reactors at Fukushima are in such a condition that they “temporarily or partially” re-achieve criticality – in other words, the emergency is not over. According to expert analysis, more than 30 years will be required to fully dismantle Fukushima. –Bellona
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38 Responses to Poison skies: Hanging over Japan is a Fukushima nuclear crisis that’s far from over

  1. nickk0 says:

    There is no crisis at Fukushima, and the potential dangers of Nuclear powerplants do not exist.

    Everyone go back to sleep. :|

    • Magenta says:

      Seems as though the people who pushed for nuclear power are bound and determined to kill off humanity and life on the planet. Any thinking person knew that nuclear reactors are not safe, just look at the lengths they have to go to just to get rid of the nuclear waste! Not to mention when you throw a earthquake into the mix. Now there is no going back. The implications and ramifications of nuclear power are beyond what anyone can control. Mankind has erected ticking time bombs on the planet. I guess the people of California think the scientists are kidding when they say, its not if but when California will have its next big quake. Building a nuclear plant on the coast of California, defies all logic.

  2. Tom E. says:

    This article is sad in so many ways.

    It is especially so sad that TEPCO is not meeting moral or legal expectations of handling the emergency. It is sad that a bit of forethought could have possibly prevented this, really placing backup generators at (more or less) sea level.

    But equally sad that the Western world is dismantling itself by depriving it of energy.

    YES, older nuclear plants need to be examined and retired early is there are doubts about particular plants.

    BUT newer, specifically gen IV plants are significantly safer. That sentence does not exactly convey the difference in technologies. It would be like condemning the modern car because model A’s sucked in crash tests. But even that analogy does not carry enough weight.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle

    Fission product wastes

    Nuclear fission produces radioactive fission products which can have half-lives from days to greater than 200,000 years. According to some toxicity studies,[13] the thorium cycle can fully recycle actinide wastes and only emit fission product wastes, and after a few hundred years, the waste from a thorium reactor can be less toxic than the uranium ore that would have been used to produce low enriched uranium fuel for a light water reactor of the same power. Other studies assume some actinide losses and find that actinide wastes dominate thorium cycle waste radioactivity at some future periods.[14]

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/llnl-estimated-energy-use.jpg
    (http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/21/the-moon-and-sick-plans/)

    In the US, if we were to shutdown our nuclear fleet, and replace it with solar/wind, we would have to increase our current wind/solar power generation by over 14 times just to replace nuclear. And that would not even start touching coal and gas.

    India is already making steady progress leaving us behind
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf53.html

    I completely agree we need to moth ball all the old power plants, as soon as we have Throrium cycle plants up and running, and a series of breader reactors and reprocessing plants to handle all of the waste we currently have sitting around.

    We have the technology to produce safe, clean power. We have the technology to clean up the mess we have made.

    But we DON’T have the resolve to use it. And that is by far the saddest part.

    • Rob says:

      GREAT POST! Thank You for sharing this information & your thoughts with us Tom &, of course, TEP ;-)

      • Dr. Brian says:

        Dittos. Excellent post Tom E.

        Just because ONE nuclear plant design didn’t foresee and plan for a once in a couple century tsunami, this is no reason to abandon one of the most promising energy sources known to man. Wind and solar cannot replace nuclear let alone coal generated electricity. And the demands electric cars will place on the power grid will need to be made up for with increased coal and nuclear electrical generation capacity. This is no time to be backing away from nuclear power.

    • gmoney says:

      Outta the park! Nicely written.

    • Bone Idle says:

      They don’t have the technology to cleanup Fukashima. Tepco have admitted that new processes will need to be invented.
      The radiation is so high in reactor 2 that life expectancy in there is measured in minutes. Robotic machines can’t even stand the level of radioactivity. New types of robots will need to be invented with radiation proof electronics.
      Reactor 1 and 3 can’t even be approached as the radiation levels inside the buildings are too high.

      The article above states that it will take 30 years to clear up this debacle. The reality is that no knows how long it will take. The authorities presently have no idea how to solve the problem let alone how long it will take.

      At least the recent publicity regarding the precarious positions of the fuel pools in reactor 3 and 4 has spurned Tepco into action to reinforce the buildings.

      In Japan, public opinion has turned against nuclear power. There is only one reactor producing power currently operating in Japan. This is due to be switched off for maintenance purposes in two weeks. It’s highly doubtful whether or not if it ever will be activated again. The operation of nuclear power plants is subject to the whims of the local governments and local communities around them. At the moment the local communities and ,local governments are refusing to allow the power companies to start up nuclear power operations even though many of them have been cleared to go.

    • Rick says:

      Only nuclear power from fusion, not fission, is the sensible option. However, there is great power potential available from solar if we keep researching and developing it.

  3. James says:

    I am so happy that I do not live in Japan. It is a wonder how those people are still alive after all of that. This last nuclear incident is not the first. Does anyone else remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    • Pauly says:

      But you do. The US if filled w/ old reactors ready to blow from an earthquake. And say goodbye to all the $ put into the black hole known as a house if one lives within 500 miles of a meltdown.

      • James says:

        I do agree with you to a point Pauly. There is a ton of radation here as well. Some places are worse than others. New Mexico for one. However Japan is an island and does not come close to the size of the USA. We do have a lot more nuclear reactors than Japan just waiting to blow. Most of them sit along the Mississippi River. I was born and raised in Memphis Tennessee. I am well familiar with all of that. Along with the possibility of a mega quake taking out many of those reactors in the heartland. I moved out west and where I live is out of the blast radius of any of the nuclear power plants. I am in central Montana and the closest one to me is in Spokane. It could take out western Montana though. We do get radiation here from an Air Force Base that is about 100 miles away from my home. It is based out of Great Falls and that is where they keep all of the Nuclear ICBM’s. They talk about it all of the time in our local paper. They also had a news story the other day about the city of Hardin handing over that prison/fema camp over to the bankers. Scary stuff but God will take care of me, of this I am sure.

  4. Sean says:

    if number 4 goes…its not just Japan in Trouble..there is a things called ill winds..that stuff is light enough to stay in the atmosphere…..it will travel the Northern Hemisphere..it will enter your system slowly may seem like a cold or the flu..at first…
    .you wont know it until years later when you are finally diagnosed with thyroid or lung or sinus cancer….sad..a sick thought… but unfortanately a true.. one…enjoy every minute God has blessed you…

    • Rob says:

      Sorry to bust your bubble there Sean but we’re already “in Trouble” as the material from Fukushima has been found on the EAST Coast of the US & Canada, meaning it’s already traveled through the rest of the US & Canada en route. From what I remember reading, the waters on the Pacific Coast are about to be, if they haven’t already, receiving an influx of contaminated waters & material from Japan. Can’t eat the fish from the Gulf because of the Corexit & now this. *sigh* it just keeps getting worse & worse.

      • elijahsmom3 says:

        These were my same thoughts. This is affecting everyone, everywhere. The oceans are all connected and there is no way to escape it. It may take longer to get to various places, but there is no where to hide. Also, we all know that there is so much more going on than what “they” are admitting to. It’s like cockroaches, if you seen one, you know there are literally thousands hiding where you can’t see them.

  5. merle says:

    We do not need any comets, earthquakes, volcanoes or even World War III at this point. If radiation has truely done a 360 on our earth, then radiation will do the dooming for us! It may be a little slower than 2012 doom, but we will “reap what we’ve sewn” eventually!

  6. Sigrun says:

    Good info but they still ignore and hush up the critical factor. Fukushima reactors 3 & 4 had begun replacement of fuel rods. After 10 years of blockades, MOX fuel rods were allowed to enter Japan. We are not talking about uranium rods sitting in those storage pools, but plutonium MOX rods. Far, far more deadly than what you are envisioning… And the main fact that they do not wish to alert you to..
    Sigrun

  7. Conor Brennan says:

    If it all goes south, i have been told that the Japanese government will evacuate up to forty million people. This would be a first in the history of humanity. The biggest forced migration of people since probably the Stalin years when he moved against the Kossacks. ther logistics would be incredible. In perspective, that number is twice the population of Australia. Incredible stuff. Their plan to contain it involves building concrete tombs around the radiocive areas. The concrete rots incredibly quickly and then they build another tomb and again and again and again until the danger dissapates. I dont know how long the half life of this stuff is but it is definately in the centuries. This is an absolutely epic cock up from the Japanese. Homer-Simpson-esque. The engineers shoudl be made accountable. They can barely contain this and its a case of out of sight out of mind. I hinted this story was about to break to Alvin a day or two ago and i have a few quotes from scientists also saying that there is nothing they can do and there is no happy ending. They cant even get into reactor 2 to have a look as its instant death for any humans, and the lead shiedling on the robots cant take the conditions either. I heard that Japanese patriotic Scientist have already bgun volunteering to get into the danger area to try and contain this horror, knowing full well that it means the end for them. That takes real courage and i admire them if its true.

    • Bone Idle says:

      If Fukashima goes south then this will trip a world wide economic tsunami. The exodus of the populations of Tokyo and environs will have to take a backseat to the realities of a serious world wide economic breakdown.

  8. 75 % of the nuclear plants in the USA have leaked and there is no solution to waste materials or even storage of waste that is good for longer than 100 years. This has been a very bad idea and all this risk for only 20% of the current energy produced. The nuclear plants are vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tsunami, solar flares, asteroids and terror attacks. But most of all just good old decay and error. Even with Japan’s disaster staring us in the face we have not moved to shut down all of them, which all sit on our wonderful waterways and oceans, not to mention moving all the waste into dry storage. We couldn’t build it fast enough to provide for the amount that needs to be sealed away before more disaster strikes. The country worries about the trillions in debt that we leave to our children, are you kidding !!! We are leaving them with poisoned land, water, air, and a poisoned humanity. No wonder the world will be cleansed with fire, it will need it.

    • Tom E. says:

      Again, there is the science, the technology to reprocess the fuel pellets. These problems have solutions, the private sector needs to be allowed to move forward. France is successfully reprocessing fuel.

      I agree fully with the notion that the nuclear program of the 21st century needs to replaced with a nuclear program of the 22nd century, not buried.

      Trying to find storage solutions for spent nuclear fuel (Yucca mountain) is insane.

      The spent fuel needs to be reprocessed, and reused. Yes, there would be some byproducts, at least temporarily that are ideal for nuclear weapons, but where/when they exist, additional security for those sites is surely less expensive than trying to dry cask and burying the waste?

  9. Carla Burgers says:

    What I find incomprehensible is that -as far as I know_ not one country in the whole world has started claiming compensation from Japan. There are stories from beaches in the USA, Sweden which all claim damage through radio-active material. I’m not even talking about sea animals. Why are we pussy-footing around Japan ? The big oil spil in the USA was on T.V. every night with details of “who was to blame” and when it would be fixed , showing underwater pictures etc.and Obama claiming on the 2nd day that the Oil Companies would pay. No, not with Japan, it’s all hush hush while it’s incredible more urgent and dangerous. Well I had my yarn and moan, everytime i see that Fukushima area got more earthquakes ( and they’re getting a lot !) I become more and more annoyed with the Japanees.

    • Tom E. says:

      From what I understand the US is helping, but I have seen very little. I would suspect the US Navy could provide significant help, but it does not look like the Japanese are accepting much help.

      I completely agree that Fukushima is a world problem and the worlds resources need to be used to solve it. I am not much of a “government is the solution” kinda guy, but, in this case I am all in favor of my tax dollars being spent on this.

  10. J says:

    We are all beyond “F’ed” because the radiation is not containable and has long half life. That means our future and our children’s future is in trouble. We have to take back our future, which is ours, and stop these madness by the leaders. Or, we all die off like ants on Raid.

  11. K.J. says:

    Until the governments of the world have a solution for disposing of and storing the nuclear waste, nuclear power should go on hold. Period. To carry on as they have been is absolutely ridiculous and it should be very evident to all now that it does not matter how much planning you do, Mother Nature can throw you a curve ball. When you factor in the unknowns that can and do happen with the stupidity and arrogance of man it is a recipe for disaster………… a potential disaster which we are only getting a taste of with Fukushima and Chernobyl.

    Time to start using the gray matter that God gave us.

    • Tom E. says:

      K.J.

      France and other countries already reprocess spend nuclear fuel. And it is very possible to use other parts of the waste in other types of reactors to greatly decrease the radioactivity.

      There are only 2 problems, the government’s lack of willingness to address the issue and allow reprocessing, which can be partially blamed on the other problem. People who stay firm in the notion that all nuclear power is wrong.

      The science and technology exist, or are within reach to solve these problems. We just need to move forward.

  12. Joseph t. Repas says:

    We are using nuclear fuel because coal and oil were listed as evil for the natural environment so now what?Solar and wind help but I think we need all types of fuel with continued clean air technology developing to make them as clean as possible.

  13. Deb says:

    Good Comments, Been wondering just how safe our Nuke Plants are from terrorists attacks?

  14. tonic says:

    All of this chaos from ONE nuclear plant. Reminds me of the BP oil leak when we were shown yet again, just how vulnerable the planet really is, when our technologhy gets in trouble.

    Everything is ok until something goes wrong.

    • merle says:

      To Tonic, Your last sentence reminds me of the quote, “You are never prepared for what you expect.” To me the quote almost makes no sense…but then neither does our unwillingness to address this issue mainstream!

  15. Desmond Ballance says:

    How short sighted you all are who support the nuclear plants but believe me should there be a radiation fall out and it effects you, you will be the first to claim compensation, Why support something we have have no real control over and so what if there are 14 times more wind and solar generation plants in the world, at least we are harnessing the earths energy and have reasonable control of the situation where now mother nature has control over our short sightedness.

    May the Heavenly Father hear our cries and shorten the time. Amen.

  16. After Tour of Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, Wyden Says Situation Worse than Reported

    Urges Japanese Ambassador to Accept International Help to Mitigate Continued Nuclear Risks

    Washington, D.C. – After an onsite tour of what remains of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facilities decimated by last year’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent a letter to Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki looking for ways to advance and support clean-up and recovery efforts. Wyden’s principal concern is the relocation of spent fuel rods currently being stored in unsound structures immediately adjacent to the ocean. He strongly urged the Ambassador to accept international help to prevent dangerous nuclear material from being released into the environment.

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

    Wyden visited Fukushima on April 6, 2012 while on a Congressional delegation trip to the region. He and a staff member wore radiation suits as they toured the facility and met with workers and managers from the Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, which is responsible for the clean-up. Wyden found that the facilities designed to house spent nuclear fuel and the reactors themselves were still in a state of disrepair and located in areas that would make them susceptible to further damage from future seismic events. The reactor buildings still contain large amounts of spent fuel – making them a huge safety risk and the only protection from a future tsunami, Wyden observed, is a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.

    Wyden is also sending letters today to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Greg Jaczko asking them to identify additional resources and assistance that their agencies could provide to Japan to address these risks.

    http://enenews.com/breaking-us-senator-issues-press-release-on-no-4-spent-fuel-pool-warns-situation-worse-than-reported-after-tour-of-fukushima-plant-urges-japanese-to-accept-international-help

    c/o MalachiYAH

    • Tom E. says:

      Thanks you for digging this up. My interpretation is that the Japanese are attempting to save face by not admitting publicly how bad the damage is. At some point, culture must be set aside, and that is rare, very rare, but the world needs to respond. And the owner of the largest nuclear fleet is likely in an ideal place to help. (that would be the US)

      If Iraq was worth billions being spent on it by the people of the United States, Fukushima is worth $10B.

  17. Breck says:

    “I moved out west and where I live is out of the blast radius of any of the nuclear power plants. I am in central Montana and the closest one to me is in Spokane”.
    That’s odd. I live in Spokane and I don’t know of any nuclear power plant here. I think I would know.

  18. yamkin says:

    Fukushima Reactor No. 4 Vulnerable To Catastrophic Collapse; Could Unleash 85 Times Cesium-137 Radiation Of Chernobyl; Human Civilization On The Brink.

    http://tiny.cc/osmxdw

  19. Emanni says:

    It’s Not Just Fukushima: Mass Disaster Evacuations Challenge Planners
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=mass-evacuations-in-nuclear-meltdowns

    “If this happened in the U.S., we would go out to 50 miles,” said Bill Borchardt, NRC executive director for operations on March 17, according to transcripts of the days following the catastrophe. “That would be our evacuation recommendation.”

    In fact, in the U.S., more than four million Americans live within 10 miles of the 63 sites of nuclear power plants with at least one operating reactor, according to data compiled by the NRC based on the 2000 census. That number swells when the radius extends outward to 50 miles to affect more than 180 million Americans, and includes major metropolitan areas

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