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Fukushima, Nearly a Month In


Russell D. Hoffman

A Slow Agonizing Death

It’s been more than three weeks now, and things are still getting worse at Fukushima Daiichi.  The world’s news media, and the tired public, may be trying to move on, but Fukushima is still spewing radioactive poisons at ever-increasing rates, pushing itself back onto the headlines day after day…

Now there are confirmed radiation readings around the plant that are millions of times higher than the legal limits.  Not just higher than background or “normal” limits, but millions of times higher than legal limits.   The mega-catastrophe we all hoped to avoid forever is unfolding, and not one bright nuclear scientist or engineer seems to know how to stop it.

So much for the experts.

According to physicist Dr. Michio Kaku – one of the good guys – three reactors are either already melting down or in eminent danger of doing so, and a spent fuel pool may be, as well.  He doesn’t seem to think anything can stop it now: Molten fuel, dripping from broken reactor pressure vessels, spewing radioactive smoke and steam for years to come…

But it could still get even worse than that:  There could be a violent steam explosion.   Or two, three, four… or six.  And then Daini will be unapproachable, just a few miles way.  So there will go four more.  In preparation, are they emptying the spent fuel pools at Daini at this time?  No.  They are happy to have achieved cold shutdown of those four reactors, and just keep riding out the aftershocks and the radiation wafting over from Fukushima Daiichi, waiting until somebody says they can turn the reactors on again.  That’s their new plan.  Go back to being stupid as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, it’s a slow, agonizing death of the reactors at Daiichi, and for those trying to stop it, many, perhaps all, of them will go through their own slow, agonizing death because of their efforts, as well.  For the sake of others.

Despite their “heroism” – and I put the word in quotes only because, the day before the “natural” disasters that led to the manmade failures, these are the same people who could have reallly done something to prevent this tragedy, like blow the whistle on the safety violations and the illogical locations of the diesel generators and all sorts of other things.  But now, truly, they are heroes, and let’s hope their efforts succeed.  Otherwise, or rather, even in spite of it, many others will also suffer and die.

Other species will suffer, too.  Birds fly by the reactors constantly.  They have not obeyed the evacuation orders one bit.

How far do they get after they fly directly in the plume, or drink the water from the ponds and puddles?  Or feast on the radioactive corpses that litter the area?

Do the birds then fall into the sea, to be eaten by fish which we then will consume, still hot with radioactivity?

Do they fall on the land, to spoil the ground dozens or even hundreds of miles away – thousands, if they are migratory species of birds?

There are radioactive “hot spots” all over the reactor site.

And why are they dumping 350,000 barrels of radioactive water into the oceans when an empty tanker could have been brought nearby during the past few weeks, and the water could have been put there and held for decades or filtered of large particles and left long enough to let the fast-decaying products emit their deadly particles and rays, before releasing to the oceans?  An old tanker wouldn’t cost all that much!  Of course, then they’d need another… and another… and another…

I realized, late last night, that the reactor operators at TEPCO at the time of the tsunami and I have something in common.   No, really, we do!

You see, they called their colleagues and coworkers offsite and told them they the plant was going to melt down if they didn’t get help quickly.  Big help.  Generators, pumps, and people.  They called the government.  They even asked for the U.S. military to come help them protect the public because the reactors are going to melt down if you don’t come help!!!

People at the other ends of the lines – people who should be on trial today for, at the very least, negligent mass murder – told the plant operators they were “on their own” and would have to solve their problems themselves.

Undoubtedly, the plant operators said the plant would melt down if you don’t listen to us!  Again came the response, for we all know the result.

But you know what?  That’s just what I’ve been saying all along!  “The plants are going to melt down unless you do something!  I can’t do it myself!”  That’s been my exact message all along, too!

San Onofre, Diablo Canyon, Davis Besse and all the rest:  They’ll all melt down sooner or later, if we don’t shut them down instead.  But no one activist, citizen, whistleblower or politician can do it themselves.  We need to all pull together on this.  Improving safety won’t be good enough.  Oh sure, it’s a good idea.  But it won’t suffice.  Shut-down might not even suffice, but it’s much, much more likely to keep us all safe.

The odds are currently approximately 100 per cent that this will happen again and again.  The arrogance of the pro-nuclear side right now, less than a month into this tragedy, proves it.

It doesn’t require an earthquake plus a tsunami plus poor design plus the arrogant indifference of key people on the ends of the phone lines.  All those are just the triggers this time.  Davis Besse almost melted down in 2002 without any of those  triggers, it was just an overlooked leak that went on for a surprisingly short amount of time, which almost cost America half of Ohio.  (Maybe more.  There is an incredible amount of spent fuel stored there, as at every reactor.)

What it really takes for a meltdown is just public indifference.  If the plant near you isn’t shut down, then it will melt down sooner or later.  Might it make it to the end of its license?  NO!  Because its license will be extended. There is a 100 per cent track record on license extensions so far.

These plants won’t be shut down by their operators.  They won’t be shut down by the regulators.

If there is one “lesson to be learned” that we can all take away already, it’s that the nuclear power plant operators will stop at nothing short of meltdown.  Consider that dozens of exactly-similar nuclear reactors to the ones in Fukushima, in at least as dangerous and as populated areas, are still operating 24/7 all around the world, it’s obvious that the next reactor to be shut down permanently will probably do so of its own accord, on its own schedule, whenever it pleases.

Damned reactors.

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