Have you heard of Fukushima? No, it’s not a type of sushi – it’s a city in Japan.
Six years ago, something terrible happened in Fukushima. Yet, you probably know nothing about it. National Public Radio and mainstream television will not touch this story: it’s poison. Literally.
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and 50-foot tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which is owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). The nuclear fuel rods in three out of six of the reactors overheated to the melting point. Radiation inside the nuclear reactor’s control room spiked up to 1,000 times its normal level.
The over-heated uranium fuel rods became liquid, and dripped like candle wax to the bottom of the reactor vessels. The molten mass was hot enough to burn through the reactor’s steel walls and the concrete floors below.
Think “Three Mile Island” for real.
The plant is located on the coast, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo and near the epicenter of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake which caused the reactor breach.
The next day, March 12, 2011, Live Science reported:
“An explosion at a nuclear power facility in Japan today (March 12) has blown the roof and walls off a building there, releasing dangerous radiation of unspecified proportions into the air, according to government officials…They have advised people within an even larger [than 12-miles] radius to stay indoors and breathe through wet cloths.”
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the evacuation zone was extended to a 6-mile (10-km) radius from the previous two miles.
In addition to air-born radiation, highly toxic coolant water was discharged into the ocean, releasing deadly cesium-134.
For reasons unclear to this day, Tepco denied there was much of a problem, even though video footage, smuggled out of the power plant, showed fires and general pandemonium.
The truth became undeniable eventually, however, as radiation from the Tepco power plant rolled north over Japan, with Tokyo’s levels rising into the danger zone.
Now, in 2017, Fukushima continues to spew highly radioactive pollutants into the Pacific Ocean.
What is Japan doing about remediation and/or containment?
Recent news is that, in July 2017, Tepco engineers successfully navigated a radio-active resistant robot (“Manbo”) to the heavily damaged Unit 3 reactor. The probe’s camera sent back images of a gaping hole at the bottom of the reactor. More significantly, the robot captured the first images of the solidified melted uranium fuel in that reactor.
Fuel from the other two ruined reactors had been identified earlier this year. This is all cheery news – even if it is six and a half years late, because – according to Takahiro Kimoto, a Tepco general manager:
“Now that we have seen it, we can make plans to retrieve it.”
Furthermore, Tepco razed and paved over the radioactive soil in the central plant grounds, so workers and visitors no longer have to wear protective clothing on the site, as was the case a year ago.
A power plant spokesperson added:
“We have finished the debris cleanup and gotten the plant under control. Now, we are finally preparing for decommissioning.”
The Japanese prime minister’s office anticipates that the next project milestone – extracting the melted fuel from one of the three damaged reactors – will happen in 2021, the 10th anniversary after this earth-threatening event. Cleanup is expected to take decades and cost tens of billions of dollars.
Japan intends to dismantle the Fukushima plant and decontaminate the surrounding countryside, restoring homes to about 160,000 people who were evacuated after the incident.
Tepco is “making nice with the people” in the hopes that public perception will shift, from dangerous disaster to well-managed crisis. The beleaguered company must persuade the Japanese public that conditions are safe enough to restart their country’s undamaged nuclear power plants.
Despite the magnitude of this “error in nuclear judgment,” the US mainstream media is, by and large, completely silent about Fukushima – then and now.
It’s as if the big media players were told to stay away from the Fukushima disaster.
Some scientists, after admitting that yes, something very bad did happen over there at that Japanese nuclear reactor, have actually had the gall to suggest that there won’t be enough radioactivity reaching the American Pacific coastline to warrant any concern at all, ever.
This kind of thinking is not scientific. Measuring sea water for radioactive levels is, however.
Wikipedia says, “Trace quantities of radioactive particles from the incident, including iodine-131 and caesium-134/137, have since been detected around the world.” This can’t be good.
As would be expected, rates of cancer in the Fukushima prefecture have risen significantly, as tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As recently as February 2017, Science Alert reported “unexpectedly high” radiation levels inside reactor #2, which reached “a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, a number experts have called ‘unimaginable.'” This much radiation can kill a person in two minutes.
We would expect the highest levels of radiation nearest the damaged reactors. But what about the west coast of the United States, Canada and Mexico? Are these places going to “get hot,” too?
Some YouTube videos like this and this show people holding geiger counters (devices which count radiation levels) advance toward the Pacific Ocean. The first researcher records above-normal radioactive particles near the shore, while the second researcher does not. Draw your own conclusions.
Almost a year ago, on December 7, 2016, an article in the Statesman Journal revealed that:
“Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, was measured in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are reporting.”
On April 30, 2014 the California Coastal Commission issued its report on the “Nuclear Disaster and Radioactivity along the California Coast.” The executive summary of that report concludes (bolding added):
“The levels of Fukushima-derived radionuclides detected in air, drinking water, food, seawater and marine life in California are extremely low relative to the pre-existing background from naturally-occurring radionuclides and the persistent residues of 20th century nuclear weapons testing. The additional dose of radiation attributable to the Fukushima disaster is commensurately small, and the available evidence supports the idea that it will pose little additional risk to humans or marine life. However, it should be noted that the long-term effects of low-level radiation in the environment remain incompletely understood, and that this understanding would benefit from increased governmental support for the monitoring of radioactivity in seawater and marine biota and the study of health outcomes linked to radiation exposure.”
To make a long story short, despite the alleged advantages of nuclear power, this is an energy source capable of completely devastating our planet – and yet, Big Energy companies continue to suppress alternative fuels.
How bad does a nuclear “oopsy-doodle” have to be to turn the world’s attention toward non-nuclear solutions to the world’s energy needs?
At that point, will it be too late to prevent an extinction event?
One thing is for sure: we’ve all been Fukushima’d, and that’s a fact.