FUKUSHIMA – SIX YEARS AGO, MARCH 11th, 2011

A Hard Rain’s A-Fallin’

Is It Too Late to Save This Planet?

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!

– William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1

“In the generation of nuclear energy, manmade hazards seem unavoidable, but bankruptcy strikes us as a needless risk.”

– Barron’s Weekly (the business magazine), 3/21/1981, summing up the experience of the near meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant two years prior.

“The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”

– Larry Kudlow, business commentator, CNBC

 

THE MASSIVE EARTHQUAKES THAT ROCKED JAPAN beginning on March 11th 2011 caused a huge tsunami 15 meters tall at impact, sending waters cascading over the 10 meter-high barrier walls.1 Low-lying towns that had ignored 600-year-old stone markers in which were carved “Do not build any homes below this point” were wiped out, while many who heeded the markers, such as the hamlet of Aneyoshi, were spared.2 More than twelve thousand people were swept away, and 15,500 more are missing.

The heart­rending tragedy quickly became a global nightmare as the earthquakes ripped open the fault-lines on top of which a number of nuclear power plants had been built, imperiously overlooking the rushing waters and towns awaiting annihilation. Some “inexplicably” contained deadly plutonium used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons and roof pools of radioactive fuel rods. But Mary Olson, the director of the Southeast Office of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), noted that photographs showed “the fuel pool in reactor No. 3 is gone. … There is no fuel there. The reactor fuel pool in No. 3 is gone. Where did it go?” According to law professor Francis Boyle, Japan may have been constructing a secret nuclear bomb infrastructure under the guise of their nuclear industry, and was storing 500 pounds of weapons-grade MOX/Plutonium at Fukushima 3 for the purpose of making bombs.3 Was it swept away and into the ocean? Or did the government grab it, unnoticed amidst the chaos?

Thousands of people wisely thought it best to flee for their lives in those moments before the inev­i­table depletion of coolant and consequent explosions propelled tons of extremely dangerous radioactive gases and water into the atmosphere and oceans.4 This, despite the initial broadcasts by government officials who told them not to evacuate but to return to their homes and shut the windows and doors,5 eerily paralleling the reckless directions by officials at the World Trade Center in New York City on that horrible September morning a decade ago. As with people responding in New York on 9/11, so too in Japan on 3/11 — many acted heroically to save others from the deadly radioactive contamination, sacrificing themselves in a desperate effort to staunch the ruptures. The world’s population watched helplessly on TV as the catastrophe unfolded (and unfolds still).

Turning off the TV provides no respite. The radioactive clouds and waters from Japan have no regard for borders or national boundaries. They drift with the winds, in recent weeks mostly to the northeast, but also 140 miles south to Tokyo, and then to Singapore, Indonesia and Australia, as if mocking those early confident assurances that the unthinkable could not happen. In an irony perhaps unparalleled in history, the city of Hiroshima in southwest Japan is now seen by many as a refuge for those seeking to escape from the radiation released in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear nightmare.

Soon, winds were to spread the radioactive material to Hawaii and to the western Hemisphere. In fact, after 9 or 10 days independently established monitors picked up increases in radiation along the west coast of the United States and in Idaho, Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Massachusetts.6

Media, government and corporate officials at first denied that the radiation would drift overseas – but their assurances following the “accidents” (in quotes not because they were desired but because they were predictable – and indeed, predicted7) turned out to not be worth the paper they’re printed on. And now the story has dropped off the front page altogether.

For several critical days officials in Japan squandered opportunities to control the leakage, which some experts say would have been possible only by immediately entombing the nukes8 but thereby sacrificing any chance of ever using them again. Instead of taking emergency measures to avoid what has now come to pass, and instead of evacuating the population immediately from the affected areas, officials’ first thoughts were – again, just as they were following 9/11 – to salvage the investments of the corporations involved and the interests of the insurance companies, therein damning the planet to Hell.

“There was and will not be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors,” swore Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dr. Jos­eph Oehmen, in a widely circulated business article. “By ‘significant’ I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation.”9

Such is the arrogance with which techno-apologists for the nuclear industry approach the apocalyptic situation. Published four days after the earthquake struck in Japan, the barrage of “don’t worry, be happy” propaganda had by then already proved false. Journalist Keith Harmon Snow commented on the smug assurances: “Properly understood for what it is – a childish, myopic, arrogant attempt to belittle the truth and influence public opinion – the article provides an apt example of the rampant industry disinformation that is sweeping aside rational, compassionate and precautionary assessments with irrational jingoism, simplistic emotional appeals, and wrong-headed thinking.”10

RADIATION IS COMING TO THE U.S.A.

By early April, 2011 – around 3 weeks after the explosions in Japan – Radioactive Cesium-137 from Fukushima was found in strawberries and mushrooms in northern California. Cesium-137 fixes to materials and soil and so must be separated and quickly removed, before it begins to accumulate in living organisms. A few days earlier, from March 22-25, each of 12 samples taken by the EPA at 10 sites in the U.S. showed 20 times the allowable levels of radioactive Iodine-131 (a cause of thyroid cancer).11

Radioactive isotopes were found in drinking water and milk in cities ac­ross the U.S. at the beginning of April and shortly thereafter in broad-leaf plants like spinach. Summarizing the data, Natural News writes that “as of April 10, 2011 23 US water supplies have tested positive for radioactive Iodine-131,12 13 and milk samples from at least three US locations have tested positive for Iodine-131 at levels exceeding EPA maximum containment levels (MCL).”14

Across Europe agencies are advising pregnant women and children to beware of consuming fresh milk, creamy cheeses and vegetables with large leaves.15 One agency reports that even Uranium 234 has been detected in Hawaii and the U.S. west coast.16 But the EPA announced that levels were “below public health concern”17 – although there shouldn’t be any radioactive isotopes there at all.

Faster than you can say “Nuclear Armageddon? Arm-a-geddin-outa-here,” U.S. officials switched gears. No longer able to convince the public that the radiation would never reach the Western hemisphere they retreated to their fall-back position. The increased levels of radiation rec­orded in some states was insignificant, they claimed. “We’ll take a tiny ‘hit’ but it will be minuscule, nothing to worry about and it will soon pass.”18 But even that “lone hit theory” turned out to be disinformation; radioactive clouds, which are not visible to the eye, are being refueled daily by the ongoing disaster and this may continue for weeks or even months, fed again and again by the venting and leakage of radioactive gases and water from Fukushima – as was the case with the 9/11 toxic plume and the false assurances as to its safety.19

Twenty-five years ago Chernobyl proved the extreme danger in such “magical thinking”. Researchers now estimate that the explosions and fire that exposed the reactor core at Chernobyl propelled as much as 10 billion curies of radioactive material into the environment – 200 times greater than the projected estimate, and hundreds of times larger than the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The first indication of the catastrophe caused by such massive releases of radiation was, as so often is the case, a mass die-off of young birds.20

Dr. Ernest Sternglass was one of the first scientists to publish research showing that radiation emitted by Chernobyl caused over the next 4-6 weeks dramatic increases in infant mortality and pulmonary diseases around the globe and a spike in “excess” cancers over the longer term. To date, some scientists estimate that one million people throughout the world died from cancers due to radiation released from Chernobyl,21 with 40,000 Chernobyl-related deaths occurring in the months immediately following the explosion there.22 And when all is said and done, Fukushima will likely be worse.

Figure 1. Concentration of Iodine-131 in fresh farm milk following Chernobyl, May-June 1986, in the NY metropolitan area. (Recorded by the Environmental Measurement Laboratory of the Department of Energy)

 

Nevertheless, the corporate media in the U.S. ignored the dangerous parallels to U.S. nuclear reactors. They posited a sort of “American exceptionalism” argument (“it can’t happen here, we do things differently, our reactors are different, we’re exempt”). They got away with portraying Chernobyl as due to faulty Soviet construction23 by suppressing accurate information. Reports concerning Chernobyl to this day wrongly insist that the reactor had “no containment housing,” even though one of the five commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, James Asselstine, testified before a Congressional subcommittee chaired by Rep. Edward Markey (D, Mass.) that the containment structure surrounding the reactors at Chernobyl was in fact rated ‘stronger’ than those surrounding some U.S. reactors.24 Fukushima-Daiichi’s reactors, on the other hand, are Boiling Water Reactors (BWR). Five of the six reactors have Mark-1 containments designed by General El­ectric, whose 23 similarly antiquated Mark-1 models are sputtering along here in the U.S. At least one Atomic Energy Commission official back in 1972 said the Mark-1 reactors should never have been allowed to be built.25

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh, Gregory C Minor and Richard B. Hubbard resigned from their jobs at General Electric “after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing – the Mark-1 – was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident,” writes Matthew Mosk for ABC World News:26

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark-1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power, and today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday’s earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark-1s.

“The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant,” Bridenbaugh told ABC News in an interview. ”The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release.”26

 

 

Unfortunately, some of that information – as well as the horrible accident at Fukushima itself – is being used by proponents of nuclear power as propaganda for “the need to build new and safer” nuclear power plants, as opposed to getting rid of them altogether! The false claims about Fukushima, like Cherno­byl, serve a dastardly ideological purpose27 – coraling an anxious but helpless public behind reassurances that enable ongoing government subsidies to the nuclear industry.

So on April 20th, 2011 the advocacy group Beyond Nuclear submitted an ”emergency enforcement petition” to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission urging the suspension of 21 General Electric Boiling Water Mark-1 Reactor operating licenses in the wake of the catastrophic failure of identical containment systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. In addition, Beyond Nuclear petitioned that a total of 24 GE BWR Mark-1 storage pools for high-level radioactive waste in the U.S. be required to install backup power supplies for running cooling water circulation systems in the event of a loss of the primary electrical grid, something they now lack despite their location outside of a primary containment structure.28

In the mass media over the years, only the TV cartoon “The Simpsons” got it right – and that show was not launched until 3½ years after Chernobyl. Week after week, it spoofs Homer Simpson’s job at the Springfield nuclear power plant owned by the odious capitalist Mr. Burns. In reality, the corporate media parroted the reassurances of the U.S. and Japanese governments, twisting every which way to avoid the obvious implications with regard to the nuclear industry. But thousands of kids who have grown up watching “The Simpsons” are now aware of the insanity of nuclear power and ridicule the lies justifying it.

After all, nuclear power is a crazy way to essentially boil water, fraught with potentially catastrophic dangers. There are currently 439 nuclear fission reactors operating worldwide (104 of them in the U.S.). They generate 14 percent of global electric power. In a report issued in 1985 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acknowledged that over a 20-year period, the likelihood of at least one severe core meltdown was basically 50-50.29 Less than a year later, Chernobyl exploded. As journalist Karl Grossman sums it up, “They’ve known all along that disaster could come, and there’s a good likelihood of it coming, and they’ve known the consequences.”30 And yet they persist in calling what happened in Fuku­shima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, “accidents” – as though by minimizing the results of their own studies they could legitimately discount the risks of something going wrong, or that meltdowns and radiation “leakage” are natural ca­lamities over which they have no control.

In 2010 alone, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there were 14 “near misses” at U.S. nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power is an inherently holocaustic technology. An accident, as we’re now seeing (again) threatens the health and safety of the entire planet. To make matters worse, many of those risks are exacerbated because reactor owners, and often the NRC in the U.S., tolerated known safety problems.31 In the past year alone, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission documented 14 “near misses” at U.S. nuclear power plants. And those do not even include many incidents at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, NY, such as an explosion in early November 2010, which prompted officials in the four surrounding counties to open emergency response centers in case a regional evacuation was necessary.32 Indian Point is just 24 miles up the Hudson River from New York City and the NRC considers it the reactor at the highest risk of earthquake damage in the country.33 A 2010 review of Nuclear Regulatory Commission data by the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that the liner of a refueling cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993, without repair. By allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its safety function, the NRC is putting people in the NYC metropolitan area at elevated and undue risk.34

The Indian Point reactors are owned by Entergy, Inc., which also owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. On April 19, 2011 Entergy filed a lawsuit ag­ainst the State of Vermont, in its attempt to continue to operate past its closure date of March 2012, despite having agreed to abide by all legislative as well as PSB decisions when it bought the nuke in 2002. The Citizen’s Awareness Network asks, “What changed?” The answer: The corporation didn’t get its way.35

The conservative Brookings Institute elaborates on the dangers of poor oversight by the NRC, and of government allowing the nuclear industry to get its way:

The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General uncovered 24 instances in which nuclear plants failed to report defects in equipment that could pose safety risks. In the last eight years, the regulator has not imposed any penalties on plant operators for such infractions.

For 15 years, the NRC allowed a water containment system to leak in New York despite the problem being documented. In South Carolina, a plant operator had to shut down reactors twice in six months. One of the shutdowns was caused by a power shortage in an electrical cable that had been installed in 1986 and was not up to standard. In New Jersey, a nuclear plant was relicensed in 2009 even though it lacked a reactor containment shell that could withstand a jet crash. Within seven days of its relicensing, an ongoing leak of radioactive water was uncovered. …

The US regulatory system faces a particular challenge regarding the handling of the vast amounts of spent fuel. At the beginning of 2010, nearly 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel was being stored at U.S. nuclear power plants. The NRC does not have limits on the amount of time fuel can remain in spent fuel pools and has not mandated, for instance, the transfer of spent fuel to dry casks, which are located away from reactors. Currently, nearly 10 times as much fuel is located in spent fuel pools than in the reactors. This is worrying as the pools are not protected by containment shells as the reactor cores are.36

It is sobering to realize what almost happened: In 1962 New York City’s electric utility, Con Ed, had planned to build the world’s largest nuclear plant, “with a capacity of a thousand megawatts, more power than all the other atomic plants in the United States put together.” And where did those geniuses think to situate it? Why, in Queens, right smack on the eastern bank of the East River and less than two miles as the radiation flies from Times Square, the heart of New York City!

In 1963, opponents of the plan – known as “Ravenswood” – marched on City Hall. Their concerns were similar to those raised today, and included the effects of radiation in causing genetic mutation.

The head of Con Ed at the time, Harland C. Forbes, dismissed such concerns before a Congressional committee as “rather silly”.

Shortly thereafter, the NY City Council considering a resolution to ban nukes outright from NY City. The Times picks up the story from there:

A city utility commissioner called [the ban] “repressive and shortsighted.” The chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Glenn T. Seaborg, questioned the measure’s legality. A state senator from Queens, Seymour R. Thaler, told the Council, “The mind of man has not yet invented an accident-proof piece of mechanical equipment.”

All told, 29 people testified against the ban; 30 testified in favor. Out in City Hall Plaza, the growing crowd of picketers now had a name: Canpop, the Committee Against a Nuclear Power Plant in New York City.

In Washington, the Atomic Energy Commission harbored doubts. In August, it sent Con Ed a list of safety questions about the plant. The commission’s 1962 siting guidelines were deliberately ambiguous. On one hand, they called for a one-mile unpopulated zone around a nuclear plant, and low population density within a 16-mile radius. (More than five million people lived or worked within five miles of the Ravenswood site.) But the guidelines also noted that applicants were “free — and indeed encouraged” to argue for exceptions.

Con Ed had boasted that the shielding for its pressurized water reactor, featuring a concrete igloo 167 feet high and 7 feet thick, encased in another shell of thick concrete, could withstand a complete meltdown or a jetliner crash.

The plant’s neighbors remained unimpressed. “We think one of the threats is a decline in property values, and that is a factor,” Irving Katz, a founder of Canpop and a biochemist, told The Times in an October 1963 article. “But really it comes down to this — when we look out of our windows and see those two stacks up there, we are frightened. And our women are frightened.” [!] … Con Edison told the commission it would modify its plans to include “additional engineering safeguards.”37

However in early 1964, Con Ed – under growing public pressure – withdrew its Ravenswood application. “It said it had made arrangements to buy hydroelectric power from Canada instead, a move that ‘had absolutely nothing to do with the public opposition to the proposal.’ The cost of building transmission lines was suddenly not a factor.”38

Also weighing in significantly against Con Ed’s Rav­enswood plan was David E. Lilienthal, the first chair of the Atomic Energy Commission. He testified before Congress that he “would not dream of living in Queens” if such a plant were built there.39 However,

Con Ed was not done trying to build a nuclear plant in the city, though. In 1968, it floated a plan to build an underground reactor — “because it would provide the nth degree of safety” — beneath an abandoned hospital site at the south end of Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island, a few hundred feet from the Ravens­wood plants and that much closer to the East Side of Manhattan. It went nowhere.

In 1970, the utility proposed nuclear plants on man-made islands several miles off Coney Island and Staten Island, built of solid waste and each crowned with four thousand-megawatt reactors.40

In tandem with the push for nuclear power, in 1957 Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act, which minimized corporate liability in the case of an accident and guaranteed public subsidies to the nuclear industry. The Price-Anderson Act

 

artificially limits the amount of primary insurance that nuclear operators must carry. … This distorts electricity markets by masking nuclear power’s unique safety and security risks, granting nuclear power an unfair and undesirable competitive advantage over safer energy alternatives. Second, Price-Anderson caps the liability of nuclear operators in the event of a serious accident or attack, leaving taxpayers on the hook for most of the damages. This makes capital investment in the nuclear industry more attractive to investors because their risk is minimized and fixed. … Since corporations under Price-Anderson are only responsible for around two percent of the estimated cost of a serious accident, nuclear power corporations can largely ignore (from a financial perspective) the dangers that reactors impose on American communities.41

As CUNY Professor of Theoretical Physics Michio Kaku puts it, “the Price-Anderson Act … mandates [that] the U.S. government, the taxpayers, will underwrite the insurance, because nuclear power stations are not insurable. … Nobody will sell an insurance policy for a nuclear power plant, because who can afford a $200 billion accident?”42

It was the Price-Anderson Act that permitted, for example, Pacific Gas & Electric to build the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor right atop the Hosgri Fault in San Luis Obispo, California, and adjacent to a later-discovered offshore fault a mile out to sea – an area prone to quakes. PG&E bragged that the reactor was built to withstand a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. However, the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 occurred along one of those fault lines and measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. In response to many large protests, the utility has now been forced to postpone relicensing of the plant.43 Some environmental groups believe this to be a victory for sanity, but it appears that this may be a diversion allowing PG&E added time to keep the plant running, while conducting more unnecessary seismic studies as the pretext.

At least three times since the year 2000 have deadly radioactive fuel rods disappeared from U.S. nuclear power plants, including rods “lost” at the Humboldt Bay Power Station run by PG&E in Eureka, California.44 Its 2nd reactor complex at Humboldt Bay was dubbed “the dirtiest nuclear reactor in the U.S.” and was shut down in the late 70’s when traces of plutonium triggered Geiger counter alerts in a children’s playground a mile away.45

Nor are false assurances and outright lying limited to the United States. Officials overseeing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex have a sordid history of falsifying records. In 2002, a scandal over this rocked Japan and led to the departure of a number of senior executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) as well as to disclosures of previously unreported problems at the plant.46 TEPCO officials admitted they had falsified safety records at Fukushima Daiichi. As a result of the scandal and a fuel leak at Fukushima, the company had to temporarily shut down all of its 17 nuclear reactors.47 Fukushima state governor Yuhei Sato condemned TEPCO and METI (the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Jap­an’s nuclear regulatory agency), saying, “Some of the pundits have said, ‘This is an accident beyond all expectations. It is a natural disaster,’ but do not be fooled. This accident was doomed to happen. In other words, it is a man-made disaster.” He pledged that he “will never allow Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to re-open the reactors there.”48

Of course, that assumes that the current governor does not reverse his statements – after all, he’s the one who in August, 2010 signed off on the plutonium-generating plan – and remains in office long enough to keep the nuclear industry at bay, not a likely scenario. The last governor, Sato Eisaku, even more forcefully fought the nuclear regulatory agency, and he was soon deposed and brought to trial on corruption charges. Still, Sato Eisaku sounds the warning: “During my ten­ure as governor of Fukushima prefecture, I fought hard against METI, demanding a transparency guarantee on accident information and working to secure the state government’s rights with regard to where nuclear plants are built. METI is supposed to supervise and instruct TEPCO so as to prevent TEPCO’s repeated tampering with and concealing of information, but instead, the two organizations have been working hand-in-hand. … Government must accept responsibility for defrauding the people.’”49

Nevertheless, just a month before the powerful 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, government regulators approved a 10-year extension for the oldest of the six reactors at the power station, ignoring warnings about its safety.

Several weeks after a 10-year extension was granted for the Fukushima Daiichi plant, its operator admitted that it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment related to the plant’s cooling systems, … including water pumps and diesel generators, at the power station’s six reactors, according to findings published on the agency’s Web site shortly before the earthquake.50

Less than two weeks later, the earthquake and tsunami set off the crisis at the power station.

THE “OBAMA CONNECTION”

The nuclear nightmare is entirely man-made and profit driven. There is nothing “natural” about it. It is the result not just of technology gone “inexplicably” haywire but, predictably, of a certain kind of technology – a centralized, metered and capitalist technology,51 very expensive and made economically profitable only by a boatload of government subsidies to the nuclear industry.52

And yet, even amidst the current catastrophe, and even as the government of Venezuela halts its nuclear program in response to public requests to reconsider the direction for society in light of Fukushima,53 the U.S. government is dead-set on shoring up the industry and constructing new nuclear power plants. Along with Wall Street brokerage house Goldman Sachs, nuclear reactor operator Exelon Inc. – one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was Senator (a state that gets approximately half of its electricity from nuclear power, more than any other state) – was a top contributor to Barack Obama’s campaigns, officially donating over $269,000.

The company currently operates 10 reactors at six sites. The Quad-cities Nuclear Power Plant, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, is a GE Mark-1 plant, with the identical design and nearly the same age as the Fukushima reactors. Exelon barely averted disaster at its Braidwood nuke in Joliet, IL last year, caused by several problems that the company had refused to correct — including a poor design that led to repeated floods in buildings housing safety equipment. The company allowed vented steam to rip metal siding off containment walls and used undersized electrical fuses for vital safety equipment, according to the NRC.54

As candidate for president, Obama knew about the deadly dangers of nuclear power. “I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal and so I am not a nuclear energy proponent,” Obama said at a campaign stop in Newton, Iowa on December 30, 2007. “My general view is that until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe. … I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar and wind and bio-diesel and strategies [for] alternative fuels.”55

As he told the editorial board of the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire on November 25, 2007: “I don’t think there’s anything that we inevitably dislike about nuclear power. We just dislike the fact that it might blow up …and irradiate us … and kill us. That’s the problem.” But as president, he hired a nuclear power proponent out of the national nuclear laboratory system, Steven Chu, as his energy secretary. Chu, who had been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, minimizes the impacts of radioactivity, as do many of the atomic physicists in the national laboratory system. Obama’s two top White House aides, meanwhile, had been deeply involved with Exelon — the utility operating more nuclear power plants than any other in the U.S. Rahm Em­an­u­el, his former chief of staff, was an investment banker central to the $8.2 billion corporate merger in 1999 that produced Exelon. David Axelrod, senior advisor and Obama’s chief political strategist, was an Exelon PR consultant. Frank M. Clark, who runs ComEd, helped advise Obama before he ran for President and is one of Obama’s largest fundraisers. Candidate Obama received sizable contributions from Exel­on president and CEO John Rowe, who in 2007 also became chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry’s main trade group. As Forbes magazine wrote, “Ties are tight between Exelon and the Obama administration,” noting Exelon’s political contributions and Emanuel’s and Axelrod’s Exelon links.56 Upon becoming President, Obama appointed Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Energy Future.

The revolving door between government and industry rotates just as fast in Japan as it does in the U.S. In fact, the former director general of METI left the agency and joined TEPCO as a senior adviser. Another METI board member became executive vice president at TEPCO.57

Not surprisingly, given who funded his campaigns, as president Obama betrayed his campaign statements and began promoting “safe, clean nuclear power.” He pushed for multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants, and made them a central part of his energy policy. He now proposes allocating $36 billion in federal loan guarantees to jump-start the construction of new nuclear reactors. Unfortunately, he has maneuvered some who have argued fervently for the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce or reverse global warming, such as NASA scientist James Hansen, into supporting his pro-nuclear policies by falsely posing coal mining and sequestration, mountaintop removal, deep sea oil drilling, and hydro-fracking for natural gas as the options to nuclear power – all of which the Obama administration is aggressively promoting. Opponents of nuclear power, in contrast, vigorously oppose every one of those Obama proposals and argue instead for funding for development of decentralized sustainable energy alternatives like solar and wind power. Contrary to the claims of nuclear supporters, anti-nuke activists also strongly oppose expansion of oil and coal-burning power plants and support phasing them out, as they are rightly seen as prime contributors to air pollution, asthma and greenhouse gases involved in global climate change. But nuclear power is not the answer.

John Rowe’s Nuclear Energy Institute praises legislation that would facilitate the development of smaller, scalable nuclear reactors. The legislation, sponsored by Democrats as well as Republicans,

was introduced March 8 in the U.S. Senate. The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S. 512) was introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), along with Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). The legislation directs the Secretary of Energy to implement programs to develop and demonstrate two reactor designs, one fewer than 300 megawatts of electric generating capacity and the other fewer than 50 mega­watts. This public-private, cost-shared program would facilitate the design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of two small reactor designs by the end of 2017 and the licensing of the reactors by the end of 2020.58

 

Even as the nuclear nightmare plays out in Japan, the President, the nuclear industry and its proponents in Congress bull ahead, disregarding the potential for causing global catastrophic events. Just as former President George W. Bush increased allowable arsenic in drinking water when that water was found to have higher arsenic levels than expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Obama is preparing to dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in water, food and soil, in preparation for what they are calling ‘radiological incidents.’59

This is taking place entirely behind closed doors, warns the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Because this plan is considered ‘guidance’ it does not require public notice as a normal regulation would. The radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) “are protocols for responding to radiological events ranging from nuclear power-plant accidents to ‘dirty’ bombs.” Under the new guides, nuclear energy plants would be allowed to vent much higher levels of radioactive isotopes into the water supply and expose many more people to higher doses of radiation, including

 

    • A nearly 1000-fold increase in strontium-90;

 

  • A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for iodine-131; and

 

 

  • An almost 25,000 rise for nickel-63.

 

 

 

The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup standards thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted, permitting doses to the public that EPA itself estimates would cause cancer in as many as every fourth person exposed.60 These relaxations of radiation protection requirements are favored by the nuclear industry and allies in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Department.

Fortunately, there are some in the regulatory agencies resisting the proposed increase in allowable radiation guides. The idea that there could be any “acceptable level” of radiation – let alone these drastically “enhanced” levels – is being vigorously opposed by public health professionals inside EPA where a critical debate is now taking place, according to documents PEER obtained by suing the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act. Even Exelon CEO John Rowe said lawmakers shouldn’t expand U.S. guarantees for loans for new reactors, and that he is reassessing a $3.65-billion plan to boost output by upgrading Exelon’s existing reactors61 – not for any newfound moral, environmental or health-related concern but as a smokescreen for reducing corporate expenditures. The EPA’s documents show that such higher-ups as Charles Openchowski of EPA’s Office of General Counsel, on the other hand, is truly appalled at the proposed allowable radiation guides and wrote:

[T]his guidance would allow cleanup levels that exceed MCLs [Maximum Contamination Limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances 7 million and there is nothing to prevent those levels from being the final cleanup achieved (i.e., it’s not confined to immediate response of emergency phase).62

It is worth noting that measurements in seawater near the Fukushima Daiichi reactors currently found radio­active Iodine-131 levels at 7.5 million times the legal limit. Those readings were recorded just before Tokyo Electric began releasing an additional 11,000 tons of radioactive water into the sea, poisoning whales, dolphins, sea turtles and fish.63 (Why measure it at all if they’re just going to dump it in the ocean, regardless of what the measurements show?) The radioactive water being discharged into the Pacific has prompted experts to sound the alarm, as radioactive cesium, which has a much longer half-life than iodine, is expected to concentrate in the upper food chain.

After a month had passed, the Japanese government raised the level of the accident at Fukushima from 5 to 7, the most severe of accidents, on par with Chernobyl and which would put into motion em­ergency measures that, criminally, were not yet in effect. The anti-nuclear environmental organization Greenpeace – among others – had already calculated three weeks before that the accident at Fukushima was scale 7. Thomas Breuer, the head of the Climate & Energy Unit for Greenpeace Germany, is part of a field team of radiation monitors in Japan. He questioned why the government of Japan waited so long to raise the accident level, noting that Japan “wasted three weeks of not informing the public about the real risks of this accident.”

Fukushima “is not equal to Chernobyl, it is way worse, because we are facing three reactors totally, or partly, destroyed,” Breuer said. “A fourth reactor has a problem with the spent fuel, which had a huge explosion. … Each of these reactors could be rated as an INES scale 7 accident, because the INES scale does not even consider a multiple accident.”

Another point, Breuer emphasizes, is that the Chernobyl reactor was situated more or less in a rural area. “But Fukushima is in a densely populated area, so millions of people are living around it,” making it even worse than Chernobyl and more difficult to manage.

“[Greenpeace] warned the government that there are a lot of cities and villages outside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone where the radiation levels are so high that people need urgently to be evacuated, especially children and pregnant women, because they are the most vulnerable part of the population to radiation.”

Fukushima “is a city of 340,000 inhabitants, and we found very high levels of radiation in the city.”64 But, TEPCO did not even notify the relevant government institutions until more than three desperate hours into the catastrophe.65 Timely notification of the people living near the plant could have meant the difference between living and dying.

And yet amidst the ongoing desperation, despair and heroic attempts by so many people to contain the current crisis and keep it from becoming even worse, Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, ridiculed those calling for an end to nuclear reactors, saying that they “exaggerat[ed] the danger.”66 Unbelievably, he declared that produce from the region around the Fukushima plant was safe to eat despite farmers’ own misgivings over the radiation on their crops. “From now on, people should not fall into an extreme self-restraint mood, and they should live life as normal,” he said. Impersonating George W. Bush, Naoto Kan called on Japan’s people to go out of their way “to consume products from the areas that have been affected. … We should enjoy the use of such products and support the areas that have been affected. I ask you to do this.” Oh my God, did he really say that? Who can forget U.S. president Bush’s advice following 9/11: “Go shopping. Travel. Live your life as usual. Don’t let the terrorists win.” Today we have: “Eat your spinach. Don’t let the radiation win!” Yikes!

The truth is, the “terrorists” are those who are holding the entire world hostage to their insatiable drive for expanded energy production and profits at any cost. Unfortunately for the rest of us, there is no “Planet B”. Fukushima highlights once again the stark reality of the choice facing us: The Capitalist system vs. the Immune system. President Obama has made his choice – one of solidarity, not with the suffering people of Japan but with the corporations that own the world’s nuclear power plants. But, regardless, it will be our resistance that will be decisive, just as it was in the late 1970s and early 80s when the huge antinuclear movement in the U.S. prevented any new reactors from being built.

Back in the 1980s, Dr. Ernest Sternglass (together with Jens Scheer) correlated fluctuations in infectious diseases – and significantly, those associated with the then-emerging AIDS epidemic and other immune compromising conditions – with releases of radiation into the atmosphere from nuclear weapons testing. He expanded that work to examine the results of radiation exposure following Chernobyl. Sternglass also ascertained that illnesses occurred not only as a result of nuclear weapons tests and extreme nuclear power plant accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, but in proportion to people’s proximity to nuclear power plants in the course of their “normal” operations. Sternglass concluded that the everyday low-level radiation generated by nuclear power plants plays havoc with people’s immune system as well as with the surrounding environment.67

The inhabitants of Maharashtra in India are fiercely protesting the plan to build the world’s largest nuclear complex.68 Anti-nuke protesters are marching in Japan as well as throughout Europe. In Germany, the Green Party – due to its longstanding militant opposition to nuclear power – won unprecedented pluralities in the recent election and numerous seats in the legislature.

We in the U.S. must seize this moment, become far more visible and move quickly to force the government to:

 

    • shut down all nuclear power plants;

 

  • vastly increase subsidies to decentralized sustainable alternatives like wind and solar power;

 

 

  • conserve nature and energy by forcing a reduction in unnecessary and wasteful production69; and,

 

 

  • end the “revolving door” between government regulators and industry by forbidding regulators from joining the private corporations they had been monitoring.

 

 

Whether global capitalism can accommodate itself to these needs or whether the demands will serve as part of a program of a movement for a non-nuclear and sustainable socialist society remains to be seen. That transition is now on us. What we do is all important. We want our kids to inherit a world worth living in, and so must put an end to nuclear power immediately. The world hangs in the balance.

___________________________________
Mitchel Cohen organizes with the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party and NY State Against Genetic Engineering (NYSAGE), and coordinates the No Spray Coalition against pesticides. He is a founding member of the Red Balloon Collective (1969) at SUNY Stony Brook, hosts a weekly radio show “Steal This Radio” on www.NYTalkRadio.net, and is currently the Chair of the WBAI Radio (99.5 FM) Local Station Board. www.MitchelCohen.com.

This essay, along with essays by Harvey Wasserman and Ernest J. Sternglass, are bundled into a wonderful pamphlet and available for $6 (plus postage). Just drop a note to mitchelcohen(at)mindspring.com if you would like one.

NOTES

1 The tsunami reached a height of 23.6 meters. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, tsunami waves higher than 2 meters can destroy timber houses. Kyodo News, March 23, 2011. On April 11, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) revised its calculations and said that “the tsunami that crippled one of its two nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture on March 11 was 15 meters high. … The base of the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 power station is about 10 meters above sea level,” The Japan Times, April 11, 2011. The seawall was designed to withstand a 5.7 meter tsunami.

2 Jay Alabaster, Associated Press, “Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors,” April 6, 2011.

 

3 When storage pools were designed for the Mark-1 reactor, the spent fuel was envisioned for remaining on the site for two or three months. Reuters, March 22, 2011. Mary Olson, quoted in Dahr Jamal, “Fukushima: A nuclear sacrifice zone”, Al Jazeera, April 8, 2011. Francis Boyle, on the listserv of the Radical Philosophy Association, April 22, 2011.

 

4 For accessible information on the extreme dangers from radiation, see Brian Moench, MD, “Radiation: Nothing to See Here?”, on Truth­Out.­org, March 25, 2011. Additionally, listen to Dr. Steve Wing, KPFA radio, http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/68402

 

5 Japan’s government did not order an evacuation until 10 pm (or so it appears from Tokyo Electric Power Company documents) – more than 7 hours after the shutdown of the nuclear power plants at Fukushima, and even that was only for those local residents living within a 3 km radius of the plants. TEPCO News, March 11, 2011, 10 pm. This makes some sense within the existing paradigm, since at 11 pm “Survey data on radiation by exhaust stack monitors and monitoring cars have indicated no departure from normal level for all nuclear power stations.” TEPCO News. Given what has happened, this shows the insufficiency of the current protocols under which the nuclear power plants were operating. The following morning, following a 5:22am inability to bring down the temperature inside the reactor and the loss of pressure suppression function, the evacuation zone of local residents was expanded to a 10 km radius around one reactor and 3 km around another.

Reading the hourly updates from the power company is like watching your worst nightmare occurring in slow motion. It was not until 10am that the first elevated levels of radioactive material outside the plant were detected. The preview of things to come was announced in the following unnervingly modulated words: “Measurement of radioactive material (Iodine, etc.) by monitoring car indicates increasing value compared to normal level. One of the monitoring posts is also indicating higher than normal level. We will continue monitoring discharge of radioactive material from exhaust stack and discharge canal, etc.”

Preparation began at 9:43am for the first partial release of radiation into the atmosphere, while the evacuation radius remained at 10 km. Preparation began at other reactors over the next 2 hours. There are hundreds more notices in chronological order at: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/index-e.html.

Contrary to Japan’s government’s reluctance to evacuate the area, the United States and Australia had early-on advised their citizens living in or visiting Japan to stay at least 50 miles from Fukushima. But Japan refused to widen the evacuation zone for its citizens beyond first the 3 kilometers, then 10 km, then 20 km, and now 30 km, despite earlier calls by the IAEA to do so. (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, April 12, 2011).

 

6 West Coast Nuclear Fallout Monitoring: http://www.ivanmonitoring.net/reports/ushahidi/index.php; also, Radiation Map: http://www.radiationnetwork.com/; and, Online Geiger Counter Nuclear Radiation Detector Map: http://www.blackcatsystems.com/RadMap/map.html; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency radiation detection maps: https://cdxnode64. epa.gov/radnet-public/showMap.do; University of California at Berkeley Air and Water sampling stats: http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/ucbairsampling. A week after a nuclear weapons test in China, iodine 131 could be detected in the thyroid glands of deer in Colorado, although it could not be detected in the air or in nearby vegetation. Rosenthal E., Radiation, ”Once Free, Can Follow Tricky Path,” The New York Times, March 21, 2011.

 

7 Daniel Kaufmann and Veronika Penciakova, “Preventing Nuclear Meltdown: Assessing Regulatory Failure in Japan and the United States,” Brookings Institute, April 19, 2011. “Since the 1980s, NISA [Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency] has failed to act on warnings it received regarding the resilience of reactor containment structures to core meltdowns and the ability of [the structure] to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis. This is particularly worrying since Japan has historically been prone to both earthquakes and tsunamis. For instance, in 2007 a 6.8-magnitude earthquake resulted in 1,200 liters of radioactive water leaking into the Japan Sea. The plant operator, TEPCO acknowledged that the reactors had not been designed to withstand an earthquake of that size. … In 1999, 20 tons of radioactive water leaked into the Tsuruga plant from a cracked pipe. Even though a similar pipe had sprung a leak in 1996, these pipes were not inspected in subsequent years. In 2004, five workers were killed when super-heated steam burst from a pipe at a reactor run by Kansai Electric. It was later discovered that the pipe had not been inspected in five years.

“NISA has also remained passive in addressing the nuclear industry’s long history of deception and cover-ups by different private operators, including but not limited to TEPCO. In 2002, five top executives from TEPCO resigned over a string of safety record cover-ups, including the falsification of containment vessel tests and shroud safety records. In fact, in 2002 four major nuclear companies admitted to concealing evidence of cracked containment structures from NISA. In 2007, seven of the 12 public utilities admitted to having falsified past safety records. And at a basic level, it is now emerging that TEPCO’s disaster response plans that had been drawn in case of an accident at the Fukushima plant were totally inadequate: they merely called for one stretcher, a satellite phone, and 50 protective suits. Again, this raises serious questions not only about TEPCO, but about NISA’s oversight.”

 

8 Michio Kaku, Democracy Now!, April 13, 2011. “I think the Japanese military is the only organization capable of bringing this raging accident under control. And that’s what Gorbachev did in 1986. He saw this flaming nuclear power station in Chernobyl. He called out the Red Air Force. He called out helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and buried the Chernobyl reactor in 5,000 tons of cement, sand and boric acid. That’s, of course, a last ditch effort. But I think the Japanese military should be called out. … if you have access to the military, you can have the option of sandbagging the reactor, encasing it in concrete, or at least have a reserve of troops that can go in for brief periods of times and bring this monster under control.”

 

9 Dr. Joseph Oemen, “You can stop worrying about a radiation disaster in Japan – here’s why”, Business Insider, March 15, 2011.

 

10 Keith Harmon Snow, Nuclear Apocalypse in Japan, March 18, 2011.

 

11 “Low Concentrations Of Radiation Found In Mass.,” WCVB TV – ABC TV affiliate in Boston, March 27, 2007, was one of the earliest reports of radioactive isotopes from Fukushima in New England. “The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced Sunday that very low concentrations of radio[active] iodine-131, likely associated with the Japan nuclear power plant event, have been detected in a rainwater sample.” Interestingly (and quite scary), the levels mandated by the FDA for milk are thousands of times higher than those mandated by the EPA for water.

 

 

13 RadNet drinking water laboratory analysis, http://opendata.socrata.com/w/4ig7-9eqd/y34g-bnf3?cur=TgjW3m Rumyl&from=root

 

14 RadNet milk laboratory analysis, http://opendata.socrata.com/w/pkfj-5jsd/y34g-bnf3?cur=w_bE5ToS3hx&from=root

 

15 “Radiation risks from Fukushima ‘no longer negligible’ “, www.euractiv.com, April 12, 2011.

 

16 “Uranium-234 detected in Hawaii, Southern California, and Seattle,” April 06, 2011. http://enenews.com/uranium-234-detected-hawaii-southern-california-seattle

 

17 Ibid. Also, “Radiation Detected In Drinking Water In 13 More US Cities, Cesium-137 In Vermont Milk,” Forbes, April 9, 2011.

 

18 “Comforting statements about the safety of low radiation are not even accurate for adults. (Shuryak I, Sachs R, Brenner D., ”Cancer Risks After Radiation Exposure in Middle Age,” JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst Volume102, Issue 21, Pp. 1628-1636.) Small increases in risk per individual have immense consequences in the aggregate. When low risk is accepted for billions of people, there will still be millions of victims. New research on risks of x-rays illustrate the point.

“Radiation from CT coronary scans is considered low, but, statistically, it causes cancer in one of every 270 40-year-old women who receive the scan. Twenty year olds will have double that rate. Annually, 29,000 cancers are caused by the 70 million CT scans done in the US. (Berrington de González A, Mahesh M, Kim K, et al, ”Projected Cancer Risks From Computed Tomographic Scans Performed in the United States in 2007,” Arch Intern Med, December 14/28, 2009; 169: 2071-2077; Also, Smith-Bindman R, Lipson J, Marcus R, et al, “Radiation Dose Associated With Common Computed Tomography Examinations and the Associated Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer,” Arch Intern Med., 2009; 169(22): 2078-2086.) Common, low-dose dental x-rays more than double the rate of thyroid cancer. Those exposed to repeated dental x-rays have an even higher risk of thyroid cancer.” (Memon A, Godward S, Williams D, et al, ”Dental x-rays and the risk of thyroid cancer: A case-control study,” Acta Oncologica, May 2010, Vol. 49, No. 4: 447-453.) From Brian Moench, MD, “Radiation: Nothing Here to See?” TruthOut.org, March 25, 2011.

 

19 Russ Buettner, NY Daily News, “Battle Over EPA Denials Of Dangers Downtown,” January 12, 2002. “The evidence I have seen demonstrates that there is and was a substantial health risk that EPA had documented in its testing,” said Hugh Kaufman, the chief investigator for the EPA ombudsman’s office, which ordered the investigation. “There’s enough evidence to demonstrate that Mrs. Whitman’s statement to the brave rescue workers and the people who live there was false,” Kaufman said. Also, Susan Edelman and Dan Mangan, “WTC Bombshell: Internal EPA Papers Fuel Christie Critics,” NY Post, Sept. 18, 2006. “Christie Todd Whitman, while head of the federal EPA, ‘conspired’ to falsely reassure the public that the air around Ground Zero was safe to breath, according to critics and bombshell new documents. … Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) blasted Whitman over the new disclosure: ‘She conspired [with the White House] to convince people to go into an unsafe environment . . . For that, she ought to be prosecuted,’ Nadler said. ‘People are dead because of her.’”

 

20 David F. DeSante and Geoffrey R. Geupel, ”Landbird productivity in central coastal California: the relationship to annual rainfall and a reproductive failure in 1986,” The Condor, 89:636-653; Gould, J. M., and B. A. Goldman. Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-up. 1990. Four Walls Eight Windows, New York. “David DeSante documented a massive and unprecedented reproductive failure of land birds at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory some 25 miles north of San Francisco, from May 15 to Aug. 15, 1986. The number of newly hatched birds dropped 62 percent from the mean of the preceding 10 years.” Dr. Ernest J. Sternglass, “Nuclear radiation & the destruction of the immune system,” below. Also, see Jim Heddle, “Fukushima Fallout – Lessons from Chernobyl,” and Mary Beth Brangan and Heddle’s video interviews with DeSante at http://eon3emfblog.net/?p=2028.

 

21 NY Academy of Sciences, Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, compiled by Alexey Yablokov of the Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow, and Vassily Nes­terenko and Alexey Nesterenko of the Institute of Radiation Safety in Minsk, Belarus, and edited by Janette Sherman, MD, 2010.

 

22 Benjamin A. Goldman, Jay M. Gould, Deadly Deceit: Low Level Radiation, High Level Cover-Up, Four Walls Eight Windows: 1990.

 

 

24 Karl Grossman, Power Crazy: Is LILCO Turning Shoreham Into America’s Chernobyl, Grove Press, (p.360-1). Also, “Federal Hearings To Probe Claims Of NRC Abuses,” Chicago Tribune, March 25, 1985 (one month prior to Chernobyl): “A congressional subcommittee plans to hold hearings on charges by a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the agency`s safety decisions have been hasty and overly favorable to the nuclear power industry.

“The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power will hold the public hearings, probably in May, according to its new chairman, Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.), a longtime critic of the industry and the commission.

“James Asselstine, often the only dissenter in voting by the five-member commission, contends that the panel manipulated facts and possibly took illegal shortcuts in granting a full-power operating license to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo, Calif.”

 

25 On September 25, 1972 (just about the time Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant became operational), the Atomic Energy Commission’s Joseph Hendrie, Deputy Director for Technical Review, wrote to the AEC’s Steven Hanauer who was a senior member of the Commission staff. Hendrie said,

”I recommend that the AEC develop a policy of discouraging further use of pressure suppression containments.”

Previously, Hanauer had expressed concerns about the Mark-1 pressure suppression containment that General Electric was using at Vermont Yankee, Pilgrim, Millstone 1, Oyster Creek and other reactors. The memo went on to say:

”Steve’s idea to ban pressure suppression containment schemes is an attractive one in some ways. Dry containments have the notable advantage of brute simplicity. …However the acceptance of pressure suppression containment by all elements of the nuclear field, including Regulatory and the ACRS, is firmly embedded in the conventional wisdom. Reversal of this hallowed policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power. It would throw into question the operation of licensed plants … and would generally create more turmoil than I can stand.” As reported in Frank Von Hipple, Citizen Scientist, Simon & Schuster, p. 217, citing a document received by the Union of Concerned Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

26 Matthew Mosk, “Fukushima: Mark-1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist To Quit In Protest: Damaged Japanese Nuclear Plant Has Five Mark-1 Reactors,” ABC News, March 15, 2011.

 

27 ”By Design, It Can’t Happen Here” declared a headline in Newsday (April 30, 1986) above a story in which it was claimed that the containment domes on U.S. reactors could hold the radioactivity released in any accident and keep it from escaping into the environment – a claim that Newsday accepted uncritically. It was only later, after the ideological damage was done, that the NRC would say that the Chernobyl reactor did indeed have a containment dome, and that “The Soviet nuclear disaster at Chernobyl occurred in a reactor that was outfitted with a system designed to prevent radiation from entering the atmosphere in the case of an accident, according to NRC documents and officials.” John McDonald, ”NRC: Plant Had Some Containment Features,” Newsday, May 9, 1986. “While there are still major gaps in the information that the U.S. officials have on the damaged Chernobyl reactor, it is clear that it ‘has some containment features,’ said Joseph Fouchard, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” Karl Grossman, p317.

Also, Stuart Diamond, New York Times, May 19, 1986: “The nuclear power plant that exploded in the Soviet Union last month had more safety features and was closer to American reactor design than Western experts had assumed in the days soon after the accident, nuclear experts say. …The conclusions are based on technical drawings and other information obtained through Government and international scientific sources by American nuclear experts in recent days. The experts say it has become clear that a large structure of heavy steel and concrete surrounded the No.4 reactor at Chernobyl, and that at least some of the containment structure was designed to withstand pressure similar to those in many American reactors.”

Grossman concludes that nuclear plants simply are not built with the ability to prevent worst-case scenarios: “No containment at U.S. nuclear plants or Soviet/Russian ones – or for that matter, French or British ones – can withstand, for example, a steam explosion or a hydrogen explosion like we saw at Fukushima. … The containments on any nuclear plant are mainly cosmetic. Whether it’s the U.S. design or Soviet/Russian design, etc., they can’t hold in an explosion.” (Karl Grossman, private correspondence with the author, April 2011.)

 

28 BeyondNuclear.org, April 20, 2011.

 

29 Karl Grossman interview, Democracy Now!, March 17, 2011.

 

30 Ibid.

 

31 The Union of Concerned Scientists, “The NRC and Nuclear Power Plant Safety in 2010,” March 2011, contains a summary table of Nuclear “Near Misses” in 2010: http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/nrc-exec-summ-2010.pdf. For the full report, http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/nuclear_power/nrc-2010-full-report.pdf.

 

32 http://peaceandjusticeonline.org, November 9, 2010. Indian Point Reactor Number 2 was shut down. The explosion occurred in a massive transformer, weighing about 900,000 pounds. Officials say there was no leakage of radioactive materials, and no on was hurt.

 

33 Nuclear Regulatory Commission, ”Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2,” projects for a serious accident at the Indian Point 3 nuclear plant: 50,000 peak early fatalities; 167,000 peak early injuries; 14,000 cancer deaths; $314 billion in damage (approximately $1 trillion in 2011 dollars).

 

34 A NY Daily News story revealed that fire detection and automatic suppression equipment (sprinklers, fire extinguishers) were never installed in 72 percent of the Indian Point nuclear reactor’s fire zones, including the spent fuel-rod pool. NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked the NRC to justify the plant’s violation of minimum federal fire safety regulations. “Indian Point’s ongoing failure to comply with federal fire safety requirements is both reckless and unacceptable,” Schneiderman concluded. (Douglas Feiden, NY Daily News, May 22, 2011)

 

35 Citizens’ Action Network (CAN) is organizing a letter-writing campaign to the editors in all VT papers to support Gov Shumlin, the Legislature and the State Attorney General, who are committed to refusing to extend the operating license for Vermont Yankee. In addition, a Japanese Buddhist nun, sister Jun Yasuda of the Grafton NY Peace Pagoda – along with many others – completes her 206 mile, two-week-long Indian Point to Vermont Yankee anti-nuke walk on April 24, galvanizing attention to the dangers of nuclear power plants.

 

36 Daniel Kaufmann and Veronika Penciakova, “Preventing Nuclear Meltdown: Assessing Regulatory Failure in Japan and the United States,” op cit.

 

37 Andy Newman, Toby Lyles and Hiroko Tibuchi, “New York’s Nuclear Future That Might Have Been,” The NY Times, April 13, 2011.

 

38 ibid.

 

39 Theodore Jones, “Lilienthal Fears Atom Plant Here,” The New York Times, April 5, 1963.

 

40 Andy Newman, et al., The NY Times, op cit.

 

41 “Price-Anderson Act: The Billion Dollar Bailout for Nuclear Power Mis­haps,” Public Citizen, September 2004.

 

42 Michio Kaku, Democracy Now!, interview with Amy Goodman. op cit.

 

43 Lisa Rizzo, “PG&E tries to relax nuclear safety fears,” CalCoast News, April 12, 2011.

 

44 Keay Davidson, “Nuclear waste mystery / The hunt is on for radioactive fuel rods that went missing from a former reactor near Eureka. It’s the third case of disappearing fuel rods in the country since 2000,” San Francisco Gate, August 29, 2004.

 

45 The Energy Net, http://www.energy-net.org/1NWO/PGE/5PGE.htm.

 

46 Norihiko Shirouzu and Rebecca Smith, ”Plant’s Design, Safety Record Are Under Scrutiny,” The Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2011.

 

 

48 “TEPCO to be banned from operations at Fukushima-1 plant,” RIA Novasti news service. April 23, 2011.

 

49 “Former Fukushima Governor Sato Eisaku Blasts METI–TEPCO Alliance: ‘Government must accept responsibility for defrauding the people,’” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org/-Onuki-Satoko/ 3514, retranslated.

 

50 Hiroko Tabuchi, Norimitsu Onishi and Ken Belson, “Japan Extended Reactor’s Life, Despite Warning,” The New York Times, March 21, 2011.

 

51 Just because nuclear power was used by the former Soviet Union and is widespread in China, etc., does not make it less of a “capitalist technology.” It is true that some leftists argue that nuclear power (like genetic engineering) is only a problem under capitalism and if only workers had control over it in a truly socialist society, it would be safe. Some discussion of that concept can be found in Mitchel Cohen, The Capitalist Infesto: Is Marx’s Critique of Science and Technology Radical Enough?, Red Balloon Pamphlets, 2010; also, by the same author, Big Science, and the Left’s Curious Notion of Progress (2005).

 

52 $13 billion in cradle-to-grave subsidies and tax breaks, as well as unlimited taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, limited liability in the case of an accident, and other incentives have been approved this year to go to the nuclear industry to build new nuclear reactors. Public Citizen.J Also, note that the designer of the Fukushima nuclear reactors as well as many here in the U.S., the General Electric Company, paid no taxes at all in 2010 even though it made billions in profits.

 

53 Venezuela is suspending development of a nuclear power program following the catastrophe at the nuclear complex in Japan, President Hugo Chavez announced. Reuters, March 16, 2011. Venezuela “had hoped that a planned Russian-built nuclear power plant would provide 4,000 mega­watts (MW) and be ready in about a decade. But Chavez said events in Japan showed the risks associated with nuclear power were too great. ‘For now, I have ordered the freezing of the plans we have been developing … for a peaceful nuclear program,’ he said during a televised meeting with Chinese investors.”

 

54 Union of Concerned Scientists, op cit.

 

55 Karl Grossman, “Behind the Hydrogen Explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant,” http://www.KarlGrossman.blogspot.com.

 

56 Jonathan Fahey, “The President’s Utility,” Forbes, January 18, 2010. Rahm Emanuel “was hired by Rowe to help broker the $8.2 billion deal between Unicom and Peco when Emanuel was at the investment bank Wasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort). In his two-year career there Emanuel earned $16.2 million, according to congressional disclosures. His biggest deal was the Exelon merger.”

 

57 John Bussey, ”Japan Will Rebuild From Quake But Faces Other Daunting Tests,” The Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2011.

 

58 “NEI Welcomes Senators’ Legislation to Advance Development of Small Reactors,” Nuclear Energy Institute, March 09, 2011. http://www.nei.org

 

59 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), “Radiation Exposure Debate Rages Inside EPA,” April 5, 2011, http://www.peer.org/ news/news_id.php?row_id=1325

 

60 ibid. Also, Brian Moench, MD, “Radiation: Nothing to See Here?” Truth­out, March 25, 2011 – a popular compilation of the dangers of radiation.

 

61 John McCormick, “Nuclear Illinois Helped Shape Obama View on Energy in Dealings With Exelon,” Bloomberg News, March 23, 2011.

 

62 Memo, Charles Openchowski, EPA Office of General Counsel, January 23, 2009.

 

63 Dahr Jamal, “Fukushima, A ‘nuclear sacrifice zone’, Al Jazeera, April 8, 2011.

 

64 Thomas Breuer, coordinator of the Climate and Energy Unit for Greenpeace Germany and part of a field team of radiation monitors in Japan, interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, April 12, 2011.

 

65 “At 5:50PM, pursuant to the Act, relevant governmental institutions were notified of the incident,” which occurred at 2:46 pm. In fact, the government was not notified, according to TEPCO’s own documents, for over an hour after a fire broke out.

 

66 Japanese nuclear plant hit by fire and third explosion”, The Guardian, March 15, 2011.

 

67 “Even properly functioning nuclear plants emit a steady stream of radiation into nearby water and atmosphere, which can be inhaled directly or ingested from soil contact, plants or cows milk. Many studies confirm higher rates of cancers like childhood leukemia, and breast and thyroid cancer among people who live in the same counties as nuclear plants, and among nuclear workers.” Brian Moench, “Radiation: Nothing to See Here?” op. cit.

 

68 Le Monde Diplomatique, April 9, 2011.

 

69 The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has produced a chart showing energy generation and usage from all sources in the U.S. http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/hires/2011/usenergyuse.jpg. Using this chart, some conclude that we could shut down ALL the nuclear power plants in America – and half the coal plants as a bonus – if we JUST stopped wasting electricity! And that’s without making a single improvement in gas mileage!, and without a single improvement in the 0.11% of energy we get from solar power, or the 0.70% we obtain from wind, or the 0.37% we obtain from geothermal sources. We could close ALL the nuclear power plants and ALL the fossil fuel plants!

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  • Terrific article about Japan’s nuclear crisis, Mitchel. Hope you’re thriving.
    Karin

    Karin de la Penha

  • Denise says:

    It seems to me fairly likely that my thyroid cancer was caused by nuclear emissions…I-131.

    So much to respond to…the “American Exceptionalism”, and sheer arrogance, make me laugh…and not in a good way. This latest disaster was in Japan. Germany immediately started shutting down several older reactors, and reconsidering whether to extend their operation. Umm, yeah, Germany and Japan, two countries known to have much more shoddy engineering and workmanship than we do!?

  • Jonathan Campbell says:

    Radiation from Fukushima plant detected in Sacramento, EPA says

    A minuscule amount of radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan was detected in Sacramento but at such a low level that it posed no threat to human health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday afternoon.

    One station in Sacramento detected “minuscule quantities” of a radioactive isotope, xenon-133, that scientists said they believed came from the reactors at the stricken Fukushima plant.

    Photos: In Japan, life amid crisis

    But the level detected would result in a “dose rate approximately one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural sources,” according to an EPA statement.

    Xenon-133 is a radioactive gas created during nuclear fission.

    The detection of the xenon-133 came from a radiation monitoring system run by the U.S. Department of Energy able to “detect tiny quantities of radioisotopes that might indicate an underground nuclear test on the other side of the world,” the statement said. “These detectors are extremely sensitive and can detect minute amounts of radioactive materials.”

  • Barbara Schumacher says:

    I am not sure on the amount of radiation released. The govt. is trying to avoid panic (obviously, and for good reason, from their perspective anyway) so they are not telling the truth.

    TEPCO ADMITS NUCLEAR MELTDOWN

    TOKYO (BNO NEWS) — The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), which operates the
    troubled Fukushima nuclear plant, on Thursday admitted that a nuclear meltdown
    occurred at the plant.

    With the nuclear meltdown, Tepco said the nuclear fuel rods in the reactor are
    completely exposed, as large amounts of radiation is being released. The water
    level at the plant’s No. 1 reactor was much lower than thought – as much as 5
    meters (16.4 feet) below the nuclear rods – and clearly not high enough to cover
    the nuclear fuel.

    According to reports, several holes were found at the bottom of the nuclear
    reactor’s pressure vessel, where the melted nuclear fuel now threatens to leak
    out of.

    On a daily basis, Tepco injects almost 200 tons of water into the pressure
    vessel, but it is highly likely that the water has been constantly leaking from
    the vessel and containment chamber, eventually flowing under the reactor building.

    On Monday, Japan’s Chubu Electric Co. agreed to shut down its Hamaoka nuclear
    power station in Shizuoka Prefecture, two days after Japanese Prime Minister
    Naoto Kan requested to have all operations at the plant’s reactors suspended due
    to Japan’s science ministry informing that an 8.0-magnitude earthquake is
    forecast to hit the Tokai region with an 87 percent probability in the coming 30
    years, which could affect the nuclear plant.

    Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency informed that the situation at
    the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious. The core damage
    for Units 1, 2 and 3 are of 55 percent, 35 percent and 33 percent respectively
    as of April 27.

    The government approved a 4 trillion yen ($48.89 billion) emergency budget to
    finance the early phase of reconstruction. In addition, the evacuation zone was
    expanded beyond the initial 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) radius surrounding the
    damaged plant.

    At least 14,294 people were killed, while some 13,000 people remain missing due
    to devastating earthquake and tsunami. Japanese officials have called it the
    worst crisis since the end of World War II.

  • Chernobyl Times Ten:
    Fukushima and the Radioactive Sea

    New readings show levels of radioisotopes found up to 30 kilometers offshore from the on-going crisis at Fukushima are ten times higher than those measured in the Baltic and Black Seas during Chernobyl.

    “When it comes to the oceans, says Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceonographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl.”

    The news comes amidst a tsunami of devastating revelations about the Fukushima disaster and the crumbling future of atomic power, along with a critical Senate funding vote today:

    Fukushima’s owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has confirmed that fuel at Unit One melted BEFORE the arrival of the March 11 tsunami.

    This critical revelation confirms that the early stages of that melt-down were set in motion by the earthquake that sent tremors into Japan from a relatively far distance out to sea.

    Virtually all of Japan’s 55 reactors sit on or near earthquake faults. A 2007 earthquake forced seven reactors to shut at Kashiwazaki. Japan has ordered shut at least two more at Hamaoka because of their seismic vulnerability.

    Numerous reactors in the United States sit on or near major earthquake faults. Two each at Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, California, are within three miles of major fault lines. So is Indian Point, less than 40 miles from Manhattan. Millions of people live within 50 miles of both San Onofre and Indian Point.

    On January 31, 1986, the Perry reactor, 35 miles east of Cleveland on Lake Erie, was damaged by an earthquake rated between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale—orders of magnitude weaker than the one that struck Fukushima, and that could hit the sites in California, New York and elsewhere around the globe.

    TEPCO has confirmed that at least three of the Fukushima reactors—Units One, Two and Three—have suffered at least partial fuel melts. In at least one case, the fuel has melted through part of the inner containment system, with molten radioactive metal melting through to the reactor floor. A wide range of sources confirm the likelihood that fission may still be proceeding in at least one Fukushima core. The danger level is disputed. But it clearly requires still more commitment to some kind of cooling regime that will send vast quantities of water into ocean.

    At least one spent fuel pool—in Unit Four—may have been entirely exposed to air and caught fire. Reactor fuel cladding is made with a zirconium alloy that ignites when uncovered, emitting very large quantities of radiation. The high level radioactive waste pool in Unit Four may no longer be burning, though it may still be general. Some Fukushima fuel pools (like many in the United States) are perched high in the air, making their vulnerability remains a serious concern. But a new report by Robert Alvarez indicates the problem in the US may be more serious that generally believed.

    Unit Four is tilting and may be sinking, with potentially devastating consequences. At least three explosions at the site have weakened critical structures there. Massive leakages may have softened the earth and undermined some of the buildings’ foundations. Further explosions or aftershocks—or a fresh earthquake—could bring on structural collapses with catastrophic fallout.

    TEPCO has now confirmed that there are numerous holes in the containment covering Unit Two, and at least one at Unit One. The global nuclear industry has long argued that containments are virtually impenetrable. The domes at Fukushima are of very similar design and strength as many in the US.

    The health impacts on workers at Fukushima are certain to be devastating.

    After Chernobyl, the Soviet government sent more than 800,000 draftees through the seething wreckage. Many stayed a matter of 90 seconds or less, running in to perform a menial task and then running out as quickly as possible.

    Despite their brief exposure, these “liquidators” have suffered an epidemic of health effects, with an escalating death toll. Angry and embittered, they played a significant role in bringing down the Soviet Union that doomed them.

    At Fukushima, a core of several hundred workers essentially sacrificed themselves in the early stages of the disaster. They courageously entered highly contaminated areas to perform tasks that almost certainly prevented an even worse catastrophe.

    David Brenner, the director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center, said of the workers: “Those are pretty brave people. There are going to be some martyrs among them’.”

    “I don’t know of any other way to say it, but this is like suicide fighters in a war,” said University of Tokyo radiology professor Keiichi Nakaga.

    Unfortunately, the toll among Fukushima’s workers is certain to escalate. As few as two in five being sent into the Fukushima complex are being monitored for radiation exposure. According the Mainichi Shimbun, just 1,400 workers at Fukushima had been given thorough checkups, with just 40 getting their results confirmed.

    Even at that, Japanese officials have raised the allowable dosages for nuclear workers from 100 millisieverts to 250, five times what’s allowed for US workers, and 125 times what reactor workers typically receive in a year.

    Some 88% of Japan’s reactor work force are part-timers, sparsely trained and often paid extra money to race into highly radioactive areas and then run out.

    But Nobuaki Terasaka, head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, May 16 confirmed some 4,956 cases of internal exposure to radiation among workers at reactors around the country. Of those, 4,766 were originally from Fukushima and had moved to other sites, but had re-visited the prefecture after the 3/11 disaster.

    Some of the stricken workers believe they were contaminated when they returned home for their families, even though they may have stayed only briefly.

    Workers at Fukushima itself report spotty testing and dangerous facilities, including a leaky earthquake-resistant building where they took their breaks. “We had our meals there, so I think radioactive substances came into our bodies,” says one male worker. “We just drink beer and wash them down.”

    A “dead zone” around Fukushima similar to the one surrounding Chernobyl is likely in the making. According to a report published in the Japan Times, levels of contamination in areas around Fukushima are at least comparable to some around Chernobyl.

    But people outside the official evacuation zone are also vulnerable. Radiation detected in Tokyo, nearly 200 miles away, at one point prompted the Japanese government to recommend mothers not use tap water to mix formula for their infants.

    Nonetheless children have been observed attending schools while bulldozers were removing the radioactive soil from their playgrounds outside. Amidst global protests, the Japanese government has weakened the limits of allowable radiation exposures to children.

    In the midst of the disaster, the owners of the Indian Point reactors have announced their refusal to upgrade fire protection systems which New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman says are “.”

    More than 70% of the plant remains unprotected, he says, a “reckless” practice. Schneiderman accuses federal regulators as being too cozy with the plant’s owners. Schneiderman and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo want the two IP reactors shut.

    Over the weekend only four of Germany’s seventeen reactors were operating, but the country suffered no apparent energy shortages. Prime Minister Angela Merkel has ordered seven older reactors shut, and the rest to be closed by 2011. But six of the newer ten closed for various technical reasons.

    More than 20,000 Swiss citizens rallied to demand an end to plans to build new reactors there. The Swiss government has now confirmed it will not build new reactors, another major blow to the industry, this time resulting in the cancellation of plans for at least three projects.

    Japan is standing by its decision to build no more reactors, while China has put some 28 proposed projects on hold. China’s reaction to Fukushima will be crucial to the future of nuclear power, as it is by far the largest potential market for new reactors. Though prevailing winds head the other way, Fukushima is relatively close to China, and some fallout has been detected there.

    The Obama Administration has still produced no comprehensive monitoring of radioactive fallout coming to the United States and has provided no guidance as to how American citizens can protect themselves, except to say not to worry. Polls now show more Americans opposing new reactors than favoring them, and grassroots opposition is fierce.

    But the industry is pushing ahead with demands for $36 billion in loan guarantees for new reactors, with a preliminary vote expected soon in a House Appropriations Subcommittee. Nuclear opponents are asked to call the White House and Congress steadily through the 2012 budget process.

    Also, today (May 26) may see a vote in a Senate committee on a CEDA plan that would provide still more money for new nukes. Safe energy advocates are urged to call their Senators asap.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, has announced it sees no health effects at Fukushima. The pronouncement comes as no surprise from an agency whose mandate is focused on promoting atomic energy.

    The IAEA has consistently low-balled death toll estimates at Chernobyl and regularly ignores industry critics. The pronouncement comes as the agency begins a long-term study of Fukushima’s health effects. Meanwhile, a French watchdog agency has urged that 70,000 more people be evacuated from the Fukushima area. Coming from France, among the world’s pro-nuclear nations, the warning is a grim reminded of how deadly the contamination surrounding Fukushima must be.

    But for all the focus on land-based contamination, the continuing flood of radioactive materials into the ocean at Fukushima could have the most problematic long-term impacts. Long-term studies of radiological impacts on the seas are few and far between. Though some heavy isotopes may drop to the sea bottom, others could travel long distances through their lengthy half-lives. Some also worry that those contaminants that do fall to the bottom could be washed back on land by future tsunamis.

    Tokyo Electric has now admitted that on May 10-11, at least 250 tons of radioactive liquid leaked into the sea from a pit near the intake at Unit 3, whose fuel was spiked with plutonium. According to the Japanese government, the leak contained about 100 times the annual allowable contamination.

    About 500 tons leaked from Unit 2 from April 1 to April 6. Other leaks have been steady and virtually impossible to trace. “After Chernobyl, fallout was measured,” says Buesseler, “from as far afield as the north Pacific Ocean.”

    A quarter-century later the international community is still trying to install a massive, hugely expensive containment structure to suppress further radiation releases in the wake of Chernobyl’s explosion.

    Such a containment would be extremely difficult to sustain at seaside Fukushima, which is still vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. To be of any real use, all six reactors and all seven spent fuel pools would have to be covered.

    But avenues to the sea would also have to be contained. Fukushima is much closer to the ocean than Chernobyl, so more intense contamination might be expected. But the high radiation levels being measured indicate Fukushima’s most important impacts may be on marine life.

    The US has ceased measuring contamination in Pacific seafood. But for centuries to come, at least some radioactive materials dumped into the sea at Fukushima will find their way into the creatures of the sea and the humans that depend on them.

    ———————————
    Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at http://www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com

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