(freshrant.com) “We’ll be together with you to the very end,” the Japanese Prime Minister said during his first visit to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster area. One can only wonder what Prime Minister Kan's "end" will look like and if it will be a place Japanese will want to be.
As of this writing, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Commission) calls the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant "very serious." It was just four days after the accident, that Cenk Uygur, conducted a little noticed interview on March 15th on MSNBC. The following comments were made during Uygur's discussion with Ken Bergeron, a physicist and nuclear reactor specialist, who conducted research on nuclear accident simulations during his 25 years at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.
What was different about this interview, it was not with a past or present NRC spokesperson or nuclear power plant operator or technician. In other words, like so many other interviews of the past three weeks, Dr. Bergeron does not live and breathe within the nuclear power industrial complex, but has dedicated his research to examining the nuclear power industry. Bergeron's research on nuclear accident simulations gives greater validity to his commentary, and as it turns out, makes more compelling his predictions, many of which have sadly transpired. The interview was conducted before there had been any independent verification that any of the reactor cores had been severely damaged.
Bergeron: "Well the accident hasn't progressed to the point that the reactor core has been released from the pressure vessel. [But] it's a lot worse than three mile island, because, for one thing, there are three reactors involved. For another, since the the containments of these reactors are a lot smaller and less capable than the three mile island containment they have had to vent a considerable amount of radioactivity in the process of depressurizing the containment so there's been a great deal more release."
"In terms of health effects, I'm sad to say it could be worse [than Chernobyl]. Having the release at ground level as opposed to this incredible blast followed by a hot fire at Chernobyl will mean that the radioactive material is much more where people live at ground level. It would depend a lot on the weather, the wind directions, but it was actually fortunate for the Chernobyl event that so much of the nuclear material got launched very, very high into the atmosphere, into the stratosphere, in fact. The biggest fear is that radioactive cloud will be lofted high enough that it can be transported to various population centers and then settle, either by gravity or through precipitation, rain or snow and therefore, end up having a very large dose or deposition right where people live. [For example, the world's largest city, Tokyo, approx. 150 miles south] We're talking about this before the reactor vessel has even failed, so it's real speculation, but it could be very, very bad." ..... [Again, the reactor vessels of Unit 1, 2, and 3 have experienced partial core meltdowns.]
"That fire, the events that are occurring in the spent fuel pool in reactor 4 would be an important, newsworthy worldwide event all by itself. And the amount of radioactivity in these fuel rods [in the open spent fuel rod pools] is almost as much as the fuel rods in the reactors, so having a fire as a result of the draining down of that [spent fuel rod] pool is a horrifically dangerous event."
Ugyur: What is the likelihood that we hit the worst case scenario?
Bergeron: "Well in terms of the three reactors that have had problems being kept cool, we have to hope that the operators continue to be successful in getting water into those pressure vessels, water over the core, and continue to do this for many days. That's what's going to be necessary to keep that core damage progression from continuing. If they are unsuccessful, if they do not get enough water in any one of these three reactors, and the core material slumps to the bottom of the vessel, that's called an uncoolable configuration. And that decay heat in that fuel could cause the fuel to melt and penetrate the reactor vessel steel."
Uygur: Would you call that likely? Could you call it possible?
Bergeron: "Well, I shouldn't say that it's likely, it's very hard to tell. We don't know where the water level is [in the spent fuel rod pools]. It is possible. It is a lot more possible than I thought it would be two days ago."
Uygur then asked about the workers trying to fix the plant, "I have little doubt they will die."
Latest readings reveal deposition of iodine-131 has now been detected in 7 prefectures ranging from 4 to 95 becquerel per square metre. Deposition of cesium-137 in 6 prefectures was reported on 2 April ranging from 15 to 47 becquerel per square metre. (IAEA, April 3)
Next: Atomic forensic experts say the "Japanese are operating blind" at "one of the worst disasters in modern times."