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On April 16th - just over two weeks ago - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki seeking ways to quickly address the increasingly precarious condition of the many tons of fresh and spent fuel in the leaking, tilting and badly destabilized spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi's #4 plant. Wyden visited the facility on April 6 with a Congressional delegation to the region...

"The scope of damage to the plants and to the surrounding area was far beyond what I expected and the scope of the challenges to the utility owner, the government of Japan, and to the people of the region are daunting," Wyden wrote in the letter. "The precarious status of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear units and the risk presented by the enormous inventory of radioactive materials and spent fuel in the event of further earthquake threats should be of concern to all and a focus of greater international support and assistance."
Geophysicists with the European Geosciences Union issued a warning back in mid-February that a big quake is building right beneath Fukushima, and could go at any time. Given that strong warning, the actual state of the Daiichi facilities had to have been frightening.

Yesterday [May 1] more than 70 Japanese civil organizations banded together to draft and send an Urgent Request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the UN to organize a "Nuclear Security Summit" aimed at brainstorming on the "crucial problem" of the unit 4 spent fuel pool. The organizations also requested the UN to establish an independent assessment team on the unit 4 SFP issue which could coordinate international assistance "in order to stabilize the unit's spent nuclear fuel and prevent radiological consequences with potentially catastrophic consequences."

And while officials and experts worldwide are becoming aware of the great danger Fukushima Daiichi still presents to Japan and to the world (just the spent fuel contains 85 times the cesium-137 released by Chernobyl), this was probably not the best timing as far as demanding the world to act. Seems TEPCO has taken the week off for the "Golden Week" holidays through May 5. Sure, there's some stuff leaking here and there all over the facility, but TEPCO wasn't planning to do anything about any of that anyway. Their press spokesperson said,

"…between the GW does not have much work on the premises."
Which, best I can figure, means they've left the reservation and do not plan to return until May 6th at least. If they actually plan on returning at all. We shall see.

Meanwhile, The Corbett Report quoted President Obama [at 3:20 in the video] talking about "dirty bombs" at a Nuclear Security conference on March 27, 2012…

"There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials, and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places. It would not take much - just a handful or so of these materials - to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And that's not an exaggeration; that's the reality that we face."
Hmmm. Sort of looks like he "gets it," right? A mere handful of nuclear garbage dispersed in a city by a conventional explosive device would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people. There are more than 1500 fuel assemblies - each with ~96 12-foot fuel rods - in the #4 SFP, and more than 400 of them were the active unit 4 core. More than enough, given Obama's own estimation above, to kill every human being on the planet more than once. Oh, and it's not just the #4 pool that's a big problem more than a year after the Daiichi plants - 4 of them - melted, exploded, and/or burned. The hydrogen in unit 2's containment - what's left of it, since it can't hold more than 2 feet of water - is still rising steadily from corium-groundwater interactions somewhere in the ground beneath. It's now up to .5%. At 4% it'll blow. Again.

Alas, Obama doesn't actually "get it." These are simply policies he spouts about as the occasion requires, depending on whether he's setting aside $36 billion in the budget to ensure new nukes in the U.S., or attempting to scare the public into giving up more civil liberties and constitutional rights in favor of the draconian "Security State" he's been building since taking over the task from Bush the Younger.

If "a mere handful" of nuclear garbage can kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then megatonnage of nuclear garbage melting, spewing, exploding, falling, and/or burning just across the Pacific from our West Coast really does call for immediate, no-spared-expense emergency response from every single nuclear government in the entire world. NOW.

Instead, we are treated to 'the usual' echoing silence from the Mainstream Press, orders from the NRC to nuclear scientists at DOE to keep their mouths shut about Fukushima and the dangerous contamination that has, is and will be released to the environment we all share. And we get the double-plus propaganda blitz from NEI [Nuclear Energy Institute, the largest industry lobby] coming through well-paid Fluff-n-Stuff outlets like Washington Post. The editorial board got together on April 23 to pronounce that the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi was "scary but ultimately non-catastrophic." What a callous lie, even without the nuclear disaster.  A catastrophe is an extremely large-scale disaster, a horrible event.  Have you ever heard of a non-catastrophic disaster?

So, what's it to be? Are we supposed to gladly surrender our privacy, our freedom of movement, our civil rights and essential liberties because a "mere handful" of this stuff is so deadly a single IED underneath it can kill hundreds of thousands of people? Or are we to dismiss thousands of tons' worth of this stuff because it's no big deal and isn't dangerous enough to harm anybody - ever? Trying to maintain both of these opposing positions at the same time, based purely on whether you're seeking authoritarian rule or covering up for powerful corporations and a known to be corrupt industry can lead to a serious case of cognitive dissonance. It's either deadly dangerous - and Fukushima represents the clear and present danger of ELE [Elimination Level Event] - or it's just plain not and we can all quit worrying about nuclear wars and dirty bombs and wannabe terrorists who can't hurt us.

If you recognize as I do that both of these positions cannot possibly be true at the same time, please take the time to weigh in on the push-back against WaPo and NEI, maybe call or write to some of your congresscritters and urge them to get behind the widening effort to spur international action and support for dealing with the awful situation at Fukushima Daiichi. BEFORE it kills us all ugly.


[Also published to Enformable]

Originally posted to Joieau on Wed May 02, 2012 at 11:26 AM PDT.

Also republished by Nuclear Free DK.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This illustrates (18+ / 0-)

    the strange level of cognitive dissonance all things nuclear have engendered in our species over the past three quarters of a century, when the Most Horrible Weapons of Mass Extinction were created and used in war, then held over our collective heads for the purpose of supporting a Military-Industrial Complex even Ike warned us would lead to our ruin. Then got all infused with rainbows and unicorns and "Clean, Safe, Too Cheap to Meter" just so there would be plenty of ultimately deadly crap laying around 'in case' they ever needed it to visit some extinction on whichever breed of humans we don't like this week.

    Surely any 8-year old is bright enough to see that both of these portrayals can't be true at the same time (though it is possible for both to be false).

    Something must change, quickly. Or we won't have to worry about the future anymore.

  •  I would point out that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, erush1345

    a dirty bomb or RDD(Radiological dispersion device) is not considered to be weapon that would kill 'hundreds of thousands of people'.  

    While the impact radioactive material would be deadly to some it would like be a much lower number.

    The true impact of a RDD is considered to lie in its ability to cause mass disruption and economic damage.


    Warning PDF

    It does your argument no favors if you use misplaced fear tactics rather than actual facts. Radiation is dangerous but it can be approached from a clear, levelheaded understanding of the those dangers

    Power-Worshipping Fascist

    by campionrules on Wed May 02, 2012 at 11:48:19 AM PDT

    •  What in the world (6+ / 0-)

      do you propose Obama meant when he said...

      "...It would not take much - just a handful or so of these materials - to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people. And that's not an exaggeration; that's the reality that we face."
      Now, we all know that rogue states seek - and often obtain - the means to construct nuclear weapons our leadership pretends it doesn't want them to have (the Khan network, for instance), but he's not talking about rogue states here, he's talking about "bad actors" in the context of a conference dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism. He's talking about how little nuclear material it would take to kill "hundreds of thousands of innocent people" so we'll all be terrified enough to go along with whatever "Nuclear Security" infrastructure they care to put in place.

      Of course, that's pretty schizo as well when you do realize you can make a functioning WMD (not a "dirty bomb") with just 2.5 kilos of highly enriched material, and politicians tell you it's laying around unsecured all over the place in concentrations enough to kill "hundreds of thousands" of innocent people with a "mere handful." But thousands of tons worth of enriched, highly radioactive fuels are sitting open to the atmosphere threatening to explode and burn (again) in Fukushima, and that's nothing to be concerned about.

      Don't worry. The policies have always been schizo in the extreme, hardly anybody bothers to notice. I think it's time we did.

      •  Right (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, native, erush1345

        Which I agree with you to a certain point.

        The government actors tend to be schizo, to use your word, on this.

        The disaster that is Fukushima is somewhere in between extremes.

        Power-Worshipping Fascist

        by campionrules on Wed May 02, 2012 at 12:32:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And a disaster nowhere near resolution. (8+ / 0-)

          It's not like a natural disaster, say the Mar 11 '11 tsunami. It happens, and there's the death, horror and the rubble left behind.

          This goes on for decades. To say "the disaster IS" at any given place, ... well, we'd need a time-traveler from the next century at least to tell us what Fukushima really IS.

          There's the world's biggest nuke decommissioning company bidding on decommissioning Japan's nukes right now. Even they say the Fukushima plants pose problems nobody's ever seen before, and only "some" of prior experience is useful.

          Concerning the extraction of fuel debris, which is considered the most challenging process, “There is no technology which may be directly applied,” said Morant. He added, however, that knowledge concerning the extraction of damaged fuel, which was obtained through the use of research reactors, and remote underwater cutting technology, as used for the Zion nuclear power station in the United States, may be applied to some extent.

          The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

          by Jim P on Wed May 02, 2012 at 12:52:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Fukushima is "in between" (5+ / 0-)

          at what particular point in time? When unit 2 blows bigger from the corium blow-hole than any of the explosions we've seen so far? When unit 4's spent fuel pool comes crashing down within 50 yards of the common spent fuel pool (with 11,000+ assemblies) so that no one can do anything at the reservation any longer but simply let 'er rip? When any one or more of the multiple-ton corium flows finally makes its way to the cliff through the paths of least resistance, flowing straight into the sea to send up massive plumes of super-radioactive steam (with fresh fission products)? They did lay borated concrete on the lagoon bottom before they "went on vacation." That's nice, but it won't prevent the worst from happening when the corium hits the water.

          One bomb can kill hundreds of thousands of people if they happen to be gathered underneath it. It can kill more people slower and farther away with its allotment of dirty isotopes that fall from the sky like invisible rain all over everything. 6 multi-megawatt reactors and 7 30+ year old spent fuel pools with many tons' more dirty isotopes than all of the nuclear bombs ever exploded in, on or above this planet since Day-1 can kill hundreds of millions of people once the crap gets out, and nobody will be able to hide from it. It isn't a quick or pleasant way to go, either.

    •  Which is to say (6+ / 0-)

      that of course this kind of rhetoric is spouted to the ignorati for purely propaganda purposes. We all know this, have known it for decades. I'm just pointing it out again, because we have a very real threat sitting on the east coast of Japan right now, and TEPCO has gone on vacation.

    •  Many factors are involved (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, erush1345, PreciousLittle

      Geography, population, wind conditions, amount of explosive and radionuclides used...even the time of day.

      I've seen many studies and as many different projected outcomes. The US government estimates a couple hundred deaths or so for a dirty bomb attack on DC.  A CSIS study estimates "hundreds" of deaths, from either the blast or radiation. Another study estimated around ten times as many deaths.

      A fairly easy to understand report by FAS examines dirty bomb mortality rates for different radionuclides, and shows sample distribution patterns for different urban locations.

      •  Thanks, DH. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deep Harm, PreciousLittle

        Good information as usual.

        The sheer level of hyperbole when it comes to nations we don't like [today] getting nuclear technology is just funny to me. I mean, a "dirty bomb" couldn't kill hundreds of thousands of people unless they were literally stacked right on top (or underneath) it when it went off. And most of those wouldn't die for at least 3 months, maybe not for 5 or more years. So according to resident Nuclear Wisdom [TM] here at DKos, that means their deaths could never be blamed on nuclear material.

        If Obama's talking about nations we don't like getting honest-to-goodness nuclear weapons, then the irony of using words like "bad actors" and "innocent people" takes over, front and center. Given that he represents the only nation on the planet that ever deliberately killed hundreds of thousands of "innocent people" by acting badly with nuclear WMDs. Obama's as proud of his 'football' as any other POTUS since it's existed. And the nuclear option is still a big part of our military strategy - any time, any where. Since GWB, so is pre-emptive invasion and occupation of nations we don't like [today], plus wholesale slaughter of innocent people. With any weapon you've got, doesn't have to be nuclear.

      •  Don't forget the stupidity factor (0+ / 0-)
        A CSIS study estimates "hundreds" of deaths, from either the blast or radiation.
        The actual quote from your link reads:
        A dirty bomb will not kill the tens of thousands of people who would die from a nuclear explosion. Dozens, or perhaps hundreds, might be killed in a dirty bomb attack.
        Wow! Dozens of people killed by an explosion! Who'd have thunk it? It's not like we don't see bombs killing dozens of people a pop all over the world today, is it? And these are not "dirty" bombs, although it's arguable that any device designed to kill so many people at once could be considered "dirty."

        It's funny how you skipped over this part of the article that you linked to (emphasis mine):

        "The truth is, you have to start with a boatload of radioactive material in a dirty bomb for the health risk to the population to be significant," says Jonathan Links of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, a past head of the Society of Nuclear Medicine. "The real threat of a dirty bomb is psychological."
        Sounds like the experts agree with campionrules.
  •  Thanks Joieau for staying on top of this. (10+ / 0-)

    We used to think we were so smart that we named ourselves homo sapiens sapiens, wise or knowing man. We seem to have miscalculated.

  •  Correction: handful of material (4+ / 0-)

    The amount of weapons-grade material required to be a threat to hundreds of thousands of people is of course one bomb's worth. And then one would have to build a bomb.

    The expended fuel in Reactor #4 is not weapons-grade, so far as I am aware. A handful put into a "dirty bomb" might kill a few people right away and cause cancers in more later on, but it's nowhere near hundreds of thousands. An IED's conventional explosion may be more dangerous to life and limb than the radiation. The more significant impact would be long-term contamination. I'd recommend correcting the post to reflect this.

    That said, the current state of Fukushima Daiichi is indeed on the edge of global nuclear catastrophe.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Wed May 02, 2012 at 12:09:44 PM PDT

    •  What the President said was clearly an (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, erush1345, PreciousLittle

      exaggeration, as any previous study I've seen reported says a dirty bomb could threaten, at most, tens of lives, and would be more terroristic in the fear and disruption value.

      But still, what's the frequency Mr President? It's deadly in a suitcase, but no big deal at Fukushima?, even allowing for the relative quality. (And be it noted that nobody approaches the spent fuel at #4 without wearing protective garments.)

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Wed May 02, 2012 at 12:56:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We with a little bit of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim P, PreciousLittle

      brains and grasp of reality of course know how completely brainless political grandstanding pronouncements such as this truly are. But they're not made to try and convince us of anything. They're made to keep the rabble terrified enough to willingly give away their common sense along with their rights.

      I'm just pointing it out, because it is indeed so completely brainless, so insultingly brazen, and so insidiously callous.

      Then there's a real problem at Fukushima, which we aren't supposed to know or care about...

  •  Our skills in the area of double-think: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Russgirl, Joieau, PreciousLittle

    the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs while simultaneously believing them to be both correct,  is steadily improving.  Our ability to have our head up our ass is off the charts!!  Thanks for keeping this in our minds.  It's important.  Everything I've read about this confirms that if it gets out we'll have a ELE event on our hands.  Then when can do the famous exercise my Geology instructor taught me.  "Bend over slowly and kiss your ass goodbye!"

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we need to really think about shit!

    by John Crapper on Wed May 02, 2012 at 12:46:19 PM PDT

    •  I want to see some realistic (6+ / 0-)

      response to the situation at Fukushima from ALL the nuclear powers in this world, immediately - before ANY of 'em puts one single thin dime into building new death machines on top of the filthy old ones. Japan may have no qualms about wiping out its own population on at least half their nation, but we have a perfect right to insist they NOT do the happy-face dance and wipe out millions of our citizens too just because TEPCO doesn't want to spend any money on it and their government exists to protect criminals like TEPCO rather than the Japanese people. That is simply unacceptable.

      I hope the UN does act on these increasingly dire warnings and pleadings. But I know enough not to hold my breath on that. Damned if I'm going to give up one single iota of what's left of my rights because Obama or any other lying politician expects me to quiver in fear of a "mere handful" of this nuclear garbage - when they're busy drowning us in tons of it and charging us more than any of us can afford to pay for the dubious 'privilege'. This it the mother of all crimes against humanity.

  •  Thank you for alerting us (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, PreciousLittle

    to the Washington Post editorial.  Will give that some close scrutiny.

  •  Check it out... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cany, Jim P, PreciousLittle

    The Nuclear Scam isn't just about the government funneling tens of billions of dollars it can't afford straight into the pockets of the industry bigwigs, either. It's also about The Renewable Technology and Efficiency Act, which promotes nuclear energy by...

    ...encouraging utilities to use a pay-as-you-go method, thereby assuring preconstruction and interest costs through a much less riskier device employed to benefit a utility proposing new nuclear construction projects,  or expansion of existing nuclear plants, even if the actual project is never completed.
    In this particular Progress Energy (currently being taken over by Duke) boondoggle we've got two Levy County, Florida reactors originally projected in 2006 to cost between $4 and $6 billion and come on line in 2016 and 2017. By 2007 the costs soared to $10 billion. In 2008 the estimate became $17 billion. By 2011 it was up to $22 billion, and the first couldn't possibly come on line before 2021. But they do get to keep charging the ratepayers more and more every year, though it's now clear the plants will never be completed.
    The utility blames the delays in construction on the economy, the lack of customer demand, and the extreme pressure put on the industry after their estimates that natural gas prices would skyrocket.
    Must be nice to have carte blanche to steal money from people struggling in a lousy economy, for electricity they don't want or need, while lying to regulators and state officials about the cost projections for your main competitors. No, the utility will never have to pay the customers back if the plants are never built, nor will they ever have to roll back rates to pre-orgy levels. At least Duke Energy has been somewhat honest to utility rate commissions when demanding ratepayers be pre-charged for plants never intended to supply them with electricity - Duke needs the power, they say, to sell through the grid to other states and Canada.

    It's just another grand fleecing of the public. As the ex-CEO of Exelon - the largest U.S. nuclear conglomerate - said a couple of months ago, nuclear power can never compete honestly with any other form of energy, and wouldn't exist at all if governments didn't pour billions into it on a constant and growing basis.

    I think it's high time those corrupt governments - and their nuclear sockpuppets - use the money to do something useful about Fukushima. As opposed to simply ignoring it, and ordering responsible agencies/departments to stop monitoring.

    And speaking of monitoring, radiation levels tripled today in Tokyo after some notable steam/smoke events at Daiichi over the last day and a half. TEPCO, as far as can be determined by anybody, is still on vacation.

  •  Fukushima's 15 minutes. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This endless and yet to be measured disaster had flagged as a story of interest to World media within two months of the tsunami and meltdowns. Shocked and dismayed to see this, I wrote a diary called Sayonara Fukushima in which I illustrated my frustration with a silly song lyric, thus:

    My Darlin' Fukishima

    (Sing to the tune of My Darlin' Clementine)

    Fukushima, Fukushima, no one cares, you're melting down.
    News attention makes slight mention
    Of the danger, on the ground.

    TEPCO liars, and conspirers, in the government are mum.
    As the threat from radiation
    Grows some more and threatens doom.

    While they spill their dire pollutants, we sit here, without a clue.
    As our media and the net news
    Move along, to something new.

    The US media is no longer talking much about Fukushima, except for occasional reports of economic effects from the disaster in the business press. Why?

    Even here at, relatively, environmentally conscious dKos, Fukushima diaries rarely garner top tier attention from the community. Until another emergent and undeniable catastrophe erupts from this new little piece of Hell on Earth, nothing will serve to focus upon this disaster the public attention in merits.

    BTW, I've had it up to here with everyone who is quick to call out Fukushima realists as alarmists, as occurs, per usual, in this post's comment thread. The engineers and their enablers blew this one and though we know the price is terribly high, we don't yet know how high. These folks need to get over it, stop nit picking, and get with the bigger program.  

    This disaster has trashed out a big part of one of the hand full of small islands that make up the large nation of Japan. Engineers made the mistakes that let it happen and now they don't know how to fix the aftermath, which is far from over.  This is a World shaking catastrophe. It's a shame hardly anyone outside the immediate vicinity is paying much attention.  

    Save the U.S. Postal Service, an august, efficient, trusted and indispensable American institution.

    by LeftOfYou on Wed May 02, 2012 at 04:42:53 PM PDT

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