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]