Friday, 27 September 2013

How Obama Made Fukushima Worse

The Obama administration’s failure to alert Americans to the danger of Fukushima radiation is motivated by corporate politics and the interests of the nuclear power industry. The March 11, 2011 earthquake off the northwest coast of Japan wrecked a complex of nuclear power plants, throwing three units into meltdown and exploding high-level radionuclides into the environment. With the industry’s reputation and billions of dollars in financial arrangements hanging in the fire, the president chose expediency, saying there’s no threat to Americans.

These assurances were highlighted recently when Fukushima Dai-ichi’s operators reported that since the earthquake it has been spilling large amounts of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. While great efforts have been made to sequester hot water in tank farms, the tanks are leaking and the buildings are insecure. Among the toxics soaking coastal zone soils are fission products: cesium-134 and 137, strontium-90, iodine-131 and 129, along with various isotopes of tritium, uranium and plutonium. These elements and hundreds of others have escaped containment and are moving into the North Pacific at the rate that varies from 300-900 tons of water per day.

Following the president’s lead, most of the media has ignored the story, leaving many Americans in the dark. But the blinders are off in Alaska and the west coast of North America as more people figure the implications of tainted seafood. Pacific tuna ranges between California and Japan on its annual migration. Sampled by scientists from Stanford University in 2012 and 2013, tuna were found with elevated cesium-134 and 137 in their muscle tissue. A public health official in British Columbia is urging the federal government to monitor salmon and tuna. Last week the state of Washington said it will begin testing salmon and steelhead. The newspaper in Alaska’s capital, Juneau, is asking science to settle the question, writing “…Let’s be 100 percent sure our Alaska salmon are safe to eat.”

Distrust of safety assurances here and in Japan mounted when the plant operator, TEPCO, admitted that it had low-balled previous data and that actual releases were 20-30 percent greater than earlier claims. Numbers are being revised upward almost daily. Currently, while the totals remain in flux, independent observers suggest that Fukushima has surpassed Chernobyl in the amount of radiation released to the environment. Chernobyl spilled 85 quadrillion becquerels across Europe while Fukushima’s totals climb to 276 quadrillion in some estimates. Outliers put it as high as 690 quadrillion. Approximately half of the initial aerosol releases fell into the ocean. Maps show that 12,000 square miles of land has been contaminated with cesium and other isotopes. Of this area, 4,500 square miles exceeds human safety limits of 1 mSv (millisievert) per year. Nearly 200,000 Japanese have been turned into refugees.

The Japanese government, as expedient as Obama, quickly raised the allowable dose from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year–20 times higher than the limit on March 11.

The Fukushima disaster may be the greatest environmental catastrophe we have faced in the last thousand years. The slow kill nature of the contamination means we will not appreciate its impact until a number of years has passed. Look for life expectancy rates to drop world wide.

What should be done right this instant is the building of a huge concrete structure around the ruined plants that completely entomb them in all dimensions. The cost is irrelevant. The contamination of the environment must be stopped.

[Posted at the SpookyWeather blog, September 27th, 2013.]

No comments: