|Fukushima's radioactive seawater in the Pacific|
The news coming out of Japan these days is not good.
The Japanese government confirmed that the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been leaking an estimated 300 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean each day. The leaks have apparently been going on since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused three reactors in the plant to melt down.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) called the situation an emergency and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it “an urgent problem.” The consensus among independent scientists is that Tepco, the plant’s operator, is incapable of stopping the discharge into the sea, which it has kept secret for more than two years.
It was discovered after the NRA detected strontium and tritium in a monitoring well at the plant site.
But it gets worse.
On Aug. 14, Tepco began preparing to remove 400 tons of “highly irradiated” spent fuel from the severely damaged Reactor Four building.
The operation is set to start in November and expected to take one year. A removal has never been attempted on this scale and, according to nuclear experts, “is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle,” the news agency reported.
The radiation contained in the fuel pools in Reactor Four is equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima.
In their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013, independent scientists Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggat wrote: “Full release from the Unit-4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”
In other words, the devastation would be worse than Chernobyl and far worse than the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, although no one can say how much worse.
The operation is necessary, however, because scientists estimated that the chance of Fukushima being hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake was 98 per cent within three years. Another quakecould cause the fuel pool structure to collapse and start another chain reaction.
The seriousness of the situation cannot be overstated. A host of observers have called for a team of the world’s top scientists to take over the entire clean-up, especially in light of Tepco’s miserable track record of missteps and misinformation.
This week, however, Japan’s nuclear regulator approved a plan for Tepco to carry out the clean-up that will take 40 years and cost billions that Tepco said it doesn’t have.
Canadian health officials assure us that there is nothing to worry about from radioactive water pouring daily into the Pacific. Friends, the danger of “radiological disaster” from Reactor Four is real. For the Japanese it’s a living nightmare, and for the west coast of North America, it is a legitimate threat.