Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has visited the Fukushima Diachi Nuclear Power Station and has sent a letter to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Ichiro Fujisaki, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko calling on them to convince Japan to accept international aid to help repair damage at the reactor complex, which remains in an extremely precarious condition.
The badly damaged Reactor 4 building currently has a seismicity standard rating of zero, meaning that even a minor earthquake could cause it to collapse. At the top of this structure is a pool containing 1,565 fuel rods, some spent and some fresh. If this building should collapse and the rods be exposed to the air, the result would be the greatest release of radioactive material in the history of the planet.
Studies show that the entire Tokyo region, containing 45 million people would need to be evacuated. The event would challenge Japan's viability as a sovereign state, and would expel enough radiation into the atmosphere to cause dangerous levels across the entire northern hemisphere of the planet.
As matters stand, Tokyo Electric Power continues to pour water on exposed fuel rods at the facility. This water is running into the ocean, carrying radiation with it, and radiation levels in the Pacific, which initially rose after the Fukushima disaster, then declined, have stopped declining and are unexpectedly remaining at higher than normal levels.
Wyden found that the facilities designed to house spent nuclear fuel and the reactors themselves were still in a state of disrepair and located in areas that would make them susceptible to further damage from future seismic events. The reactor buildings still contain large amounts of spent fuel – making them a huge safety risk and the only protection from a future tsunami, Wyden observed, is a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.
Tokyo Electric Power has not only failed to properly secure its facility, it has not even begun to secure it, apparently continuing to place the short term financial welfare of the company ahead of the safety of the Japanese nation and the world. The Japanese government has failed to act in a responsible manner as well.
So far, the general media is downplaying the risk of radiation outside of Japan, but it is now clear that significant radiation is appearing along the US west coast. Giant kelp up and down the California coast has been found to contain abnormal levels of radiation and milk in the San Francisco area after the disaster was found to contain windblown radioactive material.
A team of researchers at Oklahoma State University (OSU) has announced development of a capsule that, when dropped in liquid, can easily and effectively remove numerous radioactive substances and thus prevent the consumer from ingesting them. This product is being prepared for commercial distribution and can be adapted to large scale industrial use or smaller scale use by consumers in the home.
However, should the fuel that remains improperly stored at Fukushima Daichi be released, the amount of radiation involved would be too large for such products to be of help in Japan, and what might happen along the US west coast would remain problematic. To read Senator Wyden's report, click here.
A team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has sampled water and marine life across a wide area of the Pacific and, while it has found elevated levels of radioisotopes in various areas, it has not found levels that would be harmful to marine life or to humans.
Led by Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist and marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution the team found that the concentration of several key radioactive substances, or radionuclides, were elevated but varied widely across the study area, reflecting the complex nature of the marine environment. In addition, although levels of radioactivity in marine life sampled during the cruise were well below levels of concern for humans and the organisms themselves, the researchers leave open the question of whether radioactive materials are accumulating on the seafloor sediments and, if so, whether these might pose a long-term threat to the marine ecosystem.
Outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Kan warned during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the collapse of the containment now holding spent and live fuel rods would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty. Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable. Hiroshi Tasaka, a nuclear engineer and special adviser to Prime Minister Kan immediately following the crisis, said the crisis "just opened Pandora's Box."
The video associated with this story is an interview with renowned Japanese diplomat Akio Matsumura, who has been recently acted as Secretary-General of the Central Asian Parliamentary and Spiritual Conference, at Konya, Turkey. In 1995 he was organizer of the World Assembly on Reconciliation hosted by Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat, at Jericho and was First Secretary General of the International Green Cross among many others. He has been an advisor to the United Nations Development Program and presently takes a strong interest in the Fukushima-Daiichi problem.
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