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No One Wants You to Know How Bad Fukushima Might Still Be

By Johnny Magdaleno, Vice

Aug 19 2014

Last month, when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced it would move forward with its plan to construct an “ice wall” around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s failed reactors, it seemed like a step backwards.



(I)ts initial attempt at installing a similar structure had flopped. Its pipes were apparently unable to freeze the ground, despite being filled with a -22°F chemical solution.



Aside from TEPCO’s unwillingness to consider other engineering solutions, his main point of criticism about Japan’s largest utility company is rooted in one that countless others have voiced since the earthquake (and subsequent tsunami): a suspicious disregard for keeping the public informed.



(I)t’s worth noting that TEPCO has been reprimanded by the Japanese government, international scientists, peace-keeping organizations, global media outlets, and both anti- and pro-nuclear advocates for its unwillingness to disclose key details at a time when they are desperately needed. Coupled with the unmitigated radiation still pouring into Pacific waters, this helps explain why a Japanese judicial panel announced in late July that it wants TEPCO executives to be indicted.

This negligence can be traced back to the Fukushima plant’s meltdown. Just three months after the plant was crippled, the Wall Street Journal came out with a report culled from a dozen interviews with senior TEPCO engineers saying its operators knew some reactors were incapable of withstanding a tsunami. Since the Daiichi plant’s construction in the late 1960s, engineers had approached higher-ups to discuss refortifying the at-risk reactors, but these requests were denied due to concerns over renovation costs and an overall lack of interest in upgrading what was, at the time, a functioning plant. In 2012, it came to light that one such cost-cutting measure was the use of duct tape to seal leaking pipes within the plant.

A year after the Wall Street Journal report, TEPCO announced that the Daiichi plant’s meltdown had released 2.5 times more radiation into the atmosphere than initially estimated.



(A) year later, in June 2013, TEPCO admitted that almost 80,000 gallons of contaminated water had been leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day since the meltdown. As of today, that leak continues.



In February, TEPCO revealed that groundwater sources near the Daiichi plant and 80 feet from the Pacific Ocean contained 20 million becquerels of the harmful radioactive element Strontium-90 per gallon (one becquerel equals one emission of radiation per second). Even though the internationally accepted limit for Strontium-90 contamination in water hovers around 120 becquerels per gallon, these measurements were hidden from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for nearly four months.



Last month, TEPCO told reporters that 14 different rice paddies outside Fukushima’s exclusion zone were contaminated in August 2013, after a large piece of debris was removed from one of the Daiichi plant’s crippled reactors. The readings were taken in March 2014, but TEPCO didn’t publicize their findings until four months later, at the start of July-meaning almost a year had passed since emissions had begun to accumulate at dangerous levels in Japan’s most sacred food.



As of August 2014, we know that radiation levels around the Fukushima area continue to rise, even after three years of containment attempts. We know that doctors have found 89 cases of thyroid cancer in a study of less than 300,000 children from the Fukushima area-even though the normal incidence rate of this disease among youths is one or two for every million. We know that Japanese scientists are still reluctant to publicize their findings on Fukushima due to a fear of getting stigmatized by the national government.

We also know that US sailors who plotted a relief effort in Fukushima immediately after the disaster have reportedly been experiencing a well-up of different cancers, that monkeys living outside Fukushima’s restricted zone have lower blood cell counts than those living in other parts of northern Japan.

So, in summary, what we know today is that all three of the Daiichi reactors in operation at the time of the earthquake and tsunami experienced core meltdowns with the strong probability that every single one of their containment structures have been breached and the radioactive material sits merely buried but otherwise exposed to the elements.

That the entire site remains so radioactive that humans would face immediate sickness and inevitable death should they attempt to detoxify it themselves and the environment is so hostile that even specially hardened robots can only operate for hours at best before their electronics cease to function.

That there is a pile of used fuel rods larger than the cores of all three reactors in operation at the time of the disaster sitting on top of the fourth reactor building that was shut down for safety concerns.

And that all these structures have continued to deteriorate without any effective repair or maintenance in the past 3 years, the situation is measurably getting worse, and that TEPCO and the Japanese government continue to lie about it.

(h/t Naked Capitalism)

2 comments

    • on September 2, 2014 at 10:38 am

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