Doomed Planet For A Failed Species? Fukushima’s Tragic Nuclear Consequences
Thursday, September 6, 2012
In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous. — Aristotle
In wildness is the preservation of the world. — Henry David Thoreau
The earth is what we all have in common. — Wendell Berry
We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces. — Carl Sagan
The issue of the environment can be viewed through a fascinating variety of historical and philosophical lenses (1; 2; 3; 4; 5). We, the “failed species,” find ourselves on the verge of “transhumanist” transcendence, or, on the skids toward extinction on an eroded and polluted planet (6; 7). Without a biodiverse ecology, there is no economy. Don’t try to kill Mother Nature, she will sneeze at you, wait a few million years and then go on to something else.
The amount of highly radioactive waste from global nuclear power production increases every day. The monetary cost of storing or disposing of it (probably eventually just dumping it back into the environment when no one is looking), is skyrocketing. As yet, there is no safe storage method that is tried and true. Although dry cask storage is much safer than open fuel pools, it is an interim and not long term storage solution (8).
Considering the high cost and danger of storing nuclear waste for thousands of years, why don’t we just switch to a non-nuclear energy economy today?
Japan is the most outrageous example of bad planning. In the most seismically volatile region of the world it would be unthinkable to bury the waste, and “recycling” the spent fuel was a Promethean dream.
But there may be hope. The Technopians have informed us that “nuclear waste containers could be easily and safely transported up the Space Elevator to a suitable point and then launched from there towards the sun with an absolute minimum risk to life and the environment on Earth“ (9). A seemingly insurmountable problem “easily” solved. If the Space Elevator idea goes as well as nuclear energy, then we’ll no longer have to worry about a radioactively contaminated future. Thank the Technopians.
An Experiment Gone Awry
Activist Post, an informative journal which is concerned with disturbing social trends, recently featured an author who presciently and saliently observes that:
Whether it is nuclear power generation or nuclear detonation, all nuclear industry is experimental …. Will top management of utility companies – people whose focus seldom reaches beyond the balance sheets of current quarter and perhaps one subsequent quarter – exercise an appropriate level of control on wastes that will be dangerously radioactive for dozens of thousands of years? …. The time, energy and resources that have been invested into nuclear experimentation are likely incalculable. It is an industry of inhuman lies and practices, one which voids all consideration of clean air, clean water and healthy food. Where humanity would be today without nuclear experimentation is impossible to say, but without it surely the planet would be less toxic and polluted. I submit that…if it were not for nuclear experimentation humanity could already have free, or for all extents and purposes endless and harmless, power sources …. It is obvious that the oligarchical collectivism of the nuclear experimentation industry has indirectly eliminated alternative power systems to the extraction of and concoction of dangerous minerals. It has done so simply through its existence as well as through diabolical influence and outright subversion of systems less oligarchical …. The biggest issue on the Earth is that of nuclear experimentation. Stop nuclear experimentation, for the children (10).
While progress to create stability at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station (FNPS) can be said to be occurring, in some technical aspects, it is so slow that in reality it can also be said to be deteriorating. We are in the nuclear experimentation netherworld.
During his current visit to Japan, nuclear expert, Arnie Gundersen met with Japanese parliamentarians and gave a lecture to concerned citizens in Tokyo (11). During his lecture he confirmed that he has “seen no interest on the part of Tepco or NISA about getting other experts involved in the process” of helping to shore up the FNPS.
When Gundersen spoke with Tepco he suggested they use “lighter casks” for the Unit 4 fuel pool because they would be better for moving the nuclear fuel rods. Tepco dismissed this because like all nuclear operators, they don’t want to spend the money. Worst of all, Gundersen reported that:
If an earthquake damages the pool and the water drains out, it’s less than a day before the fire begins. Which is why when I asked Tepco have you prepositioned chemicals on-site in the event you were to lose water, and to hear they had not even considered prepositioning chemicals was frankly appalling.
This level of arrogance is typical of the nuclear establishment which shrugs its shoulders and walks away every time they mess things up.
Gundersen was also recently interviewed by the intrepid Helen Caldicott, medical doctor and long time anti-nuclear campaigner (12). The entire interview is highly recommended listening, not only for its incredible technical information, but also to enjoy the brilliance and humor of two of our most venerable activists.
Where are the leagues of other nuclear engineers speaking out with such expertise? There are not many. Gundersen has intimate knowledge of what is happening at the FNPS and one wonders how he gets his information. Other than that in the public domain are there at least some concerned officials feeding him data? Gundersen tends to speak conservatively and there is certainly room for other interpretations of the situation. He may be sugar-coating the truth at times, but I think he rarely or never exaggerates the dangers.
These are main points summarized from Gundersen and Caldicott’s conversation:
Unit 4 is being cleaned up so that Tepco can put in place the crane to remove the fuel rods. This work will not be completed before 2015 or 2016. Tepco plans to construct a building on top of what is currently there at Unit 4 in order to put in place a huge crane for removing the rods, which will then be placed in casks on the ground.
There are concerns that the fuel rods will be damaged, but ideally they can just pull them out and put them into dry cask storage. There is a chance they will not be removed easily and get “jammed” when they try pull them out. This could take years!
It is a very long, involved process. “They are taking way too long.” This process has to be repeated for the other reactor fuel pools as well. In the meantime we have to hope there is not another large earthquake, even though geologists think there is a likely chance of one.
The fuel in Units 1, 2, 3 is melted down to the bottom of the reactors or “lying on the concrete” at the foundation of the reactor buildings. It took ten years to remove fuels from a melted reactor at Three Mile Island after its disaster in the US in 1979. TMI was a minor accident compared to Fukushima.
The three reactor units at Fukushima are so highly radioactive that a million bq/liter is measured in water in surrounding buildings. That means that in the reactor buildings themselves the radiation would be exponentially higher.
Gundersen believes the radiation is so high in the reactor areas that workers cannot do the job. The only “solution” will be to pour concrete on top of the units while “walking away for three hundred years, obviously monitoring it.” This could happen in a few years from now.
However, Caldicott points out that the radiation will seep down into the water table for the rest of time. Arnie agrees: there is no good solution. Although “the solution would be to bore holes from underneath, and constantly pull water from out from under the building so it can be treated.” This would have to be done for a couple of hundred years to prevent contamination of the Pacific Ocean.
If Japan’s economy shrinks, cracks, contracts and or collapses due to a variety of factors, will they have the knowledge and money to carry on with this project? Gundersen estimates the cost of the Fukushima disaster will be 500 billion dollars. The Japanese taxpayer will pay for it.
Weighed against Japan’s rapidly aging and declining population the Japanese will be carrying a huge economic burden. The detrimental health effects from radiation will effect a substantial proportion of Japan’s population into the mists of time but will be covered up and hidden from public view, even as they perish.
A Special Warm Place
The other day I went to a “going away” (escape) party for some friends. I met a young Japanese oceanographer I know. He is very well educated and I asked him about living in Fukushima; he agreed it is dangerous. His area of study is not related to radiation in the ocean, but he is familiar with the government’s monitoring of radiation in fish. Strangely, he did not know difference between external and internal radiation and discounted the danger of tainted food, believing “small amounts” are not harmful. Maybe so (I hope so too). I also asked him why the Japanese government doesn’t get help to deal with Fukushima from other countries like the US. After all, the US militarily occupies Japan! He replied with a laugh that Tepco and the J Gov are probably too “ashamed” to ask for help. Ashamed? So we have to sacrifice the world’s ecosystems in order to restore Japanese Pride?
Yoichi Shimatsu, a man of sharp wit and former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, sardonically informed me about the absurdity of the Fukushima Folly:
The Japanese have a penchant for misinterpreting, falsifying and mythologizing history, while confusing all that is good for bad and vice versa. Within a decade, you will be seeing NHK TV dramas about the ‘stoic patriotic Tepco executives, under the strategic leadership of Heroic Leader Shimizu, who defied the panicked liberal government, bravely fought the mob violence by the anti-nuclear traitors, rescued Japan’s nuclear industry and finally, after heroic self-sacrifice, created the Japanese A-bomb just in time to avert a foreign invasion from Red China and United Korea.’
We are so grateful to TEPCO!
In Japan, shrines are erected for mass murderers while the humanitarian heroes who saved the country from itself are relegated to the footnotes or treated as ill-mannered scoundrels. Evil has a special warm place in the Japanese heart.”
1. Donald Worster, Nature’s Economy (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977, 505 pgs.)
2. Edward Goldsmith, The Way: An Ecological World View (Univ. of Georgia Press, 1992, 541 pgs.)
3. Roy Madron & John Jopling, Gaian Democracies (Green Books, 2003, 154 pgs.)
4. Richard Evanoff, Bioregionalism and Global Ethics – A Transactional Approach to Achieving Ecological Sustainability, Social Justice, and Human Well-being, (Routledge, 2011).
5. Environmental Ethics
6. Transhumanism – Techno-Eugenics Usurping Humanity
7. The Vigiliant Citizen, Transhumanism
8. Martin Cohen and Andrew McKillop, The Doomsday Machine: The High Price of Nuclear Energy, The World’s Most Dangerous Fuel (Palgrave, 2012, 242 pgs.)
9. The Space Elevator: Economics and Applications
10. Nuclear Experimentation Killed Free Power
11. Appalling: Tepco admits there’s no prepositioned chemicals at Fukushima plant in event water drains from fuel pool after quake
12. Arnold Gundersen with another update on the unfolding effects of the Fukushima disaster
Richard Wilcox has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from a social science, holistic perspective. He teaches part time at a number of universities in the Tokyo, Japan area. His articles on environmental topics including the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been published at Counterpunch, Global Research, Dissident Voice and Rense.com. His interview with Jeff Rense is available at the website www.rense.com. Many of his articles are archived here: http://environmentalarmageddon.wordpress.com/?s=Richard+Wilcox