I’m Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds.
During the three long and frightening years since the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, the world has heard less and less about this manmade disaster.
How did this tragedy happen? As world governments continue to cover-up the true magnitude of this disaster, and the
mainstream media ignores it, people around the world write and call Fairewinds with questions.
The phone calls, emails, and letters ask:
• Is most of the cleanup complete?
• Are the people of Japan, especially the children, Ok?
• Are the Japanese evacuees returning home?
• Are the oceans OK? Sadly, the answers are no. And, we are left with the questions what does the future look like for the Fukushima Prefecture and for Japan as a whole?
Let’s start at the beginning when the fuse was first lit for the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdowns. In 1966 during the design phase of the Fukushima Daiichi Site, the American company General Electric, made particular design decisions that impacted the Daiichi Site. Over the protests of Japanese seismic and tsunami experts, General Electric decided to cut down the naturally formed cliff to a low height of approximately 25-feet above sea level in order to build its power plants. Yes, GE knew the history of Japan’s tsunamis, and knowledgeable scientists protested this decision, and still the corporation chose to cut down the natural cliff and only built a 16-foot high tsunami wall. This decision flew in the face of Japan’s 2,000 years of tsunami history charting tsunamis as great as 135 feet high. Why did GE make that decision? I was not there, but I believe it was a decision to save money during the construction and operation of the Daiichi plant, coupled with post World War II American engineering hubris. It’s that simple.Having won World War II on two fronts, Americans engineers believed they had the best answers to any problems facing the world, and they were intent on marketing nuclear power as a peaceful solution to the nuclear bombing of Japan.
This disaster was not a new safety issue that suddenly occurred in 2011. Regulatory bodies around the world were well aware that GE’s Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors have many operational and safety deficiencies, as evidenced by the Daiichi meltdowns.
Let’s fast-forward 45-years to the 45-foot tsunami that hit the Fukushima site on March 11, 2011. Just as Japanese scientists predicted and feared back in the 1960s, the 16-foot tsunami defenses were totally overwhelmed when the tsunami destroyed the cooling pumps along the ocean and flooded the emergency diesels. Without cooling water, the reactors were doomed.
Units 1, 2 and 3 were operating at the time and blew up, spewing radiation worldwide. The three nuclear cores melted through as the reactors spread their radioactivity throughout each unit’s basements. Unlike the other reactors that were operating, Unit 4 simply blew up, and its spent fuel pool almost caught fire. Radioactive cesium, strontium, iodine and hot particles from the four reactors spread all over northern Japan, as the resulting radioactive plume blew across the ocean and was measured around the world.
Today, as we think about this worldwide tragedy, its important that we recognize and remember that the triple meltdown and multiple containment failures at the Fukushima Daiichi site were not caused by a natural disaster. The earthquake and tsunami are what insurance companies call Acts of God, because they are uncontrollable natural disasters. In contrast, the Fukushima Daiichi tragedy is the worst industrial disaster the world has ever faced, and it was due to inherent design flaws, inaccurate risk assumptions, and failure of every safety system designed to operate during such an event. This tragedy was preventable, but corporate financial goals, world politics, and engineering hubris put money and power before the lives and health of the people who farmed, fished, and lived for hundreds of years in Fukushima’s thriving communities.
Let’s fast-forward once again, but this time to March 11, 2014 and focus on the fact that the aftermath of this catastrophe remains as hazardous as ever. The power plant site itself, entire sections of the surrounding Fukushima prefecture, and the Pacific Ocean are contaminated in ways humans never imagined, so no method of mitigation exists.. The Fukushima catastrophe will continue to be life threatening and cause extreme hardship for TEPCO employees and cleanup workers, the former Fukushima, residents who are homeless and being forced to return to a contaminated environment, and to the Pacific Ocean and its habitat and ecosystem.
The only positive event during the last three years is that TEPCO is finally moving the fuel out of the Unit 4 spent fuel pool slowly and methodically.. The ongoing tragic news is that huge amounts of radioactive water sits in tanks precariously placed onsite, and the reactors continue to release the radioactive remnants from their molten cores into the surrounding ground water that is migrating offsite. Lastly, and of great concern to experts around the world, Tokyo Electric appears to have little control over the deteriorating environment and behaves like a victim rather than the perpetrator of the greatest industrial mishap of all time.
What will the future bring? The Fukushima Daiichi site will continue to bleed radiation into the Pacific Ocean for at least 100-years as the contaminated groundwater beneath the site slowly evolves into a radioactive lake. Decommissioning and dismantling the reactors will take many decades and most likely complete cleanup is at least a century away, if ever.
How has this calamity evolved into such a worldwide catastrophe? It happened because the Japanese government chose to protect TEPCO, its financial interests, and the goals of the nuclear power industry rather than protecting the people who live Japan, travel there, and raise and eat its food.
As we at Fairewinds have said for three years, the Japanese government must do three things:
1. Get rid of TEPCO and tell Japanese residents the truth about the terrible financial and radiological repercussions of this catastrophe.
2. Admit that the cost of this nuclear debacle will be paid for by generations of Japanese citizens,
3. And, given Japan’s fragile geologic structure on an earthquake prone island, the Abe regime should not be allowed to restart the 50 idled reactors due to their flawed risk assessment and failed safety systems. Radiation knows no borders.
What lessons should we learn? We have learned that no matter how much electricity is generated by nuclear power, this technology has the potential to destroy the fabric of an entire country overnight; Fairewinds discussed this tragedy in the video: 40 good years and one bad day. Most of all, the nuclear power debacle at Fukushima Daiichi has made it clear that businesses love nuclear power for its incredible profits, but only if taxpayers continue to subsidize its incredible risks and catastrophic post-mishap costs.
Truthfully, the world’s energy paradigm is not hopeless. Germany has made the courageous decision to eliminate all existing nuclear plants before 2022 and will not build any new nukes.
Germany is known for both its engineering skill and its strong economic foresight. The people and politicians of Germany understand they have chosen a “road less travelled” and are doing so to build a renewable energy and economic future rather than risk possible destruction of their entire culture and standard of living due to a nuclear power catastrophe like that at Fukushima. Germany is proving it can successfully wean itself from nuclear power, and in doing so it is marking a path for the United States, France, Japan, Russia and China to follow. It’s up to us as individuals if we want to help create such change in order to protect our environment, our economy, and the health and safety of our citizens. Maggie and I and the Fairewinds crew continue to dedicate our efforts to providing you, and others like you around the world, with accurate and timely information regarding nuclear power and its safety risks. Please pass our information along to your families and friends.
Right now, world governments are heavily influenced by the money and power of the nuclear industry. It is up to individuals like you to make change happen. As the poet June Jordan wrote, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.
I’m Arnie Gundersen and I’ll keep you informed.
– See more at: http://www.fairewinds.org/nuclear-power-profits-risks/#sthash.LYTQB9jV.dpuf