Did earthquake cause meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi even before tsunami hit?

The Atlantic Wire, in an article entitled "Meltdown: What Really Happened at Fukushima?" by Jake Adelstein and David McNeill, reports -- based on interviews with eyewitnesses, as well as a careful review of the catastrophe's timeline and even documented admissions made by Tokyo Electric Power Company itself -- that major damage to piping and other safety significant structures at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 -- the oldest reactor at the site -- may very well have begun the first meltdown, even before the tsunami hit. The article reports:

"The reason for official reluctance to admit that the earthquake did direct structural damage to reactor one is obvious. Katsunobu Onda, author of TEPCO: The Dark Empire, who sounded the alarm about the firm in his 2007 book explains it this way: 'If TEPCO and the government of Japan admit an earthquake can do direct damage to the reactor, this raises suspicions about the safety of every reactor they run. They are using a number of antiquated reactors that have the same systematic problems, the same wear and tear on the piping.' "

The article adds:

"On May 15, TEPCO went some way toward admitting at least some of these claims in a report called 'Reactor Core Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit One.' The report said there might have been pre-tsunami damage to key facilities including pipes. 'This means that assurances from the industry in Japan and overseas that the reactors were robust is now blown apart,' said Shaun Burnie, an independent nuclear waste consultant. 'It raises fundamental questions on all reactors in high seismic risk areas.' "

Tsunamis are even more rare than already rare earthquakes. Thus, tsunami risks -- including to U.S. reactors -- can more easily be portrayed by the nuclear establishment in industry and government as exceedingly improbable -- even though a radioactively catastrophic one has just happened in Japan. Not only Tepco and the Japanese federal government were quick to obscure earthquake damage at Fukushima Daiichi, focusing attention on the tsunami's impact instead. Exelon Nuclear's CEO, John Rowe, who "serves" on President Obama's and Energy Secretary Chu's "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future," was quick to downplay the earthquake's impact at Fukushima, instead highlighting the tsunami. An Exelon statement dated March 14th began:

"Exelon is closely monitoring the situation in Japan as it continues to unfold. While there is still a great deal we don’t know, from all information the company received so far, it appears that the damage to the Japanese plants was primarily related to the tsunami, not the earthquake."

A common "red herring" refrain of the U.S. nuclear industry since March 11th is that tsunamis are impossible at the many inland reactors across the U.S., while largely or entirely ignoring earthquake risks themselves, as well as other pathways (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, power outages, mechanical failure, human error, intentional attack, etc.) that could plunge reactors into station blackout, followed within hours by core meltdown and days by high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires.




"National crime" and "graveyard governance" in wake of Fukushima catastrophe

Hokkaido Cancer Center director Nishio Masamichi, a radiation treatment specialist, has published a very hard hitting critique of the Japanese government and nuclear power industry's performance regarding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe. The Asia-Pacific Journal's Japan Focus has published a review. Masamichi expresses grave concerns for the health of residents downwind and downstream of the catastrophic radioactivity releases, and offers suggestions of critical changes that need to be made to thus far incompetent and confused emergency response.


Important win in long battle to put ill-conceived Yucca dump permanently to rest

Photo by Gabriela Bulisova, Jan., 2004, showing the frame of a sacred Western Shoshone ceremonial sweat lodge, with Yucca's western face in the background.As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, U.S. Senator Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada), Majority Leader, called today's decision by the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump "an important win in the long battle to put the ill-conceived Yucca Mountain project permanently to rest." The three-judge federal appeals panel ruled against a lawsuit filed by the States of Washington and South Carolina, Aiken County (South Carolina), and three private (nuclear industry affiliated) businessmen in Washington State seeking to block the Obama administration's cancellation of the Yucca dump.

July seems to be the month for major Yucca decisions. On July 9, 2002, the U.S. Senate voted 60 to 39 to allow the U.S. Department of Energy to proceed with a construction and operations license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which George W. Bush signed into law two weeks later. Then, on July 9, 2004, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (although comprised of a different three judge panel) ruled in favor of the State of Nevada and an environmental coalition, ordering the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back to the drawing board on its Yucca regulations (EPA had wanted to cut off regulations at 10,000 years, long before Yucca's worst radiation releases downstream; under court order, EPA acknowledged in 2008 that high-level radioactive waste at Yucca would remain hazardous for a million years!).

Although a major battle victory, today's ruling does not end this 25+ year long war over the Yucca dump. Under law, the NRC has until later this year (with the possibility for a one year extension) to issue a final "yea or nay" on DOE's 2008 Yucca application. In March 2010, Obama Energy Secretary Steven Chu moved to withdraw the application, but in late June 2010 a panel of three administrative law judges at NRC (the Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board, or ASLB) rejected the motion. The five NRC Commissioners have yet to sustain or overrule the ASLB ruling.

Reflecting the national significance of this court ruling is the widespread media coverage: Associated Press; The Hill (times two!); Hanford News and Tri-City Herald (Washington State); Augusta Chronicle (Georgia). The coverage is likely to expand as word spreads.


New petition to protect the children of Fukushima against radioactivity

Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Green Action Japan, has just announced an opportunity for individuals and organizations across the world to sign a petition demanding increased protection for the children of Fukushima against the clear and present danger from the Daiichi nuclear power plant's ongoing releases of hazardous radioactivity. To read and sign the petition, go to the Green Action Fukushima Updates website.


Urine of Fukushima children contaminated with radiation

"Trace amounts of radioactive substances were found in urine samples of all of 10 surveyed children from Fukushima Prefecture in May, where a crippled nuclear power plant is located, a local citizens group and a French nongovernmental organization said Thursday." The Manichi Daily News

Such contamination suggests the children have been contaminated with radioactive substances internally, something Beyond Nuclear and other groups have been concerned about since releases from the accident were first reported.