It has been learned that, to mitigate the consequences of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, many homeless people were used. They worked quite often with no protection from radiation and even without pay. Voice of Russia
Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.
Risky high-level radioactive waste removal begins at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, in bid to prevent catastrophic storage pool fire
As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, on Nov. 18, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has begun the year-long process of removing 1,533 nuclear fuel assemblies from the storage pool in the severely damaged Unit 4 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Most of the assemblies -- 1,331 -- are irradiated, and thus lethally radioactive. TEPCO has begun by first removing new fuel assemblies (not irradiated in the reactor core, but likely radioactively contaminated due to damaged fuel in the storage pool), of which there are 202.
The irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies (euphemistically referred to as "spent" or even "used" by the nuclear power establishment) are a million times more radioactive than the new, or "fresh," un-irradiated fuel assemblies. But the new fuel assemblies could be significantly contaminated by radioactivity in the cooling water, given all the damage to fuel and pool.
The building is at risk of collapsing due to another big earthquake. It has taken TEPCO over two years to rebuild the infrastructure at Unit 4, so that it can support a crane capable of lifting 91 ton weights: each radiation shielding transfer cask, containing 22 fuel assemblies per load.
If the building collapsed, the storage pool's cooling water would likely drain away. A high-level radioactive waste fire could ensue within hours, causing an order of magnitude more hazardous radioactivity release into the environment than has already occurred since March 11, 2011. Bob Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies has calculated that Unit 4's pool contains ten times more volatile, hazardous, long-lasting, radioactive cesium than was released during the Chernobyl catastrophe.
Once removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, the transfer cask would be taken to the ground level "common pool" at Fukushima Daiichi, located just 50 yards away from Unit 4, and its wastes offloaded into there. Ultimately, once the high-level radioactive wastes are cooled down enough (usually at least a five year cool off period, post removal from an operating reactor core), the common pool's irradiated nuclear fuel inventory will be offloaded into air-cooled dry casks, at considerably less risk from earthquakes and fires.
However, the Unit 4 fuel removal operation is itself highly risky. For example, the drop of a heavy load could punch a hole in the bottom of the pool, draining the cooling water, igniting the waste fire. Ironically, a partial drain down is the worst case scenario, as reported by Dr. Gordon Thompson of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, MA. This is because in a completely drained pool, at least there is some cooling provided by natural convection currents of air flow. But in a partially drained pool, the water left in the bottom blocks such air flow.
Also, the fuel could be brittle, damaged, or bent, making its safe removal difficult or impossible.
In addition, there is enough fissile material (Uranium-235, Plutonium-239) still in the fuel assemblies that precautions must be taken to prevent an inadvertent nuclear criticality accident, which itself could quickly deliver fatal doses of gamma radiation (like X-rays) to nearby workers lacking radiation shielding. An inadverent criticality accident at the Tokai-mura, Japan nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Sept. 1999 (caused by workers pouring too much uranium solution into a vessel, sparking a chain reaction) killed two workers, severely injured a third, and overexposed many hundreds of workers and nearby residents to gamma rays, as well as hazardous gaseous and particulate radioactive emissions.
On Nov. 14, Fairewinds Energy Education released a podcast entitled "Remove Tepco Before Removing Fuel." Fairewinds stated: "Fairewinds has fielded a number of questions regarding the removal of the fuel rods from the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 at Fukushima Daiichi. Today’s video shows Arnie debunking TEPCO’s animated film point by point, and highlights the issues TEPCO will have removing the fuel rods. TEPCO needs to be removed as the organization overseeing the cleanup of the site prior to the removal of the fuel rods." (Arnie Gundersen serves as Fairewinds Associates, Inc.'s Chief Engineer. He serves as expert witness to environmental coalitions, including Beyond Nuclear, resisting the new reactor application at Fermi 3 in southeast MI, and the old reactor 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse, both on the Lake Erie shore.)
Laura Flanders has just interviewed Harvey Wasserman of Nukefree.org on the latest from Fukushima Daiichi, including his efforts to deliver 150,000 petition signatures to the UN a couple weeks ago. That petition called on the UN to get involved in Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4's high-level radioactive waste removal procedure, given the global consequences if something goes wrong.
Similar calls were made a couple months ago by an international group of experts, in a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In fact, the top two urgent requests were: "1. Prevail upon international organizations and Japan to replace TEPCO with a worldwide engineering group to take charge of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. 2. Appoint a group of experts independent from either TEPCO or IAEA to advise the new engineering group to establish a risk informed stabilization, containment and remediation plan for Fukushima."
As Harvey said in a recent Common Dreams interview, "This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world's very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed." Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter was also quoted in that article regarding the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 crisis.
Harvey Wasserman and Arnie Gundersen have launched a new petition at MoveOn.org, entitled "Remove Tepco Before You Remove That Fuel." It is addressed to the Government of Japan, and Japanese Prime Minister Abe. Please sign it, and spread the word!
You can also contact the White House, and urge President Obama to offer the full resources of the United States government to help in support of the risky operation. After all, vast stretches of U.S. territory -- in Guam, Hawaii, the North American west coast from Alaska to Washington, Oregon, and California -- and many millions of American citizens are at risk, downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), now Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, deserves thanks for touring Fukushima Daiichi in April 2012 and making such a call for urgent action from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and State Department. Here is Sen. Wyden's contact info.
Unfortunately, thus far, the Obama administration has ignored Sen. Wyden's warning.
Fifteen more young people in Fukushima Prefecture have received definitive or suspected diagnoses of thyroid cancer, which is often associated with radiation exposure, prefectural officials said Nov. 12.
That raises to 59 the total number of young people who have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having thyroid cancer.
The latest figures show 12 people per 100,000 who were aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident developing thyroid cancer.
That compares with an average of 1.7 people per 100,000 in the general population between the ages of 15 and 19 who contracted the cancer in 2007 from Asahi Shimbun
From Fukushima Voice:
26 Thyroid Cancer Cases Confirmed in Fukushima Children: Preliminary Results of FY2011-2013 Thyroid Ultrasound Examination
Thirteenth Prefectural Oversight Committee convened on November 12, 2013, releasing the results of the latest thyroid examination as part of the prefectural health management survey.
Tokyo and Olympic officials ignore high radioactivity measurements at proposed sites for 2020 Summer Games
As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, a non-governmental organization led by 70-year-old Takehiko Tsukushi, has documented high radioactivity levels at multiple locations across Japan, slated to host various sporting events at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
As reported, "The group measured radiation levels at candidate venues in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, but it could not cover all 37 sites that could host Olympic events."
So far, Tokyo municipal officials, the International Olymic Committee, and 200 national Olympic organizations, have either dismissed the gathered data, or simply not responded at all.
However, officials from the Saitama and Kanagawa prefectural governments were quoted as taking such findings much more seriously, including requiring radioactive decontamination.
In response to the NGO's radioactivity measurements, Kunikazu Noguchi, an associate professor of radiation protection at Nihon University, stated: “Saying there is no problem without even measuring for radiation is the same response as the Democratic Party of Japan government immediately after the Fukushima nuclear accident...As host nation for the Olympics, it is imperative that radiation levels at the venues be released to the world.”
Former NRC Chair Jaczko urges Japan to solve radioactive water leakage disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, and to seek non-nuclear sources of electricity
In an article comprised of interview extracts entitled "FUKUSHIMA WATER CRISIS: Water recycling systems urgently needed, ex-chairman of U.S. nuclear watchdog says," the Asahi Shimbun reports that former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman, Greg Jaczko (photo, left), advises that TEPCO and the Japanese national government needs to fix the radioactive water leaks at Fukushima Daiichi, in order to preserve its international credibility. He also urges the electric utilities of Japan to look to more "efficient and effective" sources of electricity generation, rather than nuclear power, obviously -- in light of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe -- at risk of catastrophic failure.
Before becoming NRC's Chairman under President Obama in 2009, Jaczko had served as an NRC Commissioner from 2005 to 2009.