For the first time since Japan’s nuclear catastrophe erupted two and half years ago at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) requested international aid in an increasing desperate fight to bring the worsening disaster under control.
TEPCO Vice President Zengo Aizawa sent the country’s first international SOS since the March 2011 catastrophe as highly radioactive water continues to leak at higher rates and in greater concentrations of contamination into the aquifer that flows under the reactor wreckage into the Pacific Ocean. Another storage tank has failed spilling 300 more tons of radioactive water onto the site from the growing number of units in a makeshift tank farm now containing nearly 400,000 tons of highly contaminated water. Contaminated water used to keep the melted reactor cores cool is being continuously pumped up out of reactor building basements into the tank farm. The continuous pumping operations are overwhelming an already dubious plan to decontaminate the growing toxic backlog before release. The storage tanks themselves are now beginning to fail.
Efforts to divert and dam the movement of groundwater flowing from the mountains, under the damaged reactor site and on into the Pacific Ocean have not only failed but are increasing the risk of a new and larger catastrophe as the site is increasingly unstable. More than 1000 tons of groundwater are estimated to flow daily under Fukushima Daiichi towards the ocean. A glassified dam, five feet tall, injected below grade into the earth between the reactors and the ocean has failed to stop the radioactive flood into the Pacific. This build-up of contaminated groundwater is now topping the glass dam and saturating the ground around and under the reactor site so that another significant earthquake could liquefy the earth under the damaged complex including a huge nuclear waste storage pool that is common to all six units. In total, Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear waste storage pools contain an estimated 2,000 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel bundles that must remain gamma ray-shielded underwater as well as continuously cooled. Hundreds of tons of this high-level nuclear waste remain in precarious roof top storage ponds elevated more than fifty feet up in the remains of six units, including the four that are severely damaged after multiple reactor meltdowns and hydrogen explosions. If any of these storage pools were to catastrophically fail, a renewed atomic fire could ignite and burn in the open atmosphere in an expanding nuclear catastrophe of global proportions.
An international aid program will need to be a generous, open ended and most importantly transparent if its agenda is to protect the public health, safety and the environment rather than continue to shield and promote an increasingly desperate global nuclear industry.