Is the Japanese government and the IAEA protecting the nuclear industry and not the people of Japan by claiming that Fukushima is stable when it is not? Fairewinds’ chief engineer Arnie Gundersen outlines major inconsistencies and double-speak by the IAEA, Japanese Government, and TEPCO claiming that the Fukushima accident is over. Dynamic versus static equilibrium, escalated dose exposures to the Japanese children and nuclear workers, and the blending of radioactive materials with non-contaminated material and spreading this contaminated ash throughout Japan are only a small part of this ongoing nuclear tragedy.
Arnie Gundersen: Hi, I'm Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds.
Well, it is the end of 2011, and I thought I would use this opportunity, not to look back on the disasters at Fukushima, but to look forward into 2012 and try to give you an idea about what may be happening in the next 12 months. The way I see it, there are 3 main areas:
The first is: What is happening on the site?
The second is: the personal exposures to the people in Japan, especially Fukushima Prefecture.
And the third is: Where are they going to put all the radioactive waste?
Well, the first topic is important to talk about today. On Friday, Dec. 16th, the Japanese government declared that Fukushima had achieved what is called a cold shutdown. Specifically, here is what the prime minister said: "A stable condition has been achieved and we can consider the accident itself contained." Now he was not the only one who said similar things. The International Atomic Energy Agency said, "The IAEA welcomes the announcement of the government of Japan, that the unit has achieved cold shutdown." And then interestingly, the next sentence is, "The IAEA receives it's information updates from a variety of official Japanese sources, through the national competent authorities."
And the third thing is the United States State Department. The State Department said, when they heard the announcement, "We in the United States government are very happy to hear the news. We believe the Japanese government has made the right choice toward recovery."
Well, to me this announcement sounds a little bit like George Bush on the deck of the aircraft carrier declaring that the mission has been accomplished. In fact, we all know how that turned out, and I think Fukushima is going down a very similar road. This is a long battle and it is far from being over.
On site, there are several things we need to talk about. The first is, the condition of the plant is really not stable. In engineering, we have a condition called equilibrium, and I will use this mug as an example. If you stay right at the top of that mug, you will not fall off unless you move a little bit to the right or a little bit to the left and that is called dynamic equilibrium; one false move and you roll off the side. If you stay in the bottom of the mug, if you move to the right or the left, you come back to the center, and that is called static equilibrium. That is where you want to be, that is what cold shutdown really is. Fukushima is up here in a dynamic equilibrium. It really should be down here in a static equilibrium, and that is a long way off.
The biggest problem for the immediate future is the possibility of a severe aftershock earthquake. Tokyo Electric has calculated that if a severe earthquake hits, all of the jury-rigged piping that is in place will fail again, and within 40 hours we will be back to a meltdown. Now that is hardly stable. The piping on the site, while important to keep the plant cool, is not seismically qualified. And of course we know that an aftershock is, in fact, likely. So problem #1 in 2013 for the Fukushima site, is the possibility of an earthquake in the event of a seismic event.
The other issue also relates to a seismic event and that applies to Fukushima Unit 4. Now, Unit 4 does not have fuel in it; it has all the fuel in the full fuel pool. And, of course, the building is weakened dramatically from the explosions and fires. I think that if a severe earthquake hits, it is actually my concern with the spent nuclear fuel sitting out in the open in that Unit 4 fuel pool, that have the gravest concern.
And finally, on the issue of what is going on on site, I am very, very concerned about worker exposures. The exposures these people are registering are very, very high by international standards, even by national standards within Japan. While no one will die immediately, I am certain that they are all dramatically increasing their risk of cancer. They are brave men and my hat's off to them. But it is a dramatic risk that they are all taking.
The second area I have concern for 2012, is the exposure to the people in Japan from the radiation from Fukushima. It is important to remember that all of the calculations so far on personnel exposure, are just that. No one was measuring in the first week or two weeks, the first month, so all of these are based on lots of assumptions and are certainly very suspect.
Now, the other issue is that these exposures are all external radiation. They are based on perhaps the cesium that is lying on the ground or the radiation that happens to be in the air. But they do not include the hot particles that people have breathed in.
Now there is one other thing, on the first day of the accident, the first week of the accident, enormous clouds of radioactive gasses, called noble gasses, xenon and krypton, were released. Just about 2 weeks ago, the Japanese released data that showed that the concentration of radioactive gasses in those clouds was 1,300 becquerels in a cubic meter. Now, that then went into people's lungs and gave them an internal exposure, as well as being in a cloud that gave them an external exposure. That calculation is also incomplete.
Well, let's talk a little bit about the hot particles. On the site, we have already given you Marco Kaltofen's presentation to the American Public Health Association. And you will remember that the Fukushima air filters were loaded with radiation and the Tokyo air filters were not far behind. They would both be classified as radioactive waste here in the United States. Well, Mr. Kaltofen told the American Public Health Association that the rate at which a car pulls in air, is very similar to the rate at which a lung brings in air. Which means that the lungs of people in prefectures near Fukushima are as radioactive as the picture that Mr. Kaltofen presented to American Public Health.
Now, what does that mean for you and I? We had another picture on the site and it was a hot particle inside an ape's lung. And the particle shows the damage to the lung caused by the decay of the radioactive material over a period of time. That is one hot particle. The people in Fukushima Prefecture and nearby prefectures have many more than one hot particle and I think we can all expect that there will be internal radiation damage as a result. In fact, Dr. Steve Wing's data that came after Three Mile Island, showed about a 10% increase in lung cancers 3 to 5 years after that accident.
Well, what is the solution here for the Japanese? Well, the Japanese government has raised the standard and is proposing moving people back in, into the exclusion zone. Now, what does that mean? The Japanese government has established that it is safe to live in the exclusion zone if your exposure is less than 20 milli-Sieverts. In the American system, that is 2,000 millirem. To put that 2,000 millirem in perspective, I checked with the American Health Physics Society to find out what the average worker in an American nuclear plant gets in a year. The Health Physics Society says that the average worker in a nuclear plant gets 180 millirem of additional radiation in the course of a year. That is 10 times lower than what the Japanese government is proposing for it's citizens going back into radioactive areas near Fukushima. Now, the American workers are being paid to take that exposure, whereas the Japanese are not. In other words, the risk has a benefit here in America, but the risk to the Japanese has no benefit for them.
The third area I would like to talk about is, what are we going to do with all the nuclear waste? Now, we have already talked about the enormous amount of water that is being generated at the power plant and leaking into the ocean. Woods Hole and others have said that this has already released more radiation into the water, into the Pacific Ocean, than any other nuclear accident in history.
But let's talk about the solid radioactive waste that is lying on the ground, not just in the power plant, but in the entire state of Fukushima, as well as all the other surrounding prefectures. It has been estimated that to clean up the waste in Fukushima Prefecture alone, would fill at least 33 stadiums the size of the New Orleans Superdome. Now this is an enormous problem.
And how are the Japanese planning to handle the problem of, what do we do with all this nuclear waste? Well, I thought I would use one example to talk about the approach that the Japanese are using. On Dec. 14th of this year, a school near Tokyo found a tarp that was loaded with radiation, over 90,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram of the tarp. Now the tarp had been laid on a field in March and April and had been removed and was rolled up, laying next to the building for several months. Now, the solution, what are we going to do with this radioactive tarp, really speaks to what is happening throughout Japan right now. And I thought I would read to you what the Japanese are proposing.
The Environment Ministry said on Dec. 12th, "the level of radioactive cesium can be adequately diluted by mixing one ton of other material for every kilogram of the contaminated covers before they are incinerated." Now, what they said was that they will dilute it 1,000 to 1 with clean material and then burn that. So the solution in Japan, right now, is different than everywhere else in the world. That cover, had it been discovered in the United States, would be buried in an underground waste dump, perhaps in Texas, and would be out of harms way for 300 years. The Japanese are proposing incinerating the radioactive waste instead.
Now that poses two problems. Some of the radioactivity goes up the stack and some of the radioactivity remains in the ash that then has to be disposed of. What are the Japanese planning to do with the ash? Well, in this case, that ash is going to be spread in Tokyo Bay. That is right, the incinerator waste, which in any other country in the world would be classified as radioactive waste and have to be disposed of in a regulated waste depository. That waste is being dumped into landfills in Tokyo Bay.
Now, is it a good idea to dump nuclear waste into Tokyo Bay? Is it even legal to dump nuclear waste into Tokyo Bay? There is a convention called the London Dumping Convention (it has been shortened to the London Convention), that Greenpeace was responsible for pushing through international organizations over 30 years ago. That convention, the London Dumping Convention, prohibits a country from taking nuclear waste and dumping it in the ocean. Back then, when Greenpeace pushed for this convention, countries were taking their nuclear waste in freighters, dragging it out into the ocean and dumping it at sea.
Well, this is a little bit different. Had the Japanese taken this ash and put it on a freighter and taken it out into the Pacific, it would be a violation of the London Dumping Convention. But, they are not; they are putting it in a dump truck and they are pouring it into Tokyo Bay. That may not be a legal violation of the London Dumping Convention, but I submit to you, it really violates the intent of that convention. I hope that over the next year, organizations like Greenpeace will look at this waste problem. It is not just occurring in Tokyo, but in other incinerators throughout the Japanese islands that are releasing contaminated water that is heading directly into the Pacific Ocean. Now, this process of dumping nuclear waste into Tokyo Bay, and other locations, has also been condoned by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The final question then, is who is monitoring all of these issues: the personnel exposures, the people in Japan, the dumping of waste into the Pacific Ocean? The answer is that TEPCO is being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And also, the International Atomic Energy Agency is determining what is an acceptable level of risk. The 2,000 millirem number has been condoned by the IAEA. Now who is monitoring the ocean? 27 nations have formed a contract with the IAEA to monitor the ocean off of Fukushima.
And lastly, who is head of the IAEA? The current head of the IAEA was a regulator for the Japanese government before he assumed the job. Now I thought I would share with you just one sentence from the IAEA charter, and you can go up on line and confirm this. Article 2 of the charter for the IAEA says, "The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world."
So the person that you and I are expecting to be the regulator, in fact, has for his charter that they will promote nuclear power instead. You will read in published reports, that this is a U.N. watchdog agency. In fact, that is not true. It is an organization established by nations around the world to promote atomic power, not to regulate it.
I submit to you that the root cause of this problem is that we as citizens have to take control over agencies like the IAEA in the next year. We really cannot wait longer than that, because Fukushima is going to be releasing radioactivity to the water, and the Japanese government is going to be dumping into Tokyo Bay for many years. This is the time to stop it.
You recall that famous saying, "follow the money"? I think what is happening here is just that. We all need to follow the money. The Japanese government has made a trade-off. They have decided that they do not want to risk Tokyo Electric's financial viability. They do not want it's financial exposure to be jeopardized.
So the trade-off that the Japanese government has made, has been to risk the radiation exposure of it's people, rather than risk the exposure of Tokyo Electric to bankruptcy. I do not think that is a fair trade-off and I hope that all of us around the world, not just the Japanese, as citizens begin to use the internet and force our international agencies to do what is right, not for Tokyo Electric, but for the people of Japan.
Finally, Fairewinds Energy Education Corp. is an IRS 501 c 3 tax deductible corporation. I would like to thank the thousands of people who have contributed already to the success of these 50 videos that we have put up since Fukushima. And I would like to encourage you if you have not, to contribute before the end of the year.
Most importantly, I would like to thank the many, many volunteers, volunteer transcriptionists, volunteer translators, computer programmers, scientists and people who have sent raw data for us to analyze. It is your contributions, both financial and with your personal efforts, that have made this site a success in 2011.
Happy New Year