The Doomsday Scenario: Is Fukushima About to Blow?

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Mike Whitney
CounterPunch

Conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are deteriorating and the doomsday scenario is beginning to unfold. On Sunday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) officials reported that the levels of radiation leaking into seawater at the Unit 2 reactor were 100,000 times above normal, and the airborne radiation measured 4-times higher than government limits. As a result, emergency workers were evacuated from the plant and rushed to safe location. The prospect of a full-core meltdown or an environmental catastrophe of incalculable magnitude now looms larger than ever. The crisis is getting worse.

If spent fuel rods catch fire from lack of coolant, the intense heat will lift radiation plumes high into the atmosphere that will drift around the world. That’s the nightmare scenario, clouds of radioactive material showering the planet with lethal toxins for months on end. And, according to the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics of Vienna, that deadly process has already begun. The group told New Scientist that:

“Japan’s damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl. (“New Scientist”, March 24 —thanks to Michael Collins “They said it wasn’t like Chernobyl and they were wrong”)

So, volatile radioactive elements are already being lofted into the jet stream and spread across continents. What’s different here is that the quantities are much larger than they were at Chernobyl, thus, the dangers are far greater. According to the same group of scientists “the Fukushima plant has around 1760 tonnes of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site” (while) “the Chernobyl reactor had only 180 tonnes.” The troubles at one nuclear facility now pose a direct threat to humans and other species everywhere. Is this what Obama meant when he called nuclear power, “Safe and green?”

This from CNN:

“Authorities in Japan raised the prospect Friday of a likely breach in the all-important containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a potentially ominous development in the race to prevent a large-scale release of radiation.”

And this from the New York Times:

“A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said….

“There is a definite, definite crack in the vessel — it’s up and down and it’s large,” he said. “The problem with cracks is they do not get smaller.” (Thanks to Washington’s Blog)

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