The China Syndrome Morphs into “The Japan Syndrome”
Never before in the modern era has humankind been confronted with a nuclear disaster the likes of Fukushima. Truly, Japan has become the location of the greatest nuclear catastrophe in history, one that has defied countless attempts to resolve it. Although it was once imagined to occur in China on the silver screen, Japan has experienced the actual “China Syndrome” — an apocalyptic nuclear meltdown(s). Once again, Japan is the site of an unparalleled atomic event whose aftermath has no end in sight.
Before the nuclear event even took place a vast area around Fukushima was rendered virtually uninhabitable by the 3/11 earthquake, seaquake and resulting tsunami. Here’s an accounting of the destruction to life and property, caused by the natural cataclysm, which has never been reported in the mainstream media (MSM).
“A total of 196,559 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Around 27,000 people were killed. More than 460,000 were made homeless and sought refuge in shelters. This included 150,000 in Miyagi Prefecture, 47,000 in Iwate Prefecture and 130,000 in Fukushima Prefecture. In the first three days after the disaster Japan’s Self Defense Forces (the Japanese military) rescued 66,000 people, many of them stranded on hilltops and rooftops and among debris. Because reaching them by land was so difficult many had to wait to be retrieved by helicopter, which could carry only a few people at a time. Thousands of others evacuated their homes due to the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.”
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March of 2011 not only devastated the northeast coastline of Honshu Island, it also triggered a series of nuclear incidents some of which went completely unreported. Those various incidents seemed to have cascaded within the same window of time in order to guarantee the gravity of the cataclysm that humanity must now face.
These events continue to reverberate with awesome consequence up to this very day, as they will into the foreseeable future. It does appear that the message they bear has not yet been heard, or understood, by the civilization which created this ‘nuclear drama’. However, as long as it goes unheeded, the parade of seemingly unsolvable problems will continue to present without relenting.
Fukushima is nothing like Chernobyl; it’s much worse!
We’ve all heard by now the many comparisons to the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. While that was an extremely serious nuclear accident, Fukushima is far more serious. Fukushima is not only exceedingly more difficult to manage in real time, it presents current and future remediation challenges that go far beyond Japan’s capacity to address in any meaningful way.
What makes Fukushima the most formidable of all nuclear catastrophes?
Just like the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Fukushima’s fate directly concerns the contamination of water as it continues to affect a major body of water. Not just any body of water, but the largest on Earth. The world has watched in horror as tons of radioactive water have been dumped off the Honshu coastline only to be conveyed wherever the Pacific decides to transport it via both superficial and deep ocean currents.
It is this interaction with water which makes this nuclear disaster so unique and problematic. Their only way to cool down the core and rods is with water. The water then has to be stored until the radioactivity can be properly addressed. Except that the volume of cooling water necessary is far exceeding TEPCO’s capacity to effectively deal with it.
Japan’s location in the Ring of Fire is the most seismically active on the planet.
Earthquakes have fractured the landscape of Japan and surrounding undersea topography for decades, perhaps even centuries. The obvious result of sustaining so many 5.0 plus earthquakes is that the geology has been fractured and fissured, cracked and creviced like no place on Earth. When two major tectonic plates collide ….
“The 2011 Tohoku earthquake struck offshore of Japan, along a subduction zone where two of Earth’s tectonic plates collide. In a subduction zone, one plate slides beneath another into the mantle, the hotter layer beneath the crust. The great plates stick and slip, causing earthquakes. East of Japan, the Pacific plate dives beneath the overriding Eurasian plate. The temblor completely released centuries of built up stress between the two tectonic plates, a recent study found.”
The real conundrum underlying this predicament is that there is no letup in the frequency or severity of earthquakes, both land-based and undersea, which continue to assault the four major islands of Japan. Therefore, the “fractures and fissures” will only get worse which will translate to myriad opportunities for the water table, ground water and other water supplies to become irreversibly contaminated with radioactivity.
6.9 Quake jolts southern Japan, felt in Tokyo | Reuters — September 3, 2013
In light of the fractured geology in and around Fukushima, the vectors of radioactive water dissemination are numerous and profoundly difficult to control. When groundwater is contaminated, it will undoubtedly contaminate all the land and other water that it comes into contact with as it makes its journey pulled forward and downward by topography and gravity.
The biggest unknown in this ongoing scenario is the degree of horizontal fissuring of the land which would provide earthen conduits for the water to move horizontally around the island of Honshu. Even the vertical fracturing can lead to openings and channels which ultimately convey the contaminated water to places far and away from Fukushima, and possibly closer to areas with higher population densities.
Just how much contaminated water are we taking about?
“400 tons of groundwater flow into the reactor buildings on a daily basis and mixes with the radioactive water. […] 300 tons of groundwater would still flow into the reactor buildings every day even after TEPCO starts pumping up the water through the wells.”
That’s a LOT of water. And the practical realities of dealing with such an enormous volume staggers the imagination. Which is precisely why TEPCO is completely ill-equipped to handle this and other extraordinary aspects of this disaster. Not only did management never conceive of (or plan for) such a systemic meltdown, TEPCO by its very corporate nature looks to minimize both costs and public relations debacles which might impact it profitability and public perception. Consequently, TEPCO has moved too slowly, and too cautiously on a number of demanding fronts.
The only way to fully comprehend the woefully lacking response to this global disaster is to understand the corporate culture of TEPCO. As well as to understand the extraordinarily dysfunctional relationship between the government of Japan and TEPCO. Herein lies the answers to many of the missteps, miscommunications, misunderstandings, and misinformation regarding this unfolding nuclear EMERGENCY.
“The nuclear industry and a compliant public have created a fire-breathing monster that cannot be forced back into its cave. Only one year after the accident, it was estimated that 30,000 workers had been exposed to “significant” radiation at the FNPP(24). Tepco is so desperate for workers they now have plans to require their 100,000 employees to work two to three times a year at the FNPP(25). This policy is being proposed just as it is learned that deteriorating conditions at the site are causing present workers to quit.(26)”
~ A World In Denial: Underestimating Japan’s Nuclear Disaster
(See reference below for excerpt citations)
Many parallels between the Fukushima meltdown(s) and the Gulf oil spill
The Japanese Government, too, bears great responsibility for the extremely incompetent and lacking response to this nuclear disaster and national catastrophe. They followed the same game plan that the US Government executed during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The MO was to distance itself from BP et al. and the Gulf PR disaster however possible, and wherever necessary, so as not to be tarred by the political tar balls produced by the spill.
Likewise, the Japanese Government has taken the same hands off approach, although often they have (mis)presented a hands on and fully engaged response. Unfortunately, the Japanese culture does not deal with failure very well. Especially failure which reveals so much systemic negligence and irresponsibility. After all, the entire enterprise which constructed 55 nuclear power plants throughout Japan, with 12 additional plants in various stages of development, should never have gotten so far without the proper risk assessments.
Even a casual audit of those nuclear energy facilities around Japan has revealed critical problems, any one of which could have been sufficiently serious to suspend further plant construction. In this particular regard the government clearly fell down on the job. Moreover, it can be said that the prevailing political climate in Japan fostered an environment of inaction, denial and apathy.
This is the context in which the Fukushima catastrophe has unfolded. And it doesn’t get better, it just seems to get worse. For instance, can you imagine building an ice wall to contain the radioactivity from spreading to the sea and throughout the greater environment?
While such a band-aid may function as a stopgap measure, it underscores just how far into uncharted waters Japan finds itself — without a compass … or a map … or even a helmsman. Because of the incessant leakage of contaminated water, any quick fix may be worth trying. However, when their implementation comes at the expense of addressing the much more urgent matters, perhaps it’s time to admit the inadequacies and request assistance.
There are many other examples that demonstrate how out of its depth Japan as a nation is in dealing with Fukushima. And, by the way, the same could be said for any other country faced with such a formidable set of complexities and complications, challenges and obstacles. This research group (CCRG) is fully aware that the gravity and scope of this nuclear catastrophe mandates nothing less than a Global Manhattan Project. We called for such an international initiative in our previous article as follows:
Where else, but the sea, can TEPCO dump the millions of metric tons of contaminated water?
Perhaps this question, more than any other, illustrates just how serious this situation really is!
Certainly the CCRG does not condone the massive dumping of this water into the Pacific. However, it must be pointed out that there is no other viable solution at this moment. After two and a half years, the greatest challenges that Japan faces with these reactors are not even close to being met.
There ought to be no minimization of the effects of the radionuclides dispersed into the air in the wake of the explosion at the Daiichi plant. The cesium-137 that was released from March 11 has a half life of just over 30 years. This means that it will have long term and profound effects on living organisms depending on their level of exposure. The duration of that exposure will be a major determining factor when assessing the adverse effects on human life.
“Its half-life of about 30 years is long enough that objects and regions contaminated by cesium-137 remain dangerous to humans for a generation or more, but it is short enough to ensure that even relatively small quantities of cesium-137 release dangerous doses of radiation (its specific radioactivity is 3.2 × 1012 Bq/g).”
This video portrays a modeling of the potential aerial dispersion of cesium-137 around the globe right after the accidents occurred:
Any questions about the cesium-137 being a dangerous form of radioactive compound are answered at the following link (Cesium: Radiation Protection from the EPA ). It is one of the most common heavy fission products and therefore may prove to be the source of further dissemination of radionuclides from the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Consequently, all visitors to Japan are advised to be aware of the past releases, present risks and future eventualities associated with cesium-137 dispersal both in the air and on the islands.
From Hiroshima to Fukushima
From a psycho-historical perspective the question must be asked why Japan permitted such a state of affairs to develop. Especially in light of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it would appear that Japan would be the last place for such a risky nuclear power experiment.
The four main islands of Japan are quite obviously the last place for such a dangerous and unstable technology, so why did they do it? Or, rather why did the USA via General Electric sell such inherently flawed nuclear reactors to Japan in the first place? Not that those design flaws would have made any difference after the 9.0 earthquake and 45 foot high tsunami.
The real issue is that there must have been either extraordinary inducements or exceptional coercion utilized in the process of foisting nuclear energy upon a nation that already suffered so greatly from two atomic bombs. The following essay further explains some of the unfortunate history which led up to and set up this ongoing tragedy.
“Quite purposefully, no one ever stopped to consider the obvious and far-reaching ramifications of constructing 55 nuclear reactors on the most seismically active piece of property on planet Earth! And, that doesn’t count another 12 reactors in various stages of planning or development.”
— An Open Letter to the People of Japan
Of course, where the earthquake and subsequent tsunami were responsible for the destruction of the Honshu coastline, the nuclear meltdown(s) continue to wreak havoc in ways mostly unseen and unknown. Nevertheless, this inscrutable nuclear event has forever altered the landscape and seascape because of the relentless contamination of both seawater and groundwater.
Therefore, it is the conveyance of this water which will determine the ultimate consequences of the Fukushima calamity. Where this water ends up and how nature processes the contamination are the big questions. It would seem that the Pacific Ocean is large enough to permit the ‘sequestration’ and/or ‘remediation’ of large concentrations of radioactivity. However, wherever there is life, the contaminated water will forever change (read mutate) those living organisms at the most basic levels of their physical existence.
Just how serious is Fukushima … really?
Here are three recent assessments of one of the most pressing and consequential issues facing TEPCO and the Japanese government, and facing the people of Japan and the world community of nations.
Yale Professor: Fukushima Unit 4 pool in perilous condition — “All of humanity will be threatened for thousands of years” if not able to be kept cool — Danger of collapse during storm or while attempting removal of fuel rods
The following quote has been taken from the previous article entitled “Fukushima Forever”. It sums up exactly the immediate dangers and risks associated with just one aspect of this disaster:
“Much more serious is the danger that the spent fuel rod pool at the top of the nuclear plant number four will collapse in a storm or an earthquake, or in a failed attempt to carefully remove each of the 1,535 rods and safely transport them to the common storage pool 50 meters away. Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.”
The same article makes mention of the distinct possibility that Tokyo could be evacuated if things were to go wrong with the spent fuel pool on top of #4. That such a possibility even exists indicates that the global community has not taken nuclear crisis seriously.
If they were to consider the far-reaching ramifications of such an outcome, as described in the following article, perhaps the collective will and wherewithal would quickly materialize to meet the challenges at hand.
“Tokyo has the largest “greater metro” population in the world at about 34.3 million. Tokyo has the largest GDP of all major cities in the world – larger than both New York City and London. Tokyo is the economic/financial capital of the world’s 3rd largest national economy, as well as the primary economic engine of East Asia.”
How many times have we asked:
“Does anyone in their right mind believe that nuclear power plants can ever be designed, engineered or constructed to withstand 9.0 earthquakes followed by 15 meter high tsunamis? Sorry if we offend, but such a display of so deadly a combination of ignorance and arrogance must represent the very height of hubris. Particularly in view of the inevitable consequences which have manifested at Fukushima, how is it that so few saw this pre-ordained and disastrous outcome, except by willful blindness?”
The preceding question has yet to be answered by the nuclear power generation industry. Fukushima has no doubt presented itself with so much urgency and formidability in order that the entire planetary civilization will come to grips with this fatally flawed energy paradigm. The questions it poses concern existential necessities. That’s why there is no wiggle room. It just won’t get better, and only seems to get worse, and more daunting.
Just as the BP Gulf oil spill revealed so much destruction to the global habitat occuring undersea 24/4, Fukushima has unveiled so much of what goes on round-the-clock within the realm of nuclear energy. The ‘accident’, meltdown(s), and subsequent litany of mini-disasters have have all revealed one critical factoid.
“There is now general agreement that the state of the art of nuclear power generation is such that it was deeply flawed and fundamentally dangerous from the very beginning.”
We cannot over-emphasize how dire Fukushima has become.
There is no indication that the international community views this disaster as a global problem.
Clearly, the whole situation has become such a radioactive political football, that everyone is afraid to touch it, much less embrace it.
Japan does not have the capacity to address it. They know, and the USA knows it.
So does the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the entire Nuclear Power Industry.
Of course, the United Nations and World Health Organization are well aware.
Therefore, it appears that the people of the world must make their voices heard. Only a mass movement will compel “the powers that be” to seize the day, while there is still one to seize.
The only other explanation for the obvious lack of initiative on the part of the global power structure rests with The Iron Mountain Report.
If nothing else, this essay (and many others like it on the internet) provides ample evidence for the world community to re-visit the nuclear energy paradigm.
Particularly in light of the irrefutable acceleration of global technospheric breakdown is the nuclear power generation industry obligated to permanently close down many substandard plants around the globe.
Point of fact: The normal stresses, and 24/7 wear and tear, that atomic energy produces in a nuclear reactor setting have substantially shortened the predicted lifetime of the physical plants.
When you overlay many other co-factors such as inferior building materials and equipment parts, and unreliable process and procedures, as well as other unknown variables like global climate change, it is easy (very) to understand how a Perfect Storm can be created at any moment. Being cognizant of the fact that there is infinitely much less room for error in the nuke business, lest the worldwide environment sustain irreparable damage for generations to come, there is only one acceptable response.
It is incumbent upon those who are in positions of authority to act … and act now before another coastline becomes the site of another “Fukushima”. Or, another land mass falls victim to another “Chernobyl”.
We sincerely hope that we have made ourselves perfectly clear in this regard. After all, the very future of the planet appears to lie in the balance.
• A World In Denial: Underestimating Japan’s Nuclear Disaster by Richard Wilcox, PhD
• The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster And The Radioactive Effects On Human Health by Richard Wilcox, PhD
• Physicians’ Group Predicts 100,000+ Fukushima Cancer Incidences/Deaths by Richard Wilcox, PhD
• The Crisis at Fukushima’s Unit 4 Demands a Global Take-Over by Harvey Wasserman
• Fukushima’s Radioactive Plume Could Reach U.S. Waters By 2014 by By Jeremy Hsu