“We’re all doomed, you know. The whole, silly, drunken, pathetic lot of us. Doomed by the air we’re about to “breathe”.” – On The Beach
Come November – a little over a month from now – TEPCO will try, all by itself, to remove the spent fuel rods from the Fukushima number 4 reactor.
Richard Tanter, senior research associate at the Nautilus Institute and Professor of International Relations at the University of Melbourne
TANTER: Well the first one and most immediate one is the news that the reactor unit 4, the one which had a very large amount of stored fuel in its fuel storage pool, that that is sinking, according to former prime Minister Kan Naoto that has sunk some 31 inches in places and it’s not uneven. And this is really not surprising given what’s happened in terms of pumping of water, the aftermath of the earthquake and the tsunami, but the continuing infusions of water into the groundwater area. This is an immediate problem and if it is not resolved there is an extraordinary possibility we really could be back at March 2011 again because of the possibility of a fission accident in that spent fuel pond in unit no. 4. Beyond that the core question is what on earth are they going to do with this huge amount of water which has been contaminated, and that problem has been there since day one. And it’s worth just pointing out that while the Economy Minister, Mr Motegi in Prime Minister Abe’s administration has now turned on TEPCO, which indicates that as with previous prime minister Kan Naoto, the government has lost trust in TEPCO, he said that TEPCO has been playing ‘Whack-a-mole’ and now it’s time for the government to take some comprehensive action.
But sit down and take a deep breath, because from November, TEPCO plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 fuel pool. There was no fuel within this reactor per se, so the ambient level of radiation is lower than the neighbouring three reactors. So in that respect, this is the easiest of the cluster. Even so, there are 1,533 used fuel rod assemblies tightly packed together in the spent-fuel pool above the reactor.50 They weigh a total of 400 tons, and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.51 The spent-fuel pool stands 18 metres above ground, was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, and is in a deteriorating condition. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. One might add there is a significant terrorist threat, considering the damage that could be done with a light plane or some similar attack. Removing the spent fuel from No 4 and the other pools, bundles that among other fission products contain deadly plutonium,52 is clearly an urgent task but must be done properly.
So we have a situation that is nearly impossible. And from Washington’s Blog.
Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.
Former U.N. adviser Akio Matsumura calls removing the radioactive materials from the Fukushima fuel pools “an issue of human survival”.
So the stakes in decommissioning the fuel pools are high, indeed.
Tepco has an abysmal track record:
- Engineers warned Tepco and the Japanese government many years before the accident that the reactors were seismically unsafe … and that an earthquake could wipe them out
- The Fukushima reactors were fatally damaged before the tsunami hit … the earthquake took them out even before the tidal wave hit
- An official Japanese government investigation concluded that the Fukushima accident was a “man-made” disaster, caused by “collusion” between government and Tepco and bad reactor design
- Tepco knew right after the 2011 accident that 3 nuclear reactors had lost containment, that the nuclear fuel had “gone missing”, and that there was in fact no real containment at all. Tepco has desperately been trying to cover this up for 2 and a half years … instead pretending that the reactors were in “cold shutdown”
- Tepco just admitted that it’s known for 2 years that massive amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the groundwater and Pacific Ocean
- Tepco – with no financial incentive to actually fix things – has only been pretending to clean it up. And see this
- Tepco’s recent attempts to solidify the ground under the reactors using chemicals has backfired horribly. And NBC News notes: “[Tepco] is considering freezing the ground around the plant. Essentially building a mile-long ice wall underground, something that’s never been tried before to keep the water out. One scientist I spoke to dismissed this idea as grasping at straws, just more evidence that the power company failed to anticipate this problem … and now cannot solve it.”
Letting Tepco remove the fuel rods is like letting a convicted murderer perform delicate brain surgery on a VIP.
Top scientists and government officials say that Tepco should be removed from all efforts to stabilize Fukushima. An international team of the smartest engineers and scientists should handle this difficult “surgery”.
The stakes are high …
All of this is the very epitome of capitalistic thought and behavior. To protect the capitalists even if it puts the rest of humanity at risk of extermination. And that the power companies and government here would behave no differently.