Perhaps like you, I’ll always remember where I was March 11, 2011 as the first tsunami’s came crashing in to the Japanese coast in live time. I was standing in my home office, aghast, while Denise Anne was on the phone with “Wild Bill” Bowling of the Radiation Rangers, talking about Runkle Canyon.
This massive wall of hellish black sludge surged obscenely across the land. I watched as a tractor trailer rig tried to outrun the sludge monster only to be caught, lifted up, turned around, get trapped in trees and then have an surging island of burning houses engulf it, and the poor soul within.
It broke my heart. And horrified me.
My newlywed wife and I then watched hell march across Japan on a live Internet stream. To witness the deaths of thousands from thousands of miles away seemed so wrong, so disrespectful somehow, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away.
Then it occurred to me – ‘what about their reactors?’
Shortly thereafter the third wave of horrors began. Multiple meltdowns. Residents near the plant being evacuated from ever larger distances. Produce contaminated. Families in Toyko told the radiation levels in tap water were too dangerous for their infant children – then that the levels had magically plummeted and everything was fine. And spewing radiation catching the jet stream across the Pacific and headed towards our shores.
This disaster will dwarf Chernobyl if it already hasn’t since it seems impossible to get the straight story from the Japanese or US governments.
On March 23, the Austrian Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics, which is advising the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported that releases of radioactive Cesium-137 from Fukushima now are 20-60% those of Chernobyl and that releases of Iodine-131 are at 20% of Chernobyl releases.
The Fukushima disaster was initially classified as a level 4 meltdown on an international scale of 1-7 with 7 being the worst. A few days later, it was upgraded to a 5, the same level as 1970’s Three Mile Island. Chernobyl was a 7.
Today, Greenpeace Germany released a statement that, according to an analysis of radiation releases by consultant Dr. Helmut Hirsch, Fukushima is now a Level 7 accident on the international scale.
Already the media focus has moved on satisfied with the ‘it can’t get here’ government line all the while it is getting here. This came after a brief flurry that saw EnviroReporter on KTLA Channel 5 News, Inside Edition and in a Los Angeles Times article, talking about the problems with radiation detection and sharing it with the public considering that this was the worst nuclear disaster in the history of the human race.
But you’d never know it by listening to officials in California,. The crisis has been portrayed as negligible and any emergency plans for it are being held close to the vest.
Mike Dayton, acting secretary at the California Emergency Management Agency, told the Times that said even in the event of a catastrophic failure at a Japanese nuclear plant, “There is not a reason to get nervous.”
“Worst-case scenario, there is no threat to public health,” Dayton told the newspaper, whose reporter didn’t follow-up with the questions that EnviroReporter.com would have asked:
“Are you kidding? You are saying that there is no threat to public health when you don’t even know if the Plutonium-239 fueled MOX Reactor #3 completely melts down along with Reactors 1, 2 and 4 which are in the throes of meltdown after exploding as a result of being hit by an earthquake and tsunami which destroyed the cooling systems? Are you clairvoyant that you can make such an outrageously irresponsible statement when millions of lives are on the line and the Japanese say that they suspect that a crack has split the MOX core?”
Not only has the government issued repeated assurances based on the ‘it’s just too far away’ premise, it now admits that its radiation detection system across the country is in woeful shape. No where is it worse than the West Coast where the meltdowns’ fallout impacts first.
Bloomberg News reported March 21 that 8 out of 18 radiation air monitors in California, Oregon and Washington were “undergoing quality review,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning they didn’t work.
The response of Ronald Fraass, director of the EPA’s National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory in Montgomery, Alabama was astonishing.
“What we are seeing is not a problem,” Fraass said today in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.
Fraass said this even though this country is downwind of the worst nuclear disaster in history, with multiple meltdowns, burning fuel rod pools, neutron beams over a mile long, reactors on fire, radiation spreading hundreds of kilometers from the crippled nuke power plant and the only way the unknown amounts of massive radiation release will not contaminate our shores is to contaminate the Pacific where it will enter the food chain and end up on our plates.
But that’s not the worst of it. Reactor # 3 is a MOX reactor powered by a uranium and Plutonium-239 fuel. Pu-239, with a half-life of 24,400 years, is widely thought to be one of the most poisonous substances on the planet.
Early today, Japanese officials disclosed that there has been a containment breach of the MOX with intense levels of radiation spreading through the reactor’s system towards the sea.
If this reactor fully melts down, and it appears to be heading in that direction with nary a thing the small contingent of brave workers can do about it, then this fuel could burn its way down through to the water table where a huge explosion would result.
A radioactive geyser could erupt from the earth shooting high into the sky. A plutonium and uranium fountain of death. Old Unfaithful.
There is so much deadly radioactive fuel, depending on the vagaries of the wind, the MOX pox could spread across northern Japan, threaten Tokyo, poison the Pacific and ride the jet stream to impact North America and Europe.
There are 32 MOX fuel assemblies in Reactor 3, according to New York Times reports. Each has about 400 pounds of a uranium/plutonium fuel mixture with a 7% concentration of plutonium. That comes to 900 pounds of plutonium in an uncontrolled state at the Japanese site where desperate crews are waging a pitched battle.
In total, Fukushima’s Reactor #3 holds 170 tons of radioactive fuel. The plutonium in the melted fuels is millions of times more poisonous than the uranium according to an expert who appeared on NHK television streaming last night.
Tonight in Japan, the prime minister prepared his country for the worst.
“We are trying to prevent a deterioration of the situation and we are still not in a position where we can be optimistic,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said through an interpreter.
“I would like to encourage the Japanese public to strengthen our unity and to work with our hearts as one to overcome this disaster.”
This week in the United States, Americans were told that it was impossible for the goo to get us. It didn’t matter if the detectors didn’t work, there was nothing to worry about even as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission just renewed the license of a Vermont nuclear reactor with the exact same design as those in Fukushima.
Old G.E.-designed reactors that were designed to store the spent radioactive fuel rods, which are far more contaminated than the rods reacting in the core, on top of the reactor instead of at a location farther away.
Unlike these Japanese reactors suffering meltdowns, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating station south of Los Angeles separates its spent fuel rods and has them ‘cooling’ outside the reactor complex.
I first reported on the problems at the San Onofre plant for the LA Weekly in 2001, two months after 9-11 in an article entitled “Radiating Fear – In dire need of a plan to protect nuclear power plants.”
Little has changed since that time except that the company that owns San Onofre, Southern California Edison, just volunteered that the nuclear reactor could withstand a huge 7.0 earthquake. That was little reassurance. Japan’s 9.0 earthquake was 100 times stronger. In other words, San Onofre claims to be able to withstand an earthquake only up to 1% of the power of the quake that destroyed Fukushima.
Now detectible amounts of Cesium-137 and Iodine-131 have been detected in Anaheim and Riverside but at miniscule levels. Trying to get data from the EPA has been hard for the general public because the agency’s website has scant understandable data with many radiation monitoring sites not having any results because they are ‘under review.’
The website frequently issues error messages and will not display its content and maps online in Firefox but will in Internet Explorer. In an online age in a disaster of this possible magnitude, it is inconceivable that the Environmental Protection Agency is utterly failing in its duty to inform Americans of the radiation readings in this country.
Americans have been left with little official information except for the previously noted proclamations that beg credulity. There has never been this much radiation bled uncontrollably into the environment and there will be much more to come even if the Japanese succeed in even what its prime minister hints is a lost cause.
Radioactive fallout has already impacted wide areas of our country according to the spotty EPA readings and the numerous readings sent in to Radiation Station, this reporter’s live-time stream of radiation readings in the western Los Angeles basin begun March 15.
The hunger for information has been overwhelming. Nearly 700,000 people have visited Radiation Station with hundreds keeping an eye on our Inspector Nuclear Radiation Monitor as it gathers radiation data from inside and outside our Santa Monica office. We also have scanned the water from recent storms for alpha and beta radiation contamination. Also competed were external inspections of different surfaces in multiple locations. Our quality control is helped by the experience I’ve had using the Inspector for the last decade.
So far, thankfully, we have detected nothing above normal, which is interesting considering places elsewhere in the state and country have seen radiation levels rise. But getting reliable information in California is as frustrating as trying to pick pennies out of a jar of molasses.
The stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles has nary a government radiation monitor, according to an article today in the Los Angeles Times:
“Six of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 12 California sensors — including the three closest to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo — are sending data with ‘anomalies’ to the agency’s laboratory in Montgomery, Ala., said Mike Bandrowski, manager of the EPA’s radiation program.”
Yet even with colossal failure on the part of the government to protect its citizens, government official issue forth utterances that seem downright bizarre and apathetic.
“I believe the utilities monitor the sensors,” David McIntyre, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told the Times. “They’re good about reporting things.”
That kind of slothful government-speak has been terrifying to hundreds of people who have visited EnviroReporter.com and the associated chat at Ustream. They come from all over Southern California, the nation, Europe and Japan.
But they’ve found a new nuclear family at the station, whether they liked it or not. They want to take action to save themselves and the country. They want to save the planet and they know, if the worst happens, it will be the greatest battle of their lives.
“It’s truly disturbing the way main stream media has completely buried the nuclear crisis in Japan,” says ‘Spaghette’ on the LA Weekly blog by Dennis Romero called The Informer which did a blog post about Radiation Station. “The work of Mr. Collins and Ms. Duffield (aka Mr. Manhands and Ms. Hands as they are affectionately known) has truly been a Godsend for me. It would be a nightmare if all I had to inform me were mainstream media and government outlets for information. I am so grateful, truly, thank you so much for your diligent work.”
I’m not sure if we deserve that but we are happy to provide a place where concerned individuals can connect with each other and share information.
We are safe so far. All readings are normal at Radiation Station.
But the Radiation Nation is restless, scared, compassionate, desperate and mad as hell.