NEWS, ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
Japan courts a potential country-killing catastrophe as it literally puts the lid on any chance of saving a nuclear reactor’s spent fuel pool before further disaster strikes.
In the process, the situation has gravely worsened and is far more likely to precipitate the very calamity the Japanese government and Fukushima-Daiichi owners purport to be trying to stop – an uncontrollable and never-ending nuclear fire which could take over a hundred years to burn through over 3 million pounds of hot goo.
But not just any nuclear fire, an unquenchable fission-fed fire water can’t cure. It would release so much gamma radiation that Fukushima would have to be abandoned – those flimsy white suits seen in photos of Fukushima workers provide minimal protection only against alpha and beta radiation.
Abandoned, the entire site’s spent fuel pools would eventually dry up and ignite with an uncontrollable nuclear conflagration that would burn for hundreds of years. Just Unit 4’s spent fuel pool alone would release more than 85 times the amount of cesium-137 let loose by the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.
The possibility of a total failure of Unit 4, which would take the pool with it, was hugely increased recently according to a June 15 press release by Fukushima-Daiichi owner Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Photos in it show a so-called “Protection Platform Installation on Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool” being lifted off the ground and lowered into place over the pool.
The photos also show that no new shoring to the destroyed reactor building had been built, indicating that the weakened structure now had to support 60 more tons. The heavy 36-foot by 45-foot lid also takes away the only way to extricate the spent fuel rods from the pool – from the top.
TEPCO claimed that the lid was “to prevent rubble from falling into the pool” yet photos released by the company show nothing above the pool now that could fall into it – it had already been carefully removed without any apparent chunks of Unit 4 blown apart superstructure falling into it.
Now, according to TEPCO, the spent fuel pool needed a 60-ton lid to keep out what wasn’t there in the first place because it had already been taken away without wrecking the rods.
Indeed, the reason TEPCO’s brave but most likely doomed workers could lower the plate down on top of the spent fuel pool in the first place was because nothing was over it.
If TEPCO felt issuing misleading information about the weighty lid was its only option, the actual reasons for covering the spent fuel pool could be that they already know that it is beyond salvage and better to have it covered than open for any satellite to peer into.
Like most of TEPCO’s inept and hazardous handling of this disaster, even a 60-ton slab of steel may not cover-up the truth of the spent fuel pond for very long; the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl meltdown blew a much heavier 1,000-ton concrete lid off of that reactor.
The Japanese government has signed off on Hell’s hot plate either oblivious to the potential consequences or inured to them. Motive can be gleaned, however, when looking at a pattern. Apathy or recklessness do not account for the nation-wide deliberate burning of millions of tons of irradiated rubble, which likely impacts millions of Japanese.
That inexplicable process, which has been demonstrated against in Japan by people angry at getting exposed to additional radiation, volatilizes and mobilizes Fukushima fallout trapped in all manner of material. These radioactive-infused gases travel into the atmosphere impacting Japan and beyond.
Even the incineration of millions of tons of Fukushima debris, debris that would be better left in place as the land is unusable for now anyway, does not present the apocalyptic scenario spelled out if Unit 4’s spent fuel pool fails.
The American and Canadian governments’ response is no response at all. The occasional reply to concerned citizens (who have shared them with EnviroReporter.com) indicates an official response usually long on dismissive rhetoric and short on facts.
All the while the Pacific Ocean is being poisoned with 1,000 tons of highly irradiated water dumping into it from the melted down reactors in a desperate bid to keep them from erupting into their own uncontrollable infernos.
On June 17, an earthquake measuring 6.4 hit off the coast of the prefecture next to Fukushima. All the while a storm with 93 mph winds bore down on the coastal nuclear complex.
Numerous earthquakes have rattled Fukushima since “3/11” including a magnitude 6.8 quake in Fukushima last August. There were reports of cracks in the ground with steam venting from the fractured earth leading to speculation that the nuclear fuel from the reactors was in the groundwater, one of the worst “melt-out” scenarios.
Fear that Unit 4’s heavy spent fuel pool might collapse causing untold misery is based on the inventory of what’s in that pool, which TEPCO has braced from beneath where it spotted a leak in the containment vessel.
There is a reason for this – Unit 4’s spent fuel pond contains enough uranium and plutonium-based fuel rods, which are far more radioactive than fuel assemblies in use in reactor cores, to destroy most if not all of Japan if the rickety pool should collapse to the ground or leak from losing its cooling water.
Such a scenario could cause the 460 tons of irradiated fuel to explode in fire and fission, an inferno that cannot be extinguished by all the water in the world, an inferno that would lead to the mandatory evacuation of the Fukushima-Daiichi site which would then leave an even larger common spent fuel pool untended which would in turn erupt into an inferno of goo that could change civilization as we know it.
The destroyed Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactor Unit 4 didn’t fully melt down like Units 1, 2 and 3 did during the March 11, 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Unit 4 exploded four days later leaving its nuclear reactor spent fuel pool hanging suspended 100 feet in air. Then the building started to lean under the weight of the pool, weakened by its blown out walls.
Instead of rushing to brace this structure, however, the Japanese government has slowly removed the superstructure above and around three quarters of the spent fuel pond. Other than cosmetic changes to the site, such as flimsy coverings for the melted reactors, Japanese officials have proven inept at controlling the calamity and have excelled only at misleading the Japanese people and the rest of the world about how precarious and out of control the debacle is.
The government and TEPCO have not only failed to control this worsening disaster, which both claimed was in “cold shutdown” last December, they have embarked on a series of actions that threaten to bring down the pool even faster than if nothing were done at all.
For over a year, citizens and anti-nuclear activists have repeatedly called for this incredibly unstable structure to be stabilized lest the pool crash to the ground in another earthquake, tsunami or typhoon.
Dale Ramicone, a Glendale resident who operates an online streaming Radiation Station, has advocated reinforcement of Unit 4 with a steel super structure or even hundreds of thousands of sandbags — a convenient option since the super-irradiated site sits on a beach — to brace up the wrecked structure against falling over in an inevitable earthquake.
“I think it is hanging by a thread,” Ramicone says. “Adding more weight to it without strengthening the building’s support structure seems to be a big gamble. Any additional earthquake shocks or even a typhoon might be the the final blow that unleashes a radioactive firestorm.”
The steel lid does none of this and weakens the structure especially in a significant earthquake as it sways back and forth high in the building right over the spent fuel pond, protecting it from nothing except rain when those hot rods need all the water they can get. All the while, the unreinforced and cracked skeleton of the building now has this immense weight it wasn’t designed to support even if it weren’t blown to smithereens.
Japan’s handling of this disaster and its willful and wanton disregard for the well-being of its citizens may destroy the country. Much of it relies on the vagaries of which fault cuts loose with the shaker that brings down the burning pool and which way the wind blows when the fountain of fissioning goo catches fire never to go out.