Worst nuclear reactor disaster ever spirals out of control yet Japan will host Olympics this summer in Fukushima as billionaire Bill Gates pushes nuclear energy based on doomed design
News & Analysis
Today ten years ago the worst nuclear reactor catastrophe exploded in Japan when a massive earthquake sent a tsunami slamming into a reactor complex at Fukushima Daiichi.
Three reactors next to the Pacific blew up and blasted thousands of tons of highly radioactive debris, gas and goo into the ocean, air and over a wide swath of Japan. The never-ending triple meltdowns have continued to spew radiation with millions of tons even more ionizing poisons being set to be dumped into the Pacific later this year.
On March 11, 2011, EnviroReporter.com immediately launched its award-winning multi-pronged Fukushima investigation that found evidence of radioactive contamination across the United States in air, water, food, drink and marijuana. This included live radiation monitoring accessed by over a million viewers.
More than a dozen radiation stations across the country monitoring online live, thousands of radiation tests on consumables, and videotaped radiation detecting have been crucial parts of this ongoing investigation.
The disaster continues to this day with no end in sight. The Japanese government’s purported plan is to wait until after their rump 2021 Olympics are over this summer to then dump over 1,000 massive containers of highly radioactive water generated over the last decade from cooling the triple meltdowns to gush into the Pacific Ocean.
Each tank is filled with around 1.25 million gallons of the hottest goo on Earth. Each day produces more than 400 tons of newly radioactive water needed to keep the demolished reactors from catching on fire and destroying Japan. The Japanese want to dump it all into the Pacific outraging fishermen, environmentalists and groups like Greenpeace Japan which has produced a comprehensive new report on Fukushima.
“Our original findings showed that decontamination efforts have been limited and that 85% of the Special Decontamination Area has undergone no decontamination,” the report reads. “Successive governments during the last ten years, and largely under prime minister Shinzo Abe, have attempted to perpetrate a myth about the nuclear disaster. They have sought to deceive the Japanese people by misrepresenting the effectiveness of the decontamination program and ignoring radiological risks.”
The Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have played a decade’s long game of claiming progress where there’s been none to be had. The goo they plan to dump in the Pacific is fraught with the foulest fission products resultant from the meltdowns: strontium-90, cesium-134, cesium-137 and tritium.
Japanese political and business leaders are so caught up in their web of self-deception that they have convinced themselves of the safety of the Fukushima prefecture where the nuclear plant is located. They plan to hold the Olympics Baseball/Softball competition in a 30,000-capacity stadium near the meltdown site where 19,000 people were evacuated in 2011 because of the radiation, never to return to now-deserted ghost towns. But it’s okay for baseball in 2021.
The lessons of ten years of Fukushima have been lost on most people, especially Microsoft founder and third most wealthy person in the world, Bill Gates. Gates has been on a tear promoting a “new” generation of nuclear reactors that are smaller and easier to build to help fight global warming.
Gates told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in February that new nuclear reactors would “absolutely” become politically viable because, as he put it according the the network’s show reporting, ‘it’s the safest energy system available, and would help combat climate change since it has low greenhouse gas emissions. It just has a bad rap.’
“Nuclear has actually been safer than any other source of [power] generation,” Gates said. “You know, coal plants, coal particulate, natural gas pipelines blowing up. The deaths per unit of power on these other approaches are — are far higher.”
Notwithstanding the fact that the unsolvable problem of how to somehow store the millions of tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste we already have generated in the United States and worldwide and are generating, Gates offered no solutions to this intractable and deadly problem. Instead, Gates offered a tantalizing glimpse of a very unrealistic nuclear-powered panacea.
“There’s a new generation [of nuclear power] that solves the economics, which has been the big, big problem,” Gates said referring to the fact that the power plants are very expensive to build, especially with those pesky containment domes that attempt to protect the public. “At the same time, it revolutionizes the safety.”
Gates has somehow sold himself, and now some of the world as well, that using liquid sodium instead of water to cool down a reactor at lower pressure would somehow reduce the chance of a meltdown. Plus, that these liquid sodium reactors could be built small and cheaply. And everywhere.
EnviroReporter.com’s Rocketdyne Investigation clearly has not been on the billionaire’s must-read list. Because if it had been, he’d know that liquid sodium reactors are just a, well, stupid idea and Bill Gates is anything but. But, nevertheless and no matter the amount of money, you can’t fix stupid.
Gates has said that he while he’s good at theoretical ideas, chemistry is not his strong suit. Whether this humility is manufactured or not, he’s certainly telling the truth because his chemical mastery of liquid sodium reactors seems wanting.
Liquid sodium erupts into flame upon contact with air and explodes when it touches water making it extremely dangerous to deal with, especially if it used to cool a nuclear reactor. That “revolutionizes” the danger using this outdated technology and is anything but the panacea Gates gushes over. Liquid sodium is a nuclear nightmare waiting to happen. In fact, it already has.
Gates’ false claim that this is a “new generation” of nuclear power makes one wonder just how he could have missed the 1959 partial meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) at Rocketdyne’s Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Southern California. The SRE partial meltdown released hundreds of times more radiation into the environment than the Three Mile Island partial meltdown did in 1979.
Indeed, EnviroReporter.com’s first piece about the SRE was this reporter’s Los Angeles magazine June 1998 cover story Hot Zone. If that piece didn’t drive home the dangers of liquid sodium reactors, surely 2009’s 50 Years After America’s Worst Nuclear Meltdown, co-written with Joan Trossman Bien, should have.
“Unlike most conventional reactors that circulate water to be heated by the fuel rods in the core in order to turn steam turbines, the SRE used sodium because it could operate under lower pressure,” the 2009 article read. “Pure sodium — not to be confused with table salt, or sodium chloride — was a risky metal to use since it catches fire when exposed to air and explodes when mixed with water.”
The danger of future mini-Fukushima disasters happening thanks to Gates backing this dangerous and outdated nuclear technology isn’t just some pipedream of a poorly-read billionaire. It was the stated campaign policy of now-President Joe Biden.
Biden’s clean energy plan includes “advanced nuclear reactors, that are smaller, safer, and more efficient at half the construction cost of today’s reactors.”
The twin endorsements of an old dangerous nuclear reactor technology by Bill Gates and Joe Biden make a mockery of clean energy plans that attempt the arrest the planet’s plunge into uncontrolled overheating.
The twin catastrophes of the 1959 SRE liquid sodium meltdown and the ongoing 2011 Fukushima meltdowns are ample evidence of the lethality of nuclear power, in any form.
The idea is stupid even if the people behind it aren’t. And you can’t fix stupid.