ACTION ALERT: Petition to Senators to Investigate Danger from the Fukushima Nuclear Reactors
February 7, 2014
Carol Wolman / Change.org & Robert Alvarez / Institute for Policy Studies
Petition: "We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the radiation danger from the ongoing disaster at the Japanese nuclear complex at Fukushima-Daiichi. We are asking you to conduct a thorough investigation of the continuing damage to West Coast states, and the potential danger of another catastrophe.... This is an international problem. Many say it is THE most dangerous situation on the planet at this time."
ACTION ALERT: Petition to Senators to Investigate the Ongoing Danger from the Fukushima Nuclear Reactors
Petitioning Barbara Boxer et al.
Carol Wolman / Change.org
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D- CA)
Senator Ron Wyden (D- OR)
Senator Jeff Merkley (D- OR)
Senator Maria Cantwell (D - WA)
Senator Patty Murray (D- WA)
Senator Mark Begich (D- AK)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R- AK)
Senator Mazie Hirono (D- HI)
Senator Brian Schatz (D- HI)
US Senate switchboard:
Dear West Coast Senators:
We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the radiation danger from the ongoing disaster at the Japanese nuclear complex at Fukushima-Daiichi. We are asking you to conduct a thorough investigation of the continuing damage to West Coast states, and the potential danger of another catastrophe.
This would include a detailed inspection of the facility by a team of experts who are independent of the nuclear industry, as well as ongoing monitoring of West Coast and Hawaii water, air and food for radiation. We are especially concerned about making sure the site is safe in case of another huge earthquake, which is not unlikely.
Another big concern is pollution of the Pacific Ocean from ongoing discharge of radioactive water from the plant. Already, radioactive fish are migrating to the West Coast. Mammals at the top of the oceanic food chain are exhibiting strange symptoms, such as the epidemic of sea lion strandings in California.
We appreciate Senator Wyden's visit to the site in April 2012, and his subsequent letter of concern to appropriate officials. Evidently there has been no followup. The danger is being ignored. Your investigation would bring much needed attention.
Although the initial meltdown of three reactors, from the earthquake/tsunami of March 11, 2011, occurred over 2 years ago, the complex is still highly unstable, and leaking radiation constantly into the air and water. The Pacific Ocean is more and more contaminated. West Coast marine mammals are dying by the thousands, and West Coast babies are sick.
The FDA is not testing food for radiation, although many fish are contaminated, and there have been reports of milk, mushrooms, seaweed being radioactive. Nor is the air along the coast being checked by official agencies.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs the facility, has admitted that the disaster was caused by negligence on their part, yet they continue to be in charge of the containment/cleanup process. There are serious mishaps almost daily: pipes break, rats chew through wires and cause power outages, pumps break, containment tanks leak radioactive water into the environment, huge beams fall into fuel pools, etc.
So far, they have been handled, but if any of these problems gets out of control, there will be another nuclear explosion, the facility will have to be abandoned altogether, and the reactor cores and spent fuel pools will emit so much radiation that the West Coast might have to be evacuated. Another 8.0-9.0 earthquake could have the same result, and there are many earthquakes in the region of magnitude 6.0 -7.0.
Meanwhile, TEPCO is secretive, severely limiting access to the complex by journalists and by any experts who are not beholden to the nuclear industry. TEPCO has been accused of doctoring photos and videos to hide cracks in the aging concrete buildings and containment tanks. The workers are overexposed to radiation, underpaid, and must be rotated out after a few months, to be replaced by others with little experience of the facility.
The Japanese government has been accused of lying about the radiation in the area and health problems, and seems more concerned with declaring “normalcy” and safeguarding the nuclear industry than with safeguarding the health and safety of the people.
The financial drain on TEPCO and the Japanese is huge. They are responding to emergencies, dealing with health problems, coping with radioactive fisheries and produce, compensating victims, and working on the daunting task of dismantling the spent fuel pools, which are the most vulnerable to radioactive fire and explosions.
This is an international problem. Many say it is THE most dangerous situation on the planet at this time. It especially affects the residents of West Coast states. Your investigation is urgently needed, to shed light, bring attention, and help find technical and financial solutions.
Investigate the Ongoing Danger from the
Damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactors
The spent fuel pools at Fukushima are a bomb waiting to go off. Each pool contains irradiated fuel from several years of operation, making for an extremely large radioactive inventory without a strong containment structure that encloses the reactor cores;
Several pools are now completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions; they are about 100 feet above ground and could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake;
The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding -- resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds of miles.
Fukushima is in an active earthquake zone. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the ongoing seismic activity around NE Japan in which 13 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 - 5.7 have occurred off the NE coast of Honshu last week in the 4 days between 4/14 and 4/17. This has been the norm since the first quake and tsunami hit the site on March 11th of last year. Larger quakes are expected closer to the power plant.
California is downwind from Japan. Radiation from the earthquake hit is increasing. http://www.infowars.com/california-slammed-with-fukushima-radiation/
A Chernobyl-type explosion from the spent fuel pools could force coastal California to evacuate for decades.
Tepco and the Japanese government lack the staggering resources- up to $250 billion- to clean up Fukushima before another disaster happens. Tepco's timeline is way too slow- 10 years to contain the spent fuel ponds.
We urge the California Senators to join Oregon Senator Wyden in touring Fukushima, and then investigate the risks, with an eye to mobilizing US and international support for the cleanup.
Why Fukushima Is A
Greater Disaster Than Chernobyl
Robert Alvarez / Institute for Policy Studies
The radioactive inventory of all the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools at Fukushima is far greater and even more problematic than the molten cores.
(April 24, 2012) -- In the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear power disaster, the news media is just beginning to grasp that the dangers to Japan and the rest of the world posed by the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site are far from over. After repeated warnings by former senior Japanese officials, nuclear experts, and now a U.S. Senator, it is sinking in that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amidst the reactor ruins may have far greater potential offsite consequences than the molten cores.Fukushima's devastation two weeks after the tsunami.
After visiting the site recently, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to Japan's ambassador to the U.S. stating that, "loss of containment in any of these pools could result in an even greater release than the initial accident."
This is why:
* Each pool contains irradiated fuel from several years of operation, making for an extremely large radioactive inventory without a strong containment structure that encloses the reactor cores;
* Several pools are now completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions; they are about 100 feet above ground and could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake;
* The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding -- resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds of miles.
Irradiated nuclear fuel, also called "spent fuel," is extraordinarily radioactive. In a matter of seconds, an unprotected human one foot away from a single freshly removed spent fuel assembly would receive a lethal dose of radiation within seconds. As one of the most dangerous materials in the world, spent reactor fuel poses significant long-term risks, requiring isolation in a geological disposal site that can protect the human environment for tens of thousands of years.
It's almost 26 years since the Chernobyl reactor exploded and caught fire releasing enormous amounts of radioactive debris. The Chernobyl accident revealed the folly of not having an extra barrier of thick concrete and steel surrounding the reactor core that is required for modern plants in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident revealed the folly of storing huge amounts of highly radioactive spent fuel in vulnerable pools, high above the ground.
What both accidents have in common is widespread environmental contamination from cesium-137. With a half-life of 30, years, Cs-137 gives off penetrating radiation, as it decays. Once in the environment, it mimics potassium as it accumulates in biota and the human food chain for many decades. When it enters the human body, about 75 percent lodges in muscle tissue, with perhaps the most important muscle being the heart. Studies of chronic exposure to Cs-137 among the people living near Chernobyl show an alarming rate of heart problems, particularly among children.
As more information is made available, we now know that the Fukushima Dai-Ichi site is storing 10,833 spent fuel assemblies (SNF) containing roughly 327 million curies of long-lived radioactivity About 132 million curies is cesium-137 or nearly 85 times the amount estimated to have been released at Chernobyl.
The overall problem we face is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Dai-Ichi site is in vulnerable pools in a high risk/consequence earthquake zone. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the ongoing seismic activity around NE Japan in which 13 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 - 5.7 have occurred off the NE coast of Honshu last week in the 4 days between 4/14 and 4/17. This has been the norm since the first quake and tsunami hit the site on March 11th of last year. Larger quakes are expected closer to the power plant.
Earlier this month, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) revealed plans to remove 2,274 spent fuel assemblies from the damaged reactors that will probably take at least a decade to accomplish. The first priority will be removal of the contents in Pool No. 4. This pool is structurally damaged and contains about 10 times more cesium-137 than released at Chernobyl.
Removal of SNF from the No. 4 reactor is optimistically expected to begin at the end of 2013. A significant amount of construction to remove, debris and reinforce the structurally-damaged reactor buildings, especially the fuel-handling areas, will be required.
Also, it is not safe to keep 1,882 spent fuel assemblies containing ~57 million curies of long-lived radioactivity, including nearly 15 times more cs-137 than released at Chernobyl in the The stark reality, if TEPCO's plan is realized, is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Da-Ichi containing some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain indefinitely in vulnerable pools. elevated pools at reactors 5, 6, and 7, which did not experience melt-downs and explosions.
The main reason why there is so much spent fuel at the Da-Ichi site, is that it was supposed to be sent to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which has experienced 18 lengthy delays throughout its construction history. Plutonium and uranium was to be extracted from the spent fuel there, with the plutonium to be used as fuel at the Monju fast reactor.
After several decades and billions of dollars, the United States effectively abandoned the "closed" nuclear fuel cycle 30 years ago for cost and nuclear non-proliferation reasons. Over the past 60 years, the history of fast reactors using plutonium is littered with failures the most recent being the Monju project in Japan. Monju was cancelled in November of last year, dealing a fatal blow to the dream of a "closed" nuclear fuel cycle in Japan.
The stark reality, if TEPCO's plan is realized, is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Da-Ichi containing some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain indefinitely in vulnerable pools. TEPCO wants to store the spent fuel from the damaged reactors in the common pool, and only to resort to dry, cask storage when the common pool's capacity is exceeded.
At this time, the common pool is at 80 percent storage capacity and will require removal of SNF to make room. TEPCO's plan is to minimize dry cask storage as much as possible and to rely indefinitely on vulnerable pool storage. Senator Wyden finds that TEPCO's plan for remediation carries extraordinary and continuing risk. He sensibly recommends that retrieval of spent fuel in existing on-site spent fuel pools to safer storage in dry casks should be a priority.
Given these circumstances, a key goal for the stabilization of the Fukushima-Daichi site is to place all of its spent reactor fuel into dry, hardened storage casks. This will require about 244 additional casks at a cost of about $1 million per cask.
To accomplish this goal, an international effort is required -- something that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has called for. As we have learned, despite the enormous destruction from the earthquake and tsunami at the Dai-Ich Site, the nine dry casks and their contents were unscathed. This is an important lesson we should not ignore.
Robert Alvarez an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department's secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999.
(c) 2012 Institute for Policy Studies
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