By William Boardman -- Reader Supported News
Does anyone in authority anywhere tell the truth about Fukushima?
I f there is any government or non-government authority in the world that is addressing the disaster at Fukushima openly, directly, honestly, and effectively, it's not apparent to the outside observer what entity that might be.
There is instead an apparent global conspiracy of authorities of all sorts to deny to the public reliably accurate, comprehensible, independently verifiable (where possible), and comprehensive information about not only the condition of the Fukushima power plant itself and its surrounding communities, but about the unceasing, uncontrolled release of radioactive debris into the air and water, creating a constantly increasing risk of growing harm to the global community.
While the risk may still be miniscule in most places, the range of risk rises to lethal in Fukushima itself. With the radioactive waste of four nuclear reactors (three of them in meltdown) under uncertain control for almost three years now, the risk of lethal exposure is very real for plant workers, and may decrease with distance from the plant, but may be calculable for anyone on the planet. No one seems to know. No one seems to have done the calculation. No one with access to the necessary information (assuming it exists) seems to want to do the calculation.
There is no moral excuse for this international collusion. The excuses are political or economic or social, but none of them excuses any authority for withholding or lying about information that has potentially universal and destructive impact on everyone alive today and everyone to be born for some unknown generations.
Japanese authorities may be the worst current offenders against the truth, as well as the health and safety of their people. Now the Japanese government has passed a harsh state secrets law that threatens to reduce or eliminate reliable information about Fukushima. The U.S. government officially applauded this heightened secrecy, while continuing its own tight control on nuclear information. Japanese authorities are already attacking their own people in defense of nuclear power: not only under-measuring and ignoring varieties of radioactive threat, but even withholding the iodine pills in 2011 that might have mitigated the growing epidemic of thyroid issues today. Failing to confront Fukushima honestly, the Japanese are laying the basis for what could amount to a radiological sneak attack on the rest of the world.
Just because no one seems to know what to do about Fukushima is no excuse to go on lying about and/or denying the dimensions of reality, whatever they might be.
There are hundreds, probably thousands of people with little or no authority who have long struggled to create a realistic, rational perspective on nuclear threats. The fundamental barrier to knowing the scale of the Fukushima disaster is just that: the scale of the Fukushima disaster.
Chernobyl 1986 and Fukushima 2011 are not really comparable
Chernobyl is the closest precedent to Fukushima, and it's not very close. Chernobyl at the time of the 1986 electric failure and explosion had four operating reactors and two more under construction. The Chernobyl accident involved one reactor meltdown. Other reactors kept operating for some time after the accident. The rector meltdown was eventually entombed, containing the meltdown and reducing the risk. Until Fukushima, Chernobyl was considered the worst nuclear power accident in history, and it is still far from over (albeit largely contained for the time being). The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone of roughly 1,000 square miles remains one of the most radioactive areas in the world and the clean-up is not even expected to be complete before 2065.
At the time of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima plant had six operating reactors. Three of them went into meltdown and a fourth was left with a heavily laden fuel pool teetering a hundred feet above the ground. Two other reactors were undamaged and have been shut down. Radiation levels remain lethal in each of the melted-down reactors, where the meltdowns appear to be held in check by water that is pumped into the reactors to keep them cool. In the process, the water gets irradiated and that which is not collected on site in leaking tanks flows steadily into the Pacific Ocean. Within the first two weeks, Fukushima radiation was comparable to Chernobyl's and while the levels have gone down, they remain elevated.
The plant's corporate owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), in turn effectively owned by the Japanese government after a 2012 nationalization , began removing more than 1,500 fuel rod assemblies from the teetering fuel pool in November, a delicate process expected to take a year or more. There are additional fuel pools attached to each of the melted down reactors and a much larger general fuel pool, all of which contain nuclear fuel rod assemblies that are secure only as long as TEPCO continues to cool them. The Fukushima Exclusion Zone, a 12-mile radius around the nuclear plant, is about 500 square miles (much of it ocean); little specific information about the exclusion zone is easily available, but media coverage in the form of disaster tourism is plentiful, including a Google Street View interactive display.
Despite their significant differences as disasters, Chernobyl and Fukushima are both rated at 7 -- a "major accident" on the International Nuclear Event Scale designed in 1990 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That is the highest rating on the scale, a reflection of the inherent denial that colors most official nuclear thinking. Designed by nuclear "experts" after Chernobyl, the scale can't imagine a worse accident than Chernobyl which, for all its intensity, was effectively over as an accident in a relatively short period of time. At Fukushima, by contrast, the initial set of events was less acute than Chernobyl, but almost three years later they continue without any resolution likely soon. Additionally Fukushima has three reactor meltdowns and thousands of precarious fuel rod assemblies in uncertain pools, any of which could produce a new crisis that would put Fukushima clearly off the scale.
And then there's groundwater. Groundwater was not a problem at Chernobyl. Groundwater is a huge problem at the Fukushima plant that was built at the seashore, on a former riverbed, over an active aquifer. In a short video , nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson makes clear why groundwater makes Fukushima so hard to clean up, and why radiation levels there will likely remain dangerous for another hundred years.