Posted on August 19, 2013 10:26 am

Fukushima apocalypse:

Fukushima
apocalypse: Years of ‘duct tape fixes’ could result in ‘millions of deaths’


Published time: August 17, 2013 13:15
Edited time: August 17, 2013 19:49


Damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) number 1 daiichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


Damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) number 1 daiichi nuclear power plant at
Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)



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Even the tiniest mistake during an operation to extract over 1,300 fuel rods at
the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan could lead to a series of
cascading failures with an apocalyptic outcome, fallout researcher Christina
Consolo told RT.


Fukushima operator TEPCO wants to extract 400 tons worth of spent fuel rods
stored in a pool at the plant’s damaged Reactor No. 4. The removal would have to
be done manually from the top store of the damaged building in the
radiation-contaminated environment.


In the worst-case scenario, a mishandled rod may go critical, resulting in an
above-ground meltdown releasing radioactive fallout with no way to stop it, said
Consolo, who is the founder and host of Nuked Radio. But leaving the things as
they are is not an option, because statistical risk of a similarly bad outcome
increases every day, she said.



RT:

How serious is the fuel rod situation compared to the danger of contaminated
water build-up which we already know about?



Christina Consolo:

Although fuel rod removal happens on a daily basis at the 430+ nuclear sites
around the world, it is a very delicate procedure even under the best of
circumstances. What makes fuel removal at Fukushima so dangerous and complex is
that it will be attempted on a fuel pool whose integrity has been severely
compromised. However, it must be attempted as Reactor 4 has the most significant
problems structurally, and this pool is on the top floor of the building.


There are numerous other reasons that this will be a dangerous undertaking.


– The racks inside the pool that contain this fuel were damaged by the explosion
in the early days of the accident. 


– Zirconium cladding which encased the rods burned when water levels dropped,
but to what extent the rods have been damaged is not known, and probably won’t
be until removal is attempted. 


– Saltwater cooling has caused corrosion of the pool walls, and probably the
fuel rods and racks. 


– The building is sinking. 


– The cranes that normally lift the fuel were destroyed. 


– Computer-guided removal will not be possible; everything will have to be done
manually. 


– TEPCO cannot attempt this process without humans, which will manage this
enormous task while being bombarded with radiation during the extraction and
casking. 


– The process of removing each rod will have to be repeated over 1,300 times
without incident. 


– Moving damaged nuclear fuel under such complex conditions could result in a
criticality if the rods come into close proximity to one another, which would
then set off a chain reaction that cannot be stopped.


What could potentially happen is the contents of the pool could burn and/or
explode, and the entire structure sustain further damage or collapse. This chain
reaction process could be self-sustaining and go on for a long time. This is the
apocalyptic scenario in a nutshell.


The water build-up is an extraordinarily difficult problem in and of itself, and
as anyone with a leaky basement knows, water always ‘finds a way.’

‘Trivial
in light of other problems at Fukushima, water situation could culminate in the
chain reaction scenario’


At Fukushima, they are dealing with massive amounts of groundwater that flow
through the property, and the endless pouring that must be kept up 24/7/365 to
keep things from getting worse. Recently there appears to be subsidence issues
and liquefaction under the plant.


TEPCO has decided to pump the water out of these buildings. However, pumping
water out of the buildings is only going to increase the flow rate and create
more of these ground issues around the reactors. An enormous undertaking – but
one that needs to be considered for long-term preservation of the integrity of
the site – is channelling the water away, like a drain tile installed around the
perimeter of a house with a leaky basement, but on an epic scale.


Without this effort, the soils will further deteriorate, structural shift will
occur, and subsequently the contents of the pools will shift too. 


The damage to TEPCO's No.1 Fukushima nuclear power plant's third reactor building in the town of Okuma, Fubata district in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


The damage to TEPCO’s No.1 Fukushima nuclear power plant’s third reactor
building in the town of Okuma, Fubata district in Fukushima prefecture (AFP
Photo)


 


Any water that flows into those buildings also becomes highly radioactive, as it
is likely coming into contact with melted fuel.


Without knowing the extent of the current liquefaction and its location, the
location of the melted fuel, how long TEPCO has been pumping out water, or when
the next earthquake will hit, it is impossible to predict how soon this could
occur from the water problem/subsidence issue alone. But undoubtedly, pumping
water out of the buildings is just encouraging the flow, and this water problem
needs to be remedied and redirected as soon as possible.



RT:

Given all the complications that could arise with extracting the fuel rods,
which are the most serious, in your opinion?



CC:

The most serious complication would be anything that leads to a nuclear chain
reaction. And as outlined above, there are many different ways this could occur.
In a fuel pool containing damaged rods and racks, it could potentially start up
on its own at anytime. TEPCO has been incredibly lucky that this hasn’t happened
so far.

‘One of
the worst, but most important jobs anyone has ever had to do’


My second biggest concern would be the physical and mental fitness of the
workers that will be in such close proximity to exposed fuel during this
extraction process. They will be the ones guiding this operation, and will need
to be in the highest state of alertness to have any chance at all of executing
this plan manually and successfully. Many of their senses, most importantly
eyesight, will be hindered by the apparatus that will need to be worn during
their exposure, to prevent immediate death from lifting compromised fuel rods
out of the pool and placing them in casks, or in the common spent fuel pool
located a short distance away.


Think for a moment what that might be like through the eyes of one of these
workers; it will be hot, uncomfortable, your senses shielded, and you would be
filled with anxiety. You are standing on a building that is close to collapse.
Even with the strongest protection possible, workers will have to be removed and
replaced often. So you don’t have the benefit of doing such a critical task and
knowing and trusting your comrades, as they will frequently have to be replaced
when their radiation dose limits are reached. If they exhibit physical or mental
signs of radiation exposure, they will have be replaced more often.


The stricken Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima daiichi No.1 nuclear power plant reactor number three (L) and four (R), with smoke rising from number three at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


The stricken Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima daiichi No.1 nuclear
power plant reactor number three (L) and four (R), with smoke rising from number
three at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


It will be one of the worst, but most important jobs anyone has ever had to do.
And even if executed flawlessly, there are still many things that could go
wrong.



RT:

How do the potential consequences of failure to ensure safe extraction
compare to other disasters of the sort – like Chernobyl, or the 2011 Fukushima
meltdown?



CC:

There really is no comparison. This will be an incredibly risky operation, in
the presence of an enormous amount of nuclear material in close proximity. And
as we have seen in the past, one seemingly innocuous failure at the site often
translates into a series of cascading failures.

‘The site
has been propped up with duct tape and a kick-stand for over two years’ 


Many of their ‘fixes’ are only temporary, as there are so many issues to
address, and cost always seems to be an enormous factor in what gets implemented
and what doesn’t.


As a comparison: Chernobyl was one reactor, in a rural area, a quarter of the
size of one of the reactors at Fukushima. There was no ‘spent fuel pool’ to
worry about. Chernobyl was treated in-situ…meaning everything was pretty much
left where it was while the effort to contain it was made (and very
expeditiously I might add) not only above ground, but below ground.


At Fukushima, we have six top-floor pools all loaded with fuel that eventually
will have to be removed, the most important being Reactor 4, although Reactor 3
is in pretty bad shape too. Spent fuel pools were never intended for long-term
storage, they were only to assist short-term movement of fuel. Using them as a
long-term storage pool is a huge mistake that has become an ‘acceptable’
practice and repeated at every reactor site worldwide. 


A destroyed building of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) atomic power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


A destroyed building of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi (No. 1) atomic power plant at
Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


We have three 100-ton melted fuel blobs underground, but where exactly they are
located, no one knows. Whatever ‘barriers’ TEPCO has put in place so far have
failed. Efforts to decontaminate radioactive water have failed. Robots have
failed. Camera equipment and temperature gauges…failed. Decontamination of
surrounding cities has failed.

‘If and
when the corium reaches the Tokyo aquifer, serious and expedient discussions
will have to take place about evacuating 40 million people’


We have endless releases into the Pacific Ocean that will be ongoing for not
only our lifetimes, but our children’s’ lifetimes. We have 40 million people
living in the Tokyo area nearby. We have continued releases from the underground
corium that reminds us it is there occasionally with steam events and huge
increases in radiation levels. Across the Pacific, we have at least two
peer-reviewed scientific studies so far that have already provided evidence of
increased mortality in North America, and thyroid problems in infants on the
west coast states from our initial exposures.


We have increasing contamination of the food chain, through bioaccumulation and
biomagnification. And a newly stated concern is the proximity of melted fuel in
relation to the Tokyo aquifer that extends under the plant. If and when the
corium reaches the Tokyo aquifer, serious and expedient discussions will have to
take place about evacuating 40 million people from the greater metropolitan
area. As impossible as this sounds, you cannot live in an area which does not
have access to safe water.


The operation to begin removing fuel from such a severely damaged pool has never
been attempted before. The rods are unwieldy and very heavy, each one
weighing two-thirds of a ton. But it has to be done, unless there is some way to
encase the entire building in concrete with the pool as it is. I don’t know of
anyone discussing that option, but it would seem much ‘safer’ than what they are
about to attempt…but not without its own set of risks.


And all this collateral damage will continue for decades, if not centuries, even
if things stay exactly the way they are now. But that is unlikely, as bad things
happen like natural disasters and deterioration with time…earthquakes,
subsidence, and corrosion, to name a few. Every day that goes by, the
statistical risk increases for this apocalyptic scenario. No one can say or know
how this will play out, except that millions of people will probably die even if
things stay exactly as they are, and billions could die if things get any worse.


Workers spraying resin on the ground near the reactor buildings to protect the spread of radioactive substances at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


Workers spraying resin on the ground near the reactor buildings to protect the
spread of radioactive substances at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)



RT:

Are the fuel rods in danger of falling victim to other factors, while the
extraction process is ongoing? After all, it’s expected to take years before all
1,300+ rods are pulled out.



CC:

Unfortunately yes, the fuel rods are in danger every day they remain in the
pool. The more variables you add to this equation, and the more time that
passes, the more risk you are exposed to. Each reactor and spent fuel pool has
its own set of problems, and critical failure with any of them could ultimately
have the end result of an above-ground, self-sustaining nuclear reaction. It
will not be known if extraction of all the fuel will even be possible, as some
of it may be severely damaged, until the attempt is made to remove it.



RT:

Finally, what is the worst case scenario? What level of contamination are we
looking at and how dire would the consequences be for the long-term health of
the region?



CC:

Extremely dire. This is a terrible answer to have to give, but the worst case
scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse. Since
we have been discussing Reactor 4, I’ll stick to that problem in particular, but
also understand that a weather event, power outage, earthquake, tsunami, cooling
system failure, or explosion and fire in any way, shape, or form, at any
location on the Fukushima site, could cascade into an event of that magnitude as
well.

‘Once the
integrity of the pool is compromised that will lead to more criticalities’


At any time, following any of these possible events, or even all by itself,
nuclear fuel in reactor 4’s pool could become critical, mostly because it will
heat up the pool to a point where water will burn off and the zirconium cladding
will catch fire when it is exposed to air. This already happened at least once
in this pool that we are aware of. It almost happened again recently after a
rodent took out an electrical line and cooling was stopped for days.


Once the integrity of the pool is compromised that will likely lead to more
criticalities, which then can spread to other fuel. The heat from this reaction
would weaken the structure further, which could then collapse and the contents
of the pool end up in a pile of rubble on the ground. This would release an
enormous amount of radioactivity, which Arnie Gundersen has referred to as
a “Gamma Shine Event” without precedence, and Dr. Christopher Busby has deemed
an “Open-air super reactor spectacular.”


This would preclude anyone from not only being at Reactor 4, but at Reactors 1,
2, 3, 5, 6, the associated pools for each, and the common spent fuel pool.
Humans could no longer monitor and continue cooling operations at any of the
reactors and pools, thus putting the entire site at risk for a
massive radioactive release.

‘At least
the northern half of Japan would be uninhabitable, and some researchers have
argued that it already is’


Mathematically, it is almost impossible to quantify in terms of resulting
contamination, and a separate math problem would need to be performed for every
nuclear element contained within the fuel, and whether or not that fuel
exploded, burned, fissioned, melted, or was doused with water to try to cool it
off and poured into the ocean afterward.


Workers using a German-made pump to pump water from the spent fuel pool in Unit 4 at Fukushima No.1 (Dai-Ichi) nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


Workers using a German-made pump to pump water from the spent fuel pool in Unit
4 at Fukushima No.1 (Dai-Ichi) nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in
Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


Some researchers have even ventured to say that other nuke plants on the east
coast of Honshu may need to be evacuated if levels get too high, which will lead
to subsequent failures/fires and explosions at these plants as well. Just how
profound the effect will be on down-winders in North America, or the entire
northern hemisphere for that matter, will literally depend on where the wind
blows and where the rain falls, the duration and extent of a nuclear fire or
chain-reaction event, and whether or not that reaction becomes self-sustaining.
At least the northern half of Japan would be uninhabitable, and some researchers
have argued that it already is.


This is already happening to the nuclear fuel in the ground under the plant, but
now it would be happening above ground as well. There is no example historically
to draw from on a scale of this magnitude. Everything is theory. But anyone who
says this can’t happen is not being truthful, because nobody really knows how
bad things could get.


The most disturbing part of all of this is that Fukushima has been this
dangerous, and precarious, since the second week of March 2011. The ante will
definitely be upped once the fuel removal starts. 

‘The
mainstream media, world governments, nuclear agencies, health organizations,
weather reporters, and the health care industry has completely ignored three
ongoing triple meltdowns that have never been contained’


An obvious attempt to downplay this disaster and its consequences have been
repeated over and over again from ‘experts’ in the nuclear industry that also
have a vested interest in their industry remaining intact. And, there has been a
lot of misleading information released by TEPCO, which an hour or two of reading
by a diligent reporter would have uncovered, in particular the definition of
‘cold shutdown.’


Over 300 mainstream news outlets worldwide ran the erroneous ‘cold shutdown’
story repeatedly, which couldn’t be further from the truth…[it was] yet another
lie that was spun by TEPCO to placate the public, and perpetuated endlessly by
the media and nuclear lobby.


Unfortunately, TEPCO waited until a severe emergency arose to finally report how
bad things really are with this latest groundwater issue…if we are even being
told the truth. Historically, everything TEPCO says always turns out to be much
worse than they initially admit.


‘Unfortunately there is no one better qualified to deal with this than the
Russians, despite their own shortcomings’


I think the best chance of success is…that experts around the world drop
everything they are doing to work on this problem, and have Russia either lead
the containment effort or consult with them closely. They have the most
experience, they have decades of data. They took their accident seriously and
made a Herculean effort to contain it.


Of course we also know the Chernobyl accident was wrought with deception and
lies as well, and some of that continues to this day, especially in terms of the
ongoing health effects of children in the region, and monstrous birth defects.
Unfortunately there is no one better qualified to deal with this than the
Russians, despite their own shortcomings. Gorbachev tried to make up for his
part in the cover-up of Chernobyl by opening orphanages throughout the region to
deal with the affected children.


Underwater silt fence with orange floats being set in the sea near the drain of TEPCO's Fukushima nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP Photo)


Underwater silt fence with orange floats being set in the sea near the drain of
TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture (AFP
Photo)


 


But as far as Fukushima goes, the only thing that matters now is if world
leaders and experts join forces to help fix this situation. Regardless of what
agendas they are trying to protect or hide, how much it will cost, the effect on
Japan or the world’s economy, or what political chains this will yank.


The nuclear industry needs to come clean. If this leads to every reactor in the
world being shut down, so be it. If the world governments truly care about their
people and this planet, this is what needs to be done.


Renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku stated in an interview a few weeks
after the initial accident that “TEPCO is literally hanging on by their
fingernails.” They still are, and always have been. The Japanese have proven
time and time again they are not capable of handling this disaster. Now we are
entrusting them to execute the most dangerous fuel removal in history.


We are extremely lucky that this apocalyptic scenario hasn’t happened yet,
considering the state of Reactor 4. But for many, it is already too late. The
initial explosions and spent fuel pool fires may have already sealed the fate of
millions of people. Time will tell. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being
honest, because there is just no way to know.