Originally published on Fairewinds.org.
Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over? The answer is no. In Fairewinds’ latest video, Chief Engineer and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen updates viewers on what’s going on at the Japanese nuclear meltdown site, Fukushima Daiichi.
Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over? The answer is no. In Fairewinds’ latest video, Chief Engineer and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen updates viewers on what’s going on at the Japanesenuclear meltdown site, Fukushima Daiichi. As the Japanese government and utility owner Tokyo Electric Power Company push for the quick decommissioning and dismantling of this man-made disaster, the press and scientists need to ask, «Why is the Ukrainian government waiting at least 100 years to attempt to decommission Chernobyl, while the Japanese Government and TEPCO claim that Fukushima Daiichi will be decommissioned and dismantled during the next 30 years?»
Like so many big government + big business controversies, the answer has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and money. To understand Fukushima Daiichi, you need to follow the money.
Hi, I’m Arnie Gundersen with Fairewinds Energy Education. Every week we get emails and phone calls asking us questions like:
- Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over?
- Have the problems been solved?
- Should we still be worried?
The answers are no, this catastrophe is not over; no the problems are not solved, and yes, we should continue to be very worried.
Let me tell you why.
Three of the nuclear cores at Fukushima Daiichi are in direct contact with groundwater. Nuclear power designers and engineers never anticipated that possibility.
Nuclear reactors never shut down completely. After a uranium atom splits to create its power, the radioactive rubble left behind remains physically hot for about 5 years. So when the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the cooling systems at Fukushima, the nuclear fuel pellets that are usually contained in suspended fuel rods melted and wound up on the bottom of the 8-inch thick nuclear reactor. The steel from the reactor then melted too, which is called a melt-through, leaving the hot nuclear core lying on the floor of the 4-foot thick concrete containment. Fukushima Daiichi units 1,2, and 3 were destroyed by the heat and radiation inside, allowing holes and cracks to form.
Did the nuclear fuel melt through the concrete too?
We know for sure that the Fukushima Daiichi containments are full of holes that allowgroundwater to come in direct contact with each nuclear core. Whether or not the nuclear fuel melted through the concrete does not matter to the environment or the people of Fukushima.
Unfortunately, this groundwater is still leaking in and leaking out, at a rate of at least 300 tons per day. Lets put that number in perspective.
1. This picture is of a tanker truck.
2. Each tanker truck carries 5,000 gallons of water, which is equal to 40,000 pounds or 20 tons.
3. For you to have an idea of how much 300 tons of radioactive water is, imagine filling 15-tanker-trucks with radioactively contaminated water each day.
4. Now remember that more than 1,500 days have passed since the disastrous triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi and multiply that times 15 truckloads each day. Thus, the equivalent of 23,000-tanker truckloads of radioactive water have already leaked into the Pacific Ocean.
5. Worse yet, there is no end in sight.
During the first month following the Fukushima catastrophe, Fairewinds said that it was imperative that TEPCO stop the inflow of water to the site in order to prevent serious groundwater contamination.
1. Think of an overflowing bathtub
2. During the past four years, instead of stopping the inflow of water to the site, TEPCO just keeps adding more bathtubs to collect the overflowing water
3. The real solution is to turn off the tap! Stop the groundwater flow.
4. As Fairewinds anticipated, the Ice Wall is a complete failure.
5. Groundwater experts from around the world have contacted Fairewinds many times to discuss their proven methods and technologies that would stop the inflow of water to the Fukushima Daiichi site, but TEPCO and the Japanese Government have continued to ignore experts in these technologies.
6. There are ways to stop the groundwater. TEPCO is just not listening.
Viewers keep asking Fairewinds about the difference between the meltdown at Chernobyl in the Ukraine and the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. The major difference right now is that the nuclear core at Chernobyl never came in contact with the groundwater. Here is a picture of the core, taken in 1987, one year after the Chernobyl disaster. It is called the elephant’s foot
Even today, almost 30 years later, if people stood in the room with the elephant’s foot shaped melted core, everyone would die in eight minutes.
Unlike Chernobyl, no one knows where the THREE melted nuclear cores are at Fukushima Daiichi. What is known is that the three cores are in direct contact with groundwater. As groundwater comes down from the hillside and infiltrates the site, it becomes contaminated with radioactivity. Then that radioactive water continues its movement and flows out of the reactors and into the surrounding area severely contaminating the ground and other water it touches as it continues its migration to the ocean. The ongoing migration of extremely radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi is making the cleanup 100 times more complicated and 100 times more expensive than Chernobyl. To date, the cleanup of the Chernobyl site has cost more $3 Billion without adding in the cost of the ongoing exclusion zone wildfires that are spewing massive amounts of radioactivity back into the atmosphere. Fukushima will cost half a trillion.
To date at Fukushima Daiichi, not only have the equivalent of 23,000 truckloads of radioactive water been leaked into the Pacific Ocean, but the soil under the nuclear plants is now highly radioactive as well. The expanding radioactive contamination will necessitate at least a quarter of a million truckloads of radioactive dirt to be removed. What place on earth would willingly take that waste and how would it ever be contained for the 250,000 years necessary?
The press and scientists need to ask, «Why is the Ukrainian government waiting at least 100 years to attempt to decommission Chernobyl, while the Japanese Government and TEPCO claim that Fukushima Daiichi will be decommissioned and dismantled during the next 30 years?»
Quite honestly, the answer has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and money. To understand Fukushima Daiichi, the press needs to follow the money.
Before the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown, Japan’s nuclear industry had 54 operating nuclear reactors. All are presently shut down.
However, every nuclear reactor in Japan that has been shutdown for the last four years has maintained their full staff of engineers, operators, etc even though they have produced no power during that time. Why? Where did the money come from to pay the approximately 700 employees at each of the shutdown 50 nuclear reactors?
The answer is that the Japan’s Energy Corporations borrowed tens of billions of dollars from Japan’s banks in order to pay nuclear power plant staff during the last four years.
The only way Japan’s banks can be compensated for this tremendous cash outlay is if those shutdown nuclear plants are restarted. My contacts in Japan continue to tell me that the banks are putting enormous pressure on Japan’s Parliament to start up Japan’s nuclear reactors so the banks can get paid back for their investments.
Polls show that vast majorities of Japanese people are against restarting any nuclear reactors in Japan. In an effort to convince the Japanese people, who no longer want nuclear power plants, that restarting these old nuclear reactors can be done cleanly and safely in earthquake fault zones and coastlines at risk for tsunamis, both Tokyo Electric and Japan’s government are attempting to showcase the decommissioning and dismantlement of the Fukushima Daiichi site, long before it is even feasible from a radiological contamination standpoint.
What is the truth that the Japanese people need to know?
1. It is impossible to dismantle and cleanup the Fukushima Daiichi site in 30 years. It will take longer than 100 years to do that cleanup.
2. Radioactive cesium, strontium and plutonium from Fukushima Daiichi will continue to bleed into the Pacific Ocean for decades because the groundwater flow is unmitigated.
3. The radioactive waste in at least one quarter of a million dump truck loads will have to be dumped somewhere in Japan in a shielded and contained area to prevent radiological contamination of a new area of Japan.
4. Thousands of young people involved in the decommissioning, demolition, and dismantlement of the highly radioactive site would receive huge radiation exposures.
5. The cost to cleanup the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown site will approach half of $1 trillion.
6. And finally, there is no place in Japan, or in the world, to store the three melted nuclear cores once they are finally removed, if it is even possible to secure and remove them. This is a technological feat that no engineer in the world has ever envisioned, since the nuclear industry never believed such a catastrophe could or would occur.
I believe that the Japanese people would not approve the restart of Japan’s old reactors if they were informed of how environmentally damaging and astronomically expensive the cleanup of Fukushima Daiichi really is.
What does the world see? It sees the Japanese government and the world’s nuclear industries continuing their promotion of nuclear power, while Japan’s Press looks on silently due to the real threat and constraints of the government’s secrecy act forbidding discussion of such issues. The true human, financial, and environmental costs of this nuclear power catastrophe are not publicized and discussed.
I’m Arnie Gundersen for Fairewinds Energy Education, and we will keep you informed.
Arnie Gundersen has more than 40-years of nuclear power engineering experience. He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) where he earned his Bachelor Degree cum laude while also becoming the recipient of a prestigious Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship for his Master Degree in nuclear engineering. Arnie holds a nuclear safety patent, was a licensed reactor operator, and is a former nuclear industry senior vice president. During his nuclear power industry career, Arnie also managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants in the US.