Initial March 27 Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) reports detected Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 radioactive water readings at ten million times normal levels, including:
-- 2.9 billion becquerels of iodine-134;
-- 13 million becquerels of iodine-131; and
-- 2.3 million becquerels (each) of cesium-134 and 137 per cubic centimeter of water in the turbine building's basement.
This measure was 1,000 times above water readings in Units 1 and 3. Emissions happen during nuclear fission. Tokyo University Professor Naoto Sekimura said the leak came from Unit 2's damaged suppression chamber, designed to contain radioactive substance overflows. French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety's Olivier Isnard believes high readings are "proof that the reactor core (at least) partially melted." Others suggest a likely full meltdown, covered up and downplayed.
A later March 27 Mari Yamaguchi and Yuri Kageyama AP report headlined, "More obstacles impede crews in Japan nuke crisis," saying:
"Mounting problems, including badly miscalculated radiation figures and inadequate storage tanks for huge amounts of contaminated water, stymied emergency workers Sunday as they struggled to" step back from the brink of uncontrollable disaster.
After initial Sunday reports had Unit 2 radiation levels 10 million times normal, Tokyo Electric's Vice President Sakae Muto said a later test found them at 100,000 times, either way too dangerously high. In addition, nearby sea readings are 1,850 times normal. Combined, they're the highest measures since the March 11 earthquake/tsunami, showing conditions are deteriorating, not improving despite government and company reassurances.
Later, TEPCO said surface water outside the reactor contained over 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour. According to the EPA, a single dose that high can cause hemorrhaging. In fact, 100 millisieverts causes radiation sickness.
Besides TEPCO's notoriously poor safety record, also at issue is its penchant for coverup and denial. As a result, perhaps true readings are much higher than reported. UCLA Professor Najmdin Meshkati, in fact, believes "the situation is (likely) much more serious than we (are) led to believe."
Others agree, but fading news reports don't explain, especially television ones, their short attention span diverted to cheerleading for imperial war, bogusly called "humanitarian."
Another company official said many months or years are needed to correct the situation, stopping short of whether anything, in fact, can work. Independent experts express great concerns about dangerously high radiation, especially since containment efforts have failed despite nearly three weeks of trying. According to Greenpeace's Rianne Teule:
"It's very worrying. (T)here is something seriously wrong (at Unit 2)." Perhaps also at other units.
In addition, low radiation readings expected to spike are showing up across America, Canada, Iceland and Europe.
Meanwhile, electricity to restart cooling isn't possible since "cables had to be laid through turbine buildings flooded with contaminated water." In fact, no one can reach the turbine houses requiring electrical work. Possibly the idea will be abandoned.
In the face of growing disaster, TEPCO still claims conditions have partially stabilized when evidence shows them more out of control. Miroru Ogoda of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said:
"We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse. But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we've expected twists and turns. The contaminated water is one of them and we'll continue to repair the damage."
Skeptical Japanese have grave concerns, fearing the worst despite mixed reassuring statements, intended more to deny reality than reveal it.
On March 27, New York Times writers Hiroko Tabuchi and Keith Bradsher headlined, "Higher Levels of Radiation Found at Japan Reactor Plant," saying:
"Japan's troubled effort to contain the nuclear contamination crisis at its stricken (plant) suffered a setback on Sunday when alarmingly high radiation levels were discovered....raising new questions about how and when recovery workers could resume their tasks," besides whether anything, in fact, can work.
In fact, high radiation readings mean fission likely restarted, "present(ing) the alarming possibility of an out-of-control reactor."
On March 28, Reuters headlined, "Japan finds plutonium at stricken nuclear plant," saying:
On March 11, after the earthquake/tsunami struck, traces of plutonium 238, 239 and 240 were found "in soil at five locations at the complex...."
According to TEPCO vice president Sakae Muto:
"It's not at the level that's harmful to human health."
NISA reported samples ranging from 0.18 - 0.54 becquerels per kg. Agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama said:
"While it's not the level harmful to human health, I am not optimistic. This means the containment mechanism is being breached so I think the situation is worrisome."
In fact, it's catastrophic and extremely hazardous to human health at any level, environmental scientist Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri explaining in her article headlined, "Fukushima Catastrophe: Radiation Exposure, Lies and Cover-up, saying:"
"The half-life of many radioactive elements is thousands of years. There is no safe level of exposure! (Claiming otherwise is) media hype and corporate lies. The plutonium fuel used at Fukushima Unit 3 reactor uses MOX (mixed oxide), a plutonium-uranium fuel mixture. A single milligram of MOX is 2-million times more deadly than enriched uranium....Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years; and (for) Uranium-235 (it's) 700-million years."
She quoted distinguished nuclear power/environmental health expert Dr. Rosalie Bertell from her noted 1985 book titled, "No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth," saying:
"Should the public discover the true health cost(s) of nuclear pollution, a cry would rise from all parts of the world and people would refuse to cooperate passively with their own death."
Political Fallout Outside Japan
Taiwan's opposition DPP party said it wants nuclear power phased out by 2025. However, the island state's vulnerability to quakes and tsunamis begs the question of a potential disaster affecting the entire nation if abandoning the technology isn't expedited.
In Germany, an estimated 200,000 anti-nuclear protesters rallied on March 26 under the slogan, "Fushushima Warns: Pull the Plug on all Nuclear Power Plants." Days earlier, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered seven older plants shut for safety checks.
In 2001, Germany planned to end all nuclear energy by 2021, a policy Merkel reversed besides extending the plant life for 12 years. About 25% dependent on nuclear power makes the country extremely vulnerable to disasters.
A Sunday Baden-Wuerttemberg election result expressed popular angst where anti-nuclear Greens got 24% of the vote. Combined with center-left Social Democrats, it was enough for a new coalition government for the first time against conservative Christian Democrats there since 1953. Experts agreed, calling it a referendum on future nuclear power use, voters rejecting its inherent dangers.
Perhaps also longstanding incestuous ties between industry officials and regulators, a March 28 Wall Street Journal Yuka Hayashi article headlining, "Nuclear Regulator Tied to Industry," saying:
"Japan's nuclear regulator has amassed power while growing closer to the industry it regulates, according to former regulators and industry critics who blame" scandalous laxity for Fukushima's disaster. However, it's also true in America and elsewhere, assuring inevitable future ones ahead, perhaps worse.
Hayashi said Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) "has two distinct and often competing roles regulating the nuclear power industry, and promoting Japanese nuclear technology at home and abroad." In fact, according to former nuclear industry engineer Tetsuya Lida, "(t)he regulators are so friendly with power companies that they don't hold them responsible for so many things."
In other words, proliferation and promotion supersede regulation, similar to America where the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) notoriously conspires with industry, including on matters of safety. As a result, a new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report documented 14 "near-misses" at US plants in 2010 alone - more than one a month.
Discovered problems included leaking roofs, floods near safety equipment, rusty pipes, faulty pumps, fires and unreported shutdowns. In fact, while plant operators willfully disregarded protocol, NRC inspectors ignored hazardous violations as well as false reports and delayed repairs.
Affected plants were in California, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Kansas at facilities owned by Entergy, Exelon, Constellation Energy, Duke Energy, FirstEnergy, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern Nuclear, Omaha Public Power District, Dominion Generation, and Wolf Creek Nuclear.
At issue, cutting corners for greater profits takes precedence over safety. According to UCS, "(m)any of the significant events (it documented) occurred because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety problems."
In 2007, candidate Obama called NRC members "captives of the industry they regulate," running mate Biden saying he had no confidence in them. According to Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum, the industry "embedded itself in the political establishment (through) reliable friends from George Bush to Barack Obama (so that government) has really become cheerleaders for the industry."
Moreover, revolving door instances are common, Jeffrey Merrifield one of many examples. An NRC official from 1997 - 2008, he left for an executive position with The Shaw Group that operates an NRC regulated nuclear division.
In Japan, it's called amakudari (descent from heaven), meaning regulators transition young to industry, so while in government, they don't bite future hands who'll feed them.
Japan's METI is especially egregious. Ten of its 22 March 2010 retiring officials took energy and power related jobs. According to Liberal Democratic Party member Taro Kono:
"METI has unabashedly sent retired officials to the power industry (including TEPCO), and politicians have received campaign funds (from these companies). In exchange, power companies were allowed to hold on to their regional monopolies" and avoid regulatory oversight.
America, of course, operates the same way, placing bottom line priorities ahead of safety, public welfare, and environmental considerations because regulation across all industry groups is a mere figure of speech.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.