Five weeks after Japan's disaster, reports suggest worse, not improved conditions. It portends serious regional and global trouble ahead, besides what's already happened.
On April 16, AP headlined, "Radioactivity Rises in Sea Off Japan Nuclear Plant," saying:
"Levels of radioactivity have risen sharply in seawater near (Fukushima), signaling the possibility of new leaks at the facility, the government said Saturday."
The announcement followed a 5.9 level aftershock rocking the country early Saturday. So far, no additional damage reports were issued. However, seawater radioactive Iodine-131 spiked to 6,500 times above normal, up from 1,100 times Friday, and Cesium-134 and 137 rose nearly fourfold.
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) raised the possibility of worrisome new leaks, admitting that tracking them is difficult. Nonetheless, they still claim no threat to humans or sea life despite numerous independent experts raising dire warnings of spreading global radiation, including plutonium, the most deadly substance known, a microscopic speck enough to cause cancer.
Japan's Kyodo News reported the same news, saying pumping water into reactors and storage pools created large contaminated puddles with high radiation levels inside the reactor containment and turbine buildings. As a result, restoration work is hampered because even short-term exposure is extremely hazardous.
On April 14, Global Security Newswire (GSN) headlined "Japan Plant Emits More Radiation After Cooling Lapse," saying:
The increased radiation explained above "indicates the fuel in storage there had been compromised," suggesting worse trouble than so far reported.
On April 15, GSN headlined, "Japan Plant Fuel Melted Partway Through Reactors," saying:
It settled into lower sections of containment vessels, "raising the specter of overheated material compromising a container and causing a massive radiation release," according to a newly released Atomic Energy Society of Japan (AESJ) report.
On April 15, Japan Times writer Kanako Takahara headlined, "Fuel rod fragments at bottom of vessels," saying:
"If too many....puddle at the bottom, they can generate enough concentrated heat to bore a hole in the pressure vessel, which would result in a massive radioactive release to the environment." In fact, there's no assurance it hasn't already happened but isn't being reported.
Downplaying a serious reactor breach, AESJ claimed only small amounts of fuel so far melted and dispersed uniformly across the lower sections of Units 1, 2 and 3. Minimally, months of restoration work lie ahead, perhaps years based on what's already known. According to some experts, we're in unchartered territory, dealing with a unprecedented disaster.
On April 13, on Democracy Now, Physics Professor Michio Kaku called Fukushima reactors "ticking time bombs," saying Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) "has been in denial, trying to downplay the full impact of this nuclear disaster."
He explained a mathematical formula to determine an accident's level, saying this one "already released something on the order of 50,000 trillion becquerels of radiation," warranting a Level 7 rating.
However, radiation keeps leaking. "The situation is not stable at all. So, you're looking at basically a ticking time bomb." The slightest disturbance causing more damage could increase the disaster's magnitude manyfold.
He described a full core meltdown this way:
"Think of driving a car, and....all of a sudden (it) lunges out of control. You hit the brakes," but they don't work because "the earthquake wiped out the safety systems."
"Then your radiator starts to heat up and explodes. That's the hydrogen gas explosion. And then, to make it worse, the gas tank is heating up, and all of a sudden your whole car (bursts into) flames. That's (a) full-scale meltdown."
"So what can you do? You drive the car into a river (what TEPCO did by using seawater to cover the) top of the core." But its salt corrodes the radiator. So what then? "You call out the local firemen" and use "Japanese samurai warriors" inside the plant on a suicide mission, trying to keep water over "melted nuclear reactor cores."
That's the current situation. So when TEPCO says things are stable, it's only "in the sense that you're dangling from a cliff hanging by your fingernails. And as the time goes by, each fingernail starts to crack. That's the situation now," extremely dangerous and uncertain.
Moreover, radiation contaminates air, water and soil. "Cows then eat the vegetation, create milk, and then it winds up in the milk. Farmers are now dumping milk right on their farms because it's too radioactive. Foods (also) have to be impounded in the area."
So "let's be blunt about this: would you buy food that says 'Made in Chernobyl?' Japanese people are saying: "Should I buy food that says 'Made in Fukushima?' We're talking about the collapse of the local economy. (Yet) the government tries to lowball all the numbers, downplay the severity of the accident, and that's making it much worse."
Further, Japan's limited evacuation zone is "pathetic." America recommended 50 miles for US personnel, and France advised their nationals to consider leaving Japan altogether.
Moreover, radiation levels are rising far beyond the evacuation zone. Expect large future cancer increases. "That's the inevitable consequence of releasing enormous" amounts of radiation into the environment.
As for TEPCO and government officials, "(t)hey're literally making it up as they go along. We're in totally uncharted territory. You get any nuclear engineering book. Look at the last chapter, and this scenario is not contained in....any nuclear engineering textbook on" the planet.
As a result, "we are the guinea pigs for this science experiment that's taking place. Then it could take up to 10 years to finally dismantle the reactor. The last stage is entombment....over a period of many years....in a gigantic slab of concrete."
Other concerns include sea water radiation "millions of times beyond legal levels" and radiation readings throughout much of the country, including Tokyo drinking water. Concerned people wonder if they should leave. Some "are voting with their feet. A lot of people are voluntarily evacuating from Tokyo "because they simply don't believe....consistently lowballed" TEPCO and government radiation level reports.
Kaku also said people, including Americans, aren't told the truth about nuclear power hazards. Now a new generation may be built at risk of meltdowns like older reactors. In fact, the potential for nuclear disaster is so great that insurers won't underwrite it, so Washington under the Price-Anderson Act does it at taxpayer expense for an energy source too dangerous to exist.
As a result, noted experts like Helen Caldicott warn of inevitable disasters as great or worse than Fukushima, the more operating plants, the greater the danger.
On April 12, her London Guardian article headlined, "How Nuclear Apologists Mislead the World Over Radiation," saying:
It "emanates from radioactive elements which enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Hazardous radionuclides (like) Iodine-131, Cesium-137, and other isotopes....bio-concentrate at each step of various food chains," from algae to crustaceans to small fish to bigger fish to animals to humans, as well as vegetation.
They then affect specific bodily organs, including the thyroid, liver, bone and brain, "where they continuously irradiate small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years, can induce uncontrolled cell replication."
In addition, nuclides stay radioactive for generations, causing increased incidences of cancer and genetic diseases. There's no such thing as an acceptable radiation level. In any amount, radiation is harmful, cumulative, permanent and unforgiving.
Experts also worry about possible re-criticality, defined as a return to a point at which a nuclear reaction becomes self-sustaining or unstoppable. In late March, the IAEA warned that "(t)here might be re-criticality at Fukushima," though so far there's "no final assessment."
On April 11, environmental expert Dr. Ilya Perlingieri's article headlined, "Fukushima's Nuclear Disaster: One Month and Counting," saying:
So far, "(n)othing is even remotely improved. In fact, things are dramatically worse." Hazardous reactors like GE's Mark 1 place entire populations at risk where they operate. "The radioactive consequences of" four Fukushima reactors "far exceed(s) Chernobyl."
As a result, the consequences for all Japanese residents will be enormous. But they also affect others as "various radioactive elements travel (by wind and water) around the globe." Potentially, everyone may be affected to a greater or lesser extent, including future generations.
In addition, dumping thousands of tons of radioactive water into the ocean is an environmental crime. Contaminated water "will now travel across the (Pacific) to North America's West Coast," contaminating the entire food chain in the process.
Then, as "water goes through its cycles, it will evaporate, and radioactive air will be carried around the globe. We are all in grave danger."
Moreover, because EPA closed many of its monitoring stations, including on the West Coast, the public won't get vital information. "How much more deception and deceit can we take?" Fukushima is the worst disaster "we have faced in our lives." Potentially millions of cancer may result.
How many people are already "eating radioactive fresh fruit, or drinking water and milk? High radiation levels have been found in rain, snow, and drinking water. Radioactive Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 have been found in US milk."
Perlingieri quoted from Dr. Janette Sherman's "prophetic scientific paper" written six months before Fukushima, saying:
"Given profound weather effects (earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, etc.), human fallibility, and military conflicts, (it's) only a matter of time before there is a nuclear disaster. Nuclear fallout knows no state or national boundaries....The economic costs of radioactive pollution and care of contaminated citizens are staggering. No country can maintain itself if its citizens are economically, intellectually, politically, and socially impoverished."
Nor can it if the health of its people is gravely, preventably, and permanently harmed. Nature's laws can't be reversed, nor can the effects of contaminating radiation, a destroyer of life too dangerous to exist, but it proliferates because corrupted politicians and industry profiteers are too unprincipled to stop it.
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.