This weekend, TEPCO is going to try and begin the process of removing spent fuel rods from a cooling pond at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4. The fuel rods are about the thickness of a human thumb and 15 feet long. There are 1533 of them and they’re sitting 100 feet in the air.
Normally these fuel rods would be removed from the containment pool using computers due to the very small margins of error allowed when maneuvering them. And normally the containment pool would be free of debris. And normally, the racks that hold the rods wouldn’t be buckled. And normally, the building wouldn’t be sagging due to subsidence.
But ‘normal’ fled Fukushima quite some time back.
The whole affair of the cooling pool at Unit 4 has been likened to a packet of tailor made cigarettes that has been crumpled – with the idea being to extract the cigarettes without breaking any. If a fuel rod snaps, the Fukishima site would have to be evacuated while the snapped rod vented radioactive gases into the air. And if one contacted the air, then the zirconium alloy coating would spontaneously combust. And since water reacts with burning zirconium and all of the fuel rods are housed in water, it’s well within the realms of possibility that an unquenchable fire feeding off the radioactive fuel rods could spark at Fukushima. And it would simply burn for the weeks, months or years it would take to exhaust itself, releasing (approx) 13000 Hiroshima’s worth of radioactive poison to spread around the Northern Hemisphere.
As a side note, I lived in Northern Europe when Cherobyl spread radioactive poison throughout Europe. And I remember the instructions to remain inside if it was raining. And I remember that all dairy and fresh veg was off the menu. And I’m aware that to this day there are ‘hot spots’ from Wales to Germany and elsewhere that mean no produce from those areas can be consumed.
And the potential radiation poisoning from Fukushima is magnitudes worse than Chernobyl. Many, many millions of people and agricultural areas ranging across the whole of Asia, Europe and N. America will be severely affected if operations at Unit 4 go awry. And any wise person with the means, will probably seek to flee the Northern Hemisphere if unit 4 ‘goes down’. It’s that serious.
Here’s the thing. Given the seriousness of the situation, I just cannot get my head around the fact that the job of removing those fuel rods has been left up to TEPCO; not just because TEPCO are an operating company as opposed to an engineering company, but because it has fucked up and lied at every turn. It’s akin to not calling in a plumber and relying on a toilet cleaner – one who is insisting that the shit and the piss spreading over the floor is nothing a quick mop can’t fix – to repair a broken and leaking toilet.
Anyway. Putting aside the fact that 100% of bluefin tuna tested 18 months ago off the west coast of the US were found to be contaminated with bio-accumulating Cesium 134 and 137 from Fukishima. And putting aside the fact that you can still buy fish and seaweed in New Zealand from Japan and that none of it is being tested for poisoning. And putting aside any suspicions I might have over the likelihood that more recent Japanese second hand car imports will be harbouring radioactive particles in their air conditioning filters. Putting all that as well as the three ‘lost’ nuclear reactor cores, the catalogue of fuck-ups and cover ups (eg, dumping contaminated materials into Tokyo Bay or mixing it with uncontaminated material and then burning it in normal industrial incinerators), the virtual news blackout, the inadequate leaking tanks, the 300 odd tonnes of contaminated water flowing into the Pacific every day, the 11000 other onsite fuel rods which, along with the three ‘lost’ cores would have to be abandoned if things went wrong. Putting it all aside so I can finish on a positive note…here are the comforting words of TEPCO spokesperson, Yoshimi Hitosugi from an ABC news report.
We’re going to transfer the fuel into containers while it’s under water. Then we’ll use a crane to remove the containers and take them to a new pool… We believe it’s not dangerous, the reactor building has been reinforced and is structurally sound. We don’t believe there’ll be any accidents.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel a whole lot better knowing that it’s just a case of slapping some shit into new containers and hoiking everything the fuck out of there.
In fact, I’m so relieved that I recommend that you don’t peruse any of the links provided or any of the additional links they contain.
As you were.