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Intervention. Now!

Written By: - Date published: 3:13 pm, September 3rd, 2013 - 24 comments
Categories: aid, disaster - Tags: , ,

300 tonnes of highly contaminated water leaked from a tank at Fukishima Daiichi last week. There are now about 1000 such tanks on site and two or three new tanks are being constructed every week to store heavily contaminated water that has been used to cool the plant’s radioactive cores. None of the tanks are built to withstand seismic events. True.

And then there is the approximate 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater that flows from the site and into the Pacific Ocean every day…that’s approximately 300 tonnes every day for the past two and a half years and 300 tonnes every day for the foreseeable future.

There are no publicly available records of exactly what the contamination is that is coming from the plant (ie, the different isotopes and or quantity therof), or any publicly available record of how much contamination is in the environment or where in the environment it is. But it seems reasonable to demand that strident, immediate and comprehensive measures be taken to stem the flow of contamination from the site and, if possible, to clean up the site thereafter.

There are huge and often unique engineering problems at Fukishima Daiichi..

These problems have been left in the hands of Tepco. Tepco are an operating company, not an engineering company. Meanwhile,  due to the local levels of contamination, the workforce is being cycled through at a fairly alarming rate. Which raises questions about the capacity to train future workers fast enough.

Meanwhile, the latest proposal to halt groundwater flowing through the site and contaminating the ocean involves creating an artificial zone of permafrost extending for just under 1.5 km and extending downwards some 40m. And no, I’m not making this up or sourcing from sci-fi sites. Here’s the link to an MiT article on the proposal.

One core has already melted and escaped its containment vessel (requiring constant cooling and subsequent storage of the daily 300 tonnes of coolant water). One other could conceivably melt down in the event of a further large earthquake in the vicinity. So it’s no small cheese.

The existing and possible problems have not ever (as far as I can tell) been tackled before. Cores have melted. But they have remained contained. And no site has presented workers with such a heavily contaminated environment amidst so much wrecked infrastructure.

So, maybe we’re talking about the largest and most serious industrial accident in history; one that will run for decades and present never seen before scenarios…and an operating company has been left in charge of things?!

If ever there was a case for intervention by an international task force, this is it. We need the best engineers and access to all of the best plant, machinery and ideas we can muster.

And that’s just accounting for (some of) the technical/engineering front.

The  mounting environmental impacts…eg, strontium etc accumulating in the food chain and the general spread of contamination;  the human health consequences that have received scant attention… eg,the massive percentage of tested children who had enlarged thyroids, or the potential consequences from the approximate 10 ‘hot particles’ per day that people breathed in the immediate aftermath of this accident beginning – these would require separate posts.

I guess I can end as I began, by thanking god that the world’s most powerful men are switched on and focused to any wanton poisoning of civilians. Now we just have to wait for the inevitable response to be unleashed…

Meanwhile, if you want to access high quality information while we wait, try this site and links leading from it.

24 comments on “Intervention. Now! ”

  1. ghostwhowalksnz 1

    Oh Irony.

    It took an atomic bomb last time to get foreign troops on Japanesese soil.. Would take the same to get them to allow intervention again

  2. northshoredoc 2

    ‘….to any wonton poisoning of civilians’

    ..bloody chinese takeaways !

    On a serious note, love the permafrost solution very clever.

    • Bill 2.1

      a-hem. Fixed that.

      Meanwhile, the permafrost idea is fairly smart, assuming there are no further quakes that split it and no sustained periods of power loss.

      Have to question why they didn’t dig a 40m deep ditch above the site in the first instance to divert the groundwater. I can’t quite fathom the thinking behind the construction of an underground dam on the lower side of the site to catch it after it was already contaminated. And neither can I figure what led them to believe that it would never reach capacity, as it has, and spill on out into the Pacific.

      But yeah – engineers and operators. Big difference in competence levels.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1

        Who said they believed it would never reach capacity? They found a temporary stop-gap solution to a symptom of a situation that is nowhere close to being under “control”. Workers at the site are tweeting that the job is going to take decades, and that brings to mind three words: Tokaimura criticality incident.

        No-one even knows if a “melt-through” has occurred yet.

  3. tc 3

    ‘largest and most serious industrial accident in history..’

    Err no Bill it’ll be mother natures fault, nuclear all good move along people nothing to see here.

  4. Sable 4

    The Japanese government (like so many others) suffer from no small amount of arrogance. They assume they can resolve what is a catastrophic problem with nominal international assistance because to do otherwise would be to loose face. Ironically polluting the worlds oceans for thousands of years to come is somehow less likely to lead to the world viewing them with a mixture of hatred and contempt??

  5. bad12 5

    Have the Japanese got the smarts to fix Fukishima, their actions so far would cast doubt on that and thus cast a huge shadow of doubt over the effects on the Pacific Ocean and ultimately all of us,

    If we weren’t talking about Nuclear Radiation openly spilling into the ocean the Fukishma meltdown would look akin to a slap-stick comedy,

    Previous measurements of radiation levels have now been said to have been totally off the mark with the reading instrument only able to read up to 100 milli-whatsits of radiation being used up to last week as the only testing devices,

    Having it would seem just decided to find out the ‘true’ radiation levels a new device has been used to take such measurements which have shown the actual radiation levels of the leaks as being a massive 1800 milli-whatsits,

    Exposed to that level of radiation the average human would be on the way to the cemetery after four hours…

    Oopth, forgot to provide a link,


  6. Te Reo Putake 6

    You got your wish yesterday, Bill. The Japanese government intervened, removed control of the plant from Tepco and Russian experts have been invited in to take over the containment process.

    • Bill 6.1

      Really? Well, that would have to be good start, assuming the field of engineers and experts encompasses an ever larger international contingent…otherwise, given the novel nature of the problems that are popping up, my fear is that curtailing potential input will lead to less than optimum plans and measures being put in place.

      edit. you wouldn’t happen to have a link to that announcement?

  7. Populuxe1 7

    And here was me thinking this was some arch and elaborate parody on the Syria debate. Part of me still hopes that this is the case.

  8. Foreign Waka 8

    One wonders how many almost and not so almost accidents have happened at nuclear plants all over the globe. And this disaster just reminds us all that this form of energy is not as safe as it has been perpetrated. No insurance can cover such incident, let alone the hundreds (!) of years where mutations will take hold and god knows what will be the result. Right now, those who think they have no such issue – think waste and where it gets dumped.
    And NZ has once more been well ahead by being a bit more courageous.

  9. An excellent article on the crony capitalists walking away from disaster

    “Abe at Ground Zero: the consequences of inaction at Fukushima Daiichi”

    – See more at:


  10. infused 10

    The one thing I’ll agree on. Japan as fucked half the worlds ocean.

  11. johnm 11

    The World’s Nuclear Powers and the Japanese Government should have mobilised a “War Effort” to contain and control Fukushima from Day 1. Eventually,seriously!, we have to stop eating Pacific fish.

    Some links:
    “Fukushima radioactive leak is ‘the greatest threat humanity ever faced’ “- expert
    Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_03/Japan-to-spend-500m-on-water-leaks-at-Fukushima-3258/

    “Professor: Fukushima Unit No. 4 “an immediate problem” — Building is sinking, over 30 inches in places — Extraordinary possibility plant could be back at March 2011 if situation continues — Risk of fission accident in fuel pool (AUDIO)” http://enenews.com/professor-fukushima-unit-4-immediate-problem-building-sinking-30-inches-places-extraordinary-possibility-plant-could-be-march-2011-resolved-risk-fission-accident-fuel-pool-audio

    “Fukushima Plume Headed to Southern Hemisphere: Enters South Pacific and Indian Ocean after 2 decades — Will contain around 25% of total cesium-137 release”

    Japan to pay $500 million to freeze soil, find other ways to stop leaking Fukushima water

  12. johnm 12

    “this is a global threat. They say that one microgram of plutonium could theoretically kill a person.

    There are billion micrograms in a kilogram and there are 400.000 hot kilograms in this pool. So, if these rods combust, if the set of rods begins a thermonuclear reaction, it will vaporize the water in the pool and the entire pool can become an uncontrolled nuclear reaction open to the air. These particles will be spread through the northern hemisphere.

    This is perhaps the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. And I think you would acknowledge there has been far too little attention given to this at this point and the measures that the Japanese government is discussing at this point are not sufficient, I believe. Other governments must become engaged in this.”
    Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_03/Japan-to-spend-500m-on-water-leaks-at-Fukushima-3258/

    Referring to the spent fuel rod pool some 30 feet up in the air which is sinking and damaged from 3/11plus some liquifaction from groundwater underneath. The same pool they will begin in November to extract manually and laboriously each rod to store safely elsewhere.

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