Sunday, March 13, 2011

Meltdowns and false assurances...


Dear Readers,

If you think things are getting better in Japan, find another news source...

"We're still expecting to see another 7 to 8 earthquake..." -- expert interviewed by the BBC just now. He stated that at least one aftershock is usually within a digit of the main quake, although this main quake was the fifth largest ever recorded, so historic data are rare. Anything could happen.

So every nuclear reactor in Japan that isn't in dire trouble already, might be at any moment. A least three nuclear reactors in Japan have been ruined permanently, two of which have had "partial" fuel melts, many are releasing unmeasured volumes of radiation into the air and water, and the nuclear industry just watches and assures us they are "clean and green" and -- oh look, those highly skilled workers (who don't know when to call in the bucket brigade) may have managed to prevent a catastrophic explosion / meltdown!

(Note: That explosion yesterday at Fukushima 1 was NOT the reactor pressure vessel exploding, which may yet happen and if it does, that could start spent fuel pool fires and additional meltdowns of nearby reactors.)

There have been more than 200 earthquakes of 5.0 or greater in the area recently, and more than 20 above 6.0. "NO one can predict earthquakes" added the expert.

Below are some recent communications from the BBC, followed by a comment in the New York Times by former NRC commissioner Nils Diaz, an apologist for the nuclear industry. Nils Diaz is wrong to think that if this had happened here, the meltdowns that have apparently occurred would not have occurred. He claims that American power plant operators would have acted more quickly. Dumping sea water or boric acid into a reactor ruins the reactor, and there is no reason to think we wouldn't have also waited too long. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise. For example, here in America, the Monticello nuclear reactor was found to have an inoperable Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS) after operating for 30 years. Shipping bolts had been left on the baffles, and no one noticed. Had it been needed (as the ECCS was at multiple reactors in Japan), it wouldn't have been available.

So what did AMERICAN reactor operators do? Remove the bolts? Yep. Shut the reactor down until the bolts were removed? Nope.

They waited 12 hours before shutting down the reactor, because regulations said they COULD wait that long if they wanted to. The operators might have thought they could fix the ECCS in that amount of time, though it's unlikely. By the 11th hour they surely knew they weren't going to complete the task in time, BUT THEY KEPT THE REACTOR GOING.

Because an operating reactor makes money for its owners. And the regulators said they could. It's a good thing they didn't have an earthquake during those 12 hours, or a tornado or other natural disaster. Good thing nobody flipped the wrong switch and they actually needed the ECCS.

Subsequent investigations of the Fukushima ongoing disaster -- perhaps after the involved personnel have died of their radiation exposures -- might blame faulty equipment, confusing signals, or any number of things that would trip up a U.S. operator too. Nils Diaz's comments are nearly racist, actually.

And just plain wrong. It can happen here today too, tomorrow, or any time. And American nuclear operators are just as bull-headed about keeping the plants online "come hell or high water" as everyone else. These were, after all, American nuclear reactors, built by American firms. Undoubtedly American "experts" were immediately called upon to assist or advise the Japanese operators.

What's happening in Japan can happen here, too.


Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

NIRS fact sheet on the situation in Japan:

Belona fact sheet:

News from the BBC...

1721: More on the Tokai nuclear power plant: A report submitted to the Ibaraki prefectural government by the Japan Atomic Power Company said that one of the two pumps being used to cool the water of a suppression pool for the plant's nuclear reactor had stopped working, according to the Kyodo news agency. However, the other pump was still working and there was no problem with cooling the reactor, the prefectural government said. All control rods were set in completely at the reactor, it added.

1710: The crisis has renewed concern in other countries about the safety of atomic power. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said it represented a turning point for the world. She said that safety standards at her own country's nuclear power stations would now be reviewed. In the United States, Senator Joe Lieberman said Washington needed to put the brakes on the development of nuclear power plants until lessons were learned from what had happened in Japan.

1706: The news about Tokai comes as the authorities battle to prevent a meltdown at the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi complex. Sea water is being pumped into three overheating reactors there. The plant was rocked by an explosion on Saturday, which blew off the roof of one reactor building. Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared at a second nuclear site. The International Atomic Energy Agency said increased levels of radiation had been detected at Onagawa, close to the area worst hit by the tsunami.


From the New York Times:

"They would rather wait and do things in a perfect manner instead of doing it as good as it needs to be now," Mr. Diaz said. "And this search for perfection has often led to people sometimes hiding things or waiting too long to do things."
In the case of Saturday's blast, experts said that problem was avoidable.

Mr. Diaz said that a comprehensive nuclear power plant safety program developed in the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks would have prevented a similar accident at any of the nation's nuclear facilities.

A media release from South Africa:

Sent: 13 March 2011 04:50 PM
Subject: [EnergyCaucus] media release: Nuclear Disaster in Japan - workers and citizens at high risk

Nuclear Disaster in Japan ­ workers and citizens at high risk

The massive explosion following a cooling problem at one Fukushima's nuclear reactors, Daiichi, has not only released radiation and other toxic compounds, but has created an untenable situation for workers at Fukushima's other nuclear reactors nearby, called Daini, especially given that a state of emergency has been declared for five reactors at the two plants. Latest news is that a hydrogen explosion is now possible at the No. 3 reactor at Fukushima 1.

"Workers are being exposed to the 'allowable' annual dose of radiation every hour that they remain on site. Our hearts go out to them," said Muna Lakhani, co-ordinator of Earthlife Africa's Unplug Nuclear 1 campaign. The danger is not over. There are fears of another explosion as the cooling system at a second reactor has also failed, as of Sunday morning. "The measuring of Caesium at the plant indicates that a meltdown has indeed taken place, which raises the levels of radiation released to catastrophic proportions" suggested Lakhani. Latest news on Sunday confirms fears of a multiple meltdown.

The reactors have all been shut down. The reactor core remains hot for days after shutdown, however, so workers have been busy ensuring that the fuel rods do not melt down. For this the cooling systems need to be operational requiring a power source. The quake has disrupted the backup supplies of power including diesel generators. The IAEA supplied batteries and coolant in the interim. They are now flushing the highly radioactive core with seawater which will cause massive seawater contamination whilst preventing a full scale Chernobyl type meltdown. This is an act of desperation and unprecedented.

Platitudes by the Japanese government and nuclear industry suggesting that the radiation threat is minimal must be treated with great caution, as reports confirm that not only has the containment been breached, and that 'venting' is taking place, but also that radiation levels at about 1000 higher than normal have been measured. The 24 hr monitoring that is supposed to happen as a matter of course, has been shutdown (www/nu/pamp/index-j.html) ­ Japanese activists suggest that this is so that the public and the world at large will not be told how much radiation has and is being released" said Gray Maguire, ELA branch secretary.

It took local activists many hours to get the exclusion zone expanded from the initial 10km to 20 km, which, while not completely safe, helps limit harm to local residents.

"We call upon the nuclear industry, and the South African government, to take this disaster seriously, and abandon all nuclear plans for our country. Given that proposed sites are all along the coast, we believe that this gamble is unacceptable. Not only are sustainable and safe alternatives cheaper than nuclear power, but they are also better solutions to the creation of decent work and energy security, as well as the best solutions to limit climate change," Lakhani states. The public should note that our existing nuclear power plant Koeberg is on a geological fault on the Cape Fold Belt with the last destructive large earthquake occurring in 1809. Interesting also is that if we were to apply the 20km exclusion/ evacuation zone (which has been applied to Fukushima) to Koeberg this would mean evacuating most of Cape Town.

There has been a history of safety problems and cover-ups by TEPCO at the Fukushima reactor complex. (

South Africa is considering a 'fleet' of nuclear reactors, at Thyspunt, Bantamklip and additional reactors at Koeberg, at a potential cost of hundreds of billions of Rands. Yje National Nuclear Regulator has also come under fire, for not mobilising a "hazmat" team, with local activists questioning their ability to respond to a disaster at Koeberg.


Issued by:

Earthlife Africa Cape Town
Unplug Nuclear 1 Campaign
Muna Lakhani

Examples of problems and cover ups:

Local concerns had already been fuelled by revelations, which came to light in 2002 and 2003, that data at the plant had been deliberately falsified to comply with regulations on wastewater discharges into the sea.

In 1999, the seeming lack of controls at nuclear power plants caused widespread alarm when three workers at Tokaimura, in Ibaraki prefecture, suffered high doses of radiation and more than 100 local residents were exposed to low levels of radiation due to a "criticality" event, which is a limited, uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

It emerged that Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Company (JCO), which operated the plant, had modified its enriched uranium processing procedure, without approval from the authorities and removed various safety measures aimed at ensuring prevention of criticality.

Not long before the Tokaimura accident, on December 8, 1995, a fast-breeder reactor, known as Monju, which uses plutonium fuel instead of uranium, suffered a serious accident, which led to leakage of sodium coolant.

Contact information for the author of this newsletter appears at the bottom:

Quotes collected by Ace Hoffman:

"Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. People are not curious about the details." -- Paul Brians (author; quote is from: Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction)
"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis (first American Nobel Prize winner in Literature, 2.7.1885 - 1.10.1951)
"There is no such thing as a pro-nuclear environmentalist." -- Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa, 1992)
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories." -- Sun Tzu (Chinese general b.500 BC)
"The most intolerable reactor of all may be one which comes successfully to the end of its planned life having produced mountains of radioactive waste for which there is no disposal safe from earthquake damage or sabotage." -- A. Stanley Thompson (a pioneer nuclear physicist who later realized the whole situation)
"Any dose is an overdose." -- Dr. John W. Gofman (another pioneer nuclear physicist who saw the light (9.21.1918 - 8.15.2007))
"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be lied to. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery." -- Octavia Butler (science fiction writer, 7.22.1947 - 2.24.2006)
"If you want real welfare reform, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to reduce poverty, you focus on a good education, good healthcare, and a good job.

If you want a stable middle class, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

If you want to have citizens who can participate in democracy, you focus on a good education, good health care, and a good job.

And if you want to end the violence, you could build a million new prisons and you could fill them up, but you never end this cycle of violence unless you invest in the health and the skill and the intellect and the character of our children. You focus on a good education, good health care and a good job.

And other than that, I don't feel strongly about anything."

-- Paul Wellstone (US Senator, D-Minnesota, 7.21.1944 - 10.25.2002)
"There are no warlike peoples - just warlike leaders." -- Ralph Bunche (8.7.1903 - 12.9.1971)
"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God." -- Thomas Jefferson
"Officials from the San Onofre nuclear reactor said the warning siren that went off yesterday was just a malfunction and no one should worry. Hey, I worry, if they can't even get the siren to work right, what the hell are they doing with the reactor??" Jay Leno 1/20/10
"Please send this to everyone you know!" -- Ace Hoffman (original collector of the above quotes, January, 2008)

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Author, The Code Killers:
An Expose of the Nuclear Industry
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