Considering that the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex is still leaking high levels of radiation nearly three months after the disaster and meltdowns, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn that Japan was totally unprepared to deal with it.
But it’s encouraging that, after months of downplaying the dangers and offering uberoptimistic assessments of progress, the Japanese government is finally admitting the truth:
1) Total meltdown at three of the four reactors (after two months of denial, then admitting to partial meltdowns). Now, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says, “the melted fuel in reactor 1 fell to the bottom of the pressure vessel and damaged it at about 8 p.m. on March 11, about five hours after the quake. In reactor 2, a similar event took place at about 10:50 p.m. March 14″. And reactor 1 may have suffered a melt-through, breaching containment.
2) The report doubles the amount of radiation released in the first week, from 370,000 terabecquerels to 770,000. For comparison, the entire disaster at 3 Mile Island emitted 93,000; Chernobyl was 5.2 million. I’ll give you a firm number for the complete Fukushima disaster to date as soon as I find one.
In a report submitted to the UN Nuclear Agency, Japan takes the remarkable step of admitting they screwed up.
“We are taking very seriously the fact that consistent preparation for severe accidents was insufficient,” the report said. “In light of the lessons learned from the accident, Japan has recognised that a fundamental revision of its nuclear safety preparedness and response is inevitable.”
- TEPCO power company, which owns the plant, had failed to protect workers and provided inadequate information
- Some workers were exposed to unsafe levels. We simply don’t know about others, since radiation monitoring equipment was ruined by the tsunami.
- Red tape and division of responsibility had slowed down the response.
- Japan will separate its nuclear oversight from the nuclear trade group – a classic conflict of interest being repaired after it’s already too late and the damage is done.
It’s easy to understand why in the frenzied few weeks after the earthquake those three bodies would have wanted to remain cautious when estimating the scale of the emergency—they wanted to prevent panic. But there’s a problem with that approach. The nuclear industry has long suffered from a “credibility gap” and low-level of trust from the public. The global community needs to know as quickly and as accurately as possible what’s going on in a nuclear emergency.
We couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, our government has been just as non-credible and just as willing to hide the truth when it comes to nuclear dangers, going right back to the dawn of the nuclear age.
It’s worth taking a look at that history as they ask us to trust them with yet another round of nuclear power plant construction.
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