No More Fukushimas

The situation at the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima is dire. Two days ago, three workers were exposed to water containing radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level in the basement of Reactor No. 3.  This reactor is especially dangerous because it contains MOX fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium.  And, things got worse yesterday.  The Japanese authorities have now said that the reactor vessel in unit 3 may have breached, which means that much greater amounts of radiation from the MOX fuel could be released.

Here in the United States, the nuclear industry’s lobbyists and propagandists work to downplay concerns.  “Earthquakes of that magnitude would never happen here.”  “We’ll do a thorough safety review.” “Nuclear power needs to be part of our energy future.”  And so on. What they aren’t saying is that that massive public subsidies to bring this old reactors online would go 7-10 times further if spent on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Nuclear energy development is one of the biggest blockages to and energy revolution that can slow climate change. 

The federal government has failed for years to provide appropriate oversight of nuclear reactors, but fortunately, two states are leading the fight to shut down their dangerous old nuclear reactors.  In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a longtime critic of Indian Point, and has called for a safety review of the reactors.  In Vermont, where the state legislature voted overwhelmingly last year to close Vermont Yankee as scheduled in 2012, over 600 people gathered outside the reactor on Sunday to show solidarity with the people of Japan and call for the plant to be shut down.

This Monday, March 28, people across the country will be showing their support for the people of Japan and calling for a world free of nuclear disasters.  Please sign up to host or join a vigil near you, and let’s fight for an energy future with no more Fukushimas.  To find a Stand with Japan vigil near you, go to:

3 Responses to “No More Fukushimas”

  1. 1 The Rad Rider Mar 26th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    No one likes an alarmist without cause, however, in this case, there appears to be ample cause for alarm.

    Study the close up views of the #3 reactor explosion and you will see that the blast was not the type of blast one would expect from a hydrogen explosion. The fireball seen in the corner of the plant may have been due to hydrogen but it was much too small to cause the main blast. Not only that, inspection reveals that this was a directional blast. Much as if a cannon had been fired straight up from inside the reactor building.

    This is what one would expect if the reactor dome exploded with enough force to take out the removable concrete pads covering it.

    Injecting sea water into the molten core causes an immediate explosion of steam. If the temperature of the reactor vessel had reached critical temperature, it would not have had the integrity required to withstand this dramatic increase in pressure.

    If my assessment is correct, the dark colored cloud we witnessed, that was shot approximately 1,000 feet into the air, contained the remains of the MOX core and made this accident worse than Chernobyl.

    I also suspect that the #1 and #2 reactor vessels have lost their integrity due to the same process.

    The so called experts that have been downplaying the seriousness of this accident, have an agenda other than disseminating the truth. It is long past time for scientists, other than myself, to speak up and show the discrepancies in the current story. It is also long past time for news reporters to do the basic research required, before publishing erroneous and misleading details in their stories.

  2. 2 rmarg Mar 26th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    All reactors after a period of operation are essentially MOX. There is not much difference in the source term (i.e., the mix of radioisotopes in a release). As for renewables, and I know I am probably a broken record on this, you need cheap energy storage to balance out the grid. Otherwise, you will be using a lot more gas turbines. Even with Fukushima, the risks to the public per unit energy are lower (but definitely never zero) with nuclear than fossil fuels.

    When cell phone batteries cost 50 cents, can be charged in five minutes and proceed to run for a week, then there may be battery technology that can make an all renewable grid cheap and reliable. However, my guess is that chemistry and physics have limited our options with low energy/power density sources.

  3. 3 KeenOn350 Mar 27th, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Not all nuclear reactors are created equal – there are old nuclear reactors, and new nuclear reactors. There are bad designs and good designs.

    Chernobyl was a reactor design which never should have been built – the reactor core had no containment chamber at all. It never has been built, outside the Soviet Union.
    Fukushima is an old GE design – better than Chernobyl (it has at least a decent containment chamber), but still with built-in flaws, especially with regard to the emergency cooling system.

    People who want to participate intelligently with comments on a nuclear power debate should spend a little time getting informed on the historic flaws, and the current and future possibilities for good nuclear installations.

    Excellent information on the rush to build reactors in the 50’s and 60’s can be found in this Adam Curtis BBC documentary – A is for Atom. American and Russian interviews and history. Insight into the “shortcuts” of the day.
    Fukushima was one of these reactors – A GE BWR built in late 60’s and brought online in early 70’s. As George Monbiot says, in spite of that, the Fukushima reactor has hung pretty much together through an unbelievable natural disaster, and the situation has had quite a limited effect on the general public health and safety.

    From the beginning, there were other safer options available for nuclear power generation. Check this video on the Integral Fast Reactor history. Unfortunately, the safer reactor designs were less well adapted to the provision of material for building bombs – so the bomb-builders were what got built in the old days.

    There is no such thing as perfectly safe energy supply.
    Is wood-burning safe? – consider the Great Fire of London in 1666!

    Is oil safe? Consider Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon, for starters. Consider the extensive despoilation/damage in Africa where oil is being pumped (Big Oil is not required by laws to be clean there!)Consider the devastation in Alberta at the tar sands!

    At Chiba, after the earthquake, a major oil refinery blew up, and caught fire. The initial explosion killed about a dozen people. It burned for 10 days, spewing out massive pollution. We hardly heard about it. So far, the death toll for oil far exceeds nuclear in the current Japanese disaster.

    Is coal safe? Consider all the miners who die in it’s production. Consider also the health effects – the UN estimates 2,000,000 (yes, two million) people die prematurely each year from the pollution of coal-fired power plants, and millions more suffer health effects during their lifetime. Again, consider also the damage done by the waste heaps from both mining and burning of coal. And the fact that coal burning plants in operation emit more radiation than nuclear plants.

    Is nuclear safe? Well, if you actually do some realistic research, nuclear power to date has provided the cleanest and safest power overall. Here is a study on the subject .

    We can’t live without some risk.
    We haven’t stopped flying, although occasionally a plane crashes, usually killing all on board.
    We haven’t stopped driving, although WHO estimates 1.2 million people die worldwide in car accidents each year.
    We haven’t stopped walking, although people occasionally step in front of a bus.

    Given –
    – the risks associated with the burning of fossil fuels (climate disruption, biosphere and ocean destruction), which may well lead to large-scale disaster for our civilization if continued;
    – the simple fact that one day we must run out of fossil fuel – more likely sooner than later;
    – the growing population in our already over-populated world;
    we simply must find an alternative energy source, soon (like 20 or 30 years ago, preferably).

    Renewables may be a part of the answer, but not likely the whole solution.

    New nuclear (newclear?) power will probably have to be part of the mix.

    Gen III+ and Gen IV reactors can be built. These units have passive safety features ( no need for all those tons of water being pumped in at Fukushima), and will actually clean up the long-lived radioactive waste that is presently accumulating from the old-style reactors.

    For those who want to participate intelligently in the debate on newclear power, information on current and future possibilities can be found at the following:

    Brave New Climate is an excellent blog providing discussion and in-depth information on the subject of newclear power.

    Interesting interview with Tom Blees on the possibilities of the IFR.

    Thorium reactor possibilities - a Google Tech Talk – (a bit US oriented – but informative)
    Search google tech talks for “thorium”

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About John

John Deans is a Greenpeace campaigner working on Toxics issues, but he got his start in activism working to stop climate change and still participates when able.

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