Cluster Fuk-ushima: multiple meltdowns

"I have said before, unfortunately, the only thing that is capable of stopping this wicked industry is a major catastrophe, and it now looks like this may be it."
-- Dr. Helen Caldicott

Here are a few guides to keep track on what is really happening, as best as can be determined, plus information on the implications and steps you can take to reduce your radiation exposure. We all live downwind.

This is potentially much, much worse than Chernobyl due to the multiple meltdowns and the burning of the irradiated fuel pool. Unless a lot of concrete can be used to seal Fukushima it is likely to be a worse problem than Chernobyl. Multiple reactor meltdowns plus a loss of coolant in the "spent" fuel pool is without precedent.

The only way I can see this accident NOT being much worse than Chernobyl is if the entire complex is buried under a small mountain of concrete and boron in the next couple days. Chernobyl 4 was a relatively new reactor and did not have decades of stored fuel rods. The chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said a few days ago that Fukushima's number four reactor fuel pool had lost its cooling water. We are not experiencing a loss of coolant accident and reactor meltdown. We are experiencing three reactor meltdowns and a fuel pool fire, with the possibility of the five other fuel pools also being breached. Fuel pools sound innocuous but they are where the decades of irradiated fuel rods are stored. You can hold a uranium fuel rod before it undergoes fission and not get much exposure. After irradiation in the reactor it is lethally radioactive and extremely thermally hot. The fuel pool damage looks much, much worse than the reactor breaches given the very large amounts of long lived radioactivity. Catastrophe seems too modest of a word, today.

This disaster is the obvious consequence of ignoring the environmental warnings for decades, tragic and preventable. It is a "final warning" for civilization, this time if we ignore the implications the consequences are likely to be even worse. Time's up, we need to choose survival instead of extinction.

from Associated Press, posted for fair use purposes given the importance of this information

Fukushima Reactor 4

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes.
-- Albert Einstein, 1946

Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary force since the prehistoric discovery of fire. This basic power of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms. For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world.
We scientists recognize our inescapable responsibility to carry to our fellow citizens an understanding of the simple facts of atomic energy and its implications for society. In this lies our only security and our only hope--we believe that an informed citizenry will act for life and not death.
-- Albert Einstein, January 22, 1947

No degree of prosperity could justify the accumulation of large amounts of highly toxic substances which nobody knows how to make safe and which remain an incalculable danger to the whole of creation for historical or even geological ages. To do such a thing is a transgression against life itself, a transgression infinitely more serious than any crime perpetrated by man. The idea that a civilization could sustain itself on such a transgression is an ethical, spiritual, and metaphysical monstrosity. It means conducting the economical affairs of man as if people did not matter at all.
-- E. F. Schumacher “Small is Beautiful”
Beyond Nuclear
updates on Fukushima nuclear accident(s) in Japan, this is a story that is going to take a while to get full clarity
Nuclear Information Resource Service


This article was written in 1996, a long time before the recent accident at the Fukushima Mark 1 reactors. It shows that we have a lot to be concerned about the continued operation of this reactor design. According to a recent news report from Reuters there are 23 Mark 1 reactors operating in the US:
Zirconium and Hydrogen

“Serious Danger of a Full Core Meltdown”: Update on Japan’s Nuclear Catastrophe
(interviews with Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear, and Karl Grossman, two of the long time leaders of the anti nuclear power movement)

Fears of a full-scale nuclear reactor meltdown are increasing as Japanese authorities use military helicopters to dump water on the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The water appears to have missed its target and failed to cool the plant’s reactors and spent fuel rods. “The walls of defense are falling, with the melting of the cores, the collapsing of the—we’re expecting the collapsing of the vessels. And then, with these damaged containments, these are all open windows to the atmosphere,” says Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. Some experts say U.S. reactors are safer than those in Japan. But investigative journalist, Karl Grossman, notes a 1985 report by the National Regulatory Commission acknowledged a 50 percent chance of a severe core accident among the more than 100 nuclear power plants in the United States over a 20-year period. [includes rush transcript]

“This Could Become Chernobyl on Steroids”: Nuclear Engineer Arnie Gundersen on Japan’s Growing Nuclear Crisis

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Chris Martsenson, author of Crash Course (great introduction to Peak Energy & Peak Money) estimates the economic fallout from the multiple meltdowns
military newspaper has an interesting admission
NRC Chair: 'No Water In The Spent Fuel Pool'
Nuclear Agency Chair Gregory Jaczko warns of "extremely high" radiation levels.

Warning: watching the video of his testimony to Congress was terrifying. My perspective of the NRC -- I've been to protests at their headquarters, I have gone to hearings, commissioner meetings, once filed a FOIA (for food irradiation info, back in the 1980s), and even got arrested at their headquarters during Reagan's time (ritualistic civil disobediance). Jackzo is describing a worst case scenario that the NRC has always known was a probability. The NRC says the full story is not being told by the Japanese government. We can only imagine what discussions they are having in the White House National Security Council and the Pentagon about this unprecedented nuclear disaster.
Continuous news feed in English from NHK
(Nippon Housou Kyoukai - Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
Post Carbon Institute
the energy solution is to relocalize production and "power down"
potassium iodate

IAEA: Japan may hand out iodine near nuclear plants
03/12/2011 15:24
VIENNA - Japanese authorities have told the UN atomic watchdog they are making preparations to distribute iodine to people living near nuclear power plants affected by Friday's earthquake, the Vienna-based agency said. Iodine can be used to help protect the body from radioactive exposure.
In Japan on Saturday, radiation leaked from a damaged nuclear reactor after an explosion blew the roof off in the wake of a massive earthquake, but the government insisted that radiation levels were low.

note: Potassium Iodine or Iodate is used to block uptake of radioactive iodine, which concentrates in the thyroid. Radioactive iodine is especially dangerous for children. Nuclear fallout includes hundreds of radioactive isotopes, radioactive iodine is only part of the problem. Taking iodine does nothing to mitigate the uptake of strontium-90, which concentrates in bones, or cesium-137, which concentrates in muscles. Unless you are in a high radiation area potassium iodine is not recommended. Most people far away from Fukushima -- in the United States or Europe -- are more likely to get chronic low level radiation exposure from the fallout. Distant exposures will be more from the food chain, not direct inhalation (although there may be some hot spots caused by fallout in rain storms, a reason to have lots of monitoring to determine the public health hazards).

Iodine-131 has a half life of about 8 days. It takes 10 half lives to reduce a radioactive material by a factor of about a thousand (1/1,024th). 20 half lives result in a reduction by about a million. So I-131 is mostly gone after about three months.

Cesium-137 and strontium-90 have half lives of about thirty years, so it takes centuries for these fission products to dissipate.
DIET FOR THE ATOMIC AGE: How To Protect Yourself From Low-Level Radiation
( has extensive background info on radiation health impacts)

Protective Measures from Radioactivity in North America

These recommendations are for people in North America as of March 17, 2011

The amount of the radioactive release from the Fukushima sites is not known today. Very high radiation levels are reported at the plant site while lower, but still significant readings are reported in nearby towns.
Radiation from the Fukushima accident is expected to begin reaching North America as early as Friday, March 18, 2011. Current weather patterns indicate the initial plume is most likely to arrive in southern California. However, radiation continues to be released at Fukushima and thus will continue to arrive in North America for days to come, and perhaps longer. Eventually, slightly elevated radiation levels are likely to occur throughout North America and much of the world.

The radiation levels that will come to North America will not be large enough to cause acute symptoms or immediate health effects. Health concerns are more long-term, and across the total population may contribute to cancer rates and other genetic impacts. It is impossible to say for any one individual what the risk, or hazard is long-term.
At this point, we do not believe it will be necessary—or feasible given the expected duration of elevated radiation levels—to take shelter. Nor is evacuation a feasible strategy, since after arriving on North America’s west coast the elevated levels will continue to move to the east. We will post immediately if there is reason to believe that sheltering is necessary.
However, unnecessary exposure to radiation should be avoided when possible. Rain, in particular, can bring radioactive particles to the earth.

If it rains over the next several days, stay out of it if possible. If you get wet, put your clothes in the wash and take a shower. Leave outerwear and shoes at the door so you don’t track water in your home. Do not collect rainwater for drinking or later garden use during the period of time when active distribution of radioactivity is happening.

A dust mask does little or nothing for you. A respirator such as used for toxic chemicals will help to reduce exposure, however it is very unlikely that exposures in the US to gases from Japan will be concentrated to the point where a gas mask is needed. If you live near a nuclear power plant, you might want to add one to your emergency kit.
Special note: There is a long historical record of the nuclear industry piggy backing “routine” release of radioactivity to the air and water under the “cloak” of a larger nuclear event. Be aware that if you are near a nuclear facility you are at a higher risk of elevated “routine” exposure even if there is no local accident during this time.

If you have access to well water, you likely do not need to worry about radioactivity in your water until the “recharge” period for your water source has passed – and likely the natural filtering of the Earth will reduce the level of radioactivity.
If you have a municipal water supply, ask your municipality to monitor and report the status of the level of radioactivity in the supply. You can offer that this may seem like an unlikely issue, but it is better to provide MORE information to people than less, and you have a right to know.
Food will be impacted directly in terms of contamination from fallout and indirectly from the food chain. Direct impact primarily applies to areas where radioactive fall-out is concentrated. There was a lot of impact on food production across Europe from the Chernobyl accident. As of today, experts do not yet see this level of release in North America. In other words, when it comes to local food, if there is direct contamination, the source is likely the “routine” radioactivity that is released from the facilities that are already in our communities.
The food chain, and international supply of food complicate the issue of radioactive food. Here are some of the type of foods that are most likely to concentrate radioactivity: Dairy (milk, and everything made from it), meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, oil. Many processed foods contain hidden oils.
IF there are significant amounts of radioactivity that are distributed from Fukushima it will take some time to enter the food that is in the market place – for instance, the grain in the bread in the store today was grown some months ago.
There is no way to know about the food, but in general, this is a good reason to push for real- time monitoring of where the plumes are traveling and to ask your county officials to collect rain samples and make the results known to local residents so that you can make informed choices.

Three Mile Island and Chernobyl: public health cover-up
Three Mile Island Alert
Several studies found elevated cancer rates near Three Mile Island
A Chronology of Health Problems Related to Three Mile Island

The monitoring systems at TMI went off scale during the partial meltdown so no one knows what the precise emission was, but it was high enough that people downwind tasted metal (the fallout), birth defects increased in downwind counties, even oak trees were found to have mutated leaves in downwind forests. While one could never prove the precise number of casualties it was not zero.
People Died at Three Mile Island
Animals Died at Three Mile Island

is a good place to start for accurate information about the true scale of the Chernobyl disaster. Chernobyl was one of the factors that lead to the dissolution of the USSR, it allowed some political space for environmental groups, especially in downwind communities in Eastern Europe. It's anyone's guess what political and economic consequences will happen from Fukushima but I suspect it will be as world shifting as 9/11.


copied from
Understanding Some of the True Costs of Nuclear Technology

We list here a set of files pertaining to Chernobyl, a town's name that, like Bhopal, has come to represent the epidome of man's inappropriate behavior based only on the intellect's capacity to ask, "Is it possible?" If we are to survive as a species, and be the true conservators of this place as our response abilities endow us with, we MUSTtemper the intellect's youthful inexperience with the age-old instinctual and intuitive wisdom that always asks "Is it appropriate?" when considering any activity. Chernobyl is the clearest single message to humanity that Nuclear Technology is not an appropriate exercise of human intelligence. It is omnicidal.

Chernobyl's Accident: Path and Extension of the Radioactive Cloud
This is a graphic reconstruction of the path of the first 14 days of the 1986 Chernobyl radioactive plume. It was created by the French Government's official agency on radiation and nuclear matters, the INSTITUT DE RADIOPROTECTION ET SÛRETÉ NUCLÉAIRE (IRSN). (Only the entry point - Path and extension of the radioactive cloud - is in English. At present (14 Mar 2011), the text content and details are available only in French. IRSN is currently working on a new international website.)

What Next for the WHO and IAEA? Chernobyl, 25 Years Later
By Dr. Janette D. Sherman, MD, Counterpunch, 4 March 2011
Immediately after the catastrophe, release of information was limited, and there was a delay in collecting data. WHO, supported by governments worldwide could have been pro-active and led the way to provide readily accessible information, but did not. These omissions resulted in several effects: limited monitoring of fallout levels, delays in getting stable potassium iodide to people, lack of care for many, and delay in prevention of contamination of the food supply. . . .
Given that thyroid diseases caused such a toll, Chernobyl has shown that nuclear societies – notable Japan, France, India, China, the United States, and Germany – must distribute stable potassium iodide (KI) before an accident, because it must be used within the first 24 hours.
Key to understanding effects from nuclear fallout is the difference between external and internal radiation. While external radiation, as from x-rays, neutron, gamma and cosmic rays can harm and kill, internal radiation (alpha and beta particles) when absorbed by ingestion and inhalation become embedded in tissues and releases damaging energy in direct contact with tissues and cells, often for the lifetime of the person, animal or plant.

Book Review: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,
by Dr. Rosalie Bertell, February 12, 2010
The authors systematically explain the secrecy conditions imposed by the government, the failure of technocrats to collect data on the number and distribution of all of the radionuclides of major concern, and the restrictions placed on physicians against calling any medical findings radiation related unless the patient had been a certified “acute radiation sickness” patient during the disaster, thus assuring that only 1% of injuries would be so reported.

Chernobyl Radiation Killed Nearly One Million People: New Book,
by Environmental News Service, April 26, 2010
Drawing upon extensive data, the authors estimate the number of deaths worldwide due to Chernobyl fallout from 1986 through 2004 was 985,000, a number that has since increased. . . .
Yablokov and his co-authors find that radioactive emissions from the stricken reactor, once believed to be 50 million curies, may have been as great as 10 billion curies, or 200 times greater than the initial estimate, and hundreds of times larger than the fallout from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. . . .
About 550 million Europeans, and 150 to 230 million others in the Northern Hemisphere received notable contamination. Fallout reached the United States and Canada nine days after the disaster. . . .
The authors of the study say not enough attention has been paid to Eastern European research studies on the effects of Chernobyl at a time when corporations in several nations, including the United States, are attempting to build more nuclear reactors and to extend the years of operation of aging reactors.
The authors said in a statement, "Official discussions from the International Atomic Energy Agency and associated United Nations' agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl Forum reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments."

Belarus brought to its knees by `invisible enemy', April 26, 2001
Fifteen years after Chernobyl, the world has moved on. But for Belarus the problems are only beginning. Thyroid cancer rates have risen by 2,400 per cent since the explosion . . . It is the country of Belarus which has suffered, and continues to suffer, most from the disaster: 70 per cent of the radiation has fallen on its land and people. . . . Medical research has shown that radioactive elements (primarily caesium 137 and iodine 131) cross the placental barrier from mother to foetus, contaminating each new generation. Faced with soaring levels of infertility and genetic changes, the gene pool of the Belarussian people is now under threat.

Geiger Counter manufacturers
International Medcom, Sebastopol, California
S.E. International, Summertown, Tennessee

a geiger counter can help monitor the scale of contamination if the fallout cloud passes over your community. When Chernobyl blew up in 1986 the cloud circled the entire planet. Areas that have rain while the fallout is present get more contamination than those that are dry at Peak Fallout.

Note: These geiger counter manufacturers are completely sold out of their supply. This writer first bought a geiger counter shortly after the Chernobyl disaster since it was obvious that was not the last time a large nuclear reactor would vent its contents into the environment. If Fukushima cannot be contained the potential radioactivity release could be many times greater than at Chernobyl -- there are six reactors on site, three of them have had severe damage and the fuel pool (stored irradiated nuclear fuel rods) has apparently lost its cooling water, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The largest exposure that anyone in the US and Europe is likely to get is from fallout being concentrated up the food chain, not direct exposure to the plume (assuming that the full inventory of radioactive waste in the fuel pools can be smothered in concrete and prevented from dispersal). Geiger counters are only moderately useful for detecting radioactivity in food -- gamma radiation will go through any food, but beta and alpha radiation contamination in food are hard to detect since they are not very penetrating. (Beta and alpha are more dangerous than gamma if ingested, as the energy is deposited in the cellular tissues.)

US Environmental Protection Agency radiation monitoring network on the West Coast

fallout can be extremely variable depending on wind trajectories and the amount of rainfall when fallout is present. The EPA has their reading on line (hopefully they are accurate). Many universities, scientific laboratories, corporations are monitoring air and rain water to determine if Fukushima fallout can be detected. Again, the main exposure risk in the long term is likely to be in the food supply -- especially fish, since much of the accident's releases have gone into the ocean, either directly from cooling water running off into the sea or from the plume dispersing over the ocean. It's likely we are at "Peak Sushi," since eating fish from anywhere near the meltdowns will be gambling with contamination levels.

a private, non-governmental network of geiger counters reporting findings in the US 24 hours a day. As of March 19 only a few locations are listed, and there is no independent verification of the data. Ideally this concept will grow to become much more useful for tracking radioactive fallout.

Economic Meltdown

Chris Martenson's "Crash Course" is the best summary of energy and money that I've seen. This is his latest on the economic fallout from Fukushima:


And some comic relief - gallows humor.

from The Onion

Nuclear Energy Advocates Insist U.S. Reactors Completely Safe Unless Something Bad Happens
MARCH 17, 2011 | ISSUE 47•11

• CDC Officials Announce Free Ice Cream For Everyone, Delicious Tasty Ice Cream, And Also There Is An Ebola Outbreak
• Japanese Leaders Say Radioactive Waste May Have Contributed To Creation Of Giant Monsters

WASHINGTON--Responding to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sought Thursday to reassure nervous Americans that U.S. reactors were 100 percent safe and posed absolutely no threat to the public health as long as no unforeseeable system failure or sudden accident were to occur. "With the advanced safeguards we have in place, the nuclear facilities in this country could never, ever become a danger like those in Japan, unless our generators malfunctioned in an unexpected yet catastrophic manner, causing the fuel rods to melt down," said NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko, insisting that nuclear power remained a clean, harmless energy source that could only lead to disaster if events were to unfold in the exact same way they did in Japan, or in a number of other terrifying and totally plausible scenarios that have taken place since the 1950s. "When you consider all of our backup cooling processes, containment vessels, and contingency plans, you realize that, barring the fact that all of those safety measures could be wiped away in an instant by a natural disaster or electrical error, our reactors are indestructible." Jaczko added that U.S. nuclear power plants were also completely guarded against any and all terrorist attacks, except those no one could have predicted.


Written shortly after the accident, events overtook this prediction (when the reactor buildings exploded) but even from the start it was clear the reactor accidents were extremely serious and the reactors were permanently ruined).

Flea powder may be saving lives in Japan

There’s a 40 year-old nuclear reactor cooling-down right now in Japan following the big earthquake in that country. Actually there are 11 such reactors cooling-down, automatically brought offline by the 8.9 temblor, but one of those reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi generating plant is not going gracefully and 3000 people have been moved from their homes as a precaution.

Good idea.

I worked as an investigator for the Presidential Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, 32 years ago, and a few months studying the plumbing TMI’s Unit 2, which is actually younger than the errant Japanese reactor, gives me a very healthy respect for the danger in Japan.

That Japanese reactor shut down automatically within seconds of the earthquake, the idea being that dropping the thermal load (stopping the nuclear reaction and cooling-down the reactor) would minimize risk overall from a huge plumbing system that was likely compromised and vulnerable. Radiation and the passage of time conspire to make pipes brittle and aftershocks make brittle pipes break. Not good.

The 10 other reactors behaved as expected, but this unit didn’t. Once the reactor was no longer making steam to drive a turbine and generate electricity the plant was supposed to fire-up diesel generators to make the power needed to keep coolant pumps running. Only the diesels wouldn’t start. It can take up to seven days, you see, to get such a reactor down to where it can survive without circulating coolant. With the diesels out (under water perhaps?) the plant relied on batteries to run the pumps — batteries good for only eight hours.

Tokyo Electric Power Company isn’t saying much. Utilities tend not to and Japanese utilities are notoriously secretive. But we got a clue to what’s happening from U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, of all people, who remarked that the U. S. military was delivering “coolant” to the stricken reactor.

“Coolant?” wondered aloud all the CNN and Fox News nuclear experts looking for a lede for their stories. “What is she talking about, coolant?” This is a boiling water reactor and the coolant is water. The U. S. Air Force isn’t needed to export water to Japan.

This shows the limits of cable news experts and maybe experts in general, because Hillary isn’t the kind of person to choose the wrong words. She said “coolant” and she meant “coolant.” Though she may not have known she was saying so, she also meant the reactor was dead and will never be restarted.

A boiling water reactor does just what it sounds like — it boils water to make steam that drives a turbine generator. This is as opposed to a pressurized water reactor that uses the nuclear reaction to heat a coolant that never really boils because it is under high pressure, then sends that coolant through a heat exchanger which heats water to make steam to drive the generator. Boiling water reactors are simpler, cheaper, but generally aren’t made anymore because they are perceived as being less safe. That’s because the exotic coolant in the pressurized water reactor can contain boric acid which absorbs neutrons and can help (or totally) control the nuclear reaction. You can’t use boric acid or any other soluble boron-laced neutron absorbers in a boiling water reactor because doing so would contaminate both the cooling system and the environment.

That’s why the experts didn’t expect it because they are still thinking of how the plant can be saved, but it can’t be.

Though the boiling water reactor has already been turned off by inserting neutron-absorbing control rods all the way into the core, adding boric acid or, more likely, sodium polyborate would turn the reactor off-er — more off than off — which could come in really handy in the event of a subsequent coolant loss, which reportedly has already happened. But that’s a $1 billion kill switch that most experts wouldn’t think to pull.

I’m guessing the US Navy delivered a load of sodium polyborate from some nuclear aircraft carrier reactor supply room in the Pacific Fleet. Its use indicates that the nuclear threat is even worse than presently being portrayed in the news. Tokyo Electric Power Company has probably given-up any hope of keeping those cooling pumps on after the batteries fail. Eventually they’ll vent the now boron-laced coolant to the atmosphere to keep containment pressures under control.

Sodium polyborate, by the way, is something you might use around the house, since it is the active ingredient in most flea and tick treatments.

An earthquake with such loss of life is bad enough, but Japan has also just lost 20 percent of its electric generating capacity. And I’ll go out on a limb here and predict that none of those 11 reactors will re-enter service again, they’ve been so compromised.