Japan, USA persist in “safe” nuclear delusion
We remember Japan and its people, and more dangerous government-corporate mendacity
Editing, re-reporting, minor comment by Carolyn Bennett
Two thousand bodies turned up in a single “northeastern region of Miyagi.” Millions have been “left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food. Hundreds of thousands more are without homes following Japan’s tsunami that has drowned whole towns.
Today, Agence France-Presse is reporting, “a new explosion at a stricken nuclear power plant hit Japan as it raced to avert a reactor meltdown after a quake-tsunami disaster that is feared to have killed more than 10,000 people.”
The report says, “Explosions have rocked two overheating reactors at the ageing Fukushima plant, located 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, after the cooling systems were knocked out by Friday’s 8.9-magnitude quake.
“A first explosion blew apart the building surrounding the plant’s number-one nuclear reactor on Saturday” but, according to officials, “the seal around the reactor itself remained intact.” The whole truth, as with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, has not yet come to light.
“A U.S. aircraft carrier deployed off Japan (160 kilometers (99 miles) northeast of the power plant) for relief efforts shifted its position,” AFP reported, “after detecting low-level radiation from the malfunctioning Fukushima plant.”
The current administration in Washington, however, according to Nuke Free dot org, is asking the U.S. Congress, that is, the American people, to fund “$36 billion in new loan guarantees to build more commercial nuclear reactors,” without disclosing “exact plans for dealing with a major nuclear reactor disaster.”
The administration has also failed to “[identify] the cash or human reserves needed to cover the deaths and destruction caused by the owners of nuclear reactors.”
Nuke Free editor Harvey Wasserman recalls some of the history, common untruths, and human impact across the world of the “safe” nuclear delusion.
“In 1986, the Perry nuclear plant, east of Cleveland, was rocked by a 5.5 Richter-scale shock,” much weaker than Japan’s quake, but the Ohio “quake broke pipes and other key equipment within the plant. It took out nearby roads and bridges. An official state commission later warned that evacuation during such a quake would be impossible.…
“Numerous other American reactors sit on or near earthquake faults. Had the massive 8.9 Richter-scale earthquake that has just savaged Japan hit off the California coast, it could have ripped apart at least four coastal reactors and sent a lethal cloud of radiation across the entire United States.
“The two huge [California] reactors each at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon are not designed to withstand such powerful shocks,” Wasserman said. “All four [California] reactors are located relatively low to the coast. They are extremely close to major faults and are vulnerable to tsunamis like those now expected to hit as many as fifty countries.”
“The most definitive recent study of [Russia’s] 1986 Chernobyl disaster puts the death toll at 985,000. The accident irradiated a remote rural area; the nearest city, Kiev, was 80 kilometers [50 miles] away.
“Heavy radioactive fallout spread from Chernobyl blanketed all of Europe within a matter of days.” Also within days, “fallout hit the jet stream and on to the California coast, thousands of miles away; it then reached all the way across the northern tier of the United States of America.”
USA nuclear is JAPAN nuclear
On the Democracy Now news program, today, Wasserman reiterated the volatile and inescapably dangerous nature of nuclear power for any nation and all countries.
Japan is not Russia, he said, referring to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Japan is “a highly advanced country” yet it “cannot cope with nuclear power plants.” In the United States, he said, “Every nuclear plant is susceptible to this kind of damage and this kind of disaster.”
There are reactors in the United States that “are approaching 40 years old.” Some of these very old reactors are virtually identical to Fukushima 1. Nevertheless, owners of these plants across the United States are “going in for license extensions, asking the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for and getting approval to extend the life” of these plants.
In Japan, the nuclear industry assured the Japanese people that their reactors — and “there are 55 reactors in Japan, all of which are on earthquake faults and near the ocean” — could withstand exactly these kinds of events.
However, what happened in Japan had been predicted, Wasserman said, and the same is true for United States, especially concerning the Diablo Canyon reactors in California where owners are seeking license extension.
To continue this delusion of “safe” nuclear, to continue extending the life of thee killers “is unconscionable,” Wasserman says, especially seeing “what has happened in Japan.”
It “has to be stopped … Every nuclear plant in the United States is susceptible to this kind of damage and this kind of disaster, and it’s time that they are shut.”
Sources and notes
“Japan reels as second blast rocks nuclear plant” (By Hiroshi Hiyama, AFP News), March 14, 2011,
“Japan’s Quake Could Have Irradiated the Entire U.S.,” Mar 11, 2011, http://www.nukefree.org/editorsblog/japans-quake-could-have-irradiated-e...
“Japan Facing Biggest Catastrophe since Dawn of Nuclear Age,” March 14, 2011,
Harvey Wasserman is editor of Nuke Free dot org, a longtime anti-nuclear activist, and a senior advisor to GreenPeace-USA. Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth
Initially the Chernobyl accident caused the deaths of 32 people. Dozens more contracted serious radiation sickness; some of these people later died.
Between 50 and 185 million curies of radionuclides [units, quantity of radioactivity, radiation] escaped into the atmosphere—several times more radioactivity than that created by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
This radioactivity was spread by the wind over Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and soon reached as far west as France and Italy. Millions of acres of forest and farmland were contaminated; and although many thousands of people were evacuated, hundreds of thousands more remained in contaminated areas. In subsequent years, many livestock were born deformed; among human beings several thousand radiation-induced illnesses and cancer deaths were expected in the long term.
The Chernobyl accident occurred on April 25–26, 1986, when technicians at reactor Unit 4 attempted a poorly designed experiment. On April 27, 30,000 inhabitants of Pryp’yat began to be evacuated.
A cover-up was attempted. However, on April 28, Swedish monitoring stations reported abnormally high levels of wind-transported radioactivity and pressed for an explanation. The Soviet government admitted there had been an accident at Chernobyl.
The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union was at the time the worst accident in the history of nuclear power generation. The Chernobyl power station was situated at the settlement of Pryp’yat, 10 miles (16 km) northwest of the city of Chernobyl (Ukrainian: Chornobyl) and 65 miles (104 km) north of Kiev, Ukraine. The station consisted of four reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. It had come on-line in 1977–83.
Chernobyl accident. (2011). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica
THREE MILE ISLAND
Three Mile Island nuclear power station situated in the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., is site of the most serious accident in the history of the American nuclear power industry.
An automatically operated valve in the Unit 2 reactor mistakenly closed, shutting off the water supply to the main feedwater system (the system that transfers heat from the water actually circulating in the reactor core). The time was 4 p.m., March 28, 1979.
This caused the reactor core to shut down automatically, but a series of equipment and instrument malfunctions, human errors in operating procedures, and mistaken decisions in the ensuing hours led to a serious loss of water coolant from the reactor core.
As a result, the core was partially exposed, and the zirconium cladding of its fuel reacted with the surrounding superheated steam to form a large accumulation of hydrogen gas, some of which escaped from the core into the containment vessel of the reactor building.
The cleanup of Unit 2 continued until 1990. Damage to the unit was so severe, however (52 percent of the core melted down), that it remained unusable.
Three Mile Island. (2011). Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
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