Saturday, April 14, 2012

Japan Will Burn Fukishima's Radioactive Debris

What Is Past Is Prologue: We Regretfully Express Regret

(I originally saw this on Barry Ritzholz's The Big Picture and was more appalled by the criminal stupidity he was reporting than I can express. Much of this post is based on his article and the links in it; go and read Barry's post.)

In May, Japan will begin burning approximately 25,000 tons of highly radioactive debris created by the March 2011 tsunami, then irradiated by the disaster at the four Fukushima nuclear reactors.

Members of the international scientific and regulatory community said while the Fukushima catastrophe was taking place that the management of Tepco, the company which owns and operated the reactors, and the Japanese government, was intentionally downplaying and covering up the extent of the crisis.

They're still doing it. The Japanese government has artificially lowered their own public standards for what is considered 'permissible' in exposing human beings to radioactivity. Their standards are no longer those used by the international scientific community.

If you want to eliminate an embarrassment, the expense and responsibility of dealing with it, then simply deny the reality. Drive in private cars to large, expensive private homes and sit in a peaceful garden. There; no more bad things -- at least, not for you.

As reported in the Japanese press, the debris contains up to 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.
FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) -- The state will start building storage facilities for debris generated by the March 2011 tsunami as early as May at two locations in a coastal area of Naraha town, Fukushima Prefecture...

Debris created by the tsunami largely remains untouched within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from which residents have been forced to evacuate in the aftermath of the earthquake-triggered disaster.

About 2.5 hectares of land have already been secured at the two locations, a large portion of which lies within the exclusion zone, and about 25,000 tons of debris are expected to be brought into the facilities beginning in the summer, according to the officials...

If more than 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium are found per kilogram of debris, the debris will be transferred to a medium-term storage facility to be built by the state.

But if burnable debris contains 100,000 becquerels of radioactive Cesium or less, it may be disposed of at a temporary incinerator to be built within the prefecture, according to the officials.
The American NRC and international nuclear experts have said that debris with even lower levels of radioactive Cesium, twenty times lower than what the Japanese will allow to be burned at Fukushima, would need to be buried underground for thousands of years.

Burning radioactive debris only spreads it. Particles from the burning will end up not only in other parts of Japan, but will travel with prevailing winds across the Pacific to fall in Hawaii, Canada, Oregon; Washington and California.

Effectively, it recreates the Fukushima disaster by releasing a huge amount of radioactivity on the ground back into the air. Again, from The Big Picture:
It is bad enough that radiation from Fukushima is spreading across the Pacific to the United States through air and water, that the Japanese are underplaying the enormous threat posed by the spent fuel pools, and that the Japanese have engaged in a massive cover-up of the severity of the Fukushima crisis.

But intentionally burning radioactive debris to try to cover up the problem – and spreading radiation worldwide in the process – is an entirely separate affront.

Postscript: In addition to burning radioactive debris, Japan intends to build tents over the leaking Fukushima reactors. While this sounds like a way to contain the radiation, it would actually funnel it straight up and spread it globally:
But nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen said that the tents – while helping to protect workers at Fukushima – will actually increase the dispersion of radioactive gases. Specifically, Tepco will pump radiation out through stacks, which will push radiation up to a higher elevation, dispersing it even further around the world.
A commenter to Ritholtz's article noted (paragraphing added for clarity):
I have Hashimoto’s. Basically my thyroid died and went to heaven and I was lucky I didn’t. The interesting thing is that my specific manifestation of the disease is endemic to left handed midwestern males born in the mid 50′s. One could directly correlate it to open air nuclear testing if one wanted to, but Eisenhower’s favorite complex might take offense.

We already have excellent data on worldwide particulate transmission as a result of Krakatoa and Pinatubo.

Now we will have excellent data on various aggressive radiation induced cancers.

I find it interesting that this slow motion train wreck has been going on for quite a while and only now are we disturbed? There were plans to evacuate TOKYO. This is a tragedy of the commons of the first order and there is nothing we can do about it. Fait accompli.
Even so, we know there has been a cover-up of the disaster so far; there's nothing we can do about that but shun those responsible and publicly shame them, if you're into that sort of thing. But, unlike the disaster that followed the earthquake and tsunami, we know in advance what will happen. This is a completely avoidable catastrophe.

But the United States government won't do much. Why not? Another commenter to the same article at Ritholtz's site said, "Yeah right , threaten *permanent sanctions* with one of the few allies we have" to counter a rising China, beginning to flex its armed muscle. No; our leaders won't do more than "express concern" to the Japanese.

And when it's all done, and in years to come when the damage is obvious and public; those Japanese scientists, government officials and all the fun boys and girls at Tepco will just bow a few times for the cameras. They'll say, "We express regret". Everyone will just have to understand, and that will just have to be enough.

Again: This is avoidable. It does not have to happen. Is anyone doing anything to stop it?

Didn't think so.

As a species, it's a wonder that humans can remember how to breathe.