Monday, April 11, 2011

Japan authorities incompetent (South Korea) - cautionary measures recommended in Europe

As a new major earthquake (7.1) hit today deep into Fukushima prefecture worries about the future of the nuclear catastrophe in North Japan and the rest of World grow.

The Japanese management (or lack of it) of the Fukushima I nuclear catastrophe is getting the world angry. After all, this is not a problem affecting just Japan anymore: the radioactive plume has been going around the World, specially onto North America (which has received the most sustained air pollution, after the North Pacific Ocean, because of dominant winds) but also on occasion to South Korea and its surrounding seas (in much greater concentrations because of shorter distance). In addition, radioactive water is being released or just leaking without control to the Ocean, what will have no doubt a major environmental effect itself. 

While Japanese officials seem unable to decide a course to follow next, South Korean officials, feeling threatened in their own soil and waters, have begun to openly criticize the Japanese inability to manage the crisis. Of course, it is not easy to manage, but in any other country TEPCO would be by now intervened by the state (either civil protection or the military) and its CEOs fired. Similarly the complacient Minister of Industry, if not the whole government, would have been fired by now as well. Instead the Japanese state follows as if nothing would have happened, putting millions of lives at risk for that reason. 

When they should have evacuated all children and pregnant women from half of Japan and applied a general evacuation zone since the beginning of at least 80 km radius, Tokyo has just now extended the evacuation to 30 km., what is a shame, because this delay of several weeks will have caused deaths and much suffering in the mid term in the towns of this area. Radiation kills, that we cannot see it does not mean it is harmless.

French agency recommends careful diet

Meanwhile, here in Europe, the French research body on radioactivity CRIIRAD has declared that Fukushima radiation risk is no longer negligible and asks specially for children and pregnant/lactating women to avoid as much as possible the following risky behaviors (PDF in French):
  • Drinking rainwater
  • Eating large-leaved vegetables
  • Drinking fresh milk 
  • Eating creamy cheese (specially from goat or sheep)
  • Meat (except those animals already in stable)
These foods should not be the base of the regular diet from now on, specially for the categories mentioned, as children are much more at risk than adults. These recommendations apply to other parts of Europe as well.

A map of the French state shows that the highest concentrations of iodine-137 in rain have been in the SW. This is of particular concern to me as I live in that part of Europe and, if Bordeaux and the Central Pyrenees are getting dangerous levels, Bilbao is surely getting them too.

They warn about tap water as well wherever this one comes from reservoirs.

In Hawaii, radioactive cesium and iodine isotopes in milk has been detected to be 600% above maximum allowed.

I follow most Fukushima catastrophe news from Energy News.

Updates: Fukushima I officially equivalent to Chernobyl (or worse): a level 7 nuclear disaster

After latest earthquake all three Fukushima I reactors lost power (no info on Fukushima II or other plants).

Vietnam has found uranium-238 in pine needles after radioactive cloud said to have reached the country in April 9. (I'd say it is not too plausible to be from Fukushima and it is more likely instead to be an undetected remnant of nuclear tests in the Pacific, China or even the WWII nuclear bombings of Japan by the USA - radiation is forever).

Update Apr 12: Fire at reactor no. 4's ultra-radioactive spent fuel pool. Army not sure if extinguished.

Update (Apr 13):

Damage to highly radioactive spent fuel in reactor no. 4 (pictured above burning) confirmed after fire. The authorities hope that most of the fuel rods are in "sound condition" but at this stage it's clear that the authorities in charge are daydreaming and wishful thinking rather than properly assessing the damage. This inoperative fuel pool contains enormous amounts of plutonium and depleted uranium, and the pool where the fuel should be submerged has a massive crack to its side, so filling it with water is not a possibility. 

An additional problem caused by crisis management itself is the formation of a massive "lake" in Fukushima with some 70 million liters of highly radioactive water. This water has been used to try to keep the fuel rods as cool as possible after normal cooling circuits failed because of the earthquake and tsunami. It is not really clear what will be done with all this ultra-toxic water.

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