Friday, May 13, 2011

Fukushima nightmares

Really it was yesterday and today when the Japanese authorities really began acknowledging that the situation is so bad that it can't almost get worse. I knew that, you probably knew that, why did the Japanese Government and their associates of TEPCO ignore? Did they ignore or did they pretend?

In truth this mismanagement makes me feel nostalgia of the USSR. And I have often put Cuba as example of how an orderly and effective evacuation is made when need be, something that neither the USA nor Japan seem able (or willing) to do because of their "laissez faire" Capitalist style of each one watch his/her arse, do not help anyone if you can help it, do not make anything together...

En fin. Here is a really scary list of most recent headlines (with links) on Fukushima:

TEPCO: Unit No. 1 is now “in a state of meltdown” — Suspects there are holes in bottom of reactor (VIDEO)

“It’s Official: Fukushima Was Hit With a Full-Blown Nuclear Meltdown” — Pool of radioactive lava could be melting its way out

TEPCO: Water level data from Reactors No. 2 and 3 “may not be credible” after what happened at No. 1

“Reactor Rupture”: TEPCO says “there must be a large leak” in No. 1 reactor — Reveals No. 2 and 3 may have similar ruptures

NILU [a Norwegian environmental lab] ends public forecasts as map shows large radiation clouds now over US, Canada (VIDEOS)

TEPCO: Bigger breach in No. 1 reactor core than expected — “Serious setback” to stabilize Fukushima

“Nuclear meltdown at Fukushima” — TEPCO worried fuel burned a hole through bottom of containment vessel

Nuclear fuel at Reactor No. 1 melted after “full exposure”

Water level now below BOTTOM of fuel rods in No. 1 — Suggests nuclear fuel is in a molten mass at bottom of reactor (VIDEO)

You can see that the key repetitive word is "meltdown". How many meltdowns there are, if the meltdowns have breached the reactor, if water flooding is of any use with the meltdowns, if the meltdowns have been going on since day one or are relatively new (believe it or not they don't know or pretend not to know), etc.

Also there are serious concerns on how will this affect not just Japan but North America specially, as measuring of radioactivity has been discontinued by EPA in the USA and there are so much uncertainty in general on what is going on that it's really scary. 

Important update (May 14): worker dies at Fukushima, TEPCO hid radiation information from workers.
And unnamed man aged 60 (they are hiring aged people for this work) died yesterday after feeling ill while working at Fukushima Daiichi. 

According to TEPCO the worker was wearing full protective suit and had not been exposed to radioactive substances. He had been working moving machinery in three-hours shift. 

Sources: NHK, Energy News.

However it has also been known today that TEPCO has been hiding extremely high radiation measures from workers at least until the explosion of reactor no. 3 happened. 

Sources: Asahi, Energy News.

It is also likely that all the Fukushima Daiichi area is highly contaminated: all independent and belated official data say so. 

And there is no such thing as full protective suit when dealing with radioactivity, unless you are inside of an armored vehicle made of lead maybe. The weight of the lead needed to "fully protect" from radiation would kill the strongest of humans just by weight. Therefore protective suits only protect from contact with radioactive materials but no from radioactivity itself (gamma rays).


  1. Yes, this is bad. And could get a lot worse. If there is a complete meltdown in even one of those reactors, the whole area will have to be abandoned. Because even suicidal workers won't be able to get close without getting sick within minutes. Once the workers can't work, then none of the reactors can be cooled anymore, so ultimately they will all melt down.

    What a tragedy! However, in this particular case, what is the alternative to misleading the public? How do you evacuate a city like Tokyo? Any such attempt would probably have consequences as bad or worse than a meltdown, so the only thing to do is try to keep people from panicking and hope for a miracle.

    Why anyone with any sense still thinks nuclear power is a viable option is beyond me. Given the alternative between global warming and nuclear power, I'll take global warming, thank you.

  2. The only option seems to be a sarcophagus but this one has problems related to the underground: leaking into water an then highly radioactive water going to the Sea and then evaporating into the atmosphere.

    But, well, this is something they should have considered when they designed the power plants - because all power plants may have eventually intractable problems like these and nobody ever planned for them - because it'd be admitting that nuclear power is economically ineffective, the same that so many other speculations with planet Earth's endurance (destructive overfishing, massive carbon atmospheric release and a long etcetera).

    I'm not even saying that Tokyo must be evacuated but that people living in Tokyo or elsewhere must know what is going on: they cannot make rational decisions on their own lives and those of their beloved ones (children are at extreme danger!) if they don't know what is going on.

    Once trust has been breached, specially in grave matters as this one, it cannot be regained easily and the Japanese state faces now not just an unprecedented health, environmental and economical catastrophe but also one of loss of trust in the state.

    This is not necessarily bad for people (opening one's eyes through pain?) but it's bad for the state and the social stability it guarantees.

    And we're talking of the third global economy by size: it's not some "irrelevant" Haiti: this can't but have global repercussions and not just because of the radiation (that also).

    IMO the state can't afford to get people so angry and distrusting: its very existence is based on consensus, on some sort of dynamic faith. When this faith is broken, the authority of the state reels and cannot control its "entrails" anymore.

    You cannot have children getting radiation unbeknown to their parents for months just because you fear "panic". Here we have a clear case in which "panic to panic" is worse than the alleged "panic" it wants to avoid.

    I'm not sure how do you evacuate a city like Tokyo but I'm sure that you can if need be (Cuba does that at every other hurricane, preventing casualties almost 100%). However it has a price if it is forever.

    But if it is forever, you won't be able to stop it anyhow, just make the victims suffer more than necessary, creating deep resentment.

    "... and hope for a miracle".

    Hope for a miracle is stupid. You need to act, as the Soviets did with Chernobyl (eventually). It was not such a huge problem because there was only one damaged reactor and no damage to nearby infrastructure but, after the initial phase of denial, they solved it as much as possible.

    People died. Workers were sent to work often without proper info or protection but there was almost no choice. However the state should have paid much higher compensations than stupid medals: they gave their lives for the rest after all.

    But there were also heroes from the Air Force who gave their lives knowingly, I think that today and in the Capitalist World, you will not find such altruistic heroes anymore - because distrust reigns and you are not going to sacrifice yourself for a bunch of people you do not love nor trust.

    This is the biggest tragedy but not something arisen at Fukushima: it is part of the decodification induced by Capitalism that has demolished all values (we liked them or not) but greed and egoism.


  3. ...

    As for the alternative between global warming and nuclear, it is a fallacy: the alternative is between exploitative concentrated 20th century energy sources and renewable decentralized 21st century ones.

    The reasons for nuclear in particular is nuclear weapons specially. There's no other such powerful hyper-destructive weapon and everybody wants one, of course (yeah, me too I guess). You are "nobody" in international relations if you do not have nukes - they won't save your people from famine or whatever but they will prevent a foreign invasion indefinitely with 99% certainty. That's why North Korea got them.

    You can also blackmail your neighbors with them potentially.

    But in general both thermal and nuclear offer the same "advantages" for the industry: concentration in unique large power plants that help them to keep their monopolistic conditions. IMO, electricity production and distribution has no reason to be private because it's a factual monopoly in every single place. They should be utilities directly managed by the state or semi-autonomous public companies, just like water, roads, sanitation, hospitals, schools...

    But it's big business for the "musical buck" gamers, so they want it to stay that way.

    Renewables also have issues, of course. But they potentially allow a lot of decentralization, specially in smaller towns, where a few windmills or solar infrastructure can easily replace the central grid for most of the year.

  4. There's also something symbolically "macho" in nuclear and thermal that renewables don't have, something that appeals to the megalomaniac assassin that lays inside each of us, specially men.

    Renewables have a hipster image not a macho one. It may be irrational but not all our decisions are merely rational, not at all.


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