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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Fukushima: thoughts. c. rights reserved 27/3/11

Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 6:10pm
Sifting through some details that John Beddington and several other reliable sources have provided. This note is a record for my own clarity of thought. It isnt intended to be any more than my thoughts on the situation as of today.
First mistake I think was to house 6 reactor containments on one base. This was done because there was opposition in Japan to nuclear energy in local comunities back in the 7os - Fukushima became an easy place where locals were glad of the work and did not complain locate 6 together. Usually there are less on one site.
Presently there are no risks associated with containment vessels 5 and 6. So we are left with 4 extremely dangerous containments that were not built to withstand an earthquake epicenter of 9 so close or a tsunami that came inland 10 kms.
Not only these two high risk dangers but a series of over 600 huge quakes followed, on already splintered and damaged containments.Quakes and after shocks continue still and will do so for months given the magnitude of the first.
Fukishima is a prefecture of its own, with 13 cities, more than 100kms from the epicenter of the quake which was under the Pacific coast east of Sendai which is in a different prefecture.
Population in the Fukushima prefecture is 300.000. The nuclear power plant is in the town of Okuma, Futaba city. Confusingly the prefectural capital is also called Fukushima.

Sendai is the capital city of a different prefecture, another northern prefecture in Tohoku called Miyagi. It is just above Fukushima prefecture with the nearest southern part being around 95 kms away and the northern part of Sendai farther. Sendais main immediate concerns are with tsunami wreckage and deaths and damage caused from the 8.9 /9 quake of which Sendai was the closest city to the epicenter.
Back to Fukushima.There are 2 very grave dangers involved with partial meltdown and the possible complete meltdown of the radioacticve rods in the 4 containment vessels. These rods must be kept under water and below a certain temp at all times to remain `safe`. One danger is radiation. This is very specifically at a dosage related to proximity to the facilities. An X ray does not affect the nurse because she stands outside the door and nor does it affect the patient in any area except the chosen area for X ray because he/she wears protective gear. Imagine that Xray 1 million times stronger....the same rule still applies, the closer you are to the rays the more harmful.The more protective gear you wear from mask to suit helps and staying inside lowers your risk x 3 at least.
Right now, The Japanese govt have given a very optimistic opinion that the radius or zone of radiation danger surrounding the 30kms. While random radiation levels may be found elsewhere in diff parts of Japan and anywhere (Cornwall in UK has one of the highest sustained background radiation levels of anywhere in the world) they come and go and change daily which is not such a health threat as sustained dosage. America has set the danger zone at 80kms. Britain followed suit. Remember at 80kms you are many, many times safer than at 50kms and at 50kms much safer than at 30kms and so on...right now we should be worrying most about the workers at the plant!!!!
The second biohazard is fall out. Radioactive particles are released in steam.This is not radiation. This is even worse.
When deterioration of rods takes place and burning of water corrodes them and they release that steam are millions and millions of chemical compounds with names like ceasium and iodine and there are many more..Each of these particles of radioactive material pose a different threat and have a different lifespan. Some dissipate in air fast, others take years and a few....stay for 100s of years, not in the atmosphere but in the soil.
These particles are released in steam and/or in an explosion from the plant.With Chernobyl you had major one go....sending the particles very, very high into the atmosphere..much higher than steam alone goes..the altitude matters ; because the higher the particles rise the wider they fall. The reasoning behind safety zone radius determined by he govt is therefore based on how high the highest altitude of the steam has gone plus mitigating factors like wind.
So far we have not had that really large dreaded explosion, radioactive particles are- no doubt about it- being released very slowly and radiation too but outside the plant these are still not Chernobyl scale or imminent danger to anyone living outside the immediate area and.. panning out..from the danger zone.
This is an assess- it- day- to- day situation. Personally I feel there will  probably eventually be  a complete meltdown in one or two of the containment vessels..but there are newer ways to deal with this worst case scenario now since Chernobyl taught us so much.
The fall out particles fall onto soil and crops become inedible and dangerous. Japan has already dealt with this by banning all food sale from the whole of Fukushima and neighboring Ibaraki. They acted fast on this. With Chernobyl people were still eating contaminated food for years and years! Many of the thyroid cancer cases were caused not by the explosion and radiation but by consuming radioactive milk from cows in the area.
Another concern is the effect on sea water and far reaching effect of that is still to be determined.
While I am absolutely horrified by the enormity and danger of this situation I still maintain that the Japanese are doing their very best. There have been so many hurdles and still are. They need encouragement and support from the world right now, morale is low. We need fresh water not corrosive sea water, international shipments of water aimed into the vessels to cool the rods and provide constant water to keep more from being exposed. This situation is ongoing and could be for years. Fukushima will become  a wasteland as farmers lose their livelihoods and evacuee numbers mount. Relocating evacuees is an important govt issue from now.All hotels are being subsidized while plans are made.
I dont see much else to do but support my community and return to work and kids to school. Most of the foreign community has apparantly left already but this is our home and unless nuclear related health hazards reach our area for a sustained period we are staying here to help I hope rebuild the city in small ways..not the least of which begins with the Sendairect fund.