Hi Blog. I have to admit being thoroughly confused about what’s going on at Fukushima’s nuclear power plant. Are we in danger of a nuclear meltdown or aren’t we?
I’m hearing from NHK and the connected authorities that there is no cause for concern and everything is under control (as roofs get blown off plant buildings).
I’m also hearing from overseas sources that there is little cause for alarm. For example, here.
Yet I’m hearing from sources on the ground without an interest in the nuclear power industry making statements like these:
(Source is anonymized, but is a trustworthy on about matters dealing with U.S. military:)
March 14, 2011: You are absolutely right to have zero trust in Government of Japan (GOJ) or Japanese-controlled press on this. The Japanese authorities simply won’t confirm the meltdown that is occurring. Here are some of the facts from the western press:
1. The USS Ronald Reagan, located 100 miles Northeast, had to relocate due to a radioactive plume cloud heading their way.
2. 17 members of the Reagan’s helicopter crews doing rescue missions have tested positive for radioactivity. All helos are being decontaminated as they return to the Reagan.
3. The Navy has tested positively for airborne radioactivity up to 100 miles away from the plant.
4. The Japanese are pumping saltwater in to cool the rods. This is only done as a last-ditch effort, since salt corrodes the reactors. After that, they are out of options.
5. Cesium has been detected by the Navy in the air. The presence of this element in the air is an indication that the rods have actually started melting.
6. The plant at Onagawa is also experiencing abnormally high radiation levels. This plant is much closer to Tokyo.
Now, let’s remember how the GOJ is treating the casualty numbers. They are reporting 1600 casualties right now. That’s because they do not even consider a person “dead” until they are identified, so even though they have thousands of bodies piled up, they won’t report them yet as “dead”. That is the way the GOJ operates. They are simply not forthcoming with information. The US Govt. was extremely frustrated at this way of operating during the Kobe earthquake. The US Government could not get adequate situational awareness because the GOJ was simply not forthcoming. This is no different.
Right now, the GOJ “officials have yet to confirm a meltdown because IT IS TOO HOT INSIDE THE TO CHECK.” (cnn.com) So, do they expect the reactor to cool down so they can check and confirm that the rods are actually melting? Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman for Japan’s prime minister, said Sunday the situation was “under control.” (cnn.com). Under control? You can’t confirm if the rods are melting because it’s too hot to check, but everything is under control?
Stephanie Cooke, editor of Nuclear Intelligence Weekly for the atomic-energy community, said best summarized the GOJ on this issue by saying “The more they say they’re in control, the more I sense things may be out of control. (cnn.com)”
So which is it? Again, Debito.org is disinclined to trust official sources given their record regarding safety and forthcomingness (witness 1999’s nuclear accident at Tokai-mura and the consequent media debacle). But I wish I knew what to believe. Suggestions and links from Debito.org Readers welcome. Arudou Debito
UPDATE MARCH 16: The thing that I don’t get about recent developments is that Japanese society tends to overcompensate in regards to safety issues. Why don’t we see that happening whenever there’s a case of nuclear energy? “Just stay indoors for the duration” is not what I would call adequate safety advice.