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by Stephen Lendman
Sunday, Apr. 10, 2011 at 5:31 AM
Powerful Aftershock Rocks Japan - by Stephen Lendman
Measuring 7.1 (one or more other reports said 7.4), rocked northeast Japan, causing more damage and disruption to a devastated area. It cut electricity to four million homes, disrupted power at two nuclear facilities, and according to Kyodo News:
"Radioactive water spilled from pools holding spent nuclear fuel rods at the Onagawa power plant in Miyagi Prefecture," according to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).
For up to 80 minutes, power was lost at Onagawa and the Higashidori nuclear facility. "A small amount of contaminated water spilled on the floor (inside) all three (Onagawa) reactors....In all, water spilled or leaked at eight sections of the plant," also run by Tokyo Electric (TEPCO). In addition, blowout panels designed to control pressure were damaged in reactor number three's turbine building, TEPCO saying a complete damage assessment was ongoing.
Moreover, a Rokkasho village (Aomori Prefecture) spent nuclear fuel disposal facility also lost power temporarily. The extent of nuclear facility damage is unknown, except for sketchy and unreliable official reports.
As always, they say damage, new or earlier, poses no dangers. Already, in fact, Fukushima caused potentially apocalyptic ones, covered up to conceal their gravity, extending far beyond Japan and the Pacific rim.
Other reports also downplay them, including from The New York Times and Al Jazeera, often indistinguishable from and as unreliable as BBC, headlining (on April 8) "Japan quake causes radioactive spill," saying:
"A powerful earthquake in northeast Japan rocked a nuclear plant, causing a small amount of radioactive water to spill, but the operator said there was no immediate danger," case closed.
On April 8, New York Times writers Hiroko Tabuchi and Andrew Pollack were just as deceptive, headlining, "Millions Without Power After Japan Aftershock," saying:
TEPCO said "it had found no new damage (and no) increase in radiation levels" at any plant affected. Instead of explaining the situation's gravity, the report merely said concerns "remain high."
On the Progressive Radio News Hour's April 7 broadcast, nuclear expert Karl Grossman discussed worrisome issues raised by his mentor, nuclear physicist Dr. Richard E. Webb, the world expert on nuclear plant explosions. In his work, writings and 1976 book titled, "The Accident Hazards of Nuclear Power Plants," he explained the dangers, saying in his introduction:
"Nuclear power plants present a hazard to the health and safety of the public because they are subject to accident, such as an explosion, in which harmful substances called radioactivity could be released to the atmosphere as dust and expose a large population to lethal or injurious radiation."
His main conclusion was that "the full accident hazard of each type nuclear power reactor has not been scientifically established, even for the most likely of serious accidents."
Specifically, "the theory underlying the industry's safety calculations has not been experimentally verified, nor are the necessary experiments planned....This shortcoming is one of the two chief concerns of this book."
"The other, and more important, concern is that there are accident possibilities not considered for licensing which are more severe than the design basis accidents and that these have not even been theoretically investigated for the course they each could take...."
In other words, reactor containment systems aren't designed for the worst potential accidents. As a result, each operating reactor anywhere "appears to have an enormous potential for public disaster."
Thirty-five years later, little has changed. Many American reactors are as vulnerable as Fukushima's, and no plans are in place to handle worst case scenarios, too potentially catastrophic to imagine but are very real, likely, and sooner or later, inevitable as long as nuclear plants keep operating.
Webb estimated the "theoretical magnitude of the worst consequences of the worst conceivable reactor accident," a disturbing consideration but important. Moreover, he said it's not as unlikely as might appear, given America's passion with nuclear roulette - a ticking time bomb technology, accidents waiting to happen.
Widespread fallout depends on rainfall, he explained. Without it, contamination is better contained. Nonetheless, his worst possible accident scenario is as follows:
(1) a lethal radiation cloud a mile wide, extending 75 miles;
(2) evacuation or severely restrictive living conditions for an area the size of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio combined (120,000 square miles), lasting a year or longer; and
(3) severe long-term agricultural restrictions because of strontium 90 fallout over a land mass the size of half the land east of the Mississippi River (500,000 square miles), lasting one or more years, with dairy farming prohibited "for a very long time" over a 150,000 square mile area.
Other considerations involve genetic damage and LMFBR (Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor) accident consequences, especially for plutonium, the most toxic substance known by far. A millionth of a gram ingested can kill.
In addition, "the maximum distance downwind from a reactor accident" related to the above estimates is about 1,500 - 2,000 miles. "Hence, a nuclear reactor accident can affect distant communities as well as those nearby."
Moreover, the above estimates aren't maximum ones, as weather conditions can raise them. As a result, disaster levels depend on the amount of released radioactivity into the atmosphere "in the form of a very fine, light dust (particles one micron diameter in size) so that it can disperse over a wide area before fallout."
Also, the higher the fuel temperature, the stronger the explosion and greater fractional radioactivity release in the form of a finer dust. Contingency plans don't take these factors into consideration or the effects on food, water and human health.
On April 4, the web site eyreinternational.com quoted Webb's analysis of a spent fuel rod accident, what occurred disastrously at Fukushima, saying:
"160,000 square miles (is) rendered uninhabitable (the size of California) by Cesium-137 alone; 338,000 acres of land ruined agriculturally because of Strontium-90 fallout; 200,000 square miles ruined by plutonium contamination alone - a lung cancer dust hazard."
The site says after making these calculations, Webb concluded that radiation is much more harmful than he assumed, believing that within 48 hours of a major reactor accident, 30 - 100 million people potentially could be harmed by radioactive atmospheric, water and soil contamination. In other words, the most dire scenario is too frightening to imagine. Possibly it's now unfolding in Japan, what the fullness of time will reveal.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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