Monday, May 9, 2011
Am I worried? Are you? I've gathered the latest information on what's happening with the nuclear reactors in Japan.
"Oi Vey," I said March 11th, after the 9.0 earthquake and the very scary news about nuclear reactors in Japan being damaged. Where in the world was Fukushima? Was there danger? Was it like Chernobyl, the Russian nuclear plant disaster in the mid-eighties?
On CBS, Edwin Lyman, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, "You could have the fuel overheating and melting -- the possibility of large-scale radiological release exists!"
NBC's expert, Robert Bazell said that large-scale radiological release was very unlikely.
I figured the news was turning the Japan news into local news. Doomful predictions sell newspapers and get folks watching TV, watching ads, and earning money for the stations.
Since March there has been news about reactor cores, radiation, no electricity, contaminated water, people moving into shelters -- an ever enlarging area where people feared they might be danger.
Are things worse, or better?
I'm wondering if we're being protected from the truth by Japan, or by our own worried experts, or by nuclear power proponents in our country?
April 30th, the Wall Street Journal reported that Goshi Hosono, deputy secretary general of the Japanese Democratic party and senior aide to Japan's prime minister, said, "There is no way Tokyo or Kyoto will come into harm's way."
Hmm ... So why, last week, did the Japanese government impose a no-go zone 20 kilometres (12 miles) around the plant? Why have 85,000 people been moved to shelters?
Hosono explained that radiation levels in the damaged reactors had to be lowered before work would be carried out -- that scientists had to find ways to process water contaminated with radiation from worker's efforts to cool the reactors.
Senior Adviser Hosono said, "Workers have dumped thousands of tons of low-level radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean, to the concern of other countries. Our goal is very clear: preventing further spreading of radiation into the atmosphere and into the ocean. In order to achieve that, we must restore stable cooling functions. This is extremely difficult technically."
Okay, it sounded constructive, but then I saw a video. The head guy, the top government adviser on Nuclear Power, resigned. Bursting into tears, sobbing, he said (according to an interpreter) the government was not telling the truth, the situation in Fukushima was much worse than what had been reported.
(Whoa -- was the interpreter interpreting or adding his own political point of view? Whom can you trust -- whom do you believe? )
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA.com, an atomic energy "watchdog"), in last week's update, said, "Overall, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious, but there are signs of recovery in some functions, such as electrical power and instrumentation.
I muddled my way through their report. It referred to stagnant water and the high level of radio activity in it. There were details about increasing the water supply that was being used to cool the reactor. White smoke had been seen coming from units 1, 2, and 3. The "anti- scattering agent" was being sprayed in a larger area. There was a "general decreasing trend" on restrictions on drinking water, except for one village -- especially for infants.
Is this bad news or good news about the "decreasing trend?"
The U.K. Guardian, [popular English newspaper], said: "Although it may be weeks after the radiation, levels at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant rose -- the severity level changed from five to seven -- the same level as Chernobyl in 1986."
What does this mean for us? What do our scientists, our experts, say? What about our nuclear power plants, our nuclear fuel and weapons facilities? What needs to be done to them, to protect us from future disasters that could happen here, there, anywhere in the world?
It means something is hanging over us -- we have to keep watchful eyes on whether the situation in Fukushima worsens or improves.