Fuel Removal From Fukushima’s Reactor 4 Threatens ‘Apocalyptic’ Scenario

In November, TEPCO set to begin to remove fuel rods whose radiation matches the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs

– Andrea Germanos – Published on Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Common Dreams

An operation with potentially “apocalyptic” consequences is expected to begin in a little over two weeks from now – “as early as November 8” – at Fukushima’s damaged and sinking Reactor 4, when plant operator TEPCO will attempt to remove over 1300 spent fuel rods holding the radiation equivalent of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs from a spent fuel storage tank perched on the reactor’s upper floor.

Fukushima Reactor 4 While the Reactor 4 building itself did not suffer a meltdown, it did suffer a hydrogen explosion, is now tipping and sinking and has zero ability to withstand another seismic event.

The Japan Times explained:

To remove the rods, TEPCO has erected a 273-ton mobile crane above the building that will be operated remotely from a separate room.

[…] spent fuel rods will be pulled from the racks they are stored in and inserted one by one into a heavy steel chamber while the assemblies are still under water. Once the chamber is removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, it will be transported to another pool in an undamaged building on the site for storage.

Under normal circumstances, such an operation would take little more than three months, but TEPCO is hoping to complete the complicated task within fiscal 2014.

A chorus of voices has been sounding alarm over the never-been-done-at-this-scale plan to manually remove the 400 tons of spent fuel by TEPCO, who so far has been responsible for mishap after mishap in the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant.

Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, warned this summer that “They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” and said that “To jump to the conclusion that it is going to work just fine is quite a leap of logic.”  Paul Gunter, MD, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project with Takoma Park, Md.-based Beyond Nuclear, also sounded alarm on Thursday, telling Common Dreams in a statement that “Given the uncertainties of the condition and array of the hundreds of tons of nuclear  fuel assemblies, it will be a risky round of highly radioactive pickup sticks.”  Gundersen offered this analogy of the challenging process of removing the spent fuel rods:

If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]

I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.

The Japan Times adds:

Removing the fuel rods is a task usually assisted by computers that know their exact location down to the nearest millimeter. Working virtually blind in a highly radioactive environment, there is a risk the crane could drop or damage one of the rods — an accident that would heap even more misery onto the Tohoku region.

As long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman explained, the

Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible.

“In the worst-case scenario,” RT adds,

the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.

Wasserman says that the plan is so risky it requires a global take-over, an urging Gunter also shared, stating that the “dangerous task should not be left to TEPCO but quickly involve the oversight and management of independent international experts.”

Wasserman told Common Dreams that

The bring-down of the fuel rods from Fukushima Unit 4 may be the most dangerous engineering task ever undertaken.  Every indication is that TEPCO is completely incapable of doing it safely, or of reliably informing the global community as to what’s actually happening.  There is no reason to believe the Japanese government could do much better.  This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world’s very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed.

The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic.  The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs.  If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail.  Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.

As dire as Wasserman’s warning sounds, it is echoed by fallout researcher Christina Consolo, who told RT that the worst case scenario could be “a true apocalypse.” Gunter’s warning was dire as well.

“Time is of the essence as we remain concerned that another earthquake could still topple the damaged reactor building and the nuclear waste storage pond up in its attic,” he continued. “This could literally re-ignite the nuclear accident in the open atmosphere and inflame it into hemispheric proportions,” said Gunter.

Wasserman says that given the gravity of the situation, the eyes of the world should be upon Fukushima:

This is a question that transcends being anti-nuclear.  The fate of the earth is at stake here and the whole world must be watching every move at that site from now on.  With 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the place, as a ceaseless flow of contaminated water poisoning our oceans, our very survival is on the line.

THIS MUSIC CUTS RAZOR WIRE

I put together a show of just music and my friend helped me to burn it onto cds to give out to people.

The music is independent, politically hard hitting  and from all over the world so I’ve uploaded it as a show to Radio4all.

LISTEN TO SHOW

DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO4ALL

1.  Catch 22  –   Robbie Gore  – Townsville

2.  Ride the Fence  –  The Coup  – Oakland/California

3.  5 million ways to kill a CEO –  The Coup  – Oakland

4.  CIA Hypo-Programmed Robot Assassin  –  ELF  –  Canberra

5.  Bruno Wilson – Intervention InvasionRed Sand Culture (Volume 1) NT

6.  Boys from the Bush  – Joseph Shannon & Messiah Long – Boys from tha Bush – Red Sand Culture (Vol 1) NT

7.  Wiya Angela PamelaSuper Raelene Bros – Alice Springs

8.  The Block  –  Jesse and the Clevo Street Boys – Redfern/Sydney

9.  United We Struggle  –  United Struggle Project  –  Kenya  

10.  Life is a War  –  United Struggle Project  –  Kenya

11.  Quest  –  Combat Wombat  –  Melbourne

12.  Come Rescue Me  –  Resident Anti-Hero  –     Portland/Oregon

13.  People Never Heard  –  Drowning Dog and Malatesta  –    Milano/Italy

14.  Asylum is a Crime  –  Pataphysics  – Melbourne

15.  Plan It  –  Non-Bossy-Posse  –  Sydney

16.  Anti-Capitalist Anthem  –  Sole  –  Portland, Maine

17.  Thief  –  Looptroop  –   Sweden

Brisbane Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament – Iraq 10 yrs On.

Volunteers held pictures from the Children of the Iraq War exhibit behind Donna Mulhearn as she spoke.
Volunteers held pictures from the Children of the Iraq War exhibit behind Donna Mulhearn as she spoke.

The Rally for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament is held in various locations around Australia on Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter in the Christian tradition.

This year Palm Sunday fell on March 24 and the rally in Brisbane was held at Redacliffe Place in the city.

On this episode of Autonomous Action Radio we will hear live recordings of speakers at the event.

Listen Here

 

Download from Radio4all (right click the orange arrow)

This year preparations for the rally were disrupted when the Brisbane City Council notified organiser Joan Shears OAM that amplification was not allowed at the event.

Amplification of the event proceeded as usual after the Rally for Peace and Disarmament Committee disputed the BCC’s ban on amplification.

Ms Shears says she is pleased with how the event turned out.

‘”Although numbers were not as high as in the past we had four excellent speakers and the people who attended engaged well with the event.”

We start off today’s show with Wave speaking about the history of the event followed by an interview with Committee member Greg Brown who was instrumental in forcing the BCC to  overturn their decision regarding the use of amplification at the rally.

Friends of the Earth Campaigner Robin Taubenfeld was the MC of the event she also spoke about the dangers Queensland is about to face now that Premier Campbell Newman and the LNP have overturned the ban on Uranium Mining in this state.

We will hear from her in future episodes especially as the campaign against uranium mining in Queensland heats up.

The 3 other speakers at the event were Peace Activist Donna Mulhearn, Electrical Trade Union State Organiser Scott Reichman and Refugee Advocate Frederika Steen.

Dermot Dorgan sang some songs.
Dermot Dorgan sang some songs.
Rally attendees listen attentively to Dermot's political songs
Rally attendees listen attentively to Dermot’s political songs
Robin Taubenfeld from Nuclear Free Queensland/Friends of the Earth was also the MC for the rally.
Robin Taubenfeld from Nuclear Free Queensland/Friends of the Earth was also the MC for the rally.

No Nukes

Children of the Iraq War Exhibit displayed at RPND
Children of the Iraq War Exhibit displayed at RPND
Robin Taubenfeld,  Joan Shears and Greg Brown (left to right foreground) were the 3 main orgainsers of the event.
Robin Taubenfeld, Joan Shears and Greg Brown (left to right foreground) were the 3 main orgainsers of the event.

The Dangers of Uranium Mining in Queensland and Planned Resistance

With the announcement the Campbell Newman lead LNP State Government would allow uranium mining to recommence it’s interesting to look at the history the uranium industry has had in Queensland.

Autonomous Action Radio’s Wave Beach spoke to Dr Jim Green click here to listen.

Or download for rebroadcast.

AAradio also spoke to Queensland Nuclear Free Alliance spokesperson Robin Taubenfeld about an action which was held on Monday outside the Executive building in Brisbane.

Robin speaks about the colorful action which was attended by up to 50 people and also about other actions which are planned for the near future.

Click here to listen on the 4zzz website.

Queensland Government ought to Red-light Yellowcake

Queensland Government ought to Red-light Yellowcake
The nuclear debate is really hotting up in Queensland and Australia. Following the announcement on Monday that the Newman government will now allow uranium mining Senator Barnaby Joyce has gone all the way and suggested Australia should embrace nuclear power.
He is quoted in a random mainstream paper as saying “If we are fair dinkum about reducing carbon emissions, and we want to have a minimum carbon emission form of power, then uranium is where it’s going to be”.
Below is an article from Friends of the Earth Nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green addressing the decision the mine uranium in Queensland and the dangers there of.
If you read this and still think nuclear power is a safe solution to climate change stay tuned for a follow up article on why nuclear energy is not the solution to climate change.
 
Inside Olympic Dam
A photo from a spy camera inside Olympic Dam Uranium Mine

The Queensland Government is unwise to reverse the ban against uranium mining and there is no stronger reason than the industry’s sordid track record in the state.

French company Minatome undertook trial mining at Ben Lomond, near Townsville, in the early 1980s. Federal MP Bob Katter spoke at length about Ben Lomond in Parliament on 1 November 2005. He noted that Minatome initially denied reports of a radioactive spill, but then changed its story and claimed that the spill posed no risk and did not reach the water system from which 210,000 people drank.

Bob Katter takes up the story:

“For the next two or three weeks they held out with that story. Further evidence was produced in which they admitted that it had been a dangerous level. Yes, it was about 10,000 times higher than what the health agencies in Australia regarded as an acceptable level. After six weeks, we got rid of lie number two. I think it was at about week 8 or week 12 when, as a state member of parliament, I insisted upon going up to the site. Just before I went up to the site, the company admitted − remember, it was not just the company but also the agency set up by the government to protect us who were telling lies − that the spill had reached the creek which ran into the Burdekin River, which provided the drinking water for 210,000 people. We had been told three sets of lies over a period of three months.”

Queensland’s other misadventure with uranium was the Mary Kathleen mine in western Queensland. In the mid-1970s, a whistleblower from Mary Kathleen Uranium Mining Pty. Ltd. leaked documents which revealed the existence of a global uranium cartel leading to protracted international scandals and fines totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The leaked documents also revealed evidence of shoddy environmental practices at Mary Kathleen; close surveillance of environmental organisations; the close relationship between ACTU President Bob Hawke and the chairman of uranium miner Conzinc Riotinto Australia; and advice from government officials about how companies could circumvent non-proliferation treaties in order to sell uranium to countries that had not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

One million litres of radioactive liquid were released in February 1984 from Mary Kathleen’s evaporation ponds during a wet spell. Even now, 30 years after the mine’s closure, there is ongoing seepage of saline, metal and radionuclide-rich waters from tailings, as well as low-level uptake of heavy metals and radionuclides into vegetation.

Bob Katter’s son, state MP Rob Katter, claims that uranium mining represents a potential $20 billion export industry for Queensland which could generate 2600 jobs. The simple facts are that uranium accounts for just 0.2 percent of Australia’s export revenue ($610 million in 2010−11) and less than 0.02 percent of Australian jobs (1760 jobs including mining, exploration and regulation). Queensland is home to just 3% of Australia’s uranium resources.

Rob Katter claims that Queenslanders support uranium mining but he provides no evidence. The latest poll was taken in 2008 and it found that 47 percent of Queenslanders oppose uranium mining compared to 45 precent in support. Two-thirds of Queenslanders oppose uranium sales to nuclear weapons states. A majority of Australians believe that the ‘safeguards’ system, which aims to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, is ineffective.

Before the last state election, the Queensland Liberal National Party said it had no intention of reversing the ban against uranium mining. Campbell Newman’s LNP Government ought to take its new position to the next state election. Better still, a referendum could be held on the question of uranium mining when Queenslanders next go to the polls.

The uranium industry has no capacity to deliver serious economic benefits to Queensland but, if given the chance, it will create more long-term environmental and public health hazards such as Ben Lomond and Mary Kathleen.

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia and lead researcher with the australianmap.net project.

Queensland Can Do Uranium mining

Peter speaking with a BHP Billiton representative outside their Olympic Dam office in Roxby Downs

Despite declaring no such plans before the election the Campbell Newman lead Queensland Government announced today that it will lift the ban on uranium mining in the state.

Mr Newman says the Federal Governments plans to sell uranium to India spurred his decision because Queensland should share in the jobs and economic opportunities it will create.

The resumption of uranium mining in Queensland will also mean Queensland will share in the environmental and human health problems created by the uranium and nuclear industries.

“The government has made the wrong decision for the wrong reasons,” says Nuclear Free Queensland spokesperson Robin Taubenfeld.

A strong movement against the uranium industry has continued in Queensland despite the last uranium Queensland uranium mine closing in 1982.

“We have campaigned for many years to ensure the uranium mining ban stayed in place, the overturning of this decision has strengthened our resolve,” Ms Taubenfeld said.

“We are ready to step up our campaign, companies seeking to open uranium mines will face opposition.”

Last week on Autonomous Action Radio I interviewed Co-chair of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance Peter Watts.

Peter is an Arabunna man who has been personally affected by these industries through mining and bombs.

In this interview he talks about the effect BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine has had on his country and family, his visit to Japan earlier this year, and how his family was affected by the Maralinga British tests.

You can listen to the interview here – The Effects of Uranium mining and Looking towards a Nuclear Free Future For All

Or download a broadcast quality version here – Uranium mining to Bombs and Reactors