by John Bertucci
This summer saw an alarming surge in news coverage about the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan. For many readers, this news probably came as a shock. For those following events at the troubled site since March 2011, the only surprise was that the press was suddenly covering it.
For the past two years, general perception held that the earthquake and tsunami were a terrible tragedy for Japan and the nuclear crisis was over, end of story.
Mainstream news services contributed greatly to this false sense of security. For two years, Fukushima’s nuclear problems were always spoken of in the past tense, and continuing problems systematically downplayed. Often, the nuclear plant was described as ‘crippled,’ suggesting only partially disabled, yet still able to function.
Actually, the plant in Fukushima was destroyed, and now, two and a half years after this ongoing disaster began, the situation is incredibly unstable, if not already out of control.
Basically, three cores have melted through their containment vessels and have begun interacting with the ground water. June press reports spoke of radioactive steam escaping from reactor Unit 3, and frightening levels have been detected in the massive amounts of water overflowing into the ocean every day.
The official story is that no one has any idea where the melted cores have gone. That, frankly, is hard to believe. In liquid state, this lethal radioactive material is called corium and its exact location should be easy to track with sensitive radionuclide detectors such as those developed to monitor underground bomb testing.
There are also extremely vulnerable storage pools filled with spent fuel rods that require uninterrupted circulation of water to keep them cool. The spent fuel pool in Unit 4 (SFP4) is in especially precarious condition, stuffed with both ‘spent’ and new rods and perched on top of a structurally damaged building, the roof blown off.
The real tragedy in all is this, no matter how shocking the news sounds now, is that there is nothing in what we learned this summer about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that could not have been predicted with scientific certainty in April 2011, one month after the explosions. And it certainly could have been immediately responded to in a much more urgent and effective way.
So how did this happen? Didn’t the experts in charge know what they were doing? Why were two critical years wasted, while the media pretended all was taken care of?
The short answer: because informed public knowledge of the true scale and danger at risk in Fukushima threatens corporate and government interests. A coordinated international response to what is now clearly acknowledged as a disaster of global proportions did not happen because it would have effectively and irrevocably broken our trust of the nuclear power industry, and potentially rendered obsolete the geopolitical and financial power structure presently hinged on it.
Reality, however, cannot be postponed. This nuclear disaster has been introducing a steady and deadly plume of radioactive contamination into our ocean, atmosphere, food chain and gene pool for two and a half years. And it’s likely to continue doing so for centuries to come.
The best source for informed coverage of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis is generally acknowledged to be ENEnews.com. A Sonoma County group called Fukushima Response started working together last year to understand, inform others and lobby elected officials about the gravity of the situation. Their website is www.FukushimaResponse.org.
Our children’s grandchildren deserve an urgent effort from us now, while we can. It may be important to them to one day know that those of us alive when this happened did all that we could to deal with it, and see that it never happened again.
Which is why Fukushima Response is organizing a human mural event on Ocean Beach in San Francisco on October 19th this year. They plan to assemble 2,000 bodies in a symbolic gesture of collective concern, spelling out the message “Fukushima Is Here” to spark greater public awareness and dialogue about the nuclear contamination headed our way.
Because only out of serious public discussion, something we’ve all avoided for two years, will possible solutions appear and urgent mitigations start to be put into place.
If you are ready to join in this important discussion, please sign up to participate in the October 19th San Francisco human mural at fukushimaishere.info.