The battle for Fukushima is lost
Published: 31 March, 2011, 07:13
Japan has lost the battle to rescue the Fukushima nuclear reactor, where preventing a large radiation release is practically impossible, conclude Western experts. Meanwhile, Japanese authorities are taking additional measures to prevent a manmade disaster – the European press calls them “desperate.” In particular, they are planning to cover the damaged power generating units with fabric domes. Experts from various countries are urging the creation of an international commission on nuclear safety, which would consult authorities in similar situations and inform the public about health hazards.
The British newspaper The Guardian reported that, with each passing day, the risk of a massive release of radiation at Fukushima is rising.
“The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and onto a concrete floor, experts say,” the publication reported. It references America’s leading nuclear expert, Richard Lahey, who headed the safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the power generating units at Fukushima. According to him, the major concern is when the fuel reacts with the drywell underneath the concrete floor and releases radioactive gases. The drywell is enclosed in a protective chamber, but it was most likely damaged during the hydrogen explosion.
“It's not going to be anything like Chernobyl, where it went up with a big fire and steam explosion, but it's not going to be good news for the environment,” said Lahey. He advocates creating an international group of nuclear safety experts that could consult the authorities of various countries in emergency situations.
It seems that the concerns of the specialists are being realized. Yesterday, smoke was seen at the nuclear power plant, which also increases the risk of radiation release. The content of radioactive iodine in seawater close to Fukushima was slightly higher than was reported earlier. In an isolated place, located 300 meters from the shore, it exceeded the maximum allowable level by 3,355 times.
The chairman of the board of directors of the power plant’s operating company, Tepco, Tsunehisa Katsumata, told journalists that the first four reactors of the distressed nuclear power plant cannot be repaired, and confirmed that the situation will remain “unstable” throughout the coming weeks. He added that the first four reactors have not yet been brought under control, but specialists “are making maximum efforts to cool them.”
Meanwhile, it became known that the Japanese authorities are trying new measures to prevent the consequences of the accident. It is planned to cover the damaged reactors with domes of special fabric, which should prevent further distribution of radioactive particles. This applies to reactors 1, 3 and 4, the buildings of which were severely damaged in the first days of the catastrophe, when hydrogen explosions periodically occurred inside. However, experts are skeptical of the idea, insisting that the real threat is not posed by radioactive dust, but by the contamination of water, which could seep into the ocean and the ground. Collection of the radioactive water that is being pumped from the turbine halls of the reactors will involve a tank vessel, which will be docked at a pier near the nuclear power plant.
Today, French President Nikolas Sarkozy will arrive in Japan – he will be the first foreign leader to travel to the country since the destructive earthquake and tsunami on March 11. He will express solidarity with the Japanese people and offer the assistance of French Avera specialists, as well as “flex France’s nuclear muscles,” reported the Spanish newspaper El Pais. The United States has also become involved in helping with emergency operations at the nuclear power plant – it sent a shipment of radiation-resistant robots to Japan. Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a special address to Russian citizens, in which it asked to abstain from traveling to Japan in connection to the radiation threat.
Meanwhile, the press noted a decline in consumer confidence toward food products from Japan. Foreign companies are refusing to purchase Japanese seafood out of fears of them being exposed to radiation, Hiromi Isa, the trade office director at Japan's Fisheries Agency, said in an interview with Bloomberg. Since March 11, at least 10 orders for the supply of seafood have been recalled, despite the assurances of the Japanese government that they do not pose any threat. Many countries, starting with Australia and ending with the US and Russia, have reduced the import of Japanese seafood after the radiation levels outside of the evacuation zone around Fukushima nuclear power plant were raised. A fall in demand, however, is often psychological in nature, note restaurateurs and vendors.