A Global Conspiracy of Denial
by William Boardman
Global Research (January 05 2014)
Does anyone in authority anywhere tell the truth about Fukushima?
If there is any government or non-government authority in the world that is addressing
the disaster at Fukushima openly, directly, honestly, and effectively, it’s not
apparent to the outside observer what entity that might be.
There is instead an apparent global conspiracy of authorities of all sorts to
deny to the public reliably accurate, comprehensible, independently verifiable
(where possible), and comprehensive information about not only the condition of
the Fukushima power plant itself and its surrounding communities, but about the
unceasing, uncontrolled release of radioactive debris into the air and water,
creating a constantly increasing risk of growing harm to the global community.
While the risk may still be miniscule in most places, the range of risk rises
to lethal in Fukushima itself. With the radioactive waste of four nuclear
reactors (three of them in meltdown) under uncertain control for almost three
years now, the risk of lethal exposure is very real for plant workers, and may
decrease with distance from the plant, but may be calculable for anyone on the
planet. No one seems to know. No one seems to have done the calculation. No one
with access to the necessary information (assuming it exists) seems to want to
do the calculation.
There is no moral excuse for this international collusion. The excuses are
political or economic or social, but none of them excuses any authority for
withholding or lying about information that has potentially universal and
destructive impact on everyone alive today and everyone to be born for some
Japanese authorities may be the worst current offenders against the truth, as
well as the health and safety of their people. Now the Japanese government has
passed a harsh state secrets law that threatens to reduce or eliminate reliable
information about Fukushima. The US government officially applauded this
heightened secrecy, while continuing its own tight control on nuclear
information. Japanese authorities are already attacking their own people in
defense of nuclear power: not only under-measuring and ignoring varieties of
radioactive threat, but even withholding the iodine pills in 2011 that might
have mitigated the growing epidemic of thyroid issues today. Failing to
confront Fukushima honestly, the Japanese are laying the basis for what could
amount to a radiological sneak attack on the rest of the world.
Just because no one seems to know what to do about Fukushima is no excuse to go
on lying about and/or denying the dimensions of reality, whatever they might
There are hundreds, probably thousands of people with little or no authority
who have long struggled to create a realistic, rational perspective on nuclear
threats. The fundamental barrier to knowing the scale of the Fukushima disaster
is just that: the scale of the Fukushima disaster.
Chernobyl 1986 and Fukushima 2011 are not really comparable
Chernobyl is the closest precedent to Fukushima, and it’s not very close.
Chernobyl at the time of the 1986 electric failure and explosion had four
operating reactors and two more under construction. The Chernobyl accident
involved one reactor meltdown. Other reactors kept operating for some time
after the accident. The rector meltdown was eventually entombed, containing the
meltdown and reducing the risk. Until Fukushima, Chernobyl was considered the
worst nuclear power accident in history, and it is still far from over (albeit
largely contained for the time being). The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone of roughly
1,000 square miles remains one of the most radioactive areas in the world and
the clean-up is not even expected to be complete before 2065.
At the time of the March 11 2011, earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima plant
had six operating reactors. Three of them went into meltdown and a fourth was
left with a heavily laden fuel pool teetering a hundred feet above the ground.
Two other reactors were undamaged and have been shut down. Radiation levels
remain lethal in each of the melted-down reactors, where the meltdowns appear
to be held in check by water that is pumped into the reactors to keep them
cool. In the process, the water gets irradiated and that which is not collected
on site in leaking tanks flows steadily into the Pacific Ocean. Within the
first two weeks, Fukushima radiation was comparable to Chernobyl’s and while
the levels have gone down, they remain elevated.
The plant’s corporate owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), in turn
effectively owned by the Japanese government after a 2012 nationalization,
began removing more than 1,500 fuel rod assemblies from the teetering fuel pool
in November, a delicate process expected to take a year or more. There are
additional fuel pools attached to each of the melted down reactors and a much
larger general fuel pool, all of which contain nuclear fuel rod assemblies that
are secure only as long as Tepco continues to cool them. The Fukushima
Exclusion Zone, a twelve-mile radius around the nuclear plant, is about 500
square miles (much of it ocean); little specific information about the
exclusion zone is easily available, but media coverage in the form of disaster
tourism is plentiful, including a Google Street View interactive display.
Despite their significant differences as disasters, Chernobyl and Fukushima are
both rated at seven – a “major accident” on the International Nuclear
Event Scale designed in 1990 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
That is the highest rating on the scale, a reflection of the inherent denial
that colors most official nuclear thinking. Designed by nuclear
“experts” after Chernobyl, the scale can’t imagine a worse accident
than Chernobyl which, for all its intensity, was effectively over as an
accident in a relatively short period of time. At Fukushima, by contrast, the
initial set of events was less acute than Chernobyl, but almost three years
later they continue without any resolution likely soon. Additionally Fukushima
has three reactor meltdowns and thousands of precarious fuel rod assemblies in
uncertain pools, any of which could produce a new crisis that would put
Fukushima clearly off the scale.
And then there’s groundwater. Groundwater was not a problem at Chernobyl.
Groundwater is a huge problem at the Fukushima plant that was built at the
seashore, on a former riverbed, over an active aquifer. In a short video,
nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson makes clear why groundwater makes Fukushima so
hard to clean up, and why radiation levels there will likely remain dangerous
for another hundred years.
Fukushima Unit Three activity led to some panic-driven reporting in 2013
The Japanese government and nuclear power industry have a history of not
telling the truth about nuclear accidents dating back at least to 1995, as
reported by New Scientist and Rachel Maddow, among others. Despite Japan’s
history of nuclear dishonesty, Japanese authorities remain in total control of
the Fukushima site and most of the information about it, without significant
objection from most of the world’s governments, media, and other power brokers,
whose reputation for honesty in nuclear matters is almost as bad as Japan’s. In
such a context of no context, the public is vulnerable to reports like this
from the Turner Radio Network (TRN) on December 28:
** NEWS FLASH – URGENT ** STEAM SUDDENLY EMANATING FROM FUKUSHIMA REACTOR # 3 –
WEST COAST OF NORTH AMERICA SHOULD BEGIN PREPARATIONS FOR POSSIBLE RADIATION CLOUD
WITHIN 3 TO 5 DAYS
Five days after this story was posted, the “radiation cloud” had not
developed despite the story’s assertion that: “Experts say this could be
the beginning of a ‘spent fuel pool criticality (meltdown)’ involving up to 89
TONS of nuclear fuel burning up into the atmosphere and heading to North
America”. The story named no “experts” and provided links only
to Tepco announcements in Japanese. The bulk of the story reads like an
infomercial for “protective” gear of various sorts that TRN makes a
point of saying it does NOT sell. Despite such obvious warning signs, others –
such as The Ecologist and Gizmodo – reported the threat of “another
meltdown” at Fukushima Unit Three as imminent.
Clarification and reassurance quickly started chasing the “new
meltdown” rumor around the Internet. ENENEWS (Energy News) promptly posted
the Tepco reports in English, demonstrating that there was nothing
“sudden” about the steam releases, they’ve been happening more or
less daily since 2011, but condensation caused by cold weather makes them
visible. At FAIREWINDS (Energy Education), Arnie Gunderson posted on January 1:
… the Internet has been flooded with conjecture claiming that Fukushima
Daiichi Unit Three is ready to explode
… Our research, and discussions with other scientists, confirms that what we
are seeing is a phenomenon that has been occurring at the Daiichi site since
the March 2011 accident … While the plants are shutdown in nuke speak, there
is no method of achieving cold shut down in any nuclear reactor. While the
reactor can stop generating the actual nuclear chain reaction, the atoms left
over from the original nuclear chain reaction continue to give off heat that is
called the decay of the radioactive rubble (fission products) … constantly
releasing moisture (steam) and radioactive products into the environment.
In other words, Fukushima Unit Three continues to leak radioactivity into both
air and water, as Units One and Two presumably do as well. But as Gunderson
explains, the level of radioactivity has declined sharply without becoming
When Unit Three was operating, it was producing more than 2,000 megawatts of
heat from the nuclear fission process (chain reaction in the reactor).
Immediately after the earthquake and tsunami, it shut down and the chain
reaction stopped, but Unit Three was still producing about 160 megawatts of
decay heat. Now, thirty months later, it is still producing slightly less than
one megawatt (one million watts) of decay heat … one megawatt of decay heat
is a lot of heat even today, and it is creating radioactive steam, but it is
not a new phenomenon.
Reassurances about Fukushima are as misleading as scare stories
The reassuring aspects of the condition of Unit Three – radioactive releases
are not new, they’re less intense than they once were, the nuclear waste is
cooling – while true enough, provide only a false sense of comfort. Also true:
radiation is released almost continuously, the releases are uncontrolled, no
one seems to be measuring the releases, no one seems to be tracking the
releases, no one is assessing accumulation of the releases. And while it’s true
that the waste is cooling and decaying, it’s also true that a loss of coolant
could lead to another uncontrolled chain reaction. (“Fukushima Daiichi
Unit Three is not going to explode”, says Gunderson in a headline, but he
can’t know that with certainty.)
For the near future, what all that means, in effect, is that the world has to
accept chronic radiation releases from Fukushima as the price for avoiding
another catastrophic release. And even then, it’s not a sure thing.
But there’s another aspect of Fukushima Unit Three that’s even less reassuring.
Unit Three is the one Fukushima reactor that was running on Mixed oxide fuel,
or MOX fuel, in its fuel rods. MOX fuel typically uses Plutonium mixed with one
or more forms of Uranium. Using Plutonium in fuel rods adds to their toxicity
in the event of a meltdown. In part because Plutonium-239 has a half-life of
240,000 years and can be used to make nuclear weapons of “dirty
bombs”, its use in commercial reactors remains both limited and
controversial. Because it contains Plutonium, MOX fuel is more toxic than other
nuclear fuel and will burn at lower temperatures. As Natural Resources News
reported in 2011:
The mixed oxide fuel rods used in the compromised number three reactor at the
Fukushima Daiichi complex contain enough plutonium to threaten public health
with the possibility of inhalation of airborne plutonium particles …
Plutonium is at its most dangerous when it is inhaled and gets into the lungs.
The effect on the human body is to vastly increase the chance of developing
Reportedly, Tepco plans don’t call for the removal of the MOX fuel in Unit
Three for another decade or more. Fuel removal from Units One, Two, and Three
is complicated by lethal radiation levels at all three reactors, as well as
Tepco’s inability so far to locate the three melted cores with any precision.
There is ample reason to hope that Fukushima, despite the complex of
uncontrollable and deteriorating factors, will not get worse, because even the
Japanese don’t want that. But there is little reason to expect anything but
worsening conditions, slowly or suddenly, for years and years to come. And there
is even less reason to expect anyone in authority anywhere to be more than
minimally and belatedly truthful about an industry they continue to protect, no
matter how many people it damages or kills.
The perfect paradigm of that ruthlessly cynical nuclear mentality is the
current Japanese practice of recruiting homeless people to work at Fukushima in
high level radiation areas where someone with something to lose might not be
willing to go for minimum wage.
The original version of this article, at the last URL below, contains many
links to further information not included here.
Plumes of Mysterious Steam rise from Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Reactor
Fukushima: Blatant Coverup of Radiation
Two Japanese Nuclear Reactors Have Melted Down
New Radiation Releases: Governments Underreported Severity of Fukushima
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