An open letter on nuclear energy - and beyond this particular tragedy
G. S. 
<georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>
initial posting 25 March 2011- last update 31 March 2011

URL: http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2011-03-25.htm

      This posting continues the highly contentious dispute over whether nuclear energy for generating electricity should or should not be abandoned. [1] Stuart Dean Waymire and Marvin Resnikoff are pitted against one another: Waymire, a mechanical engineer, argues in favor of this technology, and Resnikoff, a theoretical physicist who is the Senior Associate of the Radioactive Waste Management Associates (RWMA), is opposed to this technology. Waymire’s website is at http://www.yuccamountainexpose.com. The RWMA website is at http://www.rwma.com/.

An open letter on nuclear energy
To: Stuart Dean Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com>, Marvin Resnikoff <radwaste@rwma.com>
      Oaxaca, Mexico, begun Wednesday 23 March 2011. Dear Stuart Dean Waymire and Marvin Resnikoff, I am writing this open letter to both of you because it seems to me urgent for humanity to act radically in order to have a chance to avoid destroying the entire ecosphere, and with it all our lives. You are on opposite sides of the major issue — should nuclear energy be pursued or abandoned. Stuart, you self identify as follows - from your web page at http://www.yuccamountainexpose.com/:

      The Author Stuart D. Waymire: A mechanical engineer, small business owner, writer who has lived in Las Vegas since 1979. Also on your web page is an account of Marvin Resnikoff’s qualifications and ideology, in item “Resnikoff and Audin: The Camel’s Nose”. In addition to this item there are 74 more items, the 75th being “Best Interests of America”.

      I will not try to correct errors in your item 28, which is partly correct and partly erroneous. Fundamentally the dispute between “your side” and “Resnikoff’s side” lies in the impossibility of reconciling “your cosmovision” and “his cosmovision”. From what I can tell, each of you deserves to be taken as a serious advocate of your particular viewpoint. A sensible discussion requires that each of you be treated with respect and, where there are disagreements, these be discussed honestly and openly, without rancor. That said, I need to be clear about just where I stand. I should be seen as firmly and fully in agreement with Resnikoff on the urgency of abandoning the effort to exploit nuclear fission (and fusion) for energy generation.

      You, Mr. Waymire, will surely see me as being more “off the wall” than Resnikoff, and Resnikoff himself will probably be in disagreement with my “extremism” because my conviction is that we — the human species — must not only give up trying to control nuclear fission and fusion for generating electrical energy. We must, if we want to have a chance for survival, give up the entire dominant ideology of the “Western world” that is predicated on human control of the natural world. The power available to humankind, now in the hands of ultra-rich elites, is capable of being used to commit global ecocide . We have only to consider the world’s so-called nuclear “powers”, as mentioned in the posting at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons, namely United States, Russian Federation (former Soviet Union), France, United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea.

[25 March 2011. This open letter is still to be completed, but I
am circulating it with these notes because of the ex-
treme urgency of the problems considered.]

Date: Fri, Mar 25, 2011 8:30 pm
To: Stuart Dean Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com> , Marvin Resnikoff <radwaste@rwma.com>
Subject: Progress on posting
      Hi Stuart and Marvin, My latest on the two of you is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2011-03-25.htm. If there are any corrections, omissions, etc. that you see I would appreciate knowing so that I can make corrections. All best wishes --George
Re: Progress on posting
Date: Saturday, March 26, 2011 7:29 PM
To: georgeisalzman@yahoo.com - I will check your link later today. I haven’t updated my website for quite a while, I will need to clean it up if you are sending it out as a link. The new edition of the book should be available within about three weeks (it is a huge amount of work). --Stuart Dean Waymire
Senior Salesperson, PR Properties Group, 810 South Casino Center Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101

DISCLAIMER AND CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This information was gathered from sources we believe to be reliable, but we make no representations or warranties, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy of the information. We disclaim all responsibility for information contained in this publication and all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs incurred as a result of the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way for any reason. Buyer must verify the information and bears all risk for any inaccuracies. The information transmitted in this message is intended only for the addressee and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. If you receive this message in error, please contact the sender and delete this message. PR Properties Group.


      26 March 2011. Note. The message timestamped 7:29 PM today from Stuart Dean Waymire with its disclaimer, etc. is entirely his. I do not honor requests (or demands) for confidentiality except where an intensely personal matter is involved which, if shared indiscreetly, could be harmful to an individual and without social benefit. Nor am I involved in doing anything for monetary gain. Sincerely --George P.S. Stuart, I have linked to your website in my posting.
      27 March 2011. The website http://geospatial.blogs.com/geospatial/2011/03/massive-tsunami-in-fukushima-prefecture.html has the information: “The 2011 Sendai earthquake was a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST [Japan Standard Time] (05:46 UTC) on 11 March 2011. The epicenter was reported to be 130 kilometers off the east coast of the Oshika Peninsula, Tohoku, with the hypocenter at a depth of 24.4 km. The resulting tsunami is reported to have hit Soma in Fukushima Prefecture, about 50 km north of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, at 15:50 JST March 11. Wave height at Soma was reported to have been 7.3m or more.”
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 3:06 AM
Subject: Awaiting news
To: Stuart Dean Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com>, Marvin Resnikoff <radwaste@rwma.com> — Hi Stuart, You wrote your note of 25 March seventeen days ago, on the fourteenth day after the tsunami hit the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Since then I have had no word from you. I am interested to know how your thoughts are evolving in light of the ongoing tragedy. Thanks for your interest in these matters. Sincerely --George

P.S. The media are of course making the most of the spectacle.* Nevertheless, it seems to me there is a great deal that must be taken very seriously, and I’m not referring to the official lying by politicians and other greedheads, on whom much of your critical focus is centered. Unfortunately you conflate your valid criticism of lying within the totally corrupted establishment with the imagined craziness of people like myself. You wrote, for example, “. . . your viewpoint has been represented by a bunch of crooks and incompetents . . . ” In my opinion this is simply gratuitous nonsense. --GS
*see e.g. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110328/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earth-
quake


Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:11 PM
Re: Awaiting news
From: Stuart Dean Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com> — You wrote, for example, “. . . your viewpoint has been represented by a bunch of crooks and incompetents . . . ” In my opinion this is simply gratuitous nonsense. --GS

      Well, first of all, Bob Loux was kicked out of office for admittedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus as I show he was guilty of misappropriating millions more to cronies. Secondly, my book on Harry Reid extensively details how he took money from brothel pimp Joe Conforte of the Mustang Ranch, so your main political proponent is a flat out crook. Third, Mountain West took off with millions as well. So in short, my “gratuitous nonsense” as you graciously put it, is certainly backed with facts on the financial front.

      Regarding opposition incompetence, I have many examples, but the poster child is Judy Treichle (defend her contracts to your own shame, she was involved up until the end through her lover Steve Frishman). Loux himself was trained as a history teacher, an incompetent in nuclear issues. Ralph Nader’s groups are driven by decentralist anarchism as much as technical prowess, they couldn’t engineer themselves out of a wet paper bag. Read my book, you will find more examples.

      Regarding Fukushima, it was designed fifty years ago. Even given this disaster, the number of lives foreseeably lost will be trivial compared to multiple refinery and fuel transportation accidents that occur regularly, much less coal plant pollution. Fukushima is a non-event on the real risk horizon, though I realize you guys are high on ‘perceived risks’ (reality=fantasy). Ironically, by delaying Yucca Mountain, the anti-nuclears have made progress in replacing such antiquated second generation nuclear reactors with fail-safe third and third plus generation designs impossible. China has 21 plants under construction. India is going to thorium reactors. America is now far behind the development and implementation curve and will no longer influence nuclear engineering design safety criteria. Anyone who believes solar is the future should have their head examined and even Europe is now backing away from that dystopia as quickly as they can. In short, the anti-nuclear movement has delayed America’s move to cleaner nuclear technology, has driven up the cost of energy through a bizarre faith in solar energy, and has moved us towards being even more dependent on foreign oil and hydrocarbon fuels. I look forward to your response, no doubt filled with “gratuitous nonsense” -- Stuart D. Waymire, Cell (702) 279-1385


      30 March 2011. Last night when the above message from Stuart came I telephoned him almost right away. I think we had a good clarifying discussion in the sense that we both listened to each other. Though our opinions remained fixed regarding nuclear energy, it was clear to me that Stuart, far from being “just a blowhard”, has a lot of valid information and should be taken very seriously. I hope he gained a similar impression of me, so the call seems to have been quite worthwhile.
NOTES
[1] Stuart Dean Waymire’s advocacy of using nuclear energy to generate electrical energy, and his criticism of Marvin Resnikoff, a major opponent of such nuclear reactors, is assembled at
http://www.yuccamountainexpose.com
      Waymire’s “Yucca Mountain” website appears to be a fairly complete collection of his writing on this controversy prior to the Japanese meltdown. Of the 75 items enumerated and linked to at this site, item Y28 seems to be one that is heavily focussed on Waymire’s criticism of Resnikoff. This item is at http://www.yuccamountainexpose.com/Y28.htm
      My exchange with Waymire (SDW) will be posted in these notes as [SDW1], [SDW2], . . . I don’t anticipate that Resnikoff will have the time and inclination to participate directly in this exchange.

[2] Doomsday Scenario at Fukushima, Paper 1 at
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2010-03-22.htm

[3] Conflicting Stories Surround Fukushima Fuel Pool #4, Paper 2 at
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/t/2010-03-22.htm

[SDW1]
From: George Salzman <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>
To: Stuart D. Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 22, 2011 11:27 am
Subject: (no subject)
            Stuart D. Waymire
            702-279-1385
            [old Fax: 702-263-8842]
            StuWaymire@aol.com
            [old 6375 S. Arville Suite 7]
            Las Vegas, Nevada 89118
Dear Mr. Waymire,
      Please add me to your mailing list for information regarding the use of nuclear energy. Thank you, George Salzman


Date: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:10 PM
From: Stuart D. Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com>

I'd be happy to keep in contact George. Below is some better contact info. May I ask where you found the old info; I will need to update that.
Cell (702) 279-1385


Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:17 AM
To: Stuart Dean Waymire <stuwaymire@aol.com>
Bcc: Marvin Resnikoff <radwaste@rwma.com>

Oaxaca, Mexico, Wednesday 23 March 2011
      Dear Stuart, I was Googling for info on the tragedy centered in Japan and came upon your site at http://www.yuccamountainexpose.com/. When I go to the Contact link at the top of the screen and click, what comes up is:

            Contact Stuart D. Waymire
            702-279-1385
            Fax: 702-263-8842
            StuWaymire@aol.com
            6375 S. Arville Suite 7
            Las Vegas, Nevada 89118

      Thank you for your prompt reply to my note. I am very appreciative of your openness to being in touch in a civil manner with someone who is in opposition to your position. You’re probably very busy these days and I should not assume you took the time to examine my website. Very sincerely --George


[SDW2]
Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 4:50 PM

      I don’t mind your opposition. In fact, the whole point of my book is really that there needed to be LEGITIMATE opposition to Yucca Mountain in order to keep the review process honest. What in fact occurred was that the oversight done by Nevada, and even by the environmental movement, was and is severely tainted by an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with the technical merits of Yucca Mountain or nuclear energy. Instead, “decentralist anarchism”, “Rawlsian ethics”, gaia worship, and other oddball philosophies dominated the conduct of the opposition oversight and has made most of it worthless.

      After 18 years of researching this, I now stand vindicated in my analysis. Bob Loux, Director of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office was finally let go for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars (though they sent him off with a wrist slap). Combined with the other material I’ve gathered, that means the entire body of opposition technical research done by the State of Nevada can now be called into question as the result of crony contracts let by Bob Loux over a thirty year protected directorship. The amount of money pissed away by Loux is extraordinary. And as far as the exalted honor of politicians like Harry Reid in opposing nuclear energy I suggest you read the only existing biography of Senator Reid (which I penned under the nom de plume Daxton Brown). Harry Reid is a mob stooge from way back who now has quite a lot to gain personally from promoting solar energy projects near his home in Searchlight. Look up HARRY: Money Mob and Influence on Amazon.com, you will be shocked.

      In short, your viewpoint has been represented by a bunch of crooks and incompetents that make the DOE look like saints. Moreover, as a mechanical engineer, I have tried diligently to run the numbers that would lead to a solar utopia and they just don’t exist. And don’t count me as anti-solar, I used to own $50,000 worth of stock in Evergreen Solar which produces photovoltaics until I saw that that technology was headed to an implosion. I will be bringing out the updated version of Yucca Mountain: The Battle For National Energy Policy in paperback in about three weeks on amazon.com. Certainly my world view is subject to argument and revision and I am quite open to civil discussion. Just be aware that if you come to the debate, that I research my positions to the hilt and I would expect you to do the same. --Stuart Dean Waymire


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110328/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake More radioactive water spills at Japan nuke plant [28 March 2011]
The complete text (without photographs) of the article follows:

      By SHINO YUASA, Associated Press Shino Yuasa, Associated Press — Mon Mar 28, 5:49 pm ET. TOKYO — Workers have discovered new pools of radioactive water leaking from Japan ’s crippled nuclear complex that officials believe are behind soaring levels of radiation spreading to soil and seawater. Crews also detected plutonium — a key ingredient in nuclear weapons — in the soil outside the complex, though officials insisted Monday the finding posed no threat to public health. Plutonium is present in the fuel at the complex, which has been leaking radiation for more than two weeks, so experts had expected to find traces once crews began searching for evidence of it this week.

      The Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant was crippled March 11 when a tsunami spawned by a powerful earthquake slammed into Japan’s northeastern coast. The huge wave destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods in the complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo. Since then, three of the complex’s six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have struggled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have forced temporary evacuations. Confusion at the plant has intensified fears that the nuclear crisis will continue for months or even years amid alarms over radiation making its way into produce, raw milk and even tap water as far away as Tokyo. The troubles have eclipsed Pennsylvania’s 1979 crisis at Three Mile Island, when a partial meltdown raised fears of widespread radiation release. But it is still well short of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which killed at least 31 people with radiation sickness, raised long-term cancer rates and spewed radiation across much of the northern hemisphere.

      Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the complex, said plutonium was found in soil at five locations at the nuclear plant, but that only two samples appeared to be plutonium from the leaking reactors. The rest came from years of nuclear tests that left trace amounts of plutonium in many places around the world. Plutonium is a heavy element that doesn’t readily combine with other elements, so it is less likely to spread than some of the lighter, more volatile radioactive materials detected around the site, such as the radioactive forms of cesium and iodine. “The relative toxicity of plutonium is much higher than that of iodine or cesium but the chance of people getting a dose of it is much lower,” says Robert Henkin, professor emeritus of radiology at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine. “Plutonium just sits there and is a nasty actor.” The trouble comes if plutonium finds a way into the human body. The fear in Japan is that water containing plutonium at the station turns to steam and is breathed in, or that the contaminated water from the station migrates into drinking water. When plutonium decays it emits what is known as an alpha particle, a relatively big particle that carries a lot of energy. When an alpha particle hits body tissue, it can damage the DNA of a cell and lead to a cancer-causing mutation. Plutonium also breaks down very slowly, so it remains dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. “If you inhale it, it’s there and it stays there forever,” said Alan Lockwood, a professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University at Buffalo and a member of the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an advocacy group.

      While parts of the Japanese plant have been reconnected to the power grid, the contaminated water — which has now been found in numerous places around the complex, including the basements of several buildings — must be pumped out before electricity can be restored to the cooling system. That has left officials struggling with two sometimes–contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out — and then safely storing — contaminated water. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, called that balance “very delicate work.” He also said workers were still looking for safe ways to store the radioactive water. “We are exploring all means,” he said. Meanwhile, new readings showed ocean contamination had spread about a mile (1.6 kilometers) farther north of the nuclear site than before, but was still within the 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius of the evacuation zone. Radioactive iodine-131 was discovered offshore at a level 1,150 times higher than normal, Nishiyama told reporters.

      Closer to the plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week and climbed to 1,850 times normal over the weekend. Nishiyama said the increase was a concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health. The buildup of radioactive water in the nuclear complex first became a problem last week, when it splashed over the boots of two workers, burning them and prompting a temporary suspension of work. Then on Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials said workers had found more radioactive water in deep trenches used for pipes and electrical wiring outside three units. The contaminated water has been emitting radiation exposures more than four times the amount the government considers safe for workers. The five workers in the area at the time were not hurt, said TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita. Exactly where the water is coming from remains unclear, though many suspect it is cooling water that has leaked from one of the disabled reactors.

      It could take weeks to pump out the radioactive water, said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Michigan. “Battling the contamination so workers can work there is going to be an ongoing problem,” he said. Amid reports that people had been sneaking back into the mandatory evacuation zone around the nuclear complex, the chief government spokesman again urged residents to stay out. Yukio Edano said contaminants posed a “big” health risk in that area. Gregory Jaczko, head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, arrived in Tokyo on Monday to meet with Japanese officials and discuss the situation. “The unprecedented challenge before us remains serious, and our best experts remain fully engaged to help Japan,” Jaczko was quoted as saying in a U.S. Embassy statement. Early Monday, a strong earthquake shook the northeastern coast and prompted a brief tsunami alert. The quake was measured at magnitude 6.5, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. No damage or injuries were reported. Scores of earthquakes have rattled the country over the past two weeks, adding to the sense of unease across Japan, where the final death toll is expected to top 18,000 people, with hundreds of thousands still homeless. TEPCO officials said Sunday that radiation in leaking water in Unit 2 was 10 million times above normal — a report that sent employees fleeing. But the day ended with officials saying that figure had been miscalculated and the level was actually 100,000 times above normal, still very high but far better than the earlier results. “This sort of mistake is not something that can be forgiven,” Edano said sternly Monday.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110330/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake TEPCO president hospitalized in Tokyo [30 March 2011]
The complete text (without photographs) of the article follows:

      By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press — 2 hrs 14 mins ago. TOKYO — The president of the utility that owns Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear complex was hospitalized with hypertension as setbacks mounted at the plant, where experts Wednesday logged the highest radiation yet in nearby seawater. Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., has not been seen for nearly two weeks after appearing at a Tokyo news conference two days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hobbled the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant’s cooling systems and set off radiation leaks. Shimizu, 66, was taken Tuesday to a Tokyo hospital after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure, TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said. There had been much speculation about Shimizu’s health since he disappeared from public view, with company Vice President Sakae Muto appearing instead at news briefings. TEPCO officials had deflected questions about Shimizu’s health, saying he was “resting” at company headquarters.

      It was the latest crisis to beset TEPCO, still struggling to stabilize the dangerously overheated power plant and to contain the radiation seeping from the complex and into the sea and soil nearby. The magnitude-9.0 quake spawned a tsunami that knocked out power and backup systems crucial to keeping temperatures down inside the plant’s reactors and spent fuel pools. Residents within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the plant were evacuated two weeks ago, while those up to 19 miles (30 kilometers) have been urged in recent days to leave voluntarily. Elevated levels of radiation, meanwhile, have turned up in vegetables, raw milk and water. Last week, tap water as far away as Tokyo, 140 miles (220 kilometers) to the south, contained levels of cancer-causing iodine-131 considered unsafe for infants. On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater outside the plant was found to contain 3,335 times the usual amount of radioactive iodine — the highest rate yet and a sign that more contaminated water was making its way into the ocean. The amount of iodine-131 found offshore some 300 yards (meters) south of the plant does not pose an immediate threat to human health but was a “concern,” Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency official, said Wednesday. He said there was no fishing in the area. “We will nail down the cause, and will do our utmost to prevent it from rising further,” he said. Nishiyama has previously acknowledged that some contaminated water from the plant was seeping into the sea, but it remains unclear what part of the plant is leaking.

      Highly toxic plutonium also has been found seeping into the soil outside the plant, TEPCO said. Safety officials said the amounts did not pose a risk to humans, but the finding supports suspicions that dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods. The latest findings on radioactive iodine — based on a sample taken Tuesday afternoon — highlight the urgency of stabilizing the crippled power plant. The mission has been fraught with setbacks, as emergency crews have dealt with fires, explosions and radiation scares in the frantic bid to prevent a complete meltdown. Workers succeeded last week in reconnecting some parts of the plant to the power grid. But as they pumped in water to cool the reactors and nuclear fuel, they discovered numerous pools of radioactive water, including in the basements of several buildings and in trenches outside.

      The contaminated water has been emitting many times the amount of radiation that the government considers safe for workers. It must be pumped out before electricity can be restored and the regular cooling systems powered up. That has left officials struggling with two crucial but contradictory efforts: pumping in water to keep the fuel rods cool and pumping out contaminated water. Prime Minister Naoto Kan reiterated in a speech this week to parliament that Japan was grappling with its worst problems since World War II. More than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most expensive natural disaster on record. Kan has faced increasing criticism from opposition lawmakers over the handling of a nuclear disaster stretching into a third week.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/world/asia/01japan.html?pagewanted=
2&partner=rss&emc=rss

Radiation Levels Rise Again at Nuclear Plant [31 March 2011]

By DAVID JOLLY and MATTHEW L. WALD, Published: March 31, 2011. David Jolly reported from Tokyo, and Matthew L. Wald from Washington. Ken Iichi, and Ayasa Aizawa and Moshe Komata contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Kevin Drew from Hong Kong. The complete text (without photographs) of the article follows:

TOKYO — Workers made more incremental progress at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant on Thursday, but troublingly high radiation readings at the plant as well as miles away reinforced fears that the disaster was far from ending. [A related article: Dangerous Levels of Radioactive Isotope Found 25 Miles From Nuclear Plant, March 31, 2011] The crisis continued to add to the country’s difficulties as it strained to cope with widespread death, destruction and displacement from the earthquake and tsunami that battered its northeastern coast three weeks ago and left the Fukushima plant crippled. The death toll rose to 11,417, with another 16,273 people listed as missing, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, including tens of thousands from the area around the nuclear plant. The economic toll — including the damage to exports and international trade — defies a full reckoning. Workers have been dousing reactors and spent-fuel pools at the plant with water to prevent full meltdowns while they frantically try to restore power and restart the cooling systems, but the resulting floods of dangerously contaminated water have complicated their efforts. On Thursday workers prepared more tanks for transferring the water from turbine buildings at Reactors 1, 2 and 3 in a quest to keep the radioactive water from flooding into the ocean.

      But readings taken in the sea near the plant showed that levels of radioactive iodine 131 had risen for another day, testing at 4,385 times the statutory limit, according to Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The rise increases the likelihood that contaminants from the plant are continuously leaking into the sea, he said. On Wednesday the water tested at 3,355 times the safety standard for the isotope, up from Sunday’s reading of 1,150 times the maximum level. The same isotope was detected at levels 10,000 times the safety limit at Reactor No. 1, Bloomberg reported, citing a report by the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco. Sakae Muto, a Tepco vice president, said the company was contracting with Japanese companies to build a range of facilities for handling the contaminated water.

      A new focus of concern stems from readings of a long-lasting radioactive element [cesium 137] at levels that pose a long-term danger at one spot 25 miles from the Fukushima plant, raising questions about whether the evacuation zone should be expanded, and even whether the land might need to be abandoned. Residents within 12 miles of the plant have already been ordered to evacuate and those up to 19 miles away have been encouraged to leave. The isotope, cesium 137, was measured in one village by the International Atomic Energy Agency at a level exceeding the standard that the Soviet Union used as a gauge to recommend abandoning land surrounding the Chernobyl reactor, and at another location not precisely identified by the agency. Using a measure of radioactivity called the becquerel, the tests found as much as 3.7 million becquerels per square meter; the standard used at Chernobyl was 1.48 million. In contrast to iodine 131, which decays rapidly, cesium 137 persists in the environment for centuries. The reported measurements would not be high enough to cause acute radiation illness but far exceed standards for the general public designed to cut the risks of cancer. The Japanese authorities and the anti-nuclear environmental group Greenpeace have reported similar readings from the area; Greenpeace and some other groups are pressing for the affected area to be evacuated.

      Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference Thursday morning that officials were studying the contamination levels, but that there were currently no plans to expand the evacuation zone. Tepco, an enormous and influential company that supplies a third of Japan’s power, faces billions of dollars in losses and liabilities from the disaster. It has confirmed that Reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4 will have to be scrapped, and on Thursday Prime Minister Naoto Kan was quoted as saying that Reactors 5 and 6, which were far less damaged since they were already offline when the disaster struck, should also be decommissioned. [emphasis added — G.S.] Moody’s Investors Service, the ratings agency, on Thursday cut its credit rating on Tokyo Electric debt to Baa1 from A1, saying only the expectation of government support justified leaving the debt rating above junk levels. The company’s shares have declined nearly 80 percent since the quake.

      President Obama, in a letter to Emperor Akihito sent March 24 but disclosed only on Thursday [the 31st], conveyed “the deep sympathy felt by all Americans for the suffering of the people of Japan,” and added that “our prayers are with you in this time of grief.” France, along with the United States, is providing technical advice and tons of material as the authorities grapple with the biggest nuclear incident since Chernobyl in 1986. On Thursday the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, became the first world leader to visit Japan since the earthquake and the ensuing disasters. Prime Minister Kan, appearing in a somber suit instead of the blue work uniform in which he has usually appeared since the quake, thanked Mr. Sarkozy for visiting, saying: “A friend who visits on a rainy day is truly a friend.” The two leaders pledged to strengthen international standards on nuclear safety. “We have to thoroughly investigate the incident to understand how it occurred,” Mr. Kan said. “We want to make nuclear power safer.”

      Mr. Sarkozy, whose country generates about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, arrived in Tokyo for a one-day visit after attending a Group of 20 function in Nanjing, China. He said he wanted to work in his capacity as the current G-20 head to help the international community agree on better guidelines. “Japan is not alone,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “In the face of this calamity, all of the G-20 nations wish to aid Japan. France, as current leader of the group, wants to express our solidarity.” But both countries are seeing domestic support for nuclear expansion waver. Earlier on Thursday the Kyodo news agency cited a Japanese Communist Party official, Kazuo Shii, as saying that Mr. Kan had agreed that the country should completely reconsider its plan to build 14 new nuclear plants by 2030. Asked at the news conference about Japan’s nuclear future, Mr. Kan evaded the question.

      Kyodo also reported on Thursday that the bodies of hundreds of people killed by the quake and tsunami lie uncollected in the area near the plant because they were contaminated by radiation, leaving the police and morgue workers unable to safely handle them. The authorities are considering the use of mobile decontamination units to clean the bodies on the spot, Kyodo reported. Workers at the plant continued to pump the contaminated water from the pools in the turbine buildings. NHK, the national broadcaster, reported that because many of the plant’s radiation detectors were destroyed in the earthquake workers have had to share the devices in small groups. Under normal circumstances each worker would have a device since it is not possible to accurately measure individual radiation exposure without them. Some workers have become enraged and walked off the job as a result, NHK reported.

      Some commentators have suggested that the four worst-damaged reactors at the plant could be entirely covered with concrete containment structures, as used at Chernobyl, in Ukraine. But some experts dismissed such ideas. Among them was Murray E. Jennex, an associate professor at San Diego State University with 20 years’ experience in examining nuclear containment structures as a consultant. “A concrete covering would be useful for the spent-fuel pools,” Mr. Jennex said, “because they’re exposed to the environment.” But the Chernobyl reactor, he noted, was designed without the sort of internal containment structures used in the Japanese design. “They’re going to have to clean up a lot of contaminated water, and they’ll probably spend a couple of years cleaning the soil, the water and radioactive components,“ Mr. Jennex said. “But I anticipate it will end up looking a lot more like Three Mile Island than Chernobyl.”


George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <georgeisalzman@yahoo.com>

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Initial posting of this page: 25 March 2011.
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