Fukushima Disaster: Professor, œLevel of radiation was far worse than Navy officers anticipated

US gov’t shredded documents for 4 days while drawing up plans to evacuate Japan — “Somebody was obviously very worried”

Jeff Kingston of Temple Univ., Apr. 4, 2014: Kyle Cleveland, my colleague […] recently published a report […] a critical, but nuanced picture of a crisis that was closer to careening out of control than is generally acknowledged. […] Naval officers […] discovered the level of radiation was far worse than they anticipated. Radiation gauges on the [USS Reagan] measured levels of radiation at 100 nautical miles off the coast that were 30 times greater than normal. [Sailors report] significant health problems due to exposure to radiation […] Cleveland finds that there was considerable disagreement between various U.S. agencies about the severity of the risk […] Given that the U.S. government expanded the exclusionary zone in Fukushima to 80 km and developed contingency plans for a massive evacuation while shredding of documents continued for four days at the U.S. Embassy and military bases in Japan, somebody was obviously very worried. […] Some of his insider sources tell him that the crisis was actually far worse than anyone acknowledged at the time and that information was withheld to prevent a panic. Cleveland concludes that Japan’s nuclear reactors should not be restarted.

fukushima-decontamination-shutdown-Copy_small Fukushima Disaster: Professor, œLevel of radiation was far worse than Navy officers anticipated

 Professor Kyle Cleveland, Temple University Japan: “[The navy was] more risk averse than either the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) or State, and from day one was ringing alarms that were not entirely understood, not completely validated and not well received by the NRC and State. The navy was pushing the other federal agencies to take more aggressive actions because their radiation measurements were indicating dose rates that were more significant than what was implied by the abstract modeling […]”

Unidentified US Nuclear Expert: “Without a qualitatively different regulatory system, and in light of how Japan/Tepco responded to this crisis, Japan has not earned the right to have nuclear energy. No critically minded and informed person can evaluate this disaster and look at how Japan has responded in the aftermath and have any confidence that Japan will use nuclear energy safely. In the most seismically active country […] even if Japan had a robust regulatory structure and thoroughly integrated crisis protocols, nature conspires against the best-laid-plans of human institutions. And what Japan has is certainly not the best plan by any measure.”

Ernst G. Frankel is emeritus professor of ocean engineering at MIT — Jerome A. Cohen is co-director of the US-Asia Law Institute at NYU Law School — Julian Gresser is chairman of Alliances for Discovery — Dick Wullaert also contributed to the article

  • Headline: Abe must act now to seal Fukushima reactors, before it’s too late
  • Dear Prime Minister Abe, the Fukushima crisis is getting worse.
  • The key assumption […] is that you still have a safe window of time, at least two or three more years, and possibly longer, to deal with Fukushima’s four damaged nuclear reactors
  • What if this assessment is unrealistically optimistic? What if the safe window of time is less than a year? What if the very concept of a safe window is inappropriate for Fukushima? The fact is, we really don’t know what might happen.
  • According to [Tepco’s] published engineering reports, the most severely damaged reactors are only secure to the level of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake.
  • The crucial question is: how secure is the facility against any number of dark scenarios?
  • There is a high probability that, if a quake of magnitude 7.9 or above, or some other serious event, strikes Fukushima, a “criticality” will occur.
  • The least dangerous would be the local release of strontium-90, caesium 134/137, or nano-plutonium.
  • Far more dangerous would be an explosion, or a series of explosions – a chain reaction, engulfing reactors one to four – that would spew this contamination over much broader areas of helpless populations. The next criticality may be far more serious […]
  • The jet stream will transport airborne contamination to the U.S. and other parts of world
  • Fukushima may be far more dangerous [than Chernobyl] because the risks are continuing, and the situation is dynamically degrading and unstable.
  • The formidable problems of access to reactors one to three make accurate assessment of the true extent of the damage, hence the level of risk and vulnerability, extremely challenging.
  • We urge that you commission a 30-day independent assessment by a multidisciplinary international team of experts on the feasibility of entombment of reactors one to four, addressing the following specific scenario among others: Use helicopters mounted with telescopic nozzles, and, after reinforcing the spent fuel pool in the target reactor, spray it with special lighter-than-water concrete, dissolved in water solution; let the pool harden, along with the remainder of the facility, which is also sprayed until it becomes impervious to radiation or explosion.
  • Reactors one to four can probably be entombed within six months. Entomb them.