FUKUSHIMA: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
August 25, 2013
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster came as a result of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. A truly horrible disaster almost beyond words. Naturally, it dominated news media, electronic and print, for many weeks. The death and destruction was simply heart wrenching.
After a while, the media moved on to the next “when it bleeds, it leads” story and Fukushima became a forgotten incident. Not for the Japanese people – not after that day and for decades and generations to come. I have prayed for all the lost souls and the citizens over there who will continue to suffer from radiation poisoning – especially children. But, should we be concerned? Has or will the effects of Fukushima hit the U.S.?
A little refresher
“The plant comprised six separate boiling water reactors originally designed by General Electric (GE) and maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). At the time of the earthquake, reactor 4 had been de-fueled and reactors 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for planned maintenance. Immediately after the earthquake, the remaining reactors 1–3 shut down automatically and emergency generators came online to power electronics and coolant systems. However, the tsunami following the earthquake quickly flooded the low-lying rooms in which the emergency generators were housed. The flooded generators failed, cutting power to the critical pumps that must continuously circulate coolant water through a Generation II reactor for several days to keep it from melting down after shut down. After the pumps stopped, the reactors overheated due to the normal high radioactive decay heat produced in the first few days after nuclear reactor shutdown (smaller amounts of this heat normally continue to be released for years, but are not enough to cause fuel melting).
“As workers struggled to cool and shut down the reactors, several hydrogen-air chemical explosions occurred. It is estimated that the hot zirconium fuel cladding-water reaction in each reactor produced 800 to 1000 kilograms of hydrogen gas, which was vented out of the reactor pressure vessel, and mixed with the ambient air, eventually reaching explosive concentration limits in units 1 and 3, and due to piping connections between units 3 and 4, unit 4 also filled with hydrogen, with the hydrogen-air explosions occurring at the top of each unit, that is in their upper secondary containment building.
“The negative health effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster include thyroid abnormalities, infertility and an increased risk of cancer. One study found that more than a third (36%) of children in Fukushima Prefecture have abnormal growths in their thyroid glands. Furthermore, a WHO report found that there is a significant increase in the risk of developing cancers for people who live near Fukushima. This includes a 70% higher risk of developing thyroid cancer for newborn babies, a 7% higher risk of leukemia in males exposed as infants, a 6% higher risk of breast cancer in females exposed as infants and a 4% higher risk of developing solid cancers for females. An increase in infertility has also been reported. As of August 2013, there have been more than 40 children newly diagnosed with thyroid cancer and other cancers in Fukushima prefecture alone and nuclear experts warn that this pattern may also occur in other areas of Japan.”
While the American media has pretty much ignored what’s been going on for the past 2 1/2 years (you might see a headline here and there), a few dedicated web sites have kept a steady stream of updates. For the most comprehensive coverage, go to Rense.com; scroll down to Japan Nuclear Disaster.