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Guest Post: Ongoing Cover Up of Nuclear Crisis By Governments and Nuclear Power Companies

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I’ve previously documented that Japanese seismologists and nuclear engineers warned years ago that the risks of a large-scale nuclear accident in Japan were high, with one Japanese seismologist warning in 2004 that the risk of a nuclear accident was:

Like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.

I also showed that whistleblowers have been ignored:

Years before Fukushima engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka blew the whistle on the fact that Tepco covered up a defective containment vessel, the above-quoted Japan Times article blew the whistle:

Yoichi Kikuchi, a Japanese nuclear engineer who also became a whistle-blower, has told me personally of many safety problems at Japan’s nuclear power plants, such as cracks in pipes in the cooling system from vibrations in the reactor. He said the electric companies are “gambling in a dangerous game to increase profits and decrease government oversight.”

[Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese-American senior field engineer who worked for General Electric in the United States, who previously blew the whistle on Tepco's failure to inform the government of defects at the reactors] agreed, saying, “The scariest thing, on top of all the other problems, is that all nuclear power plants are aging, causing a deterioration of piping and joints which are always exposed to strong radiation and heat.”

Kikuchi and Sugaoka were ignored. Just like American whistle-blowers are being ignored.

And after the March 11th disaster, the Japanese government has been covering up information.

Indeed, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen points out that American and Japanese governments and nuclear companies are covering up many core facts concerning the Japanese nuclear crisis.

Closing Ranks: The NRC, the Nuclear Industry, and TEPCo. Are Limiting the Flow of Information from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Arnie Gundersen Discusses Radioactive Water Leaking Into the Pacific Ocean with CNN’s John King from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Tepco

Tepco is covering up crucial information, including:

  • After Gundersen pointed out that the existence of tellurium at Fukushima implies that re-criticality is coming, Tepco pulled the data, saying that the data is no longer accurate
  • Tepco is denying that a blue neutron beam – also indicating re-criticality – has been observed
  • Tepco has tried to deny the report of an eminent nuclear scientist that reactor number 2 had suffered a meltdown

Foreign Nuclear Companies

It’s not just Tepco. Foreign nuclear companies are covering up as well.

For example, the large french nuclear corporation, Areva, has privately determined that:

  • At reactors 1 through 3, the nuclear fuel reached 5,000 degrees, beyond the melting point of steel and the zirconium cladding of the spent fuel rods
  • Containment in reactor number 2 was breached by hydrogen explosions. While the roof of reactor number 2 looks good (see photograph below), the hydrogen explosion blew out the containment, like a sneeze with your nose pinched and mouth closed will pop your ears:

  • Crops and dairy products are polluted out to 50 kilometers from the nuclear site, well beyond what emergency zone is
  • Unit 4 experienced “core melt in fresh air”. The core melted because the fuel pool was cracked in the earthquake. The largest release is from reactor number 4. Because there is no containment as to the materials in the spent fuel rods, all fission products can be volatilized
  • The person who prepared the Areva report said: “Clearly, we are witnessing one of the greatest disasters of our time.”

But publicly, Areva is saying no problem, nuclear is safe.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

NRC staff privately identified significant problems and dangers at Fukushima, including:

  • A lot of “mud” inside the reactor, from injection of seawater
  • The weight of building with all of the water in them might make it unstable in case of another earthquake
  • Recriticitality of nuclear fuel.
  • Plutonium ejected from fuel pools during the hydrogen explosion. NRC thinks that plutonium was ejected a couple of miles from the reactor

But the NRC is telling Congress and the public that the situation is under control.

Incidentally, Reuters reported yesterday:

U.S. regulators privately have expressed doubts that some of the nation’s nuclear power plants are prepared for a Fukushima-scale disaster, undercutting their public confidence since Japan’s nuclear crisis began, documents released by an independent safety watchdog group show.

Internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission e-mails and memos obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists questioned the adequacy of the back-up plans to keep reactor cooling systems running if off-site power were lost for an extended period.

Those concerns seem to contrast with the confidence U.S. regulators and industry officials have publicly expressed after the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl began to unfold on March 11, UCS officials said on Wednesday.

“While the NRC and the nuclear industry have been reassuring Americans that there is nothing to worry about — that we can do a better job dealing with a nuclear disaster like the one that just happened in Japan — it turns out that privately NRC senior analysts are not so sure,” said Edwin Lyman, a UCS nuclear expert.

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42 comments

  1. PunchNRun

    Is it not arguable that limited liability is aiding and abetting criminal or at least recklessly negligent behavior? Prescription for looting: build cash cow production facility, underinvest in safety/redundant systems, go into operations-only mode where the experts who designed and built the systems are no longer employed but instead only low wage “operations” staff are available. Make money while the sun shines, paying it out to the “investors” as fast as it comes in. Storm comes, plant crashes and spews poisons into the surroundings, but don’t look to us for compensation, we’re bankrupt. All that cash flow went to backers/bankers/senior executives/investors. So long suckers, we’re moving to a clean environment.

    1. KnotRP

      > So long suckers, we’re moving to a clean environment.

      Nothing a few gift baskets from dying line workers couldn’t cure.

    2. fajensen

      Dont forget to short the stock. And to short the stocks of the insurers. And to buy CDS on the corporate debt.

      I think that the current fad of “risk mitigation via finacial markets” and “replace physical storage with derivatives” is about to end.

      Hmmm. Maybe one should set up one of those large robotic storage facility and rent slices of it out as “a service”?

      Storage is still outsourced like the corprat idiots like, because pay-per-month is seen as “efficient” – which it is because “generalised managers” no longer understand the business they are managing – and the storage is physical so the goods are there when needed. I think it could work.

  2. Jimbo

    About one month ago, Peggy Noonan wrote that many government officials in the Bush administration liked to write many memos warning of x and y scenario developing, so that if something did happen in 20 years in accordance with what they wrote, they’d be regarded as prescient.

    Just as some warned of catastrophes in Japan, I’d be willing to bet that many have made similar admonitions in the US.

    Accidents happen. And in a country with the land mass of Japan, nuclear power is the most viable. Unless you want Japan to increase its coal or natural gas imports.

    1. Lord Bigot

      Don’t worry jimbo, the nuclear industry is safe. I’m sure the Japanese and the rest of the world will see reason once this little accident is patched up. It’s not like these countries are functioning democracies; the corporations will always rule the Earth for ever and ever.

    2. Stevie D

      Well there’s this thing called judgment. Some of us have it, others don’t.

      It’s what allows us to ignore the incompetent memos produced by Bush political apointees, and give credit to whistleblowers and experts who know what they’re talking about.

    3. pat b

      My Favorite Memo of that time period

      “Bin Laden Determined to attack United States”….

      Of course you need people in the White House who can read in order for those memos to mean anything.

  3. Cat

    Nuclear power plants can be safe and yet Fukushima be a terrible disaster and an unsafe plant. In fact every Nuclear power plant we’ve built so far could be a death trap and that doesn’t mean nuclear power is unsafe, it just means we are terrible at building power plants.

    Our current alternatives kill, maim, and ruin just as many lives as the occasional nuclear power dissaster. Most people don’t realize it because nuclear power spreads the pain around to enough people that it be ignored.

    1. Service with a Smile

      That’s right Cat. As long as the ideal embodyment of a nuclear power plant is safe, we can safely conclude that nuclear power is safe.

      And until it kills as many people as fracking for natural gas and oil from tar sands, we can safely say it is safer. Remember, in order to count a death as caused by nuclear power, all other possible causes of causes of cancer need to be ruled out. Thus, I expect that virtually no one will die from any nuclear disaster except perhaps a handful of people who get clear radiation poisoning.

      1. KnotRP

        nuclear power is theoretically safe.

        But profit extraction exercises always squeeze
        that theory to it’s death.

      2. Cat

        Please, I never said Nuclear power caused zero deaths. I said it was on par or safer then our current energy production methods. To flip out and condemn one of the few viable long term sources of energy we have right now is short sighted.

      3. woodchip

        I am so sorry you have been made too believe, that nuclear power, is safer than Gas, Oil or maybe even Coal! Anything that can destroy the earth and people faster? Well i would have too say nuclear power WINS hands down! As for the rest of them, you only need to change the Extraction and Clean-up procedures, at least until we Wake Up, and use the Energy that is given too us for FREE from Mother Earth Solar,Wind,and Water in combination would run this World without a Hitch but try too use it and you will get Crushed from the competition Gas,Oil,and Coal!

  4. kurgenfelder

    For me, one of the most frightening things about this disaster has been that we are being told by the authorities that the thing we’ve been taught for the last 65 years to fear above all else…man-made nuclear radiation…is really not that big a deal. The danger has been exaggerated and there’s really nothing to worry about.

    1. scraping_by

      Quite true. The industry and its political employees are depending on the “one puff” fallacy. Someone takes one puff on a cigarette, it’s not likely they’re going to fall down dead, develop cancer or emphysema, or have a heart attack. That can be put forward as an argument that there’s no danger in cigarette smoking.

      The danger is unavoidable, but it shows up over time and in large-population statistics. Similarly, only those poor working stiffs onsite (no accountants, salesmen, top level executives, etc.) are going to end up like the chopper pilots at Chernobyl. The mortality and morbidity is in the future for everyone else.

    2. Frank

      Sometimes it’s beneficial to stress the scariness of it, sometimes it’s beneficial to downplay the harms. It’s called the propaganda of the month club, and y’all are members.

  5. scraping_by

    Back in the late 80′s, when I was working for an environmental firm in New Jersey, one of the temps who came through said he’d just come from working at a nuclear plant. He said that his design, as delivered, had sufficient margin and backups to take care of whatever could possibly happen.

    The owners thanked him for his work, then sent it to other engineers who cheapened down the whole design. Thinner walls in the pipes, fewer fasteners in the connections, less mass in the building walls, the whole bit. Saving money on the build to pay for higher profits, higher interest to the backers, and generally harvesting the value that should have been spread over the plant’s lifetime. He just shook his head.

    I don’t think the Japanese have quite the same fanaticism about “value engineering” as the Chinese, but a lot of their designs depend on precision instead of mass. We’ll see, if a third earthquake hits, if there was enough brute force in their designs.

    1. woodchip

      Anyone who agrees with nuclear power should be required too live next too the Nuclear power plants or at least own property near one. I could almost Guarantee there would’nt be as many Pro Nuke People as there is today!

      1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

        “Anyone” is much too broad.

        How ’bout any and/or all executives of the electric utility operating the plant and their families must live within two miles of a nuclear plant, preferably down wind. The aesthetic view of the cooling towers from the sun room would be breathtaking…

  6. john

    On/off topic: It’s raining in Chicago and I have to wonder, what are the radiation levels in the water coming from the sky?

    1. woodchip

      Any amount of radiation is too much Radiation but the stuff in the rain could have been Avoided!

  7. lyle

    From the MIT Nuclear science web site a bit on how radiation limits are set: http://mitnse.com/2011/04/07/regulatory-limits-on-radiation-dose/
    Note that they start with a dose that has bad effects and divide by a safety factor. At low doses you get more effects by either flying a long time (radiation is higher at high altitudes) Or living at high elevation such as Denver, Salt Lake or indeed Leadville, Co, let alone La Paz Bolivia. The article points out that there are no statistically significant signs of higher cancer rates in Denver than say Chicago. So at that dose we do have an natural experiment going on.

    Moving to another phase of the discussion, the tsunami was 9 meters higher than the design event, as indeed the earthquake itself was much bigger than anyone anticipated. In particular recall that the design events for units 1-4 were set in the 1960s so less was known. (In fact the Pacific Northwest tsunami threat was discovered in conjunction with license work on nuclear plants in Washington that were never built). Taking the known event of the size of the 2011 event in 869, that gives an interval of 1142 years, or about a 1 in 1000 chance of such an event in a given year thus about 1 in 100 during the lifetime of the plant assumed now to be 100 years.
    In engineering you can design for max safety but you will never get anything built as economics will kill you. The job of the engineer is to decide what level of risk is ok for what level of costs. This decision is not made by a faceless engineer but a person who holds a license and must sign the plans.

    1. woodchip

      Radiation is bad so lets ADD as much intentional RADIATION with the unavoidable RADIATION and then we will just call it SAFE ? You all have a crazy way of thinking about things ! LET ME OFF THIS PLANET THERE’S CRAZY PEOPLE RUNNING THING’S and the majority of this WORLD you know the one’s that live here can’t do a thing about it. Please GOD do your bidding soon! Better yet 2012 i invite you too end this MADNESS!

    2. HB

      Good points lyle.

      Let me second that: we all trade off risks and costs and benefits all the time, everyday, behind the wheel, at intersections, when we eat, etc.

      1. Frank

        Let’s not forget it’s the job of the engineer according to our friend Lyle. He gets to decide how much to spend on protecting humanity from the risk of being irradiated. Naturally, it has to be cost-effective and make business sense or the thing won’t get built.

        1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

          Then let that engineer live with his family downwind from the plant.

          I like this road to serfdom. Make the executives, engineers, and operators ALL live within two miles of the nuclear manor.

        2. Hal H

          I don’t understand this attitude really. Who get’s to decide? Well, really it’s the government, and if the government is democratically elected, then it’s the voters of 20, 30, 40 years ago, and the regulator of today, which is again under the control of…voters. In other words, the real deciders are all of us in a democratic nation. Don’t use excuses I say. We don’t need a scapegoat. It’s you and me and our neighbors that are controlling our own situations, to the extent it’s under human decision.

  8. HB

    The one thing that has unnerved me, and since 3/16, is the spent fuel pool at reactor 4. That was a bad moment when the head of our NRC says it’s going dry and then I found out it had the offloaded, non-spent fuel from reactor 4. No containment….

    My name is Horvath, and I’ve blogged on this topic, and commented here on NC since 2008 (more than 100 comments, friendly, on topic, recommend this site to many people, etc.), but now I can’t post here without using an alias since I mentioned shortcomings in some of the analysis. Is diverse opinion out of bounds suddenly?

  9. Expat

    Nuclear weapons are very safe. Out of the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that have existed, only two killed anyone.

    I don’t believe Tepco, Areva, or our public servants are any more evil than their counterparts of fifty years ago, but information technology exposes them more easily and more rapidly. But, corporations and politicians have achieved a new invincibility, so they don’t really care except about share prices.

    1. Frank

      The depleted uranium ones that get used in the middle east probably aren’t safe. If you want to see what radiation does to people, just study people there.

    2. Mark P.

      ‘Nuclear weapons are very safe. Out of the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that have existed, only two killed anyone.’

      So far. Nuclear deterrence — and its stability — is highly overrated by conventional deterrence theorists and the neorealist crowd.

  10. psychohistorian

    It is my understanding that it is not a matter of if but when one or more of those reactors is going to lose containment entirely. My understanding is that they cannot exert control enough to shut them down and the cooling situation is getting worse.

    Certainly if one goes it will be harder to maintain the rest if the first one going doesn’t incite the rest to follow.

    If I were a government official I would not want to get up and tell the public this message.

    1. Mark P.

      Granted it won’t be good. But there are worse possibilities than reactors’ meltdowns and loss of containment in the context of Fukushima — as opposed to the blowout of a live reactor like Chernobyl — despite the popular language of nuclear panic putting a lot of stress on those terms.

      Very simply, the terrible worry at Fukushima is the staggering quantity of radioactive material — most of it used fuel — spread out over the site and, particularly, the spent fuel pool at reactor 4, which within the first week scientists at both Areva and the U.S.’s NRC were able to figure out from emissions was partially or wholly uncovered.

      1. fajensen

        Chernobyl happened quickly and was over quicky. Fukushima will drag on for maybe a year. I am afraid that Fukushima will end up releasing more radioactivity than Chernobyl.

        PS: The last two weeks I have measured double the normal background+Radon radiation of 0.1 uS/h inside my home in Denmark. It is now a steady 0.22 uS/h.

        1. Hal H

          Very interesting. I calculate if it remained steady (it will of course go up or down instead), then it would total 2 milli Sieverts/year, or not enough to statistically increase risk. But having actual data from another independent source is great. Thanks.

        2. Hal H

          If that remained constant (it won’t of course) it would be about 2mSv/yr, but we need context (which is most often why I commented on blog posts on this topic here).

          here’s from useful wiki on Sievert:


          Single dose examplesDental radiography: 0.005 mSv[3]
          Average dose to people living within 16 km of Three Mile Island accident: 0.08 mSv during the accident[4]
          Mammogram: 3 mSv[3]
          Brain CT scan: 0.8–5 mSv[5]
          Chest CT scan: 6–18 mSv[5]
          Gastrointestinal series X-ray investigation: 14 mSv[6]
          International Commission on Radiological Protection recommended limit for volunteers averting major nuclear escalation: 500 mSv[7]
          International Commission on Radiological Protection recommended limit for volunteers rescuing lives or preventing serious injuries: 1000 mSv[7]
          [edit] Hourly dose examplesAverage individual background radiation dose: 0.23μSv/h (0.00023mSv/h); 0.17μSv/h for Australians, 0.34μSv/h for Americans[8][4][9]
          Highest reported level during Fukushima accident: 1000 mSv/h reported as the level at a pool of water in the turbine room of reactor two.[10][11][12]
          [edit] Yearly dose examplesMaximum acceptable dose for the public from any man made facility: 1 mSv/year[13]
          Dose from living near a nuclear power station: 0.0001–0.01 mSv/year[6][8]
          Dose from living near a coal-fired power station: 0.0003 mSv/year[8]
          Dose from sleeping next to a human for 8 hours every night: 0.02 mSv/yr[8]
          Dose from Cosmic radiation (from sky) at sea level: 0.24 mSv/year[6]
          Dose from Terrestrial radiation (from ground): 0.28 mSv/year[6]
          Dose from Natural radiation in the human body: 0.40 mSv/year[6]
          Dose from standing in front of the granite of the United States Capitol building: 0.85 mSv/year[14]
          Average individual background radiation dose: 2 mSv/year; 1.5 mSv/year for Australians, 3.0 mSv/year for Americans[8][4][9]
          Dose from atmospheric sources (mostly radon): 2 mSv/year[6][15]
          Total average radiation dose for Americans: 6.2 mSv/year[16]
          New York-Tokyo flights for airline crew: 9 mSv/year[9]
          Dose from smoking 30 cigarettes a day Smoking: 13-60 mSv/year[14][15]
          Current average dose limit for nuclear workers: 20 mSv/year[9]
          Dose from background radiation in parts of Iran, India and Europe: 50 mSv/year[9]
          Dose limit applied to workers during Fukushima emergency: 250 mSv/year[17]

          1. Hal H

            highlight:

            Average individual background radiation dose: 2 mSv/year

            This presumably is simply a global average background level. Location matters, if you live near granite or if you live in the mountains you will usually get more. Occupation matters a bit sometimes; if you are a pilot of jetliner you will get more, etc.

    1. Hal H

      Fun. Of course when they see higher levels it won’t be compareable, but…if they got a white out, *that* would be informative! :-) thanks. It’s a good thing to know how to do this.

  11. Jochen F. Uebel

    Short greetings from Germany (sorry for unperfect English). – There is only ONE problem, and it can be reslved. It’s name is “consciousness”. Functioning in a natural manner no human consciousness would never be able not even to make plans for any nuclear plant (or for gen modification or for weapons or or or).
    Therefore the goal of every well wishing woman and man must be to support strategies for enhancing the quality of collective and individual consciousness, everywhere. Everything else is important too – but will always be secondary. Consciousness first. Consciousness is THE over all fundamental of every progress in the direction of nature, peace, wellbeing of individuals, families, regions, nations and the world.
    Stay tuned with David Lynch, The Intelligent: He has grasped the thing. Stay tuned with
    http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org
    CHANGE BEGINS WITHIN

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