In Alaska, large numbers of Polar bears, walruses and seals are suffering from a mysterious illness which may or may not be radiation poisoning; it involves bleeding sores on the face and neck, hair loss, death. Image Source: (21 March 2012) USGS via Alaska Public.
Easter. Passover. Sacrifice, resurrection and plagues are possibly more nuclear than religious this weekend. On Thursday 5 April, TEPCO acknowledged that 12 tonnes of water, highly contaminated with radioactive Strontium, had just leaked from a drainage pipe. It was absorbed into the soil and also spilled into the Pacific Ocean. A similar leaky pipe incident occurred at Fukushima on March 26.
Pacific Walrus at Point Lay, Alaska, USA (13 October 2011) with patchy hair loss and skin lesions. Image Source: USGS via Alaska Dispatch.
An Alaskan Ringed Seal exhibiting hair loss and bleeding lesions (December 2011). Seal deaths have been classed as an Unusual Mortality Event but the same label has not been applied yet to Polar bears. Image Source: NOAA via Environment News Service.
At the same time, alarming comments circulated about Reactor #4 at Fukushima. The fears about Reactor #4's threat portray a textbook Domino Effect. First, another earthquake (like the 5.9 quake on 1 April 2012) could cause the collapse of the floor at already-structurally-damaged Reactor #4, where spent fuel pools hold the equivalent of 10 times Chernobyl's radioactive material and are open to the sky; if they melt down, they will emit radiation, unshielded, for at least 50 years. Second, the collapse of #4 would render Fukushima so radioactive as to make all work at the site impossible; other spent fuel pools there would melt down (whose total including Reactor #4, is equivalent to 85 Chernobyls). Third, on top of this, abandonment of the site would see China Syndromes unfold at Reactors #1, 2, 3, if they have not already or would not anyway. Fourth, Tokyo would have to be evacuated and closed, and possibly all of Japan would become uninhabitable. And fifth, if Japan were destroyed and evacuated, the region would economically and diplomatically destabilize, and potential conflicts would rapidly heighten, possibly into war.
Missile interceptors in Tokyo. North Korea plans a missile launch over Japan this week and is threatening any country that shoots its rockets down. Image Source: AP via Telegraph.
Remarks about this potential scenario arise from investigations initiated by former UN advisor and diplomat Akio Matsumura. Matsumura is pushing strongly for outside engineering help and independent international observation teams to come in, assess the situation at Fukushima, and repair the teetering structure of Reactor #4. He hints that this is a delicate diplomatic task, since it is difficult for Japan's leaders to admit that they are overwhelmed and need help. Recent diplomatic meetings on nuclear issues have focused on nuclear weapons in Iran, rather than addressing problems in Japan. The scary rhetoric may reflect a diplomatic push to force swift movement on the dangerous issue of Fukushima's Reactor #4, or it may reflect pure fear:
(1) "The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements. If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident. ... Based on U.S. Energy Department data, assuming a total of 11,138 spent fuel assemblies are being stored at the Dai-Ichi site, nearly all, which is in pools. They contain roughly 336 million curies (~1.2 E+19 Bq) of long-lived radioactivity. About 134 million curies is Cesium-137 — roughly 85 times the amount of Cs-137 released at the Chernobyl accident as estimated by the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection (NCRP). [Overall, t]he total spent reactor fuel inventory at the Fukushima-Daichi site contains nearly half of the total amount of Cs-137 estimated by the NCRP to have been released by all atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, Chernobyl, and world-wide reprocessing plants (~270 million curies or ~9.9 E+18 Becquerel). It is important for the public to understand that reactors that have been operating for decades, such as those at the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site have generated some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet." [Mr. Robert Alvarez, former Senior Policy Adviser to the Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary for National Security and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Energy]
(2) "Many of our readers might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than the Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival." [Response to comment (1) from Matsumura, on the potential compromise of all spent fuel at Fukushima]
(3) "[S]uch an accident would force the evacuation of the 35 million people in Tokyo, close half of Japan and compromise the nation’s sovereignty. Such a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe is unimaginable." [On the potential collapse of Reactor #4, which would confirm a comment from former Japanese PM Kan]
(4) "People said to me more than 50 years it might take to contain radiation. So during 50 years radiation [would] continue on [unshielded and unabated]." [Japanese former UN advisor Akio Matsumura on the potential collapse of Reactor #4]
(5) "It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor." [Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland and Senegal and Executive Director, Japan Society for Global System and Ethics Mitsuhei Murata to UN Secretary-General, Honorable Ban Ki-moon, 25 March 2012]
Yesterday, a friend, D., who is a journalist, was talking about some trouble he had last week, because he reported a local event from inside a foreign country, and the event officially had not happened yet. I mentioned some of the Fukushima headlines about Reactor #4, which Washington's Blog today called, "the top short-term threat to humanity." Yet the MSM, the diplomats and the public do not seem to be discussing it.
D. said: "I think we live in ... [an] age where the various cultures of truth are in conflict." He suggested that different cultures have different ways of acknowledging, or not acknowledging, reality. In Japan, he reflected, the response is to politely and stoically state that everything is under control, even if it is not. But as the radiation spreads globally, and radioactive wreckage washes up on North American beaches, the problem enters realms of different cultures of truth, where reality is described differently, handled differently, acknowledged differently. An example is the American treatment of Unusual Mortality Events of Arctic mammals in Alaska in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.
See videos below the jump with commentary from Matsumura for an engineering solution on Reactor #4.