At least quiet to us. The ongoing disaster in Japan falls to the back pages of our major media as we focus on the Republican primary circus, the slow motion collapse of the Euro Zone & Occupy Wall Street. But the disaster rolls quietly along in Japan.
It is now being reported that 8% of Japan has been covered with radiation from the Fukushima nuclear complex article here. Radiation levels in most of these areas are at levels “that should cause concern”. This means questionable habitability and loss of farm areas (Farmers in Fulushima prefecture are being asked to suspend rice shipments). 8% of the U.S. land mass would be an area roughly the size of Texas. Imagine telling the populace of Texas, “yeah, you probably ought to move elsewhere”. Imagine eliminating all the agricultural products and cattle from Texas.
In Tokyo radiation levels have been detected that exceed that of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Experts are even beginning to discuss the possibility of having to evacuate areas Tokyo.
It has been reported by TEPCO, the power company that runs the complex, that one of the reactors suffered a full meltdown, an two of the others suffered partial meltdowns article here.
In reactor 1 – “Almost no fuel remains at its original position,” Tepco said. The simulation shows that the fuel may have penetrated the concrete floor by up to 65cm, just 37cm from the reactor’s outer steel wall.
Tepco said that about 60% of the fuel in the two other reactors that experienced meltdown had dropped onto the concrete base, but had caused less damage.
but this is only a conservative estimate
It would not comment on the exact position of the molten fuel, or on how much of it is exposed to water being pumped in to cool the reactor. More than nine months into the crisis, workers are still unable to gauge the damage directly because of dangerously high levels of radiation inside the reactor building.
“Uncertainty involved in the analysis is significant, due to the uncertain nature of the original conditions and data used,” Tepco said in a report. It said the concrete “could have been penetrated”, but added that the fuel remained inside the reactor’s outer casing.
And this is still an active process as the reactors have not achieved “cold shutdown”. In short, from my reading, cold shutdown is the point where cooling can be maintained without water being boiled away in an unpressurized system, and can remain stable for several years even in the case of “malfunctions” Official are claiming that they are close to a cold shutdown, though are non specific given the uncertainty of the actual state of the cores. In the meantime the reactors are still emitting radiation and tons of highly radioactive waste water has been dumped into the ocean. And even whence cold shutdown is achieved it has been estimated that it will take up to 30 years to decommission the reactors article here.
Make no mistake, this could happen here, and it almost did at Three Mile Island in the 70s. At it’s heart Three Mile Island was a “loss of coolant” accident, same as Fukushima. In that case a disaster was averted mostly by lucky guesses and blind fucking luck.